Last week I was slightly sad to see that one of my favourite restaurants, Aumbry, had failed to renegotiate a lease on their Prestwich site. Even more disheartening was that the site had been snapped up by Solita, one of the many meat based restaurants currently on trend. I remember when Solita opened, or Sole as it was then named. Simon Pogson’s vision of a fish restaurant in the Northern Quarter never really hit the mark until rebranded as Solita in conjunction with a complete menu overhaul that placed barbecued meat as its main focus. Burgers, hot dogs, chicken wings and meat from the Inca Grill, along with a rather impressive social media campaign, have staked their claim to now be one of the most successful restaurants in town. With a second site in Didsbury under their belt, a Prestwich site is due for an opening in May.

When I first began working in this industry (a long time ago) the trend was very much fine dining, the more exclusive the better, the smaller the better, the more expensive the better. So where did this meat obsession come from? Huge portions, all you can eat, the cheaper the better? Well, America, obviously. It’s great, no-nonsense recession food, after all. In Manchester, the trendy Almost Famous were definitely at the forefront of the craze, with Bem Brazil, Solita, Red’s Barbecue, Beef & Pudding, Cane & Grain and Fazenda, to name a few, hot on their heels.

What began with the colourful cupcake has developed into a full-blown affair with pork ribs and meat. People want more for their money, not less. A bit of fun, some good old American rock‘n’roll and 50s glamour, all served with fries and a shake. But with this customer-winning formula come large amounts of saturated fat and sugar. Processed red meats are particularly high in saturated fat, which can seriously raise blood cholesterol levels. A diet containing just 100 grams of red meat per day increases your risk of cancer by 17%. Not to mention the growing problem of obesity in the UK as a result of this cheap, high energy food. Obesity is not just a cosmetic issue. It increases your risk of developing a number of serious and potentially life-threatening illnesses, including heart disease and type 2 diabetes, which is definitely not good for an already overstretched NHS.

So it is with a heavy heart, literally, I find a whole new batch of meat-themed restaurants about to open this year in Manchester. From Filthy Cow burger on Tib Lane in the old Lounge 10 site to Hawksmoor steak restaurant in the Courthouse on Deansgate, to Byron Burger and Cabana Brasilian Barbecue in the newly refurbished Corn Exchange, and a whole handful in between. How many do we need? I, for one, am getting a little tired of ‘all the meat’. I want more nutrition, more taste, a longer life, maybe.

Luckily, I’m not the only one. Manchester does have plenty to offer for people who enjoy their food and their good health. Asian food is lower in fat and cholesterol. Australasia on Deansgate combines Asian and modern Australian cuisine with stunning results. Their food is really fresh, fragrant and tasty. If you want to dine out on a smaller budget, look no further than I Am Pho in Chinatown, a Vietnamese serving the most aromatic and nutritious rice noodle soups. And if you want to avoid meat altogether, you can’t go wrong with Simon Rimmer’s vegetarian restaurant in Didsbury, Greens. I’m also really looking forward to El Gato Negro opening in Manchester later this year, serving the best Spanish tapas, especially as it has been proven a Mediterranean diet offers a better quality of life and a healthier heart from all the vegetables, olive oil and fish. Delicious.

And what does the future hold for Aumbry? Owner chef Mary-Ellen McTague has announced she will be taking up a three-month residency in Cuckoo bar in Prestwich following on from her successful Northern Quarter pop-up 4244 Edge Street. The menu will offer high-quality, more affordable bistro-style food. I’m very excited by this. Just don’t get me started on that other cultural trend, the ‘pop-up’.

YGR Erskine writes a blog at

YGR Erskine