Hearing a new restaurant is opening nearby always fills me with a slight nervous excitement. In October, Hispi, a new bistro brought to us by Gary Usher, opened its doors to the keen residents of East Didsbury. Gary’s previous ventures include The Sticky Walnut in Chester and Burnt Truffle in Heswell, which both continue to have outstanding reputations. Therefore, my usual nervous excitement was pushing on to a more urgent fidget.
Despite some awful delays caused by the 142 bus being somewhat infrequent this evening, the genuine front of house waitress welcomed us in and beckoned us to a candlelit table. I was finally sat in Hispi’s exposed brick, relaxed yet chic, dining room. My initial feeling was that I was actually back at home, in leafy Surrey, in one of my friends’ homes where I feel more than comfortable putting my feet up on the sofa while sipping on a much needed, end of week glass of wine. The wall, which is decorated with a large mirror, boasts the names of the people who contributed to this crowdfunded project, it shows the respect Hispi has towards their help. The gentle hint of tasteful classic music immediately allowed my ‘being late’ stress to float away and my attention to turn to the simple sheet of paper that was presented in front of me and the thick, well-filled drinks menu. We ordered some Italian white wine, which I deem a must, and began to mull over the food options. The menu was littered with seasonal ingredients, especially truffle, which was fitting due us being in the depth of truffle season. We felt the need to venture into all corners of the menu in order to gain a real insight into the themes and flavours Hispi wants to bring to South Manchester.
We started by sharing the truffle potato salad. A small introduction into just how well Hispi can make simple ingredients dance on your tastebuds. This rich, creamy, oniony dish was scraped clean in seconds. Next, came our mains. I chose the Gressingham duck breast, due to duck being one of my go to meats when indulging. My plate was artistically splattered with celeriac puree, confit garlic, crisped young onions, a vibrant green parsley sauce, roasted shallots and a single spring onion, which all worked together to push to view the beautifully pink slices of duck. Each carefully engineered element to this dish was necessary and added to the dish in a unique way, my favourite being the softened hearty pockets of garlic and the texture of the crispy onions. My eating partner opted for braised featherblade beef with grilled broccoli, truffle and parmesan crisps. Despite looking a little less elegant than the duck dish, the hearty flavours were unmatchable, this dish really was ‘no-frills attached’ good food. Our experience of the savoury parts of Hispi’s menu was definitely one to remember and to pass on under our breaths to fellow Manchester food lovers.
Although neither of us are renowned for having a sweet tooth, Hispi’s desert menu can tempt even the strongest dessert cynics. We decided to share the parkin (a rich gingerbread flavour cake) which came with a butterscotch sauce and a creme fraiche sorbet. Its intense flavour reminded me of my favourite childhood school dinner desserts. Some might think of their school’s food as horrifying, but the desserts were always a winner in my eyes. This dessert balanced the extremely sweet, perfectly with a quenelle of slightly sour crème fraiche, and worked to finish off our dining experience in an impressive manner.
Hispi’s atmosphere is what I’d like to call refined homeliness. Somewhere that feels special, yet you can relax in. Hispi’s food is what I’d like to call elegant heartiness. Somewhere that serves visually perfected food, which still warms your insides with flavour.
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