There’s a new addition on Stevenson Square and it’s causing a bit of a stir with those in the know.
Called the Fry By, it’s inspired by Amsterdam’s many chip (or frite) shops and has even created its own version of Fritessaus or frietsaus, the classic mayo-style condiment that no self-respecting Dutchman will do without.
That’s not the only topping option, though, far from it. These super crispy fries can come as loaded or as simple as you like, with a total of roughly 54 different flavour combinations on offer with six homemade salts and nine sauces to choose from – plus extra toppings.
And as well as the fry cones, there’s a handful of VHS-style boxes drawing inspiration from cult movies like Richie Rich and Goodfellas.
Staff wear bright yellow branded jackets and there’s a general air of cool around the place as friends saunter up to order cones piled-high with all sorts from fennel butter and lemon pepper mayo, to brown crab and onion and garlic salt.
As we tuck into a cone of triple-cooked, perfectly crispy fries topped with their signature house Ando (lemon red pepper mayo) and pickled pink onion slices, founder Marwan Mounti tells us he came up with the idea last year whilst sat having a drink in Stevenson Square.
Realising Manchester was falling short on a late-night stop off for drunken scran since the disappearance of Slice, he hit on the idea to something inspired by the Netherlands fry obsession – given that he knows Amsterdam pretty well.
“Slice used to slap, [but] there’s nowhere here that’s just like a quick bite rather than a sit down – because you can go Bab, you can go Ply, you can go Flok now, they’ve got food, but there’s nowhere where you can just be like yo, chips.”
His day job has him well embedded in the city’s food scene: running social media foodie accounts and creating content for the likes of Jerk Shack, Wholesome Junkies and Go Falafel. So if anyone knows what’s going on, it’s him.
We touch briefly on Oldham street’s chippy-turned-Turkish takeaway, which once did a decent-ish late night cone of chips but now slings everything from pizzas to paninis to kebabs, and decide it’s just not got the pull it once had.
Tastes round here have definitely elevated in the past decade, even when you’re smashed, we agree.
“I feel like people are starting to give a f*** about what they’re eating,” says Marwan.
“Even when we’re pissed, my missus is just like ‘no I’m not eating that,'” he jokes, miming false shock at her refusal to enjoy a Tandoori chicken with him at two in the morning.
“I think we all have [got more fussy], we’re all like yo is that truffle oil? How do you make it? Is it fresh?” he quips, correctly (in our opinion).
“But that’s like where it came from,” he continues, telling us they wanted to make their own chips.
“Everything’s [done[ on the day fresh, the potatoes were cut today, steamed, then blanched, then fried, all the sauces are made fresh on the day, all the meats are marinaded and like cooked off on the day, […] that’s why we’re [not opening until five because most of the prep is done in the morning and the afternoon.”
He reveals he’s become a bit of a potato obsessive, as part of his search for the perfect fry. We ask who their supplier is, and Marwan tells us McCalls – the vegetable stall next door to Jerk Shack just off High street.
“I’ve been working with them for years helping them with their Jerk Shack account, so I was just like ‘my turn now, sort me out’ he laughs.
We hear they’ve been through a few potatoes before finding the right one, ultimately settling on red Desiree.
“The potato really matters.,” he confides, “we had to compromise between crispiness and taste [in the end].
“Sajitas are like super crispy but then they’d taste a bit frozen, you know the vibe, but these are like crispy, but not like 10-10 where you’re like ‘crisps’, but these are really tasty. Like nice and sweet, we brine them for a little bit so its like a bit of sour.”
As he says this, a loud crunch comes from the table behind us which perfectly makes his point.
“They sounded super crispy.!” he says enthusiastically, turning around to find the cruncher responsible. “Sorry, I’ve become obsessed. I’m not even joking.”
It’s early days here still, but we think Marwan’s on to a winner. He certainly knows his potatoes and he’s not wrong about the need for a high quality late night takeaway round that part of town (and every part of town) .
As the saying goes, if you will build it they will come. And come they have.
Since opening just a couple of weeks ago, The Fry By has been pulling in big crowds with queues sometimes running down the street.
Over a year in the planning, its open from Thursday to Sunday inside The Corner Boy, just off Stevenson Square, and is operating as a sit in or take out from the hatch next to the bar.
With a three year lease, it should be around for some time – but that’s no excuse to be slacking. Next time you’re around for a drink, go see them for a cone. You won’t regret it.
To find out more including opening times, head over to their Instagram.