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Michelangelo (Manchester)

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1 Review

609 Wilbraham Road
Chorlton
Manchester M21 9AN
tel: 0161 881 8292

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      26.11.2001 06:01
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      [Vegetarians may prefer to skip the first two paragraphs] I like steak. Actually I do and I don’t. I’m not overly enamoured of it when it’s my clumsy appendages that have to manipulate it in and out of the pan. The end product either leaves me bedridden for a month or could be used as an offensive weapon should the occasion require it. When, oh when will those darned scientists invent a microwave-able steak? Take me to a good restaurant though and I find it hard to suppress the smile as I utter those immortal words ‘Medium Rare Please’, and sit back content in the knowledge that about five lengths of a cow away, someone who has dedicated their life to making people like me happy is about to get to work. [Vegetarians ok to read on but others - including salad munchers* - may take offence. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. *No offence meant to salad munchers. In fact, I always seem to end up going out with one. Though it does mean there’s no cheeky swiping of steak from my plate. So they’re not that bad I s’pose.] I’m an out and out racist. Actually I am and I’m not. There are a fair few definitions floating around and I fit the one that mentions making assumptions about someone based upon their origins. This comes from my firm belief that no-one but no-one achieves that delicate balance of Medium Rare like an Italian can. I’ve travelled the world or at least the bit that covers West and East Europe and Chicago (that’s three half continents anyway... in a manner of speaking) validating this theory and have yet to be proven wrong. Italians and steak do a good pair make. They just do. Now the chef could well be a Honolulu expatriate of Mongolian descent but so long as I never go backstage, I’ll just carry on in blissful ignorance. What do they say about racists being ignorant? And so it was that my eyes lit up whe
      n I first came across Michelangelo, a cosy little Italian restaurant in Chorlton, South Manchester. Firstly, because of the location. It’s easily reached from anywhere in South Manchester and nowhere near as packed as the city centre, Didsbury or the Trafford Centre (the other options for non-vegetarian feeding à la Roman), especially on a weekend. Secondly, because it’s LITTLE (how I wish we could use italics). HOW TO GET THERE If you’re coming into Manchester from the South: *) The M56 ends and becomes the A5103 (Princess Parkway). *) Literally minutes (about a mile) after motorway regulations end i.e. you slow down to an unbearable 40mph, the road forks to the left. Follow left, signposted Stretford/ Chorlton. This is Barlow Moor Road. *) At the 3rd cross-road (HSBC and Natwest on opposing corners), turn left onto Wilbraham Road. Michelangelo is about 50 metres up on the left. If you’re coming in from anywhere else or are already in Manchester: *) Find Princess Road and turn off it (BP garage near cross-road) onto Wilbraham Road, heading the opposite direction from the BP garage. *) Go through four sets of lights (cross-roads) and it’s about 50 metres after you pass HSBC/Natwest. Princess Road is the big artery connecting the centre to the south. If you can’t find it, ask someone if you’re in Manchester. If taking a bus, get to the centre of Chorlton (it’s not that big) and ask. Sorry, I’m not being very useful am I? PARKING There is parking on the road itself directly opposite the restaurant (single yellow line so come the evening/weekend you’re fine). Although Michelangelo counts an off-license and a couple of fast food eateries amongst its neighbours, in half a dozen visits I’ve always managed to find a spot on that stretch. Should you be unlucky with that, there is a pub just up
      the road (heading away from the cross-roads) on the left. However, their spacious, lit car park is for their customers only - so I probably shouldn’t tell you about it. While we’re on the subject though, how many people do you reckon take their cars to the pub in the evening? THE PLACE There’s a bit in Speaker’s Corner on “Big Bad Multinational versus Small & Valiant Independent” isn’t there? Restaurants are one area where the BBM’s shall never eradicate the SVI’s. Some things economies of scale and purchasing power will never provide and a nice, warm atmosphere is one of them. This is a rather fine example of an SVI. Some might say the seating could be a bit more spaced out but I like to see it as being cosy. Having said that, we counted 50 places and I’d say if they were all occupied, it would definitely be stretching the definition of cosy. Unlike in BBM’s (unless the shareholders are extremely hands-on in their approach) your order is taken by the owner who is the epitome of charm and friendliness. The cynic in me says of course he’s nice – he has a personal financial stake in customers coming back. The other bit of me says of course he’s nice – he takes great pride and pleasure in what he does. Whichever is true, would it also apply to #6395 on the payroll of Steaks R Us? Service is quick and the aforementioned owner will be back at some point to check everything is exactly as you desire. Nice. I do have one small gripe about the place and it’s something that the restaurant cannot reasonably do anything about. Because of Michelangelo’s neighbours, there are sometimes small crowds of teenagers hanging about in the evening. Not for long – they’re just stocking up on alcohol or food – but some think it’s funny to make faces through the windows. I’ve never been on the re
