I’ve been looking forward to being able to write that title ever since I heard the news that Solita would be coming to Preston back in April, and today is finally the day I get to do so! I’ve been a non-stop complainer about Preston’s lack of decent places to eat, sure there is The Olive Tree which is really good, but it’s hardly the sort of place I would take a group of my friends to, and it gets pricey easily there (not a complaint, I’ll happily pay through the nose for great food!) So Solita is such a welcome addition to Preston’s dining scene and I have been counting down the days, following all the twitter updates on the work turning Heathcote’s Brasserie and The Olive Press into Solita with anticipation! Then finally, the time to visit came…
Solita Preston, like their other sites across Manchester and Greater Manchester is a bright vibrant restaurant, with neon artwork from Neon Creations everywhere you look, prints of Stanley Chow’s artwork, and a graffiti’d cow standing on a patch of astroturf, what else would you expect to find inside a restaurant!?
After being greeted by Lukas we made our way to the bar to order drinks, Melody (Sara’s friend, colleague and designated driver) had a Galvanina Sicilian ruby orange and Robyn (also Sara’s friend and colleague) had the classic Cosmo.
Sara and I both went for our favourite cocktail of them all, the whiskey Old Fashioned. Though not mentioned on the drinks menu this one includes one of our favourite ingredients, maple syrup, in the recipe! Ben, on the bar was doing an excellent job considering it was only the second day of the soft launch period!
Once seated downstairs with a view of the semi-open kitchen we had a look through the menu. One thing that has saddened me about the new Solita menu (which is the same across all the sites) is the disappearance of Bacon Fat Popcorn with Bacon Pieces! Please bring them back!
Robyn started with Deep Fried Mac ‘n’ Cheese Balls, which is probably as unhealthy as it sounds, but we all know the unhealthy stuff tastes the best, right? You never see people laughing whilst eating salad outside of stock photos do you?
Melody had the satisfyingly squeaky panko breaded and deep fried Halloumi Bites.
Sara who was on a mission to have bacon in every course went for Bacon Wrapped Cheesy Dough Balls which came with two dipping sauces. Pillowy dough balls, filled with stringy cheese and wrapped in bacon. What is not to love!? If I was to levy any criticism against these, it would be that it’s quite a heavy starter.
I had to go for the starter I’ve been wanting to try ever since they invented it and made the national news in the Metro! It really does encapsulate all the flavours of a classic cheeseburger within a spring roll casing! I double dipped mine, once in the mustard and then into the ketchup. Another thing I want to point out was the side salad on the starter plates, one of those rare things, a dressed salad! Regular readers of my blog will know how much I appreciate a properly dressed side salad!
To go with mains we ordered more cocktails, Robyn had the Pornstar Martini.
Solita offer a range of daiquiri’s and Sara had the super fruity Raspberry Daiquiri, it’s basically an alcoholic’s smoothie.
To go with my steak I chose a Mojito to match my main. I’ve never been that fussed over mojitos in the past, finding them somewhat wishy washy, but this was an excellent refreshing version!
I decided to go for the classic 70’s classic surf ‘n’ turf with the 7oz Flat Iron Steak with Chimichurri sauce and Charcoal Grilled Garlic Butter Prawns. This was the first instance of a bit of a slip up during the night, but that is entirely what soft launch periods are about, finding the creases and ironing them out. Unfortunately the prawns were forgotten about but our server, Paige, managed to get it sorted quickly!
What impressed me most was that my steak was cooked perfectly medium rare, as requested. Whilst this wouldn’t impress me as much months down the line, for chefs working in an unfamiliar kitchen with new equipment, who may have never worked with an Inka Grill before, to get it cooked perfectly impressed me!
Melody, feeling risky decided to attempt the Once In A Lifetime burger, which consists of 2 x 7oz made in house burgers, pulled pork, crispy bacon, shoestring onions, buttermilk chicken strips, Monterey Jack cheese and house BBQ sauce. The artist Bernard “Hap” Kliban offered sage advice with his book titled “Never Eat Anything Bigger Than Your Head,” do be aware of this should you ever order it! This tower of a burger had lots of praise from Melody, however she felt the BBQ sauce was a touch too sweet.
Melody also asked for Pizza Fries to come with her burger, but unfortunately sweet potato fries came out instead, again this wasn’t a problem and soon the requested pizza fries were brought to the table. I’m a big fan of pizza, so much so that for my first holiday abroad, Napoli was deliberately chosen, so I could go to the home of pizza. It’s with great regret that I have to say the pizza fries were the only real miss of the night. I’ve never been a fan of chips with cheese melted onto them anyway, I just find it congeals and goes unpleasant, but the marinara sauce was thin on the ground too.
Both Sara and Robyn went for the Bacon Double Cheese burger. Sara had sweet potato fries, which are arguably the best sort of fry (I will actually argue this with you if you challenge me) and Robyn had the cheesy fries. Excuse me for a minute whilst I’m a massive hypocrite… remember when I said I don’t like cheesy chips before? Well, smother them in a cheese sauce that tastes exactly like mac ‘n’ cheese sauce and I’m a convert for sure! Heck, cover an insole in cheese sauce and I’ll probably wolf it down. The bacon double cheeseburger is a Solita classic, but what makes it is the bacon candy in the top!
We also shared a portion of Panko Breaded Deep Fried Pickles. I learnt my lesson during my first visit to Solita in the Northern Quarter, Manchester… wait for these to cool down, they’ll taste better and not burn the roof of your mouth!
Melody and Robyn chose to share pudding as they were nearing full to bursting, Deep Fried Cookie Dough sounds like something straight out of the state fairs of America where they will deep fry anything to hand (please Solita, can you do a special of Deep Fried Butter, this fatty needs to try that!) This is definitely something I will be ordering next time I visit. Breaking through the crisp exterior, the cookie dough just melts out!
Sara’s pudding was the Solita Sundae which had 8 special fillings, including cocktail cherries, griottine cherries, cookie dough, and others. Sadly it didn’t include candied bacon (which you can get with vanilla ice cream) but the kitchen were happy to add candied bacon to it, and Sara got to enjoy bacon over all three courses!
I’d like to think that I had one of the best puddings, with the Oven Baked S’mores, chocolate sauce, topped with marshmallows, cooked in the oven until they melt into each other with gloriously gooey results. The caramelisation on the top of the marshmallows took me back to when I lived in a house with a coal fire and used to toast all manner of things on the fire (marshmallows and toast were the most normal things, but I definitely remember trying to toast a Penguin biscuit once)
Solita is what Preston has been missing for quite some time, and I can’t wait to return here (already booked in for two more visits this month during their 50% off soft launch period) and try more of the menu items and ogle at the meat ageing room they’re having installed!
A sweet addition to the receipt from Paige was appreciated but totally not required. I can’t stress enough that the staff and the food was excellent, and teething problems are to be expected with a new restaurant opening and is why they have soft launch periods! If you want to be one of the first to try out Solita Preston, then you can book online at http://www.solita.co.uk/preston-bookings, and it’s 50% off food until the 27th of July! Finally, I’d like to leave you with some inspirational neon:
Disclaimer: We were invited to the friends and family soft launch period by my friend and former colleague, Ania who is one of the servers at Solita Preston, in order to help put the kitchen to the test. As such we were not expected to pay for our food, and our drinks were discounted. I’ve visited and paid for meals at Solita in Manchester a few times now, and will be a paying customer at Solita Preston many times in the future!
Further disclaimer: I have tweaked the photos of neons to make them stand out more, the original photos I took were a bit pants