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Ithaca to close

Our provincial bastion of vainglory, excellent food and wayward ambition turns the lights out on 28 February

Published on February 16th 2010.

Ithaca to close

Tough times these.

Tough times especially when you have set up costs approaching £4m on a cramped site over three floors, with just a four metre facade on John Dalton Street.

So Ithaca will close on 28 February.

It was always too giddy over celebs as well. Sure it was good publicity in terms of column inches in papers and mags to have the likes of Jay-Z and his entourage come a-calling, but it meant that the great food was often swamped by an image that seemed all style and no substance.

There's a curious symmetry here. Ithaca took two years to get off the ground and was open for just shy of two years. Prior to opening it promised the earth in a giddy whirlwind of self-promotion and even managed to have a fight with a near neighbour over opening times. That neighbour was the Roman Catholic priest of St Mary's (the Hidden Gem); a priest with the priceless name of Canon Clinch. Clinch, of course, won the battle: he had God on his side after all.

When it finally opened in May 2008 we wrote this: 'You might not guess Ithaca's virtues on first viewing. Everything is either black or silver, and often twinkly silver. It's every gangster's fantasy bedroom in every episode of Miami Vice from the eighties. Yet the more you get acquainted with it, the more the garishness magically morphs into a blank canvas waiting to be animated by the vivid shades of the food.'

Ah the food. On the first review we also wrote: 'Attention to detail seems written into Ithaca's food. It's present in the service and above-all in the food, every dish of which looks absolutely beautiful and has the content to match the looks. This is a hugely exciting new opening for food lovers in Manchester.'

Sadly the original chef Nasser Laziri, previously from Nozomi in London, turned out to be fly-by-night rather than in-every-night. Nor did the service live up to its initial billing, often run by cool young things who thought it beneath them to serve people with respect.

It was always too giddy over celebs as well. Sure it was good publicity in terms of column inches in papers and mags to have the likes of Jay-Z and his entourage come a-calling, but it meant that the great food was often swamped by an image that seemed all style and no substance. Some people never learn in Manchester that that sort of thing can work against you as much as for you.

We also put this in that initial 2008 review: 'Ithaca has to be careful. It has to be food first, second and third. Then a bar. Ithaca should downplay the members bar on the third floor, (it) is a needless up-its-own-arse metropolitan addition, one which has never worked in Manchester. Time will tell.' The advertised members bar, as is the way with these things, became an open-to-all bar in next to no time but Ithaca should have been all restaurant from the day it opened its doors.

Still it's a crying shame this place has closed. It provided endless gossip and a bit of colour to the city scene (often for its failings such as when it hosted a packed lunchtime only to realise the food deal had been advertised as £2.99 not £12.99). But it also gave seriously good food to Manchester. Maybe that – along with the lessons it can teach other operators – is the legacy Ithaca will leave the city.

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

AnonymousFebruary 16th 2010.


DescartesFebruary 16th 2010.

That five grand cocktail not selling well then?

Elaine M BrignallFebruary 16th 2010.

Went with Les Girls for dinner a few weeks ago. Met with a great welcome, shown upstairs and had drinks in the bar with a very welcoming Bar Lady and downstairs had a very good meal.

What a shame - will miss it!

John HarrisFebruary 16th 2010.

Yes the food was good (even very good at times) but the prices and portion sizes took the piss. You cannot expect to get away for long with charging the highest prices in town for a main course but serving a canape

EditorialFebruary 16th 2010.

We also quite like that in the official press release about this they put the closing date as 'Sunday: 29th Feb 2010. (Closing Party)' Bless them. Look before you leap - year.

GJHFebruary 16th 2010.

Food was excellent, but as is well documented the crowd who follow Jay Z to a bar in Manchester really don't give a flying F about good food!

Adam15997February 16th 2010.

I had high expectations of the place, but the atmosphere and the staff were all wrong. The food will be missed, but not the place.

Grave DancerFebruary 16th 2010.

