Our writers and staff choose their favourite meals 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.
Chawanmushi, Musu, city centre (starter in £110 /11 course and £70/7courses tasting menus)
My first encounter with chawanmushi was at Gareth Wards’s mighty Michelin 2-star Ynyshir in mid-Wales. His take on this Japanese steamed savoury custard was the appetiser for an epic 30 course dinner. Musu’s tasting menus are more modest but also kick off with their own, less umami-heavy, more delicious version. Ward’s featured roasted nori, sourdough croutons and duck liver cured in caramel and aged in salt, the base an onion dashi. Musu chef patron Mike Shaw’s dashi has been infused with bonito, kaffir lime, ginger, kombu, yuzu, light soy sauce and oysters. Cream is added, it’s set with egg yolks and whole eggs, seasoned, then steamed until just cooked.
That’s the ivory bedrock to the dish you discover as you plunge your spoon through the vivid green velouté topping. Lots went into making that, including reductions of chicken stock and Noilly Prat. To maintain the lightness it is aerated after the addition of spinach and wild garlic purées. Current garnishes include the delicate ramson flowers, girolles and croutons. The Musu show-stopper for me is still the Omakase menu, which I reviewed recently, but this silky tease of a dish is proof of a Japanese-influenced kitchen that’s far from one-dimensional.
Neil Sowerby @AntonEgoManc
San Sebastian cheesecake, Haute Dolci, Trafford centre (£10.90)
I’m a self-confessed chocoholic and, when I tell you this dessert ticked all the boxes, I mean it.
On presentation alone this handsome slab of Spanish-style cheesecake takes home the gold. Served in a perfectly carved right angle triangle, complete with the signature ‘HD’ chocolate and flower to garnish, this dessert is already a feast for the eyes.
Just as you’re thinking ‘life can’t get any better than this’, oh trust me…it can. The server comes over with what can only be described as a jug (yes, a jug) of melted milk chocolate, taking this level 10 dessert above and beyond any expectations you once had of it.
The fluffy creaminess of the cheesecake melded with the dense richness of the oozing, warm chocolate sauce is enough to make Willy Wonka envious. I’ve not stopped thinking about it since. You can bet your bottom dollar you’ll find me with chocolate around my gob living my best Augustus Gloop life the next time I’m at the Trafford Centre. What a delight.
Harley Young @Harley__Young
Crispy pork spring rolls, VietBowl, Wilmslow (£5.50)
Spring rolls are one of the perfect starters. They’re everything you would want to get the gears of your appetite grinding into motion - crunchy vegetables and a healthy padding of glass noodles, all wrapped up in a delicious duvet. So how do you improve on perfection? Deep-fry it of course.
The crispy spring rolls at VietBowl in Wilmslow come in two forms, pork or vegetarian, and while South East Asian food sometimes reserves its most arresting flavours for the veggie side of things, I couldn’t in all good conscience not opt for the pork.
You could deep-fry the contents of a pencil case and I’d probably eat it, such is the undeniable appeal of frying something - anything - in white-hot, slightly nutty oil. So imagine my delight when I bit through the crackly, golden brown coating and those vegetables and noodles were nestled in with tender and delicately fatty pork. Such a perfect place to start.
David Adamson @davidadamson123
Crispy Chilli Beef and Special Fried Rice, The Rice Bowl, city centre (£14.50 and £15.50)
Can you remember the first Chinese dish? I can, as clear as a bell.
My family had set off to Manchester Airport en route to Majorca for our first ever foreign holiday, ON A PLANE. I had been sick with excitement for weeks. A chubby seven-year-old plane spotter was going on one! It was going to be THE GREATEST THING EVER. My father wasn’t big on diaries so we set off a day later than I'd thought.
It was the end of the world. I was screaming. To shut me up, we went for my first Chinese meal at The Mandarin Restaurant, Wilmslow, with its lush smells, bright reds, gold dragons and lanterns. This was, I thought, exactly the type of place that my invisible best friend, Tintin, along with Snowy the dog and Captain Haddock would find themselves in on one of their adventures in 30’s Macau.
My Dad ordered amongst other things, special fried rice, and a portion of sweet ‘n sour chicken. Blimey. This was good.
It’s still my choice, but with crispy chilli beef. There is only one place for this, The Rice Bowl on Cross Street. Yes, I know this kind of food is currently unfashionable, and all the critics are chewing those boiled ox tendons with slime sauce showing how incredibly groovy they are.
That’s all bollocks.
Do yourself a favour, get down to The Rice Bowl. Their special fried rice has a life of its own, lightly fried so it’s still pale and creamy, with lots of bits to be going on with (my brother told me back at the Mandarin that they were chopped, fried pig’s dicks - even that didn’t put me off) and then the crispy chilli beef. Firstly, that sweet chilli sugary goo sticking the strips together is glorious. Sharp, vinegar, sugar, deep, dark red heat that never makes the deep-fried beef go soggy, the outer coating still crispy then the beef inside, slightly chewy.
