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River Restaurant, Sunday lunch, the review

Jonathan Schofield finds a real genuine deal of a lunch for £17.50

Written by . Published on May 5th 2009.

River Restaurant, Sunday lunch, the review

Hotels and lunch. Never really been a big thing with me.

I remember the early Nineties in the city. Going for lunch in any of the hotels was as painful as scraping your tastebuds off with a rusty penknife. One Sunday lunch in the Piccadilly Hotel almost left me, a man a couple of years off 30, needing Just for Men.

Since the millennium it’s been far better.

Hotels now provide food as good or better than most of the independent restaurants. There are some good deals as well.

For instance the Lowry Hotel, at the moment, is offering three courses for £17.50 on Sunday, with a separate children's menu and under-10s eating for free. This seemed a bit too good to be true. Were corners being cut in pursuit of a cautious market? A family occasion provided a good excuse to check out what’s going on.

The menu has three starters, four mains and four desserts. We just about ate the whole thing.

There wasn’t a single bum note in any of the starters. The chilled tomato soup with basil oil had a refreshing gazpacho kick, the pink fir potato salad with sea trout and bitter cress blended flavours and textures - soft, sweet, hard, tart - confidently.

The winner here though was the glazed lamb sweetbreads with wild mushroom and wild garlic. Glandivores will love these, the delicate flesh of the sweetbreads with their subtle wrongness (if you forgive the Carry On connotations, should we really enjoy munching glands so much?) was complemented by the earthiness of the mushroom and garlic. We had to spoon up the delicious sauce that held them.

Our waiter: Fetih Sultan Mehmet

Before the starters we’d had Chorlton sourdough from the Barbakan, heated and with a tub of salted butter. There were 10 or 12 slices which lasted precisely two minutes as the table gorged on them.

The pick of the mains was the Goosnargh chicken with pan haggerty and Savoy cabbage. This was down to having a splendidly moist chicken that you could tell was free range because it almost clucked, “I was a happy fowl you know?” and because it didn’t taste of damp mulched tissue paper. The combination with the Savoy cabbage was another winner but it was the blend with the pan haggerty that was the star. The latter comprises layers of potato and onion. You don’t need any extras or sides with this dish.

The quality of the lamb and the beef on the traditional roasts was top-notch too. The gentle salt marsh effect present in the former, a rich full flavour of prime rib in the latter. The Yorkshire pudding was just right.

The mint jelly accompaniment with the lamb was outshone by the horseradish cream for the beef. This was so creamy and light it could have been included in those exotic savoury ice creams that Blumenthal does. There was a table debate about whether there should be an extra kick of horseradish in there. Most thought not, I thought so.

With the roasts you get a bowl of roasties, cauliflower, broccoli and carrots, more about these shortly.

For dessert the sticky toffee pudding with hot toffee sauce and the Yorkshire rhubarb cheesecake were outstanding. The sticky toffee pudding is a glutton’s must because they could eat brickfields of it and not feel full: it was light yet luxurious, it was just right. The rhubarb cheesecake was equally exquisite and light with a lovely flake of crystalline rhubarb stuck inside, the picture here says it all.

There were two downers which are easily remedied.

Point one: The broccoli and cauli were overcooked, limp, and had begun to acquire that metallic pan tang from hanging around too long. This is always a problem in Sunday dinners but the kitchen needs to time this better. Crisp, please, al dente, buttery even.

Point two: The menu was amusingly full of typos, it could have been one of our articles when the magnificent Sarah, our sub-editor, is out at Debenham’s Cafe having chocolate brownies with her mum. Two favourite typos were ‘stick toffee pudding’ which was barking up the wrong tree, and a cooking time being referred to as ‘20 minuets’. Now in the dictionary a minuet is ‘a social dance of French origin for two persons, usually in 3/4 time’. The Lowry should pursue this, it could be the most interesting wait for a dish, as Jeremy Clarkson might say, “in the world”.

For drinks, a Soutomaior Albarino 2007 (£30), was good for the afternoon, zesty, fresh and fruity. Better though was the dessert wine, Muscat Beaumes de Venise 2004 at £6.50 a glass, which did a great job nuzzling up to the cheesecake. The boys had some of the best milkshakes around, the chocolate giving a real cocoa blast.

What was so very good about the meal was its tranquillity. This emanated from the space between the tables, the linen table cloths, the lovely chairs and the sense that you weren’t being hurried at all.

This mood was aided and abetted by our attentive and amiable waiter.

