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Café Jem and I review

Gordo reminisces over culinary jems in the village

Written by . Published on April 7th 2010.

Café Jem and I review

After the recent run to Didsbury for meat at Axon’s, the butchers, and fish and chips from Frankies Fish Bar (both outstanding), Gordo thought it a good idea to do an updated review on Café Jem and I. This is the well regarded owner–managed restaurant just off the main street in the village. Gordo hasn’t had a walk out on that side of Didsbury for a long while.

Crispy duck confit with sticky red cabbage, champ mash, black pudding and port jus (£14.95) was a combination of classics cooked brilliantly and, bringing out Gordo’s feminine side, simply divine.

The restaurant is a busy bistro, owned and managed by Jem O’Sullivan, a chef of high regard down the years. Jem’s food has always delighted Gordo, whilst the ladies he has dragged along have always sang for their supper with some great anecdotes.

One of the best of those was on his first visit. The lady in question had arrived in Manchester a few years earlier following a broken relationship. After 18 months or so, she felt ready for a "good shagging" (her words, not Gordo’s), but was having difficulties finding a suitable candidate for the job due to workload at her booming employers where she held a board position.

She liked the colour brown however, and whilst signing for documents from the UPS driver, noticed his rather snazzy, tight brown uniform and equally tight arse. She decided he would do.

Goats cheese tart

Two nights later, she had taken him out, got him drunk and given him a good seeing to in three different rooms of her very flash apartment. She herself had had a few good stiffeners during the course of the evening.

“Well Gordo darling, I woke the next morning with Colin asleep next to me,” says Lady X. “I saw his pants strewn across the floor. Then a shoe, then a shoe and a plastic leg…”

It was only then that Lady X spotted that Colin was an amputee. It was at this point that Gordo thought even he may be able to get a shag this time.


Anyway, back to the job in hand. Jem&I was pretty busy on this visit, even after doubling in size. It’s a couple of steps up from a bistro, with tables set close together but the acoustics in the place work well. You aren’t distracted by the conversation on the next table.

This was a pity on this night as the couple directly behind Gordo definitely weren’t with their usual spouses. She had asked for a heater to be placed next to her (it wasn’t by any stretch of the imagination cold in the place). They then snogged at the table. This is unbecoming of forty-somethings. Gordo and his significant ex of 25 years never even talked at the table, let alone swapped spit.

It was when they both disappeared to the toilet together that Gordo got really impressed. He was thinking that’s where he is going wrong, never realising that the term ‘warming a bird up’ was to be taken quite so literally.

Anyway, back to the food. Grilled goats cheese tart with spinach, sweet red onion, filo pastry and balsamic and basil dressing (£6.25) was actually puff pastry. This was explained by a superb waiter. Let’s get that over and done with. The service. Make sure you add your tip to the bill, it’s not included. These boys and girls are stand out and actually deserve more than 10 per cent.

Leach the Peach, another of Gordo’s exes who was on duty on the night, loved the tart. So did Gordo. As he did the Peach’s story about a recent dating experience, but she was fly enough to get an ‘off the record’ promise from him first.Lamb

Crispy fish cakes served with dressed leaves and basil mayonnaise (£5.95) were fab, crisp on the outside, moist, fluffy and singing of the sea on the inside. The kitchen brigade use salad leaves on the side properly, with a dressing that makes it part of the dish, not an afterthought. Basil mayonnaise was heroic.

Crispy duck confit with sticky red cabbage, champ mash, black pudding and port jus (£14.95) was a combination of classics cooked brilliantly and, bringing out Gordo’s feminine side, simply divine.

Roast saddle and rack of lamb with butternut squash gratin, French beans, confit leeks, rosti potato and a rosemary and garlic jus (£17.95) demonstrates Jem’s training qualities and that you cannot paint his cuisine as simply bistro or ‘modern British’. The ‘jus’ in this dish could not have been bettered in Gordo’s favourite bistro, Alain Ducasse’s one star Benoit in Paris. Click here to refresh your memory.


Pudding was a vanilla cheesecake (£5.25), “Gorgeous,” remarks the Peach, whilst Gordo got a good plate of cheese (£5.25) with a nicely sliced Granny Smith and celery which had not been de-stringed. The cheese was good but chilly.


Gordo sank a quite extraordinary bottle of Gevry Chambertin ‘Vallet Freres’ red burgundy ’04 - at £35 an absolute bargain. The wine list is priced on average well below this and shows a good attitude to mark up.

All in all a great meal from what is possibly only one of two independents in that part of ‘the Village’.

Confit duck

Follow Gordo on twitter GordoManchester

Breakdown:8/10 food (room temperature cheese would have elicited another point)
4.5/5 service
4/5 ambience
1C School Lane
M2 6RD
0161 445 3996

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

AnonymousApril 7th 2010.

