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L'Entrecôte Reviewed

Jonathan Schofield is weirded out by the new King Street restaurant

Published on May 15th 2012.


L'Entrecôte Reviewed

SELDOM does a restaurant leave me speechless. 

This may all be down to the curious relationship the British middle and upper classes have with the French. Somehow a good Gallic slap across the face feels better than one delivered from one's own. 

Sometimes the quality of the food, good or bad, can drop the jaw. Occasionally the service can leave you gasping for breath with its poverty or generosity.

But Le Relais de Venise 'L'Entrecôte' isn't like that.

For once with a restaurant I have no idea what on earth is going on. It's left me as discombobulated as a politician asked the price of a pastie.

Given all the love for the place from punters who recall visits to its London or Paris operations, given all the internet praise, I'm wondering if this is just me. Am I too pig-thick to see that 'L'Entrecote' is a pared down piece of pure brilliance?

The French steak bargeman has arrivedThe French steak bargeman has arrived

Maybe the key to restaurants is to ignore all normal standards of customer service, and believe multicoloured table cloths and 1947 waitress uniforms are the very apex of design.

Maybe the key is to offer people no choice over the starters and the mains, and then unacountably go mad with seventeen desserts on offer. 

Maybe I've been wrong all along about these things, because everyone tells me of the queues round the block for the other restaurants in the aforementioned capital cities.

InteriorInterior

So in Manchester this is what happens.

You enter the stately old 1840s' bank building and then it starts.

Staff almost pick you up and insert you into a chair. The next table is about six inches away. If you're on a banquette, the table is moved to let you in and then pushed back quickly and hard. The only way out is by Harrier Jump Jet. 

Those L'entrecote Uniforms Modelled Outside Another Part Of The GroupThose L'Entrecote uniformsDrinks are ordered, quickly, very quickly, as though you're part of a time and motion test - a welcome efficiency. 

Then the waitress - they're all waitresses in dominatrix outfits from the fantasies of overweight stockbrokers - ask you if you've been here before and if you have, then what would you like to order. Come on. Vite! Vite!

The request is odd because - oh so very famously - there's no choice. It's £21 for a starter and a main, or just the starter and no main, or just the main and no starter. Or no main and no starter - if you've got nut allergies and happen to be a vegetarian. One price for ever and ever, marching on, Gallically, into the distance.

So we order the starter and the main.

"How do you want the steak cooked?" asks the waitress.

"Medium-rare," I say.

"We have blue, rare, medium and well-done," she says. 

"I bet that chef gets bored all day just cooking chips and steak, I bet he'll do it any way just to keep himself awake," I say.

I'm trying to joke here, fishing for a softening of the service reaction.

"No, only blue, rare, medium and well-done," says the waitress without a smile.

The salad comes first. It's good.

Crunchy, fresh, with a decent vinaigrette and enlivened by walnuts. But about three and a half minutes after I've eaten it I've forgotten everything about it - blessed be the invention of photography to allow the brain to see back in time. 

A salad, a starter for allThe salad, a starter for all

A sous chef in one of the city's best restaurants? Click here for Jobs Confidential and an opportunity in the Rose Garden.

Then the main event.

There's plenty of frites - or 'angry chips' as a mate's gran used to call them because they were so sharp and so unlike a fat Lancashire chip. These are good frites though. But they are still frites.

I really wouldn't like to do a blind taste testing of these frites or fries, pitted against others in the city. I don't think I'd be able to tell them apart even though the ones in L'Entrecôte are 'hand chipped in-house to the identical dimensions as those in Paris'. Yippy-yee. We're so lucky.

The flesh of the steak is trumpets, proper trumpets at last, bloody gorgeous.

Rare and moist and so very almost alive. If you eat the first portion, all sliced up as it is, then you're offered some more. I ate all mine up and then gorged on the latter. My plate was cleansed of everything meaty if still burdened with frites.  

I'm not sure why I wasn't offered the main without the peppery, admittedly pleasant sauce on the side rather than automatically poured over the meat. That way I could have basked in the flesh without the intrusion and added it at will.

