Friday, August 23, 2013

Chorlton Green Brasserie

Us teachers get stick all the time for our long holidays, while those 'ladies who lunch' always seem to get off scot free. I think I'd get pretty bored if I was a lady who lunched particularly as I wouldn't actually have anyone to go to lunch with. The summer holidays are enough for me, I get to rest my weary bones and sort my life out for six weeks before getting back into the busy school routine which also genuinely makes me happy.

This doesn't mean that I don't like to partake in a few typical ladies who lunch activities in my six weeks off - the odd spot of shopping, baking, flouncing around Chorlton, that sort of thing... Last week I met up with my fellow teacher / ladies who lunch (six weeks-per-year) friends Sam and Charlie for exactly those types of activities - a mooch down Beech Road and a delightful lunch. The location for the ladies' luncheon? Well it had to be somewhere truly fabulous, dahling; we decided on Chorlton Green Brasserie as somewhere none of us had been but we all wanted to try. The Brasserie itself is a very pleasant location for a ladies' lunch - cosy, homely and inviting.

First port of call, a ladies' drink! The wine list at the Brasserie is confidently organised into three sections: 'Good', 'Great' and 'Brilliant'. Being Spanish teachers and all, we were OBVIOUSLY going to be ordering a Spanish wine. Sam wisely chose us a bottle of El Tesoro Verdejo, swayed by the description of "fruit salad in a glass". This was an absolute treat and we all loved it - if this is what a bottle out of the 'Good' section tastes like, I'd be rather keen to experience something 'Brilliant'!

I have to admit I was less impressed by the lunch menu on offer, which, in comparison to the lip-smacking evening menu I've often drooled over, seemed to be a bit of a less exciting selection of sandwiches and pies. Soo unladylike dahling. Both Charlie and I went for sarnies whilst Sam ventured to the specials board for some mussels in red wine.

The sandwiches were great - proper big'uns with serious thick bits of good bread accompanied by a decent tasting side salad, a tasty coleslaw with fennel adding an unexpected aniseedy 'twist' to proceedings and freshly fried homemade parsnip crisps. Lovely. Mine was packed with thick smoked salmon and dreamy creamy avocado. The butter was salty and delicious but maybe a little too much of it for me, although I don't eat butter often so am quite unaccustomed. My fellow lady lunchers were pleased with their choices although don't think Sam was 100% sold on the red wine + mussels combo.

I'd forgotten that I'd also ordered a side of potato salad. This was OK but did taste a bit like the uber-healthy Slimming World potato salads I sometimes make. Charlie's side of chips were also OK too but a bit too fluffy in the middle she thought. Sides not as great as mains.

A ladies' lunch without dessert is not a ladies' lunch. So when we were offered the dessert menu we all did that polite "Oh, well we could have a look I suppose..." thing when we all KNEW we were totes getting a dessert. Charlie and I were intrigued by the Tasting of English Strawberries and both went for this. Ladies LOVE tasting strawberries don'tcha know. 

In appearance this really was the perfect dessert for ladies - SO pretty to look at, I almost didn't want to eat it! We loved the taste of the dessert too, beautiful little chocolate covered straweberries were fun to eat and the strawberry salsa topped with cream and gorgeous biscuity bits was compared by Charlie to "angels dancing on my tongue"! 

The only bit we weren't too taken with was the strawberry 'soup', which tasted a bit like weak strawberry water to us, but we let it off because it came in the cutest cup known to man. Overall though, a special dessert that I felt probably reflects more what the evening menu would be all about.

As you'd expect from a ladies' lunch we spent our time in Chorlton Green Brasserie relaxing, eating and gossiping about all kinds of ladies' things (OK, fine, just teaching) and the food, drink and atmosphere provided us with the perfect backdrop for a very pleasant experience. The member of staff who served us was very nice with us too (she understood the needs of us posh ladies very well). 

Seeing as I don't get to go for ladies' lunches very often, we were really pleased with our choice. I know that there are lots of places on Beech Road to choose from but I think I would definitely go back for lunch again, particularly as I only spotted the biggest scones I've ever seen on my way out of the Brasserie. However, before I do that I would really like to go back and try the evening menu. 

