Tag Archives: seafood

Top Dishes of 2017

It’s that time of year again, a time to whip out the old phone pics and bag a quick blog post. Its my eating highlights of 2017. As ever there has been some great feeds. I have merely chipped a few down that seem worth mentioning. I’m sure I know I will have missed a few out, but here goes…..

First up, one of my fave new places, ‘Friends of Ham’ in Leeds. A simple slice of pigs cheek on sourdough with a potato salad and a pint of hazelnut mild. Simple but delicious. I urge everyone to try.


Had a super meal at the rejuvenated ‘Beastro’ (review here) in Spinningfields, Manchester. Steak is a speciality. They go from strength to strength. Well worth a visit anytime of day. The signature breakfast wrap sooths hangovers like a dream……


An unusual but rather splendid meal was had at a campsite in Conwy, North Wales. It was at ‘Signatures’. Despite catering for thirty odd people, a fine dining experience for just over thirty quid was enjoyed. Get your camping gear on chaps…..


One found oneself wholed up in Tenby, South Wales. A rather agreeable crab timbale and a fresh sea-trout at ‘The Plantagenet House’ by The Harbour worked wonders for the soul. recommended if you’re ever as far west in Wales as you can possibly get.


A surprisingly decent crab salad with herbs and asparagus was had at ‘The Rose and Crown’, which was sadly a rather garish and unassuming gastropub in Fishguard. That said they have a chef who knows what he is doing. Simple exquisite.


Ventured to old favourite ‘Baratxuri’ in Ramsbottom for a lunchtime snack, ended up sat in their new ‘comedor’ (dining room!) having a full chicken with all the trimmings! I’ve run out of superlatives for this place. You must go.


I love a reuben! Manchester’s street food heroes ‘Northern Soul’ do a superb New Yorker. Cheese toasties on steroids.


Seafood specialist and newcomer to Manchester ‘Randall and Aubin’ (reviewed here) provided a sumptuous array of oysters, crab and tuna for our wedding anniversary this year. Their twitter feed highlights many other delights. The fish and chips looks like a winner.


Talking of fish and chips, we stumbled on ‘The Ferry Tavern’ in Penketh near Warrington.  It’s all it does! It does it well though and a nice view of the Mersey gateway Bridge…..


Took a colleague for a corking lunch in Manchesters Nothern Quarter. They have a new authentic mexican restauraunt called ‘El Taquero’. We loved it.  Pork and pineapple taco anyone? Say yes when asked…..


I’ve mentioned many times that you can press a pin blindfold onto a map of The Ribble Valley and you will find somewhere decent to eat. Came by accident across ‘The Aspinall Arms’ in Mitton near Whalley. Corking pigeon starter amongst.


Trooped round Shoreditch on my own one Saturday. Fellow foodies pointed me to Smokestak. Unfortuantely I’d eaten but managed to squeeze these sticky pig tails in as a little snack. Will be back for a full feed one day.


The Boys hit Dublin in a rainy January. away from Temple Bar we stumbled on Darkey Kellys. Best Guiness and a blimnding Guiness stew for a hearty lunch. Recommended.


Finally and easily the best meal of the year for me. My birthday bash was spent at Simon Rogans’s Michelin starred L’Enclume. Stunning food in a fabulous setting with a glorious front of house. I need to go again and again. Review here.


So there it is for now. By no means exhaustive. I could have added many burger pics! but youve seen them before. Hope to add a bit more diversity in 2018, going to Cuba soon. What do they eat there?……

Randall and Aubin – Manchester

“Another London restaurant gives Manchester a try. This one can stay for me. Probably the best seafood in town?”

Twenty-eight years of marriage, where do you go to celebrate that? Well, I chose ‘Randall and Aubin,’ latest addition to the Spinningfield end of good old Manchester town. I love seafood and I just fancied some. Thankfully The Flame doesn’t mind fish either! We were on. Couple of pre meal cocktails around town before sauntering along Bridge Street to the good old R&A. Looks good from outside. Two ‘Parisienne’ awnings with ornate script set it apart. I fully lit, street facing flash of seafood on a bed of ice, add a decadent touch.