The 'food' review here, reads almost like an afterthought. Shame

NortherngeezerApril 7th 2010.

Just a different approach surely anon, but i know where your coming from, i'm not sure i'd know what to order if i visited this place.

AnonymousApril 7th 2010.

It wouldn't do if we were all the same. It's about being entertained, not banging on about the lettuce leaves

Scott NeilApril 7th 2010.

i love Gordo's style, i have to say. Gordo mate, i read that one star Paris review you link to up above (*drools*); you note in same there will be a two star and a three somewhere on the site. are they online please? thanks in advance.

AnonymousApril 7th 2010.

Banging on about the lettuce leaves no, but it is supposed to be a review of the food/restaurant

GordoApril 7th 2010.

Scott, this is first, this link may well take you to the Joel Robuchon two star review: http://tinyurl.com/yh9nqxb

GordoApril 7th 2010.

right Scott, that worked so here is the three star, Le Pre Catalin. http://tinyurl.com/yjavuhb

HarrietApril 7th 2010.

Anon, lighten up, it's Gordo. He is a bit strange but makes us laugh. If you want to see his alter ego do 'proper' reviews, have a look at Mark Garner's review of Pre Catelin above; he can knock the pants off Jay Raynor et al.

Lady LApril 8th 2010.

Gordo you are so cheeky! (although strangely remembered the tale very acurately indeed!). Think you own me dinner in Jem & I now L x

AnonymousApril 8th 2010.

I've only been a few times as I tend to find it a little expensive. Perhaps as I remember it as the greasy spoon it was before.

Last went on Thursday before Easter and I have to say that whilst the food was good the serivce was not and unfortunaltey as a result I considered the overall experience was below par for a 'proper' restaurant / restuarant prices.

There are plenty of places that are doing this as well if not better now. The food was good, when it finally arrived, but as a 'dining experience' I would say Fat Loaf and others do the service and value thing better.

GigglesApril 8th 2010.

Spring is in the air & Gordo's libido is on the rise judging from that 'review'! :)

Paul MastersApril 8th 2010.

Gordo all the restaurants in Vegas Have lost their stars cos Michelin cant be arsed looking at them so joels three star "Mansion" Has none for my trip in May but i am sure it will be just as nice .


Scott NeilApril 8th 2010.

cheers Gordo! to say i thoroughly enjoyed reading those would be a gross understatement :-) passed them on to a foodie cockney mate too who was previously unaware of ManCon (*brown-nose, brown-nose*.) i never knew Gordo had such a, er, volatile (or large) financial backstory. good grief! refreshing to know that Clint has better taste in food than politics. (sorry that's the po-faced leftist in me.) @Paul, didn't Michelin sack off their Vegas (and i think LA) guides for the most recent versions? i know when they first launched over there (Bay Area and NYC initially, yes?) there was a bit of feisty US backlash about them damned snooty French, contrasted w the honest and earthy fare of the more democratic conversational Yank guides like Zagat.

Scott NeilApril 8th 2010.

P.S. Paul, perhaps i should read the links you clearly provide before asking you redundant Vegas questions. ahem.

J E SibberingApril 8th 2010.

Naughty Lady L, revealing your secrets...

AnonymousApril 9th 2010.

If that's what passes for a 'cheese plate' in a restaurant riding on this reputation, I'd rather have a Cheese String

NortherngeezerApril 9th 2010.

The cheese plate on the Ransoms offer dont look that appetising either. Trouble is, how do you make cheese look interesting?, add sum celery, a few grapes, a slice of apple, a bit of chutney........very 70s, but no ones ever come up with a better way of presenting it. I've booked the offer at Ransoms and hopefully the cheese tastes better than it looks.

Steven SavageApril 9th 2010.

It's cheese for *** sake...what's it supposed to look like?

NortherngeezerApril 9th 2010.

Well cheese i suppose.................i'm sure some bright spark can make say a cheese jus though, or cheese foam, or even a cheese custard, oh hang on, thats a cheese sauce innit.

AnonymousApril 9th 2010.

It's supposed to look like a cheese plate that makes you want to eat it - this does not. I have come to the conclusion that the folk of Manchester (and the readers of this site), do not give a shit about quality - they are merely interested in eating the cheapest deal around. Fuck the quality, provenance or origin of the food, or the effort and skill that has gone into preparing it

NortherngeezerApril 10th 2010.

Yer not wrong about the look of the cheese plate 'ere anon, it dont inspire yer to taste it doo it, neither does the photo of the fishcakes. Mind you, Mancons getting a great reputation for the quality of its piccys. Theres fook all wrong with a deal though and i for one base my restaurant choice on more than just how fookin cheap it is. I've booked the Ransoms deal in May and thats setting me back 75 big ones.

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