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Confidential's Food And Drink Awards 2012

Do you agree with Gordo, Schofield and the team?

Published on December 24th 2012.

Confidential's Food And Drink Awards 2012

HERE's the Confidential Food and Drink Awards 2012.

The prize for all these lucky winners is a warm sense of fulfilment for a job well done (or weirdly done in the case of L'Entrecote, and quickly done in the case of Pizza Porto).

The awards were scientifically arrived at in true Confidential style over some Pol Roger and Krug one afternoon in Harvey Nichols' brasserie. 

You can follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter here @JonathSchofieldYou can follow Gordo on Twitter here @GordoManchester

Restaurant of the Year: Grenache, Walkden, click here.

Gordo loves this place in the ultimate un-tourist location of Walkden. He wrote: 'Grenache deserves its award from the Good Food Guide as Best Restaurant in the North West. Mike Jennings (is) a chef with a point to prove and an attention to detail that will reward him with more accolades in time.' Grenache has service standards to match. It is a restaurant well worth watching in the New Year, and well worth a visit if you've not been. Our review

Grenache and attention to detailGrenache and attention to detail

Pub of the Year: The Briton's Protection, Great Bridgewater Street, click here.

Pubs are about permanence: a stability of drinking life with atmosphere to match. So the BP with its real ales, hundreds of whiskies, gorgeous original features, darling back garden, and its regular events in its function room is a worthy winner. The Briton's always seems full, and always has a smattering of eccentrics. This is a proper boozer, putting people at ease and reeking of comfort. 

Briton's ProtectionBriton's Protection

Bar of the Year: Gorilla and Beagle, joint winners. Click here and here.

Gorilla, part of the Trof group, on Whitworth Street West, and Beagle, part of the Common Bar group, on Barlow Moor Road, Chorlton, are our cop-out joint winners in the most difficult of categories. Both do cracking food (Gorilla's half chicken, and Beagle's stovey, being real delights) and both have good drinking areas and great drinks ranges. Beagle's menu has been created with the help of the team behind Prestwich's award-winning restaurant, Aumbry. Gorilla sitting in the former Green Room site also has a huge 600 capacity auditorium, as well as a specialist gin room. Our reviews, here and here.


Steak adorned with bone marrow at BeagleSteak adorned with bone marrow at Beagle

Newcomer of the Year: Solita, Back Turner Street, click here.

Innovative, interesting, exciting, Solita has that perfect city centre feel, as though anything might happen at any time. The menu is Americana-led (that's the fashion after all) but with a strong old world accent. There's top notch burgers, mac'n'cheese with pulled pork, deep fried coke and good drinks including a selection of interesting Sardinian wines. The spaces are intimate but the intentions are good.  

Solita Cabrelli's Ice Cream With Bacon CandySolita, Cabrelli's ice cream with bacon candy

Casual Dining of the Year: Home Sweet Home, Edge Street, click here.

Home Sweet Home is so Northern Quarter it almost sums the whole area up. This place is all vintage boho chic, delivered in a way to charm any self-respecting graphic designer with thick spectacle rims. As we wrote in our review: 'The food comes in heaps and is the very definition of one of those classic reviewing cliches - wholesome.' Milk shakes and toasties are signatures. Our review.

Toasties and 'wholesomeness'Toasties and 'wholesomeness'

Most Talked About: Almost Famous Burgers, High Street, click here.

AFB easily wins this award. The review we did in April was the most read food and drink review of the year - eventually the name of the restaurant became deeply ironic. The venue, teased, tantalised and made people want to eat proper zingy modern American burgers. Even finding the place was thrilling. We wrote: 'First locate an anonymous, unmarked, brown door. Push it open and take the long horror movie staircase. At the top of the stairs there's a riddle of cheap doors. Guess right and you enter one of the smoothest places in the city, one that carries the whiff of people knowing what they’re doing and getting it right.' Our review.

Almost Famous gets talked aboutAlmost Famous gets talked about

Best Mainstream Venue of the Year: TGI Fridays, The Royal Exchange, Cross Street, click here.

Maybe every city needs to say 'world's largest' over certain things. So clearly when we heard that this TGI Fridays was going to be the largest in the world, we thanked the Lord for it made our lives complete. Something like that anyway. But everybody who goes appreciates the vast venue's optimistic scale, its lush cocktails and its Stateside aura. One thing is certain with TGI Fridays, you won't leave hungry, unless you're a two ton bison. Our review.

