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La Viña Review

Simon Binns hates the editor and the weird cooking

Published on June 15th 2011.

La Viña Review

I HATE Jonathan Schofield.

I don’t mind the fact that he sits next to me, carping on about who owns various bits of Roman walls in Castlefield and why there should be public access to them.

I’m not that bothered that he’ll often ring me, then when I ring him back straight away, he never answers the phone. And I can even tolerate the raspberry yoghurt coloured jumper he wears ‘when it's cold’, the annoying sound effects machine he plays with and then laughs to himself (although Lynda Moyo joins in with that) and the fact that he almost never makes me a cup of coffee.

So why do I hate him? Because he made me go for lunch at La Viña.

Writing Spanish words on the wall and hanging pictures of flamenco guitars all over the place does not an authentic tapas restaurant make.

I like tapas. It’s an interesting, communal, jovial way of eating. Everyone shares small plates, sometimes dipping into the unknown and discovering new joys off the back of somebody else’s palette.

Img_1953The culpritsThere are lots of flavours fighting for attention, leaping from a gaggle of plates as people chat, drink, explore.

But not at La Viña. What you get is some dishes that are stone cold, others that are piping hot, several that are dry and many that are just plain confusing.

Let’s focus on a bright spot first. The service was friendly, efficient and pleasant. The white Rioja we drank, a bottle of Don Jacobo at £17.95, was reasonable enough pricewise but needed storing in the fridge.

But when the food arrived – after a wait that was too long – everything started to go a bit wrong. Wrong and oily.

Img_1955Crispy croquettesThe Boy Jorgensen and I shared half a dozen plates between us, including the venue’s self-proclaimed ‘famous’ dish, the pollo as el stilo Pedro, or chicken in 'a creamy sauce with onions and prunes' (£4.75). It certainly had a standout quality. It was bloody awful.

It tasted of honey, butter and oil and the nuggets of chicken were so dry it absorbed nothing of the baffling flavour anyway. A nightmare in a ramekin.

The albondigas – pork and beef meatballs (£4.55) – were stone cold. The tomato sauce was ok, but they had been sat somewhere for too long before arriving at the table.

The ham and cheese croquettes (£4.55) had become too intimate with a deep fat fryer. One of them almost snapped in half it was that brittle. They tasted not of ham, nor cheese, just potato.

Img_1957Morbid meatballsThe setas a la plancha (£3.95) was a very naughty dish. It promised ‘oyster and field mushrooms’ in garlic, lemon and white wine. What we got was a plate full of button mushrooms with one oyster mushroom thrown on top. Cheeky, and not in a good way.

It’s hard to mess up patatas bravas (£3.65), so they were ok, but the ‘spicy’ tomato sauce was tepid and tame, like a bashful mouse.

The king prawns in garlic and chilli £5.95)? Too oily, no kick. Is La Viña scared of adding any sort of spice or depth to any of their dishes? It was all a bit depressing.

We had dessert as well. I'd almost blanked that out through trauma. A chocolate tart that managed to taste of glue and powder at the same time (4.10) and a passion fruit cheese cake (£4.10) that would remove the passion from of any man.

Img_1958Alleged chickenThe place itself is mysteriously big – do that many people really eat this stuff? Also, writing Spanish words on the wall and hanging pictures of flamenco guitars all over the place does not an authentic tapas restaurant make.

It was as Spanish as Manuel from Fawlty Towers.  So try another Spanish restaurant and hope they do better than this. Hell, try Spain and get some sun as well. But don’t go here. Ever.

Unless you're told to go by Jonathan Schofield when he has a wicked glint in his eye.

Follow Simon Binns on Twitter @simonbinns

ALL SCORED CONFIDENTIAL REVIEWS ARE IMPARTIAL AND PAID FOR BY THE MAGAZINE. £1000 to the reader who can prove otherwise, and dismissal for the staff member who wrote a review scored out of twenty on a freebie from the restaurant.

La Viña

105/107 Deansgate


M3 2BQ

0161 8353144

Rating: 8/20
Food: 2/10
Service: 4/5
Ambience: 2/5


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: Gordo gets carried away.

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

AnonymousJune 16th 2011.

