What’s going on foodwise if you pass Chorlton and Didsbury and kept going? On-line research reveals that Bramhall has been dubbed as the ‘least lonely’ place in Britain, so let’s start there.
I kept it light with Salmon Nicoise (£10.95) which was well dressed and satisfying, but the hard boiled eggs had been overcooked giving the yolks a grey tinge that always makes me think of dead men’s toes.
The place certainly seems to popular as an outpost for North West restaurateurs who are trying to build a mini-empire.
Beluga, The Bubble Room and Ego have all set up. Strange how they can all survive within such a short distance when they have almost identical generic ‘Mediterranean’ menus. Seriously, pull the online menus up alongside each other and compare. You could fashion some kind of game out of it. Starters – chicken liver pate (check, garlic bread (check), mezze platter (check,) something sweet and vaguely oriental (check) – Menu Bingo!
I chose to visit Napa which does pretty much the same, but in a bold claim to be different, styles itself as ‘the ultimate in New York loft apartment styling’. Technically, this is quite clever as New York is famous for being a hubbub of various geographical dietary influences. So you can style yourself as New York, but really still get away with lots of the aforementioned Mediterranean stuff on your menu.
I invited my glamorous friend Claire who has recently lost 16lbs so was in need of a good feed. I sent her the link to Napa’s website and on seeing the words ‘New York loft apartment styling’ immediately envisaged herself as an extra from ‘Sex and the City’ and texted to ask what to wear. She knows me well enough to remain unsurprised by my swift return text which simply said ‘elasticated waist’.
Easy to find on the main road through Bramhall, the restaurant itself is light and airy with carefully dimmed down-lighting and polished wooden floors. Three-quarters full for a Thursday evening, the clientele was made up mostly of small groups of women, so it was the perfect setting for us to catch up without the distractions of our young children in tow.
Staying in her SATC character mode, Claire ordered a gin and tonic (£4) and I had sparkling water (£1.25) whilst we looked at the menu. The starters were chosen from an assorted hotchpotch of cultures including Tex Mex, spring rolls and the ubiquitous ‘mezze platter’ – Napa would definitely qualify for Bramhall menu Bingo.
Claire decided upon Port of Lancaster salmon gravadlax on spring onion pancake (£6.50) and I chose Chicken “Teriyake” sticks with Oriental noodle salad (£5.95) - I’ve absolutely no idea what the speech marks were for. The starters were adequately sized and decent if bland.
The wine list is pretty generic but many of the wines are helpfully offered by small or large glass sizes as well as full bottles. They also have at least one white, red and rose from the USA which fits well with their theme. Claire’s large glass of Italian Pinot Grigio (£5.95) and my small glass of French Sauvignon Blanc (£4.40) were good examples of their type but neither were cold enough. A bit daft considering one of the walls was made up of a bank of chilled wine bottles on display.
Another minor fault of the evening was the fact that we were asked several times by different waiters if everything was ok with our meals. That aside the service was friendly, efficient and the waiters were knowledgeable about the dishes on the menu. It’s a pet peeve of mine to be interrupted often when everything is clearly ok. Having worked in the service industry, it’s pretty obvious when a customer with a problem is trying to catch your eye, and if they’re engrossed in happy conversation, leave them alone.
Napa makes a point of being proud of their steaks and, according to Claire who chose the 8oz Fillet (£21.95), they should be. They are described as finest Peak District National Park 28 day aged beef with hand cut chips. It was served perfectly medium rare, as requested, and beautifully presented on a slate platter with chips in their own mini bucket, a fresh side salad and some excellent onion rings. A little jug of peppercorn sauce came at an extra (£1.75). Claire finished the lot.
I kept it light with Salmon Nicoise (£10.95) which was well dressed and satisfying, but the hard boiled eggs had been overcooked giving the yolks a grey tinge that always makes me think of dead men’s toes. The salmon was perfectly cooked though with crispy seared skin that had been sprinkled with coarse rock salt.
We thought we’d share pudding and that a good means test would be the Baked NY cheesecake with bourbon biscuits and crème fraiche (£4.95) especially as the waiter proudly confirmed that the cheesecake was made on the premises.
I have spent years researching and perfecting the ideal cheesecake recipe and was surprised when a chocolate cheesecake turned up, as a classic NY cheesecake is vanilla. It was delicious though, light and rich with a crisp base and a luscious chocolate sauce on the side, the acidity of the crème fraiche balanced the chocolatey sweetness perfectly.
The bill came to £72 exactly, which is reasonable. I was told recently by a well-known Manchester butcher that a simple, perfectly cooked steak, with good quality hand cut chips is not as easy to find as you might think. Napa’s strength and pride clearly lies in their steaks, so if that’s the thing that makes them rise above their Bramhall neighbours, then, as they say in New York ‘Bada Bing!’
|Breakdown:||7/10 food |
|Address:|| Napa Lounge Bar & Diner |
9 - 11 Bramhall Lane South
0161 439 8688
Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20: Gordo gets carried away
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