If fish be the dish, Livebait be the restaurant. Not that I really want to think about the grubs and worms that have helped catch my fish, but... heck, if it means I'm eating fish, I'm happy enough.
I'm a huge seafood fan. The way most people get about steaks, I get about a really nice fillet of fish, a juicy prawn, a huge bowl of mussels with white wine sauce. Yes, I am a carnivore of the sea, and I'm probably overcompensating for the fact that I don't eat meat. Livebait prides itself on freshness and simplicity which is always a good thing when seafood's involved, it can be pretty tricky stuff.
Don't worry if you're not a seafood lover and you're dragged in here by a tuna-bothering, salmon-skewering type like me. There are options available for those who don't wish for fish. I was happy with the range of starters including the ever important mussels and calamari of course, and the deep fried whitebait is definitely something you must try. You can get a huge array of shellfish as well as everything from simple fillets to luxury fish pies. The portions can be a little stingy as Angela and Sophie say, so be warned. You might need to order sides. All in all I was impressed by the quality and will probably be back to try the lobster. I don't have as much incentive to go there anymore as the company I used to work for offered us discounts there, but still, that shouldn't be the only reason to overindulge in the fruits of the sea. Should it?
I love the actual building that Livebait restaurant is set in - really old and on the corner of Lloyd Street, it makes a pretty good impression as you walk up. The inside is pretty fancy too and makes it feel like an occasion restaurant even though the prices don't make this necessary.
I'm not a seafood fanatic but plenty of my friends and relatives are so I've been to this place a few times - there are non fish options on the menu though, rest assured. There is a bar area for after works drinks, that sort of thing.
The food is generally of an excellent quality, I really couldn't complain. You don't actually get a lot on your plate though - for instance, there are no sides with the fish pie (what I always order in fish restaurants, I know I Know I'm boring).
There are Livebaits in Leeds and London too but it doesn't feel like a chain. Well worth a try if you haven't discovered this place yet.
As an interior designer the location is often just as important as the food for me, so the elegant period setting and majestic front entrance meant Live Bait kinda had me at hello, to quote an insane eyed midget.
Handily, I'm a big lover of seafood, great service, a relaxed dining experience and coming away with (some) change so Live Bait still had me at goodbye.
It's all in the title - fish, fish and more fish. Except that it's not live. Or at least it isn't when it reaches your plate. The smell doesn't escape your nose when you first walk in, and the first thing that crossed my mind was that I wouldn't like to work here full time, it's going to take a hell of a lot of cologne to mask the smell!
The decor in here is a cross between a brasserie and and chop house, with elegant booths, stripped wooden floors and a brown and green colour scheme. It's immediately relaxing and inviting. There's tons of choices here, from smoked mackerel to Louisiana crab cakes. My friends tried the house speciality: Livebait Platter, including Nova Scotia lobster, Dorset crab and Madagascan crevettes.
Fish certainly isn't my first choice of cuisine, so I went for a goats cheese salad and corn-fed chicken breast, which whilst tasty was a little on the small side. My friends' dishes, also, were less than spectacular. The fish was not fresh. Overall a good atmosphere, but I'd guess it's been a while since the food was 'live'.
First things first, Livebait is now open under new management and neither myself nor any of my friends got ill from eating there. You can visit in confidence.
But should you visit? Well, Livebait has a lot going for it. Most importantly the fish is extremely fresh and varied, and mostly British. Expect to be able to order whole crab, lobster, oysters and more, provided it's in season. And the fish is very well cooked as well, with the right sort of flavours for each fish and so on. It is also presented very well in most cases, especially the oysters, which when we ordered a dozen to share came on a vast plate with ice topped by the beautiful shells in a perfect circle and condiments in the middle. Lovely.
