Tag Archives: Burger

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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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

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Filthy Cow – Manchester

STOP PRESS – this restaurant is now closed

“Danger, there may be images of lightly cooked mince in this review!”

Not sure what else I can add here. It’s another burger joint in Manchester. It’s good though. It’s called Filthy Cow and it’s on Tib Lane in the old Lounge Ten gaff.

Ginger Comfort Vanilla Shake, Jeeps and branding
Ginger Comfort Vanilla Shake, Jeeps and branding

I do recall the last time I was here. An olive skinned lothario crooned sweet nothings down my lug ‘ole whilst trying to woo The Flame over an incredibly expensive medium rare steak. Lounge Ten, ten years ago was the place to be for a while.

It was a bit of a shock when I romped into the old place now though. It’s been stripped of its soft furnishings and transformed into some sort of dungeon. A girder construction hovers down the left whilst a suspended, industrial scale hoover hose joins outside to the backstage griddling deck. Graffiti covers the walls whilst small, screw top stools dot round a collection of dated tables. It’s a transient space this, not designed for comfort. Still it does the job. I suppose that’s the plan, get them in, get them out. It’s not for loitering.

Industrial insides
Industrial insides

It must work though. It took a few visits to actually get served at lunchtime; such was the numbers wanting to try it out. It finally succumbed on a glorious sunny Friday. Even then it filled up quick. It does have an upstairs but it was shut when I went.

I ventured in with work chum Kev. He likes a burger. We sidled up to the bar. A rather pleasant young lady laid down the procedure. We ordered up from the limited card. We avoided the ‘special’ pork and chorizo burger and went for two ‘standard’ Filthy Beasts, a portion of chips, a guava pop! and a Ginger Comforts vanilla milkshake. £24 the lot. Burgers £7.50. We sat down by the window (the only light) and sat patiently with our very own flashing, warning disc.

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Bit of a masterstroke getting local ice heroes Ginger to stump up the ice cream for the shakes. Bit steep at £4.50 but boy it was good. Glorious, creamy filler for the main event. After a few minutes our flashing alert disc sprang into action. The filthy beasts duly arrived. They were sheathed in their own ‘izal’ bog paper wrap, each topped with their own ‘filthy’ badge. Once unravelled we both marvelled at the spectacle. Moist, pink patty, crisp lettuce, crispy bacon and lashings of cheese. No question it was a great burger. I would say as good as I’ve had at other famous establishments in the city. We wolfed the hot salty chips and wiped ourselves down with the branded napkins. We left some twenty minutes later very happy indeed.

The Filthy Cow, Pink
The Filthy Cow, Pink

I’d have to say I was pretty impressed, clearly young Jordan Gallimore, proprietor and inventor of the breed has done the homework. It all works well right down to the clever branding. Even the jeep outside had it. You could argue the offer is a bit limited and that continued success relies on our continued insatiable appetite for the humble gourmet burger. But being honest I don’t see a break in that for some time yet. Roll on.

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Filthy Cow

10 Tib Lane
Manchester
M2 4JB

Call us: 0161 8395498

filthyfood.co.uk

The Grill On The Alley – Manchester

“Has the old favourite still got what it takes to take on the new boys?”

Bear with me here a touch of preamble before getting to the food. I’ve worked in Manchester for two years now. The recent rapid fire expansion of the Manchester food scene is well documented. Before this explosion, living in the sticks, I was used to having my steak on a white porcelain disc (do you mean plate? – Ed) And get this you used to get the chips on the same disc!! However, The Grill On The Alley offered a sumptuous new way of doing things. Steak was delivered on a plank, the chips in their own steel net alongside. This was sophistication; this was where you came for a posh, slap up feed. It was a firm favourite for years. And so it was recently that The Flame was in town and suggested we give it another go. We settled for a six thirty rendezvous.

