With the fastest growing restaurant scene in the UK, Manchester doesn’t see many food trends pass it by. Here are five which have. But for how long, asks Alex Mays…
1. Nordic Cuisine
Three or four years ago, we were all introduced to New Nordic Cuisine through the groundbreaking work of Rene Redzepi at his restaurant Noma- considered the best restaurant in the world. Swedish and Danish restaurants are amongst the elite in the world, so it’s surprising that no one has made a go of it here. Scandinavia is renowned for its use of foraged ingredients and pickling just about everything because of its poor weather so it’s surprising Manchester doesn’t do more of this). Kro Bar is probably the closest to even scratching the surface, (there’s one on Oxford Road near the university and one in Heaton Moor) though any sniff of Scandinavian influence is drowned in a menu mainly made up of dishes from every corner of the globe. With “Danwiches” maybe the only taste of in Manchester, surely we can do something about this?
2. Small Plates
Before you ask, no this isn’t tapas. Small plates can encompass any cuisine and offer a grazing, casual type of eating which adds a more sociable aspect to the dining experience. It’s a trend that’s exploded in the capital and filtered out to neighbouring counties- I was fortunate enough to work as a chef in a small plates restaurant in the leafy, Kentish suburbs of Canterbury a year ago. With Manchester having a restaurant scene that’s probably ten times bigger, it’s pretty staggering that there is nowhere that does something similar to this. The West Didsbury outfit, Volta, offers possibly the most extensive and eclectic choice of small plates I have seen in the city, but with the likes of pub giants Wetherspoons offering a lacklustre, deep fried version of grazing dishes, we definitely deserve something a little bit more.
3. Hyper-Local Sourcing
Local sourcing is a trend that has been building up steam for years, with customers expecting to know more than ever exactly where their food has come from. Seasonal, local food has become an ever increasing tagline- but many struggle to prove its authenticity. I’m not saying that Manchester doesn’t have restaurants that source as locally as possible, but why aren’t they shouting it from the rooftops and making it a major talking point?
4. Malaysian Cuisine
With Thai food taking centre stage across restaurants and households at the moment, neighbouring Malaysia has not been in the limelight quite so much. You could probably count the number of Malay restaurants in the city on the fingers of one hand, with Ning the one I’d first think of. It’s a lot more than beef rendang too, with a bit more authenticity and regional cooking than the ever more diluted Thai cuisine. There is certainly room for a few more of these.
5. Dessert Bars
There may be a dizzying choice of cool, independent cocktail bars dotted around the city but Manchester is a dessert bar desert. If it was socially acceptable, I’d quite happily skip to the end of a meal to indulge in something sweet, but alas, even if I could, there’s nowhere to satisfy this craving. There are many good examples in the capital with Michelin-starred Pollen Street Social the best example- though I wouldn’t really fancy paying £11.50 for one! With many restaurants across Manchester renowned for their bars as well as their food, there is certainly the capability to do something like this. Come on guys, make it happen!
The city’s dining scene is on the up, of that there is no doubt, but there is a danger of the restaurant scene becoming overheated. A bit more diversity, a bit more intrigue and a bit more quality wouldn’t go amiss.