“Siena, that new Italian restaurant in what used to be the Staff of Life” is the talk of the town in Swinton.
The Cock & Swine, the pub on the corner of Worsley Road and Partington Lane – which was affectionately still called by its former name Staff of Life until it closed a couple of years ago – was doomed.
The pub changed breweries as regularly as the V bus service. It was a Walker’s pub, then it was a Burtonwood pub, then Marston’s, and latterly operated by the up-and-coming AtWill Pubco. But for one reason or another, this Swinton pub just died a death.
That said, though, the City of Salford is known for having loads of pubs and whilst Swinton Pendlebury is undeniably still a little rough around the edges, it’s just unbecoming to have a town filled with boarded-up boozers.
The precinct has had a revamp including a big Asda, and Costa coffee (hardly Starbucks-style gentrification) and Moorside High School has moved to the other side of East Lancs and became a ‘super-school’.
New housing estates have been thrown up, with more families moving to the area and houses in Swinton and Pendlebury getting snapped up left, right and centre.
Some might even say Swinton is being gentrified. That’s a bit of a far cry but it’s certainly becoming more multicultural like neighbouring Monton, and there are plans to build sustainable cycle routes to Monton with links to the Quays and MediaCity as part of the Swinton Greenway scheme.
When it comes to dining out in Swinton, Puccini’s, opposite the town hall, which is known for its old-school intimate Italian charm, has dominated for over 20 years.
And with the ever-growing popularity of Albert’s Restaurant on the other side of the East Lancs – which is rammed pretty much every night of the week – demand for decent family dining in the area is increasing slowly but surely.
Family-run Siena Restaurant Swinton hasn’t been open long, but it has already established itself on TripAdvisor as the number one restaurant in Swinton, ahead of Albert’s and Puccini’s. And it’s third in Salford, just behind Vero Moderno, which is no mean feat.
Co-owners Antonio and Anna, who are Italian and Greek respectively, purchased the former pub premises in late 2018 before renovating the space and opening the restaurant in May last year.
They know a thing or two about running a successful restaurant, having previously owned the number one rated restaurant on TripAdvisor in Haslingden before they closed it to start a family.
The restaurant is named after the Tuscan city known for its cuisine. Many of Siena’s restaurants belong to the Slow Food movement, which believes in the importance of using local ingredients and an awareness of and appreciation for what we eat, so our expectations were high when we paid a visit.
The exterior isn’t much different to when it was a pub and the decor is simple, no airs and graces, which is something we like in a restaurant. It usually means the food is the priority, not influencers and Instagram followers.
The menu is massive, reasonably priced and features all your favourite Italian dishes – grill, pizza, pasta, risotto and pasta and fish and seafood.
Considering the city of Siena is famous for producing pecorino cheese, it’s a surprise not to find it in any single dish on the menu here. But are we that bothered? No.
Not when, for starters, the Caprino Al Pesto – baked goat’s cheese wrapped in filo pastry and topped with basil pesto served with a salad garnish (£8.50) – melts in your mouth with a nutty and garlicky finish.
The calamari is served with garlic mayo and salad (£8.00) and is light and fluffy.
Spaghetti with meatballs is the quintessential Italian restaurant dish. This one consists of spaghetti with homemade meatballs the size of golf balls in a chilli, garlic tomato sauce (£9.50). According to my companion, who is a big fan of Italian cuisine, it’s one of the best he has ever tasted.
It’s so full of flavour we have no hesitation in declaring this dish the star of the show and go perfectly with a glass of Barolo, the iconic Italian red wine (a bottle of house wine is just £16).
Desserts are offered on a little chalkboard, presumably because they often change.
We had chocolate fudge cake (£5.50) served with a small blob of ice cream and profiteroles (£5.50) served with chocolate sauce. Both dishes hit the spot and satisfied our chocolate craving.
Siena is a welcome addition to the dining scene in Swinton and a bit of competition for Puccini’s, which isn’t a bad thing.
If the other dishes are as good as the spaghetti meatballs, it’s definitely worth a visit. We’ll be back.
To book, call 0161 794 8868. It’s literally impossible via their website.