Shrimps, artichoke and udon - our writers pick their favourites dishes for the month
Potted shrimps - The River Restaurant at The Lowry (£10.50)
I don’t usually like the little buggers. Unless, that is, I make them myself. Melted butter that hasn’t been spiced properly, then goes rock hard, tasting plain greasy, with shrimps that haven’t been seasoned correctly and toast that isn’t crispy enough. Bollocks to that for a lark. A dish slaughtered by lazy chefs.
Unless you are at the River Restaurant in The Lowry hotel and you’re eating Executive Chef Andrew Green’s potted shrimps. Gordo bravely ordered them, to see if this guy was on his game.
The butter, nearly soft at room temperature, had been given a lot more work than normal. It was spreadable, and had something introduced to it, along with a nice headnote of mace. You dig into the pot, pull out a dollop of Morecambe Bay shrimp with that butter, spread it on toast, squeeze a bit of lemon on top, and cheer right up. Immensely. Bangin’. Gordo
The Lowry Hotel, 50 Dearmans Pl, Salford M3 5LH
Fish tacos - Fusion Lab (£6)
I like the job they've done on the Mackie Mayor, I really do. It has provided Manchester, at last, with a real tourist food destination in the vein of London's Borough Market or Amsterdam's FoodHallen. The food quality there is great, the fresh oysters from Fin, the rotisserie chicken from Nationale 7, all top notch. But this week I paid £14 for two portions of chips and a bowl of lettuce and lost my rag. It's too expensive. Everybody knows it's too expensive, even, I suspect, the operators.
So, in protest, I stamped off to the not-so-trendy but unquestionably more reasonable Arndale Markets, where I picked up three fish tacos, some halloumi fries and a can of San Pello pop for £12. The fish tacos were twice as good as they needed to be for the price: light and delicate beer-battered cod goujons on squid ink tacos with spicy salad cream, guac, a little chilli and what tasted like green apple slaw. Bloody brilliant and £2 a pop. David Blake
Manchester Arndale Markets, 49 High St, Manchester M4 3AH
Chicken udon soup - Kyotoya (£6)
Japanese restaurants can be expensive. Even a modest pile of plates at Yo Sushi! can make you wince at the till. If only Greater Manchester had a shokudo; the type of hole-in-the-wall restaurant where the locals eat in Japan…. well, it turns out it has.
Kyotoya is a little 26-seat place in Withington village serving affordable sushi, sashimi, noodles, soup, katsu, donburi bowls and bento boxes. It’ll take me a while to work my way down the ‘soup noodle’ section of the menu, but the chicken soup (with either udon or ramen noodles) was so good, it’s worth a few journeys back and forth. The broth managed to hit every note, from a slight sweetness to a rich savouriness. Every spoonful brought up a new treasure; super fresh cabbage or a bit of carrot. In the centre was a glorious pile of noodles and on top, tender chicken thigh.
Honestly, if I had to eat this every day for a year, I would be happy. Deanna Thomas
Kyotoya, 28 Copson St, Manchester M20 3HB
Seafood risotto - San Carlo Cicchetti (£12)
So, after a promo event, the three musketeers of Confidential - Gordo (publisher), Blake (editor), and yours truly (editor-at-large) - popped into Cicchetti for extra rations. The best dish by far was the seafood risotto, a rich collation of clams, mussels, prawns and a proper weighty, sticky cereal grain as the filler. All good, but an exceptional fish stock made the dish really stand out. This was more fishy than every Blue Planet episode run together. Superb. Refreshing. Like jumping into the sea. Go and get it. Jonathan Schofield
San Carlo Cicchetti, House of Fraser, 98-116 Deansgate, Manchester M3 2GQ
Vegan Artichoke Risotto – Harvey Nichols Second Floor Bar & Brasserie (£8)
I was hardly dry all Dry January but Veganuary twisted its plant-based tendrils around me more than I expected. Much of this was down to Meera Sodha’s Fresh India, an important, practical veggie cookbook, whose vegan salads and hedgerow chutneys I couldn’t prepare enough of. Eating out meat, fish and dairy free didn’t thrill me in the same way – until an unexpected encounter at Harvey Nichols Brasserie.
A starter in their first ever bespoke Vegan Menu was a risotto, hardly a surprise since rice featured across all three courses. But thanks to head chef Matt Horsfield thinking outside the (veg) box this was a vibrant wonder, centred on roasted artichoke, given extra earthy depth by a chestnut vinaigrette and shards of crisped savoy cabbage. It looks like the Vegan Menu is staying at Harvey Nicks. Hopefully this will be part of the package.
Harvey Nichols, Second Floor Bar and Brasserie, 21 Cathedral Approach, Manchester M1 1AD
Stuffed Kozhukattai - Amma’s Canteen (£5.95)
Amma’s Canteen in Chorlton has only been open for six months, but it already feels like a fixture on the local food scene. The menu is packed with dishes that South Indian families might enjoy at home, such as lentil doughnuts, spiced chickpeas with green mango - and these buttery kozhukattai (£5.95), stuffed with peas, carrots and smoked chilli. With ‘poor man’s relish’ heaped on top (more chilli, freshly ground shallots, and a garlic factor of 110%) the dim sum-style parcels may not be ideal for that first date, but they’re so good we’d risk it anyway. The only problem is finding a table. Ruth Allan
Amma's Canteen, 285 Barlow Moor Rd, Manchester M21 7GH
Veggie breakfast - Whitworth Cafe (£8)
This month I've gone for the vegetarian breakfast (£8) at The Cafe in the Trees (or as it is more prosaically known, the Whitworth Caf'). It is appropriately arty, with Rothko-style beetroot splodges, Sarah Kane fried eggs and a Dali-esque moustache of fried sourdough, plus the homemade baked beans and troche of falafel mean this meat-free wonder is the ultimate comfort meal/hangover cure for a gloomy Sunday morning.
The cafe itself needs a mention; you don't often get to soak up nature while staying warm and dry and stuffing your face outside of picnic season, so it's a perfect tonic for those February blues. Lucy Tomlinson
The Whitworth, The University of Manchester, Oxford Rd, Manchester M15 6ER