When I told people that I was reviewing Menagerie, I struggled to fully encapsulate what this meant. It’s a restaurant I had seen plenty of Manchester-based influencers post about using the words ‘immersive dining experience’. With rumours of trapeze artists, I felt like I was going into a secret world. What I was unprepared for, surprisingly, was the restaurant’s ability to deliver on aesthetics, performance, food, and customer service to an equally high standard.
Technically based in Salford, and just a ten-minute walk from Deansgate, the Menagerie is well-located for a night out. I finished my meal feeling excited and energised, albeit slightly too full. This feeling is achieved through a variety of performances that will get you dancing in your seat and cheering on the performers. Not only are there plenty of photo opportunities, but the neon pink signs and unspoken dress code create the perfect spot for Barbie fans. I wish I’d worn an all-pink ensemble and stiletto heels to make the most of it.
A catwalk runs between two rows of seating and is framed by hanging disco balls. Every Friday and Saturday night, guests can watch around three performances in the hour-and-a-half time slot given to each table. These include dance routines from three female performers who possess more energy than I’ve ever seen live. With unwavering smiles and outfits that dazzled, they had everyone taking their phones out and snapping their fingers for more. The silver sequined suits, worn while dancing to Lizzo’s ‘Boys’, felt almost camp as they held up inflatable guitars and strutted down the catwalk. The 90s-2010s music that played while we ate added to the fabulous atmosphere. It is worth noting that the space is designed to engage all the senses, so it may be unsuitable for those who experience sensory overload.
With paper cranes, gold-painted statues, and hanging ivy and roses, the Menagerie heavily risks relying on aesthetics to uphold its status. However, this could not be further from the truth. The restaurant’s extensive menu doesn’t compromise on quality, offering a variety of delicious cuisines (with big portion sizes too!).
We started the evening with cocktails Run the World (£13) and French Kiss (£12). The first of these was a watermelon and lychee liqueur mix that wowed – and not just because of the bubble on top of it! The French Kiss is a good choice for people wanting an easy-to-drink cocktail that isn’t too juice-like. The pineapple flavour brightened up the drink, cutting through its more generic sweet ‘pink’ taste. Perhaps more impressive was the Drink Pink (£13) I had later. The combination of raspberry sorbet and Prosecco created a heavenly concoction of flavours.
The Asian slaw in the Sticky Bao Buns (£11) starter kept the dish fresh, particularly as the bun was drenched in soy sauce. The Black Bean Tacos (£10) raised the bar significantly for other tacos spots in Manchester. With three per portion and plenty of smashed avocado, I would go back just for these.
The main course, in particular, impressed me. Aubergine haters – this one is for you! The Grilled Eggplant (£21) consists of a miso marinade that softens a balsamic glaze covering layers of rocket, sliced sweet potato, and aubergine. Somehow, the Menagerie has found a way to keep the sliced aubergine soft without being slimy or losing its structure. The cubes of salted crispy tofu were also perfectly soft on the inside. This main course was made all the more interesting by the male performer on the catwalk, who stripped to his underwear while upside down. Admittedly, I was slightly on edge with the fear that a sock would be thrown onto our table. Thankfully the performances were not that interactive…
While all my dishes were vegan, my friend’s certainly weren’t. Having only recently gone vegan (well, maybe more like freegan), I was fairly jealous when his Cookie Dough Pie (£9) arrived across from my Chocolate S’more (£9). It consisted of a dry brownie that was missing any noticeable vegan marshmallow. The vegan ice cream was creamy, but disappointing compared to the rest of the meal. The Pork Belly Bites (£10.50) and Tempura King Prawns (£16) were “very good” and had a “great balance” of sweet and spicy flavours. The Ribeye (£28) was “just right for [the requested] medium rare.”
The Menagerie guarantees fantastic service, with attentive waiters, like our waiter Aldo. He delivered a personable experience to help cater to our needs and gave his expert opinion on menu choices. I can see why this is a popular place for wannabe (and actual) VIPs like myself, and I’d be curious to try their brunch menu even without the bonus of evening entertainment.
I would easily recommend the Menagerie for an evening out. The price, however, suggests that it is more suitable for special occasions. Rather than a three-course meal, I would go for tapas-style dishes and try out lots of starters. Or, go simple and stick to a main course and glass of wine – a combination that never fails.
Menagerie is open:
- Sunday to Thursday, from 12pm-1am
- Friday to Saturday, from 12pm-2am