When this is all over we’re all having three lunches and two dinners every day
It’s around this time of the month that we usually gather together a list of the best things we ate. A round up of the dishes our writing team recommends you seek out from Greater Manchester’s restaurants. Obviously we can’t do that at the moment, but what we can do is dream.
Here’s what we’re missing the most from Manchester’s rich bounty of restaurants and cafes and what we’ll be making a beeline for when they are back in business again.
Kelly Bishop - At the moment, I’m very aware that city life revolves around all the things I love (gigs, arts spaces and restaurants) that are now temporarily suspended. There’s so much I took for granted that I’m now seeing the true value of more than ever before and in a way I’m grateful for that step back in perspective.
In terms of eating out, I actually just really miss the zillions of options and having them taken away has made me realise how amazing it was when they were all there for the scoffing. I particularly miss the occasional weekend brunch with a group of close friends. I’m dreaming of heading straight to somewhere like Ezra & Gill or Pot Kettle Black with my mates for a celebratory OTT French toast as soon as that privilege is returned. I have visions of rich brioche loaf sliced as thick as a Booker prize-winner, piled with a mouth-puckering fruity compote (perhaps rhubarb or raspberry depending on what season we get out of this), splurts of vanilla flecked mascarpone or wobbly crème pat and a drizzle of maple syrup. All washed down with an amazing barista flat white topped with a perfect fern and paired with a long sigh of satisfaction and gratitude.
I’m sure I’ll get very sick of the limits of my own culinary repertoire very soon, so the meticulous, creative and way-too-fiddly-to-recreate-at-home chef skills behind the Sunday dim sum menu at Yang Sing is high on the list too.
Lucy Tomlinson - Ok I’m expecting some pushback on this one, but the food I’m most missing is… sharing plates. That seems natural - in a world where doing a pavement swerve is obligatory during one’s government-mandated hour of exercise - grazing fingers over a bowl of olives or splitting a chocolate chip cannolo with nary a thought for aerosol-droplet transmission of disease is sorely missed.
The reason this is deeply ironic is that sharing plates have been rather looked down upon by food cognoscenti. An eager beaver server bounds up to check if we’ve visited before and if we ‘need a run through of how the menu works, guys?’ Eyes roll, it’s sharing plates of course, always managing to be much more expensive and never quite enough of each plate to share properly. Well that’ll teach me for being a sarky eye-roller, how I miss thee, three coconut shrimp between four at Peru Perdu.
Though it feels like Armageddon, we are still pretty far off the survivalist stage (unless you count foraging for the last packet of Kettle Chips) and, after subsistence, one of food’s primary functions is as a social bonder. Perhaps that’s why we are showing record supermarket spends and online cooking classes are booming as people go back to recreating this essential function at home. It also wouldn’t have gone amiss to invest in shares in Deliveroo a couple of months ago.
Still, while I’m rediscovering the joys of a dry-brined roast chicken or home-baked bread, I know when the restrictions are lifted, like many people I’ll be excited to visit a restaurant again, and most importantly share the food, and the love, with friends. Come back eager beaver, all is forgiven.
Jonathan Schofield - When all of this is over I will be heading into the city centre for a full day of food. It’ll be two beautifully runny poached eggs on toast at Cafe North on Shudehill at 8am, then a rich and aromatic take-away coffee from Mancoco at 10am and a stroll just gazing around. First lunch will be a vongole at Salvi’s Cucina on John Dalton Street at noon, second lunch at half two will be fried spuds and bacon at Hunan restaurant on George Street. I’ll maybe do a bit more rubber-necking after that until a 5.30pm pick-me-up of 12 British and Irish oysters at Caffe Grande Piccolino. A cheeky pint of a golden ale will follow at the City Arms until 7.30pm.
Dinner – not decided yet, but it might involve the octopus at Canto, a fuck-off steak with bone marrow at Hawksmoor, a full skatewing at Mackie Mayor, a mad hotpot at OnePlus or maybe some crazy rarified fandango at Tast, Mana or The French? I don’t need to decide yet because we’ll have all the time in the world to decide – presupposing there’s any cash left in my coffers.
A nightcap of a Lagavullin whisky would finish off the day superbly maybe in the Briton’s Protection or somewhere shallow and fancy with fun people-watching, The Ivy or 20 Stories. One last thing, I only want company during one of the lunches and at dinner, otherwise I want to sit in windows alone and watch my city come back to life, and as the lights go down and I slowly get sozzled, reading occasionally, making notes occasionally, I’ll wonder what this was all about and whether it was all a dream?
