Our food critic Amanda paid a visit to Natural Wine Bar and Restaurant Erst to see how they cook up an autumn fireside adventure in Ancoats and ended up tackling a partridge a bit like Henry VIII.
My plus one, as usual, was Mr Carnivore and as he not only detests vegetables but taxis too, we took the tram.
Thank goodness I had my trainers on as it was certainly not walk-able in heels from Exchange Square. That was definitely my fault as my spacial awareness when it comes to where The Northern Quarter ends and Ancoats begins leaves a lot to be desired, unlike Erst which has a lot to be desired as I was absolutely spoilt for choice.
The restaurant is “terribly Ancoats” with its ubiquitous high ceilings, chilled music and open kitchen (so you can see how hard the chefs are working), along with trendy exposed pipework and a sprinkling of a New York neighbourhood feel to it. The other common theme with Ancoats restaurants is they all have that extra something and Erst is no exception.
I’m not only a foodie but a wine lover too and whilst I don’t profess to know very much about wines, I do know what I like. I’m usually only faced with a wine list where I’ve never heard of any of the wines when we’re on a foreign holiday and my formula here is to pick wine number three on the basis that you never pick number 1 because you just don’t, the restaurant have put the worst wine at number two and anything past number three is just showing off.
Erst’s difference is their wine list consists of natural and “conventional” wines and, although I’d not heard of any of the ones by the glass, the by the bottle selection is very impressive. So, that’s Erst’s difference then? Well, yes, but not just that as they then support this specialism with fantastic service and great food too.
I am a very honest creature so I explained the sorts of wine I usually like to Will, our very knowledgeable host, and he helped in a very enthusiastic but straightforward way. The result was his recommendation by the glass was absolutely spot-on. It was also number 3 on the list so my usual strategy would have worked too but would not have been as much fun. I was very excited to see orange wine on the list and we tried a couple of samples. It really is absolutely delicious and if you’ve not tried it, I would highly recommend giving it a go.
As for food, two or three plates each for sharing is recommended and this was about right for dinner. I was being very adventurous as I wanted to experience something seasonal or new so had flatbread with whipped lado that was very similar to whipped butter, figs with fresh curd and the partridge with the most fabulous cooked grapes whilst Mr Carnivore was more reserved and had wild boar salami, crispy potatoes with yeast sauce and pork collar with plumb and rosemary.
My food was full of flavour and had a few interesting twists. I’m not sure I should admit this but I have not had partridge before and it tasted really good, especially the leg meat. This is definitely my naivety but be prepared for this dish to be served pink and also steel yourself for it to look like a little headless bird sitting on your plate. It’s definitely not “first date” food but as we’ve been together for 20 years’, I went a bit Henry VIII and used my fingers but a sharp knife would be useful.
The figs were very interesting and could equally have been served as a dessert with a drizzle of honey. Mr Carnivore was very happy with his choices although his only small criticism was the pork was not as tender as it could have been.
We finished with a very zesty lemon sorbet and Cote Hill Blue cheese with crunchy crackers that looked like honeycomb but tasted savoury.
The stars of the show were definitely any of the dishes that had sharp fruit with them as the plum, grape and lemon dishes certainly packed a punch.
We didn’t explore the menu alternatives but allergies and intolerances can be discussed with the helpful staff. There is a good-sized accessible toilet and the restaurant is relatively flat with only a few steps.
There is also a cosy bar area where you can pop in to try the wine even if you are not eating with Erst and are going on elsewhere.
They are very happy to welcome people for a glass of wine, nibbles or full-on food. It is a very relaxed place with a great chilled vibe so I highly recommend it. You won’t find a menu on-line as the dishes change regularly depending on what’s in season and the quality of the produce available.
My scores on the doors are Food – 8, Service – 9, Ambiance – 8 and Overall – 8
Erst, 9 Murray St, Manchester M4 6HS. 0161 826 3008. https://www.erst-mcr.co.uk.
Open Weds to Sat 12-10.30pm, Sunday 12-8pm, Closed Mon and Tue.