Which restaurants scored the highest and the lowest in 2019? What were the 10/10 dishes? What were the worst dishes of the year?
Manchester’s restaurant scene has continued to grow at a staggering rate this year with new openings from some huge industry players as well as easy to love independent gems. The Confidentials review team have had a great time - sorry, we mean, worked very hard indeed - trying them all, so you have an idea of what to expect.
The average overall score this year was 14.3/20 - just over 7 out of 10 - which suggests that either restaurant standards in Manchester are pretty high or we’re not as mean as some people say we are. But aside from the meals that were fine and dandy, some restaurants scored very highly indeed while others left us feeling like we wished we’d stayed at home with a frozen pizza and a bottle of supermarket plonk.
But which restaurants made us want to issue marriage proposals to the kitchen team and which had us swiping left? You don’t have to sift through all the year’s reviews for the answer, we’ve done it all for you.
Here are our best - and worst - reviews of the year.
Our top five restaurants 2019
The highest scoring restaurant this year with 17.5 out of 20 was Tast's experimental fine-dining room Enxaneta where the 'serious, sensual and glorious flavours' of the ten-course tasting menu Gordo described as 'a mind bender'. He rated seven of the dishes 10/10 including a signature fried red prawn which he said would 'bring out whimpers when you take a bite.' The restaurant has recently appointed a new head chef and we look forward to seeing it go from strength to strength in 2020.
In joint second place with 17/20 each were Restaurant MCR - not least because ‘after 10 years of fucking about with Manchester tarts, Byrne’s finally got them right’; Lily’s - revisited in new, bigger premises by Ruth who particularly loved the silver-leaf adorned tripti bhog sweets; Hyssop - also revisited as the pop-up opened up as a restaurant in their own right where even a side dish of 'perfectly cooked allotment jewels' - or greens to you and me - got full marks from Kelly; and last but not least and recently made-over, The Lowry whose cheesy dip (amongst other things) made Gordo gooey.
The best of the rest
Other restaurants that scored highly this year were The Edinburgh Castle who got top marks for ox tongue upstairs and cheesy churros downstairs; Bombay to Mumbai which Deanna described as 'one of those very special independent places with the same level of hospitality they would show guests in their own home and a deep, deep love of good food'; The Fisherman’s Table that hooked Neil with its crab risotto and halibut; Abeja Tapas Bar where 'little pieces of heaven' in the form of Aubergine fries caught Gordo by surprise; A’Vucciria whose meaty Sicilan small plates pleased lard-loving Lucy; Dishoom who lived up to the hype for Deanna; Sushi Marvel whose eel got a rare 10 out of 10 from Jonathan; Easy Fish which scored top marks from Gordo for its lobster dish; and The Bull & Bear which impressed Kelly with its 'food that deserves Manchester's full attention' - just lose the tellies, Tom.
And some that failed to impress
It wasn't all lip-smacking and happy belly-patting. There were some places that didn't impress our team much. Our lowest review score went to Wok to Walk whose 'bland bulk' scored just 10/20 from Jonathan. With just half a mark more, this was closely followed by Kai which Jonathan described as 'probably the dullest meal I'll review this year' - and that was back in January 2019....(it turns out he was right.)
As for individual dishes, a vegan charcuterie at Foodwell which Lucy's dining partner declared ‘the worst thing I’ve ever eaten’ scored just 2/10. If you think we’re vegan-bashing, Neil also gave 3/10 to a charcuterie of the traditional meaty variety at Goose & Gander in Blackrod. Lucy didn’t rate the 'bland' steak teriyaki noodles at Sushi Kimchi in Altrincham either, it scored 3/10. Beetroot hummus 'so pungent it makes me and my vegan pals gurn' at 33 Oldham Street got a 3 from Ruth and the fake bake there didn’t fare much better. Ruth was not impressed either by her crab, tuna and duck sushi at Victor’s in Alderley which all scored 3/10 - although there were also some very high scoring dishes in the same review.
In the meh stakes with 4/10 were a salad at Viking tapas bar Vinaböd (well…) and coconut shrimp at Peru Perdu - both scored by Lucy, mushy edamame at Umezushi reincarnation Chish n Fips from Neil, three dishes at Locanda Altrincham and sea bass at Kai from Jonathan, and ribs at Wow Yau Chow from Ruth - although she did give their sweet n sour chicken 9/10.