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Cat Johnson goes to Grinch and finds herself in a mess

Published on August 14th 2008.


I’ve never been a fan of the Grinch. And I’m talking the film here, not the restaurant concealed just off Cross Street. There’s something so irksome about Jim Carrey and his facial contortions, that even when he’s playing my favourite Doctor Seuss character he still makes me want to gouge my eyes out in irritation.

It’s a Manchester stalwart, the sort of place you really want to like, to be overjoyed with. But they are getting the essentials wrong at present. Above all they’ve taken informality into carelessness.

Much to my chagrin, Junior Johnson doesn’t concur with my Carrey loathing, resulting in hours of purgatory watching ol’ rubber face do his back catalogue of gurning. It’s times like these that I yearn for the halcyon days of my childless youth when I was allowed to watch whatever I liked on my own TV. Perhaps I should have bought myself another cocker spaniel rather than procreate?

But I wasn’t going to let something like a name get in the way of a good feed, so this week I went to Grinch. It was busy with a combination of young suits and ladies who lunch. The interior design is a mish-mash with stringy, drapey thingamajigs that look like someone’s unravelled a Missoni Jumper and then dangled the threads from the ceiling. The walls sport randomly scattered bits of wallpaper that wouldn’t look out of place in a teenage bedroom from about 1986.

The menu is printed on an A4 manila envelope. A nice touch, part of the deliberately quirky feel the management want to give Grinch. “Hey”, it seems to be saying, “we’re a bit fun, we are.”

First up I ordered some tempura prawns (£5.50), which was the only option that appealed to me. And they were ok. Fat little prawns, butterfly light and as crisp as you would expect with tempura. They came with garlic mayo which was overpowering. My companion, preparing for the main course, just had some olives in herb infused oil (£3.50). And they were olivey and herby. Not much else to say about them, although we didn’t leave many.

For a main I had Moroccan lamb skewers (£11.95) on a bed of cous cous. This is where things went wrong. The presentation was horrible, it was chaos on a plate. Apart from placing the accompanying quarters of tomato in symmetry, no other thought had been given to how the thing might look to the customer.

Eating is a complete sensory experience. The flavours of a dish are the key of course, but the first impression is visual. Even in a casual mid-range dining experience such as Grinch, care has to be taken with it. The picture on this page shows how truly awful this lamb course looked. It was like Jim Carrey pulling one of his extra special faces.

Taste wise it wasn’t much better. The lamb was pink as requested, but that was its only saving grace. The cous cous was unseasoned, stone cold and cloggy. I was informed that it was the slightly larger in size Israeli cous cous. Let me confirm once and for all that size really does matter – and big isn’t always best. The chef had also dumped a pile of hummus on top to add to the disarray.

My companion’s Teriyaki Salmon (£11.75) was better. Firm and moist flesh cooked deftly and timed right atop a more-ish wasabi mash. The mash was a clever touch that worked well with the salmon and gave a big lift to the dish. The accompanying sauce however was overkill. There hasn’t been so much oil in one place since the Exxon Valdez.

For dessert we had the Mars flavoured chocolate muffin (£4.25). This could rival a bottle of Lucozade for how much sugar you can fit into one item, but was pleasant enough in a give me a sugar rush kinda way. Curiously, you could clearly see the melted bits of Mars bar within it, but not really taste them. Perhaps the luscious Mars flavour gets impaired in the heating process? We need to call in Heston Blumenthal for the answer to this conundrum.

We also had banoffee pancakes (£4.25), which were fine. Crispy pancakes and creamy banoffee sauce made it just about the best bit of my meal. Larges glasses of a crisp and cold Sauvignon Blanc washed everything down nicely, although the glasses they were served in were odd, stumpy, little things. Why that unattractive shape?

Grinch has of course been around for years. It’s a Manchester stalwart, the sort of place you really want to like, to be overjoyed with. But they are getting the essentials wrong. Above all they’ve pushed informality into carelessness. It’s all right not taking things too seriously up to a point, but the slapdash presentation of food, shows that Grinch has gone too far in trying to be fun.

Not that it would take too much to correct these aspects. After all the basic raw materials are there to make a visit to Grinch still appealing: its popularity makes for good people watching, the service is unfalteringly pleasant and efficient and it even provides live music on Saturdays. It’s a case of must try harder rather than hopeless basket case.

Rating: 13.5/20
Breakdown: 6/10 Food
4/5 Service
3.5/5 Ambience
Address: Grinch
5-7 Chapel Walks
M2 1HN
0161 907 3210

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

ZOE ASPINAugust 14th 2008.

After living here for many years and hearing so much about Grinch, I went for the first time in July. My friend had the lamb and had exactly the same reaction to hers! I had a pizza which although tasty was as thin as streudel pastry and so was tasteless and the topping had to be spread so thinly so as not to soak into the dough. Pizza Express much better! Another friend had the Thai Curry which looked, smelt and tasted amazing though and another the chilli burger which vanished very quickly along with the homemade fat chips! I wouldn't rush back to be honest - for food - but a lovly place with friendly staff

secret squirrelAugust 14th 2008.

The food in Grinch has been crap for years...THE only place ever where I have sent CHIPS back to the kitchen! FFS chips? It needs a serious kick up the arse.

paulaAugust 14th 2008.

Went last year to Grinch-what an awful experience,food,service & surroundings miserable & dull.Complained about food-to no avail-just apologised.?STRAIGHT FROM MICROWAVE..Never again

AnonymousAugust 14th 2008.

Sams has been sold , my boss had lunch in there on Tuesday and the waiter told him that WOW

raceAugust 14th 2008.

I have been a fan of Grinch for over 10yrs and still love it !

MichaelAugust 14th 2008.

I have been visiting Grinch for over 10 years now, and I have never had a bad experience. I find the informal serving style the waiters adopt great for a city centre restaurant, the atmosphere is fantasic, and the food always good, and never overpriced. I hope to enkoy Grinch for the next 10 years - well done Grinch - keep up the good work!!!

SpellcheckAugust 14th 2008.

I will never know what Grinch is like as i got to the bit where u couldn't spell Jim Carrey and realised it probably wasn't worth bothering.

Simon TurnerAugust 14th 2008.

SUB EDITOR; It's "Exxon Valdez" by the way, next time one of your reviewers experiences an oil spill on a plate in a Manchester restaurant.

Sarah AspinAugust 14th 2008.

I've been going to Grinch for a few years now and always had a good tasty meal. The pizzas along with the happy hour have always been a favourite and I have never found a place in Manchester that do a Long Island Ice Tea better, although I have searched!

Red KevAugust 14th 2008.

R.O.B. stands for Robert Owen Brown at the Angel . Stopped going into the Grinch years ago . Poor portion control , indifferent service and many more places that would work harder for your money . Whats the rumour about Steve at Sams Chop House selling up ?

Keven ParkerAugust 14th 2008.

From everyone in 3i - we have been going to Grinch for over 10 years - great friendly service, consistently tasty/interesting food combined with an eclectic mix of diners makes this our favourite restaurant in Manchester. Cat dont bother us with your food or "procreation" stories again.

Grinch FanAugust 14th 2008.

I have been going to Grinch for years and have always found the place to be great! Love the cocktails and the southern fried chicken is a must! Always great for a cheeky vino after work too - love it!

bensmith0879@yahoo.co.ukAugust 14th 2008.

I'm really surprised to read your review about Grinch. I work over the road so pop in on a regular basis - for lunch and afterwork drinks. It's quirky interior, menu and atmosphere is what makes the space. The food is always tasty and I've never had a bad meal there. It's a shame your writer doesn't agree cos I'd recommend it to anyone!

MichaelAugust 14th 2008.

James - Give it a go! I think that's more down to not great photography. Hope you like it though.

lollypopAugust 14th 2008.

waiting staff a always lovely but the actually art of waiting on is lost. slow and haphazard. drinks always take an age - food so so. it does have the award for being the creator of the worst meal i have ever had in the shape of cold congealed pasta. truly foul. lovely bar though!

AnonymousAugust 14th 2008.

Grinch forgot what it was a few years ago - it used to be a really good bar where you could get food if you or just drink with friends - one of the true continental style places, it also attracted a good pre theatre crowd when the nearby Royal Exchange got idead above its station and decided to get rid of its extremely busy cafe bar. Then Grinch began to think it was a restaurant which it never was or should be and I stopped being a regular - shame!

Suz CarneyAugust 14th 2008.

Are we talking about the same place? Grinch is great! Good value food, great service, yummy cocktails! You get what you pay for!!

JamesAugust 14th 2008.

