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Room review

Gordo breaks into nostalgia, smashes a window, but loves Room

Written by . Published on July 4th 2010.

Room review

The bouncer came flying through the window backwards, shards of glass shattering across the tiled reception floor of what was the Reform restaurant, now Room. Gordo was speechless. The manageress wasn’t.

Gordo has eaten here many times, under many chefs and is glad that he’s now allowed back in. This brigade is the best ever in Room, as is the menu.

“Gordo, I never, ever want to see you in here again, nor that complete mentalist sales manager of yours. Ever. FUCKING EVER. Do you understand me?”

That was the first time Gordo had heard her swear.

Still, it’s not often you see one of the handiest of the Salford boys picked up and thrown clean through a plate glass window. Certainly not by a middle class blond lad from Northampton who looked like he would be far more comfortable playing cricket. Gordo was gobsmacked. The bouncer was clean out.

It was 1999 and the firm’s Christmas party; Gordo had taken the team into the bar at Reform, after a good lunch in Tinsel Town.

Toffee apple

This was his company, Mintball.com, one of the coolest in town, building and managing web sites for people as diverse as the New York Police Department and Tony Wilson’s Music33.com, the precursor of iTunes. The collective IQ of the thirty lunatics on display that day was up in the heavens, as long as you excluded Gordo and Alastair Wildman, the sales manager.

The manageress had asked Gordo to clear the lot out of the bar, mainly because the lads, nearly all geeks from the Computer Building at Manchester University were reacting badly to being stood next to women for the first time in their lives. They all thought girls like these only existed on the airbrushed centre pages of the glossy mags they bought for the toilets. One of the lads didn’t understand the etiquette and had to be restrained from committing a trouser error.

Steak, oyster and oxtail pudding

With everyone out of the door Gordo was standing in the reception trying to placate Emily the manageress. He was muttering platitudes. “They aren’t normally like this.”“They wouldn’t hurt a fly.” “I am pretty sure that John was only straightening out his undies”

“John”, replies Emily, with steel in her voice, “had already straightened himself out Gordo, and I don’t think he was wearing any underpants.”

It was at that point the bouncer made his unexpected entrance and crash-landed. Alastair stuck his head through the window, took one look at Emily and did a runner, leaving Gordo to be ushered away by the officers of the fast response unit a few minutes later.

These days the building is little changed.


It’s at the top of King Street and stands opposite the old Midland bank, like a hooker standing face to face with a prop forward. The restaurant is on the first floor, easily the best space in town in which to house a restaurant. The refurbishment back in the late nineties was handled by the excellent Bernard Carroll and, although the place has failed twice, the current ownership have moved in three or four years ago and have attracted a good looking, late twenties to early thirties crowd. Not too WAG-ish, more behind the TV than on it.

The reception downstairs is always manned by a pretty girl and a doorman whose intellect runs rather deeper than you would think. He is always reading.

Gordo, leaving early one evening said sarcastically. “What are you reading there Squire, Homer?”

“Nope, Proust,” came the reply. To Gordo’s embarrassment he truthfully was.

Moving up the spiral staircase takes you to a bar where you can get some great cocktails as well as foreign (boo) beers and a good selection of wines. You can hang around in here for as long as you want. The magnificent bar unit splits the room 30:70 between bar and restaurant. The music is a bit too lively for Gordo, but lively enough for the crowd that keeps the place profitable.

Gordo was led to a table on the far side of the room by a cheery, good looking girl and handed the menus. He had brought his best friend of thirty five years, Yousaf Mehnga.

The menu is eclectic, well thought out modern British with small incursions of flavours from other continents. The menu itself describes the dishes in a manner that can be either irritating or fun, depending on your personal view. They rarely arrive as you would have imagined them, but in Gordo’s past experience they have never been unwelcome surprises. If you are unsure ask the staff to explain; they are all great ambassadors for the cuisine along with being highly efficient, knowledgeable and fun.

Burnt creme and pistachio ice creamCocktail stunner

Nibbles: Cashew nuts (£3) were ‘cured’ in an Indian salt, with spice and heat used in a very curious way that renders the nuts on the chewy side. Warm sourdough bread (£2.50) arrives with a highly individual ‘balsamic butter’ which was butter with the addition of balsamic; a little bit of tart magic there folks.


The nuts gave an indication of the influence of ‘Raj’ influences. Gordo had ordered kedgeree (£6.00); this arrived on a slate (don’t like slates fellers, very ’08) as three well formed fish cakes of nice and spicy kedgeree, with a sliver of naturally smoked haddock; these were sat on a puree on top of which was a half a quail’s egg with a gooey yolk. Bright as a button this lot.

