Welcome to Manchester Confidential
Reset Password
The Confidential websites will be undergoing routine updates. This may cause the sites to go offline. We apologise in advance for any inconvenience.

You are here: Manchester ConfidentialFood & DrinkBritish.

Ostara, Chorlton, review

Jonathan Schofield contemplates the Chorlton nation and enjoys a good addition to the suburban dining scene

Written by . Published on July 13th 2009.


Ostara, Chorlton, review

Chorlton is a cliché in Manchester. It’s Mung Bean Central, a mess of right-on middle classes or, after the recent failed campaign to see-off a tidsy Tesco Express, Chorlton-cum-Mardy.

The trout was magnificent. It had an extra edge of definition to the flavour no doubt derived from the liberated life the fish had led until it made a bad decision to wrap its gums round a hook. This extra edge was almost like a tinge of sweetness.

The evidence is all around. Two examples: it’s got Britain’s biggest vegan grocery, the Unicorn, and more Guardians are sold from Etchells on Beech Road than from any other small independent newsagent. Surely proof solid that the myth of a bead bedecked majority is a reality.

Actually not.


Sit outside new restaurant Ostara on Barlow Moor Road and you get the superb contraditions of Chorlton right in your face. These largely arrive courtesy of the bus stop next to the restaurant terrace.

On and off the buses you get the stuff of Chorlton legend; ‘nice’ mothers with overlarge prams and middle aged cultural industry bods with tricky sideburn designs. But these are a minority, you get far more normal folk than these stereotypes in motion: students, pensioners, track-suited likely lads, shop workers and so on.

This is the truth about Chorlton. It’s an attractive suburb because it’s neither a monoculture of benefits and poverty such as Openshaw, nor somewhere smug, nice and dull further south in ‘Cheshire’. What should never be forgotten is it’s exactly the much derided left-field industry types in Chorlton that help drive the market for the delis and the bars and encourages others to open. I would like all Manchester suburbs to be as mixed and creative as Chorlton. They’d be far happier.

Given all this it’s odd that Chorlton has never really attracted a consistently good restaurant. Marmalade tried but in the end faded. Yakisoba provides easy-going enjoyable food but that’s about it. Croma is Croma.

Maybe Ostara can turn this around. There’s a lot to enjoy about this new place. It has a whole-hearted commitment to bringing in striking cooking allied to decent presentation. It’s got good raw materials and good wines. It’s got a captive audience.

The meal started off very well.

We enjoyed a dozen glorious Colchester oysters (£14.40): full fleshed beauties, all crunch (I’m an oyster chewer) and shiver me timbers saltiness. Then we moved to starters of smoked haddock kedgeree (£4.95), Scotch egg with Lyme Park venison and Bury Black pudding (£4.95) and wild prawn and Cornish crab cocktail (£5.95).

Two out of three ain’t bad.

The latter of these dishes seemed like it had been produced on the holodeck of the USS Voyager. It looked good but then there was nothing, a strangely un-fishlike emptiness of flavour, just a moist coldness.

The Scotch egg was better with the black pudding and venison adding interest. The exotic casing could have done with a little extra moisture but it was thoroughly enjoyable and it came with an enterprising chilli and apricot sauce.


Gordo was down with us, worrying the right-on Chorltonites mentioned above, with his directness of speech and fruity delivery. It was hugely funny. He picked the winner with the starters: a tidy looking, coarsely textured kedgeree. Garden peas came with this too. Is it me or have peas made a big 2009 comeback?

Bread had arrived with the starters. Unsurprisingly it was from the Barbakan, twenty metres up the road, and, also unsurprisingly, was excellent throughout the meal. Mains included a chicken pudding and a beef pudding (both £12.95) and a whole line caught trout with horse radish, new potato salad and cucumber dressing (£14.95). The child with us (not Gordo) had a very good and very large kid’s sausage and mash (£4.95).

The puddings were crackers, encased in a lovely home-made, very thin, very moist suet. The buggers took 25minutes to cook though which explains why Gordo is in DJ Dave Haslam’s bad books. The delay caused him to miss the latter’s question and answer session with John Thomson in the Festival Pavilion in Albert Square and Gordo had promised to help out.

The trout was magnificent. It had an extra edge of definition to the flavour no doubt derived from the liberated life the fish had led until it made a bad decision to wrap its gums round a hook. This extra edge was almost like a tinge of sweetness. The home-made fat chips were the best I’ve had in Chorlton for years, crispy on the outside with yielding spud flesh inside.

The winning desserts were the lush lemon tart and the chocolate brownie (both £4.95). These were a dentist’s nightmare, but magnificently full-on calorie blasts of crafted sweetness. A cheese plate was less good. Aside from the Blackstick’s Blue (£5.95) it lacked variety, too many solid Lancashires and so forth. It also came with an overfacing and utterly unnecessary fruit cake thingy which was bigger than Uluru.

