Yew Tree Inn – Angelzarke, Chorley

“A drive out, hearty lunch and a pleasant stroll around Angelzarke reservoir. A perfect Sunday afternoon”

Its September, autumn is coming isn’t it? It’s a stunning Sunday afternoon, arguably one of summers finest, The Flame and I head up to The Yew Tree in Angelzarke. A chum has recommended it, he reckons this is classic Cooktwit territory. He’s not wrong. We bag the last spot in the car park and head inside through the happy throngs who are strewn over every table outside on the glorious sun kissed terrace. We have booked and are shown a table inside by the window. Bizarrely its rather cool inside, but we press on, assuming the clouds will come soon and that the outdoor revellers will soon be tripping back in. We assumed wrong.

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We settle to survey the menus. A Sunday one and the standard a la carte. An Angelzarke pale ale by Blackedge Brewery is set beside by one of the attentive, uniformed team. There are several cask ales to chose from but I go local.

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A quick glance round shows that the place has clearly had something of a spruce up. Stone floors and stone walls have all been suitably scrubbed, tables re-stained, re-lacquered, paintwork daubed in F&B’s finest heritage blue. Etched glasswork panels add even more of a contemporary edge. Its very smart. We can see head chef Oli Farrah (a Masterchef finalist) marshalling his kitchen in readiness.

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We select our lunch. We pick starters from the a la carte. The Flame selects the salt baked Lancashire heritage beetroot with homemade curd salad and walnuts (£6.95), I go for the salt and pepper squid with homemade sweet chilli sauce (£7.95). She drooled over the salad, loved it. Great colour and beautifully presented in a huge white bowl. My squid is equally terrific, hot, peppery, perfectly cooked. An extraordinary portion too, the salty bits offset by the acidic asian carrots and chilli jam. Super stuff.

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For mains, The Flame goes for her staple Fish Pie (£12.95). It comes with a soft poached egg, vegetables and lashing of buttery mash. In her words a match for her all time favourite at The Church Green (see review here). High praise indeed.

I plumb for the traditional Sunday roast, topside of Lancashire beef with seasonal veg (£15.95). As with most dishes, it came set in a huge bowl. The beef beautifully pink and lashings of it too. If anything probably too much! Whereas normaly the veg are a bit of a side issue to the main event , here they were worthy of special mention. They were fabulous, loved the way the carrots and courgette where ribboned and beautifully seasoned. The roasties and gravy equally impressive.

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As usual I had dessert, white chocolate and blueberry cheesecake (£5.95). A dream of a dessert. Exceedingly good.

Unusually the Sunday lunch isn’t a set price and ends up setting me back just shy of thirty quid. Even my current Sunday lunch fave The Freemasons at Wiswell (reviewed here) is £25 for three courses, but that’s a minor quibble. The bill came to £60. We then set off for a stroll around the magnificent nearby reservoir. Well, worth doing after the feed you’ll get at The Yew Tree. Give it a go…

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Yew Tree Inn
Dill Hall Brow
Heath Charnock,
Chorley
Lancashire PR6 9HA

T 01257 480344

http://www.yewtreeinnanglezarke.co.uk

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Bowland Brewery Beer Hall – Holmes Mill, Clitheroe

“If you like eating off the piston of a steam engine surrounded by beer this is the place for you!”

It’s a Friday and The Cooktwit has taken the day off work and has vowed to accrue some brownie points with The Flame on account of a forthcoming gentlemen’s trip to Portugal. I venture that a scoot to the Trough of Bowland is in order. We head north in wild anticipation. We slip gently through the lovely old town of Clitheroe, ‘hang on’ I proclaim, Im sure there’s an old mill being done up round here with a brewery attached! Lets stop briefly and check it out.

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We stumble upon a sign for The Bowland Brewery Beer Hall. A heavily scaffolded old pile called Holmes Mill is soon upon us. It’s a former textile mill thats being transformed into a hotel, leisure and food complex. We venture in. Much of the outside stonework is buffed and painted. Contemporary signage points the way. We venture past a shop selling Bowland bottled beers and a well stocked ‘Gelateria’, we then enter the ‘Beer Hall’. Its nothing short of breath taking.

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Inside, a huge oval bar, the size of a race track dominates, a platoon of uniformed bartenders gather us in. I didn’t count them but its claimed at least 24 cask ales are on tap. I looked on in awe. To the rear, via a huge glass wall, the huge Bowland Brewery beer tanks glisten. To the left more sections, the ‘chimney room’ and the ‘engine room’.

