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Gorilla Reviewed

Jonathan Schofield has a night on the tiles or rather a lunch under the planks

Published on July 9th 2012.

Gorilla Reviewed

MANCHESTER'S full of burgeoning bar groups.

There's Living Ventures at the slick suited end, there's Americana-loving Black Dog growing by the month, and there's expansionist music-led Trof exploding all over the city.

Later in the year there'll be a 600 capacity live venue opening behind the dining and bar area in Gorilla - in the Green Room's former theatre space. When that happens we already have the winner of best food in a concert venue in Manchester, should that ever be an award category of course.

The latest Trof, Gorilla, occupies the site of Green Room, the worthy theatre and live venue, that folded last year with scarcely anyone outside the art scene ever realising.

The in-house Trof design team has taken the uncompromising shape and character of a railway arch holding up Oxford Road Station and done a proper job on it.

In a perverse but pleasing way the new plank lining of the ceiling reflects the lovely 1960s' woodwork of the station above. The planks are taken from various demolished buildings, schools, hospitals, lunatic asylums - I think that's what I was told. The wood wrap warms the space and turns it into a cosy den.

Planked and vaultedPlanked and vaulted

Trof has always been well-known for it's booze, but the food is now getting noticed.

The old Salutation pub behind All Saints on Higher Chatham Street is also part of the business and bakes the bread for the group. Attention to detail is boosting the whole dining experience.

The menu is - let's coin an oxymoronic phrase - 'world urban rustic'. Everybody's up to it. Home Sweet Home's food is similar, as described in last week's review, although Trof''s is better. 

The menu voguishly mixes English breakfasts, butternut squashes, American style burgers, kebabs and halloumi and then presents them on wooden trenchers that would have been recognised by John Dee, the alchemist who lived in Manchester over 400 years ago. 

It's tough boned food but is beautifully cooked. 

Feast your eyes on this gorgeously fit bird below. What a fair fowl. 

Fair fowlFair fowl

That's a half chicken (£12), properly browned, then crusted with thyme and enriched with lemon, garlic and rock salt. Cutting into the bird revealed white, moist come-hither flesh parting gently and delivering bags of flavour and lovely aromas.

It was a sensory joy all round with the thyme perfume putting me in mind of a long-ago ramble through the Sierra de Guadarrama, north of Madrid on a May afternoon, crushing thyme as I walked. Call me Monsieur Proust.

The salsa verde that came with the cluck-cluck was good as well, but the aioli was better.

I was dining with fellow food writer Neil Sowerby and we'd already sampled a proper broth (£4.50) with home-made sourdough before I'd got excited by the bird. The sourdough from the aforementioned Salutation was 10/10, the broth laden with bacon, lentils, carrots, onions, 'Uncle Tom Cobley and all' (as my ancient gran used to say), was very butch in a very good way. 

Butch brothButch broth

Sowerby for mains had been taken by and smitten with a fine chicken chermoula kebab (£10). The chicken came rubbed with 'African' spices cooked, skewered and accompanied by harissa yoghurt. There was also a lentil, tomato and green salad with, of course, flat bread. 

The Wednesday we went was National Fowl Day so it felt right to both eat chicken. And eating chicken in a gorilla made us smile as well. 

Kebab joyKebab joy

Sowerby seemed very happy with the kebabs, although that could have been down to the bottles of Jaipur ale he was necking. Jaipur comes from one of Britain's finest micro-breweries, Thornbridge in Bakewell. I joined in with Jaipur towards the end of the meal and didn't regret it.

Jaipur makes you purr maybe even pairJaipur makes you purr maybe even pair

I remember collecting one of the reviews of this beer from an ale-aficionado site which read: 'Caramel soaked fruit aromas, rich bread flavour like shortcake and biscotti. Floral honey-like scents bridge into supple tea-like notes with fresh cut grass, citrus, and pine.'

Dismantle that and you sort of get there. Jaipur is a lovely mellow Indian pale ale with lots of character. 

Neil Sowerby enjoying JaipurNeil Sowerby enjoying Jaipur

Pudds, and we dived into a knickerbocker glory (£6.50) and a brown sugar cheesecake (£4.50).

I can't resist a knickerbocker glory. If I see one on a menu it's like seeing the next book in the Fifty Shades of Grey sequence for seemingly 84% of the female population. I just have to get it.

