All posts by thecooktwit

A bloke from a little town called Newton-le-Willows in the North West of England. Works and plays in Manchester. He is of a certain age who likes his food and beer. This blog has foodie reviews. Personal opinions of the food and places I've been. Fully understands that preparing food is a tough gig. If I enjoy, it goes on here to let others know. Likes cooking as well. Likes trying the dishes we all see on telly and in celeb chef recipe books. You may notice 'the flame' gets a mention. She is my lovely wife who happens to have red hair! It's a nod to the musings of AA Gill whose wife he calls 'the blonde'. Enjoy

Shears Yard – Leeds

“Found another gem deep in the bowels of Leeds. Im starting to really like Leeds”

Whilst on the one hand I had to take The Flame to a James Blunt concert, it did mean on the other hand In could eat and drink in Leeds again! I like Leeds. We lunched on charcuterie at ‘Friends of Ham’ whilst quaffing Hazelnut Mild! And then hit The Reliance for an after show pint and whisky. Great start to the weekend.

IMG_1870

Next day, a Sunday, we met up with long time chums who had setup lunch at ’Shears Yard’. Set in the old, cobbled, under developed section of the town, behind the incredible Corn exchange, we were greeted with a huge monolithic concrete arch. Some chap had skilfully chiselled the name into the plinth above. It’s a grand entrance.

IMG_1875

It’s no less splendid inside as you step down into this former industrial yard. Its been stripped back and spruced and fitted out with stringy lights, blonde wood tables and chairs sprinkled with the odd sage upholstery. Lights beams in from the roof lights, bringing an orange glow to the open brickwork and concrete half walls. I loved it.

Decent choice of ales, though I actually chose a can of Sputnik IPA, very pleasant too. As it was a Sunday the menu was a single sheet of A4 extolling the virtues of a Sunday lunch. It read well. A variety of locally sourced produce listed.

IMG_1871

We ordered up and soon our starters arrived. The Flame went for the soup of the day, which on the day was a fine, fiery red, tomato and chilli for £6. I went for the cured sea trout, smoked trout croquette, wasabi mayonnaise with cucumber and apple (£6.50). Very delicate and light, beautifully presented.

IMG_1872
mackerel, cured trout, risotto

Others had the ‘risotto’ of pearl barley and Jerusalem artichoke, grapes, truffle butter, artichoke crips and parmesan (£6). Looked a little messy on the plate but rather good I’m told. The real winner for me was the mackerel fillet mi cuit, smoked mackerel mousse, pickled kohlrabi, leek oil, dill and black onion seeds. Looked super and tasted sensational, wished id have ordered it. Great start.

IMG_1873

Mains for the male specimens in the troupe featured Sykes House farm sourced pork and beef for the trad Sunday lunch. Both £13.50, both splendid examples. The seasonal vegetables equally decent. The ladies both went for the salmon fillet with a brown butter sauce with capers and lemon, served with roast beetroot, chard and a dill yoghurt (£15). A bowl of hot, triple cooked, salted chips were used to mop up the juices.

IMG_1874

From a fine range of desserts I went for the front of house recommended eton mess, which was flavoured with blackberry and green tea, a blackberry compote, matcha meringue and a yoghurt sorbet (£6). As good as it was the real gem was the Jerusalem artichoke and coconut cake with coconut cream frosting and frozen apple (£6). The cake was a moistened triumph. Ive never had Jerusalem artichoke in a cake before! Superb.

The menu changes quite a bit and is seasonal. Jerusalem artichokes did well this week! I would love to get back some time to try the a la carte. It’s a fine environment to eat and testament to the fine eateries that are popping up in Leeds. Its a thumbs up from me.

Shears Yard
11-15 Wharf Street,
The Calls,
Leeds,
LS2 7EH
tel: 0113 244 4144

https://www.shearsyard.com

Advertisements

The White Hart – Sabden, Lancashire

“Looks like The Ribble Valley has another gem! This time in Sabden!”

The latest instalment of our tri-annual jaunt with Yorkshire folk led me to stick a pin between the grand metropolis of Leeds and the less grand, township of Newton-le-Willows. The pin fell in Sabden, a quaint village set in the bowels of a huge, natural bowl between the majestic tarmac strips of the A59 and the M65! The pin further picked out ‘The White Hart’, a hitherto unknown emporium of fine ales and home cooked fuel. The Flame and I set out to meet our Yorkshire counterparts.

IMG_1826

The plan was to walk around the nearby reservoir and retreat to ‘The Hart’ for refreshments. What really happened was that we sat in, had a pint and called in our two thirty appointment an hour early. The delightful Lydia led us to our spartan table. Our initial comfort hindered by the brilliant winter sunshine pouring through the untreated windows. A large, well balanced menu card was hastily positioned to ward off the blinding light.

