Our writers and staff choose their favourite dishes from May

Another month, another round of dishes that held our taste buds to ransom. The Manchester Confidential writing staff (and lesser-spotted species from the likes of social media and technical) share their favourite dishes from May.

2024 06 05 Dotm May 24 Jonathan Beef
​Beef, aubergine, nasturtium and bone marrow from Vetch, Hope Street, Liverpool (Part of a five course £85 tasting menu) Image: Confidentials

Beef, aubergine, nasturtium, bone marrow, Vetch, Hope Street, Liverpool (Part of a five course £85 tasting menu)

Let me give my dish of the month a Scouse accent. Vetch restaurant is about three weeks old and demands a visit from anyone who loves fine dining in the North West, actually forget that, let’s say in the UK.

This beef, aubergine, nasturtium and bone marrow dish on the tasting menu was at once juicy, complex, substantial yet delicate if that's possible. The beef had a certain fleshy sweetness, or perhaps the perception of sweetness. The bone marrow was a booster in adding richness, the jus was simply delicious and added even more punch. Other elements were welcome, especially the nasturtium, but really this was all about the beef. What was keynote here was the care shown in the cooking as it was across the tasting menu. The chef Dan McGeorge really knows what he’s about. The staff are knowledgeable and delightful too. 

Jonathan Schofield @jonathschofield

2024 05 21 Tnq Char Sui Chop
Char sui Old Spot pork chop from TNQ​ Image: Confidentials

Char sui Old Spot pork chop, TNQ, Northern Quarter (£24.50)

Right now I'm very much of the mind that simple, bistro-style plates - when done well - are hard to better. A well-treated and seasoned cut of meat, some interesting vegetables, something a bit off the beaten track ('a bit of sideways' as my brother would call it) and a really good sauce. My main course on a recent trip to TNQ had all this and some spare. 

I chose the char sui Old Spot pork chop (£24.50) with pak choi, black pudding wonton, carrot and a miso, ginger and five-spice sauce. Not what comes to mind when you hear the word bistro, but every bit a bistro dish. 

The pork chop, kept on the bone, was marinated to the deep crimson hue of char sui and didn't need a touch of seasoning. Combined with the deep, sweet and densely flavourful sauce this was the kind of pairing that makes simply executed dishes the best.

The black pudding wonton was a delight; oaty and earthy offal perfectly encased in a crisp, golden brown dumpling, it was a nice textural counterpoint and while the dish would've been a success without it, another dimension of flavour was very welcome. 

Add to this very handsome palette some pickled carrot, still-slightly-crunchy pak choi and a band of crackling the size of a dog collar and you've got a wonderfully measured, very well-presented and fantastically executed dish. 

David Adamson  @davidadamson123

2024 06 05 Dotm May 24 Harley Mash
Crispy Bone Marrow Garlic Mash from Flat Iron​ Image: Confidentials

Crispy Bone Marrow Garlic Mash, Flat Iron (£4)

Yesterday, I was invited down to the farm in Thirsk where London-born steak brand Flat Iron produces their own herd of cattle. The Wagyu herd is looked after by farmer Charles, with some of the meat reared being used for Flat Iron’s signature dishes. 

I was then invited down to the Leeds restaurant to sample some of the items on the menu ahead of the Manchester restaurant launching next month. 

Now, when I tell you this crispy bone marrow garlic mash had me in a chokehold, I’m not joking. Potatoes, chives, bone marrow, garlic butter and crispy batter bits combine to make the most texturally pleasing, creamy mash I’ve ever had the pleasure of putting in my mouth. I felt like time and space stopped for a moment - everything else froze, it was just me and this heavenly mash. Top tip: heap this golden goodness high on your knife and slather it all over a slither of the flat iron steak for the ultimate mouthful of pleasure. 

July can’t come quick enough. I’ll be first in line for a portion of this stuff.