The totalitarianism of L'Entrecôte would seem to preclude that sort of freedom. They know best.

The main eventThe main event

The plate by the way looks Lilliputian, eight inches across. But if you have both portions of steak then you should be pretty full, unless you're an old-fashioned Yorkshireman and want to bellow, "Yer callin' that a proper supper!" 

We had a bottle of white Burgundy at £20 from a massive range that extends to the horizon of one white, one rosé, one champagne and five reds. The white tasted of nettles and pale weeds squashed beneath upturned wheelbarrows. It was thin, very thin. Poor.

Weedy wineWeedy wine

"Why are some of the desserts underlined?" we asked the waitress when she returned for the order.

"Because they are the most popular ones," she said.

"Why are some underlined in red and some in blue?" I asked.

She didn't know.

We had the tartelettes au citron (£4.95) underlined in royal blue. They were very tart, and very lemon, decent enough in flavour but a bit home economics in presentation, just thrust plainly onto a plate, and too loose in consistency. 

Citron - veryCitron - very

We could have had coffee but we didn't.

Within the hour we were out. 

L'Entrecôte isn't a place to hang around in. The chairs aren't comfy enough, the staff might stare. 

Above all it's simply too weird.

There's so much to remark upon in that respect, aside from the mad imbalance in the menu and the sergeant major service, there are lots of little things.

What's going on with that dessert list for example? Why is it all written in diagonal lines, partially underlined and with ditto marks all over the place? It's plain childish.

The fact that the extremely cheap menu needs preserving from grubbly customers in a little plastic case literally made me laugh out loud. 

Diagonally printed, ditto marks and underlining, all in a plastic wallet - shoot the designerDiagonally printed, ditto marks and underlining, all in a plastic wallet - shoot the designer

People who love L'Entrecôte say that it's perfect for a forty five minute quick lunch with great steak. Well yea, for £21 each, and then a bottle of £20 wine adding up to £61 without a dessert or coffee plus 10% service charge. It's perfect for that. A bistro bonanza at more than £70 for French fast food. 

Still, I must be wrong criticising it because people queue round the block in London for the beauty of L'Entrecôte. 

This may all be down to the curious relationship the British middle and upper classes have with the French. Somehow a good Gallic slap across the face feels better than one delivered from one's own.

Many of the people I've talked too have commented on the service in the various L'Entrecôtes in Paris and London with a shrug and said, "Yea, but it's French."

That's all right then.

If you want French in Manchester go to 63 Degrees on Church Street. That's the real star in our entente cordiale.

As for L'Entrecôte I can't fault the meat but I feel I'm walking into a bistro theme park - something based on the stubborn unchanging nature of France. Of course it's ten times better, but there's a whiff of Cafe Rouge about the place.

Not that there isn't a sort of reverse fun to be had here. Despite it all I'll probably be back once a quarter for that Gallic slap.

Bonjour monsieur, but au-revoir to your bourgeois notions of choice.

You can follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter here @JonathSchofield

ALL SCORED CONFIDENTIAL REVIEWS ARE IMPARTIAL AND PAID FOR BY THE MAGAZINE. 

Le Relais de Venise 'L'Entrecôte', 84-86 King Street, City, M2 4WQ, www.relaisdevenise.com  

Rating: 12/20
Food: 7/10
Service: 2.5/5
Ambience: 2.5/5

Hand-sized plateHand-sized plate

Handsome 1842 former bankHandsome 1842 former bank

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

SmittyMay 15th 2012.

But it's just a bit of fun! Honestly Schofield, you take yourself too seriously sometimes. I reckon that if you like steak you won't be disappointed. I think it's the best I've ever had in Manchester.

1 Response: Reply To This...
SchofieldMay 15th 2012.

Smitty I didn't think I was taking it seriously

Gavin WadeMay 15th 2012.

It's a very distinctive addition to the city, can't see it doing as well as the ones in London. As the writer says it's a bit pricey for essentially a fast food joint

HultonMay 15th 2012.

