Tag Archives: Manchester

Top Dishes of 2017

It’s that time of year again, a time to whip out the old phone pics and bag a quick blog post. Its my eating highlights of 2017. As ever there has been some great feeds. I have merely chipped a few down that seem worth mentioning. I’m sure I know I will have missed a few out, but here goes…..

First up, one of my fave new places, ‘Friends of Ham’ in Leeds. A simple slice of pigs cheek on sourdough with a potato salad and a pint of hazelnut mild. Simple but delicious. I urge everyone to try.

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Had a super meal at the rejuvenated ‘Beastro’ (review here) in Spinningfields, Manchester. Steak is a speciality. They go from strength to strength. Well worth a visit anytime of day. The signature breakfast wrap sooths hangovers like a dream……

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An unusual but rather splendid meal was had at a campsite in Conwy, North Wales. It was at ‘Signatures’. Despite catering for thirty odd people, a fine dining experience for just over thirty quid was enjoyed. Get your camping gear on chaps…..

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One found oneself wholed up in Tenby, South Wales. A rather agreeable crab timbale and a fresh sea-trout at ‘The Plantagenet House’ by The Harbour worked wonders for the soul. recommended if you’re ever as far west in Wales as you can possibly get.

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A surprisingly decent crab salad with herbs and asparagus was had at ‘The Rose and Crown’, which was sadly a rather garish and unassuming gastropub in Fishguard. That said they have a chef who knows what he is doing. Simple exquisite.

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Ventured to old favourite ‘Baratxuri’ in Ramsbottom for a lunchtime snack, ended up sat in their new ‘comedor’ (dining room!) having a full chicken with all the trimmings! I’ve run out of superlatives for this place. You must go.

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I love a reuben! Manchester’s street food heroes ‘Northern Soul’ do a superb New Yorker. Cheese toasties on steroids.

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Seafood specialist and newcomer to Manchester ‘Randall and Aubin’ (reviewed here) provided a sumptuous array of oysters, crab and tuna for our wedding anniversary this year. Their twitter feed highlights many other delights. The fish and chips looks like a winner.

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Talking of fish and chips, we stumbled on ‘The Ferry Tavern’ in Penketh near Warrington.  It’s all it does! It does it well though and a nice view of the Mersey gateway Bridge…..

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Took a colleague for a corking lunch in Manchesters Nothern Quarter. They have a new authentic mexican restauraunt called ‘El Taquero’. We loved it.  Pork and pineapple taco anyone? Say yes when asked…..

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I’ve mentioned many times that you can press a pin blindfold onto a map of The Ribble Valley and you will find somewhere decent to eat. Came by accident across ‘The Aspinall Arms’ in Mitton near Whalley. Corking pigeon starter amongst.

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Trooped round Shoreditch on my own one Saturday. Fellow foodies pointed me to Smokestak. Unfortuantely I’d eaten but managed to squeeze these sticky pig tails in as a little snack. Will be back for a full feed one day.

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The Boys hit Dublin in a rainy January. away from Temple Bar we stumbled on Darkey Kellys. Best Guiness and a blimnding Guiness stew for a hearty lunch. Recommended.

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Finally and easily the best meal of the year for me. My birthday bash was spent at Simon Rogans’s Michelin starred L’Enclume. Stunning food in a fabulous setting with a glorious front of house. I need to go again and again. Review here.

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So there it is for now. By no means exhaustive. I could have added many burger pics! but youve seen them before. Hope to add a bit more diversity in 2018, going to Cuba soon. What do they eat there?……

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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.

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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.
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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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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”

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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”.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Beastro – Spinningfields, Manchester

“Our bangers have been ‘bobbed’, we’ve been ‘well hung’ over and now its time for the Beast!

Great story this. Ive seen James, Heather and young Richard plunder the streets of Manchester and the farmers markets of the North west for several years now. ‘Bobby’s Bangers’ purveyors of fine sausages and latterly ‘Well Hung’ equally fine purveyors of well grilled, non vegetarian foodstuffs have set up shop as ‘Beastro’. By virtue of winning a ‘streetfood comp’ they’ve bagged one half of Spinningfields’s ‘Leftbank’ in the well heeled business district of Manchester.