Harley Young  @Harley__Young

2024 06 05 Dotm May 24 Mark Persian Flatbread
Ex-Dairy Beef Tartare ​​Persian Flat Bread from Jaan by Another Hand​ at Exhibition Image: Confidentials

Ex-Dairy Beef Tartare Persian Flat Bread, Jaan by Another Hand at Exhibition (£11.50)

Years ago, my Persian pal Dara and his family did a runner from Iran just before The Shah was toppled. He was a bit of a tyrant (the Shah) and was overthrown by The Ayatollah Khomeini who was just as bad, a brilliant salesman with shocking fashion sense. 

He convinced 90 million perfectly sensible people into believing he was a good pal of God who wanted him to be supreme leader and throw women who weren’t wearing head scarves into the back of vans and beat them to death. The pair seem to have an unhealthy obsession with fashion or maybe they hold shares in head scarf factories? 

To this day I think the Shah was the more normal. I’m pretty sure he woke up every day pinching himself and saying a prayer of thanks to his gods, British Petroleum and Winston Churchill. 

At least he met his.

Dara’s mum made bread that came hot out of the oven shaped like a side plate sized flying saucer. It was puffed up in the middle, and glorious. Crisp-ish on the outside, fluffy in the middle. And it had its very own flavour. She also made something the likes of which made my soul decide it would stay with me for life, on the off chance it would get to experience it again. It was called Hummus. 

We slathered it all over that bread. Today, ‘pitta bread and hummus’ are everywhere. And its crap compared to Dara’s Mums.

Dara’s mum used to call him Jaan. It’s a term that’s closely related to ‘darling’ or ‘dearest', in Persian. I think. A term of affection? Anyways, it was a bit weird when I walked into Exhibition to check out the new concession there, Jaan. It’s by the guys at Another Hand, a Confidentials favourite. And guess what, they’re doing a ‘Persian Bread Kitchen’.

I tried one with the Ras El Hanout Spiced Lamb topping (£11.50). The little pillow of hot bread had a big table spoon-sized dollop of cucumber labneh smeared on top, then the lamb, having been introduced to a well-judged middle eastern blend of spices and cooked to near crunchy, with cured egg yolk and bags of chives dumped on top. It sat there; arms folded glaring at me. It would have knocked Tyson Fury out in round nine.

But the Ex-Dairy Beef Tartare (£11.50) won by a chest thrust (a technical term). Same astonishing bread, with a thick smear of mild horseradish sauce made with fresh, unctuous cream, the small ‘tartare’ cubes of beef cured with pomegranate molasses and topped off with sliced pearl onions cured with a delicate touch topping everything off.  

It's well worth a visit. I want to try the Fire Roasted Sea Trout (£15) next. 

Mark Garner  @GordoManchester

2024 06 05 Dotm May 24 Neil Scallop
Scallop/Pineapple from Sexy Fish​, Spinningfields Image: Confidentials

Scallop/Pineapple, Sexy Fish, Spinningfields (£8 canapé, £15 cocktail)

A Sexy Fish out of water? Caramelised black cod, spicy miso and kimchi fried rice, paired with a chocolate-vanilla-merlot-led cocktail didn’t quite float my boat. It was perhaps the most challenging food partner introducing UNITY, “a cocktail menu for the modern age” devised by the personable Xavier Landais, Director of Bars at Caprice Holdings.

In the wake of TRINITY and SYNERGY (which passed me by). This time the creative roster features 12 serves based on 12 core flavour profiles, the aforementioned Cacao among them, alongside Grapefruit, Honey and Sugar Snap Pea, available in alcoholic and alcohol-free versions. 

My favourite match was undoubtedly a simple bite of smoky grilled scallop in the shell with jalapeño and a disc of pickled apple. Gorgeous but even better when enhanced by ‘Pineapple’, an equally smoky whoosh of peel-infused The Lost Explorer Espadín Mezcal, roasted pineapple fruit, basil, agave lime and coriander. A tropical storm in a glass. The pineapple soda non-alcoholic alternative is only six quid. But that’s just a storm in a tea cup really.

