[Ramsbottom, Greater Manchester] Ramson's
This is a bit of an odd review because, unless you’re very quick, you’re not going to be able to experience the restaurant. Chris Johnson has decided to retire and has sold the business to his chef, Louise Varley. In a few weeks, Ramsons will close. There will be a refurbishment and the restaurant will reopen as the Venetian House.
However, there is still relevance to the review as we were able to have a quick chat with Lu and she confirmed that the food will continue to be pretty much the same. However, the semi-formality of the restaurant will go, along with the white tablecloths, starched napkins and Chris’ idiosyncratic ways. But , hopefully, not the excellent wine list. Although separate, it will operate in conjunction with the Venetian Hideaway cicchetti bar in the basement
As for the food......well, it was OK. Nothing you’d take offence to. But nothing to rave over, either. Certainly not to rave over from a place that was once regarded by the Good Food Guide as the best in Greater Manchester.
There was a Gorgonzola soufflé that was, frankly, quite bland with nothing of the kick you might expect from the cheese and quite bland by way of underseasoning. Underseasoning was an issue on three of our four plates during the evening. The soufflé sat on some rocket and halved cherry tomatoes which had a decent vinaigrette . The other starter brought three accurately cooked scallops, let down by a broccoli puree which managed to taste of pretty much nothing. There were also some shreds of apple which tasted, erm, appley.
For mains, the website and the menu makes great play of the Tuscan style steak but this was a pale imitation of bistecca alla fiorentina – although it was an OK plate of steak and chips. Braised ox cheek was better – long cooked and with a deep and lingering flavour. It was surrounded by wet polenta which was about the only thing we ate that had got its seasoning right. There was also an assortment of vegetables – carrots, cauliflower and broccoli – scattered on top. It was all a bit of a mush but this was, no doubt, how it was intended as a spoon had thoughtfully been provided along with the fork.
It may just be that we caught them in a difficult transition stage and things will improve when Venetian House opens. No doubt, we’ll be back at some point to give them a try but we probably won’t be in any rush to – if we feel the need to schlep round to the far side of the metro area, then Ramsbottom has two restaurants that would be more likely to be on our list.
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For my birthday in March this year my parents bought me a £50 Ramsons gift voucher (valid until end of June 14). This weekend I went to book a table and realised that the previous owner Chris Johnson has retired – my Mum called up to double check we could use the voucher – a good job she did since she was told that the vouchers are not valid as they have no way of getting the money back from the previous owner (Chris Johnson).
The name has changed but the restaurant is still referencing its connections to Ramsons restaurant, in fact if you go to the website it assures us that “Lu Varley remains in charge of the restaurant kitchen.”
It’s really disappointing as my parents paid this £50 out in good faith – and I would expect any restaurant valuing its customers to honour such a voucher – as it was my husband and I went to Nino’s instead had a lovely meal… the newly branded Venetian House lost our custom that night and for the future – what a shame.
Oh, that's really disappointing, Nicola. As you suggest, it seems very penny-pinching not to honour a voucher and, certainly, not the way to build a customer base.
Since I wrote the review in April, I've been given to understand that, whilst Lu remains "in charge of the kitchen", she may not now be the owner of the business and that this might have passed to whoever runs the Hideaway (?) in the basement. Might explain your experience - although not excuse it.