Sunday, January 12, 2014


When choosing a restaurant to take my dad Roy Morris to, there are a few things to consider. He isn't a man who concerns himself with style over substance. He isn't a fashionista. I once witnessed him eat his Christmas dinner with a dessert spoon. Instead, we ask ourselves: will the eatery produce flavours he won't have tried before? Is it authentic? Is he likely to feel like we have discovered a hidden gem? If the answer to these questions is YES, then you are onto a winner.

On this particular occasion it was the final time we would see my dad before his epic celebrating-retirement, 3-month jolly around Australasia and South East Asia. We settled on Aladdin, a popular Middle Eastern restaurant in Withington that had been recommended to us a number of times by different food and wine lovers. The wine lovers had done so because Aladdin is a BYO restaurant which I know is a big selling point for lots of people. It's also funny to think that Withington is actually a bit of a cheap eats culinary hot spot with two of my very favourite restaurants, Kyotoya and Dosa Xpress both tucked away there - Aladdin was the next one we wanted to try.

We bringed our own.
Middle Eastern is one of my favourite types of cuisine, so licking our lips we made our way into the restaurant... to be greeted by a man wearing a Krispy Kreme hat. Quite an unexpected sight to behold as you enter a building (unless it's Krispy Kreme, obviously). After this we were also puzzled to find the restaurant fairly quiet, especially for a Saturday night and in a place we'd been told we'd be fighting for a table. I can imagine on a busy night there'd be a really nice buzz about the place though.

In my mind starters are always the best in Middle Eastern places so we made sure to start the evening off with a good selection. Unfortunately these were a bit disappointing and seemed to lack a certain je ne sais quoi - the Halloumi wasn't as well-done as I like it, the Tabouleh and Ful Medamas were both a bit bland and the Houmous, despite looking smooth and gorgeous, was just OK when I compared it to the amazing version my friends Manchester Foodies had made me a couple of weeks earlier. I did however enjoy the Baba Ghannouj and the fact that they kept the hot, doughy pittas coming and coming.

Now then, time for mains and I had ordered the a fillet of salmon cooked on charcoal. NOW WE'RE TALKING, this was absolutely one of the tastiest bits of salmon I've ever had - the char on it was amazing and the vat of sauce I was given to pour over it was just divine. Despite the fact it was pretty spicy with a building heat, I couldn't stop adding it to my food and when I'd finished I even started dipping pittas in it, powering through even though my nose was streaming. You know it's a good sauce when you keep eating it despite it causing you a considerable amount of discomfort. I loved the accompanying salad and slightly oily rice too.

The tahini sauce on Bailey's Shaworma was equally as exciting as mine and the whole thing tasted good altogether but he was surprised to find the spit-roasted meat a little dry and chewy. While I can't quite recall what my parents had I think they were both happy enough.

We were tempted to try a bit of Baklava for dessert but settled on a nice hot drink instead. I asked the waiter what the mint tea was like - I was hoping to relive my most favourite tea-related Morocco moments with a teapot bursting with fresh mint and sweet tea goodness, but was told it was just a plain old mint tea bag. No thanks. Instead we went for coffee. The best Turkish Coffee I've had was at Olive & Thyme in Chorlton because we loved the ceremonious presentation and the chunks of Turkish delight. Aladdin's Cardamom Coffee wasn't quite as exciting but did the job of stopping my dad falling asleep while driving home over the Snake Pass.

I can see why Aladdin is popular. It's a bit of an old-time gem, we were well looked after and left full-bellied. Despite the quietness I got the impression that the people that were there were die-hard Aladdin fans who go every weekend; I wouldn't blame them as it's a good little local and if I lived in Withington I too would probably grab a bottle out of the wine rack and pop over when I couldn't be arsed to cook. However, was it good enough for me to keep coming over from Levy? I'm not so sure - there are a few Middle Eastern places in Chorlton we haven't tried yet and when passing through Withington Kyotoya is pretty hard to resist. The burning question though - did it get the Roy Morris seal of approval? To quote the man, "Exciting flavours, why don't we have a place like this in Sheffield?"* Cheers Roy.

