Food 2/5 Atmosphere 3/5
Nobody will like it, but it has to be said. I’d have said this earlier, but I hoped, nay feared, that I might be wrong. I’m not. I’m right. In fact, there are two things that must be said – because most of us have reached the point of no return and so it’s absolutely necessary to say it. No, wait, three things that must be said – I’ve just remembered. There’s probably more things that could be said, but don’t necessarily have to be said, I might mention them later depending on certain conditions and word count.
Needs must, so first things first. Firstly, ‘the restaurant scene’ or whatever you call it in Manchester is, with a few exceptions, universally ghastly. You’ve heard it here first. It truly is. On the scale of ghastliness, we’re fluctuating somewhere between pompous rubbish and over priced mediocrity with not a few diversions into bland, bewildering and raw. Nobody seems to realise it and that’s because, as I’ve said before, no matter how many trendy places they frequent and flutter with peacock like intent and determination Mancunians, almost without exception, no nothing about food.
So, unless you absolutely know for certain (and this does not include the opinions of your palate numb work colleagues, hipster friends, trip advisor, online sites etc.) – by which I mean you’ve physically gone and stuffed food in your mouth and swallowed it, don’t take the risk – just stay in; you’ll save yourself an awful amount of embarrassment, money and maybe even your soul.
Secondly, contrary to popular belief, Manchester is not the ‘best city in the UK’ or the ‘coolest place ever’ as those ubiquitous advertorial Manchester based ‘culture’ websites are continually informing us. And here’s why: the entire city has been raped and pillaged by humourless faux-liberals and hipsters, who, I’m guessing, spend their free time rimming empty hummus cartons, nodding in agreement over daft art installations, and calling each other white supremacists on the Façadebook.
If these idiots left, well that would be another matter – but we’re stuck with them for now. And so, over the past 10 years Manchester has exclusively been designed and billeted to cater for the whims of this tiresome sub section of society – who seem intent on dragging the rest of us down to hell with them. If, for example, the Northern Quarter were in South Park, it’d probably be called NoMoreNorth or Thereunto or something along those lines. The third point, I’ve concluded, word count and all, is a could be said rather than a must be said; but, being just too crude and nasty – although undoubtedly true – to put down in print, I’ll give it a miss. So, we’ll move on.
Moving on, as you can imagine, when the gourmet burger restaurant Solita opened up a third branch in one of the least trendy areas of Manchester: Prestwich – where I live – I was a little apprehensive that north Manchester would soon be over-run with iron clad morons and my rent would sky rocket and that’ll I’ll have to move to Oldham or possibly even Bolton – thankfully, that hasn’t happened yet; but we’ll see. It turns out that Solita make decent, if a little expensive, burgers. I’ve been three times to the joint in Prestwich, which has this odd exclusivity feel – a sort of, are you one of us moment hits you as soon as you enter the place, exemplified by the blacked out windows which has the effect of a memory wipe, making you forget that you’re in the north of Manchester.
The first two times were deja vu: initial confusion over whether I wanted a starter or not – I didn’t bother; followed by delight and stupefaction when they placed the thing in front of me; then the daunting realisation that I’ll never be able to eat it without a knife and fork; then the nauseating gasp for breath two thirds in – that second long-island tea, a terrible idea; and finally the emotional shameful walk home as you conclude that it’s just way too expensive for a burger; no matter what you slap on it to add ‘value’, a burger is a burger is a burger. A burger is mincemeat, squashed, patted, fried and stuck between two slices of bread – a sandwich.
Blondie came the third time, this time – and possibly the final time. Blondie and myself have been on a quest to find a decent eatery in Manchester that doesn’t make us angry or regret we were ever born. I should also note that Blondie hates everything other than: pies, fish and chips, fresh southern Italian antipasti, gravy, rare-bit, and cheese. So when her burger came with only a shaving of cheese he wasn’t too pleased.
Blondie ordered the Jack Daddy (£10.90) it was dry, a few mouthfuls short of satisfaction and covered, I mean totally coated, it this awful, sickly reduced sauce, which gave the impression post-eating that she had just quaffed a huge sticky toffee pudding and then smudged her hand over the plate to make some sort of pretty pattern to amuse the other customers. It came topped with two cold and congealed onion rings. I, in no mood for unnecessary condiments, went for the bacon double cheese (£10.90) which also had barely any cheese, was a little on the small side, but not as dry as the Jack Daddy. The whole experience lasted about 40 minutes. On the plus side, the cocktails were superb – even though we only had one each. The place was heaving, noisy, covered in local art and undoubtedly the place to be on a Saturday night. The service was occasional, casual and unfussy – at one point I was almost expected the waiter to interrupt and apologise for not asking if I had any allergies. She didn’t, which was a relief.
I really wanted to enjoy my third time at Solita; I didn’t, which is a shame – because it was a decent way to flitter money and time on a good burger. Those days are over; it’s time to move on. What exactly happened, I’m not sure; maybe it was a Saturday? Is that even an excuse? Probably it’s just become too popular with all the inevitable consequences that follow. And so, the quest continues; I haven’t given up yet.
Solita (Prestwich), 401 Bury New Road, Prestwich, Manchester, M25 1AA (0161 710 2884)