Restaurants we're looking forward to and some things we'd like to see binned next year
So it turns out 2017 wasn’t the year the restaurant bubble burst. In fact, there have been more openings than ever; from small bars serving small plates, to huge venues catering for thick wallets, all making and shaking enough cocktails to fill Victoria Baths twice over.
Manchester got its own European-style food market in the Mackie Mayor, while the city’s fine dining food scene was overlooked by Michelin once again. Well known London-based brands, including The Ivy, Dishoom and D&D, continue to invest in Manchester, though a few of the less successful ones have had to 'rethink their proposition'. Masterchef winner Simon Wood opened his eponymous debut restaurant in First Street, while Living Ventures finally launched the very handsome Grand Pacific in the old Reform Club. One or two bars also opened in Northern Quarter.
There was plenty more, of course, but we're here to talk about next year. We asked our food writers (and some bloke called Thom) to give us the lowdown on their wants and expectations restaurant-wise for 2018.
Are there enough of the insulated few in this numbing economic climate to fill all those fine dining covers?
NEIL SOWERBY - Critic, oenophile, explorer
Probably, adventurers won’t look further than Ancoats with Elnecot, Rudy’s and Squid Ink being joined by Sugo, Hip Hop Chip Shop and just maybe, as another year’s lichen gathers on the ancient dream, Goose Fat and Wild Garlic.
Oldham Street’s looking increasingly smart. In contrast, the promise of a cool Chapel Street Quarter has been snuffed out with two of the city’s best coffee houses forced to relocate after rent wrangles. Big bucks are behind the city centre’s imminent high profile chef projects – Aiden Byrne at 20 Stories and Michael O’Hare at his two Stock Exchange eateries with poncy names. Are there enough of the insulated few in this numbing economic climate to fill all those fine dining covers? We shall soon find out.
My favourite work in progress? The Creameries, Chorlton where a trio of creative women, including chef Mary-Ellen McTague, are crowdfunding a project that will offer top bread and dairy, plus dishes featuring seasonable veg and sustainable fish.
The deep divide between dirty and clean food will further widen in 2018.
DEANNA THOMAS - Former chef and Confidential food botherer
Street food is heading in even more obscure directions inspired by deeper food cultures found on further flung travels. But will the general public get a taste for Japanese tuna eyeballs, Middle Eastern sheep head soup, fermented Baltic Sea herring or smoked reindeer heart?
Things rhyming with ‘ock’ have been popular in 2017 with Flok, Bock and Roc (& Rye), but there’s plenty more of the alphabet to go – NQ chicken shop Yard & Coop have already bagsied the C for their giant burger.
The deep divide between dirty and clean food will further widen in 2018. Every wheat grass smoothie and whole food Buddha bowl will be counterbalanced by a four foot multi-layered burger and freak shake.
The trend for restaurants which have numbers instead of names is set to continue with 20 Stories. In 2017, we had 1847, 1761 and 1837 - the secret speakeasy underneath Alston Bar & Beef. Hope this changes, I'm not looking forward to hearing Gordo telling me he's off for a number two.
Speaking of waste, more restaurants will continue their efforts to combat food waste either through charity-based apps or by chefs becoming more creative, perhaps butchering whole animals in house and utilising every part, or saving coffee grounds to fertilise kitchen gardens.
What I yearn for is a la carte menus, with dishes I ordered, in the order I ordered them
THOM HETHERINGTON - Northern Restaurant Bar CEO and hospitality insider
I would like to see more grown up, proper dining. I love small plates and sharing, with dishes that come “as they are ready”, rather than as the diner wanted them, but what I yearn for is a la carte menus, with dishes I ordered, in the order I ordered them; proper portions, serious wine-lists, comfy chairs, and good acoustics. I want chefs who can cook, brilliantly and invisibly. I want effortlessly efficient service, fronted up by an army of charming Fred Sirieix-a-likes. I’d also like wifi access which didn’t involve completing a form akin to a Scientology personality test.
What will we get? Expect the suburban dining renaissance to expand from the usual hotspots to Monton, Levenshulme, Prestwich, Whitefield and Urmston.
Selfishly I’d also like to see Glossop claim its rightful place as the San Sebastian of the Pennines. After a royal visit from Gordo parading around the streets of Royston Vasey, wearing a big flappy coat and oversized scarf, shouting “Blimey” at bewildered locals – my hometown’s gastronomic coronation surely can’t be far away.
I expect some canny chef to give me a starter, main course and pudding, instead of gastrobating all over a harsh, shiny wooden table with twelve courses
GORDO - Critic, gaffer, grump
Hmm. Expect or want? There’s a difference. In a speech given by Will Beckett, co-owner of Hawksmoor, at a dinner to celebrate the launch of their cook book, he recounted asking Mancunians for advice on what to bring up north before the opening. He remembered my contribution.
“Turbot," said Fatty, and put the phone down. He took no notice though. “Tablecloths," would have been the second. Will would have ignored him again.
