Perhaps the most disappointing thing about Manchester United’s recent run of poor results hasn’t been the managerial decisions of David Moyes, the embarrassment of home defeats against teams that used to be thankful for escaping a hiding at Old Trafford, nor the 81 crosses pumped meaninglessly into the Fulham penalty area during that ridiculous 2-2 draw a couple of weeks ago.
No, the worst part United’s mid-season slump has been the lack of appetite for the fight shown by some of United’s players. When the going has gotten tough, the formerly tough have not gotten going: Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdiand, Antonio Valencia… we are looking at you. The Manchester United of old, the one with warriors such as Roy Keane, Mark Hughes and Eric Cantona wouldn’t have stood for that. Neither, for that matter, would the likes of former Captain Gary Neville or oldest winger in town Ryan Giggs.
In fact, those two United greats have such an appetite that they recently opened their own restaurant. Café Football opened at the end of last year amid much expectation from snooty restaurant critics that it would be at best “rubbish”, and at worst a cynical attempt by former United teammates to create a new revenue stream to keep them in ivory backscratchers and Titanium-plated toothpicks. Then two amazing things happened: firstly, Nev and Giggsy announced that they had teamed up with two-Michelin star winning chef Michael Wignall. And secondly, the critics actually took the time to try the food (rather than just slate it on general principles).
And guess what? Turned out the food was good. A couple of weeks ago GQ braved the blustery wind and rain to check it out and were mightily impressed. Billed as good honest food, Café Football’s menu reads like a great gastropub crossed with a an old-school pre-match snack van. Chicken in a basket is fresh, ultra crispy and chin-glazingly juicy. The Treble pies are a triumvirate of light and crunchy pastry parcels with tasty fillings. The ribs are lip-smackingly smoky and rich and succulent.
Of the main courses, the burgers are outstanding. GQ recommends the The Boss (in honour of Sir Alex Ferguson) – a fiery mix of dry-aged beef, scotch bonnet chillies and pulled pork (just make sure you ask for it “rare”… burgers, (should be) bloody (as) hell!). Fish and chips are OK, but the tartare sauce is excellent. The Beef and Bovril pie is great, both as a snack and also as childhood flashback to going to games with your dad. And then there is Nev’s Noodle Pot, a cleverly deconstructed taste of thai food that still tips a hat to boil in the plastic synthetic slurpy goodness (or badness, depending on your memory).
Perhaps the weakest element was the deserts. Pistachio Turf Cake wasn’t heavy but it was too dry. And the Half-Time Orange looked great, but was a solid as a shot put and not particularly tangy. You’d be much better off heading for the Café sweetshop and taking advantage of their pick’n’mix selection.
The boys, it has to be said, have given 110 per cent to this venture, and you certainly won’t be disappointed if you go there. Not unless they are showing a United game on the many screens around the restaurant.