Time can be a funny old thing. We all claim to not have enough of it, try to cram things into it and all too often make futile attempts to manage it.
In ancient Rome they did things differently and they made time for wild and mystical festivals – exactly five times a month – dedicated to the God Bacchus AKA the Greek God Dionysus.
These festivals were soon outlawed because they offered too much power to women and the underclasses of society, worrying the Roman leadership about being overthrown.
But since those times, the term Bacchanalian has been extended to refer to any drunken revelry so the newest oddly-named restaurant in the city centre seemed to be promising a memorable night out.
But I say night out, it was actually late afternoon when we arrived at the former site of Simple in the City and time was already against us.
16.45: We sat down in the outdoor area and were told that dinner wasn’t yet being served.
16.50: We decide to wait it out by ordering a platter to share (£4.95) as a starter and then wait for the main courses when the a la carte menu was available. We were in no hurry.
17.00 A large plate of assorted bread – pitta, tomato, olive, focaccia, breadsticks – arrived with humus, guacamole, tzatziki and olive tapenade was served up.
The portions were generous and we were happily enjoying this selection, admiring the view in a leisurely way.
Being pedestrianised, Chapel Walks is probably Manchester’s main “cafe society” street, a place to dwell and pass some time while always being conscious of time’s constraints thanks to the town hall clock looming into view.
Sandwiched between the French sounding Le Figaro (which isn’t French) and Grinch (which isn’t a bitter, green-coated, cave-dwelling creature), a restaurant which sounds Italian or Greek turns out not to be either thing.
17.30. The waitress brings us the evening menu. The a la carte menu is available from 6pm and revealed dishes from across Europe. There was moussaka but also linguine, salads but also black pudding mash. These main courses are all billed as “wholesome meals” – a description which seems more suited to Jamie Oliver dishing up in the nursery than to the orgy of revellery the moniker might suggest.
The waitress ( who managed to achieve that friendly, relaxed and knowledgeable mixture that seems to be sadly so rare in the Manchester Mcjob waiting staff) informed us that the “mash of the day” was with shallots and leeks while the “stuffing of the day” was chutney and mushroom.
A place that does a daily mashed potato recipe! I think that must be a new definition of comfort food especially if they really can come up with 365 different forms of crushed spud. Sounds like a food blog just waiting to be written to me.
17.45. We order our main courses. I don’t need any extra invitation – it’s the mash of the day and the pan-fired chicken(£11.95) with the stuffing of the day for me, while Himself orders up a medium fillet steak which is offered with sweet potato dauphinoise (£18.95).
We also ordered two vegetable dishes which further point out the eclectic mix on offer – creamed greens and Mediterranean vegetables.
18.00. The town hall clock was chiming. My chicken was succulent and well-cooked and, while I did have some doubts about the potential of a chutney stuffing, I was pleasantly surprised – enough sweetness to be complimentary but not an overpowering flavour at all.
Himself was very pleased with the way his steak had been cooked (something he seemed to feel needed to be mentioned with every mouthful) and found the sweet potato a refreshing accompaniment.
18.30. Things were going swimmingly. The chilled bottle of Pinot Grigio was long finished but the night was young. It was time to order deserts and then………… what was that I could spy out of the corner of my eye? Sitting there throughout our calorie indulgent meal, keeping quiet on the opposite side of the street but suddenly the centre of everyone’s attention – a gym. And not just a gym building, but one with scores of tracksuited runners with stop watches tearing out into the streets on some sort of challenge.
Now if there’s one thing that’s guaranteed to put me off pudding its an athletic reminder that the gym membership is paid on standing order with “standing” being the operative word too often.
I passed on puds but Himself, being of stronger constitution decided to re-visit the Greek feeling with Baklava.I made the right choice as this was the only disappointing dish of the day – burnt on top, dry and extremely uninteresting, the accompanying ice-cream the only saving grace.
19.00. We paid our bill (£75.45 including drinks). The town hall clock was chiming, some determined runners are still timing some achievement with stop watches but our time has run out.
STYLE: City center swish.
COOKING: Good pub food.
PLUS: Location and good service.
MINUS: A name which leads you to expect something different. Mystical, drunken revellery is not on the menu.
VALUE: Top price for pub-style food.
Bacchanalia is at Tudor House 15-17 Chapel Walks, Manchester. M2 1HN 0161 819 1997.