Our writers and staff choose their favourite meals from this year

Another year, another twelve months 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 2023.

Osma Roast Body
Sunday Roast at Osma Image: Confidentials

Sunday roast, Osma (£18)

No, don’t contradict me, I’m telling you this is the finest Sunday roast from a restaurant in the city. It might be the best in the country. During the week Osma in Prestwich might have a Scandi theme (the name Osma plays on Oslo Manchester), but on Sunday the Anglo-Saxons shoo the Vikings away and the roast takes over. 

For a restaurant that prides itself on high-quality food providing Sunday roasts could be dangerous. Roasts are normally the downfall of restaurants and pubs. They are fundamentally a family dinner, ideal for smaller gatherings over one sitting. This is because exact timing is crucial as nobody wants solidifying Yorkshire puddings, stale roasties and the meat becoming flabby and chewy. Multiple sittings and a restaurant pass, in particular, are the death of the roast. 

Osma has the expertise to avoid the potential difficulties. Chef and co-owner Danielle Heron is currently a finalist in the BBC’s Great British Chef. Her roast at Osma is perfect, yes perfect. My lamb was a juicy delight (there’s a choice of beef, beef fillet (extra £5), chicken and a veg substitute) with excellent mint sauce while the trimmings were just as good. Vitally the Yorkshire pudding was the correct mix of firmness and yield just waiting for the gravy. The roast potatoes had a rich and crispy case. Speaking of the gravy you get a mini-saucepan of this Osma delight at a good temperature and the promise of more besides should you run out. 

 Jonathan Schofield @jonathschofield

2023 10 27 Dotm David Char Sui
Honey Roast Char Sui Cantonese Style at Man Tsuen Ho's Image: Confidentials

Honey Roast Char Sui Cantonese Style, Man Tsuen Ho's, Liverpool (£11.50)

On a trip to Liverpool I visited Man Tsuen Ho's, the new Chinese restaurant on Nelson Street that looks like it's been there forever. I ordered the honey roast char sui cantonese style (£11.50). Dressed simply in soy sauce, this was an utter knockout with no bells and whistles needed. When the pork is properly tended to and the moisture of the meat kept locked in it almost takes on the texture of velvet, and this was a sublime example. The deep red hue on char sui is one of the most enticing sights in food for me, and can you really beat a classic? Not here you can't, as this was comfortably the best char sui I've ever eaten. 

The flavours of the pork alone would have been enough, but then they nearly tipped me over the edge with the soy sauce. I've obviously been shopping from the wrong shelves as this soy wasn't your kitchen cupboard, flatly salty sauce. It was a deep concoction of sweet, slightly plummy notes that when added to a char sui with its own subtly sweet flavours was as satisfying a main as you could have, but with a giddy sugar rush all of its own. 

David Adamson  @davidadamson123

2023 08 29 Harley Dotm
​Goosnargh chicken breast stuffed with haggis from Assheton Arms Image: Confidentials

Goosnargh chicken breast stuffed with haggis, Assheton Arms (£22.95)

There’s nothing cosier than a hearty evening meal in a quaint village pub with a roaring fire. Even in the depths of August, it still has charm to it. 

After spending a Saturday afternoon walking around Clitheroe, my partner and I returned to the Assheton Arms for the evening and made ourselves comfortable with a bottle of rosé. I couldn’t pass up a chance to sample something from the specials menu, written in chalk and hanging in the hallway between pub and dining room. 

The Goosnargh chicken breast stuffed with haggis, wrapped in pancetta and served with fondant potato, purple broccoli and whisky pepper sauce sounded absolutely divine. I was sold.

Presented on a gigantic speckled plate sat two huge slabs of chicken breast cut at an angle to reveal the herby and fragrant haggis with which it was stuffed, all held together by a blanket of razor-thin pancetta that added the perfect amount of salty crispiness to each bite. Believe it or not, this was my first time trying haggis. I thoroughly enjoyed it. All those childish so-and-so's who had put me off for so many years with their “You know what that’s made of, don’t you?” comments don’t realise what they’re missing. 

The fondant potato was perfectly crispy on the outside with a light and fluffy centre, no raw bits in sight - not an easy feat with such a chunky cut of potato. The purple broccoli was lightly charred and tasted incredibly fresh.

