It’s not just the city centre seeing new joints popping up left, right and all over, there’s loads going on in Manchester’s suburbs too. Round my end there’s been new bars and restaurants opening like clockwork. The area already boasts the butchers, bakers and fishmongers that supply many of the city’s best eateries, not to mention a vegan supermarket famous throughout the country, if only for the time they accidentally sold non-organic quinoa.
When it comes to food Chorlton has got plenty to shout about, but has it got anywhere worth eating at when out and about? I’ve always thought of the place being better for a drink when south of the city, whereas West Didsbury probably has more nice restaurants and less options for a decent pint. Aiming to change all that, and serve up something more than just grub to line your stomach between the ale houses, is Gray’s Larder, a restaurant offering unpretentious British food in an intimate little venue. They’ve been open less than a year but in that time have generated a bit of a buzz, add to that the fact they’re only a couple of minutes walk away from my house and I thought we had better go see what all the fuss was about.
Despite a modest sized menu there was plenty to tempt us so we shared each plate, not wanting to miss out on anything on some really interesting sounding options. To start we the picked Lancashire ham scotch egg. Shavings of local ham added a nice extra saltiness and shreds of chewy texture to the picnic favourite, perked up by a homemade brown sauce which was lovely and tangy. Sticky Asian braised pig cheek was even better, two beautifully tender morsels on slightly caramelised pineapple all surrounded by a lovely crisp salad of radish and pork scratchings.
It had to be the rump of lamb for mains, wonderful pink hunks of meat which were almost (but not quite) upstaged by deliciously nobbly chickpea fritters. The earthy crunch of hazelnut and richness sweetness of port soaked raisins made for something that would give any roast a run for its money. It was going to take some special flesh to live up to that lamb but we got it with a rare ribeye steak. Supported by fluffy centred chips and a creamy, spicy peppercorn sauce it was properly good stuff.
Sometimes I think a course or dish can sum a meal up, and the desserts did it for me. First a salted caramel tart, almost treacle black and so smooth I could see the lens of my camera reflecting back at me when I tried to capture it. So far so good, but then the tangy punch of frosted lime mascarpone with grated lime rind and sweet peanut brittle set my tongue wagging. On our other plate, roast rhubarb leant on meringues, joined by dots of oh-so tart lemon curd and a raspberry ripple ice cream. The lemon and lime on both was enough alone to get my mouth watering, they were the sort of puds that get you drooling, and require a certain amount of courage with ingredients to create. There’s definitely no shyness on show here.
Don’t get me wrong about Chorlton, there have always been plenty of places to find a good meal, and obviously plenty more to have a good drink. My question has always been though, is there anywhere you’d recommend someone should eat if they were visiting the city for the weekend, and for me the answer has always been no. This is a restaurant that could change all that though. Bold words maybe, but for the bold flavours on show, I think well deserved.