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Gordo takes off his velvet gloves, slaps a Village institution around and offers advice

Written by . Published on February 12th 2008.


Velvet has been in its present home since 1996 and to Gordo’s shame, he has never set foot in the place. No real reason, maybe he is frightened of the hen parties that, in his humble opinion, are ruining the area. What do these women think they are doing? There are two things a man should never see, his wife giving birth, it can get horribly messy and frighten the bloke off making love for a long time, and his woman on a hen night. Horrific.

The chef here needs Ramsey to give him a good talking to. He needs to cut down the list by at least 40%. It’s like a software designer, one that’s bored and has let feature creep take over.

There are no hen parties in Velvet. The restaurant turns out to be one of the best rooms in the city, Lounge 10 without the gloom and more space. You know when you walk into a room which has ‘you are about to have a really great time’ throbbing all over it? This is it, in spades. The service comes and gives you a big friendly hug, whispering niceties into your ear in a way that makes you feel that you have never been away. Even if you have never been there in the first place. It’s mellow, comfy, friendly, and spotless. If your mum’s front room had this womb-like furry feel to it, you’d have never left home. (Have you finished with the birth stuff now? Ed)

The menu is huge. It includes sandwiches, such as include salmon, brie, chicken and bacon club and a char sui pork bun alongside a ‘home made’ lamb burger. Is everything else factory made, one wonders? There are in fact ten choices on the list, of which five are pretty substantial affairs. Then we have pizzas. No less than six of the buggers. Including that old favourite, crispy duck.

Then, ‘appetisers and light meals’, nine of these which include prawns wrapped in Parma ham fried in garlic and chilli served with crostini (£5.45) and fried whitebait on a bed of watercress with a garlic mayonnaise (£4.95) with stuffed quail and duck spring rolls bringing up the rear.

The chef clearly keeps his eye on his perceived competition, the chains such as Restaurant Bar and Grill, so we get a sharing plate at £12.95 along with moules frites at £10.45. Then no less than fourteenn courses. This exhausting list covers Thailand, Spain, Indonesia, England, Italy, Japan, China and Cornwall. Prices are very reasonable, from £8.95 through to £13.95.

Now any regular viewer of Gordon Ramsey’s kitchen nightmares will know what the bad tempered one will be saying first off. “What the fuck is this dogs fucking dinner of a menu?”. But, readers, could this be the one chef in the UK who can handle such a huge list? Let’s see.

Gordo’s whitebait were not good. They should have been fresher, they should have been dusted in flour which had been well seasoned, they should have been deep fried in a hotter fat which would have resulted in clean, crisp spicy non-fatty little delights. They weren’t. And serving it on watercress?

The prawns wrapped in ham were good. What they were doing with a crostini baffled Gordo a bit.

The Thai beef fillet with spicy Thai green risotto (£13.95) was “very bland” according to Ben from West Properties. It looked it as well. The calf’s liver served with mashed potatoes and onion gravy, crispy pancetta (£11.95) was a big pile of mush. The liver was too grey, it was drowning in the very average gravy whilst the mash was just mash and the crispy pancetta wasn’t. There was however praise for the fillet of sea bass in the soy, ginger and Miso broth with Asian greens, asparagus and bean sprouts (£12.95) from Helen Ramsbottam, who is a good judge.

The chef here needs Ramsey to give him a good talking to. He needs to cut down the list by at least 40%. It’s like a software designer, one that’s bored and has let feature creep take over. The fact that he can deliver some great stuff mixed in with an awful lot of banal crap shows he can do it.

Take Gordo’s fried chicken (£8.95) for instance. The chips were great, the chicken, well no way was it free range but it was bloody good, but it could have been outstanding. Serve half as much chicken, go for a slightly more expensive bird, experiment with the spicing, get a bit more crunch into it. It’s almost the best Gordo has had, but it isn’t, which makes it ordinary. And that radioactive barbecue sauce out of a catering bottle? Come on, you lazy buggers. Another point in question. Why serve a char siu pork bun when there are at least twenty Chinese restaurants within five hundred yards who will spank your arse with theirs?

