Lunya – Catalan Deli & Restaurant – Manchester

“Utterly fabulous Catalan Tapas and Deli opened on Manchester’s Deansgate……..Quality”

Having been to Barcelona a couple of times recently, eating small plates of food has taken on a new relish. Even The Flame has come round a bit to the idea. So it was with a jaunty air that we trained back into Manchester mid-afternoon to conduct a bit of pre-Christmas reconnaissance followed by a slap up binge at the newly formed Lunya. Its parent has been around in Liverpool to much acclaim for a small while already.

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The place has four entrances, two from the main drag on Deansgate, two from the back from the rather grand Barton Arcade. Two entrances take you into the Deli section. Here you can buy the incredible produce yourself and take it home. The other two take you into the bar area, where you can have a drink and casually sample the fayre on high stools and poseur tables. A staircase takes you up to the more formal sit down arrangement of a standard restaurant.

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Upper deck, bar area

The upper floors offer fine views over Deansgate or equally fine views of the upper decks of the arcade. It was the latter section that the Flame and I eventually settled. Being sixish it was pretty much full systems go in the bar area whereas our seating upstairs was only just starting up.

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We started our review of the extensive red and yellow menu. A bottle of Moritz, a Barcelona brew, was used to quench the initial thirst. Our table was a little isolated and given the air con setting a little cool. A nearby representative adjusted things so that we could remove our coats! Once settled we made our choice of three tapas each.

Croquetas (£6.50) croquettes of the day. This time made with crab and leek. Five, hot balls of crunchy goodness with a crabbie inside. Delish. One of my choices.

Costillas Ibericás (£7.75) slow roasted ribs from the giant Ibericó pigs, falling off the bone, in a special Catalan BBQ sauce with tamarind, orange and fennel seed. Pic of the dishes. Arguably the finest ribs I’ve ever eaten. The sauce with the fennel was simply ‘historic’.

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Iberico ribs, croquettes, hotpot

Catalan Hotpot (£6.95) a signature dish blending Catalunya with the North West of England, made with chorizo and morcilla. Reminded me of Nigel Haworths lamb version, but not quite as good. That’s no slight though, still thoroughly enjoyable. A bit more Morcilla would have helped for me.

Chickens strips wrapped in broken potato crisps (£6.95). Inspired by a good friend, Albert Adriá. Served with a stunning pimentón infused allioli. The flame loves chicken so this was hers. Decent enough, the allioli was stunning. We used it for dipping throughout the meal, superb.

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Sticky chicken, grilled aubergine, chickpeas

Escalavida (£5.95) chargrilled peppers, aubergines, onions, courgettes on toasted sourdough with a romesco sauce. Probably our least favourite dish. No particular reason, just not as good as the rest. Wouldn’t have this one again.

Garbanzos (£6.55) middle eastern spice infused chick peas with butternut squash, almonds and apricots. Picked by the flame, she loves chick peas. To be fair these were great too. Decent bowl full, these went a long way. Cumin was in there along with the nutty crunch. Very good veggie dish.

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Cheese and cheesecake

As I hope you have come to expect, I ventured to the end with a sweet dessert. White chocolate cheesecake with a quince jelly topping (£5.95). Absolutely superb. Love white chocolate, love cheesecake. Perfect for me. The flame went for a two cheese platter (£9.45). A bit steep for the money. Came on a plank with a fig chutney and quince.

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The deli section

I have to say all the dishes were delivered hot and fresh. Bill came to £66 for the two of us. Sam our new, spanish, waitress was bubbly, efficient and helpful. I’ll definitely be back. There are too many wonderful dishes on the menu that have to be tried yet. I reckon a casual slide in the bar next. Pull up a pew, a glass of Rioja, those ribs again and then start hitting the fish dishes. It looks like I’ll be back many times yet. Highly recommended. Oh and they do paella… forgot about that, so yes got to go back.

Lunya Manchester
Barton Arcade,
Deansgate,
Manchester,
M3 2BB
Tel: 0161 413 3317
http://www.lunya.co.uk

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Wahaca – Manchester

“Ethical, sustainable, all round good egg, Mexican food restaurant chain from London Town…that’s come to Manchester”

I should set the record straight here. I’m not a connoisseur on Mexican food. (It’s chilli con carne in it? – Ed), but after keeping abreast of the hype surrounding this Northern launch of Wahaca, the excitement generated has been almost biblical. It’s one of the flagship signings for the Corn Exchange complex that has been transformed at the Victoria end of town. Accolades have flooded in from all corners, including a remarkable run of fifty odd five star reviews on Trip Advisor within minutes of opening! It’s been on the list ever since.

