Jonathan Schofield admires the latest addition to the Ancoats anthology
ERST is an odd one. Very good but odd. It’s almost puritanically simple in its design and with its menu.
As with almost every new opening these days, it dwells in Ancoats, in one of those new build apartment blocks that are supposed to resemble old mills. These buildings are also puritanically simple but create urban excitement in the manner they make canyons of the streets, in this case Murray Street.
The salt cod, blood orange, olives, capers and oregano was superb
The outside of Erst has a modest sign protruding from the wall. Otherwise, looking in, you might be forgiven for thinking this was a particularly minimalist design studio with an anal retentive boss.
It’s like that on the inside as well. You feel as though the furniture has been placed to a mathematical principle, and that it’d be a shame to move it around. Still, once seated, the interior, with its muted tones and woods, works well in its sharp as a pin austerity. The menu will change seasonally and brings pared down sophistication to Ancoats. Less is very much more at Erst.
So, the saucisson (£7) came unadorned and was a dry-cured little star, but made better my own artful recipe making. The anchovies with spices, herbs and oil (£5) were delightful, but when I wrapped the anchovies in the saucisson it made for a gorgeous morsel. Put it on the menu I say.
The outstanding dish was the salt cod, blood orange, olives, capers and oregano (£8), which was superb. The cod, raw in a marinade with the blood orange and other ingredients produced a very good looking treat. Excellent work that. A special of skate (£10) simply done provided good fishy pickings.
The dessert of rhubarb, buttermilk, sorbet, rosemary, brown butter crumble (£7) lived up the ambitious multi-ingredient billing. There was a subtlety to this but livened by the punch of the rhubarb. A honeyed slice of Mrs Kirkham’s cheese provided a good conclusion to the meal.
Erst means ‘long ago’ or ‘formerly’. I’m not sure what relevance that has to the restaurant but the long-drawn out syllable reinforces the individuality of the place. The wine list is very good by the way, and the whole experience pleasurable with good service. It’s a welcome addition to the city dining scene.
It will be interesting to see if Ancoats can drag in enough custom for all the many recent food and drink openings it has witnessed. I took a group of fifteen accountants up there on Thursday evening, finishing a tour off at the Hip Hop Chip Shop and only two had crossed the barrier of Great Ancoats Street previously. They all said they’d return.
Let’s hope that’s the case because Ancoats is the most exciting food and drink destination in the UK at present. Erst definitely adds to that.
Erst, 9 Murray St, Manchester M4 5BN
All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidential and completely independent of any commercial relationship. Venues are rated against the best examples of their type: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: Netflix and chill, 10-11: if you're passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: cooked by God him/herself.
Saucisson 6.5, anchovies 7.5, cod 8, skate 7, cheese 7, crumble 7.5
Attentive and informed