“Understated but cool”, this crowd-funded bistro in one of Manchester’s “coolest suburbs” was barnstorming chef Gary Usher’s third venture, following on from his critically-acclaimed Burnt Truffle in Merseyside and Sticky Walnut in Chester. He’s since added a further three restaurants to his growing northern empire but, in spite of such success, Hispi continues to serve up humble bistro food in a relaxed setting, as usual.
The restaurant has an easy going, homely feel, with cabinets crafted from old Indian window-frames, exposed brickwork and tiles from a salvage yard. The space is open and convivial, and suitable for all occasions, from mid-week date nights to birthday lunches with the whole family (complete with a bespoke cake, if required). Nothing is over the top, but everything is thought-out, from the composition of each dish to the impeccable presentation.
The confident, concise menu shows all of Usher’s trademarks, starting with satisfyingly chewy rye bread served with Lincolnshire Poacher butter. After that, the food does all the talking, from cured cod loin with smoked cod’s roe, radish, lime and vermouth dressing to braised featherblade with mushroom mayonnaise and truffle and parmesan chips, or roasted lamb neck with glazed Roscoff onion tart, courgette and mustard leaf pesto.
Veggies also do well here, with offerings such as cauliflower soup with a parmesan scone and whipped brown butter, and pappardelle made with hen of the woods mushrooms, walnut, Berkswell cheese and lemon butter sauce. Desserts are many and varied and could feature anything from Paris-Brest with baked cheese mousse, chocolate ice cream and chestnut to apricot and almond trifle with caramelised white chocolate ice cream.
The superb-value lunch menu (£17 for two courses, £19 for three) and early-evening offer (£18 for two courses, £21 for three) are popular with local punters, while the drinks list has enough variety to suit parties from all walks of life. In all, the combination of well-executed cooking and friendly surroundings makes Hispi an exemplary local destination.