“ 136 The Orient, Manchester, M17 8EQ. Tel: 0161 747 2100 „
On a recent visit to the Trafford Centre my boyfriend and I decided to have a meal at a place called Giraffe, a rather oddly named restaurant that we'd walked past numerous times but never actually been to before due to it always seemed quite expensive really. The whole experience was actually carefully pre-planned as we had a 50% off voucher which we'd found on one the numerous internet voucher sites. Although we had several vouchers Giraffe seemed to be the quietest place to eat and as I was in a rush to get to the shops I persuaded my boyfriend we should just go here. It's located on the first floor of The Trafford Centre which always tends to be a little less hectic and a little more pleasant than the ground floor dining area. The Giraffe restaurant brand was first founded back in 1998 and basically was a result of the concept of three people who all wanted to create somewhere where people could enjoy freshly cooked and good quality food in a pleasant and relaxed environment. They wanted to focus on a worldwide effect by playing music from around the world in their restaurants so you could imagine yourself being anywhere from Sydney to Israel (which the example given on their website). The first restaurant was located in Hampsted and since then the brand has spread with there being twenty five restaurants in the UK along with a further five franchises in three UK airports.
As I've only ever been in one Giraffe restaurant I'm going to base this review entirely on the Trafford Centre one although I've been led to believe that the majority of them are decorated in a similar fashion and serve an identical menu. The Trafford Centre's Giraffe offers some outdoor seating in The Orient but we opted to sit inside as it's much quieter here, if you sit outside you're subject to people walking past and all the tannoy announcements! It's decorated in quite bright colours with lime green booths providing the majority of the seating and there was plenty of bright and contemporary art on the walls too. There was adequate seating for around fifty people inside and probably nearly the same amount outside of the restaurant. The music was quite subtle but as I'd already visited the website I was quite keen to hear the variety of music played and I certainly wasn't disappointed in the slightest. There was no pop music that you often tend to find playing quietly in the background while you're eating but instead the music was quite upbeat and had an ethnic feel to it which was certainly quite unique. The restaurant was very clean with the tables all being previously laid ready for that evening's onslaught. You could clearly see into the kitchen at the back of the restaurant and along one wall was a long bar area where you could choose to sit if you were just having a drink or a lighter snack.
We were shown to our table by a waitress who asked us if we'd eaten there before, informed us of the specials and the fact that our waiter would be along shortly to take our drinks order. Within about a minute our waiter came over and introduced himself in a really friendly manner and said he'd be back. We then began to browse the menu which was equally brightly decorated and was split into different sections which made it easier to read. The emphasis of the menu is to try and give a flavour of the world to the restaurant's customers meaning that they offer quite a wide choice of dishes and flavours. There seemed to be a good balance between the healthy dishes and more indulgent dishes which will always appeal to a wider audience. The descriptions of the food did make my mouth water while I was reading it. The main menu is split into Brunch Favourites (Smoked Salmon & Free Range Scrambled Eggs, Grilled Chicken, Bacon & Brie Baguette), Nibbles & Snacks to Share (Crunchy Nachos Melt, Crunchy Japanese Tiger Prawns), Salad Bowls (Vietnamese Chicken, Prawn & Vermicelli Noodle Salad, Sushi Rice Salad with Smoked Salmon), Burgers (The Big Greek Lamb Focaccia Burger, Herby Chicken Schnitzel BLT Burger), Sides (Corn on the Cobb, Little Caesar Salad), Mains (Good Old Steak & Chips, Hot Thai Duck Stir Fry) and Our Mexicana (Tangy & Spicy Turkey Enchilada, Vegetable Burrito).
We then looked at the drinks menu which included all your usual soft drinks, a selection of beers and wines, gourmet coffees and fresh fruit smoothies. After about three or four minutes our waiter came back over to take our order, we ordered a starter to share, a main course each and two drinks. The drinks arrived back at the table within about two minutes while the starter followed after a further ten minutes. The starter we ordered was the Topped Potato Wedges which cost £4.95 and were served with melted jack cheese, smoky ranchera salsa, sour cream and guacamole. They were boiling hot and absolutely delicious, the wedges were clearly freshly cut from potatoes and there was plenty of topping. The portion size was quite large; we both agreed that one each would have been too much. As soon as we'd finished our waiter was back to remove our plates and then we had a short wait of ten minutes for our main courses to arrive. I ordered the Classic Beef Burger with the additional toppings of aged chedder and bacon which cost £11.25. It was served with a small pot of mayo and a pot of relish along with a small dish containing about twelve real potato chips. The burger was huge and tasted absolutely delicious, it had obviously been chargrilled and retained this flavour. My boyfriend ordered the Grilled Cajun Chicken Burger which was £9.95 and was as delicious as mine, I stole a bit!
Despite the portion sizes not looking overly large when our main courses first arrived I didn't manage to finish all of mine and we were both thoroughly full when we left the restaurant. After we'd finished the waiter returned to take our plates away and to offer us a desert or more drinks which we declined. Our bill came to £32.15 for the food and the drinks (I had a diet coke and my boyfriend had a Corona), they also added a 10% service charge meaning the bill was £35.37. This service charge was not explained to us although it does say on the back of the menu that if you feel the service has not been satisfactory you won't be required to pay. We then presented our voucher which entitled us to 50% off the food meaning that we paid around the £20 for our dinner. I think this price seemed quite fair, I certainly wouldn't have been happy paying over £35 for the meal as I didn't think it was worth that sort of money. All in all the menu does seem quite expensive if you don't have any sort of money off voucher and I probably wouldn't re-visit again unless I had another voucher. In general the Brunch Favourites seem to be around the £8 mark, the Nibbles & Snacks to Share vary from £4 up to £7, the salad bowls seem to be around £8 to £9, the burgers are roughly around the £10 mark, and the mains vary from £8 up to £14. A coke cost us £1.95 and a Corona beer cost us £3.35, not the cheapest really.
Overall I felt the food was absolutely delicious, we glimpsed a couple of other people's meals and they are looked equally appetising and the presentation of the food was excellent too. I felt the service was excellent although I was a little annoyed that no one explained that the service charge was added on automatically, they also never offered us the chance to not pay it either by asking if we were happy with the service. Maybe that's just me moaning but I felt it would have been nice to have been informed of it! I felt that £20 was a good price to pay for the meal and it was certainly worth it as we both enjoyed it. However I didn't think it was worth £35 and would have been quite annoyed to have had to pay the full price. I'd certainly visit Giraffe again but only with another voucher or if there was some sort of offer on as I did feel the food was rather overpriced really for what you were getting. The food portions were good and the food was clearly freshly cooked as it was boiling hot. The taste of the food was delicious too, I'd certainly like to try more of the menu. The atmosphere was nice, the toilets were spotless and the service was great... I should point out that the restaurant was under half full when we visited. If you've got one near you then I'd certainly recommend checking it out but only if you manage to get a money off voucher as otherwise it may end up costing you a small fortune!
Thanks for reading.
The emphasis of the giraffe menu is to try to give a flavour of the world to our guests - and to offer a wide choice so whatever mood you'e in - there'll always be something you just can't resist