Our writers and staff choose their favourite meals from September
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 September.
Gambas Pil Pil, Bodega, Gatley (£9)
My favourite dish this month shone out of the fog of a confused menu. Bodega Tapas' offering, while enjoyable, roams roughshod over the mediterranean like Alexander the Great, but with a bit less subtlety; from meze and mozzarella to hummus and halloumi - much of the menu was as Spanish as Andrew Sachs.
However their gambas pil pil (£9) gored me like a Valencian bull. These really did not disappoint; each prawn was about the size of a spaniel and swimming in a garlicky oil that, were I ever captured by cannibals, I’d ask to be gently seared in. Every time spent plates were cleared I was sure to cling onto the roasting dish with this puddle of lovely elixir, dipping anything I could in it. A warm and welcome ray of light.
David Adamson @davidadamson123
Almejas Carnitas, Madre (£15)
Mexican food is not my thing. I don’t know why. Ignorance I suppose. I’ve tried lots of restaurants in Europe and never thought yep, love this. Maybe I need to go to Mexico and get the real deal. But this dish, Almejas Carnitas, in the attractive surroundings of Kampus, is one of the most enjoyable things I’ve eaten this year. It’s the sort of dish that makes you want Michelin fine-dining to disappear up its own terribly refined rectum never to re-emerge and bother us again.
Let me translate Almejas Carnitas: simple, it’s clams and spuds. Plus beer, although maybe I was too entranced by the other flavours for this to make itself evident. You see, I was too busy sliding those clams from the shells while loving the equivalent of Sunday roast potatoes, all crispy on the outside and apparently cooked with spicy pork fat. Spicy pork fat? Why wasn’t there a punk band called that? I’d listen. This dish is visceral, you have to join in with it and take your time. It’s wonderful, hits the target.
Jonathan Schofield @JonathSchofield
Deep Clough Farm topside beef, The Bay Horse Tavern (£17.50)
I’ll be honest, I’ve not had a Sunday roast for months. In fact, I think the last roast I had (before this one) was at Christmas. But then again, us Northerners would probably argue that that’s a Christmas dinner, not a humble roast.
I got a real hankering for one last week and decided to scroll through Confidential Guides’ list of 15 epic roast dinners for Sunday lunching and stumbled across The Bay Horse Tavern. Situated on Thomas Street, The Bay Horse is a popular spot in the Northern Quarter amongst students, older Mancs and, well, everyone really. I’ve now added myself to that list of its fans after sampling one of their succulent Sunday roasts.
Roast dinners are served stacked high with (perfectly pink in the middle) topside beef, all the trimmings, including parsnips and sweet potato mash, and a Yorkie pud to crown it - the only thing that makes them sexier than they already are is the generous lashings of thick, bubbling gravy served on the side. There’s also chicken, pork and vegan options available too, as well as sides and extras (if you’ve any room left for them).
Demolishing one of these with a crisp pint of ale is probably the best way to spend your Sunday afternoon.
Harley Young @Harley__Young
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
Charred green chilli with century old eggs, Noodle Alley (£6.80)
Smoked beers? I’d sampled a few at Smokefest, a niche celebration at Torrside Brewing in New Mills, so what perils could a surfeit of Sichuan pepper hold for kippered me? Hence it was a ballast of ‘Burning Noodles’ all round at Ken and Wendy Chen’s Chinatown basement in homage to her native province. This version of the classic dish featuring minced pork is not the tonsil-cauterising challenge you might encounter in the back alleys of Chengdu, but it is the most authentic manifestation ever to pop up in Faulkner Street. Numbing enough to need the quenching (unsmoked) neutrality of a Tsingtao lager or two. My foodie focus, though, was more left field.
I am currently working my way through Invitation To A Banquet, Fuchsia Dunlop’s newly published introduction to Chinese cuisine – a monumental read from the Sichuan-trained chef/author – so I felt I had to order small plates of Sichuan starch jelly with house chilli sauce and charred green chilli with century old eggs. The former was testimony to the Chinese love of texture, the latter proof that an ammoniac whiff doesn’t have to be off-putting.
The wedges of egg, fanned around the plate, resembled on first glance streaked dark green tomatoes. The Chinese see a pine pattern, so another name beyond the usual pidan is songhua dan, or pine-patterned egg. That look is the result of several weeks’ fermentation. Traditionally this consisted of pickling duck eggs in brine and then burying them in a mixture of coals, chalk, mud and alkaline clay. Result – they can last unrefrigerated for months. Bite through the gelatinous coating and the taste is uncompromisingly ripe. Think blue cheese on steroids. The impact at Noodle Alley certainly skittled any lingering ashtray beer tastes.
