Here's five meals that made us happy, and five that didn't...
It's been another busy year in restaurants, with dozens more opening across the city, alongside more boozers, pop-ups, cafes, diners, bars and street food stalls. We've tried our hardest to visit all of them, to see what’s what, while also revisiting a few old favourites and longstanding venues to see how they're coping with the influx.
We’ve also ventured further out across the region, scraping the Yorkshire, Lancashire and Cumbrian borders to discover good food worth a reasonable journey.
As you’d expect, many meals were decent, so-so, alright. A few blew our socks off, and a few others made us wish we'd stayed in with Netflix and a Pot Noodle. But instead of you having to trawl through all 80-odd reviews to find the ones worth visiting/avoiding, we've cut straight to it with the Top 5 best and worst scored venues of the past year…
The highest scoring restaurants of 2017:
Mark Birchall – the former head chef at Simon Rogan’s multi-award winning, two Michelin starred L’Enclume - became chef-patron of this remarkable new restaurant with rooms when it opened in April. Moor Hall is a large, Grade II-listed manor house in Aughton, near Ormskirk. It has its own kitchen garden and plans for its own dairy, charcuterie and brewery, alongside a more casual dining affair in 'The Barn' (reviewed here). It was no surprise, considering some of the 10/10 dishes we experienced on our visit - such as the aged beef in charcoal and smoked curd with potato, fermented garlic and flowers – that Moor Hall was awarded the North West’s only new Michelin star this year.
Prescot Rd, Aughton, Ormskirk L39 6RT Tel: 01695 572511 - Read the full review of Moor Hall here.
This tiny Japanese restaurant hidden away under an archway near to Victoria train station has been open for over three years, but Confidential’s publisher Gordo only just got round to visiting it this year. He fell in love, going as far as to say “it could be in Tokyo, Moscow, or New York’s meatpacking district. It doesn’t matter, because you’re witnessing one of the best curated Japanese dining experiences, not just in Manchester, nor England, but the world.” He gave a whopping four dishes (and even the brown rice tea) full marks.
4 Mirabel St, Manchester M3 1PJ Tel: 0871 811 8877 - Read the full Umezushi review here.
Where: Adam Reid at The French
Confidential went en mass to Manchester’s iconic Midland Hotel back in February as soon as Adam Reid revealed his eponymous new-look restaurant after taking over, following the premature departure of Simon Rogan. Thanks to the twelve courses we were served, our lunch turned into a five hour extravaganza and we were wowed by dishes like the hand blown sugar clementine and salt-aged duck leg with cherry and beetroot. There’s a limit to what can be done with the grade II listed dining room, but Reid has injected a more urban feel in the form of dark grey walls and the introduction of a sound system playing contemporary tunes. It’s far removed from the stuffy formality of previous incarnations of The French.
The Midland Hotel, Peter Street, M60 2DS. Tel: 0161 235 4780 - Read the full review of The French here.
Excited at not only having a bridge, but a whole village with the same name as him, Confidential writer Neil Sowerby hot-footed it over to Sowerby Bridge to check out independent neighbourhood restaurant Gimbals. There he got lost in an eclectic Alice In Wonderland fantasy, enjoying a playful menu incorporating many locally foraged ingredients, in a beyond quirky space, packed with gargantuan gilt mirrors, flags, disco balls and random kitsch objects. He even gave the squid dish 10/10.
76 Wharf Street, Sowerby Bridge HX6 2AF Tel: 01422 839329 - Read the full Gimbals review here.
Where: Hinchcliffe Arms
Jonathan Schofield followed chef Robert Owen Brown up the M62 to Milnrow, round Hollinworth Lake, skirting Littleborough and then over the Pennine hill, Blackstone Edge, first left after the reservoir, down the B6138, to Cragg Vale at the foot of the hill, to The Hinchliffe Arms in Hebden Bridge. Once there he filled up on Owen Brown’s trademark British grub; such as ox heart and grouse, cooked with typical flair and imagination.
The Hinchliffe Arms, Cragg Vale, Hebden Bridge HX7 5TA. Tel: 01422 883256 – Read the full review here.
…and the lowest scoring restaurants of 2017:
With a wine list that was simply ‘red, white, or rosé’, expectations for the food offerings at this neglected hotel restaurant were kept at realistic levels. Jonathan Schofield could only muster a 2/10 for a distinctly average ‘mum’s gone to Iceland’ chocolate gateau which he described as looking like 'a wolf’s head with chocolate button eyes and a sinister grin'. He also compared the steak to a mouse mat and suggested that even a transport caff from 1956 would be ashamed of the old and chewy gammon.
Britannia Hotel, Portland Street, M1 3LA T: 0161 228 2288 - Read the full review of Jenny's here.
Where: Brasserie Abode
Here is another hotel restaurant which failed to impress our writers. Ruth Allan was left distinctly underwhelmed despite Brasserie Abode having re-opened after a recent spruce-up. The new menu is full of dishes such as steak frites, omelette Arnold Bennett, grilled oysters Rockefeller, prawn cocktail, cod in beer batter, duck confit and shepherds’ pie – all good value but painfully uninspiring.
107a Piccadilly, M1 2DB Tel: 0161 200 5665 - Brasserie Abode review here.
Where: La Torre
The locals feel passionately about this neighbourhood Spanish restaurant. So much so that it won a Confidential poll on best Spanish restaurants, beating the likes of Iberica and Tapeo. It also led to a pretty funny personal onslaught against our writer Jonathan Schofield ('‘self-opinionated pompous arse’ was a favourite) who visited and found it distinctly average. He thought the paella was more Uncle Ben’s than uncle Diego and that there was something of the lesser Spanish holiday resort about the place.
94 Flixton Rd, Urmston, M41 5AD T: 0161 749 8585 - Read the full La Torre review here
Where: Dionisos Manchester
Some might say it wasn’t quite fair for our writer Neil Sowerby to visit this brand new Greek restaurant so soon after they opened, but others might argue that if they’re ready to take money, then they’re ready to be critiqued. It turns out they hadn’t quite got their souvlaki together and there were a few issues with the first UK outpost of this international brand. Sowerby wrote: '...at the bottom of my Dionisos dinner bill sat the cryptic message “Go Greek or Go Home”. On reflection, and still weary from my marathon attempts to dislodge bullet-like prawns from their flak-jacketed shells, I wish I’d gone home and kept the place a secret.' (If only the food were as good as his photos...)
16 Chorlton St, M1 3HW Tel: 0161 637 2640 - Read the full Dionisos review here
Italian celebrity chef Gino D'Campo has a new outlet in Manchester on the third floor of the Next store in Manchester Arndale. There’s a fine view of the menswear department and the National Football Museum but there are also hundreds of views of Gino as well. Jonathan Schofield reckons there are cathedral shops in Italy with fewer images of Christ than Gino has of himself in his restaurants. As for the food, he describes it as forgettable and 'the most basic Italian by numbers restaurant imaginable.' The lasagna was a shocker and the brioche con gelato was an even bigger disaster, with hard brioche you could cut diamonds with.
100 Corporation St, Manchester, M4 3AJ - Read the full Gino review here.