So why oh why would I give Livebait three stars? I must admit I'd rather give it three and a half, but since I can't I simply can't get myself past the fact that the prices are high and the portions moderate. They aren't small necessarily, but the adage of "Always leave them wanting more" has been taken to heart I'm afraid. There are exceptions to this obviously (you can't shrink a whole crab, for example) but in the main I felt I'd somewhat overpaid. The prices are in keeping with the quality of the ingredients, but nonetheless the difficulty of keeping under £20 for a starter and main and with the sky the limit if you want any of the goodies like shellfish wasn't quite justified by the food I got. The set menu was a pretty good deal (£12 for to courses, or something similar) but without adding on a side dish of something I wouldn't have felt satisfied by the meal.
So Livebait has some big things in its favour, and I'd recommend having a look at it if you like seafood, it is after all almost the only place in the city center which specialises in it, but don't expect to feel entirely happy when you get the bill.
Livebait is a fish restaurant located on Manchester's Albert Square, opposite the town hall.
It's generally a little on the expensive side for the quality and ambience it offers, and as CatBow wrote the menu is pretty ordinary and hasn't been altered in years. The set menu offers reasonable value, however for a fish restaurant there is a noticeable lack of fish offered as part of the deal - the options include salad and chicken; hardly groundbreaking stuff.
Having said that the main course of battered cod, chips and mushy peas (also offered on the set menu) is really superb - the portion is massive and everything about it is really yummy.
The dessert menu is decent, with a fairly large and reasonably priced selection. The highlight here is the cheese board, which contains a good variety of flavours to sample.
It's worth a visit if you particularly fancy some fish, but if you're just looking for somewhere to eat a tasty, exciting and good value meal, you could do better.
Rather tasty food, good location, attractive decor - but then Manchester has quite a few restaurants that meet those specs...
Set menu (which is what I ordered from) is fairly reasonable, offering 3 courses £19.95.
The Louisiana crabcakes were divine, but the main course of lieu jaune was underwhelming. Opinions on dessert are mixed - I loved my rich chocolate tart, but my partners dessert was essentially a bowl of strawberry coulis, not great.
Service was good to start with, but when it got busy at around 8.15 it was very poor - had to wait ages between main course & dessert & then another long wait
Would go back again though, seeing as I didn't try their fish & chips - perhaps I'd have given them 4 stars if I'd had that for my main course!
Oh and a word to the wise : there is a cover charge of £1.75 for the pâté & bread they bring you at the start (it's in very small print at bottom of the menu!)
Fish and chips is delicious
The lemon sorbet is extremely refreshing
Tier salmon appetizer.....awesome
Their service really good and friendly.
The fished was cooked well...almost just passed poached.
Not very good wait time for food
Didn't really. Like their wine selection
The biased negatives:
The pea mashed wasn't very good. But I don't think I like this dish.
The brownie was just ok.
The first thing that hits you about this place is the smell as soon as you enter. Make no mistake, this place serves poisson and lots of it.
As your nostrils begin to acclimatise (and believe me, they do eventually) you soon realise you're in a seriously upmarket and distinctly sophisticated eaterie, despite the fact it's decor looks like a 1950's fish n chip shop.
It is little wonder that this restaurant, located just off Manchester's Albert Square, has drawn in the diners since it's establishment in Manchester (Livebait has had branches in London for some time now).
The menu is, obviously, fish based and features all manner of acquatic delectation, from tiger prawn starters to mains featuring monkfish, halibut, sea bass and lobster.
Two Chinese customers ordered a sea food platter apiece and it was comical both to watch the waiter juggle to keep the stack of lobsters, crabs and oysters in place, as well as the jaws of fellow diners drop in amazement at this Nero-esque display of culinary opulance.
If you don't like fish, or sea food in general, don't come here. The owners have been generous enough to leave a hint of what's inside in the naming of the place. But if, like me, you're a fan of fresh sea food, served by attentive staff who are only too pleased to be of service, then please come to Manchester to sample what's on offer here. It really is that good.
The final bill can be a tad on the expenive side - offset if you happen to be a Hi-Life club card owner - but this is only to be expected given what food is served here. Ask for the catch of the day platter, order a white wine and enjoy the experience.
