Inspired by the street food of Mexico City, Guadalajara, and Oaxaca, Madre is the latest foodie hotspot hitting the courtyards of canalside neighbourhood Kampus. Already a success over at Liverpool's Royal Albert Dock, this oasis has now branched out to its North West neighbour, serving a selection of small plates straight from its open kitchen.
Everyone knows the feeling of stepping out of a plane into a sun-soaked country, when the heat just hits you all at once. Now call me crazy, but that was exactly what I was reminded of when Madre first opened its doors to our group. Maybe it was the mellow orange colour dusting each wall; maybe it was the artfully chosen bohemian décor; or maybe it was the incredibly refreshing margarita (£9) I kicked off with on arrival – very high praise from a usually reluctant, yet pleasantly surprised tequila drinker. Either way, I was instantly transported to a much balmier place.
Awaiting? A feast to end all feasts. Thanks to a quick Google on my way there (admit it, we all do it), I knew I'd be spoilt for choice - and yet, the team here still surprised me, insisting we try pretty much everything on the Madre menu in Manchester. So, with compliments to the chef, I've picked out the stand-out dishes that we simply can't forget.
Starting off strong, the guacamole y totopos (£7) fuelled our conversation with crisp nachos boasting a satisfying crunch. Naturally, they were served alongside the salsa tray (£7) of five delicious house dips. To Madre, ‘taco sin salsa no es taco!!!’ (a taco without sauce is not a taco) - and rightly so. We even nabbed a second tray, as the nachos became a mere quest to enjoy more salsa where not one missed the mark.
Moving on from this easy way to any women’s heart (yes, carbs always sway me), the other snacks - antojitos - were kept light. Wings Madre (£7.5) and elote (£7.5) made a winning combination. Succulent and well-seasoned, they were an elevated version of popular poultry and corn on the cob, although definitely the messiest overall. The biggest surprise of the evening was the ensalada de Sandia (£6), comprised of watermelon, lime, roasted coconut, radish, and chilli. Salty then sweet and wonderfully juicy, it was a welcoming diversion from the more strictly savoury plates, and an unexpected firm favourite. If I had the recipe for this, I’d make it for every summertime picnic. Mostly because my friends instantly became flavour connoisseurs, facetiously trying to guess each ingredient playing tricks on their tastebuds.
Tacos were next in the spotlight, and what a selection we had. After diving into the meaty mouthfuls of pollo Milanese (£9) and birria (£9.5) numbers, I did not expect them to be beaten - especially when no amount of filling had been spared. Then came the Baja fish tacos (£9.5) with soy, lime, peanuts and hazelnut mole on parrilla-grilled aubergine (£14) to, quite frankly, steal their thunder. What struck me most was the freshness of the components - no limp salads or dry ingredients in sight - and for such small plates, I was surprisingly full. Value for money, tick.
Going from strength to strength, our evening drew to a close once the final offerings appeared. The seafood was a big hit, with even oysters (£8 per pair) being upstaged by Camarones zarandeados (£13), or wood-fired prawns to us regrettably non-bilingual folk. Accompanied by adobo mayo and salsa diablo, this simple yet effective dish earned top prize in the eyes of my friends, all while I tucked into the Sonoran carne asada con papas (£45). Perhaps I was too full, or maybe this last one felt a little out of place compared to rest of the finger food and small plates-heavy menu. It didn't quite live up to the tastiness of the tacos, but was still a good example of tender, medium-rare rib of beef accompanied by jus potatoes.
The DesignMyNight Digest
For a small but mighty new kid on the block, Madre packs one hell of a punch. Just a stone’s throw from Piccadilly station, it’s perfectly placed for both city centre dwellers and those wanting a trip into town. Credit where credit is due, Madre were extremely accommodating when it came to dietary requirements, offering a separate vegan menu and even tailoring existing dishes for any allergies. Aesthetically spot-on, the restaurant is easy on the eye, but not so easy on the ears because of music on the louder side. Nevertheless, sharing never tasted so good.
💰 The damage: Around £160 for three people.
📍 The location: Kampus Manchester, M1 3HN.
👌 Perfect for: That holiday feeling right on your doorstep.
⭐ Need to know: Book Madre Manchester in advance as tables are limited.