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Papa G's review

Jonathan Schofield find the tasty side of Printworks cooking in a Mancunian Greek grill and bar

Written by . Published on January 6th 2011.

Papa G's review

This is a bit of a find

Food wise the Printworks has until recently presented a solid and stolid row of national chains run by giddy marketing and concept people who probably can't boil an egg. Then last year Wasabi, the decent Japanese restaurant moved in, and late last year Papa G's arrived, both Manchester independents.

The whole thing was gone in sixty seconds, before, yours truly, the professional food critic could look up from his beef. My 13-year-old grinned back when I asked him what the ribs had been like: “Dad, I'd just say they were vibrant,” he replied with great authority.

It seems that the Printworks management has discovered the appeal of thinking outside the corporate chain stereotype.

Not that you suspect what's going on with the first viewing of Papa G's. Like all restaurants which are 'units' in a bigger modern shell, close your eyes for a second and strip away the veneer on the inside with the mind's eye and you can picture the charmless concrete ceiling and floors and the breeze block walls.

The family that own Papa G's, the Gabrilatsous, have tried to make this unforgiving shape, giddy and joyous with pop light fittings and bright colours. They need to go a bit further with plants between the booth seats to soften the high and hard look of the place. The other way they've personalised the place is by family reference. In the upstairs space there's a whole photo gallery of the family from the 1930s when they arrived in the area and began selling Cypriot lace before opening restaurants in Bolton and Wilmslow.

It's in staying loyal to the Greek roots of the business that Papa G's works. The pasta dishes for instance are a waste of time. Executive chef is the David Gale-trained George Yiannis. Gale is the head chef at the Podium at the Hilton on Deansgate and one of the most committed Manchester chefs at bringing along the next generation. His protege, Yiannis has real talent. The main quality at Papa G's is the freshness and immediacy of the cooking, together with it's careful handlings.In a venue that looks like it's attacking the Nando's market-category, Yiannis's food is a step up

In a venue that looks like its attacking the Nandos market-range, Yiannis's food is a step up.

We shared the meze as a starter between two adults and three children (£12.95). Expecting something chain-bland we were struck straight-away by the skill evident with the calamari, the halloumi and the rugged quality of the spicy sausages. The staples here such as the unleavened bread and the taramasalata showed home-made care too.

Mains of beef stifado (£13.95), lamb souvlaki (£13.95), diavolo pizza (£8.95) and ribs (£11.95) maintained the skill levels.

The souvlakis are a house special – think shish kebabs. The best looking one was the tiger prawn but we went for the lamb, which was made special by the unmistakeable flavour of genuine charcoal cooking. Yiannis has got a beast of an oven on view at the back of the restaurant. The marinade and the charcoal tang did that thing to the brain where the smell and flavours made the building shimmer and disappear and suddenly you're having a barbecue on a pine tree lined beach.

The beef stifado was deconstructed or rather reconstructed. Unlike the full braised beef stew which would normally constitute a stifado this was a lovely flaking lump of meat on crushed potatoes: the latter still chunky enough to give a nice counterpoint to the fibrous flesh. It also came with an orange salad.

The aforementioned David Gale had challenged me to try this dish as he can't stand the notion of beef and orange salad. Apparently Yiannis had kept suggesting this in the Podium at the Hilton and Gale would clench his fists and jump up and down screaming 'no, never' and chase him round he kitchen with a cleaver – or something like that. Well David, if you're reading, I thought it sort of worked, but on reflection you definitely have a point. I'm going to go back again and re-try. Yiannis, meanwhile, says that this citrus and beef combination is a classic Cypriot blend, and he is from Cyprus. Still the dish was worth it for the beef and spuds alone.

The boys ate the ribs done to Mary's (another family member) special formula. These came with chips. The whole thing was gone in sixty seconds, before, yours truly, the professional food critic could look up from his beef. My 13-year-old grinned back when I asked him what the ribs had been like: “Dad, I'd just say they were vibrant,” he replied with great authority. The pizza was declared “as good as Croma's”.

The crepe (£3.95) with chocolate and banana disappeared almost as quickly. The gem here was the banana cooked in its skin: a sheer delight. The baklava (£3.95) was equally home-made and equally good: a forkful with ice cream and honey is the way to do it.

The Villa dei Fiori Fiano from Sicily at £15.95 a bottle was undistinguished but passable. The wine list is functional rather than fulsome. Customer service was very good - for the cynics out there it was excellent before I was asked why I was taking pictures and making notes, and before they knew I was from Confidential.

There are several other clever management touches, such as the kid's library to relieve parental table tension. The puzzle book on the tables works as well. Another wise move is in the provision of pagers. If the place is busy you're given a pager and you can go for a wander round the Printworks, out into the Northern Quarter for a drink, the Arndale for a shop, or even visit the Cathedral for some culture. When your spec is ready an urgent throb from said pager will vibrate you back to your dining table. Apparently the pagers have a kilometre range.

A sour note was provided – ho, ho – by the music which was too loud for seven'o'clock on a Friday. And I'd like ten or twelve more Greek choices on the menu. Overall though, I really liked Papa G's. It surprised me, it made casual dining a pleasure rather than a rush. I'm not alone in this: the buzz of the place showed it was doing very well. Maybe the Printworks regulars and passers-by have come to recognise the reasonably priced quality here compared to the bobbins say at Old Orleans across the way.

Rating: 14.5/20
Breakdown: 7.5/10 food
4/5 service
3.5 ambience
Address: Papa G's Grill and Bar
The Printworks
27 Withy Grove
M4 2BS
0161 834 8668

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

Mr CheesemanJanuary 20th 2010.

Mr Cheeseman he say yeahhhhhhhhhh

Kimberley17494January 22nd 2010.

Great time, lovely attentive staff - would definately go again!

Paul MastersMarch 23rd 2010.

The only place in Manchester where you can have a mixed grill and still feel hungry

AgricolaMarch 23rd 2010.

Er...hardly. This place is a gem in the Printworks

AnonymousJune 7th 2013.

great place

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Latest Rants

Raj Patel

Shhh. This is right next to my office. A gem of a place for a tasty (& healthy) lunch. Don't tell…

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I think that was meant as a suggestion rather than referring to this location.

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It's nowhere near Kro or the gardens... Check the address...

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