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REVIEW: San Carlo Fumo | St Peter's Square

Jonathan Schofield enjoys Fumo and worries about an Apple

Written by . Published on January 8th 2015.


REVIEW: San Carlo Fumo | St Peter's Square
 

STUPIDITY comes in many forms. I can't count to ten without getting confused at number seven. But the stupidity of the woman in a popular city pub before Christmas, took my breath away. Let's call her Apple and she had an air of the committed anti-fracker about her. 

Most of the dishes have a simple lubricious Italian elegance, they make you feel healthy, right in yourself but up for it too.

She was drinking with university colleagues and her mind was closed. Sealed. Apple said: "I don't like any restaurants in Manchester. They're all too corporate. Even the independent ones are too corporate."

We explored this concept and got nowhere.

We weren't ever going to get anywhere.

But let's come back to that, because it's relevant to Fumo, another guaranteed success for the San Carlo Group.

Fumo shining brightlyFumo shining brightly

If you know Cicchetti in House of Fraser this is its twin sister in all but name. Small to medium plates, marble surroundings, big windows, expensive fixtures and fittings. This time though there's an upstairs part accessible up a staircase which is all sweep and swoosh and pure 1960s' Bond movie. The stairs disappear out of the building and into the atrium of the main offices of One St Peter's Square. Presumably this is so visitors waiting in the atrium can watch the movement up and down the stairs.

The place as per the San Carlo model is filled to the brim with staff rushing around and asking people if everything is fine, pouring wine before they've asked and smiling and chatting.

This is the essence of the success of the group. The choreography of movement of all those Italian boys and girls through the tables and back and forth to the bars and service areas creates an energy not found in other Manchester restaurants.

Jolly StaffJolly Staff

The food is as attractive as the hand-picked staff. Juicy morsels: especially the spaghettini, the pigeon pate, the tuna, the lamb cutlets and the wonderful pisellini, aka peas and ham. Most of these have a simple lubricious Italian elegance, they make you feel healthy, right in yourself but up for it too.

The spaghettini (£7.50) with adornments of seafood has correctly cooked and timed pasta and a lightness of touch. The pigeon pate (£7.50) is gruff in comparison but rammed with flavour enhanced by a smidgin (on the pigeon) of truffle, the latter offering that utterly distinctive and never unwelcome smell and flavouring. Just as good is the tuna (£8, main image), again a robust dish, but finished off with an engaging fennel mousse.

I loved the pisellini (£2.50), the pea and ham dish, it was so heart-warmingly simple and delicious I couldn't help but smile - peas are a gift from heaven. The lamb cutlets (£7.95) were lovely too, rosemary rich, with a stonkingly good gravy. They came on hay, which in this case and for those who love geographical puns was very much Hay-on-Why.

Coo coo pateCoo coo pate

Lamb, hay, gravy, peas and ham and an imploded burrata mozzarella

 

Lamb, hay, gravy, peas and ham and a bit of an imploded burrata mozzarella

The wild sea bass (£8.50) was clumsy, needing the heat of peppers to give it any sort of definition. The burrata mozzarella (£7.50) was too loose in its centre, yea it needs to be liquid-like in there, but the cheese shouldn't break like a tsunami over a harbour wall.

SeabassSeabass

A Sicilian lemon meringue (£5.45) provided a satisfylingly sweet ending although the cheeseboard (£7.15) with two types of pecorino cheese out of the three cheeses on offer was limited and disappointing - I'm not sure pistachio pecorino should be allowed out in public but then I think any contamination of cheese with fruit or nuts is the devil's handiwork. 

Handy meringue

Handy meringue

It's clear the kitchen at Fumo isn't cooking to the standard of Cicchetti across town. Yet I really enjoyed the visit. Fumo is a good-looking venue with some excellent menu options and it's fabulous for people watching and packed with whirling waiters and waitresses. A proper restaurant experience is not just about the food. Never was. 

Fumo is also good for this part of the city. Readers of a certain age might miss the Dutch Pancake House which occupied this site, but it was dingy and old and the food was rubbish. Fumo is sharp as a pin and fits the new St Peter's Square and the ground floor of this shiny building from Glen Howells Architects like a glove. 

Not that Apple, our friend from earlier, would have liked it. 

She'd closed her mind off, shored it up against the word she found the greatest expletive in history, 'corporate'. Even Manchester businesses such as Home Sweet Home, Gorilla, 63 Degrees, Yuzu, Teacup, Rose Garden were done-for, condemned as 'independent maybe but they're still too corporate'. Not that she could define exactly what she meant.

I'm afraid to say, I deliberately wound Apple up by mentioning San Carlo. It was cheap I know but her reaction was rewarding and typical. She exploded, scattering bits of homespun sweater across the pub, bursting eardrums with bitter counter-culture rants.

One St Peter's Square framed by the CenotaphOne St Peter's Square framed by the Cenotaph

The San Carlo Group for certain people is the beast because it attracts all sorts; crowds of professionals, successful business people (and no doubt successful 'business' people) as well as lots of regular citizens who've saved up because they love coming once a year to see and be seen, people who think 'counter-culture' is something to do with shopping. At the same time it attracts lots of 'wags', general hangers on and sychophants. But that's what happens in successful restaurants. It's what makes dining with the San Carlo Group so much fun. 

I confess the Apples of the UK trouble me, their educated narrowness. I go everywhere and enjoy the spectrum of city dining from This'n'That and Hulme's Kim-by-the-Sea to The French and, now, busy Fumo. Variety is of course the spice of life and variety is also the spice of dining. Strange how puritanical, how dogmatic and fanatical, those who yearn to be the breakers of the system and the dreamers of our future can be. 

You can follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter @JonathSchofield or connect via Google+ 

All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidential and completely independent of any commerical relationship.

San Carlo Fumo, One St Peter’s Square, Oxford Street, M2 3DE.

Rating: 14/20

Food: 7.5/10 (pigeon pate 8.5, pisellini 8, burrata 7, lamb chops 8, spaghettini 7, seabass 7, merinque 7, cheese 6.5)
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, 18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20, we get carried away

Cheese With Nuts - HelpCheese With Nuts - Help

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

Mark Garner The PublisherJanuary 8th 2015.

Brilliant review. Attention all food bloggers and other media in the NW, here is how to do it.

12 Responses: Reply To This...
David SmithJanuary 8th 2015.

+1

pollolocoJanuary 8th 2015.

so to summarise....exactly like all the other San Carlo outposts we already have in this fair city.

AnonymousJanuary 8th 2015.

This is an awful review. If he had such a problem with "Apple" then he should have dealt with her there and then. I don't give a shit about somebody winding him up in the pub over Christmas. Get over it Jonathan. I'd agree the standard of cooking isn't as high as at Cicchetti at the moment. The lobster pasta dish we had came with an incredible tough (though generous) piece of lobster although the simple spaghetti and tomato sauce it came with were sublime. The fish dish (halibut I think) we ordered was also overcooked. Everything else was excellent, particularly the cocktails. Jonathan failed to mention (unless he didn't get any) that the lamb cutlets on hay come with a little copper pan of jus/gravy that's rich, unctuous, the kind of thing you'll scrap over. I've sworn to return and just order chips and a bigger pan of that gravy. And I'm more than happy to put my name to this, I just can't be arsed with the rigmarole as the login always cocks up.

SteveJanuary 8th 2015.

Then write your name at the bottom of the post, if you're that unarsed. I suspect you won't (or at least make up a fake name). Usual keyboard warrior behaviour...

AnonymousJanuary 8th 2015.

Wow Steve, I was hardly being a keyboard warrior. Do you know what a keyboard warrior is? My username is Timbuctoo. I post on here regularly.