Lovely food. But service really lets the place down. They are not attentive enough. Given the price of the food it really affects my opinion of this palce and I won't be going back for a while.
This is, as far as I know, the only specialised fish restaurant in Manchester. I think that this may be one of the reasons its lasted so long. To be honest, its nothing special. The fish is ok, and its located in a beautiful building on the corner of Albert Square, but it is nothing to write home about. They have never changed the menu the whole time I've known it which is over 5 years, which would be ok if the menu was a bit more exciting, but its not really. They have a reasonable set menu, which is worth going for as its good value, but the a la carte menu is overpriced for the quality I would say. Overall, go once if you're in the mood for fish, but don't expect to be blown away.
Live Bait is situated on Lloyd St Manchester We arrived at 12 noon and left at 1.10 with no other customers being there.This should really have told me something although to be fair the food was really good. Generous portion of fish and chips with an excellent caramel pannacotta with raspberries filled me up, my partner had tea instead of a sweet with the bill coming in at around 34 pounds which is a touch on the expensive side for a fish and chip lunch.
I was looking forward to Livebait for a while, but it was a bit of a let down. The service was slow and the food was overpriced.
I did enjoy my starter of mushroom risotto with scallops, and my girlfriend prawns. But the mains were a severe let down. My fish pie was full of tiny, non-descript pieces of fish matter. You would have thought that a restaurant that bills itself as a fish specialist could get a fish pie right and for £14 it was very poor indeed.
Found it to be expensive even with the Hi-Life card. My wife and I had been looking forward to going for a while but once the booking mix-up had been sorted on arrival (one person earlier in week confirming we were booked in after first person said to ring up on day and confirm!), we didn't feel like complaining when we were planted at the table in the corner where one of you ends up facing a wall.
The service was warm and attentive. Our starters of grilled tiger prawn salad and goats cheese salad were simple, but lacking inspiration. My wife enjoyed her mains of Tuna steak whereas my spicy red Thai fish curry was bland. Not being a particular tuna fan it was disappointing that this was the only fish in it. There was no evidence or taste of the published lime leaves or coriander which left it without any zing. The side order of chips were very good but bumped the cost of the course up to nearly £20. There's plenty of pubs around where a better curry is on offer for less than half this cost!
The creme brulees were the worst we have come across although visually they looked great with the blow torched crust on the top. Whilst this cracked nicely it revealed what we could both only describe as tinned custard underneath!!
We managed a coffee to mask the taste and requested the bill. A further shock or two was in store as the 10% service mentioned in the very, very small print was added to the full amount of the bill, then the 2 for 1 was deducted then VAT added! When queried we were told it was just their way of doing things. Our way of doing things will not involve a repeat visit I'm sorry to say.
I've been looking forward to trying out Live Bait, as I'm a big fan of seafood. And with not so big of a selection in the Manchester area, I've been seeking out seafood options beyond the standard fish and chips. We stopped in for a late, mid-week dinner and the place was pretty quiet. Service was fine, though not overly welcoming or attentive (and they seemed a bit harried, despite the very quiet evening-- only two tables full when we walked in). As I don't love to eat late, I only ordered a main dish, which was prawns cooked in garlic and oil. My husband had the smoked haddock. I was disappointed when my dish came and it was cooked in a tomato sauce without a hint of garlic-- false advertising? The prawns were fine, but lacked seasoning and I was pretty underwhelmed. I didn't try the haddock, but my husband seemed to enjoy it. He also had calamari for an appetizer, which he also liked (though he commented that the portion was small). While we both rated the food a solid "3" we both the ambiance and service rated a paltry "2." Perhaps we'd be better off trying this place a little earlier in the evening-- and checking to see when they get their fish delivery...
Good food but extremely pricey for drinks - think twice before ordering a Hoegaarden at a fiver a pop! The fish is great, in particular the seabass, although I suspect there are better value restaurants out there in town.
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