Deanna Thomas - While I’m pottering about at home obsessing about rationing and trying to invent imaginative things to do with potato peelings, I keep getting flashes of much enjoyed meals gone by. Unsurprisingly, it’s the comfort food I miss the most. I was not surprised to hear that someone had messaged Sugo Pasta Kitchen the other night offering them £250 for two portions of their strascinate with Tuscan sausage. But it’s their Sugo scoglio I’d pay well over the odds for. Comforting home made cavatelli pasta which absorbs all the chill and ginger infused juices from a sauce made with king prawns, baby squid, mussels and Datterini tomatoes.
The other thing I miss is my regular curry fix of rice and three – a habit formed over 20 years (usually with a hangover). My favourite is the Tuesday menu at This & That, where I loved tucking into the ‘three c’s’ – chicken, channa and cabbage piled up with chopped raw onions that make my colleagues avoid me all afternoon. Apparently they’re offering some kind of curry hamper delivery service at the moment, but I live well out of their catchment area so, when things get back to normal, any chance you could budge up and make a space for me on those benches?
I was planning to take the family to Baratxuri in Ramsbottom over the Easter holidays to treat them to a huge highest grade sirloin sharing steak from minimum six-year-old, 100 per cent grass-fed Rubia gallega dairy cows and dry aged for at least 35 days. I'm hopeful we can try again soon.
Neil Sowerby - My writing and family life may be upside down, but I’m having home alone fun during self-isolation, busy working out what to do with half a Hebridean lamb we got for a song, impulse online-buying Somerset smoked eel and planting enough broad beans and peas for summer self-sufficiency.
Throw in a valiant effort to finally get my palate around natural wine (the jury’s no longer out) and what’s to miss in the city? Well, a vast amount as it happens. Before the shutters slammed shut there had never been a better time to eat and drink in Manchester and its hinterland.
My favourite creative indie chefs, brewers and mixologists (I think you know who you are) will surely be using this unprecedented hiatus to refresh some amazing menus/drinks lists and we pray none will go under if it drags on too long.
Dishes I miss most? A couple I’ve recently recreated from the cookbooks of Hawksmoor and Dishoomrespectively – the former’s house burger and the latter’s house black dal made its home debut minus the cream. Even though I’ve got that eel package on the way, I wouldn’t be confident of recreating Mana’s signature Yakitori eel. I will eat it again at the Ancoats game changer that brought a Michelin star back to Manchester. For the moment I have to savour my verdict on it: “The eel breathes of forest camp fire embers, a glaze of roasted nutritional yeast is a genuine case of umami knows best and a second glaze of blueberry vinegar adds extra fruity funk.”
Two further treats that have stayed with me – a brace of oysters at Street Urchin and rack of lamb at The Perfect Match. Each was perfect in it own uncomplicated way, served with love by talented couples; Rachel and Kevin Choudhary; Jazz Navin and Andrea Follador, both realising their restaurant dreams in difficult times.
Rock oysters had come fresh that morning from Colchester. There’d been a rush on them over the weekend and chef Kevin had headed over at dawn to restock from suppliers. Three quid each, partnered with a Kiwi Riesling, they were simple perfection.
Sustainable sourcing was also behind that lamb in a 26-cover bistro on an unlikely stretch of the A56. The rack (£44 to share) came from the Butcher’s Block in Poynton, the UK’s ‘New Butchery Business of the Year.’ Jazz did it justice, roasting it the tenderest of pinks in a herb crust, the fat crisp but also softly chewable.
The lockdown must be a time of gnawing worry for such restaurant minnows. Make the effort to seek them out again when normality resumes. Please.
Gordo - Fish. Great fish. Once or twice a month, Wright's Chippy on Cross Street, their cod is near-perfect. Lashings of salt and vinegar.
Turbot! At Forest Side up in the lakes, where the chef, Paul Leonard is having a Cantona-post-Leeds rebirth gave me the highest scored fish dish for the past 18 months in the UK, 9.75/10. (Read Neil's review on Confidentials here, although the chef in 2017 was Kevin Tickle.)
Turbot at The Barn at Moor Hall, scored 9.5 from me, missing out on overtaking Forest Side by a ten second over-cook - although I am tipping The Barn for a Michelin Star. It did have a 10/10 saucing, looking as beautiful as Anya Taylor-Joy in the film Emma. Mind you, she wasn’t laid over a bed of roasted artichokes. (I would imagine however, that Anya wouldn’t have given me such bad wind later.)
One week before that visit, I enjoyed a red mullet at the three Michelin star Guy Savoy in Paris. Called 'Rouget Barbet en Situation' it was a masterpiece; 10/10. That meal drove me insane.
Cooking fish at home always disappoints because, like a good Matisse, it has to be stripped back to its essence, a Blue Nude sort of thing. To deliver white fish to the point of perfection is certainly not achievable by Gordo in his kitchen. Then to sauce it properly? Nah. Sorry. Looks like it's another few weeks of chicken, steak and fucking Weetabix.