Perhaps I’m giving too much away if I write this bit right at the beginning, but one of the strongest signs for me when we visit a restaurant, is how soon after we go back, or the husband asks when we can go back.
When it comes to Street Urchin we were, quite frankly, barely out the door.
Street Urchin sits in Ancoats – on Great Ancoats Street, close to the Northern Quarter and away from the main strip of Ancoats venues such as Mana and Rudy’s. It almost feels more part of the NQ, because despite being part of a newer build, the feel inside is more of a bistro that’s been there for decades. It’s warm, worn soft around the edges and comforting.
The menu itself is a delight. Rather than set menus and all season round dishes, it’s crafted with what’s available. What’s fresh from the market, and so changes regularly. In fact, if you book in advance, you’ll be sent an email featuring pictures of the chalkboard, so you can see what’s on offer. If you’re one of those people who likes to ogle the menu all week in advance, you’re going to find it a challenge. Personally, as I try very hard not to get too much of an idea of a venue in advance, I love the spontaneity of it. It’s a surprise.
The hard bit actually is making a decision.
When it came to our own menu choices on the day, we almost solely went for specials. The menu is somewhat fish heavy, not a bad thing as we don’t have anywhere in the city that does this (given we’ve now lost Randall & Aubin, and long ago lost Livebait, fish can be a little hit and miss in the city, though I am very pleased to see the current trend for oysters).
The husband selected the seabass ceviche with crab leek and chilli wontons. The fish was soft and fresh in flavour, the acidity giving it a freshness that contrasted with the crunch and rich sweetness of the wontons.
I opted for the veal sweetbread mille feuille. I know sweetbreads, and offal aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but they are very much mine. As a meat eater, I believe I should appreciate and eat as much of the animal as possible. And I really love sweetbreads. These were coated and fried, so you have the crisp outer and creamy, soft inside. Served with a fruity chutney (which I didn’t eat a lot of, as I found it rather punchy with the delicacy of the offal), and flaky slices of pastry.
When it came to mains, I again opted for meat – the mallard with saffron and orange fricassee, duck heart and liver. Duck, along with offal again, but this time served with soft nuggets of pumpkin, a creamy fruity sauce. It was rich, heavy and suited the chill in the air.
Meanwhile the husband again opted for fish, and picked the seafood bouillabaisse. This seems to be a regular on the menu, and it’s easy to see why. Rich seafood broth, laden with chunks of freshly selected fish and shellfish. I appreciate, we probably should have picked more of a variety of dishes for this review, but it was date night, so we simply picked what we fancied. And this was definitely what we fancied. In fact the whole reason I picked Street Urchin for this particular night (our wedding anniversary) was because I know full well how much my husband loves bouillabaisse.
Onto dessert and it was a classic lemon tart with blackberries for me. I adore a good lemon tart, sweet and sharp, with the soft berries cutting through the creaminess. Delightful.
For him, the curiously named Manchester moneybags. Little fresh doughnuts, filled with custard, dusted with coconut and served with raspberry jam. While I may not be the biggest fan of the Manchester tart (hence me creating the cake version), this twist on the classic I can get behind. Soft warm, custard oozing with every bite, and the sugary coconut dusting your lips. Fresh doughnuts really are something to be enjoyed – and these were no exception.
Overall, yes I gave it away at the beginning, we rather loved it. A menu that celebrates the best of fresh produce, and a wine menu that’s a little unusual (we enjoyed a lovely bottle of Georgian wine), and dessert wine options that include a Black Beer and Raisin Wine… Yep I’ve been reminded to check my diary for another visit.