We enter the long narrow room. A seated bar to the left, our coats are wafted behind a screen by front of house to the right. We feel very welcome. We are escorted to table 86. The initial excitement dips. The tiny round table is set hard against the wall. We feel hemmed in. Our next table of two, merely inches away, bask in acres of space. We mention this to Zak, our excellent waiter. Within minutes a nearby table, twice the size, swept down one side with banquette seating is cleaned and prepped. Immediately our enthusiasm is back up to ten and climbing. Bottle of ‘Mad Fish’ Sauvignon Blanc (£35)! Corked (well unscrewed) and cooling. Six plump, french oysters arranged neatly on a wire heightened platter (£15). We slurped our entree while taking in the fine ambience.

IMG_1808The idea, one presumes, is that you imagine you’ve been whisked to an elegant Parisienne Brasserie on the Champs Elysee? It works to an extent, reminded me a bit of the old ‘Cafe Rouges’ though. ‘Moulin Rouge’ mirrors and velvet curtains abound. The exposed ‘air-con’ ironmongery on the ceiling detracts slightly, but I’m quibbling.

Whilst fish and seafood is the main intent, and what we came for, the menu boats a collection of fine rotisserie meats too. The menu is extensive, a quid or two up compared to some others in town, but it is indeed a fine offer. I started up with the New England clam & bacon chowder with fresh corn bread (£5.50). A hearty meal in itself, robust flavours, loads of clams in a creamy broth. Utterly wonderful. The Flame went for the R&A crab cakes with lime mayonnaise, watercress & radish salad (a fairly hefty £9.85). Again rather good. I was allowed half of one!


For mains I went for ‘full faff’ whole, cracked, brown crab mayonnaise with R&A potato salad (£19.85). The ready dressed ‘low faff’ Dorset crab with R&A potato salad is £2 cheaper! Have to say it was sensational. Struggling to recall a better crab, good size too, but the potato salad is worth a mention. Piquant and tasty, perfect accompaniment to the main event. Thankfully, The Flame was perfectly happy catching up on Facebook whilst I cracked and crunched my way through this king of crustaceans!


The Flame had the Grilled line-caught tuna with roasted Mediterranean vegetables, feta cheese & an olive oil oregano tapenade (£19.85). A thick steak of tuna, cooked perfectly pink on a colourful bed of aubergine, peppers and onions.


By now we were stuffed, but couldn’t resist a sweet finish. The desserts, Sticky Date Pudding – with vanilla ice cream & caramel sauce and my Baked Vanilla Cheesecake – with caramel & salted caramel ice cream (both £8 each), both homemade were perfectly decent, but by then we were a bit over faced, especially after our rather splendid anniversary ice cream, presented by young Zak.


The bill romped in at a fairly hefty £135 including a 12.5% discretionary tip. But as we know, seafood in particular exerts a premium. Have to say this though, despite our initial hiccup with the table we thoroughly enjoyed our time here. The service was bright, attentive and knowledgable. TV chef Ed Baines is behind the R&A. The original is in Soho in London. I hope his selection of Bridge Street in Manchester as the next foray works out. We’ll definitely be back. This could well turn out to be one of our favourites places, watch this space……

Randall & Aubin Manchester
64 Bridge Street,
M3 3BN
Tel: +44 (0) 161 7111 007
Email: mcr@randallandaubin.com

George’s ‘Pipi’ Fritters

To explain, George is the handsome cove who demonstrated this fabulous, fresh, seafood recipe to me. He (along with his wonderful wife Carol) had just happened to have built a stunning beach side villa in a place called Opoutere in The Coromandel area of New Zealand’s north island. I would urge anyone who hasn’t been to visit this incredible area of the world to do so forthwith. By some strange quirk of good fortune, I got to spend three days in this paradise.

