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City Café

Gordo makes his mind up about David Gale’s City Café and City Inn

Written by . Published on October 24th 2007.

City Café

David Gale could have a row with a mirror. And, dear reader, it would be the fault of the mirror. David is a very fine chef, with stints at some interesting places, including Soho House. Gordo first met him properly when they were introduced at a function. Within ten minutes there was a difference of opinion that was breaking out into war. Gordo met David a second time and got on well with him. It was in Selfridges Food Hall in Exchange Square that appeared to be going down the pan.

David turned the place around within a relatively short space of time. Today, when you pick out the lobster, or indeed the fantastically dressed crab you have David to thank for it being brought in live and dealt with on the premises. His attention to detail is enormous in its breadth and he has an encyclopaedic knowledge of his subject.

The place is so fresh it makes you want to hang your washing up in there. It does need to have the lighting in the evening thought through again. It’s too bright and ladies don’t like it.

David has joined City Inn, the new hotel opposite Piccadilly Station as Executive Chef. He has been given a light, modern room in which to showcase his abilities which is lovely for lunch on a sunny day. The place is so fresh it makes you want to hang your washing up in there. In the evening though the lighting needs to be sorted. It’s too bright and ladies don’t like it. If they had their way, it would be candles all the time: hides a lot of sins by all accounts.

The tablecloths are white, starched and luxurious. The knives mean business and the bread and butter is the proper kit. One brown roll, baked with cranberries, was chewy, crunchy, slightly sour: it should have been placed on top of a basket of autumnal produce, on an altar.

The Maitre D’ at Gordo’s fourth visit was Lee Webster who was pleasant, helpful and on the ball. A delightful young lady, Shannon Lowe (half Irish, half Scottish, talking American) was very impressive. Staff in general seem motivated and well trained across the hotel, it shows in the way these two looked after Gordo and the Manchester Confidential Editor on this, the last visit.

Starters were celeriac soup, crispy cured ham, blue cheese croutons (£4.95), roast veal sweetbreads, confit duck, button mushrooms, broad beans (£6.95) and finally Morecombe bay potted shrimp, toasted sourdough, baked tomatoes, preserved lemon dressing (£5.50). Jonathan Schofield (the said editor) found the soup thinner than it needed to be, whilst Gordo’s sweetbreads would have been perfect except the plate was cold and, strangely, the dish was a little dried out. Gordo isn’t exactly sure what happened here but if he had got to the dish prior to these mistakes it would have been a belter.

The shrimps were simply the best that Gordo has had. The difficulty in this is the seasoning. Once everything has been brought together, the chef has to judge the seasoning on the basis of how’s he going to chill it next. Gordo for one has never got it right. This was perfect, the shrimps were glowing gently with flavour. Three or four baby tomatoes, roasted and served at room temperature made a fantastic friend whilst the lemon dressing was the touch of genius. It’s rare that a chef adds something out of the blue to a classic dish like this and makes it work. David has done it here.

Smoked pork belly, lavender honey glaze, savoy cabbage, caramel apple juice (£14.50) and roasted English beef with cottage pie, foie gras butter and roast parsnips (£18.50). Gordo has had the belly pork before. Jonathan muttered ‘bloody fantastic this cabbage’ and ‘God, this belly pork is done well’. Gordo loved it when he had it on the opening night.

The ‘roast beef’ was in fact a thick slice of fillet, of very superior quality cooked ‘bleu’. It was strange that he wasn’t asked how he likes it done, as it happens if he had known it was fillet that’s what his preference would have been, but he can see plenty being sent back if they the staff don’t enquire. Maybe it was a simple slip in an otherwise faultless service, which, by the way, would have got us out of the place in one hour flat if we’d wanted. The beef fillet sat on spinach. which was seasoned just loudly enough to bring out the beefiness of the fillet whilst the foie gras butter made the two tango. The roast parsnips. Cor blimey guvnor. Gordo absolutely bloody loved the pair of them to death. Richly sticky and ever so slightly crunchy on the outside, melting on the inside. Delightful. Oh yeah, there was a perfect cottage pie, one inch across served with it. Great, but weird.

Don’t bother with the side dishes. Whilst an enormous cauliflower cheese (£2.25) was great if a little liquid, it was unnecessary.

