I’m not one for change. Bizarre really, given the shit I do in the name of feeding this blog (and my ever growing butt), but if I could eat at dirty old gastropubs, day in day out, I would. Vats of red wine, haunches of meat and a thickly wedged cheese board to boot would see me right to the end of my days. Nothing outstanding in terms of innovation, but here be my heart’s desire, and though I hate to consider myself judgemental – being a girl of simple pleasures and all – anything other than hearty, flavoursome food in a rough-around-the-edges package tends to send me running for the chippy.
This inverted snobbery of mine has led to me shunning many a ‘fine dining’ styled restaurant in my time. Trussed up service, polished cutlery and overcomplicated menus all give me the willies, and having been invited to review Rosso – paean to all things slick and celebrity in our fine city – I managed to postpone accepting the opportunity for months, in fear of loathing the whole experience and having to write a mean-spirited review. Manchester, how foolish I have been.
Rosso, without a shadow of a doubt, is smooth. Fancy pants building (grandiose, grade II listed and built in 1887), fanciable waiting staff and fantastic service, the guys and gals here know how to put on a good show.
The service as I experienced it was second to none.* Amiable men and women all, largely seen but not heard, taking care never to interrupt mid-conversation and enabling wine glasses to magically materialise a near constant level of white wine. Given the rough and tumble of my usual type of gaffe, being wined and dined at a spiffy Italian restaurant was both a revelation and a real treat.
There were a few unnecessary flourishes. The silver tongs used to spoon ice into my water glass gave rise to a wry smile, and the purposefully papped pictures of football players adorning the walls shaved off two shades of class, but otherwise, it was a wonderful. My friend Aoife and I relaxed right into our surroundings – the watermark of any good dining experience – though completely forgetting where we were was near impossible with a live singer roving the restaurant.
Sashaying his rump round, crooning rat pack favourites and classic Italian tunes, the evening’s entertainment was a surprise success. What on first appearances seemed to be a shed load of parmesan, piled on top of an otherwise beautifully presented evening, turned out to be the umami rich mouthful of entertainment the evening needed. Usually disdainful of any unnecessary distraction from conversation, (or masticating for that matter), it was a welcome break in between the carefully timed courses to aid our digestion of the mountainous plates of food dished up.
Now, about that food. Slow cooked pig cheeks in Parma ham were divine. Meaty, moreish and oozing a bitter sweet black treacle jus, it took mere minutes to demolish, though Aoife’s antipasto board – a meal unto itself of artisan cheeses, pickled artichokes and a basket of bread – required a doggy bag and whole extra day to finish. Having already troughed a perfectly pitched sweet red pepper bruschetta in waiting for our starters, we were comfortably full whilst only half way through.
Naturally, I had ordered a plate full of pasta – chilli garlic taglierini topped with half a roasted lobster to be exact – just to keep things breezy, you know. A lip (and face) smackingly fresh dish of pasta ribbons, complete with fiddly fork to fish out every last morsel of the delicate, perfectly pink and aromatic lobster, I was simultaneously in heaven and hell as I sunk the whole dish. The shame! Resultantly, all I could stretch to was a couple of scoops of decent (though sadly not naturally flavoured) pistachio gelato despite the presence of an appetising looking tiramisu.
The menu is slightly overwhelming, with over 40 mains in the offing and with each dish handsomely priced, it’s a dear do, but to my mind, understandably so. Working such quality ingredients and classic service, not to mention portion sizes that are purely Northern, it works out as excellent value for money. It’s enough to tempt me back anyhow, if only to double kiss my waiter on the cheek again out of sheer gratitude and my best attempt at a belly-bursting grace. Colour me classy, ladies and gentleman. I’m a changed woman. * Given I was on a review, a little showboating was to be expected. Naturally, all is forgiven.