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Ha Ha

Vanessa Lees discovers life is all ha ha hee hee in Spinningfields

Published on August 23rd 2007.

Ha Ha

Only in the world of Walt Disney did individuals (namely dwarves) whistle whilst they worked.

That was until the aptly named Ha Ha, Spinningfield’s latest eatery opened last week. There’s no ‘Grumpy’, ‘Bashful’, ‘Dopey’ and God forbid ‘Sneezy’ staff at Ha Ha though, just ‘happy’ ones.

I’m a huge fan of this level of interaction which is preferable to the grim reaper variety of waiter often found in some of the city’s more pretentious restaurants.

But that’s the kind of workforce you create when you rub sticks together deep in the forest. Apparently general manager Gary Shanks insisted on an al fresco team building exercises to cement the staff’s productivity. It worked. And the restaurant operates like a cohesive ant colony.

The menu is an honest as it is hearty with cheery dishes such as posh fish finger sandwich and baked cod loin with cider butter.

For starters I chose the char-grilled sardines with chorizo and watercress which perched like two silver butterflies on toasted ciabatta (£6.50). Sardines aren’t everyone’s dish of the day, but these were a light and flavoursome starter, especially accompanied by the sharp smokiness of the shreds of chorizo, although perhaps slightly larger chunks of the cured meat would have worked better. My salivation was becoming undignified in my attempt to keep the tiny fragments on the fork.

Juris introduced himself from the outset as our server for the evening and proved to be a very useful information index, advising on wine and choice of desert. I’m a huge fan of this level of interaction which is preferable to the grim reaper variety of waiter often found in some of the city’s more pretentious restaurants.

There was some sort of break down of communication over the absence of cutlery after the first course, followed by profuse apologies, apologies accepted, decorum resumed and then more smiles. If only domestics could be resolved like this.

On ordering the mains I asked for the rack of lamb (£11.95) to be cooked “medium rare although more rare then medium, if that makes any sense at all.” It obviously did as the Welsh lamb arrived almost blue but not quite bleating. Juris seemed quietly pleased at his own ability to take instruction.

It was a succulent piece of meat with the knife sliding through as swiftly as a Samurai sword. Along with crisp seasonal vegetables, the dish was served with a blackberry and rosemary sauce and potato dauphinoise in quaint individual cups which added a flash of femininity to the robust rack of lamb.

In true testosterone form, my husband ordered a 16oz T-Bone (£18.95). Slow-roasted plum tomatoes, watercress and skinny chips accompanied the beast. Again for such a powerful piece of meat it was magnificently tender. Few words or food was exchanged for the duration of the mains.

During the 15 minute silence (out of respect for the meat) it was an opportune moment to reflect on Ha Ha’s fabulously L-shaped space. Towering ceilings and acute, minimalist décor really complement the contemporary new build developments which are shaping Spinningfields. It’s only a shame that the weather was so frightful or we could have enjoyed a little drinky on the terrace overlooking the Irwell.

A special mention goes to the baked lemon cheesecake (£3.75) which should be the perfect life partner to any hearty red meat dish. Firm yet fluffy, the zestiness of the lemon really cleans the palette. It’s served with a mixed berry compote, which on its own paralyses your tastebuds but combined with the sweetness of the cheesecake is simply scrumptious.

This is a great establishment for both couples and large parties, mainly due to the efficiency and accommodation of the staff. And although Ha Ha may be a new restaurant in Manchester, you can recognise that it’s an already established brand with restaurants nationwide.

Ha Ha’s may be full of glee but they take both their food and team spirit very seriously. It shows.

Rating: 14.5/20
Breakdown: 7/10 Food
3.5/5 Service
4/5 Ambience
Address: Ha Ha Bar and Grill
Unit 5, Block A
Left Bank
Irwell Square
Mon-Fri 7.30-midnight,
Sat 10am-midnight,
Sun closed

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Chichi OkpalugoAugust 23rd 2007.

Have been to Ha Ha's twice now and have enjoyed both visits. The food is good and the staff are super friendly!

JohnAugust 23rd 2007.

Awful cocktails when we went. But it might just have been teething troubles... It's a nice enough venue, so I'll probably give them the benefit of the doubt this time.

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