From the people behind Trove bakery, whose original site is in Levenshulme as well as a more recent opening on Murray Street, Erst’s focus is on simple seasonal food, natural wines and craft beers.
The menu of the Ancoats restaurant is largely dedicated to the grill, suggesting a passion for the bygone simplicity of cooking over fire. Fitting, given that ‘erst’ is an old word meaning ‘long ago’. But there’s nothing old fashioned about it. Dishes are creative, confident and genuinely interesting.
The elegant Murray Street interior boasts natural wood and stone surfaces complementing the Robata Grill, cooking meats, fish and vegetables over solid coals and wood - originating from the centuries-old Japanese cooking style Robatayaki, meaning ‘open fireside.’ Chef-patron Patrick Withington and restaurant manager Will Sutton offer small plates designed for sharing guided by seasonality.
Erst is a genuine pioneer in promoting ‘natural’ as a mainstream wine option with food to match - involving grilling, fermentation and pickling, using mostly organically sourced produce. There’s a very Northern sense of place and of taste: meat from Littlewoods in Heaton Chapel, seafood from Easy Fish in Heaton Moor and cheese from the Courtyard Dairy near Settle.
The menu is concise and well-considered, seasonal and ever-evolving. Some signature dishes remain constant, such as sourdough flatbreads topped with gremolata or whipped lardo, crisp and light, chewy and salty, with an addictive char. The simple sounding dish of crispy potatoes with yeast sauce is one of the best in the city - and was described by The Sunday Times as “fiendishly good” shards of “golden, glistening crunch.” Larger plates might include whole plaice straight from the grill with capers and onion butter, or ox heart with spiced tahini butter and herb sauce.
The natural range of wines is sourced from tiny indie importers such as Otros, Under The Bonnet and Leeds-based Wayward Wines, with staff able to offer friendly guidance if you’d like to try something new.