Monday, January 28, 2013


Normally when we go out for a meal, Bailey and I will spend a good few days procrastinating before we get round to writing our blog post. This isn't necessarily a bad thing as we do always enjoy reliving the experience once a little bit of time has passed. However, every so often we will go out for a meal so good we can't wait to get home and put pen to paper. Our most recent example of such a meal is Livebait, a meal so special I have barely stopped thinking about it since we went on Saturday night.

It perhaps seems strange that I, a seafood-loving pescatarian who so predictably always orders the fish in a restaurant, had never been to Livebait and I myself am beginning to wonder the exact same thing. Bailey and I discussed it on the way there. Although Bailey likes a bit of fish as much as the next guy, he rarely orders it over meat (unless in "...and chips" form), and he finds shells and tentacles a huge turn off. We concluded that the only occasions we would have gone there would have been my birthday but I'm not sure either of us would have thought of it so we probably wouldn't have ended up going.

We are really grateful therefore that we were spared this injustice thanks to the fact that the folk at Manchester Confidential have been inviting lucky bloggers like us in to sample Livebait's new menu. It seems that we would be visiting at just the right time - following the restaurant's relaunch and it being labelled by Manchester Confidential as "a restaurant brilliantly reinvented". We were also fortunate to have booked in for our meal a little bit later than some of the other bloggers, so having already read reviews by Mrs PetticoatManchester Foodies and Things to do in Manchester as well as having been given some Twitter heads ups by local foodie @hansyquirk, I felt we also already had some ideas on what the best dishes to order were. 

Even having all this information and very high expectations I feel I was still unprepared for just how much I was going to absolutely adore this meal. I have to admit I was in a really bad mood on arrival. Having walked in the pouring rain wearing ballet pumps, I had just accused Bailey of splashing me with his "clown feet" and convinced myself that I had developed trenchfoot... this was a terrible start to a romantic meal for two. All of this was forgotten as soon as we were greeted by friendly staff members and seated in the tranquil restaurant. I asked Bailey to choose me a cocktail and before we knew it we were cosy (even my wet feet) and sipping on a Tom Collins and a Manhattan served dry.

Although I didn't love my Tom Collins as much as the one I had at Solita, these were great cocktails and Bailey said that while I was in the loo he'd watched the cocktails being made with care and attention. 

Our waiter was fantastic from beginning to end. He managed to pull off being friendly and chatty while providing a more formal service and all the while being a bit of a badass. There was a particularly theatrical pouring of the wine, a balancing of a tray on one finger and a dramatic pepper-grinder spin, all of which we enjoyed. He knew exactly when to come over and managed to whisk several items off our table without us even noticing (to quote Bailey: "He was some kind of wizard, really"). He was also Spanish and gave me the opportunity to show off by having a short conversation with me. 

I was quite intrigued by the Tempura Oysters I had read about in both Manchester Foodies and Things to do in Manchester's blog posts but there was no way I was going to get Bailey to eat any with me (he suggested that if I were to order them his preference would be for me to go off and eat them in the ladies loo) and I didn't want to spoil my appetite by eating a whole six, but luckily our brilliant waiter even managed to sort it out for me to get one. Yehboy.

This was a great start to the meal, the batter was light and crispy. My regret was mindlessly squeezing that entire lime wedge onto the poor thing which totally overpowered any oyster and cucumber pickle I might have tasted. Oh well, I will just have to go back in and get the Oysters and Prosecco deal next time I'm shopping in town, tant pis.

My starter was the Var, Faroe Islands Smoked Salmon. Ordering this was a spur of the minute decision as I'd previously had my sights set on the White Anchovy Bruschetta (will get that next time) but it was one of those occasions where I was glad I'd followed my gut instinct. The salmon was gorgeous with a bit of lemon squeezed on but what made this really awesome was the little quenelle of horseradish cream which was so light it was like eating a cloud of pure loveliness.  

Bailey's chose the Salt & Pepper Squid to start which was perfectly cooked with a subtle layer of just nicely crisp batter. This was made brilliant by the sauce which was a far cry from the sickly, sugary, sweet chilli sauce that usually puts me off ordering anything with that name in most other restaurants. It was more chilli than sweet and packed a real punch.