Collecting on the beach, collecting in the bucket and hand

Paphies australis or pipi (from the Māori language) is a bivalve mollusc (so it says here!) which is endemic to New Zealand. The pipi is a shellfish with a solid white, elongated symmetrical shell with the apex at the middle. (To me it was a big clam).
The pipi is abundant on flat sandy beaches, where there is considerable water flow (or in other words just at the back of George’s beach villa!)
By releasing a thread of mucus, which makes them more buoyant, they can move about a bit by floating. They can get up to more than 1000 individuals per square metre. (I can vouch for that! There was loads of them just under us!). You simply rummage around in the sand with your hand at low tide and pick them out. Then throw into George’s bucket! (Mind you don’t get nipped by the crabs though! There’s tons of them too…)

Ingredients (makes around 12 fritters)

Half a bucket of freshly picked Pipis from the low outgoing tide of the Pacific Ocean, preferably in New Zealand. Ours weighed in at about 500g. I reckon you could use a ton of clams or even mussels instead.
2 eggs
Tablespoon of flour
Splash of fish sauce
Pinch of sugar
1/2 tsp curry powder and/or chilli powder (to taste. Chopped jalapenos could work well too I reckon)
Oil for frying

1) Leave overnight in clean water. The tentacles will come out and spit all the sand and waste out.
2) Clean and rinse.
3) In a shallow pan, bring an inch of water to a gentle boil. Place the Pipis in batches into the water and wait a few minutes for them to open. Remove with tongs as they open and place in a separate bowl. Repeat until all open.

The tentacles, steaming, opening up, removing the meat

4) Remove all the meat and discard the shells. This is easy using a your finger thumb. Take care not to eat too many while doing this. They taste wonderful and sweet even at this stage!
5) Finely chop, or ideally mince into a rough paste. (George has a fine old hand mincer)
6) Mix in a bowl with the eggs, flour, fish sauce, pepper, sugar and spices to create a sloppy paste

Mincing, mixing, dolloping in the pan

7) Cover the bottom of the pan with oil for shallow frying. Heat until smoking.
8) Spoon a good dollop into the pan and flatten down to create a patty around 6-8mm thick. You should be able to do 4 at a time. Fry 3-4 mins on one side until golden brown underneath. Flip carefully with a spatula and repeat.
9) Place on kitchen paper and keep warm.

We served with sweet chilli sauce, but I’m sure other dips would work too…
I ate mine with my hands.

Baratxuri – Ramsbottom

“Another wonderfully elegant splash of Spain has wafted onto the streets of Ramsbottom!” 

The weather forecast (even for Lancashire!) was looking good. “This is it!” I motioned to long suffering companion The Flame, “Ramsbottom, here we go, I need to try Baratxuri pronto”. To explain Baratxuri is the younger sister of long time favourite Levanter (reviewed here). Both based in Ramsbottom, both the ‘brainchildren’ of Joe and Fiona, both serve up authentic Spanish cuisine of the highest quality. Levanter is billed as a tapas (small plates) bar; Baratxuri touts itself as a Pintxos (pronounced Peen cho!) bar. 


Whereas Levanter is wonderfully rustic, Baratxuri seems to have a more elegant feel. Similar in size, galley at the back, bar to the right, the walls are clad in a patchwork of colourful Spanish tiles. A slinky jazz track buzzes in the background. We selected one of only two tables in front of the sun kissed window. Most people where then left to sit on high bar stools around a beer barrel or up to a fitted café bar. Chalked boards detail the food on offer. I reckon twenty covers would fill it. It is a fabulously, relaxing space.


Apparently Pintxo is a Basque word that literally means a “spike”. This would explain why all the bite sized goodies on the bar where harpooned with a wooden pick. The idea is that you slink up to the bar, order your txacoli (traditional dry white wine), take a plate and fill up with the exquisite morsels. They are £3 a pop. You simply stack the picks in a glass which formulates your Pintxo bill at the end. Great way to dine.

