Chef Alex Shaw is creating French-inspired small plates with a focus on vegan inclusivity from a tiny kitchen in the centre of Manchester. Andy Lynes pays a visit.
Set over three floors of a restored, atmospheric Victorian townhouse close to historic Albert Square in Manchester's city centre, 10 Tib Lane opened in July this year and offers a modish mix of contemporary, French-inspired sharing small plates and natural wines.
The chef behind the stoves in the restaurant's tiny ‘postage stamp' kitchen is Alex Shaw, who won the title of Chef of the Year at the Manchester Food and Drink Festival in 2015 for his work at the fashionable Volta restaurant and was more recently head chef at the Eagle and Child in Ramsbottom. The venue is backed by Ben Gretton and Tom De Santis, owners of the award-winning CBRB (Cocktail Beer Ramen and Bun) in Manchester's trendy Northern Quarter, and Sophie Robson and Joe White, who own the Henry C cocktail bar in Chorlton.
"We'd always had the idea that the basis for the food here should be French, because not really many places in Manchester are doing the French roots things. It's all either super modern or a bit dated," says Shaw, who, as a commis in the 90s was only three degrees of separation from legendary French chef August Escoffier (Shaw's head chef at the Cavendish hotel at Baslow, Derbyshire, Nick Buckingham, had worked with a head chef who had started out as a commis for Escoffier).
Although the restaurant has only traded for a few weeks, an imaginative dish of potato and chive financiers with sweet potato aligot and Espelette (£6.50) is an early best seller. "Strictly speaking, it's not a financier at all. It's mashed potato, eggs, cream, nutmeg and chives, baked in the oven – they soufflé up a little bit. We cook them on a much higher temperature than we did originally and they seem to hold the structure a bit better. The aligot is sweet potato purée with an absolute ton of Gruyère, plus a bit of olive oil and butter for the texture."
The dish, which is finished with more Gruyère and a sprinkling of Espelette pepper, is one of the only vegetarian dishes on the short menu that isn't vegan. By contrast, a fresh and vibrant assembly of artichoke, hazelnut, mint and watercress from the Wirral ("It's superb, with a proper peppery, almost horseradish flavour," says Shaw) is finished with oat crème fraîche, making it vegan-friendly. "We became very aware on pre-opening that vegan food is very important now, so we tried to make as much vegan as we possibly could while still having the balance in the menu."
Shaw sources many of the restaurant's vegetables from Cinderwood (a one-acre market garden in Cheshire, run by grower Michael Fitzsimmons and chef Joseph Otway, formerly of Relae in Copenhagen and Where The Light Gets In in Stockport), including Tropea onions, which accompany grilled Ibérico pork with black garlic purée and sage (£12.50). "They grow really good tomatoes and lettuces, but the Tropea onions were one thing we were super impressed with. They made their way into the dish because their sweetness complements the almost sweetness in the pork. We give them a heavy char that caramelises the sugars in the onions and you get a treacle flavour and a slight smoke."
As is the case in many other kitchens around the country, Shaw is understaffed, with just one other chef in his team (ideally he'd head a brigade of four) and is therefore limiting changes to the 65-cover restaurant's single menu of nine savoury dishes and five side dishes, which includes a bowl of fresh and delicious Cinderwood greens (£3.50) dressed with olive oil rather than butter to keep them vegan. "We just kind of float with the seasons. The broad beans on the lamb rump with saffron aïoli and rosti (£12) are finished, so I'm changing that dish. I think we'll get to the point where we're changing probably at least a couple of things every six weeks."
The opening of 10 Tib Lane was heralded in a Confidentials.com review by respected local critic and food writer Neil Sowerby, who wrote that "this could again be Shaw's moment" and "the exactitude to his meat cooking has always been his forte, but the delicate vegan plates are a revelation". Whether that sort of approbation will translate into guide accolades, only time will tell – not that Shaw is overly concerned.
"I've never had that thing of we must win rosettes or we must win a Bib Gourmand. I've always had the attitude that if we get an award, in whatever capacity, then great. If we don't, as long as we're busy and everybody's happy and we're doing flavoursome, good food with good ingredients, that's fine by me."
As long as we're busy and everybody's happy and we're doing flavoursome, good food with good ingredients, that's fine by me
10 Tib Lane, Manchester M2 4JB
From the menu
- Chicken schnitzel, Parmesan, thyme, celeriac, caper butter £8
- Devilled crab, sourdough toast £11
- Leeks, trompette mushroom, tomato £8
- Beetroot, carrot, hazelnut and sorrel pesto, walnut oil, monk's beard £7
- Cinderwood courgettes £6
- Lamb rump, haricot casserole, Parmesan, carrot, shallot £12
- Gâteau marjolaine £6.50
- Baba au rhum £6.50
- Strawberries, brioche, mint, crème fraîche £7
You need to be a premium member to view this. Subscribe from just 99p per week.
Already subscribed? Log In