This month we flirt with French pastry, get upstaged by well-dressed crab and start a Margarita summer
You can always count on the Confidentials team to give you an interesting cross-section of dishes across our fair city. This month we've been circumnavigating dim sum restaurants, pootling around Salford and propping up the pass of our favourite restaurants. So if you're up for it, let us tell you about them.
Join us, why don't you, for a love letter to buoyant breakfast eggs, joyous gelato, patties and pork. With a generous sprinkle of tequila and fire water.
Scroll on for the best things to eat and drink in Manchester this month.
Mediterranean eggs, Procaffienated (£7)
I used to get really excited about a long brunch catch-up with mates. Someone else making you breakfast can be a right treat, especially if that someone is a far better cook than you are. But lately, the smashed avo spreading across the city like The Blob has got me running scared. Don’t even get me started on the hammered horror of bottomless brunch. In short, it takes something cinematic to impress me with brekkie in 2022.
Procaffienated impressed me on many levels: great coffee, aesthetically pleasing, tactile crockery, genuinely relaxed ambience. But the Mediterranean eggs were just the ticket. A shallow bowl of warmed greek yoghurt like mild, molten feta with a double feature of poached free-range eggs snuggled within; their soft yolks poised ready to ooze and swirl. All this was topped with an ingredient I would like pretty much every meal topped with: chilli-infused garlic butter. Two crisp slices of Procaffienated’s “signature 4:1 sourdough” stood upright ready to soak it all up and I was a silent picture of contentment. Kelly Bishop @keliseating
Procaffienated, Atelier Homes, 263 Chapel St, Salford M3 5JY
Chocolate and almond croissant, La Chouquette (£2.70)
At least once a week Gordo rolls into the office with two or three brown paper bags full of croissants for everybody. Buttery pillows of flaky dreams. Perfect with a morning coffee and even more perfect when you haven’t bought them yourself. They are always from La Chouquette, a tiny little French bakery tucked into a corner of Didsbury Village.
On the hunt for a snack on Saturday morning I join the queue outside La Chouquette snaking round onto Dene Road. The Parisian blue framed windows of the boulangerie are dressed with piles of pastry and patisserie perfection. A simple almond croissant is upgraded with a centre of dark chocolate. Still warm from the oven, the half-melted choc is a welcome bitter flavour against sweet almond cream. Pastry is caramelised and golden, and a generous sprinkle of flaked almonds gives this the edge over any other croissant contender. It's the first morsel I've eaten in a long time that's made me go, "Oooohhhh." Sophie Rahnema @sophieshahla
La Chouquette 812a Wilmslow Rd, Didsbury, Manchester M20 6UH
Cuvée Aquaviva, Bourgogne Aligoté, The Beeswing, (£12.50)
Ask anyone to tell you what the weather’s like in Manchester and they’ll mention rain. If you got caught in any of the torrential downpours at the tail end of June, you’ll be damply aware that even summer doesn’t give us a break. So when the clouds part and the rays crack the flagstones, we’re on it like the Queen on Dubbonet (I know, I know).
For such a precipitant city, Manchester has a healthy share of rooftop bars and street drinking spots - with more on the way. But if you’re not in the mood for the conspicuous consumption of 20 Stories, the mad fer it revival of the NQ or the placcy glass pints of piss of Canal Street, there are some alternatives. The Beeswing's balcony is, in my opinion, one of the best sun traps in the whole city. It feels like a private members club at the moment as it’s only just had its soft opening so the hordes are yet to fully descend. I want to keep it for myself really but that would be selfish and it’s my job to share the joy. So I will direct you to the staircase just past Nell's Pizza and urge you to ascend it.
While the full food menu is yet to make an appearance, the carefully chosen wine list is ripe for the picking. Co-owner Anna used to run Vin-Yard at Hatch and has worked her way all around the world’s vineyards. She really knows her grapes. A case in point is this elegant orange from Burgundy: all clementine peel, nectarine skin and green tea tannins. It's the priciest glass on the menu but worth splashing out on for your first glass at least. With a little summin summin on a stick to nibble alongside and the right weather conditions, it feels like St Tropez up there. Kelly Bishop @keliseating
The Beeswing, 24a Minshull St, Manchester M1 3EF
Lamb and beef patties, Caribbean Flavas (£1.80 each)
Totted up over 20,000 steps in a day pootling around Chapel Street this month, and a pause in the pootling involved eating patties from Caribbean Flavas in The Egerton Arms Hotel. One of the bittersweet realities of this world is there aren’t enough opportunities to eat takeaway foods with pints in pubs. Fish and chips for example, in a pub, with a pint, is food pairing bliss. (Ask politely and The White Lion or Cask on Liverpool Road will let you do just that with goods from the nearby Fish Hut.)
Or, like I did (having asked for permission), you can purchase two patties from Kevin at Caribbean Flavas, one beef one lamb, and take them into the Egerton next door. Using the paper bag as a plate, I’d recommend a ratio of one generous gulp of Joseph Holt Bitter to every two bites of patty, holding them by the curved side as to not make a mess. Larger than your average chip shop or supermarket patty and stuffed full of juicy, spiced meat, they deliver that lingering warmth that hangs around your mouth long after the last bite. Pig in shit food contentment right there. Davey Brett @dbretteats
Nix & Kix watermelon and hibiscus, GK Gallery & Tea Room, £2.70
GK Gallery is such a genius space. If it were in Berlin or Amsterdam, people would be waxing lyrical. Travel Man Joe Lycett would be giggling up the stairs, Rob Beckett in tow, making jokes about scones. Salford is blessed. Quaint coffee shop with a gallery space mezzanine as well as a counter of home-baked goods made from an endearing domestic kitchen style setup in the centre of the room. Calling all candle fans, there’s a gift shop too.
