Since last Saturday’s special preview opening for press, bloggers and blaggers, my Twitter feed has been buzzing with tweets declaring love for the meats of Manchester’s newest steak, burger and liquor joint - 3 Twenty One (housed above The Deansgate public house, next to the Beetham Tower).
I’m not usually one to believe the hype but on this occasion I got caught up in the excitement and promised myself I’d try and get along during this, the opening week.
The service was friendly and swift but not overly efficient as I was brought a soda water instead of the requested (and billed) tonic water. On a positive note, I liked the decoration and great views along Deansgate.
To start, I selected the Forest Mushrooms – served on toast with fried duck egg and basil oil. I made the following notes: “bland, soggy, cheap oil”. I was going to leave half of it but having skipped lunch, finished it off.
Hopefully my main of Mackerel cooked on the fancy showpiece grill would be better? Regular readers of my blog may have noticed that my descriptions rarely comment on all but the headiest of food aromas, as my sense of smell is not as reliable as my palate; therefore, when the unpleasant fishy smell was wafted under my nose, I knew something was amiss.
I tasted the dish but left most of it as it also seemed under seasoned and overcooked. What’s more, the menu is at great pains to tell you that the fish is 'line caught off the south coast' but neglects not to mention that it’s frozen and out of season.
My side of Twice cooked chips (for £2.50) were decent enough and pleasantly seasoned. The side of Roasted balsamic candy beetroots (served in the obligatory enamel camping dish) were unpleasantly fridge cold, drizzled in sweet balsamic vinegar and, I’d be happy to bet money (£2.50), are not roasted in house.
Unsatisfied and disappointed, I skipped dessert (and went on to have an enjoyable meal at Bakerie Pie & Ale – post to follow.)
To be fair, to my mind, the food here is no worse than many similar places in the city. With a few notable exceptions, Manchester is currently inundated with average restaurants serving carbon copy food… I do not see how 3 Twenty One adds anything positive to this list.
As someone who eats out a great deal, I want to see restaurateurs in Manchester opening new places that offer something different or at a higher quality or value than we already have… based on my experience, 3 Twenty One fails on all counts.
Post Script: After posting, a few comments on Twitter have prompted me to question the ‘tone’ of my piece.
When I write, I never do so with the intention of writing ‘a review’ – I do not use a rating system and never urge people ‘to go’ or ‘not to go’ to restaurants; mine is just a ‘snapshot’ of my experience.
I understand that if my experience is positive, this may add weight to people's decisions whether to visit a place or not, in search of the same. If my experience is negative people may be wary of the same and their decision may be swayed in favour of eating somewhere else.
In the case of 3 Twenty One, it is perhaps worth considering that it is ‘early days’ and as fellow blogger, Mrs Petticoat (who I respect very much) has pointed out, it its perhaps ‘cruel’ to 'write them off' so soon.
I appreciate that to make 3 Twenty One, a lot of people and investors would have worked hard and will not appreciate the fruits of their labour being criticised by an unqualified blogger like myself – I never want to damage chefs' or restaurants' reputations (especially in the case of ‘independents’) but by the same token, potential customers also work hard to earn their money and if they choose to spend it in one place over another obviously expect to receive value and quality.
It’s important to remember that my voice is just one of many, and if 3 Twenty One continue to develop, grow, improve and maintain the quality experiences that others seem to have had, then there is no reason why they will not succeed amongst stiff competition in the city, in their sector.
I certainly hope they do... as ever, all I want is a good meal.