This month's best dishes include a chilli parfait, a pancake party and a 'busty chutney'
Our writers have been getting their greed on this month. Well, that's true always but you'll notice a common theme - second helpings, whole turbots, set lunches and even a multi-course dinner based entirely around pancakes. Anyone might think that Confidentials was fattening them up and putting a gloss on their winter coats.
While not quite reaching the Iberian pig stage just yet, the team have been snuffling up metaphorical acorns all over Manchester and are happy to show you where you can grub up the best treats too.
So get your snout ready for our list of the best things to eat around Manchester this month.
Whole turbot (serves 2-3), Baratxuri at Escape to Freight Island (£28)
I really do wear my heart on my sleeve. I’m a lover and when I love, I love hard. Last month I fell deep for a pork chop, and this month my affections lie only for this whole turbot. So captivated was I by this fish from Baratxuri at Escape to Freight Island that I got home and started tweeting about it to my 485 followers like Gordo tweets about pork pies.
The ritual of the whole experience seduced me from the get-go. Traditional Basque Txakoli wine poured from a great height (to preserve the tiny bubbles) into my waiting glass had me squealing with glee. And when Mr Turbot was presented to me scantily clad, wearing nothing but a sprinkle of parsley, roasted garlic and chilli, I had a bout of age-inappropriate Beatlemania.
Everything at Baratxuri is cooked over fire, and the heat of the close proximity kitchen only adds to the illusion of dining on a balmy evening in Bilbao with my Basque lover. He’s perfect, he’s gorgeous, he’s mine. Sophie Rahnema @sophieshahla
Baratxuri at Escape to Freight Island, 11 Baring St, Manchester M1 2PZ
Ham and blue toastie, 3 Hands Deli (£7.50)
Tom Cruise and I are quite similar in many ways. I’m not too keen on heights but I’m with him all the way when it comes to second portions. Tom was in Asha's Indian restaurant in Birmingham the other week and was so impressed with the chicken tikka masala he ordered a second, the greedy little tyke.
I’m the same, though to be fair I give it a day or two before I go back and have another go at stuff that blows my socks off.
It happened to me last Thursday. I was doing my weekly meat shop at The Butchers Quarter - situated in Manchester’s very own Shangri-la, Deansgate Mews. It’s nearly as impossible to find as James Hilton’s valley in Lost Horizons. I bumped into Sophie, ConfidentialGuides.com Editor. She was sitting outside the 3 Hands Deli munching a toastie. So clearly, I had to have one.
These guys are cooks, bakers and cheesemongers. I got nailed when I read "Ham and Blue: Juniper cured, loin ham, pickled Cinderwood beets, Burnt peach and smoked tomato chutney, tropia onion and Garstang blue." - all were roughly piled inside Holy Grain's country-style seeded sourdough, buttered on the outside then slapped on a griddle.
Cheese oozed onto the griddle plate forming little burnt puddles. Inside, the Garstang Blue was glorious, melting around slices of crisp, sharp beetroot slices whilst the ham - dear sweet Jesus - was several layers of the most beautifully flavoured piggy you could ever wish for.
The flavours were lifted further by the stunning chutney singing a busty aria. Glorious. Just bloody glorious. Went again this Saturday. Hit the nail, on the head, a second time.
Well, just having one would be like having half a wank, wouldn’t it Tom? Gordo @gordomanchester
3 Hands Deli 255 Deansgate, Manchester M3 4EN
Chicken Liver Parfait, Rendition (£20 as part of a two-course meal)
You could mistake it for something unseemly from a joke shop - but if you did, the joke would be on you. There’s a sort of a beige shade mixed with grey in the colour of the main component that isn’t the most attractive. Its chaperone in deep brown makes matters worse aesthetically, although the leaves lift everything a little.
Yet, forget the looks, the flavours here are superb. This is a sublime chicken liver parfait and fig jam dish. The parfait almost floats, it is so light, yet it packs a punch too. There’s a richness, a moistness and smoothness about the mix that makes this starter a candidate for my best dessert of the month. The rugged fig jam is a good idea as it adds a moment of tough reality to the entirety.
The parfait was part of an entertaining dinner at new restaurant, Rendition, on Deansgate in the old Tapeo site. There was a lot right with the meal but this was the standout, showing the talent in the kitchen. That bodes well for the future as long as custom is attracted in amid the party chaos outside. Jonathan Schofield @Jonathschofield
Rendition 209 Deansgate, Manchester M3 3NW
Wild boar bolognese, Freemasons at Wiswell (£22 as part of a summer set lunch)
Trophies are what this Ribble Valley food pub is all about. Not content with being No.6 in the Top 50 UK Gastropubs, it’s also No.38 in the recently announced National Restaurant Awards Top 100 2021 list. Meanwhile, its heritagey interior has bagged a clutch of animal heads and stuffed game birds. The four luxurious bedrooms added before the Pandemic are appropriately Mr Fox, Mr Hare, Partridge and Grouse. The local pheasants are revolting because they didn’t get a namecheck.
