The Cruel Sea – Poole, Dorset

“Catch it, cook it, eat it, sounds a pretty good concept to me”

I stumbled on The Cruel Sea by chance. The flame loves Ben Fogle! and so when he did one of those ‘I love round here’ documentaries I caught site of an ace looking seafood restaurant. The documentary was called ‘Harbour Lives’ and centred on the Dorset coast. I managed to catch site of the name ‘The Cruel Sea’. Its owner, who featured on the programme is Pete Miles. He is a fisherman by trade. His concept is to front a restaurant that offers ‘from net to plate’. The Cruel Sea does just that.

mackerel waiting to be cooked, the frontage. The cooked mackerel.
mackerel waiting to be cooked, the frontage. The cooked mackerel.

It is set, quite unassuming in a parade of shops in a well-heeled part of Poole. It is a good mile from the sea. It is an atmospheric, lively bar and kitchen, serving fish, meat and vegetarian tapas-style dishes. It offers decent wine, European lagers and great British ales. I had a pint of ‘Cruel Sea’ ale specially brewed locally for them.

Cruel sea Beer, Eugene hard at the pass at the rear kitchen
Cruel sea Beer, Eugene hard at the pass at the rear kitchen

We turned in early, just after six. It was already half full, the atmosphere building nicely. It is rustic in style, the obligatory lanterns in the window providing the nod to the sea. A mass of union jack bunting donned the ceiling when we were there. Presumably confirming all the produce is local? The kitchen is open and set at the back of the long narrow bar. I had a quick chat with head chef Eugene and manager Jose. Whilst I was already loving the fish tapas menu, Eugene told me some dover sole and some crabs had just turned up that weren’t on the menu yet. He reckoned I could have some of that if i fancied it. I was gibbering with excitement.

the menu, rustic interior
the menu, rustic interior

We ordered up. We had some bread and humus to start while we picked off the fishy stuff.  Then in no particular order the morsels of goodness started to arrive.  Highlight for the flame was the whole mackerel, beautifully filletted, then baked with a salsa verde (£7). It was superb. Highlight for me was the baked dover sole (£8) which came with a goblet of crab bisque, sensational.

hummus and bread, sea bream, cod and wild mushrooms
hummus and bread, sea bream, cod and wild mushrooms

Other highlights was the tranche of cod set on wild mushrooms with kale and iberico ham (£9), the sea bream with a chamoula sauce (£7.50). The Flame had one nod at meat. grilled chicken with a lovely quinoa salad (£7.50), we also had a courgette and holloumi dish (£6.50) as our casual nod to something green and healthy.

corgette & holloumi, grilled chicken, dover sole & tiramisu
corgette & holloumi, grilled chicken, dover sole & tiramisu

I finished off with the obligatory, homemade tiramisu (£4.95), set on a slate with a swirl of couli. Very nice too.  We had a good chat with the young, buzzy staff who were bright, efficient and friendly. All in all a super night. We cashed in our chips at around £78. Pretty good for a good amount of freshly caught and cooked fish. I love the idea of fish tapas, a great idea. The place was rammed when we left and this was a Wednesday night.Well worth looking out for. I’ll get the crabs and shellfish next time.

The rustic bar, great atmosphere
The rustic bar, great atmosphere

The Cruel Sea
5 Bank Chambers, Penn Hill Avenue,
Poole, Dorset BH14 9NB

01202 736362
hello@thecruelsea.co.uk

http://www.thecruelsea.co.uk

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The Old Sessions House – Knutsford

“Looks like all these NewMoon Pubs are worth a go”

Whilst I love going to top restaurants as much as the next man it’s not always the best option. You generally need plenty of readies, have to get ponced up and you’re limited as to where you go afterwards. I along with The Flame like nothing better than combining a nice meal out with a good walk or a day out somewhere. Sunday is a big day in our house and last week was no exception

The smart exterior! Thanks to Plog for the bottom pic
The smart exterior! Thanks to Plog for the bottom pic

A bright, crisp autumn morn set the scene before a twenty minute scoot to the food and living fair at Tatton Park in Knutsford (pronounced ‘Nats fiord’!). Knutsford is a beautiful, picturesque town set in the heart of Cheshire, it’s proper HS2 bashing territory, Range Rovers prowl the narrow streets, stealthily breezing past the boutiques, wine bars, gallery’s and swanky hairdressers.

Tatton Park

Tatton Park

Sat bristling at the head of Princess Street is ‘The Old Sessions House’. It forms one of the fleet of hostelries serving food set up by Paul Newman and Dave Mooney (NewMoon – geddit?). It’s a wonderful old building and in keeping with the brand and high quality visuals it is distinctive and inviting. Dark grey with white contrasting decals set behind a phalanx of red flowers. After our leisurely hour and a half stroll round the equally wonderful Tatton Park we were proper gasping and hunger pains were setting in.