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The Engine room

In my excitement I suggest we hole up here for lunch. The Flame surprisingly agrees. We settle into ‘The Engine Room’. Not a quaint little moniker for a corner snug. This really is THE ENGINE ROOM. We settle on one of the high tables for two that are arranged around the huge mill engine that makes up the centre piece of the space. It, along with the room has been lovingly spruced up to replicate its Victorian industrial past. Huge comfy chairs are dotted round. Clearly someone has laid out some serious wedge here. Its a quality makeover. 

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So what about the food? Well, its basic stuff really, beer food. The menu is a huge A3 card, beers on the back, food to the front. Theres no jus, foams or micro herbs on here. Its chips or fries with pies, puds, nibbles, burgers and other British pub classics. They even have chicken in the basket (which I nearly had). We pressed on and ordered. I settled in with a Bowland Brewery ‘Buster’ IPA and a big smile on my face. We drunk in the wonderful ambience.

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Jerk Chicken, Brisket Burger, Scotch Egg

I started with a scotch egg, encased in black pudding (£5.95). It came warm on a tin plate and a slick of brown sauce with a watercress salad. No oozing yolk from the egg, but armed with the brown sauce it was all rather good. A totally satisfying start.

For mains I went from the ‘Buns’ section and had the pulled beef brisket with beerhouse gravy and horseradish (£10.95). Served in a tin again on a brioche bun the brisket was copious, hot and tasty, the tang of horseradish adding its usual bite. The fries, hot and salty, but enhanced to almost historic when dipped in the fabulous beerhouse gravy. It was again very good.

The Flame had Jamaican jerk spiced chicken pieces with salad, coleslaw and chips (£12.95). Several hunks of boneless chicken thigh meat drenched in a warm spicy goo. The Flame absolutely loved it (despite being served in a tin). The morsel I had was super moist and tasty.

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Sadly and somewhat bizarrely? They didn’t have a sweet menu. A nod one presumes to the fact that this is a beer hall after all. Sweets generally don’t go with beer in my experience. I suppose you could have had an ice cream from the ‘Gelateria’?

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We settled up for thirty-eight of your english pounds. We both thoroughly enjoyed our time here. It reminded me of eating at the National Rail Museum in York or on St Pancras station. The surroundings are truly spectacular. Trying to be objective, would we have enjoyed the food as much in a more mundane setting? Possibly not, but if you are looking for a little adventure and somewhere completely different to eat and drink I’d definitely give the Bowland Brewery Beer Hall a go. They deserve it, they’ve certainly put their money where their mouth is. And anyway, I nipped up to Booths after and got an eton mess slice. Who needs a sweet anyway?

Bowland Brewery Beer Hall
Holmes Mill
Greenacre Street,
Clitheroe
BB7 1EB
Tel: 01200 401035
http://www.holmesmill.co.uk

Breakfast in Manchester – Part 2

“Where do you go in Manchester for an early breakfast? Well, you could try a couple of these for a start…..”

Much to The Flames perplexity (is that a word – ed?) I love going out for breakfast. For me this is God’s own start to the day. The Flame’s preference is to stay in and have a bit of grapefruit! So when I found myself having to fend for oneself for a few days I decided to forego the usual ritual of skimmed milk and wholewheat cereals (yawn) and head into Manchester an hour early and start the day in true style.

First up I stumbled, by chance really, into Ezra and Gil on Hilton Street in the Northern Quarter. It operates out of a big corner plot in a fine old building. It seemed to be set up for coffee. I asked do they do breakfast and was readily assured they do. An all day brunch menu was pointed out. In true NQ style its very informal with loads of high and low tables dotted around, it’s an engaging offer and even sells the basics such as fruit, veg and bread. The ‘E&G’ was ordered up pronto. Though a little disappointed that there was no bacon, it was an absolute belter. Tons of well cooked scrambled egg, great sausages and a decent brew made for a corking start to the day. Around £9 all in.

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Next day I went to Manchester stalwart The Koffee Pot. After initial concerns that it had packed up I discovered it had moved round the corner from Stephenson Square to a newer, bigger plot on Oldham Street towards Ancoats. I settled in and took in the new ambience. Its more standard cafe than the trendier NQ operations. A fine ‘Koffee Pot’ motif dominates the room. Had a change today, went rarebit with bacon, tomatoes and poached egg. My usual black coffee was served in a big mug but was instant rather than the artisan styles offered by many elsewhere. The rarebit and bacon was superb, lovely mustard kick. Disappointingly the poached egg was hard and the tomatoes came slicked in some sort of hot, chilli ketchup, bit nasty really. At just over £8 it was ok.

