From Welsh Rarebit to French Dip, explosive oysters to fake plum stones, here's some cracking things to scoff around Manchester this month

This month we've been knocking about O'Hare's new gaff and spoiling the windows in Harvey Nics...


OYSTERS - Harvey Nichols

Gordo began at Harvey Nichols Second Floor restaurant with the oysters. And what beauties they were. The best he'd had in years. The Fat One was on a table for one, gazing out the window at Exchange Square (bizarrely they do make you sit with your back to the room, the less forgiving might assume it's so punters don't mither the staff too much). Eyeing up the oysters, Gordo reaches for the typical pot of red wine vinegar and shallots, tipping a generous spoonful over a really plump specimen, he slots it straight down his throat... his eyes nearly popped out his head as his throat exploded, as if a flash grenade had been thrown down it. To Fatty's dismay he involuntarily sneezed out a big gob of blood-red snot onto the window, obscuring the view of Sinclair’s Oyster Bar. The kitchen had poured a whole bottle of Tabasco sauce into the little jug. The two old ladies sat next to Gordo didn’t stay for pudding. When calling Mr. Perfect, the General Manager Iain Mackenzie, all Gordo heard was laughter as the phone went down. Still, better on the glass than on his fellow diners. Great Oysters, mind you. Gordo

21 Cathedral Approach, Manchester M1 1AD

FISH TACOS - Fusion Lab 

Viet Shack’s collaboration with South African-born Brice Moore offers a pan-Asian melting-pot of a menu. Not all of the fusing works away from its street food origins but among the triumphs are their glorious fish tacos – three goujons of Chinese beer battered cod sitting on squid ink tortillas brushed with a tart lime and holy basil infused guacamole puree. The latter reminds me of Peter Mandelson notoriously mistaking mushy peas for guac in a chip shop in his Hartlepool constituency. The Arndale market a-fish-ionados are much more sophisticated. Neil Sowerby

Unit 8, Arndale Food Market, Manchester M3 3AH


The Welsh rarebit for a mere £6 came on two massive slices of bread which for the first time in the last 400 food reviews wasn’t bloody sourdough. The soft dough made a perfect bed for proper Lancashire cheese (the best for rarebit) and the Worcester sauce with extra supplied in a side dish gave it the right tang and bite. We had smoked bacon on top for an extra 50p which bolstered the dish and gave extra flavour. Bloody loved this monster starter which could easily be a full lunch. Jonathan Schofield

6 Angel St, Manchester M4 4BQ

PLUM STONES - Rabbit in the Moon

Michael O’Hare’s Rabbit in the Moon is Manchester’s great Michelin star hope and a tasting menu-only kind of place. Clocking in at £75 for 16 courses it’s not cheap, but when the menu includes unctuous octopus limbs wrapped around 3D sculptures and airy fusions like pain au unagi (eel mousse and fish croissant), every course is a thrill. Top marks go to the fake plum stone dessert (pictured). Served in a frozen fruit, you simply pick up the organic ‘vessel’, and toss said chocolate ‘stone’ into your mouth. Bite down, and be transported into orbit by the almond-like plum-stone-infused cream within. The stone, hand painted and homemade from wafer-thin chocolate, is a work of art , but it’s only beautiful for a while, and if it melts its just a mess. A lesson in appreciating the ever-changing nature of the universe, on a plate. Ruth Allan

Urbis Building, Corporation St, Manchester M4 3BG



You may roll your eyes, but the amount of food we get through on this job, plus the residual effects of the Christmas period, results in me enduring a dry January spent scouring menus for more protein and less carbs. I found just that in the latest branch of Cote, which opened in Hale village recently. Their steak tartare comes without the theatrics of having it made in front of you at the table. Hand cut cubes of tender raw beef is pepped up by finely chopped raw shallots, pickled cornichons, sharply vinagered capers, smooth raw egg yolk and a whisper of cognac (a whisper does not a dry January break.) Deanna Thomas

183 Ashley Rd, Hale, Altrincham WA15 9SD


FRENCH DIP – West Corner

The prospect of lunch in a Northern Quarter ‘diner’ doesn’t have the pull it once did, the novelty of wipe down faux-leather booths, black and white floor tiling and French toast for dinner whittled away by years of half-arsed Americana and the crowing of burger boys. So you’d be forgiven for assuming another ‘all-day diner’ opened in the epicentre of NQ’s new openings on Stevenson Square by a backpacker’s hostel looking to cash in would follow suit. Not so at West Corner, where they’ve drafted in two proper chefs, Dan (ex-Blue Pig) and Rom (ex-Hawksmoor), to open the kitchen before embarking upon their own suburban restaurant adventure. This means, amongst the typical medley of burgers, waffles, eggs and milkshakes you’ll find the odd dish, such as curried hake and clam chowder or slow-braised brisket, demanding a finer attention to detail. This rich, beefy, nurtured brisket fares particularly well in a French Dip baguette, served with a little pot of dipping gravy, melty Swiss cheese and French’s (not poncey) mustard in a soft and crusty. David Blake

