“Has the old favourite still got what it takes to take on the new boys?”
Bear with me here a touch of preamble before getting to the food. I’ve worked in Manchester for two years now. The recent rapid fire expansion of the Manchester food scene is well documented. Before this explosion, living in the sticks, I was used to having my steak on a white porcelain disc (do you mean plate? – Ed) And get this you used to get the chips on the same disc!! However, The Grill On The Alley offered a sumptuous new way of doing things. Steak was delivered on a plank, the chips in their own steel net alongside. This was sophistication; this was where you came for a posh, slap up feed. It was a firm favourite for years. And so it was recently that The Flame was in town and suggested we give it another go. We settled for a six thirty rendezvous.
The old place hadn’t changed. You sweep down the long narrow room to the exposed kitchen and servery, via some neat light oak tables, some brown booths and some neatly arranged wall hung pictures. No scaffolding and neon signs here. It’s totally ‘trad’. We settled into the menu, while William, our highly efficient, aproned waiter, enlightened us, most informatively about the wines and higher bracket steaks on offer.
The old favourites are all still there. In fact, I reckon it is the same menu. I don’t think it’s changed in years? Heavily bent on steaks, burgers and grills (as you would expect) it didn’t take long to pick out some winners. I must admit I had some difficulty understanding the difference between the basic, bog standard steaks at £14-22 plus sauces and the premium steaks on a separate menu at £30+ and the ‘wagyu’ steaks at £50+. Surely they’ll all high quality? It would be interesting to compare, but sadly a test I can ill afford and didn’t do on this occasion.
Starters for me curried mussels (£8) with coconut and wilted spinach draped over. Plump mussels in a tasty, light spiced broth. Good stuff. The Flame had asparagus soup (£5) which again was very good and presented as well as you can for soup! For mains I had a burger with bacon and cheese (£11 + £2). The chips were great, the burger was pink in the middle as ordered, but a little dry round the edges. It wasn’t as good as some of the ‘experts’ I’ve tried, Byron, SoLita, Gorilla and Almost Famous. The Flame had chicken fajitas (£12) which she thoroughly enjoyed.
I finished with a superb Black Forest cherry trifle (£6) with lashings of fattening cream set in the obligatory clamp top jar. I noted looking with some envy to a neighbouring table demolishing a superb looking fish and chips. Still maybe another time!
It all came in at a fairly whopping £62, which for a quick standard burger tea with no wine is right up there. I think therein lies the problem for me. The food was good, not the best ever, the ambiance is good, but just a bit uninspiring for the fairly top end pricing. I just feel that with the myriad of alternatives in Manchester there are places doing this for better value. To name but a few you have Beef and Pudding, Fazenda, and now with Hawskmoor coming on stream I think it will be some time before I’ll be giving The Grill another go. I reckon I could have eaten for less at Mr Coopers which I feel is way above the standard here.
To be fair, the vibrant, avant garde, mismatched furnishings of the new boys is not to everyone’s liking. If you like your food and surroundings no nonsense, straight down the middle, The Grill Is for you but I think I prefer a little more choice and excitement now.
THE GRILL ON THE ALLEY
0161 833 3465