This month: Welsh goats, duck hearts and Kurdish kebabs...
Take a break from turkey, sprouts and people ramming into the back of your chair as they try and squeeze past...actually, it's December, that's happening wherever you go. Still, if you do dare to venture out this month, here's a bunch of dishes the Confidential team know you'll enjoy...
Mackerel, beetroot, goats curd, cress - Wood (£9.50)
Easy one this month. The mackerel starter at Wood on Jack Rosenthal Street, close to HOME, is a real class act. The fish is beautifully presented and you can feel your brain expand with all that Omega 3 oil in the perfectly heated flesh. But what sets this dish apart is what should be an unnerving clash of favours. Wood Restaurant has placed a powerful goats curd with the fish. It should be vile but instead it’s powerful, bringing vibrancy and personality to the dish. It’s not a small starter either so you could make a damn fine lunch of it too. Jonathan Schofield
Wood, Jack Rosenthal Street, M15 4RA
Smoked pastrami Reuben - Eat New York's Bagel Shop (£7 for a quarter pound)
I'm giving this 'flexitarian' business a whirl by not eating animal bits during the week. This means I'm not only helping to save the planet, little lambies and reducing my chance of gut rot, but by the Order of the Flexitarians I'm now entitled to act like a smug twat without having to actually give up bacon. And things were going very well indeed, it was almost the weekend, and I'd eaten little more than beans, greens and cheese. I felt lighter, faster and, of course, morally superior to every seven-day-a-week bastard meat-eater around me. Then someone suggested Eat New York's new Bagel Shop for lunch and it all went to bollocks... because fuck me their pastrami is good. Really good. American beasts, grain-fed for more fat and flavour, cured in salt for two weeks, rubbed with a secret spice mix (mustard, garlic, maybe coriander...) and smoked in-house for fifteen hours until charred on the outside and soft, pink and tender in the middle. Topped with a mix of Swiss cheese, Russian dressing and sauerkraut... I almost felt sorry for the bread. David Blake
The Bagel Shop by Eat New York, 64 Oldham St, Manchester M4B1LE
Mixed Asian salad with sesame salmon – Fusion Lab (£6.50)
The food Brice Moore is knocking out of this tiny Arndale Market's kitchen stall has to be tasted to be believed; ramen, burgers, tacos, all made from scratch with incredible levels of detail. I don’t even care that I embarrassed both Brice and my family by introducing him as ‘more than just a chef, he’s an artist’. His dishes are a joyous combination of stimulating spices, perfect pickles, the freshest, crunchiest vegetables, mind-blowing textures and a slap in the face of fresh chilli.
The mixed Asian salad is made up of a refreshing heap of shredded mouli, carrots, beansprouts, coriander, basil leaves, chilli, lettuce, thinly sliced home-pickled cucumbers, Brice’s own recipe kimchi and sesame dressing, topped with guacamole, crispy onions and your choice of pork, chicken or salmon. It manages to hit the perfect spot between health food and comfort food and frankly should be made available on the NHS. Deanna Thomas
Fusion Lab, 49 High St, Manchester M4 3AH
Lobster, ginger and spring onion - Yu (£31.50)
Alderley Edge is awash with average, formulaic, middle-of-the-road restaurants. Such a pity. 38 years ago, there was a small French restaurant on the first floor of one of the shops, owned by Patrick Guilbaud. Patrick moved to Dublin and today owns Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud; the only two star Michelin restaurant in Ireland.
Gordo was back in Alderley Edge recently visiting Yu, a Chinese restaurant owned by the Yu family (it was under duress, to be fair, the ghost of Patrick - who taught the Fat One to make pan-fried duck breast with a cream peppercorn sauce when he was 23 - still haunts him). Three visits in, he can declare Yu's lobster, ginger and spring onion dish the best of its type in the North. It’s eye-wateringly expensive whilst also being the best value in the region. Paraphrasing Gordo’s would-be-pal (if he was still with us): 'it’s not good to know the price of everything and the value of nothing'. Sorry Oscar. Gordo
Yu, London Rd, Alderley Edge SK9 7QD
Welsh goat's cheese - Masons (£7.50)
I have to admit I'm a real sucker for a good goat's cheese. So if you are the kind of person who thinks it tastes of farmyards, look away now. This deceptively simple starter took the creamy, yet tart, cheese and dressed it up with a jazzy collar of grapes (so seventies) and a spangle of powdered walnut for a savoury-sweet sensation. I was worried I might be doing it a disservice by pairing it with dregs of a cracking martini but it turns out that the perfumed, botanical nature of gin matches with the herbaceous quality of goat's cheese after all. Winner. Lucy Tomlinson
Masons, 36 Bridge Street, Manchester, M3 3BT
Duck hearts with blackberry puree – The Bay Horse (£5)
Braveheart, Lionheart, Duck heart. Do I detect a certain downturn in heroic status attached to the latter? Even among the ranks of offal it lacks the fleshy allure of the sweetbread or the whole hog gutsiness of the chitterling. So it's a surprise to find it on the debut menu of the rakishly revamped Bay Horse until you spot there’s also a refuge for small plates of both ox and pig cheek, faggots and black pudding.
