Our writers and staff choose their favourite dishes from February

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 February.

2023 02 14 Bistrot Verite Bream Veloute
Sea bream with langoustine velouté, vegetables and sauteed potatoes, Bistrot Vérité, Southport (£20) Image: Confidentials

Sea bream with langoustine velouté, vegetables and sauteed potatoes, Bistrot Vérité, Southport (£20)

The simplest of dishes are often the best, and this was delightful. The bream was perfectly seasoned - even for someone who smokes like a Frenchman. It was golden at the edges without dragging the flavour out to the margins of a fish that, being a subtle and delicate kind, deserves subtle and delicate care. 

The velouté had the deep tang of a sauce that has made use of the most flavourful part of the langoustine - the brains. The taste was deep enough that you'd be forgiven for thinking there was something of the mammal variety lending to the stock in some way. But no, the sea is much deeper. The tell-tale bubbles remained, a good sign of a well-made sauce. 

The vegetables were green beans, carrots and green cabbage, you know, like those ones your gran boiled into nonexistence in your childhood, but really not. Refined but ramshackle is the way to do it, and Bistrot Vérité does it well.

David Adamson  @davidadamson123

2024 03 06 Dotm Feb Js Pie
Cheese and onion pie Image: Confidentials

Cheese and onion pie, Rochdale Leisure Centre

Thursday 29 February and hundreds of media were waiting around in Rochdale Leisure Centre. This was the occasion of the most ridiculous by-election in UK history in which George Galloway and his fedora prejudiced their way to an overwhelming victory because all the other mainstream parties had (how shall I put this?) ah, yes, fucked up.

At 11pm Rochdale Metropolitan Borough had shown grand civic munificence of the sort that had once delivered in 1871 the greatest town hall in Britain.   

Not bricks and mortar this time but pies. It was still four hours away from the result being issued, energy had to be gathered. There was a choice of two, meat and potato or cheese and onion, they both looked delicious.

Thus began the Great Rochdale By-Election Battle of the Pies. It was a shocking occasion in which seasoned journalists would be defeated and grizzled camera men would be left empty-handed and desperate. Disappointment would stalk the media room.

But, in a last desperate melee, scrapping like a famished terrier dog, I secured the last pie. The very las one. The meat and potato had gone but I didn’t mind, I cradled my cheese and onion pie like a trophy. It was a trophy.  

The pie came with a rich gravy, red cabbage and the filling was cheesy without being queasy. It was delicious. It was the best pie in the world right then and all the better for being hard won.

Galloway wore his hat during his victory speech, of course he did. Occasionally, though, he’d sport an odd little secret smile. I know why. He’d one of those pies under his hat for later. 

Jonathan Schofield  @jonathschofield

2024 03 02 Dotm Febr Harley Benedict
​Dulce Cor Benedict from Dulce Cor (£12.50) Image: Confidentials

Dulce Cor Benedict, Dulce Cor (£12.50)

Looking an absolute corker and smelling divine, too, the Dulce Cor Benedict (the restaurants own take on the traditional eggs Benedict, if you hadn’t guessed) arrived stacked high consisting of: maple glazed bacon; two poached eggs (full to the brim with golden egg yolk in the middle just as they should be); fresh spinach; green pesto; hollandaise and chilli flakes. 

This sight for sore eyes looked beautiful from every angle. It almost felt unjust to give the perfectly poached eggs a gentle prod with my fork and watch the liquid gold ooze out, but I’m glad I did as the combination of all elements of this dish at once was like I’d set my taste buds alight with fireworks. 

The sweetness of the maple glazed bacon combined with the creamy, richness of the hollandaise almost causes the dish to verge on being too sickly, but it’s quickly brought back to life by the tangy, sharpness of the pesto and slight kick that the chilli flakes provide. This rollercoaster of flavours takes your palate on a journey making it the ideal dish for those who appreciate savoury-sweet combos. 

Harley Young  @Harley__Young

2024 03 06 Dotm Feb Neil Steak
Flat Iron Steak from Hawksmoor (£19.50) Image: Confidentials

Flat Iron Steak, Hawksmoor (£19.50)

Hawksmoor's New World conquering Big Apple outpost is a five minute walk from the Flat Iron Building, yet their menu doesn’t feature the shoulder steak named after that wedge-shaped monument. Cut to Manchester’s new lunchtime specials and you’ll find this tender cut, charcoal grilled and served with with beef dripping fries, a watercress salad and the pièce de résistance (as they say in the Bronx) – a Café de Paris butter.

This is a gorgeous concoction of shaved radishes and cornichons in a mustard dressing and it trills like Edith Piaf in full ‘Little Sparrow’ mode. The Paris monicker, though, is a red herring. A Swiss red herring. The Café de Paris is in Geneva. These days it boasts franchises across the Middle East, trading off its legend as the city’s hottest restaurant in the 1930s. Their signature steak butter traditionally was a blend of mustard, marjoram, dill, rosemary, tarragon, paprika, capers, chives, curry powder, parsley, shallot, garlic, Worcestershire sauce and anchovies. Phew, I‘m not sure the Hawksmoor treatment is so elaborate, but it’s a canny addition to a vibrant lunch offering that also includes a short rib suet pudding raved about by Gordo. He’s not wrong. It’s a triumph. Yet let’s put it in perspective. Nowhere in downtown Manhattan will you find Suet Pudding Towers.

