A half-price season brought crowds to Don Giovanni, but did quality get lost in the rush?
Now a second year at Manchester, I have walked past Don Giovanni many a time. Whenever I do, I struggle not to salivate at the beautiful dishes and stylish people I can see through the big glassy windows. “One day, I will eat there.” I say to myself. “Are you talking to yourself?” My housemate says back.
Lucky enough for me, Don Giovanni decided to grace us mere mortals — students with heftily overdrawn bank accounts — with a 50 per cent discount throughout September, even when eating à la carte. This was a deal running through August, which was extended by popular demand. Finding out that I had a shot at dining in the Manchester Italian of my dreams on the 27th of September, just three days before the deal closed, had me instantly booking a table. The website was as stylish as the restaurant itself, and the booking system was practical and efficient, especially since I could do it all online; my battered phone’s dysfunctional speakers and microphone tends to lead to conversations that go something like “pardon?” “Sorry?” “Yes — oh wait no, I said.” You get the idea.
A benefit of the deal was that, aesthetically speaking, Don Giovanni was at it’s finest. Thriving with people at the tables and the bar, even on a Thursday at 6:30 pm it felt like I was in one of those New York bars popularised by the Sex and the City Girls. I felt so cool to be sitting at their marble topped bar, sipping on orange and cranberry juice — a combination of hangover and freshers flu had left me not in the mood for alcohol, though it should be noted that the bar at Don Giovanni is one of the best stocked I’ve ever seen, and according to their cocktail menu, they’re willing to fix you whatever your heart desires.
The interior is a combination of warm orange tones, cool marble, and cream, bare walls. The windows are great for people watching and the booths could fit a host of people. Cool, Latin jazz was filtering out of the speakers and the hum of conversation had a way of making your own conversation seem more intimate. No surprise then, that Don Giovanni has been voted most romantic restaurant.
After splitting a very tasty, fresh bruschetta for starters, my housemate and myself, of course, ordered the lobster risotto — with the intention of choosing something I couldn’t normally afford/cook myself/just eat anywhere. Normally £19.95, it cost us £12, which was pretty bloody great. One of the things I liked most was, although it was a swanky restaurant, they certainly didn’t do the swanky restaurant thing where they serve you just two mouthfuls. Oh, boy, no — I received a whopping big plate of risotto, perhaps enough to defeat your average man, but it was, nevertheless no match for me. In terms of bang-for-your buck, if I was earning, I would consider the prices pretty reasonable — and they were particularly so when sweetened by the deal.
It was perfectly scrummy, but I do consider myself a bit of a risotto connoisseur, and it was a little watery. The lobster was de-shelled and mixed in to the risotto, which was nice because I hate the faff and have a habit of cutting or burning my fingers when left to DIY. The slight downside to this was that the lobster was a little chewy, maybe due to cooking a little further in the risotto, which was nice and hot. But all of this, is really fine tuning, I still thought it was delicious.
There was only one real let down of the whole evening, and to gastronomes out there, it’s the famous struggle; pistachio ice cream. Myself, and my flatmate have both been hunting for Manchester’s best pistachio ice-cream since we both bonded over memories of the real stuff found in Italy itself.
If you’re a foodie, and not allergic to nuts, you’ll know that proper pistachio ice-cream is a somewhat muddy green colour with a thick texture, and if you’re really lucky, actual chunks of nut in it. Then there’s the imposter stuff; basically, vanilla ice-cream dyed pastel green with food colouring and a bit of amaretto mixed in to imitate a nut like taste. The imposter has the texture of soft scoop. With the impression that this was an Italian restaurant with quality of ingredients at the heart of it’s principles, I assumed that I couldn’t go wrong; it had to be the legitimate stuff, right? Nope.
For £4.50, I received 4 scoops of pistachio imposter ice cream. Now, the quantity was fine, great even, for the price, and there was one of those little chocolate wafer cigarillos in the top, which was pretty tasty. But it was the wrong damn ice-cream! I ended up eating it because I’d paid for it, not because I was actually enjoying it, which is something I never thought I’d say eating in one of Manchester’s award-winning restaurants.
I can only assume, that these little refinements of quality, the over cooked lobster and slightly watery risotto were the result of a restaurant rushed off it’s feet, all concessions I’m willing to make due to the sacrifice of cost. But the ice cream palaver left me wondering, perhaps I had built up preconceived ideas in my head. With the service oh so polite and efficient, and an aesthetic that would make your date really impressed, DG screams ‘high quality.’ Unfortunately, food wise, that’s just not quite what I got.