TGI Friday's Manchester - bigger than BelgiumTGI Friday's Manchester - bigger than Belgium

Late Night Speakeasy of the Year: The Liar's Club, The Square With No Name/aka Back Bridge Street, click here.

At some point nearly all the Confidential team have disgraced themselves in the Liar's Club. Commercial Director Helen Ramsbottom moved in for the whole month of October and has no idea what happened to her. Fortunately our own tough nun, health and beauty editor, Lynda Moyo, managed to remain clear headed enough to review the place and its fine range of drinks, see link below. We'd like to tell you what time the place closes on a weekend but by then we're always too legless to remember. Our review.

The Liar's Club - It's probably about 4amThe Liar's Club - It's probably about 4am

Turn-around Of The Year of the Year: Livebait, Lloyd Street/Albert Square, click here.

Livebait used to be a byword for missed opportunity. Under new management and with a new kitchen it has improved immeasurably. It's still not as busy as it deserves to be but the standards of food have lurched upwards to such an extent that people are still trying to catch up. We were a little worried when genius Aussie chef David Spanner left recently, but his former second in command has picked up the reins marvellously well. Our review.

Livebait, yum fishyLivebait, yum fishy

Most Impressive Refurbishment of the Year: Albert Square Chop House and The Wharf. Click here and here.

The Albert Square Chop House (part of Roger Ward's Victorian Chop House group) has brought back to life Thomas Worthington’s fabulous Memorial Hall from 1866. One of Manchester's most subtle examples of cityscape had to be completely rebuilt internally to create the Albert Square Chop House and give it back a public use. Meanwhile down in Castlefield, perhaps the most useless example of eighties non-entity architecture has been splendidly revived by Brunning and Price. The Wharf, in a few months, went from ugly-duckling to swan, and the whole area has benefited. Great examples both of how to make the broken brilliant. Our articles here and here.

Albert Square Function RoomAlbert Square Function Room

The Wharf RefurbishmentThe Wharf refurbishment

Best Use Of Outdoor Space of the Year: The Terrace, The Restaurant Bar and Grill, John Dalton Street, click here.

It had to be this place. In the last couple of years the Restaurant Bar and Grill (RBG) had been outstripped by other 'grills' across the city, usually ones owned by intense rivals Living Ventures. But by cunningly, and surprisingly, inserting an all-weather terrace on a roofspace staring down at the hand-bag section of Adolfo Dominguez (and improving the food too), RBG has returned with a bang. There are plans next year to take this a step further, and do even stranger stuff even higher up. Our review.

RBG - The TerraceRBG - The Terrace

Best Neighbourhood Venue of the Year: Banyan Tree, Ellesmere Street, Hulme (or if you're an estate agent, Castlefield), click here.

Beloved of the locals, serving a captive audience, yet in no way complacent, the Banyan Tree is a model neighbourhood bar/restaurant. The food is a fulfilling amalgamation of British and European food spiced with Eastern heat - the owners are Asian. The aloo saag tortilla is a typical delight. The bar reinforces its local agenda by having its own football team, Banyan Munich. Our review.

Suet pudding, chips, mushy peas - Trees can clearly cookSuet pudding, chips, mushy peas - Trees can clearly cook

Tricky Menu of the Year: The Great Wall, Faulkner Street

We went one week and had the usual Chinese take-away in a restaurant experience. We went the next with a Chinatown local and were blown away by a second menu of glamour, intensity, beauty and thrill. There was cold jellyfish with translucent grean bean noodles, chicken strips, coriander and chilli and duck with wood ear fungus. It was delicious. We then had a rant about the naughty tactic of providing an 'us and them' menu for Chinese and British and felt much better. Our review here.

Great Wall quack quackGreat Wall quack quack

Weirdest Concept of the Year: L'Entrecote, King Street, click here.

Gordo likes this place, Schofield thinks it's weird - hence the award. At L'Entrecote you get an obligatory single starter, walnut salad, and single main, steak, at one price of £21. And after that non-choice you get a dessert menu with seventeen options. Work that one out. Service is old-school, or comedy, French, depending on your point of view. The wine list is limited. The building is nice. Try it, and see if you view it Gordo or Schofield style. Our review.

