CHORLTON is a dream for foodies. No area of Manchester can match its range of shops to stock up at. From Uncorn’s wholefood, organic veg and vegan cornucopia to carnivore-central WH Frost Butchers; from Out of the Blue’s unmatchable fresh fish counter to the bakery/deli delights of Barbakan you’re spoiled for choice. And that’s even before the eagerly anticipated arrival of the crowdfunded Creameries in spring.
But one of its greatest treasures lies up on Beech Road and it’s expanding. Epicerie Ludo now occupies three separate premises, offering a deli, wine and beer store and a cafe offering seriously impressive coffee and patisserie.
It’s a reassuring expansion on a popular road whose bar and eaterie options have dwindled recently – the Chorlton Green Brasserie is shut while new owners take over and Mish Mash is permanently closed.
So congratulations to the eponymous ‘Ludo’, Ludovic Piot and partner Darren Williams for their mini-empire six years on from opening the French-inspired Epicerie grocery.
Ludo is engagingly modest about the expansion from the original shop at 46 Beech Road: “We started off selling wine and bread and cheese. Customers liked what we did and kept asking. We needed to expand and somehow once we’d found a bigger place for the grocery (66C) it seemed a logical extension to open a cafe next door (33 Stockton Road). That’s it now.”
Le Cafe was a delight when we visited. There are cakes and macarons from Ludo’s compatriot Alex Moreau at Didsbury’s amazing Bisous Bisous patisserie (the lemon meringue with a twist pictured was sublime). The coffee is locally roasted and the sandwich selection is eclectic. We shared a generous nduja, goat cheese, honey and walnut baguette for £4.75.
At the moment it’s open daytimes only. “Maybe when it’s summer and people are out more in the early evening we might for an alcohol licence and open to sell platters of cheese and charcuterie,” Ludo told us.
The cheese counter in Le Deli is hugely impressive; mainly French but Ludo is at pains to point out: “From the start despite the French influence we have been keen to support local suppliers, too. Most of our beers are from Manchester breweries. Why shouldn’t they be?”
You’ll find the beer selection in the original shop, which focuses on wine (mainly French and again, why not?).
So, Ludo, does France still rule the food world? We had to ask. Diplomatic to a tee he tells us: “Food is still very important there, but fewer people cook these days. In the UK more and more people are interested in food through television programmes and they have access to good raw material. It is wrong to pigeonhole food, Spanish, Italian, French etc. It is European.”
Oh yes and we didn’t mention the dreaded Brexit.
Epicerie Ludo, 46 Beech Road, M21 9EG; Le Deli, 66C Beech Road, M21 9EG; Le Cafe, 33 Stockton Road, M21 9FB. 0161 861 0861.