Dining Out 3 minutes 21 March 2024

Bib of the Month: Higher Ground, Manchester

In the first of our regular series, we discover why our Inspectors love this great value Bib Gourmand restaurant and get the inside track from Chef-Owner Joseph Otway

The Bib Gourmand award is our way of recognising restaurants that offer good food at a great price. While all Bib Gourmands are unique in style and approach, they share the same spirit of generosity and a commitment to quality cooking. That’s why, in our new series, we’re highlighting the Michelin Inspectors' Bib of the Month. These restaurants are the bedrock of the Michelin selection, providing an affordable dining option that doesn’t skimp on precision, skill or flavour. From cosy pubs to buzzing counters, we’ve got a Bib for you.

Our first ever Bib of the Month for Great Britain & Ireland is the wonderful Higher Ground in Manchester. After opening in 2023, the restaurant quickly impressed the Michelin Inspectors and was awarded a Bib Gourmand soon after. It is run by a trio of friends: Joseph Otway (Chef), Daniel Craig Martin (Sommelier) and Richard Cossins (General Manager).

This is what one of our Inspectors had to say on why they love Higher Ground:

“We had been following the story of Higher Ground for some time and eagerly awaiting its opening. When I finally got the chance to visit, it was clear that good produce was the backbone of the place. So much of it comes from their Cinderwood Market Garden in Cheshire, which supplies several other restaurants too, and as a result the cooking is very ingredient-led. The focus is unerringly on pure, simple flavours, with no unnecessary additions on the plate. Put simply, it’s the food type of food we all want to eat and its clear to see that it’s the type of cooking the owners enjoy too. Everyone works as a team here and enjoys what they do, which results in a great atmosphere. As soon as you leave, you’ll be planning your return!”

To understand a little more about why Higher Ground has been such a success, we caught up with Chef-Owner Joseph Otway, who told us all about the restaurants ethos and the perfect dish to order when you visit.

What was the idea behind Higher Ground? How would you describe your approach to food and cooking?

Our approach is to service focused and precise, flavour-driven cooking that also allows us to be relaxed in our style of service. The menus and dishes change on a daily basis, driven by whichever ingredients are at their seasonal peak. We aim to champion: seasonal vegetables predominantly sourced from our farm, Cinderwood Market Garden; whole-carcass butchery using organically reared animals; hand-rolled pasta made with British grain; and high quality, sustainably caught seafood from the coasts around the UK.

What price range can customers expect and how are you able to keep your prices affordable?

A £35 per person seasonal sharing menu at lunchtime and a £55 per person seasonal sharing menu at dinnertime are available. An à la carte menu is offered alongside which allows guests to dine at their own discretion; smaller dishes begin at £6.50, larger dishes begin at £18 and desserts start from £7.50. We work hard to keep our prices affordable by being resourceful and sustainable in our methods, utilising the talent and skillsets of the chefs and almost eliminating food waste as a result of this approach.

Some of the ways in which we can keep our prices affordable are:
- Baking our own bread
- Making our own pastry
- Milling flour in-house
- Whole-carcass butchery
- Working only with British farms
- Using every part of the plant
- Minimising food waste
- Preserving ingredients

Can you tell us more about Cinderwood Market Garden and your other sustainable initiatives at Higher Ground?

In the peak season (May-September), we receive two deliveries per week from Cinderwood Market Garden. Produce is ordered and delivered to our door within 24 hours of being hand-harvested or picked. We spend a lot of time during the off-season deciding what seeds to order, crop planning and looking at the year ahead in order to have as close a relationship as possible with the ingredients coming into the restaurant.

We work very closely with Marcus Wilson of Littlewoods Butchers to bring in game directly from the sustainably managed herd of nearby Lyme Park in Cheshire. We have also been taking whole British Iberico pigs from Brett Graham’s sustainably focused project Capability Graham. To bring us the highest quality shellfish and crustaceans, we work with small hand-diver operations in the far north of Scotland and The Orkney Islands. Organic UK grains and pulses feature heavily throughout our menu as well.

What is the dish to order at Higher Ground?

This year we are focusing on studying the Dexter cows from Jane’s Farm in Cheshire. We take the cows whole, direct from the farmer, and utilise every part of the animal. Ragu made from Jane’s cows features regularly on the menu with our hand-rolled, wholewheat pasta and is a great dish to order on a first-time visit.

On the menu it reads as: Hand-cut wholewheat pasta with Dexter beef shin and ramson.

Can you tell us about your relationship with your friends and co-owners Richard Cossins and Daniel Craig Martin? How do you find the process of working together?

The synergy and understanding between us is invaluable to the smooth running of our various operations and each of us brings crucial roles to the business: cooking ability, beverage knowledge and genuine hospitality. Since meeting at the beginning of 2016 at Blue Hill at Stone Barns in New York, we have been inseparable and relentless in wishing to form a company that operates with a positive work culture and environment. Despite almost being 10 years into our journey, it still only feels like the beginning.

You also operate the wine bar Flawd in Ancoats – how big a role does wine play at Higher Ground?

Flawd is an incredible place to discover and try new wines. We are always bringing different producers and new cuvées onto the shelves both to create a place where guests are always encouraged to try new wines, but also to keep the staff constantly learning. We are incredibly proud of the relationships and connections we’ve made with the many winemakers and importers we work with, and it’s exciting to share that with our guests at both Flawd and Higher Ground. Wine plays a major role at Higher Ground and Daniel has spent many years travelling, searching, buying and cellaring wines that complement the style of cooking and food we serve at the restaurant.

Discover more Bib of the Month restaurants:

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