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Sole Restaurant Review

Gordo likes the new Northern Quarter Restaurant but thinks there's room for improvement

Written by . Published on January 18th 2012.


Sole Restaurant Review

GORDO visited no less than four different restaurants last week. This review is about the only one in  Manchester, Sole.

By gum, the lemon posset,  a dish Gordo would never be bothered with normally was sheer class, half a fat wine glass full topped up with fruit that didn’t know it was the middle of winter. A tour de force.

The second two were Cambio de Tercio and Zucca in London, the final one was on a completely different planet altogether. It was Players in Hale, a place known for housing the support caravans for footballers, who live further up the road in Camelot, aka Alderley Edge.

Gordos Non-Drinking Partner SiobhanGordos Non-Drinking Partner Siobhan

By support caravans of course Gordo means the agents, solicitors, accountants and other assorted hangers-on which include a good many women intent on preserving the title WAG for posterity. Nannies outnumbered front of house staff, whilst their charges ran around in Vivienne Westwood outfits, each one clutching a top of the range iPad2. Gordo spent the afternoon with his chin on the floor, wondering whether or not to come back next Sunday with a balaclava to supplement his meagre wages.

It has to be said mind you that the roast beef lunch is a good one, with the exception of the roast spuds which were like cardboard. Gordo kept nicking the chips off his Mum’s plate instead, they were top. Anyways, let’s talk about Sole.

Sole is a new restaurant in the Northern Quarter of Manchester, a stone’s throw from Affleck’s Palace. It’s in a new building, whose interior is smart in a step-up-from-a-good-Solicitors-canteen kind of way. It has shiny black tables and shiny black leather roll-back chairs with an afterthought of a bar stuck in the corner of the room, as if a newly done-good builder had been finishing off his front lounge. Just made a few bob? Let’s have a bar!

There is something not quite right about this décor. The first mistake that may go unnoticed by Gordo’s readers are the chairs. Charlie from Halo, the company that imports tens of thousands of them from China, beefing up the balance of payments problem and therefore, the impending Third World War (yes, Charlie, it will have been all your fault) has been in here selling. Gordo has been looking at these chairs for nine years now and he is bored of them.

Nicely Gooey BreadNicely Gooey Bread

What Gordo has been trying to figure out all weekend is: what was the real problem with Sole’s room? Why did it not have the same atmosphere as Cambio de Tercio, the family run Spanish restaurant on Old Brompton Road in London?

The two places aren’t all that different in quality of food (more later); same amount of covers, both with low background music. The walls in Tercio are a little more daring with their pink glow and fantastic paintings.

The staff are a little showier but let’s not forget that Sole has a front of house that has worked at Heathcotes Longridge restaurant, a gaff that had two Michelin stars at its zenith. So why did Tercio feel so much more like an experience of going to a restaurant, rather than an up market solicitors canteen?

Well, Gordo has just figured it out, going through the pictures. It’s not entirely the fact that Tercio has comfortable chairs with superb slouch-ability. It’s table cloths.

Tercio has fantastic linen tablecloths and napkins, Sole doesn’t. There is something about proper tablecloths that shouts special occasions as well as a place worth hanging about in the bar and spending a few more bob later.

But Not Without A TableclothBut Not Without A Tablecloth

Thick cosy table cloths would be able to damp down the noise from a painful table of eight in the window, whose women-folk appeared to be practicing the art of frightening Hyenas. They would envelop your legs, make you feel cosy. They seem to soak up harsh light whilst wafting candlelight along the room in the evening.

Table cloths are the future in Gordo’s minds. And given that the fit-out cost of Sole must have been pretty chunky, well over three hundred grand, table cloths would cost them under a hundred quid a week. Most restaurants ‘rent’ them. And linen whispers that the grub is going to be good too.

Because, folks, in Sole, the grub really is good.

Fish in Sole is pushed to the forefront of the menu to an extent, and the kitchen handles it  with confidence, clarity and imagination, marrying it off with well cooked ingredients that boost the flavours.

The seared scallops (£11.50)  were tip-top from the ingredient’s point of view, sat on a cauliflower purée with some lightly sautéed wild mushrooms of ample flavour. A light sprinkle of fleur de sel would lift the dish from pretty good stuff to outstanding. Can we find an alternative to cauliflower puree, any ideas from you lot?

ScallopsScallops

Mackerel á la plancha, (£5.95), a good strip of the fish cooked to crispy on the skin side and soft and lush on the flesh side was a star - the cook had watched his fish on the heat like a hawk. The dressing was a delightful tease with a quick slash of acidity to balance of the fish’s oiliness whilst the tiny salad leaves played their part with much grace.

MackeralMackerel

A small bowl of soup, a present from the chef, velouté of pumpkin with seeds showed a master with the basic stock whilst the monkfish (£19.95) and cod (£18.95) were treated like Kate Moss in a great fashion house, well dressed but not tarty. Well, maybe the cod (main picture at the top of the page) could have been toned down slightly allowing Kate to show a bit of leg. But fab flavours abound with extra sea spirit thrown in with the additions of squid ink and tiny mussels.