The new pub owners declared the style was ‘Rovers Return meets Soho House’. More the Abbatoir meets the Boudoir. The nose-to-tail cooking odours wafting across the back garden to V-Rev Diner on parallel Edge Street must have the children of Seitan quaking in their vegan leather loafers. And what of the proffered cluster of duck hearts, usually given the Chinese treatment? Here the body’s hardest working muscle is crumbed, fried, gamey, surprisingly tender, accompanied by a tart blackberry puree. A bargain at £5. Its heartfelt companion at lunch was a Chapel Down English Pinot Noir from a small but interesting wine list. Who needs Barbary breast and Volnay? Neil Sowerby
The Bay Horse Tavern, 35-37 Thomas Street, Manchester M4 1NA
Muhammara - Trove x Maray pop-up (£35 for five courses)
How’s this for a tongue twister? A classic Levantine dip created by Liverpool’s Maray at a pop-up meal in Levenshulme. Made from roasted peppers and rich with nuts and spices, it tosses you out of your immediate environment into a more beautiful place where your back is warm and everything smells divine. Walnuts, pomegranate molasses, garlic, salt, chilli, cumin are additional guests at the table. Everything is then whipped into a splurge and served with Trove sourdough, homemade harissa and pickled radishes.
Maray, which specialises in small plates with a Middle Eastern twang, hosted two Mancunian pop ups in as many weeks during November. Could this indicate that they are thinking about launching over here? I hope so; I’d eat this everyday if I could. Ruth Allan
Maray, 91 Bold Street, Liverpool L1 4HF & 57 Allerton Road, Liverpool L18 2DA
Raspberry and pistachio friand - Bambino (£2.95)
This delicious little cakelet comes from premier artisanal baker Silver Apples, which supplies many of the trendiest cafes and coffee shops throughout Manchester including new Worsley kinder cafe, Bambino. But while Bambino is hitting all the right food buttons (bread from Trove etc) it is also thinking deeply about ethical issues - with a weekly food donation to their local food bank, tips donated to charity and coffee from Redemption Roasters, an ethical company that trains young offenders in coffee roasting and barista skills. Which makes scoffing cake there practically morally obligatory. Lucy Tomlinson
Bambino, 3 Chaddock Lane, Worsley,M28 1DB
Kurdish kebabs - Curry Mile (from £5)
Forget your fermented urban-foraged artisan gin-soaked superfood diet, this is backstreet Middle Eastern kebabbery straight from the Curry Mile file. Actually, Wilmslow Road's 'Curry Mile' moniker is a bit of a misnomer these days, the majority of that predictable 90s curry house gloop has since been replaced by plastic-fronted shisha cafes (always showing some footy somewhere), fried chicken shops and Middle Eastern outfits serving some really cracking nosh: palaw from Afghanistan, khoresh from Iran and, of course, kebabs.
The best of which can be found in the backstreet Kurdish gaffs: Kudistan Restaurant on Grandale Street, or Kebab Shareen on Rusholme Grove. Strips of minced beef, hand-mixed with spice, seasoned, skewered on metal and charbroiled over wood flame, trapping in the juice and flavour. Served with flatbread, hot and bronze-bubbled from the tandoor, usually with grilled tomatoes, onion, red cabbage and a squeeze of lemon. Magic. David Blake
Kurdistan, 2 Grandale Street, Manchester M14 5NS / Kebab Shareen, Rusholme Grove, Manchester M14 5AG
Wild mushroom ravioli - Wood (£8.50)
Chef Simon Wood won the Masterchef final a couple of years back. He has since opened Wood on First street, not the cosiest of buildings, but walking into this restaurant lifts your spirits with a warm welcome from cheeky James at front of house. Added bonus points for the opportunity to wind up Simon’s head chef, Mike Jennings, who used to burst into tears whenever Gordo gave him a dig about anything up at the excellent Grenache.
Gordo joined Schofield for a review lunch this month, and at risk of stealing his thunder (more of a whisper after spending eight hours on the piss), let the Fat One tell you about the wild mushroom ravioli:
A huge dish in every sense of the word. It’s a starter, but would make a perfect lunch with a well-dressed green salad. A mushroom stifado infused with sage was topped off with a duvet of pasta, draped in a careless but well-judged way. On top of that, a little bit of genius, a small top hat of chestnuts with pangrattato. That’s breadcrumbs to us f*ckwits. Gordo
Wood, Jack Rosenthal Street, M15 4RA