"On a busy Valentines Day, the one day of the year where everybody seems to eat out, we tend to stay away from restaurants, as they tend to offer overpriced, overbooked, reduced quality set menus, rush you out after 1.5 hours, and generally make an unnecessary meal of the whole occasion. No pun intended. Due to this, we decided to pay a visit to Choice on Sunday for our romantic meal out. I just hope that the Mrs doesn't get used to it! Anyway....
We arrived quite early, so had a drink in the bar first of all, and found the service to be prompt, helpful, friendly, with a warm welcome, and generally the guys couldn t do enough for you. All in all, very good indeed. Incidentally, it was nice to hear from our waiter that there were no overpriced set menus anywhere on the previous day, although the waiter said that it's definitely an insiders tip to put off a Valentines visit to another day if you can.
We spent half an hour with our drinks at the bar, and never at any point did we feel rushed. The guys asked if we wanted to look at the menus whilst having our drinks, after which we sat in the main dining area, with a good idea of what we fancied. The dining area was all in all, very nice, understated, with 'background' music, yet classy. Just as a good dining area should be in my opinion. Perhaps in places, such as on the ceilings, the paint could do with a lick, a few breeze block holes filled in, and a couple of light bulbs were out, the gents could do with a bit of a spruce up as they were very bar like, but all in all it was a well kept, ideal place to eat in peace, with well spaced tables and plenty of ambiance, totally free of pretence, which is great to see, and sadly lacking in town.
We went for the Pork Belly and Potato Hash Cake starters, and Pigeon and Pork Loin mains. Both starters arrived, were presented very well, in ample portions, tasted superb, and got us off to a great start. My pigeon was perfectly medium rare, and again well presented and flavoured, with fresh and flavoursome crushed new spuds, and split lentils with bacon. Lovely stuff. My other half's pork loin was equal in quality. It came with a really nice chorizo broth, and an unusual combination of salt and pepper squid rings, which actually matched the pork really well. The only criticism is that her crackling was a little underdone, hence quite chewy, so didn't get finished. Other than this, 2 very good mains indeed. The wine list was a little small for one which has won awards, but there was still plenty on it to suit most tastes, and at the 1/3rd off prices, theres some real bargains to be grabbed. We opted for a bottle of Porcupine Ridge Shiraz/Viognier, which was bold and spicy, going especially well with the saltiness of both pork dishes. Our bottled water was fine, and it was nice to see an English brand being offered in a restaurant which sells mainly British inspired, regional food. Only a small point yeah, but things like this really do give the impression that a restaurannt is well thought out or not.
For desserts, the Bread & Butter Sticky Toffee Pudding with Vanilla Cream was ideal in size, not too sweet, and a very good ending to the meal. The cheese board was fine, with 3 quality cheeses, including one of my favourites, Blacksticks Blue, a smoked cheddar, and a very powerful creamy white. Perhaps 3 slightly smaller pieces, and a soft cheese addition would be better, but still all was fine and we finished our meals with big smiles on our faces. My preference is water biscuits when eating cheese, and luckily, this is what you get, but nothing else. Some people may prefer a variety though I guess. The desert Riesling and Port, both of which matched well with the cheeses, (but not the pudding), probably helped the smiles a bit too.
Upon paying the bill, I gave them my cash card, only for them to return, to remind me that I was a Hi Life card user, and that I'd forgot to give them my card with the payment card. Top notch service indeed. We had actually earlier debated not using the Hi Life card on purpose, as you can only use it once at each place, and they currently have 1/3rd off anyway, so thought about saving the card for later use, as we intend to return before very long. It worked out at just under £30 for 3 courses without wine, or about £50 per person with decent wine, water, service etc, which was perfectly acceptable for the quality on offer, and the same as you'd pay anywhere for comparable quality.
It's the first time in a quite a while that we've eaten out in town at a supposed top end place, and not left feeling let down and dismayed by pretence of lack of substance. Just the opposite in fact. Top notch Manchester stuff, one of the best in town for sure, and definitely deserves its place in the Restaurants of Manchester Top 10.
Food 8/10 - Service 8/10 - Ambiance 8/10 - Overall 8/10 (a rock solid 4 stars out of 5)" - chris handley, salford 16/2/09 (visited on a sunday evening)
"This was one of the most relaxing and pleasant dining experiences I have had in a while. Choice Restaurant provides quality, honest food in a relaxed environment, where the lack of pretence leaves you feeling comfortable, un-judged and well cared for. I often find that many restaurants can serve superb food but this can be tainted by pretentious design, tiny portions and prices reflecting the pomposity demanded by some clientele. At Choice, you will find great service, great food and a simple but stylish restaurant; a perfect venue for a relaxed meal with friends, family or for business. I don t think this restaurant would be suitable for people requiring something more cutting edge and lively, this restaurant is definitely for those who want relaxed dining centred around good conversation.
I cannot stress enough how the competence of the waiter greatly complimented the evening. We had a committed waiter all evening and he was very professional, approachable, polite and helpful. He took our orders without paper, using only memory and then remembered who was having what when bringing out the meals. He had also mastered the art of waiter presence, that is, we didn't feel harassed or intruded on at all throughout our meal. I have found in so many restaurants that the waiters are either over keen or incompetent. Our waiter brought everything we asked for immediately but gave us enough space to enjoy our food and conversation, not continuously coming over to over fill our wine glasses like in some places.
Choice is not the cheapest, but I feel it is fairly priced for the food quality and portion size you receive. I often feel disappointed in many restaurants when you receive fabulous food, but in a portion size fit for a squirrel. This is obviously suitable it you are eating many courses, but if you want a wholesome filling 3 course meal it is not so great. You will not be left feeling disappointed at Choice, the portion size of food I received was just right, I felt very satisfied.
I had a Salmon & Prawn Terrine for starter, which was light and delicious, then a Roast Poussin in Red Current Sauce accompanied with roast winter vegetables. This was also lovely and great for a winter's evening. For dessert, I had a Plum Crumble with Saffron Custard which was superb! The menu truly reflected the season, offering warm, wholesome winter dishes, using consciously sourced produce.
The only tiny fault I could find with the whole meal was with something they hadn't made in house; the cheeseboard. The cheeseboard could be improved greatly with some fruit, a few more crackers and maybe a broader selection of cheese. I had around five of the same crackers with three small pieces of different cheese and a tiny pot of chutney (which was homemade and very tasty but far too small). For a similar price in other restaurants, I have had something far more extensive. A cheeseboard is something easily improved and with a few altered touches, it could be perfect. I would recommend this restaurant to anyone who needs their faith restoring in British food. I will definitely be returning!" - claudia, manchester 2/1/09 (visited on a saturday evening)