WATCH classical musicians try and play jazz. It just doesn’t work. Ask them to dip into World Music. Even worse. Ditto chefs trained in fine dining kitchens when asked to hang loose and produce street food. It takes more than adding a pinch of lemongrass to your jus.
Brice Moore, chef with his name over the stall at The Fusion Lab in the Arndale Market, is an exception. That’s why his permanent collaboration with Viet Shack’s Nelson Lam is so exciting. The Shack won Cheap Eats of the Year in the 2014 Manchester Food and Drink Awards thanks to its modern tweak of Vietnamese family cooking; the exciting new venture next door spans a whole swathe of Asia thanks to globetrotting South African born Brice.
Amazing when you consider he once worked at Michelin-starred joints such as Michael Caines’ Gidleigh Park and Paul Ainsworth’s No.6 in Padstow, before becoming a chef de partie for Aiden Byrne at Manchester House.
We got to know him, though, when he jumped ship to join the wacky Alderley Edge venture Tomfoolery at 34. It was nearer home in Wilmslow and it gave him control of his own kitchen – eventually. But the whole, ultimately ill-fated, project took 18 months to get off the ground with the ambitious young chef kicking his heels on the payroll.
In the end, though, it was time well-spent as he researched colourful new dishes on the hoof, running Tomfoolery street food stalls all over the shop – from festivals to Leeds’ street food mecca Belgrave Music Hall and making an impact closer to home at the Friday Food Fights. All of which has led to Fusion Lab, a name that sums up what’s on offer on the blackboard over the counter – all dishes around the £6 mark.
His take on the Scotch egg is encased inside Vietnamese meatloaf, the Japanese inspired Myagi burger involves miso butter, his own home-made kimchi, smoked cheese and black garlic mayo, while Ramene tops ramen noodles and parmesan crisps with a slow cooked Bolognese.
Spoilt for choice and saving the word of mouth acclaimed slow-braised beef ribs, crispy shallots and sticky pomegranate glaze for another day, we went for two of the best finger food dishes around – his bao buns (above) and fish tacos.
Carried over to be eaten on a barrel table at the nearby Micro Bar with a pint of Dan’s IPA (brewed a splendid newcomer to the Piccadilly Beer Mile) for just £3.
For £6.50 you get serving of two bao – steamed buns – filled with either salmon, chicken, beef or pork. I went for the char siu style latter, which I’d watched Brice slicing in the open kitchen. Melting flesh and crisp crackling, slathered in another sauce made on site, hoisin, nestling in soft sweet bread with a fennel and apple slaw on the side. Lovely.
But the tacos were even better, three goujons (sic) of Chinese beer battered cod sitting on squid ink tortillas brushed with a tart lime and holdy basil infused guacamole puree (£6).
With La Bandera’s new ‘street food’ outlet (below) for their accomplished Spanish food around the corner, the Arndale Market is promising to become a proper foodie destination.
The Fusion Lab, Unit 8, Arndale Food Market, Manchester M3 3AH.