Gordo ate pudding on his own, the Editor having to do something disturbing with chartered surveyors. Cappucino cheesecake, mascarpone foam, pistachio and chocolate biscotti (£5.25), was clearly one of young Caroline Shaw’s, the pastry chef, better creations. This girl is a star, Gordo was at a dinner cooked by her a few weeks previously where she was presented with a well deserved Star Award. Her Manchester tarte sundae that night in the company of the Crush PR massive nearly made Gordo pass out.

A bottle of Beaujolais, 2005, Clos des Vieux Marronierres (£15.95), apart from being great value was perfect for a lunch of this kind. Gordo likes a good example of this stuff with a couple of years on it, you find a little more finesse than you should at the price range, blackcurrants and plums that have been massaged with a little bit of velvet.

The double expresso (£2.25) was a wimp.

The last three dinners here have been exceptional. Mr Gale, who interestingly offered that other fine chef Mr Owen-Brown ‘outside’ at the opening night of the Food and Drink Festival, has now found his feet and has the team in the kitchen on rare form. They can, in Gordo’s opinion, only get better.

A Gordo Go.

To read the Young Star Chef awards story click here.

Rating: 17.25/20
Breakdown: 8.75/10 Food
4.75/5 Service
4/5 Ambience
Address: The City Cafe
City Inn
0161 242 1000
Everyday noon-2.30pm (Sunday 3pm),

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

BertieOctober 24th 2007.

That's what the job was advertised at Gordo!

MirandaOctober 24th 2007.

who said anything about not paying for your own meal? protesting too much?

AnonymousOctober 24th 2007.

5 of us dined at the San Carlo on Tuesday 23/10/07. The food was good, however, it tended to go cold very quickly as the plates had not been heated sufficiently. We were also presented with vegetables that had not been ordered.The service on the other hand was quite simply abysmal; apart from one very recently recruited member of staff, the rest displayed at best, a very disinterested attitude (until it was time for the bill). They were however, very attentive to a table consisting of 6 scantily clad young ladies!The bill itself was an art form in over-pricing. Not only were we charged for 2 bottles of wine that we hadn’t consumed, we were also charged at a higher rate than shown on the wine list. All in all, the over-charging amounted to in excess of £70, plus the standard 10% service charge, meant that we would have been out of pocket by some £77!It is not acceptable in this day and age, particularly as there is so much competition in central Manchester, for this type of lackadaisical and very poor attitude to service to be tolerated.A very disgruntled diner.

Mr A LickerOctober 24th 2007.

Hey Gordo could you get your tongue any further up Mr gales backside!!!!!! Please

SharonOctober 24th 2007.

I have eaten at City Inn twice since it opened and have throughly enjoyed it both times. The quality of food there is second to none and I particulary enjoyed the grilled Halibut with caper butter! City Cafe & Mr Gale both deserve all the hype they get.

AnonymousOctober 24th 2007.

'proper restaurant reviewing': oh please, no doubt there will be a big city inn ad all over the site soon.

Jonathan Schofield - editorOctober 24th 2007.

Dear Anonymous just to let you know, we pay for our own meals when we review. We do it impartially and fairly and report what we find.

NeilOctober 24th 2007.

I can't see a conspiracy theory here. The review has a bit of criticism in it as well. Anyway...my point...when I was in Selfridges about a fortnight ago there was no fish stall. Hasn't it gone for good?

ToniOctober 24th 2007.

I went for lunch which was the bad side of average. We had to settle for our fourth choice of wine as the previous three weren't in stock. The staff, while pleasant, seemed ill-trained and there was zero atmosphere. Food was Ok but forgettable. Will definitely nip across the road to the Brasserie in future.

BowksOctober 24th 2007.

Gordo. Welcome back to proper restaurant reviewing. Very glad of it indeed.

Frank's TrousersOctober 24th 2007.

I've eathen at City Inn about 20 times since it opened - in fact am going again, today, for lunch, and every time the service and food are fantastic! Really good vegetarian selection too which can be rare.

Elaine HanzakOctober 24th 2007.

I've had the pleasure of dining at the City Cafe and bar several times. I agree with the ratings - it's fab. Lee, the Maitre D is a really nice guy and always makes sure that my special dietary requirement is met, i.e. no wheat. The breakfasts are FANTASTIC too!! My Mum and I stayed for a birthday treat for her recently and there was a special cake in our room for her. The IMacs actually in the hotel bedrooms make your stay even better. Can't wait for another excuse to stop, eat and stay there!

