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Gordo's Food Predictions For 2013

Gordo, food oracle, eats his words and regurgitates them

Published on December 27th 2012.

Gordo's Food Predictions For 2013

WHAT’S in it for 2013? 

2013 is going to be the fourth year of recession. Or at least a period of little or no growth throughout the UK. Because I’m such a cheerful sort I believe this is going to carry on for another three or four years.

The so-called 'Y' generation must be getting used to it, the mid-twenties to mid-thirties especially, meanwhile the empty nesters are settling down and cutting their cloth accordingly. And it does seem that it's the cloth that's suffering and not the food. 

Confidential is looking forward to these guys coming into the city. There is another serious play going on very much under the radar, which if it comes off will see a non-British arrival from the left field with multiple starred restaurants in their stable. (Eh, I don’t know about that. Editor) 

Here in Manchester we are seeing retailer after retailer close their doors, even banks moving out of behemoth buildings into smaller units, having fleeced the pants off the little people and destroyed themselves in the process. 

And what is moving into their space?


In the case of the old Midland/HSBC Bank on King Street, the cheeky chappie, Jamie Oliver and his mate Gennaro Contaldo, in the case of the old Emporio Armani, L'Entrecote - the main picture above shows Gordo grinning with Gennaro Contaldo.

In fact in terms of bars and restaurants we’ve had a busy couple of years. Neighborhood, The Oast House, Albert Square, L’Entrecote, Australasia, Solita, Salvi's, Aumbry, Almost Famous Burgers, 63 Degrees, Gorilla, Bakerie, Slice, Blue Angel and on and on and on – and that’s only in the city centre.  

Neighbourhood's cracking salmon steakNeighbourhood's cracking salmon steak

Organisation, tactics, strategy

The big, organised teams, such as Living Ventures, have decided that the way to growth is through more outlets, well run and managed, taking the business away from the poorly capitalised independents who only had to open their doors in 1998 and deliver 'modern British with a twist' to be full most of the week. 

Unless the independents food is stunning and they learn to stand up to the mid-market chains with their marketing, we might see a large number of indies fail by 2014. Especially if they get caught using the term ‘with a twist’, now a chef cop-out for ‘I'm baffled as to what to do next’, or ‘I'm burnt out and want to spend more time with my family’.

Well please, go home and stay home. 

The large organisations are plotting and scheming how to grow, not just survive; they will do this, having finally realized that it's not all about Conran's (for it was he) ‘crispy chilli squid’.   

The cunning Oast House from the cunning Living Venture's groupThe cunning Oast House from the cunning Living Venture's group

Today it’s all about catering to a Mancunia that is dribbling at the mouth every Saturday and Sunday morning watching the likes of James Martin and Simon Rimmer cooking food that is a mile away from the formulaic steaks with a choice of four, not terribly nicely done, sauces. Alongside the aforementioned chilli squid, we’re all sick of yet another bland fillet of farmed sea bass laid on top of something green, followed by a stunningly average crème brulee. The good operations will have to start dismantling their menus and coming up with something new. 

We have, in the North West, millions of diners who are now TV savvy about food: they are using the internet to get the ingredients and learn how to cook. Why will they put up with paying for boring badly cooked food in a restaurant? 

The first team to upgrade and cater properly to this huge market will be the winners. 

Content not 'names'

By the way, our diners don’t want the southern brands-as-chefs here. 

That was tried back in 2001/2 with Marco Pierre White, Gary Rhodes, Raymond Blanc, Nico Ladenis and others thinking they could just open, appear once propped up by a London PR company and bugger off back down south. They waited for us northern punters to fill their bank accounts. Well, we are punters, good ones as it happens. But not mug punters. We know what good food and service is. We don’t like to be patronised. 

The North West is an area with a bigger GDP than Denmark. Our local raw ingredients outshine anything the Danes have. That feller from Noma is having to scrape lichen off the rocks on the seashore. Even our pigs have better personalities. The difference between the growers now and the growers in 1998 is astonishing. 

I have, in the last four years, eaten cheese, pork, venison, lobster, crab, wild sea trout, black pudding, bacon, lamb and beef that would stand alongside anything the world has to offer. And let's not forget Reg’s ducks and chickens. Ok, Ok, the tomatoes are a bit shit compared to San Sebastian, but you get where I am coming from. We are seeing the local chefs using the ingredients, so what’s next? 

