When the surrealist artist Magritte accompanied a picture of a pipe with the words “this is not a pipe” it was something of an intellectual exercise and one which forced people to look at the world in a different way.
While we are now accustomed to reciving mixed visual messages (although I’m still baffled by what the fantastic drumming gorilla has to do with chocolate ) it ws Magritte who came to mind during my unsuccessful lunch visit to Don Giovanni’s in Oxford Road yesterday.
When this restaurant first moved across the road to its stylish new premises it was generally not well received. One of my colleagues’ responses was fairly typical.
But never one to jump on the bandwagon, I wanted to wait until they’d settled beyond the impress the media or difficult staffing issues of the early days to see for myself and give them a proper assessment.
But I’m sorry to say it wasn’t pretty. After being shown to our table for two in the cavernous (almost empty) space which the new premises now offers, the glum waiter appeared to take our drinks order. “Could we have two San Pellegrino water please” I inquired.
There was a shrug. “We have water. Similiar but not San Pellegrino” he muttered and talked off. While musing on what sort of Italian restaurant doesn’t have San Pellegrino (I thought it must come out of the municipal taps in the homeland it’s so universal) we received first one smeary glass and then another less so and then – two bottles of San Pellegrino.
OK something of a misunderstanding but who cares, we got what we ordered. Not so with the mains – my spaghetti pescatore(pictured) arrived, his spinach and rocotta tortellini arrived but the green salad is presumably still growing in a field somehwere far from Manchester.
The food was very ordinary. My seafood sauce was full of the creatures of the sea but the sauce was without any depth or interest. Himself found the sauce very rich in the way of extra cream and butter and we both had pasta which was overcooked.
It’s the food of drinkers – fullsome and with a first hit of flavour but with none of the intricacy and passion which has given the Italian nation is deserved reputation.
Desserts (choc fudge cake pictured) were similarly large, overly sweet and accompanied with a garish squiggle which looked like something the artist known as Prince might have left on the plate as he fled for an eaterie with more purple.
But what the food lacked in passion – the waiting staff certainly lacked in even basic civility. On being presented with a bill with said in capital letter across the top “THIS IS NOT A RECEIPT” I politely requested a reciept.
After being gruffly told it was a reciept by one waiter who gestured rudely towards me and spat out “you deal with her” to another younger and rather embarrased colleague I was assured that, despite what it actually said on the bill, this was indeed a receipt.
So, with a nod to Magritte, all I can say to you is that Don Giovanni’s isn’t an Italian restuarant.
Don Giovanni’s Ristorante is at 11 Oxford Street, Manchester. 0161 228 2482.
More pictures on my Flickr site.