After having a bit of downtime to decompress after the resounding success of GNUF 2016, the ukulele festival organised by my friends and I, we arranged to convene to debrief and begin plans for next year in Manchester, a fine example of a European city in the north of the UK. I really do love Manchester, it’s a vibrant multicultural place. There is an excellent Chinatown, where you can get excellent baked goods from Ho’s Bakery, Vietnamese pho from I Am Pho, authentic and down to earth Thai food from Siam Smiles, and sashimi from Yuzu. If Mexican is more your style, there’s Wahaca, there’s at least three burrito bars I can thing of immediately, Changos, Pancho’s or BarBurrito. Recently there’s been an increased level of activity for Spanish restaurants with the recent additions of Iberica and El Gato Negro, and then there is the brilliant Spanish deli, bar and restaurant Lunya on Deansgate Within minutes of arriving at Manchester there were the sounds of a New Orleans style brass band, and the smells of Caribbean food from the market stalls on Piccadilly Square.
With discussions for the ukulele festival over, we ended up on something of an impromptu Manchester pub crawl, visiting Marble’s 57 Thomas Street, Cafe Beermoth and a couple of Joseph Holt pubs. Suitably lubricated our minds turned to dinner, and as we spotted The Pasta Factory we decided to pop in!
The Pasta Factory really took me back to my holiday in Napoli last year, ran by a group of Italian friends who saw a gap in the market for fresh pasta. I’m so glad they identified this gap and took full advantage of it because this place is special!
As you enter there is a deli cabinet with a tray of freshly made pasta, they’re right to show off the quality of the pasta before you even sit down! When you’ve got it, flaunt it!
We took a seat and had a browse through the menu. We wish we’d have had the appetite for the excellent looking Taglieri, platters of salami, olives, cheeses and grissini. The boards going to other tables overflowed with generosity and gorgeous produce, we were envious of the other tables! Oh well, it’s an excellent excuse to return!
We kicked things off with Negronis all round, a bracingly bitter but fantastic apéritif, it was a full glass but I forgot to take a photo immediately, oops! Every meal should start with a cocktail of some sort, I’ve now decided.
Rob opted for the Radiatori Rossi, ‘Nduja e Alici, a pasta that gets it’s name from it’s shape which is said to resemble radiators! This was a dish of tomato flavoured pasta, tossed with spicy ‘Nduja, anchovies, capers and oregano, utterly delicious.
Mary had the Reginette al Barbera con Ragu’ di Cervo, ribbons of pasta with a rich, gamey venison ragu topped with plenty of grated Parmesan. The pasta here is cooked perfectly al dente and is some of the best I’ve ever had the pleasure to eat.
I chose to order from the specials board, and ordered the Ravioli di Lepre, ravioli filled with slow cooked wild rabbit, dressed with a light butter and sage sauce, again with a generous grating of Parmesan cheese. The filling was perfectly light, the sort of pasta dish you’d want to order and eat in the glow of the setting summer sun in the early evening on a plaza in Italy!
We had an excellent wine to accompany our pasta, the Dolcetto, smooth and easy drinking with red berry flavours. The sort of wine you could keep drinking and forget to stop!
For afters both Mary and Rob went for cheese boards, and shared an excellent selection including aged Parmesan, feta with chilli and herbs, a milky and tangy sheeps cheese and a pungent blue cheese amongst others. Each came with a little dome of muscat jelly to add contrast.
I had a hankering for something sweet and I knew as soon as I saw it on the menu I had to have the Panna Cotta, one of my favourite puddings. Perfectly set and not too bouncy, a rich creamy pudding with a berry coulis offering fruity freshness!
One of my friends who is currently enjoying a long weekend in Bologna taunted me with his Negroni, so as you saw earlier on, we had Negronis. He challenged me later in the day by saying if we “can find an Aperol Spritz in Manchester I’ll be impressed!” Thankfully the drinks menu included that very same cocktail, so I decided to “bookend” my meal with cocktails and ordered one. Take that, Paul 😉
After the EU referendum result on Friday, I’ve been really unhappy about my future as a European citizen. I’m going to grasp every chance to make the most of places like this, and travelling within the union whilst we are a member state. Places like The Pasta Factory are a shining example of why the EU is a power for good. Freedom of movement between member state citizens allow this group of hard working Italian natives to come to our country, set up a business and feed us truly delicious food. I implore people to support such businesses, don’t let the Little Britain mindset sink in. We are European, we always will be. Embrace that.