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Grado Restaurant

Jonathan Schofield admires another cracking restaurant opening late in 2007

Written by . Published on December 13th 2007.

Grado Restaurant

Grado, part of Paul Heathcote’s foodie empire, is going to be a winner. The Bolton lad seems to have learnt lessons from a tedious couple of years during which formulaic Mediterranean venues have rained down like the fires of Vesuvius on Manchester and the nation. These yawns at fifty metres, are solely based on chasing a food genre with the highest profit margins around. Nothing is from the heart, it’s all about the business. The result is whole High Streets ruined by calamares and patatas bravas hell. Deansgate is the perfect example.

There seems an excitement about bringing this food to Manchester. The name plays on an Iberian theme but the menu is as authentically Spanish as Modern British is authentically British. These aren’t dishes created in the casas of Cadiz but ones appropriate for a modern European city.

This was the worry with Grado. Fortunately Heathcote and his team have avoided falling into the trap. Grado is splendid: individual and utterly professional with food to match. It looks as slick, sleek and professional as the manager Marco Ficini.

The interior is a rectangle, split into a couple of levels, with a tapas bar to one side and an open kitchen down one end. The surfaces are hard, the décor modern. It’s a highly competent design but not too dissimilar from many a contemporary space in Manchester or London.

What makes Grado stand out is the food and wine. Whether it’s the hams, the fish, the rice, the finos or the Ribera del Dueros, you get the sense that behind everything there’s a controlling mind offering clear direction.

But also, and this is key, there seems an excitement in the kitchen about bringing this food to Manchester. The restaurant name plays on an Iberian theme but the menu is as authentically Spanish as Modern British is authentically British. These aren’t dishes created in the casas of Cadiz but ones appropriate for a modern European city. They bring in lessons learnt from a variety of cuisines.

All the starters and mains were good, several were exceptional. The clams (£7.95) with sherry olive oil were little darlings, enhanced by the light add-ons of tomato and parsley, the sardines on toast (£5.95) with sheep’s milk cheese, tomato and herbs provided an unusual but deeply satisfying blend of flavours.

The standout main was the braised rabbit (£17.95), with prunes, pine nuts, sage and bomba rice. This had balance, excellence in execution, looked great and contained that vital element of surprise. Throughout the various meals Confidential writers have enjoyed at Grado, surprise has been the delightful extra ingredient. This seems built into the dishes whether it’s with the rabbit or the duck with figs and honey (£18.50) or the scallops a la plancha (£21.50) with morcilla (Spanish black pudding).

A good touch is the idea of providing cheaper mains with food from the charcoal oven for £12.95. The Monday dish of suckling pig seems to offer a good start to the week, the Sunday roast with hot smoked paprika, a satisfactory conclusion.

There are over a 100 wines on offer. The sommelier, Marcelo de Ferrari, recommended the wines with the courses. We started with a Fino (£3.15 a glass), dry and delicious, followed it with an Albariño (£6.30 a glass), smelling of flowers, and then a rich and full Ribera del Duero (£5.65 a glass).

A sherry dominated dessert of Spanish trifle (£6) was the only sour note. This was a personal thing, as nothing can compare to a childhood memory of the trifles prepared by your mum: and my mum’s sherry trifles were the best in the world. Ever. Next time it will be the Spanish cheeses with quince and truffle honey (Gordo swears by the latter), or the Santiago tart, because the name seems perfect. The Navarran Moscatel (£4.50 a glass) was another great choice by Marcelo for a dessert wine.

We bumped into the proprietor Paul Heathcote while we were there. “So Paul how many Grados can we expect? Five, ten?” I asked with a sinking feeling. At the back of my mind I was thinking this restaurant is too good to become a sloppy rolled out theme.

“This is it,” he said. “It’s a one-off. We just want to do a really good job here.”