IMG_1829

Its smart enough from the outside. Like many of the refurbished Thwaites outlets, its white with gold lettering and the red logo. Inside, It’s a large square room with the bar set in the centre. You can walk round it and set down in one of four separate spaces. Its very much brown and beige. Not too many soft furnishings. It’s a bit spartan to be honest, but cosy enough once we sat down.

Settled in, we marvelled at the sensational menu and specials board. A veritable phalanx of Lancashire classics swept across my vision. Could have placed a pin anywhere and I would have been in heaven, lamb confit hotpot, goosnargh chicken, Lancashire cheese and onion pie……superb stuff. IMG_1827

We ordered up and soon our starters of Risotto Verdi, asparagus and pea in a parmesan basket (£6), homemade mushroom soup (a mere £4), brisket corned beef hash cake, poached egg (£6) and a roasted sardine with caper dressing (£6), turned up, together, all piping hot. We were all suitably enthralled with our choice. My parmesan crisp a delight, the corned beef hash a major triumph.

For mains I went for the Pendle rack of lamb, tempura black pudding, black pepper mash (£19), a fellow cohort went roast goosnargh chicken breast with garlic dauphinoise potatoes, crispy bacon and sage (£16), The Flame a baked fish pie (£14) whilst our final guest went braised steak and blue cheese pot pie with crushed garden peas, puffed pastry top and fries (£15).

IMG_1828

The lamb rack beautifully pink and soft, chicken moist and tasty, the fish pie as good as anywhere and the braised steak reported in as a revelation. As I think you’ll agree it all looked rather splendid.

IMG_1831

Only a couple of us went sweet. Me the bruled lemon tart, whilst Julie went for the poached rhubarb cheesecake with a milkshake, both £6. My tart was presented wonderfully and rounded things off superbly. The cheesecake though, even better. Great portion too.

IMG_1830

The chef today was Martin. The owners Dan and Becky have really got things going well here. They have also taken over The Griffin in nearby Huncoats and also The Station Inn in Clitheroe centre, which Dan was painting on the afternoon we were there! If this is what we can expect then theres another two fine additions to The Ribble Valley experience. The scene is really prospering up there. I think Ill be up there every week…….

The White Hart Inn
36 Padiham Road
Sabden
Lancashire
BB7 9EW
01282 777862

Randall and Aubin – Manchester

“Another London restaurant gives Manchester a try. This one can stay for me. Probably the best seafood in town?”

Twenty-eight years of marriage, where do you go to celebrate that? Well, I chose ‘Randall and Aubin,’ latest addition to the Spinningfield end of good old Manchester town. I love seafood and I just fancied some. Thankfully The Flame doesn’t mind fish either! We were on. Couple of pre meal cocktails around town before sauntering along Bridge Street to the good old R&A. Looks good from outside. Two ‘Parisienne’ awnings with ornate script set it apart. I fully lit, street facing flash of seafood on a bed of ice, add a decadent touch.

IMG_1806

We enter the long narrow room. A seated bar to the left, our coats are wafted behind a screen by front of house to the right. We feel very welcome. We are escorted to table 86. The initial excitement dips. The tiny round table is set hard against the wall. We feel hemmed in. Our next table of two, merely inches away, bask in acres of space. We mention this to Zak, our excellent waiter. Within minutes a nearby table, twice the size, swept down one side with banquette seating is cleaned and prepped. Immediately our enthusiasm is back up to ten and climbing. Bottle of ‘Mad Fish’ Sauvignon Blanc (£35)! Corked (well unscrewed) and cooling. Six plump, french oysters arranged neatly on a wire heightened platter (£15). We slurped our entree while taking in the fine ambience.

IMG_1808The idea, one presumes, is that you imagine you’ve been whisked to an elegant Parisienne Brasserie on the Champs Elysee? It works to an extent, reminded me a bit of the old ‘Cafe Rouges’ though. ‘Moulin Rouge’ mirrors and velvet curtains abound. The exposed ‘air-con’ ironmongery on the ceiling detracts slightly, but I’m quibbling.
IMG_1805

Whilst fish and seafood is the main intent, and what we came for, the menu boats a collection of fine rotisserie meats too. The menu is extensive, a quid or two up compared to some others in town, but it is indeed a fine offer. I started up with the New England clam & bacon chowder with fresh corn bread (£5.50). A hearty meal in itself, robust flavours, loads of clams in a creamy broth. Utterly wonderful. The Flame went for the R&A crab cakes with lime mayonnaise, watercress & radish salad (a fairly hefty £9.85). Again rather good. I was allowed half of one!