The wine list is short, but needs a bit more care. Gordo left a bottle of Dream Bay Pinot Noir from New Zealand after one glass. It was boring, so he stuck with Bollinger, under fifty quid it was a bargain.

No time for puddings, so there will be a bollocking from the editor but there you go. Would Gordo go back? You bet, he loves this truly individual restaurant and the front of house team, they are outstanding. It will be disappointing if the management read this and say, ‘Who gives a fuck, we are busy all the time’. Because if they aren’t it’s simply because the chef is letting them down, or the ownership is letting the chef down by insisting on this ridiculous menu. Gordo’s advice? Copy the Ivy’s menu: it’s designed with punters and profit in mind and works brilliantly. Don’t copy pizzas from Croma, or platters from RB&Grill: they can leave you guys for dead just like the Chinese can with char sui.

Rating: 13.5/20
Breakdown: 4/10 Food
5/5 Service
4.5/5 Ambience
Address: Velvet
2 Canal Street
M1 3HE
0161 236 9003

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

MorgsFebruary 12th 2008.

Unfortunately this place has gone down the lines of frozen and microwaved food. It doesn't matter how exotic it is if it's not freshly prepared. As for all the frozen deep fried stuff on the menu, awful. With the growth of Manchester and places like the Northern Quarter and new bars and places to eat... this place needs to watch out or the locals will migrate away...

Farley1711February 12th 2008.

Completely agree. Velvet is an institution - and well deserved. The one constant has been the great service. The menu fluctuates and leads to many debates over whether the chef has left or is new. recently the food has been simply too average. mates who visit regularly from London used to demand an evening in Velvet. Recently, after their last experience, they're now asking about other options. Come on Velvet - we love you. Bring back the magic.

ian bradleyFebruary 12th 2008.

we love velvert, i've been eating there 4 years, love the food, the service and the place, tried lots of other places, but always go back, nothing compares to velvet! 10/10

ArnoldFebruary 12th 2008.

having eaten there so often I could not believe the review so I had to go again today to satisfy my curiosity and I found the food and the service as excellent as ever

JohnFebruary 12th 2008.

Recently, me and my partner visited Velvet. The service was sluggish, they put us in a corner with a dodgy rocking table. The food was cold and we had trouble attracting the attention of the waiter when deciding to order desert. We now go next door to Taurus, where the service is prompt with a warming welcome, although the menu is slightly limited, with the popular dishes you know what your getting and you don't have to wait long at all :-)

smartiemcrFebruary 12th 2008.

Provincial queens!

epsFebruary 12th 2008.

Velvet appears to be trading on its past.Undoubtedly one of the cities institutions at one time,there appears to be an arrogance there these days.The people who work there now, dont seem to want to be there at all and the music is always too loud.I agree that Taurus, next door has 'stolen a march'.Friendly and warm, the food, in my opinion has always been better.Chef, Peter Smith has been in charge since the start and his food looks great and tastes wonderful.Dont agree re the Club sandwich, i was told Velvet used his combo for it??As far as i can see, Velvet is younger and straighter.Taurus older and so very Gay.Think Polly!!

smartiemcrFebruary 12th 2008.

Neil, I take issue with your suggestion that gay people are hell-bent on ghettoising themselves these days. Myself and many of my gay friends eat out all over town probably more often than my straight friends. However, there is still a need for places we can go for a romantic dinner date without being judged or having to refrain from showing any affection. Society may have moved on a lot in the last ten years, but how many gay couples do you see kissing and holding hands in the street or in restaurants?However, I agree that the Canal Street restaurants do have a captive audience and not enough good competition in the area, although this may change with the likes of Gastros.

AnonymousFebruary 12th 2008.

I used to eat in Velvet at least 3 times a month which is a lot. I love the happy hour menu. Such a bargin. But the food let me down so much last visit! That I haven't been back since. I also had the thai beef and it was over cooked and the veg was raw. Which is a shame because normally is good for the price you pay. But the venu is lovely and the staff always fantastic. It would be nice to see more effort put into the food and would definatley become a regular again.

NeilFebruary 12th 2008.

