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Cicchetti, and a pear: Manchester is on the way back

President Gordo delivers his State of the Nation speech

Written by . Published on November 14th 2010.

Cicchetti, and a pear: Manchester is on the way back

Something is changing in Manchester.

Walking from Gordo Towers on a sunny Saturday morning in November, Gordo had a spring in his step; not easy for someone of his stature.

Not only was this pear at the perfect point of ripeness, not only was it clearly off a family tree that had been nurtured for decades, but whoever had picked this pear had gone to the trouble of dipping the stalk in hot, red wax to ensure moisture retention.

He had just read Catherine May’s article, The Death and Life of King Street (click here), the first positive article about the state of city shopping for a while.

Apparently new retailers are moving in, Gordo’s favourite being, no surprise, the new Peter Maturi kitchenware shop. It’s been ages since a shop has been found that stocked a cherry stoner; even Williams-Sonama in New York didn’t have one when Gordo was there in the summer.

Take a walk by Harvey Nichols on New Cathedral Street, something Gordo did a few months ago and became depressed when he saw that Heals had closed their store leaving an open wound in the street. Now Gordo hears that the largest Hugo Boss store in the world has opened on the site. You don’t have to be stick-thin to get a suit that fits there either.

Down Deansgate, connected by an excellent (and free) once-every-five-minute bus service we are seeing Mike Ingall’s Spinningfields come to life - with a lot of help from Bill and Ben, aka Sir Richard Leese and Sir Howard Bernstein, the tag team ensuring business can breathe in Manchester.

Spinningfields and its new shopping street, The Avenue, is starting to bloom with quality openings like Armani and local lad, Neil Prosser’s Flannels.

The initial infestation of second rate food propositions is starting to be pushed aside too. Tim Bacon’s Alchemist, the most anticipated opening in two years from a veteran innovator of the food and booze industry (Living Room, Grill on the Alley) shows that Ingall has tempered his natural property developer’s instincts to lure in the Subways of this world and has replaced it by courting some great local operators.

The stroke of genius here though is ignoring Tesco and arm-wrestling Waitrose into the place.

There is another reason why Gordo is feeling optimistic; it’s all to do with a pear.Gordo walks into the new all day food proposition in Kendal’s. This is called Cicchetti and is the brainchild of the father and son team behind San Carlo - Carlo and Marcello Distefano.

This restaurant, dear readers, is the main indicator of the step change that is taking place within the city.

It’s not because Bernard Carroll, the sometimes genius interior designer of restaurants, has completed arguably his best job; the pale colours act as a brilliant base to make its customers, staff and food shine.

It isn’t because it opens for breakfast at eight; Gordo’s full English (look at that picture) was easily in the top three breakfasts across the city.

It isn’t because of the mouth watering menu, with a big fat helping of small, Venetian dishes from which the restaurant name derives.

The reason why this restaurant points to the step change is that pear. The attention to detail by Carlo and Marcello is astonishing, from the white marble, shot through with black (the same marble used in Claridges, London), to the bowls of fresh herbs on the table along with a small pepper grinder, something that shows a change in attitude to the waiters coming over with a pepper grinder the size of an oak which drives Gordo mental. These are all, in poker parlance, ‘tells’. The things that let us know that someone is actually thinking.In the kitchen, we have Francesco Guarracino, whose father is a Roman two star Michelin chef. Francesco’s brigade cooked Gordo the best T-Bone steak of 2010 earlier in the year at Hale Piccolino. The famous John Thompson, who ran 39 Steps for 29 years, is also helping out. These two represent a hugely competent pair who fill Gordo full of hope.

On this visit Gordo was in on a Saturday morning for breakfast, (£6.95). Something which is as English as it can get. A good selection of teas are available, real leaf tea as well, with strainers. Cheekily, the tea is an extra (£1.95).

One complaint; the menu says ‘Eggs of your choice, poached, fried or scrambled’. Now to Gordo, who asked for poached, this indicates two of them at least, but he only got one.

Perfectly poached mind you, all runny in the middle. The bacon was packed with piggyness and as tasty as Kylie’s bum whilst the sausages (and there were two) were flavoured with herbs and very juicy. The black pudding was loved across the table but needed crisping up a bit more for Gordo’s taste. Lots of toast and good butter though.

So what about this pear? Well, Marcello spent twenty minutes showing Gordo the fresh produce he is bringing in from the Milan market. It truly is fantastic. Huge, knobbly peppers, leeks, turnips with the greens still on. But the biggest ‘tell’ was that pear.

