Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Beef & Pudding, Manchester

Beef & Pudding is Manchester city centre’s newest restaurant opening and is, if my Twitter timeline is anything to go by, certainly the ‘talk of the town’.

Overly laden with groan worthy Boxing puns, my post at the weekend took a look at their brunch offering and faux rivalry with Solita – a tongue in cheek piece that was more about introducing Beef & Pudding to a (perhaps) wider audience than making any serious comments on the food. 

In reality, both Solita and Beef & Pudding are, of course, very different beasts – a self proclaimed ‘Urban Pub & Kitchen’ the word ‘gastropub’ is the obvious pigeonhole for the latter.  

(For those that are interested, my post on Yorkshire’s Michelin starred Pipe & Glass sets out my feelings towards food pubs or gastropubs.)

It’s unusual that I post about the same place twice in a row… so what’s so special about Beef & Pudding that it gets this rare ‘honour’?

Could it really be that good? The opening of the year? The answer to Manchester’s Michelin starred prayers? The ‘Hand & Flowers’ of the North?

The simple answer to these questions has to be, “No.”

So am I about to pan it? Is it “a shocker” that has gotten everything wrong? Am I going to ‘give it less than a year’ like 3 Twenty One and Cibo – both of which were raved over and hyped on social media and didn’t survive to their first birthday?

Likewise, the answer once again is, “No.”

So, what’s the deal? Is it any good?

The truth is I quite like the place. I like the people behind it. I certainly want it to do well and believe it will but I have heard one or two grumblings of discontent about the quality of the food on offer – plus, let it be said, plenty of positives.

Granted, I may not have eaten enough of the menu to make an overall judgment on the food but I have eaten at two of their other venues (Lord Binning & Old Sessions House) and know Chef Nicola Duncan’s capabilities from The Parlour in Chorlton.

Often in “reviews”, I find expectation can play a major part in the overall experience so I did not expect perfection or to be blown away by what I ate.

I started with the ‘Artisan bread selection with oil and balsamic’ – the bread, delivered daily from the owner’s wife’s family bakery, cannot be faulted and was generously portioned for £3:50. My personal bugbear was the serving of that sweet, sticky balsamic glaze which seems to be en vogue, in place of actual vinegar.

I had no quibbles with the Gordal Olives - Brindisa Perello Picate ones served in their tin.  

To start, I had ‘Nearly A Pig’s Ear!’ – a rich, spiced combination of Andy Holt’s black pudding, slivers of pig’s cheek with lentils and Tatton ale gravy – hearty and wholesome, not to be knocked.

For my main, there was only one choice after hearing so much positive praise – the signature ‘Pudding’ of beef and Barbon Fell venison encased in a thick, rustic suet pudding, a hint of horseradish paste, stockpot gravy, mash and black peas. I loved the inclusion of black peas but lamented the omission of kidneys.

A side of Real Chips, crunchy and crisp though they were, was too much for delicate old me who after a breadbasket and a mountainous pudding finally found my carb threshold. Hence no dessert. 

Whatever any detractors may say, Manchester is crying out for a good alternative to the “Chop Houses”, who for some time have monopolised the city centre’s pub grub market.

Go and if the food and service (good apart from the otherwise lovely waitress tried to clear my half full bread basket before my main course arrived) doesn’t quite live up to your high standards, ask yourself where else in the city centre does the same kind of food better?

Beef and Pudding on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Beef & Pudding vs Solita #BrunchWars, Manchester

"Down with 'em! Chop ‘em down my brave boys: give them no quarter they want to take our Beef & Pudding from us!

Don’t worry this isn’t a quote from Beef & Pudding’s @gobbychef (his corner man @Cheshire_Wine) or @SoLiTaNQ’s Franco. Two seasoned restaurant promoters with more mouth than Don King; neither of whom are known for pulling any punches and the two main rivals squaring off in Manchester’s newly declared #BrunchWars

The line comes from George Cruikshank’s caricature of the Peterloo Massacre – a great reference to the area’s history and excellent name for the Cheshire based New Moon Pub Company’s first venture in the city centre.

The Contenders:

Regular readers of my blog will already know about SoLiTa with their heavyweight burgers and grill menu; whose brunch offering has become increasingly popular, especially since AA Gill named them as one of the top 3 places to brunch un the UK.

Beef & Pudding are no upstarts - having eaten at their Old Sessions House and The Lord Binning, I’ve been keen for them to open since the first announcement a few months back.

With the recent closure of the Mark Addy and the unreliability of food at the otherwise charming Marble Arch Inn, I believe the town centre will benefit another pub serving traditional favourites to rival The Oxnoble and the Chop Houses.    

Enviously watching my Twitter timeline during the ‘week of soft openings’ as various down and out bloggers, blaggers and freeloaders, filled their breadbaskets and seemed to come to the majority decision that their food tasted good, I intended to give it a week or two before weighing in with my opinions.

The call of the brunch menu however was too much to bear. I love what they have done with the place - formally the grotty, sticky carpeted ‘Crown’ on the corner of Fountain Street and Booth Street; a short walk up from Primark or down from the Town Hall.

Round 1: Beef & Pudding’s Eggs Benedict with House Roast Ham - I love a good “Eggy Benny” but unfortunately I’ve had some ropey ones over the years, especially in Manchester.

