It’s a very good sign when, walking in somewhere at 5.30pm without a reservation on a school night, you manage to get the last table in the house. Half an hour later, Petisco is full. Word travels fast in these areas, it seems, especially since this place has only been open for a few months.
The word petisco – pronounced “peh-tish-co” – comes from the Portuguese “petiscar” or “to nibble”. A petisco is variously translated as “a delicious morsel” or “a delicacy”, which conveniently plays into the all-conquering but now very tired revolution of “small plates” which, years after they first appeared to clutter our restaurant tables and swelling the coffers of tableware makers, we always seem to be firmly in the exhausting grip of. I just want to see a big plate again. It doesn’t seem to be asking for much.
Petisco gets a pass, of course, as do tapas restaurants in general, which the trend started from, because small plates are kind of the main thing, rather than a gimmick, meaning you end up ordering and spending more money than you wanted every time you eat out. Anyway.
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Taking the only window seat left, it was the right place to soak up some of the general buzz around Sale at the moment, which is in the process of transforming its crumbling old neighborhood into the stylish new Stanley Square. The tired awnings that used to hang over storefronts, blocking the sun and making every doorway look dark and dark, are now gone, making you wonder why they didn’t years ago. The light has returned, and now the people too.
Opposite, Sugo, the pasta restaurant which is in its third location – Altrincham, Ancoats and now here – is also sold out after opening its doors the week before, thanks to a hugely successful crowdfunding which raised £85,000 in eight remarkable days. Opposite is also the excellent Draft craft beer bar. A few doors down is a new branch of casual Indian restaurant Roti, and around the corner is the Sale Foodhall, with its rotating food vendors offering everything from burgers to bao buns.
There’s also a Rudy’s just past the tram station, as well as the family-run pizzeria PizzAmore, not to mention the excellent Blanchflower and Simon Rimmer’s Greens coming soon too. So while it’s extremely premature to suggest that Sale is about to pinch Altrincham’s greedy crown and run away, things are certainly changing.
In Petisco’s kitchen is chef Jonny Nolan, who, along with his brother and two friends, set up the place. It’s very beautiful, with raw wood furniture facing Moorish tiles. It’s their first adventure together, but it’s all done with such confidence that you wouldn’t know it. Dishes arrive in random order, and do so promptly by a particularly young, warm, friendly, and quietly knowledgeable wait staff.
A plate of goat cheese with pickled shallots and smoked golden beets is very pretty indeed, and goes away fast. A generous plate of roasted new potatoes, soft as silk inside, accompanied by a slick of robust tomato sauce and generously covered with garlic aioli. Unlike the tired and rarely well-cooked patatas bravas, these are quite possibly some of the best potatoes in town, and I include the almost religious experience of fried new potatoes at Erst in Ancoats in that enviable range.
Four fresh, plump sardines have been simply grilled and coated in a lemon-garlic oil, and are all the better for the almost total lack of faff. The rice with slivers of slow-roasted green tomatoes and salsa verdi is extremely comforting, and the chicken skewers with a lively “house sauce” are lip-smacking, both suitable for a very dry, very slightly fizzy glass of vinho verde. down to the ground.
Best of all was the pork cheek and belly with artichoke mash. An airy pigskin curl perched on top makes it look like she’s got a plush little boy hairstyle. It’s almost a shame to eat it, but of course I do. The most beautiful part of any beast is the cheek. It is simply scientific. And it’s more than evident here, a slow-cooked piece of joy that looked like it would crumble from a harsh stare. It was a plate I didn’t want to finish, and I was deprived when she did.
There are reviews. They are minors. The goat cheese was cold, not room temperature, and the rice under-seasoned, although that was quickly sorted with a spritz from a salt grinder, and there was no grumbling when I asked for one. The artichoke under the pork belly/cheek was also a bit wasted. And hey, some people might appreciate the added fear of falling into their own glass and drowning, such was the impossibly large container a gin and tonic arrived in. Other than that, everything is pretty much perfect.
Petisco is the type of neighborhood restaurant anyone – maybe everyone – would love to have on their doorstep. The sale will soon have a few more. But I have no doubt that this one will continue to stand out.
Petisco – 56 Stanley Square, Sales M33 7XZ – 0161 222 9393
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