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The trio have grafted for a few months to convert the old three unit space into what is now a rather splendid and hospitable cavity. It’s an ‘L’ of a space, pigmented in a ‘duck eggish’ blue, with smart, light grey ‘countrystyle’ dining implements. If dining alone, it’s perfectly possible to hop on a stool and reside at ‘The Chefs’ table and watch young Rich et al. prepare your nourishment ‘live’ before your eyes.

As we were a gang of four we settled on a four berth bench by one of the large, floor to ceiling windows that light up one side of the space. We were able to choose as we were the only ones in. We surveyed the stark, black on white menus. As it was 3pm we had a choice of finishing off the brunch menu or firing up the evening card. As fine as the brunch menu read it was the serious evening stuff that we had come to trough.

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We plundered the ‘pots and plates’ section first while we read the starters, mains, desserts and wines. A Manchester egg (£4), the cheese platter (£8) and some fine bread with bacon butter (£2.50) rocked up first. Richard even threw in a light smoked duck dish with leafy greens and heritage vegetables that he was pondering for a future menu. We lapped it up. The Yorkshire folk were thrilled with the cheese whilst us Lancastrians weighed in with the egg. The bacon butter won many compliments too.

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Pots and Plates, cheese, manchester egg, duck, bacon butter

For starters we notched up a smoked mackerel salad with new potatoes and poached egg (£6), and a cod, scallops and curried fondant potato (£7). The salad looked a picture and tasted superb. If I was being picky with my Masterchef hat on, I could say the curried cod was the least refined dish on show, but as ever it was all wonderfully cooked and tasted tremendous.

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mackerel salad, scallopp, cod in curry

For mains we tested out the true beast in us. Three steaks (rib eyes at £22.50) and the pork belly with sour apple, celeriac mash and crispy pig (£15.50). Normally a steak out can be a risk, but no worries here. Perfectly cooked, seasoned and delivered with vine tomatoes and beef dripping chips.

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As ever I had to let you see what the desserts are like! My lemon meringue (£5) and the girls scone and jam (£4) were as delightful as they looked.

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The bill came in at nearly £200 for the four of us, complete with a couple of bots of a rather spectacular red Malbec. Tne bottled beers look good too.

It was 3pm on a Sunday afternoon when we turned up. We were, and remained throughout the two hours, the only people in. Rather a shame really. It is early days and of course the main foot fall will happen through the week as the offices spill out at lunch and home time. Its open at 7am too, hopefully it can prise away some of the lucrative breakfast trade from chainster Greggs.

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They have a fine vision. They use local produce, they aim to charge a fair price and attract a loyal following who’ll use them regularly. They are certainly passionate having traded from the streets to this fine eatery. Definitely give them a try night or day. You deserve it…..

Beastro

Irwell Square,
Leftbank,
Spinningfields,
Manchester,
M33AG ,
0161 327 0265

http://www.beastromcr.co.uk

West Corner – Northern Quarter Manchester

“Yawn, Its another new eatery in the Northern Quarter! It’s a good addition this though, I could be going back to this time and again”

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Billed as a ‘deli-diner,’ ‘West Corner’ has transformed the ‘corner’ plot that was once occupied by the famous ‘Koffee Pot’ in Stephenson Square. Its gone against the stock NQ trend of raiding the local Travis Perkins trade counter to bag it’s lighting, electrical containment and plywood bar. It also ignores the local scrap dealer for its tables and chairs. Instead it’s all highly polished laminates (bit too highly polished) that adorn the fixed booth tables and benches. Greens, blacks and fake teak are the hues of choice. Hey its different.

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It does breakfast from 7.30am through the week. Ive enjoyed some fabulous eggs hollandaise at this ungodly hour. That said on this occasion I decided to try a teatime slot. In order to tempt The Flame to a Dream Theater* rock gig, I played up the idea of absorbing some nourishment first. Always a winner that!

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Despite there only being The Flame and I, she selected a leatherette booth that could take six easy. It was early so the pleasant young Irish waitress had no issues with us taking it. We surveyed the one sheet menu. It’s an extensive list of hot sandwiches, burgers, salads, mains, desserts and milkshakes. Classic diner fare.

