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Isinglass, Urmston, review

Jonathan Schofield goes to Urmston, loves a duck and ponders suburban dining

Written by . Published on November 29th 2010.

Isinglass, Urmston, review

Taking a good picture of sticky toffee pudding is like taking a good picture of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s face. Not easy. It’s like walking on water or avoiding people tweeting about X Factor on Saturday nights. Difficult.

Not that this is a necessarily a problem when restaurants are as excellent as Isinglass and look the part too, with the handsome folksy fit-out. The place is once, twice, thrice recommended. It’s just I pine sometimes for a Paul Kitching at Juniper in Altrincham. Or maybe a Fraiche on Wirral.

The same problems crop up when taking pictures of beef stew or baltis or anything that is mostly brown. Including Gordon Brown. The results are always grim.

This struck me in Isinglass as I took the 475th picture of a sticky toffee pudding from the 233rd angle. The white ice cream and the white bowl didn't help, turning nuclear under the flash and making the brown black of the pudding look like a portal to hell. Still I was about to make the 476th attempt when I noticed that the elderly woman three tables away was getting sunstroke from the camera flash.

The photo session was just about the only problem during a hassle free visit to Urmston’s most individual dining experience (and Flixton, Davyhulme and Stretford’s best hope as well).

Foodwise everything was in order. Let me praise the delicacy and sureness of touch of the smoked salmon with chive cream cheese on crostini. Let’s extol the hearty joy of a fine 28 day aged rump steak with its stunningly good chips and an excellently rich pancetta sauce. Let’s eulogise the spiced lentil pudding and its glorious red wine reduction created with care and love, a treat for vegetarians - a dish showing someone in the kitchen is as sick of mushroom risotto and the goats cheese 'get out clause' as everybody else.

But the outstanding dish was the breast of duck with morello cherry sauce, truffle mash and buttered kale. This was thumpingly good. Solid and sturdy, full of texture, sweet kissing sour combinations and lovely duck flesh that would only have been a fraction better for being a tad more rare. The kale was like a curtain in front of a stage, drawn back, the true show lay behind. This is one of my top ten dishes of 2010.

The bread and butter pudding was useful too, although having to remind the staff to bring the custard was a slight irritant. The aforementioned sticky toffee pudding was best in its butterscotch sauce and ice cream but suffered after a promisingly light exterior by getting all angry and tough deeper in. That might have been its resentment about being called ugly 475 times while some fool tried to takes its pic.

Duck gets pleasantly attacked by cale

The whole menu was as locally sourced, free-range and organically produced as it possibly could be. I’d like to think this made a difference to the flavour, it certainly read well on the menu.

In short the food at Isinglass is very good indeed. The occasion was good too and so was the price. We’d arrived early on a Saturday and thus got the early bird menu of two courses for £15.95 and three for £19.95. Bargain.

But it made me wonder whether the honesty in the cooking here is the height of our ambition in suburban Britain.

So instead of taking cuisine in suburbs and small towns (something that can happen in parts of France and Italy) to a fine dining level we stop at this very worthy juncture. Maybe that reflects the national character – certainly in the middling parts of the country such as Urmston – in not wanting to make a fuss.

Not that this is a necessarily a problem when restaurants are as excellent as Isinglass and look the part too, with the handsome folksy fit-out. The place is once, twice, thrice recommended. It’s just I pine sometimes for a Paul Kitching at Juniper in Altrincham. Remember him? He was the star Geordie who produced jaw-dropping grub until enticed to Edinburgh a couple of years ago.

Or maybe I yearn for a Fraiche on Wirral - if what I’m told holds true. The point is that the kitchen at Isinglass seems capable of lifting things further. Maybe they know the market and it simply isn’t there. Maybe they like it as it is.

In the refreshing winter chill outside I paused and took a picture of the exterior of Isinglass. Afterwards I glanced up and down the road to see if I should grab some library shots for Confidential. It was a dark, early evening in Urmston and it struck me that the suburb is like sticky toffee pudding, beef stew, balti or Andrew Lloyd Webber’s face: another entity hard to capture well on camera.

Sticky toffee pudding is impossible to photograph well

Breakdown:8.5/10 food
3.5/5 service
3/5 ambience
46 Flixton Road
Urmston, Manchester
M41 5AB
0161 749 8400

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: Gordo gets carried away

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

DrofarbNovember 29th 2010.

