SMALL plates are not going to go away any time soon. Grazing seems to match the attention span of a millennial media surfer. Download six dishes between us – we’re no longer attached to the mains (sic).
And yet when it works and no one’s labelling them as ‘small bytes’ or ‘English tapas’ there is a delight in the “drunkenness of things being various”, to quote Louis McNeice.
Few, if any, places in the city get it quite as right as Elnecot, Ancoat’s pioneering neighbourhood kitchen and bar. It’s down to the split culinary personality of chef/co-owner Michael Clay (above). Melbourne (where he cooked previously) and Manchester mingle in his psyche, the liberation of the former, the heritage of the latter.
He does all that deep-fried croquettes and arancini thing (there’s even a section on the menu called ‘Balls’) with home-made kimchis and ketchups (the rhubarb one that matches mackerel is special) but his are precise expressions of the ingredients not the lazy stodge of many rivals.
Properly settled in now, the menu extensively recharged, you get the real feel of an artisan larder fuelling thoughtful fusions at Elnecot.
Take cheese. Saddleworth Blue and peanut parcels (£3.50 from ‘nibbles’) and Lancashire Pulled Pork Arepas with Mrs Kirkham’s with spiced plum salsa and coriander shoots (£6.50) are intriguing and delightful.
Take eggs. Mr Clay likes his duck eggs. So the menu contains spiced chicken fritters, in creme fraiche, topped by fried Lancashire duck egg (£6.50); shards of a cured version of the egg sit in a chive-scattered new potato-salad (£3.50). It is the tracklements I love here – that aforementioned plum salsa, the piccalilli that accompanies either the pig head croquettes (£6) or the Manchester Egg.
Pick of the deep-fried bunch, though, has to be croquettes of Chalk Stream Trout, sourced from Hampshire, with lemony sorrel mayonnaise (£5). More unusual is a samphire bhaji that accompanies flaky fresh pan-roasted hake on a leek puree (£7.50).
The new veg dishes are attractive too – sweet and sourish disco cabbage, which has replaced disco cauliflower, roasted sweet potatoes and a contender for best kimchi in town (apologies to Seoul Kimchi).
The beer offering never quite ives up to the rest but cocktails are good and a bijou wine list is full of interest. We drank a bottle of 2014 Le Le Combal Cahors Cosse Maisonneuve – biodynamic, natural fermented, almost as inky of the legendary Cahors of yore yet elegant. Knocks spots off many a Malbec sharing the same grape.
Elnecot, 41 Blossom Street, Cutting Room Square, Manchester, M4 6AJ. 07496 152373.