Pizza, pudding and pierogi have all been keeping us plump this month
It's been a funny old month. In between getting pinged by track n trace, having to isolate ourselves and trying to keep track of which restaurants are closed for a week or so because their staff have all been pinged, our dining out hasn't been as rabid as usual.
But it hasn't stopped us from bringing back scored reviews, ruffling a few feathers in the process, nor has it made it any easier to pick our best dishes of the month. A process we all agonise over every time. There is just so much good food in Manchester.
Read on for the dishes we recommend you eat and enjoy this month.
Eggs Benedict, Gorilla (£9)
I bloody love a good eggs Benny - and I really hate a crap one. It’s far too often thrown together by an overworked, underpaid and uninspired line chef with gloopy, vinegary hollandaise from a Tetra Pak, the cheapest muffin available and a sad pair of watery battery hen eggs sitting on cold, bog-standard ham. Made with love, it’s a different dish altogether.
This week I went to Gorilla to check out the new menu. Gorilla is my local and I used to go there a lot for breakfast as well as many, many gigs, god I miss gigs (stares off into the middle distance). I'd become a bit indifferent towards the food there pre-pandemic though. Anyway, there’s a recently appointed new head chef, Chris, who was trained by Andrew Green at The Lowry and has done time at Evelyn’s amongst other places. Chris puts a lot of love into his food. A key example is this incredible take on an eggs Benedict featuring pork neck and ham hock slow-braised overnight in apple juice and cloves into the sweet n’ salty Xmas ham of your dreams. The eggs are the kind the Italians call rosso d’uovo for their deep orange yolks, and the blanket of homemade béarnaise is sprinkled with an inspired tarragon salt. It really is sensational and I can’t wait to take a crowd there for brekkie. Kelly Bishop @thekelpage
Gorilla 54-56 Whitworth St, Manchester M1 5WW
Steamed buffalo momos, The Little Yeti (£6.00 for 4)
There's a certain dish that my Chorltonite friends don't stop talking about. It's become a bit of an in-joke between them and it's difficult to not feel left out. "Guess what we're getting tonight?" they'll say. A rhetorical question because I know what they're getting. They're getting momos from The Little Yeti.
But friends, something glorious happened last week. Chance kitten-sitting duties landed me within the M21 postcode and I can now proudly declare myself a card-toting member of the Chorlton momocracy. I Deliverooed two portions over consecutive nights, trying both steamed and deep-fried, but it was the steamed, buffalo-filled momos that stood out. Thick, chewy parcels filled with buffalo meat that burst in your mouth spilling meaty juices and a lingering warmth of spice. The second bite of each parcel received a generous dunking, alternating between the salty, soy-heavy dumpling sauce and the acidic twinge of dumpling vinegar. Dumpling heaven. I'll never doubt my friends again. Davey Brett @dbretteats
The Little Yeti, 495 Barlow Moor Rd, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester M21 8AG
Papaya Salad, Thaikun (£9) with extra pork skewer (£1.50)
I was lucky enough to dine at the Northern Quarter's new ode to Thailand this month. District is a fine dining haven with twelve courses of carefully curated fixings that celebrate Thai barbecue. Amongst them was "Kohlrabi", a cousin of the som tam green papaya salad - my favourite dish from Southeast Asia. In her review, Kelly described District's version as "neutered" and I would agree. Som tam is supposed to blow your socks off. That's why Thaikhun's version was the best thing I ate this month. Crunchy, fresh, and flippin' hot (it has four little chillies next to its name on the menu) with sweet, chewy shrimps and savoury peanuts as a welcome respite from the burn of the fresh chilli. I panted my way through lunch. And that's how I like it. Sophie Rahnema @sophieshahla
Thaikhun 3 Hardman St, Manchester M3 3HF
Norfolk Poussin, Northcote (part of £95 five-course tasting menu)
You wait for a poussin all your poultry-loving life and then two come along and you’re smitten. Poussins, or coquelets, are the baby chickens much cherished by our French friends (as our clucking Brexiteer PM likes to call them). They rarely weigh in above 500g and are perfect for quick grilling. My first encounter came courtesy of enterprising online butcher Farmeson. In my home kitchen I followed a recipe from Wild Honey’s Anthony Demetre. This involved spatchcocking – removing the backbone from tail to neck so the bird can be opened out flat – and an overload of garlic and herbs.
