So, another blog, another post in which I eat too much at SoLIta - you've heard it all before. This time though, I'm at the Didsbury branch, which Franco and co. thoughtfully opened just a hop skip and a jump away from my house earlier this year (Franco jokes I was listed in his business plan when outlining the viability of the Didsbury site - or at least, I hope he's joking). And this time, I've brought along a vegetarian.
We're here to try out the new menu, having respectively spent most of the week eyeing up photos on Twitter of the Cheeseburger Spring Rolls (me) and the Halloumi Burger (my fragrant date, who had never been to SoLIta before due to its rather meaty reputation). SoLIta Didsbury is based in what was Cibo on School Lane - a building scarcely recognisable from its previous sorrowful occupancy. Now it's all Stanley Chow artwork and neon signs, with a buzzy atmosphere that Cibo could only dream of and a fleet of young, chipper staff ready to ply you with the good stuff; in fact, it's very like the Northern Quarter outpost, only a/ better and b/ nearer home.
Obviously, for starters I have the Cheeseburger Spring Rolls. When you've essentially spent the day drooling over a photograph of something in a Homer-esque way, there's always a very real worry that reality will be a let down; not so here thankfully. These spring rolls are as ridiculous and as amazing as they sound - with burger steak wrapped in proper yellow plastic cheese wrapped in pastry and then deep fried, they are essentially the very greedy person's version of an enigma wrapped inside an enigma. Meanwhile, my veggie date has one of my most favourite SoLIta starters, the Lucky 7 - so called because of its layers of guacamole, re-fried beans, sour cream, salsa, cheese, lettuce, olives. She loves it so much she snarfs the lot - lucky only for some, it appears.
For main, I have The Schnitz - a previous special that proved so popular it's muscled its way onto the new menu (and deservedly so - chicken breast schnitzel topped with home smoked shredded bbq chicken and apple slaw and then served with fries is fairly hard to say no to). I'm a sucker for any form of fried chicken anyway, and it makes a nice change from the ubiquitous pulled pork to find it topped with shredded chicken rather than pig. It's the apple slaw that really makes the dish though, adding a freshness and crunch that works well against the sweetness of the bbq sauce. The Veggie has the Hallou Me? Burger - charcoal grilled halloumi, Portobello mushrooms,
red pepper and house sauce; she enjoys it, but feels it would benefit from a lightly toasted bun. To be fair though, she has to order it without the mushroom as she is allergic (yes, I know, a veggie allergic to mushrooms - it's a wonder she manages to eat out at all), and thinks that the dish would be fairly perfect had she had this element. On the side we have some cornmeal fried jalepenos and some deep fried pickles - the latter are particularly magnificent, and are fought over to such an extent that we have to actually cut the last one in half.
We are full by now, but share a dessert in the form of the Peanut Butter Chocolate Fudge Brownie served with Oreo ice cream. They know we want to share and helpfully cut the brownie in half before it arrives - either they are exceptionally thoughtful here or (perhaps the more likely) they simply witnessed the unseemly pickle tussle and wish to avoid further public disturbances. The brownie has an excellent texture, managing to be both light AND sticky - our only comment is that we could both handle a bigger hit of peanut butter (but then again, we are both the kind of people who eat it directly from the jar when we think no-one is watching). I do still mourn the deep-fried coke, but feel that I can bravely make do with this until Franco sees sense (/caves to pressure) and brings it back.
Any drawbacks? Well, I honestly think the portions are on the big side, but as the vast majority of the population have better self control than I do, they would probably just stop eating when they were full. Someone also commented via social media that they thought SoLIta prices a little expensive, but I'm not sure this is fair criticism - everything at SoLIta is big enough to share, and the burger prices have actually come down a pound or two thanks to the restaurant passing on discounts from suppliers. And yes, we didn't pay on this occasion, but I estimate that I have been to SoLIta NQ maybe twenty times as a paying customer and to SoLIta Didsbury already about five, so I am more than happy to part with my cash here. And even The Veggie says she wants to go again - high praise indeed, although I doubt very much I'll ever convert her to the delights of the cheeseburger spring roll...
- SoLIta Didsbury is on School Lane, M20 6RD; tel. 0161 434 4884.