I first visited Cocotoo's Italian Restaurant in Manchester just over a year ago and that happens to be the last time I was there. The reason I haven't been back is that I left feeling pretty disappointed, mainly because of the quality of the food.
I think that maybe I had built up a level of expectation that was too high. I had passed the restaurant many times on my way home from work and had always considered that it looked pretty appealing from the outside. The interior is nicely done out with a circular bar area just through the front door. Combine this with the fact that the place is a converted railway arch and you have a pretty unique looking restaurant.
Being generally quite busy, the place always seemed to exude a vibrant atmosphere as I passed by. I had also heard that it was a popular haunt of celebrities and professional footballers. All these factors had given me a superficially positive opinion of the restaurant and I resolved to give it a try as soon as I could.
At the time of my eagerly anticipated visit (Saturday, approx 10pm), I was surprised to find that the restaurant was practically empty. Admittedly I was dining a little later than most people's ideal time for an evening meal, but I would have expected at least a few people to be having a parting drink or two in the bar area.
We were efficiently shown to our table by a more-than-pleasant member of the waiting staff and I eagerly scanned the menu for some of my favoured dishes. Sadly though, I struggled to find anything on the menu that really jumped out. The whole menu played it safe by having only the usual dishes you'd find in just about all bog-standard Italian restaurants up and down the country.
After a few minutes deliberation, I opted for a mushroom starter to be followed by a pepperoni pizza. I should note here that the level of service of the waitress was excellent - but this was mainly due to the fact that there was only one other table to attend to.
The starter was a big disappointment when it arrived. It literally was just a bowl of fried button mushrooms. They were nice enough as far as mushrooms go but completely lacking in any flavour or imagination.
Having laboriously ploughed my way through the less-than-inspiring first course, I was hoping that the pizza would make amends. Unfortunately, it didn't. The pizza was a medium-sized, medium-crusted affair that was as bland a pepperoni pizza as I had ever experienced. The pepperoni slices were extremely sparse and there were no extra toppings or herbs to complement the flavour of the meat - it was just cheese, tomato and some uniformly-distanced pepperoni. I have had far superior frozen pizzas from supermarkets at less than half the cost.
The bill arrived swiftly and was (unsurprisingly) about average for a city centre Italian restaurant.
And so I left a rather disappointed customer. On the face of things, the restaurant had promised so much with its stylish décor and professional waiting staff, but it had seriously failed to deliver in the most important department - quality of food.
It could be the case that I had the misfortune of ordering the wrong dishes, and it could be that some of the food is of a high standard. Unfortunately, on my first and only visit, the food failed to impress and that's enough for me to not give it another chance.
Cocotoo's in Manchester is my favourite Italian restaurant (in the North of England at any rate!) The décor is breathtaking - copies of Michaelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci paintings adorn the vaulted ceiling (the restaurant is situated under the railway arches on Whitworth Street West, near the Green Room). So, instantly there's an Italian feel to any visit to Cocotoos, and that's before you get anywhere anything to eat. The food is excellent, too. There's a very varied menu, so everyone should be ale to find something they fancy - whether it's pasta, salmon, steak, prawns? You get complimentary olives and gorgeous fresh bread to start off with. I recommend the bruschetta as a starter - a sublime mix of quality tomatoes, basil and olive oil. It's so simple, but it's perfection itself, and is the best bruschetta I've tasted anywhere, and that includes Italy. Pasta with either the salmon or the mushroom sauce is my usual choices for main course. It all arrives very quickly, so I would definitely recommend this restaurant if you don't want to linger for very long. You should be out within an hour, easily. At times it can feel to be rather a bustling place, and in some ways he service is perhaps too quick - at times it almost feels like the waiters want you out of the way. It's not that you are being rushed, but perhaps they are slightly too attentive. I very rarely manage a dessert, but I can say that their ice cream is delicious, and the coffee is excellent too. It's not exactly cheap - allow for about £20 a head - but the food is so good that it feels very good value for money. Although the restaurant can get very busy, you shouldn't really have much trouble getting a table here, as it is a big place. There are lots of photographs of celebrity visitors on the walls, and Pavarotti's photo takes pride of place. I don't doubt he had a wonderful slap up meal her
e! 57 Whitworth Street West, Manchester.