Ellie Gibbs reviews the recently refurbished Cornerhouse, in its new location as arts & culture complex HOME
You may base your interpretation of the title above on the story to follow.
I have a Turkish friend, Su, without the ‘e’, who for a long time thought that ‘quite’ was a word interchangeable with ‘very’. Her mistranslation proved difficult for me in the kitchen, as everything I presented her with was ‘quite good’. ‘Quite’ but not very. What was I missing? While I valued the blunt honesty of her foreign style, I couldn’t seem to surpass that essentially average measure of rating.
Being British, I waited til the fourth or fifth time to make a subtle jolt at the conundrum in question: “Just quite good… not quite good enough?” Yes, a sneaky and well-timed leading question would do the trick for sure. It was also in reference to a drink bought outside of the realms of my own cooking control, so the safety belt protecting my feelings was removed from the equation. ‘Quite? Oh yeah! No, it was really good.’
“…Did you know that ‘quite’ actually means not fully there, almost, sort of…?”
“All this time I thought it meant the same as very!”
What a weight lifted off my chest. Turns out Su wasn’t my harshest critic, the A. A. Gill of my Fallowfield kitchen, but an enthusiastic dinner guest with an innocent mistranslation.
Realising that she was easier to please than I thought, I happily invited Su along to join me for a meal at HOME, the recently moved location of Oxford Road’s Cornerhouse. The Cornerhouse, for those that don’t know, was an iconic picturehouse on the corner near the centre of Manchester that sadly closed down due to poor building conditions. “It was falling apart,” commented a security guard whom I hungrily grilled on the reasoning for its closure. That may sound like a form of inhumane torture, but I mean ‘grilled’ in the sense of determinedly required information.
Accepting the resolution of its relocation, I booked a table and we sat down to eat before watching The Diary of a Teenage Girl on Screen 2. This possibility alone is one of the most defining and unrivalled features of the venue, as where else can you eat a luxurious sit down meal before heading to the cinema in the very same building? Sure, some cinemas may have a few commercial ice cream and coffee brands available, but the quality of HOME’s café bar option feels unique.
The same can be said of the entire venue; as you walk in it feels removed from the bustling atmosphere of central Manchester, almost like another world of bright lights and showbiz. This was the aura that the old location used to evoke, every visit would take my imagination to the cosmopolitan life of New York or Paris, the movies, and I’m so glad that HOME has still managed to capture that feeling.
Our first visit was not with the intention to review, but solely for pleasure, however, due to the difference in experiences each time I decided that it was worth including. The first time, service was excellent. We drank Outstanding Stout—”What’s outstanding about it?” (Su)—ate garlic dough balls and dip, and struggled our way through generous mains, unable to finish but highly satisfied.
Second time round, there was a distinctly different feel to the evening. We were seated next to the entrance stand and so next to the coming and going of customers, less hidden in the restaurant and more exposed. I’d only made reservations an hour before, and seating is an issue easily overlooked, but I would recommend booking a spot more enclosed in the restaurant and, if you can, by the towering wall-windows.
We started with drinks: a mojito—very standard, fresh martini—small but pineappley and delicious, and a large house red—a strong choice. The waitress seemed generally unenthused and we did have to catch her eye to order food and again for another round of drinks, which was surprising as this seemed the kind of place that would benefit from regularly offering refreshments to its customers. We began with the mixed vegetarian sharing platter which included olives, soft grilled pitta, whole chickpea falafel, stuffed vine leaves and feta. Three dips were arranged to complement the mezze but were lacklustre in flavour; baba ganoush, hummus and tzatziki were virtually nondescript bar the exotic names they go by.
Despite this, the platter was enjoyable and left three of us surprisingly full and in dubious anticipation of our abilities to savour what was to come. I went for the Melanzana Parmigana: Chargrilled aubergine with buffalo mozzarella, provolone cheese, parmesan, tomato pulpa, garlic, pine nuts, and warm fluffy sourdough. I love all of these ingredients, and parmigana is a beautiful dish. Its only problem was that straight out of the grill, it was piping hot and burned my mouth instantly, which made the rest of the meal a struggle. The hot plate needed at least 10 – 15 minutes resting time before it reached my table, which meant that I missed the dishes’ peak point and subtle flavours. This was a shame, but definitely something the restaurant could aim to change in future, as the Italian delicacy is a great addition to the deluxe style menu.
One companion went for the beef ragu, which was apparently delicious but very rich and indulgent, which meant that she couldn’t finish it, also commenting that the meat could have been more tender. As someone with a butcher as a Father, I’d expect that this was a valid claim. Su went for the risotto of the day, which was asparagus and mushroom. It looked like what a risotto looks like.
You know what she said? It was “quite good.” As I raised my eyebrows and smiled, she added “and I actually mean quite.”
2 Tony Wilson Place