Food, glorious food

The city once famed for its rich cotton mills and poor workhouses is now home to many eclectic restaurants. Manchester’s gourmand scene can prompt any visitor to say ‘Please, sir, I want some more’, writes Deepa Alexander

Technicolour dream

Before he became a hot-shot restaurateur with an array of colourful tattoos on his arm, MasterChef UK 2015 winner Simon Wood was a data manager who loved to cook since he was eight. Last year saw the launch of the eponymous restaurant in his home city, Manchester, and his début cookbook At Home with Simon Wood – Fine Dining Made Simple. Located snug between a theatre and galleries, on the other side of red brick arches, atop which trains thunder past, Wood has a large glass-fronted space through which you can watch rivulets of rain throw light on the distressed blue walls and the open kitchen inside. Service is cheerful, music is a throwback to the 90s — Duran Duran’s ‘Ordinary World’ plays and the food is fabulous. The first course is a butternut squash soup tinged with pungent curry oil, a nod to a city that is increasingly leaning towards veganism. The main course is a chicken chorizo, with black olives, saffron and pimiento adding drama to it. For dessert, there’s the MasterChef-winning citrus tutti frutti. Its biscuit base crunches while the edible flowers and lemony zest hold the promise of summer skies after rain.

Food, glorious food

Take Refuge

The Yorkshire pudding, a memory that has sat on my tongue since Enid Blyton days, is nothing like I had imagined. It’s more a scooped-out bun filled with gravy of your choice, and made to the dictum that what bread can do, batter can do better. It’s seated on a steel grey plate, cuddled by peas and carrots and jostling for space with a chicken leg. At The Refuge by Volta it’s roast day, in the tradition of the British Sunday roast, but without the suckling pig arriving whole at your table. Located inside The Principal Manchester, a terracotta heritage building raised in 1890 as the headquarters of the Refuge Assurance Company, The Refuge comprises a cosy dining room, an eclectic bar and a pretty winter garden. Owners Luke Cowdrey and Justin Crawford, better known as DJs The Unabombers, have taken a Victorian relic and gifted the Mancunian a dazzling tour de force with fairy glitter, fine cocktails and world cuisine. Snowflakes swirl outside the bay windows in a scene reminiscent of The Little Match Girl. But, seated by a mural that reads ‘The Glamour of Manchester’, in a space filled with class, I’m far from the Hans Christian Andersen tale.

Food, glorious food

At the Mayor

An Airedale Terrier, the size of a bear, brushes past my leg, and then loses itself in the crowd. Children run around in circles and a young working crowd sits perched on bar stools looking at the world pass by on a platter of oysters. Situated in Manchester’s quirky Northern Quarter, the recently-renovated Mackie Mayor is filled with the ghosts of merchants past. Once a meat market — its high-vaulted ceiling supported by ornate girders and columns that curve into orange scrolls — this is an open dining space with a plethora of food service providers who, in the past century, would have been shouting out their wares. For the new-age gourmand, choices run from pizza frontmen Honest Crust and steak masters Tender Cow to wine suppliers Reserve Wines and beer brewers Jack in the Box. It’s a bit of a strain to hear the music above the laughter of suit-clad bankers, the squeal of teens on a night out, the clutter of dog bowls and the hiss of ale taps. And, the food? Good enough to be zeroed on with single-minded intent.

The writer was in Manchester at the invitation of VisitBritain and Marketing Manchester.

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Printable version | Apr 6, 2020 6:10:14 PM |

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