I’m not saying it’s my best trait, but I’m known for being slightly, ever so slightly, competitive (slightly? Your uni housemates nicknamed you ‘Monica’ – ed).
When a challenge is laid down, I’ll take it; hence why when Alessandro DiStefano of the San Carlo Restaurant Group, picked up my last blog post on Cicchetti and then laid down the challenge that if I thought that was good, I’d positively love Bottega, their new opening at Manchester’s Selfridges; I couldn’t say no, could I?
Zucchini fritters are always a must and dare I say it, Bottega’s were even better than the ones at Cicchetti (I know!); a super light batter surrounded slightly crunchy veg, all perfectly seasoned (think licking salt off your fingers level of seasoning).
As I said at Cicchetti, if I’d had the San Carlo pizza at any other restaurant, I’d be raving about it, but as everything else we ate was so good, the pizza just because another great dish among many; smokey from the oven, warmth from the chillies and savoury loveliness from the meat on top.
Tuna tartare at Bottega goes something like this; the waiting staff bring a sliver platter and set it up next to your table. Upon the platter they place a bottle of tabasco, a lemon, some oil, some balsamic, some salt and some pepper. And they leave you with that for a moment. You wait, you muse, you eat some more zucchini.
|Tuna tartare – dish of my dreams|
A plate is then brought to you; tuna, rocket, onion, caper, mustard and red onion – you are shown all of the finely chopped ingredients and you are asked if you like all of them (you can create your tartare to your exact tastes, adding or leaving out any of the ingredients you wish). Ingredient inspection over, your waiter expertly mixes everything, stopping to show you each step; an understated spectacle.
And then the dish is placed between you, you eat it, the balance of flavours is so exact and so clean you can’t say anything and you don’t. Tip, ask for Frederico to serve this dish to you. He’s a master.
|I ate all these|
We finished with pudding, three of them between the two of us, for research purposes of course. If you like pannacotta, eat the Bottega one, I swear it’s made with the creamiest cream you can cream off a cow. The rum baba is also worth a mention for sheer 70’s nostalgia of puddings lovingly created for me by my grandma; light, boozy, making me feel like a happy little child (but don’t eat the vanilla cream on top, a little too sweet and overbalances the dish somewhat).
Throughout the evening we’d been cossetted by very friendly staff. Like their other restaurants, San Carlo has invested heavily in customer service and it shows. Professional, knowledgeable, slightly cheeky and nowhere near dour, the staff made our evening.
I accepted the challenge to like Bottega and I can unequivocally say that I do. The decor is beautiful without being OTT, the staff are so friendly they make you feel like family, the food is spot on and the inclusion of french dishes is an inspiration, truly making Bottega stand out from the crowd. The only downsides? They’d run out of cassolet (my favourite dish bar a bouillabaisse) and they only open till 8pm – they have to close when Selfridges does. Just means I’ll have to have some ‘long lunches…’
Now, which one do I prefer – Bottega or Cicchetti. Not sure I’ll ever be able to decide (obviously needs more ‘research’ – ed).
Go again – yes. As with Cicchetti, I plan to become a regular and maybe even just move in.
Bottega, 2nd Floor Selfridges, 1 Exchange Square, Manchester M3 1BD – Twitter
Please note, I was invited to Bottega, they knew I was there and my food was free – however as with any freebie, I mark harder than if I’ve paid and you know me, I’ll tell you when something is rubbish.