Tag Archives: Northern Quarter

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

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

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

Four Day Tea Tour of Manchester

During the traumatic week that The Cooktwit was left marooned and had to fend for himself with a five day breakfast blitz of Manchester (see here) he also had to endure eating out straight after work for his tea as well. These things are sent to try us, but you’ll be pleased to know I gave it a good go. I deliberately chose either quirky, relatively new, or just plain different from my normal fayre.

If you’re canny Monday night in Manchester can yield a few bargains. I figured the 50% off food deal at Tariff and Dale, hip new pizza joint in the Northern Quarter would be a good start. And indeed it was. £9.60 all in for a rather fine Outstanding Brewery IPA, a rather generous plate of hot Njuda sausage and chilli pizza and a rather fine tublet of slaw. The pizza was a belter, typified by the rather fine ‘leoparding’ around the edge, ensuring the excellent dough base had been ‘caught’ at just the right time. I ate downstairs in the ubiquitous, NQ, industrialised decor. A thoroughly pleasant teatime feast.

Pizza and slaw
Pizza and slaw
More pizza with leoparding.
More pizza with leoparding.

Tuesday, it was over to another new, Northern Quarter outfit. This time Yard and Coop. It’s modus operandi is to ply the locals in buttermilk fried chicken. I’ve become fairly addicted to this stuff via streetfood favourites Mumma Schnitzel, so I was quite looking forward to compare. I had two decent chunks of boneless thigh. It comes with a much darker (and hence different tasting) crumb than Mummas, but it was nonetheless rather good. The chicken beautifully succulent. I had a couple of sides, a bean salad with creme fraiche which was rather good and a spicy slaw which was not. There was no mayo in it, so it was curiously dry, livening up only when a kick of spice became apparent. Had a corking vanilla milkshake with it. All in around £14. Loved the place, anywhere with a cartoon fox on the wall and some chicken coops to sit in has to be good right?

Chicken and milkshake
Chicken and milkshake
More yardage and the comedy fox
More yardage and the comedy fox

Sticking to the Northern Quarter I then nipped into El Capo for some Mexican tapas (via a rather splendid Seven Brothers Pale ale and a mojito at Beef and Pudding!). I can’t really tell you much about the decor. It was so dark down there I had to use my iphone torch to see the menu! That said I enjoyed the food. I had three plates, balls, heart and cheesy fritters. All really good actually. The cows heart with chilli was particularly good. Subtle liver taste and texture. The meatballs were massive. I imagined that size they would be too dry, but they weren’t. The cheesy fritters provided a lovely contrast to the other two spicy dishes. All in with a Shipyard IPA £18.

Heart balls and fritters. It's dark so apologies for the crap pics!
Heart balls and fritters. It’s dark so apologies for the crap pics!

A final touch of indulgence. Nipped into Hawksmoor (review here) for a lobster roll and chips. Slushed down with a Buxton IPA it was my biggest expenditure at £27.50, but Ye gods it was good. I recommend all to do this at least once! A lightly toasted brioche elongated roll (hot dog roll?) came stuffed with luscious chunks of sweet, garlic buttered lobster and a dish of buttery béarnaise sauce. I have waxed lyrically at the triple cooked chips before. Given it was sixish I had the exquisite restaurant to myself, I felt like a Lord! Forty five minutes of pure bliss.

Decadence, a lobbie roll
Decadence, a lobbie roll

The Flame came back Friday so it was back to a comforting salad for tea! Only kidding, we actually treated ourselves to a chippy tea. Rather good though I say so myself. Top week had by all. Spent a few bob but it was worth it. The new boys on the Manchester block delivered. Plenty more to come……..

http://www.tariffanddale.com   http://www.elcaponq.co.uk  www.yardandcoop.com   http://www.thehawksmoor.com

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.
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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. 
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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.

SoLita
37 Turner St, Manchester
0161 839 2200