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More than a number

Vanessa Lees writes the most romantic food review ever

Published on May 17th 2007.

More than a number

There’s a couple who are famous in these parts for dining at the Midland Hotel every night for the past 30 years – I suppose people have secured celebrity status for more pointless reasons.

And although they have been mocked with comments such as “how predictable”, “they must have shares in the place”: I for one am beginning to warm to the ol’folks’ Groundhog Day approach.

Bistro 156 is so much more than a number. It documents the story of my lovelife.

Locating a good restaurant is like finding the perfect bloke. You have to kiss a lot of frogs before you meet your handsome prince and once you’ve pinned him to the floor, branded him yours, and got your feet firmly wedged under his table, you’ll be damned if you’re going to go through the rigmarole of shopping elsewhere.

Bistro 156 is pretty self explanatory. It’s a bistro at 156 Burton Road, West Didsbury. But it’s so much more than a number. It documents the story of my lovelife. It’s where I’ve had a lover’s tiff, a sneaky kiss, my final supper as a single girl and Christmas dinner, which has absolutely no relevance to my love life but serves to illustrate the point that it’s a restaurant for all occasions.

The menu is as varied as it’s creative, with an interesting mix of wholesome and hearty goodness and Eastern influenced dishes.

Bistro 156 do feature an alternative menu Mon-Wed. Although, being available till 10pm and costing £15.75, it’s more ‘Meal Deal’ than ‘Early Bird.’

However, this particular evening my husband and I chose from the main menu and gulped it down with a bottle of Arpeggio Bianco de Sicillia 2005 £11.95, a very grown up sort of wine.

King prawn crostini (peeled prawn tails pan fried in garlic, ginger and chilli on toasted ciabatta and baby leaf salad, £5.50) is not a first date dish. Your potential beau is likely to pass out from your fiery garlic breath before you’ve even seductively whispered, “pass the salt” but it sure is a cheeky dish. Prawns that look like they’ve been pumping iron in the gym are given that extra zing factor by the sharpness of ginger and chilli. Lush.

The Devilled crab cake with sour cream, herb dressing and baby leaf salad (£4.75) has that Oriental edge to it. There’s no faffing around with dinky portions here. It’s a man sized crab cake - rich flavoursome with a powerful kick of something spicy. The only let down was that the batter could have been slightly crispier to contrast with the smoothness of the devilled crab.

Duck is always a winner at 156. True to form the honey roast duck breast with cabbage, bacon, new potatoes and greens (£13.95) sliced through with as much ease as soft cheese. One of the things I love about 156 is the respect it has for vegetables. It gives them as much plate time as the meat, always devising new forms of presentation. The creamy cabbage and bacon, pepped up with whole grain mustard could be a dish in its own right.

Even I was amazed by this point that I could stuff any more into an already overcrowded belly but bring it on as they say. And 156 did in the form of raspberry shortcake biscuits stacked with vanilla cream and fresh raspberries. One word – sublime. When asked by my husband whether it was cream or ice cream, I, in a state of raspberry heaven replied: “Mmmm, it’s sooo creamy but frozen like ice.” Hmmm ice cream, perhaps? The words “Remind me why I married you” took shape in his mind.

Even I am not so blinded by love to recognise Bistro 156 is not without its flaws – on a busy night you can be waiting quite some time between courses which is the problem of having a small kitchen. The portions are overly generous too. How’s this a negative? You may ask, but it is hard finding clothes with an elasticated waist band.

There is something totally charming about this bistro. Is it the intimacy, chatty waiting on staff, comfort food or the fact I’m a hopeless romantic that leads my nose through their door time after time? I couldn’t tell you but I’ll let you know if I find out.

Manchester Confidential pays for its own reviews.

Rating: 17/20
Break down: 9/10 Food
4/5 Service
4/5 Ambience
Address:Bistro 156,
156 Burton Road,
West Didsbury
0161 445 1921

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

Gordo Does Know Who You Are...May 17th 2007.

Stephen, my apolgies for the O'l folk comment! I was away eating in Galicia. You can't get the staff these days eh, Vanessa? -)

Miss AMay 17th 2007.

I've had the misfortune to eat at Bistro West a couple of times and found the food to average at best and extremely unpleasant at worst. Their steak is like rubber, and you get the distinct impression that whoever is in the kitchen is definitely not a trained chef.In my opinion, Bistro West is overpriced and pretty dire.Perhaps your writer was blinded by love when she went!

"Gordo knows who"May 17th 2007.

Not every night @ The Midland only 3 times a week for 16 years

FionaMay 17th 2007.

I agree - my experiences of 156 are cracking. Especially the mid week set menu deals that they do. Again I firmly agree that the service can be mighty slow, but it is a place to stay in for the whole evening and not for a quick bite. The weekend breakfast menu is fab too.. it makes a nice change from the Deli on Burton Road for a weekend late breakfast with the papers....

emma graceMay 17th 2007.

Oh this is where I was on Saturday night! Gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous...go and have the seabass. Yum!!!

AlexMay 17th 2007.

Great Review - there is something special about this place. The food is always of a consistently high standard and the menu varied. Coupled with some great artwork on the walls and friendly service and this place is a gem. Less formal than Rhubarb or the Lime Tree it is the perfect neighbourhood restaurant in West Didsbury. Agree that the service can be slow (this is a lingering place rather than a quick eat)but other than that it is highly recommened. Go!

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