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'Taking The NQ To Didsbury' - Solita In The Suburbs

Owner Franco Sotgiu on why Didsbury needs a Big Manc

Written by . Published on September 17th 2014.

'Taking The NQ To Didsbury' - Solita In The Suburbs

FRANCO Sotgiu, co-owner of Solita, is mucking in with the builders alongside business partner and Solita's resident handyman, Simon Pogson.

"P**s off, we're not ready for you yet," Sotgiu bellows over the clutter in Solita's big and bold new Didsbury den. Through the piled high cases of grog, timber and tools there's flashes of neon red, crisp pop-culture idols and Mondrian tiling.

"We did employ a design agency, but binned most of the ideas. Ours were better."

They're only a few hours from hosting a grand 500-strong launch party and Solita Didsbury is getting a final touch up. Phones buzz for the entire hour we're there. "People scrambling for an invite for tonight," Sotgiu grins. "We've got too many coming as it is."

Franco Sotgiu and Simon PogsonFranco Sotgiu and Simon Pogson

Solita DidsburySolita Didsbury

It's an impressive fit-out. The former Cibo site ("dangerous and grim when we got it", according to Sotgiu) on Didsbury's School Lane boasts an enviable spot by the Wilmslow Road junction and has afforded Sotgiu and Pogson heaps more space to play with than the original four-storey Northern Quarter Solita, opened to great success in the summer of 2012.

The new restaurant seats 140 covers spread across two girthy floors with a feature void in the middle where a 'SOLITA' hangs from the rafters in Broadway lighting.

"The design has changed everyday up until yesterday," Sotgiu tells me. "It's a design that's been fed by social media. I've been sticking idea after idea to a Pinterest board for months. We've posed Twitter comps to design neon lights - but most were crap so we used a quote from When Harry Met Sally instead.

Solita DidsburySolita Didsbury

Img_0575The 'cuts of  beef' cow

"See that up there," Sotgiu points at a neon red 'cuts of beef' cow. "That idea we lifted from two notorious LA lesbian butchers, Lindy and Grundy. Those light fittings we bought from IKEA for £16 and painted ourselves (slow down Delboy). The wall art is by Manchester-illustrator Stan Chow and graffitist Russell Meehan.

"We did employ a design agency," he explains, "But binned most of the ideas. Ours were better."

Sotgiu's a bullish sort. He knows what he likes. To give him credit, it works.

But aside from heavy-handed pop-culture and Instagram-baiting, what is Solita bringing to the suburb?

"There's nothing like this in Didsbury, or Chorlton for that matter," says Sotgiu. "We're trying to bring a piece of the Northern Quarter to South Manchester."

Solita DidsburySolita Didsbury

Stan Chow artworkStan Chow artwork

"Obviously we know Didsbury isn't the same kind of neighbourhood as the Northern Quarter so we expect the demographic to be different but people will come because it's a trendy place to be." Sotgiu continues. "We're expecting more young professionals and older couples alongside families.

So will the menu offering reflect that?

"The menu will be the same as the Northern Quarter (the BIG eat bankers: steaks, burgers, wings, hot dogs) but we've added more premium items like lobster fritters (£6.90) and more fish.

"Still, we're under no illusions, people will come for the burgers, to have a go at our famous Big Manc (£15.90)."

The Solita menu is shamelessly Americana, and flaunts it. From Rooster Scratchings (£2.90) to T'N'T Wings (£6.90) through to the Manc-Hattan Burger (£12.90). The ruthless march of Americana shows no signs of abating, yet. If it ain't broke...

Big MancBig Manc

Lobster frittersLobster fritters

Does Sotgiu worry interest will wane with such a big new space to fill?

"Yes we're testing the ground to see if the concept can travel out of the city, but all the early signs show Solita Didsbury will be busy," Sotgiu says. "We've already served 500 people - and that's before our proper opening."

Should the concept prove to travel well, Sotgiu and Pogson have already lined up sites in Liverpool (set for an autumn 2015 opening) and are close to signing for a site in North Manchester, "a 40 to 50 cover neighbourhood Solita to open in Spring 2015," Sotgiu smiles. "Then it's Hale."

Didsbury, Liverpool, North Manchester, Hale? In just over a year? For two big fellas they sure can move.

Follow @David8Blake on twitter.

Solita Didsbury opens at 6pm on Thursday 18 September. Menu here.

Solita, School Lane, Didsbury, M20 6RD. 0161 434 4884

Seven days a week, from midday 'til late on weekdays and from 10am 'til late on weekends.


Solita DidsburySolita Didsbury

Solita DidsburySolita Didsbury

Meehan muralMeehan mural

(image credits to Carl Sukonik at www.thevain.co.uk)

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

Charles CohenSeptember 17th 2014.

