Tag Archives: Manchester

Croma – Pizzeria in Manchester

I can’t claim to be an expert on pizza, though if I do say so myself I do cook up a mean one when I’m in the mood. Faced with a four hour trek round Manchester’s Christmas markets on a busy Sunday afternoon with three partisan PizzaExpress teenagers it was with some relief that I was able to convince the posse that there might be a better pizza gaff out there. Thankfully I was proven correct. 
Croma has been in Manchester a few years now and I have been there a few times. It is set up a side street, a stones throw away from the big Santa on Alberts Square. It’s smart enough outside, neat, neon, purple signs lighting up an understated facade. A tranche of steps lead in.
Inside chrome (get it!) dominates along with smart lighting and foliage. Our 5pm appointment meant we swept passed the queues downstairs to our smart banquette booth that sat our scheme of seven in great comfort and style. The place was buzzing but that didn’t stop us quickly getting underway with our drinks and menus.
We all had starters and all very nice too. The youngsters had dough balls and garlic bread. Thomas, the ten year old, decided to stick with the great little children’s menu. The terrible twins Annabel and Bethany, each thirteen were too grown up! Annabel declared her margarita pizza to be ‘serious pizza’. Bethany (a fussy eater) was foaming at the mouth with the garlic bread. Croma was clearly getting the kids vote.
The flame and I along with the big Rodgers’ went for grown up gourmet stuff. For starters I had the Melanzana Parmigiana (£4.95) which was slices of roasted aubergine baked with buffalo mozzarella, provolone cheese, parmesan, tomatoes, garlic and pine kernels, served with olive bread. It was a great start, cheesy, gooey and full of flavour. I then learned lots of the produce is local and that the wonderful olive bread was from Chorlton! How’s about that then?
The flame went for the Tuna & Black Olive Pate (£4.85) again served with great bread.
Croma is essentially a pizzeria so that’s what I had! They have an amazing selection. They have the classics of course, but really shine on the unusual combinations. I’ve no doubt the Naples originator of the tricolour pizza would be tutting but my Aglefino pizza (£7.95) which consisted of naturally smoked haddock, leeks, a free range egg, emmenthal cheese, chopped parsley, lemon juice and creme fraiche was sensational. Great, well cooked, thin crust base with a succulent, salty, fishy topping. It didn’t have tomato in the topping but was still great. Other toppings included Peking duck and Indian chicken. You could basically have anything you want, there was even some Christmas options on the specials. I was stuck for choice.
A great surprise was the tremendous desert selection. I am a sucker for sherry trifle and have to say it was one of the best I’ve ever had. The key lime pie and Cartmel sticky toffee pudding were close behind. One of the troop expressed mild concern that there was no cheesecake, but you can’t have everything!
The bill came to £148 including service, wine and drinks for seven. The service was attentive and pleasant. The atmosphere completely electric. Our table was dimly lit with crisp white linen and mirrored walls ensuring we were all able to get on and chat. It was a great meal out and was given the big fat thumbs up by the hard to please twineratti. 
Croma has sprouted out a bit from its Manchester base. It has other local births in Chorlton and Prestwich. It has even gone out to Edinburgh, Loughborough and Tunbridge Wells. I’d definitely look them up!
1-3 Clarence Street
Albert Square
M2 4DE
Tel: 0161 237 9799

Byron – Proper Hamburgers – Manchester

I work in Manchester and walk down Deansgate most days. For months now I’ve passed this strange little, yellow, corner plot called ‘Byron’. It has a sub title ‘Proper Hamburgers’. I’ve always wondered whether it was the naffest bit of branding you could imagine or the cleverest. It has a very plain typeface and shop frontage. However, the thing I have noticed, it seems to get plenty in. Lots of business types, young and old.
Manchester has had a burgeoning burger empire for some time now, sprouting mainly from its trendy Northern Quarter. Indeed I’ve already reviewed a few, ‘Almost Famous’, ‘SoLita’ and ‘Luck, Lust, Liquor and Burn’ to name but a few. They’ve all come up trumps in my book, so how would ‘Byron’ fare?


