Sea bass, sausage and a Siam Smile

As October sweeps in dramatically like a Disney villain wearing a coat of bitter torrential rain, we're all for adding another thin layer of insulating girth to our waistlines. 

This month's recommended dishes include belly-warming broths, fiery chillies and rib-sticking porridge from all over Manchester and beyond.

Read on for what to eat in Manchester this October:

Poached Oyster, Moor Hall (Part of 'Menu 8' tasting menu £155)

It’s been full on this month having got back into my stride on eating out since the pandemic struck. It included judging pies at the Melton Mowbray British Pie Awards, the two Michelin starred Moor Hall near Ormskirk, the one-star Michelin Forest Side up in the lakes, the soon-to-be one star Heft by Kevin Tickle (if only for his cheese and onion pasty served in the bar) near Grange over Sands and the remarkable Mana, Manchester’s very own one-star Michelin restaurant leading the charge in Ancoats.

Two other special mentions in and just off Cutting Room square are The Jane Eyre, who delivered a dish of salt and pepper squid that throbbed, and Erst, with a dish of steak tartare with tonnato sauce that dragged me outside the restaurant and kicked the shit out of me.

So, what was the best dish? The Irish oyster I had at Moor Hall. I hate chefs messing about with oysters. Poaching? Please, bugger off. Creamy sauce? You need shooting. Then you have Mark Birchall’s poached oyster. And you realise why you don’t like poaching (or any form of cooking) interfering with your oysters. The only chef who has got it right is Mark Birchall. AND God bless ‘em, his team who delivered this masterpiece - whilst Mark was off looking after his missus and the newborn. 

I’m forecasting a third Michelin Star for Mark Birchall and his team if not this year, by Autumn next. Gordo @gordomanchester

Moor Hall Prescot Rd, Aughton, Ormskirk L39 6RT

(Want more? Read: A dozen places to eat oysters in Manchester)

Brown Rice Porridge At Playfoots In Monton
Brown rice porridge at Playfoots in Monton

Brown Rice Porridge, Playfoots Cafe Bar (£5.50)

I’ve written about Playfoots before when I reviewed it in July and waxed lyrical about the slow-cooked lamb sabich. This time, my boyfriend treated me to brunch on Saturday to jimmy himself into my good books before being absent for a weekend of beer and golf. 

On the face of it, porridge can sound dull, but I think we all know that it isn’t. A Glaswegian friend of mine once told me that the only things oats need are whole milk and a pinch of salt, another recommending a knob of butter. Playfoots porridge is far more dynamic in accoutrement and flavour. Made with brown rice that has been cooked just short of congee silkiness, but tarted up with coconut milk and adorned with a fruity headdress of raspberries and grilled nectarines. Sweet with agave nectar, but pleasingly savoury from little chunks of cashew nuts, this little vegan bowl of loveliness not only fixed me up for the day but saved my boyfriend from a headache too. Sophie Rahnema @sophieshahla

Playfoots Cafe Bar 175 Monton Rd, Monton, Eccles, Manchester M30 9GS

Sea Bass Crudo With Isle Of Wight Tomatoes And Fermented Chilli Water At Erst
Sea bass crudo with Isle of Wight tomatoes and fermented chilli water at Erst

Sea bass crudo, Isle Of Wight tomatoes and fermented chilli water, Erst (£12)

Small plates can do one. Far too often they’re an unimaginative procession of the same old spicy fried chicken or cauliflower (usually “Korean” or doused in Sriracha), fried squid, mac ’n cheese, hummus and halloumi. It’s boring, Manchester can do better and anyway I like my plates big, thanks. 

Erst is the exception that proves the rule and probably my favourite place to eat in Manchester. When Liv Con Editor Vicky Andrews came over for the day, it was a no-brainer for our working lunch. It’s never easy to pick a best dish from the elegant, perfectly balanced plates here but sea bass crudo won the arm wrestle with a burrata on this occasion. My absolute favourite kind of food, everything fresh as a dewy green shoot. Leaves of sea-scented fish bathe together with sweet Isle of Wight tomatoes in a hot spa bath of fermented chill water swirled with oil the colour of marigolds. A reminder that five ingredients or fewer, well-sourced and treated with love always make the best dishes. 

