Leeds restaurants Sandinista and Red Hot World Buffet have recently set up camp in Manchester. We thought you might like to know what our sister site, ManchesterConfidential.com, thought of them...
Jonathan Schofield quite likes, maybe, sort of, the latest city centre addition
The new restaurant and bar in Manchester comes from Leeds. It's named after an eighties album by the Clash which is named after a Nicaraguan Socialist party.
The Socialist party was created in the sixties and has, in turn, been revolutionary, progressive, oppressive but is now part of the establishment. The oppressive stage came in reaction to the Ronald Reagan funded Contras guerrillas. Today the Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional is in government.
"You guess the food is a complement to hearty drinking for people under thirty on a weekend of excess. Thus there’s a cocktail menu laden with rum, gin, tequila and bourbon concoctions."
Times change of course, we mellow. Che Guevara becomes a poster, a Socialist party in Central America becomes a bar in Leeds and Manchester. Maybe there’s a bar in Managua, the capital of Nicaragua, called Liberal Democrats. Or Coalition. Probably not.
I partly learned about Sanidinista because as a youngster I bought the Clash's 1980 triple album of the same name and saw their follow-up gig at the Apollo. It was my first major gig and it was a great start to concert-going. I still adore songs like the Magnificent Seven and Rebel Waltz and Somebody Got Murdered. Here’s a link to Rebel Waltz on YouTube. Ignore the art college video and listen to the tune. Lovely.
There's little revolutionary about Sandinista as a bar in Manchester. Aside from a token Nicaraguan flag, it looks formulaic - like a less corporate La Tasca.
Yet cuddling a vigorous if crude Rioja and looking at a vigorous and crude menu there was something about the place that made me feel at home.
Of course the simple menu is Tex-Mex not Nicaraguan but the food it supplies is ok.
The steak fajita (£11.50) for instance was very good. A decent sized portion of meat was presented on peppers and onions with warm tortillas plus guacamole, salsa, sour cream and cheese. These rolled together in a tight flavour filled flour wrap did a delicious stomach filling trick.
If there was a complaint, it was that the portions for the cheese and so forth were mean: ramp up the ramekins please Sandinista. And add heat to the salsa for Gawd’s sake.
My companion had the taco tray, which needs work in the presentation department. The dishes were scattered across the tray like party-goers who didn’t want to talk to each other. They were all heading off for the kitchen to get drunk and hope some better looking and funnier people turned up. Careless that display and easily tweaked.
With the tacos you get two choices of fillings for £6 and four for £12. My friend chose the chicken and chorizo and the chilli and garlic prawn couple of options.
She also got tortillas and all the stuff I’d had with the addition of jalapenos. None of it was as good as my steak fajitas, but it did a job, especially the chicken and chorizo. The only dead element was the prawn dish which lacked heat – physical heat that is – otherwise it was all right, ok, not bad.
The absolute best dish for flavour was a simple side of rice and beans (£2.50). A rugged tastebud delight.
Desserts were chalked high on a board and were low on appeal. Maybe there'll be more on offer when Sandinista is properly established.
A pannacotta (£4.50) was covered with some gooey, red, syrup of the sort Mr Whippy puts on his slimy 99 cornets. It was a sickly and artificial tasting.
There was also the inevitable chocolate brownie.
America has produced many marvels but the chocolate brownie isn't one of them. They’re the hideous, gruesome, sickly cuckoos of the dessert world, raiding the nests of local puddings, killing off the young and begetting foul queasy offspring.
And aside from brownies and the pannacotta plus some ice cream, that was about it for afters and Sandinista.
Funny place this one.
The restaurant bar is pleasant to sit and chat in. The food is of the social sharing type (which is why they need a bigger selection of desserts) and is fine. I guess that it’s there as a complement to hearty drinking for people under thirty on a weekend of excess. Thus there’s a cocktail menu laden with rum, gin, tequila and bourbon concoctions that we'll bob back and review.
I mentioned La Tasca earlier, but a better analogy for Sandinista would be Mojo with better food. Or just around the corner, Corbieres, with any sort of food.
There isn't any rebel spirit as such here but there's an attractive air of youthful enthusiasm.
Old Bank Street
(Off St Ann’s Square)
Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20: Gordo gets carried away
Red Hot World Buffet
Binns and Jorgensen get overwhelmed and damage a very expensive marzipan dragon
“Do you want to come to some free food thing?”
“Yeah, suppose. What is it?”
“Not sure really. Some sort of massive buffet. Probably reheated tubs of god-knows-what. Free though.”
And so, me and The Boy Jorgensen walked out of Spinningfields and down Deansgate to the opening of Red Hot World Buffet, which boasts more than 300 dishes from India, China, Tex-Mex, Italy and everywhere else in between.
We were convinced the statues were edible. I pulled the tongue off a massive marzipan dragon and Jorgensen prised off a seahorse that looked like chocolate and tasted like cement.
It was possibly the most bonkers place I’ve ever been. And I’ve been to a lot of strange places.
It’s not every day you see an Eiffel Tower made of chocolate or a sailing boat made of meringue, but maybe it should be. Throw in some masked dancing girls and a Mariachi, and you get the picture.
The place itself is huge – 400 or so covers with plans to open another floor above that holding the same again. Loads of stations (with chefs behind them, to be fair) and more food than you have ever seen. And it’s not just the hot buffet stuff. There are mountains and mountains of cakes, sweets, ice cream, jelly and more. Dianne Bourne from the MEN was so overwhelmed she was on the verge of a mild panic attack until I convinced her to steal a meringue from the huge vase nearby.
When it comes to this sort of food, I like starters. I like picking. This is the problem. I’d happily eat several plates of bhajis, pakoras, spring roll, nachos, hoi-sin duck pancakes, etc. And I did. So much so, I couldn’t really face any main courses.
Jorgensen went a bit the same way but with the added benefit of a bottle and a half of rose wine. Luckily, we made two new friends, Amy and Carrie, who took it upon themselves to eat pretty much everything available. Impressive, and slightly scary.
Carrie came back from the dessert run with a plate full of jelly babies. I’d managed to get at least nine types of cake onto my plate.
On the final visit, we got a bit carried away. We were convinced the statues were edible. I pulled the tongue off a massive marzipan dragon and Jorgensen prised off a seahorse that looked like chocolate and tasted like cement.
Jorgensen was taken by a remarkably pretty girl called Nicola who we thought would be impressed with our statue high jinx until she told us her boyfriend made them.
Time to leave.
Go, though, for the madness if not the food. Just don’t touch the statues.
Buffet Lunch (12-4pm)
Mon-Fri – £7.99
Sat – £8.99
Sun – £9.99
Evening Gourmet Lunch
Mon-Thurs (5-10.30pm) – £12.99
Fri-Sat (5-11pm) – £14.99
Sun (5-10pm) – £12.99
Follow Simon Binns on Twitter @simonbinns
sorry last few visits the food was very dissapointing need to do better than one free glass of…Read more
Cool post very informative. I just found your site and read through a few posts although this is my…Read more
This is another good reason to travel. This restaurant is a place to go to. Nice chinese restaurant…Read more
Malaysian tea? I know that India and China are known for that, but I suppose that places like…Read more