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Restaurants & Bars

[Hale Barns, Greater Manchester] San Carlo Fiorentina

Harters | Aug 10, 201509:52 AM    

Whether it’s the city centre mothership or this suburban outpost, I’ve always reckoned San Carlo to be “footballers wives” territory. Well, the tally on this visit certainly included one Premier League footballer and one ex-manager of a Premier League club.

For one starter, three scallops, presented on the half shell, were dressed with a creamy, saffron & chilli sauce. Alongside, a couple of pieces of Melba toast provided a contrasting texture. I liked this quite a bit.

One of my all-time favourite Italian main courses is fegato alla Veneziana – thin strips of calves liver, flash cooked to medium rare, with a meltingly soft onion sauce. And the kitchen certainly knows how to do this well. It comes with polenta – a tiny slice that makes me glad I ordered some mixed veg, which included a couple of spuds. I didn’t want to be going away hungry.

For my partner, dinner was like the curate’s egg. A starter size portion of lasagne was spot on – well cooked pasta with a rich meaty sauce. The main course was OK but not really anything more. Sirloin steak with a rocket & Parmesan salad – I suppose a bit like a tagliata but you have to slice your own steak. Not an improvement on the original, not least as everything was underseasoned. Still you can always add salt, and the waiter was round with the gigantic pepper mill, even before you’ve tasted anything.

Her dessert was even less thrilling. A throw it together Eton mess affair of strawberries, meringue and cream. The berries had been left whole and, being a bit under ripe, were difficult to break up with a spoon.

On the other hand, my quest for the perfect tiramisu may be over. Too often, there’s skimping on ingredients and the expected hit from coffee and booze is missing, leading to you eating a bowl of “generic sweet”. Not here. Both booze and strong coffee are well in evidence, along with bitter chocolate. This may just be “the one”.

Neither of us like the service. Frankly it’s intrusive. Waiters, seemingly all genuine Italians, hover round the table. You’re very aware of them. And then they make their presence felt by randomly removing used items from the table. You’re sat there, enjoying your starter, and this arm comes whistling past your right ear to grab your empty aperitif glass. Nope, don’t like the service. But do like the food.

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