A full-on satisfying experience that would stop Edvard Munch screaming.
Pint of shite lager and you’re made up like a bag of chips.
Mark Garner @Gordomanchester
Fettucine Alle Vongole, Onda Pasta Bar, Exhibition, city centre (£10)
After being bombarded with social posts from Onda Pasta Bar in Exhibition, I knew immediately this was the place for a pre theatre feast with fellow theatre companion and Manchester’s craziest chef Andrew Nutter. Choosing somewhere to dine with a chef can be troublesome, no matter what, there will be always some small gripe over the food or service plus there needs to be variety and a choice of small plates ticks every box. For those of you who haven’t seen Onda pasta bar it is one of the vendors in Exhibition on Peter Street.
I had been sold on the carbonara after I had seen several videos on Instagram but thankfully Nutter didn’t let social media cloud his menu judgement and went and asked the chefs what we should order. Immediately we were told to order the Fettucine Alle Vongole, and thank Christ we did. Andrew Nutter described it as “A sumptuous riot of flavours”, myself who’s definitely not a chef or a food critic would boldly say it was one of the best things I’ve eaten over the last year. That first hit of flavour was incredible, I could make out all the flavours of clams, white wine, garlic, parsley and chilli individually and then they would marry together like the perfect match – also the topping, the crispiness, the seasoning, I think this is one for my death row menu. An exaggeration you may ask? Absolutely not, Nutter and I are still laughing about fighting for the last clam two weeks later.
Georgina Hague @georginahague
Afternoon tea, Tabley House, Knutsford (£19.95pp)
This was my dish of the month by a country mile. Several country miles. The afternoon tea at glorious Tabley Hall is a classic of its type in exactly the right surroundings of an English country house and garden. There's a fine dining room but go when it's sunny and the green lawns that surround the beautifully balanced 1760s house are lush location upon which to cock your little finger and sip your tea, or beer, or wine.
The whole afternoon tea squad is present when the food arrives with cucumber sandwiches in finger form, smoked salmon ditto, cheese likewise and, of course, egg mayo. All very fresh and made as you wait.
The homemade cakes are fabulous. There's Victoria sandwich, coffee and walnut and lemon drizzle, generous in scale and flavour, with the pick being the lemon drizzle.The scone with jam and cream was perfect. That’s scone to rhyme with bone, if you pronounce it to rhyme with gone then you are a knave and should be marched out of town.
And don't miss out on a visit to the University of Manchester owned house itself with its excellent art collection including a JMW Turner oil of the house. Tabley House is a sort of secret. You should discover it.
Jonathan Schofield @JonathSchofield
Vietnamese Garlic Butter Chicken Wings, Hong Kong Choi, Broughton, Salford, (£11.50)
It’s that difficult second album time, having been asked what my dish of the month was for the first time in April my relentless pursuit of a dish of a similar calibre began instantly. I wasn’t quite expecting to find it in Broughton, Salford (the neighbourhood of my father’s youth).
Hong Kong Choi is the definition of the cliche of the hidden gem, it’s one of the restaurants you drive past and say ‘we have to try that place’ on repeat for a lifetime but taking the plunge is worth it. Bizarre fusions, traditional dishes and hot coke with lemon, which I hear is ex-tv chef Andrew Nutter’s favourite, (Jeez, how many times are we mentioning him this time? Ed) emblazon a bold yet fun menu.
The dish of the month for me is undeniably the Vietnamese Garlic Butter Chicken Wings: each word written in capital letters becomes something you need. Vietnamese (I thought this was Hong Kong cuisine?), Garlic (yes please), Butter (oh hello), chicken wings (take my money).
You know when you get a piping hot wing that should be handled like Homer handles the plutonium in The Simpsons, this was that but it glows with garlic butter and joy. These are some of the best wings in Manchester (yes, I’ve tried a lot) the only winging better than this; is me currently writing this. Get them, they’re incredible also if you’ve committed a crime recently and wish to get rid of your fingerprints, these are ideal.
Hayden Naughton @HaydenNaughton
The Bilberry Tart, Higher Ground, city centre (£6.50)
Bilberry is a dark berry which resembled blueberries, its name is derived from the Danish word bollebar which means 'dark berry'. The tart was paired beautifully with seductive seeds and was crunchy on the outside and perfectly soft and rich in the middle. The cream was light and just about enough to polish up the final piece. If your looking to indulge then this tart is the one, hits the spot for all you sweet lovers, but didn’t leave you feeling sluggish. Gets an 8/10 from me.
Get the latest news to your inbox
Get the latest food & drink news and exclusive offers by email by signing up to our mailing list. This is one of the ways that Confidentials remains free to our readers and by signing up you help support our high quality, impartial and knowledgable writers. Thank you!