Eating Out: Simply Heathcotes - Up north and mad fer it

SIMPLY HEATHCOTES Jacksons Row, Manchester M2 5WD. Tel: 0161 835 3536. Open Mon-Sat 11.45am-2.30pm and 6-11pm. Sundays 11.45am-9pm. Set lunch, two courses pounds 10.50, three courses pounds 12.50. Average a la carte price, pounds 25. Major credit cards accepted

I'm embarrassed to admit it but, until last week, I had never been to Manchester. Now that I have, I guess the confession is not strictly necessary. In future, or for the next year at least, whenever anyone mentions Manchester, I'll be able to say, casual as you like, "Yeah, I was there last week/month/the other day. Great ... energy ... people ... friendly ... clubs ... amazing". I'll also be able to add, "And there's a top-notch new restaurant called Simply Heathcotes. Just try the roast medallions of suckling pig."

The Mancunian trip was a combined mission: not just to pretend I was in my early twenties, actually knew something about the club scene, and was just as relaxed on the streets of Manchester as Wotton-under-Edge, but also to check out the new restaurant of a chef I have long admired.

My companion for this adventure was Tom, who would gladly trade in his public-school education, his inheritance of charm, manners and a modest amount of cash, and an artistic temperament that leans more towards furniture design than rock guitar for the opportunity to be Noel Gallagher for a day. As it is, all he has been able to do to date is buy the oversized anorak. He, too, had never been to Manchester, and was dead excited about it. The day before we went, he kept calling me up to say things like, "We must find out if the Hass has reopened since the drugs bust", and "Are we going to Madchester, or what?" By the time we got on the train at Euston, I think he thought he really was Noel. Or at least Terry Christian.

But before we could receive our diploma of Mancunian street cred, we had some serious eating to do. Simply Heathcotes is the third outlet for a talent honed in a small country restaurant in the pretty Lancashire village of Longridge. Heathcotes, as this original flagship is called, now has two Michelin stars. Here in Manchester, Paul Heathcote has thunk big. When you walk up the stairs into the space that used to house the city's registry of births and deaths, it feels gloriously roofy and roomy. Two adjacent walls at the bar end of the space are lemon yellow and pillar-box red, and the ceiling above them is purple. But at the dining-room end everything turns to white. Tom admired the super-modern chairs in moulded plastic ("obviously Italian"), and I admired the decision to make almost all the tables round, and not too small, or too close together.

Paul Heathcote has always been a flag-waver, almost militantly so, for the traditional products of his native Lancashire. The result is that the menu includes several descriptions that almost sound like a joke at his own expense - roasted salmon with black pudding, malt vinegar and chips, or baked lobster with Lancashire cheese and truffled new potatoes - until you realise they are appealing combinations which make good gastronomic sense. His salmon acknowledges the classic Portuguese combination of fish with pork products; the lobster dish is a legitimate variation on the thermidor.

To start, I went for a dish which promised to be full to bursting with northern muscle. The pressed Lancashire terrine of black pudding, ham and Cumberland sausage came in a mighty generous slab and proved a ready answer to any plate of fancy foreign charcuterie. The pleasingly soft and oaty texture of the black pudding went nicely with the salty ham, and the home-made piccalilli gave the essential sweet- and-sour relief demanded by such a porky platter.

Tom's starter could hardly have been more different - or less local. Called "chilled clear tomato juice" it appeared to be just that, although quite how you clarify tomato juice is a secret, I imagine, shared only by Heathcote and his henchmen. A sip revealed that the natural juice was bolstered by some kind of infusion of sun-dried tomatoes, which I thought made the whole thing too sweet. Tom wanted to add a slug of vodka and drink it over ice through a straw. It might not have been a bad idea. Overall verdict: "interesting".

It may seem absurd to complain that a fish is too fresh, and indeed given how often the fish options on menus are based on sub-standard raw materials, it's a complaint I would like to be able to make more often. But the skate is a curious customer which is actually at its best two or even three days after being taken out of the water. By this time the taste is still fresh but developed, and the texture has mellowed from a tooth-resistant rubberiness to finely grained flakes that melt in the mouth. I couldn't fault the way my main course, described as tartare of pan-fried skate, was cooked - it had a nice light crust of seasoned flour flavoured with herbs - but it was definitely, to my taste, too fresh. Anyone who ordered it the following day probably had a great treat.

Since I wasn't going a bundle on my skate I showed considerable, and not entirely welcome, interest in Tom's main course: roast medallions of local suckling pig. It was milkily tender and full of flavour, each medallion bound in a nice rind of slightly sticky crackling. Roast beetroots and carrots provided the sugar that should always be somewhere on the plate with roast pork. Further compelling evidence that Heathcote knows just what to do with a pig.

All the puddings sounded delicious, but I couldn't not have something called deep-fried banana custard, especially with the added promise of caramel ice-cream. The crispy batter balls had a velvety, curdy filling that could have been a mite more banana-y, but was otherwise divine.

Tom can't remember what he had for pudding, and neither can I. By that stage we were both getting excited about phase two of the evening. On a tip from our waiter, we went to a place called the Boardwalk, which on Friday nights runs a club called Yellow, playing Seventies funk and soul. It was packed, a riot in fact, and I think we acquitted ourselves pretty well on the dance floor. We even got talking to three local girls, who teased us about our "London accents". Not bad, considering what they might have teased us about. Oh, and our Terry was there, too. Cool, eh?

"I fookin' loov Madchester, me!" said Tom, as he slumped into bed at four in the morning.

Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special

tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas

Arts and Entertainment
Dapper Laughs found success through the video app Vine

comedy Erm...he seems to be back

Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)

tvReview: No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Arts and Entertainment
Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly flanking 'Strictly' winners Flavia Cacace and Louis Smith

tv Gymnast Louis Smith triumphed in the Christmas special

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all