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Restaurant Bar and Grill, city centre

Jonathan Schofield has a bad time of it at a famous Manchester eaterie

Written by . Published on October 20th 2008.


Restaurant Bar and Grill, city centre

This was the conversation over the cheeseboard at Restaurant Bar and Grill (RBG) on Friday.

“So can you tell me what these cheeses are?”

“They’re different types,” said the waiter.

I gave him a look.

“But what might they be called?” I said. “This goats cheese for instance is......?”

“Yes that’s a goats cheese, this one’s..sorry can’t remember, and this is...” said the waiter.

“A mature Lancashire perhaps, but from where?” I offered.

“I’ll find out,” he said. That was the right answer.

Back comes the waiter with a manager.

“One is a goat’s cheese, an award-winning one,” said the manager. “The blue is excellent,” he continued thinking I’ll fall for abstract descriptions rather than specifics. “And this is a crumbly Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire,” he finished off confidently.

Oh no it wasn’t. It was anything but crumbly. Writing the meal up I looked back over the pictures I’d taken and found the names of the cheeses were on the dessert menu. There was creamy Lancashire (maybe I’d missed that in the manager’s accent and thought he’d said crumbly), which was indeed from Mrs Kirkham’s. The goats cheese was a drab Golden Cross from Sussex. The best was the Cashel Blue (spelt Cachel Blue on the menu – eh?), creamy and rich.

Few points here: having two creamy cheeses, albeit of a different nature, on the same board, given the variety in the north west, never mind the UK and Ireland, was poor; just three types of cheese is a bit mean; there was no excuse for two people serving in RBG to not have known the names of products written on the menu.

All of which will mortify RBG. Especially that lapse in service.

This is a group which always errs on the side of taking itself too seriously. When they arrived in Manchester, as a concept to be spread over the land, you felt that they felt that they were the sassy professionals on the market. That they knew they were going to be the stars of business lunches, ladies who lunch and atmospheric dinners.

And they were right. Some places like to have a Vespa parked outside, saying we’re scooter-driving urbanites, here’s my New Statesman mag, here’s my Converse trainers.

The RBG always seemed to have a Jag parked outside, and a metaphysical Jag garaged inside the head. You could imagine all the ladies with those branded leather bags retreating to suburban houses surrounded by high hedges.

The bar was, and remains, the biggest hit, not least because it appeals to a broad audience of the middle classes. Too many places are all about people under thirty. The bar at RBG encourages any age with a little cash to spare to come and enjoy themselves (although that music was getting a little loud on Friday). It looks smart, treats the guests right and is a winner. All cities need smooth operators like this to grease the wheels.

But the restaurant on the first floor, I’ve never been sure about. Bars and restaurants combined always have one element that feels overwhelmed. With RBG in Manchester the restaurant is the loser, as it is at the Living Room.

The dining room is an odd one. All that daylight over the front at John Dalton Street, all that windowless shade at the back. Make sure you get a window seat though and it’s entertainment all the way. The top deck of passing double-deckers are at eye-level (we exchanged a wave with some kids) and Manchester life passes below like a scene from a movie.

The food was less fun.

Starters of smoked haddock hash brown with a lightly poached free range egg and chive butter sauce (£6.70) and fresh (thanks for that RBG) asparagus with a lightly poached free range egg and hollandaise sauce (£6.40) were probably the best things: efficient and as per the description. The haddock was deemed lack-lustre though, lacking edge, shorn of real flavour. It was overdone, crispy, lacking moisture.

Overdone was the theme of the visit. Why pray is it so hard to cook a medium rare steak? Our chargrilled 12oz, 21 day aged, Aberdeen Angus beef rib at the princely sum of £23.50 was frazzled, scorched and abused. Right through.

“We asked for medium rare,” I said to the waiter.

“It will be inside,” he said.

Inside it was as well cooked as one of those victims caught fleeing Pompeii when Vesuvius erupted. It was grey with over-cooking. Bless him, the waiter offered to take it back, but we couldn’t wait that long. It also shouldn't have been necessary to prove it to him by turning the plate and revealing the evidence.

This was all a shame as the actual cut of meat was a beauty and had clearly been treated with care up to the moment of cooking.

The puff-pastry lattice chicken pot pie with leeks, mushrooms and a creamy sauce with tarragon (£14.50) was all right though. Good autumn fare, sizeable portion, a robust dish. Unlike much else the pastry was a treat, on the button in terms of taste and texture.

The cheeseboard enough said. The classic vanilla creme brulée with lemon shortbread (£5.75) in contrast was totally competent. The Moscato dessert wine from Piedmont at £4.15 a glass was a gem. The bottle of white Rioja, the Vina Albina at £18.75 the bottle had been a delight.