Neil Sowerby @AntonEgoManc
Panna Cotta Al Tiramisu, Sud, Exhibition (£7.50)
I’m loving Exhibition at the moment, it’s a great place to spend a lazy afternoon with pals. The music is great, the wine really well chosen, and the staff’s enthusiasm is infectious.
The food is delivered by three operators, all individually scoring 16/20 or higher by Confidential inspectors, although Baratxuri have regrettably closed their legendary restaurant up in Rammy. Osma and Sud are the other two.
This last Saturday I was completely blown away with Sud’s take on Panna Cotta. It was sat quivering in a heart-stopping caramel sauce, sprinkled with the shavings of amaretti biscuits, as well as crushed nuggets of the same that will have you swooning when you’ve got a spoonful along with the sauce and a dollop of the velvety, beautifully balanced sweetness and vanilla of the Panna cotta itself.
I hated having to share it.
Mark Garner @Gordomanchester
Jerk Chicken with Rice and Peas, Simply Caribbean, Altrincham Market (£8 including can of Rubicon)
A few weeks ago me and my other half went out for a Sunday stroll at a nature reserve near Warrington. What should have been a pleasant afternoon lapping up the last of the September sun turned out to be a nightmare. We’d barely left the car park when we were descended upon by a swarm of large, aggressive mosquitoes. We ploughed on but the further on the trail we went the more they kept coming, and I’m not talking any regular garden bugs here. These motherf*ckers looked like they’d been bench pressing down Virgin Active all morning.
After this harrowing experience we needed some comfort food – and I had a real hankering for some good jerk chicken. Tucked away on the far side of Altrincham Market is a little Caribbean joint called Simply Caribbean. Have been here a few times now and always had excellent grub and this was no different. I went for the classic jerk chicken wings, rice and peas and a can of fizzy pop. As with all good Caribbean spots it had a tremendous array of canned drinks – I went for a sparkling pomegranate can of Rubicon. The jerk chicken is just what you want – that perfect blend of tangy with a nice kick, and the rice and peas there to help out if things get too spicy. Afternoon saved.
Jake Ogden @Mancogden
Duck: beetroot / gyoza / umeboshi plum, MUSU (£26)
Perfectly presented and perfectly cooked, my dish of September is the DUCK: beetroot / gyoza / umeboshi plum ordered from the A La Carte menu at the contemporary Japanese restaurant MUSU.
The melt in the mouth duck went well with the beetroot and the gyoza was cooked perfectly, with a crispy texture on the bottom while the top was soft and slightly chewy.
The carrot looked like something from the RHS flower show, which I didn’t want to ruin but, of course, did.
I’d definitely go back and order this dish again.
Bolton could be accused of being a bit of a carvery and YAFI town (Yet another f***ing Italian). Nothing wrong with those when the occasion calls for it, but it can get a bit samey. However, there are an increasing number of exciting new places who are successfully rolling out a more varied range of flavours and cuisines from spicy tacos and tapas to sushi. One newcomer is TESA, led by head chef Adrian Ioan. He owns and runs the restaurant business that has recently opened in the kitchen at Henighans Eat & Drink on Bury Road in Breightmet. With a wealth of top-level experience, Adrian has worked with some big names in the business and his passion for cooking comes through in his food and presentation.
On the menu are pub grub classics such as fish and chips, and chicken in a basket, but also plenty of adventurous options such as a hearty chicken shawarma and sticky beef Asian noodles. My regular pick is the salt and pepper cauliflower starter. I generally can't stand cauliflower in its basic form, with that stagnant pond water taste, so for me it has to be bathed in something spicy and cooked to a tender nibblet without becoming mushy and these are perfectly cooked. The batter is tissue-paper thin without falling apart and clings to the wasabi-piqued soy sauce. The fresh coriander and zingy salad give you a bright and spicy punch to get your palate fired up and ready for an exciting main.
Martyn Pitchford @Pitch_Blend
Pint of Guinness, Mulligans of Deansgate (£6.70)
What can I say, I’m a maverick. My dish of the month is a beverage, sue me. You can’t hear the line “it’s like a meal in a glass” and not eventually be swayed into thinking it actually is. Mulligans pour this perfection better than anyone else in the city (fight me). There’s something about an Irish pub when it’s not a gimmick, it’s actually like the homeland (I’m passport eligible so I can say that).
“Clouds atop of a dark abyss, can never go amiss. Especially when on the piss.”
Hayden Naughton @HaydenNaughton
Editors note - Hayden Naughton's maverick behaviour will not go unpunished. He will be nil by mouth from now until next month's Best Dishes comes around, with only an IV of Guinness to keep him fed. Then we'll see if it truly is a meal in a glass.
Read again - Manchester restaurant & bar deals: October 2023
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