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Lusitano Portuguese Restaurant Reviewed

Ruth Allan finds it homely and rustic in the suburbs

Written by . Published on April 30th 2014.


Lusitano Portuguese Restaurant Reviewed
 

PORTUGUESE food may be one of the darlings of Europe’s culinary scene, but Manchester has not had a quality Portuguese restaurant for some time. In fact, the last incarnation was Luso on Bridge Street which closed in early 2011. So could Lusitano, the new, Portuguese restaurant in the centre of Chorlton, be the next ‘Luso’? 

As you’ll have gathered, this is not another fine-dining Portuguese in the style of Luso. But that’s not to say that Lusitano isn’t worth a look. 

The name sounds similar, referring to both a Portuguese horse breed and the Roman name for the country we now know as Portugal. And the menu looks promisingly unfamiliar too. Black pudding with caramelized pineapple (Morcela com Ananás) for example, clams in white wine and coriander sauce (Ameijoas à Bulhão Pato) and chicken with a red pepper and saffron sauce all pique the interest, alongside more rustic dishes.  

Simple does it

 

Simple does it

It’s got a central location in the space previously occupied by Mezzaluna. The interior is much the same, with a cosy bar and two-tier room. We had lamb stew, salt cod, fish cakes, and a strange selection of cured meats with melted cheese and a portion of tomato soup on the side called Mini Francesinha (£6.25). Yet despite airy descriptions, these were homely dishes, presented without fanfare. 

Lusitano only started serving during the second week of April this year, so changes are still par for the course. The Portuguese suckling pig, for example, is no longer available as a main, although it’s still on the menu. Our waiter thinks it’s going to be served once a month, at a kind of Portuguese porcine celebration. A dessert of cookies and cream (natas do ceu, £3.25) was also off the night we came in. But our waiter remained upbeat. 

 “Smell this!” he exclaimed, whipping the lid off the lamb stew with a clench of something strong. He also commended us on our choice of wine from the Portuguese and Spanish list (Casa Santar, Dao, a remarkably good value £20.95). “I’m so happy that someone has finally ordered this wonderful wine,” he said. 

Lamb stewLamb stew

We were happy too. In fact, the lamb stew (Chanfana, £14.75) was an excellent match, sharing a delicate, complex, aged character with this Portuguese standard.

And the salt cod (bacalhau com migas, £15.45) was spot on too, if a little cool - main image at the top of the page. Lemony, cut-grass flavours cut through flesh, pearly with salt. The black-eyed peas complemented the strongly textured cod, as did a pot of thick, creamed spinach on the side of the lamb. Simple flavours what Lusitano's all about - and these dishes could be your mum’s big thing, if you had a mum who was Portuguese and could cook.  

Fish cakesFish cakesCod fish cakes (bolos bacalhau, £4.15) were almost cold, grainy and boney. I’ve never been to Portugal, but they are most likely the real deal.

The Mini Francesinha, meanwhile, almost defies description.

Imagine a hot dog, a flash-fried steak, some Campbell’s tomato soup, a slice of smoky, melty cheese, some salami-style cured meat and white bread slices at a swinger’s party, and you are getting close. It’s a right hotch-potch. 

Desserts presented us with more mixed fortunes. The crème brulee (£3.95) was light on cream, a grainy texture where one would expect smooth. The brulee bit was so heavy that it had started to sink into the cream stuff, like a tectonic plate on the move. 

Tectonic brulee

 

Tectonic brulee

Odd apple tart
Roasted apple tart ice cream, meanwhile, whisked us away on a tatin-topped Porto fantasy, and deep into the unctuous apple pies that our grannies used to make. Served on two, cold, hard, pre-cooked shortcrust shells, it was a case of perfect taste, poor presentation.
 

As you’ll have gathered, this is not another fine-dining Portuguese in the style of Luso. But that’s not to say that Lusitano isn’t worth a look. Defiantly middle of the road like Bem Brasil or La Tasca, it could well thrive.

As is the fashion right now, there is wood everywhere. There’s even a little wood portico that draws you in off the street. The wine is excellent value, plus candlelight and enthusiastic staff make for an entertaining night out. Just don’t expect anything fancy.

Follow Ruth on Twitter @RuthAllan

ALL SCORED CONFIDENTIAL REVIEWS ARE IMPARTIAL. 

Lusitano, 613 Wilbraham Road, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester, M21 9AN. 0161 861 8880

Rating: 12.5/20

Food: 6/10 (lamb stew 8, salt cod on beans 7, fish cakes 5, a strange selection of cured meats with melted cheese  – uncategorisable, roasted apple ice cream 6.5, crème brulee 4)
Service: 4/5 
Ambience: 2.5/5

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: we've got carried away.


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mancdwellerApril 30th 2014.

Having spent a fair bit of time in Porto, the mini francesinha sounds remarkably authentic.

Richard KiddApril 30th 2014.

EDITORIAL COMMENT: Mess up there Richard with captioning. We'll change. Thanks.

Deanna ThomasMay 3rd 2014.

Ruth, if you've never been to Porto for a dirty franchescina and chips you have not lived. Do it.

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