“ Address: 17 Trafford Road / Manchester / England / M5 3AW / Tel: 0871 230 5329 „
Stay away - avoid the embarrasent! We asked for the 'early evening deal' they denied all knowledge & then appeared - with a handwritten menu 'of the second'. We were then charged full price - when we came to pay! needless to say we declined and then ensued a power of nerves! We were nearly late for the theatre. never again! The food medicore! service almost none existent! Staff training? Eh do they have to train them? And yes - in an empty restaurant - it can take an age to get your food! Drinks come later! By tracking down the staff!Simply - never again!
On a recent trip to Manchester I stayed at the Ramada hotel on Trafford Road as I was attending a training course in Quay Plaza (Lowry Outlet Mall) and I needed somewhere close by, with a decent restaurant. When we were booking my accomodation I noticed that the Ramada incorporated a contemporary Italian restaurant called Stresa (pronounced Stray-Za). I read a little about the place from the website; bright and comfortable surroundings, locally sourced food and drink, impeccable standard of service and knowledgable staff all won me over. When I arrived at the hotel the first evening, I was rather excited to taste the 'mouth watering' delights of Stresa.
I visited during Britain's 3-day summer and it was absolutely boiling. The restaurant was air conditioned, but I was shown to a table close to the floor-to-ceiling windows and sadly the greenhouse effect ensued, by the time I came to order I had to ask to be moved tables to an area of the restaurant where there was shade! The front of house was lovely and accomodating; he joked with me about having to work there with the sun blazing through the window. Whilst waiting for my drink I had a look around. The restaurant floor is tiled shiny white, the tables and chairs are pretty funky, laid out in an unusual design with part of the seating area being made up of a long lime leather bench. There is a nice waiting area which is set out with low-backed fresh sofas and the ceiling lights are beautiful hessian weaved spheres, hung at varying heights to illuminate the open, tastefully decorated restaurant. To the rear, there is an open kitchen; I always find this kind of pointless - there's an open kitchen, but quite often the prep work is still done behind closed doors, so no real benefit for the clientele. One thing I was quick to notice was that all of the staff were multi-lingual and incredibly smartly dressed.
According to other review sites, this place gets super busy when it's a match day for Manchester United, as there aren't very many other restaurants around Old Trafford. However, both evenings that I dined in the restaurant it was quiet and I didn't experience any delays in receiving my food. I received my sparkling water in an individual Stresa branded glass bottle accompanied by a glass full of ice and lemon/lime. Perfect! I perused the menu, and picked out a main course of 'Frutti di Mare Risotto' described as 'signature seafood risotto finished with mascarpone', under some pressure from the eager waiter (I like to take my time over a menu so I make a good choice).
Whilst I waited for my food I had a look through the menu which was weirdly not taken away once I had ordered; I can imagine this making for a cluttered table if more than one diner. The menu begins with a lovely note from the head chef, Stephen White, regarding the way in which the food is locally sourced (complete with whom from), it also talks a little about where the restaurant gets its name from - a small fishing village on the edge of a lake, surrounded by mountains and olive/lemon trees in Northern Italy. This sounds idyllic to me, but I didn't think it was reflected in the décor or ambience of the restaurant. As modern pop music played at a level teetering on unacceptable I read on...
For guests staying in the hotel for more than one night, the restaurant will accommodate their requests; this started the train of thought for me of 'will they make me cheese on toast and a cuppa', I snapped out of my wonder and I carried on reading the menu. Further in, was a rather charming menu designed by primary school pupils at a local school who were studying nutrition, I thought this was adorable and a really positive incentive as each meal would inadvertantly raise £1 donated by the restaurant, for charity. My favourite title was 'Everyone's Pasta', so simple and it sounded delicious. Soon I had finished looking through the menu, checking my emails on my phone, absorbing the atmosphere and people watching passers-by. I was bored and hungry. I nipped to the very clean and smartly decorated toilet, returned, sat back down, and then I heard the magic words from the kitchen 'Service'!!!