      ceiving end but imagine it’s something you could do without, especially if you’re next to the window. THE FOOD The acid test, so to speak. They could polish my shoes and wash my car but it wouldn’t matter much if the food was cak. Luckily it isn’t so that’s one potential issue avoided. There is a standard menu of classic Italian fare, augmented by a chalkboard listing the specials of the day including fresh seafood. Mussels are highly recommended as a starter as are the ‘sardina fritte’. The first time I had the latter, I was a bit disappointed to find it was nothing more than fried sardines. No special recipe handed down from generation to generation, no secret sauce that lives have been spent protecting. Sometimes though, simple is best and conversation came to an abrupt end as I dived in. The same goes for the bruschetta. If I tried putting olive oil and basil on tomatoes, I’d be left with some discoloured garden vegetables. When they do it, it takes on another dimension (tasty). As to the main course, it may sadden although it shouldn’t surprise you to learn that I always have steak when we go Italian. Always, always, always, senza exception. I don’t eat out as often as I’d like and DIY steak has long been a no-no (largely because it no longer qualifies as such by the time I’m done ‘cooking’). Steak is available in three different themes, plus as a stroganoff (cut up pieces in sauce on a bed of rice). I’m quite fond of hot/spicy/peppery food, so it was inevitable that ‘fileto al pepe’ would win first prize. The literal translation is ‘peppered steak’ but that doesn’t even hint at the creamy texture of the peppercorn sauce (which incidentally needs introducing to the accompanying vegetables at some point). Excuse me one moment while I day dream ~’ ~’~’ ~’~’
      ~’ ~’~’~’~’ ~’~’~’~’~’ My restrictive diet does mean I’m excused from commenting in depth on the other main courses... but based on tasters of other people’s choices I’m confident that anything you choose would be up to scratch. Indeed, based on my dish of choice alone, I would stake [erm, that’s terrible, amateurish and I apologise] my reputation on your meal being Pretty Good. Don’t want to commit myself too far just in case. The other half likes her pasta in a certain way (it’s got some posh Italian monicker that I’m not going to embarrass myself with) and restaurants succeed to varying degrees of success. Michelangelo scored maximum points to the extent I polished off my steak extra quick in order to pounce on her meal. You snooze, you lose. Otherwise, I can produce signed declarations that the spaghetti carbonara and ravioli are without equal. Sorry, we’re not very adventurous diners are we? Next time, I’ll ask if they do that poisonous blowfish (if Homer can, so can I) so I can jazz this op up a bit. We've yet to try the desserts but strong hints from the girlfriend indicate that profiteroles could well be the subject of an update. PRICE After deciding a couple of years back that drinking was not for me, I realised an extremely welcome benefit in that eating out costs me far less than for my alcohol guzzling chums. At the penultimate visit, a two course meal plus cokes for three of us cost just under £50. At the last visit, two courses plus cokes for two came to about £30. a coke is 90p – not excessive by any standards. sardina fritte = £4.50 fileto al pepe = £13.50 This is undeniably expensive compared to the likes of KFC. Indeed, you can get a Steak Sandwich and Fries around the corner for under £4. But don’t think ‘cost’, thi
      nk ‘value for money’. Think ‘quality’. Buzzwords of modern commerce, they too can apply to you stuffing your face. Go easy though, or the next word to take on added significance will be ‘downsizing’ ;-) VERDICT A nice, cosy, yummy eaterie. Easy to find, hard to let go, and well deserving of a big thumbs up from me. Now I hesitate to recommend this place to gourmet diners because I’m hardly a connoisseur myself. A palate supported in the main by freezer food, home-made sarnies and the Golden Arches is probably easier to please than most. Bear that in mind when you consider the 5 stars I’ve given this place and that should avoid any potential ill-feelings between us. You will let me know what you think won’t you? btw, as an extra bonus, you’re well placed to go into town afterwards or down the motorway for a bit of plane spotting (at night, I know), or even to the Trafford Centre should you deign to digest your meal in front of the big screen. Preferably nothing too chunder-inducing like American Sweethearts (I’ve not seen it and perhaps I do it a great disservice but that title is enough to make me... enough on that methinks). Oh yeah, and thanks to the pointy eared one.

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