IMG_1809

For mains I went for ‘full faff’ whole, cracked, brown crab mayonnaise with R&A potato salad (£19.85). The ready dressed ‘low faff’ Dorset crab with R&A potato salad is £2 cheaper! Have to say it was sensational. Struggling to recall a better crab, good size too, but the potato salad is worth a mention. Piquant and tasty, perfect accompaniment to the main event. Thankfully, The Flame was perfectly happy catching up on Facebook whilst I cracked and crunched my way through this king of crustaceans!

IMG_1811

The Flame had the Grilled line-caught tuna with roasted Mediterranean vegetables, feta cheese & an olive oil oregano tapenade (£19.85). A thick steak of tuna, cooked perfectly pink on a colourful bed of aubergine, peppers and onions.

IMG_1812

By now we were stuffed, but couldn’t resist a sweet finish. The desserts, Sticky Date Pudding – with vanilla ice cream & caramel sauce and my Baked Vanilla Cheesecake – with caramel & salted caramel ice cream (both £8 each), both homemade were perfectly decent, but by then we were a bit over faced, especially after our rather splendid anniversary ice cream, presented by young Zak.

IMG_1807

The bill romped in at a fairly hefty £135 including a 12.5% discretionary tip. But as we know, seafood in particular exerts a premium. Have to say this though, despite our initial hiccup with the table we thoroughly enjoyed our time here. The service was bright, attentive and knowledgable. TV chef Ed Baines is behind the R&A. The original is in Soho in London. I hope his selection of Bridge Street in Manchester as the next foray works out. We’ll definitely be back. This could well turn out to be one of our favourites places, watch this space……

Randall & Aubin Manchester
64 Bridge Street,
Manchester
M3 3BN
Tel: +44 (0) 161 7111 007
Email: mcr@randallandaubin.com

Five Guys – Arndale, Manchester

“Not sure my valet would approve but this fast food burger chain can certainly turn out a decent burger”

IMG_1695

Its become a bit of a Friday treat. Even become known as burger Friday. Working in Manchester I have been gradually schlepping round the hip burger joints with a group of like minded cohorts. We’ve done the usual suspects Byron, Solita, Almost Famous, Yard and Coop, Common, Reds, Westcorner and others. However, nagging away at the back, big ‘Dazzer’ kept banging on about Five Guys. “Where is it?”, “in the Arndale” he quipped. “Good Lord, my valet wont let me go in there, thats for the youngsters, how will I dress? What jacket will I wear?”, “No honest its ace, just keep with me you’ll be fine”.

IMG_1696

The Arndale is Manchester’s compendium of garish retail emporiums, so loved by the ‘yoof’. I felt so out of place in my Harris tweed. Dazzer led on, armed with a full hipster beard, he took looked the part and soon led me to the double height cathedral of glass and red panelling. Five Guys cuts quite a dash, you cant miss it.

We queued in. A riot of formica with the odd daub of oak. I was encouraged by the claim that ‘chips are hand formed and sourced locally,’ from some farm in Huddersfield today by all accounts.

957b8f3bd57e7d3eaf906c53d951a343

Dazzer clearly experienced in the protocol quickly ordered the burger with a riot of extras (there are 15 to chose from!), lettuce, jalepeno, cheese, onion, hot sauce and various other ingredients. To avoid confusion and embarrassment I simply ordered the same, but with a salted caramel milkshake instead of one of about 170 different coca cola flavours!

We then waited out front whilst the uniformed operatives set to work. It’s an impressive set up. All the workings are on show. A huge metallic range applies the necessary heat to the foodstuffs whilst an overhead cowl hoovers up the steam and sweat of honest toil. Within minutes our number is called and we grasp our feed. Its all wrapped in brown paper.

IMG_0829

Have to say it was very good. The burger was tasty and moist. Probably overdid it with the extras as it disintegrated into a gooey mess. A lovely gooey mess though. The skin on chips were historic. Proper fantastic. The milkshake was up there with the best too.

Came it at around £12 a head, so whilst its fast food, it’s not necessarily fast food prices, but well worth it.

IMG_0827

Whilst I went to the Arndale in Manchester there is one in the Trafford Centre too. That said they are sprouting up everywhere, emanating from London as ever. Worth a try if you happen to be in the type of place they happen to be! Not sure Jeeves will let me out again, but that doesn’t stop you though…..

