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MC Abode Grill, Yakisoba, Almost Famous: 3 Nigh Perfect MCR Dishes

Jonathan Schofield eats a treat in the city

Written by . Published on March 14th 2013.


MC Abode Grill, Yakisoba, Almost Famous: 3 Nigh Perfect MCR Dishes
 

SO I was in London on Saturday and I visited Canteen on Baker Street, a mini-food chain, that is an object of love and veneration for Londoners.

There are quotes all over Canteen from AA Gill and Fay Maschler, saying this place is the brave new world of British cooking. 

The restaurant takes itself very seriously.

We should never be complacent about the nosh-offer here, but lost in the vast smokescreen and the ridiculous distraction of the Michelin star debate, we need to remember the city is capable of getting the simple things, as well as the complex, very bloody right indeed. 

There are even navel-gazing booklets, filled with artful pictures of cow haunches, muddy potatoes and a tedious amount of blah-blah about its philosophy in sourcing this, that and zzzzz.

Jay Rayner quotes one such Canteen homily in his review: 'We are committed to providing honest food, skilfully prepared and reasonably priced'.

Now hands ups any restaurants that are committed to providing fraudulent food, haplessly prepared and bloody expensive.

Yakisoba fish tankYakisoba fish tank

On our visit this brave new world of British cooking was cracking up, service was abrupt, the food was 3/10: a lemon sole had been cooked to rubber and covered in a watery beurre that made things worse. The kooky interior was all right, especially the Festival of Britain style design, but the rest was a let down.

In a bar debate in Manchester five days later, London's Canteen was used as a witness for the prosecution in that endless Manchester foodie debate over whether our food scene is any good.

The London venue was held up as just the sort of place Manchester lacks.

As if.

Indeed the Manchester food scene was disparaged by half the group.

This was odd. It was troubling.

This is not my experience.

Manchester for me provides cracking food at all price points and with an astonishing range. Clearly, as with all cities, there's loads of rubbish too, but if you have the right guide - i.e. Confidential - then you'll find the smooth amongst the rough every time.

I knew about the quality, not just because of thirteen years of reviewing North West food, but because I'd just witnessed it.

From Tuesday lunch to early Wednesday afternoon - 12/13 March - circumstances had led me to eat three styles of food in three venues that all delivered a whack of good flavour and a complete experience.  

We should never be complacent about the nosh-offer here, but lost in the vast smokescreen and the ridiculous distraction of the Michelin star debate, we need to remember the city is capable of getting the simple things, as well as the complex, very bloody right indeed. 

As for Canteen I'll give it another go next time I'm down, see if the principal naysayer is right in saying, "You have to buy into the concept, you have to get it". 

Three meals, two days, in Manchester

MC Bar and Grill at Abode Hotel

First up was the 'Fleetwood market special fish and chips for £13.50 at MC Bar and Grill at Abode Hotel. I munched on this as I waited to take Antje Zimmerman from German state radio on a tour.

I enjoyed the wait because Chef Bryn Evans is producing some of the most consistently spot-on food in Manchester. I have snacked or dined here at least five times in the last six months and Evans has not put a foot wrong once. 

This time, I feasted on a fish and chips that was sublime. As I cut into the batter the haddock flaked like somebody opening a window on a fresh spring morning on to a field of flowers.

It was a mouth-watering vision that followed through on the flavours. The key was a batter that was gorgeously crisp on the outside yet hit the fish with a correct softness. The batter was livened up with beer and was a wonder.

The home-made tartare sauce and mushy peas were beautifully handled as well, while the not-quite-fries, not-quite-chips were excellent examples of their kind. 

Of course some may say that a true fish and chips should have batter made from beef dripping. I love that too but who does that these days?

So until the beer batterers return, for fish and chips this was just about as good as it gets. 

Food: 8/10

Abode And Others 001Fish and chips in MC

Yakisoba

After the German radio journalist and the fish and chips came an evening family visit to East Asia in Chorlton. Yakisoba means in Japanese 'food for sensitive liberal souls'. Honest. 

Anyway in the elegant ex-shop unit on Barlow Moor Road, sat next to a tank of lazy fish, Yakisoba brought food to make you smile. And coo. And relax. Actually 'smile, coo and relax' is what Yakisoba means in Japanese. Honest.

The grub is always preceded by a bento box carrying pointless limp lettuce but glorious miso soup.

It's the mains in Yakisoba that are the bee's knees. The pick on our visit was the Chinese-style five spice beef (£9.95) served in a hotpot with seasonal greens. 

It was accompanied with a perfect sticky rice. The marinated beef was rich, complex, and the sauce came with dried garlic and chilli, onion and fresh coriander. It was full of aroma - one sniff and you felt uplifted. It cleared the head better than Vicks and in a far more pleasant way.

A key feature was the presentation. The colours made you want to eat the food. And then maybe get stuck into another dish. 

Food: 8/10

YakisobaYakisoba

Almost Famous Burgers

The day after Yakisoba, I was taking a Norwegian film crew around Manchester and they were very specific with what they wanted. They'd been to Oxford, Bath, Bristol and Cardiff producing a travel programme for Canal 9, one of the main TV companies in the land of fjords, trolls and huge oil and gas dividends.

