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The Lime Tree, West Didsbury

Nicholas Royle falls truly, madly, deeply for the best known restaurant in South Manchester - again

Published on April 10th 2008.

The Lime Tree, West Didsbury

West Didsbury residents burn with questions. Does it seem fair that Stagecoach should be permitted to run both the dearest and one of the cheapest services, Megabus, on the 42 route? Could Withington’s Cine City really not be saved from demolition?

But the most pressing is why is the West Didsbury restaurant and bar scene, generally so much more rewarding than that in neighbouring Didsbury Village?

Given the standard of the cooking, the pleasant, relaxed service, and the comfortable, welcoming ambience, it’s no wonder you have to book several days ahead at the Lime Tree for weekends. It’s wise during the week too.

Nowhere is this more obvious and incontestable than at the Lime Tree. Just take the look of the place, it’s warm, stylish interior feels homely and yet special and glamorous at the same time. There’s nothing really to compete with that, Café Jem’n’I aside, in the main village. Even the candles take their job seriously. On a recent visit we were shown to a table next to a fireplace which was filled with eighteen years’ worth of wax.Anyway enough of the musings, down to business.

Service was slower than on previous visits. But if it took a little while to order drinks it was certainly worth the wait once we’d tasted the Catalina Sounds Sauvignon Blanc (£22.50), a true New Zealand beauty. For once the wine list’s invocation of the aromas of cut grass and several different fruits didn’t seem entirely spurious. A bottle of sparkling mineral water (£2.50) helped make sure we didn’t get through the wine too quickly.The food was similarly worth waiting for. A caramelised onion and goat’s cheese tartlet (£5.95) was a perfect representative of what has become a staple in restaurants of this type and the Thai spiced mussels with coconut and coriander (£6.25) tasted reassuringly fresh. A spoon was required to retrieve every last drop of the delicious coconutty broth.

The mains continued the standard. Pan-fried duck breast and confit leg (£13.95) is hard to forego; similarly the seared sea bass fillet with wilted spinach (£14.50). But in the end we decided on roast loin of Shropshire lamb with aubergine and potato moussaka and minted yoghurt (£14.95) and fricasée of salmon, sea bass, scallops and prawns with wilted greens, dauphinois potatoes and sauce Américaine (£15.95).

The lamb was nicely pink, as requested, and if the moussaka was surprisingly meaty, given the amount of lamb on the plate already, it would be churlish to find fault. At first sight, the fricasée appeared a little light on pieces of fish and seemed somewhat drier, less saucy perhaps, than fricasées of years gone by – and wasn’t that a single prawn where the menu had led us to expect at least two? – but it seems perfectly fair that the chef should be allowed to update the notion of a fricasée, surely a 70s dish if ever there was one, and at the same time allow you to leave room for a little pudding.

American baked cheesecake with raspberry coulis (£5.50) was astonishingly fluffy and light, unlike the quivering slabs of liverish cheescake so frequently on offer elsewhere. New season rhubarb crumble with custard (£5.50) was ordered in the spirit of resigned research, with little expectation that it would be any good, not because of any previous experience at the Lime Tree, but because almost no one can make crumble like your mother used to make it, and frankly any other way is vile and disappointing. The problem lies with health fads: reduction in sugar content, substitution of wholewheat something or other for proper high-fat crumble – have been among the most heinous crimes committed in the world of posh nosh. But such fears are mislaid, the Lime Tree’s version is very good. Just like Mum used to make, except not quite so much of it.

We thought we may as well go for a glass of the recommended accompanying dessert wine, the Graves Supérieures Haut Bergeron (£3.95), which turned out to be a very wise move. Sweet.

Given the standard of the cooking, the pleasant, relaxed service, and the comfortable, welcoming ambience, it’s no wonder you have to book several days ahead at the Lime Tree for weekends. It’s wise during the week too. Spontaneity may not be on the menu here, but it would be harsh indeed to give a restaurant a hard time for being busy. They’re busy because they’re so good. Locals – and visitors – keep coming back for more. This Lime Tree should have a preservation order stuck on the door.

Rating: 17/20
Breakdown: 8/10 Food
4/5 Service
5/5 Ambience
Address: The Lime Tree
8 Lapwing Lane
West Didsbury
M20 2WS
Tues-Fri noon-2.30pm, 5.30pm-10.15pm
Sat 5.30pm-10.15pm
Sun noon-2.30pm, 5.30pm-10.15pm

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

AnonymousApril 10th 2008.

I got food poisoning eating that Fricasee, painful two hours vomiting that up - don't touch it!

Mary ClareApril 10th 2008.

This is my favourite restaurant in all the world. We always go on special occasions and we have never been less than delighted with the service, the food, the wine or the ambience. I can't wait for my next visit. Mary Clare

AnonymousApril 10th 2008.

no picture of the dishes and inside of the restaurant? Or, you might not be allowed to take photos?

jerrythecatApril 10th 2008.

We have been to the lime tree on several occasions the staff are second to none and really customer service is paramount we went for my dads 75th birthday he was severly disabled and in a wheelchair the staff were attentive without being patronising the meal was great and living in Didsbury Village it makes a great change from the predictble chain restaurants Gem and I is great as well as everyone in the area knows the chef worked at the Lime Tree before setting up his own business.

AnonymousApril 10th 2008.

