Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Mr Cooper’s House & Garden, Manchester

As a blogger, I usually ‘pride’ myself in not being a blagger, taking freebies or attending launches and “VIP” events – then I saw the ticket price for Grillstock and any ‘morals’ I may have had went out of the window.

Cocktails @ Mr. Cooper's

I emailed the PR company and bagged myself a couple of “press passes”. There was no promise of anything in return but I did “my duty” and posted a few tweets and pictures by way of thanks. 

Cumbrian Rib Steak @ Mr. Cooper's

On the Saturday, I parked next to The Midland Hotel where, walking back to the car, I noticed the new menu for Mr. Cooper’s House & Garden – more specifically, I noticed the ‘raw beef’ dish.

Raw Beef with Pickled Paw Paw @ Mr. Cooper's

I don’t know if it was the fact that I was in full meat lust mode or because I needed something a little cleaner after eating all the charred “bark” (a new bit of barbeque speak I learnt) but something told me that I needed ‘Raw beef with picked paw paw’ in my life… so I booked for the Sunday.

The Sunday roast at Mr. Cooper’s is particularly good and great value but I wanted to try the new dishes on the menu.

We started with two of the new snack dishes Blue cheese puffs, celery & chilli and Pork scratchings & apple gel – neither of these particularly wowed and I wouldn’t order again.

Spinach & water chestnut wontons with sesame yoghurt dip – my stepdaughter ordered these to start. I had half of one and was duly impressed by the wonton texture, the dip and the fact that the flavour of the spinach managed to hold its own. I’ll order these as a snack next time.

Dill marinated salmon on blinis with beetroot sabayon – a delightfully summery dish with classic flavour combinations; perfect for being sat in Mr. Cooper’s ‘garden’ area.

Raw beef with picked paw paw, sweet potato jam & toasted rye bread – the dish I had come for; would it live up to my high hopes and expectations? The simple answer, yes! The beef, pickled paw paw and sweet potato jam went great together – a picky me would prefer a tad more sharpness and maybe a flat crisp bread to spoon the beef onto in place of the croutons.

Grilled sole, ginger butternut, shrimps & bok choy – the food I’ve seen at Mr Cooper’s recently seems a little more refined and confident than when they first opened; this dish is a perfect example of that. Wonderful produce, treated with respect and paired with interesting flavours.

Thai glazed grilled vegetable skewers, herb spelt salad with lemon vinaigrette – having overloaded on Grillstock meat I decided to order one of the veggie options; after all, Simon Rogan is widely regarded as the veg master. These skewers did not disappoint. Cooked on the “Green Egg” the textures were perfectly judged to be crunchy without being undercooked. The zingy vinaigrette and vibrant Thai flavours danced across my tongue, or some such other foodie cliché.

Cumbrian rib steak, truffle pudding & purple potato latkes – my stepdaughter’s choice. When I first tasted this dish I proclaimed it one of the best dishes being served anywhere in Manchester. I’ve had it a few times now and still hold this to be true… delightfully rich.

Carrot & olive oil cake with blood orange sorbet – I love an olive oil cake. A while back, I recall making one for a dinner party and experimenting with a couple recipes and a number of olive oils to find an oil that didn’t overpower. This one had just the right amount of pepperiness with spicy notes that complemented the carrots and stunning sorbet.

In my opinion, Mr. Cooper’s House & Garden remains one of the best restaurants in Manchester. Well done once again Mr. Rogan.

Mr Cooper's House and Garden on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Grillstock, Manchester #MeatMusicMayhem

Grillstock is a self proclaimed ‘festival of meat, music & mayhem’ taking over Manchester’s Albert Square on 28th & 29th June.

Over the two days they have a US style low 'n' slow BBQ competition, over 40 bands and a bunch of DJ’s playing Americana rock, funk, blues and country sounds - Vintage Trouble headline tonight, with Hayseed Dixie topping the Sunday bill.

After blagging myself a two day ‘Press Pass’ and a spot on the judging panel for the ‘Chef’s Choice Competition’ I popped along on Saturday morning to check things out with a view to returning tomorrow for round two.