"We've been shown a lot of heritage stuff," said Sverre Krogh Sundbø, the presenter and walking tongue-twister for British people. "Yes," said Silje Haadi, the producer/director/presenter/boss. "Now we want to see Britain as a trendy, musical, exciting place and Manchester seems the right city for this."

For lunch we dived into Almost Famous Burgers and the crew including cameraman Espen Gulbrandsen, adored the look and the atmosphere of the place. They also adored the free juke box and the joke risk assessment painted on wall.

"This is so cooooooooooooool," they collectively cried in Scandi enthusiasm.

Espen thought the classic burger the best he'd ever had in years of travelling, Sverre thought  his spicy number was right up there with the greatest burgers in the world, and Kevin the bus driver, tried to stuff two classics in his mouth at the same time.

Silje had the ribs and covered her face in barbecue sauce which ruined the next two filming sessions.

I had the Smoky & The Bandit Burger, described as 'JD candied bacon, cheese, bbq fried onions, baconnaise, chipotle sauce, chillis for £7'.

It was admirable, intensely admirable, intensely instense, gratifying, soft, gooey, forgiving, meaty joy, in a bun. 

"You know," said Mr Tongue-twister later on New Wakefield Street, "Manchester is a place I want to come back to and spend some time. And by the way Silje, could you wipe that barbecue sauce off your forehead, it'll spoil the wrap sequence."

Food: 8.5/10 

Almost Famous BurgersAlmost Famous Burgers - Espen Gulbrandsen, Silje Haadi and Sverre Krogh Sundbø plus my hand and a Smokey & The Bandit Burger 

A Norwegian surveys the city from Cloud 23A Norwegian surveys the city from Cloud 23

Presenting ManchesterPresenting Manchester

Antje Zimmerman in ManchesterAntje Zimmerman in Manchester after the fish and chips but in the Radisson Edwardian not Abode

 

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

Poster BoyMarch 14th 2013.

"One swallow does not a Summer make..."

Martin HouseMarch 14th 2013.

Poster Boy but it shows summer's on its way.

Hero
GordoMarch 15th 2013.

That Silje looks fit. By the way Schofield, are those my gloves in that picture?Wondered where they had gone...

1 Response: Reply To This...
Jonathan SchofieldMarch 15th 2013.

Ha, they're mine. Brown not black strangling gloves like your's

Hero
David FoxMarch 15th 2013.

As an irrelevant aside Canteen Baker street can be yours for a cool £400k. May reflect that they have given up on that site. As someone who has traded in Mcr for 15+ years and with a foothold in London trading under East St (3-5 Rathbone Place - 10 mins walk from Euston you must go!), for me Manchester has quietly and confidently built some great food offerings in the last 10 years. NB Even as a Yorkshireman we opened in Manchester because we believed that the average Manc was more adventerous and more ready for a Pan Asian experience than any other place outside London). I believe the choice here is as good as it gets outside London (with the exception of the dreaded michelin market). However we should never compare ourselves to London - London is a truly global city. 20 years ago our restaurant industry used to look to NY/the US for inspiration/ideas. This is less the case as London has a truly inspirational range of food experiences and price points. Sure many places get it wrong in London. For me as a nuturalised Manc we should celebrate that London is only 2.08 hours from us and take what we can from it. Service standards,food quality and food consistency (and sticking to opening times - sorry couldn't resist that one) can always be better. It is a journey not a destination. I for one am delighted to be on the journey in Manchester.

Jonathan SchofieldMarch 15th 2013.

I agree with that David. We should never compare ourselves to the capital although the people I was talking too were and do all the time. On another point, how much are your researcher rates? That's a cracking fact about Baker Street. Sometimes it'd be nice to be a proper journalist.

David AddisonMarch 15th 2013.

What restaurant does Mr Fox own ?He seems eminently sensible.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousMarch 15th 2013.

the always brilliant tampopo, i think.

JayMarch 15th 2013.

Tampopo and East St. He's worth a follow on Twitter

JoanMarch 15th 2013.

Tampopo I believe.

AVOMarch 15th 2013.

15 seconds of googling reveals Mr Fox to be the owner of the Tampopo.

AVOMarch 15th 2013.

Tampopo chain.

Hero
David FoxMarch 15th 2013.

Jonathan - I'm not sure the info re Canteen is common knowledge - but I know Chatham House rules apply to the Mancon rants....
Avo - I prefer Tampopo collective.....

Kate YardyMarch 15th 2013.

I haven't tried the other two but we have been occasional regulars at Yakisoba for years (practically since it opened) and can thoroughly recommend it. I also love the miso soup and would recomment the steamed seafood dumplings + just about any seafood or vege main (I eat fish but not meat). The red sea noodle soup is fantastic.

Hero
David FoxMarch 15th 2013.

Thx Jay - Twitter @TampopoFox

Mark LittleMarch 15th 2013.

Got to agree that Almost Famous makes the most amazing burgers...I would even go as far as the best burger I have hAd or ever likely to have!

2 Responses: Reply To This...
IanMarch 18th 2013.

Have you only been to Mcdonalds or wetherspoons previously?

AVOMarch 19th 2013.

Or are you going to die very, very soon without sampling any more burgers?

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