Aumbry's beautiful egg and black pudding dishAumbry's beautiful egg and black pudding dish

What is needed is to start a major upswing in the quality of cooking. 

Where is our Wolseley, or Wiltons? Two London restaurants that show serving simple, great British food on a seasonal basis creates sell out crowds. Where is the terroir? Real French cooking, changing everyday. 

Where is the Dorchester Grill, another British hotel restaurant that caters for the whole family, with young Jimmy being offered his own menu, dad getting a Grouse, and granny, happily munching away at her filleted plaice without P Diddy blasting down her ear drums? And the greatest shoestring fried potatoes you could ever want.  Oh, and roast beef off a trolley… Robert Owen Brown at the Mark Addy shows what can be done when he gets stuck into proper game dishes.  

Pheasant surprise at the Mark AddyPheasant surprise at the Mark Addy

Personally, I’ll marry the first women who can cook me roast chicken, perfectly moist, crispy skin, bread sauce shimmering with a finish of cream. Duck fat roast potatoes, gravy with a touch of red wine. PROPER STUFFING. 

If she'll have me. She might tell me to bugger off, mind you. 

It took four hundred years to get a roast chicken right.

It needs no twisting. Why should it be modern? The chef who can make real gravy, light or heavy, banging with flavour, is the man I want. Not a bloody ‘jus’ by the way, another word that needs sticking up someone’s bottom.  It’s a sauce guys, just read Escoffier, he packaged up four generations of cooking. Very few of you can outclass the master. 

Spanish recovery

Spanish. My God, how Spain has come on over the past thirty years. They have been digging out their pre-Franco cook books, chatting to their grans and serving food that makes angels sing.

Here in Manchester, our Spanish restaurants need to think again. London yet again is showing the way forward and our lot need to go and visit, or at the very least, read Jose Pizzaro and Claudia Roden’ s latest books. 

Pizarro, 195 Bermondsey St, London, is astonishing. Eat Jose’s Iberico pork presa, Jerusalem artichokes and pear puree. Then tell me you’re cooking Spanish food. By the way, you don’t have to go all the way to London. Get across to Liverpool and eat the paella negro with squid at Lunya. Then tear your hearts out. 

Curiously that byword for rotten Spanish food La Tasca is starting to stand out. It has come alive after a management buy out and the Editor and I visited a few days ago. This chain to my mind is the most improved in the UK. Well bloody done. 

I guarantee success for anyone either upgrading their Spanish restaurant or opening from fresh as long as they get in a quality chef committed to real Spanish grub. 

Italian and Indian escape

Italian. Oh dear me. There are restaurants still open (and opening) that have grilled chicken breast (as dry as that little bone they leave on the end) with garlic butter. You are taking the piss. 

Then there is Marcello Distefano at San Carlo and Cicchetti, who drags me over to Alba, making me sniff wine, eat fried eggs with white truffle and stand in the kitchen of a one Michelin starred chef in a restaurant hanging off a mountain, trying fourteen different ways of delivering pasta with spinach and pine nuts, sprinkled with fourteen locally farmed cheeses. For four hours. Marcello knows what he's doing and knows how to please customers - as does Maurizio Salvi at Salvi's in the Corn Exchange, another man who knows a thing or two about authenticity.

The beautiful tuna carpaccio at CicchettiThe beautiful tuna carpaccio at Cicchetti

I am predicting a huge shake up of the Italian restaurants this coming year. Jamie makes me laugh; he is forever faffing about with his kitchen in the garden, with mouth-watering dish after dish on TV. Then he gives us that sloppy bag of farmed sea bass at his Manchester restaurant and let's down perhaps the most beautiful interior in the city. 

The lazy sod. 

So-called 'ethnic food', particularly sub continent Indian and even more particularly, Punjab food, needs to step up to the plate as well. Again, the London chefs are showing how it is done and being awarded stars for their efforts. To be fair, it does appear that with restaurants like Sanminis, in Ramsbottom, we are starting to see traction. Zouk is shining as well.  

So Mr Restaurateurs, step up or step off. 

