Bacaro – Liverpool

“The more sophisticated member of the Salt House family. Lovely”

Occasionally the Cooktwit ventures west. A Manchester United supporter will sometimes allow a jaunty surjourn into the lofty, port side metrop of Liverpool. In fairness the sea frontage is a thing of beauty. In this instance the cooktwit. with a nod to his arty side was nipping into the Tate to view a couple of blocky, coloured pics by a long departed French cove called Piet Mondrian. Apparently he got quite famous for painting coloured squares and had some digs in London in the early 1900’s specifically for the cause. Naturally the jaunt had to include some decent grub and a beer.

The understated outside. Smart inside.
The understated outside. Smart inside.

The selected establishment this time was Italian Tapas experts Bacaro. Bacaro is the sister of its noisier neighbour Salthouse Tapas that I reviewed only a few weeks back. I was impressed that time and had heard that this was even better. It took some finding. I actually fired google maps up to discover we were across the road. It doesn’t exactly shout out from the street, subtlety being the word here. But hey once inside things start to look up. A dark, classical decor harks to a more sophisticated atmosphere than its sister. Quieter, higher quality fittings. You could turn up with your tinsel and tiara here or your jeans and fit in quite nicely.

the lunch menu, smart interior
the lunch menu, smart interior

The flame and I settled on a table for two in the centre. A schooner of ‘Meantime’ London Pale Ale had the cook twit settled in a thrice. Things were looking good. And then we got the menus. No readers meant the grey on brown menu was hard to decipher. The lunch menu much easier to digest, £12.50 for three courses. As we were on a mission we quickly decided this was for us. A choice of twelve delicious sounding dishes. As with most tapas restaurants the dishes simply rock up when chef gets them ready. This can lead to a pile up at certain points.

The amazing a la carte menu
The amazing a la carte menu

Things started at a pleasing rate, charcuterie platter and some lovely rosemary faccacia bread with oil. We each munched along with a joyous smile. Then entering side right, the pan fried sea bass with cannellini beans, feta and tomato. We decided to split in half. The beans were a bit cold but the sea bass was wonderful, tight crisp skin over succulent white flesh, very nice. For me The Flame wasted one of her dishes by having the house salad, it was pleasant enough, but salad! My chicken and aubergine pizzette turned up. Nicely mounted on its own board complete with its own chrome pizza cutter, nice touch. It tasted good as well. Again we split two ways.

pizzette, sliders, sea bass, pork belly
pizzette, sliders, sea bass, pork belly

While I wasn’t looking in popped another of my choices. Chicken Caesar sliders. These were a revelation. As we got two, it was an easy share. Basically it was a mini schnitzel on a brioche bun with salad and mayo. Top dish. The plates were flying in by this time. Belly pork with butternut squash sage and chilli was next. What can I say? soft fatty, luscious pork with a shield of crispy crackling down one side. I managed to cut, roughly in half. Some might say my half was biggest but who’s counting? Set on a very tasty mash of butternut squash, it was another cracking little dish.

charcuterie, foccacia, coffee, cheesecake
charcuterie, foccacia, coffee, cheesecake

For research purpose I had to try the cheesecake which had apple and caramel popcorn on it. To be fair this was pretty standard ‘moussey’ stuff and at £4.95 I could have missed it. We then finished with a decent coffee. All in all a very pleasant luncheon. It set us back £44, not bad with the drinks and the extras. I would have to say this was better than Salt House Tapas for me. A bit more grown up, nicer atmosphere. I would definitely come again and try something from the sensational looking full menu. The Flame has it on her radar for when she comes shopping with her mates. So there we have it another one to try in Liverpool. It’s looking good.

more smart interior shots
more smart interior shots

Bacaro

47 Castle St,

Central,

Liverpool L2 9UB

0151 665 0047

http://www.salthousebacaro.co.uk

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Michael Caines – Abode Hotel Manchester

“A quiet, intimate, plush space with some beautifully presented plates” On the face of it a bit of a boring Tuesday night was on cards, but this was different. The Cooktwit was having another year grafted onto his CV. To celebrate The Flame breezed into town to take me out for a slap up scran. Having tossed a coin between many offers, the penny finally settled on Michael Caines Restaurant which is housed deep in the bowels of the Abode Hotel up at the Piccaddilly end of Manchester. After a quick livener at ‘Beef and Pudding’ the architectural, sunlit frontage of the Abode homed into view.

