Beastro, Irwell Square, Leftbank, Manchester, M3 3AG – Visit Now
Let’s get this out of the way. Not only is Beastro the best name of any restaurant in Manchester, it’s probably the best handle of any restaurant in Britain. That alone warrants a visit. As the name suggests, the menu is heavy on the meat – backed up by the reassuring presence of at least one seasoned butcher, chopping away in the open kitchen.
But non-carnivores needn’t be put off, there are a number of non-meat dishes on the menu, which changes from day-to-day depending on deliveries and purchases from the local Ashton market. Every ingredient is fresh and it’s immediately obvious each dish has a dazzling amount of care of attention. Don’t go expecting cheap steak and chips.
I start with a couple of options from the ‘pots and plates’ section, intended as an easy introduction before the starters and mains. They’re anything but. The Manchester egg could serve as a filling lunch all on its own. A fat egg, coated in cheek-wateringly vinegary black pudding and pork, surrounded by a thick crunchy breadcrumb and lay on dots of gloriously-tart home-made brown sauce. It’s a treat for those with heavy-duty palates, layer upon layer of sharp dense meaty flavours, surrounded by an array of bracing – but not overwhelming – flavours.
The goats cheese and beetroot terrine is even better. Not just beautiful to look at, it has a near-scientific perfect balance of dark red beet and creamy bright white goats cheese, each side balancing the other. Beetroot is a divisive vegetable, with its earthy aromas, but this is the kind of dish you’ll want to introduce to everyone. A fresh small side salad breaks up the smooth slick terrine, but even more important is a side order of Beastro’s top-class homemade bread, for spreading. This even comes with a knob of sinful bacon-spotted butter. Bacon in butter might sound wildly decadent, and, well, that’s the point.
Both starters have a near-balletic balance of flavours, everything in its right place
Keeping with the theme, the starters could easily suffice as main courses. The pink iron steak with Bearnaise sauce is the best thing on the menu. Plump strips of a beautiful cut of meat, intermingled with asparagus sliced length-ways, resting on a deceptively light buttery sauce. Then again, the duck starter would be the showcase dish in lesser establishments. Round slices of subtly-sweet duck, scattered with pine nuts and a delicate dressing drizzled over the rocket salad. Both starters have a near-balletic balance of flavours, everything in its right place.
The mains increase the heft, tenfold. Fat wedges of lamb, pink in the middle with a satisfying crunchy rim, piled on top of new potatoes, pea purée and buttery spring greens. It’s the greatest Sunday lunch you’ve never had.
Despite its versatility, pork has never been a particularly glamorous meat, yet somehow the Beastro chefs have turned this unfairly-maligned meat into a thing of beauty. It’s an artful arrangement, comprising of thick wedges of soft white meat, charred-but-moist crackling and featherlight slices of desiccated apple, tingling with fruity springtime aromas. Swine has never looked so good.
Lemon posset makes a suitable end to the meal, slicing through the meaty aftertaste with a sharp citrus kick. Creamy lemon pudding, studded with crunchy balls of meringue and white chocolate circles, it somehow takes these traditional parts and reimagines them as a wonderfully modern dessert.
And that’s Beastro in a nutshell. Each dish consists of time-honoured ingredients combined in such a way that the end result is effortlessly cutting edge – without resorting to gimmicks and elaborate laboratory equipment. While many up-and-coming restaurants are a mish-mash of ideas from all over the world, Beastro is a truly Northern restaurant – right down to the local produce used in each dish. Hearty, packed with taste and texture, but never over the top – except when it matters: portion size.
All photos by Ian Jones