Manchester City Center
Posted 22 November 2010 - 02:14 PM
It’s not often I get the excitement of a new eating experience. And, I have to confess, I may possibly have known slightly more about astrophysics than I did about Ethiopian food. That’s now redressed after a visit to Habesha which may be the only African restaurant in the metro area.
It’s an unprepossessing place above a kebab shop, just round the corner from Canal Street. It’s a bit dark and dismal inside but my partner, who notices these sorts of thing, said it was absolutely spotless. And there was a friendly welcome, which is always a good start. Place was empty except for one table which was just finishing up as we arrived and no other customers arrived.
There’s a short menu – a dozen dishes, mainly stews of chicken or lamb. There’s no starters and no desserts. There’s also no crockery or cutlery.
The deal here is that you share your dishes, ladling portions of your stew onto a large round of flatbread called injeera. You eat with your right hand, picking up the stew with pieces of the bread (of which of “extras” are provided). The bread is odd – not a flatbread in the usual sense. This is thicker, softer and spongier – more like a thick pancake or very thin crumpet. It does the job of filling you up.
With nothing to go on by way of experience here, it was very much potluck about our ordering choices. Lega Tibs was small strips of lamb, the “tibs” indicating it was fried before going into a thinnish sauce, with vegetables. We didn’t think this was a complete success – meat was bit chewy, sauce was a bit bland, although there was a hint of chilli and other spice there. Although it was OK, much better was the Yebeg Wot – a very long cooked stew with onions so tender they were just clinging to the meat. Packed with chilli that left my lips tingling till we got home. And the injeera seemed absolutely perfect accompaniment.
So, here was generous quantities of interesting food (you wouldn’t want additional courses even if they were on offer) served at a bargain price. The bill, including for a couple of beers and a bottle of Perrier, was under twenty quid. Has to be worth a punt if you’re after a spicy change from the city centre’s Indian and Szechuan places.
Posted 13 December 2010 - 03:51 PM
Luso has never really been on my radar. And that’s in spite of its very regular plugs by Manchester Confidential. However, it was a ManCon deal that prompted us to try it – well, £25 for three courses from the a la carte menu, including a half bottle of wine per person, is an offer not to be sniffed at.
Frankly the menu is a bit of dog’s breakfast. Of course, there are obviously Portuguese sounding dishes. But there are also nods in the direction of the country’s past history and colonisation, including one or two very tenuous links. So, expect piri piri chicken and pork vindaloo, along with your more obvious cataplana. And other dishes appear to have no connection at all, except in what might be called a “modern European” sense of menu writing.
Front of house at this relatively small place are the husband and wife owners. They offer a very friendly and warm welcome and general experience, although our reservation via Manchester Confidential appeared not to have reached the restaurant and this seemed to throw them for a couple of minutes. Once seated, you start to enjoy the nice comfortable vibe of the place and the decent choices for the background music.
In what was probably intended as a nod towards Portugal’s history on the western side of the Atlantic, my partner started with a pumpkin velouté – simple, with a rich, slightly creamy, slightly sweet taste. A sprinkling of roasted pumpkin seeds decorated the top. She followed this with arroz de marisco. This was an unconvincing cross between a creamy risotto and paella which worked on neither count. It was underflavoured, underseasoned and underendowed with marisco.
I’d gone with the salada Portuguesa, presuming correctly that I probably couldn’t go far wrong with this. A few leaves, some chunks of morcilla, some slices of chorizo, baby octopus (a bit too chewy these), a few chickpeas and a nicely oily dressing. For a main, salt cod “Gomes de Sa” is, apparently, one of the country’s traditional dishes. Usually served as a casserole dish, this wasn’t. But it included the same ingredients – a bed of crushed potatoes, mixed with black olives and spring onions, topped with the cod and, on top of that, a perfectly poached egg, breaking open to provide a sauce. This worked well, but it might have been nice to have some crisp veg on the plate somewhere, for texture if nothing else
As for desserts, there was a really good egg custard tart. OK, the puff pastry wasn’t the best you’ll ever come across but the filling was rich and delicious. There was a chestnut cake on the other plate. Seasonal, a bit dry, but livened up with apple ice cream.
In summary, a pleasant enough experience and one possibly worth repeating even at full price.
