Beans, beans, good for your heart. Bet you're glad you weren't in our office this month
Far from diving head-first into a bowl of iceberg lettuce this January, our team seems to have stuck with the theme of comfort eating for the first month of the year. Perhaps the 'cozzie livs' is to blame, or the fact that most good things these days either come on toast, with toast or in between two slices of toast. Join us this new year for a real beige buffet of toasted bread, baked beans and plenty of potato. Oh, and snails.
Here are the best things we ate in January 2023.
Haggis, neeps and tatties, Yew Tree Inn (£7.95)
Whenever I see haggis on a menu I have to dive in. It’s a no-brainer. The clever concoction at the lovely Yew Tree Inn was a little piece of art. It came layered like the rock stratification on the moors of Winter Hill just to the east. This was a cunning and delicious way of presenting the dish. All the strong flavours of classic haggis, neeps and tatties came through with a refined fruit sauce a complement not a distraction.
I’m also going to include the most unexpected thing I ate in January which was in a wood by a canal near Lymm with Forager Jim, yes, that’s what he calls himself. I thought there would be nothing to scavenge from wild nature in drab winter. I was wrong. There were so many flavours, common hogweed seed pods delivered a flavour exactly like cloves, jelly ear fungus tasted exactly like mushroom and is marvellously monikered as it looks exactly like an ear and has a jelly-like character. Jonathan Schofield @jonathschofield
Beans on farmhouse toast, Ezra & Gil (£6.50)
Whenever I go out for breakfast, I always try to order something I couldn’t make at home. Like the French toast from Federal with whipped vanilla mascarpone, or them charred corn fritters with avocado cream from Tahi. However, there’s something about Ezra & Gil’s beans on toast that just hits different.
I know, it’s beans on toast, and if I can’t make that at home then I should be hanging my head in shame and re-evaluating my foodie Instagram dumps. The truth is though, I can make beans on toast at home, but not like this. The beans are subtly spicy, with that perfect beans to sauce ratio that makes sure your bread doesn’t go soggy. The bread isn’t sourdough, so a normal knife is sufficient, and every bean is covered in a thick coating of parmesan cheese, ensuring that you get a cheese pull every time you lift the fork to your hangry face. I get two Cumberland sausages on the side for an extra £2 if I’m feeling like a big spender, and I remind myself that sometimes you don’t need macerated berries on your brekkie to feel content. Put loads of black pepper on the top and mop up the buttery remains with your last crusts. Yes, I did just write almost 300 words about beans on toast, but it’s great. Ellie-Jo Johnstone @elliejoj
Bombay Sandwich, Bundobust Brewery (£9)
Just when you think you know the Bundo menu like the back of your bhel puri pot, along comes a special that reignites that spicy spark all over again. It’s a fusion that could have spelled confusion, but this elevated toastie deftly packs together the filling appeal of both dosa and vada pav. Bursting out of every crevice there’s potato and spinach, green chutney, red onion, tomato and vegan Cheddar, all seasoned with chaat masala. For dunking it’s accompanied by a little tumbler of sambhar. The bad news – it’s only available 12pm-4pm Sunday to Friday; the good news – it’s likely to extend well into February. You can order it at any Bundobust. We chose the Brewery site on Oxford Road, where head brewer Dan Hocking alerted us to the imminent return of West to West. His authentic take on an American West Coast IPA. Crystal clear as it should be (a rejoinder to all those cloudy near NEIPA imposters about), it will make a perfect, resinously bitter partner for the Bombay buttie. Neil Sowerby @AntonEgoManc
Korean bacon sandwich, Brewdog Manchester Doghouse (£10.95)
Don’t get me wrong, the humble bacon sandwich does not need an upgrade. I’m a tomato sauce gal. I apply inhuman amounts of tomato sauce to bacon sandwiches, sausage butties and anything I can get away with, really. This Korean-style spin did have me intrigued though, and while my other half wolfed down a Full English, I got down with some gochujang. The bacon is fried in this sweet, savoury, subtly spicy paste and stuffed into a pair of fluffy bao. A crispy chilli omelette is the only real reminder that this is brunch food - spring onion chutney adding a sweet little crunch. Perhaps it's time to switch out the Heinz ketchup and start adding gochujang to my mid-morning meats from now on. Sophie Rahnema @sophieshahla
Full English Breakfast, Atlas Bar (£10)
I ate a lot of great food this month. So great that I forgot to take pictures of everything. There was steak frites with chimichurri at New Century, the massive sausage rolls at Ditto off Albert Square, the salami and mozzarella sandwiches at Haunt, shawarma at Jaffa on Wilmslow Road and a big fried chicken and double patty burger at Almost Famous. Top of the chomps this month however was Atlas Bar’s full English which to my surprise is very good.
It’s important to set the scene. The morning after the Chris Eubank Jr fight, head like a beehive, a visiting cousin flat out refusing to walk to the Northern Quarter from Castlefield again. Absolutely no chance are we queuing for brunch. The Atlas Bar A-board tempted us in and the full English was very good. The full cast, cooked to perfection, good gear (WH Frost sausages), sensible pool of beans and a polite dusting of herbs on the eggs as if the chef was trying to flirt with us. Tenner is a push but it’s a bit of a breakfast desert around there so it’s handy to know about. Great value. Davey Brett @dbretteats
Escargots poêlés au Vouvray sec, 63 Degrees (£15.80)
French cuisine is the best.
Finessed for centuries, using the finest produce in the world delivered from landscapes changing from the lush green pastures of Brittany to the slightly toasted fields of Provence.
The foothills of The Alps supply monumental cheeses whilst the Atlantic coast delivers shiny-eyed seafood that languishes on the cold slabs of nineteenth-century brasseries. They whisper the promise of languid, muscadet-fuelled foreplay happening well before buttons on blouses are gently popped, nipples stiffen, and breasts break free in the apartments of the left bank.
I had a lover in Paris a long time ago. She knocked the Englishman out of me during one warm June afternoon when Benoit had two tables outside the front door, coddling us diners in small, well-kept fig trees.
Bibi broke me and put me back together over an afternoon starting with snails in garlic butter, a dozen oysters and a slab of turbot that must have come from a fish the size of a small wardrobe. Just watching her eat this lot was enough for me.
Halfway through the snails she leaned across the table, wiping some butter from her Bardot-esque lips;
“C’est la première partie de nos préliminaires cet après-midi mon amour…”
I’m crying as I write this thirty years later. Because last week friends took me for a surprise dinner at 63 degrees, the French restaurant owned and run by Chef-Patron Eric Moreau. The meal was sublime. And Eric’s snails brought Bibi back to me.
His dish, Escargots poêlés au Vouvray sec, was a masterwork. Gallons of his beloved Brittany cream and a few bottles of dry Vouvray reduced and reduced; added at the end to a pan of fat piggy juicy snails, morel mushrooms and tiny batons of carrots pushing out a little sweetness. A touch of Dijon mustard? I’m not sure. A lot of passion. I’m sure of that.
Only a Frenchman can dress a dish like this. And only Bibi could wear a dress like that.
Pour toi Chérie, jamais oublié. Mark Garner @GordoManchester
Read next: Picture of the Month: Where Manchester began
Read again: New Manchester Lexicon: Food
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