Subterranean pizza, perfect plaice and hot noods
It's November, it's chucking it down and we've gone all snacky. This month's best dishes include lots of handheld carby treats from free pizza to bao to posh butties. We're all keeping it pretty simple on the wallet front too - except Schofield who's lording it up with two-course lunches in bougie bistros.
Read on for sticky ox, salty sausage, seafood scotch eggs and more.
Here's our pick of the best things to eat in Manchester this November:
Homemade Chinese bread filled with Iberian salchichón, thyme mayo, rocket and oak leaves, Tast (£6.50)
One thing that will always lure me away from the path of vegetarianism is cured pork. I love chewing on a knobbly saucisson. Behave. I also love an indulgent solo lunch with a glass of wine and Tast is one of my favourite places to treat myself to that bit of luxe. This “bocadillo” is not quite enough to count as a proper butty if you’re really hungry (I had to order a cauliflower dish too) but rich enough if you just want a three or four bite meal to put you on. The Spanish cured summer sausage here (made from pork but is sometimes ox, veal or even horse meat) is finely chopped and lubed with a forest-scented thyme mayo and oak leaves. Chinese bread, just warm, crisp on the outside, fluffy in the middle brings a balancing sweetness. The drinks here are great too. I had a good natter to a couple over from Spain who were slowly getting sozzled on Old Fashioneds and my glass of Viura washed down all that gloriously fatty, generously seasoned meat a charm. Kelly Bishop @keliseating
Tast 20-22 King St, Manchester M2 6AG
Ox cheek bao, CBRB (£4.50 for 1 or 2 for £7.50)
Although Manchester’s Northern Quarter has whacked just about everything on a bao bun at this point (including chips and curry), one standout dish from my last month of wandering and scranning came courtesy of CBRB’s soy glazed ox cheek bao with house kimchi and gochujang onion chutney.
Decorated with a mixture of black and white sesame seeds and washed down with a #6 tequila and corn husk cocktail, this bundle of Asian goodness nailed the all-important balance between salty and sweet in three Greg-Wallace-sized bites. A sprig of coriander and some ribboned carrot also made for a flavoursome and crunchy encounter - and that's coming from someone who thinks coriander is a bit soapy.
Upon my first glance at CBRB’s customisable menu, my auto-pilot soup-lover brain went straight to tonkotsu ramen, but I’m glad I was feeling cheeky when I saw that ox was on the agenda, and at £7.50 for two buns, it was hard to say no to this cheek and chutney combo. Ellie-Jo Johnstone @elliejoj
Cocktail Beer Ramen + Bun, 101-103 Oldham St, Manchester M4 1LW
Pastel De Nata, 200 Degrees Coffee (£1.85)
Indie coffee shops are springing up all over the place, from Dooley and Rostron’s “hole in the wall” next to Crazy Pedro’s to Ezra and Gil on Peter Street. The chains are being hammered by them; historically on consistency rather than taste. Mind you that’s changing but where the chains always get hammered is the sheer quality of the food offering in places like Federal and the quite remarkable Pot Kettle Black.
The little bits of Portuguese pastry and custard heaven called pastel de nata are muscling into these indies, and I’m loving them. There are four to be found that are currently out-Portugaling Portugal in Manc at the moment, but I’ve found the best. It’s in a new opening, 200 Degrees, on Mosley Street. This is a fabulous gaff, friendly, comfortable, smells wonderful and has a great selection of food. And a pastel de nata that if I weren’t such a greedy fat fuck, I’d wear it around my neck as a substitute Olympic gold medal.
The secret is in the pastry work. It’s perfect. The filling is creamy, not too sweet and allows the pastry to keep that perfect buttery crunch all the way through.