Altogether less challenging to tackle was the fourth course of Lisa-Goodwin-Allen’s Spring Gourmet Menu at Michelin-starred Northcote. Garlic featured again, both white and on-trend black garlic, its long caramelisation imparting a subtle liquorice tone. Hen of the woods mushroom and a baby onion poached in tangy ponzu ramped up the succulence. The trim breast and a cute little croquette of leg meat may have lacked the splayed splendour of my effort but they were delicious testimony to canny UK sourcing. Norfolk poussins are corn-fed and reared stress-free for their short lives in Fakenham. A perfect partner from the wine flight, though, came from across the Manche – a Bruno Sourdais Chinon from the Loire, perfumed Cab Franc at its most refreshing. Neil Sowerby @antonegomanc
Northcote Northcote Rd, Langho, Blackburn BB6 8BE
Beetroot Pierogi, Platzki (£7)
Platzki, the wondrous Polish restaurant, has moved down off the brick hill of Deansgate Mews at the Great Northern to streetside Deansgate. It looks a picture inside its railway arch, festooned, as is the fashion, with mostly fake but effective fernery and ivy. There’s also a cute granny-house sideboard covered in delicious looking cakes.
As for my dish recommendation, I could be describing the utterly fabulous ‘rosol’ which is a rich beef consommé (the best in the city perhaps) but I’m going to go for the sheer drama of the beetroot pierogi and walnuts. This is as colourful as a Gauguin. It’s alive with russet shades plus raspberries and blackberries contrasting with the greens and the pure white of the plate. For a vegetarian dish, the beetroot pierogi look animal and visceral like stacked lambs hearts. Fear not, non-meat-eaters, they are far away from beastly organs but packed with goat’s cheese and rich as hell. The walnuts are the killer secret, not in isolation but munched together with the pierogi. The portion size is big enough for a lunch, but go a few more courses for dinner. If you like food, get to Platzki, it’s a revelation, delivering a sort of humble homespun fine-dining that never fails. Jonathan Schofield @Jonathschofield
Platzki 229 Deansgate, Manchester M3 4EN
Withington pizza, Basilico (£9)
Pizza, pizza everywhere. Manchester is so inundated with pizza that we could probably put slices nose to tail and make a pizza ribbon long enough to stretch to the moon. But leave the wasteful space exploration to Elon Musk and instead get down to the difficult task of choosing between Napoli-style, square, Detroit, Grandma pies, vegan and stuffed crust (just kidding on that last one).
This month I’ve gone for The Withington from Basilico. Honestly, no more Diavola this and Romana that, let’s rename all pizzas after areas in Greater Manchester. I’d love a Droylsden, wouldn’t you? Or maybe a Stockport? No? Anyway, I digress. With a firm, chewy crust (obligatory scorch marks present and correct) heaps of ham and mushrooms, a scattering of basil leaves and puddles of fior d’Agerola mozzarella, this holds up to anything in the M postcode region. The Basilico crew are currently firing up at Withy Public Hall and are on the rotation at Stretford Foodhall, as well as being available to take away. Lucy Tomlinson @hotcupoftea
Basilico at Withington Public Hall Institute, 2 Burton Road, Manchester M20 3ED
Sticky toffee pudding, Nutters Restaurant, (£28/£34 as part of a 2/3 course set menu)
The first time I ate one was 39 years ago in what was one of the finest country hotel restaurants in the world; The Sharrow Bay on Ullswater in the Lake District. Francis Coulson was the original owner and chef; his lifetime partner, Brian Sacks, joined him in 1952 to run front-of-house. At some point in the seventies, Francis produced one of the all-time great desserts: sticky toffee pudding. I’m not really a pudding man but I’ll always make room for a good iteration of the Coulson classic. Usually, I’m disappointed.
At a family lunch at the idiosyncratic Nutters up in the hills above Rochdale, my daughter’s best pal Andrew Nutter in the kitchen and Jean his mum gripping the till out front, I was in excellent fully vaxed post-Covid spirits. After a remarkable dish of roasted rack of lamb, served pink, Andrew offered me Sticky Toffee Pudding. I had to have it. Truly, madly, deeply, this iteration is the closest I’ve had to Francis Coulson’s. Light as a feather with a liberally poured caramel sauce made by pixies in the bottom of the garden. Excellent vanilla ice cream on the side. Andrew’s team are unsung heroes of the restaurant world in the North West. You should go; it’s a bizarre, wonderful experience riddled with old school Escoffier touches. By the way Andrew, Brian Sacks gave me a chilled glass of Chateau Rieussec 1967 with that first one. For which I would happily have swapped Georgina’s Mother. Gordo @gordomanchester
Nutters Restaurant Edenfield Rd, Rochdale OL12 7TT
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