We had booked with three other couples to go and see the legendary, longest running-ever Agatha Christie play, The Mousetrap, at the Opera House and we were looking for somewhere to eat a “pre-theatre” meal. More of both Pre-theatre menu and The Mousetrap later.
It was getting on in the week and I came all over senior managment decisive and booked a table for eight at Southern Eleven. The factors in the decision were, in no particular order as they say in “Strictly”, proximity to the Opera House, a cuisine that seemed to offer something for everyone’s taste and pockets, plenty of good reviews from local foodie bloggers and they could accommodate eight at short notice.
We all arrived from different parts of the city at roughly 5pm and the place was quite full. Despite the fact that the maitre d’station was immediately by the door, no one greeted us, asked for a name or whatever. We gathered at the bar and then I told the staff about our booking and they pointed out 8 places set at a long plank table immediately in front of and in line with the door. (Do not choose to sit there in winter is all I will say)
The decor was interesting, stylish and tasteful. In a modern space of one of the monoliths that make up Spinningfields, there is plenty of wood, leather, suede and subtle references to the eleven “Dixie” States that made up the Confederacy that seceded from the Union in 1860 precipitating the American Civil War. The food is apparently based on good ol’ boy style BBQ , with a British twist.
We all took our seats and after a while a waitress came to take our drinks order of a bottle of wine between four and four beers. The wine arrived promptly and the whole bottle duly emptied into four glasses, slight raise of eyebrows. The beers were less prompt, so less prompt I was starting to feel like I had eaten some sort of Jalapeno Cornbread. Eventually the beers arrived complete with Eighties style lime wedges in the Mexican Modelos and with freezer chilled glasses. After another prompt fom the table, our food order was taken, this would be around 5.15pm. Following an hours conversation and two failed attempts to secure another beer, one of our party asked when we might be fed and we were told that we were “next out” . Now if this WAS some BBQ joint down in Alabama, then the good ol’ boys would have been pitching them long neck Bud’ bottles at the cage around the country band long ago! But we British have a little more patience and reserve and didn’t mind that it was now 6.10pm
With eight people eating, we had the opportunity to taste a fair selection of the menu. On the whole the food is good if a little over-portion controlled. The high points were most of the meat dishes, especially the ribs, the mash, spinach and the marvellous deep fried pickles. The niggles consisted of the pulled pork being almost cold, a cornbread able to silence further criticism as effectively as a mouthful of polystyrene and some of the side orders were small. I also liked the quirky jars, kettles, mini cast iron pots and pans that were used to serve the food.
As we were actually going to the theatre, we called for the bill. The final total was just over £200, which included a service charge of 10% for a party of over 6, and this bore some closer examination. I could see that almost all the main courses were much more expensive than my recollection of the menu. I called a waiter over and expressed my concern. To explain further proved difficult given the noise levels and low lighting so I took the trouble to take the bill to the checkout/ Maitre d’ station where the manageress recognised a problem and explained that unfortunately “she” ( is this the cats mother?) had keyed in our meals as a “Pre-Theatre Offer” which was two courses for £15. When I replied that there was no such offer on the menus on the table, it was pointed out to me that it was “on the website”. How foolish of me not to fire up my smart phone when ordering food then. The bill was promptly rectified with a complete recitation by me of what we had actually had but no further apology or, indeed, small compensation was offered.
As we left, I spoke to the manageress again:
“Could I suggest that you put something in writing about the pre-theatre offer on the tables…”
Reply:“splurddy…mmm….zzf..partner offer…outside our control…blah blah…policy..mistake…nggss…Fank Ew”
In summary, the food is good, the place is stylish, the noise levels are too high, the waiting staff are trying hard but lack effective direction and leadership, if this was an American restaurant we would have been given water automatically, the food takes too long and consequently can be less than lukewarm, the prices have increased by a pound or two since the blogging vanguard visited in February and thus represents less value.
Y’all come back soon now, y’hear? Nah, you will whistling dixie on that one, I am afraid.
Curious as to the nature of how the “Pre-Theatre” misunderstanding may have happened, I looked again at S11’s website and found no reference to any such promotion. What I did find eventually on another website after much googling:
Southern Eleven Pre-Theatre Offer
2 COURSES & WINE FOR £15
Enjoy two courses with a glass of house white, red or rose wine for just £15 at Southern Eleven Spinningfields anytime when you produce your theatre ticket (for that day’s promotion).
£2.95 supplement for Rump Steak and a £4.99 supplement for Rib-Eye Steak. Cannot be used in conjunction with any other promotion or substituted.
To book, call 0871 246 5693 & quote “Pre-Theatre Offer on Restaurants Of Manchester” Calls to 0871 numbers cost up to 10p per minute from BT landlines. Other networks and mobiles will vary. All words are spoken very quickly and may be used to confuse, obfuscate or prevent spurious litigation, training purposes, no badgers were harmed in the making of this promotion, from a smoke and a pet free home…