Good points well made. But I actually prefer Isinglass as it is with really good robust food and would use it less if it went like Juniper.

Eddy RheadNovember 29th 2010.

Can i suggest you turn the flash off? The flash on compact cameras (which im presuming you are using) is rarely flattering to anything - be it people or beef stew. Or can i perhaps suggest you pay a professional photographer to go back and photograph the food properly? I know a very good one. ;)

NortherngeezerNovember 29th 2010.

Maybe its time for Mancon to give up with the piccys, EVERYTHING thats photographed looks like.................well lets not go there eh.
Regarding the food, i couldnt agree more Ed, this place has been a bit of a secret for a while now, i expect we'll struggle to get a weekend reservation now this side of the next Preston guild.

JerimiahNovember 29th 2010.

Isinglass is very good. I've had that duck dish too and I couldn't agree more. Heartily recommended by me at least.

foodographicNovember 29th 2010.

So order something else for dessert.

Will MannNovember 30th 2010.

You intro the piece with a light-hearted reference to a pudding and then your readers actually start to give you advice. Funny. Silly sots. Pictures are fine by me. The food is great at Isinglass and while I agree that it would be good to have something like Fraiche I still think the type of food Isinglass delivers is perfect for Urmston.

EARL OF DIDSBURYNovember 30th 2010.

Ate there a month ago for lunch , excellent pork belly on mustard mash with a calvados apple and deep fried kale then sticky toffee pudding , the chef told me there was going to be a lot of game coming on in the next few months , top place.

ghostbusterNovember 30th 2010.

This is a great place - their portions are massive - good for the blokes and there is a resident ghost. What more could you ask for? A pea and bacon foam perhaps? It wouldn't last if it went all fine dining.

Foamy mouthNovember 30th 2010.

Ah pea and bacon foam. Foam. Yummy. Actually it's a good point that we could do with a few jaw-dropping Manchester food experiences. And if foam needs be part of that then...............

TimsterNovember 30th 2010.

This place is FANTASTIC but often empty, I can never figure out why.

It's recently(ish) under new management, but I believe with the same chef.

The best restaurant I've eaten in in Manchester for well presented, well cooked food. I hope they go from strength to strength.

John TorodeNovember 30th 2010.

It looks shit, they've got sauce on the rim of the bowl. Twice!

They'd never get away with that on Masterchef.

MaggsNovember 30th 2010.

Not been there for a few years since I moved from Flixton to more northern climes in Alkrington but thought it pretty good then although strangely out of place in Urmston which doesn't really do 'fine dining' - there always seemed to be a lot of empty seats which is a shame - maybe time to pop back for a re visit!

M30December 1st 2010.

I can't believe this place doesn't have a website! I was thinking about having a gander to see what they had on the menu etc. It must be a secret!

Christopher BryanDecember 1st 2010.

Isinglass used to be my favourite restaurant but then went just after the new management took over and had one of the most worst meals ever. Based on this review I think I'll give it one more chance.

M30 - the place did have a website but I believe the purchase of the business from the previous management wasn't too friendly and my of resulted in no website.

Anni - a current fine dining Urmstonian!December 5th 2010.

We are Flixton residents and happily regularly enjoy dining at Isinglass, a real Gem and valued massively by many friends both living locally and further afield. Definitely not to be missed!

MAGGS : How sad your need for 'dissing' comment 'out of place for Urmston which doesn't really do fine dining'! Quite evidently Urmston and local area DOES indeed do fine dining evidenced by Isinglass continuing to thrive, mainly from LOCAL custom, alongside several other excellent local restaurants. Such unfounded negative comments like yours don't help their cause.. so why make them?! Empty seats at times, like ALL eateries currently, is simply due to an ongoing recession!! Your 're-visit' would be far more supportive to Isinglass... Here's to fine dining everywhere :-)

HGDecember 10th 2010.

Had a lovely mid-week meal here recently. Service was really friendly, food tasty and very well presented, and the set menu was a bargain. Real pity that there aren't more people coming here, the place was nearly empty.

I really wanted to see a copy menu before I went but had the same trouble with the website as above. Can confirm there's a really nice mix of food choices with a good number of veggie options.

Rachel IrelandDecember 16th 2010.

call 7498400 for latest menu and early diner

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