Obviously London is our first love but we’ve defo got a bit of a thing for Manchester and it seems we’re not the only ones because the city’s food and drink scene is thriving. Ancoats, once home to the mills and factories that made Manchester an industrial powerhouse, has been completely redeveloped over the last few years and is now one of the city’s buzziest neighbourhoods, home to a clutch of cool restaurants, bars, bakeries and shops. Erst, founded in 2019 by chef Patrick Withington, GM Will Sutton and Marcus Saide, is one of those restaurants.
It’s certainly got the Ancoats look, with modern but stripped-back interiors, concrete floors, high ceilings, oak tables, sage green banquettes, and wine bottles lining the windows, plus an open kitchen where you can see Patrick and his team at work. The small plates menu changes regularly and is broadly Mediterranean but certainly not restricted to that part of the world – the common thread throughout is quality produce treated simply to deliver big on flavour. That means you get golden olive oil-drenched wedges of mozzarella and Cantabrian anchovies alongside plump Carlingford oysters and a rich spiced lamb shoulder, courgette and farro dish made for autumn in the North West.
There’s not a dud dish on the entire menu but the charred butterflied mackerel dressed with vibrant chermoula; the cold roast beef with tonnato sauce and capers; both the tomato flatbread and the deeply funky beef fat and fermented onion flatbread; and the vegan beetroot with ajo blanco that had us dipping spoons back into the sauce several times were particular highlights on our visit.
With the desserts, the kitchen showed just how knockout simple dishes can be when you do them right. A lemon granita, just served in a tumbler, seemed to unlock new levels of lemoniness; the chocolate tart, with its smooth ganache, the merest whisper of a pastry case and a sprinkling of sea salt was perfectly balanced; and the fennel panna cotta had all the regulation wobble and a gentle aniseed flavour.
Wine is just as central to the Erst operation as the food, with a cracking list of around 40 bottles, mostly low-intervention wines from Europe, curated by Will. A juicy pet nat from Spain and a Moscatello from Puglia were just two of the bangers he poured for us, so definitely ask him for recommendations.
Erst is the epitome of assured, confident cooking, the type that happens when you’ve got both killer ingredients and the know-how to show them off to their best. If you’re anywhere in the Manchester area, do yourself a favour and stop by.
9 Murray St, Ancoats, Manchester M4 6HS