Neil Sowerby  @AntonEgoManc

20240305 Nutters Red Mullet1
Seared red mullet, spinach, blood orange, roast langoustine oil, vinaigrette, Bird at Birtle​ (£75 as part of 'Nuts about Riviera' menu) Image: Confidentials

Seared red mullet, spinach, blood orange, roast langoustine oil, vinaigrette, Bird at Birtle (£75 as part of 'Nuts about Riviera' menu)

Last week I got transported back to the French Rivera of thirty years ago to enjoy classic French dining Andrew Nutter style. No, I’ve not lost my mind, this was an event at the Bird at Birtle hosted by Andrew Nutter, aptly named “Nuts about Riviera”. I’ve missed Andrew’s classic style of cooking ever since he sold Nutters Restaurant in 2021, so when I saw that he was hosting an event at his gastropub, The Bird at Birtle, I was there like a shot. 

The menu curated by Nutter was a showcase of some of the food he produced when he first opened the restaurant way back thirty years ago and one of the showstoppers was the seared red mullet.

I’m renowned to be a fussy bugger with fish and always turn my nose up at fishy fish. But on the night, Nutter won me over with a chunky fillet of red mullet sourced from northwest seafood supplies Neve Fleetwood. This dish was top notch, the fillet was seared so it was delicately cooked, and the fish just broke into light flakes and it was carefully plated from a bed of leaves, dressed with vinaigrette, layered with roast langoustine oil and nuggets of langoustine and finally slithers of blood orange that just bought the dish together. And if that wasn’t enough there were a few cheeky charcoal cheddar croutons to give a flavour punch every so often.

The dish was that good I’m still inconsolable that Nutter’s Restaurant is no longer with us but all is not lost, there may be other nights on the horizon so keep your eyes peeled.

Georgina Harrington Hague  @georginahague

2024 03 06 Dotm Feb Martyn Pie
Slow braised British steak & Founders ale pie, Founders Hall​ (£14.95) Image: Confidentials

Slow braised British steak & Founders ale pie, Founders Hall (£14.95)

Founders Hall is the new name for the JW Lees pub formerly known as Duttons on Albert Square. It's always been a favourite for post-work beers so it's great to be able to include a regular local for a dish of the month. I was impressed with the three cheese & onion pie on the soft launch so I was itching to get back for more.

They've had a complete refurb in preparation for the 200th year anniversary, coming up in 2028, and the food has had an impressive revamp as well. It wasn't bad before; but now there's a kitchen team with real passion for what they're doing and it shows. I went back with my significant other for a Friday night dinner and beer, with Gordo and Jonathan Schofield gleefully playing noisy gooseberries.

All the pies on the menu are hand made with water crust pastry and generously packed with succulent filling. The steak and ale option has quality cuts of meat with an onion rich gravy. There's a comforting tangy flavour coming through from the ale and the chips are crisp and moreish - take your time as they arrive magma-hot. I'm not sure on the mushy peas - they're possibly too wholesome, and I'm a philistine craving some concentrated Grotbag green colouring and preservatives. I'm looking forward to trying the rest of the menu and not just for soaking up the beer.

Martyn Pitchford  @Pitch_Blend

2024 03 06 Dotm Feb Hayden Butty
​Ham, Cheese & mustard sandwich, Yellow Hammer​, Stockport (£6) Image: Confidentials

Ham, Cheese & mustard sandwich, Yellow Hammer, Stockport (£6)

A simple dish of the month from me this time, a good, simple butty. Yellow Hammer on Stockport’s Underbanks feels like a community staple but hasn’t been here for too long but it retains a buzz, a movement and a vibrancy that few community bakeries have. They do things well. I don’t know the cheese, ham or mustard used, I don’t know the labour Rosie and her team put into the bread but I know it’s what I needed. When something is part of the WTLGI gang, there’s an ease of enjoyment. You know they’re not sourcing things incorrectly, you know they’re cutting no corners … quite literally in the case of this sandwich.

Hayden Naughton  @HaydenNaughton

2024 03 06 Dotm Feb Lucy Fenix
Beef Paccheri, Fenix (£26.00) Image: Confidentials

Beef Paccheri, Fenix (£26.00)

My eagerly awaited visit to Fenix, booked a month prior, exceeded my expectations. Yes the restaurant is aesthetically pleasing, but does the food and service match? From the stunning entrance to the sophisticated bar, every detail was faultless. We savored pricey yet worthwhile cocktails at the bar before heading upstairs to the main dining area. The ambiance was perfect, with the DJ setting the mood, it wasn’t too loud that you couldn’t hear yourself talk.

We ordered various dishes from different sections of the menu, but the Beef Paccheri stole the spotlight. The pasta, perfectly cooked and accompanied by a flavorful beef, soy, grape, molasses, and Metsovone smoked cheese espuma, is cleverly put together. Its popularity on social media is well-deserved, and I'm already planning my next visit just to enjoy this dish again.

Lucy Allen 

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