Jonathan Schofield with another of the 'shorter review' series for smaller venues
What: Pastan restaurant
Where: 18 Cross St, Manchester, M2 7AE
Food/drink type: Vegan/plant-based. Licensed with beer, wine and spirits an option.
When: Tues-Thurs noon-2.30pm/5pm-21.30pm; Sat noon-3pm/5pm-9.30pm; Sun noon-4pm
Independent or chain?: A mini-chain with branches in Bristol, Barbican (London) and Barcelona (of course).
Homely, not much changed from the previous tenant, the similarly vegan Vertigo. Beech shades for the furniture, budget images of plants on the walls and a bit of plastic veg to one side. The open kitchen provides some dynamism.
A note about the signage outside. The restaurant has a unit in the Grade II listed Royal Exchange building. The pub-style signage gives the right name of Pastan, the name above the door still reads Vertigo, because, apparently, it takes an age to change the signage on a Grade II listed building.
The main event
The food is very good here. I am not a vegan but this was some of the most bolstering food of the genre I've come across.
The secret with Pastan restaurants lies in the name: the pasta dishes. I had a very good Napoli dish (£14.50), a variation on the theme of a puttanesca, in which the anchovies have been left in the sea and substitued for black olives. The egg-free pasta was robust, big, positive with tomato sauce, olive oil, garlic and capers. It all adds up to a top-notch filling collation but make sure you add the chilli flakes to give it extra bite.
The Heura 'Chick'n' nuggets (£8.25) is fine with a good teriyaki sauce and some lettuce to give the dish the appearance of having three ears. The 'chick'n' is made up of soya protein and mimics real chicken pretty well in texture although I'm never sure about vegan and vegetarian food playing the ersatz meat card. Who's that appealing to? Why not call them soya nuggets and have done with it? Either way, dipped into the teriyaki the nuggets work well.
The gnocchi (£7.95) were ok, deep fried with a good pomodoro that gave a strong blast of basil. As is the way with gnocchi they become dreary by the time you're half way through and so I just spooned up the chive-enlivened pomodoro and ignored the rest of the gnocchi.
Pastan provides an easy-going experience with staff who are friendly and willing to talk. The chef joins in the chat if you want to ask questions about the ingredients. On my first visit, by coincidence, one of the founders was in, Jerome Ibanez-Fawcett. He was more than happy to lend me a phone charger.
Pastan is recommended. The food is good, wholesome and filling, with the pasta the best of the dishes. The atmosphere is calming.
Mark out of twenty: food 7/10, service 4/5, ambience 3/5.
All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidentials and completely independent of any commercial relationship. They are a first-person account of one visit by one, knowledgeable restaurant reviewer and don't represent the company as a whole.
Venues are rated against the best examples of their type: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: Netflix and chill, 10-11: if you’re passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: cooked by God him/herself.
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