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25th January 2018

Review: 1761

1761, an industrial Mancunian Eatery
Review: 1761
Illustration: Freddie Hill

If you ever hire a van from the Manchester Students’ Union you have to sign a waiver that says, “I will not take this van to a picket line.” The Union gives you a good rate on minivans, and if you ever need to take a bunch of people somewhere I’d recommend it. Though, I can’t say I thought much about the Union or the University’s stance on striking until I went for dinner last Wednesday, where a group of friends and I began to talk about last October’s University staff strike.

Organised by The Universities and Colleges Union (UCU), academics refrained from teaching on a Monday and Tuesday in late October to protest compulsory redundancies as well as inefficient redundancy proposals.
I remember feeling a bit hard done by. You spend X amount of time reading a novel or novels only for it not to be taught that week. Then come January you still get examined on that topic. But the strike worked. On the 8th of November The Mancunion reported that “the University of Manchester has announced that there have been enough voluntary redundancies to avoid compulsory redundancies in three faculties.”

Needless to say, my dining companions told me to pull my selfish head out my ass and show some solidarity, as I cowered behind my napkin.

So, from industrial action to industrial revolution. 1761 is a new eatery on Booth St and the name is the year in which The Bridgewater Canal started bringing coal into Manchester, being a key point in Manchester’s industrial timeline. On 1761’s website a statement reads, “drawing inspiration from the Industrial revolution and that warm Mancunian spirit.”

There is always a funny relationship between restaurant’s online narratives and what actually goes on in the restaurant. Another of their web tag-lines is, “Fresh, Seasonal, Locally sourced, Homemade, British Food.” This is the kind of mission statement I want to hear from Mancunian restaurants, places that are looking around us and within us to drawing inspiration. However, and I don’t want to be a dick, but you can’t claim British seasonality and then put asparagus on the menu in January. They come chard along, with cobnuts, Parma ham, and a crispy duck egg. Admittedly, that dish was off the night we went, along with all the oyster and one of the steaks. Perhaps they are rethinking the January asparagus dish, that comes with ham, from Parma, in Italy.

But, and this a big resounding turn the ship around but, a large part of the menu is unequivocally Brit, and the snacks and starters present these icons of Brit eating in a brilliant, innovative and moorish manner. And if you want to gorge of moorish things, just go to 1761 and surround yourself with the entirety of the snack menu. The popcorn cockles are brilliant, surprisingly clean and well battered. I’d never had a pickled onion before, I can’t say murky jars in pubs and chip shops leave one wanting, but the onions they do here are small, baby onions pickled in IPA. They are sweet, crunchy and above all things tasty.

I feel very deeply about scotch eggs, as I’m sure a lot of people do. I have eaten more supermarket grade scotch eggs then I care to think about. It was nice to see a scotch egg on the menu that was built with fish rather than sausage meat or black pudding. It was a lovely dish, a perfectly cooked egg wrapped in a salt cod, fish cake mix and lightly battered. The whole thing was cut well by samphire and tartare sauce.

Weirdly, much of the publicity that surrounded 1761 before it opened was to do with a giant 118,000 litre marine fish tank that’s being built in the restaurant’s subterranean bar, Lily’s. A nod to Lily Bollinger, member of the Champagne family and empire. MCR Confidential seemed pretty sure the tank would be full of Steve Irwin’s nemesis, the sting ray, but as the tank and the bar are still in the final stages of construction we will all have to wait and see what goes behind the glass.

What Lily Bollinger and exotic fish have to do with the industrial revolution is anyone’s guess but 1761 and Lily’s is unequivocally a good thing for Manchester’s ever emergent food scene. A lot of money has been funneled into an enigmatic, charming, and independent food and drink outlet, and a piece of great real estate has gone to something Mancunian, and not to an offshoot London chain.

The service was ace as well.

Artwork By Freddie Hill:

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