By Andrew Greaves
An Italian restaurant part-owned by a big name footballer may sound like a recipe for a disaster.
I mean, most footballers probably wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between fusilli bucati and orecchiette (they’re both types of pasta for those with the IQ of a typical Premier League star).
Thankfully, I am happy to report, Manchester’s Rosso – part owned by Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand – is not a recipe for disaster. Completely the opposite in fact.
Situated in a former bank in King Street, Rosso is an absolute delight.
From the sumptuous surroundings – all stained glass, marble domes and just oozing with glamour – to the attentive service which never becomes overbearing, Rosso may not be the kind of place you pop into for a bite to eat after work (although I see no reason why it shouldn’t be) but it is the kind of place to celebrate a special occasion, as a copy of large parties did on the night we dined.
A winner so far but no restaurant can survive on service and ambience alone.
Having taken the chance to spy the new summer menu before arriving, choosing a starter wasn’t difficult.
AMAZING: The carna salata was 'melt in the mouth'.
The carna salata, salt beef served with a mini bottle of extra virgin olive oil and 38 month aged Grana Padano cheese, was as delicious as I was hoping.
Served with a handful of peppery rocket leaves, the ample portion did not last long as both me and my partner tucked in with unashamed glee.
The better half’s calamari picante was just as delightful and again the portions were certainly not lacking.
The four plump pieces of squid marinated with chilli, garlic and smoked paprika – and then fried with pepperoni sausage – would have easily satisfied a decent appetite as a main course and, knowing that there was still the main event to come – we somewhat sensibly decided not to finish the whole plate off.
Faced with a near impossible task of choosing our mains from such a varied menu, we were both more than happy to take on board the recommendations of the restaurant manager who clearly takes his job seriously, greeting guests like old friends and ensuring the whole front of house operation runs smoothly no matter how busy the restaurant gets.
We were not let disappointed with our choices – I went for the marinated rump of lamp with chilli and mint set up garlic spinach while my partner, her of a more delicate palate, opted for the lemon sole wrapped around scallops and again served on a bed of garlic spinach.
When it came to a choice of sides, we again hit a brick wall and eagerly agreed when the manager offered to bring a selection.
Either he was eager to please or he spotted that I was still carrying some post-Christmas weight (which Christmas? – Ed) because our table was soon taken over by mashed potato, French fries, a salad and a selection of vegetables.
My lamb was tender, still pink and when teamed with the chilli and the garlic spinach was a dish to die for. The only mistake I made was taking a rather manly bite out of the whole chilli which sat atop of it grinning at me.
The lemon sole dish also lived up to billing and my partner, a big fan of seafood anyway, declared the scallops the best she had ever tasted. High praise indeed when the chef is up against my Tesco-bought, pan-fried efforts!
With little room left for desert we took the only option available – share!
The hazelnut crème brule was ordered with two spoons and a couple of armangnacs and we were most impressed with the latter being served in deep brandy glasses perched on top of a glass of hot water to bring the brandy up to the required temperature.
We attempted to finish the crème brule but it was also going to be a battle we were destined to lose but it was very delicious if that helps!
As I said at the start, Rosso may not be the kind of place to call in for a quick bite to eat, it really is worth much more of your time than that and we really did mean it when we told the manager we would be back.