Tag Archives: Manchester

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

Top Dishes of 2015

I can see a bandwagon coming along. Yep, I’m on it. Welcome to my 2015 food review! It’s now customary to provide a small compendium of what has been quaffed over the last year. I did one for 2014 and that seemed to go down well. I’ve already read a few this year. They’ve generally been a more exotic round up than mine, but nonetheless the grub featured here is top stuff.

Like last year this isn’t all the top grub, but merely the ones that have stood out slightly from the rest. As ever, the joy of a decent feed comes not just from the food itself but from that certain feeling of well being that one feels as the plate, dish, tub, tray, slate (or even flowerpot) is first placed down in front of you and the experience starts.

The meals featured are in no particular order. Just generally great.

Early doors we went to Simon Rogan’s, The French in Manchester. This gives a reason to show some raw beef in coal oil again. I could have shown loads more. Suffice to say The French was very good indeed. But you already knew that.

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I love a decent burger. A newcomer to Manchester this year has been Filthy Cow. Young Jordan has done really well there. The filthy beast is a beaut, and washed down with a Ginger Comfort milkshake you really are on a winner.

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I love a good pud and have had many fine ones. Albina‘s (in Crosby) really hit the spot with their old school jam roly poly and custard.

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We went to Jersey for our hols. Michelin starred Ormer was a highlight. Loved the steak tartare with a horseradish cream. Jersey is a fabulous place to visit and eat. Mark Jordan on the Beach another one to recommend.

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Big treat for me is a Sunday Brunch. We had none better this year than at NewMoon’s spectacular, Scouse opening ‘The Old Blind School‘. Eggs Benedict and French toast, it was boss.

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French toast, haddock omelette, eggs benedict

 

 

Bit of a Spanish explosion in Manchester this year. Had wonderful octopus at Levanter, which is a sensational tapas bar in Ramsbottom (but somehow seems to be considered as near Manchester!). Had a corking paella in Iberica in Spinningfields and wonderous Iberian ribs at the Barton Arcades Lunya. All three will be on the list again for 2016, along with my old faithful El Rincon De Rafa.

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No year would be complete without a good steak. Didn’t have a better one that at Hawksmoor, Manchester. Sensational rib eye with anchovy mayonnaise and thrice cooked chips! Had a wonderfully indulgent lobster in a bun too.

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Had a short break in Barcelona for my birthday. Glorious tuna at the infamous Pinotxo Bar in La Boqueria market. Finished off the break with a suckling pig dish at 4 Gats in the old town.

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I love a Sunday roast, had none better than at Freemasons Wiswell. Simply stunning. Will admit though that The Bay Horse Inn (Lancaster) came up close.

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If pizza is your thing, (and occasionally it is mine!) newcomer to Manchester, Tariff and Dale in the northern quarter do a pretty mean one. Check them out.

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Best scallop and lamb meal was had in one sitting at The Cartford Inn (Little Eccleston) Pretty incredible really, never had lamb like it, totally historic.

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The Flame (the wife!) loves fish pie. Couldn’t get by without mentioning The Bulls Head at Mobberly. She reckoned that’s the best this year. Full of fish, beautiful.

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Love seafood. Who doesn’t? Didn’t have it prepared any better than at The Easy Fish Company in Heaton Moor. What a plaice this is! Well worth a visit. Has a lovely piece of plaice with a slash of Crustacea and shells. Incredible.

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Plaice with all the trimmings

 

Working in Manchester as I do, I couldn’t finish without mentioning The Kitchens. A new, six pop up, street food outlet in Spinningfields. All six are ace, I had them all. Long time favourite Mumma Shnitzel maintained remarkable, consistent quality for their chicken based burgers. Young Richard at Bangers and Bacon (as well as Well Hung) rocked up with superb meat based offerings. Hip Hop Chippy Shop did what it says on the tin with a cracking fish and chip butty. Chaat Cart (Indian Canteen) with the wonderful Aarti at the helm delivered amazing chicken kati rolls. Yakuhama and Wholesome and Raw brought some slightly less carb loaded nutrition to the table.

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Chip butty, bean salad, avocado scrambled egg breakfast, banh mi, kati roll, schnitzel.

All in all a fabulous year for food. I’m sure I’ve missed loads out. I could have added loads more too. Who will forget the Solita Christmas burger? and the lemon posset in a flowerpot at The Royal at Staveley? If you follow on Twitter you would have seen all this anyway. If you read the blog you would have had a bit more detail on these too. Read on if you really haven’t anything better to do!

Anyway that’s it. Happy new year. Let’s look forward to trying more great dishes in 2016!

The Marble Arch Inn – Manchester

“There’s no finer way to prepare for a footie match, great beer and great food….sorted”

For my sins I am a lifelong Man Utd fan. So you can imagine the laughter and short thrift I gave an equally fervent Man City fan who with a spare ticket in hand invited me to a home match against Swansea. “No thanks matey” I japed. “If you change your mind I’ll be in The Marble Arch at 1pm for a few pints and some lunch” he retorted.

 

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A painting of the bar, elegance, PINT!

Whoa there, you never mentioned that! Twelve thirty next day I’m shuffling out of town from Victoria station towards the pillar of Victorian elegance that is The Marble Arch. It’s set by a swanky new set of flats in an area that, like lots of Manchester is destined for a bit of TLC. It’s not that inviting at the moment but once inside, it instantly feels like home.

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The beers

It’s a long narrow room; the original wooden bar is set out at the bottom, deep in the valley of this great institution. You can practically slide to the bar, such is the steady angle that slopes away from the door. The place is loaded with its original fittings. Most pubs would kill for the features that have been retained here. Majestic mosaic floor tiles, beautiful golden ceiling and wall tiles. It all fits remarkably well.

The place was filling up. I managed to purloin a small table for two. I noticed many of the savvy punters had already reserved most of the tables. Cutlery wrapped in linen and leather bound menus marking their territory.

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Ceiling and floor

The Marble Arch doubles up as the home for The Marble Brewery. So as an added bonus you get loads of great beers too. I am quite partial to their bizarrely titled ‘Pint’ which is their 3.9% session ale. Sadly it was having a day off when I was there. A rather rotund and friendly local suggested the ‘Lagonda IPA’ as a worthy replacement. Boy he was right.

 

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And then the food. The Marble peddles a wonderful menu of British favourites along with an extensive cheese menu. It reminds me of the chop houses in town. My City chum Chris plumbed for the corned beef hash with homemade brown sauce (£12.95). It actually came with a poached egg and a crisp slice of smoky bacon too. He wolfed it in minutes and pronounced it an unctuous delight.

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Lancashire lamb hot pot and corned beef hash

I went for the Lancashire lamb hotpot with pickled cabbage and parsnip mash (£13.95). A cracking portion of creamy, peppery goodness. Once through the crispy top I mopped up the liquor with the parsnip mash. Oh my lord what a splendid lunch, and all washed down with the creamy, hoppy Lagonda.

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Sadly we then had to go to the match in the pouring rain. City scraped a deflected win, Utd lost to Bournemouth!

The Marble Arch has long been a secret, enjoyed mainly by beer drinkers in the know, but with food like this, it’s a worthy addition to your list to try. If you are visiting Manchester put this on your tour….along with Old Trafford.

The Marble Arch Inn
73 Rochdale Road
Manchester
M4 4HY
T 0161 8325914

http://www.marblebeers.com/contact-us/

Lunya – Catalan Deli & Restaurant – Manchester

“Utterly fabulous Catalan Tapas and Deli opened on Manchester’s Deansgate……..Quality”

Having been to Barcelona a couple of times recently, eating small plates of food has taken on a new relish. Even The Flame has come round a bit to the idea. So it was with a jaunty air that we trained back into Manchester mid-afternoon to conduct a bit of pre-Christmas reconnaissance followed by a slap up binge at the newly formed Lunya. Its parent has been around in Liverpool to much acclaim for a small while already.