That was the correct answer. His restaurant is doing an excellent job. Grado should, in terms of popularity, become a Spanish inspired version of Piccolino, close to the Town Hall, or San Carlo, next to House of Fraser. It serves better food than the former and as good food as the latter. The wines are exceptional.

As with Vermilion, Grado is a fine late addition to Manchester’s 2007 food scene: a fallow year might be rescued yet.

Rating: 16/20
Breakdown: 8.5/10 Food
3.5/5 Service
4/5 Ambience
Address: Grado Restaurant
New York Street Piccadilly
M1 4BD
0161 238 9790
Daily 11.30am-11pm

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

secret squirrelDecember 13th 2007.

Interesting that it's a one off. wonder if the loss of the Michelin star at Longridge made PH re-appraise his plans? (If only from a pride perspective rather than a commercial one)

GordoDecember 13th 2007.

Tell that Paul Heathcote that Gordo wants his name back! I was in a couple of times for Tapas at the bar, blinking superb. A whole, properly boned quail on the grill was moist, pinkish, crispy on the outside, a delight. it's rare for Gordo to have something for the first time, but the honey, infused with white truffles served with the cheese was utterly fabulous. Mr. Heathcote should be applauded for this restaurant. What a pleasure to see Marco, one of the best hosts in town. Ettore has competition.

BobHDecember 13th 2007.

My wife and I dined on one of the preopening evenings. It was abolutely first class, best meal out in a long time (and we do eat out regularly). The food was excellent, and the staff kept checking that everything was OK. In partiucular, Marco was fantastic and also a Spanish waiter called Andreas? not sure of spelling. We shall definitely be going back there. I also got some menus to take away, which I have been passing around and telling friends that they MUST go. Can't wait to get back.

Martin ShaveDecember 13th 2007.

Superb - apart from not giving it a score of 20/20 Schofield is right - a fantastic experience with a truly Spanish menu which excites your palate at each and every course. The tapas and appetisers were great, the wines might not be well known by name - but after some great advise from the sommelier - they were very familiar on the palate and good value too. And after a great main course the desserts were just to die for. Add to that - great service and value for money - we'll be back soon !!

LSDecember 13th 2007.

We dined on a saturday and although a little cold (which is the only criticism), the service, food & drink certainly warmed us up!! The menu & choice was great and delivered by staf who seem to know what they are talking about. A very good choice of wine - made all the more interesting after a conversation with Marcello. Well done Marco & the team for the great service & wonderful food, and well done Heathcotes for bringing something different to the usual boring saturday night fayre! We will be back...

wayneDecember 13th 2007.

If this is as good as it's portrayed then excellent, bloody tapas rip off joints using microwaves for just avout everything as La Tasca do are a cheat.

GordoDecember 13th 2007.

aah, Roger, feeling a bit tender this morning?

Jonathan SchofieldDecember 13th 2007.

The restaurant was created by Stephenson Bell,as was the arcade next to it and the street outside, almost as far as the eye can see. Went back in last night and had the morcilla with a duck egg. I want to eat that everyday now.

Jonathan SchofieldDecember 13th 2007.

Dear Anonymous, so do I

AnonymousDecember 13th 2007.

Schofield for King. I hang on every word you say.

GordoDecember 13th 2007.

You dirty fatist bastard CuntryBoy

CountryboyDecember 13th 2007.

Everything about Grado is excellent.Grado is Spanish for 'degree',this one is first class with honours. Gordo is Spanish for 'fat person', say no more.

Nigel SlaterDecember 13th 2007.

AA Gill is far better though

BlackadderDecember 13th 2007.

God, Schofield is so good i want to have his children, but i don't have a womb. He is the best, no, greatest living writer in the English language. If he was spanish he would beat that Love in the time of Cholera feller.

LesleyDecember 13th 2007.

After reading the wonderful review above I had a chat with a select few of my friends and we are going on the 28th. can't wait!

Jonathan SchofieldDecember 13th 2007.

We are going to do an overview of the year.