So if, like me, you are a only an occasional lady and want to go somewhere that you know will serve you decent food and a good bottle of wine in relaxed and very friendly surroundings, I would definitely recommend Chorlton Green Brasserie. Now, to go and get myself into a very unladylike panic about how close we are to September...

Chorlton Green Brasserie. on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Mark Addy

When you name your pub/restaurant after someone you've gotta go for someone worthy of such an honour. Nobody wants to eat Sunday lunch in "The Jim Davidson", nibble on a Caesar salad at "The John Terry", sip a trendy cocktail in an upmarket bar called "Bono" and there are few human souls who want to sink a pint in "The Adrian Chiles". So when I heard of the establishment The Mark Addy I have to admit that my first thought was to question whether or not the actor who portrays King Robert Baratheon in HBO's Game Of Thrones was up to scratch but then I remembered he also played Fred Flintstone in "The Flintstones in Viva Las Vegas"!  Yes that must be it I thought, the clincher that inspired somebody to renovate and reopen a canal side Manchester restaurant and pub!  I was incorrect, The Mark Addy is in fact named after 19th century local resident Mark Addy who saved over 50 people from drowning in the highly polluted River Irwell.  Fair enough he wasn't in The Full Monty but he did receive The Albert Medal so hopefully we can all agree this is a well named eaterie.

We visited The Mark Addy as part of our ongoing Pay Day Steak Day tradition but not only due to that, it had also come highly recommended to us from various foodie folk on Twitter and in person so it was already on THE LIST.  Therefore we were really excited about this visit.  We were also sold on the location, you don't get much more riverside than this place!  Descending the stairs down to the water level you are greeted with a  phenomenal whiff of ales and roast vegetables and gravy and meats and what can only be collectively described as 'pub musk'.  Best smelling pub/restaurant in Manchester?  Definitely.  The pub itself is an absolute beaut, filled with dark wood, a tremendous bar, a very open kitchen and supplemented by nice internal lighting as well as lovely natural lighting bouncing in off the river.  Loved it.

Now unsurprisingly they do have a whacking great selection of great beers.  Sadly my first pint was so tasty I stuck with it for the rest of the night  The ginger pale ale I had selected had the curious but not unpleasant effect of building up a little bit of heat on the old palate after each successive pint.  Also worth mentioning that they had a respectable whisky line up (always useful to indulge in the final stages of the PDSD tradition) and that the service was friendly and professional despite the fact we were being awkward and annoying at the bar - "Are we adding these drinks to the tab?" "No I'll pay for my own drinks" "Can I pay by card for some of these drinks?" "We've changed our mind, stick everything on the table" "I've already paid for mine with cash" "blah blah blah".  Sorry about that Mark Addy.

There was one more reason to pay a visit to The Mark Addy and that reason came in the shape of an egg, an egg made of black pudding and sausage and a pickled egg.  Yes they were purveyors of the fabled Manchester Egg.  I had never tried it before and so was very excited, I had planned to order one at the bar so I could shove it in my face before we were even seated.  In the panic at the bar I didn't get my chance to strike and so waited until we were asked to order our starters.  I struck, I was denied!  They had just sold the last one.  As I sank in to a deep depression I regrettably passed on the opportunity to order a starter but others went for the Blacksticks Blue Cheese Bhaji, they were fist sized, they smelled amazing, my nose slid off my face freshly cut.  Still managed to snag a fork full, they were brilliant.

The steak eaters went for the rib eye, medium rare X 4 (we must be popular with waiters and chefs alike) and I have to say they were pretty solid steaks.  Really tasty with plenty of seasoning, you could actually see the seasoning on the steak which is something that would normally worry me (why are they trying to hide the flavour of the steak?) but the steak was not lost at all.  The chips were top drawer, I might go as far as to say they were perfect, I would definitely go as far as to say that they single handidly justify a trip to The Mark Addy.  In the Manchester steak rankings it's up there but still lagging behind the crap restaurant with great steaks SMOAK.  Besides the great steaks I can also confirm that Jules very much enjoyed her salmon dish, particularly the potatoes on the side.  There was nothing revolutionary about it but it was simple, very well cooked food.

