Monday, September 24, 2012

And The Dish Ran Away With The Spoon

It’s always nice to feel that your opinion is valued, so Bailey and I were feeling very flattered that the lovely Anna and James – owners of And The Dish Ran Away WithThe Spoon had chosen little old us as two of the lucky few whose expertise (or in our case, gluttony)would be called upon to give feedback on their new Baked Breakfasts.

“Baked Breakfasts?!” I hear you cry. “Why that’s the most delicious sounding idea I ever did hear!” – These were our thoughts exactly and we were very excited about taking time out of our busy homemaking schedule to attend the Saturday morning breakfast bonanza.

As we arrived we were greeted by Anna and James who were very pleased to have us and made us feel most welcome from the minute we walked through the door. And The Dish Ran Away With The Spoon is on Burton Road which is a sea of top quality cafés, restaurants and bars but none of them are quite like this little place, which I simply cannot describe without using the word ‘cute’ (sorry).

There is plenty to look at with bits and bobs all over the place including fascinating vintage kitchenware, carefully chosen pages from old cookbooks and quirky cookware used for unusual purposes (mini jelly moulds holding up cake signs? See, I told you, CUTE).

Let’s not forget the mouth-watering display of beautiful cupcakes and baked treats on the counter which I couldn’t stop gawping at.

While we waited for everyone to arrive James brought us some lovely drinks – I sampled one of their loose leaf teas – English Breakfast to be precise, which was delicious, and Bailey had a strong, rich black coffee. A great start to any Saturday morning.

Once we were all sat down, Anna explained that their main focus has always been cakes, afternoon tea and the like, but that after a recent trip to that London where baked breakfasts seem to be all the rage, she and James decided they wanted to offer their customers an alternative breakfast option to the usual fried full English that would also allow them to showcase their fabulous range of teas and coffees as well as their wonderful locally-produced jams and preserves.

We were then able to have a little sneak preview of the new Baked Breakfasts menu (which is now available – yay!) and choose what we wanted to try. Well we thought that in the name of research (ahem) we would simply have to try and eat one of everything.

First up we nibbled on a Pear and Ginger Breakfast Muffin. This was a great start and I don’t know why but I always enjoy any cake I eat more when the implement I use to eat it is a vintage cake fork. I don’t think this is psychological either, it must be scientific. The muffin wasn’t too sweet for a morning, was perfect alongside a cuppa and I loved the juicy bits of pear running through the cake. If I were nit-picking I’d say I couldn’t taste the ginger much but Bailey said this was a good thing.

Next, we tried the Sourdough Toast which comes with the invitation to help yourself to And The Dish Ran Away With The Spoon’s lovely little pots of locally sourced jams, marmalade, lemon curd, honey and good old Marmite. Although this could prove dangerous when people like my dad come in who can do a third of a jar of lemon curd in one sitting (no joke), I really liked sampling all the different delicious preserves and Anna was really happy to tell me the story of where the jams had come from (a company called Wild and Fruitful – so called as the lady who owns them has a garden that is literally groaning with all types of fruit). The toast itself was excellent – at first Bailey thought the portion might have been a tad small but once we got stuck into the dense, crunchy toasty goodness we both found it very satisfying.

We literally couldn’t wait to get our chops round the Baked Banana Bread with Nutella. I really don’t think there are many people who don’t like Nutella but there are alternative toppings too. My experience of banana bread is that it is quite cakey and stodgy, kind of like Soreen. So we were quite surprised that this version was much lighter and more bready and walnutty – exactly the type of thing you’d want to spread with Nutella and eat for a less sweet breakfast. I’ve actually spent some time thinking of this dish wistfully since eating it so would definitely recommend it.

However, our very favourite item of the day had to be the Pecan and Caramel Roll. I have never had the pleasure of eating a cinnamon bun before but have heard about a lot of people coming back from the States with a cinnamon bun addiction and if they’re anything like the ones we tried, I don’t blame them. 

