I’d visited The Grill On The Alley several times previously and always had a great time. In January I even chose it above any restaurant in Manchester to take a couple of friends for their Christmas present.
Unfortunately this visit was close to my worst experience in a restaurant for a long time. There were just so many problems, some of them fairly minor in isolation but all together in one evening caused a very unpleasant experience.
We ordered the sharing platter and the mussels to start. The mussels were great as usual (they’re one of our regular orders) and the sharing platter wasn’t too bad although the chicken skewers were MUCH smaller than on previous occasions. That is one of the ‘minor issues’, we did comment on it at the time but it wasn’t a big deal until it was added to everything else bad about the evening.
Unfortunately the main courses were much worse. My partner ordered the ribs which were also as fantastic as ever (another favourite), but she requested that the included chips by changed for rice. Unfortunately when the rice arrived it was literally inedible because it contained so much garlic. Not only was there far too much garlic but the menu stated Rice with “wild garlic” and if that was “wild garlic” then I am “Marco Pierre White”. I’m 100% certain that it was cheap garlic powder and not wild garlic at all.
On almost every other visit to Grill On They Alley I have had steak and they have always been good. However the waitress did a good job of selling the lamb shank special too me so I went for that. When it came it looked fairly impressive, but I immediately commented that there was a serious lack of red wine jus and the champ potatoes looked VERY dry, as if they’d been sitting under a hot lamp for a long time as they’d started to crust on top and around the edges.
The lamb shank did look impressive and even more so when I started to eat it as it quite literally was falling off the bone. However that is where the enjoyment of the dish ended. To say it lacked flavour would be a major understatement, it literally didn’t taste of anything at all. No seasoning, no herb or spices, but most worryingly not even the flavour of lamb! I’m no chef but I do cook a little at home and have made slow roast joints of lamb and never have I managed to totally lose all of the natural flavour and make it taste of nothing. I honestly don’t know how it could happen. Eating it was such a bizarre experience as it had the right texture of eating meat but zero flavour. Of course it might not have been as obvious had there been much more sauce provided but the little drizzle that I received had long since disappeared. So with the tasteless meat, lack of sauce and the extremely dry potatoes it was really a very disappointing dish for me and though my partner loved the ribs she couldn’t eat the rice.
How About The Drinks?
We didn’t feel like eating desserts after the main course let down but instead decided to order cocktails. For our first round I ordered a Caipirinha which was OK, my partner had a Margarita. The drink itself was fine but the glass was severely over salted, it wasn’t a salted rim but rather the whole top half of the glass was salted! So much so that she actually wretched after taking the first sip (and she is a fan of Margaritas and salted rims). I had to give her one of my straws to drink it through to avoid the salt.
For our second round we both ordered a Passion Fruit Sling, a favourite from previous visits. Unfortunately they didn’t taste anything like previous visits. They were both FAR too sweet. I would consider myself to have quite a sweet tooth but I genuinely struggled to finish it. I assume the reason it was so sweet was because there was noticeably much less passion fruit than usual so there wasn’t enough to balance all of the sweetness from the sweetened lemon juice, passion fruit syrup and lemonade. Usually we can see many passion fruit seeds floating around in the drink but on this occasion the number of seeds visible was very small. I don’t know if the bar staff didn’t have enough passion fruit on the night or were not aware of how many to use or even have been told to use less but it really wasn’t right and not even nearly worth the £7 each price.
That just about sums up the disappointment with the food and drinks. I didn’t feel that the service was as good as usual either. There were no major incidents but the staff were definitely not as attentive. On two occasions the server brought drinks and literally just put them down on the table and walked off without saying a word. We also had to ask for a desserts menu as nobody offered it to us after removing our main course plates and after asking it took rather a long time to arrive. It wasn’t particularly busy in the restaurant either, especially downstairs where we were seated. I don’t think either would have bothered me much on a normal night had the food been up to standard but after such disappointment with the food it just helped to make the whole evening even worse.
It was an incredibly poor experience overall, for a £100+ meal it just wasn’t good enough in anyway.
Part of me thinks they deserve another chance based on previous good experiences but in reality I probably won’t be back again, there are too many good restaurants in Manchester to risk another night like that.
Date of visit: 08.07.2011