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Destino review

Deanna Thomas finds the hidden chef within

Published on January 6th 2011.

Destino review

When I told the husband we’d been sent by Gordo to review a restaurant for Manchester Confidential, he said “is it going to be good or do we have to eat before we get there?”

I’m a real fan of the much maligned and under-rated lentil. These were brown lentils, full of flavour, having been cooked in a delicious comforting stock, perfectly balanced on the border of becoming soup whilst retaining their smooth texture.

Destino is on Pall Mall, the pedestrianised alley off King St, a stone’s throw away from competitors Croma and Piccollino. Originally designed as a retail space, it has large front windows through which to watch the world go by. This proved to be great entertainment on Halloween weekend as we saw a parade of overweight witches in fishnets, various ghouls and even a Mr Blobby pass by.

Every customer was met warmly at the door by Rudolfo or ‘Rudi’, a giant of a fellow. We ordered a couple of small glasses of the house Prosecco (£4.50). Rudi brought over the menu.

It was totally underwhelming. Same old, same old. Various garlic breads, starters you could guess at without looking, pizzas, three salads and a few obvious pasta dishes. There wasn’t much that I couldn’t make at home. Ok I know I’m a chef, but I think prawn pasta, mushroom risotto and lasagne is pretty achievable for most people.

Rudi then brought over the huge, heavy specials board which we scanned with hungry hope in our eyes. Sea Bass with roast garlic, cherry tomatoes and balsamic vinegar or Chicken breast with garlic butter and rocket both at £13.95. Ok, a little better...

Then Claudio the chef/owner came out from the kitchen. “We also have the duck.” “Sell it,” urged Rudi. “Well...it’s duck with lentils. I cook it pink, crispy skin. If you don’t like it pink, order something else.”


Now, this kind of talk appeals to me. He is the chef, I am a customer. I go to his restaurant to eat what he’s chosen to prepare to illustrate his ability using produce he has chosen from suppliers he’s hand-picked. Then again, hospitality and catering is a service industry. Surely a paying customer is entitled to choose the way they want their dish to be cooked despite the fact that this may ruin it?

I tentatively asked Claudio what today’s ravioli della casa was (£5.95 to start, £9.95 as a main). Much to my pleasure he told me it was pumpkin with ricotta and walnuts with sage butter. Now we’ve started ignoring the generic Italian menu-monkey and started talking directly to the organ-grinder, we’re getting somewhere.

The ravioli was superb - a well balanced, seasonal dish. The walnuts provided a crunchy autumnal contrast to the delicious velvety sweet/savoury pumpkin filling. Four perfectly sized parcels bathed in lashings of creamy sage-scented butter. (Though I think having it as a main course could be too much of a good thing.)

My husband chose mussels (£5.95) which he spotted on another specials board above the bar. They arrived amongst lots of flavoursome bi-valve cooking liquor complete with a few whole smashed garlic cloves. The only problem? No bread. That broth was much too intense to be eaten on its own and we didn’t fancy paying another £1.95 for the ‘house bread’ to mop it up with. Also, three of the mussels wouldn’t open - a pretty amateur mistake which could have been headed off at the pass.

Sea Food Risotto

Duck with Lentils

My husband was put out that I’d laid claim to the duck main course, so he opted for another special of seafood risotto £12.95. It’s a deceptively difficult restaurant dish to get right as it relies on strict timing to optimise the liquid absorption/rice texture ratio. What can be perfectly cooked in the kitchen can be overdone by the time it reaches the table and if it leaves the kitchen underdone, well, it’s anyone’s guess...Anyway, he was pretty impressed as we’ve been served some really poorly cooked ones before at some places that should know better.

My duck was served pink, as promised, but cooked through, with no hint of that liver-coloured sheen you get when duck is served raw rather than medium rare. I’m a real fan of the much maligned and under-rated lentil. These were brown lentils, full of flavour, having been cooked in a delicious comforting stock, perfectly balanced on the border of becoming soup whilst retaining their smooth texture.

We ordered a bottle of Primitivo Massiera Torre Rossa 2009 at £19.95, a smooth Italian wine from Terre di Sava, an area in Puglia which is renowned for the production of exceptional fruity reds. I thought we should keep it local and was glad we did. It danced across the throat like red chiffon.

Pumpkin Ravioli, tastes as good as it looks

For dessert, we thought we’d go for the litmus test of Italian puddings that is tiramisu (£4.50) to share. We were assured that it was made on the premises and not bought in. Creamy, and not too claggy with that warm rum nudge that comes in just to make sure the creaminess doesn’t get too carried away with itself. In short, everything you’d hope for in a tiramisu if that’s your kind of thing.