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The hot sandwiches have regional names giving a slight clue as to the origin of some of the ingredients. The Flame plumbed for the West Coast C.A.B which translates as a chicken, avocado, bacon, chimmi-mayo, baby gem, beef tomato and melted swiss cheese sandwich on toasted bloomer (£8). The Flame switched to a ciabatta but otherwise it was as nature intended. It came with a touch of house slaw. She also ordered up the triple cooked chips (£3.50). To be honest she wasn’t over enamoured. She felt it lacked taste. But I had a mouth full and thought it was pretty fine. The chips were good though, hot and salty.

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I on the other hand thoroughly enjoyed my curried hake and clam chowder with scorched baby gem and jerusalem artichokes (£12). I had expected a thick creamy affair, but was greeted with a very pretty dish of fishy broth brimming with goodness. There was only four clams though. The fish on top, beautifully cooked. All in all a real triumph for me. The Flame was gutted. Never had scorched gem lettuce before either, but this really added flavour to the ensemble. Super stuff.

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I then finished off with the homemade apple pie and vanilla ice cream (£4.50). Rarely do I give the accolade of ‘historic’ but I think this was it. Super soft pastry case around a glorious splodge of stewed apple. I reckon its well worth coming for this.

As I work round the corner ill be giving this a few more goes. I hear the burgers are good and they do a corking Reuben! Ill let you know how it goes…..

  • American prog metal twiddlers who do very long guitar solos

West Corner
21 Hilton Street,
northern quarter
manchester, M1 1JJ
0161 241 70 70
http://www.westcorner.co.uk

Top Dishes of 2016

Its that time of year when all the old repeats come on the telly. All that airtime to fill, the TV bosses know its easy to just throw a few extra editions of ‘Morecambe and Wise’ (or some Peter Kay!) on and its job done. Well it’s the same with any self respecting food blogger, this is the time we can scan the laptop and dust off a few food pics and get another post in before the end of the year without leaving the house!

2016 from a food perspective has been another decent one for me. Plenty of new places opening, particularly in my adopted city of Manchester. That said, quite a few shut down too. Proving it’s still a tough gig keeping us fed. Competition, food trends and urban redevelopment just some of the bullets an honest restauranteur needs to dodge to keep afloat.

The images and references below are just a brief round up of what was great this year for me. Ive probably missed out loads, but, in no particular order, here goes…..

The Granddaughter wanted a swanky Indian to celebrate her 21st. Tattu in Manchester worked a treat. Had my first (of now quite a few) skate wings. Poor image but it is dark in there!

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We went to Florida for our hols early on in the year. On Key West I had my best meal over there ,’Stoned’ Crab claws at The Stoned Crab! with seafood and a broth. Historic. A special mention to Key Lime Pie. I had one every night for 14 days!!

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Had a memorable night alone in Newcastle. Social media led me to The Broad Chare by the Tyne. Super little ‘gastropub,’ had a simple but utterly gratifying ‘bubble and squeak’ with homemade brown sauce.

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A definite highlight the magnificent ‘mariscada’ (festival of seafood) by Ramsbottom’s very own slice of Spain ‘Baratxuri’.

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As you may know, I like a sunday roast. I’ve had some belters this year. A toss up between The White Swan at Fence with their dexter beef and The Church Green’s version (with Aiden Byrne back on the tools the day we were there). Both absolutely sensational, but I should mention totally honourable efforts by The Star Inn the City, The Yew Tree and Burnt Truffle all mere specks of beef fat behind.

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TL White Swan, TR Star Inn The City, BL Church Green, Middle R The Yew Tree, BR Burnt Truffle

Loved the short rib and peas dish at Andrew Nutters latest The Bird at Birtle.

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Our one foray into Michelin star territory this year brought us to Alimentum in Cambridge. Possibly the single best dish of the year for me the cannon of venison, stunning.

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Special mention to my streetfood heroes of the year. Working in Spinningfields, Manchester, for the first half of the year, I often frequented the streetfood pop up sensation ‘The Kitchens’. Particular favourites the chicken kharti rolls from ‘Chaat Cart,’ the pork belly bao rolls from ‘Dim Sum Su’ and the stupendous steak wraps from ‘Well Hung’ (now Beastro).