The Byron story hails from the misspent youth of its founder Tom Byng. He ate proper burgers in America at a diner called ‘Silver Top’ in Providence, Rhode Island. He reckoned they were simple, tasty, a bit messy, but made with good quality meat with classic adornments; some lettuce, tomato, red onion, and maybe a slice of cheese or bacon. He opened up his first gaff In London in 2007, with the mantra to do a simple thing well, and do it properly. A laudable aim. The beef is good from Scotland, minced fresh every day, cooked medium so it’s pink, juicy and succulent.
I ventured in as part of a fifteen man posse (although there was some girls as well!). We had to split up to fit in, but we were quickly seated and it wasn’t long before an ice cold can of Brewdog Dead Pony pale ale was in hand.
The decor is simple. Yellow is the dominant hue. Exposed concrete, exposed containment (painted yellow), old school chairs, pastel tables and mustard banquettes complete the look. I suppose it is meant to shout industrial, up cycling, trendy, in one easy swoop. It’s pleasant enough.
We all chose from the simple menu, burgers with various extras. I plumbed in for the ‘Byron’ burger. Plain burger with crispy bacon, lettuce, onion and melted cheese. One of the team had a veggie burger.


We ordered a shed load of extra fries, chips and onion rings. I have to say my burger was superb. This was a view shared by the whole team, including the veggie! My burger was indeed served pink and was succulent and juicy as per the ‘Byron’ mission statement. It wasn’t cheap (£9.60 for the burger) but then this trend for quality burgers does come at a price. The bun was soft and soaked up all the luciousness that oozed from the centrepiece.
We were served by a smiling and enthusiastic young waitress. Nothing was too much trouble. All in all, couldn’t fault it. A simple menu, quality craft ales, great ingredients, good atmosphere. There are thirty four ‘Byron’s’ kicking about, only five outside London so you will have to hunt round a bit, but if you find one give it a  go.

SoLita – Northern Quarter – Manchester

Stop Press – This could be the best burger I’ve ever had!

I’ve been hearing a lot of good things about SoLita for months now. I think SoLita is short for South of Little Italy? The twitteratti has been encouraging discerning flollowers to try out this little Mexican gem in Manchester’s northern Quarter. The problem has been I’ve never known where it was! 
However, a couple of weeks back I stumbled on it whilst searching out a decent pint on the way home from work. Having memorised its location I ventured out once again to sample its delights.
It operates from a corner plot, tucked away from the bright lights of the city. The munching takes place on two floors, a large, red, banquette, diner style awaits below while a small, intimate bistro greets you from the street complete with funky, cartoon wall graphics!
As it was only tea time on a Wednesday eve I was able to acquire a high poseur table slot. Perfect for a lonesome soul, (the flame was otherwise engaged). The menu, printed in black on white acts as your place setting. Perfect for someone who had forgot his readers! There was also a large blackboard shouting out the specials in coloured chalk. There is plenty of choice here. A big feature is their use of an Inka grill which uses charcoal to provide heat and barbeque flavours. A whole host of fish, meaty steaks, chicken and sausages can be had off this, but I went for one of the specialty burgers. 
I went for the Catalan burger (£10.90) with sweet potato chips. Boy oh boy it was sensational. A Catalan burger comes with the obligatory melted cheese, that goes without saying, but it then comes with large slices of chorizo sausage, roasted peppers and a roasted tomato allioli. The combination provided a wonderful, juicy, spicy mess. For a bit of crunch I opted to pay an extra £1 for the sweet potato chips, which were slightly less successful, but hey, a minor quibble against the main event.
I was only in for a quick snack, but I have to say I will be back for more. I had to leave without tasting my own tiramisu (see blackboard). The menu is wide and varied, the atmosphere and service is warm, friendly and utterly beguiling. And to add to that they even served a decent ale! I washed this Spanish delight down with a ‘Top hop Hornbeam local 4.2%!’ Result.

37 Turner St, Manchester
0161 839 2200



Luck Lust Liquor and Burn – Manchester

It’s a blustery, cold, November, Sunday morn. The Cook Twit has succumbed to a virulent bout of ‘manflu’. Such is its ferocity that full blown ebola has taken hold. I doubt this blog will get finished. The flame, unable to accompany me on this trip, calls me a wimp and tells me to get on with it. I venture aimlessly into Manchester. A protracted visit to ‘The Hungry Gecko’ in Chorlton is curtailed as the local trolley buses are off due to ‘engineering works’. 

The Cook Twit is nothing if not a resourceful soul. When faced with such adversity, he brushes himself down, he doesn’t quibble, he quickly gets himself into a hostelry for an alcoholic restorative to ponder his next move. A pint of ‘The Governor’ quickly puts the old fish oil into gear. Never one to shirk new technology, google maps reckons I am a mere 170 yards away from ‘Luck, Lust, Liquor and Burn’. Handsome words have been scribed regarding the qualities of this Northern Quarter stalwart. Not least for its kind rescue act of the burger joint ‘Almost Famous’ whose burgers Liquor and Burn now feature.
Liquor and Burn (for short!) is housed in a quaint, corner plot close to the former market gates in the High Street in Manchester’s trendy Northern Quarter. 
In order to keep in trend it is not posh. Decor is strictly hip, up cycled, mis matched wooden furniture. The soundtrack is Marvin Gayeish and at a pleasant volume. The vibe therefore is very relaxed and the flashing young blades behind the bar made the cook twit very welcome. No real ale of course but a dark, Brooklyn lager kept the pipes moistened. The menu is printed in black on white A4. Courses have flash titles with hip tag lines, letting you know what you’re in for. Chicken Lickin, Beef Smackdown and Triple Nom just some of the names.


