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Guestrant, Electrik, review

Jonathan Schofield has a crackling time in Chorlton with suckling pigs, DJs, Ukrainians and shinpads

Written by . Published on April 7th 2010.


Guestrant, Electrik, review

Ludmilla was from the Ukraine and her partner, Nick, from the UK rain resort, Blackpool. We were sat together, couples and singles, on a communal table at Guestrant in Electrik in Chorlton.

But we also got ramson or wild garlic, wilted like spinach, and placed with the veg. This lifted the dish to a different level, providing surprise, and extra flavour to the meat. “Picked 'em myself,” said Owen Brown referring to the wild garlic. “Picked 'em this morning from the Irwell Valley, in Salford.”

“After my sister got married in Kiev in the nineties, the whole party, all still dressed in their wedding clothes, went to McDonalds. They queued for four hours before being served,” said Ludmilla.The rest of the table turned to stare, astonished by this information, forks stuffed with suckling pig poised half way to their open mouths.“You see,” said Ludmilla, “it was symbolic of the change that was taking place in Ukraine after the end of the Soviet Union. It was like the taste of freedom.”Flesh, lovely fleshWe knew what she meant: even though four hours did seem an excessive wait for burgers which to many taste of death and cardboard, rather than liberty.We wouldn't have learnt this bridal gem if we hadn't have been at Guestrant. This is a monthly Monday evening gathering of foodies in Chorlton, during which a guest chef attempts to tickle the tastebuds and the fancy of the assembled gourmands. The size of the venue, a converted shop, on Wilbraham Road between a chippy and a Greggs, means that people have to sit with friendly strangers on communal tables. This encourages chatter. Of course you could be unlucky and get the guy who knows everything about the new iPad and is prepared to spend his whole evening telling people. But we were lucky with a group of interesting folk including one of the owners: Luke Cowdrey, a man who loves his food. Nick and Ludmilla - the writer's attempt at a photograph after his second bottleCowdry is one half of the Unabombers- the original Electric Chair club night maestros, hence the name of the bar. The other partner in crime is Justin Crawford who was ensuring the evening ran smoothly. This is their suburban bar experiment and it's going great guns: rocking through most of the week with a comfortable smattering of people and becoming just about the most popular night spot in Chorlton on the weekends. I had taken the precaution of wearing shin pads. I play five-aside with Justin Crawford occasionally and he gets a bit feisty if tackled hard. Didn't know how he might react to any criticism of the food if I thought it was rubbish. Not that I should have been worried. The chef, on this occasion, was the least controversial (or something like that) foodie in Manchester, Robert Owen Brown, presently of the Mark Addy. And dear regular food readers, this may come as a surprise to you, but at Confidential we like what he does with grub. First up we had coddled ducks eggs over shrimps, with perfectly crisp toast. Then we had suckling pig, cooked whole and carved in front of us, followed by Eccles Cakes. And everything was just right, apart from maybe a certain dryness in my shaped spud with the main. But under that spud was a wilted special moment. Three happy piggysPotato cake, carrots and beautiful ramsons

A coddled egg is a runny one or even a near raw one. Owen Brown's idea was to have fun with the idea of a boiled egg and soldiers. The best thing to do with this dish was to dip the crisp toast soldier into the egg, and scoop up egg, white, yolk, shrimp, sauce and all. Genius.

We helped this along with a delightful Sicilian varietal, 70% Insolia and 30% Chardonnay, called Cusumano Angimbe. This was ripe, crisp, full-bodied, and smelt of peaches and baked apples.

Baked apples were a nice match for the centre-piece of the Owen Brown show: three little piggies. Owen Brown and his helpmate, Kim Merrill, paraded these around Electrik, to cheers and whoops. Fed on cream and soothed with cunning complements for less than six weeks until ready for their sacrifice, these suckling pigs were beauties.

Ghost of an owner

Everybody got a hunk of the flesh on the table. And most people cleared it. Suckling pig meat is lush, fatty, full of earthy flavour and gives great crackling as well. We had stock gravy, baby carrots and potato for accompaniment. But we also got ramson or wild garlic, wilted like spinach and placed with the veg. This lifted the dish to a different level, providing surprise, and extra flavour to the meat.

“Picked 'em myself,” said Owen Brown referring to the wild garlic. “Picked 'em this morning from the Irwell Valley, in Salford.”

The chatter continued long into the night, through the excellent Eccles Cakes and beyond.

Elektrik - between a chippy and Greggs

The food was rugged, almost rustic, yet very clever with subtleties displayed in the starter. It was everything that the shambolic meals at the Old Wellington (click here) should have been but weren't. It was British food in all its honest to goodness glory.

After several disappointments in her time in the UK, Ludmilla seemed to suddenly realise how good our native cuisine could be. “Excellent,” she murmured.

Coddled egg, chives and toast

A word here on Luke Cowdry. He's one of the best eaters I've ever come across, and wonderful company too. In fact he's the original Modernist novel. He's the James Joyce of Barland, a character from Finnegans Wake.

Here's some dialogue delivered in an entertaining stream of consciousness manner: “Born in India. Grew up in Sheffield. Pile of wood in a stove from the Arndale. I walked here from town. I'll eat anything. Nice being in the suburbs. It's like Justin and me are an old married couple, not in every way, ha. Tram coming will be a good thing. So this lad from the club nights spots me and says 'what are you doing with that sack of wood?' Do you not want that? I'll eat it. What about that? I'll eat that too. Been living above Cord since way before it opened. So I said I'll be burning the wood in the flat. What about the rest of that crackling? I'll nab that if that's okay? Good this, isn't it? I'll do extra jogging tomorrow. Cheers. I don't mind if I do.”

Guestrant is every month. We'll post up details of the next one as soon as we get them. They're great nights.

Electrik559 Wilbraham RoadChorltonManchesterM21 0AE01618619558

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8 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

The Egg ManApril 7th 2010.

I bet that Ukranian lady was well pleased with that photo. I am getting the feeling that the geeks banging on about the pictures on here are right

Paul MastersApril 8th 2010.

do they have this jolly time every night or have they ran out of pigs yet i take it this was some special night to impress food critics and get a review

Rebecca JamesApril 8th 2010.

Paul read the thing. 'Guestrant is a monthly Monday evening gathering of foodies in Chorlton, during which a guest chef attempts to tickle the tastebuds and the fancy of the assembled gourmands.' The idea is wonderful, and since its local I'll be booking in.

Leigh ScottApril 8th 2010.

Ed-No scores,address or contact details?

Jonathan Schofield - editorApril 8th 2010.

It was a one-off event but if I had to score it: Food 8/10, Service 4/5, Ambience 4/5. 16 in total. We'll add contact details below the review.

AnonymousApril 8th 2010.

er, 16/30??

Jonathan Schofield - editorApril 8th 2010.

Sorry everybody, that should have been Service 4/5, Ambience 4/5, so 16 out of 20. Hopefully someone in technical can correct me.

AnonymousApril 8th 2010.

Did the writer know beforehand that Mr Owen would have been there? If so, a bit unfair.

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