[Didsbury, Manchester] No. 4

If No. 4 isn’t a Good Food Guide “local gem”, then I don’t know what is. I think it’s got the lot for what you want from a neighbourhood gaff. Friendly service, short carte of Modern Brit food which changes quarterly, supplemented by a shorter fixed price job which runs midweek and gets you three courses for £18.95. And a kitchen that cooks what it does very well. I can’t recall ever leaving other than as a happy bunny.

To start, there was mushrooms on toast. OK, a single baked field mushroom and it’s on toasted brioche. It’s topped with Yorkshire Blue and a pecan crumb. There’s a drizzle of smoked paprika aioli. It’s well balanced – earthy mushroom, tangy cheese, a sweetness from the pecan. The other plate brought some traditional ideas – smoked salmon, a potato cake, rocket and chive crème fraiche. It works, of course.

There’s traditional ideas on a main course. Liver, onions, bacon, mash. It’s English rosé calves liver. Crisp back bacon, crisp battered onion rings, mashed potatoes that were potatoes mashed , not a puree and a little wilted spinach. And a decent meaty sauce as well. It’s food you can’t wait to hoover up.

Cod was perfectly cooked, just falling into flakes. There’s spinach. And decent patatas bravas. There’s also a scattering of chorizo – good idea, but there was a sweetness to the sausage that didn’t seem completely right.

Desserts were good. Rice pudding, enhanced with a brandy, orange and plum compote. The sort of rice pudding your mum might have made – and that’s a compliment. Although, if it was my mum, she wouldn’t have heard of compote, let alone included it. An apple and blackberry tart was spot on. Crisp, thin pastry filled with sharp apples (Bramley?) and blackberries. That’s topped with a crumble mix. And, as a perfect accompaniment, really good custard.

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“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold