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Solita Reviewed

Jonathan Schofield stuffs his face and ponders the Anglicised Americana menu dominance

Written by . Published on February 26th 2013.


Solita Reviewed
 

THE most satisfying quality of a restaurant is confidence. You could say the same for any profession of course, but with a restaurant confidence is essential if the place is going to deliver a good quality dining out experience.

Solita has this in spades.

In some respects Anglicised Americana is the perfect modern compromise. Most people who dine out have travelled around a bit these days, many to the USA, almost all to multiple destinations within two hours flying time. 

The self-assurance of the restaurant (with basement bar attached) is sky high, the staff appear motivated, the cooking levels seem right, the compact dining space is cleverly lifted by graphics and neon and the menu offers variety. Even the specials board works, offering genuine one-offs rather than more of the same.

The Anglicised Americana food style at Solita is, of course, presently so in fashion across Great Britain it's in danger of collapsing under its weight. The good thing about Solita is that it displays enough imagination to rise above most of the crowd. 

Specials board with specials

Specials board with specials

A special of Manc-hattan burger with oven-bottom muffin, Lancashire cheese, black pudding, pastrami and Coney island mustard (£12.90) was a typical Solita tour-de-force. It brought a dizzying array of flavours that mushed up beautifully while the muffin showed humour. The battered black pudding was a doctor's nightmare but a foodies' delight. 

Manc-hattanManc-hattan

The same could be said for the Classic burger with melted Monterey Jack cheese, lettuce tomato and home made ketchup (£8.90) - although the burger on the review visit was a tad overdone. The KFB with melted Monterey Jack cheese, jalapenos, bourbon BBQ sauce and Kentucky fried bacon (£8.90) was a return to top form with glorious heat and loads of fun as standard.

Details such as rooster scratchings, the house fried chicken skin pieces (2.90), and the ribs, wings, rings and things (£7.90) were exemplary.

Rooster scratchingsRooster scratchings

The pull apart, snap, and goo of the latter dish (pictured at the top of this page) was a messy challenge that the younger folk with us set about like hungry hyenas. There was nothing left after three minutes apart from boys faces covered in barbecue sauce, and shattered bones on a plate. 

The star of the show wasn't for once at Solita, a burger. It was the 12oz prime rib steak (£17.90) a marbled treat, aged well, and cooked just right on the Inka grill in Solita. This charcoal powered kit roasts and barbecues at the same time and if handled well, creates a beautifully tender steak under a strongly flavoured and textured outer shell.

Excellent steakExcellent steak

Puddings are ridiculous in their excessiveness and thus live up to the gluttonous, gratuitous sweetness of American desserts. The apotheosis of this excess was the peanut butter chocolate fudge brownie with Oreo ice cream (£5.90). Get that doctor on the line again.

Over the top brownieOver the top brownie

Meanwhile the lovely Cabrelli's vanilla ice cream (£3.90) came with playful bacon candy (candy looking very like streaky bacon). The cheesecake with mixed berries (£5.90) was more controlled than the brownie, less sweet, more balanced, and, for me, more rewarding.

Just right cheesecakeJust right cheesecake

The food is supported by good beers from home and abroad and some decent wines as well. The Negroamaro il Medaglione, at £18, is a full bodied complement for the meaty, sticky dishes.

The challenge for Solita, indeed for all the restaurants providing this mucked about, mulched up, Anglicised Americana, is whether the food genre has legs. 

Will there be a place for Solita in ten years? 

Probably.

It's a flexible style and can leap between Home Sweet Home's rustic character to Liquor & Burn's manic enthusiasm (click here) to Solita's more sophisticated approach. The style leaves enough room for elements of Blumenthal trickery such as deep fried coke on the menu and for fine little flourishes such as the dusted chicken skin crackling. 

Dining room and 'soul' neonDining room and 'soul' neon

In some respects Anglicised Americana is the perfect modern compromise. Most people who dine out have travelled around a bit these days, many to the USA, almost all to multiple destinations within two hours flying time. 

The food at Solita suits the British mood. We like variety, we know it adds colour to life. Unlike more chauvinist food cultures, European and Asian, we adore choice. This is maybe down to an inferiority complex, largely unfounded, about our indigenous food, but it delivers a happy result. 

