Comfort-eating continues as pies and puddings remain top picks across Greater Manchester

Don't be fooled by the humble looks of our favourite picks this month, each of the dishes we've picked for March is packed full of flavour (even the ominously-shaped rag pudding chosen by Jonathan). By all accounts, it's another month of comfort-eating but who can blame us? Great North Pie Co. opened up at KAMPUS making everybody who is worth their Northern salt immediately crave steak and ale, and the weather is so up and down lately that only a bowl of soup will do. 

We've broken a couple of rules this month by allowing Sophie to namecheck four of her favourite venues, but when your tastes range from double-stacked breakfast butties to Michelin Guide mushrooms sometimes it's far too difficult to pick just one fave.

Take a taste adventure with us and read on for or editorial team's best dishes for the month ahead.

My Pie By Neil
Is it a bird? Image: Confidentials

14 Hour Braised Beef & Ale Pie, Great North Pie Co (£6.50)

Pie in the sky I was going to call my paean to the current vol-au-vent of choice at Climat, that buzzing eighth floor wine-led restaurant at the top of Blackfriars House. For £7 you get a brace of dinky puff pastries topped with roast beef, horseradish creme fraiche and, Stilton. Gorgeous but insubstantial and Kampus was calling. 

The latest arrival in that already well-stocked district is a belated city centre outlet for Neil and Sarah Broomfield’s award-winning pie empire. Their classic and delectable Beef and Ale is not the first pie I‘ve scoffed in that hip ’hood. Climat’s rival for the coolest new restaurant around, Higher Ground, served a signature Oxtail Madrasty when they hosted a pre-pandemic pop-up in The Bungalow overlooking the Canal. That curried pastry parcel has not made the transition to their new home on New York Street. If that newcomer is all sleek lines and floor-to-ceiling glass, Great North offers a bricky cubby hole off cobbled Little David Street more befitting their homage to filled buttery pastry. 

Track Sonoma and Manchester Union Lager are on tap, the latter used to braise Yorkshire grass-fed beef, part of a heady mix that includes roast carrot and celery, redcurrant jelly, Worcestershire sauce, mustard and coriander seeds, black onion seed, marjoram and pepper. Veggies need look no further than another Great North stalwart – Lancashire Cheese and Onion. Sides of mash, superior mushy peas and pickled red cabbage are £3.50 a pop. Neil Sowerby @AntonEgoManc

Egg Custard Tart Pollen Kampus
Wobbly and wonderful Image: Confidentials

Food from all over Manchester (from £4)

Sometimes it really doesn’t matter what you’re eating or where you’re sitting whilst you eat it. Most of the time, the nights at home with a bowlful of spaghetti and meatballs are the best. The meatballs are pre-made; the sauce is simply a tin of tomatoes with a shake of chilli flakes and a crushed garlic clove. Pasta and sauce are married together with a splash of starchy water and a knob of butter and I’m in heaven with my little family, watching Great British Menu on the telly. 

With that in mind, some of the best things I’ve eaten in the company of great friends this month include a pre-work Gorilla Filla (2 sausage, 2 bacon, 2 egg, tomato sauce, £4) at the institution that is Shirley’s sandwich shop, a crunchy and comforting bowl of roasted potatoes (£6.50) to go with a bowl of soup at BQ Bitesize in Manchester Craft Centre, and one of Another Hand’s fluffy house flatbreads smothered in wild mushrooms, truffled egg yolk and Spenwood cheese (£8.50). Not forgetting the wobbly egg custard tart from Pollen at Kampus that made for an exceptionally unhealthy but unquestionably enjoyable late Saturday breakfast. 

Each is wonderful in its own right, but each enhanced by the company and conversation of my nearest and dearest people. Sophie Rahnema @sophieshahla

Soup And A Sandwich And Crispy Potatoes From The Butchers Quarter Manchester February 2023
Soup for the soul, bread for the arteries and potatoes for mopping Image: Confidentials

Roasted butternut squash soup with pumpkin seed pesto and sourdough, BQ Bitesize (£7.50)

Like Soph said above, sometimes the best food is shared with pals, and Soph and I have shared many many bowls and plates and ramequins of great Mancunian food. The sharing part I sometimes struggle with, but I'm learning. A standout this month was our Friday afternoon lunch at the BQ Bitesize cafe in Manchester Craft & Design Centre, a little spin off from their main hustle on Tib Street. 

