Tag Archives: Manchester

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

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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

Breakfast in Manchester – Part 2

“Where do you go in Manchester for an early breakfast? Well, you could try a couple of these for a start…..”

Much to The Flames perplexity (is that a word – ed?) I love going out for breakfast. For me this is God’s own start to the day. The Flame’s preference is to stay in and have a bit of grapefruit! So when I found myself having to fend for oneself for a few days I decided to forego the usual ritual of skimmed milk and wholewheat cereals (yawn) and head into Manchester an hour early and start the day in true style.

First up I stumbled, by chance really, into Ezra and Gil on Hilton Street in the Northern Quarter. It operates out of a big corner plot in a fine old building. It seemed to be set up for coffee. I asked do they do breakfast and was readily assured they do. An all day brunch menu was pointed out. In true NQ style its very informal with loads of high and low tables dotted around, it’s an engaging offer and even sells the basics such as fruit, veg and bread. The ‘E&G’ was ordered up pronto. Though a little disappointed that there was no bacon, it was an absolute belter. Tons of well cooked scrambled egg, great sausages and a decent brew made for a corking start to the day. Around £9 all in.

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Next day I went to Manchester stalwart The Koffee Pot. After initial concerns that it had packed up I discovered it had moved round the corner from Stephenson Square to a newer, bigger plot on Oldham Street towards Ancoats. I settled in and took in the new ambience. Its more standard cafe than the trendier NQ operations. A fine ‘Koffee Pot’ motif dominates the room. Had a change today, went rarebit with bacon, tomatoes and poached egg. My usual black coffee was served in a big mug but was instant rather than the artisan styles offered by many elsewhere. The rarebit and bacon was superb, lovely mustard kick. Disappointingly the poached egg was hard and the tomatoes came slicked in some sort of hot, chilli ketchup, bit nasty really. At just over £8 it was ok.

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Next up after two days of calorific overload I nipped for something a little lighter. I went to NQ favourite Fig and Sparrow on Oldham Street. Here I had a super creamy yoghurt with granola, almonds and cranberries sprinkled on top, all washed down with a top notch black coffee. All in for just over a fiver. Very relaxing, super little place this. It doubles up as a life style shop too. Lots of nick nacks to browse while you wait. Great place.

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I had a cracking few days. If you factor in the places I went last time on my ‘Breakfast in Manchester 5 day tour’ (see here) and add in a later Pot Kettle Black (reviewed here) you can quickly see there are some great ways to eat before work in Manchester. Give it a go. Beat the crowds, get in early and start the day in style….

www.figandsparrow.co.uk
www.thekoffeepot.co.uk
http://www.ezraandgil.com

The Pasta Factory – Manchester

“Another branch of Manchester’s ‘Little Italy’ is doing the business. If its pasta you need you’ll go far to get any better than The Pasta Factory in Manchester’s Shudehill”

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Rather than pail and wallow, The Cooktwit when left to grapple as one is a hardy soul. Indeed there are times when dining on ones lonesome can be considered one of life’s great pleasures. Such a time occurred recently when I stumbled upon The Pasta Factory. Set in what one may describe as ‘the edgier side of town*’ this oasis of egg and flour turned out to be a surprising little gem.

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The starter menu

The building itself is a fine old pile. A former bank HQ no less. Considering the rampant authenticity of the offer, ‘The Pasta Factory’ strikes as an unusual moniker. The playful logo, the assertion that ‘You Will Eat Pasta’ and the entrance wall of text are straight from the nearby Northern Quarter cafe start up manual. Inside its different though. You fall straight into Puglia**. Tiled floors, dark matching furniture, ubiquitous pasta cues, wine displays, chalk board specials all wrapped in rough hewned red and white paintwork. Allied to the Mediterranean backing track it’s a wonderfully informal setting and one that immediately set the solitary frame of The Cooktwit at his ease.

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Antispasto, Italian IPA

The engaging front of house chaps soon had the spartan menus up for perusal. Starters (or Taglieri) are simplicity itself. Its antipasto for one, two, three, four or five! I had it for one (£7). Aged ham wrapped around melon, a ricotta tartlet, cubes of salty, thyme infused feta, crispy kale, anchovies, pickled vegetables with tuna, olives and flatbread. I might have missed a bit too. It was exquisite.

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The main menu is an A4 sheet in yellow and red (though you get a vegan page too). Its basically pasta. No chips, pizza or anything deep fried here. The pasta is freshly made on the premises and are sold in packs to take out too. It comes in all shapes and sizes, most of which I have never seen or heard of before. The pasta comes with a variety of sauces each with seafood, vegetables or locally sourced venison.  My selection for the eve was ‘Bucatini Nero con il Polipo’ (£13.50), which is squid ink pasta with marinated octopus with sun blushed tomato and basil. It was a smashing portion. Perfectly cooked pasta, with ‘globs’ of octopus, slicked in a rich, deep red tomato sauce. Very satisfying.

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I had to finish with something sweet. The menu offers three standards that are on all the time. I was tempted by the panna cotta but then went for one of the specials chalked up on one of the many chalkboards. I had the passion fruit and coconut cake with passion fruit sorbet (£5). Bit like a proper baked cheesecake on a hazelnut crumb base. It came on a heavy slate sprinkled with coconut. Again really good, if not slightly unusual. Perhaps I would have preferred ice cream but hey if this is how The Pasta Factory do it. Who am I to argue?

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With a ladies glass of ruby red Barbera (£8), a belated slug of a sensational, hand crafted Italian IPA and a super cafetiere coffee, the whole lot came in at £35. If there is a better way to spend one and half hours on your own in Manchester then I would like to know all about it. A thoroughly splendid binge. If ever you find yourself straying from the centre don’t forget to head up Shudehill, there’s a treat waiting….

* Though no doubt will soon be slap bang centre of the latest hip Manchester scene!
** Not that I’ve ever been, but I imagine this is what it would be like!

The Pasta Factory
77 Shudehill Street
M4 4AN Manchester

Email : ciao@pastafactory.co.uk
Phone : 01612229250