What I like about GK as well its very existence is the little sparks of niche sourcing. A bag of crisps or a soft drink that you don’t usually see. This Nix & Kix watermelon and hibiscus concoction was one such discovery. An easy-drinking fizzy water drink with a little hint of cayenne pepper. An alternative to all the coffees I’d already consumed that day. Super refreshing and void of the artificial pick-n-mix flavours that come with similar drinks. The owner told me she and her daughter had discovered it on holiday and insisted on bringing it back. I, for one, am glad they did. Davey Brett @dbretteats
Pear and ricotta gelato, Taste It (£3)
I wrote a whole article on the best ice creams in Manchester this month, so it was only right that I also consumed enough of the frozen stuff to be in a permanent state of brain freeze throughout June. I’ve had an almond Magnum in the office on a hot Tuesday, a Bloody Mary ice lolly at Glastonbury, and an extra special scoop of homemade gelato from Taste It in Salford.
The Salford scoop took the biscuit for my best dish of the month though, as Taste It’s owner, Simona, passionately told me all about her trips to Palermo and her delicate flavour combinations. She also went to the Italian School of Gelato, obviously. Veering away from my usual chocoholic ice cream preferences, I had a tub of pear and ricotta gelato and ate it with the obligatory plastic utensil as I strolled down Chapel Street. The ricotta made sure that the soft serve sustained a sharp and refreshing flavour with some sweet chunks of pear swirled into every scoop. The added crunch of crushed walnuts reminded me of the top of a classic Cornetto, and, as one of them "eat it quickly before it turns to milk" affairs, the gelato was like frozen Carnation, in the very best way. I'd saunter over to Salford with a stone in my shoe for another scoop of this. Ellie-Jo Johnstone @elliejoj
Taste It, 69 Blackfriars Road, Salford, M3 7DB
Rare breed pork chop, Another Hand (£17)
I have been harping on about Another Hand since the place opened in March, and have visited at least once a week since then. I go there for coffee, for lunchtime toasties, for glasses of wine and for general chatter and goss. I have devoured the menu from top to bottom, watching as recipes have changed and evolved to sweet perfection, anticipating new additions and mourning retired dishes like good mates. Pork belly went over the rainbow bridge recently, replaced with a rare breed pork chop that you can watch being grilled in the open kitchen from spectator's stools next to the pass. It glistens in its own jus and the bone is provided for a post-dinner nibble. Close runners up from my fave menu in town include burrata served with grilled peaches, tomatoes and lavender, and a bowl of ancient grains that is far from simple. All preserved lemon and crispy wild rice - just perfect for sopping up all that porky jus. Sophie Rahnema @sophieshahla
Another Hand Unit F, 253 Deansgate, Manchester M3 4EN
Frozen pineapple & ginger Margarita, The Firehouse (£9)
This summer I've decided I'm going to be a frozen Margarita girl. Watch out streets of Castlefield when its any hotter than 15 degrees outside. To start off my Margarita summer I had a frozen pineapple and ginger tipple with my Sunday roast at The Firehouse, naturally.
I drank this zingy, boozy slush before my roast chicken arrived (pineapple and stuffing aren't exactly a classic combo) and it was the perfect palette cleanser for a pre-roast coma. Easy enough to drink through a little paper straw, but frozen enough to hold its own in The Firehouse's inside-outside dining room on a hot day, you could just about taste the tequila and definitely taste the spicy pepper flakes that doused the classic Margarita glass. With ingredients that sound like they'd cure the common cold, this frozen bev is one to go back for. Ellie-Jo Johnstone @elliejoj
The Firehouse, 40 Swan St, Manchester M4 5JG
Pan-fried seafood stuffed peppers, Mei Dim (£4.90)
A misadventure in search of Manchester’s most expensive bacon butty lead, through a series of random occurrences, to a basement in Chinatown. Between the rain and the fragrant smells wafting up through the entrance, I’d been tempted from my mission. Mei Dim is a classic of the type – dimly lit, noisy, where the journey from table to door is so circuitous you could set up a Strava for it. I don’t know much about the main menu but I do know their dim sum selection is a cracker. I had a good assortment, all turnip, and sticky pork and glutinous rice. My favourite was this little dish of seafood-stuffed peppers, extended like three scarlet claws scraping the pattern off the blue-and-white plate. Slightly scary imagery aside, the peppers were just zingy enough to enliven the packed-in prawns, firm and juicy. The bacon butty will do another day. Lucy Tomlinson @hotcupoftea
Mei Dim, 45-47 Faulkner Street, Manchester M1 4EE
Granchio Piccantino, Caffe Grande Piccolino (£16.50)
One should always dress for a meal out I thought as I looked at my dressed Devonshire crab. Shame I wasn't as well-turned out as the dish I was about to consume.
I was in Caffe Grande Piccolino, one of the city’s shiny glamour bars and perhaps the one that does it best. It has a sparkling and sharp interior and it has that prominent terrace facing the Town Hall - ok a Town Hall still a couple of years from reopening - but there remains a certain stately gravitas to the location. There’s always a buzz too which adds to any meal; for dining out is a social occasion that extends beyond the company you keep on your table to embrace the room. You become part of all that and all that becomes part of you.
Dressed Devonshire crab makes me philosophical. Especially when it’s this good. The beautifully turned-out crab came with chilli, mayonnaise, lemon, lettuce and Sardinian flatbread. These were pretty tidy as well, particularly the chilli which added a small but distinct kick to the perfect crab. Indeed, there was such suavity to that crab it should have worn a cravat. An expensive one this, but a complete joy. Jonathan Schofield @jonathschofield
Caffe Grand Piccolino, 8 Clarence St, Manchester M2 4DW
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