Solita's spark of originality makes it a proper player on the Manchester food scene. If you've not been give it a go. 

You can follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter here @JonathSchofield or connect via  

ALL SCORED CONFIDENTIAL REVIEWS ARE IMPARTIAL AND PAID FOR BY THE MAGAZINE.  

Solita, 37 Turner St, City, M4 1DW, 0161 839 2200

Rating: 16/20 

Food: 7.5/10 (rooster scratchings 8, ribs, wings and things 8, classic 7, Manc-burger 8, rib steak 8.5, KFB 8, ice cream bacon 7, cheesecake 7, brownie 7) 
Service: 4/5
Ambience: 4.5/5

PLEASE NOTE: Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20, we get carried away.

 

Graphically enhancedGraphically enhanced

Ice cream and bacon candyIce cream and bacon candy

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44 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Poster BoyFebruary 26th 2013.

It's comfort food.

David AddisonFebruary 26th 2013.

It's bloody good food! Veal chop best I've ever had and the pineapple with rum and ice cream is excellent. Yes it's a bit quirky and in a crap part of the Northern Quarter but I've been a few times and the food and the hospitality has been great. Sister restaurant Italia also good.

David BishopFebruary 26th 2013.

Not sure I'd describe deep fried coke as "Blumenthal trickery" think this first appeared at the Texas State Fair.

1 Response: Reply To This...
IanFebruary 26th 2013.

It's horrible too. Why you would fill churros with coke syrup rather than caramel/chocolate etc, who knows.

Hero
David FoxFebruary 26th 2013.

That ice cream and bacon candy looks lovely!

Hero
David FoxFebruary 26th 2013.

Good place for kids (12 and 10)/Do they have a kids menu?

1 Response: Reply To This...
Simon TurnerFebruary 26th 2013.

Looks like the kind of food that would appeal to children of all ages.

becksFebruary 26th 2013.

The burgers aren't a touch on Almost Famous and it's really overpriced. Not a fan

1 Response: Reply To This...
IanFebruary 26th 2013.

Isn't every burger at AFB now overcooked and covered in sauce to disguise?

AspersFebruary 26th 2013.

Ive been only twice admittedly - once to the NQ event and the other for dinner and I'm very sorry to say, was underwhelmed both times. I really didn't want to be after reading all bloggers reports about the opening! |My Hangar steak was chewy, Burger was OK. Service was friendly though :-)

Rob ShevlinFebruary 26th 2013.

Have to agree, if you are looking at burgers then Almost Famous takes it by quite a way, plus the atmosphere is far better, whenever i pass solita its empty, whereas Famous has a small queue outside and everyones a bit buzzed up about getting in

1 Response: Reply To This...
JanusxxxOctober 13th 2014.

Full at 5 pm on a Sunday (signed genuine reviewer)

Steve5839February 26th 2013.

I went about a week or so after it opened and was not impressed. I have read many reviews since then, some good and some average, this would suggest to me that it has not hit the highs. The people and the service were fine, just no USP for the food. I have never been to the Almost Famous burger, but looks like a place to visit - if atleast once.

AnonymousFebruary 26th 2013.

Good review but what on earth does "Unlike more chauvinist food cultures" even mean?

1 Response: Reply To This...
Jonathan SchofieldFebruary 26th 2013.

Anon - just use your name eh? - it means what it says.

AnonymousFebruary 26th 2013.

I too was underwhelmed. Wouldn't bother going back.

jeffmillerFebruary 26th 2013.

I'm from the South and I thought this food was good, but the ponsyness of it reflected in the small portion size! I ordered the starter Rib's n'Things and was severely disappointed by receiving 2 chicken wings, HALF of 2 ribs, and a quarter of a half a piece of corn! If I were paying 4£ instead of close to 8, I might have overlooked it... but if you're going BBQ and Southern... ya better get the portions and prices right!

AnonymousFebruary 26th 2013.

i really enjoyed my meal here - much better than the ridiculously overrated Almost Famous dining experience

1 Response: Reply To This...
rinkydinkFebruary 27th 2013.

Overrated? Isn't that when one or two people overstate something's worth? There is almost universal agreement with anyone that I know has been that Almost Famous do good burgers. I have also not read a bad review.

