It might sound like a laxative, but this latest new opening's offering sounds solid

But for Michael Clay’s dad being seriously hurt in a motorbike accident we might never have had Ancoats’ new neighbourhood restaurant and bar Elnecot, which opens this September in the Ice Plant building.

The peripatetic young chef was running his own acclaimed English style bistro, The Two Badgers, in Melbourne’s beachside suburb of St Kilda. “It was going well, we’d taken over an old Irish pub, altered very little apart from the food – we still had to do Yorkshire puds for the ex-pats – but when news came about my dad I had to come home to be near him,” Cheshire-born Michael tells us.

Melbourne’s loss is Ancoats’ gain with Michael promising British sharing plates focusing on locally-sourced, seasonal and sustainable produce with a nod to the area’s past, notably its Little Italy heritage. Commitment to the historic district is also reflected in the new ventures' name, being the first recorded mention of the settlement in 1212.

Michael Clay
Michael Clay ran an acclaimed English style bistro, The Two Badgers, in Melbourne

We’re not sure what kind of foodie scene there was in those days (we expect foraging and game dishes featured), but it’s blossoming these days. Already in Ice Plant, a former fish warehouse turned apartment block on Blossom Street, are Se7en Brothers Beerhouse and Mexica, while across Cutting Room Square pioneers Rudy’s Pizza are still packing them in, while much-anticipated neighbour Goose Fat & Wild Garlic is still giving a passable impression of the Marie Celeste. Never mind – Altrincham’s pasta kitchen Sugo and Hip Hop Chip Shop have announced plans to move in, too.

“It definitely feels the place to be,” says Michael, who is opening Elnecot in partnership with friend Michael Lever, once of Manchester Food and Drink Festival and now an events manager for Manchester Pride. Indeed, his commitment to Pride means the original opening date of mid-August has been put back to September.

"Possets would be good, maybe a pig’s head dish"

So what can we expect foodwise from Elnecot? “We are still developing the menu, but I’m very keen to feature old English recipes from the area and the north west as a whole. Possets would be good, maybe a pig’s head dish. Preserving, pickling, fermenting, making jams and chutneys are all on the agenda.”

Fermenting’s very cool at the moment. Do you extend to a very un-Ancoats like kimchi? “Funny you should say that, I’m currently making a cauliflower kimchi.” At The Two Badgers their most popular dish was sirloin steak, braised shallots, mashed potato, chimmichurri alongside the likes of smoked trout mousse, slow-roasted beets, hazelnuts and crème fraîche and lemon and pine nut tart.

160413 Cutting Room Square 14
Elnecot will open on Cutting Room Square - Ancoats emerging food and drink heartland

And drinks? “Locally brewed ales, local gins, a few English wines, in particular the sparklers and an emphasis on biodynamic wines. It all marries with our strongly eco approach.”

Hence sustainably-sourced wooden booths and benches in the 80-cover restaurant, a living wall and no plastics in the open kitchen. Oh, an an equally sustainable welcome for customers.

“Our aim is to be a place that feels like a second home to regulars coming along any time of the day. A true neighbourhood place in a great area.”

Elnecot plan to open in the Ice Plant building, Ancoats in September