Savoury waffles are the future
Bøck Biere Cafe have got the biggest selection of Belgian beer in the North but they want you to know that biere isn't all they do. This place is a fully-fledged European-style cafe bar with cocktails, wines, and a new Express Lunch Menu, which we gleefully ate our way through last Thursday.
All the dishes are £7, and if you go between midday and 2pm, they're guaranteed to be served in 20 minutes or your money back. (Cue some pretty stressful scenes in the kitchen, but you don't need to worry about that.)
Tucked away in Lounge Ten's old place on Tib Lane, Bøck is done in the style of the 'brown cafes' of Amsterdam with lots of dark wood and a cosy hideaway feel, particularly on the lower floor. Go upstairs though and it's perfect for daytime dining with marble tables, fresh flowers, and milky daylight coming through the front windows.
And the food was good enough to get friend-to-friend recommendations from us. That £7 price tag turned out to be a bargain (check those portion sizes). And the quality was high throughout – colourful, fresh, well executed, and different enough to get us enthused.
There were several standout dishes that we're still reminiscing about, now. Here's our top six (with an honorary mention for their loaded fries).
Salade de Crevettes
We loved this prawn cocktail, served in a balloon glass, with strawberries, grapes and apples in amongst the salad. The mix of salty prawns, spicy cayenne, and sweet fruit was heavenly. It was one of three salads on the menu, all of which were very good.
A gaufre is a savoury waffle (and our new favourite food thing). Bøck make them from chickpeas, rosemary, olive oil and salt so they're vegan as well as vegetarian. The taste is subtle, so they'll go with almost anything, and the texture is light and fluffy.
The Gaufre Royale is topped with smoked salmon, a mustardy crème fraiche, salsa verde and sun blushed tomatoes. Protein-packed and only 300-odd calories, it's great as post-gym food. What's more, it tastes amazing.
Gaufre Bleu et Vert
Another top six entry for les gaufres. This one is topped with Roquefort cheese (melting into the waffle), avocado, and a spiced pear chutney. (Just take a moment to imagine that particular flavour trio...it was exhilarating.)
Tip – don't translate this one into English when you're ordering. Blue and Green Waffles doesn't have quite the same ring to it.
Who'd have thought a croque monsieur could be this decadent? The bread was spongy and slightly sweet. And the filling – sunblush tomatoes, avocado, and a smooth bechamel sauce, was a dream. Soft, satisfying and wonderfully gooey, it was a mile away from a Breville toastie. Good for big appetites and cold days.
Surely a contender for best steak sandwich in the city centre, this was a rosemary focaccia with thick-cut bavette steak and a little pot of their rich, meaty gravy for dunking. (It's the same gravy recipe that they use for their Sunday Roast Fondues – something we need to experience soon).
Back in healthier territory again, here's a brilliant option for a warming winter lunch. It was a textured, spicy red pepper and tomato soup served with a big wedge of cheese on toast. Northern Europeans know how to do cold weather comfort food. Head to Bøck the next time the temperature plummets – they'll set you right.
Honorary mention: Pomme Frites with crumbled Lancashire cheese and biere gravy
Straight fries just look a little under-dressed nowadays. At Bøck they do three loaded versions – and this was the one that got us grinning like chip-craving maniacs. A cheesy, meaty, dippy feast – it's not a sophisticated dish, but it is very, very good.
Bøck is at 10 Tib Lane, Manchester, M2 4JB.