Just before we get too misty eyed, what about the unemployed staff, wine merchants, fishmongers,veg. suppliers,laundry company,soft drink suppliers etc.....dont they get a mention? Are they invited to the closing party? will all the final bills be paid......if so my apologies, if not a job for Sleuth?

isabella16070February 16th 2010.

went past at 11.30 this morning, looks like it's already closed

Hammy666February 16th 2010.

Thats some debt they'll have to pay off. not sure they will have recouped much of that 4 million.
My mrs went in the other week on a saturday and it was dead.

Stuart16967February 16th 2010.

I am sorry that a buisiness has closed, but come on....I went a few years ago and had to go for more food after we left. All style and no substance

AnonymousFebruary 16th 2010.

I was told on Friday....
" Were sorry your food has taken so long, we have some Liverpool footballers in and we wanted everything to be perfect " - Charming

serves them right that they've had to close.

Lets hope whoever takes over or replaces it, will know how to run a restaurant without having their head stuck up their arse...

Dave SpannerFebruary 16th 2010.

I would've got up and left if they'd said that to me @Anonymous.

John HarrisFebruary 16th 2010.

Anywhere that just chases the celeb crowd has a short life expectancy. That crowd is fickle and easily bored - no matter how good you are the beautiful people will move on to the next in place after a few months.<br><br>The ordinary public will support an up-market venue if the offering is good and the prices are proportionate. I am convinced that there is a market in Manchester for top-end restaurants, but they have to be first class, not just say they are.<br><br>Ithaca was, when all's said and done, wildly over-priced for what you got, confused about what it wanted to sell and to whom, fickle to say the least in its service standards, and unreliable in terms of quality.<br><br>Great cocktails though...

CASFebruary 16th 2010.

That's right, it was unreliable in terms of food quality. Sometimes great and sometimes a real let down. It was full of shop assistant millionaires taking an hour over a drink. The restaurant area was also far too small to make any money during the rare busy periods. Wonder what will happen to the space now...

DescartesFebruary 16th 2010.

I've always enjoyed restaurant bar and grill. Feels upmarket to me, consistently great food, wonderful bar, and never had an issue if I happened to have the wrong kind of footwear on - they were just happy me and my group liked to spend lots of money with them and have a great time.

AgricolaFebruary 16th 2010.

Honestly Descartes. RBG is way past its sell by date and would love to have the orange crowd and the pseudo celebs in. Grill on the Alley is the best of these places. And for sheer buzz, San Carlo.

Chaka DemusFebruary 16th 2010.

Maybe ManCon can start bumming another rubbish eaterie now? I'm glad just because you guys will finally be forced to stop ramming this mediocre and often over rated restaurant down our throats! Thank you!

Jonathan Schofield - editorFebruary 16th 2010.

Chaka Demus what a lovely person you are - so polite, so sweet. The food was usually excellent. We did deals with them. End of...and we always reviewed them honestly.

CASFebruary 16th 2010.

Restaurant Bar & Grill does much superior food to Grill on the Alley. Descartes is right. I don't think I've ever had a bad meal there which I certainly can't say about Ithaca, San Carlos or Grill on the Alley. Also the bar is perfect for after work drinks.

DescartesFebruary 16th 2010.

Exactly, RBG might not be young and hip, but it's my favourite pseudo-posh place to chill out, dine, and just generally kick back for a few hours. Other 'up market' eateries always make me feel like a pound sign rather than a customer, RBG just gets the little touches right.

Chaka DemusFebruary 16th 2010.

Jonathan - I'm only stating the truth! It seems all the negatives have only just come out since they announced they were closing, every other time the place could do no wrong by ManCon standards....I assure you the rest of the office agrees!

PliersFebruary 16th 2010.

We do you know!

PliersFebruary 16th 2010.

PS: The waiting on staff always made me wait, they teased me teased me, teased me baby, till I lost control.

Jonathan Schofield - editorFebruary 16th 2010.

You're perhaps confusing the actual review we did with subsequent promotions. We reviewed honestly - check the quotes in the story above. Then with the subsequent Strictly Confidential deals we went in judged the suggested menu, tweaked it so we liked it and then of course promoted it. It would have been silly of us not to promote our own deal. But we also frequently giggled at Ithaca through Sleuth.

liersFebruary 16th 2010.

PPS: Jonathan Schofield smells :P

Lord of the PiesFebruary 16th 2010.

I've never even been to Ithica. I'm probably better for it.

OdysseusFebruary 16th 2010.

Oh for gods sake, I've only been the once, now it looks like I won't ever ever get back to Ithaca!

Chaka DemusFebruary 16th 2010.

Fair enough Jonathan, fair enough. Anyway, they're closed so lets find a decent curry house!

UlyssesFebruary 16th 2010.

It took me ten years to save up for a meal here, but that bloody Agamemnon stole in front of me last week. I'm determined to find his Achilles' heel.

TroystoryFebruary 16th 2010.

I eat like a horse. A wooden one.

Jake16084February 16th 2010.

Hopefully MOOCOW from across the street will expand and strut its funky stuff in a larger premises! Ithaca.... Pithaca!

snFebruary 16th 2010.

"Ithaca should downplay the members bar on the third floor, (it) is a needless up-its-own-arse metropolitan addition, one which has never worked in Manchester. Time will tell."
ManCon called that, then. mind, wrt to the 'metropolitan' shout, it seems fair to say from reading the comments thread, one thing a lot of people didn't like was the glitzy fur-coat/no-knickers style they had when it came to chasing the 'sleb dollar, etc. to be fair to our capital, i would say that sort of thing is far more a provincial symptom than anything you get in the metropolis & her 'old money'...

AnonymousFebruary 16th 2010.

So that Cas can mix with the "right people" please include in your reviews in future the class and wealth (not the same thing) of the diners

CASFebruary 16th 2010.

Who would the 'right people' be, oh anonymous one?

John BoyFebruary 16th 2010.

As the second capital we should indeed be a natural for great restaurants as we nudge out of recession - modernise - have two mega footy teams and get media city opened up fully to boot! My ideal great restaurant serves really good hot ( and cold ? ) food -cooked and served by staff who are genuinely trained and interested in customer satisfaction / feedback - washed down with nice vfm drinkies - with a bit of ambiance and atmos thrown in for free !
( Not much to ask for at around £25 per head !!) Does anyone know of such places in M/C or should we open a "fantasy" diners collective between us ? Come on M/C restauranters - get your fingers out !!

Michele HartFebruary 16th 2010.

Gaucho ticks all the boxes for me John Boy. Amazing meat, even better service.

AnonymousFebruary 16th 2010.

I particularly liked how the staff - Waiters , bar staff , chefs and pot washers used to smoke on the doorstep with the fur coated fashionistas - usually we don't get chance to chance to chat to the 'working class'

Saffron GardenchildFebruary 16th 2010.

It seems Ithaca won the Hi-Life Dining Awards Best Manchester Restaurant a mere 17 days ago. If it really was that good it's a shame it's having to close but if the service is as bad as it sounds it deserves to.

AnonymousFebruary 16th 2010.

No, it wasn't that good. High Life 'awards' mean sweet FA. I could tell you stories about this place that would make your hair curl - I'm surprised it managed to last nearly two years

Saffron GardenchildFebruary 16th 2010.

Anonymous> were you on the staff, by any chance?

I never ate there - I went, twice, for the ManCon free offer and despite phonecalls and emails confirming our bookings they never had any record and we were turned away and had to go elsewhere. I lost interest at that point.

AnonymousFebruary 16th 2010.

Yes and no Saffron - sorry to sound so cryptic

AnonymousFebruary 16th 2010.

The food was good but overpriced. The bar was poncy full of rude and incompetent staff. Clientele at bar seemed to be WAG wannabes and rich sugar daddy sleaze!

