Tag Archives: brunch

The Lost and Found – Knutsford, Cheshire

“Cant really go wrong with bottomless prosecco and brunch. Especially at a smart gaff where ladies doth lunch”. Did you notice that rhymed?

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Strange one this. Stumbled on it as part of my day job (as someone who specifies furniture). A rather creditable outfit called ‘Revivalist’ pointed out that one of their more recent successful fit outs was their conversion of a Town Hall into a high end bar called ‘The Lost and Found’ in Knutsford. They proceeded to pepper me with wonderful, high res images highlighting their craft of making places look smart. As a fan of Mr Osbourne’s part time residence I decided to treat The Flame once again and head over there for a light brunchette. We like Knutsford, you may remember me in previous blogs, like ‘The Old Sessions House’ and the wonderful ‘Makers Market’. Despite the early start (11.30am) the website recommended booking for brunch. So we did.

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We duly arrived at the imposing old building, suitably spruced. We booked in at reception and admired the spacious downstairs bar. However, the receptionist radioed into a ‘walkie talkie’ to announce our arrival. Moments later we had trudged up several flights of stairs to the top floor dining room. Once we’d ventured through the smart navy doors you are greeted with a huge, naturally lit space. Divided in two along its length. A tiled mezzanine, sprinkled with Eames inspired wire side chairs sits to the right whilst the lower left half houses a series of booths, the bar, the pass and more tables. It is impressive. This could be the first restaurant review you read with the word ‘biophillia’ in its prose! Trees and various branches of foliage abound, bringing nature and the outside in. The lack of soft furnishings and the huge original windows make it a tad noisy though.

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We are presented with our ‘bottomless prosecco brunch’ menu. As it’s not compulsory we elected to miss the £15pp extra for two hours worth of free plonk and settle for a quality black coffee and some tap water. It’s a great menu, small plates and mains, all done with a twist.

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The Flame went for her favourite Smoked salmon, black pepper and lemon cream cheese, dressed rocket, open malted brown bloomer (£7.50). She also asked for some avocado which was duly provided for only a £1 extra. Have to say it looked very good if you like that sort of thing. The Flame was in raptures, loved, loved, loved it.

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I went for their full breakfast which was Bacon, grilled Cumberland sausages, black pudding, fried, scrambled or poached eggs, roasted vine tomatoes, flat mushroom, house beans (£8.50). For research purposes I had Brown butter pancakes, banana, hazelnuts, chocolate sauce too (£6.00). The breakfast was fine. The sausage rather good, the bacon a bit too crisp for me. The house beans added a twist. The pancakes were hot and plump, sweet and nutty. A fine end to proceedings.

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A little, local bird told me that the place had a rather stuttering start, inexperienced staff, cocktail making by numbers, poor beer stocks and lacklustre management. It would seem much has improved. Whilst it shouldn’t be too difficult to rustle up a good breakfast and serve unlimited prosecco, the staff we encountered, particularly Dianne our American? waitress was experience, warmth and ‘attentiveness’ personified. As I mentioned the place had started to fill considerably, with couples and groups of lunching ladies. The Flame was well impressed and has already earmarked some girlie events here in the future. Its on the list to try for a proper meal. Its worth a punt for the grand view alone. On a nicer day, you can always walk off the excess with a walk round Tatton Park. Give it a go.

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The Lost & Found
Old Town Hall, Princess Street,
Knutsford. WA16 6BY
Telephone – 01565 760 096
knutsford@the-lostandfound.com
http://www.the-lostandfound.co.uk

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Pot Kettle Black Coffee – Manchester

“Manchester based, Indie coffee gaff PKB have added a decent brunch to the offer. Its worth a punt”

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The Flame texted in. “Im in town to take your present back to Marks, where you taking me for lunch?”. Bit cheeky, but hey Its Monday, normally a slimming day, thinking on my feet I suggest meeting at Pot Kettle Black. Time 12.30. It’s a short scutch down Deansgate from the office to the rather grand Barton Arcade. PKB is stationed within behind Spanish favourite Lunya (reviewed here). Ive been to PKB quite a few times. The witty blackboards stationed on Deansgate and St Anns Square have drawn me in a many times for a quick brew and the odd bowl of morning porridge. Lately its had a moderate make over and added a brunch menu that I’ve fancied trying. The meeting was set.