Maybe this had been a one-off slip-shod occasion. Yet there was a feeling of complacency, almost of smugness about the restaurant, in contrast to a very good visit I’d had at the RBG branch in Leeds a little while ago (click here).

I seem to be having bad luck in the reviewing stakes at the moment. Or even the reviewing steaks. Two venues, a matter of metres apart, Harpers and RBG have failed.

Next I’m going to do Grill on the Alley up from Harpers and on the way to RBG. I had a nigh perfect grill lunch there as an invitee not so long ago. I’m going to sneak back in soon and pay my way for the review visit. I’m looking forward to service that is efficient as well as amiable and food that is all round competent.

All Manchester Confidential reviews are paid for by the company and are impartial. They reflect the dining experience on the review visit. 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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55 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

paulOctober 20th 2008.

Ally, I'm afraid I agree with Common Sense - it really is nonsense to suggest that people might be offended. I very much doubt anyone else here has been offended and if you truly find it offensive I think you need to rejoin the real world... quick!

Ellen PilkingtonOctober 20th 2008.

A while ago I went to RBG for a business lunch and I was served a dish with GLASS in it. I kid you not. The bulb on the hot lamp shattered as my dish was sitting underneath it resulting in glass in my food. Rather than throwing dish away staff “brushed” glass off and served to me. If this has been America not Manchester I’d be a few thousand dollars richer now having sued them extensively......

johnthebriefOctober 20th 2008.

I think you're stalking me, Gordo ;-)

SteveOctober 20th 2008.

Anonymous(yes,you probably are), So what you are saying is that you'll eat any old ****e just to be sociable...that speaks volumes about you doesn't it?

Confidential cops out!!!!!October 20th 2008.

Then perhaps Jonathan Schofield would like to eat better at someones home? Perhaps the readers should have a competition called "cook for us"to design a menu and have you eat the meal at the chosen winners home??? eh eh ???? OH NO you guys already did that and it conveniently dissappeard along with a further mention of results before the late great manc food festival .......you bunch of cop outs !!! hahaha

SteveOctober 20th 2008.

you may well give thanks ABG employee.....your job depends on it!!!! So...what delights are on the new menu eh...tempt me!?

confidentail cops outOctober 20th 2008.

ooops careful what you say here then ??? I just had that last comment removed !!!

JonathanOctober 20th 2008.

Sorry Cops Out...we never would remove your words - within reason that is. Thing was, the sub doesn't work Mondays so I'd taken the story offline and correcting something. Thus when I put the story live I'd had cut your lovely words.

mark mOctober 20th 2008.

I will never eat there again. Got such bad food and service last time I was there. Downstairs the cocktails are still always good though.

Common SenseOctober 20th 2008.

Ally - how is a reference to Pompeii insensitive? except in a farcical PC-gone-mad world?? Given the vesuvius eruption occurred nigh-on 2000 years ago – I hardly think there are many people that have cause for personal offence

Clive TyldesleyOctober 20th 2008.

The steaks are high, we need to chew the fat...Corner!

Ellen PilkingtonOctober 20th 2008.

A while ago I went to RBG for a business lunch and I was served a dish with GLASS in it. I kid you not. The bulb on the hot lamp shattered as my dish was sitting underneath it resulting in glass in my food. Rather than throwing dish away staff “brushed” glass off and served to me. If this has been America not Manchester I’d be a few thousand dollars richer now having sued them extensively......

BabyOctober 20th 2008.

Still waiting for ABG Empolyee to inform me of the menu changes...............

Common SenseOctober 20th 2008.

Good god man (or should that be ‘non-negative gesture, religion free deity gender non-specific human being’) – if you are going to be offended by that, don’t open your front door or the world will offend you. You are political correctness gone mad (although you will likely find the term ‘mad’ insensitive too).

Ellen PilkingtonOctober 20th 2008.

A while ago I went to RBG for a business lunch and I was served a dish with GLASS in it. I kid you not. The bulb on the hot lamp shattered as my dish was sitting underneath it resulting in glass in my food. Rather than throwing dish away staff “brushed” glass off and served to me. If this has been America not Manchester I’d be a few thousand dollars richer now having sued them extensively......

AllyOctober 20th 2008.

Jonathan, your overworked metaphoric is insensitive..."Inside it was as well cooked as one of those victims caught fleeing Pompeii when Vesuvius erupted". You are travelling in one dialectical direction on this one...to amuse yourself.

Jonathan Schofield - editorOctober 20th 2008.

Note to self: have word with the publisher. Note to publisher....dear Gordo, grey is not medium rare.