L'Entrecote's main eventL'Entrecote's main event

The Here Today, Gone Tomorrow Venue of the Year: Pizza Porto, Albert Square.

Week one: opens. Week three: "Shall we review it now even though it looks like a YAFI (Yet another 'f**king Italian)." Week four: closed. Poor buggers. The curious thing about all this is that the corpse of Pizza Porto lies in a gem of a situation with a main terrace towards Albert Square - there's even a fully fitted kitchen. Hey, food entrepreneurs, any takers?

Pizza Porto, limited runPizza Porto, limited run

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

Ben BrooksDecember 26th 2012.

Surely sociology rehab has to get a mention! 8 years of pioneering cocktails closing on nye. The place is a dynasty in Manchester!

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousDecember 26th 2012.

You can't have been that much of a good customer if you can't even get the name right.

AnonymousDecember 26th 2012.

ha i hope that was your phone correcting 'socio'

the Whalley RangerDecember 26th 2012.

Beagle? Really? Not in the *here today gone tomorrow* section? How expensive is it to paint plasterboard and change the name?

Too much associative name dropping here, and little to back it up.

Jonathan SchofieldDecember 27th 2012.

Whalley Ranger, there might be associates included but none of these were chosen as grace and favour candidates. Still as Karl Marx used to say 'de omnibus dubitandum'.

1 Response: Reply To This...
the Whalley RangerDecember 28th 2012.

Yes, my mum tought me the Cartesian doubt, but then I moved on to be a culinary Magritte:

Ceci n'est pas un pub.

AnonymousDecember 27th 2012.

the beagle serves better food than any other bars in manchester with a similar beer selection, and has a better beer selection than any bar with similar quality food, so while it may not be the best at either it certainly is the best at combining the two so in that respect is worthy of the title. having said that the whole atmosphere of that building is terrible and feels a bit like your having a pint in a minature car showroom, but they can hardly be blamed for that and are making the best of a pretty terrible space.

AnonymousDecember 27th 2012.

Yet again Office Burger is overlooked by Manchester's press.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AVODecember 27th 2012.

Why are you trying to perpetuate the myth that Office Burger was a real place?

It was a pisstake review on an online journal that thick twats like you seemed to believe.

AnonymousDecember 28th 2012.

Are you for real, AVO?

Jon JonesDecember 27th 2012.

EDITORIAL COMMENT: Personal, unsubstantiated attacks such as this are against the Confidential rules.

Ben GillardDecember 28th 2012.

The Beagle has been open for about 2mins? Best of 2012??

AnonymousDecember 28th 2012.

Good to see you're teaching the kids about quality ale. Did he enjoy the Goose Island IPA?

Bob the BritDecember 31st 2012.

While AFB remain talked about, and there are still queues around the block, even on rainy nights, am I alone in questioning the underlying quality of their burgers?
The menu no longer mentions that the burgers are to be served pink and moist, and on my recent visits the burgers, hiding under a pile of juicy meaty toppings, have been overcooked disappointments.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousJanuary 4th 2013.

Agreed. I thought the burgers were very disappointing and smothered in a nasty BBQ sauce that seems to permeate everything on the menu.

AnonymousJanuary 15th 2013.

They have been ordered by the council to overcook them. There is a case in london where they are reviewing the terms of serving pink burgers, the places may have to show proper knowledge and practices to be allowed to serve pink burgers if it goes thru.

AnonymousDecember 31st 2012.

Bob, maybe something to do with a little E Coli problem?

AnonymousJanuary 1st 2013.

Shame that the money almost famous makes seems to have killed socio rehab.

Poster BoyJanuary 2nd 2013.

The Briton's reeks of something, but I've never heard it described as "comfort"...

AnonymousJanuary 2nd 2013.

I'm not sure why livebait is considered "turnaround of the year" - I visited midweek in late november and both the food and service were poor. If it improved after the relaunch it has now slipped back to being lousy again. The menu looks impressive but the food doesn't match the ambition.

There's a reason people are staying away - and it's not because they haven't "caught up"

ChrisJanuary 3rd 2013.

Almost Famous deserves that award as it was talked about, and when it opened the burgers were pink and juicy, they are now overcooked like most places. Compare it to the pink burgers in Solita or its equivalent in London, Meat Liquor and there is no comparison. But once you've created that "buzz" you're sorted, so fair play to them, just a shame the burgers aren't that good anymore.

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