Higher Ground, The Bungalow, Kampus, Aytoun Street, Manchester, M1 3DA – Visit Now
Higher Ground was the very last restaurant visited by Creative Tourist, mere hours before lockdown saw the temporary closure of all restaurants across the UK. As far as final meals go, it’s hard to imagine anything better. The tasting menu was a revolving platter of jaw-dropping plates of food, simple in concept but blessed with ideas you won’t find anywhere else.
The hospitality industry is in a state of flux, but we’ve seen many restaurants switch to takeaway and delivery options, with many of the city’s best high-end venues offering ‘kit meals‘, aka the very same meals you’d eat in the restaurant, partially prepped by chefs so you can finish them at home in your own kitchen. If this piques your interest, Higher Ground is the one to begin with. We can’t say if the kit meals on offer will include all, or even any, of the courses detailed below but they’re certain to possess the same kind of modern impulse – if you want a cute label for it, go for ‘post-Nordic’: traditional, localised and always inspired.
This is the kind of dining experience that looks set to exemplify the Manchester food scene in the 2020s
The restaurant itself is a pop-up based at Kampus, the new neighbourhood complex from the Capital & Centric and HBD development team, based on Aytoun Street in the city centre across the water from Canal Street. To their credit, they don’t broadcast it but their team has links to Where The Light Gets In Head, with that raved-about institution’s former head chef Joseph Otway in charge of the kitchen. Will it return post-lockdown? It’d be criminal if it doesn’t. Much like Erst and Where The Light Gets In, this is the kind of dining experience that looks set to exemplify the Manchester food scene in the 2020s.
But what about the menu? It’s made up of sharing plates, so you could have a couple in you’re looking for something light, or the whole lot if you’re curious (or simply greedy, no judgement here). We’ll post pictures of the in-house meal below, but be aware that your kit meal may differ. Among the dishes below, you’ll find delights such as royal oak carrots with sea buckthorn hot sauce; Bagthorpe onions, cheese and yeast; Jerusalem artichokes, Manchester wild garlic and oyster; purple sprouting broccoli, chestnut mushroom, cured yolk; something mysteriously titled ‘Curing Rebels N-DO-YA? rye-bit; celeriac salad, blood orange and bay leaf; young leeks and smoked cod roe; pork shoulder braised in milk and fennel seed; then for dessert, Robert Tomlinson’s rhubarb, almond and custard.
If I had to save one restaurant, Titanic-lifeboat style, it’d be this
As you can see, it’s a truly unique line-up. Sure, it nods to other similar high-end restaurants in and around Manchester, but the food here pushes boundaries. It doesn’t dazzle with artifice or smoke and mirrors, rather there’s the sense that some of these dishes could feasibly have been rustled up centuries ago. The sheer power of the flavours is shout-it-from-the-rooftops exciting, the staff are relaxed, clued-in and delightful, and the venue is charm personified – a kind of polished treehouse, with everything in its right place.
Effusive much? Maybe I’m swayed by this being my final meal out for months, but the experience would have gone down as one of my top ten dining experiences regardless. Once lockdown ends, make this your first port of call, but until then head over to their website and try out one of their kit meals. Not just because they’re almost certainly the best thing you’re likely to produce in your mucky kitchen, but it should help them tide over during this weird, confusing, shuttered months. If I had to save one restaurant, Titanic-lifeboat style, it’d be this.