So the burgers might not be completely to your taste but "ridiculously overrated?"

You are ridiculously overstated

AnonymousFebruary 26th 2013.

I've been to Solita about 5 times, and loved every visit. Stop comparing it to Almost Famous!

1 Response: Reply To This...
AVOFebruary 26th 2013.

Why would you stop comparing it to Almost Famous? They both do the same type of food and serve the same clientele in the same geographical area.

johnFebruary 26th 2013.

Preferred it went it was Sole. I've only been once since and it was a bit underwhelming. Just OK really with nothing particuarly standing out. As other have said, if you're going to make burgers the focus of the menu, it counts agains you when there's somewhere doing them better less than 1 minute walk away

AnonymousFebruary 26th 2013.

Gutted u didn't have the rum soAked pineapple and coconut ice cream. Best desert ever!

Jean SimpsonFebruary 26th 2013.

Went on Saturday , enjoyed the food , not impressed to be kicked off our table , sent to the bar in the basement where there were not enough seats for our party. Then only one guy serving on the bar struggling to serve everyone . Wanted to order cocktails - told he would have to go upstairs for them ! Waited a while and gave up and left . Tried to give feed back to the owner , he didn't seem interested that an £80 round was walking out of the door as he didn't have enough staff on !

1 Response: Reply To This...
AVOFebruary 26th 2013.

The owner/management here seem to be slightly unprofessional at best. They think nothing of berating and ridiculing their customers on Twitter.

Sam JohnstonFebruary 26th 2013.

The Candy Bacon doesn't just 'look' like streaky bacon. It is crispy streaky bacon covered in hard treacle. Not playful, just awesome!

Bob the BritFebruary 27th 2013.

This review reminded me that I hadn't revisited SoLITA for a while and so went back last night.
The Tabasco & Tequila Chicken Wing starter was palate numbingly delicious, and the KFB was thick and juicy, unlike the burgers somewhere nearby that are indeed overcooked.
Yes, the service can be lacklustre, and yes it's a wee bit on the expensive side, compared to Common or AFB, but if your priority is tasty food, then it's worth a visit.

Charles PrestonFebruary 27th 2013.

Solita is Awesome! EDITORIAL COMMENT: The rest of this sentence has been excised as it was plainly just plain nasty

MeFebruary 27th 2013.

On food Solita wins, on drink Almost Famous wins... on both Liquor & Burn wins. Solita's prices have creeped up, but their food and quality of ingedients is much better than AF so dont mind paying a little more. I look at Solita as a restaurant, and AF as a bar, if I was looking for a more formal sit down meal affair that was a little cheaper than the better restaurants in town I'd pick Solita, AF wouldnt be on my radar, its a bar!

1 Response: Reply To This...
FentonFebruary 27th 2013.

Spot on!

FentonFebruary 27th 2013.

Solita is my favourite place to eat in NQ by far!

-it is a proper restaurant, as opposed to burger bar.
-they have well trained and cordial floor staff who make recommendations (and upsell), whom take your order at the table.
-the menu is more original with a genuine specials board that changes weekly.
-excellent value for money on drinks, in particular the wine offers.
-portion size on starters/sides isn't great for the money but all taste amazing!
-I'd like to see a slaw side/chutney with every burger.
-Price point isn't at all bad and I'd expect to pay £8-13 for a burger in any bar/restaurant in Manchester.
-It does need a decent GM to work on staffing, greeting of customers and floor plan!!!

It has a relaxed atmosphere compared to some rivals, no need to queue or be forced to drink in a loud bar for a table, I've never waited 40 minutes for a tepid burger and fries, nor have I received undesired attention from floor staff immediately after finishing me meal - in order to free up the table. I don't see a comparison with a local rival!!?? Sorry fellow readers and soap box jockeys but a queue outside the HM Post Office on Giro day doesn't make it a sought after venue!

I'd choose this decadent little venue to treat myself on a monthly basis over most eateries in town.

AnonymousFebruary 27th 2013.