GordoOctober 20th 2008.

No it bloomin' wasn't, his camera is crap compared to mine. He was pissed as well, I saw him downstairs when I took Roger Ward out for a pint at four... That steak looks suspiciously medium rare to me anyway ;-)

BowksOctober 20th 2008.

This place has taken a huge nosedive of late and there are far better options springing up around the city and beyond. Shame really as it was once THE place to go. Agreed still great for a drink though.

mark mOctober 20th 2008.

It's a far cry from the concept that Derek had all those years ago

ChickOctober 20th 2008.

A full restaurant every night, really? You seem very eager to labour this point ABG Employee. MacDonald's on Oxford Road is also full every night. On the last few occasions I've visited Alderley B&G I have felt the same as Steve. IRC appears to have come full-circle and both B&Gs are no more than up-market Est Est Est these days

AnonymousOctober 20th 2008.

Steve - if the only reason you go out for a meal is to have food that is better than you can cook at home, then it shows how dreadfully dull your life must be. Some have a SOCIAL life. you should try it sometime you sanctimonious arse.

emmaOctober 20th 2008.

baby you are right...those dishes have been on there since the beginning of time

johnthebriefOctober 20th 2008.

I can't believe anyone would ever be rude to you Gordo

AnonymousOctober 20th 2008.

Ha yes Mr A if you're going to preach about punctuation at least get your spelling right!

EloiseOctober 20th 2008.

My medium-rare steak was done to perfection at The Modern a couple of weeks back.

cping500October 20th 2008.

I have been teaching waiters all over town to recite the list of cheeses on the plate but haven't yet got round ro RB&G. Anyone want to help

SteveOctober 20th 2008.

The same can be said for the Allerley B & G, very tired and they haven't changed the menu in donkeys.

GordoOctober 20th 2008.

JTB, it feels that way!

mark mOctober 20th 2008.

probably gordo on his phone camera again

AvoOctober 20th 2008.

Comer?!?! What a wanker!

GordoOctober 20th 2008.

I have eaten here recently and had the steak, 'twas very good as it happens. I always like the staff here, in fact I tipped 15% last time. Another time I walked in to have a pint at my nephews table, Mitch Millett, I did get a bit of rudeness from a silly girl but dealt with that privately. His food looked good mind you and I nicked Vikas's (well most of) main course.

ABG EmployeeOctober 20th 2008.

Thank god a restaurant full of people disagree with you every night.

Ellen PilkingtonOctober 20th 2008.

A while ago I went to RBG for a business lunch and I was served a dish with GLASS in it. I kid you not. The bulb on the hot lamp shattered as my dish was sitting underneath it resulting in glass in my food. Rather than throwing dish away staff “brushed” glass off and served to me. If this has been America not Manchester I’d be a few thousand dollars richer now having sued them extensively......

BabyOctober 20th 2008.

Just had a quick ganders at the RBG menu on line, dated Sept 2008. Can't see that it's changed much. Chilli squid, Asparagus & poached egg, spring rolls, mushroom risotto, thai curry, salmon fish cakes, crispy duck, calves liver, fish & chips, beefburger. All these dishes have been on the menu not just for months, but for years. Unless I'm mistaken - maybe ABG employee can enlighten me?

SteveOctober 20th 2008.

I agree with baby...Ian and derek were never out of the place and it ran like a well oiled machine. The food was excellent, the staff were on the ball and the place had a real buzz....it was a shining light in the culinary desert that was AE. Now it's just another average ploace selling average food. My point is that if you can cook reasonably why would you go here? I can undesrtand people who can't boil an egg going and thinking it's great though. Still waiting for the details of the new menu though!!

SteveOctober 20th 2008.

FYI ABG emeplyee, I used to frequent your place on a regular basis for the first couple of years. The reasons I don't go any more are many....the menu doesn't change with the seasons (asparagus in October anyone?), the place looks tired and the staff have little training/product knowledge and not much in the way of social skills. Its a see and be seen place that serves very average food...what a shame as it could be so much better.

Dr WangOctober 20th 2008.

As a penis enlargement expert I'd like to know where I could procure a comer?

Jonathan SchofieldOctober 20th 2008.

Dear reader, sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry. This will still happen. On Thursday I promise, or you can come and cook us.

Chris HOctober 20th 2008.

I couldnt agree more. This is my favourite place to have a drink, but the restaurant, is sadly off track, and a mile behind where it needs to be if it wants the upstairs to be on a par with the bar.Average food, average service, slightly snooty and pretentious clientele, and really not worth the visit. This trend of style before substance is all too common in Manchesters eateries Im afraid to say though.

AllyOctober 20th 2008.

