What were our editorial team's favourite dishes this year?

Well, that's it. Another year has gone by. Another year of new openings, closures and reviews. And, as usual, we've been out in force. Crunching, munching and slurping our way through Greater Manchester.

This year is a real homage to fresh-as-you-like flavours like Spanish oranges and pickled beetroots, and you might find it interesting to know that Gordo has chosen a scallop dish as his favourite two years in a row.

We're celebrating some real award-winners in 2022 - from the Chef of the Year Eddie Shepherd to Michelin star Nathan Cornwell and newcomers like Another Hand, Climat and The Beeswing.

Here are the Confidentials editorial team's favourite things we ate in 2022.

Mushrooms Dish Walled Gardens Neil Sowerby
Nobody can beet Eddie Shepherd's veg prep Image: Confidentials

Cured Mushrooms with Vanilla and Beetroot, The Walled Gardens

My initial intention was to cherry-pick a treat from my regular visits to the Moorcock at Norland, but that unique culinary outpost above Sowerby Bridge is shutting its doors for good in January. So ‘hors de combat’. 

Not that you’re going to swan in that month to savour my chosen dish at Eddie Shepherd’s The Walled Gardens. Even before Whalley Range’s vegan experimentalist scooped Chef of the Year in the 2022 Manchester Food and Drink Awards his home-based ‘underground restaurant’ was booked out months in advance. 

From an Autumn visit, this stand-out dish showed off Eddie’s command of his extraordinary techniques. Across several days thinly sliced mushrooms are dehydrated and then soaked in umami stock to rehydrate and flavour them. They are then compressed in a block with an enzyme, cooked for two hours, diced, oak-smoked, seasoned and marinated in oil. A punnet’s worth of fungi ends up a couple of cured bites, encased in a beetroot and vanilla gel. 

Armed with his £10,000 electric homogeniser, Eddie rarely neglects the humblest of root vegetables. Hence also his Beetroot Koji Charcuterie – cooked, smoked, cured with juniper and tonka bean, inoculated with koji and incubated, then air dried and finally marinated in fat to round out the richness. Each dish is utterly Beetiful! Neil Sowerby @AntonEgoManc

The Walled Gardens 17 Alness Rd, Whalley Range, Manchester M16 8SP

Pollen Sourdough Whipped Bean Dip And Celeriac At Flawd Manchester
Pollen sourdough, whipped split pea dip and celeriac and Spanish orange Image: Confidentials

Celeriac and Spanish orange, Flawd 

As always the picture is regretfully bad, and fails to do the food justice (sorry), but the most enjoyable meal I had this year was at Flawd. This celeriac and Spanish orange (pictured, minus nduja for my vegetarian mate) was fresh, flavoursome and nourishing. There’s also a split pea dip and Pollen sourdough pictured. It’s beautiful produce via Cinderwood, tinkered with ever so slightly to make it shine. You feel healthier having eaten there but it’s no less indulgent.

Elsewhere, I have consumed a substantial amount of ramen and Tokyo Ramen is my favourite place to sit and eat. I love everything about it. Shoyu and an Asahi every time. Soul-enriching warmth. Noodle soup has been a consistent theme and both Mekong Cat in Stockport and Sakura in Salford do glorious iterations of broth and noodles. Meanwhile, big table spreads of grilled chicken, salads and cheese-topped potatoes at The Firehouse echoed the cinematic quality of Mediterranean family meals in films.

Honourable mentions go out to: soft coddled eggs and kaya toast at Yes Lah; the pear dessert at MUSU; dem beanz at Petisco; hash browns at Climat; steak frites from Tallow at New Century and the Polyspore mushrooms with yeast at The Alan. Davey Brett @dbretteats

Flawd 9 Keepers Quay, Manchester M4 6G

Paul Leonards Scallop Dish At The Mind Charity Dinner
The Daddy - Paul Leonard's scallop dish Image: Confidentials

Scallop, cooked by Paul Leonard

It was the year of the scallop. I kept on getting huge, plump scallops the size of bread bins coming at me with great panache. I may be completely wrong, but my guess is that Brexit has something to do with it. The French and Spanish normally hoover up all of the triple-A grade shellfish here in the UK. Maybe Boris’s big ideas have prevented us from selling them.

The scallop dish at The Bull and Bear cooked by a rare talent, Connor, was a citrus-y delight. But the curse of Neville has struck again, and another great chef has done runner - Connor’s boss Tom Kerridge. 

I’m not saying that working with Neville is a tough gig, but the fact that Connor is getting on the first flight to Australia the day after he finishes at The Bull and Bear - which closes in the new year -  speaks volumes. Lady Bracknell would be saying to The Neville “To lose one Chef, Mr The Neville, may be regarded as a misfortune, to lose five seems like carelessness”.

The Pack Horse in the depths of Derbyshire always delivers well and, of course, L’enclume in Cumbria.

But The Daddy, the dish of the year, was the scallop delivered at the Mind charity dinner at Moda, Angel Gardens in October. Organised by the new Michelin star chef, Nathan Cornwell. Nathan had three of his pals cook a £200-a-plate dinner. With Paul Leonard, another Michelin-starred feller delivering his glorious scallop dish. When I called him to ask how it was done, he started:

“I always like to keep things simple Gordo; we start by dehydrating….”

I had to stop him. I’m not about to write a novel.

