Take a look at the highs and lows of this year's dining experiences

Time goes quickly when you’re having buns…that’s more or less how the saying goes. We’ve only just past the mid-point of the year and Confidential’s bank of increasingly rotund writers have already munched and slurped their way through a whopping 42 restaurant reviews.

Here’s a round-up of our top four favourite restaurants of 2017 so far; places that have made us collectively swoon and salivate. For balance, we’ve also had a look at the meals we’d like to scrape into a sealed container, label ‘must try harder’ and throw into the deepest ocean.

The best so far….

Moor Hall - 19.5/20

Mark Birchall - the ex-head chef at Simon Rogan’s multi-award winning, two Michelin starred L’Enclume up in south Cumbria - is now chef-patron of this remarkable restaurant with rooms which opened in April. 

Moor Hall is a large, Grade II-listed manor house in Aughton, near Ormskirk, in acres of ground that will shortly boast its own dairy and ‘The Barn’, a bar and casual dining experience due to open in the Autumn. Some would argue that Birchall was the man responsible for winning and maintaining the second star at L’Enclume and this was apparent in some of the 10/10 dishes we sampled, such as the aged beef in charcoal and smoked curd with potato, fermented garlic and flowers.

Prescot Rd, Aughton, Ormskirk L39 6RT Tel: 01695 572511 - Read the full review of Moor Hall here.

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Umezushi - 19.5/20

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.

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Adam Reid at The French - 19/20

Confidential went en mass to Manchester’s iconic Midland Hotel back in February when Adam Reid uncovered his new eponymous restaurant after taking over fully from Simon Rogan following his premature departure. Thanks to the twelve courses we were served, our quick 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.

The Midland Hotel, Peter Street, Manchester M60 2DS. Tel: 0161 235 4780 - Read the full review of The French here.

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Gimbals - 17/20 

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.

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….and now for the meals which didn't go so well.

Jenny’s - 8/20

With a wine list that was simply ‘red, white, or rosé’, expectations for the food offerings at this somewhat 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.

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Brasserie Abode - 9/20

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 somewhat unimaginative.

107a Piccadilly, M1 2DB Tel: 0161 200 5665Brasserie Abode review here.

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La Torre - 9.5/20

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

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Dionisos Manchester - 9.5/20

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 reviewed. 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.'

16 Chorlton St, M1 3HW Tel: 0161 637 2640Read the full Dionisos review here

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