The historic exterior
The historic exterior

Avoiding the cafe grill bit to the right we aimed left and sunk the several flights of stairs to the altogether swankier outlook of the restaurant. Mind you it took a few delicate minutes to bypass the suited greeters as our online booking was lost in the ether. As it was early, (six thirtyish) we were soon guided to a suitable spot. We entered the dark, hushed arena. Brown and grey hues were thoughtfully punctuated with spots of orange. Orange is the signature colour here. The smart Caine’s logo as well as the staff ties were all decked out with it. High end furnishings meant our table was a good size and the seating comfortable. The flame faced outwards from a plush banquette. I faced the mirrored wall on a four legged tub. This is swanky with a capital ‘S’. We both felt we should have put our posh frocks on!

Orange, The Who, orange brown and swanky
Orange, The Who, orange brown and swanky

Once seated a complimentary peach and sherry cocktail served to get the spirits zinging. We then surveyed the clear, sparse menu. We had already stated we were going for the special ‘Spring into Summer’ menu. £24.95 for three courses. Choice of four starts, four mains and four desserts. Bit stingey on choice I suppose, but we were both able to select something that suited. We listened in to one or two others. The maître di (s) were overheard describing the tasting menu and the a la carte. Sounded good. Once we had selected, our passionate, knowledgable sommelier swept over to help chose a nice glass of wine to suit our choice. We also elected to have the substantial bread course (£1.50 each).

Cocktail, bread, coffee
Cocktail, bread, coffee

Within a short sketch the first course shimmered into view. The flame went for the salmon mouse which came with pickled beetroot and a raisin vinaigrette. I had the confit duck terrine with an elderflower and champagne jelly and a peach purée. Both dishes were sublime, both in presentation and taste. My duck dish was a gamey delight, edged beautifully with spots of peach. We were both well chuffed. We mopped up with the warm homemade breads. Mains were equally good. The flame had her favourite, chicken, albeit this one was rolled up in a ballotine. Beautifully scented with tarragon, it was seated next to a pea purée and a white wine sauce. I managed a slice of the chicken. It was perfect, full of flavour and not too much tarragon. I had the cod, which was surrounded by pan fried gnocchi, green beans, mushroom purée and a chicken jus. The fish was perfectly cooked, each see through flake. The gnocchi together with the fish was a tad unusual. The gnocchi having a dense texture. The whole lot washed wonderfully with the mushroom sauce. The Chardonnay helped as well!

Duck terrine, chicken ballotine, cod, salmon mousse
Duck terrine, chicken ballotine, cod, salmon mousse

After managing to hold back our attentive and eager service we finally went for a dessert. After the initial disappointment of being told chef would not serve the lemon tart (as it was not up to scratch!) I went for my second choice, caramel tart with mascarpone ice cream and grated lemon. The flame had the ‘Opera gateaux’. I think I won here. My tart was superb, the delicate, crispy, sweet crust had to be broken through before combining with a smudge of the ice cream. A fine end.

Happy Birthday, Gateaux, Caramel tart
Happy Birthday, Gateaux, Caramel tart

We ended the scheme properly with a decent coffee and petit fours. I think someone had tipped chef off that it was my birthday! We both nodded to say that yes this was a very nice meal. The flame really felt it was her sort of place. Despite the headline price of £24.95 each, the costs soon ratchet up, £4.50 each for the coffee! The bill came to £90 including a 12% service. Pretty good really and to be fair the service was top notch. The waiters and waitresses were plentiful, all attentive, efficient, knowledgeable and never missed a beat. I’d recommend for a special occasion. You could pop the question here! And as a rocker they even had a pic of the ‘orrible ooh’ on the way to the loos. Can’t say fairer than that.

