This year involved more open restaurants and closed restaurants than I can actually keep track of so naturally this round up is slightly smaller than any previous year.
However, that is not to say we’ve not eaten some cracking things. In fact, it seems lockdown inspired creativity, we’ve seen new and exciting adaptions to menus including the rise of the at-home DIY box.
Beef Vietnamese Tacos
Still relatively new to China Town, these bad boys blew almost all of us away in the Finest office. One of their greatest accomplishments is their Vietnamese Tacos, made using crispy pancakes and stuffed with an assortment of fillings. In fact, one of the team described it as ‘the tastiest tacos in Manchester’. Bold statement – suppose you’ll have to see for yourself to confirm.
Home by Nico
Six by Nico
Another meal on this list that’s been described as one of the most delicious things we’ve eaten all year was the delectable and rather large meal kit from Six by Nico. The Home by Nico boxes were designed for four people, coming out at about £20 per head they were pretty good value for money considering what was packed inside. The boxes included a bottle of wine, full cake, large cheese wedge and of course, the six-course extravaganza. Stand out dishes included the Patatas Bravas as well as the Orange & Almond St Clements Cake with Vanilla Creme Anglaise.
Something that has really stuck with me this year is a very particular wine from the La Bandera Journey Through Spain at home boxes. This was the first year I’ve drank red wine and enjoyed it and I partly put that down to this delicious rioja. The smooth wine with dark fruit and liquorice notes was paired with a tender rabbit dish served in a red pepper sauce and I’ve been looking for a bottle of rouge that will match this ever since.
Crispy Pork Belly
The Crispy Pork Belly from Elnecots Brunch menu – which you can make bottomless if you so desire – is sat on a huge potato rosti, fried eggs, savoy kimchi yoghurt and a gorgeous chipotle chilli jam. Absolutely delicious and definitely can’t wait to tuck into this ASAP. You can guarantee we’ll be going bottomless too.
Burger’s are always fantastic that goes without saying but these ‘for the purist’ burgers were stripped back to basics. The fresh homemade burgers are ‘pure’ and just dead good simple and honest burgers with no weird shit on them. They’re obviously absolutely juicy as hell using 35-days-aged Aberdeen Angus x Herefordshire cattle Rib-Eye steak trim. They also come with shoestring fries which change the potato game.
Baratxuri at Freight Island
Setting up shop at Freight Island, Baratxuri brought their incredible meats to the brand new outdoor dining concept. Their dishes include a range of meats like this Galician fillet cut from Galician dairy cows raised in Ourense. The meat is seriously flavoursome with plenty of herbs all cooked on their authentic live fire basque. Served with a light tomato salad and a good drizzle of oil this dish as fresh and could easily transport you somewhere with a beach and the blazing sun.
WOOD at Home
Giving the average Joe the opportunity to cook like a master chef but from the comfort of your home, WOOD at Home was a cooking challenge well worth the reward. The menu featured the likes of Porky Belly, Artichoke, Celeriac & Apple Risotto, two different mains of Fillet of Cheshire Beef for one and Chicken & Sweetcorn the other. Plus there was also the pretty famous Citrus Tutti Frutti Dessert.
Milk Carton Pint
The height of sophistication in lockdown and the best thing to come out of 2020? The Milk Carton Pint. In particular, Common’s and that is mostly because their social media accounts kept me going this year. So here I am, washing down one of their massive pizzas with a Milk Carton Pint in a car park on a camping chair. GLAM.
Don’s at Home Kit
There’s something about your dinner arriving pre-pared but with the requirement of you doing just a little bit of something, whether that be some kneading, slicing or a little bit of cutting that makes you feel like you’ve achieved something that day. Something we all needed a little bit of help with during lockdown. That was exactly what Don’s kit did. In particular, the tomato gnocchi which required little effort from me but was absolutely delicious and seriously cheesy!
The Side Chick
This place opened up in the second half of the year combining two fantastic bits of food, burgers and gravy. It’s such a good combination it’s a wonder no one has done it before. The Side Chick burger features crispy southern fried chicken as well as ribeye beef patty with crispy bacon. Plus it’s all topped with melted hot cheese, chipotle mayo and salad. OH – and there’s gravy.
Bake At Home Pizzas
Hand-made by their pizzaiolos using the same fresh dough and Neapolitan ingredients they use in the pizzeria. We were actually really surprised at how similar these were to what you get in their restaurants – Blindfold test I bet you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference in taste.
North Sea Cod
The Michelin Star restaurant in Ribble Valley created at home meal kits so we all had a chance of being starred-chefs. Well, sort of. This is the North Sea Cod from the four-course kit. Served with spiced curry sauce and Israeli couscous all topped with pomegranate seeds, almonds and coriander sauce. Even Jay Rayner was a fan of this box.
Pastel de Nata
The best pastry-related dessert and quite simply a bite-size taste of joy. Enough said really.
Ice Cream Brioche Sandwich
Sicilian NQ serves up a long list of sweet and savoury Sicilian dishes that are truly excellent over in the Northern Quarter. After hearing mad reviews for this dish, it was obvious we had to get over there and scran it pronto. Authentic Sicilian gelato encased in a delicious sweet bun. Can’t wait for the weather to be hot so we can all enjoy this once more.
Sunday Lunch at Home
The Lowry Hotel
I love eating a Sunday Roast but creating it requires far too much preparation and time management for me. So the best way to stay calm this year on a Sunday was to get a roast that was 80% finished and required minimal brain power from me!
Elle Slater Food
When food looks this good it’s instantly about thousand times more delicious. This half and half graze board combines a luxury board with a dessert board to make the ultimate show-stopping platter for your dinner table. I’ve tried to recreate this ever since and my attempts have been subpar.
We Mama Pizza
The We Mama pizza at Ciaooo is easily one of our favourite picks from the menu topped with burrata, param ham, plenty of rocket and fresh tomatoes too. It goes without saying that their deep-fried lasagne bites are also absolutely fantastic and a must-try if you haven’t already. Very naughty.
A huge croissant filled with deep-fried banana, bacon, peanut butter and maple syrup. Seriously naughty and seriously delicious. It was even the King’s favourite when he was alive so you can’t knock it.
Green Pepper Lobster
You’ll have to wait for a little to get your hands on this again but this lobster dish comes with smoked sea salt, jalapeños and crispy shallots and it’s as delicious as it looks, like most things from Tattu.
Northern Soul Grilled Cheese
The Grill it Yourself kits from Northern Soul was a revelation of the year in food in my house as they took the title for the first at-home kit we enjoyed. They came packed full of all the ingredients for two sandwiches, two macaroni cheese and a free grilled cheese to enjoy down the restaurant when they reopen. They were obviously delicious and seriously cheesy but they also provided entertainment for a good hour, something that at the height of lockdown, when we were all jigsawed out, was absolutely necessary.
Sweet and Sour Chicken
There was a period in lockdown where we got obsessed with Sweet Mandarin in our household and my god is it good. It’s in that perfect spot between a dead good takeaway Chinese and then actual good Chinese food. Plus they always come with a nice handwritten note from the owners thanking you for your support!
I don’t think I’d be alone in saying the trip to get a coffee was a breath of fresh air in lockdown. It helped that Trove’s croissants were the size of my face too. Having these while sat in the marina on your daily allowed hour walk was bliss!