Posted 29 January 2011 - 09:04 AM
Heston's Disneyland for Sexless Fortysomethings...(Naebody)
Posted 29 January 2011 - 09:37 AM
1 York Street
Tel: 0161 819 1055
Just got back from a meal for 4 on what I think is only their first or second day of full trading after a soft opening.
^^ Website images, not mine...
First impressions are good, got a table and were seated very efficiently.
Starters were goats cheese mushrooms, prawn cocktail, scallops, seared peppers. Everybody happy, bit of swapping going on, all pretty impressed.
Mistake with the one of the mains, kitchen error as it was read back to us correctly by the waitress. They dealt with it splendidly, offered a comp. drink and the correct dish arrived within five minutes. Well done.
So mains were steak mushroom and ale pie with mashed peas and potato,crayfish crab and coriander fish cakes, grilled chicken off the specials, and a chicken tomato and fennel salad.
All good, but general feeling was not quite as good as the starters. I had a 175 glass of the Merlot with the pie, very nice for a house wine.
Deserts were profiteroles, two poached pear and a chocolate brownie. Back up to the standard of the starters, impressed.
There were a few dropped cutlery moments and some near misses with the staff crossing one another, but overall it seems to be running quite smoothly for so early on.
The whole place looks great, price wise it's in the sweet spot for the city centre (no fine dining pretensions) and if they can keep the standard up and the idiots out it should do really well.
I'll certainly be back.
Edit; Just to add. Make sure you tip in cash as the card gratuity rakeoff is fifty percent apparently...
Edited by Infrasonic, 29 January 2011 - 09:51 AM.
Heston's Disneyland for Sexless Fortysomethings...(Naebody)
Posted 29 January 2011 - 10:32 AM
Is GRAND BUFFET still a good place to nose about?
Posted 29 January 2011 - 10:48 AM
Posted 08 February 2011 - 07:37 AM
Anyone tried it? I gather Sichuan and Hunan cuisine.
Edited by Harters, 08 February 2011 - 07:38 AM.
Posted 08 February 2011 - 10:43 AM
A cheap, canteen style Korean place on Shudehill (just up from the tram/bus interchange).
Very good Korean pancakes (about £5), like a cross between an american pancake and omelette. Thick, crisp crust, good comfort food. Decent dolsot bibimbap (rice in a heated clay bowl with egg, meat, veggies, chilli red bean paste). Not the most refined version (the better ones use a raw egg yolk and raw beef that is cooked through the heat of the bowl) but pretty good nonetheless. Beef and kimchi stew was enjoyable as well, lovely spicy, salty broth. Both main courses about £7.
A good alternative to the curry cafes that proliferate in the area. (My current favourite of the curry cafes in that area is Yadgar. A notch in terms of spicing than previous visits to This & That and Al-Faisal).
Edited by Northern Food, 08 February 2011 - 10:52 AM.
Posted 08 February 2011 - 10:51 AM
Just to add a few further comments regarding Hunan Restaurant, further to Harters post a while back. I really liked it here. Two of us got through the following dishes:
Countryside style green chilli stir-fried pork
Tender lamb belly hotpot
Stir-fried chinese leaves with chopped salted chillies
Pork and chinese leaf dumplings
All really good solid dishes, similar style to the szechuan dishes just without the szechuan peppercorns. First up the green chilli pork. Searingly hot, salty, meaty, delicious. The chinese leaves followed swiftly and were also great. The salted chillies were obviously fermented to some extent, lending a slightly funky edge to the dish that worked well with the crisp leaves. The lamb hotpot was splendid, a rich meaty broth with the belly strips and various veggies floating around in it. Some of the belly fat must have been strained off as it wasn't overly fatty.
The dumplings arrived last but not least. Of the sturdy, chewy skinned variety rather than the delicate sort (a bit like the Beijing dumplings at Red Chilli) they were spot on with the accompanying soy/vinegar/chilli dipping sauce.
£50 all in for two including two beers apiece and service.
Regarding Middle Kingdom, haven't tried it but Manchester Confidential have reviewed both and rated Middle Kingdom higher.
Posted 08 February 2011 - 11:42 AM
Yep, I'd spotted the ManCon mention - hence the post here.
Posted 23 February 2011 - 04:15 AM
Edited by Harters, 23 February 2011 - 04:15 AM.
