These ambitious young Mancunian chefs are creating magic in a tiny kitchen in Ancoats
Joshua Shanahan and James Lord’s CVs read like a list of Manchester’s top restaurants. Amongst other places, James was senior sous at Manchester House for five years before opening Wolf At The Door and Josh was senior sous at Where The Light Gets In and Mana.
In mid-March, they launched a six-month pop-up at Blossom Street Social in Ancoats. Tine was tipped to be the talk of the town but just a few days later, it closed its doors as the country went into lockdown. Its skilful chefs had to go on universal credit. But now they're back and ready to share their passion about British produce and culinary innovation.
We want to show off. We want people see what we’re doing and the products we’re using.
The pair do everything; washing pots, service, social media as well as making their own koji and other seasonings, sourcing the produce, not to mention cooking it. They’re experienced, creative, passionate and ready to give Manchester something they feel is missing.
“Manchester’s quite a proud city,” says Josh, “It’s always been known as having really shit food though, especially where we’re from.”
James is from Miles Platting and Josh from Longsight/Gorton. They took different routes into the industry. James’s dad was a chef at a small Italian restaurant, so he spent a lot of time there growing up and developed a passion for cooking.
Josh started out pot washing at Kro Bar on Piccadilly Gardens and from that he went on to an apprenticeship with Simon Rogan at the Midland French. Quite a leap.
“I knew I wanted to be a chef and the only way to get into it was by pot washing. I emailed the head chef and he said, come in for a trial. I used to prep spinach and stuff like that. It’s good because it gets you quick. I didn’t need college. There’s loads of things at college you just won’t learn - like running a section.”
James did go to college but says he learned ‘a million times more’ on the job.
“I don’t know what it’s like now but it was quite old school when I went. The techniques you were learning were irrelevant by the time you got to the kitchen. I think food progresses on a daily basis. You never stop learning, ever. It’s one of the things that keeps you interested because there’s always a new technique, an ingredient you’ve not used before, a combination you’ve not tried before.”
They see issues with the industry which prevent young people from getting into it. It’s rewarding but for many, the hours are too much and that work life balance is tough to find. Josh says they want to change that.
“We want to look at things though the lens of being in Manchester. It’s not just the food that we want to be progressive and modern, it’s everything: the way we work, the wines we drink, the hours we’re doing. We’re always looking to progress and innovate.”
That progression and innovation is most apparent in their dishes.
James tells us; “Squash and pumpkins are all coming into season, which is fine but it's the same everywhere. I get it - it’s in season, but we want to try and offer something different. Our menu’s quite small because the kitchen is absolutely tiny. We’ve not even got an oven. We’ve got two portable inductions, a tiny fryer and a water bath. It’s challenging.”
But Tine is still flying under the radar for many.
“People come in for a bottle of wine and didn’t know we were here. They’ll order one thing and then by the end of it they’ve ordered everything. We’ve just started doing the option to have it as a tasting menu because it’s not really designed to share. We also do that a bit cheaper to try and entice people to get the full experience.”
James and Josh worked together at Wolf At The Door when it first opened, under the name Wilderness. It was an exciting opening with a hugely ambitious kitchen but it was all cut short very suddenly a few months in.
“They wanted to change the concept to tacos,” says James, "I don’t think they gave it enough time to be honest and they just wanted it to be a bar that served food.”
That was the catalyst for the pair to go it alone. James continues, “So when we left there it was like, do you know what? Let’s do something good here. Let’s be a part of this city that’s absolutely booming at the minute. Give Manchester something it deserves. Come in, have some really high end food and get pissed. What’s wrong with that?”
Josh hopes there’s a new scene bubbling; “Obviously Higher Ground can inject something new into the city - that more casual vibe. There’s fine dining and there’s pizza but there’s not much in the middle. We’ve got Mana and I reckon more things like that will come but that middle bit needs to be bridged.”
They never really wanted to pop up in different places. James tells us, “It’s more something we’ve had to do. We can’t just sit around and hope for someone to come and invest in us. You’ve got to go out there and do it yourself.”
Josh agrees, “You’ve got to make a bit of noise. It’s quite a big risk [to open a restaurant]. If you’ve got an investor, you’re fine. Imagine what we could do in a proper kitchen.”
The only thing holding them back is a lack of investment. They're looking for something more permanent for after the residency at BSS ends in early 2021 and they have big ideas.
