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The Bulb review

Jonathan Schofield builds a body of evidence about an excellent recent city centre addition

Written by . Published on May 20th 2010.

The Bulb review

The start wasn't great.

There was a modest screen on the wall of the restaurant with Dave Channel showing a Michael Palin travel programme. Palin was in India at the River Ganges. The sound was off. Palin was talking about some piles of wood on the riverbank with a local. Some other locals appeared carrying what looked like a rug. They put the rug on a pile of wood, they turned down the end of the rug and there was a very dead human face. They set fire to him.

I've been to Bulb twice, once for lunch and once for an evening meal. There's not been a single thing wrong with any of the food.

I studied the pizza choices on the menu and wondered if they came from a wood oven. When the waiter came over I said, “Have you get any human on the specials menu tonight?”

Black pepper with your gran, sir? Say when

Ah, the idiocy of having TVs in restaurants. The incident made me laugh, but it may have put less robust diners off, especially the old. It's not well done, although the body was by the end of the process. Bulb should get rid. In fact there's usually a rule: if a restaurant has a screen get the hell out of the place quickly, they clearly don't know the first thing about dining out. Going for a meal is a social activity, if you want a TV supper stay at home.

Elegant Steel Shimmer

“Listen,” said the head waiter, a funny, knowledgeable and witty chap. “I'd rather not have a TV at all but we also double up as the restaurant for the The Light hotel (the adjacent space) and the residents sometimes ask for the TV, for football and for news.” He then turned the TV off, clearly embarrassed.

Good lad. Screen aside though, this place is a proper little discovery, a model of it's mid-range dining kind, even if it's another Italian restaurant to add to the five million already in Manchester.

It's got good looks as well, there's a bit of exposed brick, wine laid out on wooden shelving, and then a sharp contemporary design with shimmering steel curtains to hide the aircon and a swish metal serving counter, with the kitchen glimpsed behind. Neat, tidy, confident.

Like the food. I've been to Bulb twice, once for lunch and once for an evening meal. There's not been a single thing wrong with any of it.

The starters on the evening meal set the tone, the fagioli all'uccelletto (£4.50) and the gamberoni con peperoncino (£8.50).

The fagioli, the beans, sum up what's so good about Bulb. I adore restaurants when they have the guts to do it simple. Beans, tomato, rocket, herbs and oil. That's it. That's exquisite. The oily nature of the dish, its raw materials, makes it feel healthy, makes it feel it's doing you good. Most Italian restaurants wouldn't have the guts to present this, thinking the Brits would rebel at its simplicity, yet its the sort of thing Brits would fall in love with at an Umbrian roadside restaurant. I could eat it three times a week.

The gamberoni, the prawns, were eyewateringly good to look at and mouthwateringly good to taste. The oil was the key here, giving the dish a sheen like the pelt of a healthy dog. Mixed with chilli, garlic and thyme and then cooked with four fat king prawns this would also make a perfect light lunch.

Beans to get healthy bySimply does itPrawns alla just right

The mains were tagliata de manzon con rucola e grana (a steak at £17.95 and the most expensive menu item) and the seabass (£10.95).

Again simplicity rather than silly complexity, yet artful simplicity. The steak was a little scorched on the outside which gave a crunch into the soft, medium rare, flesh beneath. The steak came with slivers of Parmesan which added a nutty texture to the plate. The bass was perched on pak choi with a perfectly blended gremolata (garlic, parsley, oil and lemon zest) giving it a citrus edge. Both dishes very good.

In case there are any Yorkshiremen about getting uppity about value for money, all the mains come with a large dish of roasted potatoes. They're not necessary at all. The waiter acknowledged that they were only there to keep Brits who want big happy.

Lovely Seabass

The lunchtime visit included a beautifully balanced linguine seafood pasta main at £11.50. This was typical again, a fresh, oily, herby beauty which combined lightness with superb flavour.

There's no salt or pepper on the table. You get asked if you want the pepper, but “there are enough flavours in the food to ensure you don't need salt,” said the waiter. “We don't have mayonnaise or ketchup either, if people ask I say there is a Tesco next door.” I like this man. Have I ever told readers how much I hate mayonnaise?

So no ketchup, salt, mayo but a TV. Bulb has almost all its founding principles right.

A cracking steak

For pudds we had a tiramisu (£5.50). Pleasant enough, possibly even very good, but my mind was wandering. I was thinking back to how controlled and excellent the savoury courses had been on the small but crafted menu.