EvoJanuary 8th 2015.

W-O-W Steve, what a weapon you are. Looking forward to reading your response now as you certainly won't disappear now as would be the behavior of a typical keyboard warrior...

ZanzibarJanuary 8th 2015.

So Timbuctoo/Anon you didn't read this sentence: 'The lamb cutlets (£7.95) were lovely too, rosemary rich, with a stonkingly good gravy'.

food for thoughtJanuary 8th 2015.

I want to join the argument but don't know what to say...

CharlotteJanuary 8th 2015.

Hahaha. Someone with a lot to say about a piece of writing who fails to actually read it. Brilliant. Made my night.

AnonymousJanuary 8th 2015.

Easily pleased?

MaggieJanuary 8th 2015.

Hahaha, I'm with you Charlotte, brilliant. Oh, btw, I also enjoyed the review. I love talking to the Apples of this world cos they are so easy to take the piss out of. It brightened up a quite balanced and fair review x

AnonymousJanuary 9th 2015.

Hee hee. Gravy on my face. No Zanzibar, I clearly skimmed over the one piece of information I was looking for. I could make excuses about it being a hard week, Christmas hangover, but it's just because I'm stupid (but not a keyboard warrior). Anyway, the key point is that Jonathan didn't spend 90% of the review talking about the gravy which is what it warranted. Go and eat the gravy. Trust me. :-)

AnonymousJanuary 8th 2015.

Poor old Don G's.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
SteamyJanuary 8th 2015.

Nah. Different offering. Don G will be just fine I reckon.

AnonymousJanuary 8th 2015.

Poor old Rump 'n' Ribs?

AnonymousJanuary 8th 2015.

Add this to Apple et al's nonsense. San Carlo is the most child friendly restaurant in the city. I think they might even kick Mike Ingall out of his booth if a baby wanted to sit there. They always make my daughter - not just welcome - but an important guest! Cheers all round. Viva bambini!

4 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousJanuary 8th 2015.

Careful, many posters on this site detest child friendly restaurants.

AnonymousJanuary 8th 2015.

Well I am sure San Carlo would point them in the direction of any number of other (worse) Italian restaurants!

AnonymousJanuary 8th 2015.

My name is Scrooge!

AnonymousJanuary 8th 2015.

What!!!???

AnonymousJanuary 8th 2015.

Went with the beloved on one of the ManCon freebie nights. Oh my, did we have a ball! Yes, the food wasn't perfect (some was utterly sublime), but it's such a happy place you can't help but have a good time.

AnonymousJanuary 8th 2015.

Anonymous, judging from my last (ill-conceived) visit, poor old Don G needs to be quietly retired.....

AnonymousJanuary 8th 2015.

"hand-picked staff" - as opposed to...?

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousJanuary 8th 2015.

Agency staff..?

AnonymousJanuary 8th 2015.

These arent just any bar staff. These are hand picked, organic bar staff.

AnonymousJanuary 8th 2015.

Another status symbol/place to be seen

2 Responses: Reply To This...
rinkydinkJanuary 8th 2015.

Not really. Just a smart place for smart people

AnonymousJanuary 8th 2015.

That counts you out Rinky'.

AnonymousJanuary 8th 2015.

San Carlo is corporate of course but 'good' corporate perhaps. Could we now have a review of its twin (more to come I expect... 'child friendly') www.sancarlofumo.co.uk/…/…

3 Responses: Reply To This...
SquirrelitoJanuary 8th 2015.

this IS a review of Fumo

rinkydinkJanuary 8th 2015.

Face palm

AnonymousJanuary 8th 2015.

Is your face a palm Rinkydink?

grangeJanuary 8th 2015.

Cheese goes great with walnuts , pickle and apple imo..

2 Responses: Reply To This...
Richard KiddJanuary 8th 2015.

Sure, but it's good to be able to add them in any quantity you want… not ready-mixed. Condiments and accompaniments should be left as just that, on the side, so you can use as much or as little as takes your fancy.