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The splendid Barton Arcade, Witty blackboards

The Flame was already stationed in the window on the newly acquired touch down, rough hewn planks that are nailed into the window bays. We sat on the hessian covered stools and surveyed the dinky little A5 menu, itself clipped to a piece of hardboard. You’re perhaps getting the idea of the decor and makeover? Its pure vintage, casual, quirky and smart. I love it. A big high communal table is available to share alongside standard tables and chairs. A new express hatch directly into the arcade is part of the alterations.

I ordered up at the bar. An array of tray baked brownies adorn. The staff, young and hip are decked out in branded T shirts. Once paid, the cutlery was presented in a vintage tin along with my numbered spoon.

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The menu is largely egg based along with the ubiquitous avocado. Carbs are added with a variety of herby, flavoured, sourdough bread. The eggs are done all ways, many of them submerged in glorious spicy sauce. On this occasion I had the ‘saganaki’ version (£9) whilst The Flame plumbed for the poached eggs and avocado (£8.50). We ordered strong, black, americano coffees to go with them.

The saganaki eggs featured feta, chilli and spinach and came with olive and rosemary sourdough toast. Set in a wonderful deep blue bowl the two, plump, soft baked eggs were swamped in a glorious, spicy, tomato stew. The stiff toast doubling up as a scoop and mop for the uncious goo. What a glorious, healthy lunch. So much so, I had the spicier N’duja eggs a few days later!

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Avocado with poached eggs, saganaki eggs

Im not a major fan of avocado but The Flame loved her soft poached eggs on avocado too. Eggs looked good and it was a decent coffee. Nicely presented on its little tray with a goblet of water and a chocolate cigar.

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All in all couldn’t fault it. £22 for a very pleasant lunchette. It seems breakfast and brunch is becoming quite a ‘thing’. Im all for it, love going out for breakfast so I reckon its here to stay. I know there are quite a few places in the city doing this now. The northern quarter in particular but I reckon PKB can hold its own with them. They are open from 8am at the weekends now. So no excuses to hit the corporate, American coffee shops when we have our own right here. Give it a try…..

Pot Kettle Black Coffee
Unit 14, Barton Arcade
Deansgate
Manchester
M3 2BW

Yorks Bakery Cafe – Birmingham

“In my brief, humble opinion eating brunch in Birmingham has no equal”

A gentlemen’s weekend had broken out. A rock gig at Birmingham’s premier ‘mega hangar’ the supposed centrepiece. However as subsistence director I was tasked with ensuring our humble threesome didn’t starve or become slaked with thirst. Thirst was sorted by local hostelries The Wellington and The Victoria, food came via the unlikely titled Yorks Bakery. Having travelled by train and being really adventurous you may be surprised to learn that all this sustenance was had within 200 yards of New Street station!

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We stumbled on Yorks first and foremost on the afternoon of said gig. We were enticed by a beer and burger for a tenner banner. We soon learned that this was a midweek special, however, undeterred the decor and general demeanour had us suitably hooked to sit in a try it out. I immediately recognised the place as a typical, urban, trendy type, ‘Northern Quarter’* cafe, resplendent in the obligatory exposed services and homemade tables, chairs and benches. A hip backing track and cool staff completed the look. A well stocked, stack of homemade cakes on the bar helped too!

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As it was we went for the burger and fries anyway, allied to a bottle of pale ale and a super boost smoothie. The fries gun powdered, the burger suitably sized, cooked pink but overshadowed for me by an over ‘garlicky’ aioli. Could have done with it on the side and not caked over the bottom bun. All in all though a super effort and enjoyed by all.

What really caught the eye for me was the menu for breakfast/brunch. As we were staying at the nearby ‘Nitenight’, breakfast was an extra that we had to fund ourselves. And so come 9.30 next morning we took our place back in Yorks whilst the young staff optimistically put out the kerbside tables and chairs. We surveyed the super A4 card once more to confirm our order.

