Eat fresh: Where to try the season’s best new menus
by Jade Wright.
Best for… lunch with friends
El Gato Negro
After a hard morning’s shopping, stop off for a late lunch at this little taste of Spain on Manchester’s King Street. Chef patron Simon Shaw and his team specialise in seasonally inspired dishes, reflecting a mix of modern and traditional Spanish flavours and techniques. As well as the signature award-winning dishes: morcilla scotch eggs with mushroom duxelle, apple purée and aioli and Padrón peppers with Halen Môn sea salt, spring brings a host of new flavours of its own.
Food is served as small plates, so grab a selection to share – the queenie scallops with chilli, garlic, Serrano ham & lemon butter (£10) and griddled sea bream with butterbean hummus, fennel, orange and basil (£9) are packed with flavour, particularly combined with chargrilled vegetables with smoked aubergine purée, goats cheese and walnuts (£8).
Finish off with baked vanilla cheesecake with butterscotch sauce, sugared almonds, peanuts and salted caramel ice cream (£6.50).
Best for… date night
Six by Nico
If the closest you’ve been to the piste is scraping the ice off your windscreen on the school run, there’s still chance to enjoy some apres-ski in style as Chef Nico Simeone recreates the comforting cuisine found in the mountainous regions of Europe.
Inspired by charming Alpine towns and villages, The Alps whizzes diners across the snow kissed mountain-regions of France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Italy with each bite.
Six by Nico creates a new menu every six weeks. Open from midday, Tuesday through to Sunday, the six-course menu is available from noon to night. The menu will be priced from £29 per person in Liverpool with wine and drinks pairing for an additional £26. There is a vegetarian alternative available for every course, as well as Alpine snack sides.
The Alps will run until March 28, at Six by Nico restaurants in Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Belfast.
Best for… lunch with teens
Earn serious style points with a trip to New Brighton’s cool Victoria Quarter. A haven of boutique shops, independent cafes and dazzling street art, it is a real breath of fresh air. There are now more than 15 artworks, painted by local and international street artists. Browse Rockpoint Apparel for indie fashion labels, and pick up rare vinyl in Rockpoint Records before a leisurely lunch at Middle-Eastern diner meets hip hop bar, Habibi. This spring it has introduced a new format with lots more choice for diners. There’s new mezze and small plates from the grill, plus an excellent range of vegan options, in response to requests from customers. Try the chilli orange wings, flavoured with lemon, sumac and drizzled with house tahini, with popcorn falafel and vegan cauli hot wings to share. Or go all out with a vegan no-chicken Shawarma with chilli paste, garlic, tahini, lemons and grillbread – a plant-based party in your mouth.
Best for… pre-theatre dining
Storyhouse’s bright, modern eatery has unveiled its latest seasonal menu, celebrating the crossroads of the Eastern Mediterranean. With recipes and ingredients from Greece to Turkey, and Libya to Lebanon, each dish bursts with flavour.
Favourites on the starters and salads menu include delicious apple, samphire, fennel, smoked almond (£5), as well as flavour-packed charred hispi cabbage, with muhammara, and herb crumb (£6.50).
Meat eaters will love the hearty harissa pork sausage, with labneh and mango amba £7.50. Or, for lovers of seafood the Chermoula seabass comes with pickled aubergine, capers and olives (£8).
Take a seat at one of their family-friendly sharing tables and discover the modern flavours of the Levant.
Find out more at www.thekitchenstoryhouse.co.uk.
Best for… a night away
Get away from it all with a trip to the gorgeous Wirral countryside. The perfect spot for a break from the city, the four-star family-owned hotel, set in beautiful gardens in Thornton Hough, is the former seat of the Leverhulme family.
It has its own health club and spa, with 20m heated indoor pool, fitness suite, spa-pool, steam and sauna rooms, and exterior hot tubs.
It’s a foodie paradise too. The Lawns Restaurant has an extensive selection of wines from around the world to accompany the a la carte and tasting menus. Spring favourites on the a la carte menu include rabbit with morels, wild garlic and white asparagus (£14), smoked eel with dashi, kohlrabi and lovage (£14) and lamb, served with purple sprouting broccoli, lamb fat and potato (£32).
Thornton Hough, Wirral, CH63 1JF, www.thorntonhallhotel.com.
Best for… dinner and cocktails
The Butterfly & The Grasshopper
A hidden oasis above the hustle and bustle of the city, this new pub venue in central Liverpool marries the modern with the historic, in a dance of styles, across three floors. Taking its name from William Roscoe’s poem for children, The Butterfly’s Ball, and the Grasshopper’s Feast.
Executive chef David Gale and head chef Bart Kunach have put together a menu of simple dishes with big, bold flavours, including a 24oz bone-in-rib to share, served with a selection of sauces. Or there’s From The Sea, featuring mussels presented three ways, and From The Earth, offering a grilled cauliflower steak with caper, raisin and parsley relish that’s suitable for vegetarian and vegan guests.
Upstairs it has a hidden roof garden restaurant along with a cocktail and gin bar. Plants and foliage camouflage the exposed beams of the original building, creating a forest canopy atmosphere.
Cocktail fans will be in their element, with eight classic and eight contemporary shaken and stirred blends at the heart of the pub’s drinks offer.
Themed around the bugs and beasties celebrated in Roscoe’s poem, such as The Honeybee and The Dragonfly, each has been carefully designed with floral influences and plant nectars – all perfect to sip at this spring.
Best for… eating with little ones
The Pointing Dog
Children’s menus sometimes come across as a bit of an after-thought. But, at this lovingly restored former smithy in Cheadle Hulme, there’s a real focus on little diners. The new kids’ menu includes fluffy dough balls with garlic butter, with pizza, chargrilled chicken skewers with pitta and veggie batons, or there’s an interactive pasta station which allows children a choice of sauces. Finish off with ice cream sundaes or gooey chocolate brownies with caramel sauce and vanilla pod ice cream. Served with a glass of juice, it comes in at £7.95. Older diners can enjoy classic Sunday roasts, Josper steaks and a selection of pizzas alongside a seasonal spring menu.