The article and many of the comments rightly says that many of the dishes are done far better in local Chinese or Spanish restaurants that are only a few hundred yards from Canal Street. But...the many gay patrons of Velvet and Canal Street are so happy to be ghetto-ised that they rarely consider eating or drinking anywhere else. Whilst there is such a loyal clientele or are unwilling to even try places outside of their comfort zone then businesses like this will continue and won't improve.

ena sharplesFebruary 12th 2008.

go and try Gastros just around the corner , open plan kitchen , no microwave , no bought in food , all fresh gear Pretty good looking chef , and service that is warm and genuine

AnonymousFebruary 12th 2008.

Have never been disappointed by Velvet; it puts all the other so called restaurants on Canal Street to shame.

tjn2000February 12th 2008.

Went to Velvet recently. I agree with the comment about the Chicken...there was far too much, I left half and it still looked like a full meal on my plate. They must waste so much food!The service was shocking. A rude waiter that was not happy to be there. I think they need to shape up!

Michael MyersFebruary 12th 2008.

It seems like out little bitter and twisted friend "anonymous" here, has only just stumbled on Gordo and possibly this website. "You’ve tried to create this alter ego, this persona" rages he/she (for they are not brave enough to use their name). Does "anonymous". not see the irony here(and I bet they misuse that word a lot, too)?

AnonymousFebruary 12th 2008.

A good friend of mine worked there for years. She says nearly all the food was factory made and much of it microwaved- and every time I have eaten there this is blatentky obvious. I'm surprised this place is even considered as decent by anyone.

JohntheGoonerFebruary 12th 2008.

The club sandwich is excellent, much better than Taurus. Apart from that I can't really comment so I won't. Except to say that I go there for lunch (for the excellent afore mentioned club) but wouldn't even have it on standby if I was going out for a nice evening meal.

This blokeFebruary 12th 2008.

Velvet's a firm favourite, you just need to know what to avoid - the article makes this clear. If you've been there a few times and tried a few things then you know what's good. The rest could do with being dropped from the menu.Can't fault the portions though; they're huge! I don't know anybody who has ever left Velvet hungry.

ktfairyFebruary 12th 2008.

Anonymous - if you hate it that much, don't read it. Yawn...

MookFebruary 12th 2008.

I've been going to Velvet for years on and off and have to say I absolutely agree with the review. The menu is confusing and hit and miss as to whether you'll get an exceptional/average meal. I'm surprised you got great service though...I have only ever had apalling service there usually in the form of indifference and (in my opinion) not enough staff so it takes an age to order or get the bill. Once or twice I've wanted desert but after it took half an hour to get someones attention and they bring the bill after a further 15 mins we didn't have time. LOADS of potential, just untapped currently.

Chow houndFebruary 12th 2008.

We hadalso been going to Velvet for a little while, on and off. Recently we just realised it was a bit too greedy feeling....tables squashed together and people shoving past you while you eat and generally cramped and unrelaxed, takes forever to get the bill.Now the upstairs bar is great!Taurus has our vote too now, shame really cause I did like that fried chicken!

PaulFebruary 12th 2008.

I agree, Velvet is a great place and always has been. The bar upstairs is undoubtedly the best out of the Canal Street bunch. But I also agree that the food has gone downhill a bit; I haven't been for a while but I remember that it was a bit Brewers' Fayre. Come on Velvet!

Michael MyersFebruary 12th 2008.

Sorry I called you bitter and twisted!

stevieFebruary 12th 2008.

Love the venue but i agree it is getting a little cramped.I usually order the crispy duck, is it me or has the portion halved in size?

AnonymousFebruary 12th 2008.

gordo - stop talking about yourself in the third person, it makes you sound like a t**t

DanFebruary 12th 2008.

I have to say I love Velvet - it's a safe bet for a good meal out with friends - the fact the menu is diverse means everyones guaranteed to like something and although it's not lounge ten or such like - the prices recognise this fact. Velvet is one of the only nice bars / restaurants on Canal Street, with friendly staff and a nice atmosphere - so lets not be too quick to judge here!

ArnoldFebruary 12th 2008.

