Madre Manchester

Ian Jones, Food and Drink Editor
Ian Jones

Madre’s Sunday feast: Few British institutions are more embedded into the national psyche than the Sunday roast. Everyone has their own ideas about the perfect week-ending meal – roasts or mash? Beef, chicken, or nut roast? Well, prepare to expand your day-of-rest palate with the new option from Madre: a Mexican-style Sunday feast.

Of course, because it’s Madre, it’s a touch more vibrant than an afternoon round your mum and dad’s. It’s set in the city centre thriving hub that is Kampus, a stone’s throw from Canal Street and packed out with groups of mates, with an atmosphere to suit.

First step, rope together a group of mates for this so you can enjoy a table full of Latin and South American treats. It’s £24.99 per head – a bargain considering the amount of food spread out before you. Start with some tortilla chips, smothered in freshly made, bright green guacamole with a few dips on the side – the chipotle is the winner, if we’re taking sides.

Speaking of sides, there are almost too many to mention, so here are the highlights: Elote, aka corn on the cob, beautifully charred, gloriously sweet and buttery, covered with a startling amount of chipotle mayo, lime and queso fresco cheese (actually feta in this case). A simple corn cob shouldn’t be as good as this.

Then there’s the papas con crema, a big bowl of crispy potatoes to keep all the roast potato purists happy; some refried beans; escabeche (pickled vegetables); and the other star of the side show, grilled cabbage, again nicely charred, and coated with a pistachio pepian. Texturally, it’s a superb mix of crunch and soft cabbage leaves, with an array of bold spices that make you sit up and take note.

Pleasingly, the vegetarian and vegan option isn’t just an afterthought. The impressively huge cauliflower al pastor is rubbed with spices then grilled over a spit, and served up covered with tiny diced onions, herbs and a gentle sauce.

But the most dramatic option of the day is the special – a whole chicharron pig’s head. Deep-fried before being portioned out, prepare to tear into dark pieces of soft, fatty meat, full of flavour, and thick chunks of crackling that you need to pick up by hand – cutlery is no match for this – and rip into like a well-heeled dog. It’s an experience, and one all meat-lovers should try.

Manchester has some of the finest Sunday roast options in the land, and Madre’s new Sunday feast is a superb addition to the line-up. This is a meal that brings exciting new flavours and dishes into the Sunday lunch template – perfect for open-minded traditionalists and adventurous diners alike. Or, to put it another way: on the seventh day, rest a bit, then head to Madre.

Full review: Manchester, meet Madre. Following many years of success in Liverpool, plus a few toe-dipping exercises at places like Freight Island, the team behind acclaimed Mexican restaurant Madre have made it to the city. The venue is based just off the ever-growing Kampus complex, and a hop, skip and a jump from the Gay Village.

The space looks superb. It’s a long room that gets plenty of light and lends itself to providing a great atmosphere – ideal for date-night couples and groups of friends alike. Despite the current shortage of hospitality staff, Madre has somehow bagged some of the most likeable and knowledgeable waiting staff around. If this doesn’t become a favoured haunt for pre/post-work restaurant staffers, I’ll eat my Dr. Martens boots.

But above else, it’s the food that’ll blow you away. We were treated to a series of small plates, each wildly different from the last, and each hugely impressive in its own way.

Non-meat-eaters are well catered for – indeed, the standout dish is charred broccoli, resting on an authentic mole (aka a sauce, or to translate more accurately: a concoction), topped with a feta-style crumbly white cheese. The mole is made from 30-40 different ingredients, inspired by the owner’s travels around Mexico and Latin America. It tastes phenomenal – the balance of flavours is so finely tuned and multi-layered that you’ll instantly recognise it as something you love but have never tried before. Above all else, try this dish.

Other exceptional dishes include the classics: tortilla chips with a huge lump of crushed avocado and lime on top, alongside an array of glorious dipping sauces – some fiery hot, some gentle. The salsa verde is worth the price of admission alone.

Then there’s the corn. Two cobs, perfectly cooked, smothered with a tangy vegan mayo, sprinkled with chopped herbs and drizzled with lime. It’s one of Madre’s more simple dishes, but on a hot, sunny day, this will do the job.

The most mind-boggling dish is actually two combined – skewers of pork, resting on top of some cubed watermelon, mixed up with salt and spices. Together, it was a step too far – though, still nice (indeed, my dining partner declared it her favourite course) – but separately, it’s two wonderful dishes.

The pork is crispy where it should be, and soft and tender in all the right places, coated with an unforgettable sticky, sweet sauce. If you eat meat, this is a must. By itself, the watermelon is also great. It cleanses the palate while delivering a pleasing and unique burst of flavour.

Of course, Madre is famed for its tacos, and they don’t disappoint. They come with various fillings, including beef cooked slowly for hours and hours, or fried chicken, plus some finely diced white onion, herbs and salsa. ‘

The prawns are another stunning plate. Two big prawns, still in their shells, cooked correctly to the very millisecond, resting on a sauce so good you need to close your eyes and just let it take over your tastebuds. Prawns of this quality don’t come cheap, but these are worth it.

Our final dish is something hearty and filling, and not a million miles from a traditional British Sunday dinner. Strips of steak, pink in the middle, beautifully dark and crunchy on the edges, swirled up with a bunch of roast potatoes, resting in yet another wonderful sauce, and covered with tiny chopped chives. The roasts are as good as any you’ve grown up with – crispy on the edges, soft and fluffy in the middle. If it’s a new twist on the Sunday roast you’re looking for, this is the one.

Madre is a dazzling addition to Kampus’s already-high-quality line-up of restaurants and bars. The food isn’t just good, some dishes are astounding, and it’s all underpinned with a deep love of Mexico and its nearby nations. Add all that together, plus a great-looking venue with an amazing atmosphere, and you’ve got one of the best new restaurants in Manchester in a long, long time.

The Churchill, 41 Chorlton Street, KampusManchester M1 3HN View map
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