EASY to get your Skyrs and your Skreis in a twist. The first is that Icelandic yoghurty stuff which has invaded the supermarket cool counters; the second is an even stealthier intruder – delicious wild Norwegian cod that’s only in season about now. Seek it out while you can. I encountered Skrei for the first time at 188 Kitchen and Bar in Whitefield, new showcase for a formidably talented chef called Gale. Aptly we visited on the night Doris was wreaking her havoc. And had a storming meal (sic) with the roasted Skrei the star (main picture).
Sourcing well has always been a big deal for David Gale as he has set up restaurants across the globe. A decade ago he came back to his native Manchester from Soho House, New York to head up the kitchens at the Rossetti (now Abode) Hotel and then was exec chef at the Deansgate Hilton before recent consultancy work, notably at The Lawn Club and for the Mughli group.
Meanwhile, thee dream to open his own place in the city centre was consistently thwarted, hence the new project is in the ‘burbs. It’s on busy Bury New Road opposite the HQ of veteran chocolatier/baker John Slattery; David only has to brave the traffic to buy his bread there. There’s a feeling he has made the right choice as the latest in a cluster of restaurants along the strip (but remember under no circumstances call it the “New Prestwich”).
188, though, is different class but in an understated way as it puts down its roots. Open from 10am to late every day, you can brunch and breakfast there or grab a small plate or two at the bar, while there are superior sandwiches and salads for £7 or £8, and single origin coffee from Salford Roasters.
That same devotion to local provenance carries over into the restaurant offering. Meat is from Mettrick’s, the acclaimed Glossop butcher he badgered the corporate Hilton into buying from.
The black pudding, classically paired with pan roast scallops (£8.50) for my wife’s starter was made by Mettrick’s. I didn’t ask the origins of my gloriously fibrous potted ham (£7.50; I was too busy relishing its happy harmony with proper hot mustard and pickles and also being reminded of Gale’s masterly seasoning. The butter for our bread had been enhanced by a sprinkle of fine black pepper; elsewhere salt flakes lifted flavours, notably in the Roasted Cod. I now we’re all Scandinavian now, but who wants hygge when you can have mega-sustainable, omega 3-rich Skrei?
Apparently over-cook it just a jot and the texture turns to cotton wool. That hadn’t happened and under its crisp skin it was pristine white flakes, covering its entourage of peas, bacon and clams in a gentle nage. For £15.95 a minor culinary masterpiece. From April, it will be back to our native cod.
The rump of lamb across the table was the same affordable price and was absurdly, pinkly perfect, its accompaniment of parsnip, kale and garlic potatoes further bolstered by a buttery, garlicky side of spinach.
Front of house Manuelo Pinna, once of Rosso and later at the Hilton with Gale, had suggested a Nuovo Quadro Gavi di Gavi (£24.50), and it was a winner, fresh peachy proof of the heights such a simple wine can reach. The wine list is a work in progress, as in truth is the food menu, which is deliberately avoiding the scarier aspects of fine dining. We expect it to evolve.
Meanwhile, 188 is the latest example of a relaxed, contemporary neighbourhood restaurant in the right place at the right time It’s smart, despite the fact it was entirely self-funded by Gale and his business partner, Lee Richardson; the pair even handled all the design on the hoof.
And don’t forget, all you foodie-driven metrosexuals and jaded NQ flaneurs, it’s just a six mile drive from the city centre with free parking on site, or a leisurely tram ride away. Make the effort and you too could be finishing dinner with a duo of the cutest little Eccles cakes with clotted cream or my partner’s heavenly dark chocolate mousse with with maple glazed banana and salted cashew nut caramel (each £5.50). So comforting after a horrendous day of uprooted trees and travel chaos.
188 Kitchen and Bar, 188 Bury New Road, Whitefield M45 6QF. 0161 280 0524.