This wasn't the best version I've had. It was too nutty; hazelnuts had been scattered around with the profligacy of Bob Diamond drawing up his own bonus scheme. I prefer emphasis on fruit and cream. On sweetness over sweetness and less harsh crunch.

The cheesecake was described as "good but too caramelly, on the chewy side" by Sowerby. 

Nutty knickerbocker, chewy cheesecakeNutty knickerbocker, chewy cheesecake

Overall though the 'world urban rustic' food at Trof was way better than expected. Thinking back over that chicken, broth and sourdough my mouth's watering. 

Later in the year there'll be a 600 capacity live venue opening behind the dining and bar area in Gorilla - in the Green Room's former theatre space.

When that happens, and should it ever be an award category, we already have the winner of Best Food in a Concert Venue in Manchester. 

You can follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter here @JonathSchofield


Gorilla, 54-56 Whitworth Street West, City. M1 5WW http://www.thisisgorilla.com

Rating: 15.5/20 (please read the scoring system in the box below)

Food: 7.5/10
Service: 4/5
Ambience: 4/5

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.

Gorilla movementGorilla movement

Gorilla interiorGorilla interior

Gorilla - more woodGorilla - more wood

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

Jenny CollinsJuly 9th 2012.

Am I the only person that cannot stand to get my food served to me on a chopping board? I can tolerate a cheese/meat platter but for a proper 'main course' I find it messy and difficult to deal with...concentrate on anything other than the food for a second and it seems to escape onto the table. Also as 'combiner' you cant get that swoosh of sauces and juices that you get on ceramic... all the gooey goodness just get soaked up by the wood!

1 Response: Reply To This...
suzyblewJuly 10th 2012.

Yes. Now it's not just main courses! I've had 3 courses served on flippin boards. I have now taken to requesting plates on ordering!

Boards are acceptable when sharing and no cutting is required only!

Jenny CollinsJuly 9th 2012.

Oh and the scoring needs amending (pedant) cheers

AnonymousJuly 9th 2012.

15.5 out of 10 for food?

paulJuly 9th 2012.

Food: 15.5/10........... Must be good

Jonathan SchofieldJuly 9th 2012.

Yes, yes, it was added up wrongly. Thanks. Changed now

the Didsbury BrewerJuly 9th 2012.

"Thornbridge in Sheffield" Wrong, they are based in Bakewell.

Phil MurphyJuly 9th 2012.

I'm not keen on the chopping board fashion, Jenny is right about the juices.
Otherwise, it looks really good.
It's great to see the arches being put to good use. A couple more restaurant/bars under them there arches, along with new addition Whim Wham, and it could become a proper little foodie quarter.
I sincerely hope the proprietors do some collaborative promotions to bring the number of punters in that the area will need to sustain the businesses.
Exciting to see the venue behind will be out to use again soon too. Ace!

Miss JonesJuly 9th 2012.

Chopping board, or no chopping board - let's concentrate on that fabulous looking chicken, please! There are very few places in Manchester that take the time to source and create genuinely great quality food and luckily for us Trof is one of them. Cool surroundings to boot.

Mrs BrownJuly 10th 2012.

£12 for half a chicken and no sides? I'm a big fan of Trof (admittedly for the beers rather than the foods), but come on...?!

Fifty Shades of ChickenJuly 10th 2012.

"Cutting into the bird revealed white, moist come-hither flesh parting gently and delivering bags of flavour and lovely aromas.It was a sensory joy all round with the thyme perfume putting me in mind of a long-ago ramble... crushing thyme as I walked"

...off for a five knuckle shuffle, me

Calum McGJuly 10th 2012.

Haha! Well, I tried a truly delicious salad there a couple of weeks ago. Brimming with fresh beans, beans, other greenery and some truly delicious goats cheese, it was one of the best salads I've ever snacked upon. It wasn't cheap - but it was worth every penny. I shall return for more! (Oh - and the house gin + tonic served with a wedge of pink grapefruit was sublime!)

lukeunabomberJuly 10th 2012.

manchesters best bar by a mile.9 out 10. and the staff are 10/10.amazing

1 Response: Reply To This...
Catharine BraithwaiteJuly 10th 2012.

agreed - I've had a consistently good time here - excellent service, pride in the gin cocktails and lovely food.

KaebeeJuly 10th 2012.

