What do you get, how much is it and how easy to prepare?
Restaurant dining is sadly not an option right now. So when many of our favourite chefs and restaurants - who had never previously offered delivery - began to do so, with some getting really creative in the face of lockdown, we were intrigued.
One of the most popular features on Manchester Confidential has always been our honest, unannounced and impartial restaurant reviews. Our readers come to us for the lowdown, confident that we know our stuff and will tell it straight. Without restaurants, we've not been able to write restaurant reviews. But it’s what we do.
So we’re giving you the scoop on some of the many delivery options that have sprung up. We’ll buy it, eat it - cook it if we have to - and let you know how it was. We’re not going to be scoring these ‘reviews’ - it doesn’t seem right - but we’ll let you know what you can expect and where's worth spending your money.
Little sister to the much adored Levenshulme/Ancoats success story Trove bakery, Erst saw the team extend a few tentacles into dinner territory. Its muted, Scandi-esque interior reflected in a defiantly minimal menu of bold small plates accompanied by low intervention wines. Discerning Manchester diners knew what a gem we had in Erst long before the national critics popped in and helped raise its profile for the masses. Crushingly close to lockdown, Erst was really starting to get the recognition it deserved before the shutters came down.
That yeast sauce is an umami bomb, addictive in that way that things you can't quite put your finger on are
It was one of the last restaurants I ate in before lockdown. Overstuffing with all the savoury plates, I never did get my mitts on their rhubarb and cardamom dessert. I’m not ashamed to admit I still kick myself for this at least once a week. Another relative latecomer to the ‘finish at home’ menu, Erst have put together a set of dishes designed to travel well in our alternative restaurant reality.
What do you get and how much does it cost?
Small plates menus bring out the FOMO in me. This cook-at-home menu is short so I did what any self-respecting gannet would do and ordered the bloody lot. There are two types of kebab, a lamb one (£12) and an aubergine alternative (£9); both come with one of their famous chunky flatbreads and an assortment of drizzles, sprinkles and spicy stuff. There are also courgette pickles (£3), feta with pistachio, mint and sweet and sour onions (£7), those much-discussed crispy spuds with yeast sauce (£4) and a pudding (£7), which is the omnipresent chocolate pot. Erst being famous for its wine, I added a bottle of - so hot right now - orange wine from Puglia (£26).
What do you have to do and how difficult is it?
I love that the cooking and assembly instructions are written on the lids of each box. For me, it simplified the logistical side of things. I put aside the ones that didn’t need any cooking (pickles, feta) to plate up later while I concentrated on the cooking part. Another way this one is different to many of the others I’ve tried is that no hob use is necessary, everything goes in the oven so all you need to worry about is putting it all in at the right times and setting a few timers. You’re basically just warming things through that have already been cooked. The idea is to order earlier in the week for a Thursday or Friday delivery. We were surprised when our Friday order turned up on Thursday, but it really wasn't a big deal, we're not exactly going anywhere right now.
Is it any cop?
We preferred the lamb kebab to the aubergine one, mainly because the (very generous) whole slashed aubergine was, well, a bit of a mouthful. In true kebab style, the juices and oils of both leaked out of their bread duvets and down our arms while we ate. All the bits and bobs elevate the dishes with splashes of gorgeous colour and fragrance. It's the definitive feast for the eyes. I was impressed by the crispy spuds, almost as good as those I had in the restaurant, but I maintain that pre-cooked roast potatoes are just never as good as fresh ones. That yeast sauce is an umami bomb, addictive in that way that things you can't quite put your finger on are, just need another dip to get my head around it... and before you know it the pot is scraped clean.
Everything plated up easily and in an aesthetically pleasing manner like a chic sheik's banquet. To finish, the chocolate pot was pure pleasure, not too sweet with a hint of salt from the pistachios - a floral, Levantine chocolate orange. Speaking of orange, the wine really was, if a little less bold in flavour than I was hoping for. Nonetheless a fine match for the subtly spicy food and super refreshing on a sunny lockdown evening.
Erst, 9 Murray St, Ancoats, Manchester M4 6HS
Value for money
Really good, a feast for two for less than £50 excluding wine.
Packaging and delivery
They got the day wrong, oops! But it was packaged well with only a small amount of plastic.
Just bung it in the oven.
Quality and quantity
Really good portions, we were stuffed - but we did order everything on the menu.