You think it’s easy being invited to eat at restaurants for free in return for a review? Well it’s not, not at all. It’s fraught with a tangled web of unspoken rules and imagined obligations. ‘What happens if I decide not to write about it, despite having stuffed my face at their expense?’, ‘What if I had a terrible experience? Shall I tell the truth or should I lie because they have paid for my opinion with a cocktail and that extra side-order?
However, the one issue that most bloggers really lose sleep over is – ‘Can we order the lobster?’ In short, does ordering from the top end of a menu constitute as ‘taking the piss?’ This question fills your average, polite, British blogger with absolute fear. Don’t take my word for it, pick any 3 freebie blogs at random and you’ll see various versions of ‘Mr Bloggycake wanted the foie gras but we settled for some lettuce and water as it would clearly be wrong to infringe on complimentary hospitality.’
I’m as guilty of this etiquette merry-go-round as anyone. My husband and I have had the ‘can I have one more free beer?’ argument more times than I’ve had hot dinners. Oh, ok, well maybe not as many as that, but lots of times especially when we are out for a manchester lobster dinner.
Livebait in Manchester has new owners and is no longer part of a chain. It’s now proudly independent and wants to start afresh, dispelling memories of any previous, unrelated experiences. Through Manchester Confidential, they invited a gaggle of local bloggers to dine and offer their opinion on the new menu, which brings me back to my culinary quagmire.
The menu lists a range of simple, well priced fish dishes with a couple of veggie and meat options thrown in. Starters average around £7 and include several ways with oysters, and simple classics like fried whitebait, smoked salmon and prawn cocktail. Mains average around £16 and include fried haddock & chips, plaice with lemon & capers, cod with risotto, the obligatory sea bass and a fish curry.
Fish and shellfish are delivered fresh every day, so what interests me the most, is the section entitled ‘Shells’; Seared King Scallops in the half shell, Thai scented Scottish Mussels, Lobster and chips (Thermidore or garlic buttered) and….. the Shellfish Platter for Two.
I can make most of those mains myself at home, but what I can’t make is one of those magnificent, glorious, abundant cascades of assorted fresh seafood on crushed ice. I searched my soul wondering whether it would be cheeky to order one but after reading other recent Livebait blogs I became absolutely determined to bloody well order it. Surely the point of these reviews is to showcase what a restaurant does well.
A fresh seafood platter is a thing of beauty, it makes a good fish restaurant stand out and that is the main reason I would ever go to Livebait. As it turns out, it’s the thing that would make me return.