In a world of small plates and tapas inspired sharing, I do not think that side dishes get enough credit. I'm going to let these little beauties speak for themselves- so here's me giving a little appreciation to the best sides in Manchester.
Cane & Grain- Mac & Cheese
It was so hard to narrow this down to just one side- let me tell you. The sides menu at Cane & Grain is epic- we’re talking spam fries, beer battered onion rings and popcorn shrimp. However, if I had to (on pain of death) choose one, I would go for the Mac & Cheese. Served piping hot and gooey as fuck, this is a delicious three cheese concoction, topped with red cheddar and slow cooked beef brisket. Enough said.
Photo Credit: Bec Chow
Creameries- Stuffed Potatoes
Sometimes, simplicity is essential, and nothing is a testament to this view more than the delicious cheese stuffed jacket potato over at The Creameries. I do not want to belittle Mary Ellen’s cooking even to call this dish simple though- its perfect, and although it is just a lowly jacket potato it is made with love, care and expertise which really sets it apart from any other cheesy jackets you have ever tasted. That and it sort of harks back to a place of nostalgia and comfort for me- which is what good food should always do.
Ban Di Bul – Pan Ji O Ri
Alright, so you guys have probably heard me bang on and on about Korean BBQ- but that is because it is the best thing ever and my favourite way to spend a Friday night at the moment. And this isn’t just for the delicious meat cooked in front of my eyes- half the reason I am obsessed with BBQ at Ban Di Bul is because of a little side dish called Pan Ji O Ri. It is basically thinly sliced spring onions with chilli paste, sesame oil and sugar. I swear to god it is laced with crack or something because I would probably give up my firstborn son for a bowl of the stuff.
(Its the bowl of greenery directly above the meat plate just so you know- I really struggled to find an appropriate picture!)
Shoryu Ramen- Soft Shell Crab
Usually, when you eat ramen, there is no way in hell you would ever have room for a few sides. This is a fact that makes me rather sad when it comes to Shoryu Ramen because their menu of sides is POPPING. You might be sensing a theme here, but it was rather hard to choose a favourite, but I’m going to go for the soft shell crab for two reasons. A) It’s delicious B) you do not find it everywhere, and therefore I can conclude that it is worth saving room for.
Bunny Jacksons – Deep Fried Pickles
I remember the first time I ever tried a deep-fried pickle, and it is one that I am likely to forget. I’m just going to keep this one short and to the point- what’s not to love about a hot, juicy pickle, coated in a crunchy outer shell and with Old Bay mayo for dipping? Nothing that’s what and if you aren’t a ‘pickle person’ then there just isn’t any room for you at a fine establishment like Bunny Jacksons.
Bunny Jacksons, 1 Jack Rosenthal Street, Manchester M15 4RA
Electrik – Salt and Pepper Fries
Eating salt and pepper fries was an anxiety trigger for me for a very long time. I once ate them while watching a somewhat aggressive game of football at a propper rough pub with my brother one time and I was feeling particularly fragile after the Warehouse project, and the 8 am bedtime the night before. All was forgotten as soon as the fries from Electrik by Yadda Yadda touched my lips, however, and I seem to be cured. Do you think that makes them magic chips?
Electrik, 559a Wilbraham Road, Chorlton, M21 0AE
Ashas – Lancashire Cheese Kulcha
Everyone loves a naan, and I personally would never put myself through the trauma of having a curry without one, but if you want something next level then look no further than the kulcha from the summer menu at Ashas. It is basically a small tandoor cooked bread that is filled with Lancashire cheese. Yeah I know, I’m drooling too. It is soft, it is doughy, and it is so much more than a mere absorbent element to mop up the sauce- it is the star of the menu.
Photo credit: Hungry Hoss
Tattu- Duck Egg and Sausage Fried Rice
Why have ordinary fried rice when you can have sausage in it? If I’m sincere, this sounds like something I would make at 2 am after a big night (minus the duck egg, I’m not the Queen) but it is so much more. The duck egg makes everything all buttery and creamy, and when paired with the excellently spiced rice it is hard to turn down and makes the perfect side to any other Tattu dish.
Don Giovanni- Zucchini Fries
A trip to Don Giovanni or its little sister Cibo without trying the zucchini fries is a trip wasted. This is a simple side dish which is more Italian than a vertically-challenged plumber driving a 1965 fiat 500. They are so simple- strips of courgette tossed in flour, deep fried and seasoned well before being stuffed in your mouth four at a time. That’s it. They would make a perfect snack to enjoy over a few drinks and go with everything on the menu at either of these venues- especially the pizza!
Yard & Coop – Deep Fried Sweetcorn Balls
I’m going to pull a wild card and talk about something at Yard & Coop other than chicken. Controversial I know- but when I’m enjoying my fried chicken, with my chicken gravy and chicken fries, I quite like something in my mouth other than chicken for a couple of seconds or so. Is the word chicken starting to sound weird to anyone else? Anyway, I seriously recommend the deep-fried sweetcorn balls- they are veggie, but still a bit naughty and the perfect accompaniment to your chicken. Chicken.
Hawksmoor- Short Rib Nuggets
Just in case the main menu at Hawksmoor wasn’t enough, their sides are equally impressive which makes it somewhat challenging to order there without looking like an absolute glutton. Take, for example, the short rib nuggets which are made from melt-in-the-mouth slow cooked brisket of beef which is balled, breaded and deep-fried to form a little…well, nugget of goodness which just gets more delicious upon every bite.
Tre Ciccio – Rotolini
Alright, you caught me. I’m definitely cheating with this one because it is technically a starter and not a side but that’s only because I am a complete and utter pig and I would order this on the side of my rotisserie chicken. Rotolini is the posh name for dough balls, and these ones are enriched with fresh basil, Italian cured ham, tomatoes and fior de latte cheese. Think of them as little pizza bites which allow the beautiful taste and texture of the dough shine through. Bellissima!