Next level cheesiness – let the battle of the comfort dishes commence

It’s autumn and it’s getting chilly. The winter coats and the big jumpers have come out as have the recipe books for winter stews and comfort food. This time of year brings menus full of creamy mushrooms, hearty breakfasts, melting cheese and a truffle shuffle. 

Here are the dishes we recommend you tuck into this month from misty morning until cosy evening.

2019 10 29 Best Dishes Broccoli Kebab

Tenderstem Broccoli kebab - Bab NQ (£9.50)

This one took me by surprise. I don’t really want to make a big deal about the fact that it’s vegan. It's ideal if you follow a plant-based lifestyle, but for everyone else, but it’s just a really good plate of well-cooked food that happens not to contain any meat or dairy. Grilling broccoli brings out the charred smoky sweetness of the stems, hummus provides a bit of lubrication without making the flatbread soggy. Home pickled tomatoes and a whole red chilli power in with a bit of zing, pistachio sesame dukkah gives it nutty crunch and sunblush tomato and harissa puree slide in at the end with some earthy base notes. Fantastic cooking and an abundance of flavours and textures from a the kitchen which gets the absolute best out of plants. Deanna Thomas

Bab NQ, 14 Little Lever St, Manchester M1 1HR

2019 10 29 Best Dish Parmstar

Parmo Box - Parm Star (£10)

While I'm not usually one for the clean-dirty food divide, sometimes you just have to say - get a load of this pure filth. Hailing all the way from the Costa Del Teeside, the chicken parm is a true regional classic. Much like Wigan's pie barm, it is fondly embraced by aficionados and looked upon with bafflement by those who aren't in the know, and southerners. The traditional parmo (there are many variations) consists of a breaded chicken cutlet, topped with béchamel sauce and melted cheese, served here with chips and a crunchy slaw for contrast. It's about as sophisticated as a punch in the face from a minor reality star, but much more welcome. This version comes from street food types Parm Star, which though of no fixed abode themselves, can be found at beer fests around the region (naturally the parmo is great for soaking up alcohol) and the Grub Food Fair. Beautiful, no, healthy, not in a million years, but a cheesy treat nonetheless. Lucy Tomlinson

Parm Star UK at events around the north and Grub Food Fair

2019 10 29 Best Dishes San Carlo Risotto

Black truffle risotto with porcini mushrooms, served in a Parmesan cheese – San Carlo (£16.95 pp)

While I love its comforting gooeyness, risotto doesn’t usually grab me on a menu, especially one as vast as San Carlo’s. Regular readers of best dishes might notice a frequently occurring element in the dishes that do get me all aquiver though. Yep, I’m a real curd nerd, baby, so of course I was going to be won over by this overt display of Italian extravagance. Can I just reiterate, in case you missed it in the dish description above, that this risotto is served from inside a giant piece of cheese? It arrives at your table like you just answered the most difficult history question ever on Trivial Pursuit, and the risotto is ceremonially stirred and scraped against its walls for next level cheesiness before it makes it to your plate. To add to the almost obscene levels of indulgence, black truffles are not just cooked into the dish but shaved over lavishly at the table by your waiter. This is one of three new dishes designed for sharing, so take someone with you who deserves treating to a gigantic dose of luxury. Kelly Bishop

San Carlo, 40-42 King Street West, M3 2WY


Full English – Fenwick Arms (£11.50)

Yeah, yeah, mum always said it was the most important meal of the day. Yet so often, it’s better cooking it at home than eating it in a restaurant or a hotel. The ‘full English’ is like its Sunday afternoon UK cousin, a ‘roast with all the trimmings’, a labour-intensive treat with timing crucial. Dried-out bacon, solid yolk eggs, crumby sausages, and a hash brown you can use to do the grouting are often the hallmarks of the awayday breakfast. The breakfast at the Fenwick Arms, in the lovely Lune Valley, not far from Lancaster, gets it right, everything freshly cooked, the poached egg a dream, the black pudding moist, the bacon lively, great sausages and good tomatoes and mushrooms. Then comes the great English Breakfast debate, baked beans or not. Not for me. I left them in their pot, and luxuriated in the rest of the breakfast warmed by an open fire. Jonathan Schofield