Neil Sowerby @AntonEgoManc

2024 06 05 Dotm May 24 George Sirloin
Salt Aged Sirloin Donburi from Hakkapo, First Street Image: Confidentials

Salt Aged Sirloin Donburi, Hakkapo, First Street (£17.50)

I’m a sucker for pretty dishes. If it looks good enough for the gram, I’m sold. And at Hakkapo at First Street they know how to dress a dish. I opted for the Salt Aged Sirloin Donburi and it arrived looking elegant and worthy of being photographed at every angle. The dish was also a joy to eat. I will forgive the mention of sirloin when the cut was beef rump as the slices of steak were sliced to perfection and to see them layered so carefully over a mound of sticky rice with sticky soy glaze was a joy to the eye.

The dish packed an umami punch, the steak was tender and cooked rare and the rice was glutinous and sticky - perfect comfort food that is appealing to the eye.

Georgina Harrington Hague  @georginahague

2024 06 05 Dotm May 24 Martyn Pork
Leahurst Farm pork collar ham, egg and chips from Edinburgh Castle Image: Confidentials

Leahurst Farm pork collar ham, egg and chips, Edinburgh Castle (part of the £29 three course set menu)

May was a good month as I'd managed to book a few days holiday while it was still sunny. My significant other wanted to see The Wizard of Oz at the Palace Theatre, and pretty much the only reason I agreed to endure such trauma was the promise of being able to go somewhere decent for food afterwards. So, after 2 hours of leaking collagen from my kneecaps squashed between the edges of tiny seats and internally screaming throughout all the munchkin nonsense, I was allowed a couple of recovery cocktails outside Fumo before heading over to Edinburgh Castle.

It's a very canny name because every time I tell anyone about this meal I'm asked if I've been to Edinburgh (that's a great marketing hook). No, it's a cracking pub in the Northern Quarter with a very sophisticated restaurant on the first floor. The décor is spot on; herringbone wooden floor, teals and creams, and big leather chairs making for a very relaxed dining environment.

I was recently trying to explain the Confidentials scoring system for reviews at a family pub lunch as they thought 7/10 was a bit mean. Seven is pretty good; it's an "I'd go again and happily eat the same thing" but to get a ten it has to be something you'd possibly remember on your deathbed and this take on ham, egg and chips is a nirvana-inducing ten for me.

The first mouthful of this perfectly seared pork is one of those eye-closing, hold-your-breath moments where you're no longer part of the mundane physical world anymore. The downside is you feel guilty that there's going to be less and less of it left with each mouthful. There's also a chore of choosing whether to dunk the porky morsels in the gooey egg yolk or superbly sweet apple sauce. The accompanying chips had a silky skin coating which was impressive, but it's the pork I'll be thinking of before plopping into the abyss.

Martyn Pitchford  @Pitch_Blend

2024 06 05 Dotm May 24 Hayden Chai Tart
Chai Custard tart from Dishoom​ Image: Confidentials

Chai Custard tart, Dishoom, Bridge Street (£5.50)

It’s my turn to Chai’m in. After frantically scrolling through my camera roll and realising there are very few things I’ve taken a picture of that meet the requirements for DotM. But then I came across the above tart. 

The good people at Dishoom collaborating with amazing locals Half Dozen Other isn’t something anyone saw coming but it has to be said, it's one of the better thought-out ‘collabs’, state of the tart if you will. Half Dozen Other is an oft-overlooked bakery as it doesn’t have a site in Ancoats with big ‘pick me' energy, but you’re often eating their delightful pastries without even knowing it. Well with this you know it’s them, you know they’ve genuinely talked and worked with Dishoom and you know you’re going to crave it when it’s gone. A great dessert, satisfying in both flavour and demolition. The crack of the stained glass sugar twinned with a familiar spice combination will go down in ‘did you ever try that collab’ folklore. On til 10th June.