I for one will not be going, maybe I am also missing the point but none of this appeals to me, the speed, the singular choice, the lack of personality.

Daniel BarkerMay 15th 2012.

A HAND SIZED PLATE?? Are they having a laugh? I'm doing a Partridge and taking my own 12"er from the Linton Travel Tavern. I'll not be outdone by some cheese-eating surrender monkeys!

It does sound odd from this review but strangely tempting, like a road accident where you can't help but be drawn in to have a look. I'll definitely be giving it a go - with my own plate of course.

Jane MorganMay 15th 2012.

Oh dear oh dear, wont compete with Jamie's, Gaucho or Bar and Grill for steak. Funny Review! Slightly tempted by the weirdness

AnonymousMay 15th 2012.

.

AnonymousMay 15th 2012.

This is such tedious, small-minded guff.

"These BLOODY FRENCH have the TEMERITY to COME OVER HERE and try and do something DIFFERENT.

HOW VERY DARE THEY"

LukewarmdogMay 15th 2012.

um it's not really different is it tho.. or really french.. and it doesn't sound like they've really tried either..

AnonymousMay 15th 2012.

Vous n'estes pas oblige d'y manger!! C'est surement trop bon pour vous... :-)

AnonymousMay 15th 2012.

Do they have a vegetarian option?

2 Responses: Reply To This...
StuartMay 15th 2012.

yes - slad followed by cheese and chips

tblzebraMay 15th 2012.

The veggie offer is a Rochdale chippy delicacy, cheese 'n' chips:

'We welcome vegetarians. Start with a green salad with mustard vinaigrette topped with walnuts, followed by a selection of cheeses and accompanied by frites plus a dessert of your choice, £21.'

See this article for more comments www.manchesterconfidential.co.uk/…/The-Steaks-Are-High…

AnonymousMay 15th 2012.

Are you allowed Ketchup or is that contraband?

Lorraine ByrneMay 15th 2012.

Brilliant review!! Was looking forward to visiting this place BUT the look of the completely smothered steak and the tinyness of the plate have just completely turned me off - how unattractive does that dinner look!!!

Steve CookMay 15th 2012.

I went on Saturday at 6.30 and thought the décor was excellent and although it is has a strange almost robotic atmosphere I would recommend giving it a go. Yes like some of the finest things in life its over too quickly but the food was good and I left full, even without a desert.

You wouldn't go back week after week, but I will definitely return when I fancy a steak (esp now rib-eye has gone from the Mark Addys menu).

Joanna JonesMay 15th 2012.

has anyone been to the cafe de paris in geneva? same principle, but really good fun. all the same basic things stand as above, but it is not particularly rushed (other than the inevitable economies of time when you dont have a large menu to choose from!). they also have salad, steak with sauce and frites, but it's made to feel fun... and not cheap/poor value. it's not particuarly friendly either, but that seems to work fine there too. i wonder if something as simple as better plates and menus would make a difference?!!!

StuartMay 15th 2012.

Went last night - prompt service, great Claret, quality food, and an altogether pleasant experience - I'll be back on a regular basis. The only criticism is that they don't take AmEx

1 Response: Reply To This...
Sir QuaffJune 26th 2012.

AmEx now accepted.

AnonymousMay 15th 2012.

TBLZEBRA, have you been to Rochdale? I only know a few chippy's that do cheese and chips, it kebab shops that do tht.

1 Response: Reply To This...
tblzebraMay 15th 2012.

Yes thank you, I lived and worked there for 7 years. How about you?

Martin PilkingtonMay 15th 2012.

I've been to one in France and whilst it was very nice, the meat was covered in far too much sauce for my taste and I felt it detracted from the flavour of the meat. I hope they at least allow to opt out of the sauce.

Sounds like its worth a visit but might have limited appeal. When spending a decent amount on a meal it's nice to make a bit of a night of it rather than a quick rush in and out.

NoelMay 15th 2012.

The nettles and pale weeds? its white bordeaux not Burgundy, hense "nettly" sauvignon rather than Chardonnay.. just a comment but thanks for the review! so steak and salad thats it then...guess thats awesome if all 10 of you fancy exactly the same for dinner! a rarity I would imagine!

