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Cheshire Life Luncheon - Cibo Restaurant, Didsbury, Manchester

PUBLISHED: 11:46 29 July 2013 | UPDATED: 11:46 29 July 2013

Third course

Third course

Archant

Lucky Didsbury residents have another good Italian restaurant on their doorstep. But Cibo offers something delightfully different

Ghida Basma, Shehnaz Sirkhiel and Rachel George Ghida Basma, Shehnaz Sirkhiel and Rachel George

People have often asked me, down the years, what is my favourite meal. It’s a difficult call because it depends on where you are and what you fancy at the time. But two dishes have stayed in the memory for years and probably always will.

Both were Italian: sliced and grilled porcini mushrooms served as a starter with the freshest ciabatta in a posh hotel near the Arno in Florence and razor clam and white truffle risotto relished in a back street osteria on the ‘wrong’ side of the Rialto bridge in Venice. The common denominators? Fantastic ingredients simply allowed to sing on the plate.

It became fashionable, a few years ago – particularly among the new wave of young British chefs - to refer to ‘Mediterranean cooking’ when what they really meant was Italian without the stereotyping of the restaurants. But Mediterranean is really a meaningless culinary term, for it can encompass the cuisines of Provence, Greece, Turkey, Lebanon, Morocco and Spain as well as Italy - and they are all very different, reflecting, obviously, local and traditional ingredients.

So Italian restaurants are back in vogue (even Jamie Oliver didn’t beat about the Mediterranean bush when launching his eponymous chain) as I get the feeling that tastes are shifting away from over-complicated cheffiness to the simpler things in life. But as I’ve said before, simple doesn’t mean easy – far from it – because there’s nowhere to hide the mediocre.

Adam Karim, Manchester restaurateur and man-about-town is a big fan of la cucina Italiana. The co-founder, with footballer Rio Ferdinand, of Rosso in Spring Gardens, last year acquired and transformed Don Giovanni’s in Oxford Road - and his recently opened Cibo in Didsbury provided guests at Cheshire Life’s August luncheon with a splendidly authentic taste of Italy. It was the perfect opportunity to sample the best of Cibo’s main menu and selection of delicious small plates.

We gathered, just eight weeks after Cibo’s opening, on the balconied first floor mezzanine of the 130-cover restaurant that had previously been Didsbury’s branch of the tapas chain La Tasca. It now boasts a strikingly stylish contemporary, casual chic, new look to compliment an exciting new culinary direction. Accompanying welcoming flutes of Aperol spritz, the fashionable and refreshing hit drink of the summer, and rich peachy Bellinis, head chef Martin Cordwell served his expertly crafted cicchetti as canapés. They included Scamorza cheese wrapped in speck – ham from the Italian Tyrol; aubergine balls; baccala Montecato – creamed salt cod on crostini – and arancini Siciliani rice balls.

Once seated we began in traditional style: first with antipasti, a beautifully harmonious combination of honey and balsamic roast figs with Puglia burrata – mozzarella enriched with cream – and ribbons of Venetian San Danielle ham; then with exceptional mushroom ravioli in a rich cream sauce with a hint of truffle. All the pasta, dough and desserts are made fresh on the premises every day and fresh ingredients are delivered seven days a week.

The ‘main courses’ – there were four of them showcasing the kitchen’s undoubted skills – featured excellent rustic dishes not often found on commonplace Italian menus but taken straight from Cibo’s. Monkfish in tomato sauce with black olives, lamb and pistachio meatballs, slow braised ox cheek with black pepper and char-grilled lemon and thyme chicken were served on huge platters for sharing and all of them boasted fine ingredients and wonderful flavours through the expert use of Italy’s famed culinary herbs.

A choice of generously fruited Sicilian white or red wines accompanied very well and we rounded off in fine style with a perfect summer dessert – strawberry and Prosecco pannacotta, which slipped down a treat. Cibo is a very welcome addition to the diverse dining scene in Manchester’s ‘Notting Hill’.

Cheshire Life Luncheon Menu

To start

Honey and Balsamic Roast figs, Puglia Burrata, San Danielle

Porcini Ravioli, Truffle Cream

Pieno Sud Bianco, Sicilia 2012

To continue

Monkfish Provencal

Lamb and pistachio meatballs

Slow-braised ox cheek with black pepper

Char-grilled lemon and thyme chicken

Pieno Sud Rosso Sicilia 2012

To finish

Strawberry and Prosecco pannacotta

FACT FILE

Cibo Restaurant, 10-12 Warburton Street, Didsbury, Manchester M20 6WA. Tel: 0161 448 2222; www.ciborestaurants.com

Open daily noon-midnight; food served noon-10.30pm. Cicchetti : £2 per dish, £10 for all six. Main menu: antipasti & salads from £5.50; meatballs £5; meat & fish from £5.50; pasta & pizzette from £5.50; desserts £5.

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