Excellent point on the chopping boards vs juices Jenny. Another thing that bugs me in Gorilla is that the napkins are styled after tea-towels, the same tea-towels that most of the staff have tucked into their back pockets. Even though I have no doubt they are clean, I don't want to wipe my hands/face with something that reminds me of a rag used to mop up spillages and wipe down tables. On the good side, after objecting wildly to the poncey-sounding truffle-oil and parmesan chips, I ended up trying some and they were, much to my dismay... AMAZING.

1 Response: Reply To This...
KaebeeJuly 11th 2012.

Went again last night, had the rib-eye which was fantastic. Cooked perfectly and really tender.
Also tried my friend's bulgar wheat salad which had little orange segments and dried apricots in it, packed full of flavour, definitely on my list to have next time.
Napkin-rant aside, this is becoming a favourite place to eat!

AnonymousJuly 10th 2012.

Having attended here last week and enjoyed an truly excellent porcetta sandwich, which again came with a lovely little smear of salsa verde, I couldn't care less about the chopping board it was served on. Great new venue this. Excellent staff, lovely beer, superlative food and a great little vibe going on. Yeah, all in all, I think it's fair to say I'm in favour of the place. As for the napkins - I'm all in favour: this is proper statisfyingly messy to eat food- you need something substantial to mop up with and these did the job just great. Another nice touch for me was that I could sit at the bar and eat. As I was on my own at the time just felt right. After the hype surrounding Black Dogs' disappointing (for me at least) new opening, its nice that trof are delivering something with real promise.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
Marco PoloJuly 10th 2012.

hmmm, i can smell the unmistakeable aroma of staff writing...

AnonymousJuly 10th 2012.

Ah, alas not Marco Polo. I promise you I am just an ordinary customer who happened to be passing by and fancied a pint and a bite. I realise I should probably get myself one of those fancy pseudonyms that all the kids are talking about these days. I might go for Amerigo Vespucci - suitably grand I think.

AnonymousJuly 10th 2012.

Went in for breakfast last weekend (Sunday). Acknowledged on arrival and decided to sit at the bar. Then that was it, never spoken to again. People came behind the bar and didn't speak or look, waited 15minutes, tables arrived after us and they were served. Got fed up and walked out. Shame, as it's local to where we live.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousJuly 11th 2012.

Are you very short?

lukeunabomberJuly 10th 2012.

some people who leave the ubiquituos moaning trip adviser shite on here obviously havent had sex for years and probably masturbate to dungeons and dragons and or 50 shades of beige. its a great bar. infact its a wonderful bar.say something of relevance or get back to middle earth and stop talking such drivel.or go out , you never know you might even enjoy yourself

2 Responses: Reply To This...
lukeunabomberJuly 10th 2012.

and no i dont work there

AnonymousJuly 10th 2012.

If you're arguing on mancon, you definitely need to get out more

AnonymousJuly 10th 2012.

I agree with Luke.

AnonymousJuly 10th 2012.

And I don't work their either.

tblzebraJuly 11th 2012.

What is their either for? Who does work it if it's not you, a nonymous?

We need to know.

AnonymousJuly 17th 2012.

Anyone know when the venue will be opened? Thanks.

susannahJuly 23rd 2012.

I visited Gorilla recently and realised that the term 'half chicken' refers to a chicken that was born without legs.
Truth is that its a quarter of a chicken with a bit of lemon on and a few dried herbs and wildly overpriced at twelve pounds (with a bit of lettuce, an couple of dips) Yes you have to pay even more for the chips. When you visit avoid the half chicken or ask where the leg is when it arrives.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Mark GarnerJuly 23rd 2012.

Suzzanah, the chicken, if I am not mistaken, is rear-boned from memory, very unusual but you are getting full weight and no messing with bones

Jonathan SchofieldJuly 23rd 2012.

Susannah but it's as tasty as hell

susannahJuly 24th 2012.

True ...it is very tasty .... and the staff are very pleasant .... but what are they doing with all those chicken legs?

MagurdracOctober 30th 2012.

Crap service in here the other Sunday. Went to the bar, and we were told "If you're eating, just grab a table." (Perhaps we could get some drinks while you're chatting to your mate?).

20 minutes of making eye contact and saying "Excuse me..." to every staff member that walked past and looked straight through me, and we cut our losses and went to Albert's Shed instead.

Heard good things about the food and so may give it another shot, but a pretty poor show on that front.

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