Just look at the picture of the cous cous dish. That looks exactly as the write up reads. I'm intrigued. Will visit and judge for myself.

MeAugust 14th 2008.

FYI - Isreali couscous, is what is called in Israel "P'titim" and is actually not couscous at all, but a pasta (a bit like the Italian Orzo etc).Maybe Grinch should invest in some real couscous if they are going to put it on their menu...

ancoats girlAugust 14th 2008.

I used to really enjoy their pizzas, the southern fried chicken and the great cheap happy hour cocktails that got you merry quite quickly too! But the quality seems to have fallen over the years - last time I had a pizza the crust was doughy and bland - almost like one of those pre-made supermarket ones you can buy in the pasta section. A shame!

Philip KeeganAugust 14th 2008.

The key to Grinch is the atmosphere and the service. You can't fault the one and the other's usually charming. But if this is a food review then I have to agree with it. The way the stuff looks from the kitchen can be dreadful. Flavours normally ok, but the presentation is yuk. It'd be nice to see the chef and the managers take note of the thoughts here and improve that. Then with the atmosphere they've created they can look forward to another two decades or whatever they have been in existence.

Gavin HooperAugust 14th 2008.

Who's R.O.B, what does Anonymous mean? And is this review ripping the **** out of somewhere? Seems quite constructive and sympathetic too me. I wish places would take their food more seriously. And these are reviews which means they aren't the truth but opinion, believe them or don't. Best discovery I've had from here recently was the Marble Arch and also it was good to see Cafe Istanbul praised the other day.

scoteeeAugust 14th 2008.

oh you just reminded me actually, i was in Bachanalia for a drink after work last week and the waiter was as embaressed as i was disgusted after he gave me the bill £6.20 for a standard glass of white house wine??!!!Has anyone paid more than that for a glass of house wine around there? bit bloody cheeky I thought, it wasn't exactly great stuff either...

Deli llama.August 14th 2008.

Deepand meaningless info on Israeli Cous Cous. The product is called this by the company who produce it. The words cous cous appear in quotation marks on the packet ,as if to say well it looks like cous cous but we know it's pasta really. What' s more interesting ask any Iranian man what is cous cous.

AvoAugust 14th 2008.

I used to go there quite a lot but not dropped by recently. The Grinch classics are quite good, Special Fried Chicken, Chicken Caesar Salad with Dough Balls and the pizzas were nice. Felicini on Oxford Road which is part of the same group is quite nice though. The mixed antipasto platter is amazing especially when eaten on the terrace with a cold beer.

EditorialAugust 14th 2008.

Thanks for that. We've changed it now.

MichaelAugust 14th 2008.

Think Cat must have been unlucky...we've been going for years and love it!

AnonymousAugust 14th 2008.

Well, if you know it's not Couscous then Deli llama, why call it that on the menu?Maybe Grinch also serve something else instead of Chicken but call it Chicken? D'ya get the drift?

giddyAugust 14th 2008.

I'm sorry it really is a case that Grinch has stopped trying. Fans of Grinch really should be exploring other eateries as it has past its best let's face it.....

ktfairyAugust 14th 2008.

Ah so glad to see it's not just me who thinks the place needs a good kick up the ****. Someone from the office goes here all the time and every time I wonder why on earth he does it. I've been twice - once a few years ago and it didn't impress, once a few months ago and it seemed to have got worse. They don't deserve my company a third time.

EloiseAugust 14th 2008.

not been back since as a large party, we'd split the bill between the tables to make life easier at the end of the night. One table had had a couple of rounds of the expensive cocktails and at the end of the night they knocked £10 off the rather hefty service charge. Understandable as the service was poor anyway and their charge had been pushed up because of the price of their drinks, not more service. This resulted in my table (as the others had already left) being surrounded by the serving staff insisting someone pay this tenner, regardless of the service etc. I paid, simply didnt want the whole night ruined over it. Its cost them a lot more since as we now go elswhere for birthdays etc. Its not like its that great in the first place is it.

AnonymousAugust 14th 2008.

what a surprise!!! manc confidential ripping the **** out of somewhere. who would have thought? suppose if R.O.B. had worked there 4 1/2 an hour it would get 16 stars or whatever. utter drivel

Michael (Again)August 14th 2008.

Forgot to say..... Someone needs to tell Tesco about the Isreali couscous - Thats how they describe it as well - and they charge more for it then "normal" couscous

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