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GORDO: Annual Review 2014

On the dawn of 2015, Gordo sums up a year, and decade, well, well eaten

Written by . Published on December 30th 2014.

GORDO: Annual Review 2014

WELL, this year saw The Confidentials reach their tenth birthday. Its been a get rich slow scheme.

Gordo is not saying that MPW just takes a £50k cheque and runs like buggery for the hills. Hes there, in the kitchen, cooking just for you. Honest.

A promising start nearly saw the whole thing come crashing down back in October 2008 as revenues here at the Towers dropped by 60% in one month. The battle to keep the convoy crossing the Atlantic was a brutal one, but we managed to make port in 2012, lick our wounds for a year and finally, in 2014, ready ourselves for a complete refit of the site which we'll be showcasing over the coming months.

There is good reason for the refit of the good ship Confidential (aside from it creaking at the seams and toppling over all the time) and that is the huge changes coming in which you, dear reader, find, book, recommend and price restaurants.

But more of that later.

Gordo doing his best ElvisGordo doing his best Elvis

The difference between the restaurant scene ten years ago when Confidential began and today is a very big one.

There was no Almost Famous, no Red's True BBQ, both brands finessed to within an inch of their lives by the latest breed of young guns bringing ideas back from their travels across the USA. Forgetting, of course, that Middle America is staffed by the most obese human beings on Earth outside of Tonga, they have brought mega calories, sugar, sugar and sugar onto our tables like nothing before. Tasty, mind you. There's a bloke called Franco behind NQ operation Solita who sits at home each evening dreaming of ways to somehow slip a Snickers and a lump of deep fried pork fat into his (already) 2000 calorie burger. Topped off with buns, sweet buns.

Welcome to Diabetes everyone!

Ten years ago there was also no Grill on the Alley, or Restaurant Bar and Grill. Zinc had arrived, courtesy of Terence Conran, in the turbulent wake of other celebrity owner/chefs from the South who quickly discovered that the North West wasnt populated by half-wits. Marco Pierre-White, Nico Ladenis and Gary Rhodes, to name a few, headed back down south a la Kray twins, with their tails well between their legs. Like The Krays, they only appeared on the day and lieutenants weren’t up to the job later on.

The only one to come back is the black sheep of the family, Pierre-White, who is now only consistent with delivering banal, weak brands, little better than the Angus Steak Houses of London. What the BBC peeps must think when they nip into his latest ‘New York Italian’ over in MediaCityUK. Dear Lord.

Gordo is not saying that MPW just takes a £50k cheque and runs like buggery for the hills. Hes there, in the kitchen, cooking just for you. Honest.

63 Degrees63 Degrees, Church Street

The years have seen some great small independents land and blossom. The Moreau family is delivering quality in 63 Degrees that only the usual suspects, shoved onto a train in Euston by their editors, seem to question. They've also just opened a patisserie over in four-wheel drive, buggy paradise Didsbury - Bisous Bisous - where reports sound positive.

Speaking of Didsbury, the Unabomber boys (Justin and Luke) have refined Gordos new favourite off-duty restaurant, Volta, in West Didsbury this year. A fine place to both graze and get bladdered.

Following a decade in Manchester, the rear-end of last year saw the sad demise of Lounge Ten on Tib Lane, this year we also saw Rob Owen-Brown's excellent (though a little whiffy down there by the river) Mark Addy restaurant close. Rob will be back with some interesting stuff shortly, no doubt, he certainly has a few suitors.

Rob Owen Brown: bush sitterRob Owen-Brown: bush sitter

Mid-term saw Aumbry arrive up in Prestwich, an odd place to put roots down for a very talented couple, Mary-Ellen McTague (Great British Menu) and Laurence Tottingham. Currently closed for a refurb but with a ‘pop-upin the Northern Quarter, McTague is talking a possible full-time move into Manchester.

Mary-Ellen’s food was precursed by the new-eras first true fine-dining restaurant, Establishment, where Rosso now sits. The owners gave up on pouring cash into something that wasn’t quite right but hugely enjoyable. If McTague is planning a move to the city she needs to beware it's time to up her game with new menus and new ideas. That cute mini scotch-black-pudding-quails egg is too 2012.

