We went to Rosso because there’s a new a la carte menu, that promised among other things, a classic Italian menu with the obligatory ‘twist’ from head chef Steve Hidebransdt, including fresh fish daily from New Smithfield Market.
“…surely any restaurant in England knows to offer it’s diners a drink the instant they sit down…”
All to the good for the restaurant scene in Manchester and great to see the likes of Neighbourhood with its fishy offerings are nipping on the heels of the more established ‘brands’ and keeping them on their toes.
They didn’t know who we were until half way through the meal, so dear readers we got a full on ringside view of what normal punters can expect.
From the lacklustre reception desk, to the hard seats of a non-booth table (I have told our lovely waiter Max to challenge his boss to sit in these seat for more than an hour and a half), to being left for what felt like half an hour trying to catch someone’s eye to get a drink – hello, it’s your job and surely any restaurant in England knows to offer it’s diners a drink the instant they sit down.
“I always think that our readers’ tenner is a hard earned tenner.”
This got us thinking about our reviews. Personally, I always think that our readers’ tenner is a hard earned tenner. Sometimes we know you just want to nip and have a bite, and those places where a main is under £10 we review and rank but we wouldn’t compare them to fine dining.
Equally, we know that it’s not all about food. A place that allows you to relax, show off, feel special, depending on your mood, are all factors that can be as important as what’s on your plate.
But when a menu or restaurant promises more and charges more, then from our point of view and before we recommend them, they have to deliver. And when starters are the best part of a tenner, mains (if you stray from pizza and pasta) the good part of £20 and more, it has to be good – Australasia/ Alchemist/ San Carlo/ RBG good.
And this was at best a mixed bag, with one superb dish, two really good mains and one frankly, a disaster.
It makes me think the kitchen in Rosso is not working in harmony, there are some great tastes and dishes here and then there are huge duds. Like, the floor of the restaurant where Max our waiter could not be faulted for his friendliness and service, there is a lack of orchestration, leadership, pulling it together.
To put them to the test, I ordered their new fangled take on a caprese salad, because I adore caprese, it’s a simple dish that relies on having great ingredients. At its plainest it is mozzarella, basil, tomatoes and olive oil, sometimes it goes tricolour with avocado. It is a dish that shows a restaurant’s true colours and I’m afraid Rosso failed.
This ‘take’ on the classic replaced basil with rocket, that just doesn’t work and anyone with a palate would know that. It added sweet peppers which was a good idea and adds piquancy to the dish, but then that actually goes against what a caprese is. But, the downside of this dish, which costs the best part of £8, were the ingredients. Salad tomatoes which tasted to me (and I shared them with the table to get everyone’s view) like the ones you get from Tesco for a pound, watery and tasteless, the mozzarella, again with no texture or indeed flavour.
Ginger, fresh from boxing training where ironically he trounced Umar, one of the men/owners behind Rosso and hence the pugilistic references in this review, ordered the pig cheeks. These were quite frankly great – and the superb stand out highlight of the night. A rich hearty peasant dish, like Mama would cook with a flavour and authenticity that if all dishes were like this would put Rosso on the map.
The Gay, who I hadn’t seen for a week because I had that horrendous lurgy on his birthday (and would have had to resort to eating carpet if I relied on the menfolk in my life but luckily have a legion of girlfriends who ensured I was fed and not being nibbled on by cats), had the mussels.
He took one sniff and ordered more garlic before he even tucked in. He was not impressed, and reckoned they had been frozen, with a lots of them closed, something that a lot of you claimed from your twitter feedback happens with the food here.
Indeed, to say that they are importing fresh fish daily, the menu actually only offered six fish dishes, I would expect a specials board or something and we did ask, just in case we were missing something.
Onto mains and I ordered the Veal alla Sorrentina, because I haven’t had veal in a long time and thought it would be good to showcase this controversial offering.
It came with aubergine, cheese and tomatoes on top and looked great. But, as the Ginge put it, it was tough, in his words Chuck Norris tough. The aubergine was also not much off raw, though the herbs and cheese were tasty and showed this dish had promise if not cooked by someone who had the culinary subtlety of Bernard Manning.
Veal should melt in the mouth, be succulent, that’s the whole point of torturing calves. I left this dish.
Ginge went fishy because we did want to try the much lauded fish side of thing and had tuna. This again had been ‘tweaked’ from classic dishes and came in a tomato sauce. It was succulent, well cooked and had a great flavour, a good main course and one he would order again.
The Gay had a chicken and crab dish, which again was a hit. The chicken cooked to perfection and the fishy crab the right side of contrast without overwhelming the dish, which it so easily could.
Then we left and couldn’t wait to leave. Which brings me to the clientele. There were beautiful couples, older post Valentine’s Day couples looking like they had no conversation left and quite frankly, nothing against them, a large contingent of people who looked like doormen and bodyguards.
It was freezing, the Gay and I had nipped out for a fag. I had a quick one and then rushed back into the warmth. The Gay outside was with two other smokers and was told he was a ‘pussy’ and queer. Seriously, do people still do that. Ginger wanted to instil some instant justice but we restrained him.
On The I Love’o’meter
Rosso is like a Match.com profile, exaggerating its good points but a bit of a letdown in the flesh. There is promise here but at these prices there also needs to consistency.
Rosso Restaurant, 43 Spring Gardens, Manchester M2 2BG
0161 832 1400