There was only one choice of main course for me and that was the much celebrated by Manchester Foodies dish of Roast Sea Bass Fillet. When Anna described this dish as "so good" (yes, in italics) I knew I would definitely like it but I really didn't expect to absolutely head over heels fall in love with it as much as I did. That amazing garlic and sorrel sauce! That beautiful potato galette - impossibly thin layers of potato that were crispy on the edges and soft in the middle! That perfectly cooked fish! My mouth is watering just thinking about it now. Aaaaarrrrgh!!!

Bailey thought he would throw a wild card in and order the Orchids Farm Cheshire Rump Steak, just to see how the non-fish dishes fared when up against stunning creations like my sea bass.

This was quite a traditional steak and chips but every element on the plate was brilliant. Even though it was a fairly delicate slice of meat, they still managed to cook it rare but with a nice charred flavour on the outside. The fries and onion rings were served fresh and piping hot - clearly straight out of the fryer, giving the dish plenty of crunch. There was also what looked like a homemade ketchup but was actually a tomato and horseradish relish. Bailey had never consumed horseradish in this manner before but it blew him away and he was pleased that he'd been given a decent sized pot. And what of that little unassuming tomato, perched on the corner of the plate? Well let's just say you know you are in a good restaurant when they even manage to make the tomato garnish taste ace.

I should mention at this point that the wine recommended to us by the wizard waiter were great accompaniments to the meal (Orballo Albarino Rias Baixas for me and Borsao Garnacha Campo de Borja for Bailey). He had a simple philosophy for wine recommendations - if it was Spanish it was good, and it worked out very well for us. 

Having your own personal window ledge for your bottles and camera was a food blogger's dream 
Onto desserts and I was somewhat concerned that the Dessert Tasting Plate that was being recommended to me was going to push me over the edge into uncomfortably full. But I still went for it, and ate every last bite. How could I resist, with everything on it being absolutely beautiful. The chocolate délice was my favourite - gorgeous and smooth with an amazing salted caramel. The lemon posset was super lemony and light and the cheesecake was also off the hook. 

Bailey didn't seem to want to mess around with mini portions of things like me and ordered himself a "full on Cheesecake". This was possibly even more pleasing to the eye than my trio.

By the time I got round to eating my mini version of the cheesecake, Bailey had very specific instructions for me: get equal amounts of everything on your spoon and get it in your mouth. It was incredible - the base of the cheesecake was light and soft with all the crunch being provided by the honeycomb on top. Bailey couldn't believe how much he liked this considering he doesn't normally like honeycomb. Fabulous - a wonderful end to a wonderful meal.

So what else is there to say about Livebait after the food has spoken for itself? I can honestly say it was a brilliant experience and a meal we won't forget. We loved all of the food, all of the drinks, the service, the building, the atmosphere, the location. There wasn't anything we didn't love in fact. I have to admit I did love it more than Bailey did, not that he had any complaints, but Livebait is right up my street and is serving up exactly the sort of food I would choose to eat. Livebait is probably not suitable for every occasion - I don't think I'd go there with a large group, but for a treat with your man or somewhere special to take your mum or a classy girly lunch it is just the ticket. In fact, if you choose anywhere else in these circumstances you are making a fatal error! We have already decided that this will become a regular place to celebrate things but we're not going to need that much of an excuse to return!

I loved it so much that it's made me a little bit sad that there are people still out there who might have been put off by bad experiences from before Livebait changed hands. There is the distinct feeling now that whoever is working behind the scenes has a clear vision of how a good seafood restaurant should be delivered to the people of Manchester and is working incredibly hard to do so, with a good team of staff on board of course. 

Having not paid anything other than the tip for our meal I suppose you may say it's quite easy for me to write a such a gushing review but I can honestly say that especially thanks to the quality of the food this meal was worth every penny we would have paid for it (and with the 50% off deal they've got on at the moment it would be a bargain). Thanks so much to Livebait and Manchester Confidential for such a lovely experience... we will be heading here again and so should everyone!

Livebait on Urbanspoon


  1. Yay! Glad you loved the sea bass :)
    Anna x

    1. It was great, thanks for the recommendation Anna! X

  2. I had this restaurant recommended to me by a friend... It did not fail! Absolutely amazing... Fantastic service... Beautiful food... Gorgeous cocktails! I didn't find it overly expensive for what we had. We both had a starter, main and dessert. A cocktail each and a bottle of wine. The restaurant itself is clean, spacious and I found it a lovely romantic setting for my first valentines day with my new partner. Will DEF be returning.

    jennifer of SabrePC

    1. Fantastic news! Great to hear you enjoyed it as much as we did.


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