We live on a small island with none of us living more than 70 miles from the coast. You’d think there would be an abundance of seafood restaurants but there isn’t. Not even reliably at the coast (although I’ve been in the southwest recently and that’s definitely an exception to much of the UK). So, it was something of a surprise to come across the Oystercatcher in very landlocked, but very foody, Chorlton. It’s at the end of Chorlton’s “main drag” and, like most of the bars and restaurants along there, it’s very casual, very basic – more shabby than shabby chic. No-one in that area is spending money on furnishings and decoration.
The website claims that the menu “changes weekly, dependent on what is both fresh and seasonal”. However, the “sample” menu has been on the website for a fair while and was the menu we were offered. Maybe there’s been no change to the freshness and seasonality of the produce but it seems unlikely. There’s seven or so choices at both starter and main – all but one dish in each being seafood
To start, squid rings had a crisp coating but were tender yet retaining a pleasant little bite to them. They sat on a rocket salad, spiked with slices of red chilli, surrounded by dabs of an indeterminate, slightly citrussy, sauce. Three crab arancini were good examples – plenty of crab flavour, not overpowered by the rice. A tomato and harissa sauce gave it a kick.
For mains, a whole black sea bream had been grilled over coals and was delicious. It comes with nothing more than a well made salsa verde. So, it needed a side – in this case, a fennel gratin. Moules frites were a classic – I could imagine myself in a small Belgian town when they are in season. A generous portion of plump tasty mussels. They came in a tasty salty, broth, softened a tad with a splash or two of cream. Fries were fries.
So, a pleasant enough evening and now we know it’s there, I’m sure we’ll give it another go at some point,
Sounds great! I always seek out the relatively local seafood while visiting the UK.
It’s often a struggle. And a bit weird. Appaently, most of what is caught and landed in the UK goes for export. Yet most of the seafood we eat comes as imports.
Completely understand. I live an hour from one of the 2 main fruit growing regions for Canada, and much of the fruit available at regular grocery stores during the summer and fall is imported from California, unless you’re willing to buy by the 2 litre or 3 litre baskets of local fruit. The imports are also cheaper.
I’m lucky to have the luxury to spend more on local fruit, that my budget allows it. Canadian strawberries tend to cost 1.5 to 2 times more than Californian or Mexican strawberries.
I rather keep things local, and cut back on other processed food costs.
I cook fish every Friday, and the salmon imported from the Faroe Islands, Scotland and Ireland is far superior to the Canadian Atlantic salmon being brought to Ontario. In that case, I splurge on the imports. I also have some Manx kippers in my freezer, that I should use soon.
We’ve been back.
We were last here in October. That was our first visit and, at the time, we’d noted that the restaurant website mentions they change the menu every week. That said, the menu we were offered was the one that had been displayed on the website for several weeks prior. And the same thing happened on this second visit. Not only that but the menu seemed very familiar from the first visit. The four dishes we ate in October were still there. So, not much change then. Now that’s relevant because, with a short unchanging menu, you can quickly run out of things you want to eat. Which is shame when this is, I think, Manchester’s only specialist seafood restaurant.
Another thing that hasn’t changed is the very friendly style of service – and it’s very much on the ball. That’s important, particularly when a restaurant is busy (as it was) and the kitchen may have been overwhelmed. Dishes were very slow to come out – it was getting on for an hour before starters arrived. And then quite a long wait for main courses.
But the food is good. Not necessarily good enough for that length of wait for it, but pretty good. Three scallops were baked on the half shell and served, almost as a modern classic, with cauliflower puree and a sprinkle of gremolata. Octopus was absolutely tender and had been finished off with a nice bit of charring. It came with Lebanese potatoes – batata harra – and a very spicy harissa sauce which worked well
Moules frites are another classic – and were one of the main courses that we had last time. Cooked in a classic mariniere sauce and served with fries. And, for me, the swordfish panang curry. Now, truth be told, when I’d read the website menu I’d assumed that this was Penang in Malaysia – not realising that “panang” is a version of Thai red curry. The actual menu in the restaurant made it clearer. It’s a lovely dish. Perfectly cooked slab of swordfish. Fluffy rice. Nice creamy sauce – slightly sweet with a little chilli heat. And a wedge of charred Hispi cabbage, it’s bitterness contrasting well with the sauce.
So, in spite of the finger tapping while we waited for food, it was a pleasant enough evening. I’m sure we’ll give it another try, although it will be disappointing if the menu is unchanged.
We’ve been back again. OK - seen that, done that, no T shirt to be bought.
This was our third visit to the restaurant. It was nice to see them busy on a midweek evening but that does increase the overall noise level which, at times, meant I found it difficult to hear my partner. Still, there was the prospect of decent food to concentrate on.
Squid rings came in a light, crisp batter and were very tender– really good. There was a scattering of spring onion and red chilli. And a sauce that may have been the ponzu mentioned on the menu but didn’t have the expected citrus hit. Nicely cooked scallops came baked on the half shell, with a dab of cauliflower puree and sprinkling of gremolata.
For mains, there was a perfectly cooked fillet of hake, the flesh just coming apart in big white flakes. Also on the plate, a grilled courgette – some may have said this was burnt, but it was tasty enough (so probably a deliberate long cooking). And there was a dollop of sogulme – a Turkish puree of aubergine and red peppers. Delicious in its own right, it may have been too assertive a flavour for the delicate fish. If that dish had too strong a seasoning, then BBQ’d monkfish could have done with more. It was advertised as “tandoori BBQ”, so you might have expected a good kick from Asian spices but it was all very muted. That came with a simple chopped kachumber salad – onion, cucumber and the like. And, served separately, a dish of fennel gratin which was lovely but didn’t really fit with the Asian feel of the dish. We both took an order of fries – nice and crispy.
So, an OK dinner, although one where flavours missed the mark on more occasions than you’d like. Literally, while I was drafting this review, I heard of another seafood restaurant in Greater Manchester. We’ll go and try that one and the one in Wilmslow before we think of returning to the Oystercatcher.