I expect and want high-end Chinese to come into play sometime soon (bollocks to chicken feet). Gordo would also like to see true Indochine, all Quiet American on the tablecloths with Viet-French dishes that subtly take you up a steamy river and seduce you with gentle spice, tickilish heat and smooth saucing.
And I expect some canny chef to give me a starter, main course and pudding, instead of gastrobating all over a harsh, shiny wooden table with twelve courses that fade half way through.
Oh, and turbot. Please.
The really interesting new openings will be out in the burbs
LUCY TOMLINSON - Food writer and philosopher
Last year I predicted that Brexit would begin to bite and while that is only just starting to happen I feel that whatever else you think of it, the combination of increasing food and labour costs cannot be good for the hospitality industry. For Manchester, I predict the city centre will become more static as the only people who will be able to afford to open new ventures will be outfits with elevator pitches, vertical integration and investors to keep happy. Some may parachute interesting and innovative star-name chefs (see Michael O'Hare's new project with Gary Neville and Giggsy, and Aiden Byrne for D&D London) but overall new openings will be corporate and conservative rather than homegrown and experimental.
In a reversal of recent years, the really interesting new openings will be out in the burbs. Foodie faves such as Altrincham and Chorlton will continue to grow - watch out for McTague's Creameries project - but I'll be interested to see what happens in formerly sedate areas such as Sale (where restaurants are packed every weekend), Stockport and and even the humble Stretford as councils roll out new 'masterplans' which if they have any sense will help food and drink businesses.
Scrub the Michelin star nonsense, just give me the deli.
JONATHAN SCHOFIELD - Editor-at-large, tour guide, pub lover
What I want for 2018 is a prettily gift wrapped and packaged Michelin star restaurant for the city. No, honest, I really do. I’ve started crossing my fingers and knocking on wood and wearing a horse shoe round my neck and stroking a rabbit’s foot. I don’t even mind if a Michelin star arrives just somewhere in Greater Manchester rather than the city centre.
So, for example, if Stockport’s Calvert’s Court, a Wetherspoons (surely, you mean Where The Light Gets In? - Ed.) gains a star, that's grand. Or perhaps we could even gain a temporary star for one of those bratwurst outlets in the Christmas Markets. In fact forget one Michelin star, I want a three Michelin star restaurant. Maybe on top of a building, with some trees and a Josper grill and an overwhelming sense of self-importance and a way of getting back down to ground level via a bungee jump. Yep that's what I want.
But I’d also like a very large food deli in the city centre. Yes we have the excellent Salvi’s and Lunya plus Harvey Nichols and bits and bobs in the Arndale Market, but I want one that does it all: breads, meats, cheeses, pickles, canned products, tasty titbits and mouth-watering morsels including top quality British produce. Actually, scrub the Michelin star nonsense, just give me the deli.
Things I’d like to see less of? Chefs slagging their customer off on Twitter and…shhhhh...sourdough.
RUTH ALLAN - Restaurant critic and guide writer
Earlier this month, I had a site tour of the forthcoming, D&D/Aiden Byrne-run 20 Stories at No.1 Spinningfields. While I’m not psyched about Byrne moving to another city centre project from Manchester House - this was a chance to bring in new blood, surely - it’s about time Manchester had a rooftop terrace. Plus, the plans for 20 Stories, which is set to open at the end of February 2018, look incredible. Fractionally higher than Cloud 23, we’ll finally have a restaurant with a view which puts us on a par with every other city on earth.
I’m also looking forward to the opening of curry chain, Dishoom in March and Mary-Ellen McTague and Sophie Yeoman’s new crowdfunded Chorlton bakery and cafe, The Creameries in April (or thereabouts). Will the Zetter (at London Road) and Soho House (at OGS) open this year? Your guess is as good as mine.
This has been such a good year for eating out in Manchester that I’d be happy without any new arrivals. Stockport’s Where the Light Gets In, warrants a revisit, even with the price tag, and I would happily eat everything on the menu all over again at Porta, Eat New York bagel shop (the £7.50 Reuben sandwich on rye includes enough salt beef to keep you going through a divorce) and luxury tapas house, El Gato Negro. Things I’d like to see less of? Chefs slagging their customer off on Twitter and…shhhhh...sourdough.
Gorton will follow in the footsteps of Didsbury and Chorlton, but instead of a bathtub it'll be distilled in a Biffa bin round the back of B&M Bargains
DAVID BLAKE - Chief editor and smart arse
In 2018 I will demand that everything on my plate is foraged, in some manner, even if that be from the shelves at CostCo. And fermented too, it must be fermented, foraged and then fermented, and then soaked in gin. But not any old shite, I demand that the gin be procured from a borough of Manchester, because by 2018 every borough of Manchester must have it's own gin. Gorton will follow in the footsteps of Didsbury and Chorlton, but instead of a bathtub it'll be distilled in a Biffa bin round the back of B&M Bargains - in the presence of juniper berries, discarded Dixy Chicken bones and ripped up scratch cards. Aside from that I'm looking forward to more celeb chef restaurants by chefs who aren't really celebs, Pizza Express opening in Chorlton and seeing how many more people Michael O'Hare can call 'c*nt'.