Food & Drink Survey 2014: Best Newcomers, Northwest

If your votes in the Best Newcomer category show anything, it’s that Liverpool and Manchester have been yearning for two very different things

Feature by Jamie Faulkner | 06 Jan 2014

Last year was chock-a-block with new openings across the region, with Mancunian voters championing fine-dining neophytes while Liverpool seemed pleased that the ‘dirty food’ revolution had finally begun.

In Liverpool, the craze for all things American doesn’t seem to have been a ‘thing’ yet. Originating in Manchester, Almost Famous, who are, er, famous for both their patties and patter, must have had plenty of solicitations from visitors before they decided to open Merseyside-way. If they were using some sort of ‘delayed gratification’ technique, it worked a treat. While reviewers and bloggers have been quick to comment on the innuendo, frisbees, no photos policy etc., behind it all there’s a genuinely tasty product. Free State Kitchen have a more softly, softly approach but an equally enviable reputation for doing a proper job of Americanised fare, and it saw them feature prominently in this category and elsewhere.    

Manchester in 2013, meanwhile, had arguably had its fill of burger and burrito purveyors and set its sights on earning national acclaim for more upmarket places. Both Simon Rogan’s The French and its slightly less formal sister restaurant Mr. Cooper’s House & Garden opened in the Midland Hotel and featured prominently in the voting. The former had been talked about in the same breath as Michelin stars, but was passed over for the honour despite its boasting some of the most inventive and well-executed cooking to grace the city centre in an age. Still, the Waitrose Good Food Guide saw fit to place it 12th in the country for its 2014 edition. Mr Cooper’s House aimed for the middle ground in pricing alone – the food lives up to Rogan’s exacting standards. It’d be nice to be able to disagree with Jay Rayner’s musings that Manchester as a city has 'a tendency to tip over into overkill', but, from The French’s carpet to Mr Cooper’s foliage, we're still waiting for a low-key city-centre option in the fine-dining vein.

Throwing an Icelandic-coffeehouse shaped curveball in our neat categorisation was Takk, the Northern Quarter's answer to, erm, Icelandic coffeehouses; proving that there are still some café niches to be explored.