Five Guys
Somewhere near you soon….
http://www.fiveguys.co.uk

The Pit Smokehouse – Culcheth, Cheshire

“Our very own dirty food emporium, right on our doorstep!”

The great burger revolution that has swept through, well err…. Manchester over the last few years has shown little sign of abating. Solita, Byron, Almost Famous, Reds, Five Guys and various Smokehouse empires have grilled into the fray with apparent success. Followers will know I am a fan of a well turned out burger. So it was with a welcome heart that I slumped into a relatively local joint called The Pit Smokehouse. Its housed in a sort of house/shop type set up in Culcheth. Culcheth is a fairly well heeled enclave outside Warrington in leafy Cheshire and only a few miles from my home town of Newton le Willows.

IMG_1674

The site formerly housed a haphazard attempt at fine dining called ‘Duck Egg Blue’. The decor has been completely swept aside in favour of the customary ranch style set up that is de rigeur for a ‘smokehouse’. Big rustic tables, cow horns, logos branded into wood, you get the picture, its all to make you feel like you’ve hit the deep south, roped yourself a bucking longhorn, had its backside wiped and slapped on the barbie. Even had Lynyrd Skynyrd on the house PA!

IMG_1678

I surveyed the menu. It’s a fine body of work, if you like grilled and smoked meat. I ordered a cowboy sized peanut butter shake (shouldn’t that have been a bourbon on the rocks? – Ed) and set about my order.

IMG_1675

For starts I signed up for some smoked chicken wings in a Jack Daniels honeyed coat (3 pieces for £3.95). They turned up smarttish and crikey they were good. These chickens must have had a good life, I reckon they could’ve flown for miles. They must have been the biggest, meatiest wings Ive ever had. Cracking start.

IMG_1676

From the impressive burger list I plumbed for a ‘Volcano’ burger, which promised to be hot with jalepeno and their signature chilli. It came in at £11.95 with skin on fries. It came, teetering on a board, stabbed in place with a menacing, but necessary sharp knife. Such was the ‘immenseness’ of the offer I had to deconstruct it to do it justice. For me it was probably too big. Most of the constituents were as expected. The chilli was hot and flavoursome, cheese oozed from various ports. The only slight disappointment was the actual beef patty (or should I say patties). They were a little dry for me. We know we can have juicy pink when the meat is of this quality. A shame really as this could have been a solid 9 out of 10. The dry beef making it a 7 at best. The chips were good, but I hardly touched them after all this!

IMG_1677

I couldn’t fit a dessert in. All in all an encouraging find. I’d definitely give it another go next time I need a dirty food fix. Worth a try, just ask for the one burger, and make sure its pink!

The Pit Smokehouse
453 Warrington Road
Culcheth
Warrington
Cheshire
WA3 5SJ

www.thepitsmokehouse.co.uk

PS One in Widnes too

L’Enclume – Cartmel, Cumbria

“Well thats one on the bucket list ticked off! Think Ill go again and again though…..”

IMG_1621

Finally done it. Finally absorbed the foraged and farmed nutrients of Simon Rogans’s Cumbrian bounty. His two Michelin starred restaurant L’Enclume. Took 55 years exactly to do it mind, but I did it. And it met all expectations. An astounding experience.

IMG_1623

After a gentle meander in the ‘Rogan L’Enclume’ shop, (where I just managed to avoid buying a stainless steel quail egg topper!), we trudged the two hundred yards or so through the torrential rain from the quaint little square of Cartmel to the stone, understated former smithy that now houses this edifice of gastronomic wonderment. Indeed the anvil (English for L’Enclume geddit?) is the only exterior nod to the great place inside. We entered for a lunch time treat starting at 1.30pm. The place was packed! We were greeted with extraordinary enthusiasm by the ecstatic front of house team. There seemed to be hundreds of them.

Once ensconced at our generous, organically shaped table we allowed the experience to wash over us. A large, cumbrian G&T to settle the nerves. And then we were off. The eight course extravaganza was underway. I now merely quote from the wax anvil (natch) sealed envelope which housed our menu and wine flight in full.

enclume menu

First up a gentle start of stringy leeks, garlic and ashes, with deep fried ball of pork and eel with ham fat. We gingerly tucked in. Needn’t have worried. Glorious start. To think my food hell is beetroot. Up next a stunning puree of beetroot with pine and a quail egg underneath. Arguably the best course for me. It could have been a dessert such was the wonderful sweetness and luscious texture of the mousse. Historic.