Smart upbeat exterior
Smart upbeat exterior

And so it came to be. The Cooktwit was at a loose end. He had to fill an hour between work ending and the start of a triumphant Motley Crue gig at the nearby arena. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to try out Wahaca. Working around the country as I do, I’m used to dining alone (awww – ed). Tonight was such a night. I ventured in from the front, it’s a smart welcoming entrance, colourful and loud. The pleasant front of house reckoned it would be twenty minutes for a table, even for one, on a Tuesday night at six! I was handed a bleeper and set up shop with a bottle of Corona. Within ten minutes I was whisked round the back to face the faceless atrium that is the ‘work in progress’ centre of the corn exchange. The place was rammed. Parties of mixed ages chattered loudly, families as well as business.

Facsimile of the extensive menu
Facsimile of the extensive menu

I settled in my table, beneath a metal mezzanine, upbeat tunes were banging forth, Maddy, my pleasant young waitress for the evening, explained the extensive, printed napkin come menu both verbally and by drawing all over it with a magic marker. She explained the cauliflower cheese was her favourite! I decide to go ‘street food’. It was recommended that three should be selected to satiate a frame of my size. It was also explained that the dishes would arrive as and when chef has prepared them. Sure enough mine all arrived together!

First up Taquitos. Two corn tortillas filled, rolled and fried into crispy cigars and served with shredded salads and salsas. I chose the Sweet potato and feta version (£3.95) which came with caramelised red onion and wrapped in crispy blue corn, dotted with salsas and chipotle mayo. It looked pretty good, very appetising, but my first venture into the plate with my selected utensil (a spoon) resulted in the whole thing exploding all over the plate, such was the crispiness of the cigar. When I eventually got a mouthful the temperature variance between the case (hot), the potato (warm) and the feta (cold) made for an unpleasant feeling on the palate. The flavours were good though. Some zing ventured forth from the various salsas but overall a little disappointing.

Taquitos, Picadillos, coffee
Taquitos, Picadillos, coffee

I then had a special. I think they were called ‘piccadilos’. Basically this was three, spicy pork and beef minced patties wrapped in a lettuce leaf (£4.25). Again it was tasty enough but once again suffered from the variance in temperature. Cold lettuce with luke warm contents.

Best of the three by some distance was the Beef Tacos. Three toasted soft corn tortillas filled with grilled British steak (£4.50), the beef was flash grilled skirt steak with a chipotle salsa. These were of even temperature and very good. I dotted some of the dishes with the chilli salsa and chilli sauce from the bottles supplied on the table. These added a welcome piquancy.

Tacos & Churros
Tacos & Churros

Having downed the lager I ordered up a coffee and a dessert. My coffee came almost immediately. My dessert some fifteen minutes later! To be fair the coffee was very good, but dish of the night was the Churros y chocolate (£4.25) Mexican doughnuts with a rich chocolate sauce (although fortuitously I got caramel sauce as well). These were excellent, clearly fresh and hot. They were arguably the best Churros I’ve ever had. The caramel sauce in particular adding a major touch of indulgence.

More churros
More churros

In conclusion the whole hour with drinks cost me £23. Pretty good value really. If I’m honest given the hype and my own expectations I left a little underwhelmed. It’s clearly a popular place. The service is bright and peppy. I reckon it’s more suited to a party night out. The first floor (which was shut tonight) looks pretty smart too. I reckon the view over the atrium would be good.

Smart first floor
Smart first floor

Would I go again? Yes, I’d give it another go, but I would go for a bigger plate meal, though I’d definitely go back for the Churros………

The atrium, the gents, the entrance
The atrium, the gents, the entrance

Wahaca
The Corn Exchange
Manchester
http://www.wahaca.co.uk

Sams Chophouse – Manchester

“Proper old school, city centre ‘gastropub’ for some proper old school lads!”