Yousaf chose what turned out to be the complete, in every sense, stunner; prawn and crab cocktail, sliced Whitby crab, tomato jelly (£7.50). Check out the picture folks, it tasted even better. The prawns were in the lightest tempura batter, guarding moist creamy crab of a lightness of being that would have floated off the plate if it hadn’t been battened down. Big clean flavours all presented as a work of art.

Steak and oyster pudding, oxtail and crunchy oyster (£17.50), had a small beautifully formed silky, shiny pudding encasing the stewed oxtail meat, well seasoned; the fried oyster sat on top. Off to the right we had a steak, cooked medium rare, sat on a mound of greens, scattered with young shelled broad beans, the whole having been draped in a shiny taste splattered jus made with reduced stock. The only thing this dish needed was a pot of the same - the pudding could be thought a touch dry, but that’s a northern thing.

Room's Room

Tikka masala, sea bass, lentil dhal and coconut (£14.50) was a fillet, fried crispy on the skin side with masala spices, draped across the lentils. Yousaf, something of a pro at this spicing had asked for the coconut broth on the side, just in case; it didn’t matter, it all matched perfectly.

Puddings were toffee apple, cinnamon cappuccino and Granny Smith’s (£5.50) and burnt English cream, white chocolate, pistachio (£5.50) both competing with each other for our affections. These are handled by the kitchen with great tenderness, the flavours being kept apart but moulding together well. They were outstanding - with the brilliant melon-ball sized toffee apple nothing short of divine.

Seabass masala

The wine list is useful. The Bishops Leap Sauvignon Blanc (£24, £6 by the glass) is a great example, with the Chapel Down ‘Flint Dry’ (£27.50) an interesting lad if you want to see how the English wines are coming along (this one was from Kent). Rioja Crianza Ondarre was Gordo’s choice, (£26, £6.50 by the glass).

They have a list called The Perfect 10 if you wish to go upmarket. However, ask what vintages they are; unless that Montrachet 1er Cru ‘Les Chevenotes’ (£90) has a good bit of age on it, there is no point. If it has, it will be divine.

Gordo has eaten in this room many times, under many chefs and is glad that he’s now allowed back in. This brigade is the best ever in Room, as is the menu. Something for everyone here folks; choose, sit back and enjoy the ride. Just keep away from the windows if Alistair Wildman is knocking about.

Follow Gordo on twitter GordoManchester

Rating: 16.75/20
Breakdown: 8/10 food
4.25/5 service
4.5/5 ambience
Address: Room Restaurant
81 King Street
M2 4AH
0161 839 2005

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

GordoJune 28th 2010.

Forgot; that sea bass tikka masala came with a Bhaji that knocks the socks off any bhaji outside the masters down in London. Akbars, East z East and Zaika, the three best 'Indians' in town are knocked into a cocked hat with this one.

AnonymousJune 28th 2010.

Gordo... Zaika and EastZEast better than Zouk? No chance!

D KesslerJune 28th 2010.

Room is undoubtedly one of the best places in town. The quality is excellent and the presentation is always a striking surprise. They even have great offers on from time to time which makes it as cheap as Rusholme...Unbelievable!

GordoJune 28th 2010.

Thought that would put the cat amongst the pigeons Anon

BlondyJune 28th 2010.

Thumping this, was there when the window incident happened, we all thought it was Gordo that did the throwing, we thought he was top

Nigel4126June 29th 2010.

Ha, totally lost in the early fight and trouser excursion! V funny. Haven't been there yet. Just wanted to applaud the writing!

Chris - ManchesterJune 29th 2010.

Room is one of the most consistent eating places in Manchester, even though the new owners tried to cut a few corners last year when they took over, the level of food, service and surroundings keep it as my favourite place to eat in town. When I entertain work colleges from around the world, Room is the place to take them as it gives Manchester, and the UK a good name, with a price well below the quality of the food, I love the comments from the French people I take there, they believe food in the UK is bland and not worth the effort, a trip to room has them eating there words, was well as all three courses.

Keep up to good work, and a big hello to Tony, the door man with real hidden depths. (next time you go, as him for one of his poems)

NortherngeezerJune 29th 2010.

I'm eating here on Saturday............."I wandered lonely as a cloud" or " There was an old lady from China" ?.

MarkJune 29th 2010.

Great place, I love Room, and as said above can really put out some fantastic food on their variuos offers and promotions.
One thing though, I think the place needs a little bit of love, it was looking tired when I was last in, like gaffer tape on the edge of the tables hiding where the edge had broken/ fallen off...

AnonymousJune 29th 2010.

The toilets are horrible,they need a good clean (oh and unblocking) and the food is way too expensive, even if it is nice

accept the latter says sepp blatterJune 29th 2010.

anon what a pointless and negative remark

TheShipsMastJune 29th 2010.

the service was shocking last time I went here! A group of 6 of us went a couple of months ago, and the time spread for the six dishes to arrive was nearly 20 minutes! The rare lamb came out very well done and had to be sent back adding another 10 minutes to the poor girls wait for her dinner.