Roy's is the only review you will ever need.
*I think Roy had forgotten that Sheffield has an excellent restaurant of a similar ilk called Zeugma!

Aladdin on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 6, 2014


Bailey and I recently came across a survey where people were asked which websites they use to check the quality of a restaurant when deciding whether or not to visit. We almost fell off our chairs to see that, of the people surveyed, 75% said their first port of call would be Trip Advisor. Trip Advisor of all sites! This surprised us as we have always been so mistrusting of Trip Advisor, believing it to only be used by picky idiots and people trying to get their own back on places for not giving them a free meal. Although written some time ago (and the stats will have no doubt changed by now), I feel former blogger Mangechester's piece entitled 'Trip Advisor does Manchester' illustrates the point perfectly that the site should be taken with a pinch of salt.

We were even more aghast to read that the percentage of people surveyed who use Twitter for restaurant recommendations is a whopping 0%! I mean, it would be naive of us to expect everyone who's not as obsessed with food as we are to spend as much time talking about eating out on Twitter but I think people are really missing out by not using this excellent restaurants research resource! We find it a great way of finding out about places to eat from like-minded people whose opinions we trust. I think the restaurants themselves are becoming more and more aware of the power of Twitter, with some places (Mughli, Solita, Parker's Arms spring to mind) using it very cleverly and successfully.

Another restaurant that clearly values Twitter as a customer service tool is Azzurro in West Didsbury. When asking for Twitter recommendations for a 'cosy, family-run Italian' for my mum to take Bailey to for his birthday meal, this place was suggested time and time again... which is funny considering it is ranked Manchester's 587th restaurant on Trip Advisor, coming in behind Frankie & Benny's and Taco Bell. We actually booked our table via tweet which led to the kind manager of the restauraunt giving us a glass of prosecco on the house to say thanks for chatting to them on Twitter. Thanks Azzurro... even though this single glass was enough to make my mum rather merry (she's a cheap date).

Now regular readers will know that me and Bailey have an undying love for old school Italian restaurants with cheesy interiors. Azzurro is not like that at all but if you're looking for cosiness, they do that in bagfuls. We stepped in from the biting cold to find a lovely little restaurant, packed with happy punters and with a fantastic Friday night atmosphere.

The menu looked much nicer than in the old school Italian restaurants and perfect for me and mum as we like a nice bit of healthy food plus there were loads of seafood specials for pescatarians like me. Bailey's ideal Italian restaurant scenario is eating himself into a calzone coma but there was plenty of choice for him too.

For our starters me and Mum couldn't decide so shared a portion of Fresh Mussels and a Caprino al Forno baked goat's cheese with nice crunchy asparagus. Both were great little starters.

The mussels especially were some of the best I've ever had (and I used to live near Lille aka Mussels-ville!) and the chilli sauce they were in was so delightful that we spooned it all up.

Bailey's socks weren't as blown off by the baked mozzerella as he felt it was a bit insubstantial and unremarkable. Fortunately he had ordered some bread which made it a bit more exciting. The bread at Azzurro is really good.

I was very excited about my main course of Seafood Linguine as I'd already been having a really massive nosy at the people at the next table eating this. It was really tasty with some great seafood. It was really nice with the generously 'parmesanned' Insalata Mixta that I ordered too.

Bailey's Canneloni was surely one of the prettiest plates of canneloni we've seen. It still managed to be hearty with plenty of sauce and cheese. Bailey was a happy birthday boy.

We skipped desserts as we had a nice bit of pannetone to eat at home but we did still find time for a nice chat with our great waitresses and I should mention that service had been bang on all night.