And what of the Wild Boar? Well, it’s rampaged onto the set lunch/early supper menu in the shape of a bolognese sauce. Chef patron Steven Smith must be bristling with pride at this new starter. Its mating with hand-rolled beetroot rigatoni, pickled walnuts and aged parmesan had me squealing in delight. Neil Sowerby @antonegomanc
Freemasons at Wiswell, 8 Vicarage Fold, Wiswell, nr Clitheroe, BB7 9DF. 01254 822218.
Paneer Kadai, Bundobust (£6.75)
Bit of a cheat this one, as I seem to have managed to shoehorn six different dishes into one best dish - but then Kelly managed to fit a whole odyssey of pancakes in to hers so maybe this ain’t so bad. I was at Bundobust researching the best cheap lunches in the area where I came across several dishes worth a mention, and honestly it was hard to pick out just the one. The dish I’ve decided to highlight out of my sampling of the Bundo menu is the paneer kadai - paneer cheese simmered in a red pepper and tomato sauce with cinnamon and fenugreek to make a vibrant, tangy, dish that can brighten up your day any time. On its own it’s a zingy little player but it’s as part of the whole ensemble that it really works. The bright, warm flavours and satisfyingly chewy cheese contrast pleasingly against the crunch of cool, quick-pickled cucumbers or the crisp bitterness of okra fries. It’s a lunchtime symphony. Promise to be good next month. Lucy Tomlinson @hotcupoftea
Bundobust 61 Piccadilly, Manchester, M1 2AG
Chilli oil parfait, Things Palace x Mackie Mayor (£40 as part of a supper club menu)
As an unashamed fanboy of Platt Fields Market Garden, I’ve wanted to go to one of resident-chef Lorcán Kan’s Things Palace supper clubs for a while. This month, I finally got my chance at Mackie Mayor. People like to parp on about fresh, local ingredients to the point of cliché but there was a moment very early on in the meal when a tiny, unassuming piece of leaf fell out of my summer roll and it was the freshest piece of salad I have ever eaten. A tiny scrap of green really knocked me back.
Capping the meal off was this frankly ludicrous frozen chilli oil parfait which looks like something you’d buy from Lush and use in the bath. Made from a mix of Gochugaru (Korean chilli flakes) and Szechuan peppercorns and whipped cream and served with cucumber seeds, lime and perilla it was everything my eyes and the words on the menu were trying to convince me it wasn’t. Sweet, creamy, but with the warming sensation of chilli and delicate cucumber seeds on the side to cool down with. You could see the room move from trepidation to smiling bliss after one spoonful. I’m not sure I’ll ever eat anything like it again which is further reason to track Lorcán down, wherever he pops up, and eat his food - whatever it might be. Davey Brett @dbretteats
Crêpe d’amandes from Maison Breizh, Manchester Food and Drink Festival (£7)
Have you ever had a multi-course dinner based entirely around pancakes? No, I hadn’t either until the debonair Andrew Savill of Breton-style pop-up Maison Breizh invited me and the gaffer over to Freight Island a few weeks ago. Andrew’s story is a fun one which I’d like to tell in detail another time. In short, he flipped from his career path a couple of years ago to follow his dream of becoming an expert in galettes - the buckwheat pancakes of Brittany. He travelled to the French peninsula to do an intensive course in all things Breton and returned to the UK with sacks of buckwheat flour, a vat of butter and a look of steely determination.
Most of the galettes we gobbled were stuffed with cheese and charcuterie and fried in butter - delightful but deeply un-photogenic. It’s the one non-buckwheat pancake he served us that I have pictured here, mainly because it’s the prettiest. It's made from organic Breton flour and Cheshire eggs stuffed with frangipane and topped with a ball of milk ice cream that whisked me right back to the ice cream vans of my 80s Lancashire childhood. Andrew will be going flat out at MFDF next month (16-19 September only) and I highly recommend you get in the queue. Kelly Bishop @keliseating
Maison Breizh at Manchester Food and Drink Festival Hub, Cathedral Gardens, Corporation St, Manchester M4 3BG
Read again: Ten of the best afternoon teas in Manchester
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