Think of Manchester’s Rosso restaurant and you’ll perhaps think of its famous footballer owner Rio Ferdinand or the myriad of celebrity guests who have been photographed on its doorstep over the past nine years.
But the Spring Gardens Italian restaurant is proving that its food is very much the star of the show these days, with an assured new summer menu offering a wealth of diverse treats alongside the traditional favourites.
The venue itself remains a showstopper from the moment you walk through the door. Rosso’s chic all-white interiors show off the Grade II-listed former bank building’s historic features to stunning effect.
We dined up on the mezzanine level of the restaurant where you get a wonderful view out over the full length of King Street as well.
While it’s always tempting to plump for your “old favourite” pizza or pasta dish when dining out at an Italian, here it really does pay to push yourself out of your comfort zone. The venue’s newest menu boasts over 30 new additions, where the finest of authentic Italian ingredients are used to effect.
As an appetiser, we opted for the focaccia con san Daniele rucola e burrata tartufata (£12) – a hand stretched freshly baked loaf which gets the senses going the moment it arrives. The lightness of the bread married with the sweet scent of truffle oil on the burrata and salty smooth Parma ham make for a turbo-charged version of the traditional garlic bread staple.
On to antipasti and across the table the carpaccio di polpo (£12) – Calabrian octopus carpaccio with roasted chilli, orange and shaved fennel is a pleasing looking plate of sliced Calabrian octopus carpaccio, delicately piled with chilli, orange and shaved fennel.
I struggled to pronounce my chosen dish, but my goodness it was worth the effort for the ippoglosso affumicato di Gigha (£15). Chunks of smoked halibut served with delightfully light poppy seed pikelets finished with iterations of cucumber – a real triumph.
By this stage we were almost regretting ordering an intermediate primi pasta course. I say almost, as the dishes themselves were worth the bulging stomachs by the end.
The agnolotti di pollo con tartufo nero (£18) was a masterful pasta dish with chicken and black truffle enveloped in fresh pasta served in a rich chicken broth reduction with a devilish crispy chicken skin on top. Rich, moreish and about as far removed from a boring old spag bol as you can get.
We also tried the tortellini di ricotta e limone from the lunch menu, which would suit those looking for the lighter side of the carb treat. So fresh that you can smell the pea shoots, inside the pasta packages are cloudy puffs of the creamiest ricotta, married to a sweetly sharp lemon sauce.
On to secondi, and across the table my companion tried that most Italian of treats – scallopine di vitelli (£27) – sliced veal – served here with a white truffle and madeira wine reduction, while I opted for the filleto di salmon con aspargi (£30) – a grilled salmon fillet with citrus cardamon, lemon oil and the most exquisite fried capers.
It looked almost like a work of art when it arrived, but I crashed on in anyway. Of the two rather vast mains, we both preferred the salmon dish, with its moist flakes matched by those vinegary little caper bombs.
We couldn’t really leave without sampling Rosso’s now legendary chocolate dessert – the piatto dell’amicizia (£12). A white chocolate sphere is delivered to your table before our waiter delivers a pot of hot chocolate sauce on top to melt into a plate of chocolate cakey morsels, malt meringues and strawberry textures.
The latest additions to the menu show a kitchen at the top of its game. And while the starry guests may have grabbed the headlines in recent years, it really is the food that’s doing all the talking.
43 Spring Gardens, Manchester M2 2BG