From our trip to Azzurro we learnt an important lesson, you don't need to look for the cheesiest Italian restaurant with candles stuck in wine bottles and faded portraits of the Coliseum to find delicious, hearty and homely Italian food cooked with love. This was the best Italian meal we've had in Manchester so far and would definitely return. I'm really glad we have so many clever Twitter followers who tell us about the great places to eat - thanks trusty Twitter!

Azzurro on Urbanspoon

Sunday, January 5, 2014


Having things on the to-do list for months on end and never seeming to get round to them is one of the painful realities we will have to put up with until we finally get that lottery win and quit the day job. Visiting Gorilla's Group Therapy comedy night was one of those things. We really wanted to go, our comedy-loving friends Kat, Rob and Pearce are Group Therapy regulars and have always had an excellent time there, plus we had been hearing all sorts of praise for the amazing burgers and cocktails from highly trustworthy sources like Mrs Petticoat. Unfortunately the Group Therapy nights (last Saturday of the month) all happened to fall on the same night of the month as Levy Market (fourth Saturday of the month) - a time I am always so tired that I once fell asleep at the dinner table in Manchester Foodies' house (worst party guest... ever).

Unfortunately because we had this idea in our heads that we would wait to visit Gorilla when attending said Group Therapy, this seemed to stop us visiting the place full stop. Well, fortune smiled on us in November when there were five Saturdays in one month, and this also happened to be the month that one of our favourite comedians Adam Buxton would grace the stage! We were as excited about our tea as we were about the comedy and do you know what, both were great - we loved the food so much we went back for lunch the very next day!

So why do we love it? Firstly, the place itself is lovely. When in the restaurant area you can tell that you are in a railway arch - it is a slightly quirky but well thought-out and relaxed environment to drink and eat in.

Secondly, the booze. You can't argue with the fiver happy hour cocktail deal that they have going on. In the name of research I tried a few different ones, my favourite being the Aviation as recommended by Mrs Petticoat. For beer lovers, there is a selection of bottles and Sam Adams on tap. My only complaint booze-wise was that I was hugely disappointed on walking through to the Group Therapy venue expecting to continue the cocktail sipping, only to discover my only options were house spirits and overpriced cans of Punk IPA. Harumph.

Thirdly, the service exceeded our expectations. When Gorilla first opened we made the mistake of
assuming it would be tarred with the same brush of hipster/downright awful service as its big sister Trof. Fortunately they seem to have found employees who actually give a shit to work in Gorilla as our staff were friendly and attentive.

Pretty good Negroni
Fourthly, the food was great. Everyone knows Gorilla is famous for its burgers so it would have been rude for Bailey not to work his way through the burger menu over our two visits. The Herbed Lamb Burger (with aged cheddar) was easily one of the finest burgers he has ever munched, with his favourite thing being the generous smear of aioli. The Cheeseburger he tried the next day wasn't quite as luxurious and wasn't served as rare as the lamb, but was still a good burger.

Bailey couldn't resist upgrading his fries to the much talked about "deluxe" version - scattered with parmesan shavings and doused in truffle oil, delicious and a very appropriate use of the term "deluxe".

I discovered a couple of decent veggie options over the two days, staring with a tasty and satisfying Halloumi & Roast Pepper Kebab on the Saturday and Sweet Potato Wrap on the Sunday.

What I really liked though were the sides of Roast Butternut Squash and Puy Lentil, Tomato & Feta Salad, I was really glad I ordered these nicely flavoured healthy, little plates. I particularly enjoyed the crunchy pumpkin seeds on the squash.

Seeing as we were pretty much the last people on earth to pay our first visit to Gorilla, we don't think we really need to recommend the place in this blog post. What we do urge you to do though is pay Group Therapy a visit on the last Saturday of the month. What with a few changes to the Levy Market 'timetabling' currently in the pipeline, we for one are determined to make it a regular thing, and if you like comedy I would urge you to check out the impressive lineup for the next few months. Also, being the old fogies that we are, we loved being able to pop out for an early tea in the place where we would be spending the rest of the evening - minimum fuss! If all these things aren't reason enough to visit, did you know you get 20% off food with your Group Therapy ticket? No, nor did we! We will make sure we take full advantage of this deal next time though. See you there!

