Tag Archives: pizza

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

Ariete – Newton-le-Willows

Spare a thought for my humble home town of Newton-le-Willows. A small lump of coal of maybe 20,000 souls, nestled between the great metropolis’ of Liverpool and Manchester. Famous for it’s has been rock star Rick Astley and having the first bloke ever to be killed on a railway.

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As far as gastronome is concerned it’s all a bit flat. A few decent pubs, it’s own curry yard, a phalanx of kebab shops and that’s about you’re lot. It does however, have at least one beacon of hope in Ariete, an Italian restaurant set in the oldest building on the High Street. The High Street is part of the great North/South highway known as the A49. It’s one of my favourite roads! Ian Botham went through it once on a sponsored walk. This is how good this road is. Ariete is housed in the best building on the best road.
Formerly the grand entrance to the Haydock Park Estate it provides a rather splendid facade, particularly at night when some bulbs light it up. In case you wondered Ariete is Italian for ‘Ram’.
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Inside things change a bit. Basically they have grafted a huge hangar on the back of this wonderous folly, complete with skylights and conservatory style windows. I reckon it could cope with 150 covers easy. As well as big it is high, which means the noise can bang on a bit. It’s not what you would call intimate. It sets up better for bigger parties really, but nonetheless the flame and I regularly walk down for a plate of pasta and a bottle of house red. Having said that, they have recently grafted on a ‘specials’ menu which changes pretty often, possibly weekly, so there is always something new to try.
We went in for Christmas Eve so we caught it this time on absolute top form. Completely full, the atmosphere and sense of occasion was bang on. A bottle of Italian Merlot oiled the pipes while the flame plundered a toasted muffin slathered in chicken livers, themselves spiked with chilli and herbs. She was well chuffed. I wafted into a spicy chorizo and squid stew, also set on a crouton with a wodge of rocket leaves. The squid was plentiful and well cooked, criss crossed and curling after a quick ‘shufty’ in a hot, oiled pan. It was a corking starter.
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For mains the flame had another starter! But by hokey what a starter, she was stuffed as were the peppers, with beef mince, herbs and spices. She had a ‘small’ mixed salad to accompany. I had a spaghetti with spicy meatballs. Standard fayre I would agree, but if you do want a decent feed, you can’t really beat here. The portions are stupendous. Also worth a mention, is that the garlic bread is based on a massive pizza base. No couple of slices of baguette here, It’s a meal in itself so be warned if you order one with your starter!
I finished off with a creme caramel. A light delight to finish, very nice too, freshly made on the premises that day according to eccentric host Giovanni. We have had ‘a la carte’ here and enjoyed that too. The quality and value is hard to beat. £52 for two for three rollicking  courses, wine and coffee on a Christmas Eve. Not bad in my eyes. I’m not saying you should all trek across from the foodie enclaves of Chorlton or Didsbury or any of the other Cheshire outfits that lead the way in food nearby. I would suggest however, if you ever come to the races, or find yourself trundling down the A49 when the M6 at Thelwall viaduct shuts down for a bit of wind, you could do a lot worse than check out Ariete, The Ram of Italy, you’ll get a decent feed for not much money.
Ariete
136 High St,
Newton-le-Willows
01925 291555

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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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!
 
Manchester
1-3 Clarence Street
Albert Square
Manchester
M2 4DE
Tel: 0161 237 9799
http://www.cromapizza.co.uk