I mopped up the remaining whisky pepper sauce with the last of my fondant potato and broccoli, savouring the thick and flavoursome liquid and I tried to dissect the exact ingredients to replicate it again at home. Close, but no such luck. I suppose another trip to Assheton Arms is on the cards. 

Harley Young @Harley__Young

2023 08 30 Dotm August Edinburgh Castle Pork Bun
Roast Pork Bun from Edinburgh Castle Image: Confidentials

Roast Pork Bun, Edinburgh Castle, Ancoats (£11)

I know the Edinburgh Castle as one of the coolest boozers in the region, but having been recommended the food I nipped in on a dismal Saturday lunch. The full menu wasn’t available, which pissed me off even more than the weather.

I ordered a roast pork bun and a pint of cider and settled into a corner table. Friels first press vintage cider, 5.5% volume, perked me up a little: classic strong and murky apple, lifted by fresh acidity and those nearly-bubbles; loved it.

The bun arrived. My eyes widened. This wasn’t a pork sandwich from the landlord’s wife trying to get pocket money to get her nails done. This was looking promising, a ‘near’ brioche bun, filled with three thickly cut slices of ever-so-slowly roasted pork belly, dribbling with gravy.

The very look of it, the smell of it, I was hooked even before I started to eat the bloody thing. This was going to be a love affair. The gravy had flowed out onto the plate. I took a mouthful. My eyes opened wide, the pork was a dream, the gravy a great work of herby lushness, and, oh dear, a truly brilliant thick rhubarb, er, compote? Sauce didn’t seem an adequate description. 

This was Lauren Bacall’s effect on Bogart’s career in. The rhubarb lifted the pork to another level. This chef is Howard Hawks re-incarnated.

Mark Garner @Gordomanchester

2023 04 27 Dish Of Month Higher Ground Offal Ragu
Goat curd ravioli with pork offal ragu from Higher Ground Image: Confidentials

Goat curd ravioli with pork offal ragu, Higher Ground (£19)

Admittedly, on first glance, this could be the school dinners cottage pie, but it’s more a farm to fork mission statement. Somewhere in there are pillowy ravioli of goat’s curd. Daringly they’ve been smothered in pork offal ragu, giving the dish oodles of extra tang. Not quite the innards reek of a French andouillette sausage, say, but the presence of minced liver, heart, kidney and lung pushes it beyond your regular bolognese.

It represents chef Joseph Otway’s commitment at his self-styled ‘agriculturally focused bistro and bar’ to using every viable bit of the pig. It’s not just any old whole hog, mind. This is an acorn-fed, sustainably reared Large Black/Tamworth cross from Jane’s Farm near Nantwich. Since Higher Ground’s February opening the menu has featured shoulder with grain and mushroom porridge and after this pasta dish we shared a £45 platter of aged pork steak with mustard greens from HG’s Cinderwood market garden. Pick of all the pork, though, was the uncouth offal.

Neil Sowerby @AntonEgoManc

2023 10 27 Dotm Jake Pho
​Pork broth combo Bun Bo Hue from The Mekong Cat Image: Confidentials

Pork broth combo Bun Bo Hue, The Mekong Cat (£12.50)

I’m not a fan of liquid based food. Soups, broths, stews – I usually can’t be bothered. Too much faff, too much concentration required, too much slurping. However after a recent visit to the excellent Mekong Cat in Stockport I was forced to eat my words. Or slurp them down even.

Bun Bo Hue are the most popular Vietnamese noodles after Pho and after a big bowl of this stuff I can see why. With lemongrass, chillies, garlic, shrimp paste, mint and a whole array of meats (sliced pork, braised brisket, Vietnamese ham) this dish really packed in the flavour. Along with the noodles and various accompanying vegetables there’s a lot going on here but it all blends together perfectly. The level of spice was just what I love, that fiery heat that gets the mouth tingling but enhances rather than takes away from the taste. This is South East Asian food worth taking your time for.

Jake Ogden  @Mancogden

2023 09 29 Dotm George Posh Chip
​Deep Fried Pommes Anna from Wood Restaurant Image: Confidentials

Deep Fried Pommes Anna, Wood Restaurant (£9)

It was my fifth wedding anniversary, traditionally known as the Wood anniversary, so naturally, we chose to celebrate at Wood Restaurant.

