Everybody has a safe option.
That one restaurant you normally go to when you need things to be just right. That one restaurant you go to when you aren’t in the mood to be risky and just want some good food and decent service. That one restaurant for me is the Grill on the Alley at 5 Ridgefield. I usually know what I am going to get and it tends to be pretty consistent. What’s not to like?
I was catching up with Ewan after a long time so we decided to go to my safe option for a meal and a few drinks. I booked well in advance and booked a table for 7pm last Tuesday. Grill On The Alley has all the characteristics of a Living Ventures restaurant – well trained staff, a beautifully done up space, well thought out menu options, a good location and of course pretty decent food. Unlike its sister restaurant Grill on New York Street which is situated right in the heart of the busy New York Street, this place is slightly hidden off John Dalton Street. I still wouldn’t call it a alley though!
We decided to grab a drink in the lovely bar at the front of the restaurant before sitting down at our table for food. The bar is well stocked with its own little cocktail menu. Our very knowledgeable bartender came over and helped us pick our drinks and the cocktails were spot on. I would have been really surprised if it wasn’t though, this is a Living Ventures establishment after all!
After sipping on the signature Blackhouse cocktails, we were starving so asked our waitress to show us to our table. The interiors are modern and laid back with simple tables and chairs spread cosily around this huge space. It also comes with an open kitchen where you can see the chefs busy at work.
Top Tip – Try asking for a table away from the open kitchen. The Grill On The Alley is already quite a loud space with live music most nights. Add to that the noise from the open kitchen (and the heat) and it all does get a little too much.
Keeping with the overall theme, the menus are simple and easy to read. I have been to a lot of restaurants where I have no idea what half the things on the menu are. The Grill On The Alley is the complete opposite – it’s simple no fuss food and you definitely feel comfortable with the menu. You will not need Google or a waiter to figure out the menu and the food on offer. They even have a special beef menu listing some very impressive British steak.
We started off with some Rocky Oysters served with Chopped Shallots in Sherry Vinegar with Lemon and Tabasco on the side. For me this was one of the stand out dishes of the evening – it was fresh, beautifully served and the chopped shallots in sherry vein age beautifully complemented the cold delicate oysters. I wish I had ordered more.
We also ordered a Blackhouse Sharing Plate which came with some Bang Bang Chicken Skewers, Fish Cakes, Duck Spring Rolls and Calamari. This whole platter was hit and miss unfortunately. The calamari and the duck rolls were really nice and the chicken skewers were decent. I wouldn’t order the fish cakes again however – it was oily, and I didn’t find a lot of fish in it.
I have to mention the wine options here – they have one of the best wine menus of any restaurant in Manchester. Again it’s simple, easy and most importantly not too heavy on the pocket. We ordered a bottle (or two, oops!) of the Bush Telegraph Shiraz fro Australia which was one of the cheaper wines on the menu at £18.50 but it tasted absolutely fab – juice, ripe and perfectly complimented our food.
I was happy with my choice of wine and couldn’t stop talking about it. Don’t think Ewan and Seb were impressed with my boasting though. Oh well…..I did well and I was proud!
For my main, I ordered the Pork Belly served with Black Pudding Stuffed Toffee Apple, Spinach and Plum Sauce. Ewan had serious food envy when my main arrived – it was beautiful to look at and tasted just as good as it looked! The toffee apple stuffed with black pudding was quite unique and I absolutely loved it.
Seb ordered the Wagyu Burger served with Home Cut Chips and a Tomato Relish. Again simple, no fuss food done well. Wagyu is quite easy to over cook but this burger was perfectly cooked and the chips were perfectly done too. Comfort food doesn’t get any better than this.
Ewan played it safe and ordered the the steak, a Grill On The Alley speciality. He went for the Rump Steak which is served with a side of Home Cut Chips, Baked Potato or Buttered Mash Potato. This 310 grams of rump steak was absolutely divine, one of the best steaks in Manchester and at £17.75, definitely not the costliest one out there.
We did find it hard to fault this dish. I wasn’t kidding when I said it cooked to perfection – medium rare.
We did have a lot of food (and wine) at this point but we couldn’t say no when our waitress came over with the dessert menu. How could you say no to a Sticky Toffee Pudding with Vanilla Ice Cream? My pudding was spot on – another stand out dish for me from the evening’s offering. The vanilla ice cream was fabulously rich and combined with the warm sticky toffee pudding was brilliant.
Seb opted for the Warm Chocolate Fudge Cake again served with some of that rich Vanilla Ice Cream. The fudges cake was good, nothing special but then again it fits in with the overall theme of this restaurant – simple, good honest food.
Ewan ordered the Affogato which is a cup of Ristretto, Vanilla Ice Cream and a shot of Amaretto. Not a dessert for the faint hearted.
But then again Ewan swung the shot of Amaretto with a glass of wine, so not faint hearted at all! He absolutely loved it. It was exactly what he needed to wake him up.
We finished our food and the wine and asked for the bill. which our lovely waitress brought over. The service is spot on- it’s friendly, casual and unobtrusive. The waiters here know how to make you feel comfortable and take pride in making sure you feel as relaxed as possible. We cleared the bill and decided to call it a day – it was a school night after all and we all had work in the morning!
As usual, The Grill On The Alley definitely didn’t let me down. This meal here reminded me again why The Grill On The Alley is my safe option – it’s consistently good. The website claims that they do ‘Solid, Honest and Simple Proper Food’ and I couldn’t agree more.