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You know you’re at a good restaurant when your dinner dates hands over her pink wellies with her coat and no one bats an eyelid!
The weather was bad on Friday and even though I’d been invited by Manchester Confidential to dine at Livebait in Manchester I wanted to cancel as my dinner date was coming from the hills in Rossendale. But she was undeterred; have wellies will travel. Luckily by the time we both arrived in Manchester the rain had turned to snow and, unconventional footware stowed away, our thoughts could finally turn to the food.
As always, I had checked out the online menu several times before hand, and was struggling to choose – so many of the dishes appealed to me. However I was totally thrown when we were handed the menus and there were different dishes on there. Cue ten minutes umming and arring. Luckily we had ordered a carafe of Spanish white to help the decision making and after giving our orders to a very charming and handsome waiter starters followed swiftly.
I love, love, love squid. So it was a natural choice to have in a seafood restaurant. This was salt and pepper squid and a big ol’ size portion for a starter. It was lovely and crunchy and was served with a wedge of lime, some micro leaves (coriander me thinks) and some dipping sauce. I love it when restaurants make an effort with the dipping sauce and don’t just decant some sweet chilli from a bottle. Livebait get brownie points here – the dipping sauce was gingery with sweet and sour hits and when the squid ran out I admit I dipped my finger in too!
My dinner date chose goat’s cheese and beetroot to start. The cheese was robust and the beetroot and walnuts (or pecans – even a bit of wine melts my brain these days!) gave interesting contrast.
For main courses there was no question that we would both go for seafood options- why come to a place like Livebait and have steak?
A cold, miserable night calls for something comforting so Goan fish and shellfish curry was calling to me. Chunks of fish (which on Friday seemed to be all salmon, though I suspect this changes depending on what is fresh), mussels and clams in a soupy curry which I thought was quite Thai but no less delicious for it. It came served with some spicy mini popadom-style crackers and a mound of sticky rice. Again it seemed to be a really healthy portion and they hadn’t skimped on the shellfish.
Barbara, my dinner date, had line caught sea bass with garlic and fennel puree, potatoes and a side (as recommended by our waiter) of cabbage with bacon lardons. I only managed a taste of the puree but she assures me that the skin was nice and crispy, the flesh meaty and that the flavours were really well balanced. The cabbage was a perfect accompaniment.
We were so busy chatting and having our wine refilled that we hadn’t noticed until this point that the snow had started to come down again – hard. You’d think that we’d forgo pudding to make sure that we could get Barbara back up to the hills (on the bus) safely. Nah! We’re made of sterner stuff than that, so quick calls made to worried husbands and then a trio of mini desserts each were ordered.
I then did something so grown up I even shocked myself: I ordered sherry with my dessert! I don’t know what came over me, but I’ll tell you this- it was delicious. It was like someone had squeezed a tonne of sticky, juicy raisins into a dainty glass. A total convert! My sherry loving friend Sally would be very proud of me!
Mini desserts solve the problem of not wanting to share but wanting to try everything. There was (in reverse order of my preference) lemon posset with shortbread, vanilla cheesecake topped with shards of honeycomb and a divine chocolate pave with salt caramel sauce.
I’d never been to Livebait in Manchester before (although think I did visit the one in Leeds a while back) and heard rumours and reviews of improved food and service after a take over. The team have a great place on their hands now. A lovely venue (looking particularly resplendent in the snow), friendly and charming staff and a menu which made me wish I was snowed in so I could try more. I can’t wait to go back with my husband so he can treat me to lobster and I can convert him to sherry!
Once we left, things got interesting: gin, an abandoned mission to get a bus, one worried husband, one nearly stuck husband coming to our rescue in his chariot (my Micra!) and a seat-of-the-pants drive home. But it was all worth it for that cracking curry!
Thanks Livebait for your hospitality and Manchester Confidential for the invite.
22 Lloyd Streeet (opposite Town Hall), Manchester. M2 5WA
NB – several bloggers have been wined and dined here recently, and all seemed to enjoy it as much as me. So if you want to see what they ate (they do photos, I don’t!) check out these blogs: