Tag Archives: Manchester

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

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

Evelyn’s Cafe Bar – Manchester

“I love the Northern Quarter bars in Manchester. Don’t get to them often enough. Evelyn’s Cafe Bar pushes the food boundaries a little further with a varied and flavourful menu”

Finally decide to make the effort. Its 5.30 another office shift complete. I trudged through torrential rain to meet my younger ‘bruv’ Chris. Evelyn’s boasts an understated frontage. Its several minutes of frantic texting before said relative shuffles up the stairs to doff his cap and shed his protective shell. The standard NQ, uppercase, terracotta signage and light door manifestation is all that stands between the public and the delights within.

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Still once in it’s a fine space. Only a handful of punters were in, and we settled for a naturally lit table near the window. I perched on a trendy grey sofa looking outwards to survey the scene. Quality light oak tables, each sporting natty chequered napkins in readiness. The ‘de riguer ‘ Northern Quarter exposed brick and bare metal lighting brackets are all in place. Its smart enough, great for a casual dine. The space is dominated by the sky blue exposed kitchen which juts into frame.

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We both settled in to a small bottle of Runaway pale ale (thick end of a fiver) and run through the grey on white menu. It’s an eclectic mix of small plates, sandwiches, large plates all laced with spice, herbs, pulses, grains and beans. Chris points out that his other half would love here as she is a ‘veggie’.

The prices are all prescribed in ‘pointage’ terms. Everything is something point 5 or point 9. We assume they are in pounds!

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We select the smashed avocado with pickled chilli and crackers (£4) and Korean chicken with roasted chilli (£6.50) to start. By hokey the chicken had a kick! A lime dressing tried to keep the flames down, but not much. The ratio of crumb to chicken was a bit higher than I would have liked but all in all, a decent start. 

For mains I went for the crab and shrimp burger with basil aioli, chilli, fennel and chips (£14). I was swayed by the word crab, always a tempter for me. In truth I probably played a bit too safe. The ‘burger’ was basically a deep fried crab and shrimp paste patty. Very nice, decent chips but perhaps not what I had in mind. Our kid was far more adventurous and went for seared mackerel with chilli, mint, vegetables and black rice (£14.50). The mackerel was nicely charred, the black rice a revelation and all set over a pleasant slick of green mint sauce. I think he won that one.

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Smashed avocado, korean chicken, mackerel, crab & prawn burger 

I won dessert though! Get this, a lime, avocado and honey cheesecake (£5.90 or 5.9). Set on a flap jack base it was an acquired taste, but nevertheless a taste that I did acquire by about the third fork full. Sprinkled with pistachio it was a fine end. The young relative swayed by figs, went figs, chocolate and rosewater ice cream (5.5). I perhaps should point out my brother is a prodigious talent in the world of wolfing down food. I did manage to taste a small forkful before it quickly went south. Very nice I recall.

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Runaway pale ale, figs, chocolate, rose water ice cream, lime, avocado, honey cheesecake!

All in the bill chipped in at just short of seventy quid or 69.8. Bit hefty for a casual tea, but twenty of that went on the excellent Runaway beers. Evelyn’s is the latest addition to the empire being constructed by the local food entrepreneurs who own the Mughli(s) (reviewed here) and The Railway Cafe in Alderley Edge (reviewed here). All three for me offer a completely unique dining experience. Full of different flavours, some hit, some miss but all beautifully delivered in smart surrounds. Give them all a go.

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Evelyn’s Cafe Bar
G18 — SMITHFIELD BUILDING
TIB ST,
MANCHESTER
M4 1NB
09:00 – 23:00 MON – SUN
HELLO@EVELYNSCAFEBAR.COM
T 0161 834 3303

http://www.evelynscafebar.com

Salvis Mozzarella Bar – Manchester

The Flame required pampering. A boys outing was in the offing and so something Italian and informal was needed. Salvis, the long standing Manchester based Italian produce importer seemed to fit the bill. I’ve already reviewed Salvis Cucina, so I set my aim on the newly re-opened Salvis Mozzarella Bar in the Corn Exchange.

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We arrived via a cocktail or two. Unlike the flash new names that are exploding upwards into the rather impressive Corn Exchange, Salvis have burrowed into the bowels for their dining area. You enter via a wonderful, understated frontage with a few outside tables and then through a narrow but non the less exquisite deli area. The restaurant is down some steps at the end of the counter.

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Our table for two (could have sat four or five) was secreted as far into the bowels as possible. It’s fairly dark down there, but rather romantic. Tables are wooden of a rustic nature, the chairs wooden also with a sprig of coloured paint. I’m sure I passed a tree under there too! Despite our booked appointment of 6.45, the place was full, the staff a little hassled. However, our waiter soon had our table cleaned and prepared and a bottle of Bardalino set up. We surveyed the large, two sided, menus. A blaze of Italian classics, we were drooling.

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I started with Mozzarella in carrozza (£7.00) Egg fried bread filled with Mozzarella. Well, it is a mozzarella bar after all! I mean melted cheese, deep fried, between two slices of eggy bread, whats not to like? I wolfed it in no time.

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Deep fried eggy bread mozzarella, goats cheese and pancetta salad

The Flame went Goats cheese and Pancetta warm salad (£8.95). Not keen on goats cheese myself, the flame loves it. I did taste the pancetta though, wonderfully smoked, it was delish! Both dishes very simply presented, no dots of jus or smears here!

For mains I had the Farcito Calzone (£11.00) Tomato, Mozzarella, ham, mushroom and artichokes. Whilst it’s fair to say a calzone pizza doesn’t look much when first presented, this one soon made its mark. The customary ‘leoparding’ (charred raised bits of dough) was all present and correct. One swift cut through the middle soon had the uncious ooze of the Mediterranean swimming across the plate. Soft globules of herby artichoke, tomatoes and ham melded in a moist puddle of olive oil. It was wonderful.

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Calzone, the deli flash

 

The Flame went a little more out on a limb. Tonno alla Paesana (£12.95) Fresh tuna, cooked with tomatoes, capers and olives. Tuna seemed a touch overdone to me, but tasted superb. Maybe the substantial drizzle of hot Italian accompaniment sent it over from pink. This is right up The Flames street, she declared it devine.

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Tuna and tiramisu. The tuna is under there honest!

 As ever, whenever Im in an Italian I have to have tiramisu, just to test against my childhood memory from Don Luigi’s in Culcheth! This didn’t disappoint. Soft, sweet, creamy and boozed with coffee. A massive portion though, with two spoons. I think they misheard when I said we only wanted one?

As the accent is on romantic rather than bling in here the images are a little dark and don’t do the food justice. We thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience, The Flame quickly acclaiming it one of her favourites. The bill came in at £75, which contained a £20 bot of Bard, so I reckon that was pretty good.

Theres plenty more great dishes to try, so it looks like we’ll be back. Would have to nip back anyway, just to buy some mozzarella from the deli bar….

Salvis Mozzarella Bar

Unit 22b,
The Corn Exchange,
Exchange Square,
Manchester, M4 3TR

0161 222 8021

www.salvismanchester.co.uk

Tattu – Manchester

“Spectacular setting, spectacular food…..just bring a spectacular credit card!”

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The big tree, The glass front, the smart downstairs bar

The Flame set me a task. “Go forth and find me a posh Chinese”. Nancy our studious young granddaughter is about to hit 21, Chinese is her favourite. I set to with vim, vigour and trepidation. However, the memory banks had locked in an impressive image of a ‘big tree’ set in a rather grand dining suite. A lunchtime ‘reccy’ to Tattu confirmed that this indeed is a posh Chinese with a big tree in it. Unlike many of Manchester’s ‘approved’ chinese restaurants it is set in the business district of ‘Spinningfileds’ and not Chinatown.

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The branding, funky shots

I will admit to not being a particular connoisseur of Chinese cuisine. Previous experience has me down as a ‘cheapest banquet’ type with the proviso that it includes duck pancakes!

We arrived on the prescribed date at 6.30pm prompt. The rain lashed and the wind blowed. You’d be hard pushed to find the place. It is hidden beneath a gleaming facade of architectural glass. A bizarre, galley wheel door handle guides you in. We were efficiently disrobed of our outerwear and led up a lengthy flight of steps, having left a tasteful bar area downstairs. I had thoughtfully arranged for a booth to seat our party of four. The two youngsters and indeed The Flame were suitably impressed. The Cooktwit’s brownie points were in the ascendancy from the word go.

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It is a stunning dining area. Incredibly lit in a deep purple hue. The aforementioned fauna dominates the room. It acts as the focal point whilst several shell like booths radiate from its base. Our booth was to one side giving us a constant view to the centre. The gentle throb of electro dance tunes provided the background canvas.

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Our table was served by our own waitress. After water was served we were then led through the highly colourful menu. It’s a surprisingly simple tome. a page of dim sum, small dishes, mains, deserts. sides and a set menu. We decided to have a small selection of dim sum to start, a small plate each, a main and a dessert. It all worked rather well.

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Duck and lobster dim sum, small dishes, squid and duck salad

Each course was beautifully presented. First up the lobster and prawn toast and the duck rolls. We all raptured. An array of dips accompanied.

Next our small dishes. Chilli salt baby squid, crispy pork belly, duck and watermelon salad and satay ribs. Our young relatives were already suggesting this was the best place they had ever been. My pork belly was easily as good as any Ive had. I could cut through each glorious tower with a chopstick such was the softness of the flesh. The Flame cooed and marvelled at her salad.

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Pork belly, ribs, steamed sides

Mains up next. The Flame had Red roast baby chicken. It came in an earthenware pot with ‘shrooms’ and asparagus, but sadly we considered this the most disappointing dish of the night. The young celebrant had black pepper and honey ribs, she reckoned these were the best ribs ever. They looked the part, decent portion too. Her sis Jess took on the black angus fillet, which also looked nice and pink.

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The red roast chicken, skate wing with chilli jam
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pepper ribs, angus steak

Though I say so myself I reckon I won with my choice, skate wing with chilli jam. Not too familiar with skate but clearly this chap had built up some strength before succumbing to my plate. I was scraping huge hunks of soft white meat from its bones for hours. Absolutely devine, the jam adding a much needed tang.

Having penned a celebratory paragraph earlier on in the week, a firework amidst a plate of colourful sorbets, heralded the grand reveal of a personalised fortune cookie. Nancy was suitably thrilled. We all agreed a nice touch.

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the fortune cookie, the kandy cocktail

We then settled on desserts. These were truly spectacular. The Harvest Moon Festival (a take on toffee pudding with coriander and a whole host of stunning flavours), the Chocolate Satay (the satay in the shape of a pink macaroon) and Buddhas Hand (a stunning take on lemon posset). All wonderfully presented. It wasn’t all form over function though. They tasted incredible.

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Stunning desserts, chocolate brownie, lemon posset, toffee pudding

By now the dining room and bar were at full tilt. The beautiful people had arrived in their droves. After a wonderful couple of hours it was time to settle up. £240 for four, with wine, the odd cocktail and a 10% service. A bit weighty, but it was a special occasion after all. To be fair it had met the brief with aplomb. The service was bright, alert, friendly and efficient. In short all you would want it to be. Our young guests had loved it and even now can’t stop talking about it. It must have done something right. The Cooktwit’s brownie points have never moved on so quick. It’s a thumbs up from me….

Tattu Restaurant and Bar
Gartside Street
3 Hardman Square
Spinningfields
Manchester
M3 3EB
Phone: 0161 819 2060
Email: hello@tattu.co.uk
Twitter: @tattumcr
Instagram: @tattumcr