There was just one little surprise.The duck turned out to have a rather large bill - £17.95. A bit steep considering the other special main courses were £13.95. I couldn’t complain though as it’d been described to me by the chef, was not written down anywhere, and I hadn’t thought to ask. With a couple of pints of Moretti (£4.50), the total came to £83.65.

Pretty expensive for two but at least we’d been well fed and didn’t have to go for a kebab on the way home – which my husband appreciated. The point is, Claudio can obviously cook, now he just needs to learn how to write a decent menu.

Destino's exterior

Breakdown:7/10 food
3/5 ambience
4/5 service
Address:Destino Restaurant
50 Pall Mall
off 82 King Street
UK, M2 1AQ
Tel: 0161 832 4600

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

BowksNovember 3rd 2010.

Sounds promising if you are prepared to go off menu and see what they have lurking in the kitchen. If not it's just another YAFI. Will await the usual comparisons with another Manchester based Italian restuarant.

AvoNovember 3rd 2010.

Don't talk to me about San Carlo...

Paul MastersNovember 3rd 2010.

"Pretty expensive for two but at least we´d been well fed and didn´t have to go for a kebab on the way home" and the off licence for a bottle of wine like you do at Michael Caines 75ml pairings???

sharxNovember 3rd 2010.

My Missus visited the restaurant last week and had the seafood risotto. she said the it was severely lacking in the seafood dept and was bland. She then had chocolate profiteroles.....Enough said!!!!

AVONovember 3rd 2010.

I've not been in since it's changed to an Italian but I would find it difficult to get over the fact that this used to be a sandwich shop and would find it a bit galling to pay over £80 to dine in a place where I used to sit and eat a £3 sarnie on my lunch hour.

MR WANABEENovember 3rd 2010.


ellpollolocoNovember 4th 2010.

What a thoroughly depressing sounding menu. I Made the missus a beautiful Tripa alla Romana the other night with just a hint of chilli, sprinkle of parmesan and drizzle of olive oil...dead easy and hits the spot on a wet and miserable November night.

JNovember 4th 2010.

I found one of the waiters to be quite rude when I went there last year. This ruined the whole experience for me so unfortunately cannot say a good word.

Leigh ScottNovember 4th 2010.

We went here for lunch last week, food was'nt bad the brioche to start but the tomato salsa stuff on top was severely bitter and over dressed with raw garlic, this ruined the pallette for the rest of the meal. The lunch menu is taken from a few dishes on the main menu and pointed out by the over run waiting staff.

It was far too warm and stuffy in there and the windows demonstrated as much by steaming up and running with condensation.There seems to be no air-con or at the very least an open window and my clothes stank of kitchens when I left. AVO's right, it was my local sandwich haunt too but thought we'd give it a go.I wouldn't go back, i'd rather walk down the road to Lounge 10...

AnonymousNovember 4th 2010.

It's OK, but just YAFI really. You should not have to ask the price of the specials, you should be told.

M30November 4th 2010.

Can I just point out that Destino is still a sandwich shop, always has been - and unless the buisness is now generating megabucks from their evening trade - always will be.

The problem I have with "Destinos" is that it simply doesn't know what it wants to be, and in chasing the medium to high-end dining market, it has alienated it's core customer base of office workers looking for coffee, breakfast and lunch.

Whilst I appluad them for diversifying, having walked past many an evening seeing more staff than punters, they cannot afford to treat their core customers the way that they do. I once tried to order £25 of breakfast sandwiches at 10.25 and was more or less told to piss off by the manager. The poor service and the rudeness of manager were legendary in my last workplace, and it now seems that Destino are doing you a favour by selling you breakfast or lunch.

Plus the new wallpaper scares the bejesus out of me.

under pantsNovember 4th 2010.

erm what's YAFI ?

Under PantsNovember 4th 2010.

Your Average Fu**ing Italian?

AnonymousNovember 4th 2010.

If the duck was fresh and good £17.95 is a fair price, it was either worth it or not...."a rather large bill", it's a lame pun at the expense of constructive comment.
Also you caption the pasta "as good as it looks", it looks f*ckin awful.

tevezNovember 4th 2010.

Destino have the best coffee and do the finest Pizza ever! their other stuff is good/average but the staff are always excellent. Keep those Pizza coming pleeeze.

AnonymousNovember 4th 2010.

YAFI = Yet Another f*cking Italian

Damson FlyNovember 5th 2010.

Tevez is right. The Pizzas at Destino are the best in the City, bar none. I adore them. So much so that I have been known to have Garlic Bread (Pizza in disguise) for a starter, followed by Pizza for a main course. Great value too. OK the place is sometimes chaotic (I'd say idiosynchratic) but the staff are always charming and helpful.

barnzNovember 6th 2010.

If im paying £80 odd pound for a meal id like my duck cooked however I wanted thanks very much. How ignorant.

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