National critic says Ancoats restaurant should be on map of culinary gems

'No foam, froth, smears, cappuccinos, spherifications, transglutaminasations or horizontal slivers of slate in sight'
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Fresh from its inclusion in the UK’s top 100 restaurants at the National Restaurant Awards, Ancoats restaurant Erst has picked up anther national newspaper review, following previous positive reviews in The Sunday Times and The Observer.

William Sitwell, restaurant critic for The Telegraph and a broadcaster and familiar critic on MasterChef, gave Erst – a “standard-bearer” in the redevelopment of Ancoats – four stars.

“This restaurant juggles every buzzword it can manage: its brickwork and concrete cleaned, preening and brutal, its dishes for sharing, its wines natural,” writes William.

And the critic was happy to be in the city – “delighted as always to find life and soul and originality and spirit away from London and the south”, describing the joy of seeing trams – “such a delightful version of public transport, so much nicer than an underground train, however impractical.”

He also “relished the heaving bars and pubs” on his walk to busy Ancoats.

From the menu of 10 sharing dishes, the critic enjoyed a pair of Carlingford oysters with a tart onion vinaigrette – “spooned on by the chef; bold and admirable” – followed by a “rich, fresh and extravagant” plate of burrata with courgette, peas, olive oil and a heap of grated Parmesan.

This was “made even more heavenly by a flatbread covered in beef fat and marvellously charred, as large as a cowpat and as wholesome and enjoyable as an hour-long head massage,” he says.

These plates “set the tone” for the venue, which he described as “rich, bold and generous”.

Also “on song” were mussels escabeche, which came in a rich broth flecked with oil and “under a transparent cover of lardo like a melting cagoule.”

Less pretty, but rustic and wholesome and “like I’d landed in a plain, unencumbered bistro in Beauce”, was rabbit and judion beans, he says.

The meat was tender, he writes, “nestling in a watery sauce with those fat butter beans that were covered in strips of wild garlic.

“Again, here was that natural presentation, an appreciation of Mother Nature and white, round plates.”

From the people behind Trove bakery, and with a concise and well-considered menu, Erst’s focus is on simple, seasonal food – which won praise from the critic.

“No foam, froth, smears, cappuccinos, spherifications, transglutaminasations or horizontal slivers of slate in sight. I appreciated it,” he writes.

“As I did an unceremonious chunk of gooey Baron Bigod hiding under a large, misshapen cracker.”

This, however, led to disappointment when it came to dessert – “the fancy-pants idea of putting a decent chocolate sorbet on to a drizzle of olive oil seemed so jarring”.

But that aside, he says, “trendy Erst should have a pin on your map of British culinary gems.”

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