Neighbourhood, North Avenue, Spinningfields, Manchester

 

In Manhattan, restaurateurs and chefs maddened by the blitzkrieg of bloggers' flashbulbs are starting to ban diners from taking photographs of their meals. In Manchester, where new Manhattan-inspired mega-restaurant Neighbourhood has just opened, photography seems to be positively encouraged. Dressed-up gal-pals are merrily snapping away at each other, and even the staff are at it; you've got to love a chef who proudly captures a hamburger on his BlackBerry before letting it leave the pass.

There's an appealing swagger to this city-centre newcomer. A feeling that they're doing something a little bit different, and doing it well. Pimped-up American comfort food may already be all the rage in London – sliders, mac and cheese, Southern-fried chicken and the like. Now, with the opening of Neighbourhood in the shiny new Spinningfields development, the craze has spread north.

Here are wagyu sliders, lobster tacos, fried oysters, buttermilk-coated chicken wings, grilled stone bass and pot-roast chicken thighs. Here are broiled steaks, pasta and pizzette. Here is a 'raw bar'. Only the cocktail list, which offers a range of Wag-pleasing curiosities, including the Belle Epoque Blazer (it involves a bottle of vintage Champagne, Martell XO cognac and flambéed summer fruits, and costs £325 for four people) gives a clue that we're not in east London or on the Lower East Side.

Neighbourhood's scarily young owner, James Hitchen, still only 30, already operates another newish restaurant, Southern Eleven, also in Spinningfields. For this supersized, 200-seat new venture, he claims to have taken his inspiration from New York's Meatpacking district, although I bet he's also checked out the various London variations on the same theme, from Spuntino and Mishkin's to Hawksmoor.

In a timber-clad glass cube, Neighbourhood's designers have rather brilliantly evoked a weathered old warehouse reinvented as groovy nightspot. Rarely can so much effort have been spent on creating a light-industrial warehouse vibe in a brand-new building surrounded by actual old warehouses. Still, the fit-out feels expensive and seductive, particularly in the central area near the bar, where beautiful low-hanging light fittings in subtle jewel-hued glass hang over teal banquettes and mirrored tables.

I'd accidentally booked online in my own name, but by luck discovered the perfect ruse for not being rumbled as a critic. I took the beautiful Countdown maths whizz Rachel Riley as my guest, and no one so much as glanced at me. Forget anonymous – I was effectively invisible. "They're very attentive, aren't they?" Rachel observed, as a stream of eager waiters came over to check we (she) had everything we (she) needed. Their outfits – black trousers, white shirts and red bow ties – may be a bit more TGI Fridays than urban hipster, but we loved our sweet waiter, who recommended the 'porn star Martini', and successfully masked his disappointment when it was me, rather than Rachel, who ordered it.

After the fun of my cocktail, a peachy froth accessorised with a shot of Prosecco, came a novelty breakfast-inspired starter – 'shrimp, crackle and pop'. An earthy lobster bisque is poured into a bowl containing tiger prawns, crushed prawn crackers, rice crispies and popping candy. Odd, but good. Wagyu slider (£4) was fine, the mini-burger soft and sweet in its glazed bun, but slightly buried in spicy goop reminiscent of McDonald's special sauce. Tuna tartare in hard-shell tacos also struggled against the clamour of coriander, red onion and guacamole, and needed more robust spicing.

With steaks at the heart of the menu, I felt I should order one, and asked the waiter which cut he'd recommend. In a rare example of downselling, he suggested the cheapest – and least familiar – the Flat Iron, an underused shoulder cut. He was right; the neat rectangle of firm, but not tough, beef was full of flavour, and at £14 for 12oz, better than many at twice the price. A side order of skin-on fries was hand-cut, always a good sign in a place of this size.

Rachel's 'baked lobster mac and cheese' was a housebrick-sized thing, topped with a watery poached egg. The brownish macaroni in which the lobster nuggets swam had the slippery quality of the Heinz tinned variety. Whatever it was meant to be like, it can't have been this. Desserts also didn't taste as great as they sounded. The 'box of doughnuts' – small doughnut balls, a heap of marshmallow and a grudging spoonful of chocolate sauce – was more meagre than its billing.

Despite a couple of dud choices, the food is much better than it needs to be at what is obviously a party place, with its loud music and huge booths. Glamorous, fun, lovely staff, good food – and very photogenic. Like my guest, Neighbourhood really adds up.

Neighbourhood, North Avenue, Spinningfields, Manchester (0161 832 6334). Around £35 per head before wine and service.

Food ***
Ambience *****
Service *****

Tipping policy: 'Service charge is 10 per cent discretionary and gets split between the staff. Any tips go to the individual waiter'

Side orders: Manchester united

Southern Eleven

'Soul food' from the 11 Southern US states; try the 18-hour smoked pulled pork, homemade slaw and jalapeno cornbread, £9.50.

3 Hardman Street (0161 832 0482)

Luck Lust Liquor & Burn

Hearty Mexican-inflected food; try the 'dirty chicken' taco served with cheese, pico de gallo and chipotle sour cream, £5.50.

100-102 High Street (0161 832 8644)

Australasia

Australian, Indonesian and south-east Asian flavours come together here. Prices start at around £4 for small dishes and go up to £45 for a luxury main dish of pot-roasted lobster with kaffir lime, chilli and Thai basil.

1 The Avenue (0161 831 0288)

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Trainer / PT - OTE £32,000 Uncapped

    £22000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor - OTE £10,000 Uncapped - Part Time

    £7500 - £10000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness chai...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Executive / Digital Marketing Executive

    COMPETITIVE: Guru Careers: A Marketing / Digital Marketing Executive (CRM, Eve...

    Recruitment Genius: Receptionist / Sales / Customer Service Assistant

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: The role is likely to be 4on 4 off, days and ...

    Day In a Page

    The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

    They fled war in Syria...

    ...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
    From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

    Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

    Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
    Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

    Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

    Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
    From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

    Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

    From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
    Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

    Kelis interview

    The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea