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Italian Job

Palmiro Restaurant transports from the Whalley Range borders to the Tuscan Hill, just don’t forget your Italian dictionary or you’ll go hungry.

Published on March 13th 2007.

Italian Job

Travel north from Rome up through Orvietta with its grande architectural statements and the landscape morphs into a patchwork quilt of greens, olive and lemons.

The cuisine so too adopts a change in character. We say arivadechi to Giovanni’s pizza oven and mama’s bolognaise and sink our teeth into the rustic goodness of the Tuscan hills - unassuming restaurants with hearty offerings of wild boar, barley and bean stew, sealing the flavour with a mouthful of Chianti.

It’s this type of cuisine that rarely features on the menu of Italian restaurants over here. Instead we seem to be pervaded with pesto pasta served by the Italian stallion “Giuseppe” or Joey as his mates on the Gorton estate know him. If that is what you so desire, then I know a little place called Est Est Est which would be only too happy to please.

If it’s a bowful of Tuscan authenticity you crave, then you ought to sample the food at Palmiros, which is part of the trendy trio of establishments including the Hilary Step and the Jam Street Café on Upper Chorlton Road.

They really have succeeded in mastering the rich and flavoursome dishes of the North of Italy, food that feeds the soul as well as the belly, all within the stylish yet simple Italian art deco interior.

Starters are rustic with dishes such as Affettati (£5.50), a plate of cold, sliced meat such as proscuitto and salami served simply with crisp pickled vegetables to lift the spiciness and depth of the meat. Lush. The Fennel and Sausage Risotto (£6.25) is equally as nourishing, perfect consistency and the heartiness of the sausage meat is teased cheekily with the perkiness of the fennel (an ingredient which in my opinion isn’t used enough). If you haven’t got a gut as accommodating as Gordo’s, I would strongly recommend this dish as a main, rather than a starter.

For mains, a relatively standard dish of Tuna Sesamo a Papevero (£14.25) (tuna steaks) was transformed into a disco of fine flavours - the tuna coated in sesame and poppy seeds on a bed of al dente green beans shimmying in citrus juice. Tenderly cooked medium, Palmiro prove that tuna doesn’t have to be still break dancing on the plate, in order to retain its flavour and texture.

The wine menu is extensive and varied in price, boasting the best in Italian wines. We opted for the rather Machiavellian Grillo Sicilia (£12.25) with its creamy texture and sting in its tail as it hits the back of the throat.

Have your say on Palmiro and leave a rant below, click here

And if you crave something that will cleanse the palate and not leave your stomach dragging two feet behind, then without question, opt for the Caramelised Pineapple Parfait (£4.25) a scrummy warm gooiness of pineapple chunks melted in a sticky, sweet ice cream.

But sadly, my friends, this is where my love affair with this Italian comes to an end. The language barrier thing got in the way, you know how it goes. The problem that I have is that the menu was completely in Italian, including the wine and not even a whiff of an English translation.

Reading a menu is an aperitif in itself, it’s what kicks the tastebuds into action, what flavours our imaginations, what fills us with anticipation. When you can’t understand a word the bloody thing says, then all it leaves you is miffed and well, hungry.

I don’t want to have to consult my Collins Italian Dictionary when I read a menu. I want to be able to make an informed choice on which wine I choose. And I may sound like an uncultured Brit abroad, craving the home comforts of egg and chips but the point is we’re not in Italy, we’re on the Whalley Range borders. There are no lolloping hills, no sharpsuited Italians racing around on Vespas and certainly no torrid lovers with their public displays of passion.

And it wasn’t just the frustrating menu that left a gaping hole in the pit of our bellies, there was a galactic void where the atmosphere should have been. It’s one of those places where if you talk anything above a whisper, you might be barred for breach of the peace. The serving staff are more or less cardboard cut outs – a bit too cool to the point of intimidating and considering the restaurant was relatively full, it couldn’t have felt more empty.

We can all quite frankly do without renditions of “Just One Cornetto” but really, this place has the vitality of a mortuary. Plus, I might add, there was no soap in the dispenser in the toilets. Purlease…this is a restaurant.

We were out within an hour (at least it was quick service) and made a beeline for the Jam Street Café to reinject some life into our greying bones… and to wash our hands.

11/20 We did actually give this restaurant a whopping 9/10 for food but the score was sadly brought down by service and atmosphere.

Vanessa Lees

197 Upper Chorlton Road
Manchester M16 0BH
Phone: (0161) 860 7330

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LianeMarch 13th 2007.

PS... I would actually like to learn Italian, but even if I did, I doubt the menu features common phrases. It just makes you feel unnecessarily pleb-like.

LianeMarch 13th 2007.

I agree ENTIRELY. We live around the corner so have been a few times - and the problems are always the same. Dead ambience, inaccessible menu. We basically ended up asking the waitress to reel off the entire thing in English - which is immensely awkward.The eating experience is inevitably coloured by these issues.

DavidMarch 13th 2007.

We are regulars, particularly for Sunday lunch. The food and wine, in my experience, has always been outstanding, except for one Saturday night a while back. Every restaurant has off days, maybe the head chef was away or something? They really do need to do something about the "warmth" of the place. In the temperature-sense, the draft whenever the door opens is terrible. They could easily add a porch since they've just splashed out on a bar extension, surely? The toilets are also in serious need of an update. The service is changable (as are the serving staff) but on our last visit two weeks ago, an unpretentious and pleasant young girl coped very well on her own on a busy Sunday afternoon.

TomGMarch 13th 2007.

Friendly but poor service gets in the way of the best food in Chorlton. The Sunday lunch is brilliant value, too. I can definitely see why they won a Bib Gourmand.

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