Posted 23 February 2011 - 05:57 AM
Food is served tapas style, fritto misto de mare, lasagne, excellent ribs. Only miss-hit was lamb chops - mega succulent, but stingy portion at 2 for c. £5.50.
Posted 07 March 2011 - 03:39 PM
The area around Kendals on Deansgate offers a number of decent foody opportunities (of which kutsu's mention of Chicceti is one)and I think the Koreana has been there the longest by a good number of years. However, until recently, it’s not been on my radar. It also seems to be under the radar of the main guidebooks. It’s a pleasant enough room, decorated in a vaguely oriental style and staffed by a young pleasant enough crew. There’s a claim on the website that they serve “traditional” Korean food. However, this was our first time eating the cuisine so have nothing to judge against. We can only judge if it's enjoyable – and, yes, it was, generally speaking.
A seafood pancake was thickish, slightly chewy, slightly greasy with a few prawns and bits of spring onion. It came with a soy sauce based dipping sauce which worked well. Pork dumplings were fine – a well flavoured pork mix, encased by pastry which had, I think , been steamed and then lightly fried to crisp it. Perhaps it’s a feature of Korean food but, in contrast to similar Cantonese versions, the dough here was significantly thicker and chewier. What is apparently a feature of traditional Korean dining is that food is meant for sharing. So, although orders are taken from individuals, food will arrive when it’s ready – so one starter arrived two or three minutes before the second. And it happened again with the mains.
Bulgogi is possibly the best known of Korean dishes. Even I’d heard of it. Meat is marinated in soy, sesame oil, garlic, a hint of sugar, a hint of chilli. It’s then grilled or pan cooked. I picked pork. It came with lettuce leaves and ssamjang, a thick spicy sauce. You make wraps. It was very good. If I have a criticism, the lettuce hadn’t been properly dried off but at least you knew it had been washed.
The other side of the table had ordered a beef gang jung. Small chunks of beef coated to give a crispy coating when fried. The sauce is a tad sweet and a tad spicy. Worked well with the boiled (and fairly sticky) rice.
We’d also got a side order of mixed salad and vegetables – cucumber, shredded mooli, cabbage, bean sprouts, a fiery kimchee, and equally fiery dish of chunks of mooli and another dish of very thin seaweed (almost like cellophane and, in truth, so was the taste). And two mussels with the oddest preparation I can think of – served in the shell, they were solid, chewy and tasted a little sweet – almost as if they’d been candied and perhaps they had. These aside, the dishes were really good additions to the meal which was now hitting all the basic tastes – sweet, sour, hot, salty and umami. Oh, very definitely umami.
It’s rare that, when visiting any Asian restaurant, that we want desserts but this was an exception. There was something about the meal that made us want something sweet and cold. Now I suspect that ginger ice cream and pomegranate sorbet have absolutely nothing to do with traditional Korean cooking. But they were damn good.
Meal, including a couple of beers and a bottle of water, was just over fifty quid,. Really good value. Really good experience.
Posted 11 March 2011 - 04:06 PM
There is an extensive menu of Hunanese and Sichuan dishes (it doesn't say which are which), but there are also a few cantonese dishes that are probably best avoided as they're not really the focus here. Here's what we ate:
Aubergine with the flavour of fish
Duck on the bone with chillis and taro in chinese beer
The dumplings to start were fine specimens, quite thin skinned with a chunky pork & spring onion filling and good crispy edges. The lamb skewers were coated in moreish dry rub of cumin, chilli, szechuan pepper and salt. Delicious.
Aubergines with the flavour of fish (I think this dish is more commonly known as fish fragrant aubergine) doesn't actually contain fish, I believe it's so named because the seasonings used are the same as for cooking fish in Szechuan cookery. The aubergines had been fried in a substantial quantity of oil, to which more oil had been added but were nicely cooked nontheless, soft without being mushy. The flavour was actually quite mild; sweet and garlicky with just a hint of chilli heat.
The duck was the highlight of the meal, it had been braised long and slow in a beer based stock laced with generous amounts of chilli, szechuan pepper and garlic, rendering it beautifully tender and deeply flavoured. The level of chilli heat and the numbness from the szechuan peppercorns was just right and the mild peppers, pickled peppers and spring onions added a vibrant, fresh contrast. Not really a big fan of the taro pieces though, they're sort of like grainy, floury potatoes in texture, and added little to the dish flavour-wise.