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The place has four entrances, two from the main drag on Deansgate, two from the back from the rather grand Barton Arcade. Two entrances take you into the Deli section. Here you can buy the incredible produce yourself and take it home. The other two take you into the bar area, where you can have a drink and casually sample the fayre on high stools and poseur tables. A staircase takes you up to the more formal sit down arrangement of a standard restaurant.

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Upper deck, bar area

The upper floors offer fine views over Deansgate or equally fine views of the upper decks of the arcade. It was the latter section that the Flame and I eventually settled. Being sixish it was pretty much full systems go in the bar area whereas our seating upstairs was only just starting up.

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We started our review of the extensive red and yellow menu. A bottle of Moritz, a Barcelona brew, was used to quench the initial thirst. Our table was a little isolated and given the air con setting a little cool. A nearby representative adjusted things so that we could remove our coats! Once settled we made our choice of three tapas each.

Croquetas (£6.50) croquettes of the day. This time made with crab and leek. Five, hot balls of crunchy goodness with a crabbie inside. Delish. One of my choices.

Costillas Ibericás (£7.75) slow roasted ribs from the giant Ibericó pigs, falling off the bone, in a special Catalan BBQ sauce with tamarind, orange and fennel seed. Pic of the dishes. Arguably the finest ribs I’ve ever eaten. The sauce with the fennel was simply ‘historic’.

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Iberico ribs, croquettes, hotpot

Catalan Hotpot (£6.95) a signature dish blending Catalunya with the North West of England, made with chorizo and morcilla. Reminded me of Nigel Haworths lamb version, but not quite as good. That’s no slight though, still thoroughly enjoyable. A bit more Morcilla would have helped for me.

Chickens strips wrapped in broken potato crisps (£6.95). Inspired by a good friend, Albert Adriá. Served with a stunning pimentón infused allioli. The flame loves chicken so this was hers. Decent enough, the allioli was stunning. We used it for dipping throughout the meal, superb.

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Sticky chicken, grilled aubergine, chickpeas

Escalavida (£5.95) chargrilled peppers, aubergines, onions, courgettes on toasted sourdough with a romesco sauce. Probably our least favourite dish. No particular reason, just not as good as the rest. Wouldn’t have this one again.

Garbanzos (£6.55) middle eastern spice infused chick peas with butternut squash, almonds and apricots. Picked by the flame, she loves chick peas. To be fair these were great too. Decent bowl full, these went a long way. Cumin was in there along with the nutty crunch. Very good veggie dish.

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Cheese and cheesecake

As I hope you have come to expect, I ventured to the end with a sweet dessert. White chocolate cheesecake with a quince jelly topping (£5.95). Absolutely superb. Love white chocolate, love cheesecake. Perfect for me. The flame went for a two cheese platter (£9.45). A bit steep for the money. Came on a plank with a fig chutney and quince.

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The deli section

I have to say all the dishes were delivered hot and fresh. Bill came to £66 for the two of us. Sam our new, spanish, waitress was bubbly, efficient and helpful. I’ll definitely be back. There are too many wonderful dishes on the menu that have to be tried yet. I reckon a casual slide in the bar next. Pull up a pew, a glass of Rioja, those ribs again and then start hitting the fish dishes. It looks like I’ll be back many times yet. Highly recommended. Oh and they do paella… forgot about that, so yes got to go back.

