Serving traditional Baltic dishes with recipes from Russia, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, the food is homely and a welcome change from the multitude of Italian and American chain restaurants swamping the North of England.
The restaurant itself is just below street level on Lloyd Street, and has the dark, woody feel of a cellar – but it’s cosy and welcoming. The red leather booths are comfy (you’ve gotta love a good booth) and the current Christmas decorations create a festive atmosphere. The music is a little Eurovision, but it’s cheery and doesn’t irritate.
The food itself is tasty and authentic, with meats, cheese and seasonal vegetables sourced directly from Poland, Russia and the Baltic states. The menu ranges from dishes you’ll recognise to ones you definitely won’t, with creations such as Kibinai (pork mince pastries), Pikkpoiss (meatloaf wrapped in bacon) and Keshanele (stuffed chicken fillet). Most main courses are served with salad and you can decide if you want it with rice, chips or mash.
Somewhat rarely for this type of restaurant, there are also plenty of vegetarian options and, happily, there’s a children’s menu with kid-sized portions. The bar is well stocked with a varied selection of drinks in keeping with the Baltic Cellar’s theme, featuring speciality beers and vodkas from Eastern Europe that you’d be hard pressed to find at other establishments.
The menu is extremely reasonably priced, and you get a lot of food for your pounds and pence.The cooked breakfast is good value for the city centre, priced at £3.99-£5.99 depending on the portion size, but judging by the lunchtime portions I’d say you’ll get a hearty serving – plus a free cup of tea. There’s a Christmas set menu option for the festive period, with three courses for £25 and a free glass of speciality Russian vodka or Latvian sparkling wine.
My dining companion and I went for the lunchtime menu. We tried two traditional soups for our starters, Borsch (beetroot soup) and Uha (salmon soup). Presented in rustic terracotta bowls, the Uha was flavourful and presented with bread and sour cream, a popular condiment for Baltic dishes. Although the sour cream comes as an optional extra, I’d recommend adding it to the soups as it gives them a lovely creamy consistency and works well with the other flavours. We enjoyed Beef Goulash and Pork Stroganoff for our mains which came with salad, coleslaw, and sides of our choice. Finally for dessert our waitress recommend the honey cake. This sounds a little sickly but was light and sweet, and a nice contrast to the savoury flavours.
After a second visit this restaurant is quickly becoming one of my favourite places to dine in Manchester, and I can’t emphasise enough how good it is to enjoy food that’s so different to what’s available in other restaurants.
Rating (out of five):
What: Baltic Cellar
Where: Lloyd Street, Manchester
When: Open 12pm-10pm Sun- Thurs, 12pm-11pm Fri-Sat
More Info: www.balticcellar.com