Blue Caribou – Manchester (UK)

Any Canadian who has moved from their home country, like me, will invariably succumb to nostalgia and start missing their favourite foods. I can’t pinpoint exactly when I started missing poutine so much but it probably coincided with my move from London to Cambridgeshire 10 years ago, when I finally felt settled in the UK. It took several more years for poutine to become well-known and it eventually made its way onto Cambridge menus – but without the all-important squeaky cheese curds. Although the combo of cheese, chips and gravy can only be a good thing, there is a specific way to make poutine and I have found very few places in the UK that are able to make proper poutine. Manchester’s Blue Caribou is one of those traders who have poutine down pat. They understand the holy trinity of fries, gravy and cheese curds and how to strike the right balance of flavours and textures.

Blue Caribou Snack Bar Manchester traditional poutine

Blue Caribou first started popping up in Manchester in 2016. It’s the creation of British-Québécois married couple Graham Gartside-Bernier and Vincent Bernier. They lived in Canada and now live in Manchester. They have eaten some of the best poutine in Québec, where it originated back in the 1950s. If their names seem familiar it’s because they recently appeared on BBC Two’s My Million Pound Menu with Fred Sirieix.

Blue Caribou Snack Bar du Quebec Manchester Vincent Bernier

Blue Caribou Stretford Foodhall Graham Gartside-Bernier

As a born and bred Montrealer, I can wholeheartedly state these guys know what they are doing when it comes to authentic poutine, plus they have the culinary skills to create delicious variations with ingredients like pastrami (La Reuben), kimchi (La Coréenne), roast chicken and peas (La Galvaude) and vegan doner (La Doner). Now that Blue Caribou have a permanent home at Arndale Market, they are able to expand their menu to other Canadian/Québec casse-croûte (snack bar) classics like pogos (corn dogs), hot chicken sandwiches and steamés (steamed hot dogs) that crop up occasionally on the menu.

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SoLIta – Northern Quarter, Manchester (UK)

Our latest foray into the world of grill and burger restaurants led us to SoLIta in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. The name of the restaurant, complete with capital L and I, is a reference to its location “south of Little Italy”. I think of it as sounding a bit like “so little” as we arrived on a Sunday afternoon to a tiny, packed (but cheerful) room on the ground floor. Fortunately, the layout is deceiving as there are more tables on the floors above. I did notice that there are additional spaces downstairs as well as across the street, so they are well equipped to handle the flow of customers at peak times.

Collage Solita

The queue was already forming out the door and whilst there is very little space to wait inside the restaurant, the hostess handled the flow of people extremely well. After a short wait, we were given a table on the narrow first floor. Compared to the ambience of the ground floor, with its funky décor and comics on the walls, it was a little disappointing. However, once we settled in and glanced at the impressive menu, we soon forgot about the ambience.

Collage Solita2

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