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Croma Restaurant Reviewed

Jonathan Schofield and sweet dreams

Written by . Published on January 20th 2013.


Croma Restaurant Reviewed

IT WAS the sherry trifle that did it. I have a thing for sherry trifle. This begins long ago.

My grandma on high days and holidays would create these sweet layered creamy treats and I couldn't get enough of them.

The stratified nature of the dish, laid out like the geology of a seaside cliff, and the prospect of all that flavour, made me whoop with joy each time the family's great glass trifle bowl was moved with due ceremony from kitchen to dining table.

The re-visiting of powerful childhood memories rarely delivers the effect we want. People say when they get older, “The summer’s were much sunnier when we were young.” The records invariably show they weren't.

My grandparents lived in a Tudorbethan semi on Sandy Lane in Rochdale. Ever since, I’ve associated this style of building - especially the 1930s' variety - with oldies. And with trifles.

Sometimes while walking or driving down an interwar suburban street I'm still overtaken by an atavistic lurch, and see, in my mind's eye, my twelve-year-old self, eyes shiny with yearning, holding out his small glass bowl (matching the larger mother bowl with its etched glass), and saying "Is there any more, please, grandma?"

CromaCroma

Of course a pizzeria is not where you would expect to find these oh-so-British delights but I had that lurch again when someone mentioned that Croma, Chorlton, had sherry trifle on the menu.

The bizarre combination of margherita pizzas and sherry trifles seemed worthy of investigation - at least the twelve-year-boy inside me thought.

But to get to the desserts you have to have your mains, every kid knows this. So it was pizzas first.

And they were very good, aside from a fish deficiency.

More anchovies pleaseMore anchovies pleaseThe Napoletana at £6.25 was juicy, light in the base, and flavoured with sharp capers and salty anchovies. When you bunched a mouthful from base to fish on the fork there was a blast of good flavour. 

But this didn't happen enough because there were 35.7% fewer anchovies than I expected - or something like that. More little fishes to eat, Croma bosses, don't be so mean.

The Americana (£7.35) had no such problems. It was a pizza of great vigour, boosted by the green chillis. It showed the kitchen knew what it was doing. This was down to the lovely oily character of the pizza that lent it a glistening and tasty lustre. All the pizzas we sampled shared this quality. 

But the king of the pizzas, the Emperor of Thin Base, was the meat-free monarch of mushroom, the funghi di bosco (£7.75).

Again glistening, it held field, brown and oyster mushrooms, the usual mozzarella and tomato, but also truffle oil and rosemary. Truffle oil is an over-used food fad but here with the earthiness of the funghi and the tang and lift of the rosemary, it was wholly appropriate. Try this one if you're off to Croma.

Exemplary and earthyExemplary and earthy

The pizzas out of the way it was, at last, time for the puddings.

And for disappointment.

The object of my desire, the sherry trifle (£4.50) had sponge, raspberries, custard, cream, sherry, marsala (presumably the Italian link that justified the inclusion on the menu) and toasted almonds.

All good but not delivered in this way. (see picture at the top of the page).

The cream was advertised as whipped but it was so solid a herd of wildebeest could have stampeded over it. Meanwhile the mix had been buggered up so at one point I got a whole spoonful of pure sherry and marsala without any absorbing sponge. The result was overwhelmingly sickly and contained so much alcohol I would have failed a breathalyzer.

A pecan and caramel cheesecake (£4.50) was just as clumsy. It was constructional in consistency, a brick of a thing, despite the ice cream and the odd patterned dribblings of caramel. 

CheesecakeCheesecake

Part of this is my fault of course. The sherry trifle, in particular, never had a chance.

The re-visiting of powerful childhood memories rarely delivers the effect we want. People say when they get older, “The summers were much sunnier when we were young.” The records invariably show they weren't. What people mean is that life was less complicated and there seemed so much more time to enjoy the sunny days. Trifles were what it was all about.