The only chef in the world who can produce shellfish saucing to match Paul’s is Guy Savoy, the three-star Chef-God in Paris at his restaurant of the same name - housed in Napoleon’s Mint on the left bank. @gordomanchester

Merguez Sausage Cassoulet Form The Beeswing At Kampus Manchester 2022
I got cassoulet to my left, hummus on my right Image: Confidentials

Merguez sausage cassoulet, The Beeswing 

For me, 2022 was the year of the vegetable. I've never really turned my nose up at a plate of greens, but when I scroll through the 'food pics' folder on my camera roll, I've favourited a whole load of veg in 2022. The mushroom pancakes from Green's in Sale took my best dish title in August, I'll never forget the Wye Valley asparagus with wild boar lardo, yolk and rye at Another Hand, and the cauliflower cheese from the Firehouse Sunday lunch menu made it to one of my monthly photo dumps on Instagram. Big creds to Libertine in Withington too for doing all sorts of crazy fire-y things with leeks, asparagus and broccoli. 

However, whilst scrolling through endless pictures of roast potatoes and coal-fired spring onions, I came across the real winner - the cassoulet from The Beeswing. The 10/10 golden hour lighting on that Kampus terrace enhanced everything about this meal. And a glass of Cabernet Franc washed down the fresh Mediterranean flavours in a smooth, sun-drenched way that made me feel like I was on my jollies. Now it's -3 outside. 

The cassoulet was rich and creamy, with white beans the size of 50p coins and a dousing of lemon za'atar yoghurt. Always eager for a proper spicy kick, the dish had a generous drizzle of zhug over the whole thing, and 3 slices of crusty sourdough were used to truly scrape the bowl clean. Four little merguez sausages from Littlewoods butchers sat on top of the beans and yog, and meant that meat was still featured in my fave dish of the year. If I had enough hours in the day to attempt to re-make this bowl of goodness, I would - maybe that's what I'll do over the Christmas break. Ellie-Jo Johnstone @elliejoj

The Beeswing KAMPUS, 24a Minshull St, Manchester M1 3EF

Crab And Brandy Bisque Street Urchin
What a superb pair of wontons Image: Confidentials

Crab and brandy bisque, Street Urchin 

Sara Arfaoui is the wife of Manchester City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan and in October she said she couldn’t find any good restaurants in Manchester. Then again when you never stray far from The Ivy you’re not really catching the variety. She hadn’t even been with Mr G to his manager’s own place, Tast on King Street. Pep Guardiola joked he was going to drop him. 

But my-oh-my Manchester has so much to offer with a whole raft of excellent one-off indies. My favourite for menu variety is Street Urchin on Great Ancoats Street. If you haven’t been to Kevin and Rachel Choudhary’s sweet plant-bedecked premises you’re missing out. There's constantly shifting cleverness on those famous chalkboards. Fish majors here but the meat dishes are excellent too. Earlier this year I had a bone marrow and tripe collation which was brave and delicious.

My favourite dish arrived during the bacchanalia that is the annual Manchester Tour Guides Christmas Party. Before it all turned into sex and drugs and rock’n’roll I had what was eloquently described on the chalk-boards as ‘creamy crab and brandy bisque, roast coley, green beans, saffron potatoes and mussels with crab wontons'. The stunning wontons would have wreaked wanton destruction on Sara Arfaoui’s ignorance. 

Across the city and suburbs, I’ve also loved the food this year at Platski, Erst, The Jane Eyre, Hunan, Beeswing, Mei Dim, The Black Friar, Asha’s, 10 Tib Lane, Osma and Baratxuri at Exhibition and had some great grub in the recently opened Climat which I’ll be reviewing early in January. Despite the national and particularly the food and drink tribulations in 2022 some restaurants have shone culinary light into the darkness. Jonathan Schofield @jonathschofield

Street Urchin 72 Great Ancoats St, Manchester M4 5BG

Roasted And Pickled Beetroot By Osma At Exhibition
DO make an Exhibition of yourself Image: Confidentials

Roasted & pickled beetroots, OSMA at Exhibition

In the year that Manchester was blessed with a multitude of multi-kitchen concepts and Gooey Cafe finally managed to change my opinion on doughnuts, my favourite dishes of the year come from far and wide across our wonderful region.

I was sent to Chester to review Covino, the little gem of a laid-back wine bar that kicked out some stomping dishes like yakitori monkfish with smoked yogurt and pork belly with a perfect golden arch of crackling - from a kitchen no bigger than three metres squared. When the team announced its new opening in Manchester I squealed with delight. And when I eventually saw the finished product I was floored. Wow, what a space Climat is on the top floor of Blackfriar’s House. Rapeseed oil ice cream from its opening menu is still on the tip of my tongue.

It’s easy to forget that the now Michelin Guide bistro, Another Hand only opened its doors in March. Hispi cabbage with pickled clams and burnt butter is my current fave dish here. The chefs have a magic touch with the silky sauce. And the desserts are simply astonishing. Ignore the warm rye chocolate dessert at your absolute peril. 

Despite this, the roasted and pickled beetroots from OSMA at Exhibition make up my favourite dish this year. Sweet, earthy beetroots are served with tart raspberries, muddled with goats’ cheese like an Eton mess. Fresh horseradish falls on top like a light layer of fresh snow making all the flavours whoosh up your nose to wake up your palate. Sophie Rahnema @sophieshahla

Exhibition St George's House, 56 Peter St, Manchester M2 3NQ

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