Canto, Fairbairn Unit A, Fairbairn Building, Henry Street, Manchester, M4 5DH – Visit Now
Ancoats has accelerated its infamous acquisition of talent in the last 18 months, finding space for a Michelin Star at Mana and a smorgasbord of reputable spots, such as Sugo Pasta Kitchen, Trove and of course Nam, the Vietnamese street food bar on Blossom Street. Cutting Room Square is the self-contained ecosystem at the heart of the snazzy buzz and alongside veterans Rudy’s and Seven Bro7hers Beerhouse, the area’s reputation has been enhanced by the sophisticated presence of Canto.
Simon Shaw opened Canto in late 2018; he’s the guy behind El Gato Negro, the King Street gem, which after copying and pasting itself into Liverpool has recently opened its third edition in Leeds. Back in drizzly Ancoats and under the direction of head chef Carlos Gomes, Canto is currently sharing its autumn/winter menu, which promises to beat away the sad, cold, dark, Manchester climate with a range of new, powerful dishes and the return of some familiar faces.
Pollen’s sourdough is always a mouth-based treat and I don’t care what anyone says, bread IS good
We kicked off with the Pollen Bakery sourdough and the salt cod fritters from the snacks section. Pollen Bakery is another celebrated recent addition to Ancoats and it’s always great to see two locals help each other thrive. Pollen’s sourdough is always a mouth-based treat and I don’t care what anyone says, bread IS good. The salt cod fritters were delicate and light, placed on a bed of tartare sauce. Nothing overpowering here; everything hitting the spot.
We tried to order from each section, as the menu is vast and we wanted to give meat, fish and veg a whirl. The Mediterranean tiger prawns arrived next, alongside a plate of beetroot and avocado from the special menu. The prawns were just beautiful, but after enjoying the juicy interiors, I had to leave much of the flavour on the plate. Why? Well normally I would lick the flavour off the hollow shells, but we were sat by a table of cool people and I didn’t want them to see me licking prawns in a public place. If I learnt one thing from The Shape of Water, it’s that crustaceans and humans don’t look great together.
The pan-fried tenderstem broccoli with fresh chilli and garlic was crunchy and green, with a warm heat following each mouthful. These are tapas portions, but they’re generous; two or three plates will see you leaving very satisfied.
The braised pig’s cheek was sat on a pillow of Iberico ham mash, with green kale and chestnuts
The braised pig’s cheek was as expected by the time it arrived… glorious. It was sat on a pillow of Iberico ham mash, with green kale and chestnuts. At £10, this is one of the more premium plates on the menu, but I can tell why it’s a best-seller. It’s comforting food with a Mediterranean thump, so it feels recognisable but adventurous.
Quality menu aside, Canto is smartly dressed, with a relaxed atmosphere and assertive front of house; it’s easy to see why it’s amassed such a loyal following. The autumn/winter menu is available now with many of the dishes available to be enjoyed as part of Canto’s three for £15 small plate selection, available Wednesday to Saturday until 6pm and all-day Sunday. Many of the dishes are suitable for vegetarian and vegan diners, with the kitchen well equipped to swapping out what you’re keen to avoid.
It’s already been around longer than many Manchester restaurants are able to muster in this increasingly treacherous city and it doesn’t look it’s going anywhere soon. Like Rudy’s, Canto has rightfully become one of Cutting Room Square’s key pillars and with something like 8,000 skyscrapers being dragged from the ground in Ancoats over the coming years, one can only assume there will be even more fans of Carlos’ braised pig cheek moving into the area soon.