Less than ten minutes from home, this is pretty much my neighbourhood restaurant (although it’s a couple of years since we were last here). And it really does have pretty much everything I want from a neighbourhood restaurant – a short, well priced menu of interesting sounding “modern European” dishes; smiley staff who know what they’re doing, an attractive room, modern comfortable furniture (even if the tables for two are a whisker too small for everything you want to put on them), a decent wine list (although no half bottles and nothing really interesting by the glass). Oh, and a kitchen that’s bloody good at its job. Jem & I has, in the past, held a Michelin Bib Gourmand and still appears in the Guide. It also appears in Hardens although, somewhat gob-smackingly, not in the Good Food Guide.
The menu kicks off with a couple of nibbles – breads and olives. But what jumped off the page was “fish and chips”. Oh, yeah, we’re having some of that. A single fillet each – cod, of course, because this is Manchester. Delicious fish, light crisp batter. And shoestring fries – served in a newspaper cone. A real newspaper cone. Like chips used to come in. I am now fully, totally, absolutely, on this restaurant’s bus.
There’s nothing wussy about the flavours here. So, one starter of Bang Bang Chicken was punchy with chilli, vinegar and peanut sauce – the meat just cooked through and still juicy. The other, a generous portion of king prawns cooked in olive oil, garlic, chilli and parsley with some rocket leaves on the side. Both these plates were emptied as quickly as though food was going out of fashion.
The prawn dish seemed very Iberian and the main that followed had its roots in the same part of the world. Grilled sea bass, sat on a pile of spinach and chorizo – the sausage a fine example of the chorizo making art – porky and with a whack from pimenton and chilli, fried to a crispy loveliness. Some salad leaves to mop things up and, separately, a bowl of patatas bravas. To quote wossisname, these were deep and savoury flavourings – the sweetness of the fish counterpointed with the heat of the chorizo and potato, yet not overpowered by them.
I’d gone with a dish much happier in northern Europe. Fillet and loin of lamb – bang on cooking – delicious meat. Crisp rosti potato, some sautéed green beans and spring onions, surrounded by a wine and rosemary jus. Separately, a little gratin dish of sweet butternut squash. Exactly my sort of grub.
Too full for dessert, we just got the bill. It was just shy of £80, food making up about £50 and drinks the rest. Best meal we’d had in many weeks. Bar none.