We eat out a lot and this restaurant is on our shortlist together with the Three Arrows at Middleton,we always found the service and the food excellent, maybe they have a new chef?

wayneFebruary 12th 2008.

It's a tried and tested formula that's become tired and rusty. Rusty irony - funny line from anonymous about irony and goldy.

GordoFebruary 12th 2008.

Anonymous, Gordo is a t**t. You don't quite get it, do you son? What a prick that Les Patterson is as well....

AnonymousFebruary 12th 2008.

Yes you condescending t**t I do get it, unfortunately it doesn’t work. You’ve tried to create this alter ego, this persona, the critic that is 'gordo'. It may be tongue in cheek but you’ve not got the talent to carry it off.

mancmuppetFebruary 12th 2008.

Velvet is a regular velue for me. I couldn't agree more about the quality of the service. The food has, on occasions, been up and down but definately more up than down. Maybe Gordo is right about cutting the menu back. Anyway - I would recommend it to anyone.

jomovFebruary 12th 2008.

Love the fish finger sandwiches..mmmmm

smartiemcrFebruary 12th 2008.

Velvet used to be THE place to go for a sexy, sophisticated dinner on Canal Street, but unfortunately its concept is now looking a tired and dated. In the late 90s such a broad, diverse menu was greeted with enthusiasm, how exotic some of the menu items looked! These days (as the writer points out) we're all for Gordon Ramsay's principles of simple, honest food done well. If you want Spanish food, there are great Spanish restaurants, Indian food - out of this world Indian restaurants. "Mix and match" cuisine has had its day. I so still eat here occasionally (it reminds me of Canal Street in the 90s) and I really want it to be great, but I rarely leave feeling fully satisfied. Next time I'll be giving Gastros a go I think - that appears to be everything a modern restaurant should be.

micheleFebruary 12th 2008.

Went to Velvet with my mother before Caberet at the Palace. Had never been before, but went because of the 50% off promotion. We loved it. Great atmosphere, lovely food. We had steaks - super. At least 5 waiters asked us if everything was OK even though they were really busy. Would definitely recommend it.

julieFebruary 12th 2008.

I used to go to velvet to eat a lot back in the late 90's. It was fantastic, good food, great atmosphere and service, plus a menu to suit all. These days I maybe go in to eat once or twice a year each time longing for what it used to be but always leaving disappointed. The produce is cheap and that shows. Now I just go for a drink in the lovely upstairs bar.If an increase in the quality of ingredients meant an increase in price so be it.

onebadboyFebruary 12th 2008.

Dear Velvet - the fella and I often ate here, food ok, atmosphere great, good value and (is that your hand on my knee?) gay. That ended some months ago - booked a table, told we had it for an hour when we arrived, in other words eat up quick and piss off, then were surrounded by a hen night and an office get together. So much for ambiance etc.At least we now go more frequently to venues that we may not have visited otherwise.

JohnthebriefFebruary 12th 2008.

Velvet's menu is designed for a place that stays open and serves food all day, and so tries to be all things to all men. They might benefit from having pared down versions for lunch/dinner and the afternoon. They've never really had any competition on Canal Street but these days with Taurus, Villagio, Gastros and Eden all competing I think they need to sharpen up their act

mickFebruary 12th 2008.

I think many are endeared to Velvet and lets hope they do pull up there socks in time for the light nights. I stopped eating here last year after some mediocre fair but love the venue and bar upstairs. See you in Spring for a second chance V x Had Sunday roast at Grado this weekend and very tasty indeed with great service. Try the spanish trifle or creme catalan - beautiful. Little pricey though for what you got - maybe I'm getting tight as I get older..??

Mal NourishedFebruary 12th 2008.

I'd bloody love a fish finger sandwich

AnonymousFebruary 12th 2008.

michael - the only thing thats bitter and twisted is my G&T :-) yes yes yes i get that gordo is a persona, probably handed round the staff at Manchester Confidential, for the purpose of reviews etc - ive not got a problem with that. its just the use of the 3rd person narrative that bugs me. and yes id do know what irony is, its a bit like steely and goldy isnt it?......

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