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Confidential's 2011 Food And Drink Award Winners

Our best restaurant, newcomer, bar and pub of 2011

Published on December 23rd 2011.


Confidential's 2011 Food And Drink Award Winners

HERE'S our short punchy list of what we think have been the best in their fields this year. 

We’ve kept it to just four categories: restaurant, newcomer, bar, pub – the chief focus of an evening out for people. 

So here we go:

Restaurant of the Year: Cicchetti

It has to be this place for so many reasons.

Cicchetti is sassy, busy, buzzy, good looking and innovative. It has an atmosphere locals and city visitors love. This last fact is important in assessing the impact of a restaurant because Cicchetti has a capital city feel to it. We could do with about ten such places in Manchester not just four or five.

For the diner Cicchetti produces whole rosters of dishes which delight either through their cunning sophistication or their straightforward rustic simplicity. The kitchen gets this Italian balancing act almost perfect.

In some respects chefs Francesco Guarracino and John Thompson are lucky. They have the incredibly successful operation of the San Carlo Group to back them up which means they can source top notch ingredients and have a play. On the other hand this places incredible pressure on the pair to deliver consistently innovative food.

They manage this time and time again – read Gordo’s articles on the various tasting menus this year here and here. Look at the pictures.

Of course success breeds a couple of things, a danger of complacency and envy. The fierce management structure, the scrutiny the operation puts itself under should preclude the former. The latter is sadly something we witness all too frequently on our rant sections under stories about the San Carlo Group.

We, however, like Cicchetti for one reason alone, it’s good, a visit lifts the day, no matter how many Premier League footballers are dining in there with you.

Room for improvement

The site is awkward and the tables too close together but that’s geography. Mainly Cicchetti could do with a managing the menu better so the frequent new dishes are highlighted. Some people complain that the service is rushed and casual, we don’t agree, the service is what you expect and want in such a phenomenally busy place.

Cicchetti, House of Fraser Ground Floor (Private Entrance on King Street West), City, M3 2QG. 0161 832 6226.

Newcomer of the Year: 63 Degrees

We like Italian restaurants but not YAFIs (Yet Another F**king Italian, as we style them): the vast horde of half-hearted Mediterranean rip-off joints is dispiriting in the city.

So it was great to see in 2011 a genuinely French independent restaurant open in Manchester.

63 Degrees isn’t about a poncey assembly of a zillion ingredients on a plate, it's not about nouvelle cuisine, more about providing high class, precise cooking with three or four ingredients per dish and letting the craft and the quality simply sing.

In the three or four visits since this review I feel every element of the food has been as good as it was that first time. The Moreau family who have decamped from Paris to Manchester, with Papa Moreau, Eric, in the kitchen seem to have mastered that most elusive of restaurant trade qualities, consistency.

The business occupies a handsome space in the Light Building on unlikely Church Street in Manchester. Unlikely, because the street is 'colourful' character central. So the quiet repose of 63 Degrees comes as a pleasant surprise. If you've not been yet, get along and try the place out.

2011 has been a rich year for openings with Australasia, The Rose Garden, Aubaine and Sole, (and almost a fresh opening in the way Livebait tackles food) but 63 Degrees edges it because of its excellence and because in a city full of YAFIs it is a most welcome arrival.

Room for improvement

The only aspect 63 Degrees needs to really address is the service which from the odd member of staff is too casual and slapdash. Some have criticised the location. As far as we're concerned it's fine, this is an indie in the indie area of the city.

63 Degrees, 20 Church Street, City, M41PN, 0161 832 5438    

Food General 004

 

Pub Of The Year: The Angel

This might be a surprise for some people.

A pub is the sum of its parts. The Mark Addy could have won for the excellence and originality of the cooking, the Castle could have for the way it's re-invented a pub for a young, diverse audience.

But the food is clearly king at the Mark Addy (it might well have won restaurant of the year), while the Castle needs to turn down the music in the evening so people can talk to each other - unless they want to be purely a mono-culture for the under 35s and nothing can win pub of the year if it doesn't welcome in everybody from 18 to 80.

The Angel with Kevin and team up off Rochdale Road has a cracking ground floor bar area with a stunning array of ales and ciders, a handsome first floor restaurant and now a handsome second floor restaurant too. It has real fires, live music and occupies a late-Georgian property. 

It is the sum of its parts: a perfect boozer almost. A pub where there seems an equal emphasis on the drink, chat and food. It also has eccentric owners and even more eccentric regulars. 

