YOU can always fall back on the rump. Making the best of a lamb’s backside is a way to keep the customers happy in the ‘burbs. Not that belly pork and farmed sea bass don’t have their part to play in the conservative world of the neighbourhood restaurant menu. Cynical? Condescending? Well, some neighbourhoods are more adventurous than others, but frighten the punters at your peril.
You may spend every waking hour pickling spruce tips or foraging for sea buckthorn while waiting for your fennel kimchi to ripen, but if your regular customers’ preference is for pineapple with their gammon, cheap and cheerful Pinot Grigio, chill cabinet tiramisu … I rest my case.
Test the water with an occasional tasting menu straight out of your Masterchef wet dreams, if you must, try and shift that unwise investment in truffles, if you can, but never exceed the prices your locale is prepared to pay.
Which brings me back full circle to the rump, a lovely cut when treated well. Recently I’ve enjoyed it in three independent eateries, each time priced around the unscary £16 mark. At Brassica Grill, Heaton Moor, it comes as roast High Peak lamb rump, potato, asparagus, peas and baby spinach, while at Beastro in Spinningfields Leftbank it’s Cheshire lamb rump served with peas, new potatoes and asparagus.
At One88 the roast rump is accompanied by garlicky green beans, roast tomatoes, olives, jersey royals and mint (£16.50). Its chef/patron David Gale is not afraid of bold flavours but nothing overpowers the scored local lamb sourced from much-lauded Mettricks of Glossop, served pink naturally. An effortless 10/10 dish.
‘…they sum up the ethos of a place. Few risks but consistent high quality throughout’
My £19.50 main course of rose veal came from Cumbria, again via Mettricks. At first glance it’s a very Mitteleuropa dish, an escalope breaded and fried, a third of the size of the celebrated ‘overhanging Schnitzel’ at Figlmüller’s in Vienna I once tried, and with three times the flavour of that dry, chewy discus. All helped by Gale’s sturdy appliance of capers, artichokes and a richly oozing fried duck egg. Perfect for dunking the parmesan fries.
The tie-in with the award-winning butcher’s goes back two decades; as exec chef at the Deansgate Hilton he even persuaded his corporate overlords to buy from them.
Sourcing well has always been a big deal for Gale as he set up restaurants across the globe. In the early Noughties he came back to his native Manchester from Soho House, New York to head up the kitchens at the Rossetti (now Abode) Hotel; then came that long stint at the Deansgate Hilton before recent consultancy work, notably at The Lawn Club and for the Mughli group.
Meanwhile, the dream to open his own place in the city centre was consistently thwarted, hence the new project with business partner Lee Richardson on busy Bury New Road, opposite Slattery’s chocolate and cake emporium (where he buys his bread). John Slattery, celebrating 50 years running the business, is living proof of finding a niche and making it lucrative. A few months in, One88 has barely changed the uniformly excellent menu while nurturing that vital regular customer base.
Presentation on my potted ham, hot mustard and pickle starter (£7.50) had changed from when I chose it on a first visit. Then it came as a fibrously potted upright whole topped with lamb’s lettuce, this time sliced into thick coins – less fancy but still a dish in lovely harmony.
I was less enthusiastic about my partner’s crispy confit chicken, at the same price, a dull ensemble on its bed of barley and minted peas.
Our puds, both under £6, were homely – a seasonal fruit crumble with vanilla ice cream and warm, flaky Eccles cakes, teeming with currants, plated with strawberries and a wodge of clotted cream.
They sum up the ethos of a place. Few risks but consistent high quality from brunch through bar snacks and superior sandwiches to a la carte. You can splash out. For £32 they’ll grill you a whole lobster, and I’m sure it’ll be superb. Like the fried fish goujons, but in a different way.
Yes, of course, the wine list does feature a Pinot Grigo at £18.50 a bottle and by the glass but pay less than twice as much and you’ll discover a couple of glorious, aromatic whites you wouldn’t expect – New Zealand’s Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc from Kevin Judd, who as chief winemaker at Cloudy Bay created the Marlborough style, and a ripely fruity (lychee, passionfruit, elderflower) reminder of how good English wine can be, Bolney Estate Lychgate from Sussex.
I could easily sit at the bar, sipping either with a smoked salmon and prawn sandwich. It’s that kind of relaxed place with a smart ambience (cost-conscious Gale even discovered his own dormant design skills to keep costs down). One for the locals then? Don’t be patronising. Well worth the trip out from the city. Just a six mile drive with free parking on site, or a leisurely tram ride away. And you won’t spend your evening suffering beard envy.