For drinks we enjoyed a bottle of Rioja, Miguel Merino, 2000 (£16.55) which was fabulous: unmistakeably Spanish, unmistakeably big-hearted. Encouraged we also dug into a bottle of not quite as good Ribera del Duero (£13.95).

Lee Janda, the owner, who also has folk bar, Dulcimer, around the corner came to our table for a chat. He wants to move Chorlton’s food upwards with Ostara through good ingredients, good service and quality cooking. Confidential wishes him well. He has to be careful of a couple of things though.

The food at present swings too easily between the nuanced and the subtle and the big and the ballsy. To hedge his bets and try for both is understandable but Chorlton probably hankers more for the former than the latter.

Still, it’s a mightily encouraging start at Ostara. Errors seem down to enthusiasm rather than incompetence which is always more forgiveable, and also easier to iron out. What we can expect from Janda and his operation is a very honest, very open approach to dining. Ostara might turn out to be the real deal. Chorlton might get a place which meets the aspirations of many of its residents.

Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20: Gordo gets carried away









Like what you see? Enter your email to sign up for our newsletters which are chock-a-block with more great reviews, news, deals and savings.

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

AnonymousJuly 13th 2009.

James Kay.. what exactly do you mean by Mezzaluna is a poor italian med for locals only place? What is exactly so bad with the "locals" in Chorlton? Chorlton= local people supporting their local independent businesses! Hence why it isnt so commercial and yuppyfied like neighbouring Didsbury and other south manchester parts.

Full of BeansJuly 13th 2009.

Its really annoying me how negative some people's comments are, Ostara has become a truly great restaurant with some amazing dishes and some of the best local produce I've ever seen. Yeah there were some teething problems but now the service & food is outstanding ! I eat there 2 to 3 times a week and am blow away everytime, their whole MODERN BRITISH approach is excellent and totally bang on, not like the rest of the poor restaurants in Manchester attempting to revive British food. Ostara needs to win the Manchester food & Drink Festival 2009 'Best Newcomer' and you lot need to stop moaning and go and eat there. And before you ask 'Chick' no I don't work for Ostara just love eating there every week.

shinealightJuly 13th 2009.

Great review considering it's only been open about a week!

AnonymousJuly 13th 2009.

A welcome addition to manchesters premier suburb. Any chance of reviewing more of Chorltons bars - I think its been neglected of late.

AnonymousJuly 13th 2009.

I have been to Ostara three times now and I would say it is a very good restaurant, bordering on excellent. Some might do better in the City Centre, but certainly not in Chorlton. Just what we've been crying out for since the dissapointment of the Jockey.

rosieJuly 13th 2009.

the etchells stats are not quite correct.in fact,it sells more copies of the guardian to birkenstock wearing lesbians than any other small,independant newsagent.

GregJuly 13th 2009.

Ostara ia a cracker. Give it another three or four months and it should be ticking along beautifully. I like it's robust atitude to dining with that big vigorous menu.

aroundM21July 13th 2009.

"Given all this it’s odd that Chorlton has never really attracted a consistently good restaurant."Then go to Mezzaluna and reconsider.I'll not comment on the suggestions of Asian Fusion & Turkish Delight ...

RowenaJuly 13th 2009.

Good food but don't bother going in for a drink unless its sunny. The staff aren't keen on giving up tables for drinkers and the drinks service ranges from ok to non-existent.

suspiciousJuly 13th 2009.

i sense an advert coming on...oh dear.

ADJuly 13th 2009.

Jonathan, I wasnt trying to question your integrity I was just thinking that rocking up with Gordo in tow cant be your best attempt at not getting noticed!?

richardhjJuly 13th 2009.

Also worth point out that the existence of Ostara creates a rather useful 'oasis of pleasant' between the fart collecting Weatherspoons and the Stella Army heart and lung ward that is The Royal Oak.I suspect Proof next door are rather pleased that Ostara's finally arrived as back up...

ADJuly 13th 2009.

Its a shame that the owner and therefore the kitchen knew who the reviewers were, I wonder if an incognito review might be a better way to review?Fruit cake is traditional with lancishire cheese although that is one hell of a big bit of cake!And I cant agree with Richard Nash the food at the Jockey is pretty decent especialy for a pub its simple and tasty nothing fancy which is exactly how good traditional pub food should be. Service though is slow, they have a small kitchen and yet they are trying to serve the whole of that big pub from it!

AnonymousJuly 13th 2009.

Just read ladylnchers comments. What a wonderful addition to the ever wonderful life experience that is chorlton. BTW what is a 'nice mum' ?

AnonymousJuly 13th 2009.