21 Hilton Street, Northern Quarter, Manchester, M1 1JJ. 


SOFT SHELL CRAB – Shoryu Ramen

The soft shell tempura crab, with a gentle sauce on the side, was utterly gorgeous and also generous in its proportions. It was £9, but for an indulgent and expensive snack on a rush to Piccadilly Station this is a joyous thing. You get loads of greenery with it, but this dish is all about the crunch and the give of the tempura followed by the soft delight of the crab flesh. A 9/10 dish, perhaps the best of its ilk in the region. Jonathan Schofield

1 Piccadilly, Manchester M1 1RG


RAZOR CLAMS - Umezushi

Sometimes, Gordo is a knob (see above). He loves razor clams, gets them from the Anglesey fish man in China Town on Sundays. Grab a big pan, add a glug of olive oil, chopped shallots, garlic, dried chilli flakes, white wine (or dry sherry), then the clams. Two minutes and BOOSH. Job done. Though Gordo does find them a bit chewy, still it's all about the flavour, no? Terry, the gaffer here, handles them beautifully. The Fat One had half a dozen of Terry's at Umezushi, arguably the most underrated restaurant in the North West. Putting them down on the table, the charming hostess turned to Gordo. “Now, you’ll already know this Gordo, but the edible bit is that tube in the middle. The rest is too chewy...” Gordo

4 Mirabel St, Manchester M3 1PJ


THAI BROCCOLI - Chilli Banana

It might seem odd to get excited about a plate of broccoli in amongst other top quality highly flavoured Thai dishes, but this one stood out. It could even be a contender for a death-row meal. Mind you, if you’re on death row, maybe highly nutritious superfoods aren’t really a top priority. I digress. At Chilli Banana, instead of the more common Calabrese or sprouting broccoli varieties, they use the Chinese version kai-lan, which has thick flat leaves and fatter, crunchier stems. Expertly stir fried along with chilli and garlic, this left a real impression on me. Slightly sweet base notes from the yellow bean helped to elevate it into a central rather than side dish. In a broccoli-off, I reckon it’d give Gordo’s 9/10 Hispi charred broccoli a run for its money. Deanna Thomas

105-107 Lapwing Ln, Didsbury, Manchester M20 6UR


BUNDO CHAAT - Bundobust

Popping in for a quick Chaat takes on a whole new meaning in our basement shrine to Indian veggie snacks and sacred beer brands. Foodie friends scoff when I describe this divine cold confection of torn samosa pastry, spuds, onion, turmeric noodles, yoghurt and tamarind chutney as one of my Desert Island Dishes. But if there is ever a dish that is better than the sum of its parts it is this one in all its sweet and sourness crunch and creaminess. Swill down your lunchtime tubful with the house wheat beer, Bombay Dazzler from Northern Monk. Neil Sowerby

61 Piccadilly, Manchester M1 2AQ


Having been brought up with the sweeter breads of the Jewish bakeries in north Manchester, I’m not usually fussed about sourdough. Which is a shame because it’s bloody everywhere. I finally found a special loaf in the unlikely confines of an archway round the back of Piccadilly, Pollen Bakery. Their ‘28-hour sour’ is not to be rushed. Each process, from milling the organic wheat through to soaking, proving, resting and shaping has been slowed right down so the dough has already done its thing before it reaches your stomach. They also make small batches of their version of Nutella using natural ingredients rather than palm oil and lecithin (nope, me neither). I’m always happy to learn how things were supposed to taste before the days of mass production started giving us all tummy ache. Deanna Thomas

2 Sheffield St, Manchester M1 2ND


UNAGI EEL CROISSANT - Rabbit in the Moon

Turns out unagi eel croissant (mentioned by Ruth above) is a real thing. Quite a remarkable thing it is too; a buttery croissant filled with unagi eel mousse and speared by two prone little pilchards. The other umpteen dishes on the night included rabbit ear crackers in moon dust, 'electric lime leaf' and a bao bacon butty, each whipped over and away in a matter of seconds by a swarm of leather-aproned S&M chef-servers, trotting in-and-out of the kitchen to a soundtrack of THUMPING hip-hop profanity. Bitch please... David Blake

There's more Manchester food and drink bites right here