I'm getting to be a bit of an old fart.
The realisation hit me last month, as I felt the onrush of an upcoming birthday, that I hadn't had a night out in 'Town' (Manchester) in ages. Add this to the fact that I didn't celebrate my last two birthdays, as a protest against this aging malarkey, and I knew it was time to make a bit of a fuss so I organised a lads night out.
Given that there were going to be 15 of us partaking in the festivities, I felt it was only right to hold a democratic vote on where we ended up eating. The options available were SoLiTa, Southern 11 or Luck, Lust, Liquor & Burn.
@SoLiTa narrowly won on a vote of 6-5-4.
One of life's simple pleasures must be the feeling you get when you confidently stride past the large queue of hungry faces patiently waiting outside SoLiTa and march straight to your reserved table.
The basement dining room was very lively and my group were seated in the centre of the room on a table that was ample enough for a group of 15 lads in suits. I even got a special Blofeld style swivel chair!
After drooling over the menu for several days prior to my visit I had convinced myself that I was going to try the 'Once in a Lifetime' burger as it had only just been awarded a place in the '9 Best Alternative Burgers' in Esquire Magazine.
Despite this I decided to treat myself to the Cote de Boeuf which was a special and it was just waiting for me to choose it after looking at the incredible pictures on the SoLiTa Facebook page.
It was nothing short of spectacular.
I love my steak rare and it melted perfectly in my mouth. With a chargrilled tang courtesy of their special INKA charcoal oven, it easily rates as one of the best steaks I have ever had the pleasure to eat. Only this week, SoLiTa announced that this dish is making a triumphant return as a regular on their new Summer Menu so I will be sure to pop in and relive the joy!
Most of the group opted for the 'Once in a Lifetime' burger and they were not disappointed. A monumental burger which includes pulled pork, buttermilk fried chicken, onion rings, a beef and bone marrow patty, Monterey Jack cheese and barbecue sauce....
Well that's done it, I am salivating over the mere thought of it!
There was a small hiccup with some forgotten starters and confusion over what was ordered by one of my friends, but this can be forgiven as it was dealt with quickly and with minimal fuss. For me the key to good service is how a restaurant deals with these small issues; the SoLiTa staff were excellent and everyone left satisfied and very full.
The second part of our night was a trip to Manchester 235, a vibrant casino and bar, which includes a James Martin restaurant. I had an excellent steak there at Christmas and have plans to return this Summer for a review.
The casino is complete with Blackjack, Roulette, Poker and a DJ.
This is a great setting for any night out because it has something for everyone, be they gamblers, foodies or cocktail lovers.
Speaking of cocktails, the selection on offer is second to none. Although they are slightly on the expensive side (£6-£8) they don't tend to be full of ice as is the case in many bars. The Zombie was my drink of choice and includes a bit of a show when the bartender explosively sets it alight with a sprinkle of dust. My eyebrows narrowly avoided a singe...so stand well back!
Overall I had a night to remember and I will certainly be heading back to both SoLiTa and Manchester 235. Fingers crossed for Black 8...