Dont they have strict restaurant license for alcohol as reason for Varsity not getting the alcohol license cos they were a bar and residents nearby all objected. However when we were there last weekend we did notice there were a few tables having drinks only.

AnonymousJuly 13th 2009.

The 'photos look excellent? Think I'd rather eat my own hair - WTF is that sitting in the middle of the cheese board?

ChickJuly 13th 2009.

Two 'anon' comments in two minutes about Ostara - work for them do you??

DidsburyGirlJuly 13th 2009.

That thing in the middle of the cheeseboard is the fruit cake thing that is written about above. Did you actually read the article Anon?! I personally think that Kedgeree looks bloody lush.

Crazy DiamondJuly 13th 2009.

Will somebody please review CORIANDER (way better than Asian Fusion) & LORENZOS. . .

cleoJuly 13th 2009.

i went to the horse and jockey last wednesday. It wasn't good at all. they'd run out of many of the dishes, and the food was distinctly average. our charming waitress informed us that a new head chef had come on board, and the menu was changing the following day, which was why there was a shortage of many of our chosen dishes.i'd suggest waiting until the new guy has settled in before you go....

Wayne JamesJuly 13th 2009.

Coriander is ok. Persia is better.

EditorialJuly 13th 2009.

Suspicious, there isn't an ad coming up we assure you. You're just being suspicious.

Jonathan SchofieldJuly 13th 2009.

AD I've been reviewing for nine years in Manchester, and Gordo's been doing it since shortly before Stonehenge was completed. Of course people will recognise us. It didn't affect what I was going to write one jot, nor was the kitchen influenced because Ostara and Lee never realised who we were until the desserts arrived. I really don't want to have to invest in a disguise.

ladyluncherJuly 13th 2009.

Ordered fishcakes and waited over half an hour only to be told by the waitress she had just been informed by the kitchen that the had none. My friend waited 45 minutes for her kedgeree starter. Her main course quiche was a walloping great lump of undercooked onions and very little taste. The chocolate brownie was ok. The manager had the good grace not to charge for half the meal, but really poor for an almost empty restaurant at two in the afternoon. And please can the waiting staff at least get up to speed about whats on the menu and what ingredients are used. Would like this place to succeed but really needs some work.

AnonymousJuly 13th 2009.

We went there on the 2nd sunday afternoon when it opened, unfortunatley they didnt have any of the 3 of the starters we fancied,and no soup. Those photos above look fantastic but we had some of the dishes and it looking look like that, ours were very portioned control and could literally count the veg and 9 chips exactly stacked in 3's. Our neighbouring table also made a light hearted joke about theirs too. mmm.. they must have known that you were reviewing them!

AnonymousJuly 13th 2009.

the service is much better and the food is uniformly good and often excellent.just what chorlton has been crying out for; now it needs our support.so go and eat there; fish chips & a pint for £82 courses for £113 courses for £15or the a la carteand some great specialsgo and eat there

FiJuly 13th 2009.

If you want to eat any mollusc at its absolute best, then it has to be taken from the coldest waters -at this time of year, they're are spawning and therefore not at their best. Yes, they maybe freely available all year round, but hey, we live in a world where it's the norm to now eat strawberries in December

AnonymousJuly 13th 2009.

Went last night - food was good but place was dull and cold - draft coming from folding door - was this a car showroom at one stage? The place needs brightening up - indeed there is very little "atmosphere" Eating out is a form of entertainment so pre and post meal attention plus the decor of the place AND good food all play a part in the "entertainment" especially when going out for dinner.And why no CAMPARI in stock?

JayneyBabyJuly 13th 2009.

well, Suspicious, wouldn't those peeps at Manconf be naughty, selling advertising space to make sure the site is free to air?

Crazy DiamondJuly 13th 2009.

Will somebody please review CORIANDER (way better than Asian Fusion) & LORENZOS. . .

fozzypigJuly 13th 2009.

I'm glad it's arrived, it's nice to have a pint outside Proof and have a bit of atmosphere across the road. Better than the Varsity it was intended to be!

RicardoJuly 13th 2009.

Not tried it yet but will certainly give it a go. Deeply dissapointed with the Horse and Jockey a few weeks ago. First 3 wines asked for weren't available and the food was poor.

CazJuly 13th 2009.

we checked out the menu and then decided to leave it - not good considering we're not fussy eaters but all the sides seemed to be slightly unusual next to traditional mains, not a combination we were won over by. hmmm.

KenyaonJuly 13th 2009.

Oysters in July why ever not? They used to be freely available all year round. They are again. Oysters forever yum. Going to try this place.

AnonymousJuly 13th 2009.

As mentioned earlier Ostara was not the intended destination for Varsity, it was in the unoccupied 1950''s offices opposite the library and the planning application is still visible in the window.Also they did get all the necessary licences but I understand they pulled out of opening any further outlets just as the recession kicked in, so one good thing from the ecconomic dowturn then !

