My sincere and uncomplicated love for a good sausage has been oft documented on this blog, particularly the superlative charms of the Bobby's Banger. And over the last year or so, James, Richard and Heather have been slowly but surely extending their sausage empire to include two outlets at The Kitchens in Spinningfields, a butchers and countless pop-up events, as well as purveying their porky wares at the festivals and markets where we all fell in love with them in the first place. And unless you've been living under a rock, or particularly outsized piece of black pudding, you'll know that they were recently announced the winners of the year-long competition to find the most successful restaurant at The Kitchens. This means that the existing units, Bangers and Bacon and Well Hung, are closing for a short while before re-opening as Beastro, a new restaurant that will occupy the space previously given over to the three outlets on the left hand side of the development - exciting times.
I was invited to a preview of what to expect from the new menu when Beastro opens (or, a chance to drink lots of wine in the old premises before the refurb starts). It's all you would hope for from this talented trio (James is a butcher, Heather is from a family of bakers, Richard is a chef) - good quality meat cooked and served simply and with flair. The evening began with some giant-sized canapés (the highlight being the steak and fried egg on a spoon, a sport at which I feel I would have excelled had it featured in my school sports day) and a few words from Richard, who you see here pontificating about something or other. There were also excellent cocktails, so that we didn't really have to listen to Richard.
The first dish proper was a plate of short rib bon-bons served with sweetcorn purée, something of a Bangers and Bacon classic, and dispatched with appropriate speed and enthusiasm. Perhaps the classiest dish of the night was the scallop with cod, fondant potato and shallot purée, which was swiftly followed by lamb loin with Bury Black Pudding and minted peas, carrots, potato and pancetta - both dishes proving that Beastro can do dainty as well as eminently satisfying. The main course was oxtail and pearl barley risotto with roast beetroot, a deceptively simple dish given astonishing flavour by a stock that had been simmering all day, and well complemented by the earthiness of the beetroot (although this kind of smearing across the plate is perhaps a bit dated, and not really my thing). There is no picture of dessert as I was gassing to James in the kitchen by this point, but it was a beautiful little glass of watermelon layered with strawberry jelly and cream. It's also worth noting that Beastro aren't just about the meat, and went out of their way to produce interesting vegetarian dishes for the non-meat eater at the preview.
This is obviously not an unbiased review, as James, Richard and Heather are my friends, and some of the nicest people I know. However, if the new restaurant is as good as the preview night suggests then Beastro will be a raging, swaggering, meaty success - and it's absolutely nothing more than they deserve.
- Beastro will be at The Kitchens, Irwell St, Manchester M3 3AG - follow them on Twitter (@beastromcr) to find out exactly when we'll be able to get our hands on their meat.