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Top critic declares Ancoats restaurant ‘one of the best meals of the year’

'See how good it is? It’s forced me to type utter blathering, enthusiastic bollocks' says Jay Rayner in his review of Erst

Since it opened in 2019, Erst has arguably become one of the city’s best restaurants.

From the people behind Trove bakery, the focus is on simple seasonal food, natural wines and craft beers.

“The grill dishes and small plates are good. Really good. And unusual. There’s nowhere else doing food quite like this in Manchester city centre,” we wrote about our first visit to the Ancoats restaurant.

“Erst’s is a confident, modern and accomplished menu, served in a laid back, convivial space. Once again, Ancoats leads the way when it comes to the most interesting places to dine,” we said on a subsequent trip – of which there have been several.

And it’s not just us who are full of praise for the Murray Street restaurant and wine bar.

First of the national newspaper reviews came from food critic Marina O’Loughlin in The Sunday Times last year.

It all seems to come from people who “genuinely like to eat,” she wrote, praising the “fiendishly good” crispy potatoes with yeast sauce – shards of “golden, glistening crunch.”

Never mind triple-fried, she wrote, these things have “done the hokey cokey with the hot oil” and the ultra-savoury sauce is a “touch of genius.”

We couldn’t agree more, describing the dish in our review as “obscenely delicious”.

In January this year, Erst earned a place in the Michelin Guide 2021 for offering “something refreshingly different in the city.”

Then just last month, The Estrella Damm National Restaurant Awards were announced, celebrating the brilliance and vibrancy of the UK’s eating out scene, and reward the very best chefs, front of house staff and restaurants the country has to offer.

The UK top 100 list reveals the very best places to dine across the UK, as voted for by an elite academy of chefs, restaurateurs and food writers nationwide.

It’s basically the list of places that should be on your restaurant hit list.

And this year, Erst made it into the top 50 – one of only two Manchester restaurants to make the list. The other was Michelin starred Mana.

“In a city known for its nightlife and trendy bars, Erst somehow feels a little bit more grown up – but certainly not in a boring way,” said the National Restaurant Awards review.

Now, the Ancoats hotspot has received another national newspaper review – this time from Jay Rayner in The Observer.

Like the polished concrete floors and the breezeblock walls, the menu is “sparse to the point of minimalism,” writes the critic.

Which means just one thing: “We order the lot.”

The result, he says, in its “quiet, unshowy way, is one of the best meals of the year so far; a succession of modestly priced platefuls, which bring on low groans and delicate sighs of happiness.”

Take the flatbread, spread with “freshly chopped tomato pulp, grassy olive oil and a knuckle-crack of garlic”.

It manages to be “crisp and soft, sour and mellow all at the same time,” writes Jay. “It is the best £5 I have spent in a very long time.”

A second flatbread, “brushed fatly with garlic herb butter, with a quenelle of bright white whipped lardo on the side”, is essentially “dripping toast, but as rebooted by Hollywood,” writes Jay.

“It’s the George Clooney of garlic breads: elegant, sophisticated, but with substance underpinning the gloss and shimmer.

“See how good it is? It’s forced me to type utter blathering, enthusiastic bollocks.”

Thin slices of sea bass are “vigorous and achingly fresh as if it’s only just been fetched from the surf”; meaty Cantabrian anchovies arrive “floating on their olive oil pond, with a generous dusting of chilli flakes”; a rough-cut steak tartare topped with the sauce that’s the key ingredient of vitello tonnato (essentially a mayonnaise blitzed with tuna, anchovies and capers) is “such a smart idea I don’t know why I haven’t encountered it before.”

Then, of course, there’s what has perhaps become Erst’s signature dish: crispy fried potatoes with a gorgeously savoury yeast sauce.

“We break off one bit after another,” writes The Observer critic. “Somewhere in the middle there might be soft potato.

“Mostly they are just the thrilling business end of crispness right to the heart.

“With them is a wild garlic tartare sauce. It is £5 worth of glorious, crowd-pleasing fun.”

One of the best meals of the year, great value – and right on our doorstep. Erst has done it again.

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