Even though The Counter House opened four years ago, this was my first visit. I’m not sure how it passed me by. I’ve been to almost all its neighbours on Cutting Room Square including the OG Rudy’s, Mule, The Edinburgh Castle, Canto and even NAM next door. I was crazy to have missed it off the list. Just make sure it’s on yours.

The Counter House began as an all-day neighbourhood hangout offering healthy (but not too healthy) options. It’s the sort of place you can pop into late morning with the best of intentions for healing juices, smoothies and fresh ginger shots, along with the ubiquitous smashed avocado, and then return at the end of a hard day for a chilli margarita and a burger.

The interior is a laid-back, semi-industrial space with exposed brick walls, warm orange lighting, upcycled furniture, plants and contemporary artwork displayed above the open kitchen and bar. It’s a pleasant, easy space to hang out with friends or go on a date.

Their morning-til-night health-led philosophy remains, but they’ve recently launched their new menu. Don’t be fooled into thinking that healthier options mean small portions of diet food. Keeping it healthy means they have been much cleverer about incorporating flavour and texture into their dishes without having to resort to hiding under layers of butter, cheese or carbs.

Because it’s all about flavour, you can indulge in vibrant citrussy dressings, fresh herbs, pickles, umami-rich undercurrents and aromatic marinades. The menu cherry picks the tastiest bits from food cultures around the world, so you’ll find small plates such as bbq chicken wings (£9) next to cajun fish tacos (£12) and chargrilled chermoula lamb fillet on lemon and dill tzatziki (£12.30.)

They also offer good plant-based dishes like the vegan roast cauliflower (£8.70) which was tender, well-flavoured and a decent sized portion. It came with a dill infused coconut tzatziki and scattered pomegranate seeds. When we pointed out that it was the same as the lemon and dill tzatziki that came with the lamb skewers, it turned out that this one was entirely vegan, which is some plant-based sourcery.

There’s plenty on offer for carnivores. Larger plates include pan roasted sirloin steak (£28) with a choice of piquant sauces; an aromatic one with soy, ginger and nam phrik; a piquant caper, shallot and garlic, olive oil; or straight up heat with house sriracha hot sauce. There’s also braised beef short rib with Kansas BBQ sauce, Katsu chicken and Vietnamese pork belly. (Check out the full menu here)

We thought we’d try the simple sounding baked cod, soy, ginger, spring onion (£21) which was a gorgeous dish I’d absolutely order again. Flaky and fresh, the cod sat on top of a pile of pickled, shredded veg with a sauce bursting with citrus and aromatic flavours. If you are cutting down on meat, I’d also highly recommended their miso glazed aubergine (£15.80). Its soft and yielding texture is offset by crunchy and nutty toasted pumpkin seeds and lifted by a picked fennel and cucumber slaw.

There is a selection of more indulgent desserts such as cheesecake, chocolate torte, sticky toffee pudding and a blondie but we’d managed to happily steer around the carbs this time and weren’t about to fall at the last hurdle. Instead, we got our sweetness  by choosing from the cocktail list and ordered two of their signature drinks, a chilli margarita and Uncle Wrays rum punch.

Along with cocktails, The Counter House also has their own brand house lager on draft and a decent range in cans and bottles. There’s a concise choice of white, red, pink and sparkling wines served in various denominations from small and large glasses to carafes and bottles. Our server recommended a South African Chenin Blanc by saying ‘because it’s kind to bees’, and that was good enough reason for us.

Staff were friendly but a little on the eager side this time; clearing plates while we were still chewing, removing glasses that still had a slurp in them, and asking if we wanted to order desserts before the mains had arrived. But they were all very lovely and that’s not necessarily going to be everyone’s experience.

Ancoats keeps being featured on lists of the country’s coolest neighbourhood for good reason. Cutting Room Square has become a great place to meet and hang out and it’s very likely you’ll bump into someone you know if you hang around there long enough. The venues that surround it continue to remain relevant and even thrive by keeping their offering fresh – quite literally in the case of The Counter House. If you need comfort food, soul food or a bowl of something easy and nourishing, here’s where you’ll find it.

The Counter House, 35 Blossom Street, M4 6AJ

Opening hours:

Tuesday – Thursday 11am – 11pm
Friday – Saturday – 11am – 12am
Sunday 11am – 9pm


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