Harking to the area’s past, the new bar and kitchen will span foraging to fermenting and Victorian-inspired cocktails
The UK’s ‘hippest area to hang out’ (TravelSupermarket), number two in the ‘top twenty coolest places to live’ (The Times), one of the ‘top places to visit in 2017’ (San Francisco Chronicle)… Ancoats is the neighbourhood of the moment.
From cultural gems like Hope Mill Theatre to imaginative arts centres like The Horsfall and a flood of new food and drink venues, including Rudy's Neapolitan pizza and Cha-ology Japanese tea shop, recent regeneration has given the area a new lease of life.
It hasn’t always been so desirable, however. During the industrial revolution - when the air was filled with pollution and twelve-hour days were the standard - slums prevailed, gangs prowled the streets and you couldn’t even nip out for a consolatory wood-fired pizza. Before that, it was a little hamlet called Elnecot - and that’s where Ancoats’ newest venue gets its name.
The new neighbourhood bar and kitchen opened this week in the Ice Plant, a former fish warehouse turned apartment block on Blossom Street, alongside Se7en Brothers Beerhouse and Mexica.
Taking inspiration from Ancoats’ days as a pastoral hamlet, Elnecot’s food menu will use traditional methods such as pickling and fermenting - alongside period recipes - to showcase locally sourced, often foraged, seasonal produce. Alongside a small selection of sides, it’s divided into 'Nibbles', 'Meat', 'Fish', 'Veg', 'Afters' and, er, 'Balls' (which might sound dubious but actually means the likes of arancini with mushrooms or smoked haddock).
Nibbles include bread with broccoli hummus and crispy pig’s ears with tartare sauce, while meaty meals include pale ale braised ox cheek with parsnip puree and pesto, and pig’s head croquettes with homemade piccalilli and sweetbreads. Fish dishes include sustainably-caught pollock with cauliflower and apple, and vegan dishes span ‘disco cauli’ (whatever that is) to aubergine and mint balls with pickled cucumber yoghurt.
As for booze, cocktails hark to those aforementioned Victorian gangs; with creations like Bengal Tiger, Scuttlers Belt and Meadow Lads. With a focus on local suppliers, house gin is Manchester’s Three Rivers, while craft ale comes from local breweries, with Alphabet Brewing Company and Ticketybrew on tap. As for wine, oenophiles can anticipate British varieties, including biodynamic.
Designed as a place ‘where you'd feel as comfortable sat at the bar with your book as you would be hanging out with a group of friends,’ Elnecot features long table benches to encourage communal designing. Much of the menu is suitable for sharing, and there’ll be regular community events - including vinyl and quiz nights - plus space for local artists to exhibit their work. The venue centerpiece is a 44ft concrete bar that runs into an open kitchen.
Elnecot is a joint project between chef Michael Clay - who has run kitchens in Melbourne, Auckland, Paris, Berlin and his native Cheshire - and Michael Lever, once of Manchester Food and Drink Festival and now an events manager for Manchester Pride (hence why Elnecot’s original opening date of mid-August was put back to September.)
Clay said: “We're so excited to create a place for people to come and enjoy great food, great drinks and each other's great company so people can come any time, day or evening, and feel this place is for them. We're taking inspiration from Manchester’s cultural and culinary heritage and opening our walls to local artists.”