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Vertigo: The Gordo Review

Gordo appreciates the new kid, but thinks it needs a few tweaks

Published on June 20th 2011.


Vertigo: The Gordo Review

Gordo’s Editor, Sir Jonathan Schofield of Rochdale and Old Trafford, told Gordo to go and review Vertigo over the weekend and have it ready for Monday. Checking the menu, it looked good: putting Gordo off slightly was the fact that this restaurant was previously Ithaca, a place of great promise and no management.

Vertigo, for Gordo, is a fine addition. The chef, needs simply to follow Coco Chanel’s advice to ladies leaving the house: Look in the mirror and remove at least one accessory.

The Ithaca chef, Nasser Laziri, was inspired with his Nobu-esque menu. It wasn’t, however, inspiring for Gordo when he tripped over him outside a pub on Oldham Street one Friday evening at seven. Gordo was on his way to Ithaca for dinner.

Vertigo
“Hello chef, what you doing here?” asked Gordo: a perfectly respectable question for a head chef, on one of the two busiest nights of the week, who had clearly been hammering the sauce all afternoon.

“’Avin’ a fuckin’ drink Gordo”

“Oh right,” said Gordo, taken aback with the reply as well as the chef’s T-rex breath.

“That fookin’ Arnie Hira can go and fook right off, the little shit, I’m ‘avin the weekend off.”

Arnie ‘peace and love’ Hira was the founder of Ithaca and so busy being stuck up footballers’ bottoms that simple man-management skills eluded him.

Fifteen minutes later, sat in Ithaca being hypnotised by his companion’s ability to sink a glass of Bollinger, complain about her sister’s boyfriend, inspect her nails and order a lobster, all at the same time, Gordo’s phone went. It’s Arnie.

“Gordo, where are you?” asked tiny tears.

“In your restaurant Arnie, watching the impossible happen right in front of me,” says Gordo. “What’s up?”

“The chef’s done a runner and we can’t find him, can you help?”

“Well, funny you should say that Arnie…”

The food at Ithaca was always good, very good in fact. Watching the place slide down a slippery slope into bankruptcy wasn’t so great.

So, it was interesting to see that the place has been re-opened with everything remaining the same apart from the seating, which has been replaced by chairs that you can actually get into without slipping a disc.

This is a sign of good management.

Arnie would have insisted on a complete refit with Lalique crystal and Hérmes table cloths before he opened. The place is still pretty flash but the whole attitude to simply polishing the place up and letting the food do the talking is, to Gordo’s mind, simple common sense. Mind you, when you guys have made a few bob, for pity’s sake get rid of those light fittings.

Front of house sets the scene for the evening; a couple of very good looking ladies greet you, with charming smiles, much intelligence and a lot of grace. The waiter for the evening, a Kiwi lad, is professional, personable and can have a chat. The only complaint here is slightly too much wine pouring going on.

Apart from that, he knows what he is up to. Gordo is in for an early dinner on a Saturday night; over the first thirty minutes the place is filling up with a relaxed, knowledgeable crowd. It’s a good place to sit and relax. The staff are great with kids; Arthur, six and expert with other people’s IPhones, is looked after like royally.

Gordo’s ravioli of lobster and salmon in a bouillabaisse consommé (£10.50) is a big bugger; well constructed, good pasta, the salmon bullying the lobster somewhat. The consommé could have done with having been sent to Gordo’s primary school in Salford to toughen up a little while we're at it.

Breads were excellent; white, brown and Mediterranean. Quality butter.

Img_2039
Arthur’s mum dithered over the asparagus and scallops. After what seemed an age, she ordered the asparagus and got the hand dived Ayr scallops with caramelised cauliflower puree, confit pork belly, 12 year-old balsamic vinegar and almond gazpacho (£11). The scallops were excellent and the marriage of confit pork belly works well, but this is a substantial dish which would do well as a main course; it’s too full on as a starter. It looks fantastic on the plate mind you.