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A couple of trendy teas, served in big glass urns and a decent ‘americano’ take the edge of the previous nights beer. The house breakfast here when shared is called ‘The gentleman’, which was highly appropriate, as my two esteemed cohorts took up the offer of a sharing plate. A fairly hefty £15 each with unlimited brews. But boy what a set up. Quality, local, artisan ingredients set on a huge plank that barely fitted on our table. Fine herby sausages, oak smoked bacon, huge shrooms, homemade barbecue beans (a particular highlight), fried eggs and wonderful sourdough toast and local butter. All done to perfection.

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I went off beam and tried the middle eastern breakfast ‘Shakshuka’ (£8). Peppers, onions sweated in garlic, cumin and Harissa with baked eggs, yoghurt and herbs. This came hot in its own skillet and sourdough bread. Absolutely wonderful, what a great start to a day. I followed with a bit of sweetness. Toasted banana bread, with espresso labne? Sweet dukka and a raspberry coulis (£5). Oh my, another triumph.

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Shakshuka, toasted banana bread

We were in the place for a good hour and a half. By the time we came out for our 11.20 train the place was packed. It would appear quite a lot of the Birmingham city dwellers are aware of Yorks, as they were all out getting their brunch. Even outside was full. So once again it’s a full recommend. If you ever find yourself with an hour to kill at New Street railway station you can either grab a snack from the chains inside or take the gentle 50 yard stroll to Yorks. I know what id do……

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Lovely cakes

Yorks Bakery Cafe
29 Stephenson Street
Birmingham

T 0121 643 4331
http://www.yorksbakerycafe.co.uk

The Old Blind School – Liverpool

“It’s was only A bit of brunch but it was still a good feed”

It’s 9.30am Sunday morning, the flame and I have awoken from a slumber caused by a Saturday night Kylie Minogue gig! What to do for breakfast? I rather hopefully suggested a date at ‘The Old Blind School’ in Liverpool. Surprisingly, the flame considered this a good idea despite Liverpool being a forty minute train journey! We were on! Just after eleven we sauntered in to the latest and grandest addition to the NewMoon Company portfolio. We are big fans of Manchester’s ‘Beef and Pudding’ and so ever since the Twitter hype started ‘TOBS’ has been high on the list.

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It cuts a fine dash on Hardman Street; it’s a hop, skip and a jump from The Philharmonic. It’s a fine old grade two listed building. It’s actually difficult to believe that this is a restaurant. It is huge. Once in, we settled stage right on the ground floor. We were a little surprised at the lack of eating height tables, but we had little to fear. Dave Mooney (one of the owners) was on hand to supply a quick tour of the place, proudly revealing a further couple of floors. Upwards, via a magnificent staircase a further three rooms provide a veritable platoon of quality settings.

Some fittings
Some fittings

The walls are scattered with artworks reflecting the ‘Scouse’ heritage. ‘Lennon’ prints and nods to the original blind school usage make it more like an art gallery than a high end ‘gastro pub’. Not that that’s a bad thing. Greys, blues and yellows combine with wood, leather and daring chandeliers. It makes for a truly sumptuous experience.

More fittings
More fittings

As it was Sunday morning it was a heavily truncated menu. Its weekend brunch time. One of my favourite meals. It’s a cracking little booklet. Some slight variations to the normal suspects as well.

The brunch menu
The brunch menu

The Flame went for the 3 egg omelette or ‘Arnold Bennet’ as its called. It comes filled with naturally smoked haddock, cheddar cheese and double cream (£7.50). It was a fair old plate full, piping hot and chock full of flavour. The Flame really enjoyed it, but felt it needed a bit of something else, maybe some tomatoes for a change of texture and taste, but we are splitting hairs here. I went for the eggs benedict (£5.95) which were terrific; the ham was off the bone stuff, no pressed, boiled ham here. The hollandaise adding a luscious edge to the perfectly poached eggs. I washed this down with some French toast, served with strawberries and raspberries (£5.95) and lashings of hot coffee. The toast, super sticky and sweet. Good stuff.

French toast, haddock omelette, eggs benedict
French toast, haddock omelette, eggs benedict

It was only a quick impromptu visit and the ‘TOBS’ team were psyching themselves up for the father’s Day onslaught (the place was booked up twice over before five!). We’ll definitely be back for a stab at the super looking main menu which as with all the NewMoonCo outfits use quality raw materials.