The spikes! of Pintxos

As well as the small bites on the bar, a small board sets out further pintxos that are ordered up hot and fresh from the kitchen. Typically £4.50 each. Sunday adds the magnificent Mariscada as a special at £35 to share. As a lover of seafood it was this special that I was particularly keen to try. The Mariscada is a forty minute wait, (though it took around fifty! for us). We settled with a couple of Pintxos to satiate our cravings, one crab and one ham and cheese. Both decidedly pleasant. I missed out on a small bucket of octopus, one of the other pintxos that came out later.

Finally having watched a couple of others come out before us, and after the tools, tomato salad and bread, our ‘feast of the sea’ was placed before us. A true sight to behold I’m sure you’ll agree?


A dressed crab, half a lobster, sensational scallops on a bed of peppers and fennel sausage, grilled sardine, a mound of whitebait, two fabulous carabineros prawns and a bucket of lobster bisque. All piping hot and ready to go. We set about the task in hand with gusto. We picked, mopped, sucked, crunched, and slurped our way through a glorious tray of the freshest finery of the sea.


Though not a big fan of seafood, even The Flame acknowledged the quality of presentation and value for money. We watched many people, couples and friends come and go. Some would grab a draft of Spanish beer others the wine and some pintxos, then simply move on. It all works superbly. All in we settled up at £48 pluis tip for a superb lunch. Allied to the friendly and knowledgeable staff it counts as another triumph for Joe and Fi and  yet another ‘foodie’ reason to head over to Ramsbottom. What a place this is….



1 Smithy St,

01706 559090


Drum and Monkey – Harrogate, Yorkshire

“A classy, long-established seafood restaurant in an elegant part of Harrogate”

A special occasion had the Cooktwit wooing the Flame with a top-notch weekend away. Yorkshire seemed as good a place as any. Harrogate even more so. Betty’s, baths and boutiques, what’s not to like? As ever the first thing to sort, where to eat? Twitter threw up a few options. I finally settled on ‘Drum and Monkey’. A seafood restaurant in the rather elegant Montpellier area of the town.

Classy, elegant
Classy, elegant

Its set in a corner bay, a smart moniker depicts the title whilst a monkey playing a drum (natch) adds colour and further signage. Owing to a flurry of patronage (standard on a Saturday night) we opted for an early 6.15 slot. We peered through the window to an empty room. It didn’t seem too inviting. That said we were whisked upwards to the next floor where several tables were already in full flow. This was much better. It’s a dark, elegant, red room. Crimson flock coverings allied to dark wood create a pleasant and rather intimate atmosphere. The Flame was impressed, (always a good sign). Sadly the darkness rather impaired my photography!

Exquisite, uniformed waiters soon had us settled. The typed, easily negotiated menu on white with blue logo along with a smaller ‘specials’ card gave us plenty to think about. It changes daily depending on seasonality and availability.

Smoked starter and soup
Smoked starter and soup

The flame selected a trio of smoked seafood (crab, salmon and prawns) to start at £12.50 it was a tad on the steep side (given we paid £9.50 at The Easy Fish Co) but it was very good. I went a little off beam and had the Drum Fish Soup (£6.50). Wouldn’t normally go for this but was intrigued. It arrived in a pot terrine with a drizzle of oil. It had the bisque like consistency and colour with croutons soaking away nicely. It proved a little rich and filling for me so I left a bit. I devoured the fish lurking in the depths first!

Nidderdale Trout, spiced monkfish
Nidderdale Trout, spiced monkfish

For mains I had the spiced monkfish with roasted squash linguine off the special menu (£16.50). I really enjoyed this, lightly spiced solid chunks of tail in a luscious, golden jus. The flame won by a mile though. Whole Nidderdale trout with almonds, capers and a brown butter sauce (£15.50) with a house salad. What a dish this was. Huge lumps of tender trout were easily teased from the bone. Even when the top section had been devoured it kept on giving. Beneath the bone yielded another meal. Given the copious volume of flesh, even I was able to get on the act, definitely dish of the night.

Treacle Tart, Apple crumble
Treacle Tart, Apple crumble

Desserts were good too. I had a hearty treacle tart with wonderful ice cream whilst the flame opted for a Braeburn apple crumble, again with the ice cream. Both were £5.95.

