FENIX: I ate at Manchester's new high-end spot loved by Jay Rayner and was sent straight to food heaven

Few restaurants have opened to as much fanfare as this St John's establishment.
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There have been a number of highly-anticipated restaurants opening to much fanfare in Manchester over the cold, winter months.

Seafood restaurant Sexy Fish was the first insta-friendly newbie to open its doors in Spinningfields pre-Christmas and then high-end contemporary Greek-Mediterranean restaurant FENIX was hot on its heels - or should we say fishtail - opening in a flurry of excitement in Manchester’s new St John’s development.

Serving up a similar amount of flamboyant, opulent decor, FENIX  promises to take customers on a journey of Greek discovery and has a beach theme that put me in mind of an ultra-glammed up Flintstones set with faux sandstone walls, ash-toned driftwood, stone washed arches and big cat statues.

The bar sits beneath a canopy of dense, gold fauna, while the restaurant space is reminiscent of a Grecian beach-side hotel with decadent marble tables and refined tableware. There's lashings of lustre, there's glinting, beautifully-shaped cutlery - there's even fake flames rising from the bar like a phoenix from the ashes.

The flamboyant Fenix is set over two floors. The flamboyant Fenix is set over two floors.
The flamboyant Fenix is set over two floors.

Set over two floors, the downstairs floor offers a darker, moodier vibe on entering, compared to the light, white, calm colour palette at the top of its spiral staircase..... but this restaurant has a lot going on. It's got dance tunes, a DJ, a lot of constant movement, chatter and a full on party-like vibe.

This opulent new destination is from the same group behind dining sensation Tattu and resembles a lot of its flamboyance and upbeat atmosphere. The kitchen is open and jumping with activity, waiters are constantly flowing past and conversations at the closely-seated tables are animated. But as much as we were there to check out its ambience and interior, it was the food we really came for. FENIX is led by two celebrated chefs recruited from Greece bringing modern techniques together with traditional ingredients and flavours.

Executive Head Chef, Ippokratis Anagnostelis, has built his reputation across a wealth of fine dining establishments in Athens and Mykonos, from Jackie ‘O, Scorpios and Kensho Mykonos to Kiku and Michelin Star destination, Hytrain. He, alongside long-time collaborator and Head Chef, Zisis Giannouras, have created a sharing-concept menu and promise to transport their customers to Greece with their dishes.

Well, when our food arrived I'm not sure if I believed I was in Mykonos but I may have been easily fooled into thinking I was in heaven, much like top critic Jay Rayner and others. Our Tzaki was a super fresh and zesty bowl of Greek yoghurt, olive oil, spearmint, garlic and cucumber gel, served with warm, soft, olive oil glazed pitta. Simple enough but stunning all the same. 

Our Greek yoghurt with olive oil glazed pitta at FENIXOur Greek yoghurt with olive oil glazed pitta at FENIX
Our Greek yoghurt with olive oil glazed pitta at FENIX

Our beetroot salad was an earthy mix of olive oil and aged vinegar, served on goats cheese cream with beetroot soil and crunchy beetroot biscuit.  From the Mezze we enjoyed sharing caramelised aubergine served with Tahini miso, creamy hummus, scallions and roasted sesame and Haloumi cheese tempura with Yuzu hollandaise espuma and shiso vinaigrette.

For my main dish I tucked into Paccheri pasta - a mouth-watering dish of slow cooked short rib with soya, grape molasses and “Metsovone” smoked cheese espuma. Every mouthful was a delight. My companion chose Wagyu Stifado -  Wagyu striploin glazed with Wagyu jus, served with braised onions, spices and cumin potato emulsion, arranged prettily on the plate and cooked so perfectly it felt like succulent silk - enough to soften the sting of the high-end price tag.

Dessert was banoffee new style - velvety vanilla cream with toffee caramel, crunchy cookie, banana and nutmeg zest - as enjoyable to eat as it was to look at, arriving in front of me resembling a piece of contemporary art. 

Our banoffee dessert was as enjoyable to look at as it was to eatOur banoffee dessert was as enjoyable to look at as it was to eat
Our banoffee dessert was as enjoyable to look at as it was to eat

The varied menu is divided into sections titled Garden, Mezze, Spreads, From The Open Fire and Pasta and Rice. There are set menus or a la carte dishes and prices range from £16 for cauliflower steak and £27 for sea bass fillet to £65 for lobster spaghetti and £95 for a leg of slow-roasted lamb for four - which must be ordered 24 hours in advance.

The drinks menu, like the food, is expansive. The cocktail menu at FENIX features 16 unique creations from Will Meredith, Group Head of Bars, celebrating the four elements that shape the mystical Greek Isles; Water, Earth, Air and Fire.  Signature concepts include; ‘Sirens Call’ a combination of vodka, strawberry leaf and sweet tomato delivered in a seashell vessel; ‘Whirlpool Fizz’ inspired by the mythical Charybdis sea monster, combining gin with a silky backbone of stone fruit and tonic; and the ‘Fenix Nest Sour’ a velvety and rich blend of Metaxa 12 Star and roasted cashew encased in a smouldering nest serve.

Wines, served both at the stand-alone bar and in the restaurant, focus on the variety of produce from Greek and Cycladic vineyards.  Situated on a terroir of rich volcanic soils, the region produces wines of expressive and complex character offering a smooth, mineral finish, pairing perfectly with the smokey, charred meat, fish and vegetables from FENIX’s central grill.

FENIX - What you need to know

Fenix, The Goods Yard Building, Goods Yard Street, Manchester M3 3BG, 0161 646 0321. Small plates £6-£35, large plates £16-£65, desserts £10-£14.90, wines from £26.40