The wine bar has undergone something of a transformation in recent years, writes food critic Marina O’Loughlin in The Sunday Times this weekend.
No longer fusty subterranean dives, the new generation of wine bars is different, she writes: more accessible, as “smoking hot as they are supercool”, with even the “most recherché” labels served by the glass thanks to new preservation systems.
Erst’s focus is on simple seasonal food, natural wines and craft beers. And, as Marina observes, it all seems to come from people who “genuinely like to eat.”
The critic loves the “fiendishly good” crispy potatoes with yeast sauce – shards of “golden, glistening crunch.” Never mind triple-fried, she writes, 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 recent review as “obscenely delicious”.
The salads and cold dishes are inspired, writes Marina, praising the burgundy spears of radicchio with fried, salted walnuts and pear slivers: “bitter, sweet, salty, smart as”. Or venison loin, seared at the edges, raw in the middle, with a “salty drift” of ricotta forte and fried capers on top.
Then there’s the “lewdest-looking” fleshy, velvety boudin noir: “this splendid, priapic thing: my pupils are dilating at the thought of it.”
And Marina also enjoys the flatbreads, puffy and “pleasingly blistered”.
They’re one of our favourites, too, made in-house and served with whipped lardo (cured pork fat) or gremolata, crisp and light, chewy and salty, with an addictive char.
A couple of minor niggles for the critic include the roasted cauliflower with tahini and the the gnudi (‘naked’ ricotta and spinach dumplings) – but this could be filed under “fearsome nitpicking,” she says.
And while the interior design is sober and stripped back, the warmth, writes Marina, comes from “the food, the welcome, the wine”.
Erst’s is a concise, well considered menu, seasonal and ever-evolving, and it’s great to see it receive its first national review.
Once again, Ancoats leads the way when it comes to the most interesting places to drink and dine. Cheers!