Tag Archives: eccles cake

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

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The Boathouse – Appley Bridge (near Wigan)

“There can’t be a better spot on the canal in Wigan!”

The Flame is oft referred to (by me) as “a lady wot lunches”. She normally troops to some garden centre or other but one day she opined the virtues of The Boathouse at Appley Bridge. She even said “this is one for The Cooktwit”. Bank holiday Monday was, in our parts, a fine, sunny affair. After a tortuous morning re-felting the shed I was gleefully reminded of this canal side haunt. We booked it and went. We set off North to M6 Standish. By then a cool, thick fog had descended, our intended, after dinner sleeveless stroll was dashed.

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Undeterred we settled in. The boathouse seems to have been some sort of hangar. I reckon being next to a canal it once used to house boats (give him a medal, what is he on? – Ed). The room is very high and features some nailed in beams. The decoration is new and is in the standard, new pub style of mixed, feature wall paper, tweeds, prints, mixed colours and block paint. It kind of works. It’s pleasant enough. Outside a huge pergola sits next to the canal. Its sides are filled at present to fend off a westerly wind; no doubt they will be relinquished on a hot sunny day.

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A pint of Prospect Brewery’s Silver Tally was soon in place to allow a perusal of the one sheet menu. It’s a very decent menu. The Flames assertion that The Cooktwit would be impressed was well founded.

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I started off with a breaded pork schnitzel complete with apple and fennel slaw, pancetta crisp and a caper sauce (£5.95). The schnitzel was reassuring hot and moist, the slaw zingy and fresh. I was well pleased. The Flame didn’t have a starter but she was beaming. She knew she’d put me on to a good thing.

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We both had a main course. The flame had the pan fried salmon with green beans, capers, tomatoes, lemon and herb dressing and a hot portion of chips (£12.95).  Everything was piping hot, straight from the kitchen which is on view. The salmon cooked to perfection, chips, light and crisp and a decent salad. No limp lettuce here.

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I reckon I won though. I had a roasted lamb shank, which came with carrot, celery, puy lentils, rosemary jus & braised red cabbage compote (£15.95). Not too sure where the carrot was, but in their place was cabbage and spring greens which were engulfed in a rich lentil laden gravy. The gravy itself then swamped round a suitable mound of hot, buttery mash. It was a delight. The lamb fell away with minimal teasing. I wolfed the lot.

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As you know I always have a sweet and today was no exception. Even the flame had one! A huge dish of apple and rhubarb crumble and custard (£4.95). The crumble still sweet and crunchy despite the overflowing jus. I had a classic lemon tart with honeycomb and raspberry (£4.95). I could have done with some ice cream for added lustre, but it was nice enough.

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I’d have to say looking at the quality of the food coming out; it’s a definite try again. Burgers, fish and chips all looked top notch. The ‘we want plates’ brigade might have a thing to say as there were plenty of boards slates and nets! The Boathouse only opened in 2014 with two executive chefs and a mantra to use local, seasonal produce and champion local ales. It’s a fine offer. Get down early in summer though I reckon this is going to be a popular place. It even has an ice cream parlour outside. What’s not to like?

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And if you have a coffee you get a mini eccles cake…….

The Boathouse
Mill Lane
Appley Bridge
Wigan
WN6 9DA
01257 252456
http://www.appleybridgeboathouse.com