Friday, January 3, 2014

2013 Roundup

That Was The Year That Was

BAM! There it goes, 2013's done so here's an obligatory round up telling you about things you already know if you read our blog.

What actually happened in 2013?  Do you know what I'm not actually sure, I know it was a good year but sitting here now to write this post my calorie addled brain cells are struggling to place events in to their correct time frame.  Was 2013 the year when Findus explained that their lasagnes could contain up to 100% horse meat (officially the least reassuring statistic of all time)?  I'm not really sure so I'll just stick to the things I'm up to 100% sure happened in 2013.  I can tell you what didn't happen much in 2013 and that's blogging.  I'm not totally sure why but we didn't manage to blog very much this year despite having a great year of new experiences, it may well have been that we've hit the dry spell I think most bloggers hit after a few years of writing but it was definitely at least in part due to the introduction of round discs of maize flour in to our food lives.

Magnificent arepa photo from Bacon On The Beech
In June we hit the Levenshulme Food And Drink Festival with our street food venture ¡Arepa!¡Arepa!¡Arepa! selling the carbtastic food of Jules' homeland of Colombia.  It was a bigger hit than we could have ever imagined, we really weren't sure if people would even try these unassuming little flatbreads that are up to 100% impossible to describe but they did and people liked them.  I have to say the proudest moments of the year and probably the biggest buzzes have been when people have given them a go, walked away, only to return to tell us how much they enjoyed it particularly those people who cannot eat gluten who are rarely catered for.  We became a regular fixture at our local market in Levy which has itself gone from strength to strength (the Christmas market was a particular winner and a fantastic way to end the year) and we also got to play with the big monkeys at Guerilla Eats.  We've loved every minute of it but it has been a lot of work to get it going on top of the day jobs, hoping to put together a blog post in the future on the experience of starting a street food venture so others can learn from our mistakes, our successes and our blind luck.  Massive thanks has to go the more than generous food traders from Guerilla Eats who helped us get off the ground without killing anybody or losing lots and lots of money.

Despite the lack of blogging we still managed to reap the biggest reward of blogging in Manchester..... FREEBIES!  Of course I jest.  The biggest reward is still and always will be getting to speak with other food fans and even going further than that making good friends which we've been really lucky to do this year. That's not to say that we only made friends this year, 2013 was the year that bloggers became a bit of a target for critics, trolls, chefs and general tweeters which wasn't really upsetting, it was just a bit weird.  Each time I'd try and get a discussion going with this angry population to try and get to the root of the anguish they would just flip out or ignore me.  Tant piss.  At one point we ended up blogging and tweeting more about blogging than we did about food, in essence we became meta bloggers.  Which was incredibly twatty so we had to stop it.  That said it did give us our most popular post of the year which yet again failed to draw out any coherent arguments from the blogging opposition.

What happened in our kitchen last year?  Not a lot I'm afraid as all the action was happening at the bottom of the garden.  Despite the fact I had never even built a shin high brick wall before I decided it was time I hand built a pizza oven (with the more than able assistance of a man called Blob).  Not only that but I thought I may as well build one twice as big as it needed to be.  Well I'm happy to say that the beast is done, it doesn't look pretty, it took 8 months to build and I still need to build a door but 'Oetker' lives and pumped out some pizzas just two weeks ago that put most of the Manchester pizza restaurants to shame.  If an idiot like me can make good quality pizzas there's no excuse for the lack of a good pizza place in our home town.  We have got some amazing pizza in our 'hood though in the shape of Honest Crust who are the highest of high water marks for pizza in the North of England, only bettered by Franco Manca darn sarf in my opinion.  Fingers crossed somebody opens a quality pizzeria in the near future, I'm looking at you Kosmonaut.

