Rotating chickens, coal-fired steaks and a ‘secret roast potato drawer’ - the new all-day diner with nods to Paris and New York

Medlock Canteen is from the team behind Madre and Belzan

By Ben Arnold | 26 March 2024

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“There’s places in Paris, in Marais, as you walk down the streets, and it’ll just be an oven, on the street,” says Liverpudilian chef Sam Grainger. Though it’s a bit more than that, his new place, Medlock Canteen, will almost certainly become known – perhaps renowned – for its rotisserie.

“And you can just grab a chicken, super cheap. You’ll go at lunchtime, grab a chicken, grab a baguette, or you take it home for your dinner.”

The cooking will be about the little touches. The aioli will be made from the chicken fat that drips down from these dry brined birds, and beneath, there’s a pull-out draw full of waxy potatoes and onions, cooking in the juices. It’s not on the menu, but you’ll get an unannounced plate of them when you order the chicken. See, little touches.

Medlock Canteen

The mash is ‘50/50’, so half potato, half butter (smoked and brown, with a touch of cream). Potatoes for the fries are soaked in a vinegar wash before being fried for extra ‘crispy crunch’, and the vegetables are cooked in dashi in a nod to the Japanese process, to ‘oomph up flavour’.

“Absolutely everything we’re going to make in house,” he says. Even the bread for the sandwiches, which will range from a proper roast chicken roll to a roast beef with French dip. “It’s just a nice thing to do. It’ll kill us on hours! But it’s something really honest.

“We’re using whole sides of beef, and cutting them down, so we get it at a third of the price, which means you can come in and get a 500g steak for £35 or £40, instead of £100. It feels like a nice way to do it.”

Those steaks – a bone-in sirloin for two or a more humble onglet – will be scorched over charcoal, as will whole roast fish. For breakfast, the full English comes with Toulouse sausage, and there are dishes like duck egg hash alongside the avocado and eggs.

Medlock Canteen

As they do in France, he’s hoping that once they’re up and running – they’re open just in time for the Easter weekend – that the residents of the Deansgate Square apartments stretching into the sky above us will be able to use this as a takeaway as well as an all-day canteen.

Sam, with his business partners Chris Edwards and Owain Williams, opened the tiny, hugely successful, Michelin-listed Belzan in Liverpool in 2017. Since then they’ve headed down the M62 to Manchester, opening Madre, their taco and mezcaleria last summer.

The model here is the ‘super accessible bistros’ you see in Paris, open all day and into the night, as well as the diner culture of New York. 

Inside, the decor has seen the slightly brutal shell interior of this box at the bottom of a skyscraper softened with wooden panels, yellow formica on the tables along the side and a station clock jutting out from a concrete pillar.

That’s not just a cute design feature, by the way.

Medlock Canteen

“Being an all-day, all-night thing, there’s very much a train station, or you could be anywhere in the world vibe to the place,” says Chris. “Clocks are like a meeting place too. ‘We’ll meet under the clock’.

“We love going to places like New York and Paris. The bistros in Paris, people go from eight in the morning, right the way through the night. So we wanted to reference that and New York delis and diners.

“There’s a need for these types of spaces, where you can spend a whole day and night, where it’s not strictly a coffee shop, not strictly a late night bar, not strictly a restaurant.”

Chris talks about the restaurant being part of the ‘civic space’ of Deansgate Square and what’s now called ‘New Jackson’, the collection of towers which have indelibly altered Manchester’s skyline in the past two years.

Medlock Canteen

They join the likes of Kitten, Chit N Chaat and Salvi’s providing the sustenance, while as well as the newly minted padel club, there will be a new park area as further towers get thrown up over the next year.

“We want to create a place where no matter what hour of the day you come in, it’s geared to you at that particular time. You’ll be able to take everything away, the chicken is bagged up, the wine you’ll be able to take away, we’ll do picnic hampers for when the park area is finished,” Chris goes on.

In the spirit of community, the crew’s own ‘staff dinner’ will be on the menu too. It’s what viewers of The Bear might have heard being called the ‘family meal’. It could be a fish pie, it could be a dish they’re developing for the menu proper, and it’ll cost you just a tenner.

Sam talks a lot about the menu being ‘homely and honest’. He lives in the apartments upstairs, which helps too. “When you’re sitting on the couch and you just think ‘what do I fancy’, ‘what would I like right now?’ It’s hard to find somewhere that does that, and does it well. That’s what we want to do here.”

Medlock Canteen is open from 29 March.
New Jackson, 5 Owen St, Manchester M15 4YB

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