Yum, I feel a trifle coming onYum, I feel a trifle coming onCroma performed well with its main focus, pizzas. Strangely enough, my grandma never had a wood-fired oven within which to cook classic pizzas in her Tudorbethan semi on Sandy Lane. But even if she had she couldn’t have done any better than the funghi di bosco pizza.

That said, Croma needs to improve the advertised desserts and show more finesse to go with the scale.

You can see why the Manchester based company has gone down this comfort-food route - there's even a sticky toffee pudding. It will annoy the purist but potentially increases the customer base - especially as the chain now has pizzerias in Tunbridge Wells, and soon, in Loughborough. There is no ideological problem with a Brit-owned pizzeria doing Brit pudds but the execution needs to be much better. 

Service was young but very capable, very good. The clever management systems even incorporated a remarkably efficient and pleasant table laying chap. This was worthwhile given how busy the place was early on a Friday evening.

The winelist has several decent choices under £20, and some more expensive. I toyed with the idea of the Amarone della Valpolicella at £48, a red powerhouse wine with a 15% kick. But paying more for one bottle of wine than for all the other food put together, seemed just a little bit 2007, too much like braying City traders in braces.  

By the way the quest remains. 

If anybody has any recommendations for top trifles in Greater Manchester restaurants, I'm all ears. 

You can follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter here @JonathSchofield 

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

Croma, Chorlton, (also Manchester city centre, Prestwich, Tunbridge Wells, and later this year, Loughborough - work all that out), 498-500 Wilbraham Road, Chorlton. M21 9AP. 0161 881 1117.

Rating: 13.5/20 (Remember venues are rated against the best examples of their kind so check out the box below)

Food: 7/10 (Americano 7.5, Fungus 8.5, Napoletana 7, sherry trifle 5.5, cheesecake 5.5)
Service: 3.5/5
Ambience: 3.5/5

PLEASE NOTE: 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.

 

Fine AmericanoFine Americano


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

Calum McGJanuary 21st 2013.

Jonathan, this is a very fair piece. I love Croma. In fact, have been to the city centre venue over 60 times. Love it. Starters: yum. Wine: fab. The mains always deliver. Espresso Martini: divine. Service: fast and excellent. But... Desserts: very poor :( - the sticky toffee pud is pretty good (but not home made) and I've had that cheesecake you mention. It was borderline rank. It was solid, not sweet enough and just like eating a block of cream cheese. Honestly, if the kind folk would up their game on the pudding front, I'd be a very happy chappy indeed.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousJanuary 21st 2013.

I second this, i probably visit Croma at least once a month and the wine, pizza and service is always up to scratch, especially for the price and the offers (wine and earlybird etc.) But also HATE when restaurant have the boring 'brownie, cheesecake, ice cream.
The Croma tiramisu satisfies the urge, a huge portion in a very large Cappuccino cup, but nothing more than that

AnonymousJanuary 21st 2013.

I remember mancon's last croma review comming to exactly the same conclusions - Pizza great, deserts crap

SimonJanuary 21st 2013.

No idea about the deserts but there is something about the ambience at Croma in Prestwich that makes it my favourite pizzeria/restaurant of them all (and I know that sounds like a ridiculously grand statement to make).

The pizzas are great and it's very good value but the place itself is the real pleasure.

food for thoughtJanuary 21st 2013.

Great place to go with kids, eton mess is very good

AnonymousJanuary 21st 2013.

Never been a fan of either of the Manchester Croma restaurants. The choice of pizzas always seems strange (duck and hoi sin shouldn't be on a pizza) and they always seem quite small to me.
I'll probably get shot down for this, but I prefer Pizza Express to Croma.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousJanuary 22nd 2013.

You must have an odd notion of what contitutes good pizza if you'd go to pizza express at all, let alone prefer it to croma. As for the toppings, some may be untraditional but they sure as hell work for me.

Jayne HiltonJanuary 22nd 2013.

