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Croma review

Gordo sings a song for an inspired idea, great pizzas and then sulks over the pudds

Written by . Published on February 23rd 2010.

Croma review

Now, before you all bite me, I think, only think, that Croma was the first pizzeria to put hoi sin duck on a pizza.

As well as smother it in rocket: a species of the brassica family that was a bit rare at the time, but now needs to be seen less in Gordo’s opinion. Especially in Prêt sandwiches. But that’s a story for another day.

Croma have been around a long time, nine years or so. Arriving at a period when pizza was in the doldrums with a few ‘Italian’ restaurants adding them on to their lists because of the margins (bloody huge) or to pull the brats in with their peanut-worrying parents. Bland, banal, tedious.

Then came a pizza place with some style, that served pretty good wine; full of grown-ups who had come for a pizza upon which sat bits of a quacker. In hoi sin sauce. A bit like what the Chinese guys had introduced a decade before which became an absolute winner. Duck with pancakes. Croma called its reworking Anatra (£7.95).

The guys who sat down and designed this ‘product’ weren’t chefs. They were very good designers and marketing people. Let’s open a restaurant. Hmm. What’s popular but crap at the moment, low raw material cost, big margin. Where people will be in and out in 75 minutes, where we can use dishes that are really popular but update them? Possibly where others have done a bit of trailblazing?

Cooking by the marketing department

Est Est Est were the trailblazers, the Croma boys took a slice out of their menu and made it better, interesting. Pizzas were the name of the game. But what different pizzas.

“ Took Jackie to that place called Croma, they do a hoi sin duck pizza, bloody brilliant it was, she had a Chicken Caesar, kept her quiet,” says Simon to the office in general.

“I’ve had that,” pipes up Martin the accountant, “have you tried the Tandoori Chicken (£7.45) one?”

“Is that the place where they do pizzas with an egg in the middle that comes out runny?,” asks Angela, the sales manager.

Smoked salmon, needs work

Yes Angela, it is, and this dear readers is the real genius of the Croma owners. They decided on two points of difference, one a stroke of pure genius. Pizzas that people talked about in the office the next day. That’s why they virtually never advertise, the place generates business by word of mouth. Talking about the product, not sodding footballers.

The second point of difference all those years ago was quality. Of restaurant design, of service and above all, of food. Starters were a short list, but good. But it was the pizzas people came for and they never let us down in those days. But what about nine years later?

Gordo goes in one late Sunday afternoon, the place looks as cool as always. The marketing boys still ensure that crisp white linen raises the place a good few notches above the competition, with lots of greenery about. The service is interested, professional and personable.

A kid’s pizza arrives in timely fashion, after the seven year old gourmet had been given a bunch of crayons and paper to keep him quiet. Keeping his mother quiet is even simpler, a glass of the house white , Sicilian Settosoli, (£3.75 the glass, £12.95 the bottle). Good it was as well and at a brilliant price point. Gordo, having had a bottle of Peroni lined up for him swapped onto the red from the same house at the same price point, this was another steal.

Junior's, no E numbers here

Junior’s pizza was spot on and not doused in sugar, the tomatoes supplying the sweetness. Full marks. Gordo’s extra big portion of smoked salmon (£7.45) got poor marks, wet super chilled fish, insipid, dried out capers with no bite and a crème fresh that was uninspiring. The Italian bread it came with was heavily chilled in the middle.

Piccante Red Hot

The mother got a dish of Croma baked mushrooms with garlic butter, Worcestershire sauce and, well, well, rocket (£3.95). But this lot was a different proposition to the smoked salmon. The Worcestershire sauce was a little bit of bright thinking here, lifting the dish way above every other faux-Italian restaurant’s offering.

Magic mushrooms

Over to the mother on the pizza:

“Pizza was fierce. Quality topping that blew the roof of my mouth off (and I mean that as a compliment). Delightfully chewy crust too.”

That was the Chorizo Piccante, sliced chorizo, hot green peppers, jalapenos, sliced green chillies, mozzarella and tomato (£7.15)

Smoked haddock, naturally

Gordo was motoring through an Aglefino. Natural smoked haddock, baby leeks (lovely and sweet), free range egg (runny in the middle, get in!) emmenthal cheese, parsley, lemon juice and crème fraiche. (£6.95) Bloody terrific. Proper CHUNKS of great fish.The puddings are a bit of a letdown. At the risk of getting a bollocking off the owners, these are probably arriving every couple of days in the back of a chilled truck. They are ordinary and that’s all Gordo can say about them.

And there is the paradox; The starters are good to great (the smoked salmon was an aberration in Gordo’s mind) the pizzas are fantastic so why are the puddings such an afterthought? Now you lot, there are a number of people coming along to challenge your pizzas, so where is the next major point of difference?

Lemon tart. Claggy

Pudds. Wake up and smell the proper sticky toffee pudding . The ‘Cartmel Sticky Toffee Pudding Company’ aren’t really housed in the back of that post office in Cartmel these days you know, guys. They are a million miles away from the real stuff made in restaurants such as The Sharrow Bay up in Ullswater.

Pay as much attention to the pudds as you do the pizzas and you could have the best little pizza shop in the world.