Here are some pics of what to expect if you are thinking of heading down.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Sticky Walnut – Hoole, Chester

I’ve written about Sticky Walnut on a couple of occasions (here & here), so let me keep this one simple: 

Sticky Walnut is a friendly neighbourhood “bistro” with outrageously good food and a screwy twitter feed.

They are not the sort of place that serve amuse bouche. If you want your bouche amused you should go elsewhere. If you want to eat the kind of food shown in pictures below, that I promise tastes even better than it looks… go to Sticky!

Rosemary & thyme focaccia

Oven roast beets, sticky walnuts, spicy pumpkin seeds & fresh ricotta

Broccoli soup with toasted focaccia

Grilled focaccia, fresh peas, fromage blanc, mint & lemon

Flamed & tartare of mackerel, pickled cucumber salad, grape vinaigrette

Beef tartare, baby gem hearts, parmesan & polenta chips

White & green asparagus, pink grapefruit, crispy hen’s egg

Hot smoked salmon Caesar salad, soft boiled egg, parmesan

Plaice fillets, peas, asparagus, radish, butter emulsion

Glazed Jacob’s ladder, onion puree & truffle chips

Chargrilled rump of lamb, warm potato salad, spring onion & capers

Hand cut truffle & parmesan chips

Dark chocolate tart, milk ice cream

Strawberries & custard, Prosecco jelly

Sticky Walnut on Urbanspoon

Turtle Bay – Caribbean Restaurant, Manchester

Call me a snob but I don’t usually “do” chains. I’ve been to Nando’s once and TGI’s but have never stepped foot inside a Frankie & Benny’s, Bella Italia or Chiquito and I probably wouldn’t have gone to the newly opened Turtle Bay in Manchester had I not just written my post on where to find “The Best Jerk Chicken in Manchester”.

After turning down an invitation to rub shoulders with the “VIPs” at the official launch on the eve of their opening (Shane Ward AND his sisters were there!), I went along on their opening day, which was more of a coincidence than a plan.

It being the first day, I’m not going to mention service, as it wouldn’t be a true reflection. Staff had obviously all been newly trained and there was a large team of managers in, pulling strings – as always with new places, true colours start to show after a few months once there has been some staff turnover. 

Décor-wise I was really impressed… I was expecting it to be way tackier than it actually was. Some of the detailing really impressed, most notably the shipping container seating, speaker decked bar area and Castrol GTX light fittings. The reggae tunes add to the atmos too.

Naturally, I ordered the Jerk Chicken – 12 spice & herb jerk marinade and Grilled, Sour Orange Chutney, Caribbean Slaw and Rice ‘n’ Peas. Unlike a few of the better places around Manchester, the chicken here is not cooked from scratch on the BBQ but finished off with just a lick of flame.

However, I still found it really quite good. The jerk had a spicy kick to it; something I didn’t expect from a chain. I assumed they’d play it safe with a mild chicken and then offer the spicy sauce on the side. (The sauces that were available separately were the shop bought ones from the likes of Encona and Grace, which I have no problems with.)

Problems however were found with the Fried Dumplings, Sweet Plantain and Sweet Potato Fries – I found the dumplings far too chewy, the ‘sweet’ plantain overly sweet and the fries cold and soggy; probably not helped by the metal cup they were served in.

I also had the Street Burger – which came with jerk glaze, grilled bun, baby gem, tomato, onion and Caribbean slaw. To my mind, compared to other burgers available in the city this was pretty poor (although only £6.95) – which can be a problem of chains if they are not prepared to adjust their menus to suit / live up to expectations and tastes of the local market.

One more ‘pro’ was the refreshingly fiery Homemade Ginger Beer – another ‘con’, £4.95 for the Salt Fish Pattie, which was a little too limp and lifeless for my taste.

I know a couple of people who have been and had similar experiences. In the meantime, I’d be happy to go back again for the jerk and will be keeping my ear to the ground re the rest of the menu.

Turtle Bay on Urbanspoon

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