Not only was this pear at the perfect point of ripeness, not only was it clearly off a family tree that had been nurtured for decades, but whoever had picked this pear had gone to the trouble of dipping the stalk in hot, red wax to ensure moisture retention.

That, readers, is the kind of detail you only find in Milan or London. And now, Manchester.

The pear

Gordo’s dad used to tell him that misery loves company, but a positive mental attitude is the road to success. Let’s all look to the future of our great city, one that has, and will yet once again, stand tall on the world stage.

All we have to do is keep dipping our pear stalks in hot, red wax.

San Carlo Cicchetti
King Street West, Manchester
0161 834 6226

Follow Gordo on twitter GordoManchester

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

Piers MorganNovember 8th 2010.

Goodness me, where are all the San Carlo haters today? Its all very queit.

katepNovember 8th 2010.

Went for lunch on Saturday - FANTASIC. Had a bottle of reasonably priced red, food was superb (love the tapas concept), staff perfectly attentive without being annoying, so I highly recommend this place!

Ann WiddicombeNovember 8th 2010.

It doesn't seem to have a website yet

Burt CodeineNovember 9th 2010.

Even if these places are up genuinely up there with the best in london/milan et al...would we ever get a fair write up in the broader faced national press? The City seems to have been taking a bit of a [partially] undeserved, ill informed and myopic 'kicking' of late , not unlike, it has to be said, the blue football team from the East. Stride on gracefully and confidently as ever my darling city.

AnonymousNovember 9th 2010.

This place could be just what Manchester needs

Long Tall SallyNovember 9th 2010.

Gordo for Mayor!

WhitesidesOnsideNovember 9th 2010.

Long Tall Sally 09 November 2010, 13:48:00Gordo for Mayor!

I'll never dance with a sycophant i'd raher entertain disdain, for someone who i know at least you know where you stand - you'll never understand..

Caroline FaulknerNovember 9th 2010.

Too many beans.

GoNovember 9th 2010.

Not enough beans.

Carol MNovember 9th 2010.

Went early on Friday evening, thought it was a really nice venue, the food was excellent and reasonably priced but maybe it was because the place was very quiet but the service was really over the top. We were asked 3 times if we understood the format ie that it was tapas and the dishes would arrive as & when. Then we were approached on what felt like a dozen times by various members of staff to check if everything was ok. I like attentive staff but this was way over the top! I was beginning to feel like Norman Stanley Fletcher when he was trying to have a quiet afternoon in HMP Slade. After every man & his dog popping into his cell, pestering him, the prison chaplain was the last straw & Fletch hurled him over the balcony. Those waiters were very lucky that they didn´t land head first on King St West!

1 Response: Reply To This...
Denise WhiteheadJuly 8th 2011.

I couldn't agree more with the comment about over attentive service. Unfortunately for our party 4 this was disturbing to the point of down right irritating and will mean I shall not return. We were asked 4 times if we wanted bread and olives before our meal, they took 30 mins to bring 2 iced coffees which only arrived after we asked for them and when they did they were hot!

They brought a bottle of wine when the order was for a glass. Not an uncommon mistake but around 10 minutes after the glass of wine had arrived they brought over a completely different bottle. This then ended up on bill meaning we had to ask for it to be removed. We were asked three separate times if we wanted dessert. Really annoying! It was a Tuesday night and we really weren't ordering a lot of food as we fancied more of a light supper...not unreasonable to think this was the kind of place that catered for that kind of eating. I cannot stand to be made to feel bad for not ordering more food or alcohol. Anyway. Food lovely. Rant over.

Big Paddy !,November 9th 2010.

Absolutly Top Job. At last somewhere for my Breakfast !,,

Anon TooNovember 9th 2010.

It's a slick operation - no doubt about it. The food is about a trillion times better than at San Carlo too.

Keep it up and they've got themselves a total winner.

AnonymousNovember 9th 2010.

Er, thought the kitchen was headed up by San Carlo exec chefs??

Anon TooNovember 9th 2010.

It is, but the dishes served up are different to the main restaurant, and nicer I'd say.

The tapas style is also better than the often chaotic 'big' San Carlo.

Paul MastersNovember 9th 2010.

Did you make up for the egg shortage with a large lunch

FoodographicNovember 10th 2010.

It has been said that a pear is only perfectly ripe for about 15 minutes - looks like you got there at exactly the right time.

SaturdayshoppersNovember 21st 2010.

called in Sat afternoon.What a beautiful display of fresh food. Was'nt disappointed, great food, lovely surroundings and attentive staff, although we were presented with the bill for next table as well as ours, it was sorted eventually. Must go again soon.

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