“ 52 Portland Street, Manchester, M1 4QU. Tel:0161 236 0258. „
Last weekend was one of those great ones when everything just seems to slot into place and go swimmingly, leaving you going to bed on Monday night (it was a 4 day weekend for once, at least in the world of Zoë) with a warm cozy feeling inside. I'm not going to go into details but it involved all the 'f's - family, friends and .... fine dining (what did you think I meant? Honestly, some of you just have filthy minds :p ) Anyway, on Saturday night after I finished work (for the very last time - sob, or yes! depending on which way you look at it), we went for a meal at Don Antonio's on Portland St. Our reasons for choosing it were 3 fold - (1) it's in the town center and walkable from my work (we drove over, but that's beside the point) (2) it was a new place we hadn't eaten at before and after checking the menu outside, we knew it had nice food inside (unlike certain poncy Chorlton restaurants that are the least Italian Italian places I've ever been to) (3) it has a bright orange canopy outside - odd I know, but orange always reminds me of school (our uniform was orange and brown) and as a result of a time when work was a lot easier and days a lot dossier We'd tried to go once before, but it was a Sunday and all shut up, with no indication of any opening times on the outside. This time we played safe and I rang up earlier on in the week to ask about hours and book a table. It was a good thing we did really, because by 7pm when we arrived it was pretty crowded. The restaurant is situated below ground level (the polite way of saying in the basement) but is nice and bright despite the obvious absence of natural light due to the lack of windows. The walls are green and yellow (and a lot nicer than that sounds) and are adorned with mounted plates and small pictures. The tables are covered with sparkling white linen tablecloths and topped with candles. The music they played was nice a
nd quiet, while being subtly present for when conversation dropped. At one side of the room there is a serving hatch which leads across to the kitchen so you can watch (and hear) your food being prepared. As for the food, well, it was yum. Or rather Yum, with a capital Y. I had garlic bread to start with, and this was a pizza base covered in garlic, pre-sliced and served in a little wicker basket which was a nice, unusual touch. My main course was pasta which was cooked just as I requested and served with a liberal sprinkling of fresh parmesan. I didn't try his prawns or his steak, but I gather from the speed at which he ate that they were delicious too. One comment I did get was that the vegetables were the best out of all the restaurants we've been to together. Since it was a special weekend, we both had pudding and he coffee afterwards. My choice was profiteroles which were covered entirely in thick chocolate on the outside, not just the teaspoon sized blob on top you sometimes get. The coffee came with amaretto biscuits which isn't all that common round here, and so a welcome bonus. The servings weren't the largest I've had, but were certainly ample (although he commented that more than 4 prawns might have been nice). In fact this was probably better for me since I have the unhealthy habit of eating up everything on my plate in restaurants, even when I'm full, just because it tastes so good. The prices were standard for this type of restaurant in this area, with 3 courses and 3 drinks each coming to £45. One thing I especially liked was that the cutlery and crockery was were spotlessly clean - there's nothing more off putting than even tiny marks on plates or obvious fingerprints on knives and forks. The presentation was fantastic too - lots of colours to the food and no drips from where they've ladled it in / plopped it on your plate. The menu is quite varied with numerous pizza and pasta dishes on off
er, along with a range of starters and meat and fish dishes. Their bar seemed well stocked, their wine list decent if not extensive, and their pudding menu just full of lovely chocolate. Prices start at under £2 for a starter to about £17 for one of the more complicated meat dishes, with your average pizza or pasta coming in at £7. Any pizza or pasta is also available as a starter for a lower prize (and smaller portion) if that's what you'd like. There are toilets although only one male and one female, which, at least on my side, were sparklingly clean (which can be hard in a place where there seemed to be no females working). Due to the steps down from the street to the main restaurant, I'd say it wasn't suitable for disabled people, although if you managed to get down there, the toilets were lovely and spacious and I would imagine accessible in a wheelchair. My only real gripe, and it is a small one, is that the service veered ever so slightly on the slow side. There were quite a few waiters around along with the owner, but it still took a while to attract their attention and order - we generally know what we want and so don't need all the umming and ahhing time some people like. When they were with us though, the staff were all courteous and efficient. Also, there didn't seem to be separate smoking and non-smoking sections since it was so small, but either no one was smoking, or it was only the odd person, because I didn't notice at all. Ristorante Don Antionio is open for lunch and dinner 6 days a week. Times vary although it's generally 12-2pm and then from 5.30pm onwards. It's on Portland Street which runs up to meet Piccadilly and is only minutes from Piccadilly Gardens bus and tram stops. There is parking nearby, but it's limited if you want to stay very near or avoid paying. Overall it was a fantastic meal in nice surroundings. Definitely 5 stars from me, and were I staying in Manch
ester next year, I'd certainly be returning.