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Manchester Italians - Chain gang

Downtown
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Manchester Italians - Chain gang

Just tried to book a table for 2 in 3 weeks time and both Piccolino and Croma are fully booked all night.

So I panicked and have gone for EST-EST-EST.

Is it an acceptable 2nd Tier option ?!

Manchester
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1. Re: Manchester Italians - Chain gang

It wasn't acceptable, but confusingly now it may well be...

Follow this if you can: The people who founded Est Est Est then sold up to a PLC and launched Restaurant Bar and Grill and Piccolino. Personally I never thought much of Est Est Est back in the day, but the corporate ownership quickly took it downhill whilst Piccolino thrived.

But, recently Est Est Est has been bought by Living Ventures, the team behind the hugely successful (though slightly 'style over substance') Living Room chain.

They are taking the Est Est Est sites through a major refurb (not sure if central Manchester has been done yet?) and the rumour is that they are now better then they've ever been.

So, if the Manchester site is pre-overhaul I'd say 50/50, if it's post-overhaul I say give it a go!

Other options for decent mid-price Italian are San Carlo (small chain off Deansgate, decent and well priced), Olive Press (Paul Heathcote's diffusion restaurant - kind of Piccolino-like) or even Cafe Paradiso at the Rosetti (more adventurous than the others but with plenty of fish, risotto and pastas - the chef, David Gale, is excellent).

I'd say you'd be fine getting into any of these with three weeks notice.

Cheers

Thom

Manchester, UK
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1,963 posts
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2. Re: Manchester Italians - Chain gang

I didn't think Croma took bookings? Maybe it's because of Christmas?

I'm not a fan of Est Est Est...at all. I've eaten there perhaps a dozen times (always on the invite of other people) and never enjoyed it. But, it's been open many years and always looks busy so it must be doing something right.

I'd go for the Olive Press or maybe one of the 'old school' Italian places with check tablecloths. I hope I'm wrong and that you enjoy the meal!

But...are you completely tied to Italian? We have some great Chinese and Indian restaurants in the city. Croma and Piccolino are definitely good but they're not exactly world-class.

Downtown
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3. Re: Manchester Italians - Chain gang

- Ta v much Thom and Mac. I'll stick with it and hope for the best. (Points noted on all alternatives - thank you ).

Downtown
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4. Re: Manchester Italians - Chain gang

Just a thought re: Olive Press - someone last night likened it to me as a glorified pizza joint, vis-a-vis the Pizza Hut.

Is that reasonable ?! Plus do the Heathcote outlets generally have a good reputation ?

Manchester, UK
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1,963 posts
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5. Re: Manchester Italians - Chain gang

It's reasonable as in far as they both sell pizza.

However...and it's a rather large however...

The Olive Press is good. Very good indeed. The pizzas are excellent and actually taste of what they're made of.

And there's pasta and steaks and stuff and excellent puds. And good service. They're kid-friendly but in a way that 'free colouring pens' Pizza Hut with their disinterested staff will ever be.

Give it a go and I'm sure you'll ebjoy!

Manchester
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6. Re: Manchester Italians - Chain gang

I must admit I am not a regular at Olive Press, but my GF's mum went this week and was disappointed after previous good experiences.

Personally I have not really been a fan, as I have always found that they feel a little 'chainy' - competent, but not inspiring.

Paul Heathcote is a great person, an outstanding chef and a great operator, but Olive Press is designed to be a roll-outable (is that a word? Spellcheck says no) chain and feels like it.

Conversely Simply Heathcotes (his diffusion semi-fine dining restaurant) has struggled precisely because it has tried to replicate a high standard of food and service across multiple sites and has suffered from being overambitious.

Olive Press was Paul's second attempt at a profitable concept which can be rolled out, and to be fair he seems to have nailed it as all the outlets seem pretty busy.

As an aside, if you want to eat 'proper' Paul Heathcote food then trek out to the Longridge Restaurant. Although he doesn't cook there any more his brigade of chefs is fantastic (and very settled), the food is wonderful, and the set price menus are excellent value.

Back to city centre Italians - Piccolino still gets my vote (I like Croma too, but if you want to avoid a version of Pizza Express it won;t be for you). Picc is actually being rolled out itself at the minute, but the owners are very shrewd operators and have a proven track record of balancing a reasonable scale of operation (10-20 sites) with quality, consistency and a 'individual' feel to their restaurants.

You're always guaranteed a raft of sensible yet conflicting opinions on here. No help to you of course but it's such diverse opinions which make the internet such a wonderful place!

Cheers

Thom

Downtown
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7. Re: Manchester Italians - Chain gang

Thanks a bundle, Mac and Thom.

Direct, dependable, digestible, and diarrhoea-free, as always.

Keep up the great work.

Glasgow, United...
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204 posts
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8. Re: Manchester Italians - Chain gang

Adding on to Thom's post about Heathcotes at Longridge. I live out that way, so thought I would chuck this into the ring.

Not many "locals" eat at Heathcotes Longridge as its overpriced for what it is. The best food in the area is found at Northcote Manor on the A59 toward Clitheroe.

The cooking here is awesome and worth travelling for. Far better IMHO than Heathcotes Longridge.

Sod all to do with Italians in Manchester though, but it is Friday afternoon, so who cares !

Manchester
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9. Re: Manchester Italians - Chain gang

Ah... Northcote Manor (Langho, near Blackburn).

It is indeed a great place (like Longridge it holds a Michelin star) and is run by chef-patron Nigel Howarth (though he isn't a hands-on chef so much anymore his son is now usually in the kitchen).

Nigel is, like Paul, a great guy, a fantastic chef, and a great operator (did I repeat that word for word?). Between them they are two of the most important people in the Northern restaurant industry, and it comes as no suprise that they are the best of mates (although Nigel supports - and caters for - Blackburn Rovers, whilst Paul does the same for Preston North End).

Northcote is excellent, but I still rate Longridge on a similar level. I've eaten a la carte and off the set menus at the latter, and found it good value for the standard of cooking either way.

If you like Nigel's cooking then try his gastropub The Three Fishes at Mitton. It's a huge place, but very, very good (though the service was shaky when I was last in) and well worth a trip. he's opening a second in West Yorkshire, and wants to have one in each of the local counties soon as he can find good sites.

The three places above are all very different, but you'll have a fantastic time at any of them.

Back to Manchester Italians anyone...?

Cheers

Thom

uk
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75 posts
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10. Re: Manchester Italians - Chain gang

- Can't add narf all to that argument Thom - though ta v much gents for the refined offerings..

(Though, we'll be talking about Quattros in Garstang next, I suspect, if we're not careful...)