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cuisine select cuisine select cuisine We tend to favour small, independent restaurants here on Manchester Restaurant Guide, but we know that sometimes, when you re starving / looking for somewhere to take clients / new to town, finding a branch of your favourite chain restaurant can be comforting. And, if chain restaurants are your thing, you won t find anywhere closer to heaven in Manchester than Spinningfields. Never has the phrase chain reaction been so apt from Carluccios through to Gourmet Burger Kitchen, this district of town is a glittering, glass fronted example of high street homogeneity.

Giraffe fits right in at its new Spinningfields home. With restaurants right across the country including sister venues at Manchester Airport and the Trafford Centre, Giraffe bills itself as a place offering ‘feel good food and music’ where ‘a smile goes a long way’.

We went down on a miserable and blustery Thursday night to grab an early dinner. Even at 6pm diners had already started filtering in, no doubt to take advantage of the Bar Buddies offer (2 for 1 on cocktails, wines and beers) or Giraffe Time Menu (a starter and main from a set menu for 6.95 between 5pm and 7pm) while reviving themselves after a hard day in the office. Giraffe doesn t exactly shout personality and the world music was low enough to barely be in evidence but the waiter was friendly and our table in a corner next to the ubiquitous glass front gave us a great vantage point from which to watch passers by trying, and failing, to hold onto their umbrellas in the gale force wind outside.

The menu is a hotchpotch of different cuisines, with the starters boasting dishes like edamame beans, nachos and jerk chicken all nestled up together on the one page. When faced with a menu like this, you have two choices either choose dishes with the same kind of genealogy or embrace the chaos. We went for the latter choice and, a short time later,
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found ourselves ordering a dish of gyoza, a bowl of hummus, a duck stir fry and a chicken and chorizo burger.

Our starters arrived quickly. The hummus was good, thick and creamy with light pieces of flatbread and crunchy strips of vegetables for dipping. The gyoza weren t so good. The chicken and vegetable filling was so bland that if we hadn t checked again, we would have been hard pressed to identify its contents and the casing was blistered and overly crunchy.

The mains, however, were very good indeed. The duck stir fry arrived as a riot of colour on the plate and each tiny strip of vegetable or meat retained its flavour against just the right amount of perfectly cooked noodles. The burger was one of those towering affairs no sensible person would attempt to pick up with their hands. Instead we cut around the skewer stabbed through the centre and found it to be a truly satisfying dish, with really definite chicken that could just about hold its own against the surprising hit of chorizo and the crunch of the salad.

Giraffe is a particularly good place to bring the kids, with a children s menu that not only offers familiar sounding, high quality dishes (for example salmon fingers with mash, broccoli and sweetcorn) but also has pictures for the nippers to colour in and puzzles to complete while they re waiting.

Giraffe is a chain restaurant and it definitely feels like one, with all the positives and negatives associated with that. It lacks a certain sense of personality but the staff are incredibly efficient, the menu doesn t have a sense of the personal touch but it does cater for almost everyone, including the difficult children s market. While we re never going to love it as passionately as we do, say, The Market Restaurant, we think that if you re in the area, there are definitely far,
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far worse places to go.