RioFebruary 16th 2010.

EDITORIAL COMMENT: Rio we've removed these comments because they are an unsubstantiated personal attack.

AnonymousFebruary 16th 2010.

Still driving his tasteful Bentley though, saw it parked outside Panacea this afternoon.....

RioFebruary 16th 2010.

Arrr yes..that very same bentley thats on finance. All for show. Rather sad and pathetic to be honest.

AvoFebruary 17th 2010.

To be honest, Arnie has always seemed to be a nice guy to me however I have not had any business dealings with him. According to Crain's he personally lost over £100,000 when the first incantation of Ithaca went under last year.

isabella16070February 17th 2010.

What's the point of a 'closing' party? Now this is common knowledge, will the suppliers still supply? Will the staff still turn up? And who gets invited to the party anyway? Didn't he do the same thing at Odyssey, announce they were closing and then have a shin dig? Why not just go quietly

John HarrisFebruary 17th 2010.

Chance to convert the remaining bar stock to cash which can be trousered before the receivers are called in...

AnonymousFebruary 17th 2010.

What, you mean it wouldn't be used to pay the suppliers....

AnonymousFebruary 17th 2010.

Apparently Richard Bacon of Living Ventures fame has bought Ithaca. No more details as of yet.

AnonymousFebruary 17th 2010.

Er, I think you'll find it's TIM Bacon. Richard Bacon is a radio presenter. I also think you'll find it's not the case...

AnonymousFebruary 18th 2010.

If two premiership footballers and a millionaire UAE-based businessman were not prepared to invest(allegedly), I doubt a local restaurateur will be. So far I have seen reports ranging from the snow in January being blamed, to the overall lack of custom, to the inability to claw back the ridiculous start-up costs, to the bad design of the building. It was doomed from the outset and I have to agree with the design and layout being totally flawed. 40-odd staff for a restaurant/bar that seats less than eighty??? and that's now, for well-over a year the staff nummbers were half as much again. That said, I hope the staff and suppliers aren't left high and dry....

CASFebruary 18th 2010.

I blame the edamame. I don't care if it's healthy and cool, it's bloody cardboard.

Leigh ScottFebruary 18th 2010.

The toilet seats are square, but my arse is round? That says it all!

Damian19656February 20th 2010.

St. Mary's, The Hidden Gem was founded in 1794 in the centre of what was then, the poorest quarter of Manchester. It is now thought to be the oldest post-Reformation Catholic church founded as a church in any major centre of population in England.

The church's vital connection with the most ancient Christian traditions of Manchester, and its uninterrupted service to the city since its foundation, make it one of the most beloved institutions in the Greater Manchester conurbation, and far beyond.

But,hey, let's make sure it doesn't get in the way of a new restaurant/bar that will mostly serve a moneyed clientele.

And while we are at it lets have a cheap dig at a man who has dedicated his life to serving others.

Shame on you all.

AnonymousFebruary 27th 2010.

does anybody know if Arnie gets to keep the freehold. where they smart enough to by the property outside Ithaca LTD?
i am already hearing rumours that there is plans for Ithaca to re-open again in Cheshire. is that before Odyssey re-opens in the city centre? Arnie is the internal optimist or just lives in denial. He is a great sales person for sure he seems to get wealthy individuals to part with their money and invest with him. Oh that reminds me what ever happened to the VC boys and the private backs that were banging on the door to invest in Ithaca. No doubt Arnie shall return, hope it dont blow anymore of the family inheritance his family have worked relentlessly for. There will be another band of merry men that will fall for Arnie's high flying jive talk. went to Ithaca twice 1st time was amazing all-round. 2nd time the staff had change and it was not a pleasant experience they clearly where not catering people or slightly interested. maybe Arnie should stick to the family business which is importing cheap goods from china and selling it to the masses.

AnonymousMarch 12th 2010.

I see Lime has now closed - shame, yet another one......

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