Tag Archives: Street food

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

Southport Food and Drink Festival 2014

He was feeling rather sorry for himself the Cooktwit this sunny Sunday. He was aimlessly reeling from the news that The Flame had bagged herself a day out with the girls. Despite it being ‘on the calendar for weeks’, there was still obviously far too little time to rustle up a couple of pals for an afternoon sesh. As we all know an off beat pint like that takes months and hundreds of texts to arrange. Despite this set back (and having touched the flame up for £20) The Cooktwit lurched onwards to the 2014 Southport Food and Drink Festival with a spring in his step and a gay song playing in his heart. In short things were on the up.

Setting the scene
Setting the scene

The sun was shining and good food beckoned. Working in Manchester the Cooktwit is used to aiming east from his suburban pile, but Southport is a heady forty five minutes west and the notorious single track highway that snakes into Southport is a known summer hotspot. Cunningly the newly acquired ‘satnav’ lead me through pastures new and avoided the tiresome thoroughfare. I was holed up in the £4 parking lot in no time.
I soon ventured under the ‘free’ entrance banner, yes, free! A welcome surprise. The large open space of Victoria Park had been grafted into a foody heaven by arranging nigh on eighty stalls in a huge square with a couple of sponsors tents in the middle. It made for a spacious and easily navigated experience, something not always possible in town centre food and market events.
As is tradition I do a first ‘mine sweep’ just to see what’s here. There’s nothing worse than blowing the budget early doors and then finding a diamond near the end!

Some of the booty. Beer, Mauritian treats, ham shanks, artisan bread
Some of the booty. Beer, Mauritian treats, ham shanks, artisan bread

The food producers were down one side while the street food vendors and bars were on the others. I swept down the produce and made a few notes. I ended up with a ‘Thai Pie’ which sounded good. I deliberately got a frozen one to cook myself. I’ll let you know how that goes. It should be good for £2.50. I also ended up with some cake, a ‘Mrs Shah’s Curry Mix’, a ‘Romana’ style herb and spice rub by ‘Simply Sprinkles’. Looking forward to trying that, could be good. I didn’t get much else in fairness but could have easily weighed in with cheese, meat, preserves and host of other goodies. One particular regret now is not getting a good stock of ‘Bobbies Bangers’. I’ve heard of these on twitter and their sausages didn’t half look good, especially the jalapeño ones. It’s a good job I have a good stock of my favourite ‘Red Bank Farm’ ones in the freezer.

Some of the street food stars
Some of the street food stars

For the street food the choice was incredible, and the quality looked good too. A couple of known favourites were on, including ‘Pizza Peddlers’ in their blue and cream H van and ‘Mr Meatballs’. I was negotiating a ‘chakalaka’ veggie wrap with ‘Safari’ only to be told they had sold out. They’re usual 5% of sales for veggies having upped to 15% over the weekend and caught them on the hop! In view of this I moved along to ‘The Wrap Shack’, which in fairness was sporting the most inventive stall. As the name suggests it was done up like a shack and as it had a Mexican theme, it piped in its menu with red, yellow and green hues. Striking it looked too. Not wishing to become overawed I opted for a small, smoked Mexican bean wrap for £5.50. It’s a good job I got the small, as I had to munch through a fair bit of beans, salad, jalapeños, olives and cheese just so I could actually start to create the wrap! Once ‘wrapped’ the thing was wolfed in a matter of minutes and the Cooktwit lunch was sorted. Very nice it was too.

The wrap shack, smoked bean wrap. No additives!
The wrap shack, smoked bean wrap. No additives!

A Lancaster blonde ale quenched the thirst and an apple, almond bakewell completed the alfresco feed.
One of the highlights for me at these events is the cooks demonstration tent which tend to feature one of the celeb chefs. Sadly there didn’t seem to much going on today. Reading through the blurb and on twitter it would seem an entertaining sesh had been had on Friday with Andrew Nutter. I would have liked to have seen that.

Simply Sprinkles, Bill and Ben, My haul.
Simply Sprinkles, Bill and Ben, My haul.

