[Manchester, city centre] Le Relais de Venise
One of the things that irritates me about restaurant reservations is when they can offer you a table at 6pm or 9.30 but never have one available at, erm, dinner time. Well, no problems on that score tonight. Le Relais simply doesn’t take reservations. And that’s even worse in my book. It may be acceptable in some national cultures to queue for dinner, but it ain’t in mine. Fortunately, there was no queue and we only had to wait a couple of minutes for a table to be set. Another thing I really don’t like about restaurants is when the tables are set so close together that they have to be pulled out to let someone sit down. It means you just feel part of the next table’s conversation and it’s never very interesting. Well, Le Relais packs you in so close that it’s reminiscent of one of those scenes you see in prison movies where all the cons are in a line scarfing down the grub. And it was noisy like one of those scenes. I was just waiting for someone to kick over a table and start a ruck. I kept my knife handy in case I was going to need it to stab someone.
So, not much going for it so far. However, one of the things I like about restaurants is when they have a short menu. It usually means they’re concentrating on doing a few things well. Well, Le Relais has a menu so short that it isn’t a menu. More a declaration of what you’re going to eat. And that’s a salad starter, followed by entrecote steak (cooked rare, medium or well done only - coz that’s how it is in France) and chips.
So, as to the dinner. Well, the salad was just my sort of salad. A nice pile of soft leaves, a little scattering of chopped walnuts and a really good sharp mustardy dressing. Then it’s the steak and chips. And you’ve asked for it medium because you know that, in France, that means it’ll come medium rare. And it does. I’m not sure how they actually cook the entrecotes. It comes already sliced. Very evenly sliced. Which makes you worry a bit. But it tastes good. Not fab. Not like a good British steak. But as good as you’d get in France for a steak frites. And there’s a sauce – very savoury but indeterminate. My partner thought she detected tarragon. I wasn’t too sure but she’s better at that sort of thing. And then, when you’ve cleared your plate, they bring you some more. Yes, it’s odd but they’ve explained they do this double service. They don’t explain why. And then you pay and it costs you £21 each. Which isn’t too bad. But I’d rather have had a proper steak and chips with a bit of salad on the plate and a bit of space around us. The Gaucho would have done nicely. Or a Beefeater at a pinch.
King Street used to be Manchester’s financial centre but all the banks are now closed. It’s become a bit of a restaurant row with this place and Jamie’s Italian on the next corner, and Rosso at the top end. Yes, that’s a restaurant row of not very good places.