Pizza Express leaves me cold. Croma on the other hand is a warm and welcoming restaurant - I've been to all three in the north west probably getting on for a hundred times now - and I LOVE the Anatra pizza (duck), it is delicious. And as for the Eton Mess - perfection. Try Croma again Anonymous.

GlossopsharkJanuary 22nd 2013.

The Aglefino pizza is one of my all time favourites, although you do sometimes get a slightly over-cooked egg!

Joanna JonesJanuary 22nd 2013.

What about the brilliant, massive and delicious salads?! The tandoori chicken makes me very happy indeed....

1 Response: Reply To This...
Calum McGJanuary 22nd 2013.

The haddock and potato salad is absolutely delicious, with a little kick of chilli to smack you on the bum.

Cockney Actor ChappyJanuary 22nd 2013.

Love Croma, regular haunt, cracking pizzas, great service, but one petty complaint - blunt cutlery. Haven't been in since early Dec, so maybe they've addressed this (told 'em often enough) but last few times I've eaten there it's been a struggle to finish the pizzas. 'Eat it with your bloody hands!!' I hear you cry, and fair enough - but s'nice to have the choice.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Jayne HiltonJanuary 22nd 2013.

On their facebook page they mentioned last year they had bought new cutlery! Perhaps they should put in on the tables! I agree it was a bit pants but the past few visits it has definitely been better.

JJanuary 22nd 2013.

yep, i agree too, great pizzas, salads and garlic bread, RUBBISH puddings

Marcus EmadiJanuary 22nd 2013.

Great pizza's & great service, excellent value-- my favourite pizzeria in Manchester... Would like some options of different ice creams-- The Movenpick ice cream range would rock!!!

McnultycopJanuary 22nd 2013.

I love their Eton Mess (only really eat at the town centre Croma) so rarely try any of the other deserts. The Eton Mess is awesome though. For the money Croma is always an 18 or so out of 20 for me.

Kate YardyJanuary 22nd 2013.

We visit Croma Chorlton on a fairly regular basis & the pizzas are always good. By co-incidence I tried the funghi di bosco on Sunday-brilliant! Best desert far & away is the tiramisu-one to share between two :O)

Daniel CoultasJanuary 22nd 2013.

confused on the service points, 3.5 but you say it was good and one system particularly clever, surely thats 4 plus?

1 Response: Reply To This...
James KayJanuary 23rd 2013.

And then it's given 13.5... 7+3.5+3.5 =

CulldoggJanuary 22nd 2013.

As more of a starter and mains person, I have only ever tried the Banoffee Mess at Croma Chorlton and it is delightful. I'm not a snob so do go to Pizza Express on occasion when convenient or after a free bottle of vino voucher pops in my inbox... But Croma has the edge on starters, pizzas and atmosphere. I'll certainly be back again and again...

CulldoggJanuary 22nd 2013.

As more of a starter and mains person, I have only ever tried the Banoffee Mess at Croma Chorlton and it is delightful. I'm not a snob so do go to Pizza Express on occasion when convenient or after a free bottle of vino voucher pops in my inbox... But Croma has the edge on starters, pizzas and atmosphere. I'll certainly be back again and again...

AnonymousJanuary 22nd 2013.

This might sound like a random rant, I've never been to Croma and was reading article as am thinking about going. Will try pizzas but as for deserts, no chance. I'm a huge snob when it comes to deserts and the cream in the trifle was probably "solid" because it was stored at wrong temperature. Same with the cheesecake.

3 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousJanuary 23rd 2013.

:)

AnonymousJanuary 23rd 2013.

Great!!!

James KayJanuary 23rd 2013.

They can't all be wrong... think I'll be trying it too! Trifle looks alright to me!

paulsouthernFebruary 3rd 2013.

Just been to Croma, Prestwich and the pizza's really great. The lounge singer moving from Johnny Cash to Gary Barlow I could do without though! Glad most of our main was during his interval. Good food though, will return :-)

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