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Zinc Reviewed

Jonathan Schofield avoids the sun but finds an expensive fish

Published on March 28th 2012.

Zinc Reviewed

FLAMING March and the idea was to do it al fresco.

I would have preferred that seabass to be £15 with sides thrown in. That would have felt better.

Zinc has a good terrace and since we've not reported on the restaurant for ages it suited the bill. We were looking forward to stretching out on the Corporation Street corner of Exchange Square and watching the world melt in the unseasonal heat.

The rest of Manchester had the same idea. The terrace outside Zinc was so full it was bulging at the seams. Plan B meant the cool of the interior. 

Terrace of desireTerrace of desire

If you know Zinc then you'll be familiar with its spic and span contemporary interior. This was part of the original owner, Sir Terence Conran's personal vision - updated Habitat and all that. Now the restaurant is owned by the Individual Restaurant Company - Restaurant Bar and Grill, Piccolino - and still carries a degree of sharpness to the decor.

The food is sharp too.

Two courses served us well for a lunch with sides chucked in.

My dish, the seabass with a tandoori  glaze (£17.95), was another prime reason for the visit - main picture at the top of the page.

I had the same thing a couple of years ago, and certain food memories stick in the mind. Whenever I walk past the restaurant, Zinc's tandoori seabass floats through my mind and I alarm passers-by with an audible and hungry sigh. 

It's the lifting tang and spice of the tandoori extra that adds substance and zing to a fish that's taken over the menus of every mid-market restaurant. The yoghurt on the plate could help, but I can take or leave it. It adds another Indian accent but can get in the way. 

It's here that you hit a problem.

The seabass needs help if it's going to be an adequate meal. So I had to buy a pak choi, chilli and garlic side. The pak choi was timed wrongly, too tough to chew, but it was the expense that got to me - £3.95. So £17.95 + £3.95 = £21.90 for the full lunch time meal, or rather one course of it. 

Pak ChoiPak Choi

Zinc is by no means alone in pricing things so high but it is emblematic of part of a larger problem. Dining out will narrow its audience in many parts of the country if you can't get out of a place for less than £30 with a drink or two (a large glass of harmless Chenin Blanc was £5.95) and essentially one course.

My dining partner was wiser. She wanted to keep it very light for lunch and had the smoked salmon with blinis and a clever bit of work on the side of the plate consisting of dried egg white and egg yolk in little piles, plus pepper corns and shallots.

Skillful but charming dish this, configured beautifully.

The salmon was described on the menu as being from the Severn and Wye. That's two separate rivers so it must have been a lively bugger or maybe it hadn't got Sat Nav, still at £7.50 it seemed the right price. With the blinis it was filling enough.

I'll have to try and remember that a pair of starters at Zinc is better priced than a smallish main with a side.

Clever salmonClever salmon

Price aside this was a perfectly acceptable lunch for the type of place Zinc aspires to be, a notch or four up from Cafe Rouge over the road. The tandoori seabass is still a winner and the toilets are still so far away its best to wear sensible shoes when visiting the restaurant. Clearly that terrace is popular in the sunshine as well. 

One welcome change from when Sir Terence Conran opened Zinc around a decade ago is that the London-weighted 12.5% service charge has been ditched. 

Speaking of Sir T, the interview I conducted with him for City Life magazine all those years ago about why he was opening Zinc, included one of the most embarrassing errors of my writing career. This was in the old days when we had a printed listings magazine - remember them, an actual printed listings magazine.

Anyway I wrote the article and was supposed to add a caption under the picture of Sir Terence. I didn't get round to doing this and so it came back from the printers with the rather unwise default caption that City Life used. Under Sir T's pleasant face it read 'Blah Blah Blah'. His agent rang up aggrieved, "We thought the interview went well, we had no idea that you'd found Sir Terence so boring...."

You can follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter here @JonathSchofield


Zinc Bar & Grill, The Triangle,
Hanging Ditch, Manchester, M4 3TR

Rating: 14.5/20
Food: 7.5/10
Service: 3.5/5
Ambience: 3.5/5

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.

Packed terraceFlaming March

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

big earsMarch 28th 2012.

massively overrated restaurant! Food average, service average, prices stupidly expensive!

J] MasonMarch 28th 2012.

Big ears - no different from 'most' other restaurants then!!

big earsMarch 28th 2012.

oh, and the things on the salmon dish aren't peppercorns - there capers! bit weird to have whole peppercorns with salmon dont you think???

craigMarch 28th 2012.

what is the dish at the bottom left?

JimMarch 29th 2012.

We went for lunch on Sunday. Having been many time before we were saddened about the length of the wait for food. Nearly 40 minutes between courses & we only had club sandwiches!!!The were clearly understaffed & yes we had to sit inside too.

Such a shame. I really hope this was a one off!

AnonymousMarch 29th 2012.

Further walk from table to toilet in UK. fact.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousMarch 29th 2012.

Furthest even !!!

Edward CrossMarch 29th 2012.

The manager Craig is a star!

NecMarch 30th 2012.

regarding the walk to the toilet, just use the acccessible toilet behind where the host/hostess stands, near the front door.

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