Luck Lust Liquor & Burn, Corner of High Street and Edge Street, Manchester, M4 1HP – Visit Now
The awkward name for this Northern Quarter eatery gets on Kate’s goat – and that’s just for starters.
Yup, the name stinks, doesn’t it? I don’t know what it’s supposed to be saying, but it’s trying far too hard to say it. And it’s a surprise coming from these guys, the intensely media-savvy crew who also run Almost Famous Burgers around the corner, where the Twitter-enabled long lines and food blogger frothings just keep coming (I’m as guilty as the rest; my abiding affection for Almost Famous is a matter of public record). They’ve been in an expansive mood lately, with this place opening in the former Socio Rehab space on High Street in the Northern Quarter and rumours of a further rib joint planned for the cavernous Great Northern Warehouse across town.
If you’re wondering what to expect, it’s basically Almost Famous with tortillas
So if you’re wondering what to expect from LLL&B, it’s basically Almost Famous with tortillas. There are strong drinks with silly names. The same laid-back décor is in effect: bare brick with a few choice touches (paintings of Chihuahuas in lucha libre gear, a neon sign declaring Jesus Loves Tacos). Some hand-lettered excerpts from Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas help promote the impression that the clientele consists of wild-eyed drifters with itchy trigger fingers or wayward starlets who’ve walked out of a Russ Meyer movie and popped in for a Triple Threat Burger. This gonzo effect suffers slightly at lunchtime, when you’re likely to see a family with young children scarfing down spicy fries below the words “salt shaker full of cocaine”.
Because that’s the dirrrrrty food joint’s dirrrrrty little secret: remove the bad-boy trappings and you’re just ordering from the children’s menu. Hell, I love burgers, fries and jalapeno poppers as much as anyone, and I can even understand the allure of their £30 Tapout Burrito – from afar, mind you. But most of what they serve up requires few actual cooking skills beyond knowing where to buy your meat and understanding when to take the burgers off the grill. Which may be why the extension of their repertoire beyond its natural burgers n’ ribs niche feels like they just started slapping ingredients together at random and seeing what happens. The results often resemble a snack thrown together by a few University of Texas frat boys raiding the fridge after way too many bonghits. Duuude, let’s put crabmeat and bacon bits in a quesadilla. Sweet! (I felt it was my duty to order this and I’m sorry to report that it was exactly as dire as it sounds. And served with fries for £8, it wasn’t exactly a bargain either.)
These dishes may be inspired by the street food of the American Southwest but they’ve lost some essential features en route. A fish taco turned out to be a fish finger in a tortilla, and this just made me angry. That is not a fish taco. Not even close. Crispy beef taquitos was dry mince slapped in a mini soft tortilla with a squirt of bland, green sauce. Instead of Buffalo wings (that’s chicken wings coated in hot sauce for the uninitiated, a staple happy hour snack in the states), here you get “Buffalo chicken blasts”, boneless chicken strips coated in hot sauce, which for me misses the whole point of chicken wings: gnawing the delectable bits of sinew, meat and skin off the bone. For a place that makes such a big noise about heat and spice, I found the meal surprisingly toothless.
In retrospect, my choice to focus on the most Mexican of the menu items was a bad ordering tactic, and I’ve learned my lesson: if you want Mexican food in Manchester, proceed directly to Pancho’s Burritos at the Arndale Food Market. To get the best out of this place, go for a burger. We note that the LLL&B/Almost Famous massive will soon be receiving new competition on both the burger and Mexicali fronts, with London’s Byron Burgers setting up shop on Deansgate and Liverpool’s Lucha Libre coming to the Great Northern. Gosh, our dirrrrty town just gets dirrrrtier by the minute.