Perfect pork (twice), parmesan and peach pastries
Baking one minute, soaking the next. We aren't talking about some fancy new way of prepping dinner but the streets of Manchester. We feel lucky that a good macerating is not (yet) on the climate agenda.
One good thing about this inconsistent weather is that it seems to be inspiring our writers to wax lyrical this month as they rhapsodise about pork (roast, chops), fish and a basket constructed entirely of cheese. Well, why wouldn't you rhapsodise about a basket made of cheese?
So take some shelter from the storm (and/or heat) with the best things to eat around Manchester this month.
Gnocchi Gorgonzola in a baked parmesan basket, San Carlo Cicchetti (£8.95)
Chicketty. It’s on King Street, opposite its big brother, San Carlo on which I could write a book. Not Chichety mind you, for no other reason than I can never remember how to spell the bloody name. I can however tell you what my favourite dish is, having first had it over eight years ago. These days I try to order it no more than once every three minutes.
Manchester is pretty good at delivering novel, calorifically horrific dishes. Franco’s 40% butter mash at the legendary Solita was a heart-stopper; whilst Bo, at Almost Famous, served me a slop burger with extra sausages sticking out somewhere. I can’t remember much about that one, the pain of the crash cart was concentrating my mind too much. But boys, I’ve got to break it to you gently. The Venetians have had a four-hundred-year march on the pair of you with a dish that sounds simple enough. But, like the cellar in that house in the woods at midnight during THAT thunderstorm, I urge caution.
It's Gnocchi Gorgonzola in a baked parmesan basket. The basket is 120% parmesan cheese, baked into a bowl of crispy, crunchy, cheesy wonderfulness. Deceptively delicate pillows of gnocchi are piled in and draped with a sauce of molten gorgonzola cheese. Three textures and two brute flavours with strong wide shoulders and tight buttocks snuggle into each other. Sticky? You bet. It’s a struggle getting it off the spoon. Ever been snogged with full tongues by harpies like what Odysseus got a load of in The Odyssey?
No? Me neither, but I think I know how it felt.
Go and get some. It’s like dirty sex. Fucking wonderful.
(is this what Homer-erotic writing is? I’ve only got one O-level.)
Chiquetti. It’s a gaff. Gordo @GordoManchester
San Carlo Ciccetti 98-116 Deansgate, Manchester M3 2GQ
Maialeddu di Nebrodi - wild black pig pork chop, A Tavola (£18.50)
COVID ripped through Manchester (and me) during July taking my beloved tastebuds with it. They’re currently working at about 75% capacity, so it’s with sheer luck that I get to keep the memory of my visit to A Tavola in New Mills on the tip of my tongue. The menu here is full of Sicilian fantasies: pasta with sardines, wild fennel and saffron, pork and fennel sausage, gnocchetti with mussels and guanciale. All homemade and liberal with EVOO. But it’s the wild black pig pork chop I ordered on recommendation that will have me back there as soon as my receptors return to form.
Dressed simply with lemon juice, garlic and Sicilian oregano, this chop had me floating on a cloud. If you are the kind of psycho to cut all the fat off a pork chop, you are invited, because this fat renders all the flavour of acorns once foraged in the Nebrodi mountains and I will happily and greedily gobble up your leftovers to myself. Sophie Rahnema @sophieshahla
A Tavola Albion Rd, New Mills, High Peak SK22 3EY
Whole sea bass, Ducie Street Warehouse (£38)
Andrew Green is a fine chef as his time at the Lowry Hotel and Mamucium showed. At Ducie Street Warehouse he’s repeating the quality with more freedom. The menu here offers a symphony of choice from major to minor but the dish that got me was miso-glazed whole sea bass with bok choi and ginger. £38 you say? Ridiculous. But hold on, the fish is huge and Green’s menu clearly states these "bigger plates" are "ideal for 2-4 sharing" which is the case with this monster of the deep. The timing was perfection as well, with beautiful and tender white flesh breaking from the sea bass. The dish was enhanced and perfumed by the ginger and the miso. The bok choi added ballast.
