[West Didsbury, Manchester] Lime Tree

This was our first restaurant dinner since last September. During the lockdowns, we’d swapped our weekly night out for a weekly night in with a Deliveroo ordered from a restaurant, not a takeaway. It’s been a small way of supporting the businesses. But it was good to be back in an actual restaurant – it’s the whole experience, not just about getting fed. It’s the buzz. It’s not having to do the washing up.

It didn’t take us long to decide this first meal would be at the Lime Tree. We’ve been coming for years. It’s always an attractive menu where you’re spoilt for choice. And, from a visit last summer, we knew they’d got their Covid-secure arrangements properly nailed. Exactly the sort of place where you can sit down and relax for an hour or so.

My companion in life can never resist a soufflé so the starter choice was easy. This one was very cheesey (that is a good thing) – the soufflé itself and the accompanying Mornay sauce. There was a sprinkling of hazelnuts for a bit of crunch. My own starter was also a no-brainer. I am rarely going to look past mention of “crispy pork belly”. In this case, there’s cubes of soft, delicious meat, topped with perfectly crisp crackling. Alongside, there’s a slaw – thinly sliced red cabbage and the like, dressed with the twang from citrus, the heat from Sriracha and the crunch of peanuts. Very East Asiany.

It’s not often I order steak in a restaurant. There always seems to be something more interesting on the menu. But not this time. A thinnish slab of 21 day aged sirloin comes in a mild pepper sauce, with a single field mushroom (not the plural of the menu description) and fries. It was cooked spot on, as requested, and was fine in the way that steak and chips will always be fine. The other main was seabass, perfectly cooked with the exception of a lack of crispness to the skin. The fillet say on a mound of saute potatoes, braised fennel and spinach which were ideal accompaniments. There was a simple butter sauce spiked with capers and chives. We shared an order of crisp courgette fritters to up our “five a day” count.

We passed on dessert and finished with decent, if lukewarm, espresso.


Nice! It certainly had been quite a while for you all up there.

I love savoury souffles - I still remembered the classic spinach soufflé with anchovy sauce I had at Michael Caine’s Langan’s Brasserie in Piccadilly back in 1990 or so.

The souffle at La Gavroche is outstanding. Worth it’s two Michelin stars on that dish alone!

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I’ve never had the opportunity to try it.

Wonder how difficult it might be to try and reproduce it ourselves at home!

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We were last here back in May. It was our first meal out for many months, as Covid restrictions were lightened. And, with infection numbers again soaring, our meal yesterday may well be our last one for some time to come.

As with many restaurants, they’ve pared back the number of choices on the menu – just four or five at each course (although there was also a festive set menu of two or three courses). It does restrict choice a bit. My partner didn’t fancy any of the four starters, but did order something from the appetizers/nibbles selection. Catalan toast – an almost classic version of pan amb tomaquet – slice of toast, topped with a mix of tomato, onion, garlic and olive oil. I was immediately drawn to the mention of pork belly amongst the starters. It comes as several big chunks, unfortunately not crispy as the menu description, but with a serious poke from the Sriracha glaze. There’s a dressed slaw of shredded vegetables and peanuts - more chilli in here as well. It made for a very lively plate of food.

As a main course, one of us went with a very seasonal presentation of partridge breast, with a chicken, bacon and sage mousse. There’s shredded sprouts, a couple of little new potatoes and a very decent sauce. For the other, sirloin steak, with a delicious grilled mushroom, and a well made pepper sauce. It comes with fries. They miss a trick in not having a salad on the plate or even amongst the sides – it would have made for a more balanced dish

Only one of us wanted dessert. It was a seasonal take on Eton Mess and, in truth, wasn’t worth the calories. Yes, there was meringue and cream but insufficient fruit in the form of a couple of smears on the plate and few pomegranate seeds stirred through the Mess. It just made for an inelegant splodge of overly sweet stuff on the plate. Good coffee to finish though.


Twelve months on, we’ve been back. Too long a gap.

Well, you know Christmas is looming when places like the Lime Tree prune their main seasonal carte (down to three items at each course), but also offer a very well priced set menu (in this case, three courses for £29.95). And the Christmas set menu has more choice than the carte. So that was the route down which we travelled. It’s a safe route to travel – the Lime Tree is one of those places where, as soon as you walk in the door, there’s an air of professionalism and you just know you can relax and everything will be OK.

We both went with the same starter. Three arancini balls. Truffled mushrooms have rice wrapped around them and there’s a crisp coating for a bit of texture. A Jerusalem artichoke puree and a scattering of lightly pickled mushrooms complete the plate. OK, not the most festive plate of food on a Christmas menu but certainly bang-on for seasonality. And deliciousness.

For a main course, my companion in life went for long cooked beef. It’s lovely – the sticky sort of long cooked. It comes with shallots, mushrooms, a smear of parsnip puree and a red wine sauce. She is one of that very rare breed – someone who hates mashed spuds. But it was no problem to swap them out for a rosti. The rosti, potato and celeriac, was the carb on my plate of “piggy two ways”. There’s a satisfying slab of belly pork – long cooked so the meat falls apart but topped with perfectly crisp crackling. The other “way”, was a disc of slow cooked shoulder. Delicious but maybe not a sufficient texture contrast with the belly pork. But, hey, not a morsel was left. There’s some wilted greens and a dollop of apple sauce – just as there should be.

And, to finish, there was a Christmas sticky toffee pudding. Now, truth be told, I couldn’t tell this apart from a normal sticky toffee pudding but that is absolutely not a criticism. This was fab in itself and enhanced with a toffee sauce and Christmas ice cream. I could see the festive input here. Vanilla ice cream with bits of candied fruit in it. When I was a lad, that was always called “tutti frutti” and maybe it still is. Worked very well with the pudding. The other plate was just as successful – lemon pannacotta, the citrussy flavour perked up further by slices of caramelised apple. A lovely bit of shortbread gave a good texture contrast here.

Good dinner. Ho, ho, ho.


Crikey John, a real blast from the past. I used to go to the Lime Tree back in the 80’s when Patrick first opened. Probably three nights a week, I was running a restaurant in Manchester City centre and friends would take me there after service. Lapwing Lane if I recall? Great nights and a superb lunch on days off.

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Still as good, David. And, yep, Lapwing Lane - just round the corner from the Metrolink tram stop. Parking’s a bugger round there so we now drive in, park at East Didsbury and then get the tram for a couple of stops.

We didnt do too much eating out back in the 80s but where was your gaff in the centre?

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John, the restaurant was at 63 Bridge St. it was called Truffles (very '80s) virtually opposite what is now Dishoom. I worked there about three and a half years leaving late '88. For a few years it was in the “Egon Ronay Top 500 Restaurants in Europe and America” before I left Ainsley Harriot’s family bought the restaurant, not sure how long it lasted under their management.

Don’t remember it, I’m afraid, David. I wasnt working in the centre during most of the 80s and we didnt really come in to eat back then.