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousApril 25th 2013.

These "foodie" writers who know sweet FA about wine shouldn't comment on wine at all, they are misinforming others who also don't know any better. To order a white wine like that with steak, and then not know the difference between a Bordeaux and a Burgundy, this is very basic stuff.
Drinking that wine with that steak would make both taste worse. Think drinking orange juice straight after brushing your teeth.
Any faith I had in the writers expertise is now nil and I have to question if I can trust anything in the write up.

General advice: If you don't know what you are doing with wine when in a competent restaurant, ask for a recommendation from their list, having given them a budget.
N.B. Overconfident and clueless waiting staff aside, this can usually be relied upon in decent establishments.

AnonymousApril 25th 2013.

I have replied to you Noel as you mentioned the wine, but my reply is aimed at other readers, although I think you went very easy on the author for such a faux pas.

AnonymousMay 15th 2012.

After yesterday's lunchtime visit we had a '20% off your next visit' note on the bottom of the bill. It won't be long before people get emails offering lunchtime specials (like Jamie's is resorting to already).

Simon TurnerMay 15th 2012.

In and out of there in 45 minutes? That's not how the French do a meal. Linger, longer, toute la journée tous les jours.

Theresa DowMay 15th 2012.

I visited this restaurant with all my family and 16month old grandson, we were shown to our table with a high chair and ordered drinks, we asked about a childrens menu they did not have one, we accepted this just orders some bread for him it arrived with vinegar and oil
we requested some butter for him to be told we had to buy a cheese plate to obtain butter, absoulutely ridiculous we did this so that my grandson could eat something I was appauled and will not be re visiting again

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousDecember 17th 2012.

It's not a Charlie Chalks, it's for adults. Leave the kids at home next time

Elizabeth PalinFebruary 15th 2013.

"anonymous" grow up what a ridiculous answer, a knob of butter is hardly going to inconvenience a restaurant to a massive degree is it?

ShimmysisterMay 15th 2012.

French Austerity Comes to Manchester . . . was what I thought on entering, and it didn't get any better. The place had all the charm and atmosphere of an old folks' home (is that why they pre-cut your food?). No music, no frills, just a great pile of lettuce followed by a great pile of fries and some sliced steak, which might have been okay if it hadn't been swimming in a rather revolting sauce. This won't work in Manchester. We're not that daft and this place won't even tempt the people queueing for a table in Jamie's up the street, nor the people who love the buzz and ambience of other lively restaurants nearby. A thoroughly unpleasant and miserable experience.

paulMay 15th 2012.

"No, only blue, rare, medium and well-done," says the waitress without a smile...................................................................................plus 10% service
nuff said

KimberleyMay 15th 2012.

I disagree entirely. Was better than any steak I've had at gauchos, loved the no frills approach to dining. You can't compare this with Jamie's which last week served me food that was actually inedible! I'd rather have no choice and great food than a large menu full of crap.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
Peter ReeseMay 15th 2012.

Wow, got a point, but so angry. It's part of Manchester's dining tapestry I say. I'd go there occasionally.

KimberleyMay 31st 2012.

Ha ha not meant to be angry sounding at all. Still think Jamie's is crap though.. :)

paulMay 15th 2012.

On the photo of the steak on the website you can see the meat far better presentation than the Manchester version

AVOMay 15th 2012.

Someone who visited this place thought their meal was so bad that they saw fit to write in to Michael Winner at The Sunday Times and got their letter published:

"At Le Relais de Venise L’Entrecôte in Manchester, we arrived at 6.30pm shortly after opening. The restaurant was almost empty. Tables were about 6in apart. We ordered well done steaks; they came underdone. There was difficulty speaking to our waitress, a Spanish student at Manchester University who had been waitressing for only a week. She dropped frites all over the floor, the table and me. The steak was cut into child-sized pieces and drowned in “special sauce”, which was not special. After further disasters we left — never to return."