For the privilege we disbursed a goodish £82. By the time we ventured downstairs the main area which includes the bar was absolutely rammed. Clearly this is one of the places to go on a Saturday night. As it was only 8.30 we nipped over to the oldest pub in town The Hales Bar. How apt…

Drum and Monkey
5 Montpellier Gardens,
Town Centre,
North Yorkshire, HG1 2TF
Tel: 01423 502650
Email: bookings@drumandmonkey.co.uk

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.


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.


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.


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.


The Easy Fish Company
117 Heaton Moor Rd, Stockport SK4 4HY
0161 442 0823

The Cruel Sea – Poole, Dorset

“Catch it, cook it, eat it, sounds a pretty good concept to me”

I stumbled on The Cruel Sea by chance. The flame loves Ben Fogle! and so when he did one of those ‘I love round here’ documentaries I caught site of an ace looking seafood restaurant. The documentary was called ‘Harbour Lives’ and centred on the Dorset coast. I managed to catch site of the name ‘The Cruel Sea’. Its owner, who featured on the programme is Pete Miles. He is a fisherman by trade. His concept is to front a restaurant that offers ‘from net to plate’. The Cruel Sea does just that.

mackerel waiting to be cooked, the frontage. The cooked mackerel.
mackerel waiting to be cooked, the frontage. The cooked mackerel.

It is set, quite unassuming in a parade of shops in a well-heeled part of Poole. It is a good mile from the sea. It is an atmospheric, lively bar and kitchen, serving fish, meat and vegetarian tapas-style dishes. It offers decent wine, European lagers and great British ales. I had a pint of ‘Cruel Sea’ ale specially brewed locally for them.

Cruel sea Beer, Eugene hard at the pass at the rear kitchen
Cruel sea Beer, Eugene hard at the pass at the rear kitchen

We turned in early, just after six. It was already half full, the atmosphere building nicely. It is rustic in style, the obligatory lanterns in the window providing the nod to the sea. A mass of union jack bunting donned the ceiling when we were there. Presumably confirming all the produce is local? The kitchen is open and set at the back of the long narrow bar. I had a quick chat with head chef Eugene and manager Jose. Whilst I was already loving the fish tapas menu, Eugene told me some dover sole and some crabs had just turned up that weren’t on the menu yet. He reckoned I could have some of that if i fancied it. I was gibbering with excitement.

the menu, rustic interior
the menu, rustic interior

We ordered up. We had some bread and humus to start while we picked off the fishy stuff.  Then in no particular order the morsels of goodness started to arrive.  Highlight for the flame was the whole mackerel, beautifully filletted, then baked with a salsa verde (£7). It was superb. Highlight for me was the baked dover sole (£8) which came with a goblet of crab bisque, sensational.

hummus and bread, sea bream, cod and wild mushrooms
hummus and bread, sea bream, cod and wild mushrooms

Other highlights was the tranche of cod set on wild mushrooms with kale and iberico ham (£9), the sea bream with a chamoula sauce (£7.50). The Flame had one nod at meat. grilled chicken with a lovely quinoa salad (£7.50), we also had a courgette and holloumi dish (£6.50) as our casual nod to something green and healthy.

corgette & holloumi, grilled chicken, dover sole & tiramisu
corgette & holloumi, grilled chicken, dover sole & tiramisu

I finished off with the obligatory, homemade tiramisu (£4.95), set on a slate with a swirl of couli. Very nice too.  We had a good chat with the young, buzzy staff who were bright, efficient and friendly. All in all a super night. We cashed in our chips at around £78. Pretty good for a good amount of freshly caught and cooked fish. I love the idea of fish tapas, a great idea. The place was rammed when we left and this was a Wednesday night.Well worth looking out for. I’ll get the crabs and shellfish next time.

The rustic bar, great atmosphere
The rustic bar, great atmosphere

The Cruel Sea
5 Bank Chambers, Penn Hill Avenue,
Poole, Dorset BH14 9NB

01202 736362