Cheesecake. Can do better
Rating ex puds: 17/20
Rating inc puds: 15/20
Breakdown: 8.5/5 food excluding puddings
6/10 food including puddings
4/5 ambience
4.5/5 service

(Get the point boys?)
Don’t forget these scores are meant to be against other similar establishments. Which Croma spanks the arse off.

Address: Croma
1-3 Clarence Street
M2 4DE
0161 237 9799

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

Stephen BestFebruary 23rd 2010.

Spot on Gordo, have always enjoyed their food but never managed a pud so can't comment on those. You should also try the one in Prestwich, good for a Sunday lunch.

Lady LFebruary 23rd 2010.

Gordo, The Cartmel Sticky Toffee pudding people really ARE still in Cartmel housed behind the post office. Honestly! I'm going up there on saturday so will bring you proof. x

i like foodFebruary 23rd 2010.

The last few times I ate at Croma, it seemed to me that the pizza dough had gone downhill. It is unfortunate, but quite a few places round town are serving up soggy-middled pies. Where can I get a perfectly crispy pizza?

Matt WFebruary 23rd 2010.

I always thought Manto on Canal St was the first place to do the duck & hoi sin pizza... it was certainly the first place I ever saw it and my figure is testiment to the fact that I've never been shy of the occasional meal out!

GordoFebruary 23rd 2010.

Lady L, they must have a tardis at the back 'cos they are serving every Waitrose in the UK with them as well.. investigate further please. :-)

Mark MottramFebruary 23rd 2010.

I thought these boys came from Pizza Express on back king st, and opened Croma when they sold out? I am also fairly sure they used to serve the hoi sin duck pizza at pizza express too?? maybe my memory is a little fuddled these days though!

AvoFebruary 24th 2010.

I'm with markm on this one and remember hearing that the guys that started Croma came from Pizza Express too. I always thought the dough balls were similar to the Pizza Express ones anyway.<br><br>Give me a call next time you're in town anyway mark. Blackdog are doing BOGOF on their pizzas at the moment which means more cash for beer ans pool...

John HarrisFebruary 24th 2010.

Pizza beer and pool sounds good. Can I come?<br><br>And yes, I also heard that Croma was staretd by a gang of ex-Pizza Express people. <br><br>The pizzas tatse great but they're a bit on the small side...Or am I just greedy?

AgricolaFebruary 24th 2010.

Yes you are John the Brief. You clearly want mansize pizzas.

CASFebruary 24th 2010.

Seeing as there is no general rant facility anymore, I'll stick this here. If you are ever anywhere near Pwllheli, go to the Spar. It is possibly the best food shop in the UK outside London, which is bizarre as it's a Spar. You can get everything from whole mallard to rabbit to Aberdaron crab. You can even get live lobsters from the tank, even at night. They do all the offal and many different kinds of cuts, and it's really cheap. Very impressed.

DescartesFebruary 24th 2010.

I like the idea of 'gangs' of pizza express staff marching the streets, defending the world against the tyranny of poorly made pizzas.

Peter HarrisFebruary 24th 2010.

Hey Mancon! Howz about a "General Rant" facility, a "Suggestion" facility and an "I just found a great Restaurant" facility? Would this be possible to set up in the near future?

MarkMFebruary 24th 2010.

Is pool not too small for you JTB? Maybe we should play snooker instead. That's a man sized table me thinks.....

GordoFebruary 24th 2010.

Pedro, good ideas; we are finishing off version II and will look at version III in three weeks.

GordoFebruary 24th 2010.

Cas, how weird, I will try and get there.

JenniferFebruary 25th 2010.

I second Pedro's suggestions. It would be great to have the opportunity for some general restaurant chat / recommendations.

Anyway, I do love Croma but agree that the puddings are a let down so I don't bother. Nice to see somewhere that still puts out decent linen tablecloths and napkins!

cleverFebruary 25th 2010.

yes, Matt W is indeed correct. Mantos was the first (and only for many a year) to include a hoisin base for their duck pizza. I have to admit, however, on a good day Croma's do have the egde on most pizza establishments in town. An old (old) favourite of mine has been Grinch for their pizzas. I have found on the last 2 visits, the food does appear to have gone down hill in comparison with years gone by.

Gordon SpamseyFebruary 26th 2010.

Well, for those of you that don't bother to try a pudding you're missing out. The Pecan cheesecake with cream and icecream is worth it's weight in gold and great value for money. Which in my opinion is the key here. Myself, the wife and my child can eat here with a free bottle of wine courtessy of the voucher and three corses for under £30. Great food, good service and a good atmosphere. There's no better place to eat in chorlton!

Pudding EaterFebruary 26th 2010.

I did enjoy the sticky toffee pudding on Wednesday but now I feel like I'm missing out on something better (and bigger?)

Might have to skip the Stockport heritage trail and head for Cartmel. Or Waitrose.

Smyth HarperMarch 1st 2010.

Classic Gordo review - brilliant. Clever, I agree that Grinch have gone off the boil. And was in Croma last week and it was as fab as ever!

CRISPY CRUSTMarch 2nd 2010.

Definitely agree with some of the above - pizza bases just aren't crisp - soggy in fact! Bit more baking please! Then you'll have a great pizza shop. p.s. Dough in the Northern Quarter has the worst pizza bases going.

Bert MonkeyMarch 2nd 2010.

I'd say steer clear of the chicken here - I once saw it being delivered...

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