Ask the staff for the special list and you'll find a wide choice of wine. We had a lovely Orvieto Custodi Belloro (£21), a gentle, suave, quaffable wine which complemented all the lighter elements of the meal.

Tasteful Orvieto

I was surprised by Bulb. I thought it would be another dull Italian clone, but it isn't. It's absolutely worth a visit. If I'm working or shopping nearby this might be my new restaurant of choice for a few weeks. And if I'm ever attending a Hindu funeral pyre by the banks of the Irwell, I'll call for a take out delivery. We could then film the whole thing and play it back in the restaurant on that TV. Ashes to ashes, crust to crust.

Rating: 15/20
Breakdown: 8/10 food
4/5 service
3/5 ambience
Address: Bulb
20 Church Street
M4 1PN
0161 839 4848

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

Jonathan Schofield - editorMay 20th 2010.

There's text missing from this at present. We're sorting it out. Sorted now.

Jonathan Schofield - editorMay 20th 2010.

Dibigo stop swearing gratuitously would you. Actually the waiter was charming. He was funny, knowledgeable and witty.

AgricolaMay 20th 2010.

Been here twice as well. Loved it both times. Very clean very fresh.

Jonathan Schofield - editorMay 20th 2010.

Dibigo, you've gone and sworn again. You need a swear box. You'd save a fortune.

NeedtoknowbasisMay 20th 2010.

That prawn dish is wonderful. Love it

HelMay 20th 2010.

I've not been and I won't swear, but I have to agree with Dibigo. Waiters are there to serve you and if you ask questions, to advise. Thy are not there to tell you what you like and what seasoning and accompaniments are acceptable. Any restaurant that looks down on its customers is not a good restaurant.

GarMay 20th 2010.

I completely agree with HEL.

My ArseMay 20th 2010.

The waiter's sounds great. Anybody who requires ketchup in a restaurant should be told where to go. And if the waiter was mature about these responses, good on him.

tevezMay 20th 2010.

What about customers who look down on restaraunt staff......!! is that acceptable?
I am with the waiter and jonathon, sometimes customers would have there eyes opened and experiences enhanced if they followed some of the key principles recommened here, so gar, hel & dibigo should stick to cafe rouge et al. Well done The Bulb i will be in soon.

NortherngeezerMay 20th 2010.

Is there an 'X' in bollox??.

Leigh ScottMay 20th 2010.

Apparently they will be opening for tours of the wine cellar on Thurday evenings, they are calling this "Shade".

NortherngeezerMay 21st 2010.

I'm an 'X' rated type of guy Dib

Arran SummerhillMay 22nd 2010.

Went for lunch today... very nice.

Had salmon pasta. try it.


AvoMay 23rd 2010.

Well, if I was dining here and the waiter told me that Tesco stocked ketchup and mayo if I needed it, I'd trot on over there and spend the money I was going to tip him on said condiments and happily continue my meal. I've dined and Ramsons on a few occasions when Chris has said that salt and pepper aren't on the table because his chef has hopefully seasoned the food properly but The Bulb is seemingly a mid tiered Italian restaurant and if I want kethcup with my fries (if indeed they do sell them), I'll have it.

jimMay 23rd 2010.

I've walked past this restaurant and been tempted a few times to pop, however I do like to put salt on my food and frankly having a waiter tell me that I can't have any has frankly put me right off! I wouldn't put ketchup or mayo on myself but at the end of the day if i was paying for a meal and wanted these condiments then i would expect to be able to get them!

kravenedgeMay 23rd 2010.

Jim, you should educate palate lad. Salt kills flavour doesn't enhance it. I'm defo going to visit this place.

JimMay 23rd 2010.

Yeah you're probably right but sadly i'm addicted to the stuff and have to put it on my food :-) I don't think I would mind that much if it was somewhere expensive like Abode but its just something a bit irritating about the fact that a restaurant which from just the look of it reminds me a bit of Bella Pasta would refuse to allow me to put salt on my food!

OxcloMay 23rd 2010.

This place is very good. We tried the steak and the beans as recommended here. Good food and good staff.

NortherngeezerMay 23rd 2010.

The waiting on staff are there to do just that...........wait-on, nothing else, unless requested to do so....like providing mayo. Everyones palate is different and if you want to put salt on yer food Jim (or mayo), your entitled to do so. Dont let the pretentious food police tell you otherwise. Not a place i'm likely to visit , if for no other reason than the last thing i want when i'm paying a numptys wages is a fookin lecture...........or a fight.

Christopher13120May 24th 2010.

Northerngeezer - dreadful attitude to people who serve you in restaurants. I agree with you on the salt issue though

SaltnoMay 24th 2010.