I cross-examined him at one point about where he was from – Turkey – where he lived in Manchester – Failsworth – and so forth. We even discussed Istanbul and when I asked him for his name he said it was, Fetih, “the same as Sultan Fetih Mehmet”. This was an Ottoman ruler who finally conquered Constantinople and the Roman Empire of the East in 1453. We discussed this, only stopping when the sound of gentle snoring was heard round the table and family members could be seen edging for the door.

But that was the nature of this lunch. If we have a fine dining Sunday lunch in Manchester then this is it. And all for £17.50 for three courses.

Readers: this is definitely worth a try.

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

Graham 'The Roast'May 5th 2009.

Folks, it's a not a rush job you know, it's not a breakfast on the kitchen counter. I loved the occasion for the way it breathed. It was so leisurely.

Gordo knows whoMay 5th 2009.

The sticky toffee pudding is probably the best I have ever tasted, a true masterpiece. Previous best was at the old 39 steps that was in South King St. years ago.

AlfieMay 5th 2009.

Went to the Lowry , perfect Sunday lunch . Relaxed service , not too rushed . Superb food , just a great atmosphere . Ok , I promised that I will try Sams tomorrow for Sunday lunch and I will however , I will try to look at everything with an open mind . Not just because of my past loyalty

Beefy StewMay 5th 2009.

whats that child examining in the picture of the veg and the empty ice cream soda? It looks like it was about to score three out of twenty....

peelowMay 5th 2009.

I agree with anonymous, tough business this catering lark and tempory cyclical dips should not be held against sam's.

AvoMay 5th 2009.

More importantly Jonathan, is that a chocolate milkshake I spy there. Was it up to the standard of a Five Dollar Shake?

David FoxMay 5th 2009.

I do like a family Sunday lunch - so thanks for the recommendation. Getting the kids dressed in their Sunday best - you know you have turned into a "Dad" - I can also recommend Palmiro - which is a bargain at £14.50 for 4 courses last time I went (kids half price).

Graham 'The Roast'May 5th 2009.

Well we had a great time yesterday although it was a shock to see us on one of the pictures. Great service, laid back and easy afternoon with good food. Definitely be back.

W GillowMay 5th 2009.

I love the chairs.

AlfieMay 5th 2009.

Still have not got to Sam's for lunch yet , don't know where the day went ! I will try next weekend and post a report

jimMay 5th 2009.

the albert shed 3 course i have to say was very good for a similar price.

richard hjMay 5th 2009.

It would be easy to mistake Palmiro for closed. Last time we went there on a Sunday it had the all an atmosphere of a haunted junior school. it's a niche atmosphere and not easily replicated i can tell you.

Richard HJMay 5th 2009.

Oddly and shurly shome coinshidence we have started a Facebook group in the search for the perfect Mancunian Sunday lunch. www.new.facebook.com/group.php?gid=73367007484…

AdeleMay 5th 2009.

Will deffo give this a go, decent Sunday lunches are hard to find. The Northern Quarter Restaurant does a great one. As for Sam's (and sorry to take away the Lowry's thunder and turn into an anti-Sam's rant) Sunday lunch there was one of the worst food experiences of my life! About 6 people in the restaurant, took about an hour, everything was cold and greasy, the beef was fatty and raw, staff were indifferent and we refused to pay. I thought chef perhaps called in sick that day but obviously not looking at the other rants. Sort it out, £16 is not cheap. Lowry here we come...

ChickMay 5th 2009.

I thought Palmiro was closed??

kippaxqueenMay 5th 2009.

we went to the Lowry 2 weeks ago, receive the incorrect food for the child sent back and was still wrong. Waited over 30 minutes for drinks. After 1hr 30 wait for the mains they were cold, sent back and they just re-heated the meal sent back minus the bite taken !!! waited an additional 30 minutes for a replacement and was then expected to eat the cold veg that had been sat on the table - wont not go back. Service was cr@p and the food followed suit,

Jammy DodgerMay 5th 2009.

Steve, totally agree about Sams. Having been recommended the sunday lunch by so many people, I was looking forward to trying it. The beef was the dried-up ends that had clearly been sitting around all day (if it's not good enough quality to send out, then please take it off the menu!). Veg was boring and bland, and the service was so-so. No more and no less than they absolutely had to do, and certainly no up-selling, ie when the food was put down, we both had no drinks left and had to call back the waiter to try to order more. Will definitely be giving this one a try.

AnonymousMay 5th 2009.

I think you should all give sams another chance, i went in for dinner last night and the food and service was fantastic.

PaulMay 5th 2009.

We had this lunch two Sundays ago with the free wine, they had ran out of sweetbreads but it was all nice and what a bargain as we had a little one with us . My only pick was if there was only three of us how come they didnt know who was on what when the food arrived this aint 5*****.Oh Rog taylor He of Queen fame was having the same din dins as us Mortals

BowksMay 5th 2009.