There's something about the Lime Tree that should be good. I went there went it first opened when they had sewing machine tables covered with table clothes. Apart from one or two really good meals over the years that I have been there, it is sadly disappointing and yet it should be good. Last time I was there for a friend birthday August 2007, we waited one hour for the starter and then another hour for the main course. wine took about half an hour to come. The food was mediocre. We would have complained but hey it was my friends birthday .... thats why its a year since I was last there.

Hiding behind a chairApril 10th 2008.

CrazyJohn, are we to take that you actually shat yourself at the table? Is that what a 'cheekytrump' means? Oh my God...

LippyApril 10th 2008.

The best restaurant in Manchester. I first dined there in the first week it opened and have returned countless times since. I've never had a bad meal and the food is incredibly cheap considering the quality. NOT expensive at all as suggested by other respondents.

AnonymousApril 10th 2008.

Excellent place with fantastic food! Have been to simmilar places before with simmilar menus but they just dont compare! The early menu is also great - the taste and service are not sacrificed at all.

John WareApril 10th 2008.

We go there on special occassions - for the early menu ('cause we're not rich and swank at the Ware house). Everytime its been good.

DamyonApril 10th 2008.

Excluding La Casona in Heaton Moor I have never ever experienced better service in the UK - Georgia was just fantastic - going beyond the call of duty when she even helped with our little ones nappies - incredible - thank you Georgia, Damyon x

PaulApril 10th 2008.

Only been twice both times were very nice no complaints from me.I dont think it was the same night that crazyjohn was there.

AnonymousApril 10th 2008.

The Lime tree is good, but jem'n'i food and menus are marginally better............and while I'm here has anyone got any views on why Manchester hasn't got a Michelin Star restaurant.

GJHApril 10th 2008.

mmm...perhaps to glowing...sure your not mates with the owners?...but it is good.You must review Rhubarb. A superb place all round. (unless you have already?)

crazyjohnApril 10th 2008.

Excellent food, fantastic wine and the staff went above and beyond the call of duty by cleaning up around me after a cheeky trump went wrong because of a dodgy vindaloo I'd had the night before. And they even let me finish my meal as they cleaned! Marvellous!Thanks, I'll definitely be back :)

AnonymousApril 10th 2008.

Food is great and always consistent. The staff are excellent!!! Georgia and Kylie are 2 national treasures and make this place feel like a home from home.

AnonymousApril 10th 2008.

Food is ok...at Rhubarb nothing special and expensive for what it is plus its hit and miss (more times miss) and the service is poor. Lime Tree then Jem for me only ones worth it.

PaulApril 10th 2008.

Food poisoning for two hours!!!!!MMMMMMM.

JohnApril 10th 2008.

Been going here since it opened and to the cafe version in Rusholme prior to that , consistantly good.

wd40April 10th 2008.

best Sunday lunch here. Book in advance though!

LippyApril 10th 2008.

Food always good in Rhubarb but stopped going because of the stroppy, po faced, miserable old hag who appears to be in charge there. All the other staff were nice but she was always foul without exception and I've eaten there about ten times or more. Has she been binned yet or is she still spreading her specialness? I've never seen her crack a smile once. She should be kept behind the scenes and customer contact strictly off limits as clearly it is not her forte.Everybody I have dined there with have concurred without exception...

GrandwazooApril 10th 2008.

CrazyJohn - thats gross - but what a great performance by the staff - now thats what I call service.

lemonpickineatenfriedchickenApril 10th 2008.

the lime tree is o.k., everyone romanticizes far to much about restaurants, it's a good little neighbourhood gaff no need to shat yourself taking about it, it's hardly the river cafe is it?

EmilyApril 10th 2008.

Where are the pretty pictures?!? I am lucky enough to have this lovely restaurant at the end of my road. The only problem is we keep having to come up with 'excuses' to go and treat ourselves!

DisillusionedApril 10th 2008.

Over-priced, badly managed and right up itself. Having enjoyed previous occasions there, I'd booked a table for 10.15pm one Saturday night. On arrival it was full to bursting and staff were clearly hassled. We were told by the (very rude) manager that the kitchen had closed for the night, despite my reservation. As we argued, he proceeded to give me a running commentary on the time - "it's now 10.25pm .... it's now 10.30pm", finally conceding we could sit down and order but we'd better "be quick". I don't think so. Basil Fawlty had better people skills!

daveApril 10th 2008.

we have been going to go the limey for special occasions since about 1989. the last time we went, december 06 was the last time we vowed. service was poor, the chap that served us couldn't be more rude, and the food was ok, only ok. you expect excellence at the limetree. ity sounds like it has got back on track.

AnonymousApril 10th 2008.

come on it's not that good. i thought the food was pretty standard (i felt it was overpriced). restaurant itself was pretty cramped and ambience was nothing to shout about. however must agree the service was very good.

AnonymousApril 10th 2008.

best restaurant in manchester by far only Gem n I comes close and Jem was orignally from the lime tree.

RCYApril 10th 2008.

This 'foodie' says .... Yummyyumyum A most D-lightful experience in every way - highly recommended ;-)

tomApril 10th 2008.

The Lime Tree? Really? I agree with some of the other comments here: it's not all that. Tends to be the place we go when we can't get in to Rhubarb or Azzurro. And I've never experienced anything but perfect service at Rhubarb.

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