Let's leave the year on a high with the restaurant meals that made us happy this year
To say it’s been a busy year for restaurant openings would be an understatement. Take a stroll through town any day in 2018 and by the next morning, there’ll be at least three new places that you swore weren’t there the day before.
City centre hotels have been tumbling over each other to up their restaurant game, London operators have been throwing down their venture capital investment money in a game of real life Monopoly and independents have been stoically trying to find the light.
Confidentials' writing team has done its very best to keep up with the new - both large and small - city centre and suburbs, whilst not forgetting dependable longstanding venues to make sure they’re still well, dependable.
As you’d expect, many meals were decent, so-so, alright. A few actually blew our socks off, but then there were others that made us wish we'd stayed in with Netflix and Deliveroo. Instead of you having to trawl through all 80-odd reviews from 2018 to decide which ones are worth visiting/avoiding, we've cut straight to it with the top six best-scored venues of the past year…
Where: The Moorcock Inn
Pub & restaurant in Yorkshire with quality, seasonal menus, utilising local and homegrown produce, cooked over fire. Natural wines, local and Belgian beers. Back in April, Neil Sowerby experienced a £35 tasting menu that ‘starts weird and becomes ever more wonderful.’ It was one of the highlights of his year – he’s been back of his own volition at least 300 times since. The Good Food Guide 2019 singled this place out with a special merit for ‘Best Use of Ingredients’ and it also picked up a special editor’s award as 'Best New Entry'. Judges commented: “food in the must-book restaurant marries localism, foraging and fermentation with an enthusiasm for cooking over fire.” Since our review, national food critics have flocked up there and have left happy. It was placed an impressive fourth in Confidentials' Top 100 Restaurants.
The Moorcock Inn, Moor Bottom Ln, Sowerby Bridge, HX6 3RP. Tel: 01422 832103
Where: 20 Stories Grill
We had an experience of two halves here when 20 Stories opened back in March, on the top floor of the new No.1 Spinningfields tower, after much anticipation and hype. It was the first D&D London restaurant to open in Manchester and they wrestled Aiden Byrne away from Manchester House to head up the kitchen (but that’s another story.)
Gordo visited three times for his review, just to be absolutely sure. The fine dining half left him a little underwhelmed on two visits, but he described his visit to the grill as ‘a pure pleasure’. Gordo shared the 42oz wing rib for two, cooked medium rare (£72). The beef was exemplary; 32 day dry-aged and grass fed – competition for Alston Bar & Beef and Hawksmoor.
20 Stories, Spinningfields 1 Hardman Square, Manchester, M3 3EB. Tel: 0161 204 3333
It's been donkey’s years since Craig Bancroft and Nigel Howarth turned Northcote Manor into a restaurant with rooms. Well over 35 very long years ago. The boys subsequently won a Michelin star and became a member of the Relais & Chateaux hotel group; another trusted brand for the best of the best, as well as receiving four remarkable red rosettes from The AA Guide. The last time Gordo ate there was 2007 and he was pleased to report that, on the standards of this year’s visit, the team have got the place firmly in the 21st century. Nigel has recently turned the kitchen over to Lisa Goodwin-Allen, who has worked with the boys for a number of years and is shining with her new responsibility.
Northcote, Northcote Road, Langho, Blackburn, BB6 8BE. Tel: 01254 240555
Where: Manchester House
2018 has certainly been a rollercoaster of a ride for this place. In November 2017, headlines shouted about head chef Aiden Byrne abandoning ship for the new 20 Stories (see above), leaving longstanding head chef Nat Tofan at the helm – that’s when Confidential went in to review. Gordo enjoyed it and felt some confidence flowing again. But in October 2018 Manchester House suddenly closed…only to announce it was reopening again, with Aiden Byrne back in the driving seat. This place has had more drama than a Coronation Street Christmas special.
Manchester House, 18-22 Bridge Street, Spinningfields, Manchester, M3 3BZ. Tel: 0161 835 2557
There was a lot of excitement about this Manchester City-backed Catalan restaurant, when it opened back in July. Everyone was hoping that multi-Michelin starred chef Paco Perez and team would be the ones to break the curse of the King Street site that had broken previous restaurant incarnations Suri and Quill. Due to its A-list connections, it attracted the attention of all the national food reviewers, who flocked up to Manchester to squeeze prawn heads over trays of rice, eat octopus from strangely shaped receptacles and foie gras white chocolate donuts.
Tasta Catala, 20-22 King St, Manchester, M2 6AG. Tel: 0161 806 0547
Four members of the Confidential team booked a table for the first service at this new ‘wild dining’ restaurant in Ancoats lead by ex-Noma chef Simon Martin. The multi-course, no choice menu was certainly an adventure, taking us from fermented black apple to a less successful parsnip cake, via pit-stops including biodynamic radishes, kelp fudge and more leaves that you’d find in a Brazilian rainforest. Our writers didn’t agree on any of it. Some loved the bits that others didn’t, but as we all love nothing more than to argue vociferously about food, a thoroughly good time was had by all.
Mana, 42 Blossom Street, Manchester, M4 6BF. Tel: 0161 392 7294