Just a forty-minute drive from Manchester, The Moorcock Inn is a favourite amongst foodies on both sides of the Pennines.
Recently awarded a top spot in the esteemed 2022 Estrella Damn Gastropubs Top 50, we knew we had to pay it a visit.
The pub recently merged its two menus into one, combining the bar menu with the restaurant tasting offerings into what equates to a long, glorious list of dishes designed to share – each sounding more indulgent than the last.
An unsuspecting candidate, this old-school Pennine boozer at Norland above Sowerby Bridge looks very ordinary from the outside. In fact, as we pull into the car park behind it, a bit stressed in the torrential rain, we all question whether we’re in the right place.
We are. A chef in a cap, completely unprotected from the blizzard in his t-shirt and apron, is out there getting drenched. Talk about passion. With much of the menu here cooked over fire, we expect he’s accustomed to it. Wet weather is part of the moorland’s, erm, charm.
Stood in front of a roaring outdoor barbecue, he intermittently runs the gauntlet to grab what appears to be clumps of hay, thrusting his head into a covered box and emerging with armfuls of the stuff to help smoke and fire the huge charcoal grill.
Billowing clouds are smashed to smithereens by the driving wind and rain without mercy. We leg it past the barbecue, landing safely at the end of the bar – all wooden beams, exposed stone walls and black-as-the-night chalkboards – before being taken to our table in the snug.
Snug it is, enough to quickly forget the downpour outside and de-layer whilst poring over the extensive drinks menu. Yes, it’s a pub, so you’d expect the drinks list to be relatively decent – but this offers so much more.
Experienced sommelier Aimee Tufford has put a lot of love and care into composing it, with a huge number of low and no alcohol beers sitting (quite literally) side by side with quality craft, keg and bottle options. There are stouts, hazy IPAs, lagers, saison – the 0.5 percents happily rubbing shoulders with the twelves.
Wines are mostly organic and low intervention, many served by the glass or carafe, more by the bottle. Elsewhere, there is a good choice of gin, kombucha, sake, cider and more. On it goes.
Aimee heads up front of house with her British-Australian partner, Alisdair Brooke-Taylor, the chef. Prior to opening The Moorcock, the pair spent years together at Michelin-starred In de Wulf on the Belgian-French border.
Before its closure in 2016, Alisdair functioned as the right-hand man to Kobe Desramualts. At that time, it was considered in some influential circles to be the third-best restaurant in Europe. Let’s just say, the locals here are blessed.
Crispy potatoes, long-smoked over that fire outside then crisped and cracked in the deep fat fryer, take a pub classic to the next level – served split in a heap with a small dish of yeasty mayonnaise.
A serious hunk of sourdough – loaded with queen scallop, spider crab, grated turnip, chives and sunflower seeds – is turned to an eggy-bread sponge, oozing with salty-sweet roe custard that drips down the sides and swims at its base.
A whole charcoaled flounder, roasted and smeared in butter made from dried mullet roe, is soft and buttery, leant an umami saltiness from the bottarga.
Sauteed greens dressed in garlic and anchovy bring more of that salty, Southern Italian depth to the table, whilst a plate of shaved celeriac frisee with ricotta salata, capers and mustard lends the meal a smoky, pickled, earthy freshness.
Crispy pig tails with apple sauce and artichoke, stuffed with sausage meat and blackened to the point of crumbling, are a literal reminder of The Moorcock’s nose-to-tail dining ethos. Nothing is wasted, as their presence so boldly attests.
Meat here is dry-aged and butchered on-site, using mature, whole animals taken from select local smallholdings that work mostly with the Rare Breed Survival Trust as a preference.
These regenerative ethics extend to the rest of the menu, too. Sustainable fish and seafood are taken from native waters in day boats only, and vegetables are organic, sometimes homegrown in their 2-acre kitchen garden, sometimes foraged.
Very much in the school of forage, ferment, cure and preserve, the ever-evolving seasonal menu champions a host of traditional homesteading techniques- right down to the handmade crockery on which everything is served.
We finish with both of the puddings (there are just two on the list). In a nod to locale, one is a rhubarb frangipane puff pastry tarte doused in a thick. tangy lemon curd with pumpkin seed praline. The other, a giant plate of choux pastry boldly redefining any interpretation we previously held about profiteroles.
Filled with a squash cheesecake mousse and milk ice-cream, it gives off the slightly cheesy tang of fermentation. All is balanced by a huge drizzle of salty-sweet butterscotch sauce. It’s the pudding that keeps giving, all three of us attack with vigour – only turning over to the rhubarb puff when it’s done.
This is a glorious pub, serving glorious food. This new offering feels wonderfully relaxed, combining the best of both restaurant and bar menus. We completely see what all the fuss is about.
Archie’s has installed a bright pink train carriage at its original burger bar
Archie’s has fully reopened the doors of its original diner in Manchester, installing a hot pink train carriage inside.
The beloved burger and shake bar has today unveiled a ‘subway station’ in the basement as part of the Oxford Road site’s £1m transformation.
Diners can now tuck in to their smashed burgers, wings and tater tots from their own train booth.
