Brioche buns, body snatcher bitter and British pig
This month's best dishes are a real mixed bag. Ever more price-conscious these days, there's a noodle dish, a South Indian speciality and a dusky green dessert all coming in under a tenner. Then over at the pricier end of things, there's a Mexican-inspired Michelin star dish and a plate of posh pork. Scroll down to read about our top tips for a pint and a glass of wine too.
Here are the best things to eat in Manchester in October.
The Big Tahi, Tahi (£13)
New Zealand deserves a lot of credit for making mince cool. If you can make mince (not a Bolognese, not a shepherd’s pie) cool, you deserve clout. At Tahi you can get mince on toast, a Kiwi staple, very cool, but you can also get this namesake breakfast called The Big Tahi. But how could you possibly separate yourself in a fiercely competitive Manchester antipodean brunch market? Well, first things first, cook it all to a high standard. That’s obvious. But little details like a potato hash here or some braised beans there go a long way. Add a venison sausage and you’re making movements. Home-baked bread you can watch being made live in-house is also a plus. Before you know it you're a serious contender on the Manc breakfast scene. Davey Brett @dbretteats
Aguachile, tuna and radish, Mana (part of a £195 tasting menu)
This month, the prices of my food recommendations are a bit like playing the numbers game on Countdown, with Mana representing a very big number and Dosa Xpress (see below) a much smaller one. There’s no hiding from the controversy that has surrounded Mana this year - the reaction was audible (again) at the MFDF awards this week. But there is also a young team of chefs, sommeliers and front-of-house professionals working their socks off at this, Manchester’s most expensive restaurant.
So I want to celebrate one of the dishes on the current tasting menu presented beautifully by talented chef Rosie Maguire. Aguachile with fresh tuna and radish was one of the first in a procession of many dishes at mana but its flavour, as bright as the colour of its unripe jalapeño dressing stuck in my mind long afterwards. This is nothing like the aguachile I've eaten in Mexico but rather one reimagined by David Hockney. Other highlights of the menu included scallop chawanmushi and an incredible barbecued langoustine. There’s some brilliant young talent here that should not go unrecognised. Kelly Bishop @keliseating
Mysore masala dosa, Dosa Xpress (£5.99)
I’m acutely aware of the privilege this job of eating for a living brings me, having lived by Delia’s “frugal food” book for much of my adult life. But I love unpretentious food and I think it’s as important to celebrate the good stuff you can get for under a tenner as the top chefs doing fancy shit with artisan everything - especially in the current cost of living hellscape.
Indian food is my lifelong love, and while it’s not quite the 30p I paid for dosas in Kerala, you really can’t argue with six quid for an expertly made, hot and filling lunch. Dosa Xpress is one of the many gems to be found in Withington, and with almost 40 different dosas on the menu, the FOMO is strong with this one. If you’ve never had one, a dosa is a paper thin, crisp and golden, fermented lentil and rice pancake rolled into an airy cylinder (or cone) and filled, classically with spiced potato mash. It's the perfect lunch. My Mysore masala dosa featured spiced tomato paste in addition to the mash and arrived on a classic bright yellow, moulded plastic tray with four sauces for dipping. Tear a piece off and dip it into each sauce one by one, layering up the coconut chutney, coriander yoghurt, spicy sambal and red chilli chutney for a bharatanatyam on the tongue. Here, you can also find the punky penguin ice cream of nostalgic fever among people of a certain age - as I found when I posted a video of one on TikTok. Kelly Bishop @keliseating
British pig, The Black Friar (£24)