Some interior fittings
Some interior fittings, Mooney hard at the pass

We had thoughtfully pre booked for a two thirty kick off but arrived an hour early. Thankfully an efficient chap greeted us and paved a way towards the back of the packed house and sat us at a table in the conservatory towards the rear of the dining area. He stated that Ro (short for Rochina, decked out in the black ‘TOSH’ T shirt) would be handling all our needs. It was a little warm at first but a pint of ‘Old Sessions’ (a special brewed just for them) soon cooled things down. It was good to see the mustachioed (Moon) half of the partnership handling what was starting to be a busy pass.

As it was Sunday our order was culled from the simple three courses for £14.95 side of the binge. However, it was comforting to know we could have ordered from the ‘classic’, printed, place setting menu that we have seen before at sister gaff ‘Beef and Pudding’ in Manchester (reviewed here). Well cooked, quality, local ingredients is the mainstay of the offer.

Mackerel, venison terrine, menu
Mackerel, venison terrine, menu

First up The Flame rattled in a spot of smoked mackerel with a refreshing potato salad and a sheath of fresh leaves. So we could go ‘halvey halveys’ I had the venison terrine. Both dishes, simple, well presented and super tasty. Just as you need it.

Sunday roast, beef and chicken
Sunday roast, beef and chicken

We both had a Sunday roast. The flame, half a small Cheshire chicken, me a few slabs of Cheshire beef, cooked pink as requested. Whilst full of flavour the chicken was a bit dry in parts but my beef was as good as I’ve had. Covering the trimmings it went down a treat with a good dollop of horseradish.

Cheese, atrium roof, menu, banoffee sundae
Cheese, atrium roof, menu, banoffee sundae

Mindful of the three course deal The flame finished with the cheese and biscuits whilst I fell for the banoffee sundae. Set in a small tumbler it didn’t look much, but blimey it was good. Lumps of sticky toffee pudding, caramel, bananas and cream. A perfect bit of sweetness to tingle the palate, super.

We like to seek out quality eateries and I think along with Nigel Haworth’s RVI pub chain in Lancashire, I reckon the NewMoon portfolio is building very nicely to become arguably the best set further south. Check them out. We will.

The Old Sessions House
43 Princess Street
Knutsford
WA16 6BW
01565 621 833

http://www.oldsessionshouse.co.uk

http://www.newmoonpub.co.uk

 

The Millstone – Newton-le-Willows

“A little bit of the world in Newton le Willows!”

Difficult to believe but somehow it seems to work. The Millstone is a small hostelry offering International tapas. It is on Mill lane heading out of Newton. It’s a little bit out of the way to be part of the standard High Street pub crawl. It’s niche really is its small and friendly bar offering decent cask ales for its merry band of regulars. It doubles up as a pit stop for our Sunday stroll. The pub is only small, square in shape, symmetrical set in two. You walk through the central door to be greeted by the small well kept, ‘U’ shaped bar to the right. The small, ‘thirtyish’ covers dining area is set behind a partition to the left. Cream and navy paint allied to neat signage and oak furnishings present the gaff in a smart, contemporary manner.

Smart small square hostelry
Smart small square hostelry

A couple of big tellys in the bar side mean its a favourite with the sports fans. When we ventured in for a romantic trist we had not factored in the Rugby League Grand final. It was wonderful to be reminded throughout our meal that the Warrington Barmy Army were in and in fine fettle! Still such is the way the dining area is set off from the bar side you can enjoy your meal in relative seclusion. It was a little unusual on this occasion for it to be quite so raucous! Newton is a rugby town after all.

International tapas, extensive menu
International tapas, extensive menu

Head chef Paul uses quality local and international ingredients to produce the goods. His mediterranean influence sparked by a seven year stint running a restaurant in Portugal.  He prepares all the dishes to order on his trusty six burner stove and his huge collection of IKEA pans! This ensures the food is hot, tasty and perfectly cooked. Some dishes work, some don’t work quite so well. As well as the international tapas they do a steak on a stone, a traditional Sunday lunch and a first rate paella.

Steak on a stone, paella
Steak on a stone, paella

Platter,  salmon kebab, bury tapas, Panko cod

Platter, salmon kebab, bury tapas, Panko cod

Our opening platter of feta, anchovies, peppers and olives with warm bread was delightful. As were the spicy kidneys. My bury black pudding tapas in mustard cream was less so. The garish yellow sauce being a bit thin and sweet for me. The wine is good and well priced and my Thwaites Wainwright set the scene nicely.

In contrast to some tapas bars the morsels turn up together and are then dotted around your table. This gives me the chance to steal some of The Flames superior choice at will, much to her annoyance!

King prawn fajitas, lamb chops, chicken chorizo stew
King prawn fajitas, lamb chops, chicken chorizo stew

The menu is extensive and skirts around all walks of international cuisine. Spanish, Indian, Chinese, Mexican and many more all get a chance. I have witnessed a substantial paella in the past which I have yet to try. After our opening platter we ordered a further three dishes each (we were hungry!). The flame homed in on the fishy side of things which are thoughtfully listed separately. In no particular order we wolfed through a Cod in Panko breadcrumbs and a sweet chilli jam, salmon kebabs dusted in Cajun spices, Mini King Prawn fajitas, chicken and chorizo stew, bury black pudding in a mustard cream sauce and lamb cutlets. We washed this lot down with some spicy wedges and some warm bread.

