Restaurant Review: The Rose Garden

I think it takes real balls to open up a serious restaurant on West Didsbury’s Burton Road. There are few, if any, places in Manchester that offer such fierce competition. Dozens of eateries lie in the vicinity, including several of the city’s most successful and revered.

Directly across the road from The Rose Garden sits Rhubarb, “the only restaurant in West Didsbury to be recommended in the Michelin guide”.* Around the corner is the granddaddy of the local dining scene, The Lime Tree, which has been picking up awards for decades.

But if such competition has had an adverse effect on The Rose Garden, you’d never be able to tell. With a menu and dining room that ooze confidence, it was completely full when we arrived for our 9pm booking on a Saturday night and it was still buzzing when we left almost two hours later.

Table at The Rose Garden restaurant, West Didsbury

A friendly waitress seated us at a small but serviceable table by the door. First impressions were far better than I expected them to be. Pictures of the restaurant online made it look like this bleak, dystopian nightmare of a place – snowblind-inducing white walls with cold splashes of modern art. But packed to the rafters with people it was warm and intimate; a lovely space to be.

There were a lot of good options on the menu, so it took us a while to make up our minds. My wife drank a gin and tonic whilst perusing while I got straight on with the wine, a perfectly acceptable Vina Cobos Malbec Felino 2010.

2010 Felino Vina Cobos wine at The Rose Garden restaurant, West Didsbury

2010 Felino Vina Cobos

It took about 30 minutes for our starters to arrive but mine, I felt, was worth the wait. The well-cooked glazed pigeon breast was in perfect harmony with the crisp salad, sweet popcorn-esque toasted walnuts and tart orange vinaigrette served alongside it, and it all went down very nicely. It wasn’t the most exciting of dishes, but definitely a very pleasant way to start the meal.

(‘Pick the walnut shards out of the tooth cavity’ was a fun game for my tongue to play between courses.)

Glazed pigeon starter at The Rose Garden restaurant, West Didsbury

Glazed pigeon: Cheshire wood pigeon breast, orange glaze, toasted walnuts, celeriac and radish salad, orange vinaigrette

While I was eating that, my wife had a black pudding and venison scotch egg, which would’ve been great had it not been let down by a couple of things: a disappointingly overdone egg yolk and far too much black pepper. The combination of flavours was good, with the chutney particularly outstanding, but it wasn’t executed as well as it could’ve been.

Scotch egg starter at The Rose Garden restaurant, West Didsbury

Scotch egg: sausage meat, black pudding and venison, boiled egg, crisp breadcrumb shell, rhubarb chutney

For mains we both ordered two-way beef – a 4oz fillet with braised shin, fidget pie and roast tomatoes. This wasn’t as ugly as the below picture suggests and definitely didn’t merit my wife’s suggestion that someone had “shit on the plate”, but it wasn’t going to win any prizes for presentation. What could win prizes, however, was the absolutely incredible shin of beef, which brought up memories of all the best stews I’ve had in my life and showed them two fingers. The chef’s heavy-handedness with black pepper aside, this was about as good as warm, homely comfort food can get.

A little too good, if I’m honest, for the fillet steak. This wasn’t a bad chunk of meat by any means and it was well-cooked, but it was easily outshone by its rustic partner. The contrast was interesting for a bit, but I think I’d rather have done without it. The superb fidget pie and tomatoes were accompaniment enough.

Two-way beef main at The Rose Garden restaurant, West Didsbury

Two-way beef: 4oz fillet of Cheshire beef, braised shin of beef, fidget pie, roast tomato, rich beef gravy

Each of us had a different tart for pudding: an orange and pistachio tart with blackberry compote and clotted cream pour moi and a Bakewell tart for the missus. Both were pretty solid efforts and I don’t have much to say about either, other than I’d happily eat them again. Dessert wine options weren’t particularly strong, but there’s worse things that can happen.

Pistachio tart dessert at The Rose Garden restaurant, West Didsbury

Pistachio tart: ground pistachio, orange essence, sweetcrust pastry, blackberry compote, candied orange, clotted cream

Bakewell tart at The Rose Garden restaurant, West Didsbury

Bakewell tart: classic raspberry and almond tart, St Clements dust, spun sugar (note: this is normally served with house-made vanilla ice cream)

Service was charming and efficient, and the whole evening was very satisfying; that I went home afterwards and cracked open the Hennessy XO says volumes about what a good time we had. My only real complaint about what was otherwise an excellent meal is that the prices (£7 starters, £20 mains, £6 desserts) seemed one or two pounds higher than they should’ve been. But given how packed the place was, the locals are clearly happy to pay this much.

And for a meal this good, so am I.

 
The Rose Garden on Urbanspoon

Food: 10.5/30

Service: 7/10

Dining Room: 3/5

Experience: 6.5/10

Overall score: 49/100 (Good)

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*I don’t rate Rhubarb at all, having had a very poor lunch there a couple of years back. But a lot of people do seem to like it.

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Posted on February 5, 2012, in Manchester, Restaurant Views and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I’m lost on your scoring system. I wouldn’t go to a restaurant that got 33% score on the food, but that’s what you did here (nearly) and yet you give it a positive review? Is this score not adjusted for price or something?

    BTW loved the two-ways dish here myself.

    • Thanks for the comment. There’s no adjusting for price – in fact it’s probably the lack of adjustments that makes it confusing!

      I rate all the restaurants I go to on the same scale, so very ordinary restaurants are up against places with 3 Michelin stars. I could give The Rose Garden 7 or 8 out of 10, which would seem fair, but then what do I score a place like Northcote Manor which does food that’s twice as good?

      The scale is out of 30 so there’s room for the exceptional. It might not look it, but The Rose Garden’s score is actually a pretty good one!

  2. I suppose scores are always a bit arbitrary, anyway. Great blog, BTW, inhaled all of it in one sitting…

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