Oh and for the record, I had already declared this my dish of the month before that pesky Jay Rayner published his glowing review in the Observer. Winky face. Kelly Bishop @keliseating

Erst 9 Murray St, Ancoats, Manchester M4 6HS

KuiTiew Namtok Moo, a noodle soup with pork fillet, pork balls and assorted vegetables
KuiTiew Namtok Moo, a noodle soup with pork fillet, pork balls and assorted vegetables

KuiTiew Namtok Moo, Siam Smiles Thai Café (£12)

When Deansgate starts getting me down and people are just too much for me to face, I climb way up to the top of those stairs and all my cares just drift right into space. On Deansgate Mews it’s as peaceful as can be and there Deansgate below can’t bother me. Let me tell you now. When I get home feelin’ tired and beat I go where the noodles are fresh and the broth is deep. I get away from the hustling crowd for a bowl of pork and veg for which the owners should feel proud. Siam Smiles my favourite place to go, and all you need is twelve quid to make it so. Let me tell you now. 

Food so comforting for the soul that it makes you want to sing. Davey Brett @dbretteats

Siam Smiles Deansgate Mews, Great Northern, 253 Deansgate, Manchester M3 4EN

A wonderful smoked sausage from The Spärrows

Smoked sausage, The Spärrows (£9.50)

I love Spärrows restaurant on Red Bank. It’s notable on many counts, not least that it’s the hardest restaurant to find in the city, heavily disguised behind a black painted wooded panel totally filling the façade of an otherwise anonymous railway arch. The restaurant nameplate is so small you need a telescope to read it from two feet away. It’s worth seeking out though. Inside it's airy and comfortable with clever design touches that cunningly disguise the fact there’s no natural light. The food is distinctive too and very Mittel Europe. Spätzle abounds (a species of Austrian pasta) as do goulash and pierogi. 

I had the smoked sausage with gherkins, braised onion, pickles, sauerkraut, mustard and focaccia. This baby is filling and flavour-packed, full of those fabulous pickle aromas and flavours which I always associate with autumn and winter. The smoked sausage, the main event, was the king of smoked sausages. Wonderful. I wanted another one immediately. The whole dish was so Teutonic all it lacked was an umlaut. Jonathan Schofield @Jonathschofield

The Spärrows 16 Red Bank, Green Quarter, Manchester M4 4HF

Chilli Chicken And Potatoes At Tre Ciccio
Chilli chicken and potatoes at Tre Ciccio

Pollo Alla Diavola, Tre Ciccio (£26.95)

On a sweaty Tuesday in September, I hopped on a bus and hoicked myself up Holcombe Hill in Ramsbottom with my better half to celebrate our anniversary. From Peel Tower, you can see the whole of Manchester and watch your daily stresses waft away on the breeze. If you’ve not been up there lately, I recommend it. Ramsbottom is somewhere I always mean to visit more often, it’s got an enviably rich food scene for such a bijou town with the likes of the MFDF Award-Winning Baratxuri, the pie-tastic Eagle and Child and at least two excellent wine shops (The Vineyard and Grape to Grain). 

But it was a cast-iron sharing dish of chicken and potatoes - lubed up with chilli and nduja - that became our anniversary dinner this year. A low-key affair with views of the rolling hills from the large windows of Tre Ciccio’s airy dining room. Families and couples all around us buzzing to be out and celebrating. I relish the chance to drop the cutlery and get stuck in with my hands. This simple, tactile meal invites pulling apart greedily with messy fingers and washing down with the last spritz of the late summer. Make it October by adding a glass of red - and a woolly jumper for the preprandial ramble. Kelly Bishop @keliseating

Tre Ciccio 16-18 Market Pl, Ramsbottom, Bury BL0 9HT

A Wood Fired Chicken And Mushroom Pizza At Zitano Chorlton Manchester

Chicken & mushroom pizza, Zitano (£13)

With not another student in sight, a venture out to Chorlton was enough to make me feel out my comfort zone. Unlike Gordo, leading a boujee-student life tempts me into choosing the cheaper options on the menu and this woodfired pizza took the lead this month.   

Pizza is an ordinary dish, I know, but it has to be quite distinctive to capture my interest. It’s the dough for me. Please, I beg, be soft and stretchy. This woodfired chicken and mushroom pizza hit the spot. I know what you’re thinking, what a boring choice, but I really cannot resist anything mushroom related. The pizza was a perfect combination of tomato and cheese - much needed after a long weekend. (Confidentials intern) Mia Duthil-McArthur @mediawithmia

Zitano 133 Beech Rd, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester, M21 9EQ

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