I’m starting 2013 by finishing off a few half written blog posts from the tail end of 2012 and top of the list is cataloguing my birthday eating extravaganza in Manchester. This took place at the start of November – so not too long ago – and the trip is far from forgotten thanks to the notes I helpfully left myself here as a draft, then promptly lost in the wordpress abyss only to be rediscovered this week.
The idea of the Manchester eatathon was to try out some of the great places I’d been hearing and reading about over yonder way and it was a really fantastic weekend. That said, I was disappointed to only really try out two eateries and a few bars. I did my best to eat everything that took my fancy but my eyes were far bigger than my belly and I’m dying to go back to try out Italia and the Liqorists Trail. So, there may well be a Manchester eatathon part deux on the cards for 2013.
We didn’t want to go too fine dining with our meal as we also wanted to sample some nice cocktails over the course of the weekend and needed the cash to fund both. So, for night one of the eatathon we decided to test out Solita (short for South of Little Italy), in the Northern Quarter, which had been getting some rave reviews. Although 2012 seemed to be burgertastic in Manchester, Solita isn’t just another burger or rib joint, it’s a bar and grill that’s got a lot on the menu, including unusual cuts cooked on Inka grill and I had fully intended to sample the Hanger Steak £11.90. But as everyone knows, birthdays are about eating stuff that you wouldn’t usually and well, what I don’t usually eat is typical takeaway fodder like fried chicken cooked to a salivating standard. I caught sight of someone else’s buttermilk fried chicken burger (£11.90) as we were seated and all thoughts of steak went out of the window.
I should probably point out that we’d necked a full bottle of champagne (the good stuff) before we arrived at Solita as most people who know me are aware that once I’ve perused a menu I will usually know what I’m ordering before I walk through the door and stick to it. Apparently the bubbles made me want buttermilk chicken and bacon, on top of pulled pork sundae to be exact.
So that is what I ordered, along with a big jug of the house red wine, which tasted like ribena, beautiful sweet, easy-to-drink ribena. The twinkly fairy lights looked like smudged stars framing the walls. Chances are I was a bit twunted, but please go easy on me blog readers – it was my birthday and I got sozzled and ate fried chicken ‘coz I wanted to.
Service at Solita was very prompt, so prompt that they brought out our main courses before our starters. We questioned this logic and they very apologetically backtracked to sundaeville. Here’s what it looked like…
Forget the Chinese calendar, everyone knows 2012 was the year of the pig – pulled pork, crispy bacon and of course, bacon jam and this sundae was like a celebration of the year (and my birthday, naturally, though I think I was born in the year of the dog). The creamy mash was worryingly more-ish and the pork was moist and salty. I particularly liked the tangy BBQ sauce that came in place of the usual chocolate fudge. As a well-documented carb and condiment fan I was delighted with the mash and sauce combo and I was seriously considering ordering a second for dessert.
Next up that fried chicken. Yes, it’s just fried chicken and brioche burgers are dead trendy and whatnot, but this was a really good feast. The buttermilk batter was crunchy without dripping in grease and the chicken was tender. The chips were fairly standard, but the shining star was the chicken gravy, I could swim in that gravy.
I wanted to ask for more gravy but I thought it too gluttonous.
One slight let down was the chow chow slaw, which appeared to be made from the value salad bags you get in Asda (sorry, it lacked pazazz and any sauce and at £1.90 was a real let down). Don’t get me wrong, it was proper crunchy and that, but there were no real flavours to shout about and I probably wouldn’t have been able to get it down if it wasn’t for the ruddy marvellous ribena wine.
Anyway, let’s not get caught up in disappointing coleslaw, next up was the highlight of the evening: deep fried coke (£4.90). It arrived promptly after our main, courtesy of our smiley and still apologetic waitress.
I’m not a dessert person, so for me to say this was the highlight of my meal is something quite special. The joy of the fried coke was in it’s simplicity. Crispy, churro-like sugar coated dough, creamy vanilla ice cream and sticky, cinnamon lovelinesss that was the cola sauce. I still think about the coke sauce. I would have liked to have thrown some on the pulled pork sundae too to see what that tasted like, I bet it would have been good. And yes, I ate dairy, what of it? I was drunk, it was my birthday and totally worth the stomach cramp I endured when back at my special birthday hotel. And anyone who says different hasn’t eaten deep fried coke.