Hayden Naughton  @HaydenNaughton

2024 06 05 Dotm May 24 Lucy Chicken
Roast chicken breast from Fishpool Inn​, Delamere Image: Confidentials

Roast chicken breast, Fishpool Inn, Delamere (£18.95)

Although this pub is less than a ten minute drive from my house, I have never been able to book in. It’s a popular spot for dog owners and walkers visiting Delamere Forest. Sunday I thought I’d try my luck as I was passing by and craving comfort food after an open water swimming session. I was in need of a cosy pub and a hearty meal. A buzzing atmosphere, just how I like Sundays, families, dogs, people of all ages enjoying good old fashioned pub grub. I started off with salt and pepper scampi and a glass of their recommended red - Spanish, Bodegas Santiago Rioja.

I am a fussy one when it comes to roasts as it’s hard to beat your home standard but this one is up there. A huge Yorkshire pudding, soft chicken with a crispy coating, crispy broccoli and rich wine gravy along with extra without needing to ask. Just how I like it. Overall a nice end to the week, and I left feeling a happy and very full. I will be back if I can book in. 

Lucy Allen

2024 06 05 Dotm May 24 Jamie Pizza
Portobello pizza to takeaway from Rudy’s Ancoats Image: Confidentials

Portobello pizza to takeaway, Rudy’s Ancoats (£13.90 including added extras) 

Enjoying a rare, glorious Saturday afternoon, my girlfriend and I decided a pizza from our local Rudy’s was perfect way to end the day. Any hopes of eating in soon came to a close as it seemed most of Ancoats had the same idea as us. Max capacity a thing of the past as dinners filled the tables, spilling ever further into cutting room square.

Mouths watering at the flavour in the air and unable to wait for long, we ordered our pizza to go. I went for the Portobello with extra red chilli and chilli flakes, I just fancied an extra kick. 

Dough that’s soft yet crispy in all the right places, delicious sauce and cheese, fresh and flavourful toppings that don’t get lost in the mix, I could be describing the perfect pizza, but that’s just Rudy’s standard. Some restaurants like to murder their pizza with oil, lord knows why, and I’m sure everyone has suffered through a pizza that tastes like the primary ingredient is cardboard, but Rudy’s consistently strikes the perfect balance. After eating I always find myself wishing for just one more slice. Not for lack of substance, but to enjoy those tastes again.

Although we didn’t stay to eat, the chaos of the kitchen was a sight to behold. Over a dozen chefs stand shoulder to shoulder, evoking a military operation as they dish out the goods at a breakneck pace. Maybe it’s not a curated experience, and it certainly isn’t fine dining, but I was more than satisfied, and I never seem to stay away for very long.

Jamie Kellett

2024 06 05 Dotm May 24 Alanya Satay
Chicken peanut satay fried rice from Mien Noodles at Kargo MKT Image: Confidentials

Chicken peanut satay fried rice, Mien Noodles at Kargo MKT (£12.90)

When eating and drinking at the likes of Kargo MKT in Media City, the flourish of food hall openings and their success comes as no surprise to me. An area in which I wouldn't necessarily expect to enjoy my Saturday evening - as someone who enjoys a dance with her glass of wine after a meal without going too far astray - has had a new leash of life injected into it with Kargo’s opening, found directly across from Central 11.  

Although there is an incredible selection of cuisines to choose from, with Indian, Mexican and Palestinian kitchens just a few on the menu, I find it difficult not to opt for the same dish on each visit - the chicken peanut satay fried rice from Mien Noodles. Don’t let the name of this dish fool you into thinking it’s going to be your standard chicken fried rice, as Mien Noodles have managed to set my standards to another level. 

Full of adventurous flavours, this dish comes with marinated chicken skewers that beautifully shred apart, chicken and vegetable fried rice cooked in a gorgeous satay sauce with pineapple for extra flavour, and the type of runny yolked fried egg that you dream about on an early Sunday morning placed on top. 

There is no sense of greasy guilt left with this dish, either. Unlike many fried rice dishes, this leaves you with nothing but true taste bud satisfaction, whilst also feeling like a healthier choice even if perhaps it's not. For £12.90, the portion size is nothing to turn your nose at, as Mien Noodles definitely do not skimp on the chicken or vegetable offerings in their dishes - something that leaves me gladly surprised everytime I dine here.

Alanya Simms

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