Disembowelled apples, aubergine propellers and artichoke soufflé
Our writers have scattered far and wide to bring you their culinary recommendations this month, from Japanese diners in Sale to 17th century pubs in Lancashire. Where else would you find a katsu bento box alongside pumpkin tortolloni and a honey-glazed pork chop?
Here are eight dishes they highly recommend...
Chicken katsu bento box - Osechi (£8.20)
Osechi is the kind of mom-and-pop lunch spot you see all over Tokyo (minus the plates of plastic food used to illustrate the menu) and posh it is not. After a tough gig road-sampling high-end Japanese-Mexican cuisine, I decided to reset my tastebuds with the most normcore of Japanese offerings, a chicken katsu bento box. Slices of breaded chicken balance atop mild and comforting Japanese curry (which owes its flavour profile almost entirely to curry powder) served with the ubiquitous pile of slightly sticky white rice plus some crunchy spring rolls, deep fried prawns and a simple salad dressed with rice vinegar. It’s the opposite of many of our stereotypes of Japanese food - not especially healthy, politely flavourful and very filling convenience food that is somehow still deeply evocative. Lucy Tomlinson
Osechi Japanese, 23 School Road, Sale, M33 7XX
‘First Apple of the Season’ - Mana (£95 tasting menu)
It says here that 'Mana' means the 'embodiment of nature', one's 'spirtual essense'. I'm not sure about all that guff, but the first menu released by this 'wild fine dining' Ancoats newcomer reads more like a torture chamber for veg; desiccated spruce, nixtamalised corn, baked kelp... I was half expecting to see some waterboarded turnip, or perhaps a car battery wired up to a pair of trembling plums. Sure enough, out came a decapitated and disemboweled apple, the 'first of the season' (in October?), filled with 'seven different types' of apple and black fermented apple juice. And it was bloody great; a fresh, fun, zippy start to a meal which fascinated and baffled in equal measure. We debated whether or not to eat the whole thing. I did. Well, the poor thing had been through a lot. David Blake.
Mana, 42 Blossom St, Manchester M4 6BF
Josper grilled pork chop - Wood (£22.50 two course menu)
The team at Wood, headed up by Masterchef winner Simon Wood, is getting better and better as the months go by. The restaurant itself is warming up, the service sings and the dishes are finessed every six months or so. At a recent tasting of 22 dishes (only 22 Gordo?), the Fat One came away with the Josper grilled pork chop sticking in his mind. It came covered in a thick, sticky honey and mustard glaze, lying on a mound of buttery mashed spuds, next to a pile of properly cooked cavolo nero. deep green and crispy, melting into the sweetness of the porky fat and glaze. Gordo
Wood, Jack Rosenthal Street, First Street, M15 4RA
Sweet potato dahl, chargrilled aubergine, English mint and radish salad - Masons (£14)
Vegetarianism and veganism is all the rage, when it used to make people rage on both sides of the meat vs meat-free fence. Wait a minute, what do I mean 'used to'? It still does. Just last week the Waitrose Food Magazine editor, William Sitwell, got fired by some lily-livered management wimps because he dared to utter a totally obvious and ridiculous throw-away comment about vegans. Jeez, it's something when we can't even laugh at vegans. Anyway, as I sit and await some Twitter-hate for that, I'd like to recommend this superb dish from Masons. It's a weighty and good-looking dish with propeller blades of aubergine, tiger-striped through chargrilling. There's chilli in the lentils, which adds heat, as does the radish, just less so. Really the secret is in the mint which gives a rip-roaring lift to the dish and makes it feel all healthy and fresh. Jonathan Schofield
Mason’s, Ground Floor, Manchester Hall, 36 Bridge Street, M3 3BT
Jerusalem artichoke soufflé - The Cartford Inn (£8.95)
Little Eccleston’s Cartford Inn is the epitome of a British country pub. Built in the 1600s, this rambling inn is where carts used to cross the River Wyre. Today, it’s an award-winning gastro pub, serving great comfort food, conjured from the fruits of the region. There’s Goosnargh duck, local beef and this surprisingly brilliant Jerusalem artichoke soufflé (£8.95) with creamy truffle veloute and toasted hazelnuts. Part savoury Nutella, part custard, it’s a little visit to heaven on earth. Ruth Allan
The Cartford Inn, Cartford Lane, Little Eccleston, PR3 0YP
Pumpkin tortolloni with pancetta, sundried tomato, cream and Parmesan – Salvi’s (three course festive menu, £29.90)
There’s gastronomic indulgence and then, a few leagues above that, there’s this creamy carb-filled, luxurious dish. I was lucky enough to get a sneaky peak of Salvi’s Christmas menu before it launches on December 1st and not only do I recommend it, but I am insisting that you wear something with an elasticated waste when you eat it. Maurizio has basically taken various ingredients with maximum umami-factor, bundled them all together and wrapped them up into silky pasta parcels. Mariah Carey is going to have to change the lyrics to her song, because all she really wants for Christmas is this. Deanna Thomas
Salvis Mozzarella Bar, 1, The Corn Exchange, Corporation St, M4 3TR
Dover sole - San Carlo (£28)
Gordo is getting tired of small plates to be honest. They’re all over the place, so he’s going back to where they started in Manchester with the Distefano family and Marcello in particular. It’s all his fault, with the stunningly successful Cicchetti opposite the original San Carlo. Gordo ordered a whole Dover sole on the bone, with caper butter sauce. Tail hanging over the bottom of the plate, crispy on top, chunky white firm fillets of fish, doused in the butter. Good Lord, a proper plate of food. Glorious, and dead simple. Gordo
San Carlo, King Street West, Manchester
Roast Partridge* - Hinchliffe Arms (£10)
Tracklement. Among my favourite words, it means a savoury relish or condiment to accompany meat. Robert Owen Brown shares my partiality, describing the roast game birds on his menu as “served with all the tracklements”. In the case of my partridge that just amounted to a herby gravy based on the bird’s juices, a hint of honey and ginger glaze and a mace and clove-driven bread sauce, which coated my fingers as, hands-on, I gnawed every scrap of flesh off its carcass. To me it was healthy, sustainable, gorgeously succulent perfection. Neil Sowerby
* forgot to take a photo of the partridge, so there's Rob's grouse instead.
The Hinchliffe Arms, Church Bank Lane, Cragg Vale, Hebden Bridge, HX7 5TA