A wonderful meal, and another great Chinese restaurant to add to the list with Hunan and Red Chilli. This sort of food is always great value as well. Our bill came to £50 for two including service and three beers each. Stick to water and a feast will set you back about £15 per head. Service was also friendly and efficient throughout. Thoroughly recommended.
Posted 15 March 2011 - 03:26 PM
The sub-title of this thread is “Is it possible to eat something nice”. Well, if your first experience of Manchester city centre eating had been Podium, then the answer might well have been “No”. But more of that in a bit.
We’d booked here on a TopTable offer. £29 would get us three courses, a bottle of wine for the two of us – and an aperitif in Cloud23 – the cocktail bar on the 23rd floor. Now the bar is a great place. It’s reached by its own lift, with greeter on the ground floor and greeter on the 23rd. The night view is fantastic even if you know you’re looking out onto the less salubrious suburbs of Whalley Range and Moss Side. It’s stylish, with roped off VIP sections at each end of the main bar area.
What’s not stylish is when you return to the ground floor Podium restaurant. It’s a big, bland, soulless, corporate box, sparsely populated with customers. The menu is a short list of obviously bargain basement cooking – at the bottom there’s mention of meat coming from Mettricks of Glossop and the Rhug Organic Farm, but there’s no sign of this sort of quality amongst the actual listings. And the half bottle of wine per person has morphed into a glass each.
Butternut squash, coconut cream, coriander and chilli soup was OK. The predominant taste was of chilli. This was followed by fish pie, underseasoned and underendowed with seafood, topped with a cheese mash, accompanied by crushed peas and baby carrots. Just the sort of food you might cook at home on a Tuesday night – only you’d probably cook it better.
Sardines on toast can be a belter of a little dish. But not here. A couple of bland fillets sat on a slice of that frozen, and then barely baked, pappy baguette. I’m unsure if a mango and pineapple salsa would ever really have lifted it – but certainly not when the “salsa” was just a dice of the fruit. For a main, Toulouse sausage was pleasant enough in a sort of “bought from Lidl” way. It sat on well cooked lentils and what was described as “roast tomato” but tasted as though it was just a hefty dollop of overly sweet puree stirred through the lentils.
To finish, cheese was again OK – three indeterminate pieces (one mild goat, a cheddar and something blue with nuts in), chutney and crackers. A cheese plate circa Berni Inn 1980 if you will. A fruit crumble was described as “seasonal” – which it wasn’t – although I suppose blackcurrants must be in season somewhere in the world.
It’s not vile food. If your employer had booked you into the hotel and you didn’t want to go out to eat, you wouldn’t starve. But, really, there’s two or three much better offerings in less than 5 minutes walk. That said, taking the cocktail cost into account, this was a cheap “value for money” mid-week outing.
Posted 03 May 2011 - 01:34 PM
In spite of the colonial history, the UK is a bit short on Malaysian cuisine. There are, I think, only two restaurants in the metro area – Bunga Raya in Hazel Grove, which has provided our only other experience, and Nings, up the seedy end of Oldham Street in the city centre.
It’s difficult to fault anywhere that can put on two courses of edible food for under fourteen quid and I’m not going to try too hard. This midweek menu offers around half a dozen starters and perhaps a dozen mains. In the latter category, there’s a range of curries, noodle dishes and the like. My partner decided to go with this. She started with gado gado salad – warm vegetables and tofu, topped with a peanut sauce. Pleasant enough although two appearances of carrot, sliced and grated, seemed excessive. The sauce, nicely peanutty, needed more of a kick from something – chilli, soy sauce – something..... anything.
This was followed by beef rendang. A generous serving of long cooked, tender and very flavoursome beef with the thick sauce just clinging to it. A little sweet and underspiced for her tastes, she declared that, shock horror, the version at Tampopo is better.
Meanwhile, I’d ordered from the main menu and, in effect, ordered two breakfasts. First up, roti canai. An interesting flatbread, more the texture of thin flaky pastry than bread and quite oily, together with a dish of a pokey vegetable curry sauce to dip into. The second dish, nasi lemak, gets internet descriptions as the “national dish”. Arranged on the plate, chicken breast topped with satay sauce, fluffy well cooked rice, a little salad, a fried egg, a little dish of a fiery sambal and the oddest very tiny salty dried chewy fish. Well I suppose Malaysia brings together disparate communities into one country, so why not bring together disparate ingredients onto one plate and call it the national dish. Why? Because it doesn’t work very well, that’s why. Nothing vile about it and I cleared my plate with no problem but it was no more than OK.
