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Smiths of Eccles reviewed

Simon Binns finds good food (eventually) in one of Salford’s best-loved restaurants

Written by . Published on August 2nd 2010.

Smiths of Eccles reviewed

Eccles is not a town without its problems.

Sandwiched between the all-conquering Trafford Centre and the soon-to-be completed MediaCity, the picturesque but run-down Salford township sits in the middle like a withering rose between two massive concrete and glass thorns.

So a triumph for warmth of service, although I had to lament that if the same effort had gone into the set menu as it had with the specials, this could have been something quite special, especially given the generous provincial portions.

Church Street, which connects the town’s tram and train stations via the unloved Eccles Shopping Centre, has lost some of its vibrancy in recent years but Smiths stands defiantly at its apex.

It’s a firm local favourite. Formerly Bistro221 in nearby Monton, Dave Hebdon’s eatery was 70 per cent full on a Wednesday night – no mean feat in itself – and the staff all seemed to be on first name terms with the customers.

Maybe it’s the well-priced set menu that keeps pulling everyone in - £16.95 for three courses is eminently reasonable – so I decided to go with that, and my companion chose off the (impressive) specials board.

First up for me was courgette and sweet corn fritters with an olive salsa – although I’m not sure just chopping up some green olives constitutes a salsa. The fritters were a tad overdone and a slightly lacking in any flavour, and instead of being helped out by the olives, they were overwhelmed. Pleasant enough, but not a tantalising curtain-raiser.

My companion went for the scallops, which were sat on succulent pork and fennel patties with a cauliflower puree. This was more like it. Scallops done to the right side of juicy and the patties could have justified a menu billing on their own.No wine, thanks to the inclusion of Fursty Ferret on the menu, a crisp, nutty ale that I was expecting to sit nicely with my lamb ‘osso bucco’.

Normally cooked with veal, I was expecting the osso bucco’s meat broth to be rich and creamy. It wasn’t. The lamb was beautifully tender and fell off the chunks of bone with ease. The broth was dreary and watery with the faint taste of tomatoes and wouldn’t have been out of place in a student’s stew.

Accompanied by limp broccoli, bog standard new potatoes and a creditable mashed carrot and swede, here was a dish that could have tried harder.

My dining partner went with the fillet steak, which was ordered medium, and arrived almost well done. I was gutted. Not just for her, but for Eccles. For Salford. For the independent restaurant sector as a whole.

But maybe I was getting carried away. Redemption was close at hand. Our apologetic waiter took it away and arrived five minutes later with one which was bigger, cooked to juicy pink perfection and accompanied by some free chunky chips and a punchy black peppercorn and mushroom sauce.

Smiles back on faces, I tore through a light and airy white chocolate cheesecake with fresh strawberries while my companion got busy with a chocolate brownie that had a perfect line of fudgy deliciousness running through it, adorned with sugar coated walnuts.

When the bill came, one of the puddings had been knocked off by way of further apology. So a triumph for warmth of service, although I had to lament that if the same effort had gone into the set menu as it had with the specials, this could have been something quite special, especially given the generous provincial portions. In fact I was feeling so good as we finished off the meal, I forgot I was in Eccles. I relayed this information to my partner.

Just as the words left me mouth, a 60-something woman with luminous pink slippers and an open can of Carlsberg waltzed past the window heading toward the train station. Ah, we are still in Salford after all. And I say this as a proud Monton resident of the city.

Rating: 13.5/20
Breakdown: 6.5/10 food
3/5 service
3.5/5 ambience
Address: Smiths Restaurant
1-3 Church Road
Manchester M30 0DL
0161 788 7343.

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

Hilary SeymourAugust 3rd 2010.

I went to Smiths the other week at lunch time on a Thursday and thought it was great! The staff were very friendly and attentive and the food was spot on (from the set lunch menu). It's a lovely little place as well with interesting decor to look at. Couldn't fault it. Not a great location though, as you said.

SalfordFoodie84August 3rd 2010.

I always enjoy the food at Smith's but I am always baffled as to why the staff are allowed to dress so casually - it doesn't seem to suit the place! The staff are always lovely though and very attentive.

Richard DrakeAugust 3rd 2010.

I've eaten at Smiths on many occasions and have always had a great time but since when did 60 year olds with pink slippers passing by the window affect the meal experience? The surroundings of Swinton Precinct didn't stop David Beckham and the England Team from visiting a restaurant there a few years ago. I'm not sure what he means by wishing the set menu be the same standard as the specials board, I thought that was the purpose of a specials board and strange marks given on the whole considering he enjoyed the service but not the surroundings??

AnonymousAugust 4th 2010.

Well said 'redtilldead'!!
I've visited Mr smiths a many times over the years and, as money is tight find their 'fixed' menu a great value, affordable option for us. Yes you would expect the special board to be made to a higher standard but for me, i've never needed to look any further than the 'fixed' menu as not only the range but also the portion size and quality of the food is second to none. You get a feeling just from speaking to the staff that they love what they do and they are dedicated to giving the customers what they want, ie good food in a good environment at a good price!!!
So Mr Binns, maybe next time instead of trying to be clever trying to outdo the legend that is Gordo, pay more attention to the details without embelishment and a truer picture will be painted!!
So Mr smith i'll be back soon and look forward to more of the usual

Peter JayAugust 5th 2010.

I have eaten at smiths on numerous occasions and find it to be one of salfords best kept secrets. It is totally unpretentious both in ambience and in menu. The thing I appreciate is that the menu is regularly changed and I have not eaten the same thing twice. It is great value for money and would not be out of it's depth if located in "posh" worsley or monton. I find it a little offensive with your derogatory comments regarding Eccles and your expectation of the area. Unfortunately you are not A.A Gill and smiths is not the ritz...but you would be hard pushed to find a better eatery in monton, worsley or the rest of Salford for that matter.

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