Musu, Manchester: ‘Gigantically ambitious and pointedly bonkers’ – restaurant review | Food

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Musu is very possibly the most expensive restaurant in Manchester. Freshly opened with a £3m-plus fit-out, it resembles nothing so much as the Starship Enterprise, albeit one with geishas on the walls and a £110 seven-course menu (or £150 for 11) cooked by Michael Shaw, formerly of Gordon Ramsay Inc and Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons.

Abandon reading this review here, all who have already taken terrible umbrage that Musu even exists. Personally, I am rather cheered that there are still people north of Watford who have the faith and gumption to open places as pointedly bonkers as this. Musu is a gigantically ambitious project serving what its owners hope to be the highest-quality contemporary Japanese food in a city that is already pretty well favoured with good and reasonably pan-Asian dining choices of every kind.

Musu’s tuna tartare comes rolled in cucumber skin and is served with yet more cucumber and dots of caviar.

Vincent Braine and Marius Kamara clearly have big dreams, bigger investment and extensive notes on what diners are spending their cash on in 2023. The luxury side of the Manchester dining scene is seemingly thriving, with the likes of 20 Stories and Australasia already hugely popular. Musu – whose tagline is “infinite possibilities” – with its glossy black exterior that leads to plush, bottle-green booths and a bold, brass-latticed bar, serves cocktails from about £14 a throw and Japanese Yamazaki malt whisky at £45 a glass. Dinner is A5-grade wagyu beef and sustainable blue-fin tuna eaten in a 55-cover restaurant that is as dark in places as Adrian Mole’s bedroom, though there are also Japanese murals, globe lighting and a nakedly open kitchen with a dozen chefs on full display.

After 11pm, via a “theatre production set-up” (whatever one of those is), Musu transforms into a nightclub/izakaya and turns up the music even louder than it is at 7pm, which is already fairly lively. On a Friday night in February, the place was mobbed, both the restaurant and the glass-fronted private dining room that, at the touch of a button, turns frosted – though, if you ask me, isn’t the whole point of going somewhere like Musu that you want to be seen there anyway?

If you’ve already decided to boycott Musu over the sheer cost, the din and the small portions, I must at this point stress that the food is outstanding. Shaw, his kitchen brigade and front of house could not be more primed and ready to take on Manchester. This is Japanese food served in the manner of Le Manoir and, while there won’t be a great deal of it, it will linger in your mind. Every bowl is a minuscule portion of exquisite pleasure.

Musu black cod
Musu’s black cod: ‘It’s a bit Cheryl Cole at Nobu in 2010.’

First, tuna tartare rolled in cucumber skin, with teeny cucumber plinths hosting dots of caviar and a suggestion of toasted rice. Then three of the finest pieces of sashimi imaginable – akami, hamachi and salmon – each of them so delicious that I felt like handing my badge back there and then – it’s over; I won’t ever taste better. They were followed by nigiri otoro and red mullet, both also outstanding. The next course was a scallop with smoked bacon dashi that I’d not thought through beforehand or asked to change, because neither Charles nor I eat pork, but they deftly swapped it for some wagyu beef with black truffle and beetroot tea. No faff, no fuss, just smoothly shifted to something equally good. Musu also does black cod on cauliflower puree with yet more caviar. Some people turn up their noses at black cod, not least because it’s all a bit Cheryl Cole at Nobu in 2010, but I love it unashamedly for it infantilising sweetness. Also, cod as fine as this is always a treat, especially with a puree so remarkable.

By the time we got to the venison with miso aubergine, I was definitely still hungry, but our seven courses were up. Very rarely – in fact, never – do I wish I’d chosen the longer tasting menu, though at £150 plus drinks, that would have been guaranteed to cause a reader revolt. Which prompts the question: who are all these people in Musu? Where are they getting their money? None of them seemed to be the type to have Brink’s-Mat gold buried at the bottom of their garden.

Musu salted white chocolate
Musu’s salted white chocolate dessert: ‘A plate of loveliness that’s somewhere between a mousse, a ganache and a panna cotta.’

So I ate my dessert of salted white chocolate loveliness that was somewhere between a mousse, a ganache and a panna cotta, and also featured hints of almond and a scattering of something crumbly and sablé-esque. Miso chocolate petits fours were so good that I immediately mourned their passing, and the server felt sorry for me and went and begged two more.

Sure, Musu isn’t for everybody, but if someone else is funding your wanton extravagance, then drag them there. It’s unforgettable for many reasons: some of them are hilarious, yes, but mostly they’re just plain good.

  • Musu Rational House, 64 Bridge Street, Manchester M3, 0161-883 7753. Open Wed-Sat, lunch noon-3pm, dinner 5-11pm; Sun 4-11pm. Four-course weekday set lunch £35;. seven-course kaiseki menu £110, 11-course £170; all plus drinks and service

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