So, there we are. One of those Tuesday meals where you go and have your tea, rather than dine out, if you see what I mean. But if you’re in the centre and in need of something asian that’s a little different from the usual Chinese or Indian, it might just do the business. And it certainly won’t break the bank
Posted 08 August 2011 - 02:42 PM
A return visit to this Yorkshire-based mini-chain which has now spread its wings as far south as Birmingham.
As always, it’s a slick selling organisation. For example, you’re kept waiting to be shown to a table just long enough to ensure you’ve bought a drink at the bar – but you were going to order one anyway. Service is always good – not pushy but your guy always around to remove plates in good time or when you need to order more drinks.
It’s easy to be greedy at Akbar’s. So we were.
Poppadoms were light, crisp, non-greasy and seemed fairly freshly made. Not “fresh” as in made just for the table, of course, but not fresh as in been lying round since yesterday. A good chutney tray with them – a mango that looked the colour of mango and not some lurid orange; something fairly liquid – coriander, chilli and tamarind going on here – and a couple of others.
Chapli kebab was a couple of well spiced beef patties. Served on a “sizzling” metal hotplate with some fried onions. It was OK – nothing to shout from the rooftops about but a good enough start.
Chickpea and potato puri was given a good seeing to across the table. Generous portion of crisp bread and soft potato. Nice contrast. Good, if muted, spicing.
For mains, one chicken with spinach, one similar with lamb. Both of these from the desi-apna section of the menu where the best of Akbar’s is to be found, IMO. Almost dry, the sauce such as there was, coming more from the liquid coming out of the just wilted spinach than anything else.
Yes, Akbar’s is a little more expensive than the bargain basement places on the Curry Mile – but you’re getting a very generous portion of well cooked food. For carbs, rice and a couple of excellent tandoori roti.
We fancied dessert and it was a game of two halves. Ras malai was a disappointment – tasting of nothing but “sweet”. Kulfi was much better – and served in quite a cheffy way. Rich, sweet and with an unknown very pleasant flavouring, it came on a stick – like an ice lolly. But then drizzled with a little red fruit sauce. Very nice end to the meal.
Edited by Harters, 08 August 2011 - 02:43 PM.
Posted 09 August 2011 - 12:50 AM
They also always ask 'if you are celebrating a special occasion' which i love!
rarely vary from lamb chops which i think are as good, if not better than the benchmark at tayyabs and /or sheek kebabs. chicken & keema mix and bread, the giant naans are excellent. If you stay off the cobra it's £15 a head, but that's easier said than done most visits.
Posted 09 August 2011 - 07:23 AM
As is the drink - three beers and lime & soda - £12! Anyone would think we were in London. Innit.
Posted 16 October 2011 - 02:21 PM
The nephew and I both reckon that one of the pleasures of eating States-side of the Atlantic is southern BBQ and, in particular, pulled pork. Long cooked, over smoke, and with the tang of a sauce mixed in. We might disagree about whether the sweeter tomato based sauce is better than the Carolina mustard one but we don’t disagree about the meat. This can be piggy at its finest. I take the view that it is one of the cuisines of the world that simply doesn’t travel well and I’ve never come across decent BBQ north of Dixie, let alone the UK. So, it was with some surprise that we found ourselves in Southern 11 this evening.
It’s a slick modern room, with slick modern service, in Spinningfields, that newly developed slick, modern part of the city centre. The sort of place that might make you think you’d walked into a little known chain that was striving to expand. You hadn’t – at least not yet. And what had attracted me was the reference to sourcing. This isn’t any old pork that was about to be pulled. This is free range, rare breed pork, supplied by Yorkshire’s Ginger Pig. Longhorn cattle turn themselves into steaks and what the menu describes as “Li’l burgers” but Americans would know as sliders. Chicken, almost needless to say, comes from up the road in Goosnargh. All good signs here – but can they cook it?
