Oh my god; MEAT and BOOZE and MEAT and SMOKE and AMERICA and DID I MENTION MEAT - let's get excited and all love THE IN THING RIGHT NOW.
It seems a week doesn't go by without a burger bar/street food stall/festival/restaurant/supermarket/supper club/excuse for a PR agency in Manchester popping up or jumping on the dirty meaty bandwagon with their, giggle, slightly rude names for foods in plastic trays; so when ANOTHER 'smokehouse and liquor' place opened their doors and invited me along, you can imagine that I wasn't that keen (er...it was free food and you're telling me you weren't keen? - ed).
3TwentyOne has opened above The Deansgate pub and unfortunately my first impressions weren't great - opening night clashed with THAT FA Cup where Wigan gave Man City a proper beating - cue little me trying to cut through drunken, burly types in a dress that was unintentionally too low cut. Fun. Thank god first impressions can be changed, hey?
The restaurant isn't remotely faux dirty Americana - they may have jumped on the smoke/meat/bourbon train, but they've done it in their own comfortable, Farrow and Ball, restrained restaurant way. Maybe proper crockery is not for thems BBQ purists, but I was there for the food and if I can be comfortable/clean whilst eating, then all the better for this old fusspants.
3TwentyOne has their own smoker in-house and this certainly pays off; the chefs have also worked out a pretty good smoke for the food (they've been experimenting and it seems current winner is hickory wood chips) - rather than an acrid tasting crust, the smoke is sweet and subtle, but very definitely there. Deboned chicken wings were a massive hit and the ribs a smokey, tender trio that were incredibly meaty. Lip smacking/finger licking good - just could have done with a bit more....
It would be rude to go somewhere dedicated to meat without sampling the steaks - especially as they were given such prominence on the menu - RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE. The hanger and the rib-eye were both cooked exactly as we demanded (well, asked for in a polite/humble/if it's not too much of a bother British way); both were soft and buttery, great tasting pieces of high quality meat - the rib-eye was better, but at £7 more, it should be.
Sides are worth mentioning because they were delicious and because this is a food blog and you like to know that kind of thing - corn from the griddle was charred, plump and juicy; thrice cooked chips fluffy, crisp and light; smoked garlic butter, DIVINE; chimmicurri, fresh and sharp to cut through the fat on our plate and the BBQ sauce is addictive, so only go there if you can handle having to use everything in reach as a means to getting it in to your mouth, no matter how ungainly (sucked clean rib bones, fingers, bits of celery, the end of a fork... yeah I went there).
Because I wasn't full enough already (that's a lie, by the way) I decided I definitely needed the most hip-hugging puddings on the menu - not like I should be worrying about my weight so I can bag a fella, in this overtly image dominated world we live in. Ah well, you only live once and all that shiz.
The oreo mud pie could have done with some obvious bits of oreo, mainly because I like them, but was fully chocolaty enough without being super sweet - good thing for this dark chocolate fiend. And we couldn't help but order the sundae, as we were in a sort of American restaurant (and inside I'm actually five). Piled high with delicious Cheshire Farm ice-cream, 3Twentyone had dressed it with a proper chocolate sauce, which went all hard on the ice-cream (ace). One downside was that the cream that was piled on top, it was over-whipped and had vanilla added, which it definitely didn't need it as it made the whole thing a little too sweet. We just pulled the cream off and gobbled the ice-cream instead; then got brain freeze, but that was ok, because, without the cream, it was an ace pudding.
Service was a little first night shakey, the staff are sweet but some of them need to become a little more au fait with the menu/drinks list and they need to learn the table numbers - however, they're friendly enough and that's the important thing. Oh and some of the barmen are super sweet on the eye...
3TwentyOne has taken Americana, worked out that it's the quality of the food, not making a fast buck (refreshing!) that's important; then sat down and had a good, long, hard think about how to produce this type of food and how to make it exceptional. It's Americana for grown-ups, and seeing how I'm meant to be somewhere near grown-up, that appeals to me. There's no need to slather everything in sickly sauces, the food speaks for itself and it's refreshing to hear it speak.
Price for two starters, two mains, three sides, two sauces, two puddings, two large wines and a cocktail - £82.85
Food - 8/10
Atmosphere - 9/10
Service - 7/10 friendly, but needs to settle in
Value for money - 7/10 drinks and starters are a little expensive, but mains are great
Total - 31/40
Go again - Hell yeah! Need some more of that meat in my life; great place to take the carnivores in your family.
3TwentyOne, Upstairs 321 Deansgate, Manchester M3 4LQ - Twitter - Facebook - 0161 839 5215
Please note - I was invited to review 3TwentyOne and my meal was free, but I'm not required to say anything complimentary and you know I'm so vile I wouldn't be nice unless I actually enjoyed myself.