Josh explains; “The word Tine has different meanings. In English it’s the tip of a fork or a deer antler and in Irish it means fire. We want to be cooking on embers - to build a hearth but not rustic, more refined. We work really hard getting the best products we can and the most respectful, natural and pure way of cooking is on a flame - but controlled. It’s a very hard skill to master. It also ties into the sustainability of our lives. We serve the food, we speak to you. There are so many unnecessary expenses when 'fine dining' comes into play. It’ll be more like coming to our house.”
James adds, “We want to show off. We want people see what we’re doing and the products we’re using. If we’ve got in some amazing sea bass or amazing meats, we want to show the people us prepping it and they can look and ask questions. It’s all about learning together.”
“We’re using British products but looking at it through really progressive lens,” adds Josh, “The hogget that we get is from just up the road in North Yorkshire. I think it’s good to show people these things. I think if people can start cooking more in the house and ordering these products. Even little things like that make a difference.”
They're working with great produce but they’re also experimenting with flavours. Everyone’s into fermenting these days but James says it’s far more than a fad.
“We’re making our own koji [fermented rice] and that takes a long time. It has a lot of uses: soy sauce, sake, it’s a Japanese thing but we use it in different ways. It’s really difficult to make especially in a kitchen like this because you need certain conditions. It’s very temperamental. That’s why a lot of people won’t make it themselves.”
Josh adds, “Fermentation has always been used in cooking - Worcestershire sauce for example. It’s been used by everyone for so long. Without a doubt Noma made it popular [in modern restaurants]. They’re probably the most inspirational, innovative restaurant that’s ever existed. They’ve just flipped what it is to cook northern European food. We can find a way of achieving the same results - if we can’t get citric acidity from lemons we’ll find something else, sea buckthorn for example. Everyone uses that now but no-one was using it before Noma.”
James is keen to champion their local suppliers. “Every product we use is British. We want to support our own farmers and cheese producers. And the footprint - if you’re getting stuff flown over, what’s the point?”
But they don't want people to be intimidated by less familiar ingredients. They are keen to talk to customers.
“It’s nothing too scary," says James, "We’re just trying to do things in different ways, taking techniques we’ve mastered and putting it on a plate."
“Anything that sounds a bit weird is only there because it tastes good." adds Josh, "We make our own soy sauce style seasoning. That adds so much umami- to use another buzz word. Fish sauce, Worcestershire sauce, all these liquid seasonings you find all around the world are based on umami. We have barley in Scotland we can make koji from. We have kelp in Scotland too which we can grill or make an oil or infuse it into a soy sauce. We want to create a master seasoning with the wort as well. We’re looking at whisky making in Scotland because they ferment with grain which is what they’re doing in Japan with soy sauce. It’s all about whether is tastes delicious or not.
“Hopefully we can help people learn. In Japan, kelp is a staple of their diet. Especially on the island of Okinawa. They live long because they eat kelp all day. MSG was derived from it. We have it on our shores as well, why not use it? It was staple for many years because it’s so nutritious. The world war got us eating tinned food a lot and then we ended up looking at America. We have all these amazing ingredients, we need to start using them.”
Tine @ Blossom Street Social, 51 Blossom St, Ancoats, Manchester M4 6BF
James and Josh want to share some of their favourite suppliers with you, all of them will deliver to your door.
Growing Field “Our main veg supplier. These guys are based just near Warrington and supply us with things like tomatoes, herbs, micro cresses and root veg dependent on the season. For us to have a high quality veg grower this close to the city is a blessing."
Swaledale “They specialise in rare, native British breeds. The quality is arguably some of the best on the planet. Based In Skipton, they work closely with the farmers. We currently have Swaledale hogget on our menu which is reared in Linton, Yorkshire by Tom Boothman. The quality is so good we have guests shaking their heads when they try it."
Crafty Cheese Man “As we’re in a wine bar, we decided to do a cheese offering and Jonathan provides us with some of the rarest and highest quality cheeses on the island.”
Isca Wines “Isca is small wine bar/deli in Levenshulme. Josh worked with the owner/sommelier Caroline at WTLGI. We bought her wine during lockdown and continue to do so as we’re into the low intervention juicy wines they specialise in. They also have an online shop with cheese and other things."
Pesky Fish “Manchester is obviously not surrounded by water. To eat fish in the city, it has to be couriered in. We want to work as closely to the fishermen as possible. Pesky is based on the South West coast and its main ambition is to build a better and more sustainable seafood industry for fish, fisherman and consumers. They catch and send fish to us at Tine within 24 hours of landing and the quality is like nothing we’ve witnessed before. They’re also doing techniques like ikejime on certain fish to provide sushi grade fish which is uncommon outside of Japan.”