“ Address: 63 Princess Street / Manchester / M2 4EQ „
If you want a good curry in Manchester Rusholme's 'Curry Mile' is the place to go and we would most certainly have gone there had we not been so hungry and desperate to eat when we arrived in the city after a three hour journey from Newcastle. We were heading instead for an Indian restaurant at Albert Square by the town hall but I was so famished I couldn't resist Rozafa, a Greek restaurant we found on the way.
The restaurant looked quite busy but in a lively and welcoming kind of way, and a duo could be seen (and heard) playing traditional Greek tunes. When we went in I did find the music a bit too loud and almost decided we should go elsewhere but the food smelled delicious and once I knew I was getting Greek food, I couldn't drag myself away. Fortunately there were only two more songs in that set and by the time the musicians returned we were comfortable and enjoying our meals.
The décor is very simple and kind of implies Greek rather than going all out to recreate a harbourside taverna. The walls are pristine white with just a few paintings hanging on them, while blue lighting, evokes the colours of the Greek flag. The tables are closer together than I like though this did prove advantageous for coveting other peoples' meals while we waited for ours. The lighting was rather dim and we both struggled to make out the menu, having to lean out of our chairs to find enough light.
We were tempted to order a meze to share but, recalling an occasion when we had done that at a terrific restaurant in Stirling, after which meal we almost needed to be rolled out of the place, we reined ourselves in and settled for main courses - a lamb kebab dish for Himself and a chicken souvlaki for me. Thinking about it we probably should have gone for something more specifically Greek like stifado (a delicious beef stew with little pearl onions) or spanakopita (a spinach pastry) which we both love, rather than dishes that are quite similar to what would be on the menu when we arrived in Croatia. The menu at Rozafa is comprehensive without being jumbled and confusing with all the well known Greek specialities covering meat, fish and vegetarian dishes.
Although the menu looks really long it is quite specific in that when dishes are available as a starter or as a main course they are in both sections. Even the meze can be ordered in mini form to be ordered as a starter. The fish dishes incuded halibut for a very reasonable £13.00, as well as numerous shellfish options. Carnivores with big appetites might well be tempted by the Diafora Scaras, the Greek version of a mixed grill with three kinds of kebabs along with lamb chops and Loukaniko sausages, priced at £15.50.
Rozafa portions are fairly generous. My kota souvlaki (£9.50) comprised two big skewers of chicken breast chunks with peppers and onions while Himself had the kimas souvlaki, (£8.50) two generous skewers of spicy minced lamb. There was a choice of rice, chips, salad or potatoes to accompany the kebab plates. I hadn't been able to see this noted on the menu as it was written in small print and I assumed the waiter would offer me the choice anyway. I picked rice while Himself asked for chips. I had imagined that the dish would come with salad and had I known that it was an option that had to be picked, I'd most certainly have ordered salad for my plate and we could have shared the chips. As it was I felt my plate was missing some vegetables, either raw or cooked, and I'd happily have sacrificed some rice for the relief of some salad.
Still, the meat on both plates was delicious. The lamb was juicy and tender, the minced meat combined with herbs and spices giving it a vaguely Middle Eastern flavour. The chicken was succulent and nicely charred with golden stripes from the grill. Somehow in the dishing up the chips had ended up and my plate while the rice was across the table but we'd have shared anyway so this wasn't a problem. The chips were big and chunky, with a texture more like oven baked wedges than deep fried chips but they really were very tasty and not at all greasy. The rice was similar to a Spanish rice, nicely flavoured with tomato and herbs and cooked in stock, just stopping short of a risotto. The plates were garnished though not with a great deal of imagination, that said they did look colourful and appealing.
Wanting to be up early the next day I settled for a soft drink so Himself had a couple of bottles of Mythos, a Greek beer. Keo, a Cypriot beer, was also available along wth a full and varied wine list which included some Greek and Cypriot wines, including retsina (which personally I love but I know many people can't stand it). I can't quote the exact prices for drinks but I recall that soft drnks were fairly pricy, while beers cost more or less what you'd pay in a city centre pub. A little bowl crammed with spicy marinated olives came with the drinks: the people at the next table didn't touch theirs and I was tempted to ask them to pas the olives over to where they would be appreciated.
Given that I couldn't see any groups larger than four people on his particular evening I did think that the music was a tad excessive and intrusive even if we did find it less so after a while. The waiters did their best trying to get middle aged women to join hem in a bit of half hearted dancing but there's not much room between tables and it looked to me as if most people were trying their best to avoid eye contact lest they should be targetted next (I know I was). This is probably a good venue for Christmas parties and other occasions when large groups might be dining but I prefer something a little more subdued for an informal off the cuff meal. The food was pretty good but there were niggles with the lighting and the volume which put me in a bit of a grump initially.
We paid approximately £26 for two mains and drinks and felt that this was good value given the city centre location, and the quality and amount of food. Manchester's restaurant scene is so varied that I would want to try somewhere else on my next trip, but that's not to say I don't recommend Rozafa to others. I do, but go in a big group and let yourself go.
63 Princess Street
There is also a branch in Stockport.
Note - toilets are downstairs; contact the restaurant in advance if this is a problem