Never judge a book by its cover is an old adage that people struggle with, as TNT did with Greek restaurant Rozafa.
Based at the top of Princess Street opposite the Town Hall, the premises has changed ownership several times over the years, meaning it has turned in to one of those blink-and-you-miss-it kind of establishments that usually wouldn’t be at the top of your list of eateries to sample in Manchester.
Aside from the bold lettering of the name, the exterior doesn’t exactly scream ‘Greek cuisine’, painted blue and white and some potted plants creating a border. You can see the Greek taverna feel trying to be created but it doesn’t quite work.
Once we got past the exterior and through the door, our perceptions changed slightly for the better as we were warmly greeted by Albe, one of our waiters for the evening.
He asked where we would like to sit in the already half-full restaurant then suggested we go by the window “for a beach view” where he then lit a candle or, as he joked, “put the heating on.”
As we waited for our cocktails from the enthusiastic bartender Spiros we noted the patriotic and realistic decor of the interior.
Whitewashed walls were adorned with family photos and traditional Greek clothing. A huge flag emblazoned across the top of the kitchen proudly drew customers’ eyes to the open-plan kitchen where you could see the chefs working away.
The menu was expansive but easy to comprehend with the first page explaining who they are, which was a lovely touch. Judging by the empty plates in front of fellow patrons, we knew we were in for a treat.
For starters, we settled on a sharing platter of ‘Mini Mezze’ (£8) that consisted of Pastourma (spicy beef sausages, Loukanika (pork sausage), Keftedakia (lamb meatballs), hummus, tzatziki (cucumber and yoghurt sauce) and Dolmadakia (vine leaves stuffed with mincemeat, rice and herbs).
None of the mini starters particularly stood out but they worked well together and were palatable. The home-made hummus was a lovely texture and the ingredients of the Dolmadakia were well-seasoned.
Next out came our main courses. First was Kleftiko, commonly known as ‘Thieves Meat’ (15.90). The most popular item on the menu, this huge leg of lamb was slow-roasted for at least three hours, surrounded by large roast potatoes and swimming in gravy.
The lamb was divine- falling off the bone and melting in the mouth. As tasty as the gravy was, the potatoes lost their crispiness after being drenched in the gravy for so long.
We then sampled Psari Souvlaki (£17.50) which was a fish kebab made up of swordfish and prawns that again came with roast potatoes instead of the rice we had asked for.
The fish, though cooked well and a fusion of flavours instantly enveloped the tastebuds, was over seasoned and therefore too salty to be able to finish and the potatoes went uneaten as we were expecting to sample the rice we had ordered.
Dessert was Gala Toboreco (£5.90) which consisted of a filo pastry filled with ‘special custard’ and topped with syrup. Definitely one for those with a sweet tooth, again we were unable to finish it partly from being full but also due to the instant hit of sugar upon the first mouthful.
Between courses we were treated to an unexpected traditional Greek dance by Albe and co. who had half of the restaurant on their feet weaving through the tables, chairs and customers who were still eating.
Rozafa on a weekend is a brilliant place to bring the family as regular diners Ben and Isabelle from Salford said, “I love coming here because it’s a little piece of Greece. Because it’s family oriented I know I can bring my daughter.
“here are at least four great choices of vegetarian food and each one is different.”
Reasonably priced considering the portion sizes and plenty of entertainment in the form of dancing and a live band. It wouldn’t be ideal, however, for an intimate and romantic date as the loud music makes it difficult to hear your company speak and the dancing and plate smashing (yes, you read correctly) can be a little overwhelming if you’re not expecting it.
Overall, the lively and friendly atmosphere more than made up for the food that all too often fell a little short.
Rozafa is still definetly one to visit for that authentic taste of Greece and one TNT will visit again.