Restaurant review - Cafe Football, Manchester
PUBLISHED: 00:00 19 August 2015 | UPDATED: 11:10 19 January 2016
A football-themed restaurant in a football-themed hotel? After 90 minutes, were we over the moon, or sick as a parrot?
There is something very appealing about the single-mindedness of Hotel Football in Old Trafford.
It stands, almost cheekily, right next to Manchester United’s mighty stadium, and - literally and metaphorically - has ‘football’ written all over it.
How many other hotels and restaurants can be so sure of their unique selling point? Yes, this place has the will to win, as well it might, being the brainchild of two illustrious Reds Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs, whose business partners are fellow Class of ‘92 stars Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and Phil Neville.
As we take our seats in the hotel’s Cafe Football, Old Trafford looms impressively above us. There are tasteful photographic portraits of footballing greats on the walls, big TV screens set to Sky Sports News and a soundtrack of blokey piped music. What with acres of brick, tile, glass and other hard surfaces, this is a buzzing, bustling place, which is just how those punters who book weeks in advance for a pre-match feed would want it.
And there is no getting away from football. The menu’s nibbles are listed as ‘pre-match warm up’ dishes, the starters are ‘the kick off’ and there are countless footie references in the main dishes, including ‘The Special One’ - a piri piri chicken burger - and The Goal and Zola (a pizza with gorgonzola, geddit?). Even the coffee comes with a little chocolate football in the saucer.
‘Love food, love football’, it says on the menu. But, let’s face it, food and football have not always been a good match. Think Bovril, think pies full of lava-hot gristle. But then came that food-football watershed moment when Roy Keane berated the ‘prawn sandwich’ contingent among United’s fans.
Keane was right in this respect: the average 21st century football fan is more well-heeled and more discriminating. And they won’t be disappointed by Cafe Football. Yes, it’s belly-filling fare of burgers, pizzas and man-fuel. But it is all done extremely well and with some wit and verve.
We started with nibbles including a delicious little bucket of sweet-cured chilli peppers with coal mayonnaise (£2.95) and a Kilner jar of tasty chipolata sausages with mustard mayo (£3.45).
A starter of The Treble Pies (£8.95) was three dinky pies of beef and onion, cheese and veg and curried chicken - all top quality fillings. Another starter of chicken in a basket (£5.95) was fried wings in a feisty sesame and chilli crust with a blue cheese dip - a messy but rewarding eat.
A burger dubbed The Beer (£14.95) was a thick pattie of beer-fed Dexter beef with bacon jam and rarebit - a very rich treat, served in a ceramic approximation of a McDonald’s polystyrene burger tray, with triple-cooked fat chips. Another main of roast chicken tagliatelle (£12.95) was an accomplished and pleasingly fresh pasta dish.
The obvious pud to try was Vimto Trifle (£5.95), a fitting tribute to one of Manchester’s greatest inventions. What with some good local ales from Brightside Brewing, and some hearty old northern dishes like steak pudding and chips and sausages and mash, this is a menu which does Manchester, and football, proud. The only thing missing from the menu...a really good prawn sandwich. w
Hotel Football, 99 Sir Matt Busby Way, Manchester M16 0SZ, 0161 751 0430, www.hotelfootball.com