I was excited to be offered the chance to go and review the new menu at Don Giovannis, so braved the cold and sleet with my trusty new red hat (somehow I lost 10 black hats last year...anyway, that is beside the point).
I must admit I've never been before and walking through the door was struck by how warming and welcoming it was (especially the fish specials board!) We were led through to the new refurbished function room where the imposing white tables greeted us, beautifully dressed (them, not us). Now I'm not a massive fan of weddings but for an intimate gathering for a reception this would be ideal.
Hungry as always, we were eager to see what was going to appear. First though was the wine, and whilst I like most forms of wine it's a typical bugbear of mine, the concept of 'house wine'. In most restaurants it is overpriced, lacking in fruit or depth and ill chosen. However, the Trebbiano served to us was a surprise and a delight. Crisp, plenty of good stone fruit and a mellowing sweetness. I could see this matching with most of the food we were going to get.
First up was what I would call 'Dough Pillows', accompanied by olives and a light herb dressing. They were moreish to say the least, with enough salt so as to not be overpowering, and they complimented the olives nicely. I do love good Antipasti and was very happy to see three large plates descend on our tables. The cured meats were high quality which was nice to see (in a lot of Italian restaurants I've had bog standard antipasti and as a general rule of thumb do not order it, so was pleased with our offering here). My favourite things on the plate had to be the pickled green peppers, roasted courgette and artichoke hearts. The pickling was top drawer, light and delicate. The artichoke hearts were not smothered in oil and still had some leaves on them making them really tasty. Overall a great plate of classic Italian flavours.
Next up was 'Insalata di Polpo' (Warm Octopus Salad with Potato, Celery, Red Chilli and Lemon Juice). I was told by my esteemed friend that she would be jealous if this was served so was happy to send her some pictures! The dish overall was good but a little inconsistent as part of the octopus was a little soft and overcooked but the crisp bits with the chilli were delicious.
With the Trebbiano coming into its own the 'Ravioli Di Spinaci' (Spinach Ravioli with a Butter Sage Sauce) was presented to us. Well cooked pasta (I never get it right!) with a light sauce and smooth filling (a tiny bit under seasoned for my liking but I am a salt fiend).
Onto my highlight of the the evening, 'Capesante Casereccie' (Seared King Scallops with Pea Puree and Red Chilli). I'm a massive fan of pea puree and will have it with most dishes I cook for myself and this one did not disappoint. Smooth and wonderfully seasoned and a fantastic accompaniment to the perfectly cooked, caramelized King Scallops.
Our final savoury dish of the evening arrived and invited us to tuck in: 'Tagliata di Manzo' (Sliced 10oz Sirloin Steak with Rocket and Parmesan Shavings). Rocket, Steak & Parmesan are a classic combination, however I thought with this salad it needed to be dressed more and have more Parmesan. Maybe this was because it was served to us on big platters so some of the ingredients got lost. The steak was cooked perfectly rare which I can't fault but just needed something extra to give it that rounded feel.
I suppose Tiramisu to the Italians is like Bread and Butter Pudding to us, everyone has the 'best' recipe. Anyway, it was a colossal bomb-like pudding and a great spectacle to end the night with. As it should be, rich, creamy but light and airy.
And so our night came to a close. The function did what it was designed to do perfectly: got everyone together, talking and generally having a really good time. I think my overall view, not having been before, was that they could have showcased some more dishes, maybe some fish specials and other pasta dishes. When I read the menu before going I was impressed by the variety and depth of the dishes they had on offer so would have been keen to sample some more of what the menu had to offer. Having said that, from what I had would go back and enjoy a long Saturday lunch in the company of some very friendly and hospitable staff.
- Don Giovannis can be found at 1-2 Peter House, Oxford Street, Manchester, M1 5AN; telephone 0161 2282482.