The rest of the food was good however, and after desert 2 of the lads asked for a nice whisky, straight up. It arrived with a bucket load of ice in, when I complained the waitress came back a very short while later with 2 "new" glasses of whisky which were ice cold! They had simply strained the whisky, on complaining the bar manager admitted he had told the staff to simply strain the drinks, down right unacceptable for a £7 shot of fine scotch!

Food on the whole was good, and the wine list is always good. However the service was shocking and has tainted a normally very good place.. all 6 of us will certainly think twice now before going back!

NortherngeezerJune 29th 2010.

"Hickory Dickory Dock"...............FFS, i might have to cancel me booking now!!!!

YouharJune 29th 2010.

Oh God the whingers are come. Try the place because it's spectacular and try the place because the professional Gordo says so. I'd rather trust him then the ranters. I'll be there with you NG.

NortherngeezerJune 29th 2010.

I'll stick with it, but not go for a slash. I'll rant accordingly after i've been.

Max FineJune 29th 2010.

I have been here a couple of times and have to say have been fairly underwhelmed on each occasion. The reason the place always has an offer on is because it's not really worth the full price menu. Same with the "cocktails"; don't bother unless it's happy hour. The food is fine, without being spectacular but the service is awful. The whole place reminds me of a slightly higher class "Ha Ha bar and grill". In my opinion of course.

MankshoeJune 30th 2010.

I don't understand this as I've been about seven or eight times this year and the service has always been fine. If there's been a problem in the kitchen which there was once then they told me there might be wait which I appreciated. So I looked at the decor and went wow instead.

GordoJuly 1st 2010.

Dibigo, bit of a chip going on there, eh, sonny? Re the bouncer, 'self deprecating humour' you interesting chappie, read it properly although you clearly can't string sentances together; finally, I have £500 for charity against your £500 that says I still have the bill for £1250 plus VAT for putting the stained glass window back in and the Bootle street docket; as an amatuer diarist I keep these things just for the book and when little boys start talking out of turn. In fact, lets make that a straight grand, eh, sonny?

katehJuly 1st 2010.

I have always loved Room - great for a few drinks at the weekend, food is superb when I have been...but I do have to agree that the toilets are always blocked! After a lovely meal it just slightly spoils it when going in to the toiltes - this is the women's, don't know about the mens!
Overall a really nice venue other than this.

SkintyJuly 1st 2010.

Two instances of 'eh, sonny?' in one paragraph, and spelling 'sentences' and 'amateur' wrong? Who does your proofreading Gordo, you twunt? I'll take that £500 in the name of charity if you're chucking it about.
I used to know one of the previous managers of this place, he says you know do your wine though, if not your words...

AnonymousJuly 1st 2010.


DIBIGOJuly 1st 2010.

Sonny? You've got a receipt for a broken window from 1999, you nerd? Stick your bet up your arse charity is over rated. Instead go and bore your grandkids with your crazy food stories... 'The Salford Boys'! Clown.

AnonymousJuly 1st 2010.

"you know do your wine though"?? Who does your proof reading you twunt.

J E SibberingJuly 1st 2010.

One-Nil to Gordo.

AnonymousJuly 1st 2010.

The wonderful thing about Gordo is that he is one Manchester's finest raconteurs. I'm sure the story is true, but it's the way he tells 'em that makes them so good... And you're right TBLZEBRA, it is one-nil to him. It's like watching a bored cat toy with a half-dead mouse. Why bother to spell correctly when DIBIBO's standard of intellectual debate has produced this gem: "you nerd? Stick your bet up your arse"? Er, it's like Peter Ustinov has been channelled into the rant.

Posting this anonymously as I don't want to be seen to be kissing gordo's ass. I have stret cred to maintain.

skinJuly 1st 2010.

Fair enough anonymous, I did set myself up for that one - although I was quoting a guy, and that is what he said! Distant cousin of Yoda or summink...

SkintyJuly 1st 2010.

Fair enough anonymous, I did set myself up for that one - although I was quoting a guy, and that is what he said! Distant cousin of Yoda or summink...

NortherngeezerJuly 1st 2010.

Raconteur my arse, sheeeeeesh.

MarlainyJuly 2nd 2010.

I adore Room. It's the one place in Manchester that I return to on a regular basis. The atmosphere, the 'room', the food are all exceptional. I can honestly say that every time I have been I have never been disappointed and as someone who eats out a lot, I can't say that about any other restaurant in Manchester.

Dibigo PJuly 5th 2010.

@anonymous... yeah one nil. OK. In the intellect stakes 'Stick your bet up your arse' fails way short of being paid to write an article glorifiying being barred form a restaurant because a colleague threw a bouncer though a window.

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