Gordo’s main course of duo of Goosnargh duck (£20.50) came as a roast breast (great meaty flavour, skin crispy, leg as ‘confit’ en croute with a bed of sauerkraut (not as sharp as the real stuff, more shredded and pan-fried cabbage finished with a little cream; nice) and juniper juice. The breast was'nt pink enough for Gordo, and the confit leg had been wrapped in a bloody big Chinese spring roll affair, which was way too stodgy; a really light crispy filo parcel would have been great, with a little more duck fat in the confit to improve ‘mouth feel’.

Arthur’s salmon and chips were spot on; the charge for this and his lobster ravioli was £13.50, well done the management for that; very French. His salmon was cooked perfectly, slightly translucent in the middle, good cooking that.

His mother’s duo of middle white pork with Bury black pudding, truffle candele, baby leeks, apple foam and quince juice (£18.50) was overpowering. Great ingredients, but simply too much going on.

The bacon wrapping the pork is too thick; this leads to it not being crisp enough, which leads to being too fatty. It can be easily rectified by using pancetta, preferably from an English supplier like Richard Woodall. It will be more subtle in flavour, crispy without overcooking the excellent middle white pork.

This part of the menu delivers plates that don’t really require sides, but we had triple cooked chips (great), slow roasted chantenay carrots (OK, but Gordo prefers big’uns peeled and well done), spring greens (fab) and dauphinoise potatoes (as good as Gordo’s, ie, brilliant). All at £3.95. All good choices for the grill items, which cover chicken, tuna, sirloin, fillet and lobster. Good things have been heard of the meat here, by the way.

Img_2036
Whoever is in charge of the pastry section needs a proper pat on the back. Ice creams can compete with anywhere in Manchester; Gordo can report on a lemon soufflé, with sharp raspberry ice cream which had a see-through ‘biscuit’ shot through with poppy seeds sat on top. Not an obvious mix with the ice cream but worked an absolute treat. All puds are£6.50.

This was all washed down with a rare bottle of Domain Ott Rosé (£55) from the South of France; not quite the same as drinking it in Club 55 in St Tropez, but Gordo had a bloody good try. The wine list is of a high standard, although it doesn’t tell us the years, which matters with French wines in particular.

Vertigo, for Gordo, is a fine addition to the Manchester dining scene. Gordo will be back. Ian Armstrong, the chef, perhaps needs simply to follow Coco Chanel’s advice to ladies about to leave the house: Take a look in the mirror and remove at least one accessory.

His ingredient buying can’t be faulted, his cooking is good, but when he launches his next menu, he should take a look at the main course section and deliver less and then he may well find himself offering more. You should try the place if you’ve not been though. 

You can follow Gordo on Twitter here @gordomanchester

ALL SCORED CONFIDENTIAL REVIEWS ARE IMPARTIAL AND PAID FOR BY THE MAGAZINE. £1000 to the reader who can prove otherwise, and dismissal for the staff member who wrote a review scored out of twenty on a freebie from the restaurant.

Vertigo

36 John Dalton Street
Manchester M2 6LE
0161 839 9907

Rating: 14.5/20
Food: 7/10
Service: 3.5/5
Ambience: 4/5

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: Gordo gets carried away.

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

Jammy GusJune 20th 2011.

Anonymous you don't know what you're missing. We've been there a couple of times and I rate it as good as anywhere in Manchester at the moment. Great food and nice service.

CliffJune 20th 2011.

Jammy. You're right. It's as Gordo says a fine addition to the city, consistently creative and a good place to eat. As an aside, I think Anon that's the only time I've ever seen a child in there - in these pictures.

Wall-EJune 20th 2011.

What has been the best new opening in Manchester over the last 12 months? Not browns anyway.

Hero
Mark GarnerJune 21st 2011.

Definitely not Browns, what a disappointment... My vot currently is Cicchetti.