AnonymousDecember 13th 2007.

Wow, wow, wow!! What a great place. 4 of us dined on saturday and had a fantastic evening. Great food (some really interesting choices & combinations), great atmosphere, great service. We will be back!

roger stephensonDecember 13th 2007.

Very good article Jonathan, I agree with everything you said, but how could you leave out that this wonderful place was created by stephenson-bell -as was the Mall it is next to and the street outside, almost as far as the eye can see !!

GordoDecember 13th 2007.

While Gordo is still in a good mood, Bruntwood need a pat on the back for having transformed that back street (New York Street) from a khazi into a likable thoroughfare with great street furniture. Gordo feels the guiding hand of Chris Ogilsby on this whole piece, Manchester Confidential applauds him, a commercial landlord who encourages varied enterprises at street level and who is not driven to bring in the subways of this world because their credit rating is high (ie, strong covenents). Chris and his team understand the need for diversity. Well done.

HCDecember 13th 2007.

We ate at Grado last week and had tapas for lunch. They were delicious and what appeared at first to be reasonably priced until you saw the portion sizes! I thought the point of tapas was to share??? The gambas and gaspachio again gorgeous but 1 prawn between two! We had to order two extra dishes at the end of the meal so we didnt leave hungry. Will return but the portion sizes need tweeking.

bethDecember 13th 2007.

Had the most enjoyable evening last sunday. Very good deal with the roast beef and wine, and i also must say very good touch with the live music as well. Will be back soon.

LesleyDecember 13th 2007.

Gordo, methinks you deliberately left the 'O' out there. (girly snigger)

Ian TDecember 13th 2007.

Having been to Grado Restaurant twice and both times it was fantastic – I was asked by a business acquaintance could I recommend somewhere in Manchester a bit special - I had no hesitation in recommending Grado, he told me the day after that he was bowled over top place, great service, great food

AnonymousDecember 13th 2007.

I read the review and went for a bite to eat yesterday. Words failed me and I couldn't stop ordering! The clams tasted of the sea, the morcilla and egg with sherry was a sensation, best deep fried squid ever, the gazpacho with king prawn was sucked to death by me and the mushroom croquettes were light and tasted of fresh mushrooms. Going back on Monday for suckling pig!

IanJW81December 13th 2007.

God, I love Jonathan's reviews, with literary jewels such as: "formulaic Mediterranean venues have rained down like the fires of Vesuvius on Manchester and the nation.", or the comic genius of: "The result is whole High Streets ruined by calamares and patatas bravas hell." Until this review, Never quite so vividly had I ever imagined hell as being a place where fiery pits filled with boiling Balsamic vinegar and ciabatta crusts consume the damned...

ian CookDecember 13th 2007.

We all know jonathan writes a great article thats the reason he's still employed and gets invited to all these great restaurants to write nice reports on them!!!! but whats more important to me is finding out more about how the man on the street reviews Grado.... and it seems pretty good Jonathan, How about going back through all the 2007 reviews and put together a confidential top 5 chart for christmas?.....top 5 restaurants to open this year, top 5 meals at over £30 a head, top 5 mains under a £10'er, top 5 chinese, italian, for service, for wines and how about a "why did they bother top 5!.... sure you can come up with a load more fun ones for us.Look forward to reading and commenting on those.have a great christmas and thanks for all the ideas and info over the last 12 monthsSuppose theres no chance of becoming your monthly mystery restaurant reviewer next year, Gordo, you and jonathan are getting to well known, when you walk through the doors???Free lunch at Grado for all the ideas????ian

KateDecember 13th 2007.

I really enjoyed my dinner on saturday night, fantastic atmosphere buzzing with people,tasty food, very friendly staff but not in a cheesy way, the wine list was impressive, and the wine waiter was such a help, for someone who knows nothing about spanish wine like me.all in all we've enjoyed our dinner at grado so much i'm going back for my lunch on monday.

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