It's pretty hard to keep up with the Northern Quarter these days. Whilst it is of course a pleasure to see a previously unloved section of the city centre totally rejuvenated, there seems to be a new bar or restaurant opening every ten minutes or so - which means that it's all too easy to lose track of what's going on and miss nice places that really you would like to go to very much indeed. I can think of no other reason why I hadn't been to Rosylee until the new menu launch a couple of weeks ago; I'd heard lots of good things, and frequently walked past remarking how cute it was, and had even had cocktails upstairs at the lovely Fitzgerald - but never actually got round to calling in. In fact, it's taken me so long to call in that it's already changed its identity, dropping its original "tea room" tag and evolving into a pretty grown-up bar and restaurant without me even knowing.
That's all rectified now of course. The new menu launch took place on one of those glorious evenings that mark the start of summer, and the outside seating (unusually plentiful and spectacularly sunny for the Northern Quarter, whose nod to al fresco drinking often extends only as far as a shady bench popped outside the front door) was packed with cheery drinkers enjoying the sun. We were HUNGRY so went straight inside to our table; there were some complimentary cocktails available but we elected to order from the full menu and very much enjoyed our choices of Rhubarb and Gin-ger Sour and a Rosylee Cobbler - both refreshing and striking the right balance between sweet and sharp (plus, LOOK AT THE SUPER CUTE HEARTS ON THE TOP OF MINE). We had some disgracefully moreish Inka Roasted Nuts with these - for yes, Rosylee now has an Inka grill, and is keen to impart its fabulously smoky flavour to everything they can (more of this later). For our starter proper, we shared the Fisherman's Board, a jaunty combination of seaside goodies including smoked salmon and scampi. All very tasty, although we felt the quantities were slightly out of balance thanks to the large pieces of battered fish that, whilst lovely, dominated proceedings a little; we also thought this maybe a little expensive at £15.50 when so many other restaurants in Manchester do something equivalent for less money, particularly as there was a lot of bread here too.
On to the mains then, and clearly - as it was easily the hottest day of the year so far - we went for some nice, hearty, wintery dishes. My charming companion can never resist a pie and tonight was no exception - his beef and mushroom pie was notable for its excellent peppery gravy and winning presentation in its cast iron pan; generous quantities too, even if it did make him complain about being too hot. I went for the duck breast cooked on the Inka grill - a happy combination indeed, producing pink meat with a thick layer of crispy, sweetly smoky fat. This chargoal grill is one of only three in Manchester city centre and new head chef Chris Byron has clearly had fun designing the menu around this prized new toy, with a whole range of meats, cuts and skewers available from the grill. You get to choose two sides with the Inka grill dishes - I went for chips (obviously), which were very good, and cauliflower cheese, which was a mistake. This was a very small portion indeed, and next time I would choose a sauce instead as the overall dish ended up a little on the dry side and would definitely have welcomed a little moisture.
We didn't really need desserts but had them anyway. My sticky toffee pudding was perfect in every way apart form being totally unsuitable for the weather, whilst my too-hot friend cooled down with a Strawberry Daiquiri Eton Mess which he felt was a little heavy on the cream and a little light on meringue (something which is actually often the case with the restaurant version of this dessert). We had a glass of house wine each and excellent service throughout the night, particularly from the lovely Chloe who was helpful and friendly whilst also remaining professional. All in all, it added up to a very enjoyable evening and despite a couple of minor isses with the food we would be inclined to go back - although definitely on a weekend so we can take advantage of the Fitzgerald's smouldering presence upstairs afterwards.
- Rosylee is at 11 Stevenson Sq, Northern Quarter, Manchester, M1 1DB. We paid for our cocktails but not our food.