One chef who recognised that he needed to move on was Simon Rogan. Gordo, back in 2008 when Rogan had one restaurant and one Michelin star, ate at L'Enclume and wasn’t that impressed. Today, Rogan and his team are cooking out of their skins. They have picked up the baton for top-end fine-dining and are on a winning streak. Gordo cant say whether LEnclume is worthy of a third star, he missed two appointments (due to illness) in October, but will visit soon. The question, mind you, being asked by most of Manchester is whether his now famous French at The Midland is worth a star. Gordo thinks so.

Simon Rogan: plant hypnotizerSimon Rogan: hypnotizes his ingredients for full flavour

Running alongside him of course is Aiden Byrne at Manchester House. Now, aside from Aidens Mum, we have Living Ventures master restaurateurs, Tim Bacon and Jeremy Roberts, to thank for Byrne's fine touch in Manchester. These two have almost single-handedly picked up middle to top-end food and booze in the city by the scruff of the neck and are currently taking the country by storm.

Their brand Australasia has stood the test of time and continually impresses Gordo, though he wished he could get his hands on the wine list and do the buying himself. Poor Tim is still trying to make excuses for Australian Chardonnay.

Gordo urges the remarkable whirlwind of a woman, Joycelyn Neve, gaffer at The Seafood Pub Company up in darkest Lancashire, to open one in the city

In short, since Confidential began a decade ago, food has come on leaps and bounds in the city, even if we have seen some notable failures. Ithaca on John Dalton Street was stunning for four weeks until Gordo tripped over the chef, utterly bladdered, outside a pub on Oldham Street.

Talking of pubs, real ale has come on a treat. Trof, the gigs, food and bar with proper pumps was nearly unheard of three years ago.

It can be argued that Living Ventures, with their mega opening The Oast House in Spinningfields, gave the popularist seal of approval to real ale.

Oast HouseOast House

These local groups are creating character in the city that was previously suffering from big corporate ordinariness. Café Rouge and La Tasca will both be blown away by the likes of Côte and Iberica; speaking of which, we shall see a wave of truly authentic proponents of national cuisines such as French and Spanish.

In addition to Iberica (Spanish) in Spinningfields we will see Evuna come into its own at last. Reports are flooding in that food is starting to match the astonishing quality of the wines there. El Gato Negro are joining us from their eyrie in the Pennines, and surely it can't be long before the jewel that is Lunya in Liverpool arrives?

Beef and Pudding from the boys in the sticks, Mooney and Newman, is a welcome addition to the city which, with a bit more work, will add seasoning, whilst Gordo urges the remarkable whirlwind of a woman, Joycelyn Neve, gaffer at The Seafood Pub Company up in darkest Lancashire, to open one in the city. Her brands, including The Oyster and Otter and the Assheton Arms would blow a few cobwebs away. Let's not forget the Black Dog maniacs with their new brand, Crazy Pedro’s, open all hours on Bridge Street and serving great pizza and beer at times when the rest are in a coma.

Gordo wants to see Joycelyn Neve's Seafood Pub Company do a turn in ManchesterGordo wants to see Joycelyn Neve's Seafood Pub Company do a turn in Manchester

Ethnic food, in particular Pakistani and Bengali cuisine, has been a log jam for too long in the city. Zouk needs to up its game as does EastZEast and a couple of others who started well but are flagging. They will see competition from the tiny brands, The Indian Tiffin Rooms and Lily’s, currently out in the sticks but rammed with locals and Manchester foodies. Hopefully, these guys will wake the rest up. Mancunia knows good ethnic Indian cooking and will vote with their feet.

Mind you, let's not forget the Curry Mile; these guys are, for the first time, taking Gordo's advice about the currently dire state of cooking down there. Muhgli, or Mughli as Haz insists, is a belter, with a second-generation family who are alive to quality.

Another individual responsible for the march of foodie Manchester through his Spinningfields estate is the mastermind, the man with the shiftiest eyes in the city, Mike Ingall. Known as Mingle The Merciless in the ManCon offices, he really has pulled Spinningfields together. Fazenda, the first-rate Brazilian brand of meat, meat and more meat, have arrived already. Next comes high-end Indian restaurant Scene, of course there's Iberica and that coolest of London steakhouses, Hawksmoor, are opening just around the corner on Deansgate - look out because these guys are game-changers.