Lunya Manchester
Barton Arcade,
Deansgate,
Manchester,
M3 2BB
Tel: 0161 413 3317
http://www.lunya.co.uk

Wahaca – Manchester

“Ethical, sustainable, all round good egg, Mexican food restaurant chain from London Town…that’s come to Manchester”

I should set the record straight here. I’m not a connoisseur on Mexican food. (It’s chilli con carne in it? – Ed), but after keeping abreast of the hype surrounding this Northern launch of Wahaca, the excitement generated has been almost biblical. It’s one of the flagship signings for the Corn Exchange complex that has been transformed at the Victoria end of town. Accolades have flooded in from all corners, including a remarkable run of fifty odd five star reviews on Trip Advisor within minutes of opening! It’s been on the list ever since.

Smart upbeat exterior
Smart upbeat exterior

And so it came to be. The Cooktwit was at a loose end. He had to fill an hour between work ending and the start of a triumphant Motley Crue gig at the nearby arena. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to try out Wahaca. Working around the country as I do, I’m used to dining alone (awww – ed). Tonight was such a night. I ventured in from the front, it’s a smart welcoming entrance, colourful and loud. The pleasant front of house reckoned it would be twenty minutes for a table, even for one, on a Tuesday night at six! I was handed a bleeper and set up shop with a bottle of Corona. Within ten minutes I was whisked round the back to face the faceless atrium that is the ‘work in progress’ centre of the corn exchange. The place was rammed. Parties of mixed ages chattered loudly, families as well as business.

Facsimile of the extensive menu
Facsimile of the extensive menu

I settled in my table, beneath a metal mezzanine, upbeat tunes were banging forth, Maddy, my pleasant young waitress for the evening, explained the extensive, printed napkin come menu both verbally and by drawing all over it with a magic marker. She explained the cauliflower cheese was her favourite! I decide to go ‘street food’. It was recommended that three should be selected to satiate a frame of my size. It was also explained that the dishes would arrive as and when chef has prepared them. Sure enough mine all arrived together!

First up Taquitos. Two corn tortillas filled, rolled and fried into crispy cigars and served with shredded salads and salsas. I chose the Sweet potato and feta version (£3.95) which came with caramelised red onion and wrapped in crispy blue corn, dotted with salsas and chipotle mayo. It looked pretty good, very appetising, but my first venture into the plate with my selected utensil (a spoon) resulted in the whole thing exploding all over the plate, such was the crispiness of the cigar. When I eventually got a mouthful the temperature variance between the case (hot), the potato (warm) and the feta (cold) made for an unpleasant feeling on the palate. The flavours were good though. Some zing ventured forth from the various salsas but overall a little disappointing.

Taquitos, Picadillos, coffee
Taquitos, Picadillos, coffee

I then had a special. I think they were called ‘piccadilos’. Basically this was three, spicy pork and beef minced patties wrapped in a lettuce leaf (£4.25). Again it was tasty enough but once again suffered from the variance in temperature. Cold lettuce with luke warm contents.

Best of the three by some distance was the Beef Tacos. Three toasted soft corn tortillas filled with grilled British steak (£4.50), the beef was flash grilled skirt steak with a chipotle salsa. These were of even temperature and very good. I dotted some of the dishes with the chilli salsa and chilli sauce from the bottles supplied on the table. These added a welcome piquancy.

Tacos & Churros
Tacos & Churros

Having downed the lager I ordered up a coffee and a dessert. My coffee came almost immediately. My dessert some fifteen minutes later! To be fair the coffee was very good, but dish of the night was the Churros y chocolate (£4.25) Mexican doughnuts with a rich chocolate sauce (although fortuitously I got caramel sauce as well). These were excellent, clearly fresh and hot. They were arguably the best Churros I’ve ever had. The caramel sauce in particular adding a major touch of indulgence.

More churros
More churros

In conclusion the whole hour with drinks cost me £23. Pretty good value really. If I’m honest given the hype and my own expectations I left a little underwhelmed. It’s clearly a popular place. The service is bright and peppy. I reckon it’s more suited to a party night out. The first floor (which was shut tonight) looks pretty smart too. I reckon the view over the atrium would be good.

