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Rosso restaurant review

Lucy Tomlinson takes on the famous footballers' restaurant

Written by . Published on March 3rd 2011.

Rosso restaurant review

At the time of reviewing, Milan Fashion Week was just finishing. The sight of emaciated Slavic teenagers galloping down the catwalk as if there might be a lettuce salad stashed in Anna Wintour’s handbag, if only they could get to it before it snapped shut, had me reaching for a carb sandwich. And which country worships the carbohydrate above all others? Why Italy ironically enough.

The ingredients are generally good but sometimes it just doesn’t flow together and they become what people expect them to be rather than what they want to be. Rosso is basically the Manchester City of Italian restaurants.

Of course in Italy the great God pasta, is actually a kind of the mezzanine level (an intercourse?) between the antipasti and the secondi. Let’s not even get in to fish and salad courses. Not unless you’re doing the cheat day of the Butterfield diet .

So in search of an Italian blowout, I headed for Rosso. A friend of mine once defined a girl’s night out as a transvestite having sex with a Martini glass. Well I’m not sure that is the OED version (surely a Christian Louboutin shoe is marginally safer?) but I’ve found the perfect place in Manchester for a Girl’s Night Out. Even if you are a lumbering six foot two fella obsessed with football.

The hostess asked our waitress to ‘seat these two ladies’ as she led us through the elegant main restaurant and a monster was born. Man instantly becomes woman. It’s only a couple of letters anyway.

So for the antipasti we ordered a half dozen Colchester oysters (£9.75) and a glass of Prosecco (£3.95) each (so far, so Sex and The City). What an opener. The molluscs were quality through and through. As unctuous, sumptuous and tasting-of-the-sea as mermaid’s snot (and I mean that in the best possible way). No ostentatious stuff, just some chunks of lemon, some red onion in vinegar, and two keen slurpers.

For the carb overload I ordered the seafood risotto (£12.95); again, the ingredients (mussels, monkfish and an especially grumpy langoustine) were fresh and satisfying. Rosso certainly has an excellent fish supplier. My only quibble was that the rice was a tiny bit on the firm side. My newly female companion’s carbonara (£5.95 for a starter portion) was a disappointment, being creamy rather than eggy, with slivers of not overly impressive ham.

It was, she confirmed, more of a superior ready meal, Waitrose rather than Morrison’s, but a ready meal nonetheless. I couldn’t help wondering if this is because Rosso expects its customers to expect the creamy bastardized version of the dish, which to my mind is still not bad eating at all, it just ain’t carbonara.

This provoked discussion of the most horrendous Italian-inspired processed meal, which came in at: Heinz Ravioli, followed by a hideous pizza-style creation from the sorrowful labs of Dr Oetker followed by a whole Vienetta (mint choc chip flavour of course). Add your own suggestions please.

Onto the secondi. This is perhaps the kind of cooking people least associate with Italy, meaty brown dishes that are substantial and hearty and perhaps most all, brown. Surely Italian food is meant to be as tricolore as the national flag, not as deep mahogany as Berlusconi’s tan?

I ordered Fegato Alla Veneziana (£16.95), or calves liver with onion and sage served on potato puree. Not the most beautiful of dishes, but the caramelised onions melted sweetly into the liver for a delicious version of a classic. Rosso might consider serving it on polenta to up the Italian factor (it does seem a bit perverse to order liver ‘n’ onions in an Italian restaurant, even if it is Venetian style.) Sadly, the Bistecca All Rosso (£18.95) was just the opposite. A decent piece of steak, cooked very well (if not quite as blue as ordered), but ruined by one terrible element, an actually repellent sauce. Avoid.

As for the wine list, there are not surprisingly a few flash footballer-type choices in the champagne section. The rest is a decent selection of not exclusively Italian wines. We had the Reisling (£36.95) and the Valpolicella (19.95). The red was especially good value. It would be wonderful if more of these wines came by the glass as it would have been great to try a Barolo with the steak. However, the economic imperatives against offering too many wines by the glass is sadly understandable, as no one (not me, not Rosso, and especially not Butterfield) wants good wine to go to waste.

For the dessert we split a pannacotta, a quivering vanilla breast of a pudding. This one was a bit on the insipid side, though it did come with its own morello cherries for nipple-placing fun.

In the final analysis, my lovely lady friend, looking forward to taking off the mascara and the binding clothing, had this to say: “The thing about Rosso is, it’s obviously spent a lot of money on the interiors, the people, the suppliers. The ingredients are generally good but sometimes it just doesn’t flow together and they become what people expect them to be rather than what they want to be. Rosso is basically the Manchester City of Italian restaurants.”

For a restaurant part-owned, or at least heavily promoted, by Rio Ferdinand and called Rosso for a very, very pointed reason, this description probably wasn’t exactly what they were looking for.

Anyway with that, my companion left planet Venus and returned to his gruff self, hopping on the nearest man-mobile back to Mars, where Top Gear and Bruce Springsteen are played on repeat.

As for this XX chromosome carrier (and, as it happens, City fan), I enjoyed the hustle and bustle of Rosso, the friendliness of the staff and most importantly, my dinner. It’s a strange one. I wouldn’t like to order one of the secondi mains, which veer into properly expensive territory, and be disappointed, and yet the pizza and pasta selection isn’t really special enough for the kind of flash, glamorous experience Rosso is setting itself up to be. Order wisely (or luckily) and your girls (or boys) night out will be a lot less painful.

Rating: 13/20
Breakdown: 6/10 food
4/5 service
3/5 ambience (ie 5/5 if you are looking for a noisy night out, 1/5 if you’re not)
Address: Rosso
43 Spring Gardens
M2 2BG
0161 832 1400

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

Caroline FaulknerMarch 3rd 2011.

Rosso isn't a patch on San Carlo (in fact we had food poisoning as did someone we knew who visited a few weeks later, but that's bedside the point...) so I was instrigued to notice a huge billboard on the way into town advertising Rosso as "Best Restaurant in Manchester"! It doesn't mention who that was voted by - probably themselves! Very nice nibbles they give you with a bottle of wine though - I only go in for a drink now.

Flourescent AdolescentMarch 3rd 2011.

I actually like the Dr Oetker pizzas, particularly the pesto, tomato, mozzerella variation. Whats not to like???

JSMarch 3rd 2011.

Had booked in there for Valentines until they called back and insisted on wanting £100 per couple! Bastards!

JMarch 3rd 2011.

Looks pretty standard stuff to me, nothing special...

Richard WallMarch 3rd 2011.

Won Cheshire Life Manchester restaurant of the year for what it is worth i think. Going there on Saturday so will find out for myself.

Jordan WilsonMarch 3rd 2011.

I've been twice, and twice the mains haven't been up to scratch. Deserts are awesome to be fair.

katehMarch 3rd 2011.

Best night to go to Rosso is a Thursday - good music and less crowded with people hoping to see footballers (especially Rio Ferdinand). Also you may avoid the minibus group of p***ed up knobheads from Bolton that sat behind us on a Saturday once! (No offence to Boltonians)

elpollolocoMarch 3rd 2011.

Cheshire Life give "awards" to those that advertise the most with them. Has anyone ever read a critical review in this publication? Rosso isn't worth a return visit imo...bog standard Italian...why is it that so many places fail to make a proper carbonara?

dances-on-the-sandsMarch 3rd 2011.

Had lunch their pre-Xmas, not a patch on San Carlo, not a patch on Leonis, not even a patch on Romans (RIP - John Dalton St) food average, setting cold and gloomy.

PaulMarch 3rd 2011.

If i were a Rich footballer and wanted to open a restaurant I would make it the best and employ the best staff even if it made a loss so i was not seen as Mr money bags trying to make more money off my name selling shite

markthefotographerMarch 3rd 2011.


M30March 3rd 2011.

Not been, and don't plan on going due to so many negative things I've heard about it.

Basically, Rosso is an out-of-towners Manchester Restaurant, in the same way that The Printworks represents a Manchester night out to those.

Anybody who pays over the odds to eat at a footballers restaurant needs sectioning in my opinion.

"All brass, and no class" is a phrase which springs to mind.

Flourescent AdolescentMarch 3rd 2011.

M30 - Does this then mean that London restaurants that are inhabited by footballers are under Lecicester Square bracket that you have pomposuly placed Rosso in the MCR equivilent? In that case you had better add Hakkasan and Chez Bruce as the past two times that i've visited both i have noticed well known footballers dining there.
As for Manchester, how about you enlighten us on where you recommend that we dine considering Rosso is only for "out of towners" and far too lowly for you....??

Flourescent AdolescentMarch 3rd 2011.


AnonymousMarch 3rd 2011.

I had pre booked a 50th birthday meal for my partner and waited 1 hour 45 mins until i was informed they still didn't have my table ready at 10.45pm - the night was ruined and after writing 2 letters and making numerous phone calls was never contacted. I'm obviously not special or famous enough

M30March 4th 2011.

I didn't understand much of what you said, Flourescent.

I still maintain that anyone who frequents a restaurant just because it's owned by a footballer needs their head testing.

I personally don't judge a restaurant by the number of footballers dining there, or if it's owned by a footballer. Oooh Wayne Rooney eats there! Who gives?

I've had numerous reports of Rosso, and the food and service has fallen way short of expectation. Even last night I was told of a friend's 30th birthday meal being ruined by the rudneness of the service staff.

As to the bizarre Leicester Square analogy: Places like Angus Steak Houses, Garfunkels etc in London ARE for tourists and the out of towners, in the same way that the Printworks largely caters to this demographic in Manchester. The Printworks is a group of girls from St Helens idea of a night out in Manchester. You can see them all staggering over to Victoria Station with blisters on their feet from the hooker heels they've teerered on all night.

Anyway, I digress; Rosso is a restaurant which depends on hype as opposed to quality and reputation.

If you're dazzled by Dubai, the Trafford Centre, or think Victoria Beckham's classy - then Rosso will be the place for you.

