Manchester Evening News - - CITY LIFE -

pulls out for us a limited edi­tion bot­tle of Drac­ula 555 - cre­ated to cel­e­brate 555 years since Bucharest was first men­tioned in a doc­u­ment that was signed by Vlad the Im­paler, the king who later be­came known as Drac­ula.

The self-con­fessed wine geek de­cants the rich ruby wine, which is aged for 18 months in oak bar­rels. It has a pow­er­ful fruity nose and a lighter plumb taste - it’s a hearty start to the even heartier meal.

Ro­ma­nian food is rich and homely. They’re not afraid of big of­fal flavours, un­like the UK, where we’re scared of it un­less it comes dis­guised in the form of a hot dog. Our loss.

Ciorba de burta (tripe soup) ap­pears thin but it’s might­ily flavoured with beef bones, gar­lic and cream. Long rib­bons of the cow stom­ach is soft and springy, like a per­fectly-cooked squid. Salata de vinete is smokey roasted au­bergine pulped like a Ro­ma­nian baba ghanoush, served with fresh toma­toes and feta cheese.

Main dishes de­part a lit­tle fur­ther from what our palates are used to, but still de­liver big, sat­is­fy­ing flavours. Sar­ma­lute (£8) is a dish of vine­gary, wellsea­soned cab­bage rolls stuffed with pork mince and stewed in Sau­vi­gnon sauce, served with the favoured Ro­ma­nian side dish of po­lenta with gar­lic sauce.

Piept de rata (£12.50) is a chal­leng­ing dish of roasted duck breast served with a thick glue-like mash of cel­ery and pota­toes.

Plain mashed potato would have been bet­ter; I’m not con­vinced by the wall­pa­per-paste tex­ture which de­tracts from a very well cooked piece of duck.

Desserts aren’t the main event. We or­der the spe­cial which turns out to be a choco­late, mas­car­pone and choco­late sponge.

It tastes like it’s coated in Nutella, and is eye-wa­ter­ingly sweet, but that’s tem­pered by a tra­di­tional Ro­ma­nian cof­fee, which is as black as trea­cle and al­most as thick. Like the Ethiopian cof­fee I tried at Habe­sha, the bit­ter, po­tent brew could make cof­fee fans gag, but it does bal­ance out the overly sug­ary pud.

It’s pretty cheap here - with starters around £5 and mains start­ing at just £8. We splashed out on a bot­tle of wine for £30, but there are glasses which will be ex­pertly rec­om­mended.

After five years it’s clear that La Roberto al­ready has a loyal fol­low­ing. But should more peo­ple try it? Hon­estly, it’s not for ev­ery­one. Even I won’t be book­ing an­other ta­ble any­time soon. But if you’re look­ing for an ad­ven­ture and want a real taste of Ro­ma­nia, then you’d be well ad­vised to scout this place out.

Stuffed cab­bage

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