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Next up after two days of calorific overload I nipped for something a little lighter. I went to NQ favourite Fig and Sparrow on Oldham Street. Here I had a super creamy yoghurt with granola, almonds and cranberries sprinkled on top, all washed down with a top notch black coffee. All in for just over a fiver. Very relaxing, super little place this. It doubles up as a life style shop too. Lots of nick nacks to browse while you wait. Great place.

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I had a cracking few days. If you factor in the places I went last time on my ‘Breakfast in Manchester 5 day tour’ (see here) and add in a later Pot Kettle Black (reviewed here) you can quickly see there are some great ways to eat before work in Manchester. Give it a go. Beat the crowds, get in early and start the day in style….

www.figandsparrow.co.uk
www.thekoffeepot.co.uk
http://www.ezraandgil.com

The Pasta Factory – Manchester

“Another branch of Manchester’s ‘Little Italy’ is doing the business. If its pasta you need you’ll go far to get any better than The Pasta Factory in Manchester’s Shudehill”

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Rather than pail and wallow, The Cooktwit when left to grapple as one is a hardy soul. Indeed there are times when dining on ones lonesome can be considered one of life’s great pleasures. Such a time occurred recently when I stumbled upon The Pasta Factory. Set in what one may describe as ‘the edgier side of town*’ this oasis of egg and flour turned out to be a surprising little gem.

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The starter menu

The building itself is a fine old pile. A former bank HQ no less. Considering the rampant authenticity of the offer, ‘The Pasta Factory’ strikes as an unusual moniker. The playful logo, the assertion that ‘You Will Eat Pasta’ and the entrance wall of text are straight from the nearby Northern Quarter cafe start up manual. Inside its different though. You fall straight into Puglia**. Tiled floors, dark matching furniture, ubiquitous pasta cues, wine displays, chalk board specials all wrapped in rough hewned red and white paintwork. Allied to the Mediterranean backing track it’s a wonderfully informal setting and one that immediately set the solitary frame of The Cooktwit at his ease.

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Antispasto, Italian IPA

The engaging front of house chaps soon had the spartan menus up for perusal. Starters (or Taglieri) are simplicity itself. Its antipasto for one, two, three, four or five! I had it for one (£7). Aged ham wrapped around melon, a ricotta tartlet, cubes of salty, thyme infused feta, crispy kale, anchovies, pickled vegetables with tuna, olives and flatbread. I might have missed a bit too. It was exquisite.

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The main menu is an A4 sheet in yellow and red (though you get a vegan page too). Its basically pasta. No chips, pizza or anything deep fried here. The pasta is freshly made on the premises and are sold in packs to take out too. It comes in all shapes and sizes, most of which I have never seen or heard of before. The pasta comes with a variety of sauces each with seafood, vegetables or locally sourced venison.  My selection for the eve was ‘Bucatini Nero con il Polipo’ (£13.50), which is squid ink pasta with marinated octopus with sun blushed tomato and basil. It was a smashing portion. Perfectly cooked pasta, with ‘globs’ of octopus, slicked in a rich, deep red tomato sauce. Very satisfying.

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I had to finish with something sweet. The menu offers three standards that are on all the time. I was tempted by the panna cotta but then went for one of the specials chalked up on one of the many chalkboards. I had the passion fruit and coconut cake with passion fruit sorbet (£5). Bit like a proper baked cheesecake on a hazelnut crumb base. It came on a heavy slate sprinkled with coconut. Again really good, if not slightly unusual. Perhaps I would have preferred ice cream but hey if this is how The Pasta Factory do it. Who am I to argue?

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With a ladies glass of ruby red Barbera (£8), a belated slug of a sensational, hand crafted Italian IPA and a super cafetiere coffee, the whole lot came in at £35. If there is a better way to spend one and half hours on your own in Manchester then I would like to know all about it. A thoroughly splendid binge. If ever you find yourself straying from the centre don’t forget to head up Shudehill, there’s a treat waiting….

* Though no doubt will soon be slap bang centre of the latest hip Manchester scene!
** Not that I’ve ever been, but I imagine this is what it would be like!

The Pasta Factory
77 Shudehill Street
M4 4AN Manchester

Email : ciao@pastafactory.co.uk
Phone : 01612229250