Love, steaks and crustaceans…

I took Miss Mash on a date last weekend. You know, like trying to pretend we’re good boys and we look after our woman and all that… when really what we want is just an excuse to drink bubbly at 3pm, eat good food and drink several bottles of good wine and bag in some brownie points in the process (the kind that goes into a virtual drawer with a black hole for a bottom… or is that one innuendo too far?) (Miss Mash – *facepalm*). I’m obviously not serious about the former (Miss Mash, as her name indicates is my other half, but is also my moderator and you’ll agree I need her so I cannot afford to lose her support on such trivial misunderstanding) but I certainly am not about the latter and we all enjoy that kind of action from time to time.

It did start with a bottle of Lindauer NV rose Brut at home, whilst getting ready. This wine is from New Zealand, is not a vintage Champagne and is not trying to be. The stuff is what it says on the tin (or in this case the website): “fresh fruit and yeasty nose with a smooth and full palate” and it got us into a “sparkly” mood, so job done there; and for an average price of £9-£10…happy days.

We then went for a pre-theatre dinner at Grill on the Alley. I was initially planning to take us to Australasia as the place gets raving reviews from all directions but it seems I massively underestimated the level of popularity of the place (or maybe I’m just not organised enough, but I prefer the first explanation better) and it was fully booked when I enquired (note to self!) so my own opinion on the place will have to wait. GOTA also has decent reviews and I’d never been before – and assumed Miss Mash hadn’t either as we never really talked about it….wrong !

It’s a busy place on Saturday afternoon (we were there from 5 to 7pm) and the service was good, courteous, speedy but not pushy…efficient. Miss Mash, who recently, and unexpectedly (calls for a future post on our recent holidays in France), fell in love with oysters had half a dozen for starters and to keep with the theme I went for the cider and chorizo mussels. To go with these we decided to have a glass of white each and we’d pick a bottle of red for the rest of the meal.

The wine selection at GOTA is pleasantly wide enough and classed by style, which is increasingly the case these days. I like this approach because as long as the sommelier or wine expert of the place knows their stuff, it will give you a reasonable idea of what you are going to get in your glass even if you don’t know much about it.

Let’s see what we found…The oysters were paired with a Sauvignon Blanc from Maas Vallei, South Africa. There are a couple of wines from France that are a classic match to oysters and other shellfish but finding these in a restaurant in central Manchester is still pretty difficult. The Sauvignon Blanc was thankfully quite light and mineral with fresh fruit like apple and pear, quite Sancerre-like as opposed to a more exotic kiwi Sauvignon, and worked fine with the oysters. This wine was classed under “pure flavours”, which is apparently a step above the “light & easy drinking” and before the “aromatic & tangy”. The oysters were fresh and served properly with shallots vinaigrette, lemon and Tabasco to season to your liking.

The mussels were good, fleshy and tasty but the cider did not really come through and the few bits of chorizo were overcooked. I picked a Californian Chardonnay from Wandering Bear: stone fruit flavours and obvious lees ageing gives it a creamy texture and body which married quite well with the mussels. Thankfully the chorizo did not overpower it though. Category of the wine, you guessed it, “light & fruity”. I suppose someone will feel at home with these but personnally I would have reversed the categories…

For the main we stuck to what the place is about: steak. Fillet for her, rump for me. From the silence that ensued in the next 15 minutes or so, sounds like the fillet was good. For my part the rump was half and half…very nervy and chewy on one side but the meat was good. Chips were pretty nice too. We chose a bottle of Argento Malbec Seleccion to wash it down with but at £25 it was not worth it. It’s Malbec alright but a bad interpretation of it, tasting rather cheap. At least there was no sign of dodgy oxidation, or as I’ve learned recently, TCA. TCA is a natural compound that can be imparted to the wine by corks and if present above a certain quantity it gives faulty, corked smells and flavours to the wine.

So all in all, the food was a good standard, the service was good, the whites were good and good value for money too but the Malbec let us down. It’s strange because not so long ago I thought Malbec was generally a safe bet but I’ve had a few bad examples since. A bit of research shows that all the wines we had that night, can be found from various wine merchats online for about £6.50. That is a bit cheap for a good Malbec so I guess that’s that.

I then took Miss Mash to the Royal Exchange to see The Country Wife. We got ourselves a bottle of undescribed malbec/shiraz for £15. While it was a lighter style, I actually thought it was slightly more complex but let’s be honest, after that much wine it doesn’t mean much.

Good night though 😉

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