I visited on a Saturday afternoon and had high hopes. I had the KFB burger which was spot on, although AFB may have just pipped it. The experience was let down though by a lack of atmosphere and I felt the owners were too visible, one tweeting on his mobile on the next table, the other I could see berating a member of staff in the back. Despite its geographical location, I'm not sure it's a "NQ" venue, maybe more Deansgate/Spinningfields. Couldn't fault the service we received from the waitress though. Disappointed overall but may give it another go.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousFebruary 27th 2013.

Doh, who failed 101 geography?

Deansgate/Spinningfields indeed

AnonymousMarch 26th 2013.

he's presumably suggesting that it would be more appropriately placed there, you fail imo!

AnonymousFebruary 27th 2013.

I meant that it would be more suited to Deansgate/Spinningfields.

AnonymousFebruary 27th 2013.

No, but seriously what's it mean? You've lost me on that. Good review though.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousFebruary 27th 2013.

I just meant that it doesn't have the same cool/ alternative vibe that other NQ establishments have. It seems its just jumping on the NQ bandwagon.

PS I'm not a hipster & don't have beard :-)

AnonymousFebruary 27th 2013.

I just meant that it doesn't have the same cool/ alternative vibe that other NQ establishments have. It seems its just jumping on the NQ bandwagon.

PS I'm not a hipster & don't have beard :-)

Wall-EFebruary 27th 2013.

I have read the fries here are frozen and the salad straight from a tesco bag. Shame as the meat looks good. They also change chefs every few weeks which is worrying.

1 Response: Reply To This...
JanusxxxOctober 13th 2014.

Salad is definitely not tescos..

Soraya KMarch 1st 2013.

I've been just after it opened and got to say the food was okay but nit great went back.on a busy sat and they just couldn't cope , was told we could get a table then told we couldn't by aithet member of staff, run told.we cous wait an hour and a half. Just a shambles people queuing in the doorway and next to people eating was told someone would ring me about all the mixup but,still waiting 2 months later- could be good but sort out and organise yourselves solita! Too many other places to try to put up with that .

ChrisMarch 2nd 2013.

Burgers definitely better than AF, they are served pink for a start, AF burgers are cooked to death now that they no longer serve them pink (but AF have got the marketing sussed so they could serve horsemeat instead of beef and people would still think it's amazing).

The chips are average at best and that corn chutney is horrible, should be replaced with coleslaw.

They are quite innovative though and try new things and what they do with their burgers is pretty good, "once in a lifetime" - great gimmick, "big manc" not had it yet but it looks decent.

Good prices on beer as well, I'm sure you only pay £3.50 for a bottle of good beer there. Service always been spot on when I've been.

PhiljpMarch 4th 2013.

Went once with a group of mates - good burgers but was ill the next day - but hey, that's just one of those things. I did speak to the manager the next day but he didn't seem overly concerned.

The food was good and different enough for us to try it again. So, we went on Saturday for my Dad's birthday even after being told we couldn't book, only come in and wait. We arrived, put our name down and was told it would be an hour and a half. We okayed it with the "bouncer / front of house" to go for a drink elsewhere and we would be back in an hour. We returned, they'd given a table for 4 away and invited us to wait downstairs. NOBODY was eating on the ground floor and when we landed downstairs it was clear to see why. There was a booking for around 40-50 people all sat, again without food. We waited another 40 minutes before being shown to our table. In that time still nobody upstairs had been served. The place was clearly taking on too much.

We had our drinks order taken and then told that we could order our starters but they weren't taking mains orders at the moment?!?! Seriously? Twenty minutes later, we walked out after an argument with the front of house who said "i told you not to leave", assuming that standing at the bar for 90 minutes was an acceptable thing to ask paying customers to do.

I made my feelings known on Twitter as we got a taxi to Try Thai and their response: "would you like to come back and say that to our face?". So their criticism handling involves threats? Nicely done.

The attitude of the place stinks. They clearly can't handle a busy Saturday night but their loss will be other venue's gains. I wouldn't set foot in the place again and would not recommend it. From what i hear, Almost Famous is better so we're off there this week.

JanusxxxOctober 13th 2014.

Went on Sunday at 5pm, place was full by 5.30. Steak was lovely. Other food very good. The food does what it says on the tin and is good. Good service nice food, little pricey, but the prices arnt hidden . No likey go elsewhere but I and others will be going back.

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