Love the Lowry and the food they do there and this sunday deal seems to be one of the best bargains in town. However, the dooner they dispense with those horrible bluey/green chairs the better. They really get on my t1ts everytime I go!!!!

EditorialMay 5th 2009.

Sorry Sara, seemed to have lost your comment there, somebody must have been messing about fixing something here. Please re-post.

SteveMay 5th 2009.

Must give it a try. Went for Sunday lunch at Sam's last weekend and paid £15.95 for roast beef. The plate was cold, the vegetables were virtually non existent and the small amount gravy offered )(had to ask for more)was lumpy and lukewarm. On a plus note the beef was ok and the yorkshire was outstanding. Can somebody also tell me why places insist on serving horseradish, mustard etc in dishes that barely hold a teaspoonful...I had to ask for refills twice? For £15.95 I don't expect to get short changed on veg and horseradish!!!

unhappy chapMay 5th 2009.

I personal think sams (and toms for that matter) are past it! the food in both sites the last few months has been well below previous years sams especialy id rather eat at weather spoons to be honest dont know whats going on but i realy think the management should take notice and listen to us there are places doing better food at better prices.

AnonymousMay 5th 2009.

Tables clothes, eh? Sarah still at lunch, then? EDITORIAL: Yes she was, thanks for pointing this out and we've changed it now.

CastlefieldMay 5th 2009.

Always great here. Good mix on the menu and they always have some great offers on. The bar is a perfect place for after dinner drinks as well.

JoseMay 5th 2009.

I was there a week ago, and the food was great, good portions and at a really good price. The atmosphere in the restaurant was great... but the service... I am afraid it was terribly slow!!!. It took them almost 20 mins to bring the bread to start with and then everything was equally brought at a really slow pace. I had to request desert twice (half an hour wait) because they kept forgetting us.... however, I understand it may have been that particular day, and still worth it for the food and the nice atmosphere, but the lunch unexpectedly took 2 hours!

AnonymousMay 5th 2009.

Sounds lke a great deal this, I shall give it a go. Have to agree with the comments about Sam's too. Also very disappointed with Tom's Chop House recently, despite the rather over-the-top review on this site. Food was mediocre, service dire - the place may be 'an institution' but it's also stuck in the past and trading off a former and infinately better reputation

CharlieMay 5th 2009.

Went to the River Restaurant at the Lowry this evening for the Manchester Confidential £30 menu deal. Very disappointed. Service was very slow, some members of staff very helpful others not so and they didn't have the beef on the menu as offered on the set menu, which was one of the reasons we decided to eat there. Wont be visiting again, there are plenty of restaurants in Manchester you can get just as good quality food at half the price. Shame really as we were all really looking forward to it.

JustinMay 5th 2009.

Visited this establishment yesterday after reading this review on Friday last, Staff and Location Excellent as for the £17:50 is slightly misleading as I also think they charge for breathing in the air! Our visit was four adults and two children - £150 down to £128 after we pointed out there is no charge for the children now that’s not £17:50 a head is it! Granted our party did have a bottle of very nice wine @ £20 which I thought good value but you get lots of added extras. As for the food, nice but not great at all and the roastvegetables you can see on the picture are for all of you! If you are going to go here then do not be prepared for a full belly! ‘Good portions’ I do not think so. Sorry to go on but I was disappointed, oh and don’t forget the £5 charge for the car park while you have lunch! Now if you want a quality Sunday, try Nutters and I guarantee you will not be disappointed, the foodatmosphere location are utterly fabulous.

Jonathan SchofieldMay 5th 2009.

That's his bangers and mash. There's a kids menu and children under ten eat free. I'm going to add that to the review now.

Observant RogerMay 5th 2009.

Is that Jim Ramsbottom commenting about Albert's Shed? Couldn't you think of a better pseudonym?

smittyMay 5th 2009.

Given that I was directed to this review from an email which read: "The Lowrys fab Sunday lunch reviewed", your recognition of the irony of chastising them for their typo-riddled menu did make me chuckle. Can't wait to go though, it looked a lot more appetising than the tuna sandwich I've just finished - roll on Sunday yum yum.

AnonymousMay 5th 2009.

I know this is the lowry review but jumping on the sams band wagon the place is shocking!!!

AlfieMay 5th 2009.

Great review , I am going there on Sunday. Sorry to read about Sams and Toms . I knew the owner and I am suprised at the comments on the food and service . I will go the weekend after my visit to the Lowry and post my honest comments on here

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