Smart first floor
Smart first floor

Would I go again? Yes, I’d give it another go, but I would go for a bigger plate meal, though I’d definitely go back for the Churros………

The atrium, the gents, the entrance
The atrium, the gents, the entrance

Wahaca
The Corn Exchange
Manchester
http://www.wahaca.co.uk

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

The Easy Fish Company – Heaton Moor, Manchester

“Never had fish prepared and presented better!”

Some young relatives had just birthed their first offspring, a trip to Heaton Moor to see the ruddy cheeked ‘Rocco’ was called for. The Flame and I ventured forth using the great steel highway. A modest carriage pulled in to Heaton Chapel on a cold, fog bound afternoon. A luncheon at The Easy Fish Company had been on the list for sometime. As luck would have it, it too along with said relatives is housed in leafy Heaton Moor.

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We trotted along. Some fifteen minutes later the blue fronted fish shop ventured into view. A little non plussed we scuttled in. On first impressions it is indeed a fishmongers, complete with large low counter packed with ice and a super array of fish and seafood. We surveyed the scene for a time before heading towards the rear. A cheery, young chap with a beard (called Adam) greeted us warmly and confirmed that we had a table and could pretty much chose where we wanted to sit. We snuck round a corner and settled on a smart table for two. A large, white, house ‘grillo’ was soon poured.

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It’s a fairly stark but contemporary room. Light oak tables and chairs, combined with blue hues and sea faring images dotted about the walls. It’s pleasant enough. The afore mentioned Adam, soon had the plain black on white menu in our grasp and reeled off the specials. It’s a spectacular list of seafood and fish. An obligatory steak is offered as an alternative.

The Flame picked the potted fish board (£9.25) to start. Salmon, shrimps and prawns with soda bread and dressings. It was a substantial and tasty offer. I had to help out. Three good pots of seafood and a good few slices of warm bread. Super stuff. I went for crab claws (£5.25) which I have to say was a bargain. Appropriate tooling was supplied which enabled a good deal of fresh crab meat to be extracted. They were set on a crouton and came with a warm, butter dressing and a garlic mayonnaise. As crab would be my ‘heaven’ on Saturday Kitchen I was suitably raptured. Great start.

The potted board
The potted board
Crab claws with tools
Crab claws with tools

Mains up next. I went for the special. A bit pricey at £24.50 but boy what a dish. Pan seared plaice, with langoustine, clams and mussels served over new potatoes, sautéed greens, roast garlic with a chicken, lemon and thyme broth. Stunningly presented, It was faultless. Every mouthful was a delight. The broth sparingly supplied adding a tinge of flavoured moisture just when required.

Plaice with all the trimmings
Plaice with all the trimmings

The flame, equally pleased with her grilled hake, Thai sweet potato and lobster Spring roll with coriander creme fraiche (£16.25). A hefty traunch of soft white, meaty flesh allied to a tangy roll. As with mine it was beautifully presented. We both cleared our plates.

Hake
Hake

I had a lavender and honey creme brûlée to finish. Again superb. We rounded off with a decent Lilly coffee.

Lavender creme brulee
Lavender creme brulee

Speaking to Adam, he mentioned The Easy Fish company is barely a year old and supplies a number of other restaurants with fish. Steve Green (head chef) is the man who works the pass. I can honestly say having dined at Rick Stein’s and Nathan Outlaw’s, both renowned fish specialists, I have not had fish prepared and presented any better than this. It was a revelation. Around £80 for lunch with a couple of big glasses of wine may be a tad luxuriant but the menu is the same at night. Lovers of seafood should get down here quick. We noticed Damson next store, another local triumph we hear. A further pint on our way back completed the afternoon. Heaton Moor has a market on the odd Sunday. It would seem it has a good bit of foodie highlights on offer. it’s definitely worth the trip.

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The Easy Fish Company
117 Heaton Moor Rd, Stockport SK4 4HY
0161 442 0823
http://www.theeasyfishco.com