Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Solita - Northern Quarter, Manchester

Named after the area of Manchester it sits in SoLiTa - south of Little Italy, natch - doesn't really have much to do with Italian food; bar the manager's background and the fact that their small wine list is all sourced from Sardinia. That's a good thing though, as I've said before - Manchester is awash with Italian places and not many good ones at that.

Solita's got a big bold menu to go with a big bold cooking device in the kitchen - an Inka grill; the first in Manchester. Super expensive, it's able to cook meat very quickly whilst retaining the juiciness and producing the same char you get off the BBQ - minus the burnt sausages and food poisoning.


Inka Grill - serious kit

This boldness runs through the decor - all blacks and reds, leather seats, cartoons on the wall and the biggest blackboard you'll see in your life. The main dining room is dominated by the corner bar - the vibe is funky and upbeat. There's two private dining rooms upstairs and a large bar in the basement - all decked out in the red/black/leather theme.

As you can expect from somewhere that's got a fancy pants BBQ grill - most of the food is going to be cooked on there and anything else on the menu is going to compliment it. The style is big, comforting, American, smokey - there's pulled pork, burgers and steak; there's rooster skin to start and the mash has 40% butter in it. Don't visit if you're on a diet.

We started with nibbles; Rooster Skin; - so wrong (fried chicken skin), but so utterly moreish (I just tried to forget how much fat was in it, something you will learn to do at Solita). Another delightful nibble was the salt cod balls - not too salty or dry, which is a feat other restaurants can't cope with when it comes to salted cod all pepped up with a fresh parsley, caper, salsa verde type mayo under them.

Salt Cod Balls

Starters were massive - I could have seriously eaten on of these for my mains! The signature at Solita seems to be the pulled pork sundae; chunks of tender, smokey pork layered up with a tangy BBQ sauce and that mash - 60/40 mash to be specific ie. 60% potato and 40% butter. We also tried the Bacon Jam on Sourdough - more for comedy rather than anything else. There is nothing comedy about this dish - you get the sweetness of the pork tempered by a chilli kick; there's these intense smokey, syrupy, chocolaty, coffee flavours going on. Something simple is made superb - this is a must have dish off the menu.

Pulled pork sundae - if it's not bad enough, it's topped with more rooster skin...

As they've got this inka grill, we thought we'd give it a whirl and ordered burgers and hanger steak, just to do our colons a favour. Not sure if it is the way they're cooked or the mix they use, but the burgers seemed over processed - I know they use WH Frost's meat, so I am guessing it's the way they make them in the kitchen. If the texture was a little off, the taste was spot on - charred from the grill with the right balance of seasoning and some added freshness from some bits of veg that were thrown in to the bun for good measure. The hanger steak was brilliant; so soft and rare and juicy - covered with a rub that tasted of fire and chocolate, which just complimented the meat brilliantly.

Because we were intrigued by it, we also ordered a deep fried mac and cheese with pulled pork - well, we'd abused our arteries that much that we didn't think that there was much harm in sticking in another week's worth of fat and calories. We just couldn't fit in - it was all the things a good mac and cheese should be, then deep fried. Comfort food at it's best (and worst!).


Half of a Deep Fried Mac n Cheese

We did order sides, but there was no need to, we were so full - bit sad we didn't eat too much of the Smoked Buttered Veg (yup, even the veg is bad for you here) and it was delicious. However the triple cooked chips were a let down; everything was perfect, bar the taste - a bitter aftertaste of hay.

Just to sound the death knell for our circulatory system, we ordered pudding - they had Deep Fried Coke. That's Deep. Fried. Coke. I had to order it. Turns out I made a good choice; churros with a heavy dose of cinnamon, topped with Cabrelli's ice cream - it was meant to be vanilla, but we had coconut, which worked exceptionally well with the cinnamon notes in the churros and the coke - so where was this coke? They'd put some in the churros batter,obviously, but then - genius - they poured post mix coke syrup over the whole thing. Oh my.


Deep. Fried. Coke.

Solita is refreshing; there's nothing like it in the Northern Quarter (yes I know Americana is big right now, but we're not in London so we're not drowning in these places); they're going for a different audience here - midweek eaters, people shopping in the city centre and families; expanding the Northern Quarter and offering bags more variety. I like that and I think it'll last.

Price for two nibbles, two starters, three mains, two sides, one pudding - £62.70

Food - 8/10
Atmosphere - 8/10
Service - 7/10 (but they were newbies, so don't judge them too harsh)
Value for money - 9/10

Total - 32/40

Go again - yes the food is mostly great and it's a lovely place - really different and doesn't break the bank

Please note - Solita asked me to eat with them and gave me my meal free; however I was under no obligation to say nice things - I liked the food!

Solita - Margolis Building, Turner Street, Northern Quarter, Manchester - 0161 839 5600 - Twitter - Facebook

http://www.solita.co.uk/

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