Common Sense or rather not, depicting any human being or creature as "cooked" is insenstive, irrespective of chronology.

ABG EmployeeOctober 20th 2008.

How nice that you all lay into me. I’ve never said it is the best thing since sliced bread, I don’t believe anyone ever has. I just countered the accusations thrown. So you don’t like it and see it as very average, great. I’m pleased that you have opinion and I hope you have places to eat that you do like. Please don’t be tempted to come, you accuse others of being pretentious and shallow – reading your comments, I can only think you will only make that accusation reality. I’m not quite sure who wants to be spotted by whom – but whatever impression people have that ABG is (still) that sort of place is misguided. The claim that ABG (and all of IRC’s locations) are just upmarket Est Est Ests is perfectly valid, and pretty much where I, and most others have seen it. I don’t pretend it is anything else. You make it sound like that is a problem. I’m happy with the market positioning that it has, I have no desire for it to rival MC Abode or The Modern. It is a relaxing place to come for a couple of hours, have a nice freshly cooked meal, a bottle of wine and still have change from £30/head. For what its worth, I too think RBG on town has gone down hill, largely due to the difficulty in getting staff and narrowing margins due to increased costs – I’m sure the guys there are working to rectify. I’m happy focussing on my remit, making sure my customers are happy and keep returning. By the comments, rewards and returns – we are clearly doing well, but that doesn’t stop me from trying to improve further.

JennOctober 20th 2008.

Its ok you can still read it on the front page!

johnthebriefOctober 20th 2008.

We believe you Jonathan, no jack-boots at ManCon Towers, I'm sure.

Harry CranshawOctober 20th 2008.

Was Schofield on the ale when he took these pictures? They are bloody dreadful.

BabyOctober 20th 2008.

This place has been on the slippery slope for a long time. IRC have simply spread themelves too thin. The asparagus dish has been on the menu since day one, why do they never change their menu? The one in Leeds is good but the other 'local' RBG in Alderley Edge is no better than this. Shame as it used to be very good

AnonymousOctober 20th 2008.

Steve, your reading and interpretations skills are clearly as bereft as your social life. I refer you again to my sanctimonious arse comment. I await your clever/belittling/pious response further defining your self-defined omnipotence

johnthebriefOctober 20th 2008.

Although it doesn't excuse RBG, there are very few places in Manchester that can be relied on properly to cook a steak to order. Gaucho Grill definitely, Lounge 10... Gastro's used to be able to manage it. Most other places in my experience usually over-cook their steaks. I usually order blue and hope I might get rare.

mark mOctober 20th 2008.

And on the eighth day god created the RBG menu

BabyOctober 20th 2008.

ABG Employee; You say that you and 'most others' - as in fellow employees - see Alderley RBG as an up-market Est, Est, Est. I'd love to know how Ian Donald, Alan Ritchie et al feel about this full-circle turnaround. This was never the original intention with RBG was it? You have just confirmed all the negative comments above

BabyOctober 20th 2008.

There are several things wrong with the RBG in my opinion; It's tired, vey tired, almost to the point of being shabby; they never change the menu apart from the odd tweek and price increase; having so many outlets means the staff both front and back of house are spread out too thinly. You used to be able to rely on great food and professional service, now it's pure luck if that's what you get. The de-skilling of kitchen staff must play some part. There are too many restaurants in Manchester and not enough staff - particularly competent chefs. So kitchens such as that of the RBG are manned by cooks rather than chefs who use pre-prepared convenience products or they use an ever-rotating team of RBG/Picollino chefs who are able to churn out the same old same old, year after year without ever being able to use their imaginations or put to use the skills they have aquired

Mr ArnoldOctober 20th 2008.

If you're going to correct minor errors on a menu, at least get your own punctuation correct. Do you know what a comer and full stop are for?

Ellen PilkingtonOctober 20th 2008.

A while ago I went to RBG for a business lunch and I was served a dish with GLASS in it. I kid you not. The bulb on the hot lamp shattered as my dish was sitting underneath it resulting in glass in my food. Rather than throwing dish away staff “brushed” glass off and served to me. If this has been America not Manchester I’d be a few thousand dollars richer now having sued them extensively......

MJOctober 20th 2008.

What was that Ellen, can you tell me just one more time??

ABG EmployeeOctober 20th 2008.

Steve gets another dig in at the 'Allerley' Bar & Grill, or should that be Alderley? We are still as busy as ever so your opinion, whilst perfectly entitled, is not universal. Why not just forget we exist rather than bleating on about us? I'm sure all the customers that love ABG dislike other places, they just don't constantly whinge about it. And FYI we changed the menu last month, not including the ever-changing specials.

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