Sunday the last of the three day event was bathed almost constantly in warm sunshine. Naturally the crowds swelled to pleasing levels.  Families and couples of all ages were represented. Without counting I would guess we were talking hundreds if not thousands of people. I shudder how dented the figures would have been in England’s rain? But hey that’s looking at the half empty glass. It was a great day and I would definitely recommend it as one for the diary. Roll on the rest of the foody festival season.

The ambiance
The ambiance

Friday Food Fight – Manchester

I’m an old rocker me, more partial to a Deep Purple gig. Bearing that in mind imagine the terror I felt when entering the darkened arena that had been created to house the hot trending, street food binge #FridayFoodFight. Whilst the food blurb sounded good it was listed alongside rave DJ types like Jonny Dub, Will Tramp!, Krysko and Gold Teeth. I was a bit scared I would have to take my shirt off!

A hip trending #hashtag
A hip trending #hashtag

Note the #hashtag in front of Friday Food fight? that’s the sign that’s been flashing through all the foodies twitter accounts over the last few weeks. It’s been a bit cryptic though, as even on the day it wasn’t clear to me what it was and whether you could rock up or whether you needed a ticket?  As it happens a few pints after work with a few chums morphed into a ‘where should we eat, I’m hungry?’. We meandered over to the Upper Campfield Market housed in the shadow of Beetham Towers and opposite fave ale joint ‘Cask’. The twitter campaign had at least revealed the venue. It’s reckoned 400 punters can fit in this wonderful, old, industrial structure.

The list for the first event
The list for the first event

By this time it was pushing 9pm and we were able to get in free and easily. Once inside the atmosphere was electric. Suitably dark, suitably urban and hip, suitably not too loud with a very suitable line up of street food vendors the juices soon started to flow. The foodies where housed down one side of the hall behind a makeshift bar. Their portion of the bench highlighted with a banner and blackboard menu slung overhead on a cross wire.

The old market lights up. Thanks to someone else for the pic!
The old market lights up. Thanks to someone else for the pic!

The scheme has been hatched by B.Eat Street MCR. They have rounded up food purveyors like Lucha Libre, Solita, Diamond Dogs, Piggie Smalls and Yang Sing to feed punters at the Campfield site for a 12-week celebration of food. The food list for the first event certainly lived up to the billing!   A quick sweep across the boards sent me stage left to Andrew Nutters ‘Nutsfood’. The ‘Great British Fritter’ peaking my curiosity. A good eight inches of bury black pudding and Lancashire cheese encased in batter, served on a wad of £10 notes and some sauce. It was hot, crunchy, tasty and satisfying. As an extra treat fellow foodie, young Jinn, bagged me a quick snatch of black pudding won tons, set in a trendy cone and British flag! It was all great, but I needed more!

Nutters homage to Bury black pudding!
Nutters homage to Bury black pudding!

A further sweep took me to ‘Love From The Streets’. They were doing their ‘street box’ which had two fat pieces of the spiciest jerk chicken I’ve ever had with some ‘bad’ slaw (I think that means good!) and ‘dirty’ bean rice (how hip are you? -Ed).  It was a bit spicy for me, especially with one of the sauces off the bar.

Love From The Streets - hot stuff
Love From The Streets – hot stuff

I was tempted to round off with some sweet, but the need for more beer took over. The Sugar Rush Gals had me severely tempted with their cheese and pineapple deserts.   To be honest I could have run down the line blindfold and had any of the food on offer, Solita’s burger, Honest Crust’s pizza, Diamond Dogs hot dogs, Lucha Libre’s Mexican, Piggy Smalls pork delights, Umuzsushi Japanese, Arepa Arepa Arepa the list goes on, it all looked really good.   And on top of all that there was great beer on and I didn’t have to take my shirt off and get down with the kids!

I got the train back about ten o’ clock so whether the dance music got more serious after I couldn’t say. As I mentioned its on every Friday for the next twelve weeks culminating in May. I’ll definitely be going again. It’s a great move by the organisers and great for Manchester. It reminded me a little bit of Camp and Furnace in Liverpool, so that’s no bad thing. Yang Sing are there this week, the food surprises just keep on coming, get down there and give it a try.

Weekly from Fri 7 Mar,

Upper Campfield Market, 5.30pm-11.30pm, Free entry,

full line ups here: http://www.beatstreetmcr.co.uk