Chicken lollipops - ZoukChicken lollipops - Zouk

Go west, young proprietor

Whilst saying that I reckon the big boys will be whupping the independents’ bottoms next year, that is not entirely true. As I said, we are short of money. 

So, we are seeing a new phenomenon: American trailer trash cooking.

Over in the Northern Quarter, food as huge, ‘dirty’, one-course, queue-up grunge has arrived. Burgers from places such as Almost Famous and Solita, are the star of the show, tables turned over six times a night. Dogs are in, sticky sauces, suspect cuts of beef (Jacobs Ladder, made up by Mark Hix) are here but still need to be cooked properly. Mostly this means getting meat off a BBQ and on to a plate for under a tenner. Excellent news. 

Street food is going to get better and better Gordo hopes, but it needs to hit critical mass with quality as well as variety. It’s coming. Like a train. This writer would like to see four or five trucks with containers on the back, parked up illegally selling South East Asian, Chinese, Punjabi, even Lancashire food to the punters coming out of pubs and clubs. (Steamed Bury Black Pudding with mustard anyone?) Illegally - but keep ‘em moving, Twitter can tell us where to go.

Pop-ups and supper clubs will multiply in 2013. Whilst we are on that subject, Monica and Anika’s Spice Club; what a night that was. More please. 

Michelin pumped

And finally, what of that elusive Michelin star?

2013 will see the start of a campaign on three fronts to win one. Living Bacon have enticed Aiden Bryne to the city centre with a space in Manchester House, courtesy of Mike Ingall, the gaffer of Spinningfields, who is turning an architectural sow’s ear into a silk purse. Byrne’s new place will apparently, be named TheRestaurant @ ManchesterHouse. 

That name must have taken a few bottles of bourbon in The Alchemist eh, lads? 

Aiden is newly invigorated having stumbled across Eneko Atxo’s Azurmendi, in Bilbao. I was there a few weeks after Aiden, it had two stars at the time. My first prediction for this place came good in November when it was a awarded a third Michelin star - congratulations to Eneko. My second is that it will be a contender for best restaurant in the world. I mean, Noma? Lichen off rocks? 

Inside out truffled egg at AzurmendiInside out truffled egg at Azurmendi

Next there is a homegrown North Western champion of fine-dining, Simon Rogan, from the two-starred L’Enclume in Cartmel. Michael Magrane, the chirpy general manager of the Midland Hotel, has talked Rogan into taking over both The French and The Colony restaurants in the building.  The former world famous establishment has been sliding down a grubby black hole for years, so this is excellent news. The Colony used to supply the king of roast beef lunches, so let's hope this is an opportunity to do proper, clever British. Hats off to him. 

Rogan and MagraneRogan and Magrane

Confidential is looking forward to these guys coming into the city. There is another serious play going on very much under the radar, which if it comes off will see a non-British arrival from the left field with multiple starred restaurants in their stable. (Eh, I don’t know about that. Editor

Exciting times.

The quality of the training alone from the two confirmed arrivals will see Manchester’s culinary scheme become, dare we say it, world class. This should bring more people to Manchester as well, and not just for football. 

Michelin punctures?

But beware, all that glitters…may well not be there in a couple of years time.

It has been reported that the Michelin Guides are supported with a £12m injection every year, this from the French aristocratic family who still own a controlling share in The Michelin Tyre Company. They are going to lose that control soon, then the bean counters will take charge. Let’s hope they are fans of beans in cassoulet as well. Otherwise they may believe there are better ways of spending twelve mill. 

But look on the bright side, Gordo would step in. Probably. Three Gordo Stars anyone?

You can follow Gordo on Twitter here @GordoManchester

Salut a 2013Salut a 2013

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

Sound ManDecember 27th 2012.

Italians. How many more?

GordoDecember 27th 2012.

Jonathan, re the other Michelin secret; 'cos you can't keep one!

DrakeDecember 27th 2012.

What an excellent piece, makes such a difference to the site when you write a piece informed by experience, Mr Gordo.

You might, however, want to tell your editor about street food. In his arch rant on the recent N4 event, he suggested street food equalled stalls on East Asian streets, thereby suggesting he's either entirely missed the biggest development in UK cuisine in the last twelve months or likes to be tediously contrarian. Neither of which are good signs in someone trying to be an honest critic.