It saddens me that you have to resort to reviewing places like this - is Manchester really that short on restaurants that you need to review chains like this that most people know are awful already? Perhaps Tevez was right - we really do only have 2 decent restaurants. Come on ManCon: get more creative in your reviews - you only do one or two a week as it is!

EditorialJune 16th 2011.

We're a broad church Anon. And we like to cover every type of establishment that our readers might dine in. The mysterious popularity of La Vina on Deansgate had to be addressed. Seems it all about location, location, location. In the last three weeks we've reviewed Dilli, The Art of Tea, Australasia, Grill on New York Street, Rozafa, Cafe at the Rylands, Da Piero in Wirral and so forth. As a point of interest how many reviews would you want a week?

SmittyJune 16th 2011.

What a shame.... I went to La Viña a few years back and had a lovely meal. I seem to remember the manager was quite entertaining, and also Spanish. Clearly it's let itself go.

(Also, you have a "your" instead of a "you're" in the last par, dear).

PhilboJune 16th 2011.

Tapas is quickly becoming the new Italian. It's the 'in thing' so we get the McTapas of La Tasca and La Vina. Never had a good meal and either of them. Last time I went to La Tasca was the one in Bolton 2-3 years ago. They forgot half the food we ordered, as above the White Wine was warm, the creme catalana was still frozen in the middle, and the waitress stood at the bar at the end of our table supping on a beer when we were trying to call her over.

If I have tapas it's either at Evuna or El Rincon. Both not much more expensive than La Vina, but a hell of a lot nicer!

Who FaceJune 16th 2011.

That's mental. I've always rated this place. Yeah, the décor may be a cliché, but I think it's cosy. The staff have always been fun and I've never had a problem with service. I also think the food here is brilliant. Ah well..

JS3June 16th 2011.

Evuna? It's an atrocious place - their patatas bravas is literally boiled new potatoes and a little sauce. Service was also crap. Tried El Rincon last week, thought it was ok but nothing special, probably a little more of a traditional Spanish bar interior, complete with sports on tv!

I love Harpers off John Dalton St, can't fault them at all and the tapas is genuinely very good.

Chris GrimesJune 16th 2011.

Dont get me started on Evuna, my worse meal of the year by a country mile. Shocking!

Liam StanleyJune 16th 2011.

I disagree with Anon... I like the diversity of reviews... I enjoyed the Rylands one!
I say Review everywhere and anywhere!!!

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousJune 16th 2011.

The funniest thing about the Rylands review is that it said it was written by Jonathan Schofield. The thought of him girlishly declaring that he's never been to the John Rylands Library was hilarious.

Jonathan SchofieldJune 16th 2011.

See my post below Anon. I really don't going around impersonating female students

Jonathan SchofieldJune 16th 2011.

Anonymous it was posted by me. Not written by me, that's one of the glitches of the new site. We've corrected that now.

AnonymousJune 16th 2011.

Simon….Judging by the pic’s I think you had far better food than me and the wife when we recently visited for my birthday. I had been calling in here for drinks for years in the past and always wanted to visit to eat, which we eventually did at the end of march, we ordered about 8-10 dishes, all served at the same time and all non descript !.My prawns were about half the size of the ones in your picture and also swimming in oil. As you point out, everything was either luke warm or cold !

Tried to grab the waiters attention but they were very busy running around, few staff to the amount that were in on a mid week evening. Won’t be going back in a hurry !

Sarah LightwoodJune 16th 2011.

If you want a really decent Spainish/Tapas and don't mind venturing half an hour out of the city, then El Gato Negro is the place to go.....stunning food!
Otherwise El Rincon is definately my favourite in the city, consistently great tapas!

Jane DowlerJune 16th 2011.

Reviews are so subjective, judging by the comments from mancon's readers Evuna should be well out of business by now, and yet we are packed everyday day and the customers always say they enjoy the food. I can put my hand on my heart and safely say we have NEVER served boiled new potatoes as Bravas, they are NEW but deep fried !!

1 Response: Reply To This...
Chris GrimesJune 16th 2011.

Jane I ate in Evuna 2 months ago & it was truly awful. The wine list & atmosphere remain great but on that night the food was shocking. Evuna has always been one of my favs maybe you were having a bad night.

luis RumboJune 16th 2011.

