Wednesday 28 January 2015

New Menu at Volta, Didsbury.

It is 1999 or is it 2000? It's hard to remember exactly when. But we're in a hot, sweaty basement in Manchester. The heat is almost too much but we carry on dancing anyway. I am quite literally steaming. A man comes round with a big bowl of ice. We crush it on our heads, it turns to water immediately and drips down my back. Then one of the Unabombers drops that tune. I found out a few years later it was Underwater by Harry Thumann. It sounds like a rare, weird twisted disco version of The Loveboat theme. We melt in euphoria.
Tunes from around that time still take me back to The Electric Chair. Josh One, Contemplation, Shades Of Jae by Moodymann and The Detroit Experiment, Think Twice. Pépé Bradock's Deep Burnt still gives me goosebumps and a shiver down the back of my neck, 16 years on.
The Unabombers were never those sort of DJ's that mixed the same BPM house records seamlessly into one another. But it was in their selection of great records that they truly excelled. Fifteen years on and the party is well and truly over for us. So we go and eat instead.
As they selected fine tunes for us then, DJ's Luke and Justin have hand picked a lovely looking menu of small tapas size dishes, partly inspired by Cal Pep in Barcelona amongst others on their travels. (See our review of Cal Pep here. Incidentally this famous tapas restaurant inspired Barrafina in London too).
We've been to Volta twice now, really enjoyed it when it first opened a year ago and had a huge Sunday dinner at the end of last year. They deservedly won Manchester Restaurant of the Year since then.
Luke was keen for us to try their new dishes and give us our honest opinions. "no favours or nepotism", he insists, as ever. This is quite refreshing, most people want you to tell them how brilliant everything is but what's the use of that? So here goes. *Shredded Lamb Shoulder with Shwarma Slices. (£7.50). This is good, rich, salty, spicy lamb similar to the 'secret kebab house' in Rusholme, although the meat is slightly too dry.
Smoked Feta, Beetroot, Hazlenut and Dill. (£4). A real surprising winner this one, it just works. Cool beetroot flavour against the smoky cheese. Lovely.
 *Duck Fat Confit Scallops, Beetroot and Pear. (£7.50). The texture of the soft, yielding, plump scallop is beautiful but there's very little actual flavour in the scallop itself and I'm looking for that subtle sweet taste of the sea that's missing.
* Gnocchi with Orange Squash and Sage. (£5.50). This is our least favourite of the new dishes. It doesn't work as it's far too sweet. We love the soft texture of the gnocchi with the crunchy bits but the flavours are off. Far better would be to keep it simple, sage, butter and parmesan, job done!
Monte Enebro, beetroot and honey. We enjoy this a lot, what's not to like? Gooey, melted goat's cheese and a fresh beetroot salad.
Our favourites come next. The Beef Cheeks braised in orange zest and star anise (£7) is suitably gelatinous and fatty. 
The Clams with Jerusalem Artichoke and Chorizo (£7) is pretty good too.
We finish off with a very clean Sea Bass, Puy Lentils, charred leaks and Vinaigrette. (£5). The best bit of course is the crispy skin. It's hard to believe that there are people in this world who leave the skin on the plate. We decide to finish it there, full but not overly stuffed.
Volta is successful because they keep it simple with a small very well thought out menu. In all honesty, did we get a 'wow' moment? No.
But the food is solid and very good value for money (especially as we took them up on the 50% offer too). Neither do they charge daft prices for beer either, as seems to be the norm these days. FOH are lovely, special mention for Amy, our waitress.
Volta isn't perfect but they're on the right path because it's really a labour of love serving proper grown up food rather than simply a way to make money selling 'dirty food'. 
Electric chair wasn't perfect either. It was hot and sweaty, the toilets were always awful but it was still, despite the flaws, our place. Volta is shaping up a bit like that too.
*New dishes are still work in progress.
** We paid 50% off food with a couple of new dishes sent out to sample.
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