Hawksmoor Air StreetHawksmoor Air Street

Mingle has pulled in the tiny brands as well, Caffeine and Co., and the street guys like Momma Schnitzel are great fun and real restaurants in the making. The Spinningfields estate will soon see David Gale, the extraordinary ex-Hilton Head Chef and current Lawns Executive Chef expand his reputation with a new gaff down on the river. 

2015 will see Manchester come into it’s own. Whilst still well behind London, we are making great progress and this will only get better. As will Manchester Confidential. Often on the receiving end from narky bloggers, national food critics and some weird DJ up in Oldham, Confidential has survived and continues on its mission to 'Educate, Entertain, Inform and Irritate'. Not necessarily in that order.

A great New Year to all our readers. 

Onwards and upwards,


You can follow @GordoManchester on Twitter.

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

AnonymousDecember 30th 2014.

I think 63 degrees is ok but it is not just national newspapers who aren't keen. It is still not in good food guide and gets poor rating in hardens.

AnonymousDecember 30th 2014.

Great article, congratulations on your ten years. Manchester continues to improve in it's variety and quality of restaurants. Mughli is great, and had some great Tapas at El Rincon too recently - so there are some long established places still strutting their stuff as well as the new boys - looking forward to Nutter opening his pub as well. All the best for 2015 and the next ten years.

Mark McGinnDecember 30th 2014.

A good interesting piece. I would have added a pararagraph on that other staple of the Manchester food scene - the This and That cafe. I would like to second Gordo's urging of Jocelyn Neve to come to Manchester.

AnonymousDecember 30th 2014.

Good read, but "recognized" . Are we in America or Manchester?

1 Response: Reply To This...
EditorialDecember 30th 2014.

Good spot. Changed now. Thank y'all

EllieDecember 30th 2014.

CONGRATULATIONS MANCHESTER CONFIDENTIAL? Been a follower from the start. Love it. Elaine

Steve5839December 31st 2014.

Great article and congratulations on 10 years, your / MC humour and bluff comment has always amused me. But one point, are you sure that 10 years ago there was no RBG or Grill on the Alley? Keep up the good work.

AnonymousDecember 31st 2014.

Well done clap clap

AnonymousDecember 31st 2014.

good article :)

Edwardo EdmundoDecember 31st 2014.

Why is Pakistani / Bangladeshi food "ethic" but Spanish food is not?

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousJanuary 1st 2015.

You'll have to ask our Sales Director Yousaf Mehnga that question...

Edwardo EdmundoJanuary 1st 2015.

Oh, right, you know someone with a foreign sounding name. Of course that makes it OK. Seriously, describing only food made by people with dark skin as 'ethnic' stinks of calling people 'ethnics', which is outdated and racist.

AvoJanuary 1st 2015.

Maybe the ingredients for Spanish food aren't ethically sourced?

AnonymousJanuary 1st 2015.

I love ManCon. Its the best place to read about the opening of Yet Another Fucking Italian YAFI

Richard KiddJanuary 4th 2015.

New web site refresh? Blimey. Seeing a disappearance of the perpetual 'The Confidential websites will be undergoing routine updates. This may cause the sites to go offline. We apologise in advance for any inconvenience' line at the top of the site will feel like the demolition of a familiar landmark....

AnonymousJanuary 5th 2015.

Been to Almost Famous once. Never again. Mediocre food at premium prices. It's been listening too hard to its own hype. Hopefully the vile concept of 'dirty food' and take it or leave it service has run it's course in the city. I left it....

1 Response: Reply To This...
Richard HJJanuary 5th 2015.

just bide your time. the "loaded magazine in a bun" brigade all be dead or incapacitated by high cholesterol by 2016.

Robert SmedleyJanuary 5th 2015.

Restaurant Bar and Grill was around in 2001.

1 Response: Reply To This...
GordoJanuary 5th 2015.

You're right Robert. But tell everyone or they'll all want to go

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