Let me get my negative prejudices out into the open. I’m not keen on restaurants which just do small plates (or, even, smallish plates), much preferring a menu of “proper” plates. You know the sort of thing – proper starters and proper main courses. I’m not keen on those small plates being designed to be shared amongst the folk dining – if I’ve only been able to order a small plate, I want all of it. And I don’t want even my pals double dipping and that’s just the pals who don’t have dietary choices that mean they don’t want certain dishes. And I’m definitely not keen on those places where your small plates arrive “when they’re ready”, rather than in the order you envisaged eating them (of which, more later).
So, why I was I having dinner in a restaurant where all three of my negative prejudices apply. Well, there’s a couple of reasons. Firstly, it was the other couple who suggested it. And, secondly, you have to try new restaurants, otherwise you just end up going to the same old places all the time. And that can get boring. So, putting the prejudices to one side, the restaurant is a nice small, modern space, with about eight tables, at Stretford Mall. And was full on a midweek evening. Many years back, I used to work nearby and the idea of any restaurant there would have been unthinkable. Now there’s the Canteen and a small food hall, on the lines of the one at Altrincham. And there’s friendly staff, who will regularly remind you the food is designed for sharing.
There’s a short menu that just lists the dishes as “plates” but you can work out difference between the “really small” plates and the “not as small” plates from the description and the different pricing. That’s “starters” and “mains” to oldsters like me
So, we started sharing. A little dish of nicely vinegared anchovies. And panisse – think fat chips but made from chickpea flour. They come with a tarragon mayo for dipping and may have been the best thing I ate all evening.
So, yes, by now I know we’re supposed to be sharing but we all effectively ordered a starter and a main. And were reminded that everything was for sharing and there’d be no particular order in which any of the dishes came. So, at our end of the table, a globe artichoke came with a vinaigrette for dipping, which was fine. Stockport Fungi grows a variety of mushrooms at premises in the town centre, supplying several restaurants round the Manchester area. Here, they are simply fried and served with a potato pave – very thin slices of spud stacked together and baked, before being cut into an elegant slab. And very nice they were too. I thought both dishes of what I will call a main course were actually not at all conducive to sharing. A cheese and onion pie was delicious. Crisp pastry enclosing an assertive filling but who wants to divide that into four and just have a mouthful or two. The other was all but impossible to share. Poached chicken, moist and tasty, in a thin (and not very flavoursome) broth, along with a slice of white pudding and a bit of carrot. I found the only practical; way to eat this was by cutting it all up and using a spoon, as though it was a soup. And I’m not having other people’s spoons in my food. Nice soup, though. We all shared a dish of crispy new potatoes and another of greens and carrots. I mentioned earlier that I have a prejudice against the “dishes come when they are ready” concept. And with some justification. Here two main courses arrived and had been all but eaten before the third arrived. And all three of us had finished our plates before the fourth dish arrived.
My partner fancied dessert. A classic affogato. Nice ice cream and excellent espresso.
So, did we have a nice evening? Yes, we did. It was good to catch up with old friends and the food gave us plenty to talk about. Will we be in a rush to return? Probably not.