Review of Solita NQ, Manchester – The Big Manc
What they say:
2 x 6 ounce minced chuck steak patties, iceberg, home pickles, Monterey Jack cheese and Big Manc sauce.
Let’s get one thing out the way first. Solita is not a burger joint. It’s a bar and grill, it’s a restaurant and it’s a destination for any self-discerning food lover that, if you haven’t been to already, you must. Immediately.
|Outside Solita NQ…|
Long-time readers of BURGER LAD® will have followed Admiral Burgerbar’s adventures to Solita, but this was the first time I was visiting myself. And was I in for a treat…
If you don’t know, Solita started life as one eatery in the famous Northern Quarter in Manchester. Success after success has seen the empire (led by owner Franco) expand to additional locations in Didsbury and Prestwich, with further ventures in the pipeline.
Like I said above, it’s not a burger joint. It’s an extremely good restaurant/eatery/bar and grill – call it what you will, that just happens to have burgers on the menu. And one that has been on my proverbial bucket list for years now – The Big Manc.
|The menu at Solita…|
As you can see from the menu there is an exceptionally good choice, with starters ranging from the innovative, rich and decadent Cheeseburger Spring Rolls to Bacon Wrapped Cheesy Dough Balls and Short Rib Croquettes. You’ve then got an exquisite range of grilled seafood and Solita signature steak (40 days dry aged bone-in prime rib from the Cheshire plain sold by weight at £4.90 per 100g with daily weights listed on their blackboard). All of these beautiful sounding grill items are cooked over charcoal on their enclosed Inka grill.
I’m telling you now. If you visit this fantastic city and pass on visiting Solita because it doesn’t look like it’s on a “pretty” street then you can honestly stick to the likes of Zizzi, Prezzo or any other generic place that you find across the UK. At the same time you can take yourself to the top of Arndale House and jump… OK maybe that’s too far.
Let’s talk about Solita. And you’ll have to excuse me for this review because I found it very difficult to write notes on the evening we visited because in testament to the place I just didn’t want to. The atmosphere inside, the beats, booze and burgers just intoxicated me on every single level. It’s smart inside, casual and intimate but buzzing and oozing coolness with comic artwork and the characteristic Solita neon sign. We loved it.
|Cheeseburger Spring Rolls…|
We also received the warmest of welcomes by the very friendly staff. It was also a privilege to meet Head Chef, Marcin. A real gentleman and really very pleasant to chat to. He recommended we tried both the Cheeseburger Spring Rolls and Bacon Wrapped Cheesy Dough Balls and we can’t thank him enough for his wisdom!
Those Spring Rolls are pure indulgence! Very, very rich. Packed full of flavour with hints of cheese and pickle and dipped in the accompanying ketchup and mustard really work wonderfully. Despite this, I actually found myself enjoying the dough balls more – controversial in some quarters, but a real delight with the seductively scrumptious marinara sauce. In fact, writing this now brings me a little sadness that so many miles now separate Solita from me.
I had actually eaten quite a bit earlier in the day and after our starter selection I started to feel slightly full. Imagine my face when The Big Manc arrived in all its gusto.
|The Big Manc…|
It comes with fries, but I had upgraded to Pizza Fries for an additional £2.50 and there were loads of them! More beautiful marinara sauce covered the skin-on fries which had pieces of pepperoni dotted throughout and all covered by a layer of cheesy goodness. I just wish I had room to savour more of them. Next time… next time.
Let’s get back to the main event. The Big Manc. The champion and ruler of Manchester. Possibly the UK. Even the world. OMG it is a monster. A massive monolith of a monster which unbelievably we’re told, some people often add one or even two patties to it!!
|… with Pizza Fries…|
It arrived in front of me with a thud on the table and a gasp from me. The execution of this burger is spot-on. On-point even. Two much needed skewers hold together this tower of a burger which extrudes copious amounts of melted Monterey Jack cheese and Big Manc sauce. It’s a tall burger and I found myself attacking the lower quadrant first. Each time the burger came away from my mouth my face was covered in that special sauce. And this is special.
It’s without a shadow of a doubt based on the McDonald’s Big Mac sauce but a flipping amazing version of it. I could only dream of recreating both in consistency and flavour.
|Oozing sauce and cheese…|
Obviously the Big Manc pays homage to the flagship burger from McD’s but without needing to state the obvious – it’s on a different spectrum in terms of taste, texture, size and enjoyment. It’s also priced to reflect that difference too. But I’ve always believed, you get what you pay for.
You’ve got the pickles which give their distinctive sharp taste to proceedings and the fresh iceberg with finely chopped white onion. I’ve had another Big Mac style gourmet burger before, The McLovin’ at Atomic but I must admit the Solita one is much better. And that is definitely from the Big Manc sauce and another major factor – the two six ounce chuck steak patties. Wow.
|A mountain stack of a burger…|
Like I mention above, it’s a messy eat. And plenty of napkins are required… but you keep going back for more and more for those patties. I actually think they should do a Big Tasty (when is it back?) version called the Absolutely Tasty because that is what the beef is here at Solita.
It’s almost indescribably delicious and any words I put on the page cannot do it justice. First up the texture is really meaty and if this is the standard of the burger, I am definitely getting a signature steak next time I visit. Definitely.
What catapults this burger into our all-time top five list instantly is that lovely smoky flavour from the Inka charcoal grill. That chargrilled flavour infused onto the beef Ladies and Gentleman is the definition of winning and you’ll struggle to find a better burger. Fact.
I don’t really know what I can add to what I’ve already said, and the pictures say more for themselves than anything I can write about The Big Manc. If J.J. Abrams’ Force Awakens is described as a love letter to the original Star Wars then this review is a love letter to this burger. Because not only did I fall in love with this amazing city this weekend, I fell in love with Solita and The Big Manc. Incredible.
When we had come to the end of this fantastic dining experience we got chatting to one of the servers who again, was really very sociable. I asked if there was a bit of a rivalry with nearby Almost Famous to which she casually shrugged and replied no. You see in my own mind I had built-up a rivalry between the two. But, apart from being located in the Northern Quarter and both having burgers on their menu this is where the similarities end. And with the sheer volume of people always wanting to get through the door or queuing up to get inside there’s more than enough customers to go round.
Solita offer a fantastic menu and next time I’m in town I am going to sample one of their signature steaks. But if you’ve not had it, I implore you to devour The Big Manc. It’s a beautiful example of an independent gourmet establishment reverse engineering an iconic Fast Food burger. The beef patties are really incredible and the bar has been significantly raised after eating here.
|Evil on a plate…|
We returned within 48 hours to sample the “Cry For Help” wings and having previously polished off the Atomic Fallout and Almost Famous Suicide Wings had a bit of a swagger when we ordered them. That swagger disappeared as fast as my face went red after eating three of them. And I couldn’t touch another after three. With a simple but truthful “extremely hot” in bold red text on their menu these are for proper hard-core chilli fiends only – you have been warned!
I have had the pleasure of eating multiple burgers in many locations but very few will be as memorable as The Big Manc courtesy of Solita Bar and Grill. If you’ve not been, do everything you can to get there. Now.
|Solita – Home of The Big Manc…|