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Guide

The Most Inventive Restaurants in the North West

Looking for something different, something quirky, something a bit off-piste? We’ve got you. From ‘sequences’ (not ‘courses’, that’s too establishment) of plankton pomada to crisped fermented turnip and Kentucky fried potato… if you’re looking for rump n chips you ain’t gonna find it here… unless you want it desiccated and served in a submarine.

Here’s a few of our favourite boundary-pushing restaurants from across the North West and a bit into Yorkshire. Prepare to be amazed… and baffled.

  • 3 Book Now Leeds

    The Man Behind the Curtain

    Modern British

    New look, same, wild styling from the Michelin-starred, glam rock loving superstar. In 2018, chef-patron Michael O’Hare upped sticks from the Flannels department store attic where he made his name with Man Behind the Curtain and moved into the basement of the same building. His inaugural restaurant enjoyed a £1.1million bespoke fit-out along the way. Think custom designed kitchen, lavish natural materials and robot toilets. Just as the restaurant’s namesake The Wizard of Oz ordered, the interior fittings conspire to create a disorientating atmosphere. The tasting menu could include a miniature bun in a nuclear launch button shade of red, filled with XO-sauced veal pancreas or a lava-ish langoustine tartare, glowing with green parsley oil. Vinegar-packed Iberico pork, garlic and almond enjoys Pollock-esque presentation, while Emancipation – O’Hare’s Great British Menu winning fish dish – is a beacon of white cod surrounded by black. Black crockery, black dashi, and a summit of black vinegar powder. Wines are thrilling – yet the question remains: how do you continue subverting expectations when being subversive is your whole schtick? The new room might take you out of your comfort zone, but O’Hare remains within his, which will continue to please fans and newcomers alike.

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  • 20 Book Now Yorkshire

    Jöro

    Scandi

    Nordic-inspired fine dining inside a shipping container. Jöro opened the doors of its permanent shipping-container location in early 2017. However, it’s already secured a accolades and fawning reviews galore, including a clutch of AA Rosettes and Michelin Bib Gourmand. Headed by chef Luke French, the concise, Nordic-inspired menu continues the up-cycling ethos of the building structure by delivering often unassuming ingredients with vision and ingenuity. Expect many ‘ways’ on a flavour: heritage carrots, for example, could be served both charred and pickled, with ‘burnt cream’, created by adding the red-hot Birch embers used to barbecue the carrots into a buttery whip. Potatoes, meanwhile, could be roasted in yeast, hidden in a whirl of mash and dressed with a 15-month aged Lincolnshire Poacher cheddar sauce, topped with gnarls of crisp skin. The kitchen is inventive too: “Brassica XO”, for example, is a punchy sauce made with shiitake rather than the usual shellfish, served with grilled cabbage and goats milk parmesan, while mackerel, could be is served in its own skin, and a broth made from the barbecued bones of the fish. Dessert could be tiny blocks of Koji fudge served on top of aerated white chocolate while wines offer sensory stimulation in the form of Akemi White Rioja, or Austrian ‘Beck Ink’, a light, fruity, biodynamic blend of Zweigelt and St Laurent.

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  • 4 Book Now Yorkshire

    The Moorcock

    Modern British

    An astonishing arrival on the Northern culinary scene

    This unassuming pub serves foraged and regional ingredients in thrilling configurations, catching the eye of national food critics and diners alike. The Moorcock team are Alisdair Brooke-Taylor (chef) and Aimee Turford (front of house). They worked together in Australia then at Belgium’s much-missed Michelin star, In De Wulf. Yet having only opened their joint venture in 2017, they’ve got a success on their hands. The setting is back-to-basic pub, with a bar in one room, restaurant space in the other. Bar snacks cost up to £7 – think jack by the hedge fritters (a kind of fast-growing wild garlic), house-made charcuterie, spiced pork scratchings and unpasturised organic cheeses. The menu proper could include crispy fish skin and tarts of foraged berries, wood-roasted goat, leeks with new season garlic and pickled plums, homemade black pudding, roasted beeswax ice cream and a cascades of herbs and leaves that go way beyond plate dressing. Wines are largely natural and from small producers, while traditional Belgian beers are another strength. A rising star that looks set to eclipse many of its neighbours.

