I should probably start by confessing that for a food blogger, I'm pretty set in my ways. Yes, it's nice to try new places for the blog, but if I'm choosing somewhere to eat rather than being invited to review, you could probably count my regular haunts on the fingers of one hand. I like to think of this as incredibly noble loyalty rather than the utter predictability it actually represents; dependability rather than a fairly shameful resistance to change.
One of these regular haunts is SoLIta. Indeed, when I turned up on Wednesday night to have a try of the new menu, my very charming server stopped mid-way through her speech about the possibility of upgrading fries to sweet potato when she stopped and noted that I would know that anyway, having been in just last week. Really, the only way to cling on to the remnants of your shattered dignity in this kind of situation is an aloof perusal of the specials board and some murmured assurances of the existence of an exceptionally greedy twin sister.
And truth be told, great swathes of the new SoLIta menu are not actually new at all - most of the old favourites are still on, joined by a few new faces jostling and pushing at each other for the honour of making me fat. The most likely front runner for this priviledge is the new soup, so often a healthier choice on a restaurant menu but - reassuringly - not so at SoLIta: I can confirm that the Loaded Baked Potato Soup would comfortably sustain a family of four through a hard winter (or me, through a cold night in the Northern Quarter). This is a thick, creamy, buttery affair, studded with large pieces of potato and topped with cheese and crispy bacon pieces; I mixed the whole lot together and simply applied my face to the bowl. Meanwhile, across the table, my dinner companion was investigating the biggest change to the menu - the arrival of a ten-strong selection of chicken wings, graded from "Smilin'" (the Sweet BBQ) to "Screamin'" (the Cry for Help, which I've had before, and which did indeed make me cry). We went for the PBJ from somewhere in the middle - satisfyingly meaty wings coated in a really moreish combination of peanut butter, jelly and soy that reminded us of chicken satay. Beware though that much of the sauce had collected in the bottom of the dish - you may wish to take steps to rectify the distribution curve here, unless you want to end up like the shameful party who had to use their fingers to consume the last of it.
On to mains, where I must admit to deviating from the new menu at the sight of the legendary Parmo on the specials board. I've had this before and loved it - breaded chicken schnitzel topped with bechamel sauce and melted cheese, and served with meatballs, marinara sauce, fries and garlic mayo. Sounds pretty greedy doesn't it, perfect for a girl with a healthy appetite who never willingly leaves a scrap of food on her plate (and allegedly snarls if someone even attempts to remove any item from said plate). Well, greedy doesn't begin to cover it: this is how it arrived...
...and although I battled bravely, I was vanquished, and had to send more than half of the chicken back uneaten. (And yes, OBVIOUSLY I woke up the following morning wishing with all my heart I'd brought it home with me.) There was simply too much food for one person here, and whilst it was delicious, it was wasteful, particularly as it costs £16.90 - it could be scaled down, or billed as a sharing dish (and believe me, I don't use the words "sharing" and "dish" in the same sentence lightly).
The Black Angus grain fed prime rib steak caused similar problems, although I DO have only limited sympathy for someone who orders the 14oz rather than the 10oz and then complains it is too big. This was a beautiful piece of steak, full of flavour and cooked perfectly rare as requested, but the sheer size of it meant it went cold very quickly. To be fair though, this was more our fault than SoLIta's - I would order this done medium next time (and, not so big).
Clearly there was no chance of us managing pudding, so instead we had Old Fashioneds from the excellent cocktail menu and called it a night. Service was flawless and friendly, and the food was as ruinously tasty as ever - still though, if I'm leaving food then something has gone seriously awry with portion sizes. I'm going to sit here and think carefully about what I've done. And then, no doubt, order just as much again next time...
- SoLIta is at 37 Turner St, Manchester M4 1DW. We were not asked to pay for our food or drinks, but I eat here all the time and may as well pay large portions of my salary direct to Franco, so you know I wasn't swayed by the freeness.