Mick ProctorJanuary 8th 2015.

Totally agree Richard In fact that is the lesson of Come Dine With Me...

AnonymousJanuary 8th 2015.

A friend and I also went to one of the free meal evenings, and thought the food good and service brilliant. As always, with San Carlo, the Wine was overpriced, as were some of the "small plates" (From looking at the menu). Would go again, but not, for my budget, an "everyday" restaurant.

AnonymousJanuary 8th 2015.

Fine, as long as they do NOT say nasty things in Italian about the punters, as is said to happen at other locations.....Personally find it all a bit OTT at the place in Kendals....I have friends & DO NOT need new Italian luvvie ones.....Serve me...DO NOT MOVE IN WITH ME!!!

Phil MurphyJanuary 8th 2015.

Am I the only one that didn't get e freebie? Me and MikiMoo went, and we enjoyed it a lot. Nice vibe, good food, decent service (marred only by a one of the cloakroom lasses being a bit too over-friendly). We did wait a tad too long for the first dishes but, shit happens.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousJanuary 8th 2015.

'First world' shit happened. And that's all.

Ron TowerJanuary 9th 2015.

Please tell more about the over-friendly cloakroom lass! Was she after more than your coat?

AnonymousJanuary 8th 2015.

Where's Jonathan Trollfield gone?

AnonymousJanuary 8th 2015.

Just because "Apple" has different politics to you does not make her "stupid".... how insulting! Lots of your readers may have issues with capitalism but this does not make them narrow-minded or stupid, in fact quite the opposite. Your comment about people who disagree with tracking (a perfectly valid viewpoint) reveals your right-wing politics Jonathan - that's fine, but maybe a bit more respect for many of us who do not think money and big business is necessarily a good thing? Stick to the food reviews.

5 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousJanuary 8th 2015.

Jon likes to criticise people because it makes him feel important. Maybe he feels like his life as a restaurant reviewer lacks meaning? Who knows.

MaggieJanuary 8th 2015.

Personally, I enjoyed Jonathon's Apple-baiting. Me bad! Jonathon's error was is publicising Apple's ignorance and pomposity. The reaction to his criticism of Apple and her ilk in an otherwise fair balanced and informative review is undeserved - he's a journalist! I know he can be a pompous old windbag from time to time but he doesn't deserve to verbal version of the debacle at Charlie Hebdo - God rest their souls

AnonymousJanuary 8th 2015.

Maybe he felt inadequate as a youngster.

AnonymousJanuary 9th 2015.

That comparison may be going a little to far Maggie, possibly not the most tactful thing you've ever said. I think in the apple baiting the key bit is that he asked her to define what she meant by too corporate and she couldn't. She didn't even know her own politics and was talking pretentious claptrap because that's what she thought she should do.

Hero
John NuttallJanuary 23rd 2015.

Having different politics doesn't make her stupid but thinking that all Manchester independent restaurants are too corporate certainly does

AnonymousJanuary 8th 2015.

Just because "Apple" has different politics to you does not make her "stupid".... how insulting! Lots of your readers may have issues with capitalism but this does not make them narrow-minded or stupid, in fact quite the opposite. Your comment about people who disagree with tracking (a perfectly valid viewpoint) reveals your right-wing politics Jonathan - that's fine, but maybe a bit more respect for many of us who do not think money and big business is necessarily a good thing? Stick to the food reviews.

6 Responses: Reply To This...
PotatoJanuary 8th 2015.

Being stupid makes someone like Apple stupid. Nonsensical sentences such as that quoted by JS makes someone stupid. In turn, not being able to understand that makes you stupid.

AnonymousJanuary 9th 2015.

You could argue that calling yourself potato is a bit stupid.

Jonathan SchofieldJanuary 9th 2015.