Puddings weren’t really required but had to be tested for you lot. Pavé of chocolate (£6.95) was a very showy dish, chocolate lovers will be delighted. But, by gum, the lemon posset,  a dish Gordo would never be bothered with normally was sheer class, half a fat wine glass full topped up with fruit that didn’t know it was the middle of winter. A tour de force.

Chocolat StuffChocolate Stuff

Service is timely and professional, the girls a cheeky delight. A young team in the kitchen show great promise, you can expect to see the food getting better here. Attention to stuff like the gents toilet cubicle, where a blind man had started to have a wee and was then spun round was an unexpected problem. Everywhere else was immaculate.

But back to the table cloths. Why don’t these appear more often? It would lift the place, soften it, add personality, whilst Gordo would not have to spend most of his meal wondering about the best way to strangle the hyenas by the window. 

Star Of The Show

By the way reader Ray, wine was middle of the road, my pal Siobhan from the Manchester Food and Drink Festival was off carbs and booze so Gordo had a couple of glasses of champagne to himself, Pol Roger at £7.95.

Having said all that Sole is still thoroughly recommended.

Follow @GordoManchester on Twitter.

Sole, 37 Turner Street, Northern Quarter, City,  M4 1DW. 0161 839 5600           

Rating 15.5/20 (please refer to our marking criteria in the box below, the scores compare like with like in terms of venue category)

Food: 7.5/10 (This place will improve and could put on another 1.25 points by the end of the year)
Service: 5/5
Ambience: 3/5

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, we get carried away.

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

AnonymousJanuary 18th 2012.

Solicitors canteen?! Is this a universally understood reference I've somehow missed? What associations is it supposed to evoke in my mind?

RayJanuary 18th 2012.

Can't beat a nice glass of Pol - thanks for the addendum, Gordo. Were the scallops hand dived? At the price, I would assume so, but it's always nice to know.

AnonymousJanuary 18th 2012.

They are hand dived, had them on the Mancon offer the other day!! Definitely worth a look.

Victoria BrennanJanuary 18th 2012.

Speaking on behalf of the "women-folk" Gordo so graciously denounced in this review I would like to highlight to any potential customer the friendly and open atmosphere which we enjoyed during our meal. (Heaven forbid we should laugh in a restaurant!) ...For some reason he seems to neglect to mention in favour of linen, until his final scoring which he gave full marks to ambience.

The food is beautiful, and the menu will definitely have something to impress - which I think is the most important point to take from this summary. Please try not to be distracted by his cheap animal similes and odd tendency to write in the third person.

Kindest regards,
The Hyenas

2 Responses: Reply To This...
tJanuary 19th 2012.

There are few things more annoying to eat to (or that ruin a nice meal quite so easily) as a table of drunken women screeching at the top of their lungs. Thick table cloths would be a great addition.

The dishes look brilliant here, shall be taking a look later this week.

AnonymousJanuary 19th 2012.

Not too sure how 'T' has come to the conclusion that the table next to him were drunk. How naive of them to read so much into the rants of a man who 'Thinks he can write but is constantly told by his Editor and other 'proper' writers that he is a knob-end at it.'

Geoff BainesJanuary 19th 2012.

We ate at Sole last night and I haven't been more impressed with a restaurant anywhere in Manchester. The food, service, and ambience was out of this world. I'd definitely recommend the scallops, mackerel (starters) and the sea bass main. Staff were amazing too. I am definitely going back here! My new favourite restaurant

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousJanuary 19th 2012.

Bing-o

AnonymousJanuary 19th 2012.

Apologies for my ignorance but who is Gordo? And what are is qualifications as a food /restaurant critic. This is not a slur on his judgement, I would just like to know!

1 Response: Reply To This...
Smithfield WineJanuary 19th 2012.

Well - for one thing, he can spell.

Philippa RustageJanuary 19th 2012.

If this restaurant was meant to be some kind of ironic pastiche of a 'contemporary' restaurant from 10 years ago the likes of which you can probably still find in Uppermill, Saddleworth, then it really has cleverly hit the nail on the head. It's hilarious. We giggled our way through the meal about the tables, chairs, lack of art on the walls, the clattering of cutlery and over sized 'querky' crockery, the decor of the bar downstairs. I had to excuse myself from the table once I had noticed the bright red chesterfield paneling on the bar, I was crying with laughter! I couldn't help but brush my fingers along it and toss my hair in a dramatic 90s way as I walked passed. Unfortunately it isn't a clever and hilariously funny pastiche restaurant, it's actually being serious. This became apparent when the manager informed us that this is the owners first restaurant, "you're not kidding!".

BUT aside from it looking a bit like a bare furniture shop from the outside the food is absolutely phenomenal, really truly. They are being VERY serious about the food there, it was divine! Worth a try for a gorgeous meal and a proper giggle!!!
Can't wait for an Abigail's party restaurant to open!!! xxx

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousJanuary 19th 2012.

You obviously have little taste it's amazing

Calum McGJanuary 23rd 2012.