Michael Caines at Abode

177 Piccadilly Manchester M1 2DB

0161 247 7744 abodemanchester.co.uk

The Deaf Institute – Manchester

“A surprising little find just off the beaten track”

I may have mentioned earlier, as well as liking his grub, The Cook Twit likes his heavy metal and tries to keep his beer belly in check. A hot, humid, drizzly Monday eve presented a bit of a problem. Devotion to his cause meant he had to trek along to extraordinaire rock god Sebastion Bach whilst juggling a notion of keeping his weight in tune with a ’52 diet’ fast day. The breakfast and lunch had passed with ease having merely chugged some porridge and an apple. The dilemma what to have for tea. Young Seb was treading the boards at The Academy on Oxford Road, I know there is plenty of quickie food joints up there, pizzas, kebabs, burgers all standard student fayre. Cutting to the chase I slipped off the main drag and stepped early doors into hip joint The Deaf Institute.

The historic exterior
The historic exterior

I believe it is a cousin of more mainstream city centre stalwarts Trof and Gorilla.
The outside looks good. It occupies a grade two listed building finished in 1877, that was formerly the Adult Deaf and Dumb Institute. It still has a brilliant, carved moniker sat above the doorway which says “Deaf And Dumb”. Also above the door is a carving of a hand on a book which was the emblem used at the time on badges worn by the deaf.
Inside is just as good. High ceilings, ferocious wallpaper, well worn schoolboy furniture, trendy chandeliers, it is a grungy delight. Deep bass, thumping chilled out sounds oozed from the transistorised amplification. Not many in, but hey it’s drizzly and it’s Monday. Still I’m happy, a copy of ‘The Skinny’ and a black coffee, I’m sorted. (Coffee!!! – Ed)

Ferocious wallpaper
Ferocious wallpaper

I still have to eat though, how do I get something for three hundred calories? I surveyed the hard to read, black type on red, graphic menu. Some great stuff on there. It’s a limited offering. Breakfast , burgers, hot dogs, a Sunday roast and some salads.

The hard to read funky menu
The hard to read funky menu

I went for the ‘Crunchy Mexican Streetfood Salad’ (£5). I added a grilled lemon chicken breast for an extra £1. The salad was essentially a mound of grated white and red cabbage, carrot. radishes, coriander, jalapeños, lime and brown rice. It had a few chick peas as well. It came with an oily, but mainly vinegary dressing. I have to say it was lovely. Fresh, zingy, crunchy with a healthy ‘chillified’ kick, it was absolutely lovely. The chicken was a tad overdone for me, I have a knack of cooking it still moist which is rarely replicated outside.

Zingy salad, awesome smoothie
Zingy salad, awesome smoothie

I’m not sure it truly met my three hundred calorie target, but I’m sure it was less than the burger and fries!
They have a great cocktail and beer menu as well. They have tons of bottled beer from all over the world including some decent American pale ales. As I was keeping off the alcohol I had a blueberry and banana smoothie (£3.50). It just hit the spot. It set me up wonderfully for a sweaty metal night. It all came to just over a tenner. It’s gone on my list. If you’re heading up to the Student area from town to a gig, you can do worse than nip in to The Deaf Institute for pre gig livener. I’ll be going again defo.

The Deaf Institute
135 Grosvenor Street
Manchester
M1 7HE
T: 0161 276 9350

Thedeafinstitute.co.uk

The Fast Diet – Intermittent Fasting – 13 week update

“A week in Sicily eating pasta kills the early gains, but The Cook Twit bounces back”

Ah well seven weeks in to the Fast diet and it’s bad news I’m afraid. You may recall the first six weeks had yielded an impressive six pound loss from the Cooktwit frame. However, The wife has slipped a weeks hiatus in. I’ve had to endure a week in Sicily and have lived on a diet of granola, cream, scrambled eggs, pastries, gassy beer, cheese, ham, shed loads of pasta and tiramisu. Allied to a week slumped on a sunbed the whole excercise has meant that the six pounds of visceral lard that had found a home elsewhere has now clamped itself back on to the Cooktwits shambolic frame. In short I am back where I started.