Tucked away high on the left was my corking starter. A pint of shrimp and squid for £7.50. These exquisite pieces of succulent seafood came hot and deep fried in a light salted and BBQ batter. They came with two dips, one a hot sauce, and one a sundried tomato sauce with pieces of fresh lime to squeeze over. I have to say this was one of the best starters I’ve had in a long while. The effects of the death ridden strain of Ebola was subsiding fast.
For the main I had ‘Fire Alarm Chilli’ for £8.50. Again well presented in its own cast iron skillet set in a terracotta dish with tacos on the side. It came smothered in various sauces and creams (cheese and sour cream) which I may have preferred on the side. The chilli itself was delicious though. Very tasty with a nice heat. It had pulled beef, bacon and chorizo in there which all conspired to give a wonderful smoky flavour. I resisted the salted caramel brownie for afters.
All in all a very pleasant hour and a half for the cook twit. Perched on my high stool by the window I had a great view of the bar in action. Obviously being a Sunday afternoon it was probably a little quieter than say a Friday night. I’m sure the action revs up a bit then, along with the volume of the music, but it had a great atmosphere and the service was fine. 
Manflu? What manflu!
Luck Lust Liquor and Burn
100-102 High Street, Northern Quarter
0161 832 8644






Jack Spratt – Manchester


Having crept into Jack Spratt a couple times for lunch and hugely enjoyed the odd burger with chips and special sauce, I thought it only right to give the old place a check out at night, or rather evening. Being a tight wad The Spratt establishment tempt the after work brigade with a three course binge for £17 between 5-7pm. It was during these teasing hours that I was able to sway the wife (hitherto referred to as ‘the flame’) to travel into Manchester and see for herself what I had occasionally banged on about.
Clearly the early start was having the effect, by 6.30pm the place was humming gently. Jack Spratt is placed handily in Manchester city centre with Albert Square nestling over its shoulder. It is set in a rather bland, grey, square building and the chaps have to work hard to get it to stand out. Wood panelling and jaunty graphics give it a fun edge. Inside its a more bistro/cafe than fine dining splendour, but it suits the mood.

The waiters are clad in denim, sneakers and facial hair all adding to the relaxed feel. They know their stuff though, helping to describe the dishes in detail when required.

Things really spice up when you get the menu. Could have started with Smoked haddock and cod gratin served with a lemon and brioche breadcrumbs! But I went for Paprika and orange soaked baby back pork ribs to start with a beautifully dressed sweet potato, beet root and green salad. The flame went for the Continental platter, which contained ‘Borettane’ baby onions? pesto marinated feta, garlic marinated button mushrooms, Sicilian olives, grilled halloumi, mozzarella and marinated peppers. A fine start.

The mains shook things up a bit. The flame loves fish, chicken and numerous other tasters but was slightly put off with the unusual accompaniments. She plugged in for the ‘JS demi primo burger’ (6oz ground beef chuck, flat iron and short rib, caramelised onion & bacon jam, ‘Makers Mark’ bourbon whiskey BBQ sauce, pulled pork, coleslaw, smoked applewood cheese and an onion ring, all in a glazed brioche bun with a tin of twice cooked fries) with an additional splash of the highly recommended JS chilli burger sauce. It looked and tasted great.

I went off beam across the page to the ‘Mexican Mole’, described as 48 hour slow cooked lamb in a chocolate infused Mexican chilli sauce served with desiccated coconut and almond red rice, tortilla bread, mint salsa and radish shavings. It was very unusual in that the textures were mixed, cold salsa, warm rice, hot mole. The overall effect was rather splendid, but going ‘off piste’ as it were cost me £14.

Desert was a traditional lemon posset and was a dream. This topped the meal off rather splendidly.

Total cost with very nice vino and a fine bottle of Thwaites Wainwright ale came to £52. Well worth a try for those looking for something a little different.

Book online www.jack-spratt.co.uk or

11 St James’s Square

John Dalton St

Manchester M2 6WH

0161 833 1016