Gordo gets an education about Ottolenghi at this new wine bar and small plates gaff
“Have you ever made Ottolenghi’s tonnato?”
Sitting in the new kid on the Kampus block, The Beeswing, I looked at my lunch companion. Was she having a stroke? I mean, what is tonnato and who is Ottolenghi?
One thing I have noticed is that whilst the majority of small plate offerings are a cover for laziness from chefs, there appears to be a 'third wave' of them delivering stupendous quality.
Oh yes, Ottolenghi is the fella who’s found a use for pomegranate seeds. A chef beloved of The Grauniad, a publication for nice people who know what Aleppo chilli, za’atar and ancho ezme are. You won’t find Ricky Gervais being published in there any time soon.
Actually, I do remember what tonnato is; it’s that weirdly creamy sauce from Italy made from tuna that the Italians are really crap at making. Indeed, the only tonnato in the world that is truly gorgeous is made in Manchester, Ancoats, by the remarkable restaurant, Erst. When I was told it was made from fish you could have knocked me down with a fin.
Anyway, I replied, “Have I fuck.”
That should keep her quiet for a while, giving your hard-working restaurant critic a moment to think about what he should be ordering to drink.
There is a very good wine choice. And I mean very good. One half of the ownership of The Beeswing, Anna Tutton, knows her grapes from her lump hammers; owner of the short-lived but much-loved Vin-Yard over at Hatch (allegedly bullied out by Bruntwood) she has a great following.
Pazo Do Mar Albariño 2021 was being pitched hard on the day, so I had a carafe at £22.50. I was having a drink on their terrace a couple of weeks earlier with our editor-at-large, my partner in crime Schofield. Anna recommended the Vermentino, a wine that normally has the personality of a pound shop and comes from the arse-end of Italy. It was bloody good as it happens, so I trusted her on this one.
The Albariño was a class drink, a white with subtle fruit, gooseberries and pineapple on the (nice and long) finish. It’s a wine that can keep up with pomegranates. The second, as I was looking for a red to hold its own with the “Ottolenghi-inspired” food was the Undurraga Cabernet-Franc, another carafe, at £31. That was Cabernet Franc all over; smoothed-out tannins, graphite present lending authority, and violets - always reminding me of my least-favourite gran, god bless her.
The Beeswing hangs over Kampus with some comfort. Overlooking the canal, the terrace catches the sun all day long. Inside it’s comfy in a Heals sort of way, a good step up from IKEA. It certainly doesn’t have any meatballs but sometimes has a DJ. Some of you wild young things with beards will welcome that. I don’t, but I get out of the way before the sun comes down. The Beeswing breathes in and out all day long from breakfast to late supper, with velvet vibes. Cracking bogs as well.
What about the food? It took me back somewhat. Bar bites sit along small plates, a recipe for disaster. I approach with caution. But one thing I have noticed is that whilst the majority of small plate offerings are a cover for laziness from chefs, there appears to be a “third wave” of them delivering stupendous quality. Another Hand, Erst, Maray, 10 Tib Lane, Neon Tiger. I could mention more and I am looking forward to re-visiting District with their new menu allowing a la carte orders. Does The Beeswing stand up to them?
The olives (£4) clearly aren’t grown around the corner. But Dear God, someone’s put the hard yards in to find the best brand I’ve had outside Spain. They were pitted, big, green and creamy. It was said they had been introduced to chilli, but it was a light handshake. Served out of the can, they married well with the wine. Gordal Picante they were called, the brand Perello.
Mackerel pate comes on toasted baguette, cucumber ribbons, radish and capers (£6). I’m not convinced the baguette was a baguette, it was a bit more like a thick focaccia.
I think I’m the only person writing about food who thinks that wandering around the bars in San Sebastian eating thick slices of baguette smeared with various grey toppings that have been hanging about a few hours isn’t the height of the culinary mountain.
But whether or not Anna’s business partner, the charming chef Joe Maddock, had got his idea from the Basque Country, he was definitely showing them the way home here. Terrific. I liked splitting the bread horizontally and smearing them both together to make a bit of a middle-class butty.
The charcuterie platter (£12) sourced from Northern Cure was fab, with a red pepper dip so bloody cute I had to ask for an extra plateful. Merguez sausage on a white bean cassoulet (£10) was better than its cousin in the Haut Garonne; this one included zhug and lemon za'atar yoghurt.
I’ve had the Lamb kofta, Israeli chopped salad and pimento chopped feta dip (£10) three times. Superb, and too cheap. Great texture, lamb-fatty and some spices running around but not mithering. This is value at £15.
Roast red pepper hummus (£8) is outstanding. In the sixties, we’d have described it as a “gas”. I think the current bunch of teenage trendies would say sick? Maybe not. Anyway, I guess this was what my lunch companion was leading up to.
It was swirled onto the plate, leaving a bit of a lopsided volcano in the middle into which Joe had dropped a cannellini bean salad. It thrubbed. Yes, thrubbed. Not throbbed. Thrubbed is better than throbbed.
The coup de grace was spiced potatoes, cauliflower pureé and chilli honey aioli with crispy shallots (£8). This dish had me at the spiced crunchy potatoes. Nothing I can write here could do it justice. We’ll have to wait for Jay Rayner to pay a visit.
I’m no expert on Middle Eastern cookery, and I’ve only passed by Mr Ottolenghi’s gaff late afternoon having had a substantial two-star Michelin lunch round the corner at The Ledbury. My favourite gaff. (Just to go off at a tangent, which I’m very good at, the delightfully named April Lily Partridge, sous chef at The Ledbury, is in the final 10 at the Craft Guild of Chefs Chef of the year award. Go girl, go!)
Anyway, if the food at The Beeswing is very much Ottolenghi-inspired, I’ll be calling in there next time. Because if it’s better than this gaff, I’ll be opening a vein in the loo. It’ll be time to check out.
The Beeswing. It’s a gas.
The Beeswing, 24a Minshull St, Manchester M1 3EF
Follow Gordo on Twitter @Gordomanchester
All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidentials and completely independent of any commercial relationship. They are a first-person account of one visit by one, knowledgeable restaurant reviewer and don't represent the company as a whole.
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.
Charcuterie 8, romesco sauce 9.5, olives 9, hummus 9.75, crispy potatoes 9, lamb kofta 7.5, Merguez sausage 9, mackerel paté 8
Have they been brought up from Notting Hill?
Venice if you’re doing mushrooms, Rochdale Canal otherwise.