NortherngeezerMarch 4th 2011.

Hooker Heels...................Give me a raunchy pair of F*** Me Boots anyday ;-)

VithickMarch 4th 2011.

Nice review. Good writer.

Flourescent AdolescentMarch 4th 2011.

M30 - The analogy of Leceister Square was based on your theory on Rosso - just because footballers frequent the place/own the place doesn't mean that it automatically makes it the destination of choice for out of towners/riff raff (like the printworks)- similarly, if London based footballers go to a restaurant there - does that restaurant then automatically get dragged in to the typical out of towners bracket such as a Leicester Square (the London equivilent of the Printworks) - just because its a 'destination restaurant'?
I've eaten at Rosso on numerous occasions - not because it's owned by Rio Ferdinand as you suggest but because ive had, on the whole decent experiences there and the actual room makes for a great venue. On the whole i'd say it's a reasonable establishment, had some good dishes (wild boar sausages, Lobster) and some decidedly average ones (mixed seafood spaghetti).
My gripe was your suggestion that everyone who visits only does so because a footballer owns it and that because a footballer does own it - it automatically gets bracketed with the same tag as the awful Printworks - which is unfair.
Why don't you make a visit and make your own mind up?

bigearsMarch 4th 2011.

been here a few times and always loved it! but i do have a soft spot for the building as it always amazes me! on the negative side i do know at least 10 different couples who have been here and had the worst meals ever! suppose its luck of the draw really, same as many Manchester Restaurants!

JenksMarch 4th 2011.

It's rubbish. Over hyped over priced and full of people who know nowt about food...more about who they think will appear in there.
Plus its owned by a red. Don't go.

EugeneMarch 4th 2011.

I love the argument going on between M30 and Fl..Ad..

I have eaten in Rosso and really enjoyed it. M30 - if you are quoting adages, then I have to say: you can't knock it until you have tried it

RayMarch 5th 2011.

Rosso is average. I can't really remember anything about my two trips. That neatly describes the experience. Anodyne and unremarkable. I have to say I didn't go there because it was owned (in full or in part) by a footballer, but because I was curious (first time) and was dragged there (second time). Chez Bruce is terrific, but I don't really notice footballers, so that "experience" would have been lost on me. Hakkesan - nope; it was too up its @rse when I went (with outrageous wine markups)

maxfineMarch 5th 2011.

To the people bracketing San Carlo as somehow a "class ahead" of Rosso I say this: Does Rosso have an Rusholme take-away style montage of dining"celebs" dating back the past 15 years?? Or a Veuve Clicquot bar? No.

Rosso is without doubt the finer building, and I've had hit and miss meals at both San Carlo and Rosso, although I have dined at San Carlo more. In fact I haven't yet been that impressed by anything that wasn't off the fish/meat menu at San Carlo.

If I indeed do bring my "out-of-town" friends over for an Italian I do tend to take them to San Carlos first as it's the perfect experience of Patrick Bateman style pretentiousness complete with a surly 1980's waiter who will openly sneer at his tip no matter how generous.

They always enjoy the experience and feel they've had the "real" Manchester Italian experience. Then on their next visit I take them to Destino's for a proper Italian, friendly service and champagne-barless prices. Or to the second floor restaurant at Harvey Nichols if I want to impress them with (in my opinion) the best service in Manchester and probably the best food.

San Carlo vs Rosso? Depends whether you'd rather gaze at the architecture or the amount of make-up on the pouting ex-socialite in the champagne bar window. Both will charge you over a tenner for spag bol.

Richard WallMarch 5th 2011.

Been to rosso for lunch today with hero card. Great service all were brilliant with my young son. He had pizza which had lovely dough and way above pizza express. Veal and lamb shank mains were good but nothing special. Lovely battered courgettes on side. Gorgeous desserts. And nice atmosphere. Will certainly be back for lunch with my boy.

CEKMarch 5th 2011.

This review certainly stirred up some passionate blogs. I am an 'out of towner' but a frequent and massive supporter of the arts, entertainment and dining scene in Manchester. (If only Birmingham would take a few lessons from you it might learn something). Totally agree with MAXFINE - when choosing restaurants it's horses for courses, sometimes it's not just about the food. No-one wants to feel ripped off or given poor service though. The Alchemist is painfully popular at the moment but on my first visit there I was impressed with the food and the staff were wonderful, when they needed our table back they apologised for not making the 2-hour slot clear, moved us to a smaller table with a complimentary bottle of wine - and not house plonk but the same one that we had been drinking for the last two hours. Thanks for the hangover by the way! I may or may not visit Rosso but one thing is for sure, I will make my own mind up!

bigearsMarch 7th 2011.

to Jenks - the Restaurant isn't actually owned by a Red i.e. Rio, its owned by a clothing family called the Kumani's. Rio has about 10% in the business if that, his name is always mentioned so people come in hope to see him

AnonymousMarch 14th 2011.

Went for lunch again today on lunch menu. Great value. Excellent gnocchi. the service in their is really good. This place is joining abode and 2nd floor as my top 3 for the city.

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