Kelly Bishop enjoys a long lunch of walnut witchcraft, hogget and baked beer
I’m not getting out much these days for obvious reasons, but a socially distanced lunch date with fellow food and drink writer Neil Sowerby was long overdue.
There are a surprising number of new openings to check out at the moment, but this pop-up restaurant in a wine bar from a couple of locally-sourced, clever chefs had our names all over it.
So we pulled up stools at separate ends of a counter and stuck our forks in.
The balance is perfect - more a soft, floral waft than a walk through Boots’ perfume dept.
Blossom Street Social might be a new name to some. This Ancoats wine bar from the team behind Hanging Ditch (now sadly closed) quietly opened back in December. It's kitchen recently hosted Mia’s Arepas before welcoming the lads from Tine in August.
The umami-rich menu might call for an orange wine but Blossom Street Social are old school, with ‘natty wines’ not as prevalent here as elsewhere. We whittled a selection of five suggestions from the wine-buffs down to a La Diablesse Chinon cabernet franc (£50). Bright, crunchy red and black fruit with a whisper of dusty old books, it worked well with the food and we were both tempted to buy another bottle to take home. You can - Blossom Street Social does a fine line in er, fine wine to drink in or take away.
If it were on my doorstep, I’d probably just have to leave my credit card there.
The food involves far less deliberation, five plates can be ordered separately (£6-£15) or as a tasting menu for a discounted price of £40 per head. Obviously, we take the latter option and add a plate of cheese (£6 for one wedge, £13 for three) with crackers made from leftover Pollen sourdough and Salford honeycomb to share at the end.
First up, little cups made from baked beer whack us round the head with flavour. Filled with smoke-cured Westcombe pork (£6) and topped with a rubble of crispy shallot, they’re like the ultimate, free range Frazzles.
Fresh off the boat plaice (£10) - almost, it was caught two days ago - from Pesky Fish down south is the furthest travelled item on the menu. This hockey puck of raw fish tastes exactly like the scent of the sea. A furtive filling of pickled green strawberries and crunchy hazelnuts complement a surrounding moat of lacto-fermented hazelnut milk. A sprinkling of spruce shoots finishes the artful presentation. It’s ceviche-esque but without lashings of vinegar. The word that springs to mind is balance. Not one note is out of tune.
Next, forager's favourite, the hedgehog-shaped hen of the woods (£8). Ours comes grilled and yielding in a delicate broth mottled with lemon thyme oil. Muted autumnal psychedelia. Lemon thyme can be overpowering but, again, the balance is perfect - more a soft, floral waft than a walk through Boots’ perfume dept.
Hogget saddle (£15) reared by Tom Boothman ‘down the road in Yorkshire’ is gone in two bites. We savour its crispy skin and juicy rose coloured flesh. It's accompanied by a slice of savoy cabbage topped with something like salsa verde. This time the acidity is bolder but cuts nicely through the rich pork. A sauce the colour of 70s corduroy slacks is made from lemon drop peppers and pumpkins seeds - a sort of molé, says chef. My only small criticism is I'd have loved a carb here, maybe some crispy spuds.
Dessert of walnut & umeboshi (£7) features a plant I have growing on my balcony, deep purple oxalis sprayed with plum kernel liquor for dew drop beauty. I didn’t know it was edible but will be using it to add tang to my cheese butties from now on.
Delicately sweet walnut butter is aerated til cumulous then frozen. This sits atop a sauce of salted plum and what appears to be caramelised and pulverised white chocolate. It isn’t, of course, but is actually made from barley koji mixed with cream and frozen. The whole thing is walnut-witchcraft.
Blossom Street Social and Tine are a bit of an odd couple - the shared service, at times, a little out of sync.
It's a lovely, languorous lunch for admirers of culinary cleverness, but don’t go if you are looking for a quick bite. The chefs are keen to do everything themselves but we wondered if this made things slower than necessary. A six-course lunch took three hours. We had plenty of catching up to do but that might not be ideal for some.
Minor criticisms, however, of an otherwise very welcome addition to the city.
Tine, Blossom Street Social, 51 Blossom St, Ancoats, Manchester M4 6BF
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Read next: Meet the chefs behind Tine, Manchester's exciting new pop up
Read again: Social distancing: 10 places for easy solo dining in Manchester
All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidential and completely independent of any commercial relationship. 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
Snack 9, fish 10, mushroom 7.5, hogget 8.5, dessert 10, cheese 7.5
Great stories from the chefs, expertise from the wine bar, but the two aren't quite in sync
Slick and modern but comfier seats would be welcome for a three hour lunch