Meanwhile, I have had to make do with an altogether classier place: Azzurro, on Burton Road in West Didsbury. This is a clean, bright restaurant (no dingy corners here), with neat wooden tables and a simple menu, and a charming owner by the name of Emil. Continuing evidence that people are simply ignoring the credit crunch is that the place was full on a Thursday evening, so that poor Emil had little chance to chat, which he will do quite happily on a quiet night.
The pick of the starters are the mozzarella al forno - a huge ball of cheese wrapped in parma ham - and the chicken liver crostini - smooth pate served with hefty wedges of toast. There are always a couple of fresh fish specials on the blackboard - last night they were mussels in a tomato and garlic sauce, or grilled sardines. For mains, a range of pasta dishes is available: I would suggest the seafood linguine if you are fishy-minded, or if you are staunchly carnivorous then you can choose from several meat options including steak, chicken and wild boar stew.
None of this comes particularly cheap, with starters between £5 and £6, and main courses from around £14 and upwards. However, if you sign up to their mailing list you will receive special offers via e-mail, and can eat your meal smug in the knowledge that you are paying less for it than other, less-special customers!
- Azzurro is at 242 Burton Rd, West Didsbury, Manchester M20 2LW, tel. 0161 4480099, www.azzurrorestaurant.com