Sophie Rahnema plants a flag in her new favourite suburb and discovers a local gem
I’VE been a Greater Manchester resident for nearly six years and Monton hasn’t even registered on my radar. Despite being rumoured to have a hint of the Didsburys about it, and affectionately known by locals as Monton Carlo, my city-blindness has prevailed. So, embarrassingly like Christopher Columbus "discovering" the Americas, I have come to plant a flag in the ground of this little suburb and claim it as my own.
It’s like all the best bits of a barbecue when your dad’s been reading Ottolenghi
There are actual people wandering around the village on Saturday afternoon. People with sourdough loaves and natural wine in canvas tote bags from all the trendy new delis - almost as if it’s their god-given right to do so.
What is going on, please? I’ve only just discovered the place.
Of course, Monton’s been here the whole time, quietly just being. Not like Manchester city centre with its skyscrapers and noise, demanding all my attention all of the time like a spoilt toddler with a quad bike.
Maybe not quiet, but definitely here, Playfoots sits boldly in the middle of the high street. Another almost six-year resident of the GM constituency, the cafe-cum-bar has a little buzz around it that none of its neighbours do.
“Just rock up and have the time of your life!” came the reply on Instagram when I enquired about booking.
How could I when I don’t even see a flat white on the menu? (Only kidding, but clearly my city snobbery knows no bounds) I do see CBD coffee (£4) though, followed by the message "No, it won’t get you high." Apparently CBD coffee isn’t an oxymoron, but a cup o’joe without the jitters.
Maybe it’s the CBD talking, but the homemade ‘famous’ sausage rolls (£3.50) on the counter appear to have my name on them. With caramelised onion hidden under the pastry, these goliaths aren’t breaking any major boundaries with flavour but I can see with my own eyes why they’re famous. *aubergine emoji*
While we’re talking sausage, a simple savoury puff pastry tart (£4.50) boasts a merguez that quite simply makes my day. Chef Nik Prescott gets his meat from Swaledale, a whole carcass butchery in Skipton, whose heritage breed lamb shoulder bangers sit perfectly with aubergine, feta and butter beans.
The menu at Playfoots surprises me. Yes, there are fry ups and breakfast barms that keep everybody happy with even more of Swaledale’s covetable swag, but sabich with aubergine and slow-cooked lamb shoulder (£12) is a feast.
My plate is busy, but everything on it is a downright delight. A supersized grilled tomato complements the lamb wonderfully, and a generous hunk of focaccia does a sterling job of sopping up juices. Homemade hummus, roasted red pepper, cucumber salsa, dukkah and pistachio take this from large plate to sharing platter. It’s like all the best bits of a barbecue when your dad’s been reading Ottolenghi.
Tempura fried haddock "creole" with tartare sauce on a bagel (£8.50) reads like Phileas Fogg’s latest adventure and is a really pleasant take on the humble fish finger sandwich. The battered fish is crisp, and the sweetly piquant Creole-style hot sauce from Lazy Ferments served atop an altogether traditional tartare shouldn’t work but really does.
As we sit I watch young families, mud-spattered dog walkers and hurried builders come and go, slowly diminishing the counter of its treats. We decide to bring home a box with a couple of cakes (£3.50 each) before they sell out completely - Bakewell tart is great with a cup of tea in front of the telly, but Zoe’s carrot cake is the star. Slightly spicy and lighter than air with a pleasingly thick layer of cream cheese frosting.
I think Playfoots is a local gem, and hundreds of Montonians would have told you that already. Flavours are bold, plates are plentiful, and smiles are all around. Chatting to the manager about that merguez, she even offered to buy it in for me wholesale. I’m not sure how many city centre spots would do the same.
All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidential and completely independent of any commercial relationship. Venues are rated against the best examples of their type: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: Netflix and chill, 10-11: if you’re passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: cooked by God him/herself.
Sausage roll 7.5, Merguez sausage tart 9, sabich with lamb shoulder 8, haddock 'creole' bagel 7, Bakewell tart 7, carrot cake 8
Family friendly, great tunes