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REVIEW | Grill On The Alley

Ruth Allan looks at an established restaurant in a city that's changing

Written by . Published on March 12th 2015.

REVIEW | Grill On The Alley

GRILL on the Alley (GOTA) is one of Manchester’s original steak houses. It’s the one that got me thinking steak and fine wine is what a fancy meal out is all about – and the place is always rammed. I’ve recommended it without reservation about a hundred times, but a lot’s changed since Tim Bacon opened the doors of his first Blackhouse Grill in 2006.

My dry-aged fillet (£35 with green beans extra) has that high quality, dry-seared, upmarket finish. The kind of meat that makes you go ‘wow’. 

Manchester’s has about 1000 more restaurants for a start – and the latest challenge is potentially the greatest, in the shape of rival bar and grill, Hawksmoor, which opened last week and will be reviewed by Jonathan Schofield next week.

Rhubarb foie gras

Rhubarb foie gras

Whatever else happened during the course of our meal, the steak remains very good. My dry-aged fillet (£35 with green beans extra) has that high quality, dry-seared, upmarket finish. The kind of meat that makes you go ‘wow’. Solo cuts include rib eye, sirloin, rump and Waygu, and there’s Chateaubriand (£52) or Porterhouse (£75) to share if you’re feeling flush.

Having visited the opposition a few days earlier, I’ve got to say Hawksmoor doesn't have things all its own way in the Manchester meat market. The Grill isn’t out of the game yet. 

While sourcing is a foodie buzzword, it’s been part of their GOTA offering since day one. In fact all eight Grills, located in and around the North West, Glasgow and London, have a named supplier and breed of the month. March is Galloway beef from Curwen Hill Farm in Lancaster, which sets you back about £10 more per portion than the regular menu steak. But whichever you go for, the meat is British and ‘dry-aged’ for a minimum of 28 days - just like Hawksmoor’s. 

The bloody duck

The bloody duck

Other dishes on this visit failed to live up to the meat. Asian-style duck (£16), for example, is served so rare that we dared each other to take the first bite. Good flavour. Terrifying on the colour front. The ginger scented rhubarb mush on the side is too jammy, the Madeira ‘jus’ overly sweet. Even the pak choi looks tired. 

Jumbo buttered asparagus (£7.50) is well presented and cooked (if not very seasonal) but foie gras with rhubarb and ginger bread (£8.50) is poor. I get the feeling that head chef, Craig Kirk, is going for a spiced toast with pate vibe here, but the texture is out there. The reason melba toast is a traditional partner for pate, is because the crisp finish offers contrast; Kirk wins points for imagination and presentation, but needs to look again at the soggy result. 



To finish, the Black Forest trifle (£6) is mostly thick, whipped cream in a glass, interspersed with the odd cherry and hunk of sponge. Way too much unadulterated cream for my liking. I went for a ‘liquid dessert’ Jaffa Cake cocktail (£4) instead AKA a Terry’s Chocolate Orange made from Santa Teresa Rhum Orange liqueur plus Mozart chocolate liqueur and whipping cream in a glass.


Black Forest Trifle

A bottle of Californian Delicato Zinfandel (£27) was a smash too. I’d go for the Charles Smith Shiraz (£42.50) next time – or, returning to Europe, the full-bodied Catalan Priorat red (Acustic Cellars, £38). 

The oysters are a favourite of the Confidential office, (six for £12.50) and thanks to suppliers like Fleetwood’s Neve, the fish is a good reason to go to GOTA. Perhaps we should have taken this advice. I do love the Grill but it needs to really pay attention at present although, as we all know, there’s nothing like a bit of competition to raise the stakes. 


You can follow @ruthallan on twitter.

Grill on the Alley, 5 Ridgefield, M2 6 EG. 0161 833 3465, 

Rating 13.5/20
Food: 6.5/10 (foie gras 4, asparagus 7, fillet 9, duck 4, trifle 6, dessert drink 8)
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, 18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20, we get carried away

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

JimMarch 12th 2015.

I still think it's a decent restaurant. It always surprises me that despite having an identical menu, and I assume supplier, that their sister restaurant grill on New York street is so much inferior!

The CooktwitMarch 12th 2015.

Pretty similar thoughts to me. Though I loved the trifle!! wp.me/p42COc-g5…

AVOMarch 12th 2015.

Are you sure the price of the steak didn't include a potato side? When I've been, I've always been offered chips, mash or baked included in the price. Something that Hawksmoor doesn't do. Even Gaucho include a side now. You're right about the trifle though, tastes overly sweet and synthetic.

Ruth AllanMarch 13th 2015.

Correct Avo - that's been updated.

NazcaMarch 13th 2015.

"raise the stakes" - subtle

SquirrelitoMarch 13th 2015.

Ruth Allan's getting around these days.

Tim WaddyMarch 13th 2015.

Nice review. I really enjoyed it when I went at Xmas. I went looking forward to having a steak but ended up having the Tuna which was amazing. Will try Hawksmoor first before I go back here.

AnonymousMarch 13th 2015.

Wow, I think if I paid for the above meal, I'd leave feeling hungry, ripped off and annoyed. Another style-over-substance mcr restaurant experience.

AnonymousMarch 13th 2015.

Further to my previous comment.... I'm actually sick of restaurants taking the piss with their pricing (for the quality and quantity of food provided). Fair enough some of them have got hefty rents to pay but if customers don't start kicking back against their practices, Manchester will just be regarded as a place to turn an easy profit rather than somewhere that demands an experience that matches some of the eye watering prices demanded. How about incorporating a value for money rating in your scoring Man Con? Thoughts?

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousMarch 13th 2015.

Interesting point. I think when you have a quickly growing population and a changing city it is hard for people to work out where is actually good value. Obviously over the long term the good places will stay because people will keep returning, and the crap ones will go.

AnonymousMarch 15th 2015.

I go to GOT Alley and GONY Street quite a bit. The Best of British steak (which changes each month) is exceptionally good. Steak of that quality in any restaurant is not cheap (30 plus quid) but if you book on line and go in the week you can normally get 20% off the food at GOTA and a huge 40% off at GONY Street. That's not a bad discount - and I agree that price should relevant to a review. Not tried Hawksmoor yet but intend to.

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