IMG_1624

Next up aged veal with a touch of coal oil, radish and oxalis. A rather dainty dish this, dwarfed by the heady circumference of its earthenware dish. Next another highlight, Candisa cabbage, english wasabi and fermented mushroom. The cabbage was charred, the mushroom augmented with truffle. Sensational. I must mention the breads and butters at this stage. They appeared in various guises throughout. All warmed with pasteurised or unpasteurised butter. All utterly faultless.

IMG_1627

Next a saddle of lamb and turnips with sweetbreads and glazed kale. Wonderfully cooked. The kale supplied with other foraged specimens. Then the sweet bits started. First up a symphony of strawberries, malwina ones with verbana.

IMG_1628

Another sweet bit next, rhubarb with yoghurt a sweet cicely. We elected to sample the cheeseboard as an extra. Super local ones with an array of fancy crackers.

IMG_1629

As it was my birthday I got my own individual almond cake. With coffee we then plundered the kendal mint cake ice cream balls and the edible moss gel! Amazing stuff.

IMG_1630

IMG_1622

The whole lot came in at £300 with tip. The lunch itself is £55 with the wine flight a further £49. We were there for nigh on four hours. A stunning experience. We left with beaming smiles on our faces. I have to say it was faultless. Everything was just so. Front of house, the ambiance, the decor, the cookery, the wine all exemplary. I just wish I could eat like this every week. Just do it people…..

L’Enclume
Cavendish Street, Cartmel
Nr Grange over Sands
Cumbria, LA11 6PZ
+44 (0) 15395 36362
http://www.lenclume.co.uk

 

Eagle and Child – Ramsbottom

“I think I might have to move to Ramsbottom. It seems like some sort of heaven…….”

I’ve already splurged a few tomes extolling the wonderment that surrounds this fine old Lancashire town. Already blogged Baratxuri, Levanter, Hearth of the Ram, the artisan market as well as The Red Rose Diner courtesy of the East Lancs Railway that steams right through it. Now it’s the turn of the recently refurbished ‘Eagle and Child’. It doesn’t disappoint. To be fair it shouldn’t given the long list of accolades that have followed since its current imcumbents set to task.

IMG_1592

I booked the table for a late Sunday lunch allowing us time to enjoy a leisurely stroll around nearby Summerseat and the wonderful Nuttal Park. As the time approached we eagerly sprinted up the hill from the town. The Eagle is a fine looking, simple stone building. The refurb has grafted an architectural glass box onto the back with fine views of the Irwell Valley and Peel Tower. The bright red Thwaites logo gives it a little lift….And that means it sells ‘Wainwrights’ golden ale. This is good thing.

IMG_1593

Its smart inside too. A quality fit out, the bar area in particular is especially inviting.

IMG_1594

We perused the Sunday lunch menu (£22.95 for two course, £25.95 for three) in its red binder along with the hi tech iPad specials board.

The Flame pulled her nose a bit, “Theres no chicken”, she observed*. As ever I was sticking pins in to decide as it was all glorious to me!

IMG_1595

She settled on tomato soup to start. A little boring we thought, but she was very pleased with what turned out. Full of flavour, she agreed it was a fine start. Easy pick for me, the smoked haddock scotch egg with curried mayo. Terrific start. It would seem many shared my view, they were flying out with empty plates coming back.

IMG_1596

For mains I went from the specials board. I was lured by the inclusion of hogget. A chop with a disc of braised shoulder, a potato gallette, some french peas and red wine jus (a fairly hefty £21.95). Ive never had hogget before but wow, the chop in particular was a treat. Beautifully tender with a fullsome, lamb taste. The rest was fine too. Thoroughly enjoyed. The Flame went for the vegetarian option, charred aubergine with spicy cous cous and goats cheese. Not my bag really but The Flame loved it. A decent looking dish.

IMG_1597

For dessert I had the mille fleur, beautifully presented with a passionfruit cream. The Flame went for the rather splendid cheese board, wonderfully explained by Rosie.

Rosie (along with Glen and Alex) was clearly part of the management team here. She went on to explain their work with the incredible edible garden that is being cultivated at the back of the pub. We went to have a look and feed the chickens. It’s a great space that I’m sure will be packed on a fine summers day. She also explained about their work in training troubled youngsters to be chefs and waiting staff. It’s a fine story.

IMG_1598

And did I mention the accolades? I almost forgot it had won Sunday roast of the year a few times, I was reminded many times why as plates of slavering lumps of tender pink beef wafted by. Ill be back for one of those…….

*And The Flame needn’t worry about the lack of chicken. Rosie said to give us a ring next time before you come. She was sure chef Alex could rustle something good up.

Eagle and Child

3 Whalley Road,
Ramsbottom,
Lancashire,
BL0 0DL

Tel: 01706 557181

http://eagle-and-child.com