Overrated dirty dude food hits the burbs. Hold the front page.

Thomas JonesSeptember 18th 2014.

Chose not to go with the twitter ideas so that they didn't have to give away any free tickets to Joe public probably more likely....Solita only give away free things to their tight clique of friends/press/colleagues.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
GordoSeptember 18th 2014.

Harsh and not fair...

AnonymousSeptember 18th 2014.

Loads of people got a free meal at the party, all you had to be was on the mailing list and quick of the mark

Trish KarneySeptember 18th 2014.

"There's nothing like this in Didsbury, or Chorlton for that matter, says Sotgiu" - I take it Sotigu hasn't visited Morley Cheeks in Chorlton - which is better than Almost Famous but without the up-its-own-arsery. The fact they want to take this to Hale speaks volumes.

3 Responses: Reply To This...
SteveSeptember 18th 2014.

You have a serious bee up your bottom about Almost Famous don't ya Trish? The last few posts Ive seen from you have all been anti-famous. Turned away at the door for a sour-face perhaps?

AnonymousSeptember 18th 2014.

Could not disagree more, Morley Cheeks is a shocking place, one of the worst in Chorlton, Almost Famous serve the best burgers in Manchester.

Trish KarneySeptember 18th 2014.

This comment has been removed. Editorial.

AnonymousSeptember 18th 2014.

I don't think it'll work in Hale to be honest, they love their chains there too much.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousSeptember 19th 2014.

This is a stupid comment. There are far more chain places in Didsbury than Hale!

AnonymousSeptember 19th 2014.

No, they are more in Hale, learn to count

AnonymousSeptember 18th 2014.

I live, eat and drink in the village ( a lot ) and I've not met one person who had an invite to the opening yet... Have seen plenty of chatter from the "recently immunized for heading south" posse on social media though. Lets hope it works, lets hope they know their audience... no drink inc on kids menu?

Wall-ESeptember 18th 2014.

I got invited and I am an irrelevant nobody who lives in heaton moor. Thought I'd hate the vip thing but very generous with burgers and booze and no attitude.

bigearsSeptember 18th 2014.

Went to the NQ one last night - absolute rubbish! Usually love Solita - been at least 10 times. This time, waitress looked at us as we walked in and stayed standing at the bar for 4 minutes (looked at my watch!). food shocking - greasy chicken burger with tasteless crumb. Fries the worst I've had - tasteless bought in, too crispy with no spud in them. Won't be going back for a while

AnonymousSeptember 18th 2014.

Agree with Anon re opening. Twitter claims of not your normal opening with same faces etc, yet no one I know from Didsbury on ' the list' but all the usual bloggers and typical crowd. One lucky winner from Wigan even asked where Didsbury was! How soon / often these people come back, along with winning over the locals will determine whether or not it's just another Cibo. I'll give it a try and see for myself as never been to NQ and not likely as I live in Didsbury…..

AnonymousSeptember 18th 2014.

I was lucky enough to go last night, and absolutely loved it. I have been in to the previous incarnations of Cibo and La Tasca, and worried about whether the venue's shape would restrict it's ability to create the same vibe as the NQ site. I have to say, they have gone for a great look, and I don't think there is anywhere like it in Didsbury, and if the food there is as good as the sister site (despite what Bigears says) it will be an eaterie of choice for many Didsbury dweller, and I hope it does well!

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousSeptember 18th 2014.

I can't say i've ever gone to the NQ branch for the 'vibe'. I've always found it felt overcrowded.

SquirrelitoSeptember 19th 2014.

Are we not supposed to say "Prestwich"?

jdobson76September 19th 2014.

Well I'm going tonight (hopefully as a walk-in with Mrs & son). Wandered across last night to enquire about a table(went just on half 9 and there were poss 15-20 people inside)...only 6pm or 9pm+ available. Live in the village and looking at the menu there are elements you can find elsewhere - Dirty burger at Mud Crab for £12.50. Will see how service compares to other comparable venues (Mud Crab, Expo, Didsbury Lounge). It has an excellent location so hopefully it won't shoot itself in the foot like Cibo with their ridiculous menu change & will last longer

pollolocoSeptember 22nd 2014.

Went on Saturday night and so wanted to like it. Cold and flabby onion rings with starter of ribs wings etc, KLB burger was lukewarm, grey pattie (how can they manage that with an inka?) and the chips (think MCD fries) were stone cold. Don't get me started on the deep fried mac and cheese....shcoking. Bill came to £160 for 5 adults and 2 kids.....we won't be going back. If this place was in US it wouldn't last 5 minutes.

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