We knew it was going to be good as Bailey spotted one of the members of staff actually struggling to get a roll out of its tin due to its sticky gooiness. Woah. The roll arrived looking pretty as a picture and the taste did not disappoint. The dough was soft, with a smooth, sticky, cinnamonny caramel and a nice crunch from the pecans. These are definitely going to be a winner.

I am sorry to say this finished us off and we were unable to try out the Blueberry Oat and Walnut Muffins and the Dish & Spoon Granola – although I did have a look at our neighbouring table while they chowed down on these treats which both looked delish.

We were really glad that Anna and James were so keen to get some feedback from us – as I’ve said we were rather flattered – so we told them honestly that we thought their Baked Breakfasts were an excellent idea, really reasonably priced and delicious. Bailey suggested that they might like to add a savoury baked item to their menu – some sort of cheesy muffin perhaps that might appeal to the less sweet toothed customers?

Anyway we had a brilliant time over breakfast and genuinely loved everything we tasted. You also cannot beat meeting people who love their business and want to offer their customers the best they can; Anna and James couldn’t have been more lovely and we hope that their lovely gaff continues to go from strength to strength. We loved it all so much that we wanted the fun to continue so purchased a nice box of cupcakes that we took home to share with my parents who were coming over that night. These went down a treat, particularly the Red Velvet and Lemon Cheesecake. 

Thanks so much to And The Dish Ran Away With The Spoon for having us for such a fab breakfast and we hope that everyone else has been enjoying the new menu as much as we did!

And the Dish Ran Away with the Spoon on Urbanspoon

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Thomas Restaurant and Bar

It’s been a while since we last wrote a blog post. So long in fact that I feel a bit like I’ve forgotten how you’re supposed to write a blog post. We have recently moved house, which people say is one of the top three most stressful experiences of your life. It’s not actually been that bad but I certainly haven’t had time to spend the usual number of hours a day thinking about food, cooking, going for meals and lovingly nurturing our blog (i.e. obsessively checking the stats). Having said that quite a lot of exciting foodie things have happened in this space of time which I’ve been really looking forward to writing about as soon as I unpacked the box containing the laptop. One of those things was an invitation to our first ever bloggers night at Thomas Restaurant in the Northern Quarter.

Thomas is one of those funny places that I’ve noticed but I sort of haven’t. I’m not too sure why – I can remember looking in late at night and thinking it looked pretty swanky but we had never actually gone in. I think possibly because Bailey and I are not in the least bit swanky. On arrival however, we were taken on a tour of the restaurant and saw that it was a rather lovely building and although I was right in thinking it was pretty swanky, it is a bit cosier than you’d think from peeping in – a good location for an intimate meal. I was quite excited that the opening gambit from  our hosts for the evening Yvonne and Nicky was to ask us which cocktail we’d like to try. I went for the Joan Collins – like its brother Tom but with sage and grapes. I love grapes, what a splendid idea to put them in a cocktail – not too sure if I was meant to munch them all up like I did? The sage was quite an interesting addition which I would never have come up with in a million years but it really worked. Bailey had a smooth, strong Negroni - this place is serious about cocktails.

Next we were taken over to our exclusive bloggers’ table which was very lovely especially as we were seated opposite the fabulous Manchester Foodies who I already knew were going to be lovely (you can tell from the way they write) and they WERE. We also got a chance to chat to Anabelle who was stepping in to write for Mangechester and the hilarious Foods To Try Before You Die.

Yvonne explained that we were going to be sampling nine dishes from their seasonal menu. We were quite upset to hear that the Autumn menu had just been brought in (we were still in ‘clinging on to the last shreds of summer’ mode) but everything sounded tasty. We were also going to be trying a selection of Yvonne’s favourite wines – I have to say we are pretty much wine dunces but we both enjoyed the wines we tried and did appreciate Yvonne’s enthusiasm.

