READ THE 2015 UPDATED 'BEST OF' STEAKS LIST HERE: TOP 10 BEST STEAKS IN MANCHESTER
STEAK. Even the word sounds horny.
T-Bone. Sirloin. Rib-eye. Rump. Fillet. Oh dear, what a mouthful of wonderful things. And how lucky we are today. Because seventy-four years ago as a nation we decided that we didn't like bullies and that we should stick up for minorities. We didn't need a constitution to tell us. We just knew it was right.
Today, the variety of breeds open to us here in the North West is excellent. Family butchers are coming back into vogue. In the North West we have become blessed with farmers who have woken up to the reality that people will pay more for quality beef.
And so, we went to war with Mr Hitler and the door was shut on the idea of going to a restaurant and being able to order a steak of your choice. For sixteen long, cold and hungry years. You certainly couldn't get it at the butchers.
Even then, two years after rationing ended in 1956, when you could find a steak, it was a pretty insipid thing. The market couldn't afford to hang the beef for more than two weeks and the provenance was pretty suspect, along with the age. Hard worked dairy cows found themselves on the menu. A rump steak off one of those tired old girls really exercised your jawbones.
Slowly, once the seventies arrived and this writer was doing his apprenticeship as a master butcher, the quality of the cattle coming into the Manchester abattoir was improving, with wet-aged vac-packed sirloin and rump strips arriving from Argentina, and the Scots becoming canny with their marketing of the superb Angus steers.
Today, the variety of breeds open to us here in the North West is excellent. Family butchers are coming back into vogue. In the North West we have become blessed with farmers who have woken up to the reality that people will pay more for quality beef and they are testing us with some brilliant produce having realised that the grass in Cheshire, Lancashire and Cumbria is amongst the best in the world.
So, are the restaurants doing their bit and buying and preparing quality? The answer is yes. Some, like Individual Restaurants with the RBG and Piccolinos brands have gone to the extraordinary length of buying herds, and their own abattoir; others, like Smoak at The Malmaison buy their beef off Frosts, definitely not known for doing cheap catering supplies, and hanging it themselves in a chiller in full view of the restaurant, to ensure the beef is matured to their standards.
Kitchens are buying Josper and Inka grills, essentially a barbecue inside an oven, with temperatures reaching 400 degrees at times, which deliver steaks that delight.
So, we have chosen our twelve best steaks in city centre Manchester and here they are. Are we right? Or wrong? As always, you can have your say below in the rants.
We shall be expanding the list out across the Granada region, so keep your suggestions flowing.
Gordo wrote the introduction above.
This is in alphabetical order, not order of merit.
Albert Square Chop House
Albert’s is part of the group which owns Sam’s and Mr Thomas’s Chop Houses. They have a reputation for steaks and chops which has been brought into the new kid on Albert Square. Still looking a bit squeaky clean, you can’t say the same for the 16oz, 28-day aged rib of beef chop, £26. It’s a belter. Comes with good chunky and crispy chips, a nice tart béarnaise and tomatoes cooked through with big juicy mushrooms looking like a black eye on the plate. Grilled, well salted and cooked absolutely as requested, with a full creamy flavour, the quality is tip top and has been through an aging process that has taken the steam out of the cut, with fatty flavours yielding in the mouth. Lush. (G)
Albert Square Chop House, 14 Albert Square, City, M2 5PF, 0161 161 834 1866
This place is all meat. If you cut the walls they'd bleed. Housed in one of the many former church meeting halls in the city centre - think Albert Hall where Trof is going to move, think the Memorial Hall that hosts Albert Square Chop House - the hide-of-cow covered interior is high and mighty and comes complete with a defunct organ. A theme of worship is appropriate as there is an Argentine air of reverence for flesh here - it would appear Argentines are weaned on beef. The bife de ancho (a ribeye) is a classic cut that on our visits was moist, feisty, textured and glorious. Maybe try it with a humita, a South American side of roasted pumpkin and sweet corn, served in a corn husk for £4. The Argentine winelist provides heavy reds that match the meats. The staff have been fully steak inducted in the cuts available and like to talk the steak virgin through the choice available. (JS)
Gaucho, 2a St Mary’s Street, City, M3 2LB, 0161 833 4333
Grill on the Alley
You have to step a little carefully at Grill on the Alley. Order off the a la carte menu and you might find yourself with a steak that would never make it on to any Best of Manchester Steaks listing. But choose the small Best of British menu lurking usually amongst the salt and pepper pots and despite the huge price leap (310g ribeye £19.75 to 283g ribeye £32.50) you'll also find a huge quality leap and some of the best steaks in town. The Limousin X Galloway cattle from Bewcastle in Cumbria provide yielding, flavour-packed flesh that almost melts as you chew it. Well-marbled and full of quality with good aging these beat the other steaks on the Grill on the Alley a la carte into a distant second - even if that is reflected in the price. As usual this is a sharp Living Ventures operation with well-marshalled and amiable staff. (JS)
Grill on the Alley, 5 Ridgefield, City, M2 6EG, 0161 833 3465 (also New York Street, City, M1 4BD, 0161 238 9790).