Mark Garner, the PublisherJuly 13th 2009.

Mr. Schofield, there better had be an adsale cooking or Mr. Yousaf is going to get a thick ear ;-)

FiJuly 13th 2009.

Oysters and venison in July? No thanks

CBJuly 13th 2009.

... Can't believe there was no mention of Turkish Delight & Asian Fusion. Both consistently great Chorlton eateries.

Full of BeansJuly 13th 2009.

Concerned - Maybe you should go and eat at the two heart attack meals for a £5 at Witherspoon's over the road ?! Not sure what you're on about I ate at Ostara on Saturday night and went in with friends for lunch on Sunday, the Wild Rabbit was outstanding and the Sunday lunch we had was the usual excellent standard, they were so busy Saturday night that some of the special had sold out, Its called a good restaurant ! Maybe you should stick with frozen or Microwaved food that's always available cheap and quick. By the way I asked and the roasts start at 12pm every Sunday, get your facts right for commenting on here !

ADJuly 13th 2009.

Anonymous - it was a spelling error! Get over it.

AnonymousJuly 13th 2009.

AD - please be real before you start responding, I do not know where you are from but one needs to be proud of the region and know that it is Lancashire cheese NOT lancishire! Have you ever eaten or seen the label of this FAMOUS cheese from the glorious region from the county that we live in?

James KayJuly 13th 2009.

Mezzaluna is a very poor Italian Med locals only place. Sorry.

AnonymousJuly 13th 2009.

Re Varsity, Ostara is not where Varsity was destined to be, it was to be in the empty offices opposite the library,I think the planning application is still in the window.

CBJuly 13th 2009.

I went to Ostara last week and I was very impressed. Quality ingredients and excellent cooking and I also thought the prices were lower than similar standard places.

AnonymousJuly 13th 2009.

A welcome addition to manchesters premier suburb. Any chance of reviewing more of Chorltons bars - I think its been neglected of late.

AnonymousJuly 13th 2009.

So, Full of Beans, you must be starving. Where are you eating now 2 or 3 times a week?

RICHARD NASHJuly 13th 2009.

the description and photos of the food look excellent, im off going to check it out, ps the food in the revamped horse n jockey on chorlton green is below average!

ConcernedJuly 13th 2009.

Having been in the earlyopening days, when we returned, thought the menu was sorted. Sunday Lunch? as advertised for Manchester food and wine Festival. Did not hit expectations with 2 of 4 main dishes "not available" ( and these were only the specials...) ; went there for lunch only to realise lunch started only at 16.00 hrs as before only all day brunch ( unless wanted roast that you could get across the road in pub for half the price). Returning at 16.00 hrs a huge disappointment. No concept of menu, cooking or front of house. What a shame for such a potentially great venue.Reality doesn't meet the aspirations.

fukedifinoJuly 13th 2009.

Good review, might try it but Croma Is Croma!! I've been biggin this place up for Months on mancon,and Youre right Croma is Croma ! It really needs to take a look at itself and re jig itself a bit Put some pasta on change things round a bit ,improve the quality and consistency of the Pizza otherwise Croma wont be Croma for much longer! Ostara sounds like a good place will give it awhirl this week.Incidently re Oysters, How do you grade oysters is it by size?

David FoxJuly 13th 2009.

I look forward to seeing JS with a wig and beard (very Chorlton) and Gordo in drag. If so I won't let on who you are.......

ADJuly 13th 2009.

Its a shame that the owner and therefore the kitchen knew who the reviewers were, I wonder if an incognito review might be a better way to review?Fruit cake is traditional with lancishire cheese although that is one hell of a big bit of cake!And I cant agree with Richard Nash the food at the Jockey is pretty decent especialy for a pub its simple and tasty nothing fancy which is exactly how good traditional pub food should be. Service though is slow, they have a small kitchen and yet they are trying to serve the whole of that big pub from it!

SteveJuly 13th 2009.

Fi, I quite like the creaminess of a spawning oyster!!

To post this comment, you need to login.Please complete your login information.
OR CREATE AN ACCOUNT HERE..
Or you can login using Facebook.

Latest Rants

Anonymous

Going Good Friay - can not wait

 Read more
Henry V

Oh dearie me, it's the spelling police. Get a life you tossers.

 Read more
Anonymous

I go to GOT Alley and GONY Street quite a bit. The Best of British steak (which changes each month)…

 Read more
Anonymous

Interesting point. I think when you have a quickly growing population and a changing city it is…

 Read more

Explore The Site

© Mark Garner t/a Confidential Direct 2017

Privacy | Careers | Website by: Planet Code | SEO by The eWord