The Cooktwit was tasked with scheming a small gathering for some old work chums and “None of that fancy gastro stuff you like” cried Joe, a surprisingly trim sexagenarian (he’ll like that – Ed). So where do I go? It didn’t take long to work out that Sam’s Chophouse would meet the brief. A thoroughly decent British menu, representing its rich history of feeding Mancunians since City last won the league. (What they won the season before last? – yes, you can’t say that now – Ed). Well anyway Sam’s has been around since 1872.

Elegance (and that's just the lads)
Elegance (and that’s just the lads)

Its set up a ginnel, which itself is shrouded from the world by tram works. It takes some finding at the moment. It’s a grand place. You enter down a small staircase in to an old, wooden bar area. A seated bronze of LS Lowry doffs his hat. A pleasant welcome. A few pints of Bootleg ‘Lawless’ for the non-drivers was eagerly devoured. It was early on a Tuesday night. I had booked but didn’t really need to. The pub had a few in, but the restaurant was empty. The eating area is rather elegant. Mosaic tiles on the floor, with rich stained booths and fittings completing the old world charm. It’s very pleasant, though it was a little chilly at first.

The menu
The menu

Tom, our young, spectacled waiter soon had us settled and placed the leather-bound offer into our sticky mits. As I said the menu is littered with classic, British fayre. Joe was well impressed.
We ordered up. Kevin and Joe went for the corned beef hash (£7). It came deep fried with a poached egg and brown sauce. What a delight this was. Probably dish of the night. I wish I had ordered it. You can get a mammoth portion as a main for £13. The lads loved it. I managed a fork full of Joes and can confirm the ‘wonderfulness’. Johnny boy went for seared scallops with pulled pork scampi, salsify and apple (£9) for some reason I didn’t get a pic. I think John wolfed it before I got chance! It looked good though.

Corned beef hash and duck hearts
Corned beef hash and duck hearts

I had devilled duck hearts in paprika cream on sour dough bread (£6.50). To be fair this was pretty good too. I’ve never had duck hearts but you got plenty and their livery texture worked a treat with the creamy, spicy sauce. A real treat.

For mains, the heartier side of the brigade were swayed by the steak and kidney pudding (£14). A substantial case of suet filled to the brim with braised steak and lumps of kidney. A boat of light brown gravy turned up with an array of well turned out chips and mushy peas Im sad to say that both contenders referred to the offer being a bit on the dry side, despite the lubrication afforderd by the gravy. Kevin, not normally a chap to shirk on these matters, was visibly shaken as he was compelled to leave a good fifteen per cent of the pudding to the dishwasher. So moved was he by the dryness and the quantity. For the record I had a slug of kidney which I found to be perfectly fine.

Steak & kidney pud, burger, fish and chips
Steak & kidney pud, burger, fish and chips

I myself had the standard, but nonetheless rather creditable, fish (beer battered haddock) and chips (£13). The aforementioned chips were well turned out, but the highlight, easily was the haddock. Wonderfully crisp batter, hot translucent flesh. It came cemented to the plate with the mushy peas along with a ramekin of tartar sauce and a net of lemon. Nice touch. Thoroughly enjoyed. As good a plate of fish and chips as I’ve ever had.

Equally boring (some might say) Joe had the burger off the bar menu. It didn’t have the slurpy spectacular look of the ‘experts’ that litter the town, but it was cooked pink and Joseph himself proclaimed it the best burger he’d ever had. High praise indeed. (I have took him to Solita before now).

The Eccles cake
The Eccles cake

Joe and myself then had the Eccles cake (£6.00) and ice cream for afters. It was a bit thicker and smaller in diameter than our preconceived version. But fair play it tasted good. Much ‘mincier’ and ‘spicier’ than I remember them. Good ice cream too. A tinge of regret that I didn’t go for the Black Forest trifle.

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For four it came to £134. Sam had already included the 10% service charge in that figure. We were a little surprised at this for a party of four. But happy to go with it. Young Tom had been a fine advocate for old school charm and looked after us well. He’d even laughed at Joes jokes. In summary a fine evening. Elements of superbly cooked food allied to a touch of minor disappointment. I will say this though, I’ll be back for a big portion of corned beef hash and a trifle sometime soon. Watch this space…..

Sams ChopHouse
Back Pool Fold off Cross Street
Manchester M2 1HN
0161 834 3210
http://www.samschophouse.com