1 Response: Reply To This...
pollolocoJune 29th 2011.

Do you know anything about the demise of Alan jackson butchers in Alderley Edge Gordo?

SmittyJune 21st 2011.

We did a mix and match of the Mancon offer (great offer by the way, bring it back!) and the a la carte a few weeks back when my dear old mum and her pal were over from belfast.

Really enjoyed it, there were a few niggles which I reckon were just to do with the fact they weren't long open and hadn't quite found their feet. But friendly staff, great food, nice surroundings so all in all well worth the visit and I'll be back. Not cheap, but then yous gets whats yous pays fors.

The first anonymous poster's comment on kids is idiotic.

AnonymousJune 21st 2011.

My wife and I dined at Vertigo the other week, in our opinion and we dine out regularly its very average and overpriced!

Hero
ktfairyJune 21st 2011.

I think Anons have a poitn reagrding kids in nice restaurants - but are beign a nit unrealistic. If the kids are well behaved, then I have no problem with them being there. I do however have a problem with the two couples who decided to take their babies with them to Australasia on the day I visited, surely if you can afford to dine out in such places you can also afford a baby sitter. Screams and cries were not a side order I expected in a nice restaurant.

movementJune 21st 2011.

This review is spot on: very promising, and lots to like, but still needing a couple of tweaks here and there.

James SpencerJune 21st 2011.

Having dug up Ithaca for a bit of necromancy (a devil's stomp on the remains!) Vertigo really gets no more than a touch of faint praise oiled by Domain Ott Rosé (£55) (with those choices from the menu?).

Don't think I will bother especially since its 'family friendly.

RayJune 21st 2011.

Fair points, Anon (there's a lot of Anons about here) and it should be clearly spelled out that surly behaviour will result in the kids and their patrons being asked to leave. A brave step by any establishment, but we need kids to learn to behave in the interests of all diners, esp ones paying a fair whack for a great evening.

LungoJune 21st 2011.

I feel I should say something. A good friend of mine works for this restaurant. and has informed me that whilst they do not refuse children, they also do not cater for them. there is no children's menu, nor is there any facilities for children. it is a serious restaurant that will not turn away perfectly respectable guests simply because they have chosen to have a nice meal whilst out with the whole family. dining is after-all a sociable experience. most chefs are happy to cook special requests, even if said request is for simple child friendly dishes. having said this, I am told that Gordo's visit was only the second child to have dinned here since it opened a few months ago. surely this is not enough to deter pedophobic (yes this is the correct term) diners??
In response to Ray, "Nail on head" I couldn't agree more, responsibly sourced ingredients do cost a bit more, I myself try to get assurance from my local butchers/fishmongers as to how my dinner has come to cost so much or little? it matters. see Hugh's fish fight for more info. Im also convinced that it tastes better when you know that someone has taken care in producing your food. this is the reason for the surge in popularity for organic produce.

AnonymousJune 21st 2011.

We wouldn't even be having the children conversation if we were in mainland Europe.

1 Response: Reply To This...
LungoJune 21st 2011.

true, but we are becoming a nation of socialite wannabe's.

BushyJune 22nd 2011.

Tried the ManCon offer last month.
Was average if you compare it to similar offers, i.e. £25 for 3 courses and wine. Would go again but would recommend other places first..

Jonathan SchofieldJune 22nd 2011.

Why do people think that Europe is so much better when it comes to fine dining with children? Having eaten with the family in one and two star Michelin restaurants in France, Italy, Belgium, Denmark and Spain in the last five years I can tell you that in the ones I visited, their attitude to children was worse than that which I find in Manchester and the UK. France was the worst: it was an absolute nightmare for being treated like idiots for bringing kids to fine dining restaurants. Sometimes Britons repeat negative clichés about themselves without thinking. It's tiresome and simply wrong.

5 Responses: Reply To This...
pollolocoJune 22nd 2011.

God JS you do talk utter bollocks sometimes! So you've had some bad experiences, get over it. Its not a cliche, it's a fact.

