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Southern 11, Spinningfields, Reviewed

Ruth Allan likes it full-on, Yank and filling

Published on September 7th 2011.


Southern 11, Spinningfields, Reviewed

THERE'S nothing wrong with TGI Fridays and Hard Rock Café if you like burgers and loud music. But Manchester’s latest signing to Team America has much to offer the serious food fan too.

The shake-your-own violet martini is fun, but Miss American Pie (£5.95) is the one; creamy yet zingily fruity in flavour, with brandy, nutmeg and mint.

As part of Spinningfields' transformation into somewhere you’d want to hang out (Samsi, The Gaslamp, Alchemist, Australasia; it’s independent stores galore around here) this new, American 'soul food' restaurant has opened next to Pure Gym (almost necessary given the size of portions at S11). It’s my new favourite place to eat.  

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The glass facade is in a weird spot, up some steps and out of sight, but when you do find it, the staff are insanely helpful without being in your face, and it’s so clean, and the food is such good quality, and the atmosphere is so warm that everything conspires to make you feel like you’re getting a deal.

It doesn’t happen often, this deal feeling, but I’ve had it at restaurants like the Hideaway in Ramsbottom and Phet Palin in Chinatown. Sadly, you only get it for a moment before the boss juggles her books and realises that you, the customer, are getting away with murder. So if this sounds like your idea of fun, I'd get down soon before they up the prices. 

Embracing cliches about 'American stuff', the tables are massive. “It’s a freaking log!” my friend Al declares, wriggling into his seat, while booths around the sides of the room can hold up to 10. The bar is shiny, toting polished bottles of Patron and Grey Goose, all the better to make shake-your-own-martinis (£5.75). Out of the speakers The Who (this time, last time, it was Kings of Leon) is turned up to 8. It's loud and rock 'n' roll. Perfect for a party.

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We start with zingy battered pickle spears (£2.95) which Al describes as “mental heaven”. Tempura with a pickle kick, I say, and the chilled green olives on ice (£2.95) are solid too. Think of the difference between fresh and tinned tuna and you’re getting somewhere close to the joy of these appetisers.

Fresher than grapes, they look as if they’d pop if you prick them, and they taste of avocado, only light. The tortilla chips  (£5.50) with sour cream, crushed avocado (no hints of brownness, no resistance to guzzling), finely diced tomato and onion and melted Monterey jack are the best I’ve had in Manchester. We try the simple 'little sausages' (£3.95) too.

The names listed along the brass plate that circumnavigates the room are the 11 ‘Southern states’ that lend the restaurant its moniker. Inspired by these lands of legend (some good, some bad), mains are all about meat and, between us, we chow through steak (£15.95) dry-aged, outdoor reared Longhorn rib eye, served pink, with immaculate blue cheese sauce and fries) and three ‘lil burgers’ (£8.95) skewered in the fashion that Cher coined in Mermaids, with an extra long toothpickMy friend Nat gnaws her way out from behind the Hickory wood smoked belly ribs (£10.95) as chicken fillet sarnies work their magic on my son Arthur (£3.50). 

Soft, sticky, satisfying and messy describes the meal as a whole, but particularly my pulled pork (£7.50), sourced from the famous, Ginger Pig ethical pork farm in Yorkshire and slow-cooked for time (18 hours of it) in an Oklahoman smoker.

The belly is turgid. Shedding a few ounces in the oven would do this oversized chop a favour and the fries aren't quite there either, with parmesan AND salt, pushing one salty thing too many. That’s where the whinging ends though, as, from the crisp onion rings to the simple mac cheese and sweet and peppery hand-cooked baked beans, everything bears the loving irregularities of moreish, hand-made grub.   

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Desserts are bombastic. Blueberry and chocolate, and vanilla cheesecakes are baked dense and taste just a little yoghurty, just as they should. And if you're into your sweets, get the knickerbocker glory to share (£4.95), as it's stacked with offcuts from all the other puddings. Cheesecake, marshmallow, cookie dough ice cream, almonds, apple, strawberries, blueberry compote…it’s a mine of sweet delight. 

We have fresh milkshakes and fine cocktails to drink. The shake-your-own violet martini is fun, but Miss American Pie (£5.95) is the one; creamy yet zingily fruity in flavour, with brandy, nutmeg and mint.  

Serving up quality food, with attention to detail at exactly the right price, Southern 11 has been warmly busy on every visit and I'm not surprised. With its sourcing, atmosphere and commitment to cooking from scratch perfectly on trend, I can't think of anywhere more on the money right now. 

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ALL SCORED CONFIDENTIAL REVIEWS ARE IMPARTIAL. £1000 to the reader who can prove otherwise, and dismissal for the staff member who wrote a review scored out of twenty on a freebie from the restaurant.

Southern 11
Unit 26, 3 Hardman Street, Spinningfields, Manchester, M3 3EB

Rating: 16/20
Food: 8/10
Service: 4/5
Ambience: 4/5

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: Gordo gets carried away.

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

paulSeptember 7th 2011.

Looks lovely Its now on the list

AnonymousSeptember 8th 2011.

like this place

AnonymousSeptember 8th 2011.

Being American and from the south, this type of poncy resturant makes my blood boil. True southern food is not expensive or fashionable or served in poncy containers. Southerners would also not be caught dead paying £9 (what is that, about $14?) for a hamburger. It makes me sick that people in this country settle for such puny portion sizes at such outrageous prices. I suppose a tip of the hat is due to the owners who have found a way to gouge Britains who don't know better.

6 Responses: Reply To This...
pollolocoSeptember 8th 2011.

Anon, yes its more about quality than quantity here. We don't yet deep fry cheesecake either!!

Chris-afortunadoSeptember 8th 2011.

So, being American and from the South, you want more food than most English people could eat? Why waste a perfectly good stereotype, eh? Perhaps Southern 11 is, y'know, nice...

IzzySeptember 8th 2011.

Which is probably why the Yanks are so fat - we're almost there, but not quite yet.....

AnonymousSeptember 10th 2011.

deep fried mars bar... you may have got here, though.

AnonymousSeptember 13th 2011.

Only an american could describe the food portions sizes at southern eleven as puny!!! They are huge!!

AnonymousSeptember 20th 2011.

They were certainly big enough for me but to say 'They are huge!!' isn't true - just look at the photos above.

I enjoyed mine a lot, but it's certainly not that authentic presentation wise - it'd be served on segmented dinner trays for that.

Service was very good.

CobbydalerSeptember 8th 2011.

Actually, The Alchemist & Australasia aren't independent. They're both owned by Living Ventures...

1 Response: Reply To This...
Axel LariatOctober 4th 2012.

..as any fule kno

AnonymousSeptember 10th 2011.

What are the last picture? They seem to be a mixture of the starter and desserts?? They also seem to be on the same table with the chilled green olives on ice?? I am confused..

Hero
Ruth AllanSeptember 11th 2011.

the last picture is battered pickle spears with mayo and bbq sauce. definitely a starter. veryyyy nice too.

ChadandlauraSeptember 12th 2011.

looking forward to it!

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