Desserts were forgone by half of the table in favour of the traditional whisky.  I went for the Suntory Yamazaki 12 year which gave an intense but not unpleasant punch. Desserts were eaten by the infidels though.  Jules went for the Eccles cakes with cheese.  It should be renamed cheese with Eccles cakes.  Look at those wedges.  Some absolutely banging cheese here and a great combo with the Eccles cakes, some people might be a little bit intimidated by the cheese stack though.  We didn't leave any cheese behind I can assure you of that.

I do have to highlight just one little bug bear that I think is becoming something along the lines of an OCD for me.  The Mark Addy is a beautiful pub, it is a sight to behold honestly.  So why after going to all that trouble to make the environment brilliant would you leave boxes of restaurant consumables out in plain sight both in the restaurant and in the stairwell?  Surely it's a five minute job to shove them somewhere else and it stops punters being distracted from the obvious beauty and individuality of your restaurant?  Gripe over.

I wasn't actually this annoyed by this box hanging out in our booth, I just pretended to be for mild comic effect.
I will be returning to The Mark Addy because I loved it.  The service was fantastic throughout, really genuinely chatty and friendly as well as being perfectly suited to the place itself.  The food was great, outstanding in places in fact and refreshingly, unashamedly British.  It goes back on the very short list entitled, WOULD LIKE TO COME REGULARLY.  Now in the meantime would anybody like to invest in my new wine bar?  I'm going to call it "The Chris Moyles".

Mark Addy on Urbanspoon

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Chard and Saffron Omelettes

At last month's Levy Market I picked up some bargain organic vegetables at the end of the day (we never have time to look round while the market is actually on!) from the locally-sourced fruit and veg stall the market put on themselves (because that's the kind of awesome market it is!). The veggies in question were cavolo nero and chard.

I had never cooked with either of these vegetables but knew I would need to look no further than my favourite cookbook, Ottolenghi's Plenty for a recipe.

I decided to use the cavolo nero as an alternative to sorrel in the Fried Butterbeans with Sumac and Feta recipe I made with Wendy Swetnam at the Middle Eastern Spice Cracking Good Food workshop. This worked out but I do think I like the sorrel version a lot better.

We had this on the side of a recipe I've been wanting to try out for AGES - Chard and Saffron Omelettes. I went out and got all of my ingredients from my local Madina Superstore on Stockport Road, which I love having a nosy round and I am a big fan of those waxy Cyprus potatoes (they make great wedges!). It did mean I had to change a couple of ingredients out of Ottolenghi's original but it didn't seem to matter much.

Both Bailey and I loved this dish - I thought the herby omelettes were great and I will definitely be using them as inspiration for other stuffed omelette recipes. This tea was lovely with a bit of bread. And quelle surprise, yet another brilliant Ottolenghi recipe, the man is a genius.

250g Cyprus potatoes
200ml water
Pinch saffron
350g chard
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 garlic clove
5 eggs
60ml milk
100g Greek yogurt

Peel and dice the potatoes. Put them into a saucepan with the water and saffron. Simmer in the pan for 4 minutes.

Add the chard to the pan along with a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Cook for around 10-15 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft. Meanwhile, finely chop the garlic. If there's any water left, drain it off. Add the lemon juice and garlic to the mixture then put to one side.

Now make the omelettes. Chop the herbs up nice and fine.

Whisk the eggs with the milk and chopped herbs and some salt and pepper in a jug.

Grease a frying pan (I used low calorie cooking spray but Ottolenghi suggests a 1 teaspoon of oil), place over the heat then pour a quarter of the omelette mix into the pan. When the omelette has started to set on one side, flip it and cook the other side. 

Place the cooked omelette into an oven dish. 

Spread one half of the omelette with a quarter of the Greek yogurt, making a half moon shape and then spread the chard mix over half of that, making a quarter.

Fold the omelette into four. Repeat the process with the other three quarters of the omelette mix until you have four omelettes filled with Greek yogurt and the chard mix. Heat for 5-8 minutes until the omelettes are warmed up then serve.

Saturday, August 17, 2013


Bailey loves pizza. He LOVES pizza! I don't know anyone who doesn't like pizza, but I also don't know anyone who likes pizza quite as much as Bailey does. I think if he had to, he would take a bullet for pizza. Bailey's love for pizza does mean that when we go on holiday, we have to find out who sells the best pizza and pay them a visit. In Chania, Crete, this place is apparently Kariatis - reportedly "Chania's best Italian restaurant". We had high hopes for this Kariatis; so far the food we'd eaten in Crete had been awesome and in many ways reminded us of Italian food anyway - similar ingredients, simple, hearty, prepared with love, etc...

