Ruth Allan raves for attention in the forgotten conservatory of this new First Street diner
THERE was little fanfare ahead of the opening of Laundrette on First Street - but this new restaurant and bar didn’t need any. As the neon sign over the bar cries, it’s a one stop shop for cocktails and carbs. If there is a theme to the modern junk food menu comprised of pizzas, burgers, salads, and mains like lasagne with homemade pasta, it’s ‘American mom’s gone to Iceland’.
Laundrette is different to other restaurants on First Street. Fancy Indian? There’s Indian Tiffin Room. Craft beer? Head to Gasworks. Some modern Euro-Asian fusion? Try Street on 1st. Tucked away down Jack Rosenthal Street (named after the prolific screenwriter famous for Corrie storylines in the 1960s and the creation of London’s Burning), you’d be hard pushed to find Laundrette unless you were looking. But being booked out on a Sunday night means it’s getting something right.
The success of the original Laundrette on Beech Road plays a part. My friend is nuts about their gluten free pizzas, and perhaps this Laundrette will shine brighter when they can peel the roof back on the state-of-the-art conservatory and peg their customers out in the sunshine.
Great drinks include the bottle-aged negroni with a pretzel ‘side car’ pegged to the glass and mojito-style gin smash (both £9) with limey micro herbs. More fresh flavours come courtesy of Esk Valley Riesling (£28) as zingy as cut grass. The food seems heavy by comparison.
Manchego and pepper croquettes (£5.50) are served with a Benidorm tan. I’m not sure they need the mayo, but it’s the kind of thing they’d serve them with in the south of Spain. St Louis ribs are smothered in a sticky glaze and my friend hoovers up the scraps with glee. I can’t detect any promised ginger in the sauce.
Slow-cooked lamb shoulder (£15.50) is better still with parmesan and garlic polenta, cut through with crisps of cavalo nero and rosemary. The purposefully overdone lasagne (£10.50, main image) is a bear-hug of a dish, the cast iron pan (see pic) pumped up to at least triple the usual capacity. Crisp sweet potato chips (£3.50) and Affogato and white chocolate pannacotta are reasonable extras.
So far, so good. It’s only afterwards I begin to realise that everything is a touch on the greasy side. There is a salad selection plus steaks, burgers and pizzas which we didn’t venture into - yet I struggle to imagine what the original ingredients might look like in the kitchen. This isn’t somewhere for fresh-tasting cooking, it’s more of a ‘stick yourself back together after a big weekend’ joint. It’s not cheap either: dinner for two is £102.
My main gripe is that it feels more like a nightclub than somewhere to eat. They’re playing bitter-sweet house records at top volume and there’s acres of glass echoing overhead. As the rain slashes down outside, part of me wants to rave yet the sight of the staff re-laying tables, desperate to get home at the end of a long weekend, makes the music seem like a soundtrack to a film about the misery of waiting tables.
No one likes working a Sunday, but service needs work in general. When we arrive, a customer waits for ages at the empty bar as the barmaid yells ‘900’ to anyone who will listen. I don’t want to feel like a side order in a restaurant, but that’s how using codes like this – whatever they mean – comes off. During the meal, dessert menus and red wines are forgotten. By the end, they have forgotten about us completely. To be fair, we are sitting in a corner at the end of the indoor/outdoor conservatory, behind an external door (see pic), but it feels almost deliberate.
There is plenty to recommend Laundrette. The cocktails are excellent. Boards suggest wild specials, made using tom yum, and sriracha, and I wish we’d tried the ‘super tiki flaming passionfruit’ sharing cocktail (£20), or the Turkish Delight hot chocolate with rose spirit and Martell (£8). This food isn’t for me – but it might be for you. My feeling is that with a few tweaks it’ll do just fine. Either way, I won’t be back in hurry
The Laundrette, 13 Jack Rosenthal Street, First Street, Manchester, M15 4FN. Tel: 0161 236 1616
(croquettes 7, ribs 6, lamb 6, lasagne 6, affogato 6, panna cotta 7)
left to go cold like a forgotten side order
service needs work in general