My friend and I were on a short visit to Manchester, mainly as a theatre trip but, being keen foodies, we also wanted to take in a couple of good eateries. Room was recommended by an acquaintance and certainly the website promised great things. We arrived with high hopes - the building is fantastic - but the smell as we climbed the stairs to the dining room was appalling and, although it could be attributed to bad drains, it was reminiscent of the resultant aroma in a nightclub where too many people have been drinking too much gassy lager. Sure enough, we had to pass through Room's bar area to get to the restaurant and it was already quite busy and extremely noisy with the resident DJ happily manning his decks in an alcove. The bar is only divided from the restaurant by a vast glass panel so in effect everything is in the one 'Room'. We lip read as a member of the waiting on staff directed us to our table which, although at the far end of the restaurant, was no less noisy, but after ten minutes of shouting at one another and realising that it was no way to conduct a conversation on what was supposed to be a special evening out we decided to leave and take stock of the situation. On the premise of returning to the hotel for a forgotten something we made our escape and took refuge In the quiet of the street and after a rational discussion, (with no need to shout), we decided to return and just grin and bear it - after all the menu did look tasty and most of the other restaurants in the vicinity appeared to be Italian and we were eating Italian the next day. I would describe the portions as rather meagre, even for a restaurant of this genre, and certainly not good value for money. I had prawn and crab cocktail as a starter at £8.25 - Three king prawns in tempura batter (delicious), quenelles of spiced (rather salty) crab meat and guacamole, which was barely discernible and served only as a dot of garnish on the plate. I do think the fact that the prawns are battered should be mentioned in the description. Outrageously over-priced. My friend chose Moroccan quail at the same price and served with quinoa, black pudding, apricots & pistachios, Sounds a lot, but miniscule! My North African Spiced Lamb with smoked aubergine, feta cheese, tabbouleh (£19.50) seemed full of Eastern promise when the waiter approached the table with a huge earthenware tagine but when he removed the lid, my heart sank. Okay, the flavours were good but the whole thing was a bit dry and the portion was laughable. My friend had sea bass from the specials (£15.00) with saffron potatoes and a mix of mushrooms/bacon which she enjoyed. With plenty of room for pud, we chose to share a platter of desserts for two at £13.00 and although the selection was not as wide as the waitress had led us to believe it was still the best value by far of everything that night - toasted marshmallow, yummy custard tart, chocolate tart and a selection of ice-creams presented on a two-tier cake stand. We chose a bottle of Pinot Grigio which was reasonably priced and I had an espresso. One thing I would ask diners to watch out for is the indiscriminate policy of adding 10% service charge to the bill. Our bill was for £86 with 10% added making a total to pay of £94.60 but on closer inspection I noticed in VERY small print at the bottom that it stated that 10% service charge is only compulsory for tables of 8+. When I queried this with the waitress she said that they always add it on but that we didn't have to pay it! Why add it on then? She had the bill amended and, although this niggled a bit and my companion was all for not leaving a tip on principle, we did leave something in the end because the service had been good. By the way, we checked and apparently they turn the music up on Friday and Saturday evenings so if you're planning a visit and are looking for an intimate venue where you can chat to your companions, don't book a table at Room at the weekend!
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