Ha, right-wing me? Really? What I'm saying is people should enjoy variety and diversity rather than closing their mind through a childish sense of 'the anti-capitalist cause' when they clearly have no real knowledge of history or politics. There's Apple on one side being narrow-minded and there's UKIP on the other being narrow-minded. Both are dangerous.

AnonymousJanuary 9th 2015.

They call him Mr Schofield...

AnonymousJanuary 9th 2015.

UKIP dangerous? Please provide those facts JS.

Mark FullerJanuary 24th 2015.

The pretentious Apple is probably a capitalist, but is just too dumb, over-educated or trendy to realise or admit it. I generally dislike corporatism and crony capitalism, but regard capitalism as preferable to the statist alternatives. I love trade, small independent business, innovation, diversity, competition, markets and the rising living standards that usually arise from free market capitalism.

AnonymousJanuary 8th 2015.

Dear me, I used to be like you lot until I discovered.....its a FIRST WORLD PROBLEM! Just enjoy yourselves and think how lucky you are. Oops! Caught being a party pooper, smart arse etc etc. still....love you all, even the tossers! Xxx

Barry MaginnJanuary 8th 2015.

I understand the annoying irony of narrow minded trustafarians (is that still the term for these types?) like Apple, but there is a bit of a point here. Even the places that position themselves as laid back, low profile and quaint in Manchester (think numerous recent NQ openings) are usually well-oiled machines run by chain operators who are obsessed with 'concepts'. Usually they serve £6 pints that have some ridiculous 'craft' story despite tasting bog standard. Although I'd say its a UK thing rather than just Manchester. Look at ThaiKhun - themed after stalls that cost about £20 to set up and sell humble food for pennies in Thai villages, yet involving a multi-million kit out and the flogging of overpriced 'street (inspired) foods'.

4 Responses: Reply To This...
Jonathan SchofieldJanuary 9th 2015.

But Barry as stated in the piece there are lots and lots of indies that aren't themes or concepts such as my fave Italian, Salvi's. Indies should be professional. There is nothing wrong with that.

Barry MaginnJanuary 9th 2015.

True, I agree. Perhaps the issue that makes people pick up on this in Manchester is that a lot of the places that jump out and say 'look at me, I'm indie, I'm eclectic' are anything but (think Bill's, a lot of the more recent NQ openings etc), whereas the real quality indies are just busy putting on a good show. Indie has become more of a perceived 'concept' than an actual business status in a lot of people's lexicons, which causes confusion. And confusion is always picked up on by smartasses to make meaningless arguments (as Apple has here).

AnonymousJanuary 9th 2015.

Unfortunately Manchester is a long way behind our rival cities when it comes to indies, especially good ones.

pollolocoJanuary 12th 2015.

wait till Iberica arrives....the people of mancon have been creaming themselves on twitter over its arrival for months.....then again...they are a client...

AnonymousJanuary 9th 2015.

I'm interested to know what you constitute to be a YAFI? To me, this is certainly one....especially as a chain restaurant.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousJanuary 24th 2015.

Totally fine if it's owt to do with San Carlo.

AnonymousJanuary 11th 2015.

How do you have the time to join in insulting people you have never even met?

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousJanuary 11th 2015.

Can the same be said about Nigel Farage?

Barry MaginnJanuary 11th 2015.

How long do you think it takes???

Poster BoyJanuary 11th 2015.

Groundhog. Day.

AnonymousJanuary 16th 2015.

'She had an air of the anti-fracker about her' Jon you are really being ignorant fracking is dangerous and unnecessary oil prices are at extremely low levels there is an abundance fracking is not the answer whichever way you look at it. Lost a lot of respect for you Jon.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Jonathan SchofieldJanuary 19th 2015.

Oh well.

AnonymousJanuary 23rd 2015.

Now culd we have a review of the original Fumo its twin which is ib Birmingham ancestral home of San Carlo who spawned it as a new format.

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