I’m old enough to remember when The Grill On The Alley used to be Est Est Est, one of Manchester’s original steakhouses, managed by Ettore Cicchetti, one of Manchester’s best ever managers. It always felt like a ‘proper’ restaurant. Old school. This feel remains even though the name hasn’t. Now one of seven Blackhouse Grills across the UK owned by Living Ventures, The Grill On The Alley still has a warm, contemporary and bustling restaurant vibe. I use the word restaurant as it’s very much a restaurant with a bar, and not the other way round, as is common with many new venues across the city.
Greetings on arrival and introductions to our server Will over, we were sat in our comfy booth and brought heavily Campari’d heavenly Negronis while we looked at the menus. There are no two or three course options. They market their Sunday offer as ‘a proper Sunday roast with all the trimmings’ and is priced at £12.95 per person. Let’s see shall we?
I ordered Potted Mackerel for my starter (£7). Of all the places I’ve visited for a Sunday roast, this was possibly one of the tastiest starters I’ve eaten. Fresh mackerel was fleshy and moist and went brilliantly with the crisp melba toast. Dawn’s Salt & Pepper Calamari (£6.75) was not quite as successful, but still good. The calamari were slightly greasy and needed something more tangy to take the edge off as the saffron mayonnaise just wasn’t sharp enough.
Dawn went off-piste slightly and ordered the Rack Of Lamb (£22.50) with home-cut chips (£3.50). Descriptions like this make me laugh. Did the commis chef cut the potatoes at home then bring them in on the bus? Joking aside, they were both delicious. The lamb nice and pink with a lovely herby crust, and the chips crunchy and fluffy – all the better for their being cut at home I’m sure.
My proper Sunday roast was just that. Great pink and tender beef, just as you would hope for from a steak house. Huge Yorkshire pudding (they serve these with all their roasts, not just the beef), fresh and colourful mashed carrots/swede type combo, green and buttery cabbage, and superb roasties with lots of gravy. Nothing unexpected on the plate, but everything very well executed indeed. A Hungarian Moon River Pinot Noir went really well with both mains (£6 175ml) and was a lighter lunchtime option as we didn’t want anything as heavy as a Malbec.
We shared a very beautiful and classic Apple Tart (£6.50), accompanied by salted caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream. Top points to their pastry chef especially as the pastry was excellent. I wish I’d ordered my own!
Not wanting our lunch to end, we also ordered the cheese board (£9.95) comprising Butlers Cheddar, Lancashire Blue, and Goats Cheese. When it arrived, the board looked quite underwhelming with a couple of grapes and a dollop of chutney, but it tasted amazing. Three superb cheeses washed down with Warre’s Late Bottled Vintage Port (£3.50 50ml). What a way to go.
There may have been no surprises, but everything we ate had fantastic ingredients and tasted great. Both the lunch itself and the spot on service and truly relaxed atmosphere means The Grill On The Alley is definitely a very strong contender for top spot in our battle of the Sunday roasts.