Your September is sorted with our pick of the best things to eat and drink in (Greater) Manchester this month
And just like that, the last dregs of summer are over. Seasonal menus are a-changin'. At least by the calendar anyway, somebody tell that to the man upstairs.
Something tells us that there are a few warm days ahead of us and that's why you'll still find plump tommies, broad beans and barbecue-worthy burgers on the menu for September. We've been drinking at Foodie Friday in Stockport, fine dining at Where The Light Gets In and sampling the goods at New Century. And, as always, reporting back on the best bits.
Our editorial team tells us their favourite consumables for September.
Grilled flatbread with beef dripping, Erst (£5)
"I had that thing, you know, the lardy bread," I told my friend of my trip to Erst. Grilled flatbread with beef dripping, to give it its proper name, is one of those dishes that people remember and recommend to each other, even if they can't quite summon up the correct title. This is a cool, modern rendition of dripping on toast, a dish which strongly evokes rationing chic and so is perhaps due a comeback. Erst have produced a pillowy, blistered flatbread, glossy with animal fat pooling down the sides, the richness of which is put into relief by tiny flecks of chilli and specks of onion. A comforting, fulfilling mouthful or five and worthy of the rep.
Speaking of name changes, look out for beef dripping making more appearances, reinvented as a tres fashionable ingredient under the moniker "tallow". But it will always be lardy bread to me. Lucy Tomlinson @hotcupoftea
Insalata Caprese, The Italian (£7.50)
My Instagram feed is currently filled with people sat on sandy beaches with a book in one hand and a Pina Colada in the other. Maybe a few shots of some huge fruit in a Carrefour supermarket. Yes, I'm talking about you Alison Roman, and I'm not jealous one bit. Not at all.
Ok, I'm dead jealous, and I'm craving that European produce and sun-kissed skin pronto, so I took my family to the closest place to Ravello in Greater Manchester - Romiley. A caprese salad from this spot on a sunny Sunday is almost like being on the Amalfi Coast itself. There's limoncello flowing, a Bottecchia pedal bike hanging on the wall, and the ingredients in this little starter are super fresh, juicy, and drizzled with the perfect amount of real olive oil and fresh herbs. Huge chunks of mozzarella are paired with even bigger discs of vine tomato, and if you treat yourself to a lemon San Pellogrino (I was driving), you'll feel content about the lack of "catch flights not feelings" vibes in your Summer for at least another week. The portions here are also huge, so get a light starter if you're planning on scoffing a penne al forno afterwards. Ellie-Jo Johnstone @elliejoj
Cheese and onion crisps, The Butty Shop, New Century (£2.50)
New Century had barely opened its doors before I was sat in the mid-century modern dining hall ordering everything on Adam Reid’s Butty Shop menu, getting a history lesson from Jonathan Schofield. I bumped in to Schofield at Manchester’s newest food, drink and entertainment venue and before long he was lecturing me on the artists that had been through its doors.
Last seen describing his take on the ham salad sandwich as “a Northern bakery ham salad on steroids”, Adam Reid has upgraded everything you thought you knew about the butty shop. Particularly the crisps. A fan of all things crispy, I was never sceptical, but never did I think cheese and onion crisps could be like this. Giant unseasoned potato crisps - think glass-like Salt & Shake shards - are dressed in their flavour rather than rolled in it. A drizzle made from Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire makes up the cheese element, then a sprinkle of mixed allium makes up the onion. Crispy fried onions, sliced spring onions, and chopped chives today. I think Mick Jagger would approve. Sophie Rahnema @sophieshahla
Espresso Martini, Worker Bee (£7.50)
I know that an espresso martini is kind of a basic answer to "what's the best thing you drank this month?", but hear me out. If someone can make a smooth, creamy cocktail garnished with little beans from the back of a van at an outdoor market, you deserve a massive pat on the back. Well done Worker Bee.
After eating half a salt beef bagel, and what can only be described as a mound of paella at Foodie Friday in Stockport, I could've easily napped on the steps outside the Produce Hall. A caffeine-fuelled cocktail was my only option. Served in a little plastic martini glass with a smooth foam, the perfect kick, and a great balance between booze and beans, this tipple was up there with some of the best I've had, and it came from a van. Worker Bee are always popping up at different markets and events so keep an eye out on social media. Ellie-Jo Johnstone @elliejoj
Aussie shiraz, Ad Hoc Wines (£12.50 a glass)
Remember when the Northern Quarter wasn’t even known as the Northern Quarter? In my days working at Afflecks, I used to spend a whole lot of time there; grabbing paper bag lunches from Rustica or Al Faisal, after work drinks at Gullivers or Socio Rehab (if the boss was paying), mooching around the chazzer shops on a quick lunch break. Endless cups of tea. I watched it grow into a destination and I watched it, in my opinion, decline.
For me, that happened when its explosion of unique independent businesses gave way to monopolies and money men moving in, landlords driving up the rents and driving out the creative chancers that had been able to cultivate a dream there. These days I don’t spend as much time in the NQ, it doesn’t excite me as much as it did, maybe because it’s gone too corporate, maybe because I’m a cynical old bag now. But there are still shining stars there, The Millstone is going strong, a proper Manchester pub. There is still a smattering of exciting food and drink to be found, curry caffs are clinging on.
