The Best Small Plates in Manchester? We Put Wilderness Bar + Kitchen To The Test

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Added on . By Julia Mitchell.

With a name like Wilderness Bar + Kitchen, we really didn’t know what to expect from this Northern Quarter newcomer. Strictly plant-based dishes? Foraged wildflowers served on bamboo leaves? Visiting for a little midweek lunch, we couldn’t have been more wrong…

Wilderness Bar + Kitchen

Picture-perfect interiors make Wilderness a chilled out spot.

The first thing that strikes you on arrival at the Thomas Street restaurant is the understated, cosy décor; with muted greys, rustic wooden benches and exposed bricks joining fluffy designer lampshades and soft lighting. It’s a sharp contrast to the neighbouring dive bars and grungy fast food joints.

The menu is small but carefully considered and our waitress was enthusiastic to talk us through. It was recommended that we pick a few small plates and some veggie courses to accompany, and that they'd come out as they were ready. In truth, we were hungry and we wanted it all, so we took the waitress’s “few dishes each” recommendation and ran with it.

Wilderness Bar + Kitchen

Melting in the mouth; this ain't your average short rib.

Starting with roast cauliflower, pumpkin seed butter and puffed buckwheat (£7), we were pleasantly surprised at how tasty and robust the meat-free combination was. It would turn out to be one of our favourites of the whole meal, when really, we had ordered it as more of a sideshow to the main events.

The Tamworth pork and sorrel salsa verde (£18) came elegantly sliced and was cooked beautifully. While the pork lacked a little seasoning, the salsa complemented it perfectly. By now, we were on a roll. Next up, was the showstopping short rib (£14), with meat so sumptuous that it fell away from the bone, and the accompanying bone marrow, IPA onions and nasturtium providing a subtle, yet contrasting flavour.

Wilderness Bar + Kitchen

Small plates that taste just as good as they look.

On a lighter note, roasted cod (£12) with Jerusalem artichoke, pine nuts and preserved lemon was a moreish pick. We finished with pine-smoked aged duck in lavender honey (£19) and a balanced side of English peas, mint and fresh ricotta (£4)… all brilliantly matched with an intriguing glass of orange wine (£7.25) that our knowledgeable waitress had recommended.

Unable to resist dessert, we went for the treacle tart with crème fraiche sorbet (£6) and grilled peaches with Skyr, almond and lovage granita (£6). Both were delicious, with the latter tasting like a gourmet breakfast dish. You’ll want to try it for yourself.

The DesignMyNight Digest

While Wilderness Bar + Kitchen may be located in what’s often considered to be an edgier part of the city, it really is a beautiful find. From impressive small plates to attentive service, the restaurant provided an enjoyable and surprising lunch. Just don’t expect to arrive early back to the office…