Restaurants & Bars 3

[Manchester, city centre] Jamie's Italian

Harters | Mar 12, 2012 04:53 PM

Yes, it’s a chain restaurant. But it’s been the most touted new city centre opening for some while, so we had to go and suss it out. The building has always been a stunner – designed by Edwin Lutyens in the 1920s for the Midland Bank, it’s now Grade 2 listed. The exterior is very Art Deco, the interior much more traditional banking hall. There’s been a very thoughtful conversion and it now takes its place among the “great rooms” at this end of King Street – along with Rosso and Room.

Truth be told, the room was probably the most successful part of the evening. Although our young Canadian waitress was full on for giggly efficiency. Or, perhaps, efficient giggling.

There wasn’t a great start. Drinks took forever to arrive. Then the first three items we tried to order were “off”. So, it was all a bit second best. A starter of arancini seemed promising stuffed with smoked mozzarella and porcini and might have been good if only they had tasted of smoked cheese and mushroom. As it was, there were a couple of fairly solid balls of rice in crisp coating, that were bland and under-seasoned. A tomato based dipping sauce did little to lift the dish. The menu makes a “big thing” of their planks of antipasto dishes. Yes, it arrives on a piece of wood and, for reasons inexplicable, the plank is set in front of you on two tins of tomatoes. This particular plank had char-grilled vegetables which were pleasant enough.

For mains, I’d originally fancied osso bucco only to be told it was “off” as it was out of season. Never realised that restaurants had seasons for veal but there you go. So it was on to a quickly decided second choice of chicken liver ravioli. I’d expect this to have been quite a rich dish but, oh no, another bland offering. And the pasta wasn’t so much “al dente” as plain old under-cooked. Oh, and the cream sauce seemed to be very much just thin cream with no other flavourings, except a couple of shards of bacon. In other circumstances, I would have considered sending this back but it was neither the time or place as the decision to eat here had been made by others in the party. Much, much better was the thin slice of feather steak, cooking the work of moments and with the meat packed full of flavour. There was a little rocket salad and a good, pokey tomato salsa. And good chips – none of your fat chips or fries, these were proper chip-sized chips.

Perhaps the disappointment was a matter of poor menu choices but this isn’t somewhere I’m in a rush to return to.

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