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Sandinista review

Jonathan Schofield quite likes, maybe, sort of, the latest city centre addition

Written by . Published on April 18th 2011.

Sandinista review

The new restaurant and bar in Manchester comes from Leeds. It's named after an eighties album by the Clash which is named after a Nicaraguan Socialist party. 

The Socialist party was created in the sixties and has, in turn, been revolutionary, progressive, oppressive but is now part of the establishment. The oppressive stage came in reaction to the Ronald Reagan funded Contras guerrillas.  Today the Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional is in government.

You guess the food is a complement to hearty drinking for people under thirty on a weekend of excess. Thus there’s a cocktail menu laden with rum, gin, tequila and bourbon concoctions.

Times change of course, we mellow. Che Guevara becomes a poster, a Socialist party in Central America becomes a bar in Leeds and Manchester. Maybe there’s a bar in Managua, the capital of Nicaragua, called Liberal Democrats. Or Coalition. Probably not.

Sandinista 009.JPGI partly learned about Sanidinista because as a youngster I bought the Clash's 1980 triple album of the same name and saw their follow-up gig at the Apollo. It was my first major gig and it was a great start to concert-going. I still adore songs like the Magnificent Seven and Rebel Waltz and Somebody Got Murdered. Here’s a link to Rebel Waltz on YouTube. Ignore the art college video and listen to the tune. Lovely.

There's little revolutionary about Sandinista as a bar in Manchester. Aside from a token Nicaraguan flag, it looks formulaic - like a less corporate La Tasca.

Yet cuddling a vigorous if crude Rioja and looking at a vigorous and crude menu there was something about the place that made me feel at home.  

Of course the simple menu is Tex-Mex not Nicaraguan but the food it supplies is ok.

The steak for the decent fajitaThe steak fajita (£11.50) for instance was very good. A  decent sized portion of meat was presented on peppers and onions with warm tortillas plus guacamole, salsa, sour cream and cheese. These rolled together in a tight flavour filled flour wrap did a delicious stomach filling trick.

If there was a complaint, it was that the portions for the cheese and so forth were mean: ramp up the ramekins please Sandinista. And add heat to the salsa for Gawd’s sake.

My companion had the taco tray, which needs work in the presentation department. The dishes were scattered across the tray like party-goers who didn’t want to talk to each other. They were all heading off for the kitchen to get drunk and hope some better looking and funnier people turned up. Careless that display and easily tweaked.

With the tacos you get two choices of fillings for £6 and four for £12. My friend chose the chicken and chorizo and the chilli and garlic prawn couple of options.

The scattered taco trayShe also got tortillas and all the stuff I’d had with the addition of jalapenos. None of it was as good as my steak fajitas, but it did a job, especially the chicken and chorizo. The only dead element was the prawn dish which lacked heat – physical heat that is – otherwise it was all right, ok, not bad.

The absolute best dish for flavour was a simple side of rice and beans (£2.50). A rugged tastebud delight.

Desserts were chalked high on a board and were low on appeal. Maybe there'll be more on offer when Sandinista is properly established.

A pannacotta (£4.50) was covered with some gooey, red, syrup of the sort Mr Whippy puts on his slimy 99 cornets. It was a sickly and artificial tasting.

There was also the inevitable chocolate brownie. 

The best part, the rice and beans side dish

America has produced many marvels but the chocolate brownie isn't one of them. They’re the hideous, gruesome, sickly cuckoos of the dessert world, raiding the nests of local puddings, killing off the young and begetting foul queasy offspring. 

And aside from brownies and the pannacotta plus some ice cream, that was about it for afters and Sandinista. 

Funny place this one.

Sandinista 009.JPGThe restaurant bar is pleasant to sit and chat in. The food is of the social sharing type (which is why they need a bigger selection of desserts) and is fine. I guess that it’s there as a complement to hearty drinking for people under thirty on a weekend of excess. Thus there’s a cocktail menu laden with rum, gin, tequila and bourbon concoctions that we'll bob back and review.

I mentioned La Tasca earlier, but a better analogy for Sandinista would be Mojo with better food. Or just around the corner, Corbieres, with any sort of food.  

There isn't any rebel spirit as such here but there's an attractive air of youthful enthusiasm.  

Rating 12/20

5.5/10 food

3/5 service

3.5/5 ambience



Old Bank Street

(Off St Ann’s Square)



M2 7PF


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

AnonymousJune 6th 2011.

rubbish rude bar who care more about there fun rather than that of guests

AnonymousNovember 17th 2011.

I am taking some friends here tomorrow so I have high expectations, will post back after the event.

AnonymousJanuary 26th 2012.

Went there last night and can't believe how good the food was! had a 241 tapas voucher which was even better. Food came promptly and hot. Cant really fault it.....will definitely be comin back!!!!

KatySeptember 12th 2012.

wow, very suprised at previous comments. they must have stepped up thier game.
Only went in for a bite to eat & ended up staying all night!
tasty food, lush drinks & seriously good tunes. I'll defo be back!

CharlieNovember 25th 2012.

Have they changed the food recently? Went in here today and it was all Spanish tapas, no Tex-Mex food as such. The tapas were very good, although we were the only people in there (2.30pm on Sunday) which was surprising given the steady stream of people walking between Cross Street and the xmas markets in St Ann's Square.

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