Depending on your point of view, this is either the best name ever for a restaurant or a bit weird.
Manchester’s Tattu defies definition, not only in its name but also its decor. When I’m shown to my seat, I find myself under the branches of a tree. I’m no horticulturalist but I reckon it’s a cherry blossom, the only trouble being this is November. On closer inspection, it appears that the trunk of the tree is real but the rest – including the flowers – are not. I don’t know what to make of this. There’s also the overpowering scent of incense sticks, which at once transports me back to my student days. Again, I’m at a bit of loss as to what to think.
Thankfully, the cloud of scent and obfuscation abate with the arrival of our waiter, Mark. He’s totally au fait with the menu and, as we’re here to try Tattu’s new dishes, speaks volumes for staff training. And so on we go.
If I was to employ a 90s expression, this is Asian fusion cuisine. As for the starters, there’s a myriad of choices, from Sweet and Sour Lotus Crisps to Mixed Dim Sum Basket. A glance at the mains reveals a smorgasbord of flavours including Chicken Xiao Long Bao (that’s red Thai curry with shallots and coconut to you and me) and Crispy Pork Belly. But me and my dining companion are here to try the new plates, with the added complication that I don’t eat meat and she is a vegetarian.
We can almost sense the chef’s despair. But, bless him, he soldiers on and before long we’re falling on Black Cod and Asparagus (oh my, what heaven is this?), Kimchi Crab Cakes (bring me more, bring me more), and salt and pepper aubergine (hubba hubba). Then came the Chilli Crusted Tofu which we demolished like diners possessed, only pausing for breath before the mains of Vegetarian Chicken and Black Bean, and Yuzu Black Cod.
Oh Jesus, the black cod. Imagine a piece of fish that retains its texture but, on eating, melts like something subject to a magic spell. Then think about a crispier-than-crisp seaweed topping that, if Kettle Chips had the recipe, would be a bestseller. Admittedly this is an extremely pricey dish (£30.50) but OH MY GOD, if you put nothing else in your mouth this month, let it be this.
My colleague was a wee bit underwhelmed by her veggie option – I suspect ‘pleasant’ might be her highest accolade (and yes, it’s really frickin’ difficult to make Quorn and its protein family exciting) but, all in all, that was a minor complaint.
As the signature puddings made their way towards us, we steadied ourselves for more food. And there it was, the all-singing, all-dancing dessert. Wispy waves of dry ice, papery clouds of pink candy floss, and a whole lot else. This was afters as theatre: Cherry Blossom Dessert. How could we refuse?
So, if you’re jostling your way through Manchester’s culinary jungle, make time to stop here.
By Helen Nugent, Editor of Northern Soul