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  • 14 Book Now Liverpool

    Roski

    Modern British

    Wild child of a restaurant from the former Michelin star winning Masterchef winner. Roski may well bring Liverpool it’s first Michelin star, thanks to the balls-out cooking of former MasterChef: The Professionals winner, Anton Piotrowski. Gracious in joint victory with Keri Moss, he substantiated his credentials at Devon’s Treby Arms pub earning a Michelin star after being told it could never happen. His Liverpool restaurant takes on the former Pushka site and it’s a simple, elegant space. White tablecloths and gentle lighting places the focus firmly on the food. Food-wise, choose from a selection of five and seven course tasting menus, littered with invention. Dishes include shards of dehydrated carrot flecked with Thai flavours, and Piotrowski’s take on Liverpool’s signature dish, scouse, here taking the form of a tower topped with crisped fermented turnip, sprinkled with parsley dust, a layer of smoked vegetables, locally bred beef brisket aged for 100 days, infused with Norwegian spices and caramelised onion and served with beef knuckle marrow gravy. Tiny, crisp ants are served with the seared scallop, and names are fun too: Olympic Breakfast, for example and Piotroski’s Gone Carrots (his Masterchef winning dish), actually a take carrot cake, presented in a tiny plastic flowerpot, with crumbly chocolate soil and a real baby carrot. Dig into the soft, light carroty sponge for layers of cream. Wines are worldly. Thrilling stuff.

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  • 9 Book Now Manchester

    Where the Light Gets In

    Modern British

    The UK’s most exciting ‘no menu’ restaurant. With no menu, esoteric wines and Michelin star price tag, WTLGI doesn’t adhere to the typical fine dining formula. But it’s been a success for Stockport, thanks to chef-patron Sam Buckley’s belief in doing things his own way. His aim is to create ‘a dining experience from the day’s catch, harvest and slaughter’ and to treat staff ethically and as part of the restaurant’s collective consciousness. Refreshingly, the diner plays a central role in this food-led production. What with there being no menu, the experience changes with the days and seasons, but dishes Confidential writers have enjoyed in the past include chestnuts foraged that day in Delamere Forest, lemony sprats with curd-topped scrap of poppadom and deep-fried slivers of bull’s testicles, smeared with tart quince puree. Salt-baked beetroot with hazelnut custard, fillet of plaice with bergamot infusion and wild horseradish daringly shredded over chocolate tart are the kind of treats in store. Wines are a fair match for Buckley ethos; often natural and biodynamic, several are sourced from specialists such as Settle’s Buon Vino. Open minded diners welcome.

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  • 5 Book Now Merseyside

    Fraiche

    Modern British

    Merseyside’s fine dining star. This tiny restaurant is home to an artist behind the pass. Having been rated as a ‘rising star’ by the Michelin guide in 2006 and 2007, the restaurant finally secured the real thing which in 2009 which Francophile Marc Wilkinson has since upheld with ease. The signature menu starts as it means to go on, an almond gazpacho with cherry and asparagus introducing the kind of flavour trickery on offer. Dishes are deceptively listed – Gressingham duck, cocoa crisp, and kohlrabi, for example, or carrot textures, feta, and pain d’épice – which belies the molecular tricks at the core of Wilkinson’s style. Even so, the cooking is characterised by pleasure, which also applies to the remarkably reasonable wine list. With bottles from around £20, it’s affordable – even the ‘fine selection’ with Burgundy from around £60. Expect cooking inspired by France’s bleeding edge in this unique space. Commissioned glass sculptures and suede are themes; strangely, it works. Fans will be pleased to know that Ben Mounsey, formerly of Fraiche, joined another Top 100 Manchester entry, Grafene, as head chef in 2018.

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  • vice virtue
    Book Now Leeds

    Vice & Virtue

    Modern British

    At Vice & Virtue, cocktails are a savvy delight, the tasting menus are a sprightly revelation – and it would be a sin not to appreciate both. While the location is hardly heavenly – squeezed into an odd wedge of a building overlooking the A64 with a colossal new student-housing tower on its way to blotting out the sun – this unexpected venue is home to the finest service in Leeds. There’s an excellent standalone bar, full of treats while food by chef/patron Luke Downing and his questing young brigade is fiendishly complex. Seasonal delights could include orange blossom eclair with a Yorkshire Blue cheese sauce, fermented little gem lettuce, rabbit and marjoram dumplings and a ‘not cheese’ course of creamed goat’s cheese and almond foam. For those who appreciate the good things in life.

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