As we arrived at Kariatis we felt relieved that we had donned the glad rags and run a comb through the barnet. This place was swanktastic, complete with blue uplighting and ambient music. There was even a lime tree next to our table. In my opinion, swanky isn't necessarily a bad thing, as long as it's not all style over substance. That said, I do tend to approach swanky places with some suspicion. 

The menu was pretty massive (Gordon Ramsay wouldn't have been impressed) so I was thinking uh-oh, style over substance? However they soon distracted me by brining out some great olives with great bread with great Cretan olive oil for us to nibble on while we decided. 

We started with a massive plate of Gnocchi al Tartuffo for Bailey - simple and surprisingly light with a little bit of bite to the gnocchi and a nice herby, buttery sauce and a good whack of truffle flavour. 

I'd also had my eye on the gnocchi but let Bailey have it because I'm nice. Instead I opted for the Crepe Peccorino & Porcini. This was very creamy and packed full of melty cheese, a little rich for me but delicious all the same. 

So far, very good. These portions were massive and really decent food, not style over substance at all. Hurrah! We'd also noticed the restaurant had its own wood-fired pizza oven and you could see them making the bases fresh, very exciting indeed for pizza-loving Bailey. He settled on the 'Classic' topped with ham, bacon and mushrooms. He was generally very impressed, the base was nice and crisp but due to the vast amount of toppings it had gone a bit soggy in the middle. Like the other portions this was huge and Bailey was, I quote "deeply ashamed" when he couldn't finish it...

My main was a big bowl of Linguine Verde & Balsamico. This was an alright dish with lots of well cooked pasta, creamy goat's cheese and tasty vegetables but it didn't blow my skirt up. Although I love the Cretan oil there was a bit too much of it and it was quite greasy. Unfortunately the least interesting dish of the night.

Unsurprisingly we were now far too full for pudding but the dessert menu looked brilliant - we were tempted to come back the next day for a dessert. However, we had seen the staff bringing out what we assumed to be the local palate-stripper raki to people and were bracing ourselves for this. Imagine our delight to be told "It's not raki" as the bottle was placed in front of us along with some truffles. He must have seen the fear in our eyes. What was in the bottle was in fact a delightful dessert wine and the truffles were phenomenal too. A wonderful end to the meal!

Kariatis turned out to be a very good choice of dining establishment for the evening. We concluded that, while the place was stylish, it was most definitely NOT style over substance. We really liked the atmosphere in fact. I loved the little touches like the music which was amusing 'piano bar' covers of well known ditties (including the Twisted Nerve / Kill Bill 'whistling' song) which made us smile. The service was also some of the best we'd experienced in Crete and that is saying something. The staff, whilst fitting in with the swankiness of the place, were so NICE, warm and professional. Our waitress had the most dazzling smile and spoke excellent English. In terms of the food, we enjoyed tasting Italian made with Cretan touches but I reckon they could cut that mammoth menu down and get ride of a few duff dishes like my pasta as they obviously know how to put up decent plates of authentic food. Overall though, yet another very lovely and memorable evening out in the beautiful Chania!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Liquorists Gincident

Here's a list of things I love...

Eye contact with other peoples' dogs
Videogames from the nineties
Wild Turkey bourbon
The films of Steven Seagal
Cheese & onion crinkle mini cheddars
Listening to Stewart Lee
Meat & Potato pie with mushy peas and gravy
Thinking about whether or not Walter White is a bad person
Henderson's Relish
Living in Levenshulme
Ham salad sandwiches with salad cream, beetroot and boiled egg
Attempting to have reasonable conversations with lunatics on Twitter
Chip butties with chinese curry sauce and loads of vinegar
Remembering a time when I was immune to hangovers
Eating too much Red Velvet Cake
Over researching where I'm going to eat when I go on holiday
Watching people cook food before I eat it
Poking fun at Jamie Oliver while also admiring him
Ordering way too much food in restaurants
Viennese fingers
Eating so much food that I need to go and have a lay down
Croissants in France
The feeling after you've eaten too much wasabi and the pain fades away
Pabst Blue Ribon despite my allergy to it and the fact that it doesn't taste that nice
When genuinely nice, happy people serve me in a restaurant

That's it.  Everything I love.  No wait, I also love getting on a boat in the sunshine and drinking gin with The Liquorists.

