WARNING! Below you will find pictures and descriptions of what could well be some of the tastiest and naughtiest food being served anywhere in Manchester at the moment.
DISCLAIMER: I cannot be held responsible for your imminent overindulgence and burgeoning waistlines. (Top tip: wear loose fitting clothing… preferably with elasticated waistbands.) Please also be aware that I ate all this as a guest of the restaurant and did not pay for the food!
Another point to note is that the pictures contained below show ‘tasters’ and, in some cases, trial versions from the new menu. Expect real portions to be bigger and/or presented differently.
Readers who follow me on Twitter may be aware that on Wednesday I was invited to a special ‘press lunch’ – we were given a ‘Press Release’ but I’m not going quote from it as I’m pretty sure you will have read the information already in several blog posts, and various other print and online media.
Instead, I’ll give you some insight to some of the ‘behind the scenes’ previews that I was lucky to be a part of over the last few weeks, building up to what has been called the ‘hottest opening of the year!’.
|Bacon Jam on Sourdough Toast|
Before you get too excited… no, I cannot provide you with details of the secret ingredients in their SoLita Rub; reveal the mysteries of the delicious Bacon Jam on Sourdough Toast or the cloak-and-dagger techniques behind the infamous Deep Fried Coke.
|Deep Fried Coke|
Several weeks ago I got a phone call from Dom Sotgiu - the former Manager at the popular Teacup on Thomas Street (see here). Dom informed me that he was now managing a new restaurant based in the Margolis building; conveniently situated with easy access to the main thoroughfare of the Northern Quarter and Manchester’s Market Street.
|Inka Grilled Veg with Smoked Butter|
As “someone who knows about food”, Dom wanted my opinion on the proposed menu – this is before the SoLita name was born.
|Mac 'n' Cheese Burger with Pulled Pork|
From day one, dishes such as the Truffled Egg on Toast; Prestwich Salt Beef with 60/40 Mash and Mac ‘n’ Cheese with Pulled Pork caught my eye.
Whilst, I was the first to admit that a) this was not the cuisine which I generally write about, and b) the whole trendy NQ thing is not my usual scene – what peaked my interest and kept me returning to taste and advise* over the last few weeks was Dom’s passion to source good quality organic and free range ingredients; cook from fresh and with love. (*See me as a freeloading taste consultant.)
Drawing from Dom’s Irish Italian heritage as well as his knowledge and understanding of the unique vibe of the Northern Quarter, the menu soon started to take shape and look like something I’d like – a menu with obvious ‘New York’ Italian influences with a home-grown Manchester ‘edge’.
|Salt Cod Balls with Salsa Verde Mayo|
Striking a perfect synergy of all that is good from NY, Italy and MCR also come from the owner – a down to earth, Salford born, ex-army “scally done good” that I’d describe as a ‘proper Manc’ – not your choc-ice tweeting premiership footballer or fat tongued mockney that may own other ‘Italian’ restaurants in the city.
|'Olives and things'|
Of course SoLita is not just another Italian restaurant, the name refers to it’s location ‘South of Little Italy’ as Ancoats was once well known and not the cuisine - although the Italian influence can be seen on the menu with the excellent Inka Grilled Veg with Percorino and Orzo Pasta; the homely Uovo Pomodoro with Sourdogh Soldiers and some top notch Nocerella Olives (and things) from Sicily.
|Cabrelli's Ice Cream with Bacon Candy|
The Italian connection also come’s from the inclusion, on a number of the dessert dishes, of Cabrelli’s Ice Cream - one of the area’s original ‘ice-cream families’.
Over the last six weeks I managed to blag my way to a number of tastings - some dishes fell by the wayside (I lament the loss of the Bury Black Pudding ‘Boudin Balls’)
Most however, with a few tweaks, developed into top notch menu items – a few, I’m sure, are set to become some of the most talked about plates of food currently being served anywhere in Manchester.
|Pulled Pork Sundaes|
One dish that has already caused quite a stir on Twitter is the Pulled Pork Sundae – at first I thought this was a bit of a gimmick but soon realised this dish can more than talk the talk. The 60/40 mash is a heart-stoppingly good combination of 60% potato and 40% butter; the pulled port is meaty and generous and the BBQ sauce is one of the best I have tasted.
|Classic Burger with bone marrow and Triple Cooked Chips|
When I hear the phrase ‘Dirty burger’, I think sleazy, greasy and wrapped in paper. SoLita’s Burgers are made with high quality chuck steak supplied by @frostybutcher and studded with bone marrow which melts in the Inka Grill to give that desired chin dribbling sensation – that served within the sweet demi-brioche bun makes for an altogether more high class level ‘sleazy snack’ – think the ‘Belle de Jour’ of burgers!
One thing that makes the burgers so good is the Inka Grill – I have written about the merits of these before in one of my posts about Aiden Byrne’s The Church Green (see here) but SoLita is the first restaurant in Manchester to have an Inka in their kitchen (MCFC have one too but they’re not a restaurant).
Another Inka Grill dish is the Hanger Steak - prized for its flavour, this cut was traditionally kept back by the butcher, hence its nickname the "butcher's steak".
As with all steaks, tenderness can be sacrificed for flavour but the Inka Grill cooking method makes works wonders to readdress the balance. The result is one of the best Hanger steaks you’ll eat – it was certainly one of the most popular dishes amongst my fellow bloggers at the official tasting.
Another star of the Inka Grill section of the menu is undoubtedly the Jacob’s Ladder short rib – 48 hours in the sous vide water bath followed by a charring in the Inka makes for a cut of meat that tastes as impressive as it looks!
|Inka Grilled Pineapple|
For me, the Inka Roasted Pineapple, marinated in Havana 7 Rum and molasses is the standout dessert.
I could go on and on about the cocktails, craft beers, ales and ciders and house wines, served in carafes but you’re much better off going and seeing for yourself. There’s bound to be a tipple that takes your fancy – personal favourites include the Fentiman’s sodas, excellent coffee and unusual smoked Bavarian beer Schlenkerla Rauchbier.
With private dining spaces available and a stylish clubby basement, SoLita should surely become one of the city’s busiest hotspots - so get there early; be prepared to queue and remember my warnings!