Le Relais de Venise 'L'Entrecôte'
This one splits opinion. I (JS) don't understand the place at all, Gordo thinks it's a good 'un. For £21 you get steak, frites and a starter salad. That's it. There is no negotiation to be had - aside from the odd special on high days and holidays - it's £21 forever. So no choice for the main event but then 17 choices for desserts. Weird, yet Gordo loves the juicy slices of four week aged steak and even likes the 'special, secret ingredient' sauce. The bonus is that if you clear your plate you get more steak. The building is handsome enough and the location good. The atmosphere is like a Dave edition of 'Allo, Allo' for me but a memory of old-fashioned French virtues and values for Gordo. Give it a whirl and work out whether it's a thumbs up or a thumbs down. (JS)
Le Relais de Venise 'L'Entrecôte', 84-86 King Street, City, M2 4WQ, 0161 850 8600
The ribeye here is exactly what you want from a ribeye, a little communion with flesh, in all its fatty grandeur. The steak comes simply garnished in the classic style with a big tomato and a big mushroom. But it also arrives with the proper Mark Addy hallmark of fat chips, tasting of proper potato, a million welcome miles from those tooth-pick missiles of sharpened fries. The meat is 28-day-aged and then kept for a few days longer in the Mark Addy to really give it a tender, forgiving, yet rich character. The price is an absolute steal. Good winelist, a Cahors would do, or maybe try the steak with one of the changing range of ales. (JS)
Mark Addy, Stanley Street, City, M3 5EJ, 0161 832 4080
The Restaurant Bar & Grill
A big splash for a modest 280g (or bone-in 395g) slab of sirloin, but the provenance and handling of the raw material shine through from the first bite. This is Limousin beef from the award-winning Dinmore Manor herd in Herefordshire, naturally reared on grass, forage and grains, dry-aged for a minimum of 35 days to concentrate the complexity then seared medium rare on RBG’s charcoal and woodburning grill. Beneath the lightly charred exterior, a hint of pink and a dense but tender texture. No real garnish to speak of and the Bearnaise lacked oomph (next time the Colston Bassett Stilton Sauce calls). Chips were sturdy rascals, crisp outside, floury inside. A totally satisfying steak expedition. (NS)
The Restaurant Bar & Grill, 14 John Dalton Street, Manchester, M2 6JR. 0161 839 1999
You pay for the bloody privilege but then you do get the best provenance. David Gale can almost individually name the beasts provided by Mettricks the award-winning Glossop butcher with its own livestock and abbatoir - Mettricks was not so long ago the BBC Radio 4 national champion butcher. Gale, as shown in the picture in Gordo's introduction to this list, takes a side of beef and then has his brigade, as part of their training, strip out the cuts. There is no voguish Josper or Inka used in the cooking so no hard tasty crust, but that's not a problem - indeed, sometimes it's very welcome. The result at Podium is a simple celebration of what the best cuts prepared by one of the best North West chefs can deliver on the plate. In other words bags of flavour, in other words an absolute treat. A range of sauces, bearnaise, peppercorn, gravy - ask what they've got - can be provided to give a variety of experiences. (JS)
Podium, Hilton Manchester Deansgate, 303 Deansgate, City, M3 4LQ, 0161 870 1600
This and Gaucho provide the most spectacular dining rooms on the steak list. They probably provide some of the more spectacular dining rooms in the land. Here under the beautiful oaken ceiling of the former Reform Club you can gorge on a steak to fit the setting - like some ruddy faced industrialist from a hundred years ago. The nicely aged sirloin at 8oz works well here, invariably cooked exactly as requested - we usually favour medium rare - and breaks beautifully. The bone marrow fritter is a superb addition. The latter little joy, the chunky chips and the steak itself are hallmarks of Dave Lythall's excellent and innovative control of his kitchen and menus. (JS)
