[Altrincham, Greater Manchester] Sugo

Sugo makes its first appearance in the 2017 Good Food Guide. It won’t be its last. They cover the essentials of running a restaurant – a young smiley team who absolutely know the meaning of the word hospitality and a kitchen that knows its craft. It’s one of the best places, at this sort of price point, that we’ve been to in ages. I did have one peeve, however, which I’ll come to later. But first, the food – about which there was no peeve whatsoever.

It’s a small place with a very small menu which changes monthly. Three starters, five pasta main courses and three desserts. It’s a sensible way forward and everyone will find something to eat as, amongst the pasta dishes, there’s two meat, two fish and a veggie.

Bruschetta may well be the best veggie version I’ve eaten. Sourdough bread smeared with lemon ricotta and topped with grilled chicory. A drizzle of salsa verde and a scattering of chili perks it up further. For the other plate, scallops were perfectly cooked – charred on the outside, slightly translucent in the middle. They’re paired with crisp pancetta and a fennel and apple puree. Fennel shows up again in a little salad along with celeriac.

The pancetta appeared again in a rigatoni dish, the pasta sitting on a puddle of long cooked creamy cannellini beans. You can taste garlic, lemon, parmesan and chilli (perhaps a little too much chilli). It’s lovely. If meat was only a side element to that dish, it was front and centre of the other. Slow cooked ox cheek and pork shoulder mixed, interestingly, with two pastas – orrechiette and trofie – in a perfectly seasoned ragu, with nduja giving it a real kick. Loved it.

My partner was full by this time but I had space for a slice of chocolate tart. Housemade, it was excellent. Crisp pastry and a deeply chocolatey filling which managed to retain a slight bitter edge – they must be using good chocolate for this.

So, there you are. Perfect plates of food you really want to eat.

And now I must mention the peeve. As I said, it is a small place and you will be seated at one of the communal tables which may not suit for a romantic dinner for two. Alternatively, when they send you the email reminder of the reservation they mention you may be seated on bar stools at their kitchen table. They ask you to let them know if this is a problem, so I did. I got an email back saying I wouldn’t be seated at the kitchen table but, when I got there, that was what was available. And, yes, I was a bit peeved at this. They’re not very comfy and you get to look at the wall instead of into the eyes of your beloved. That said, they were full of apologies, comping a drink for us. And, truth be told, I wasn’t quite as uncomfortable as I feared. And you do get to chat to the chefs when they have a rare quiet moment. So I forgive you, Sugo. Thanks for some lovely food.

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Just read Dame Stella Rimington’s latest, Breaking Cover, that has the final action scene taking place on an Altrincham estate, but does not mention of local dining – just football.

“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold