Volta, 167 Burton Rd, West Didsbury, Manchester, M20 2LN – Visit Now
Feasting on small plates and feeling like Alice in Wonderland – we review Volta in Didsbury.
There’s something strange but smile-inducing about going to the loo in a place and feeling like Alice in Wonderland, which you do in Volta, with its vertically challenged doorframes. But let’s not start with the toilets; let’s start with the welcome and the surrounds in this Didsbury restaurant: the giant mirror, enormous bar and large front window could make the interior cold, but the feel of it is softened by a padded banquette along one wall, plenty of wood, furniture one-offs and nice touches such as pewter tankards as cutlery holders. There’s an eclectic not-too-quiet, not-too-loud soundtrack (which you can download from Spotify, if you’d like to recreate the restaurant experience at home).
All in all, it’s quirky – but in a good way. The excellent service and – yes, we will get to it eventually – amazing food from the Guardian-lauded chef Alex Shaw (recently named Chef Of The Year at the Manchester Food & Drink Festival Awards) mean Volta completely raises the bar; no mean feat for a place on West Didsbury’s eats-heavy Burton Road.
So, what about the food then? I’ve dabbled with the Sunday roasts before now – delicious slabs of rare breed meats and seasonal veg – but hadn’t yet sampled the small plates menu. The idea is a bit tapas, but with a difference: think a beautifully light and salad-y juniper and orange home-smoked duck with giant coucous and pickled mushrooms, dangerously moreish pork belly that’s marinated unusually, but very successfully, in cumin and lemon, and some properly melting Lebanese lamb chops with yoghurt, chilli (not enough kick for me, but hey, lovely otherwise) and tasty baby herbs.
Our waiter Amy insisted we also selected from the Chef’s Daily Specials board, and we’re glad we did
To link the dishes (ranging from £6 to £8.50), we picked ‘orange squash’ gnocchi, which had a subtle citrusy flavor, crunchy breadcrumbs and offered a useful boost of carbs. Despite the small plates not actually being that small, our waiter Amy insisted we also selected from the Chef’s Daily Specials board, and we’re glad we did – the wild mushrooms, roasted corn and black onion seeds, paired nicely with a watercress garnish, was a real surprise, if something of a treat due to the vast amount of butter used. The delicate seared tuna sashimi, meanwhile, lifted our palates again, with the pumpkin salsa, pickled ginger and coriander building in intensity.
To top it all off, we had another vegetarian (and one of a number of gluten-free options) plate: fresh fig and halloumi, mustard seeds, basil and balsamic – a massive hit with us both, even though I don’t, as a rule, like figs. The Hungarian white wine of the week was a perfect choice and led nicely into dessert: a white chocolate and cardamom crème brûlée for his nibs and a milk chocolate pot with almond brittle for me. Despite not being a crème brûlée fan, the spoonful I had was exquisite, and blew my runny chocolate mousse-y offering out of the water.
The lesson here is not to shy away from things I don’t think I’ll like – or certainly not at Volta. I’ll definitely go back to my new Wonderland, and maybe next time they’ll manage to convince me that pineapple isn’t the devil’s work…