Interior shots
Interior shots

The old place hadn’t changed. You sweep down the long narrow room to the exposed kitchen and servery, via some neat light oak tables, some brown booths and some neatly arranged wall hung pictures. No scaffolding and neon signs here. It’s totally ‘trad’.  We settled into the menu, while William, our highly efficient, aproned waiter, enlightened us, most informatively about the wines and higher bracket steaks on offer.

The menu
The menu

The old favourites are all still there. In fact, I reckon it is the same menu. I don’t think it’s changed in years? Heavily bent on steaks, burgers and grills (as you would expect) it didn’t take long to pick out some winners. I must admit I had some difficulty understanding the difference between the basic, bog standard steaks at £14-22 plus sauces and the premium steaks on a separate menu at £30+ and the ‘wagyu’ steaks at £50+. Surely they’ll all high quality? It would be interesting to compare, but sadly a test I can ill afford and didn’t do on this occasion.

Soup, mussels, fajitas
Soup, mussels, fajitas

Starters for me curried mussels (£8) with coconut and wilted spinach draped over. Plump mussels in a tasty, light spiced broth. Good stuff. The Flame had asparagus soup (£5) which again was very good and presented as well as you can for soup! For mains I had a burger with bacon and cheese (£11 + £2). The chips were great, the burger was pink in the middle as ordered, but a little dry round the edges. It wasn’t as good as some of the ‘experts’ I’ve tried, Byron, SoLita, Gorilla and Almost Famous. The Flame had chicken fajitas (£12) which she thoroughly enjoyed.

The burger, the Black Forest trifle
The burger, the Black Forest trifle

I finished with a superb Black Forest cherry trifle (£6) with lashings of fattening cream set in the obligatory clamp top jar. I noted looking with some envy to a neighbouring table demolishing a superb looking fish and chips. Still maybe another time!

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It all came in at a fairly whopping £62, which for a quick standard burger tea with no wine is right up there. I think therein lies the problem for me. The food was good, not the best ever, the ambiance is good, but just a bit uninspiring for the fairly top end pricing. I just feel that with the myriad of alternatives in Manchester there are places doing this for better value. To name but a few you have Beef and Pudding, Fazenda, and now with Hawskmoor coming on stream I think it will be some time before I’ll be giving The Grill another go. I reckon I could have eaten for less at Mr Coopers which I feel is way above the standard here.

To be fair, the vibrant, avant garde, mismatched furnishings of the new boys is not to everyone’s liking. If you like your food and surroundings no nonsense, straight down the middle, The Grill Is for you but I think I prefer a little more choice and excitement now.

THE GRILL ON THE ALLEY
5 Ridgefield
Manchester
M2 6EG
0161 833 3465

http://blackhouse.uk.com/grill-on-the-alley

SoLita – Northern Quarter – Manchester

Stop Press – This could be the best burger I’ve ever had!

I’ve been hearing a lot of good things about SoLita for months now. I think SoLita is short for South of Little Italy? The twitteratti has been encouraging discerning flollowers to try out this little Mexican gem in Manchester’s northern Quarter. The problem has been I’ve never known where it was! 
However, a couple of weeks back I stumbled on it whilst searching out a decent pint on the way home from work. Having memorised its location I ventured out once again to sample its delights.
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It operates from a corner plot, tucked away from the bright lights of the city. The munching takes place on two floors, a large, red, banquette, diner style awaits below while a small, intimate bistro greets you from the street complete with funky, cartoon wall graphics!
As it was only tea time on a Wednesday eve I was able to acquire a high poseur table slot. Perfect for a lonesome soul, (the flame was otherwise engaged). The menu, printed in black on white acts as your place setting. Perfect for someone who had forgot his readers! There was also a large blackboard shouting out the specials in coloured chalk. There is plenty of choice here. A big feature is their use of an Inka grill which uses charcoal to provide heat and barbeque flavours. A whole host of fish, meaty steaks, chicken and sausages can be had off this, but I went for one of the specialty burgers. 
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I went for the Catalan burger (£10.90) with sweet potato chips. Boy oh boy it was sensational. A Catalan burger comes with the obligatory melted cheese, that goes without saying, but it then comes with large slices of chorizo sausage, roasted peppers and a roasted tomato allioli. The combination provided a wonderful, juicy, spicy mess. For a bit of crunch I opted to pay an extra £1 for the sweet potato chips, which were slightly less successful, but hey, a minor quibble against the main event.
I was only in for a quick snack, but I have to say I will be back for more. I had to leave without tasting my own tiramisu (see blackboard). The menu is wide and varied, the atmosphere and service is warm, friendly and utterly beguiling. And to add to that they even served a decent ale! I washed this Spanish delight down with a ‘Top hop Hornbeam local 4.2%!’ Result.