Nothing says "it's still freezing, isn't it?" like a bowl of soup, and this roasted butternut squash version  was, well, one to write a best dish about. A thick and creamy winter warmer with the perfect subtle spice, the bowl was doused with an oily pumpkin seed pesto and some whole pumpkin seeds for an occasional crunch. If you're giving me bread to dunk, it better leave a buttery residue on the plate like a well-done crumpet, and of course it did. My arteries won’t thank me when I'm 65 but my current self was chuffed to bits. 

If you're going the whole hog, get a side of the BQ's crispy potatoes to mop up the last bits of soup and butter like your life depends on it. I know, I know, I sound like I want to marry this little cafe at this point, but they also do incredible hot roast sarnies, and let me tell you, they're hard to come by in the city centre. Just go, and look at some independent crafty creations after you've eaten. Ellie-Jo Johnstone @elliejoj

Breakfast Cali Coffee Wine Mark Best Dish
Breakfast worth getting deep over Image: Confidentials

Cali Cowboy Breakfast, California Coffee and Wine Co. (£14.25)

It’s a ‘best experience’ for me this month, which is what makes a visit to a restaurant something that should be experienced by us all as regularly as time and funds permit. For me, restaurants, cafés, and bars are escape valves from the daily grind, which isn’t all about bunny rabbits and stumbling across Lanie Gardner on YouTube. (If you haven’t heard her yet, google her and Fleetwood Mac). 

You’re delivered into this life screaming for breath and far too often leave it whimpering for the same. Places to gather with fellow souls with spacesuits getting a bit worn are important to help survive the journey. It’s about a welcome, safety, and feeling the warmth of the sun, not on your back but in your heart.

California Coffee and Wine in Altrincham was opened by a remarkable couple over four years ago; I first met Diane on the opening weekend of 20 Stories in Manchester back when the door wasn’t equating class with labels. Diana was working front of house, arriving at my table with a hello that melted me. Justin, her life partner, came later and was no less fabulous for it.

They opened their vision in Altrincham a couple of years later. It’s taken me three or four years to get there. And it’s fantastic. Because they are fantastic. They could have given me dust on toast, and I would have chosen it as my dish of the month. But they didn’t, I had a coffee, roasted on the premises which ran its fingers through my non-existent hair and what turned out to be a beauty of a breakfast. 

The Cali Cowboy Breakfast.

Two poached eggs, runny in the middle, a couple of excellent sausages, freshly grilled, rashers of smoked bacon done to a crisp and what my grandson Harry and I would call ‘cowboy beans’, homemade baked beans with personality. Mushrooms, toast, and butter. 

It’s not going to be four years till I go back, that’s for sure. That soul of mine needs the attention on a more regular basis.

A somewhat more chilled Gordo. Anyone got a spliff? Mark Garner @gordomanchester

Rag Pudding Flying Horse Schoey Best Dish
All killer, no filler Image: Confidentials

Rag Pudding, The Flying Horse Hotel, Rochdale (£8.95)

There are lots of dishes I could recommend this month. I had a particularly fine time in Bristol at Pasture and Nutmeg with, respectively British and Indian cuisine. The oysters with Thai nam jin vinaigrette were delicious at the former and the duck chettinadu at the latter. On a trip to Dublin this weekend the crab claws at Sole fish restaurant were spectacular. 

However I'm going with something altogether more humbe. I’m going with a rag pudding in my home town of Rochdale in the Flying Horse pub. The pub is part of a mini-chain in the town all selling cracking real ales. The Flying Horse is a fine pub and will soon have the refurbished Esplanade spreading from its door to the restored Town Hall, creating the biggest town square in the North West. 

The rag pudding was a lovely thing although it might not look it on this picture. Good beef lurked inside the softest of suet, made soft by, traditionally, being cooked in a muslin cloth. The chips could have been better but the mushy peas and gravy were excellent. Knocking back a couple of Arizona ales from Phoenix Brewery, based in Heywood, part of Rochdale Met Borough felt apt. The rag pudding was a proper filler and a delight to munch. Jonathan Schofield @jonathschofield

Read next: 'Elevated in every way' - Climat restaurant, city centre, reviewed

Read again: February picture of the month: the extremes of city life

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