Did you know, that you become a new person every seven years? Not in the literal, snake-shedding sense (sorry for the scary image by the way); but more of one undergoing a personality transformation. This would make sense, as I tend to seek out places more, that channel chilled out vibes, in place of eateries where Vivienne Westwood and Balenciaga frocks are the costume du jour.
Me and dining partner and fellow food blogger were strolling leisurely (yes, that’s we do now, stroll), through Didsbury; our dining venue of choice – Volta.
It felt as if I was walking into someone’s front yard – maybe this is intentional. We skipped through the entrance and were promptly seated by the affable and totally efficient Mark. It’s a cosy space and one which you feel at ease (well, not too much, considering it was wasp season and the massive open window behind me made my bare shoulders a target).
Mark suggested some great wines (he’s a good egg that one), and I have to take a moment to say he is one heck of a front-of-house superstar. From being there when you needed him for another drink, to bugging him about wine matching, he appeared magically as yours was the only table in the room. It is rare to find someone with that ease and talent – he should be given a gold star (or week off, whatever his little heart desires).
We checked out the menu, which was very Tom Cruise (compact, versatile and ageless). It’s a tapas-y kind of place, which is great if you’re in the mood for some good old procrastination (should I really have worn that cutesy cardi?). From small and invariably large plates, to deli boards, sandwiches and full on mains, there is enough going on to constitute bed-time menu reading for a reluctant reader.
We kicked off with beer battered monkfish goujons (tarragon mayonnaise). The ‘barely there’ batter was a joy to eat. I am very rarely left speechless (my boyfriend can vouch for me on this); but these succulent, melt-in-your-mouth little morsels were heavenly. The batter was so delicate, I had to gently place the herby mayonnaise onto the goujons, instead of swiping said fish through like I usually would.
The bread basket was substantial and very good. Focaccia seemed to be extra crisp, perfect when dunked into the balsamic vinegar swirled olive oil. Yeasty sourdough was a winner too, sans oil as I found the flavour slightly nutty and altogether moreish. Focaccia was even better dunked into the smoked feta, beetroot dip (hazelnut, dill). You could ‘pimp up’ the flavours of the dip by pairing it with plain sourdough, or the deliciously oregano heavy focaccia.
The dip was a feast for the eyes. Magenta red paste adorned with flecks of ivory cheese, butter beige hazelnuts and shreds of green dill made this one culinary masterpiece I couldn’t take my eyes off.
Next up, fresh fig and halloumi (mustard seeds, basil and balsamic vinegar). It looked squidgy and beautiful, and tasted wonderfully caramelised. The fig was reminiscent of soft sticky toffee, and when paired with the salty halloumi, made for a stunning mouthful.
We both love seafood, which is why we chose the second fish dish of the day; wild red prawns (lime and chilli butter). These regal prawns were majestically piled high, in an earthy, slightly sour bisque. The aforementioned bread was superb, used to mop up these gorgeous juices, and what I thought worked really well was the juicy bread as a base for a few stray shawarma shreds.
I’m not a massive fan of lamb (it can sometimes taste too gamey), but this lamb dish here (lamb shawarma, harissa yogurt, bread, salad) was decent. I could taste a lot of cinnamon on the meat too, which I wasn’t expecting, and I also found the meat a touch too chewy. Still, my dining partner loved it – it just wasn’t for me.
Volta is an award-winning eatery. The chefs certainly know what they’re doing, and their eye for detail and talent for creating those perfect goujons is nothing short of magical. (To quote Norman Cook – I have to praise you like I should.)
Star Rating 1-10 (1: “I’d rather eat my own shoe, I hated it that much” – 10: “I’d pillage for a meal here”.)
Value for money: 8
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Address: 167 Burton Road, West Didsbury, Manchester, M20 2LN
Tel: 0161 448 8887