Fenwick Arms, Claughton, Lancashire, LA2 9LA

2019 10 29 Best Dishes Tast Bolets

Tast Catala – Arros Cremos de Bolets (from ‘Enxaneta Tres de Deu’ £95 tasting menu)

Serial Michelin star holder Paco Perez is an adherent of the Catalan culinary maxim ‘mar i muntanya’ (sourced from sea or mountain). This creamy mushroom rice dish is definitely indebted to the latter. You don’t have to stray far inland from his native Costa Brava before you find foragers thronging the forests. Often their seasonal aim is bolets, the Catalan word for mushrooms. It covers a multitude of wild fungi, given witchy names such as Black Fence (hygrophorus), Canagoc (pineapple or orange fern), Fredolic (mouse) before you stray into the surreal realm of donkey’s ears, wolf pet, devil’s egg, rat board. I suspect rat board didn’t make it into my dish, which is one of several mushroom-centric treats across various tasting menus interpreted by head chef Miquel Villacrosa. It was my favourite dish at a private function. In truth, Valencian paella in the wrong hands can be too crusty and dry, while Tast’s sticky oven-roasted rice trays are tough on my ageing fillings. In contrast this Arros Cremos, dotted with blobs of mushroom mayonnaise (and in some versions ample summer truffle), is a liquefying, soothing puddle of earthiness. Neil Sowerby

Tast Catala, 20-22 King Street, Manchester M2 6AG 

2019 10 29 Bistrotheque Pancake Stack

Ricotta hot cakes with whipped ricotta, berries and walnuts – Bistroteque (£10)

I never do breakfast. Its a shame because I bloody love a breakfast, but it needs to have a good hour-and-a half window for grazing, sipping and the perusing of newspapers, so that’s why its generally confined to Sundays or holidays and hardly ever on the other 312 days in the year.  However, Cultureplex is my new good influence. I go in there and I become all-of-a-sudden incredibly productive and exceedingly creative. I can’t explain it, aside from it feels like the inside of the New York City Library; except there’s a bar; and food; and music. 

The naughty temptress that is Bistroteque, the in-house restaurant, lured me in to order brunch – which I don’t usually do either. I have to say I almost uttered a ‘Phwoar’ when the ricotta hot cakes arrived. A good generous stack to please my ‘value-for-money’ gene, strewn with tart redcurrants, blackcurrants and blueberries in a ‘just-sweet-enough’ sauce, the almost savoury whipped ricotta and the perfect dusting of icing sugar and candied walnuts to help put those sour berries in a better mood. Perfectly balanced in palate and construction, and I have to say, they were so light, I didn’t feel so stuffed that I needed that customary snooze that has always put me off ordering such delights in the past. Ducie Street, Manchester. Claire Woodier

Bistroteque, CULTUREPLEX, Ducie Street, Manchester, M1 2TP

2019 10 29 Best Dishes Australasia

Dessert bento from sharing menu - Australasia (£30pp for two ‘waves’ or £37pp for 3 waves) 

Australasia is rooting for pudding lovers this Autumn with their new Sunday sharing menu, served noon - 8pm which comes with NINE - yes, nine - desserts. And, amazingly, this chess board of sugar actually tastes as good as it looks. Best of all is the kaffir lime creme brûlée topped with a peachy little physalis. I would never have put the top notes of vanilla and eucalyptus in this dish together but they cast a genuinely tropical spell, enhanced by the coral-hued surrounds. Next best (it's hard to say after this much sweet stuff) is the delicately fragranced rose petal cheesecake, followed by the melting chocolate and peanut parfait. There are coconut madeleines, macarons and even a little drink of dulce du leche to send you into orbit at the end. A meal in itself for me, or the perfect sharing dish for anyone else. Ruth Allan

Australasia 1 The Avenue, Deansgate, Manchester M3 3AP 

2019 10 30 Black Forest Gateaux Wood

Black forest gateaux - Wood (£10)

Eaten this first time at Wood in Manchester and then at the newly opened place in Chester. Didn't get it the first time around. It's deconstructed. Now, on the second occasion I changed tactics; instead of eating it ingredient by ingredient, I made a small pile of the lot and necked it spoonful by spoonful. And it was glorious. Unfortunately, ran out of the sexy, sharp but sweet cherries at the last spoonful, so, chef, one extra please in future. Gordo 

Wood, Jack Rosenthal St, Manchester M15 4RA