Philistines. This is a great idea.

NortherngeezerMay 24th 2010.

Think you've missed the whole point of my rant Christopher. It dont matter if i'm eating at Gordon Ramseys finest, or the local chippy, if i want mayo/ketchup/brown sauce/piccalilli etc etc on my fayre i'm having it, i'm paying for it. The waiter has no right to question otherwise, certainly not refer you to Tesco's finest.

CheesemanMay 25th 2010.

Northerngeezer, this is a stupid argument. What if you go in this place and ask for a pork pie? Is that the same, after all you're the customer you're paying for it. Yet to ask for that would be to be a complete bore and right idiot. If this is Bulb's policy don't go simple as that.

NortherngeezerMay 25th 2010.

Cheeseman, you've missed the point also. The answer to the question of "can i have some mayo" should have been "sorry sir, we dont serve mayo", not to be told to go to Tesco. The point in question is the civility of the waiter, not the fact he cant have mayo. I for one wouldnt expect to be spoken to in this manner in an establishment where my custom is paying someones wages

Jonathan Schofield - editorMay 25th 2010.

Been reading these. The waiter was civil and pleasant, he was gently pointing out policy.

Gesseppi the waiterMay 25th 2010.

Eh, Eh! We-a no serva mayonars, whasa problemo? Is de sauwca eh diablo eh.

tevezMay 25th 2010.

I am with the waiter on this, chef spends all day creating something special and then some muppet pops along and puts tomato sauce all over it! I had the beans the other day.....excellent.

jimMay 25th 2010.

Tevez thats a ridiculous argument. Thats almost like saying if i made clothes I would have the right to not sell them to ugly people because they would ruin the look of the outfit! Besides its pasta, i doubt it takes the chef all day to make it!

tevezMay 25th 2010.

JIM. Thats! a ridiculous argument.... kids ruin their food with tomato sauce,adults should be more appreciative, unless the food is crap. it is an omnipresent taste that makes the whole meal.........well...tomato sauce flavoured. so whats the point in going to any trouble. Tomato sauce as its place, usually in the cupboard. Fresh pasta takes hours and many sauce's to accompany it also. GO ON JIM live without it for a week?

NortherngeezerMay 25th 2010.

Given that Tevez may, or may not, be the waiter in question, his disdain for the "muppets" (sorry, customers) who pay his wages means i'll never set foot through the door of this establishment, whether i want ketchup or not.

AgricolaMay 25th 2010.

Northerngeezer, they'll probably survive. You're normally quite a funny guy. Maybe we'll club together and buy you some ketchup and get you down there. By the way isn't Tevez a football player?

JimMay 25th 2010.

Tevez I famously don't like tomato sauce, if you read my posts you'll see that its salt I like to add to my food not TK. Although I have no problems with people who want to add TK to food.

NortherngeezerMay 25th 2010.

Yer not wrong Agricola, the little i WONT be adding to Bulbs coffers wont make a difference, unless of course theres a lot of anonymous punters put off from going by the comments on this thread. 10 of me times say £40 is a lot of lost revenue eh. Personally i wouldnt add anything to cheffys efforts, i work on the principle he knows what he's doing. The only condiment i use is the old HP on ones bacon butty.

Christopher BryanMay 25th 2010.

A TV in a restaurant? Talk about casual dining.

I can hardly stand TV's in pubs. I definitely won't be going to restaurant's that have them. Who are these people who want to watch (muted) TV programmes while eating their tea? Even if they are on their own.

AnonymousJune 1st 2010.

The ones who want ketchup and Mayo I expect CB. The place seems not to know what it wants as customers. Perhaps employ one less waiter and a better bouncer to exclude those who are not up or down to it.

NortherngeezerJune 1st 2010.

Theres a Thai restaurant on Portland Street, i cant remember the name, that has muted Sky Sports News on perminantly on a 42" flat screen so high up the wall you get a crick in yer neck watching it and lip reading!!.

Arran SummerhillJanuary 4th 2011.

Noticed on Sunday that this has also fallen by the wayside.....

Altogether now... dum dum dum...another one bites the dust.

Anon TooJanuary 4th 2011.

I prefer 'Bulb goes pop.'

AnonymousJanuary 4th 2011.

Funny is it not? How many people take pleasure in watching the demise of a business? I can only assume that those who find it amusing that people lose their money, their business and often their homes, work in the nice-and-comfy, untouchable public sector.

Erm...January 4th 2011.

Untouchable public sector? Do you read the news?

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