Porridge and fruit for breakfast
Porridge and fruit for breakfast

Undeterred I have marched back to the front, strapped on the gauntlet of hope, the helmet of shame, the trousers of 36″ waist, the coat of…. Well you get the message, I’ve started again. It goes to show this idea of eating what you want on the other five days is a little bit of a misnomer. You still have to be careful. ‘Normal’ is not a weeks orgy of pasta, beer and sweet treats!
After a further six weeks of fasting two days a week though, I have lost eight pounds so I’m getting well back on track. I even went away on business one early morning and maintained discipline though I’m still to determine whether the porridge at Carluccis is under 300 calories, I’m not sure the caramelised apples, honey and berries are allowed!

Lunch! An apple
Lunch! An apple

I’ve even fasted on a day when I had a gig at night. My usual couple of pints and a burger was effortlessly swapped for a black coffee and a Mexican salad. I reckon I am starting to find it much easier to do now.
I have fasted a couple of times now on a Thursday when I do circuit training after work. I have got through it without any problems at all, in fact I reckon it helps to have fasted and drank plenty of water through the day. Even my trainer reckons the fast diet is good and heartily recommends it on a training day.

Hearty salad with mackerel
Hearty salad with mackerel

So all in all it’s still working out well. The only thing I am missing is my cooking. Missing two days a week means the opportunity to experiment and create something new and tasty starts to lose its appeal. My diet on a fast day has tended to become a bit similar. I have porridge with a pear for breakfast, an apple for lunch and a big, leafy salad with maybe a piece of chicken or fish. Some fruit and a dash of creme fraiche being the sweet treat.

Fruit and creme fraiche (not my pic)
Fruit and creme fraiche (not my pic)

In summary I still recommend. Perhaps I’ll measure my waist soon! I’ll keep you posted.

 

The Lord Clyde – Kerridge, Macclesfield

“An extraordinary meal. A kaleidoscope of textures and tastes”

I’ve long wanted to try The Lord Clyde. Pretty much ever since I found twitter the incredible images emanating from the @erniechef handle have had me all of a quiver. Further reviews have merely added to my need to try. And so it came last Saturday. The Flame was in need of attention. The Cooktwit had bagged a weekends golf in Blackpool. As part of the ‘Brownie point’ totalising system that all men run, a trip of epic proportions was called for. Step forward ‘The Lord Clyde’. Not that The Flame had ever heard of it. Some might suggest it was me that wanted to try it really, but I’m not having that!

A neat arrival
A neat arrival

The Lord Clyde (or ‘TLC’ going forward!) was a humble pub set in a village outside Macclesfield called Kerridge. It’s still set in Kerridge, but under the talented wings of Chef Ernst and hospitality guru Sarah since July 2013, it has slowly transformed into an award winning restaurant. Ernst, born in Cape Town, South Africa sports an impressive cv. From age 18 he’s cooked his way through various hotels and chipped in a stint or two at a host of top restaurants including The Fat Duck, Restaurant Noma, Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons.

The inside
The inside

It’s an hours run for us. And I drove both ways! (Serious brownie points then? – Ed). We entered what effectively is a small country pub. It is rurally set. Slewed at the end of a row of terraced houses it has that air of work in progress. We entered thorough the small doorway at around 6.30pm, so we were pretty early. We announced our arrival and set ourselves down to the left in the ‘pub’ side. A half (half!!! – Ed) of ‘Cheshire Cat’ calmed the nerves. Being honest at this point we wondered what we had done. We were the only ones in and felt as though we were intruding a bit!

That said we were hungry and needed fuel. The plain, easy to read, black on white menu was now in our grasp. A pleasant waitress trooped over and skilfully described in perfect detail what we could expect when ordering some of the combinations on offer. Scallop, pineapple, pigs head and courgette anyone? It is an unusual menu, but I was already struggling what to chose, it all sounded amazing to me.

After choosing our extravaganza we were shown across the room to our bijou table pressed against a wall. We wondered how we would be able to fit the food on! We needn’t have worried though, our service was impeccable throughout and no extraneous hardware was left to settle more than a few moments. The decor is spartan. There are no trees, neon lights, industrial ironmongery here. Simple painted walls, dark wooden furniture, tiled floor with a few pictures. I sensed a few softer touches would help.

