Kelly Bishop finds a new heartthrob on a marina in Ancoats
There are pretentious wine twats everywhere, from Burgundy bores to those printing neon leaflets and going on about “juice”.
Super low intervention and orange wine, of course, way pre-date the Godzilla-like supermarket-driven affordable wine machine we have now. The Georgians have been at the amber wine since the first grapes were squashed - so natty is nothing new but then neither are bell-bottom jeans and mini skirts.
What you're forking out for here is locally grown, organic produce from a farm down the road
The easy-drinking, lower ABV, Haribo-coloured style that’s bang on trend right now has an understandable appeal - and, like craft IPA, the labels always look pretty. I know my way around a conventional wine menu but low intervention lists still leave me a bit flummoxed.
Thankfully, there are tons of enthusiasts just frothing at the mouth to regale stories of young growers reigniting an ancient tradition, the urgent need to change the way we do things to protect our suffering planet, plus eyebrow-raising talk of lunar cycles.
At New Islington wine bar Flawd, there’s always a range of styles by the glass. It’s ideal for trying a few wines you may not have tried before as you feel your way around the murky world of natural wine with twattery kept to a minimum.
The space is functional, rather than cosy, it’s housed in a square box under a block of bland modern flats, decked out in minimalist style. I scrape back a high stool and sip a super floral skin contact wine from Chile (£7) while I wait for my OH to arrive, gazing out at the passing dog walkers on the marina. When he does arrive, he only goes and falls in love with a Barbera (£6).
The bottle of Mura Mura (£39) we choose from a selection that natural wine buff and co-owner Richard Cossins suggests features red grapes Merlot, Grenache and a white, Muscat. It’s fruity and light, going down well with the food but has that biscuity, unfiltered taste I don’t love about natty wine. We grab one of Richard’s other suggestions to take home. Lawd tear me away from restaurants that double as wine shops. They will be the death of me.
It’s not my first visit to Flawd, nor tasting chef Joe Otway’s food in other guises, but it’s my first time trying the food here. The menu is short and changes frequently, so the dishes I tasted might not be on when you visit.
A smooth, split pea dip (£4.50) the colour of an HRH twinset is described as “kind of an English hummus”. It’s speckled with tiny tweezerfuls of fermented red cabbage and is lemony fresh, with the consistency just a touch firmer than that super-smooth Sabra hummus you get from the supermarket. Always with my finger on the pulse, I correctly identify that Hodmedods are involved. If you’re a keen home cook and you’ve not filled your cupboards yet with gorgeous brown paper bags of their dried English beans and pulses, now’s your cue.
Everyone seems to use Pollen for their sourdough (£3.50) but not everyone is literally next door. The only way to get their bread fresher is to go into the bakery itself. Yes sourdough is overdone round these parts, but who cares when it’s this good slathered with butter or used as a hummus shovel? It arrives alongside not just any old Bresaola (£10), but Curing Rebels’ version infused with (my favourite tea) Lapsang Souchong and sake. We hoover it up like hungry hippos, you won’t find a much better pal for a glass of funky wine than a bit of shaved charcuterie. I pause for a second on the way to the loo to rubberneck at the terrifying meat slicing machine in action and shudder.
Curing Rebels is a Brighton based brand that Joe Otway makes no secret of his fanboy passion for. I’ve had this N Do Ya? (Geddit?) before in an Otway cook at home box and here it’s woven into cheese and grilled on more sourdough.
Garlic scapes (that’s stalks to you and me) are snipped over this spicy rarebit (£8.50) along with their dainty white flowers. It’s not my favourite of the dishes we try, partly because it argues with the wine a bit.
Smacked cucumber with radish and oregano (£6.50) is doused with vinegar that Joe says was made from “some wine that didn’t go well”. Joe asked his pals at Tillingham to send any dud wine his way so he could have a go at making vinegar from it. This fresh salad nicely tempers the chilli heat from the nduja. Spring greens (£8) are draped knottily atop a smooth turnip puree. Leafy greens treated well are always an easy win for me.
Cinderwood gem lettuce, Garstang blue cheese and leek (£7.50) is my second favourite dish. It’s everything I love: crunchy, creamy and tangy. Yes, it is expensive for one little gem lettuce cut in half, albeit pristinely dressed and sprinkled with some satisfying crispy bits but what you're forking out for here is locally grown, organic produce from a farm down the road; love and expertise in the kitchen introducing more local produce (Garstang blue, for example, is made near Preston) and some of the best service you could possibly find in Manchester from a passionate crew that have worked at some of the world’s most forward-thinking restaurants.
Not everyone can afford to splash out this much on a baby lettuce very often if at all. That’s a serious point that I (and I’d wager Flawd’s owners too) think about a lot. But if you can afford to throw your money at local, passionate growers, cooks and restaurateurs going out of their way to make smart, planet-friendly choices, then you should.
Asparagus with cod roe and a dusting of brick red paprika (£9.50) is another textbook example of impeccable sourcing. The thicc, sexy spears - so vividly green it’s almost suspicious - are barely meddled with. The taste and texture are already there, just kissed by the grill with a pinch of sea salt to ramp them up a bit. Sometimes cod roe has a hint of bitterness but not so here, it’s a delicate, creamy, smoky seafood dip. Every now and again I flick back through the hundreds of food photos on my phone to gaze at the picture I took of this dish. I’m thinking of blowing some up to poster size to plaster all over my bedroom walls like the Jason Donovan of dreamy dinners.
The talent in this part of Manchester is actually staggering. Erst is my favourite restaurant around here and Flawd sits happily alongside it as an equal.
The team behind Flawd have worked at Relae Copenhagen, Blue Hill at Stone Barns NYC, Noma, Where The Light Gets In, Higher Ground and Roganic between them. Now here they are with an unfussy wine bar in Manchester, quietly serving jaw-dropping food. I can’t believe I waited this long to eat it.
Flawd, 9 Keepers Quay, Manchester M4 6GL
Follow Kelly on Instagram @keliseating
All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidentials and completely independent of any commercial relationship. They are a first-person account of one visit by one, knowledgable restaurant reviewer and not of the company as a whole.
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.
Asparagus 10, N Do Ya 7, split pea dip 8.5, spring greens 7, lettuce 8.5, Bresaola 8, Cucumber 7.5,
I challenge you to find a more enthusiastic bunch
Lovely at sunset on the marina, but not mega comfortable