Tuesday, 21 August 2012

2012-style Junk Food in Manchester

A recent jaunt back to Manchester had me scratching my head a little, not to mention nursing it too. In typically Manc fashion, the Northern Quarter has been bursting with bars for a couple of years, and only now is the food starting to catch up. Brunch and breakfast aren’t socialising meals up there yet, and the best coffee places in town do still sport Illy signs, but it is improving.

With sucj great boozing, the food trend closest to it was always the most likely to burgeon in the NQ. I’m talking tarted up junk food of course, which you can’t swing a cat for in London. My two spots here are SoLiTa and Almost Famous.

SoLiTa is the more grown up of the two. It proudly sports an Inka Grill and the food ranges from the inventive (pulled pork sundaes?) to a range of burgers and steaks under the grill. My burger was the Catalan – at £11ish with manchego, red peppers and chorizo adorning a thick, medium-cooked patty. We weren’t asked how we wanted them cooked. Service was good though, and the draft beer excellent. They have a handsome, buffed-up waiter too.

They take reservations which is astonishing as their counterparts in London (Spuntino perhaps?) would not. Then again, Northern tea times would have a rush on at about 5pm and a sea of free tables at about 9pm, so this cultural quirk would make no-revs ironically quite handy for visiting Londoners.

Almost Famous is an irreverent scamp of a place. It’s up some dodgy stairs next to Keko Moku and at the very top, a few rooms have been given over to their own brand of iniquity. One has sofas and is for chilling out, one has tables for eating and one is the bar area, with an impressive brick display of bottles above the bar.

plain cheese burger - dead hippy?

No photography allowed, but I managed two of the food. This place’s menu was familiar, as was the rock ‘n roll sweariness about the place. It has chicken wings, it has chilli fries, gobby inked-up waitresses, the cocktails are in jam jars and it even has a souped up Big Mac-type flagship burger with special sauce. But it’s a brilliant place to while an hour or two away, original or not.  

Special mention to the Bacon Bacon Fries – which are great chips, dripping in Velveeta and bacon bits. Salty, delicious, amazing, £4. Get them if you ever come. Burgers about £7.

As the vast majority of clientele wouldn’t have been to MEATliquor, I doubt it matters as this would be original to them. So many of the London junk food trends are spirited away from New York anyway (meatballs, sliders, wings, dogs) that it begs the question – does being the importing trailblazer on this island give you the credibility for the concept? 

I don’t think so, and good luck to anybody bringing foodie diversity to a city which is second to none for boozing, but punching well below its weight on the food side. Now, if only somebody could emulate a decent Antipodean/London coffee joint in Manc…

Solita Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

Almost Famous on Urbanspoon 
Square Meal

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