OUR first visit to Erst, yet another new kid on the Sawmill Court block, was hugely encouraging. With many delays along the way it has taken a while to join its mothership Trove in the high profile Ancoats development, which also boasts Mana, Sugo and the Hip Hop Chip Shop.
What does it add to the mix? Definitely the most distinctive drinks offering, curated by Trove co-owner Will Sutton and Kimberly McBride, whose cv includes Oddbins, Sam’s Chop House and Aumbry, where she was assistant manager.
The choice of wine by the glass ranges far and wide, even encompassing, from Slovenia, an orange wine (for the uninitiated a type of white wine made by leaving the grape skins and seeds in contact with the juice, creating a deep orange-hued finished product).
We splashed out on a bottle of the Greek red Xinomavro – with 20 years’ bottle age it tasted like a top Barolo at a fraction of the price.
The food to match? Casual and classy. Kimberly insisted we try the flatbread with whipped lardo (£5) and it was glorious. We piled it with anchovies, steeped in a za’atar and bergamot emulsion (£5). Alongside, from the small plate selection, ‘pickles and ferments’ (£3) were a pretty match for wild fennel saucisson (£7).
There was a further foraged feel (not quite on the fanatical level of neighbouring Mana) to minerally green monk’s beard and wild garlic alioli that partnered a whole grilled mackerel (£15.50) that was just a mite mushy.
Picanha steak with refreshingly bitter chicory and anchovy (£15) was better, but easily the star of our mains was a rich batch of ricotta dumplings/gnocchi in a wild garlic butter, whey and parmesan broth (£8).
Bergamot reappeared in an ice cream that accompanied a chocolate tart (£7). At the same price we much preferred the other pud – rhubarb, buttermilk sorbet and rosemary brown butter crumble.
The template is set then, keenly priced, simple seasonal dishes from an open kitchen in an unpretentious setting. Elnecot, with a similar template across Cutting Room Square, has a genuine rival for our affections. Ancoats really is coming of age as a sophisticated foodie destination.
Erst, 9 Murray St, Ancoats, Manchester, M4 6AW.