During this visit, I discovered what can only be described as the epitome of a potato chip, although labelling it merely as a chip would be a vast understatement. Presented before me was a generously sized, expertly fried creation that bore a striking resemblance to the classic chip.

But, as that well-known marketing campaign goes, this is no ordinary chip. If we're getting into the finer details, this is a deep-fried Pommes Anna, meticulously prepared with thinly sliced potatoes, delicately layered with butter, and expertly deep-fried to achieve a delightful soft interior and an elegantly crisp edge.

The taste was reminiscent of a comforting, buttery embrace, transporting you back to a time when carbs and butter weren’t considered taboo. As a perfect complement, a portion of silky, garlicky aioli elevated this already posh chip to an even higher level of culinary delight.

Thankfully, my husband and I each ordered a portion each. It's safe to say I don't like sharing butter and carbs, and if I had to, there would be a possibility of not making it to our sixth wedding anniversary. 

Georgina Harrington Hague   @georginahague

2023 08 30 Dotm Karaage Chicken
​Karaage Japanese Fried Chicken from New Wave Ramen Image: Confidentials

Karaage Japanese Fried Chicken with side of Yuzu Mayo, New Wave Ramen at Mackie Mayor, (£7)

My pronounciation of karaage chicken is often wrong and not the correct Kah-ra-geh. I now pronounce it ‘Kah raj’ like Nigel Farage (let’s face it he should be saying Nigel ‘Fa’ridge’ but we forgive him*) but I do it because a friend once found that funny and now before you know it, I’m saying it out loud and ruining my food credentials.

Anyway, New Wave Ramen have had a kickstarter going for their new premises on Tib Lane, and have since hit their fundraising goal. I’ve backed it but once I backed it, I thought instantly that I needed to try it again. There’s a mental list of food I have in my head and usually the top billing is usurped by an insatiable need for ramen.

The ramen was excellent as ever - they’re fighting it out to be the best in the city with the Tokyo Ramen lot but the Karaage chicken side sent me right back to my Nippon travels. Hot, crunchy and perfectly spiced with the yuzu mayo cutting through it like a satisfying TikTok trend. Sides are often side characters, but this was no Big Mad Andy, this was a Super Hans.

*No we don’t.

Hayden Naughton @HaydenNaughton

2023 10 27 Dotm Martyn Chicken
Buffalo chicken wings from The Blues Kitchen Image: Confidentials

Buffalo chicken wings, The Blues Kitchen (£12.25)

The Blues Kitchen isn't an obvious lunch venue but it works for me, with its nicely dimmed yellow lighting, plenty of space and, well, 'bluesy' décor and comfy seating. It has a surprising introvert appeal during the day especially given the venue's past as Walkabout. 

Full disclosure - I first had these on a comped freebie for a social photo shoot but they left an impression and I've been craving buffalo sauce ever since; teas becoming meat-thing soaked in the stuff and thrown in the oven. Addictive little orange beggars, they were so good I had to go back for more and the ones in the photo were paid for so I think this one ought to squeak past our rigorous editor.

The sauce has plenty of heat and a punchy, tangy, lime hit without succumbing to something vinegary which many a cheap chilli sauce gives into. It glues itself to the wings which are nudged to just the right level of crispy without being burnt. These dayglo belters are going on my regular lunch time treat list. Pictured is the large portion (small is £8.75). They also have a lunch deal, burger and drink style offering for £10 which is great value in the city centre.

Martyn Pitchford  @Pitch_Blend

2023 10 27 Dotm Lucy Chicken
Roast Chicken Breast from The Fox and Barrel Image: Confidentials

Roast Chicken Breast with sticky leg, charred corn, miso mushroom and rainbow chard, The Fox and Barrel, Tarporley (£20.95)

In a pub-like atmosphere, I had the pleasure of experiencing restaurant-quality food at my local haunt, The Fox and Barrel in Tarporley. This dish was a happy discovery for me, and it tasted just as good as it looked. The chicken was impeccably cooked, and I nearly couldn't manage the sticky leg that accompanied it. The combination of textures and the sweet sauce perfectly enhanced the crispy chicken. I highly recommend this dish for winter and will definitely be ordering it again when I'm next in, which shouldn't be too long.

Lucy Allen

What's been the best dish you've eaten this year? Leave us a comment below

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