The Black Friar is making a name for itself, just on the northern side of the Irwell River. Chef Ben is starting to out-gastro gastro pubs. Not quite up there with Tom Kerridge yet, but not far off. I ordered The Black Friar Bake without knowing what it was. It turned out to be a Cornish pasty filled with chicken breast and plump wild mushrooms. I loved it. But the stand-out dish of the month was labelled “BRITISH PIG - rosé braised cheek, peppered fillet, pressed confit belly, butternut squash and pine nut crumb.” This was a big bruiser of a dish, but a bruiser in a twinset and pearls. It made me smile looking at it and swoon eating it. This proper piggy has very nearly been turned into a silk purse. Well thought out, the fillet moist, well seasoned and seared on the outside; butternut squash purée shot through with pine nuts kept both texture and moisture right, the belly “immaculate” from my notes. I can tell you that means it will have been creamy-fatty and crispy at the same time. A banging lip-smacker of a dish. Gordo @gordomanchester
Body Snatcher Bitter, Beer Nouveau (£3.60 pint)
You know the Hobgoblin slogan that got turned into a meme? “What’s the matter lagerboy, afraid you might taste something?” When I first had Beer Nouveau’s Body Snatcher bitter last month, I felt like I was an IPA boy having an epiphany. What a pint. Steve at Beer Nouveau has brewed it to a Boddingtons recipe from the 60s and it’s glorious. Creamy, with a caramel Werther’s Original softness, it’s remarkable how much more flavour it packs than generic pub bitter. All that wooden barrel goodness. John Smiths iterations are fun and stuff but if you actually want to taste something, get yourself over to North Western Street, bitter boy. Davey Brett @dbretteats
Ho Fun Noodles, Hello Oriental (£9.95)
Despite living just round the corner from the underground neon bunker that is Hello Oriental, this was only the second time I had dragged myself there. The first time, it had only been open a few days and I was irked by the lack of cutlery and other on-table folly that is required to eat anything at a QR code food hall. I remember asking a few times for water and chopsticks, in the end having to search some out myself and reaching behind the bar area for a napkin.
Teething problems, however, as this subsequent visit was a different experience. Yes, the serving staff were still completely underwhelmed by their duties, but at least the plate-to-mouth apparatus is already on the table when you arrive. These ho fun noodles are apparently the chef’s family recipe, and in my opinion, one of the best things on offer here. The dish is generous with chunks of tender beef, and the noodles cooked just so they start to suck up their sauce. Flavour and fat coat the inside of your mouth and cling to your lips, and the protein to noodle to veg ratio is just spot on. A proper example of real, simple comfort food in an unexpected place. Sophie Rahnema @sophieshahla
Sicilian brioche bun with pistachio gelato, Ornella’s Pasta Kitchen (£4.90)
When I applied for a job at Confidentials, I firmly described myself as a “savoury activist” who’d much rather scoff their way through a multipack of Wotsits or a cheeseboard than anything sweet. However, things change, people change, and the Sicilian brioche bun with pistachio gelato from Ornella’s Pasta Kitchen tipped me over to the sweet side throughout September. As did a full family packet of Minstrels in the cinema.
I described the gelato at Ornella’s as “absolute pudding heaven in Pantone shade 13-0116” after a couple of Aperols, and I still stand by that. The brioche is fluffy, glazed and airy with enough clout to hold two giant scoops of sage green iced goodness. There’s a scattering of pistachio nuts over the whole thing, and the smooth, creamy, cold scoops had me pining for more, even though its suddenly bloody freezing outside. Add Denton to your "places to dine" list, and read my review of Ornella's whilst you're at it. Ellie-Jo Johnstone @elliejoj.
El Otro Lado Torrontes Mendoza Argentina, Another Hand (£50 a bottle but if you’re lucky it might be on by the glass)
The white grape, Torrontes, helped me to pass a wine exam once. I internally punched the air when this less mainstream of grapes came up on the exam paper because I absolutely love it. Not for everyone, Argentina’s key white grape makes an extremely floral wine with notes of your granny’s knicker drawer and stem ginger. Which is exactly what I want in a wine. This orange iteration has all that as well as more rounded peachy flavours and a gaggle of grippy tannins bringing a savoury note that makes it perfect with all sorts of food. Ideal then at Another Hand where the menu is rich and varied and you need a wine that can stand up to miso, chilli, coriander and whatever else the chef team decide to dazzle you with. When I visited this was on special offer by the glass, but I won’t hesitate to buy a bottle next time. Kelly Bishop @keliseating