Posh kebabs, steamed cabbage and Pugh's suckling piggies
Cabbage, cheese and calves' liver. This month’s best dishes have been brought to you by the letter C.
Pulled chicken sandwich – Nationale 7 (£8.50)
My favourite roast chicken in the world emerges from the solid Provencal brick oven of Zuni Cafe, San Francisco. The secrets behind this legendary signature bird? A small size, so roasting quickly and evenly for succulence, after 24 hours’ salting to guarantee tenderness. These Francophile foodies have been doing it right for 30 years and aren’t too proud to transform any leftovers into equally toothsome simple sandwiches.
This Poulet Supreme came to mind at new NQ food hall Mackie Mayor when Nationale 7’s free-range rotisserie counter outclassed the rest of the trader line-up with their pulled chicken sarnie – great crusty bread, tarragon mayo and their home pickled red onions (£8.50). The presence on the menu of gratin dauphinois, rillettes and croque monsieur confirms the nationality of co-owners Emy Brémond and Amaury De Neury. Neil Sowerby
Nationale 7, Mackie Mayor, Swan Street, M4 5BU
Kebabs - Electrik (£7-£9)
Ah the kebab. Once the sweaty grey finish line of a late-night sesh, the kebab is making a comeback - and it ain't all limp lettuce, garlic chilli sauce and the meaty mush of seven different kinds of animal bollock. Posh kebabs have been a thing in London for a few years now, the likes of Le Bab and Chifafa giving the humble ballast of the piss-artist an upmarket revamp with roe deer, suckling pig and, not dry packet pitta, but actual handmade flatbreads.
Manchester, as ever, is catching up, with plans in place for a new posh kebab shop in Northern Quarter, while Electrik bar in Chorlton have just given over their menu to 'Yadda Yadda' - owner Luke Cowdrey's 'disruptive' take on Persian kebabs of yore. Spongy, light flatbreads encase unorthodox globe-spanning fillings such as Korean steak with kimchi and gochujang miso, jerk white fish with mango, green harissa and white cabbage, and beetroot bhaji with whipped tofu and pickled cucumber. We tried 'em all. So should you. David Blake
Electrik, 559 Wilbraham Rd, Manchester M21 0AE. Tel: 0161 881 3315
Steamed hispi with Romesco sauce - Hispi (£4)
I’ve recently come back from New York where the fashion was for lettuce, served in wedges, and topped with finely grated eggs, nuts and cheeses. This hearty wedge of Hispi’s namesake cabbage reminds me of that presentation - with the added bonus of Romesco sauce. Hitting that sweet spot between butter and hummus, the main ingredients are smoky paprika, sweet almonds and roasted red peppers. Simply pick up your big wedge and dive in. Ruth Allan
Hispi, 1c School Lane, Manchester M20 6RD. Tel: 0161 445 3996
Cheese and honey – Porta (£4.95)
I'm not one for planning ahead, especially when it comes to Christmas. The exception is of course, my Christmas dinner which I start dreaming about in October. This year I'm going full-on traditional Victorian Gentleman by way of Spain in my approach, which means several waistcoat-loosening courses. Top of the list is recreation of this dish from Porta (£4.95) for the cheese course. Picos de Europa is a rich spicy blue that soothes the tongue and stimulates the tastebuds, here Porta have laced it with a light honey and sprinkled it with candied walnuts and sultanas that offset the bold and salty cheese for rich, savoury bliss. Would pair perfectly with a high-quality sherry and some merry carolling. Lucy Tomlinson
Porta, 50 Greenwood St, Altrincham, WA14 1RZ Tel: 0161 465 6225
Paella Valenciana - Tinto (£12 per person, min. two people)
This Didsbury asador offers an exercise in the beauty of Spain’s national dish. Juicy pieces of rabbit and chicken on the bone poked up invitingly like canapés on a tray. The rice had absorbed umami level eleven, with a perfect tell-tale soccarat underneath (the crunchy chewy crust that clings to the bottom of good paella). To enhance the texture, they’d incorporated strips of slightly crunchy green pepper and the odd velvety butter bean.