So, this didn't seem to be Gordon Ramsey's kitchen and I waited about 3 / 4 minutes after the chef called for service, despite the fact that I was sole diner in the restaurant. I was pretty annoyed when my risotto turned up with an partially formed skin over the top. I thanked the waiter and then I tucked in. Now I will share with you my love for seafood, there are only cockles and winkles that I can't stomach, everything else I am game for and tend to love. I have sampled many a seafood pasta dish and this really let me down. Firstly, it was grey in colour, which is always the least appetising colour for your palette. I mean, what grey food is delicious? Next is was just plonked in a bowl, which is probably unremarkable to others, but to me lacked flair and presentation, even a couple of shell-on mussels arranged in the middle may have made this look a little more appetising.
Reluctantly and driven by my hunger I tucked in. To my absolute surprise I found the risotto rice to be cooked well with a nice balance between stickiness and lightness - no clumpy heavy congealed rice here. The seafood in the risotto included shelled mussels, crab, calamari and prawns. Disturbingly though, it was crammed with baby octopus which were sometimes whole, maimed, dismembered and disgusting! I will eat anything, I really will try anything and I did, I put one of them babies in to my mouth. I chewed on it and it tasted of salted, seaweedy, fishy rubber. It was repulsive. But I set about eating around them, and although I kept running into their heads and legs, I was managing until I put a prawn in my mouth and it was freezing cold, as though a pack of frozen prawns had been chucked in last minute. It was awful, by this point I thought this course is a disaster I will leave it and just get a dessert.
When they arrived a massive 20 minutes after I put my knife and fork down to take the sick seafood massacre from my plate, I asked to order a cheeseboard for my dessert. Another 10-15 minutes passed and still no sign of the cheeseboard. Now, desserts for me should be the quickest course as they take little preparation. I am perhaps being ignorant, but when I was eventually served the cheeseboard I reckoned it would have taken me about 90 seconds to prepare! Anyway, it was served on a cool slate platter, which I really liked and I had 3 decent wedges of cheese, one hard, one medium, one soft and pungent - so a nice combination and it was accompanied by grapes and caramelised onion chutney - and 3 water biscuits. Now again, this may just be me, but I am not sure how anyone can eat all that cheese with three biscuits, I would say 3 biscuits are enough but shrink the cheese portions! A tiny grumble, but I had had a miserable time so far, this just topped it off. I finished and rather than waiting to go through the whole rigmarole of waiting for my bill, so I approached the bar, signed my room bill and headed off upstairs. I remember how long it took because it was the day of the Cumbrian shootings and I had missed the evening news special; and I had finished the course at 5pm. This means I was in the restaurant 2 and a half hours which for 2 courses as a single diner I think is outrageous!
My bill came to £15.10 which included 95p for sparkling water (aka the highlight of my dining experience), which I think is incredibly reasonable for 2 courses; however, based on the quality I don't think a cost at all can be justified. I didn't alert the staff to my complaint because I just wanted to get out of there - plus I didn't want any unpleasant atmosphere the following evening when I had to eat in there again.
The next evening I had Anti Pasti, this comprised a small pile of parmesan shavings, olives, oil and bread for dipping (rustic freshly baked bread might I add, roughly translated as chargrilled stale loaf) and a selection of cold meats. I have never realised that parma ham is a fine leather sole of a shoe. For my main, Rack of Lamb Chops Scottadito, which was accompanied by potato gnocci (potato dumplings), roast artichoke and grain mustard; it was served in a gravy type sauce which was literally crusted around the edges where it had been left for ages.
I hate sounding so negative, but I can assure you on the evenings I ate there the food was completely substandard and it took a lifetime to serve, which based on my being the sole diner the first evening and one of few the second evening really surprises me. I also failed to comprehend the relationship between the 'colonial, rustic Italian lemon groves' aspiration and the contemporary décor and music which was nice, though as far removed from rustic as I am from supermodel. It was clean, comfortable and pleasant, the staff were professional and well dressed, but the food wasn't up to standard - without good food for me, the rest doesn't matter.
Sparkling water though, really was perfect, highly recommended!
Any Pizza or Pasta for £5
(offer available 12pm - 5pm Mon-Sun & match days)
10% Off Restaurant Bill
(offer available everyday with online voucher)
Children eat free
Under 5's eat for free
5-12 year old's - 2 courses + drink for £6.95
(offer available at all time including match days)
Stresa, within the Ramada Hotel
Salford Quays, 17 Trafford Road, Manchester, M5 3AW (Map)
Tel: 0161 876 5305
Opening Times: Mon - Sun: 12:00 - 21:30