By Jo Cooksey
I thought I knew all the restaurants in Manchester but last Friday night I ‘discovered’ a new one and what a little gem it is.
I had received an email inviting me to review Al Bacio on South King Street. That’s the little street that runs parallel with the shopping part of King Street, behind Mint Velvet and Kath Kidson. I was intrigued, apparently Al Bacio has been open for four years.
I booked in for an early evening table and we arrived to a very warm welcome. Yes, we there to do a review but all through our meal, watching other diners and from other customer reviews I have read, this is the norm. They seem to treat everyone as though they are family. Very typically Italian. The inside of Al Bacio is bigger than it looks on the outside, with a choice of booths or tables. There are fairylights too. I love fairylights.
We were shown to our table by Francesco, the nephew of owner Domenico, who helps his uncle run the business. A thoroughly charming and polite young man. He brought our drinks order of Aperol Spritz, a bowl of olives and bread and then asked if we wanted to order off one of the menus or whether we trusted him to choose for us. Always game to go off-piste we left it to him to surprise us.
For starters, he brought us Costoletti di Maiale, oven baked spare ribs, served in a homemade barbeque sauce, which were absolutely delicious. The meat was literally falling off the bone and the sauce had a subtle hint of fennel seeds and orange. We also had Gamberoni all'Aglio, king prawns marinated in a lemon, garlic and chilli sauce. These are a staple in many restaurants but these were top notch. Piping hot, firm and juicy and just the right amount of chilli.
Now this is where things got really interesting. Francesco brought us a selection of raviolis, which are usually on their specials board. The first was a squid ink pasta with a mixed fish filling. Right up my street. A beautiful combination of fish and shellfish and a rich, roasted tomato sauce.
Next out was pumpkin and buffalo mozzarella ravioli with a truffle, radicchio and walnut sauce, dressed with shavings of earthy truffle and walnut pieces. This was not a combination of flavours that I would automatically choose, especially if the fish ravioli was on the menu but it worked and it was delicious.
There was one ravioli parcel each but these are very filling little so and so’s and we were already starting to feel a little full when the third version arrived. This was a sweet/savoury variety which combined an Amoretti biscuit filling with a butter sauce. Again, a new blend of flavours and textures to us but a completely heavenly one. Very much a comfort food option.
We thought it must be dessert time but Francesco had other ideas. It was main course time! We were full to bursting and absolutely couldn’t manage another course so sadly we had to decline. However, we did have a little room for dessert. There is always room for dessert.
Again, we left the choice to Francesco and he didn’t disappoint. My two favourite desserts were delivered to the table. A Tiramisu and a Crème Brûlée, both of which were delightful. The Tiramisu was creamy with a good ratio of espresso and marsala soaked sponge and the Crème Brûlée was smooth and vanilla’ery with a good crack to the caramel top.
Our family have been going to the same Italian restaurant in Hazel Grove since it opened 35 years ago because it is that good. I think Al Bacio will become our go to Italian in the City Centre because it is that good. Why not try for yourself and let us know what you think.