But she knows how to punctuate!

AnonymousJanuary 19th 2012.

Good review will try out, find it odd though that it seems fine dining, is slated for not having table cloths i.e too informal, yet says service is showy from a 2 star team, i.e too formal?!?!??!

Hero
Tanzir RashidJanuary 19th 2012.

fabulous restaurant fabulous food!

Jane EvunaJanuary 19th 2012.

great addition to the Northern Quarter, excited that the food offering is on the up over there :-)

tombaJanuary 19th 2012.

The chairs in the pictures don't appear to be roll back chairs. Is Gordo confused or are the pictures of somewhere else?

CobbydalerJanuary 19th 2012.

They certainly look like some of these from a Google search...

http://bit.ly/zTJH3g

AnonymousJanuary 20th 2012.

Have eaten at SOLE for business and pleasure 3 times now and have found the food and service exquisite on every visit! I find the comments about the decor to be unbelievably harsh and innacurate in terms of taste and mainstream factory bought furniture; with little or no individuality about the mainstay pieces of the rooms! If I am not mistaken; and if the NQ rumour mill is to be believed, the owner actually supported fellow NQ Furniture supplier and manufacturer, DEN Furniture on Thomas Street (renowned for their artistic and eclectic individuality) for the seating! Conveyorbelt purchases without thought?...... Most definitely not! Will return and recommend this Gem without a second thought!

2 Responses: Reply To This...
WriterjJanuary 20th 2012.

DOORMAN!! those chairs and tables definitely didnt come from DEN??? over to you Danny!

AnonymousJanuary 20th 2012.

Doorman.... stick to Bouncing doors mate! surely your braincell hurts after coming up with and typing a comment with words of more than two syllables!

Paul CarterJanuary 20th 2012.

No need for linen. This is not fine dining, this is quite a funky addition to the Northern Quarter that deserves a place in the Good Food Guide and probably will in 2013. The decor fits in with its surroundings well and the food is accomplished, much better than the other recent addition 63 degrees. Had the sous vide chicken and my wife had the sous vide duck. It wasn't sous vide and had never been cooked that way. Both dishes were bone dry and bland, dreadful in fact. I'll be going back to Sole, in my opinion it's the number two restaurant in Manchester beehind Abode.

Hero
NiBsJanuary 20th 2012.

Went about 3 weeks ago and found it excellent in every way, the people in charge really know what they are doing, so give them a chance to settle in as bosses of a new business. The decor is a bit unusual and I'm sure they will tweak it in some small way, I thought the crockery and cutlery particularly elegant. Gordo is shorter than me so maybe the chairs aren't quiet to his liking, but at 6'2'' I found them OK. Best o luck to them.
Paul C. I can't see the point of sous vide cooking isn't it just posh boil in the bag.
Alistair Niven.

AngeJanuary 21st 2012.

Really disappointed with Sole. Over-priced, dreadful atmosphere, and they may as well rip out and start again with the decor.

The scallops were over cooked, but other than that the food in general was good.

I won't be going back to Sole until it gets some.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
Carter1January 22nd 2012.

Sure you have the right restaurant Ange? It's amazing compared to anywhere else in Manchester, admit was quiet when we went but that was a Wed night in Jan. Well worth a visit

AngeJanuary 24th 2012.

Absolutely sure. I had high expectations from this place - non we're fulfilled, and in my opinion definately not up there in terms of best in Manchester. I suppose everyone's entitled to their opinion...

Robert CraigJanuary 23rd 2012.

Had dinner at Sole on Saturday night and the food was fantastic. Sevice was also good. However there was a 21st birthday party downstairs and every 15 seconds the guests would come upstairs to go outside. We were sitting by the door and it was horrible. We left without having coffee. It completely spoiled our experience and I would be reluctant to go back or to recommend it.

Md KhanFebruary 1st 2012.

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AnonymousMay 16th 2012.

Call me affected, but I live very near this restaurant and never even thought to go in because one look at the chairs on opening night and I assumed it would be some lower-middle class affair. They should Ebay these, add to the next night's take and replace with something else that won't take up 40% of the cubic capacity of the ground floor.
@Tomba, they are thick rollbacks and the photo doesn't really capture their thickness, presence, or factory blandness. They are exactly the type of thing you see in thousands of low-rent buy-to-lets atop laminate flooring, trying to look good in an early 90's way as someone else mentioned.
Can't believe they are from Den. Although the chesterfield wall panel sounds like it could be.
Will pop in there now I've heard the food's good.

Wall-EMay 31st 2012.

Just tried to book sole and they are closing for rebrand and refurb. Not sure we'll see them again.

Isabella JacksonMay 31st 2012.

Well Wall-e, this is likely Aiden Byrne all over. He has 'closed, refurbished and re-launched' the Church Green in Lymm at least three times since it's been open - I have every sympathy for the suppliers he leaves in the shit each time it happens. Maybe Sole won't re-open; he has the luxury of having a father-in-law as a landlord in Lymm, it's just everyone else that doesn't get paid after another 're-launch'. I am speaking from experience I may add.

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