I attended La Vina with my parents (my dad is spanish)when it first opened. You would expect that at the beginning they would try and make an effort but it was absolutely disgusting. In fact my mum offered to make tortillas for them and sell them instead of the ones that arrive in plastic bags where you just warm them up. Never again. They can never compete against La Tasca let alone El'Ricon.

1 Response: Reply To This...
J MendozaJune 23rd 2011.

La Tasca and La Viña are the same company and they serve the same food as the suppliers are the same. I use to work there (la tasca on deansgate) and I can assure you that is nothing more than a Spanish McDonalds but lot more expensive, 80% of the food comes already prepared and cooked all they have to do is either put it into the microwave or in bain-marie. The worst thing is how they treat their staff, like animals! I could go on and on but I think this will give a broad idea and maybe you'll think twice before going to any of their restaurants to spend your money.

Alastair BathgateJune 16th 2011.

Aren't they part of the same chain as La Tasca?

1 Response: Reply To This...
J MendozaJune 23rd 2011.

Yes they are!

JohnthebriefJune 16th 2011.

La Vina has always been pretty awful. A shame really as it's a great location and the building could easily have some atmosphere.

El Rincon is the only decent tapas restaurant for me. Evuna is not "awful" but neither does it hold a candle to El Rincon. It's OK for a business lunch, and the wine list is great.

Don't forget Dimitris - tapas style, but obviously greek / spanish mix on the food, and seems to have held its quality standards up despite the massive expansion last year.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
Who FaceJune 17th 2011.

Was waiting for someone to bring up Dimitris. Consistently unimpressed with that place, I don't understand the hype. Will certainly try El Rincon sometime soon though, everyone seems to rate it. I also love Bar Lorenzo in Chorlton for Tapas

JS3June 20th 2011.

Tried Dimitris a couple of times, on the most recent visit we were treated like an inconvenience, shalln't be rushing back!

VampcullenJune 17th 2011.

Should have gone to Iceland by the looks of it, better quality prawn ring.....

Flic EJune 17th 2011.


EditorialJune 17th 2011.

Eh Flic?

N H MJune 17th 2011.

Just another vague, sad, copy, that can't heat up the food properly

SaffronJune 18th 2011.

Ed - Flic means strewn, as opposed to 'stroon', though I'm not convinced one *can* strew a single mushroom.

N H MJune 18th 2011.

Editorial it's in the mushroom bit.

EditorialJune 18th 2011.

Found it. Done. Changed.

JS3June 20th 2011.

To be fair I like La Tasca on Deansgate, only when the 50% offer is on though!

JohnthebriefJune 20th 2011.

They could pay me to go and I still would not set foot in La Tasca

Daniel JamesJune 21st 2011.

Can't agree more with the review, ate here on Saturday, and the food was far from Spanish, bland, overcooked or undercooked, and often the case deep fat fried. Had the same mushroom dish - chopped buttom mushrooms with puree garlic, potato croquettes - hard and almost burnt on the ouside - raw on the inside. The staff tried to take plates away before we had finished eating, then took plates away one by one as they saw fit.

Wont be returning, Evuna down the road is far better. (mind you so are most places)

JaxJune 21st 2011.

The management should be ashamed of themselves, ripping people off with this crap food.

AnonymousSeptember 4th 2011.

and let's not forget the "monkfish" that is most definitely pollock!

PabloAugust 31st 2012.

What snobbery on this forum! Food is ok/good. 7/10. I've had far worse in Spain (especially Barcelona - food poisoning) and Latin America. Service 10/10. Wine too expensive unless you buy the whole bottle. Just cos it's a chain doesn't mean it's Maccy Ds. Dimitri's is crap. El Rincon is very overrrated and seems to me more like a chain than El Vino. Excellent music.

PabloAugust 31st 2012.

La Vina, not El Vino, even! Sorry.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
JaxAugust 31st 2012.

Oh dear, rather devalues the whole thing eh Pablo?

PabloAugust 31st 2012.

Yes, it does a bit. Late, beyond bedtime and probably too much vino. I'll stick by what I posted though.

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