Does a name ever intrigue you, to hasten you into action? When BlackHouse popped up on my radar (doesn’t it sound positively Dickensian?), I knew I just had to hop along to discover more about the brand’s range of eateries.
And so it was that I found myself ambling down an alleyway, wondering if I had taken a wrong turning (my sense of direction is abysmal – I once got lost near my house – true story), when I spied the entrance of The Grill On The Alley. It’s cute, because it is literally a grill on an alley.
Expansive foyer, cosy ambience and lights, oh so many lights that lifted my spirits and sent them soaring as if propelled hundreds of feet upwards. Back to earth and we were shown a booth where we planted and breathed in our surroundings.
The Grill On The Alley’s focus is on good food and seasonal produce. Their premium quality 28-day aged steak is the stuff of legend (a fellow food writer and several friends had dined here previously and recommended the steak as a “must have”).
There is a specialist fillet board, where you choose your steak from the chiller cabinet, and it is cut in front of you. Theatrical? Yes. Unique and fun? Definitely.
I liken being inside The Grill On The Alley, akin to nestling in a delectably warm glass of brandy. It is all tobacco and amber tones that will make you feel fuzzy and warm inside.
We kicked off with a few drinks. It’s a cracking cocktail menu and one of the drinks we imbibed was the Cuban Passion. It’s difficult not to like something billed as “exotic, nutty and fruity”. Base notes of Bacardi Carta Oro melded together wonderfully with Amaretto Disaronno, making this one smooth drink that went down very easily.
We shared a starter of Piri Piri calamari (saffron mayonnaise). Presentation was great, and I loved the succulent flesh with the piquant kick of peppery Piri Piri. The addition of Thai cracker shards was inventive and simple, which elevated this dish from being a great starter to a blooming scrumptious one that I’d happily fight you for.
My main was lobster (garlic butter, Dauphinoise potatoes). Fragrant, tender lobster cooked to perfection, with a hint of sweetness was stunning. Rivers of garlic butter bathed tender flesh, and without going Fifty Shades of Grey on you, every mouthful was a dream. Even the side of Dauphinoise potatoes was creamy, dreamy and moreish, rendering this to be one of my most memorable meals. Ever.
Dining partner had grilled fillet steak (Manchester egg, béarnaise sauce, asparagus) from the Great British Beef Off menu. His words, verbatim: “This is the best steak I have ever had.” No other words are needed.
Dessert of coconut Bakewell tart (pistachio ice-cream, salted caramel sauce) was the perfect end to a delightful meal. Crisp pastry cradled moist frangipane scented sponge, spiked perfectly with desiccated coconut. I had swapped vanilla ice-cream for the pistachio variety, which I think layered the depth of nuttiness in this dish and made it exceptional.
Dining partner had pineapple pappardelle, which consisted of fruit shavings with chilli, mint and coconut ice-cream. The slight sourness from the pineapple was tamped down by the subtle kick of chilli, and the addition of refreshing mint ice-cream made this the perfect tropical marriage and a great summery dessert.
The food is divine. The décor beautiful. The service, faultless. It may be an idea to perhaps have more ventilation in the building, as it was a baking hot summer’s day, and it got just a little too warm inside. I love The Grill On The Alley. GM Gary runs a tight ship. Jenna, the Front of House on the day was sublime, warm smiles and welcoming demeanour that has you questioning yourself if you’re actually best friends. If Jenna is around, rest assured you’re in safe hands.
For delicious food that you’ll remember weeks, nay months after, head on over to The Grill On The Alley. You won’t be disappointed.
Rating: (1: Hate: I’d rather eat my shoe – 10: Love: I’d sell my kidney for a meal here)
Value for money: 9
Restaurant name: The Grill On The Alley
Owners: BlackHouse, Living Ventures
Open since: 2005
Address: 5 Ridgefield, Manchester M2 6EG
Opening times: Monday – Saturday 11am-12am / Sunday 11am – 11pm
How to make reservation: Telephone & online. For parties of over 6 diners, telephone to make a booking.
Call: 0161 833 3465
General Manager: Gary Hall
Front of House: Jenna
Whilst in the area: visit Selfridges and Harvey Nichols for good old retail therapy. Perfect for a spot of Christmas shopping, or to simply window shop as you eye up the latest Chloe bag. (An aside: I discovered Craig David has his own tee-shirt range in Selfridges. If you’re a fan of the yodelly one, do check out the menswear RTW section.)