1 Response: Reply To This...
GordoDecember 28th 2012.

Drake, street food is my bag. Jonno has his view and that's it. It's his.

the Whalley RangerDecember 27th 2012.

What is it with tomatoes in the UK? Should there be anyone short of work, why not just import some of those really nice but ugly looking Spanish ones and ban the variety lot currently on offer? I bet it's a growth market...

2 Responses: Reply To This...
GordoDecember 28th 2012.

agreed. They are mightily tasteless here for some reason. Although some cracked black pepper, sea salt and Basil gets them going a bit. Try growing your own, I did last year and they were terrific.

the Whalley RangerDecember 28th 2012.

This year was not a good year for growing tomatoes. Other than that, it's quite a competitive market with regard to air fares to Spain...

AnonymousDecember 27th 2012.

"formulaic steaks with a choice of four, not terribly nicely done, sauces"? But L'Entrecote with a choice of one gets an award?

2 Responses: Reply To This...
GordoDecember 28th 2012.

I happen to like that one!

EditorialDecember 28th 2012.

But Anon it gets the award for being a weird concept, maybe read the other article properly

Andrew SpinozaDecember 28th 2012.

The city centre has proved remarkably resistant to Michelin-style/level food. Could it be the Northern VFM/portion size issue? Remember The Establishment and similar ill-starred ventures... no surprise that the most popular eateries in town score as highly for atmos as for cooking. I've been to Rogan's L'enclume and found it the most amazing (and dear) experience. I'd go back occasionally - but every week or month? Will be fascinating to see how these grand culinary aspirations get on in the flat-line economy dogging this city.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Poster BoyJanuary 2nd 2013.


Oh, the pretension. TheRestaurant @ ManchesterHouse should not have a prayer, but a city like Manchester, should be able to support a restaurant like The French at a hotel like Midland.

Call it old school, or tradition, but aside from the quality of the food, it needs a return to the service levels and permanent staff, akin to the grand hotels in London. It should not be difficult, there is no competition in Manchester if the Midland can get it right.

AnonymousDecember 28th 2012.

Apart from London, Manchester's China town has the brst dining in Europe why no mention? Great value tasty food, why not look a gift horse in the mouth?

Terence Van BonkDecember 29th 2012.

In the awards Confidential has done the real menu at Great Wall gets a mention

Amanda EveryDecember 31st 2012.

"Jamie makes me laugh; he is forever faffing about with his kitchen in the garden, with mouth-watering dish after dish on TV. Then he gives us that sloppy bag of farmed sea bass at his Manchester restaurant and let's down perhaps the most beautiful interior in the city. The lazy sod." Troof! Well said!

AnonymousJanuary 2nd 2013.

I cant dis agree more with gordo why dont you forget all your pals and the regular haunts of confidential and talk about smaller indepentants trying to make a buck. you are forever telling people how good places are and i eat in all of them and your critic and guidance is very very poor same old same old move over gordo let the true food critics have a go your old hat!

3 Responses: Reply To This...
Poster BoyJanuary 2nd 2013.

...it's called 'business'.

AnonymousJanuary 4th 2013.

How can a 'business' thats gone bump twice owing thousands tell others how to run theirs

GordoJanuary 6th 2013.

thanks for that anon, can you list where you would like to review that we havn't and I shall ensure we redress the balance. I may disagree with what you say, but you will always have the right to say it on any site I am associated with.

Jonathan SchofieldJanuary 8th 2013.

Andy, that's a good piece by Tony. But he's wrong when he falls for the old cliche of describing the city as 'one that increasingly lacks character'.

It's a better city centre than any time in my memory, with just as much character - good Lord I used to go out here 25 years ago and it was so constricted, so closed after midnight most nights.

Not knowing the characters that shape the city now is no excuse for saying it's poor compared to back in the day. My guests on my tours feel much better about Manchester than they did in 1996 when I first started taking guided tours.

Tony makes good points about 'fine dining' that I agree with, but he really shouldn't have mentioned Factory Records, because it makes it look as though those dark days with a couple of musical bright sparks were our heyday. As bloody if.

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