When compared to the quiet, casual serenity of Cutting Room Square, making the choice to dine on the edge of the main road might be considered an odd one. But you know me, I love finding good things in weird places and you’ll be glad to know I have just added one to my ever-growing list.
Jub, meaning ‘kiss’ in the motherland, is a newly re-branded South Thai restaurant that sits in the bowels of Islington Wharf Apartment buildings. Sure, it is a little out of the way if you don’t call that part of Manchester home, but my god is it worth the detour.
I took a couple of members of the Finest family out for a lunch last week, and it is safe to say we all left converted.
A vision in pastel colours, modern geometric patters and plywood furniture, Jub is a bright and stylish space which is home to the best Thai food in town. And yeah, I really mean that.
We were eased in nicely with the starters. Deliciously crisp vegetable spring rolls (£4.20) were delightful, full of flavour and as far away from the oven-cooked variety, one might find in the supermarket as paella is to a bag of Uncle Ben’s spicy rice.
With these came a hearty portion of salt and pepper squid (£6.90) which were spicy and hot in equal measure with a satisfyingly crunchy batter. Corn Fritters (£4.20) made another fantastic vegetarian entrée which was sweet and sticky from the fantastic (and obviously homemade) chilli sauce they came drenched in.
Nothing could beat the final small plate though- the mighty Chicken Satay (£6.50). This was tender chunks of chicken thigh marinated in a stunningly aromatic sauce of Thai spices before a final blast on a hot grill. It came served with a sweet, spicy and nutty satay sauce and I loved the garnishes of crispy shallots, lightly pickled veggies and white toast as is traditional in the south of Thailand.
Moving on to the slightly more substantial dishes, Jub provided us with two fabulous curries. First was a sumptuous Pork Rib Curry (£9) and the second was a Beef Massaman Curry (£12.90) served with rice.
Now, I must say it was certainly an experience to pluck out the succulent pork ribs from their thick, soupy and unbelievably fragrant sauce with your hands to pull the falling-off-the-bone meat into our mouths.
Pork curries have to be my new favourite as the meat held its own with the strong notes of ginger, chilli, garlic, lemongrass and the absorption of the fat in the sauce had near orgasmic results.
The beef massaman curry was equally, if not more, impressive to the entire table of diners. Hailing from the Muslim communities of Thailand, this dish has a completely different character in its flavour profile. It is deeper, darker and full of the aroma of cloves, cinnamon and star anise.
The Jub massaman curry was a lesson in how all massaman curries should be. The consistency of the sauce was excellent with a beautiful glossy sheen and plenty of opaque richness. The generous chunks of beef shin were cooked to perfection and simply melted into a savoury, buttery and endlessly spiced puddle of beef in your mouth. I am salivating just thinking about it.
And just when you thought nothing could win my affections more than that beef, it did. The Jub team did something which made my eyes light up as soon as we sat down. Our fabulous server came over while we perused the menu and said ‘oh yeah, we’ve been to the fish market this morning, shall I see what chef can do with that for you?’
You couldn’t have asked a better question Jub, touché.
Nothing makes me hand out brownie points in droves more than the idea of freshness leading a menu. The idea that a chef can go down to a market in a morning and see what is there for him to put his own spin on fills me with joy and it is exactly how everyone should run their kitchens in my opinion.
Jub has the same approach to their meat too. Everything, including that deliciously tender beef in the Massaman curry a few paragraphs up. Think Cheshire beef, British seafood and high welfare chicken all from Mettricks butchers in Glossop just 17 miles away which is considered to be one of the best in the country.
Anyway, I digress…
We were presented with a beautiful whole seabass, cooked simply in the fryer which ensured a beautifully crispy skin and tender flesh which was obviously fresh as can be. It came with steamed rice, crispy onions, chilli, spring onion, mint and a tart liquor of lime, ginger and fish sauce- a symphony in sweet, salty and savoury flavour. For something chef managed to ‘rustle up’, for lack of a better term, it was nothing less than exquisite.
I have never been to Thailand, so I am not going to start throwing the ‘A’ word around willy-nilly. However, I do know a lot about food and what tastes good and Jub certainly made my tastebuds do a little dance.
There was real artistry in the food. Everything tasted different with its own unique blend of herbs and spices. The meat and fish were treated beautifully and cooked to perfection each time and the sauces were masterfully constructed with a complex blend of flavours in every molecule.
I am just going to go right out and say it, Jub is the best Thai food I have ever had and It should definitely sit among the other Asian gods at the top table of the Manchester food scene if you’re asking me.
Jub Thai, 149A Great Ancoats St, Manchester M4 6DH