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Friday, 18 June 2010

Sun, Wine, Flags and Felicini...Summer in Didsbury

Having spent the day filling in the reams of paperwork required to take a small group of almost-adults all the way from Bury to Manchester on a college trip, a jaunt into Didsbury to enjoy the evening sunshine seemed virtually compulsory. So I did a quick risk assessment, and decided that a trip to Felicini was in order to take advantage of the 20% food discount that is running throughout June.

A small party of like-minded people was raised, and we agreed to meet at The Milson Rhodes. Now, my rather snobbish thoughts on a Wetherspoons pub replacing the really rather tasteful Pitcher and Piano have been documented in previous posts, but let's be honest, the outside space is exactly the same. Only you find that the drinks you are consuming have actually cost you a fraction of what you would have paid at Pitcher and Piano; seriously - a pint of good lager, an excellent glass of Pinot Grigio and a gin and tonic is seven pounds something-or-other. Unbelievable. We went upstairs and sat out on the balcony, thoroughly annoying two girls who previously had it all to themselves, and pretended that we were abroad; only the large England flag attached to the balcony shattered the mood.

The welcome at Felicini, long a favourite of ours, really couldn't have been warmer. We turned up with an extra person who had decided to come along at the last minute, and they were relaxed and helpful about the whole thing; I've NEVER understood restaurants that turn their noses up at extra custom. The place was packed, with a birthday party in the rear area and an event for Didsbury Magazine at the front; we were tucked safely away in one of the capacious booths in the middle in our own oasis of calm (although we did weigh up the possibility of gate-crashing the Didsbury Magazine party - there WERE canapes, after all).

The menu has had a bit of an overhaul since I last visited, and includes some exciting new dishes. For starters, the three ladies of the party exercised their usual indecision and, as usual, went for a selection of sharey things - olives, fresh anchovies and an amazing taster plate of dips, sun-dried tomatoes, prosciutto, stuffed vine leaves and mozzarella. I am now obsessed with the idea that anytime I'm in Didsbury with just short of three pounds in change, I can go to Felicini and they will sell me a generous dish of fresh anchovies marinated in lemon and paprika; amazing. This makes me practically Italian.

The mains were just as good; several people went for the rump steak, which was meltingly tender (or, ahem, so I hear) and my husband went for his usual - the spicy Al Diavolo pizza. Our waitress, who was charming all night, even brought him some extra chilli oil upon hearing his idle boasts about normal pizza not being spicy enough for him. I chose the mussels in a cream sauce, served with frites and aioli (apologies to anyone I spoke to today), and they were delicious; I do have to say though, that rich cream sauce AND garlic mayonnaise in the same dish is too much even for an exceptionally greedy person like myself.

The highlight of the meal was the pudding; being a savoury person myself, I have NEVER said this about a restaurant meal before. The ice-creams they sell at Felicini (and Grinch) are simply astonishing, although my husband had to fight back the tears when told they'd run out of the Peroni beer flavour. Go for the peanut butter flavour instead, a remarkable feat of salty sweetness that defies belief. Other popular choices included the Chocolate Pot, a dark haven of boozy goodness topped with morello cherry ice-cream; the sort of chocolately goodness that refuses to come off the spoon, so great is its artery-busting glory.

With our 20% discount voucher (see the website for details), the bill came to a reasonable £28 per head for three courses with booze. It's good to see Felicini continuing with its familiar Italian classics whilst expanding its horizons by including other European favourites; we have already vowed to go again before the end of the month to test out a few more new options. Well, actually, that'll just be me; the husband refuses to move past the Al Diavolo.

- Felicini is at 747-751 Wilmslow Road, Didsbury, Manchester M20 6RN; tel. 0161 445 2055

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