Grill on the Alley has been one of the places to go to for great steaks since it opened more than ten years ago. A place where fine dining doesn’t seem to have lost its touch with the common man. Yet in all these years it’s still managed to retain an air of secrecy, tucked away on the back streets off Deansgate. It is a restaurant that breeds familiarity.
From the moment you step through the door, you’re treated as if you’re a long-lost friend. There’s a warmth about the place that some places just don’t have. This night was no different and no sooner had we made our entrance than we were led to our table and offered a selection of fine wines and nibbles.
It was a special occasion so what better way to celebrate than to conquer a steak or two. Expectations were high and considering it was just after 9 on a Wednesday it was fairly busy, too. Nonetheless, the service was exemplary and the sombre music drowned out any unwelcome noise there might have been. Once we had settled and savoured the wine, we perused the menu and planned our meal.
Nibbles: Warm baked loaf (£3.25) / Olives (£3)
The bread was warm and soft to the touch, while the inclusion of the chorizo butter was a masterstroke. Both paired together nicely and made for a great palate cleanser. The same could not be said of the olives, however, which were lacking in flavour and proved to be a little too dry for my liking.
Starters: Spiced chicken skewers (£7.25) / Smoked duck salad (£6.75)
I was a big fan of the spiced chicken skewers, especially the satay sauce which was rich and nutty. The accompanying lime wedge was also put to good use as the chicken, peanut and lime flavours meshed together surprisingly well. If I had one reservation it would be that the meat wasn’t as soft as I’d hoped, but nonetheless it was a fantastic starter.
As for the duck salad, the combination of balsamic roasted cherry tomatoes, raspberry vinaigrette and walnut dressing helped compliment the duck extremely well. Despite this, I felt like the garnishing of bread was a little too crusty and made it a messy eat, although the thinly sliced cheese did help.
Mains: T-bone steak 450g (£30) / Fillet steak 283g (£35)
When you come to a restaurant with an empty belly and a big appetite, steak is the only appropriate solution. Grill on the Alley is famed for its steak dishes and offers a choice of cuts, including sirloin, rump, rib eye and the signature wagyu beef. I opted for a generous T-bone cooked medium rare (the proper way), with home cut chips and a helping of bearnaise sauce.
As for the other main, we ventured into their Best of British menu which features a selection of 100% pure breed and grass fed beef. A medium-rare fillet steak was the obvious choice and boy did it impress. We both gave it a perfect score. Extra points to both the chef and the waitress as we asked for a touch of salt and they duly obliged.
Perfection was the only way to describe that steak, and althoughe the mash wasn’t up to scratch, it didn’t take anything away from that fillet. In fact, it was so well cooked that the sauces had to play second fiddle as the meat was packed with flavour and required little to no effort to eat.
Desserts: Strawberry and passionfruit shortcake (£4) / Fruit salad martini (£8)
Following a more than satisfying mains we were almost ready to call it a day, but the liquid dessert menu was too intriguing to turn down. We opted for a short strawberry and passionfruit shortcake which was essentially a shot of milkshake and a tall fruit salad martini which was a non-alcoholic cocktail. Both were full of flavour and capped off the perfect end to a great night.
For all the praise I gave to the food however, it was the little things that made my dining experience a memorable one. The waitress – Faye, I think her name was – had mastered the art of making her presence known without it feeling like an intrusion. She knew when to check in, when to take away our plates and even offered up some great small talk along the way – a truly unique skill.
Personal space is every bit as important as the meal as far as I’m concerned and this is something Grill on the Alley has mastered. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been stopped by a waiter mid-chew to see how I’m getting on, only for me to respond with a mouthful of food. There’s nothing more off-putting than having to free up a bit of space in your mouth to issue a response.
This was not the case here and I couldn’t be more grateful.
5 Ridgefield, Manchester M2 6EG