Room, 81 King Street, City, M2 4AH, 0161 839 2005
What cemented San Carlo’s entry on the twelve best list had to be eaten twice. Gordo woke up one day having had lunch at San Carlo the day before, then going on the lash through until 4am the following morning - he regained consciousness on a statue opposite the Press Club. There was a memory of a giant T-Bone that needed to be tried again to ensure it wasn’t a dream. The second time it arrived at the table he realised it was a monster, a full two and a half inches thick, and just shy of two kilos. It takes time to cook and we suggest that you order the tagliatelli with Calabrian sausage sauce for the wait; it’s tickled with fennel seeds. When the steak was carved it ate like a dream. Almost creamy in texture on the fillet side with lashings of silk, whilst the sirloin delivered like the first chapter of Dune. It’s sixty quid, but will feed two plus a great doggy bag. Which, the following day, flash fried with eggs made a breakfast fit for an angry Hercules. (G)
San Carlo, 42 King St West, City, M3 2WY, 0161 834 6226
What a little gem Manchester has in 63 Degrees, what a fine chef in Eric Moreau. This is a man who’s been uprooted by his son – and 63 Degrees boss, Alex – from Paris to West Didsbury. Eric Moreau is loving it in West Diddles and we’re loving what he’s doing on the aesthetically challenged Church Street in the Northern Quarter. The street outside might be one of the more chaotic in Manchester but inside the handsome 63 Degrees has it all under control. Here the fillet comes with vegetable fondant and bordelaise jus, and is a stunningly juicy slab of Gallic flair and elegance. All the accompaniments join in to create a satisfying ensemble. Wines are well worth sampling, maybe accompany the meat with the St.Estephe, Château Valrose ‘Cuvée Alienor’ - Vintage 2005 for £39. (JS)
63 Degrees Restaurant, 20 Church Street, City, M4 1PN, 0161832 5438
Smoak is unusual in that the hotel management love an experiment in their food and beverage; they threw the dice eighteen months ago and Smoak arrived with a Josper grill, a barbecue enclosed in an oven that reaches 400 degrees and delivers stonking steak. The meat has a great provenance an’all, Frosts of Chorlton. Lee Frost is the man of the moment and delivers the meat in whole steak pieces, leaving them in an upright glass chiller in full view of the restaurant for four weeks. This writer chose a wing rib, about 1.4 kilos in weight and shared it with the Editor. Medium rare, it actually winked at us - honest- as it arrived at the table. Astonishingly deep flavours, bordering on gamey, but fresh, almost grouse-like. Beautiful creamy crispy fat, the whole being heavily seasoned resulting in a crust that added texture a Chinese gourmand would have delighted in. (G)
Smoak, 1 Gore St, City, M1 3AQ, 0161 278 1000
Solita in the Northern Quarter is well-known for its invigorating and enthusiastic take on a Americana menu. But among the exceptional burgers and deep fried things in this handsome little restaurant there's steak too. On our visit we attacked a 12oz prime rib steak, a marbled treat, aged well, and cooked just right on the Inka grill. This charcoal powered kit roasts and barbecues at the same time and if handled well, creates a beautifully tender steak under a strongly flavoured and textured outer shell. Our steak had all these elements backed up by decent fries and oily greenery. Very life-affirming. Very...er...meaty. (JS)
Solita, 37 Turner St, City, M4 1DW, 0161 839 2200
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