Whether it’s a fascination for all things American, or the recent popularisation of gourmet fast food, the last few years has seen a battle amongst many of Manchester’s eateries to offer the biggest, fattest or most bizarre plate of food possible.
The Northern Quarter definitely boasts more than its fair share of burger joints and eating challenges. Call me a traditionalist, but I prefer the episodes of Man v Food that feature a piece of steak the size of a car tyre to the ones with America’s greasiest sandwich or a pizza with 500 different toppings. To that end I’m excited to be sat in Grill on the Alley, Manchester’s meaty institution where the focus is on quality cuts not gimmicks, and there isn’t any ‘pulled pork’ or ‘slaw’ in sight.
Sipping on some expertly made cocktails including a pornstar martini (that requires the use of a blowtorch to produce) we start to work our way through the menu with the help of Grill’s waiting staff.
The shared starter seems the obvious place to start, a plate including bang bang chicken skewers, a succulent sticky take on satay, crispy, light, tender calamari, tasty well-seasoned fish cakes flaked with salmon and duck spring rolls that are packed to bursting with tender morsels. Everything tastes fresh and feisty and vies for attention alongside sweet chilli, aioli and a plum sauce dip. Luckily there are two of each, and a load of calamari, so need for any arguments. I personally could’ve handled it all being a bit spicier, but then I’m the sort of person that does things with chilli sauce that would make most blush.
For the main course I choose from the special Best of British menu, premium beef in the shape of Belted Galloway cattle, fed on corn, wheat and turnips. There is 1.2kg porterhouse steak on offer that sorely tempts me, but, in the absence of Adam Richman’s help I opt for the more modest sirloin and accompany it with home-cut chips and chilli corn on the cob (grilled of course). It’s cooked just how I like it, medium rare, with crispy fat down the edge and nice and pink in the middle. Juicy enough without any sauces. When it comes to choosing the wine I figure the Argentineans know more than enough about beef to provide a tasty red to match and that proves true. The robust and spicy Donna Paula Malbec perfectly matches up to a fantastically juicy cut. On the other side of the table sits my guest and half a 2lb lobster in thermidor sauce, again cooked to perfection and offered up with garlicky green beans and chips. Everyone is happy.
In fact everyone in here seems very happy. The Grill On The Alley certainly appeals to a carnivore’s carnal desires with its unabashed no-nonsense menu, top notch produce and tempting drinks list. It’s the sort of place that stirs up a feeling of ‘kid in a sweet shop’ guilty pleasure. Which perhaps explains why come dessert I tuck in to probably the most indulgent dish on offer, sticky toffee pudding. It is in fact beautifully light sponge and the whole thing is gone long before the ice cream threatens to melt into the sticky, sweet toffee sauce. My companion chooses the altogether more delicate sounding summer berry pavlova. A raspberry ripple of a meringue with whipped cream centre encircled by an arrangement of fresh fruit and burnt orange sauce. It’s delicious and probably almost healthy with all that fruit surely?
One thing is certain, with live music and an atmosphere to match the quality of fare being served up, The Grill on the Alley is well worth hunting down for a bite.