Tasters on a granite slab
Tasters on a granite slab

Out of the blue popped two granite slabs, each topped with an array of crispy, colourful morsels. The flavours became stronger moving across left to right via a beetroot and feta marshmallow to a cod and chip crisp! It was a startling pre amble to our chosen cast.
Next up the bread! Home made soda bread, served warm in a hessian sack! A miniature cauldron of smoked butter, (complete with real smoke) a heap of sea salt and my favourite, beef dripping. These all sat alongside on their own slate. It was stunning, particularly with the dripping.
Then came the real starters. Having agonised over the TLC Salad – 21 ingredients raw; cooked and pickled, The flame finally settled on the Monkfish cheek, gooseberry, cucumber and crispy beef – £8.50. She was a little disappointed with this to be honest. The cheek was diced raw which wasn’t expected. I managed a fork full and loved it. Fresh fishy taste with a sweet fresh relish. Mine though, as nature intended was raw. Jacobs Ladder (short rib of beef), allium, gingerbread crouton and coriander – £7.00. I’ve been looking out for steak tartare and it’s variants lately, I had some in Sicily recently and again at Salvi’s in Manchester. I’m starting to acquire the taste for it. This was as good as I’ve had so far. A lovely ‘oniony’ side kick to the wonderfully cured beef. The gingerbread croutons added texture and a neat sweet kick, a great start.

Jacobs ladder, cod cheek, the bread and butter
Jacobs ladder, cod cheek, the bread and butter

After a comfortable gap the mains swept in. The flame went fish again. Turbot, black pudding, palourde clams and fennel – £19.00. A wonderful slab of beautifully cooked white fish was topped with a black pudding crumb, set on fennel cooked several ways. To add drama a swoosh of fish sauce was added just before consumption. I managed a quick fork full, before the flame took charge. She mopped up the jus with our hand cut chips (£3). Flaked, translucent the fish tasted superb, the black crumb adding a meaty edge. The flame gave it the thumbs up.
I went for the Lamb, heritage carrot, spiced sausage and aubergine – £18.00. I love lamb it’s my favourite meat. This was as good as I’ve had. Two beautifully pink tranches of (sous vide?) meat, juicy and tender requiring the merest touch of a knife to break a glorious mouthful from the main portion. Cuminised carrot purée, soft wedge of beetroot, peas and cherries in the pod added a crunchy touch. A tangy, luscious jus was washed round prior to the first morsel hitting the palate to add even more flavour. A wonderful main.

Lamb, turbot, chips
Lamb, turbot, chips

We both went for dessert. They sounded as off beat as the previous courses, but intriguing all the same. The flame loving apricot went after careful consideration for the Apricot, buttermilk, malva pudding and rooibos – £7.00. The apricots had been steeped in tea and served up with a moist spongey ‘cakette’, a sour, creamy swirl and some foliage. She loved it, exquisite flavours, I managed a touch of the buttermilk cream!!
I went for a peach. I fancied the granola bit. Peach, granola, pudding rice and nasturtium – £7.50. Beautifully presented in a half eaten earthenware bowl I wolfed it in seconds, including the flowery leaves! The pudding rice had a more solid feel than I was hoping and took a minor edge off my expectations. Still the drama of it all made up the deficit.

Apricot, peach, peach, apricot!
Apricot, peach, peach, apricot!

We had a mug of coffee each to end, some petit fours would have been nice after the start but hey a minor quibble. All in all a cracking meal. It all came in at £88. I reckon when you consider the variety of textures and flavours on offer and the dedication involved to present food in such a beautiful way it is was a bargain. I’m sure you’d pay much more in London for this! The service by Sarah and the team combined with an awesome engine room headed by Ernst deserves to make its mark. The plaudits I’m sure will keep on coming. Kerridge is indeed blessed with a unique asset. Long may it remain and flourish.

The menu
The menu

 

The Lord Clyde
36 Clarke Lane,
Kerridge, Bollington,
SK10 5AH
+44 (0)1625 562123
hello@thelordclyde.co.uk