Meet the Chef - Matthew Nutter, The Allotment Vegan Restaurant, Stockport
PUBLISHED: 17:00 11 October 2016
Stockport's dining scene is undergoing a renaissance and it's being spearheaded by Matthew Nutter at The Allotment, his upmarket vegan restaurant, as Janet Reeder discovers.
Vegan chef Matthew Nutter has already created a stir on the culinary scene by stating that he can make aubergine taste better than steak.
Doubtless meat-eaters will think he’s living up to his surname by making such claims. Not only that but his newly-minted restaurant, The Allotment, is one of the anchor businesses spearheading the renaissance of Stockport’s historic market area. The thought that springs to mind is ‘can this possibly work?’
But then you consider that the most popular restaurant in London at the moment is the ‘veggan’ restaurant (vegan, apart from eggs) Farmacy owned by Camilla Al Fayed and you think that maybe Matthew is onto something.
As Manchester city centre is becoming so costly for fledgling businesses that only the multiples can survive, a few miles down the road and Stockport is not only cheaper but a more exciting prospect for the younger entrepreneur.
Just down the road from The Allotment, chef Samuel Buckley is set to open a fine dining restaurant called Where The Light Gets In. Could this be the start of something big for Stockport?
Matt didn’t exactly get much encouragement: ‘So many people said “there aren’t many vegans or vegetarians around here” but then when you questioned them you realise that everybody knows someone who is vegan or vegetarian. And while we want to appeal to local people we also want to be a destination restaurant.’ says the ambitious 29-year-old.
‘People just want a nice place to go. And with Sam Buckley opening down the road, together we’re going to complement each other really well.’
Matt, a Lancashire lad who lives in Atherton with his partner Siobhan, 28, and their new baby Patrick Harry, says he had never been to Stockport before the Vernon Street site was mooted.
‘We came down and it was exactly what we were looking for,’ he reveals.
‘It’s on the corner of a cobbled street and every day that we came down here it was beautiful and sunny so we were sold on it straight away. Plus we have quite a big fan base around Manchester so it was a perfect location.’
Matt came to vegan cooking after working in France, New Zealand, and here in the UK at Grenache Walkden and Bents Glazeborough.
‘Exercise was the first thing. I came back from New Zealand weighing 14 and a half stone and decided to lose some weight. The first thing I did was run a marathon. Within four months I had trained for a full marathon after never running in my life. Within eight months I had lost a full four stone. It was a hard year.
‘But I saw how quickly your digestive system passes vegetables and the energy you get from them. It’s a diet that’s perfect for running. I started being vegetarian so it was just bit by bit and here I am now. ‘
His aim is to keep things interesting, which he certainly does with a menu that is aimed at the fine dining crowd rather than the more traditional vegan activist.
He emphasises that it is all about the taste: ‘I just got bored with doing traditional French food and the same thing over and over again. It’s 2016 now and it’s a whole new ball game. The possibilities are just ridiculous.’
And what does the future hold?
‘We want to start selling products from here. We already do hummus and want to do pickled chilli and different kinds of things like that. I would like to get two rosettes but at the minute we are just concentrating on doing the best we can.’
Is the aubergine better than steak? Janet Reeder finds out when she tucks into Allotment’s tasting menu
The fresh lime colours on the walls and baskets of vegetables which decorate this neat dining room set the scene at Allotment. It reminds me of Honey & Co a celebrated London restaurant, both refreshingly non-corporate.
We kick things off with a wickedly spicy hummus amuse bouche and a sample of the cauliflower hotwings, the Allotment’s version of fried chicken before the soup arrives - a delicately balanced celeriac and squash soup with taste pop of capers.
A starter of shitake parfait and seasonal berries is a complete wow. The creamy mushroom pate is cut through with sharp berries and eaten with buckwheat crackers. It’s followed by and equally fantastic pineapple and aubergine, which sounds like it shouldn’t work but it does. Smokey flavours are blended with tofu cream and roasted peanuts and broccoli add texture. Steak like? Maybe not but an excellent dish.
My favourite though is tomato confit byoldi a Thomas Keller inspired ratatouille that combines bold confit tomato taste with artichoke and a fantastic basil ‘butter’.
The main is the mixed grill which has become a popular menu choice that includes a roasted buckwheat sausage, grilled Portobello mushroom, aubergine steak, hot fried cauliflower and puy lentils. It’s massive for a tasting menu and quite hearty. At this point we are flagging. There’s a refreshing minted avocado cream to cleanse the palette and a dessert of white root vegetable chocolate to follow but we make room for an amazing ‘cheeseboard’ which is cheese made from macadamia and cashew nuts bringing everything to a triumphant finale.
Tasting menu £55, three course evening menu starts at £25 6 Vernon St, Stockport SK1
0161 478 1331 www.theallotment.info