GordoOctober 24th 2007.

guys guys guys, Gordo has an opinion and he is happy to receive a bollocking, but if you disagree be constructive. For instance, Food Lover, lets have your ideas? Name them, this site works because everyone has an opinion and we have a publisher who is happy to print them.

EditorOctober 24th 2007.

Thank you for pointing that craziness out. We like role play in our office.

AnonymousOctober 24th 2007.

Dear Gordo, As for Selfridges, how about the other sections? The cheese section may get worse as the variety may get less? Also, some points I am disappointed are that the young staff there cannot pack properly, nor answer the questions (not only at the cheese section), and that there may be hygine problem. I am sorry for these negative thoughts. But I am hoping they can improve.

John S. LockeOctober 24th 2007.

I ate at the City Cafe a couple of Friday evenings ago, with my business partner and pal David Perkin of The Frog and Bucket comedy club.The impeccable service made up for the lack of the two wines David first ordered (and the fact we were given the bottle of Soave we finally ordered and received free of charge!).I ordered the Morecambe Bay potted shrimps as a starter - absolutely spot on as Gordo has described, unfortunately they had run out of the starter David ordered, but he also plumped for the shrimp and was as impressed as I was!Our mains were superb, and the fact that we were only charged for the mains when the bill arrived made up for the few hiccups we experienced on this visit.What made up for the missing items on the menu and wine list was the service.Polite and attentive without being toadying or theatrical - a fabulous and comfortable restaurant with an atmospheric and friendly bar.All in all, this was one of the better dining experiences I have had in Manchester for quite a while.Of course my new Pub and Restaurant... 'The Northern' on Tib St, will give everyone a run for their money when we open on the 6th of December with a Chef to watch called Rob Lamont - Christmas bookings being taken now!...http://www.thenorthernpub.co.uk Ta for the free plug Man Con!Loving your work as always!

BertieOctober 24th 2007.

Loved it both times I've eaten there; Gale is a much-under-appreciated chef in his home town. The problem there, as with any hotel restuarant, is always service and consistency. Eyck has the same issues. Can he maintain that quality when mostly serving businessmen (who don;t care much about quality of food) in large numbers, using Eastern European staff?Why's Gale still picking fights, he's on 65K for goodness sake! He should be content.

OutsiderOctober 24th 2007.

My friend and I tried City Café's time to dine offer a couple of weeks ago. I thought it was good, but I've had better in Manchester. The decor and ambience is fresh but comfortable, and the service was excellent, very attentive and courteous. But it's the food I'm not sure about. I had the pork belly too and thought it was lovely, but my roasted parsnips didn't have just a nice delicate hint of lavender honey, they were swimming in it, and were also slightly undercooked I thought. We also had the cappuccino cheesecake for dessert, which tasted mildly of coffee and arrived in a teacup. Call me old fashioned but that's not cheesecake to me, it's mousse, and it wasn't what I expected. They were also out of my friend's first choice of vegetarian main course, but luckily there are a few options on the menu. All in all, it was ok, but despite the offer we still paid over £40 for 2 courses each, a couple of beers and espresso, and I think that's more than it was worth.

GordoOctober 24th 2007.

Neil, it has gone but they have a lobster mayo in the shell as well as fresh crab in the shell on the counter that does ready made meals. They used to be awful, i suspect they came in on a Brake Bothers van. David booted them out and trained the staff to deal with both dishes from live, they are fantastic. Selfridges food hall in Exchange is a much better place than it was 12 months ago.

Food LoverOctober 24th 2007.

Have to agree, the review is over hyping a somewhat "average" restaurant. Eaten there once, don't get me wrong it was lovely but I could eat better for that price - or alternatively eat equally well for a lot less!

SpellcheckerOctober 24th 2007.

"One brown role" - that rocks!

VikkiOctober 24th 2007.

i like the food in the city cafe and the service is great - but I find the ambience a bit odd - its like I imagine a very posh and exclusive cosmetic surgery hospital in LA - there were quite a few dishes unavailble when I went which was diaapointing as I was eating off a limited menu to begin with, but we ate was delicious. Also disappointing wine list as the first three wines I requested were unavailable. Great Man Con offer though - it worked and got me in there eating and now I am talking about it.

GordoOctober 24th 2007.

Is He?! The bloody drinks are on him next time...

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