We've had past successes with The Liquorists.  They absolutely know what they are doing in the business of helping punters explore premium cocktails and liquor whilst also having a great time.  It was an easy decision when they asked us to come along to their Gincident boat trip.  The basic gist is that during a delightful barge trip from Deansgate locks to Trafford and back you get to sample 5 gins, 5 gin cocktails, hear the history of gin and wolf down some fodder.

If the trail hadn't started with a classic G&T I'm not quite sure what would have happened, possibly a Wild West style bar room brawl.  Luckily that was the first drink plopped in to our sweaty mitts.  Luckily it was also brilliant as they had used Martin Miller's gin combined with Fever Tree tonic.  QUALITY GIN + QUALITY TONIC = SHIT HOT G&T.  You might think that the second part of that equation is not quite as important as the first half but let me tell you that if I think of the top three G&Ts I've ever had in my life I might not be able to tell you which gins they were but I can tell you every single one of them had Fever Tree tonic in them.  Lovely stuff.

Let's have a chat about this fodder now.  I've always been impressed by the food they knock out back at 22 Redbank HQ either pre or post trail and so I was quite excited to get a greater selection from their in house (boat) chefs.  I was not disappointed.  The juniper cured salmon was a triumph, so good Jules procured another plate from the table next to us (there was 2 of them and 6 of us).  I could have happily stuck my face in the couscous with ham hock had it not been such a civilised atmosphere (at that moment, later on it might have gone down OK).

Back to the booze, first cocktail up was Hogarth's Fizz.  Yep, this one worked a treat.  A fizzy, syrupy glass which reminded us of the Peruvian's favourite cocktail Pisco Sour in texture featuring one of our trusty favourite gins Plymouth.  At this point I would say we were feeling refreshed and full of food as well as the spirit of adventure.

A short history lesson about deadly diseases and why gin and tonics saved the humans from certain extinction (no jokes) and we were looking down the barrel of our next cocktail named Message Gin A Bottle (if you don't get the joke say it again in your head and think of Sting).  So the first thing to say about this bad boy is that they had gone to some trouble to create it which included purchasing the equipment needed to produce and bottle their own home made soft drinks.  Even without the added Martin Miller's gin I'm sure their ginger beer would have been a winner.  With the gin you've got a little bottle of zing.  Served in a little brown paper bag it also instils in you a sense that it's okay to get a bit raucous...

From a mentality of sitting on a park bench drinking out of a brown paper bag to a delightful cocktail called Sitting In An English Garden.  Incorporating Bloom Gin alongside an elderflower version of the Fever Tree tonic we mentioned above.  Much like many gin cocktails this was light and refreshing which is good because it leaves you feeling light and refreshed but also bad because it in the pursuit of refreshment you could easily knock back pint after pint of this business.

From there we went on to Blossom Will Be which was easy on the eye and easy on the palate.  A solid infusion of white wine, mint syrup, lime juice and G'Vine Gin.  It's a cocktail that a mum would like, and me, I liked it too but mums would definitely like it.  This is the cocktail you should roll out the first time the lady friend's parents come round for a bite to eat.  This is the cocktail that would put you in good stead with your future mother in law.

The next cocktail was really the main event for us.  Liquorists crew member Jamie Jones was recently crowned the world's best gin bartender.  Say that again out loud, this man is the king of gin.  There is no other man or woman on this planet who can bend gin to their will as skilfully.  Therefore I was quite excited to taste a version of the cocktail that won him that honour called La Floraison D'Etre.  It was a very lovely cocktail which really tasted like no other I'd experienced before, this was probably something to do with the quite exotic ingredients of olive oil and pink peppercorns combined with a variant of the G'Vine Gin we had imbibed previously.  It was sumptuous.

As always when you go out with the Liquorists you are guaranteed a few things.  You will have a good time.  You will experience a range of premium spirits.  You will learn something (if you want to).  You will not suffer a hangover.  Once again they delivered on all of the above.

The Gincident runs until the 7th September and we would hardily recommend that you get yourself booked on.


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