Imagine my surprise when I googled the place. It’s part of a (well, small-ish) chain. But have these fellas got it right. Coffee’s good an’ all. Gordo @Gordomanchester
200 Degrees Coffee Shop and Barista School 75 Mosley Street, Manchester, M2 3HR
Cornish crab scotch egg, The Black Friar (£9)
There's nothing like a pub snack, eh? Pork scratchings, Seabrook salt and vinegar, a packet of Big Ds still have their place, but the humble nibble has done a lot of growing up in the last few years. Take the "grazing menu" at The Black Friar, the lavishly refurbed pub in Salford where the snacks have received as much loving care as the tiled floors and restored timber work. The Scotch egg, for instance, leaves the garage forecourt classic light-years behind. All a lightly boiled egg really needs is a little salt, but if you are going to go fancy why not make sure the yolks are buttery smooth, wrap it in dense, saline Cornish crab and stipple it with breadcrumb? Oh and don't forget to wash it down with something decent. Lucy Tomlinson @hotcupoftea
The Black Friar 41-43 Blackfriars Rd, Salford M3 7DB
Mushroom pizza, Corbiéres Wine Bar (free with a drink)
Listen, it can’t always be oysters and ox cheek. That lifestyle is unfeasible, trust me. When everyone else goes high, sometimes you need to go low. Sometimes you need to go underground, literally, to find the good shit. And this is the subterranean good shit. Right here under the city in a little old place called Corbieres Wine Bar.
Usually, when something is free (read: zero pounds), it’s notably underwhelming. Some people will tell you nothing in life is free and to those people, I say this: if you buy a drink in Corbiéres - which, let’s face it, it is a minimal expenditure - on Tues-Fri between 4.30 and 7.30pm, they will ask you if you would like a free pizza. Not a piece of pizza, a whole pizza. Margherita, pepperoni or mushroom - you're the captain, you choose.
The pizza I had (mushroom) was a solid pizza. Was it made from a mixture of heritage flour and unicorn tears kneaded by someone's nonna in a small Italian town as church bells chimed away in the distance? It was not. Was it fresh out of the oven with an enjoyably light base, ample cheese and tomato sauce coverage, and a generous sprinkling of fresh mushrooms? It was. Did it bring enjoyment, fulfilment and a welcome surprise to a pint with friends? Yes - and that’s something to be celebrated. Long live the people’s aperitivo. Davey Brett @dbretteats
Corbiéres Wine Bar, Alliance House, 2 Half Moon St, Manchester M2 7PB
Thai curry noodles, Tampopo (£11.95)
Thank god for Deliveroo during lockdown. For the seriously cool (and young) people who live in or close to the city, including myself, it meant we could enjoy restaurant food at home whenever we wanted. I found most of my favourites travelled well. Papaya salad from Thai Kitchen No. 6, raghda pethis from Bundobust, even the fries from Five Guys made it to my door unscathed. The exception being a certain Neapolitan pizza that was handed over to me vertically in its box - the poor thing concertinaed at the bottom like a sad slipper. I had tears in my eyes as I peeled cold mozzarella from the cardboard.
Thai curry noodles from Tampopo also don’t travel well. The glorious layer of crunchy noodles that float on the surface of its creamy coconut sauce mean that even the most careful of riders couldn’t deliver them successfully. This is a dish that must be enjoyed steaming hot from the kitchen, crispy noodles buoyant on top of red curry packed with chicken thigh and garlic galore. Enjoy as the noodles slowly take on the sauce and slurp happily with a side of Thai prawn crackers for double dunkage. Sophie Rahnema @sophieshahla
Tampopo, 16 Albert Square, Manchester M2 5PF
Grilled plaice, Kala (£20 for two courses)
There’s something so simple about a plaice. It’s a sort of honest broker of fish with the blinding purity of the firm white meat making a blank canvas for other ingredients to get in on the act. This whole grilled fellow from Kala on King Street is just about the perfect example of plaice-making. All the elements are there, brown butter, yep, pickled cockles (could have been shrimps but), check, samphire, obviously. There’s a roasted mussel emulsion too which came within a whisker of being a little overpowering but just stopped the right side of unbalancing the thing. This dish felt healthy, wholesome, akin to lunchtime soul food, or maybe sole-food. Speaking of place-making, the decoration in Kala suits the dish, being equally ascetic, pared-down, almost subdued, no messing about. Indeed, it’s amusing how the muted tones of Kala are the total opposite of chef-patron Gary Usher’s colourful Twitter feed. Jonathan Schofield @Jonathschofield
Kala, 55 King St, Manchester M2 4LQ
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