The ensemble. Cosy dining area, Apple Betty
The ensemble. Cosy dining area, Apple Betty

The dishes are all around a fiver, plus or minus a quid if there’s some posh fish involved. For me the lamb cutlets won. Four beautifully cooked chops around eight millimetres thick (are you sure they weren’t 9mm? – Ed). Another highlight was the king prawn fajitas, well cooked prawns with a hint of heat. The flame reckoned the chicken and chorizo stew won and who am I to disagree? To be fair it was all pretty good. As I mentioned above the slight downer being the swimming sauce around Bury’s finest. Using my special dessert stomach I managed an apple Betty with three scoops of ice cream just to finish!

This lot all romped in at £60. We had quite a bit of grub and drink for that, after all we can both walk here! It was a crisp bright night so it was a pleasant walk home. So there you have it Newton has a few decent places to eat! We always nip to Ariete if we want Italian and Amans for Indian. If you want a flash of Spain, The Millstone is the one.

The Millstone
71 Mill Lane Newton-leWillows, Cheshire
01925 569306
http://www.themillstone.org

 

 

Levenshulme Market – South Manchester

I’ve started going to these little markets that have been popping up in the North West over the last couple of years. The combination of Artisan producers coupled with the latest hip, street food purveyors, a foodies dream they doth make.

Traders and the welcoming tunnel

Traders and the welcoming tunnel

The Flame on the other hand doesn’t quite share my enthusiasm. Working on a scale of 1 to 10, a market being 1 and Fortnum & Mason being a 10, The Flame rocks in at a strong 8. Probably John Lewis territory! So when I said let’s have a ride out to Levenshulme Market it’s fair to say the scheme I had in mind was well short of The Flames idea of a nice ride out.

Bread and Asian Street Food
Bread and Asian Street Food

Still after an uneventful 45 minute sortie down the M62 we parked up on a fairly uninspiring Levenshulme high street. We did toy with the idea of going by train. The market is held on Levenshulme railway station car park which is a five minute jaunt from Manchester Piccadilly. The sun was shining (which probably helped to the keep spirits up) as we ventured down a narrow alley, the neat, off white, Bedouin tents wafting in the breeze each housing an eager artisan, patiently waiting to offload their wares.

Beetroot burger, bangers, cake
Beetroot burger, bangers, cake

First thing that hits is the smell and sound of a gentle sizzle. The sizzle of heat burnishing the soft flesh of a previously happy beast or just as likely the nutritious seed of a fertile plant. If you’re looking for a plastic hot dog on a claggy roll, a splurge of damp onions and a dash of ketchup, this is not the place for you. Much more likely is the delicately spiced haunch of a tiger prawn or a soaked pulse wrapped in the gossamer of a recently culled vine, or the thickly scythed rasher of marmite cured bacon. This is quality stuff.

Beer, Tea and cake
Beer, Tea and cake

We ventured around the bijou, eclectic combine of salt of the earth Samaritans, each teasing you in with a morsel of the bootie. Our tact was to sweep round taking stock of the offers before settling in a corner of quiet contemplation with a pleasing brew from the ‘The Buttery’. It is there that we decided where the Cooktwit coffers were about to be placed.

Typical advertising. Twitter is used a lot
Typical advertising. Twitter is used a lot

We succumbed to a modest haul in the end but could have easily done more. A rabbit pie, tarte au citron and a scone from the said Buttery started things off. The lemon and scone part of the scheme, superb, the rabbit less so. Not quite matching my pie benchmark set by the ‘Great North Pie Company’. A walnut sourdough, delicately laced with garlic from Trove proved to be a worthy buy, as did the the three seed apricot granola from ‘Morning Glory’, the venison scotch egg from ‘Moocher’, the white chocolate blonde cookie from ‘The Cake Pod’, the Cumberland sausage from ‘Bobbys Bangers’. Particularly impressive was the treacle cured bacon and the marmite cured bacon also from Bobby.

Gin juniper ice cream!
Gin juniper ice cream!

Fine craft ales could have been quaffed but sweetness won the day as I rounded off proceedings with my first ice cream from ‘Ginger Comforts’. A little gin, juniper and cherry number I recall. Very pleasant.

The modest haul
The modest haul

All in all a very pleasant hour was spent. There was maybe fifty stalls selling game, bread, cheese, wine, tea, cakes and plenty more. Street food vendors were on hand if you needed something for lunch to put you on. Even the Flame was impressed. The market is on every Saturday from March to December. It isn’t always food. It alternates between craft and vintage wares. As part of the day out we mooched round Victoria baths after. That’s worth a punt as well.

Top day had, give it a try.

Railway Car park, Levenshulme

http://www.levenhulme market.co.uk