[Hale Barns, Greater Manchester] San Carlo Fiorentina

It is possible to choose badly at this outpost of the blingy Manchester based mini-chain. Of course, you don’t know you’ve done that until the food is in front of you. But I think we may have got the ordering sussed now – go for straightforward, simple Italian classics.

Rigatoni alla Norma is one of their pasta dishes that can be ordered in starter or main course size. Even at starter size, it’s a generous, tasty offering with aubergine, tomato, basil and a hint of chilli. Bruschetta del Duca was lovely. They use Altamura bread which holds European Union PDO status. Three slices, toasted and smeared thickly with ‘Nduja and topped with mozzarella which is melted under the grill. A very sophisticated cheese on toast if you will.

It makes some sense to have carbs here as your starter as, in the Italian tradition, main courses generally don’t come with any accompaniments which means that, if you order some, your not very cheap plate of food has turned into quite a pricey one.

Fegato all Veneziana is a super dish when it’s done well. And it’s done well here. Strips of calves liver, lightly fried so it’s still pink. Long cooked onions finished in a white wine sauce. They include a tiny piece of polenta that is definitely no more than a garnish. Sea bass came from the day’s specials (a menu which is almost certainly the day’s specials every day, every week). There’s a scattering of clams and gnocchi, with a white wine and caper sauce. Really nice. We shared a “contorno” of zucchini fritti – shreds of courgette, battered and deep fried to very crisp.

Only one of us wanted dessert. That’d be me. I reckon their tiramisu is the best I know. Rich, creamy with a good kick from booze and coffee. Now, I’d have to say that, for perfection, this time they’d overdone the booze but better that than the bland, sweet gloop you get in so many places. My partner just fancied a glass of vin santo with a biscotti but, surprisingly for an Italian restaurant, they’ve no vin santo. A whisky was offered but that is definitely not a substitute.

We finished with excellent espresso. It comes with a plate of deep fried thin pastry dusted with icing sugar which was a great little end to a nice evening.

Service was fine once the system kicked in – but we did wait a while for aperitifs and orders to be taken. Not long enough to start finger tapping but longer than you’d like. After that, it was very attentive.

By the by, the restaurant is at the Marriott, both of which would be a good choice for anyone staying overnight before flying from Manchester airport.


One can never have too much booze in a dessert - methinks. :rofl:

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I’d generally agree, Peter. And I speak as someone who doesnt drink alcohol. But this really was overdone, masking the other important flavours of coffee, chocolate and cream.

That said, nothing was left on the plate!

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