AnonymousJune 22nd 2011.

Maybe you are an idiot for taking children to fine dining, Michelin-starred restaurants?

Jonathan SchofieldJune 22nd 2011.

Very true Polloloco but not this time. I take my family out dining all the time and on the average visit British service in restaurants is no better or worse with regard to kids then it is in France. My experience dear chap.

pollolocoJune 23rd 2011.

I quote "France was the worst".....you've just pigeonholed a whole nation......negative cliche I think.

Hero
Mark GarnerJune 23rd 2011.

Jonathan, having spent six years eating and drinking across France in every type of restaurant with seven years old and upwards Georgina and the Watson kids, I have to tell you that you are talking nonsense. French restaurants invariably make kids welcome; Paul Bocuse, the three star in Lyon, had a kids menu which made me jealous.

Wall-EJune 22nd 2011.

Northcote was full of kids at lunch when I went and all the better for it.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousJune 22nd 2011.

Why was that then? Genuine question.

Wall-EJune 22nd 2011.

Because the atmosphere was not as stuffy as I had expected. I think lunch shoud be different to dinner though when people are more likely to be drinking. I wouldn't take my son to any restaurant after 6.

1 Response: Reply To This...
pollolocoJune 23rd 2011.

In Spain, the majority don't eat dinner until after 9pm and kids will still eat with the family and alcohol will be present. Mind you....they don't have to deal with pissed up arseholes using the city centre as a public urinal.

Ian ArmstrongJune 23rd 2011.

Thank you for reviewing us Gordo and thankyou to everybody for the kind comments.

At Vertigo we try to champion the best local produce from the best local suppliers, these items do come at a premium but compared with other restaurants providing the same quality I feel we are on the money. The hand dived scallops we use are from a very small fish monger who are virtually a two man band, dad has the boat and son runs the on shore business so it doesn't get much more personal than that. They also supply our sea bass which is line caught in the Ribble estuary, again, wild sea bass from just around the corner. The same can be said of our butcher, vegetable and cheese supplier.

As for the great child debate, I think you will find with any good restaurant that they will be accomadating to all guests who are respectful, regardless of age.

I hope people will come and give us a try, if you do please say hello. We are a new opening and still finding our feet slightly but our guests are enjoying what we are doing. It is not often a completely independent fine dining restaurant opens up in Manchester, maybe we have not had the fan fare of other recent openings but we are just as ambitious none the less.

Ian Armstrong-head chef and Coco chanel fan

2 Responses: Reply To This...
RayJune 27th 2011.

Good to see some care being applied to the provenance of the food, especially on the seafood front.

I intend to give Vertigo a try. I shall be looking with interest at the wine list to see if the same attention has been given on that front as well!

RayJune 27th 2011.

oh, and I echo Gordo's point - please put the vintages on the wine list and keep it up to date! Not doing so is extremely lazy, and as Gordo said, makes a huge difference to the wine one will end up with. I had this problem with Grill on the Alley - their advertised crisp and balanced 2002 burgundy turned out to be a 2003 which would have been flabby as hell

Jonathan Schofield - editorJune 23rd 2011.

Ian, very gracious words. Nicely put.

JohnthebriefJune 25th 2011.

I am going to give Vertigo a try when I am next back in Manchester. I'll even write it up for ManCon if you pay ;)

Charles CohenJuly 21st 2011.

I agree with the first post, I can't abide children in restaurants during dinner. During luncheon perhaps, but only if they're well behaved. Children should be in the nursery after 7 pm.

£10.00 for a starter isn't too much if the quality of the produce is top notch and if the cooking is of Michelin standard. Time will tell if the mysterious inspectors will awarded one of their often derided, but much coveted, stars.

However, the look of the place puts me off rather. It looks like a third rate beauty salon in Cheshire. Still despite the glitz I'll probably give the place a whirl.

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