It’s starting to appear on more menus across the city, from an authentic offering at Blue Caribou Canteen to a hearty Hawksmoor barm. Soon, Chorlton favourites Brewski will join the poutine party when they open a branch in the city centre.
“Vincent is from Montréal and I’m from Bolton so chips, cheese and gravy has been a part of our life for as long as we can remember,” says Graham.
Graham first had poutine when he visited Vincent in Québec and quickly developed a taste for it. “You could get it at every level, from McDonald’s to Michelin starred establishments,” he remembers. “I, embarrassingly, couldn’t get enough!”
When the pair returned to the UK, they couldn’t find poutine anywhere. “At least, not with it’s perfect component parts – crispy, skin-on fries, squeaky cheese curds and a punchy gravy that clings to the fries and cheese.”
Graham and Vincent set out on a journey to make the perfect poutine themselves, and it took them two years to find a version they were happy with.
“It’s a very simple dish that can go easily wrong,” says Graham. “We think we do it justice. We use an authentic recipe and locally sourced cheese made to our exacting standards.
“We have a lot of Québecois customers that are not too shy to tell us where we are going wrong. It helps us to make sure our food is good as it can be.”
Hawksmoor team Will Beckett, Huw Gott and Richard Turner also discovered the comfort food on their travels to Canada, and vowed to put a version on their steakhouse restaurant menu back home.
“We first tried poutine together on a research trip to Montréal, and it was only a matter of time before we managed to source the cheese curds required to put it on in London,” says , Hawksmoor group executive chef Richard Turner.”
Their poutine went down well in Hawksmoor Spitalfields, so the team decided to put it on their Manchester menu – albeit with a Northern twist.
“A barm is local to Manchester and often used for chip butties, so Huw put the two together and created the poutine barm,” says Richard. The sandwich, available on their bar menu, is packed with herb-fed chicken, fried egg, triple cooked chips, Westcombe Cheddar curds and gravy.
“It is very popular in Manchester, great with a beer or for a quick lunch,” says Richard. “It feels like a more northern sandwich to me, my family hailing from Yorkshire. It’s really just chips, cheese and gravy, in a butty!”
Blue Caribou’s Graham agrees that the comfort food classic segues perfectly into Manchester’s culinary cravings.
“Poutine seems like the perfect fit for UK palates,” he says. “We know chips and gravy. Many of us were raised on chips and gravy. Poutine is the refined version of a dish that we are all already familiar with.”
Though they see the dish popping up on more and more menus across the city, Blue Caribou are still delighted every time they see poutine winning over new fans.
“Hatch has been great for us to introduce poutine to people that have never had poutine before,” says Graham.
“It’s great to see someone’s face when they discover how much they enjoy three simple component parts. Those component parts have to been done perfectly though, otherwise it’s not poutine, it’s just chips, cheese and gravy.”
James Daly discovered poutine in London before he opened successful north American inspired bar restaurant Brewski in Chorlton last February.
“The venue already had a lodge style feel to it and that led to how we did the decor, and on researching that poutine was Canada’s national dish we thought it was a great match,” says James.
“In addition to that, with chips and gravy being an absolute northern staple, we thought we couldn’t go wrong.”
The Brewski team are about to open their second branch on Mosley Street, bringing their passion for poutine to the city centre, and they are not afraid to experiment with the classic dish.
“Myself and business partner Steven Stockton-King work closely with our fantastic head chef Eduardo De Pena to come up with a variety of toppings, from street food favourites such as fried Buffalo chicken and Philly cheese steak to more refined options such as wild mushroom, rosemary and truffle oil, or roast pork belly with apple sauce and greens,” says James.
“All our gravy and elements to the poutine are made in-house.”
And while Manchester is falling head over heels for the Montréal dish of carbs and curds, the city’s love is not unrequited.
“Manchester is also starting to get recognition for its poutine back in the motherland, too,” says Graham.
“The Montréal Metro did a full page article on Blue Caribou at the end of last year. And in April, we have been invited to be judges at the Ottawa PoutineFest where we’ll be sampling hundreds of poutines from around the province.”
Clearly the pull of poutine is hard to resist, whether you’re in Canada or Chorlton.