There was something traditional and beautiful about this paella, as though eating it tapped directly into the vein of a very special food culture. A thing Uncle Ben couldn’t even dream of touching with a ten foot barge pole. Deanna Thomas
Tinto, 784-788 Wilmslow Rd, Manchester M20 2DR. Tel: 0161 445 1042
Calves' liver - No.4 Dine and Wine (£16.95)
The best dish on a recent trip to No.4 was the Rose calves' livers with a really rich wine jus, a fine mash, spinach, onion rings and smoked streaky bacon. The livers were forgiving, tender and bunched with the vegetables, while the cracking jus and the bacon worked wonders. This was a fine dish for those in pursuit of good flavours and a gutsy presentation of the inner organs of beasts, although maybe gutsy is a bit too literal in this instance. Jonathan Schofield
No 4 Dine and Wine, 4 Warburton St, Manchester M20 6WA. Tel: 0161 445 0448
Big f**k off pork & egg bun - Gorilla (£9)
"What do you fancy for lunch?" said a mate of mine, up from London for the day looking for freelance work and somewhere to live with its own toilet for less than five grand a week. "A big f**k off sandwich," I roar, "something as big as a prop forward's buttock and equally as glistening and meaty." A swift thumb through social media and we were on our way to Gorilla for this whopper: BBQ honey glazed pulled pork, two fried eggs, gherkins and tomato in an oven bottom bun. Fleshy, fulsome and dripping with joy; dirty doesn't even cut it, this was Miley Cyrus levels of filth. David Blake
Gorilla, 54-56 Whitworth St W, Manchester M1 5WW. Tel: 0161 826 2998
Ravioli di funghi in salsa al tartufo - The Pasta Factory (£13.50)
“Italian people are too busy to make fresh pasta nowadays,” confesses Elisa Cavigliasso, one of The Pasta Factory’s three original owners, “but it’s very special and so very worth it.” That’s why we’re so lucky to have somewhere in town which goes to the trouble of producing a range of different regional pasta varieties rarely seen outside Italy.
To their credit, The Pasta Factory manages to infuse their vegetarian and vegan dishes with such an intensity of flavours, their meat-free status becomes normalised and incidental, rather than specialised. They have even invented their own healthy vegan version of parmesan using a blend of various crushed nuts and salt. An autumnal bowl of (100% vegan) handmade ravioli filled with mushrooms, garlic, parsley and cashew nuts, dressed with a richly decadent black truffle and porcini sauce was the edible equivalent of being wrapped up in a soft blanket. Deanna Thomas
The Pasta Factory, 77 Shudehill M4 4AN Tel: 0161 222 9250
Bloody Mary tomato parfait - Allotment (£8)
Allotment vegan restaurant opened in 2016 by chef and ultra-marathon runner, Matt Nutter. In the early days, it was BYOB, with clunky garden tools on the walls. Yet the food was perfect. Since then, the decor has grown up, and the food is, if anything, better. Pictured is a 'Bloody Mary' starter, comprised of a Tabasco and heritage tomato parfait, sliced tomato, rice crisps, a hint of chilli powder and dehydrated olive oil. It’s not even the best thing on the menu; the mint, chocolate and burnt cucumber dessert remains an infatuation. Plus it tastes exactly like mint Aero. I can’t recommend this one enough. Ruth Allan
Allotment, 6 Vernon Street, Stockport, SK1 1TY. Tel: 0161 478 133
Gamberoni Fritti - San Carlo Cicchetti (£8)
It’s about nine years since Gordo coined the acronym YAFI (Yet Another Fucking Italian). This was out of frustration with the numerous openings of copycat Falso-Italian restaurants at the medium-to-shit level with bloody great big pepper mills.
(If you are reading this and involved with a restaurant which still uses great big pepper mills, or indeed, are a punter who still thinks this the height of sophistication, F**K OFF TO ROMANIA, because on Gordo's last visit, Italian restaurants from 1973 are still considered good in Bacau.)
In the meantime, one shifty but beloved Italian hairdresser turned the market on its head a decade or so ago when he delivered to Manchester the masterful San Carlo - the Italian restaurant equivalent of the iPhone launch in 2007, a true game changer.
Then Carlo, a few years later, delivered the iPhone 7, aka San Carlo Cicchetti; the first Italian small plates restaurant for Mancunia. The food was unrecognisable from all the other Italian restaurants simple because it was… Italian!
It’s still boxing well above its weight as evidenced by the meal Gordo had this week, sat at the bar chatting to pizza boss Leonardo (who wants you ladies to know he’s single). A very fine meal, but the standout dish was the Gamberoni Fritti; the body shell removed, head kept on, dusted in a near-tempura crunchy coating flour, three big fat prawns winking at this useless, fat, balding, sexist, non-PC pig (well, according to Twitter).
Biting one in half, having dipped it into the Calabrian chilli dip, Gordo started grinning like a puppy getting sausages. The main thing, the raw material, those bloody great, fat king prawns, were OUTSTANDING. Juicy in the middle, dry and crispy on the outside, screaming at everyone: “I’m a FABULOUS prawn I am.”
It’s less than nine quid. Don’t be a fool. If it’s a while since you've been in, do it. Now. Gordo
San Carlo Cicchetti, King Street West M3 2QG. Tel: 0161 839 2233
Suckling pig - The Bay Horse Tavern (£11)
Right, by all accounts Gordo has used up his allotted word count above. So here goes: the suckling pig, from Pugh’s Piglets, roasted on the spit downstairs in the cellar of the new-look Bay Horse Tavern is DEAD, DEAD GOOD. Go eat it. Gordo
Bay Horse Tavern, 35-37 Thomas St, Manchester M4 1NA. Tel: 0161 661 1041