Seinfeld babka, beautiful beef and pre-gig soup for the soul
Although the month ahead is bound to be filled with giant German sausages and drinks with a load of glittery crap on top, team Confidentials have been busy munching on Michelin Guide lamb, beautiful beef and coffee-infused babka. Don't get us wrong, though, we still love a mulled beverage as much as the next man.
The most wonderful time of the year doesn't always have to revolve around sustenance that makes a dint in your savings, and let's be honest, turkey is boring. With that being said, here's a list of some of the best things to eat in Manchester this December that'll still make you feel all warm and cosy inside. Bonus points for meat that looks like it belongs in the Amazon and references to Jerry Seinfeld.
Here are the best things to eat in Manchester throughout December.
Aromatic chopped lamb, Another Hand (£13)
One bright spark among the dying embers of a grim year has been the Michelin recognition afforded to Another Hand. Encouragement for them in 2023 to seek out a larger, more profitable stage to match the aspirations of chef duo Julian Pizer and Max Yorke. Not that they are doing badly in their current bolthole on Deansgate Mews. It was packed on a recent midweek evening, with Kiwi dynamo Julian taking time off from the open kitchen to enthuse about the return of his hasselback potatoes – a shared passion.
It was another old stager, though, that won hands down on the night. The lamb dish, a dead ringer for a laap (or laab or larb) from North East Thailand, looks like a rainforest floor on a plate. I’d like to claim I first encountered it on my monsoon season yomp up beyond Chiang Mai, but it was at Kiln in Soho. Like their version, it offers a riot of garlic, ginger, chilli, spring onion, soy, oyster, fish sauce, lime, roasted sesame oil, coriander and mint. Somewhere in there the lamb rests on charred little gem hearts. Neil Sowerby @AntonEgoManc
Shoyu Ramen, Tokyo Ramen (£14.25)
Lately, I’ve made a little ritual out of going to Tokyo Ramen before gigs. There’s something extremely comforting about eating there. I like that wall of heat and aroma of broth when you walk in, I like the casual nature of the seating and I like that they play songs from Jay Z’s The Blueprint 2. I enjoy sitting there watching the isolated tendrils of steam dance in the kitchen before being sucked up through the vent like a hologram. The lads in the kitchen always look like they’re enjoying themselves and that’s an infectious quality. It makes the food taste better.
I get the same thing every time. Shoyu ramen with a bottle of Asahi. Slabs of torched pork belly in a meaty broth with those tiny fat bubbles that glisten and a generous amount of chewy noodles. I always see off the egg in one bite at the start. Mouthfuls of umami cut through by a crisp swig of lager each time. I usually avoid lager, but it’s a combination that I have found difficult to beat lately. It’s the ideal food for this weather. Hearty, warm, filling and it gives you a second skin when you venture back out into the cold. Davey Brett @dbretteats
Scottish mussels with red thai and coconut sauce, The Grapes Hotel (£7.50)
My favourite mussels, apart from Jack Grealish' calves, are the ones at the local pub right around the corner from my family home in Gee Cross. If you haven't heard of Gee Cross, it's a cracking spot for a walk in the hills followed by a proper Sunday roast on a wet weekend. You can get to it on the train from Piccadilly if you get off at Woodley and walk up towards Werneth Low.
Although I rarely turn my nose up at a bowl of steaming molluscs, these bad boys were coated with the kind of soul-warming sauce that you'd happily sip from a discarded shell. There's a punch of red chilli, ginger, the zest of some unknown citrus (probably lime), and a little bowl of lemon water to rinse your mitts as you go. A nice change from the usual concoction of white wine and garlic, these mussels are fiery. The kind of fiery that makes you sit back and come up for air, before nosediving back into the slate bowl full of silky sauce and delicate shellfish. Get a side of chips for the full Belgian experience. My advice, don't wear white, the red stuff doesn't come out, and soak the accompanying sourdough in the red thai mixture until it's the same texture as a double-dunked Rich Tea biscuit. Ellie-Jo Johnstone @elliejoj
Beef Fillet Tataki, Osma, Exhibition (£14)
I’m falling in love with Exhibition on Peter Street. Not only is it in one of my favourite buildings, the former YMCA, from 1911 by Woodhouse and Willoughby (a rare example in Manchester of a building with Art Nouveau details), but it is a food hall that provides good food. Most of the city’s food halls, that most recent of foodie phenomena, dish up average grub however jolly their drinking ambience might be. Two of the operators at Exhibition, Osma and Baratxuri, have raised the food hall bar, providing exceptional quality. The beef tataki at Osma is a case in point. This Japanese method of preparing beef fillets is where the meat is lightly seared, marinated and sliced thinly. It’s similar to sashimi and results with Osma’s version in a particularly juicy, refreshing dish with a citrusy edge boosted by the cress and the onion but most of all by a judicious use of truffle ponzu. Jonathan Schofield @jonathschofield
Eggs benedict, Tahi (£11)
Manchester has its first solely Kiwi restaurant (not the fruit, not antipodean). It's open all day, serving brunch and coffee before moving onto an all-day menu and wine. It’s at the bottom of the Circle Square development on Oxford Road, former home of the BBC and now home to the likes of Hello Oriental. I stumbled across Tahi when I was wandering around the area, and owner Jonathan Perry explained it to me as a bakery and all-day ‘eatery’. The same Jonathan Perry capped by New Zealand on multiple occasions, formerly of Barnsley FC. There’s no piano in the gaff, but there’s an overwhelmingly wonderful aroma from the bakery that reminds me of my Gran.
I walked in last Saturday morning again for a coffee. Looking at the menu properly this time I ordered an Eggs Benedict with smoked bacon. The eggs came served on top of two homemade hash browns, fresh as you like a minute or two off a hot griddle holding up streaky smoked bacon rashers with attitude. Two poached eggs draped with a tangy hollandaise. The eggs were firm white, molten golden yolks which, when nicked, dribbled all over the hash browns, mixing in with the hollandaise. I need to ask if it had seen a splash of mustard in the final whisk?
This was a turn up for the book. Let’s face it, when you’ve only got sheep and Orcs for pals, you’ve got time on your hands to get things right. And that’s how I would describe Tahi. Really right. Gordo @gordomanchester
Tiramisu babka (toasted), Superhappy (£4)
Our Saturday morning ritual is pretty formulaic since we welcomed the arrival of our little cherub - small king, Reuben the Corgi. A walk along the canal followed by breakfast, then picking up a goodie from somewhere in town. Morning buns from Holy Grain Bakery are always on the cards. Flaky croissant dough with a hint of orange which is, I suppose, a nod to a morning glass of OJ.
This particular morning, however, a different route, a different canal, and we’re wandering dangerously close to Ducie Street Warehouse, where Superhappy has taken residence in the cavernous ground floor. Aside from made-for-Instagram sandwiches stuffed with all manner of cured meats and cheese, Superhappy is the baby of Batard, another bakery, specialising in American-style pies and, cheerfully, slices of Babka. I’m always in mind of Jerry Seinfeld when choosing Babka - “Cinnamon takes a back seat to no babka. People love cinnamon. It should be on tables at restaurants along with salt and pepper. Anytime anyone says, "Oh, this is so good. What's in it?" The answer invariably comes back, cinnamon. Cinnamon, again and again.”
Sorry Jerry, this babka is a Tiramisu triumph with chocolate swirling around on the inside and a glass-like layer of bitter-but-sweet coffee icing on top. But cinnamon would be fantastic too. Sophie Rahnema @sophieshahla
Read again: Homage at WOOD, Manchester, reviewed
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