Jonathan Schofield is a bat with fangs in Costa Del Whateva
The menu in La Torre is perfect, laminated for extra wear with Spanish colours, curly titles and calamares. It’s so cheesily Costa Del Whateva it might have been designed by the hapless BBC producers of ill-fated 1990s Eastenders offshoot Eldorado (see here). The menu would have been perfect for the restaurant in the made-up town of Los Barcos in the TV series referred to as the ‘BBC's Sangria Soaked Shitfest’.
There is something of the lesser Spanish holiday resort about La Torre.
And it demanded a review. It's a winner you see.
In May this year, the place beat big city centre, big investment Spaniards such as El Gato Negro, Lunya, Iberica, Tapeo and La Bandera in a Confidential reader’s poll (here) as the best Spanish restaurant in the Manchester area.
This is nonsense. It simply isn't anywhere near the best. That's not opinion, that is fact. All you can say for La Torre is that it’s been around for several years and is popular with the locals, but needs some fresh paintwork, maybe a bit of a scrub by the skirting boards, and that its food consists of… well… edible things.
The edible things included mushrooms in white wine sauce, a chicken and seafood paella, prawns in garlic sauce, lamb with spuds, chicken in walnut sauce, and stuffed cabbage with rice, mixed herbs and pinenuts. Nothing was over £6 aside from a one person mini paella at £7.95. The lamb with spuds in a nice sauce was good and the stuffed cabbage was interesting. The paella contained the wrong rice, nothing sticky about it, probably some form of American long grain. It tasted just like an Uncle Ben’s packet rice although, to be fair, the dish was packed with seafood and chicken.
Alarm bells were ringing over the chicken with walnut and stuffed cabbage because they weren’t Spanish as such. I asked one of the waiters (service was very gracious) which part of Spain the owner or chef hailed from. 'Iran' came the reply. That explained it. So the restaurant that won Confidential’s popular vote on Spanish restaurants isn’t totally Spanish.
Not that it matters if there’s a Spanish restaurant with a slight Middle Eastern accent run by Iranians in Urmston, no more than it would matter if there were to be an Iranian restaurant with a slight Iberican accent run by Spaniards in a suburb of Lille. Culture is endlessly mutable, thankfully. Food forever changes and adapts to the environment it finds itself.
With many neighbourhood restaurants it’s down to the punters whether they care, for instance, that there are just three supermarket white and red wines on offer. Reviews from critics aren’t necessary in these places because nobody need travel across the city to La Torre. But when such places win internet polls they get noticed and food writers arrive like bats with fangs.
The owner could make the La Torre experience better. As a poll winner he could show a bit of pride and get the interior cleaned and repainted; it'd take about two days. He could tighten up the cooking, but that might take longer. Not that any of the regular audience seems to care much about these aspects of La Torre.
So as contented locals came and went, loving the place, laughing and getting on with it, I couldn’t help sitting in the corner feeling like a typical carping critic with delusions of importance, grand at analyzing everything but his own life. Thank God for smart phone technology. As I waited for the best thing on offer, a 1970's coffee with cream, brandy and cinnamon, I was able to watch the closing scene of Eldorado, with its final line, "You can't trust anybody these days, can you?"
La Torre, 94 Flixton Rd, Urmston, Manchester M41 5AD. T: 0161 749 8585
All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidential and completely independent of any commercial relationship. 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)
mushrooms 4, a chicken and seafood paella 4, prawns in garlic sauce 4, lamb with spuds 5, chicken in walnut sauce 4, stuffed cabbage with rice 4, coffee 6
Cheerful and willing to help
Chatty in grubby surroundings