The main menu
The main menu

And judging by this little visit, it would seem there’s someone who knows how to cook behind that newly transformed galley? A well marshalled fleet of smiling service staff, (Emily and Beefy’s Ashley were on hand this time) should ensure continued progress and success. Liverpool seems to be following hard on the heels of Manchester’s foodie explosion. TOBS is here ready and waiting! Bring it on!

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The Old Blind School
24 Hardman Street
Liverpool
L1 9AX
0151 709 8002

http://www.oldblindschool.co.uk

Top Ten Dishes of 2014

Not wishing to miss out on a shameless plug for the Cook Twit blog and a chance to rehash some of my earlier work with minimal effort, I thought I’d jump full square on to the food bloggers best of 2014 bandwagon. 2014 has been a great year for grub. Though thanks to the fast diet I’m 6lbs lighter!

As one mate says to me “Do you ever have a crap meal”. Well generally because I go to places that other foodies on twitter have recommended, the answer is No. So I should add if there are places not mentioned below who know I’ve visited them. It is no slight, it is merely the fact that these had a slight, undefinable edge. There are thousands of dishes at number 11 !

Its my view that a quality dish chimes when several factors gel. Apart from the obvious ones, flavour, ingredients, skill of the chef, I reckon the circumstances around the meal play a big part. Degree of ‘hungriness’, atmosphere, who you are with, mood, expectation, service and a whole host of ‘soft’ issues. With this in mind you may find some of my choices a little surprising. But here goes in no particular order.

10) I love fish and chips. the best I had this year was sat on my own in the sunshine in Albert Square Manchester. It was served in a cardboard tray by The Hip Hop Chip Shop as part of the Manchester Food Festival. Simply superb with lovely skin on chips and chillied onion ring. But a special mention should go to The Elephant 1934 and the Arnside chippy who both came a close second.

Great fish and chips
Great fish and chips

9) I love seafood and pasta. I had no better of both at Salvis in Manchester. Seafood tagliatelle. Stunning.

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8) I love brunch. Seems to have become very popular this year. I had no finer than at Beef and Pudding. A vast helping for £9.95. The Flames Egg Benedict equally good.

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7) I have a raging sweet tooth. Always save my second sweet stomach for afters! Had an amazing marmalade and ginger cheesecake, served in a kilner jar whilst sat by the Thames in London on a glorious summers eve. The Tied End Cottage Pub, Teddington. Incredible. The warm peach tart at The Assheton Arms deserves a mention though.

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6) Love my ‘dirty’ street food. Mumma Schnitzel set up an obligatory Citroen H van in Spinningfields, Manchester (sadly now departed) and served up the finest chicken schnitzels known to man. A standard Friday lunch treat. Even better the ‘specials’. My favourite the ‘Hanoi Hanoi’. Thai flavours mingled in with a kick.

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5) On a similar theme, Twitter had served up frightening images of the Solita Christmas Burger. I was hooked. All expectations were met (apart from the candied chipolata on top). Christmas dinner in a bun.

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4) Love a pie,  I regularly buy Great North Pie Co versions, but had a couple of beauties outside this year. After a six hour drive and starving, I think The Church Green, Lymm, chicken and root veg just shades The Roebucks mutton pie. Nags Head did an amazing chicken leg and ham one too.

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3) Went to Mughli on the curry mile in Rusholme, Manchester for the first time this year. Had their signature seafood biryani. Superb.

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2) Went to Sicily this year for the hols. Fish is big there. Had a great big dorado served on a platter with potatoes, veg and gravy at ‘La Grotta Azzurra’ in Toamina. Served at the table. Awesome.

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1) Anything at The Pig On The Beach Hotel. Went for a week for our 25th wedding anniversary. All ingredients grown or caught within a couple of miles. I had a slab of turbot caught that morning. Chef told me in the day that it was coming. It doesn’t get fresher than that.

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So there you have it, the top ten. Like I said though, there are hundreds of number elevens. Well done chefs a great year. Lets see what we can have in 2015.