Starters soon arrived and the favourite of the day had to be the Crab Cakes. Bailey commented that he normally avoids ordering any kind of fishcake as they are quite difficult to get right and very often mediocre. Well Thomas had got these bad boys bang on. The mini crab cakes with their mega crunchy exterior were the perfect size and tasted gorgeous. I’ve been a bit worried about writing about our visit to Thomas having left it so long, but I can still remember the flavours of the lovely mango and avocado dressing that the crab cakes were drizzled in as if it were yesterday. Lovely stuff.

The Warm Goat’s Cheese and Onion Tart wasn’t what we were expecting at all and at one point I accidentally referred to it as a “cheesecake” because it really was more like a savoury cheesecake. The pastry was very nice and I loved my first bite as it really hit me with a whack of strong goat’s cheese flavour. I was a bit disappointed that every bite after that didn’t have the same strong flavour – I love goat’s cheese and its unique taste so would have liked that to be running through the whole starter! All in all a very decent vegetarian option though.

As I don’t eat meat I didn’t have any of the Potted Smoked Duck Breast but Bailey was quite excited to try it as eating duck is a rare luxury for him. He felt the dish was a bit unappealing to look at – a mixture of greys and browns, and in the end it wasn’t up his street as it was quite bean heavy and the duck was a little dry. Not a bad dish and it may have been to some people’s tastes (Yvonne explained the inspiration behind the dish was bean cassoulet), but Bailey felt it paled in comparison to the other starters we tried.

Mains were looking pretty good all round and I began by immediately cutting open the crumbed, deep fried egg on top of the Artichoke Risotto. The moment when the yolk oozed all over the rice was quite a triumph and the egg tasted amazing.

Why haven’t more places thought to deep fry an egg? Apparently it is pretty difficult to get right but this was spot on. The risotto itself was well cooked and I liked the artichoke but I think if I’d eaten a whole plate of it the intense tomatoey flavour might have gotten a bit too rich.

The Pan-Fried Fillet of Whitby Plaice is exactly the type of main I would normally order at a restaurant like Thomas and this didn’t disappoint. It was just a really delicate dish with soft, tender fish, nicely cooked vegetables and a brilliant sauce. The fondant potato was excellent and I found the whole thing really moreish, which isn’t a word you’d expect to use about fish and veg.

Again I didn’t personally eat any of the Yorkshire Lamb Shank but being the worst vegetarian ever as usual I couldn’t resist a forkful of the accompanying dauphinoise potatoes which were lovely and nutmeggy (not as ace as the fondant on the fish though!) Bailey assured me that the dish as a whole was delicious – the lamb shank had a good char on the outside and was rich and moist on the inside.

Desserts were Tarte Tatin, Lemon Tart and Tiramisu – all very decent examples of these classic sweet treats each with their own little twist. I liked the crispy, brulée –like topping on the lemon tart and found this dish quite irresistible, then again I find most desserts irresistible.

The tatin was pretty good, my only complaint being that the caramel sauce it was sat on which looked so delicious and ready for the scraping had hardened and stuck to the plate.

Our favourite pud was definitely the Tiramisu which was based on one of the chefs’ family recipes. Bailey said this was the best tiramisu he’d ever had – we were impressed with how they’d managed to make something quite special out of an old favourite.

I should also mention that service was excellent throughout - the waiting staff were friendly, not too informal and very helpful. I’m also sure that for any other wine numbskulls like ourselves the staff would be happy to give recommendations on Yvonne’s carefully thought out wine list.

A very pleasant night was had by all and I have to admit that we did stay to consume a few more beverages while watching a surprisingly enjoyable open mic night which Yvonne was hosting upstairs in the new private bar area. We really enjoyed meeting the other bloggers and appreciated the opportunity Thomas gave us to offer feedback on their menu and hear about their plans. Their philosophy was a good one – to take popular comfort food dishes and traditional favourites and make them into something a little more special, something I think they are achieving quite well. I think Thomas would be a good place to go for a quiet meal as a couple now that I’ve found out that it’s not just a swanky place that me and Bailey wouldn’t be swanky enough to go into.

Thomas Restaurant on Urbanspoon


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