Restaurant review - Hispi, Didsbury
PUBLISHED: 09:26 20 January 2017 | UPDATED: 09:26 20 January 2017
not not Archant
Let’s hear it for Hispi, a new restaurant in Didsbury and the third from Gary Usher, of Chester’s Sticky Walnut fame, writes Louise Allen-Taylor
The first question is this: why are a hundred or so names etched on a gigantic mirror taking pride of place in this new restaurant?
And the answer is that these are the people who put hand in pocket to bring Hispi to Didsbury. Yes, crowdfunding to the tune of £50,000 helped launch the restaurant, just as it did with Burnt Truffle in Heswall, both of which came on the back of the ferocious loyalty engendered by chef proprietor Gary Usher’s Sticky Walnut in Hoole, Chester.
Call it a popular uprising. There’s a lot of it about.
And the second question is: who or what is a hispi? Answer: it’s a type of cabbage, and appropriately enough, you’ll find it, chargrilled, with confit potatoes, shallot and pickled walnut dressing, on Hispi’s menu. And I would tell you whether it merited having its name over the door, but the other options on the menu were just too enticing. Maybe next time...and there WILL be a next time.
I suspect a lot of Hispi’s diners will keep coming back again and again, even with some stiff competition in this most convivial of Manchester postcodes.
It’s fine dining without the fripperies, an interior of understated elegance - woody floors and furniture, soft off-white colours on the walls, muted lighting, a bit of bare brick counterpointed by a flashy chandelier - which is nevertheless cosy. The food - in the Sticky Walnut mould but the creation of head chef Richard Sharples, formerly of another suburban star of a restaurant, Aumbry in Prestwich - is modern British, clever, but not flashy or self-important in presentation.
I start with gin cured sea trout with lightly-seared slices of pickled cucumber, wafer thin blooms of radish and chunks of pink grapefruit with yoghurt (£8) . The trout is dense, meaty and ever so slightly boozy, sitting amid a subtly sour array of flavours, and it all looks as pretty as a picture. My companion has burrata with baked ‘Altrincham squash’ (£7.50), hazelnut and parsley pesto - a creamy, nutty, wholesome plateful.
A main of pan roast cod loin (£18) comes with Jerusalem artichoke crisps, artichoke purée, crosnes (another type of artichoke), chestnuts and feisty cavolo nero. The cod is tender and sweet and all those artichokey components work very well with it.
But if you are going to Hispi, make the braised featherblade (£17) your main. It’s a yielding hunk of beef with grilled broccoli, mushroom purée, and chips tinged with truffle oil and parmesan. These are about as good as chips ever get, and the whole dish is a real umami explosion.
I share pudding with my companion: barley malt beignets with malt ice cream and whiskey sultanas (£6). It’s a proper grown-up dessert which would, my partner says, go very nicely indeed with a small glass of single malt on the side (shame he’s driving!). We also nibble on chocolate truffles and salted lemon fudge (£3).
The wine list is mainly European, with some under-£20 options, and there are bottled beers including good local choices such as those from Manchester’s own Runaway Brewery.
If you have been to Sticky Walnut, then the combination of accomplished cookery and easy atmosphere at Hispi will come as no surprise. It feels like home… except the food at Hispi is even better.
Hispi, 1c School Lane, Didsbury, Manchester M20 6RD, 0161 445 3996, www.hispi.net