So after a nice birthday meal with my OH, and a few drinks in, I dragged him over to Ad Hoc. This little wine shop is a haven from the trestle table chaos outside it on Edge Street and neighbouring Thomas St. Its shelves are packed with wines to suit all tastes, and you can sit in for a glass or two of whatever they are pouring that day. I’m a firm believer that wine tastes better when it’s served in a fancy glass and these ones are delicate and elegant with a melodic “ding!” on clinking. The wine itself was an Aussie Shiraz, specifically from McClaren vale but I’m afraid I was too tipsy at this point to ask for any more specifics than were scrawled on the chalkboard. Anyway, it was all blackberries, black magic and black pepper, the colour of a liquefied Sainsbury’s uniform. It made me go, “Ooh, that’s good, that’s really good.” Worth returning to the NQ more often for. Kelly Bishop @thekelpage
Double cheeseburger, The Hinchliffe Arms (£7)
My first burger was cooked on a barbecue on the beach in Magaluf. I was seven and there were only two hotels on a two-mile stretch of pristine white sand way back then. A highly seasoned thick beef patty, an impossibly juicy slice of tomato and another slice of raw, sweet, crisp Spanish onion.
“What are you grinning at?” asked my Dad.
“Eh, Dad, this tomato tastes of tomato”. You could see where my future lay.
The second-best beef burger I’ve had? The chef at The Hinchcliffe Arms up north of Rochdale (don’t let that put you off) in Cragg Vale, one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen for a long while, was explaining that he was trying to achieve 'Beano comics’ food with his.
I’d had this impressive-looking cheeseburger delivered from the bar snack menu. It looked like a Mcdonald’s Big Mac in the marketing pictures but was twice the size. Sitting outside on a bench table, mesmerised, I noticed a rambler’s Alsatian staring at it as well. Our eyes locked. Suddenly, the hound looked down, whimpered, and slunk back to its owner. One look in my eyes and he knew not to get between me and a plate of food.
Proper yellow cheese, the patty home-made shaped like a flying saucer, liberally seasoned. Pickles, American-style mustard mayo in a bun on the more robust side of brioche, not too sweet. It held together in one (large) hand. The chef? Ruairidh Summers, who had found his way north during lockdown. He was the Sous Chef at London’s legendary St. JOHN for five years. That’s Fergus Henderson’s gaff. If you’re a nose-to-tail person you know who and what I’m talking about. Haul ass. Gordo @gordomanchester
Landing beans cooked in the fire, WTGLI (part of a £75 tasting menu)
Where does a Manchester restaurant critic go for a special celebration? For a treat that requires permission? Where The Light Gets In, of course. WTLGI is like a John Lewis composter, a rainwater bidet, a bicycle-powered AGA: posh but eco-friendly. It was a joint birthday dinner for me and my dad that permitted us to envelope ourselves in its comfy luxury. As tasting menus go, it’s on the lower end of the price scale (compare with Mana’s £190 a head lunch) but still not somewhere you can justify frequent visits to. I always think it’s impossible to pick a best dish from a tasting menu, like trying to pick your favourite chapter from a great novel, the whole is the sum of its parts. But the first dish is always exciting, the opening line that hooks you in to keep reading. This opener was WTLGI personified in one neat dish, a tactile stone bowl filled with glistening broad beans the colour of a Disney meadow. These are grown on The Landing, WTLGI’s allotment on top of the shopping centre in Stockport town, basically you’re eating a crop from the roof of Ann Summers. They’re artfully jumbled with sliced up tromboncino courgettes (or whatever else is freshly picked that day) and sheep’s milk curd from Alan Jones’s organic farm near Snowdonia. Dressed in coal oil - never olive oil here, it’s not local enough - and topped with clover shaped, dusky mauve oca leaves that bring a lemony, sorrel-like snap of flavour. This dish made it clear that we were going to fall in love with every character in the story. Kelly Bishop @thekelpage
Salmon sashimi, Kitten (£10)
Kitten is designed for middle-aged men who moan a lot about loud music and like to read books about early Anglo-Saxon archaeology. I’m only joshing. Kitten is in reality INTERNATIONAL in capital letters. The doors at the entrance are like the doors of the wardrobe in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; the difference here is these doors transport you to wealthy resorts across the world where rolling bass thrums the eardrums, the diners are as polished as seaside pebbles while outside there’s a magnificent sunset over a beach of white sand. Or in this case the River Medlock.
The Japanese-style food in Kitten is very good. I could pick out loads of dishes but let’s go with the salmon sashimi because salmon can be the very dullest of fish. Not here though, here there’s an effervescent juiciness, a sort of gentle beauty. The extras on the dish bring colour and flavour. Is that seaweed there? If so it's tangy and complements the fish superbly. The wasabi inclusion is odd, too aggressive.
This is occasion dining, for couples or mates. It’s the sort of place you’d look out of place reading a book on your own. Still, if that’s your thing, get in touch with me if you want any recommendations about books on early Anglo-Saxon archaeology. Jonathan Schofield @jonathschofield
Read again: Manchester's best sandwiches: Part II
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