I love nothing more than to try out new restaurants, so I get pretty excited when WO Magazine send me out food reviewing… especially when there is a fab cocktail menu!
Rosso Restaurant review
My boyfriend was going abroad for a few days the very next morning so we wanted to do something a bit special. This was bearing in mind that I was still wearing my frumpy work clothes, my hair a little frazzled from a day on the computer. He on the other hand was lugging what appeared to be a four tonne suitcase. We didn’t look or feel like the relaxed, glamorous sort of couple going out for a meal. We wanted a nice, romantic italian meal with a few decent frills. I love a good solid italian restaurant. New Year’s Eve in my family always meant going to the local italian for a hearty meal. Bubbling pots of lasagna and crisp tomatoey garlic bread. The pepper shakers were as thick as a man’s arm and I used to love dipping my finger into the hot soft wax of the candles stuffed into wine bottles. I also like the fact that you rarely get terrible italian food, which is always a comforting thought. Wherever you are in the world you know that there will be an Antonio’s or a Carmelo’s that will serve you up a decent Spag Bol. However, we didn’t want comfort food. We wanted a little bit of glitter in our tagliatelli.
We decided on the Rio Ferdinand owned Rosso based upon dozens of recommendations from friends. Also the imposing entrance than commands Spring Gardens has always caught our attention. Before we entered, I tried to fuss my hair into a ponytail and smooth my wrinkled dress, a little self consciously. Thankfully, we were greeted with a warm welcome and the bulging suitcase was even taken to one side for us, without any fuss. Rosso puts the pizzaz into pizza, atmosphere wise. Set in a majestic building that used to be a bank, the high ceiling is domed, operatically elaborate and reminds me a frosted wedding cake. The glamour is balanced by a cosy atmosphere and we were ushered ever so professionally into an intimate, comfortable rounded booth. The tablecloth and napkins are a pristine white and the scrupulously clean cutlery and wine glasses sparkle in the candlelight. Everything about the setting has the feeling of quality and substance, as if carefully yet passionately planned by a meticulous hand. It is a large room, but it has that warmth of a favourite local italian restaurant except that on the wall beside us there were framed photographs of the rather impressive array of celebrities who have visited the restaurant.
Of course, I had to go a cocktail. I love to start a meal with a cocktail that I’ve never tried before. Also, between 5pm to 7pm Monday to Friday cocktails are £5.00, which when you consider the quality of these drinks is very decent indeed. I went for The Evolution. This is classy combination of Bulleit Bourbon, Limoncello, Lemon and Caramel. I adore Limoncello which always makes me feel as if I am on a moonlit terrace in Rome. Also, I was told that this is the most frequently ordered cocktail. The result was a sophisticated sensation, served in a huge wide brimmed cocktail glass. Made by a lesser Mixologist, there could have been a tad too much citrus but the excellent, distinctive choice of bourbon and the luxuriant, smooth flavourings of caramel balanced out the lemon packed beverage perfectly. This drink was absolutely gorgeously intoxicating. In every way it was faultless and was testament to how a thoughtful cocktail menu can set the scene for a restaraunt.
We both ordered the bruschetta starter. I ordered the Bruschetta Classica, which was three pieces of toasted bread topped with chopped ripe tomato, red onion and basil. He ordered the Bruschetta Con Melazine, which was topped with roasted aubergines and marinated green sicilian olives. Our plan was to swap and share. So often with bruschetta, it is put on the menu as a filler starter and is quite often a so-so piece of toast smothered by an unremarkable tomato paste. However, I had a good feeling about Rosso’s bruschetta. Their trademark attention to detail assured me that they wouldn’t cut corners on the little details. I’ve grown up with a mother who swears by her well thumbed Delia Smith bible, and I think a bit of Delia’s philosophy has undoubtedly rubbed off on me. A simple, well prepared starter is always a lovely way to begin a meal. The aubergines were simply out of this world and were meltingly soft and the olives were plump and moreish. The chopped tomatoes had a bright, sunny flavour and the flesh was as juicy as any fruit.
For the main, I chose the Orecchiette, described as “little ears of fresh pasta, tender stem broccoli, red chilli, toasted pine nuts and basil pesto”. The dish sounded so delicate and charming that I couldn’t resist. Also, there is nothing on this earth that grabs my tastebuds more than a really good homemade pesto. Shop bought pesto isnt even in the same ball park. In fact, before I encountered fresh pesto, I genuinely thought I didn’t like pesto at all, having only ever had Tesco gloop. I ordered the small portion, trying to be ever so ladylike, but when this arrived this was plenty enough. The fresh pasta was quite simply little puckers of perfection. The glistening, emerald pesto topped any pesto that I have yet tried. The silky consistency was spot on. The toasted pine nuts brought out the cool, avocado tastes within the pesto and the chilli enhanced it, giving zingy bursts of heat. The tender stem broccoli was something else. So often people believe that they don’t like broccoli, which is a real shame. Broccoli when cooked properly is incredibly tasty. Sadly, most restaurants boil all the vitality and taste out of them: turning the natural tenderness to limp watery blandness. However, this broccoli was really quite lovely: flavourful and firmly stemmed.
Admittedly, I was reasonably full by this point. However, I couldn’t resist asking for the dessert menu. The Angel Food Cake Dessert grabbed my eye at once. This was a boozy angel food cake mix wrapped in satiny chocolate folds. When delivered to my table, my first thought was that it was one of the prettiest desserts that I have ever seen. Accompanied by fat blackberries and sweet strawberry halves,the rectangular plate was artfully drizzled with strawberry and chocolate sauce and finely sprinkled with cocoa powder. The dessert itself was beautiful, topped with glistening, jewel like berries. The angel cake mixture itself was deliriously cloud light and dreamy with a naughty rum kick up its spongy bottom. The chocolate that encased it was rich, creamy yet paper thin. Chocolate, red fruits and liquor combined marvelously to create a dessert equivalent of Valentine’s day.
Rosso is the type of restaurant which, purse strings allowing, will take you right through the evening. The after dinner menu is extensive and detailed. Sumptuous cheese dishes, fine dessert brandies and luxuriant liqueur coffees. I almost expected to see a cigar menu. It has an understated old world grandeur perhaps fitting even for a proposal, but it is also perfect for that impromptu weekend treat. It is also wonderfully, authentically Italian right down to the choice of liquors in the cocktails. Try as I might, I can’t find a single fault with the place. Not a corner had been cut, not a olive left to chance. Moreover, the food is quite simply delicious and I believe that even the fussiest eater at your party will find the right dish for them from the extensive yet very personal menu. My only warning would be to keep an eye on what you order if you are saving up for a holiday this year. The relaxed atmosphere and wide variety of choice is a great and very real temptation to keep ordering and sampling and celebrating. I can honestly say that I have now found a new favourite restaurant in Manchester and can’t wait to return.