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Felicini reviewed

Jonathan Schofield finds clumsy food but a good mood off Oxford Street

Written by . Published on September 10th 2010.


Felicini reviewed

“Hey Schofield”, said the Lethal Communications ladies in their conjoined way, “let’s take you out for food and force red wine down you so write relentlessly gushing articles on the fabulous Manchester Literature Festival in October.”

“What a good idea,” I replied.

The seafood risotto looked like an experiment in yellow, something primary school kids do before they make models with the goo, but the flavours were fine enough. The salad was like England in the World Cup, good individually but not really cutting is as a team.

So Shelagh Bourke and Catherine Braithwaite took me to Felicini’s on Oxford Street, adjacent to Rochdale Canal. This was my choice because a meal without a review is a waste if it's during the week - and we hadn't been here in a while.

In Confidential it's all about time and motion, being efficient, stalking deadlines like big game hunters, going out at 1pm for lunch, drinking too much, leaving everything to the morning and waking up in the Press Club at 1am having doubts about the fundamentals of existence. We're relentless in our pursuit of Manchester life.

The Lethal Communications ladies have a sneaky girl on girl as the restaurant empties

Felicini’s is a Manchester mini-chain with another branch in Didsbury, one in Sheffield and a franchise in Monton – aka ‘the Paris of Salford’. The Oxford Street unit has a satisfactorily sharp design approached down some grand curving stairs, with booths to one side, on a long linear plan.

The menu is the same as four million other UK menus. There are pizzas, pastas, salads, risottos, duck breasts, steaks, burgers, and as its name hints, a bit of an Italian theme going on, but of the sort that probably wouldn’t be much recognised in Naples.

It’s what the marketeers in the boardrooms of Britain think pleases us most in our food life, hence it’s ubiquity. I’m so used to the thing I could write one with my eyes closed. It’s the non-Asian equivalent of a Rusholme menu by numbers.

We had seafood and saffron risotto(£9.95), the roast duck breast (£14.95), a Persian style feta and tomato salad (£5.75), rocket and shaved parmesan with balsamic reduction dressing (£6.50) and something else I’ve forgotten.

“What’s Persian about the salad?” I asked the cipher of a waiter. “The lemon and coriander cress?” We received no explanation, just silence and a doleful stare. Interesting character.

This was one of those meals which I find hard to write about. There was nothing very good or very bad about it. It was sort of baggy, undefined food which filled us up and provided a bit of background to our chatter.

Duck with those damn crisps

The duck was all right, lukewarm when I got it, on a vast sea of watercress and with some totally useless sweet potato crisps. (Here's an appeal to all restaurants: never ever empty crisps on to food - it's so bloody lazy). I didn’t really catch a hint of the alleged walnut dressing on the duck but the flesh was fine enough if a little fatty. The seafood risotto looked like an experiment in yellow, something primary school kids do before they make models with the goo, but the flavours were fine enough. The salad was like England in the World Cup, good individually but not really cutting it as a team.

The main problem throughout the meal was the clumsy presentation and assembly of the food. This continued with the 'giant profiteroles' which like all things giant were visually compelling but lacked subtlety when up close. The ladies liked them though so I defer to their sweet tooths.

A bottle of South African Shiraz (£21.80) was a necessary assistant to the meal. As was the white wine that Mrs Bourke tucked into. They also helped the chat about the Literary Festival and also the RNCM’s upcoming programme.

“What about an interview with Bernard Cornwell – the Sharpe novels' man? Or maybe Lionel Shriver?” said the ladies. “And you’ll definitely want to cover the event on the 18 October.”

“Why?” I asked.

Pause.

“Because that’s when you’re giving a talk about Anthony Burgess’s Manchester at the Burgess Foundation.”

I'd better put that in the diary.

The afternoon passed in a flash. Life was good in Felicini’s. Cosy.

Despite the dull menu and the lacklustre food, this is the virtue of the place. With the canal just outside, and another 25 diners surrounding us, it provided a tranquil background to our conversation. Nothing offensive, nothing particularly exciting, just all round pleasant.

At one point the three of us watched a man with a beard pilot a barge along the canal with a rock band t-shirt from Motorhead stretched over his ample frame. He had a full frothy pint of ale sat on the gunwale next to him. It's lovely to have a stereotype confirmed. Comforting - like the mood in Felicini that day.

Giant profiteroles – bigger than a babbie's yed


Rating: 12/20
Breakdown: 6/10 food
3/5 service
3/5 ambience
Address: Felicini
60 Oxford Street
City
0161 228 6633

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

liamoSeptember 9th 2010.

This used to be one of my favourite restaurants in the area, but it's gone downhill over the past year or so. The last visit was dreadful. Soup over-salted to the point of inedibility; cold, robotic service and completely devoid of atmosphere.

Hungry in Prestwich!September 9th 2010.

'' In Confidential it's all about time and motion, being efficient, stalking deadlines like big game hunters, going out at 1pm for lunch, drinking too much, leaving everything to the morning and waking up in the Press Club at 1am having doubts about the fundamentals of existence. We're relentless in our pursuit of Manchester life...''

FOR THAT PARAGRAPH- ALONE the article was worth reading! I also concur with the review its Comme Ci, Comme Ça!
Inoffensive indeed- but all I can say is once I moved from my workplace in Barbirolli Sq over to Spinningfields I haven't felt the desire to go back for my work lunches, because it really wasn't good enough...

xx

D KesslerSeptember 9th 2010.

For all the ranters complaining about other Italian (inspired) restaurants around town, the sheer number of them etc., this place really has always been rather cr@p, especially the Didsbury outlet. Avoid!

NeilSeptember 10th 2010.

I had rather gone off Felicini over the past few years, having had some not very inspired experiences at the Didsbury branch - however returned there a couple of weeks ago, and again last night, and have to say the menu - and the food it describes was a huge improvement. The service, too, was very friendly in Didsbury - and showed real commitment to making us feel happy. The baby pear salad with dolcelatte was delicious with gorgeously caremalised walnuts, and the aubergine and hummus with crisp breads were subtle and delightful too.
I found Didsbury was certainly worth going to this time.

Hero
Andrew RevansSeptember 10th 2010.

"Monton - the Paris of Salford". Brilliant! What does that make Worsley? The Beverley Hills?

Benny Boy 1967September 10th 2010.

I'm really surprised to read this review. We live above Felicini so see it as our local. We've never had a bad meal so it's a real shame. However, I hope it doesn't put people off going as the food's great, it's in a good location and it's value for money!

AgricolaSeptember 10th 2010.

Yep that's it Revaulx...Worsley is the Beverley Hills of Salford.

NortherngeezerSeptember 10th 2010.

Course its in a great location benny boy..............u live above it!!!!.
I dont suppose your praise has anything to do with the fact you pay them, or the same landlord rent eh?.

CoffeemanSeptember 13th 2010.

Functional when needed. Not a destination place. Ok for a quick deal before the Opera House.

BENNY BOY 1967September 13th 2010.

@NorthernGeezer... er no - neither.

John HarrisSeptember 13th 2010.

I've found Fellicini hit and miss over the years - never bad enough not to go back, but also not good enough to make me go back. It's the kind of place you don't mind going to if you're passing, or you happen to be on that side of town for some reason. The menu is bland and predictable, the food is (usually) competently done, and the service erratic. It's a great room and a nice place to while away an afternoon as you linger over your lunch, and yet, and yet...

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