What else happened to us this year?  Well we went to Greece and ate a load of amazing food and we got our first cat and proceeded to take lots and lots and lots of pictures of it.

I am told that people like lists so let's have a quick rundown of some of our faves and not so faves...

Streetfood & Supperclubs

Two of our favourite non restaurant based places to get food!  This year we continued to love the food of Chaat Cart and Dirty Dogs, on multiple occasions both of these traders made us literally say 'wow' and showed that you don't have to have a roof over your head to get the best food around.  My new favourite though had to be Mumma Schnitzel, the first people I've met to take the under appreciated chicken burger seriously, please do take the time to seek them out.

Lovely dosa photo from Beware The Blob
We probably didn't get to go to as many supperclubs as we wanted to this year but two that did manage to get to absolutely blew the bloody doors off.  Both Wendy's House and Little Italy Kitchen are perfect examples of why supperclubs work, perfect hosts serving amazing food in the warmest of surroundings.  We have pledged to go back to both and take as many people as we can.  An honourable mention must also go to Franco (head honcho of Solita) for arranging a charity supper club with proceeds going to The Trussel Trust, fantastic night full of meaty meat, super strong limencello and good times.  Lovely stuff

Favourite New Restaurants

That doesn't necessarily mean the restaurant was new, just new to us.  This also means this doesn't include some old favourites which we will come to shortly.  In preference order here are our top ten meals of 2013...
  1. L'Enclume
  2. Parkers Arms
  3. Tickets
  4. The French
  5. Aumbry
  6. Manchester House
  7. Albert's Square Chop House
  8. Livebait
  9. Bar Del Pla
  10. La Pepita
So there are a couple of things to say here.  For starters even though it came second in the list I would still say if you haven't already been you should go as quickly as you can to Parkers Arms as their food is so accessible, so fantastic and of such a high standard whilst also being amazing value and the welcome so unbelievably warm that everybody will love that place.  Go, go now.

Secondly the presence of Albert's Square Chop House and Livebait prove the point that when bloggers are invited to review a restaurant that review only shows what a restaurant is capable of and not what you should expect on every visit.  When we dined with them our experience was exceptional but return visits and reports from other people tell us that they could not maintain that standard.

Restaurants that just missed out on the top 10 that deserve a mention include Gorilla and Luck, Lust Liquor & Burn who are both doing Manchester proud in the good eats stakes.

Least Favourite New Restaurant

It does pain me to bash a restaurant, I understand the vast majority of chefs and restaurateurs pour their heart and soul in to their work but at the same time there is some shit out there (worst at the top)...
  1. Pizzeria Ristorante
  2. Stock
  3. Neighbourhood
Neigbourhood was so bad I couldn't bring myself to blog it, suffice to say the food was bad, service was poor and the low point of the meal was the manager being so arrogant that he assumed we had not ordered something when we chased a missing side dish and spoke to us like something that was made of up to 100% shit.

Stock.  This is a crazy place.  Crazy.

Pizzeria Ristorante.  Nuff said.

The Old Favourites

Here's a list of our old favourites that we return to whenever we can with our favourite right at the top...
  1. Mughli
It's a short list I know but Mughli really is the only place that we ever go back to, we are slaves to trying new places out but Mughli is so good and we are so proud to have it in Manchester that we go whenever we can.  After hosting our bloggers Christmas do in spectacular fashion I can't really see this changing in 2014.

2014 - More Food Adventures Or Nuclear Winter?

Probably more food adventures.  There will definitely be at least one new food venture from us in 2014 which we are incredibly excited about and hopefully will be one of the first proper steps to quitting that pesky day job to make food people love for a living.  Exciting.

Aside from that we are hoping to get back to the blogging grindstone as we have missed it this year, with trips planned to Colombia and New York we should have plenty of inspiration.

What else can you be certain to expect in 2014?  More pictures of the cat.  Nothing else is certain.


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