Spinningfields started life as a business district, closed at weekends with no real reason to walk through it unless you were giving your money away to lawyers, bankers and accountants. It had a smattering of well-known chain restaurants towards the Irwell, but certainly never appeared on my map of ‘where shall we eat in Manchester’ no matter what food mood I was in. The chains slowly gave way to more innovative dining and the independents are now following.
Spinningfields is now as much a place to visit thanks to Australasia and Alchemy as it is to seek professional advice. The newest outlet is Southern 11, situated on Hardman Street.
My first visit was courtesy of my lawyer pal David Pickering for one of our monthly lunches. It is situated on the first floor level of 3, Hardman Street, up a flight of stairs and not really visible from street level. As this was semi-business I decided against platters which conjured up visions of my face smeared with BBQ sauce and opted for the safer alternative of the dry aged rump steak. The steak was delicious, melt in the mouth, cooked to perfection wonderfulness. And so endeth my first visit.
The thought of those sticky belly ribs however stuck in my mind and I decided to go back to try a more relaxed meal, where BBQ smears were more acceptable. I booked in for a Wednesday night at 7.30pm.
The outside seating was full and inside there was a lively atmosphere, despite the room being only half full. It appears 7.30 is cross over time. Lots of office workers hugging their drinks before the diners start to arrive after 8pm. My guests, daughter Olivia and friend Simone were running late so I settled for a glass of Solageun Rioja (£4.65 a glass or £18.75 a bottle) as recommended by the waiter and a good recommendation it was too, just right for sipping but would hold its own against the meat courses.
This wait gave me plenty of time to take in the atmosphere and design of the restaurant and regard a menu that celebrates food of the eleven southern states of North America, cooked in wood burning ovens. If you are a committed vegetarian you may wish to try somewhere else.
The restaurant is arranged down one long room with tables for 2 and 4 towards the back , large booths down one side and long communal tables at the front. From its location I am guessing those communal tables are not so popular at lunch time but great for the evenings when a more relaxed atmosphere pervades the space. There is a small bar area off the dining room and the kitchens are just about visible through the wooden ‘staves’ that separate the two areas.
Finally the girls arrive and we order. Whilst we were waiting for our starter, we decided to try out the extensive cocktail list which covers two pages, whilst the wine list is reduced to one page. Not in itself a bad thing. 7 red, 7 white, 1 rose and house wines all reasonably priced and more importantly all were available by the glass. The wines ranged from £13.25 a bottle to £29.95 and covered all the major wine producing countries in a something for everyone way.
The cocktail list is spilt into three – shake your own (£5.95) and create your own (£5.95-£7.95) would, I imagine go down a storm with groups and parties and a smaller list of signature cocktails (£5.95)from which I selected a Strawberry Galore – strawberries, coconut and prosecco. Olivia opted for a non-alcoholic cocktail –The Diva (£2.95) which was a refreshing, but a slightly too watery mix of watermelon, guanabana, raspberries and a twist of lime. Simone, wanted to try a shake your own and opted for a Del Sur 11, skinny margarita, tequila, apple and passion fruit. The cocktails were fun but on the night I did notice everyone else was sticking to beer (a surprisingly small selection of 4 brands) and wine.
Drinks organised and tasted our food starts to arrive, we opted for the southern hospitality sharing platter as our joint starter (£10.95), which unfortunately arrived with our mains and therefore got a little lost – the only real mistake of the evening by an attentive waiting staff. The pulled pork and belly ribs were delicious, not overpowered by sauces in any way, but the real star was the brisket. Before tasting, this was the one element I wasn’t really looking forward to, reminders of tough old meat on a Sunday (sorry Mum), but this was the star of the platter and I would have happily ended my meal there with a plate of this wonderfully flavoured, melt in the mouth brisket. However, as our main courses were already on the table, there was little chance of my cancelling the order.
Simone opted for the Southern Chicken Dinner, buttermilk marinated locally produced Goosenargh chicken thighs with creamy whipped potatoes and white gravy (£8.95). We voted this the star of the night (how quickly the brisket was forgotten), creamy mash, succulent chicken and weird gravy – wonderful. Olivia ordered the dry aged rib-eye (£15.95) which was cooked as ordered and had that wonderfully moist element to steak handled by someone who knows what they are doing. I ordered the rump (£13.95) as I wanted to see if consistency was evident here and was delighted to find that the steak was as good on this visit as it had been on the first. The chips are lovely, although the parmesan truffle fries (£2.75) didn’t really taste any different to the normal ones.
By this stage I was content and full, but the girls managed to find room for dessert (all at £4.95) and chose Warm Cookies with honeyed milk and a Knickerbocker glory. Silence prevailed until the last piece of cookie and scrap of chocolate had been consumed, I took that as a good sign.
I have never visited the southern states of America and have no idea whether this is authentic or not. What I do know is, that it is a good medium priced restaurant with a great offering. Well cooked, locally sourced food, unpretentious wine list, great service and something a little different. Pity finger licking good has already been trade marked.
Southern 11, Hardman Street, Spinningfields, Manchester. 0161 832 0482 www.southern11.co.uk