The bright pink addition to the site has been designed like a New York City subway car, down to the handrails and the train windows with a graffiti-covered wall behind them.
The Archie’s team have even created a fast food-inspired underground map, featuring stops like Milkshake Gardens, St Pancakes, and Scrannington Place.
There’s enough seating inside the train carriage for around 25 diners, plus extra room outside it, where banks of metal train station-style benches are arranged.
The newly-revamped site also has new self-ordering screens at the entrance and a click-and-collect service.
The brand’s original site will be open from 11am (with its new breakfast offering on proud display) until 3am at the weekends.
Archie’s has become famed for its Instagram-friendly pink interiors since its launch in Manchester in 2010.
Features at other sites include giant ball pits and swings, plus masses of neon slogans, mirrors and colourful booths.
It’s lured in more than its fair share of celebs over the years too, with visits from famous faces like Floyd Mayweather, NeYo, Rita Ora, The Game, Kevin Hart and Conor McGregor, many of whom have designed their own milkshakes for the menu (Conor McGregor’s The Mac Life is a mad mix of Wispa Gold, peanut Lion Bar, hazelnut sauce and blue sherbert, if you were wondering).
Archie’s now has diners and burger bars across the country, including five here in Manchester, plus sells its food on Deliveroo.
There’s an apple crumble stall with unlimited custard under the Mancunian Way
A new food stall has opened underneath the Mancunian Way selling pots of apple and rhubarb crumble with unlimited custard.
Called Crumbled, it is one of three new food traders to have moved into Hatch street food village on Oxford Road – joined by Caroline Martin’s new Rio Mex taco joint, and Pakistani and Indian fusion spot Phukt.
Opened by Manchester-born fashion model Chloe Peers, the new crumble stall at Hatch offers two different types of crumbles with some eye-popping toppings including edible glitter, rose petals, Biscoff crumb and huge scoops of ice cream.
Customers can also opt to pay an additional £1 to enjoy unlimited custard refills, something that is well worth it when you find yourself halfway down the pot.
One of the newest additions to the street food lineup at the shipping container village, Crumbled neighbours a mouthwatering new Rio Mex taco joint from Michelin-trained chef Caroline Martins.
Having previously wowed Mancs with her fine-dining Sao Paulo Project menus at Blossom Street Social, not to mention starring in the north west heat of the BBC show Great British Menu, Martins is now also dabbling – eloquently, might we add – in the world of street food.
Inspired by her passion for the food of her home country of Brazil, combined with the time she spent living in Texas, Rio Mex sees one of Manchester’s most exciting chefs reflecting two of her favourite cuisines.
Must-try taco fillings include baja fish with biquinho pepper mayo and lime sour cream, ground pork al pastor with pineapple salsa, a five-hour chilli con carne with beef and black beans, and a melt-in-the-mouth barbacoa with cheddar sauce and house pickles.
Speaking on her new opening at hatch Caroline Martins, owner of RIO-MEX, said: “I fell in love with Hatch back in 2022 when I visited for the first time – the whole vibe was awesome! It’s the home of diversity in Manchester and a place where you can get everything done in one place.
“You can pop in, get your nails done, buy a cool vintage vest, get a cocktail at Miami Ice and have some incredible street food for dinner. And now RIO-MEX is joining; we can’t wait for everyone to try our beautiful Brazilian-Mexican fusion menu.”
You’ll also find butter chicken burgers and loaded masala fries over at newcomer Phukt, which is serving up Pakistani and Indian fusion dishes.
Promising a ‘feast from the East’, think tandoori gyros and biryani burritos, plus chaats, salads, dirty burgers and more.
Feature image – The Manc Eats
Hatch, Manchester’s award-winning food, drink, and retail destination, has welcomed a number of fabulous new traders with a Brazilian-Mexican eatery from one of Manchester’s most acclaimed chefs and there’s also a brand new vintage retailer making a new home for itself within the Hatch community.
Great British Menu’s Caroline Martins, who has worked in some of the world’s most highly-esteemed restaurants and was responsible for Manchester pop-up success story Sao Paulo Project, is bringing her brand new concept RIO-MEX to Hatch. RIO-MEX is a Brazilian-Mexican fusion street food project, and will be serving tacos, loaded nachos, churros and salgadinhos, which translates to ‘savoury nibbles’ and are often served at Brazilian pubs. Menu highlights include the Chilli Con Carne Taco, which takes five hours and the perfect blend of herbs and spices to prepare.
The inspiration for RIO-MEX came from Caroline’s passion for the food of her home country of Brazil, combined with the time she spent living in Texas. Whilst there, Caroline developed a passion for fusion cooking and RIO-MEX was born – a brand new concept for one of Manchester’s most exciting chefs reflecting two of her favourite cuisines.
Caroline Martins, owner of RIO-MEX commented:
“I fell in love with Hatch back in 2022 when I visited for the first time – the whole vibe was awesome! It’s the home of diversity in Manchester and a place where you can get everything done in one place. You can pop in, get your nails done, buy a cool vintage vest, get a cocktail at Miami Ice and have some incredible street food for dinner. And now RIO-MEX is joining; we can’t wait for everyone to try our beautiful Brazilian-Mexican fusion menu.”