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Pulled pork bun, Well Hung wrap, Kati Roll

Having now moved further east in the city, brunch with eggs by Federal Cafe, deserve a mention. I think I’ve been through the card now. Halloumi and shrooms a particular favourite.

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If pizza’s your thing, Ive had a couple of very decent ones now at The Sand Bar, Manchester.  Last but not least you have to love and use your local restaurant. Ours is Ariete in Newton le Willows. It’s a smart Italian, and I love normally to try all the specials, but one day this year I had the basic spaghetti bolognese. Ive never looked back. Had it about five times since! You cant beat the classics…..

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Hispi – Didsbury, Manchester

“There cant be many better bistros in Didsbury named after a cabbage?”

Im probably a bit late. Gary Usher’s latest, crowdfunded eatery blistered onto the scene a few months back. Every dish has been ‘socially media’d’ and all the big reviewers (well the paying ones)! have been and gone. Glowing trails of foodie prose lies in their wake. We all loved ‘Sticky’ and ‘Burnt’ (click to read how much) and so it was expected that Hispi would follow suit.

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We romped in on a cold Sunday afternoon. We had booked, you have to it would seem. The place was packed when we got in. Set moments from the centre of Didsbury Village it cuts a startling dash in its boxy, sagey green exterior.

We were met enthusiastically and set into the lower room. The other two or three rooms move upwards a bit, one gets set in the roof. Decor is smart and uncluttered. Walls are either clean exposed brick or super smooth off white paint. Various shades of contemporary wood fill in the rest. The big crowdfunders get their own mirror. Nice touch.

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Our Sunday menu was printed (as ever) on one side of an A4 sheet. Three courses for £22, two for £18. You get four choices of start and dessert with five go’s at a main. As ever I could have had any. The Flame as ever, struggled a bit! The menus vary slightly depending on time of day, there’s an early doors menu and an evening dinner menu. It probably goes without saying that they then vary seasonally.

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For start The Flame edged into the Squash soup with curry oil, yoghurt and rye bread, though she requested that chef left out the curry. It turned out rather good. Velvety, hot and super tasty, she loved it. I went for the charred mackerel, Jerusalem artichoke, lemon tapenade and parsley. Im not too sure I got all that but it was presented rather nicely and the mackerel itself, with a touch of all the trimmings on each forkful, provided a good few mouthfuls of delight.

It was then a rather over long wait for the mains, as I said they were busy. I had selected my new favourite fish, pan roast skate wing, mace butter, saffron potatoes and spinach. The only downside was that i could have had about four wings rather than the one. The golden spuds were delish too.

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The Flame having furrowed her brow at the choice, mentioned in passing that she loves chicken! She ordered the beef, only for Ashley, our super waitress, to inform us that chef could rustle up a turkey dinner. The Flame was in raptures, and even more so when it turned up. A glorious chunk of moist, yes moist turkey, with a sausage meat patty and cranberry topping. Lovely jubbly.

We then had the cheese course, a Beenleigh blue, with rye crackers and chutney and a whipped fromage blanc with pear, meringue and almonds. The dessert whilst not looking too great and being over simple was actually flipping gorgeous, just up my street. Perhaps it may have looked a bit better in a dark bowl, but hey Im being super churlish here.

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All in all another great little outing at an Usher gaff and get this…ahem…the ‘cookery’ is always ‘on point’ (whose been watching Masterchef? – Ed) and always well presented using great local produce. The DNA set by owner Gary Usher washes through the place. As if to emphasise, we were wonderfully served by Gareth and the ever bubbly Ashley. Both bright and confident with the right tinge of humour.

As the late AA Gill commented, something along the lines of “Your local restaurant should be treasured, use it, cherish it and it will pay you back in spades”. Didsbury has been dealt a good hand with this smart little bistro. I reckon every town and village should have one. Maybe the city’s should have one too, perhaps even Liverpool? Think it should be called ‘Wreckfish’…..watch this space.

Hispi
1C School Lane
Didsbury Village
Manchester
M20 6RD.
Tel: 0161 445 3996
http://www.hispi.net