Well, yes they can. There was a salad starter – a wedge of iceberg, topped with blue cheese and bacon. I like this in the States where the iceberg is ice cold. Here it was just OK, but the cheese and bacon added a nice tang. As for the main event, the pork had been properly long cooked and pulled perfectly. It was mixed with a tomato based sauce – perhaps a little too much sauce – sweet, sharp and with a kick of chilli. Alongside, decent coleslaw and a piece of cornbread. Now I’m glad we’d ordered extra portions of fries as this was a dainty piece of cornbread. Soft & moist – a well flavoured piece of cornbread – but dainty. And the fries really were good, dusted with a little Parmesan.
Desserts were cheesecake, chocolate brownie and the like. And were fine, although the cheesecake biscuit base would have been better if had not been a choccie bikkie – it started to make it a bit over sweet.
Overall, this was not at all shabby by way of casual meals. Of course, it didn’t quite whisk me back to North Carolina – everything was all a bit too refined for that. But not at all shabby.
Posted 28 October 2011 - 07:37 AM
Posted 28 October 2011 - 07:55 AM
Posted 28 October 2011 - 08:58 AM
Had an underwhelming meal at the Yang Sing last year (see upthread) and wouldnt really recommend it. Wings is fine but if you can stretch your definition of "city centre" to the town end of Oldham Road, you'd be able to include "Glamorous" which, IMO, is the best Cantonese in the area (it's above the Wing Yip supermarket).
If you're wanting a bash at Sichuan, then Red Chilli certainly works, although my preferance is for Red & Hot, just round the corner on Faulkner Street.
Posted 28 October 2011 - 10:25 AM
Posted 01 November 2011 - 04:07 PM
Glamorous restaurant is pretty good, though Jay Rayner was underwhelmed on his last trip. It's probably on a par with the Tai Pan which is also above a cash and carry, this time on Upper Brook Steet. The place next to the McDonalds on Oxford Road (Tai Wu?) does the best dim sum in town but I have to say it's not great, good dim sum is currently a rariety in Manchester. Final choice is the Handmade Noodle King in Chinatown which, as it's name suggests, does very good noodle soups etc, and also has an addictive Korean BBQ element to the menu.
I don't post here as frequently as I once did, but to hear me regularly rambling on about bollocks - much of it food and restaurant-related - in a bite-size fashion then add me on twitter as "thomhetheringto".
Posted 21 December 2011 - 05:30 AM
There’s a sense of occasion in having dinner at the Midland French. It’s about the setting – the knowledge that the restaurant has been around since 1903 when the hotel was built. It’s the oval room, still decorated in a Belle Epoque style that looks sort of old-fashioned but yet is entirely right. I can visualise my grandfather eating
here in the early part of the last century – doing the deals with American cotton traders that brought such wealth to the city. Not for nothing was Manchester known as Cottonopolis. Probably in his day, a string quartet played in the lounge bar. Now the background strings music comes by way of CD proving that nothing stands still except, possibly, the entirely formal style of service. In itself, that adds to the occasion. You know you’re being treated well. The restaurant was the first in the UK to hold a Michelin star but that’s some considerable years ago. But, don’t get me wrong, there’s some very good food here (far better than the Good Food Guide’s miserly score of 2 might indicate)
As for the food, there’s a good looking set price menu offered midweek – three courses for £35. But, you’re here for an occasion. You want the carte – even though some dishes are priced to induce a sharp intake of breath. Once seated, you’re offered bread. It’s served from a trolley, perhaps a dozen choices, all made in the kitchen daily. There’s a garlic & rosemary, a cheese & onion and, perhaps best of all, a lemon & thyme. It’s something to nibble on till the amuse arrives – a sliver of duck breast, another of duck foie, half a quails egg, a little micro leaf. Perfect – even a little grating of bitter chocolate seemed to work (although only just)
The food has its roots in French cuisine but is entirely at home in north west England. One starter brought what looked like three almost perfectly cooked scallops. Two had the usual charring from their brief time in the pan. But the third was pale and it was only when it was cut into that the cleverness was revealed. This was scallop mousse shaped like the real thing – a delicate yet flavoursome mousse. Other contrasts from some shreds of long cooked pork, an almost ubiquitous cauliflower puree and a drizzle of cumin infused oil.