1 Response: Reply To This...
RayJune 11th 2012.

Anyone asking for a well done steak in a French restaurant should not be surprised if they get (a) something different or (b) turfed out; irrespective of personal choice, over-cooking a steak is an appalling waste of part of a dead animal.

AnonymousMay 15th 2012.

PAUL, you dont expect to get the same as what the picture looks liek do you?! look at macdonalds, always gutted when my burger comes out looking like a fat man has sat on it

1 Response: Reply To This...
paulMay 18th 2012.

Have you never seen Falling Down

ZorroMay 15th 2012.

I went on Saturday and loved it. Yes, there is a bit of French 'get what you're given' arrogance. Yes the plates are small but I loved the second helpings and left feeling very full. I'll definitely be back and I think people should give it a go before making up their mind about it.

Alfredo OlivaMay 15th 2012.

You have a choice: go or give it a miss. When they say blue it means blue! One of the best steaks I've had in the UK. Gaucho's is good too but this review is about L'entrecôte. Will definitely go back next time I fancy a steak (choice!). The service could have been a bit more smiley, agreed.

DavidMay 15th 2012.

I not surprised the reviewer,did not like this place,he saves his praise for all those crap places that advertise on this website.He then shows what a stupid xenophobic idiot he really is,by his comments.I feel sorry for the waitresses having to deal with this self important,unfunny man.

Some people go to this restaurant,knowing full we'll it only offers a set menu of steak,and then start complaining they not offer something else.They think they are funny,actually they are idiots.Listening to these people's comments,they sound like pathetic little Englanders,who thing foreigners should all adapt to our ways.it just shows what a very long way Manchester has to go to be a cosmopolitan City.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
Jonathan Schofield - editorMay 16th 2012.

David bless you. Calling names is fine but maybe you need to stop being so personal and so aggressive. Anger management please...and maybe learn the real meaning of xenophobia.

However as for not praising anything except those who advertise with us take a look at my recent review of Santiago and also the Dish of The Week at Teacup. Maybe even check out the architecture section in culture with Onward House, or the news about the removal of the Manchester Wheel from Exchange Square.

Finally be brave enough to use your full name if you are going to insult people, it's very cowardly not to do so.

SmittyMay 18th 2012.

David, I think you're very wrong. Mancon doesn't pander to advertisers - for reviews or anything else - and is refreshingly and geniunely independent.

AnonymousMay 15th 2012.

Very good review. Overpriced, poor service and not a spot on Berlin's Entrecote Fred's.

The fries tasted frozen, the sauce was just OK and the salad just passable. The ice-cream was hagen-das and small.

Simon TurnerMay 15th 2012.

There's nothing "Little Englander" about wanting a pleasurable dining experience.

James JimMay 16th 2012.

Funny piece, accurate too.

Poster BoyMay 16th 2012.

Sacrebleu! (sic) -it's French -and conforms to all the usual sterotypes. Arrogant, expensive, contemptuous of it's customers, provides a certain sexual 'frisson' for those who wish to look (yes, you Jonathan...), and it's owners probably don't care what anyone else thinks. The only surprise is that there are no handbag dogs eating at the tables, or loud signs proclaiming "No British Beef". C'est la vie...

Staff
Neil SowerbyMay 17th 2012.

Radical, u were too kind. This is an alternative French universe of rude service, appalling wine, nursery mains and a salad dressing of paintstripper dimensions. Gullible proper restaurant-starved mancs queue up for your hour of dyspepsia. Writes our ManCon corr in Trentino, whose food puts Jamie's italian to shame, but that's another King Street story. Ciao.

Staff
Neil SowerbyMay 17th 2012.

Ps JS spot on about brewdog. Pizza sant Ana more satisfying than all the entrecôte shite. Drink the mikeller.

Eileen OSullivanMay 18th 2012.

Where's the veg? There's a distinct lack of legumes - oh, ang on, there's a bit of lettuce.

Looks 'orrendous

AnonymousMay 18th 2012.

