Street Urchin, Manchester: ‘A place where good things happen’ – restaurant review | Food

Street Urchin, 72 Great Ancoats Street, Manchester M4 5BG (07470 804979). Starters £6.50-£9.50, mains £13-£17.50, desserts £6, wines from £19.95

In the quiet months of lockdown, when they were only putting out takeaways, Kevin and Rachel Choudhary still had to tend to their restaurant, or more precisely the potted plants with which it is filled. There were the ones in the rough-hewn macramé baskets hanging over the bar, and the others in their thickly glazed ceramic pots, converting the sunlight from the floor-to-ceiling windows into mad growth thrown out in all directions. There were the tubs of herbs along the front of the open kitchen, destined for the pot. Sometimes we talk about restaurants as living creatures with a distinct pulse that needs to be nurtured. Street Urchin really did contain life forces that had to be cared for.

That burgeoning foliage has justified the effort. It has softened the lines, not just of the concrete and steel space the restaurant calls home, but also of calamity. I’ve sat in a few dining rooms since the reopening and the necessary demands of social distancing can have uneasy impacts: you can be left eyeing barren acres of space between you and the next table, mourning what we all have lost rather than celebrating the things we have regained. Here, those potted plants have been put to work, filling one half of a four-seater table that has come down to a two, or creating a bold hedge of luscious fronds between diners. It makes for an unforced intimacy that this devoutly modern space, in the heart of Manchester’s burgeoning Ancoats, might otherwise lack.

It also feels like a statement of intent. This is a relaxed room in which nice things happen. The Choudharys previously ran a pub in Altrincham and have carried with them the kind of restless eclecticism that we associate with the British gastropub. They call it an “English Market Diner”. Initially that struck me as a winning diagonal line in a game of restaurant word bingo. But they are in England, they buy their ingredients in a marketplace of some sort and they then serve that food to people who can dine upon it. The words function.

Kevin Choudhary knows how to use words on a menu, too. On the day of my booking I was emailed a photograph of both the main blackboard and the specials. I spent half an hour thumbing my screen in anticipation, and dribbling. Thank God the iPhone 8 is water-resistant. Consider “tikka marinated trout, celeriac dill bhaji, mint yogurt salad” or “sautéed chicken livers and homemade tea-smoked chorizo, spicy tomato sauce” or “seared, glazed duck breast, slow-braised duck noodle broth, coriander, green bean and peanut salad.” I love it when a restaurant flirts with me like that.

‘Fish get star billing’: plaice. Photograph: Shaw & Shaw/The Observer

What matters, of course, is whether they can cook those dishes. For the most part, they can. There are a few sausage-making skills in this kitchen, which is never a bad thing. A good sausage invariably brings joy. Here, they are pressed into the service of what they call “morcilla-style” black pudding, by which they mean a spiced version. Making your own black pudding so close to the home of the Bury Black Pudding Company, which is to blood-sausage-making what Miles Davis was to the trumpet, only without the mournfulness – black pudding and jazz; bite me – takes confidence. It’s rewarded. Theirs is dense and with an edge of fire and comes on a big splodge of a bold tomato chutney. On the top is nest of an apple and walnut salad. It’s a cheerful tumble of great ingredients.

It’s there, too, in the chicken liver dish, sitting on top of a raft of that smoky, grainy chorizo, and properly drenched in the sort of punchy tomato sauce that makes patatas bravas so compelling. There’s a slab of bread underneath that gets left behind. We have a chorizo raft. What do we need with bread? A special of tempura queenie scallops and squid rings, with battered samphire on a potato cake, is less successful. I get the idea: the softness of the seafood, under the shatter of the finest batter. Certainly the scallops haven’t been violated, but it’s all just a little overseasoned.

Apparently, the chef’s dad is a fisherman, which is why fish get such star billing. Here, that’s a large plaice, grilled to golden, glossed with molten butter with a dipping sauce of pickled ginger and parsley. The flesh slides easily from the bone. The ginger adds a little sparkle. It’s a lot of fish for £17.50. We also have a poussin with a sweet chilli glaze. It comes with a Caesar salad. I am tempted to whinge now that it contains boquerones, or vinegared anchovies, which don’t belong in the classic Caesar. If you’re going to throw in an anchovy at all it should be salted. I also find them jarring.

‘A little overseasoned’: scallop and squid tempura. Photograph: Shaw & Shaw/The Observer

But I’m willing now to shrug and accept it. I constantly bang on about the cult of authenticity being a dead end where food is concerned. All recipes change over time. Nothing stands still. So, I suppose I have to acknowledge that putting boquerones in a Caesar is now a thing. By repetition, the recipe has changed. People do it. I’ll just moan quietly to myself about it and feel as old as time.

For his star dessert Kevin told me he wanted to play with the idea of the Manchester tart, a short-crust case containing a layer of jam topped with custard and sprinkled with coconut. He deep-fries balls of puff pastry, fills them with custard and sprinkles them with sweetened, grated coconut. He serves them with a jug of loosened jam for dipping. He calls them Manchester Moneyballs and they are both delightful and fun to eat. They are also a perfect match for that favourite from Latin America (and elsewhere), buñuelos: deep-fried, sugared dough balls, which often come filled. Clearly this bit of Ancoats is now twinned with Mexico City.

‘Delightful and fun to eat’: Manchester Moneyballs. Photograph: Shaw & Shaw/The Observer

Service was managed slickly by two waiters in black masks bearing the image of the Manchester bee, the venerable mark of the city’s hard graft and unity. It’s a sweet touch in an area like Ancoats, with its history of cotton milling. By the 1990s the area had fallen into disrepair. In recent years, however, it has developed a reputation as Manchester’s independent trading heart. Until the virus hit, it was rich with flat whites and artisan bakeries, with craft ales and the sort of rumbustious enterprise which makes life better. The reopening of Street Urchin is a sign it can be again.

News bites

A group of chefs and restaurants from Bristol, including Pasta Loco, The Pipe and Slippers, and Josh Eggleton of The Pony and Trap, have joined forces to create a socially distanced outdoor space for eating and drinking. The pop-up, entitled Breaking Bread, opened this weekend at the bottom of Clifton Downs. There’s a beer garden, plus a food operation offering a selection of dishes from the various participating businesses including Eggleton’s slow-cooked lamb breast with braised white beans and salsa verde, and the chocolate delice with salted caramel from Pasta Loco. A portion of profits will go to support local community and hospitality projects. Bookings are now being taken at

A survey by hospitality industry analysis company MCA has found that the majority of businesses will not be passing on the whole of the recently announced cut in VAT for the sector from 20% to 5%, arguing that they need the extra revenue to shore up their finances. A number of large high-street names, including Nando’s and KFC, have said they will be reducing prices accordingly.

The gorgeously classic French Soho stalwart L’Escargot is heading to the beach for the whole of August. It’s launching the pop up L’Escargot Sur-Mer at Aldeburgh on the Suffolk coast. The short menu will include shellfish bisque and baked lobster with garlic butter and chips (

Email Jay at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @jayrayner1

• This piece was amended on 2 August 2020 to correct an editing error which had replaced the word “buñuelos” with “buñuel”.

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Johny Watshon

Life is like a running cycle right! I am a news editor at TIMES. Collecting <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">News</a> is my passion. Because my visitors have the right to know the truth and perfectly.

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Life is like running cycle right! I am a news editor at TIMES. Collecting News is my passion. Because my visitors have right to know the truth and perfectly.

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