The menu is written in that modern style of almost single word description. And my eye was immediately dragged to the item marked “Pie”. Well, of course it was – I’m a man and northern. It promised pork, prune, egg and pickle. I wondered what cheffy twist might be played here. But, no, I was served a slice of pork pie. A superb pork pie – full of flavour, with little dots of pistachio and a perfectly crisp pastry. Alongside, more quails egg, the pickle resembling Branston but lighter in texture and with sweet vinegary notes, the prune forming a dab of thick sauce which reminded me of the tomato ketchup I might have at home with a pie. This was a good plate – not a WOW plate but WOW isn’t what the Midland French is about.
We’d have happily ordered any of the seven main courses on offer. But, for such a classic setting, there was only one for us. A classic Chateaubriand for two. It’s probably been on the French’s menu since Grandad’s time. There’s some theatre in this dish. It‘s brought from the kitchen and presented for inspection before being carved tableside for us. Bang-on at medium rare and a generous portion at that. The plates have already been dressed with an array of vegetables – turned carrots, cubed beetroot and turnip, wilted spinach, fried mushrooms and a rich and, possibly just too sweet, onion marmalade. And there’s chips of course – because we’re in Manchester. But only four “fat chips” each, because this is the Midland French. There’s a light red wine sauce poured over to coat the beef and a big dollop of a superb béarnaise, heavy with a tarragon zing. This is a proper plate of food in my book – good ingredients, cooked with finesse.
We needed to wait for desserts to be prepared but they were both well worth waiting for. A light treacle soufflé was a perfect consistency and came accompanied by malted milk ice cream. The other plate brought a chocolate fondant, oozing with a rich sauce which contrasted well with slightly salted caramel and a pistachio ice cream. Absolutely the sort of desserts you want to eat at a place like this.
It had been three years since we’d last eaten here. It isn’t somewhere you’d want to come very regularly but three years is far too long. This really is good cooking.
Posted 21 December 2011 - 08:31 AM
Posted 21 December 2011 - 09:05 AM
It's a still a place where most men were wearing jackets but I never feel out of place in shirt and chinos, which is as formal as I ever get.
Posted 01 February 2012 - 03:25 PM
The city may well have had a significant Italian community for 150 years, but they have had minimal impact on the local restaurant scene. San Carlo is an import – one of the branches of the Birmingham based mini-chain – and it’s now certainly one of the fashionable destinations in the city. The place was packed with Manc glitterati. There were a couple of famous faces. And a goodly number of footballers’ wives – either real or wannabe. It was noisy – this is not a place for an intimate dinner for two, not least as you’d have to keep saying “Eh?” to each other. Conversation for a group larger than two might be really difficult.
In the way of many Italian places, the menu is long. Perhaps overly long for them to pull off really good food all the time. But they manage pretty well.
There was a starter of mozzarella en carozza – a fried cheese sandwich by any other name. Good flavours, good texture, although the anchovy sauce was a mere arty drizzle across the plate. There needed to be more. Much more – but then it wouldn’t have looked so pretty. I’d ordered sausages – well, of course I had. Two big meaty ones; a decent coating of a tomato sauce, flavoursome with a little kick of chilli in there. And a dainty square of fried polenta – a bit too thin and crispy, to my mind.
Mozzarella cropped up again in my main course – veal parmigiana. Thin pieces of veal, briefly fried and interleaved on the plate with cheese and ham. Herself had ordered what proved to be the better of the two dishes. Slices of very decent fillet steak sat on a heap of rocket, dressed with a brandy and balsamic reduction. Dead simple; dead good. We shared some green beans which were nicely slightly underdone and some sauté potatoes which were not nicely slightly underdone.
No dessert. Coffee was fine and was served with some lovely shards of sweet pastry dusted with icing sugar.
Service had been spot-on and the only criticism was a billing fault. They had charged us for each having two starters. Quickly rectified with an apology. Call me suspicious but I wonder how often this occurs?
Certainly pleased to have eaten at San Carlo (even though its baby brother Chiccetti, on the opposite side of the road, is getting all the current play). However, this isn’t my sort of preferred gaff and I’d be in no rush to return. Wannabe glitterati will love it.
Posted 13 February 2012 - 08:30 AM
Priced at £21, that sounds OK for London but pricy for round here. Unless, of course, someone tells me quality makes it worthwhile. Presumably it'll compete with the almost adjacent Jamie's Italian.