I used to eat in L'Entrecôte in Paris in the 80's it was a regular working lunch or early evening.....the French queued out of the door to be served "only steak".... it was always popular then and obviously still is now…. Cant wait to try it !..... Fast food for grown ups ???

CharlieMay 19th 2012.

I've eaten at L'Entrecote in Paris and am looking forward to trying out the new one in Manchester. The food in Paris was fantastic and the steak cooked perfectly - the best I've ever eaten. As for the menu, well you know what you're getting before you go so if you're looking for something other than steak & frites its simple - don't go.

Jonathan, personally I don't think fat cut Lancashire chips would complement the steak particularly well. It seems to me you may have decided you weren't going to like it before you even arrived...

Also I'd like to comment that we were very disappointed with 68 Degrees in Manchester - the food was pretty average, service poor and it was not good value for money - we won't be returning.

For those that are happy with simple (but great) steak and frites, that's served quickly and efficiently in authentic Parisian style, give it a go.

NorthernGeezerMay 26th 2012.

I get the same kind of service in the local kebab shop, and he only 'steals' £3.50 of me for the most exciting bit of gyro meat you'll get this side of the abbatoir.
I reckon Alexis would look a lot better in the uniform than those waitresses too ;-)

CitizenandrewJune 10th 2012.

This place is fantastic. If you want steak and chips go here. If you want fake tan wags go elsewhere.

Phil CarsonOctober 2nd 2012.

went for lunch on sunday, i had the "veggie" option which is 5 really good pieces of cheese, with another salad and fries, and a sauce which was prepared seperately from the meat, and a desert too - creme brulee which was almost perfect. Mt missus had the steak - she said it was the nicest she'd had. We both thorougly enjoyed the meal and were very full afterwards. It did feel a little bit like a "disney" styled french restaurent, but we would go back. a little tip is to visit the stall in the corner of Albert Square (part of the food festival) and you can get samples of the cheese and wine, and a 50% off voucher

geegeeOctober 10th 2012.

Well after all the comments we decided to to try this venue, I dont normally eat salad, but I did and I'm still here, the steak was melt in the mouth, the sauce was the one thing I was apprehensive about as I dont like anything peppery it was wonderful, the seconds were just as good, and the raspberry tarts were to die for. The waitress was a wonderful young hungarian lady, and the service charge is shared between ALL staff.

PabloNovember 3rd 2012.

What is the problem with the reviewer of this resto? Great atmosphere. No rush. Maybe they were just trying to get rid of you?

Salad -superb 18/20. I have never eaten a salad this good outside of France and 90% there are not as good. The four of us agreed on this - even the three salad haters I was with. Steak 16/20. Chips divine. Waitresses (no waiters - this didn't bother me at all but this may be because I'm male and heterosexual) - gorgeous, stand-offish in a sexy way but not at all unfriendly, clad in belle de jour outfits. Shared one plate of cheese instead of pudding with mate - excellent. Puddings, according to female partners. were excellent. £78 four the four of us inc. drinks. We did have a half price voucher which sweetened the bill considerably. At full price I might have been less complimentary but can't fault the food, drink and service even so.

AnonymousDecember 2nd 2012.

you are the worst restaurant reviewer in history. never ever write a review again, this is by far the worst reviiew ever to have been made on a restaurant EVER. don't waste your time because you have no idea and are merely looking for pointless criticism.. 'hand sized plate' OH PLEASE. get a life. fast service for drinks... this is a plus!!!!!! an approach to menu design thats original which you slate.. you obvs have absolutely no idea as to what makes a decent restaurant venture.. go home

2 Responses: Reply To This...
GordoDecember 17th 2012.

totally with you anonymous, can you ask him to leave the office immediatly

GordoDecember 17th 2012.

Gordo concurrs. He thinks.

Jonathan SchofieldDecember 17th 2012.

I love you anonymous. That was great. These are called rants and that really was a cracker.

Richard HJDecember 17th 2012.

You obviously know NOTHING about crackers either...

Jonathan SchofieldDecember 17th 2012.

True, although when I review I do like to do it wearing a party hat and armed with a very small screwdriver and a tiny pack of cards.

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