Smoak Grill and Ember Bar, Manchester Malmaison

When I told people I was off for my first proper visit to Manchester they were aghast that I’d never been before. Sure I might live in Birmingham and have a job that means I’m always travelling but somehow things never conspired to take me there.

We were heading off to visit Smoak bar and grill, a steakhouse style restaurant within the Malmaison. There was a little bit of confusion towards the start of the trip which may have involved looking at Google maps trying to work out which direction to head once we left the station (hint: just walk straight you cannot miss it!)

On arrival we checked in to the hotel, and that’s when things got a bit weird. We were definitely staying in a Malmaison but the style of the reception merged sleek black and red decor with brash American grain sacks, rope and exposed wood. Though it wasn’t the decor we were here for, food and drinks were our agenda.

Drinks of the evening included a Wild Hibiscus Mojito which tasted rather fruity and interesting, though subsequently turned out to be lacklustre on its second appearance. Consistency is always key.

Though consistency was certainly not a problem in the kitchen, being sat metres away from a fiery Josper grill it was plain to see that the food was of a high standard. As well as seeing the chefs joke with a poor waitress about guessing which steaks were wish!

We started off light with a tuna carpaccio and Asian style fish cakes, Smoak have a great selection of fish as well as their steak ageing room.

Steak was obviously on the agenda and it was great to see bone marrow being served along side. The char off the josper was evident and was a great sized ribeye. That said the addition of a portobello mushroom didn’t provide much and was lost amongst the chips and a generous portion of bearnaise which left me feeling a bit of a glutton.

My partner was taking things a bit lighter with a hake risotto which solved a mystery. The chefs had been talking into walkie talkies all night, I thought it slightly odd and wondered whether I had stumbled upon an army kitchen. Instead there Smoak has a second kitchen, though it looked like 90% of mains were coming from the Josper!

Dessert was attempted, and we failed spectacularly. A peach Melba managed to almost make me burst whilst a banana split opened the essence of the 80s. Overall you might want to miss the desserts unless you feel like stepping back into a school canteen time warp!

We slipped away from our prime view of the kitchen into what is touted as an exclusive bar hidden with Smoak called Ember. It was akin to stepping into a different city as whilst not only the decor was glitzy and elegant the prices had increased to what I’d refer to as ‘high class London’. Drinks were between £13-17 on average.

Ember was great to relax and unwind, not to mention digest, but it didn’t feel like a place that I’d spend more than a drink or two within. It’s also unclear whether you can come just to Ember or whether it’s part of the whole Smoak experience.

Overall it was a really enjoyable experience, and certainly a place for a treat and Ember for a special occassion.

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