My dining partner ordered the fries to go with it which did what fries do, in other words largely nothing. I absolutely soaked the fries with good malt vinegar which cheered things up. I’d prefer some proper chips on the menu to make this the best posh fish and chips in town. I’d also hold off a little on the lemon inside the fish which was a shade overpowering but generally, this mighty sea bass tasted and looked memorable. Jonathan Schofield @Jonathschofield
Ducie Street Warehouse Ducie St, Manchester M1 2TP
Line-caught halibut with lobster ravioli, The Black Friar (£32)
Mildly hungover and grumpy in the humidity of our short-lived Mediterranean-style heatwave, I apologised for my tardiness as I plonked myself down at the Confidentials team table at the press launch of the newly reopened Black Friar and fanned myself with the wine list. Immediately I was fussed over by the kind of doting waiting staff I've not witnessed the likes of this side of the pandemic. As the boss ordered some fancy wine (new world, not like him, Cali Chardonnay - a buttery belter) I flipped open the menu and my posture immediately straightened. It looked good, really good.
As much as I gush about how overwhelmingly brilliant and varied the restaurant scene in Manchester is these days, I still think there aren't enough good food pubs. Sam's is always great, of course, and I loved the Edinburgh Castle when it opened - although I haven't been since Julian Pizer left. There are plenty of "gastropubs" a short drive away in the hills but there are weirdly few outstanding ones within Greater Manchester. That's changed with The Black Friar. My main course of line-caught halibut was pristinely cooked with a clump of irony chard (a firm fave) on the side. The accompanying ravioli had that extra level of bite that only comes from handcrafting, generously stuffed with lobster and served on a ladleful of sea-scented bisque. Too posh for a pub? Not if it were in Lancashire. And anyway, there's a more traditional pub menu too. I'm going back this weekend with the fam to see what else is good. Kelly Bishop @keliseating
The Black Friar Blackfriars Rd, Salford M3 7DH
Slow cooked pork belly roast, Three Little Words (£15)
A trip to Three Little Words earlier in the month really caught me off guard. Whilst a return to operations has been visibly shaky for most restaurants, the staff at Three Little Words looked like they were having so much fun, whilst also doing their jobs extremely well, that you’d be forgiven for thinking they’d been working together under that arch on Watson Street for years. Then this roast was brought out and I was taken aback again.
It’s easy to forget the supporting cast when you do a roast but everything on the plate was carefully considered. The centrepiece Yorkshire pudding was monolithic in size but light, airy and with a satisfying crispness. The gravy, which when first tasted led to the immediate sharing of looks between me and my dining partner, was rich and meaty but with a bit of sweetness thrown in. You can imagine someone in the back caring for it like a soup.
Then there was the meat. A piece of wonderfully crunchy crackling next to a slab of slow cooked pork belly that was easily torn apart and used as a mop for the gravy. Even the mangetout tasted fresh, with enough bite to confirm its addition wasn’t an afterthought. Simple stuff but when done properly it really stands out. You can do a lot worse for £15 on a Sunday afternoon. Davey Brett @dbretteats
Three Little Words Arches 12-13 Watson Street, Manchester M3 4LP
Peach Danish, Lättsam (£3.60)
Various forms of isolation mean I haven't ventured out much this month, and when I did the heavens decided to greet my return with at least eight different forms of weather. I'm glad the rain forced me to duck into new Scandinavian-inspired coffee-shop-come-bar Lättsam. It might be named after an Ikea product but the interior is pin-sharp with pops of 80s crayola red and yellow. The (sadly not Swedish) chef is still developing the menu so I plumped for a HUGE peach Danish, with pureed, bright orange filling more like an American peach pie than actual fruit, wrapped in icing-spattered flaky pastry, perfect with comforting coffee. It also does loads of Scandi beers if you prefer your weather-proofing in that form. To paraphrase the Scandinavians, there's no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable places to retreat from it. Lucy Tomlinson @hotcupoftea
Lättsam 55 Spring Gardens, Manchester M2 2BY
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