Sadly the car crashed into the crates in the hard urban beer garden in our review has been removed, which is a shame as I've taken people in the place just to see that oddity. 

Room for improvement

The one major area for improvement would be to remove the doubt over the Angel's future existence. The pub lies in the Co-op's NOMA redevelopment area and there are mutterings it may be dropped as it's in the way of a planned road. This must be campaigned against if true. Otherwise all The Angel needs to do is make sure that beer garden looks less like a holding pen in Guantanamo Bay.

The Angel, 6 Angel Street, City, M4 4B. 0161 8334786

 

Angel 1

Bar of the Year: Black Dog Ballroom

Oh dear this was a fiercely debated category.

Maybe we need another name for a new phenomenon, the pubar, a drinking den with some of the character of a bar and some of a pub. In which case it would have been a Mexican standoff between Port Street Beerhouse in the Northern Quarter and The Molly House in the Village.

But if it's purely bar we're talking, a lively, drinking den, where decent food, cocktails and spirits and beers meet up with a good-looking trendsetting crowd then the Black Dog wins out. It even has pool tables which while you might have stopped playing years ago somehow enhances the mood.

This being 2011 a door policy of not attracting the idiots in helps immensely. There's no emphasis on a 2-4-1 desperation drinks game either and the music makes sense, helping the jolly and hectic mood.

I took about 40 PHD students around Manchester from Oxford in the autumn and they tried to wreck themselves in just about every bar in the city. Their unanimous verdict was that the Blackdog Ballroom came out tops.

Another plus point is that the Black Dog opens very very late and is thus a good A&E for insomniac drinkers who need some early hours medicine. 

Room for improvement

Sometimes the service can be surly and churlish, sometimes the cocktails can fall short. If the Blackdog tweaks the service so that it's all smiles and willingness to help no matter what the time of day or night we have the perfect city centre bar. 

The Black Dog Ballroom, Basement Affleck’s Palace, Corner Tib Street/ Church Street, Northern Quarter, City, M4 1PW. 0161 839 0664      

Black Dog 

You can follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter here @JonathSchofield

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

Ryan O'hanlonDecember 23rd 2011.

The beer selection in black dog is crap. And it's full of idiots who used to go to the Printworks.

CookiepopsDecember 23rd 2011.

God help us! And give us a restaurant review that doesn't mention footballers! PLEASE!!!!!!!!!! Cicchietti can be a really good place to be, but does Manchester's very best restaurant serve it's egg Benedict with a rock hard yoke? Just because Jay Rayner rated it doesn't mean we have to jump on the bandwagon. Abode is a better "restaurant". so is Aumbry and so, on first impressions is 63 degrees.

1 Response: Reply To This...
EditorialDecember 24th 2011.

We mention footballers ironically here, to head off rants that ignore Cicchetti's qualities and always mention footballers. Failed didn't we?

AnonymousDecember 23rd 2011.

Agree with the above about the Black Dog. It's chav central! Horrid bouncers and bar staff also.

Wall-EDecember 24th 2011.

Some great new openings this year. Heard good things about sole and might try man con deal there. Aumbry is easily best restaurant in grtr Manc at moment but cichetti is very good. Room is probably most improved.

GerrardDecember 26th 2011.

Can't argue with any of these. But I love what's happened to Livebait. Let's hope it continues.

AnonymousDecember 26th 2011.

Is that tuna in the main picture? Looks lovely

AnonymousDecember 27th 2011.

fff

AnonymousDecember 27th 2011.

Agree about the Black Dog bar staff. They just don't seem to care - I met up with some friends in there earlier in the year for a drink and a bite to eat, only to be told food would be 'at least an hour and a half.' This was at about 7pm! I might be a bit old fashioned, but I prefer staff to be a bit friendlier and not make you feel like you shouldn't be in their establishment. I'd just got back from America at the time and felt like I'd wandered into someone's house and asked for food, from the reaction I got. The customer service contrast between the US and Manchester is amazing :)

CheesemanDecember 28th 2011.

What about the Marble Arch for your pub, or The Briton's.

AnonymousDecember 28th 2011.

I agree with the Room suggestion. Beautiful place, great food.

AnonymousJanuary 31st 2012.

I agree with all the comments re Blackdog - best one for value and friendly bar staff in the northern quarter has to be TV21 - the foods amazing !

AdeyMarch 28th 2013.

shit - just wrote a load of reasons I think tv21 wins out and the damn things gone n disappeared.
In a nutshell - good prices, great food, friendly staff & i'm lovin the new breakfast menu : )
Repeat: best way to start the day - and best place to come 'home' to

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