SoLita
37 Turner St, Manchester
0161 839 2200

 

 

Almost Famous – Liverpool

Working in Manchester as I do, the word had spread that something special was happening up in the Northern Quarter. Proper burgers with strange accoutrements were being sold from a small, unbranded, backstreet block. The problem appeared to be that you could never tell when it was going to be open. You only knew once you turned up and saw the queues stretching round the corner to get in!
Mind you a bigger problem came to the fore, the place got seriously torched. This meant two things, 1) I never got to try and 2) it meant ‘Almost Famous’ was no more.
Thankfully it managed to limp forward by opening a shed off Deansgate in Manchester, but also, in a slightly more sure footed guise, it has opened up along the M62 in Liverpool. Given that two of my young, hip relatives have just started Uni in the town it was here that I ventured along with said youngsters and the flame.
It took some finding though! Branding is not one of ‘Almost Famous’s’ priorities it would seem. It is housed in an old warehouse in the centre of a derelict part of town, but it is close to the ‘studenty’ action.

I tentatively entered first to see if the coast was clear and that this indeed was ‘Almost Famous’. A flashing, young, spouse blade confirmed it was. I waved the posse in. We were met immediately with a blast of loud music, bold graphics and a life sized plastic cow. I was particularly taken with the strap line ‘Burgers Get You Ripped’. Given that my level of ‘rippedness’ was down slightly, I was greatly encouraged to realise the calorific onslaught I was about to consume was going to improve my physique!

We attempted to get to grips with the menu, which were fanned out under the up cycled candle holder. A very friendly waitress explained the terms in order to select the correct strength of sauce to wash over our fries and burgers. Choices included ‘suicide’ (very hot). ‘Redneck’ (BBQ type) and ‘naked’.

The burgers all have names. I’m not too sure of the relevance of each name but basically you get a real, cheshire beef, beautifully, pink in the middle, burger (or two, or three!!) with a combination of cheese, pulled pork, chilli beef, slaw, onions, bacon, salad, gherkins along with a choice of sauce. You can actually get a ‘Not Burger’, which the flame went for, which in her case was breadcrumbed chicken.
I went for a ‘Sloppy Juan’ which meant I got two burgers, chilli beef, onion, pickle, lettuce, ‘animal’ and famous sauce all set on a ‘frisbee’! I had it with a side of ‘true romance’ fries.

All the fries are 50/50 sweet potatoes and normal potatoes. The ‘true romance’ bit meant they came with bacon bits, cheese, onion, chilli and pickle. They were very moorish.

The burgers were properly tasty. Cooked pink in the middle, they we beautifully moist. A burger made from real, quality beef is a very good thing and should not be confused with the shrunken, flabby efforts you may have come across. My hard to please southern relatives were completely taken with their ‘Triple Noms’, complete with BBQ pulled pork.

Again, purely for research purposes I tested out a desert. I had a sensational ‘teen dream’ sundae. Layers of apple, crumble, cherries, crumble, ice cream, cream, salted caramel popcorn and a smoked pretzel. It was absolutely gorgeous, but finished me off!

So if you are middle aged and want to get down with the kids, (or impress the kids), then get down to Almost Famous and try one of these beauties. It will set you back a bit, we spent £55 for four of us with fries, but it is real quality.

Parr Street, Liverpool
www.almostfamousburgers.com
@AlmostFamousLIV