So what was this one like? First, let me say this - I’ve ‘warned’ a couple of people about ‘overhyping’ Beef & Pudding, whose technical decision is to serve good, honest ‘pub grub’ and not become the next Hand & Flowers, that said – this barnburner was better than the one I had at The Wolseley! Knockout!

Round 2: Beef & Pudding’s The ‘Brunch Plank’ (which serves two or can be a follow up to Eggs Benedict, if you’re me!) does not need any hyping – the picture speaks 1000 words and is guaranteed not to leave a Rumble in your Tumble! (Did I just type that?)

The plank include the standing eight count of: 1) Minute steak & egg, 2) kedgeree, 3) corned beef hash, 4) gunpowder smoked salmon, 5) bacon, 6) Pig & Co sausage, 7) grilled tomatoes & Portobello mushroom &  8) toast – it all tasted good… although, if I was feeling critical, I’d say I prefer a dryer corned beef hash and kedgeree.

Round 3: Solita’s Bacon & Eggs Benedict. Another good Eggy Benny but controversial decision though it may be, if they went toe to toe, pound for pound, I’d have to give the bout to B&P’s roast ham version.

One dish of Solita’s which is certainly no palooka is their unorthodox veggie version California Eggs Benedict – a combination of English muffin, baby spinach leaves, avocado, plump caper berries and Hollandaise sauce.

Round 4: Solita’s Salt Beef Hash (made with Boyko’s London brine salt beef). A rough and ready brawler of a dish, which for me, was right on the button.

The Verdict:

At the moment, I have them marked on the cards as a draw. I’m yet to go the distance with Solita’s big hitting “Full English Toad in the Hole” or Beef & Pudding’s “The Fully Manc” -

On the ropes, SoLiTa have announced that, in a couple of weeks, they plan to hit Beef & Pudding on the break with a revamp to their menu and come back with a flurry of counterpunches – who knows what they may have in their locker? Steak & ‘Kidney Punch’?

One thing for sure – neither Solita nor Beef & Pudding will be throwing in the towel and now matter how dirty the fighting gets, I’ll be ringside until a winner is declared and the best brunch in Manchester is unanimously decided.

As long as both combatants remember what Ali once said, “It's not bragging if you can back it up.

SoLita on Urbanspoon Beef and Pudding on Urbanspoon 

Sunday, 30 March 2014

"Best of the rest" March

It’s been a funny old month for my blog and twitter.

Along with @hollowlegs, @McMoop and @Tweat_Up, my twitter account @hungryhoss was suspended on March 10th for retweeting a screenshot of an email from a London based blagger to Gauthier, Soho, asking for a free meal in exchange for a “positive review”.

Unknowingly, as I only read the main body of the email, it contained the charming fellow’s phone number and we were subsequently reported for breach of the data protection act, or some such.

The marketing director for Gauthier, @Jameslewisland, who posted the original tweet, has since had his account reinstated. Despite following the appeal process which should “take a few days”, at the time of writing, other accounts seem to be in twitter limbo or are permanently suspended, who knows?

Not being on twitter, which I see as an extension of the blog, I thought it was finally time to hang up my camera and notebook. An idea I had been toying with for quite some time. After a few days I had the ‘urge’ to write up me meal from The French by Simon Rogan’s first birthday.

On a roll, also posted pictures and a few words about the Michelin starred Adam’s in Birmingham.

Here is the pick of the other places I visited in March, with pictures of some of the foods I ate:

The Church Green, Lymm

I’ve eaten several meals at The Church Green over the years but this was my first since chef / proprietor Aiden Byrne moved to Manchester House.  Young chef, Ben Chaplin heads up the kitchen these days and I experienced no decline in the quality of food or service since my previous visits. 

The star dish was undoubtedly the 25oz Wing Rib of Beef – we selected: Cauliflower mornay, Parmesan and truffle fries, Roasted onion mash, Braised ox cheek and crispy onion and Pickled red cabbage as sides; and Béarnaise and Port and Stilton sauces. The pot of Ox cheek was fabulous – hearty, full of flavour and crisp crispy onions!

Also very good was the Sunday Roast of pork loin with apple sauce, crackling and all the trimmings and my starter of Roast celeriac and black garlic risotto with scallops.

We also ate: Soup of the day with crusty bread; a large Smoked haddock fishcake with a rocket and caper salad and Berry parfait with lemon and meringue for dessert.

Church Green British Grill on Urbanspoon

Peacock at Rowsley, Derbyshire

With 3 AA rosettes, the Peacock at Rowsley is a highly rated restaurant and boutique hotel (listed on Mr & Mrs Smith). We went for the 3 course set lunch but added an extra starter to create our own ‘tasting menu’.

Head Chef Dan Smith started out his career under John Burton Race and Alan Murchison at L’Ortolan. Later working under John at the two Michelin starred Landmark and for Tom Aikens. As you’d imagine his food has a firm grounding in tradition.  We ate:

Goat’s curd, beetroot, poached pear and hazelnut salad, rowan berry syrup / Chicken liver parfait, red wine shallots, pickled raisins / Grilled mackerel, fennel, lemon puree, nori mustard, rocket

Fried duck egg, home made baked beans, sausage meat croquette / Beef, ale & Cropwell Bishop Stilton pie, buttered kale / Gnocchi, wild mushrooms, salsify, Old Winchester cheese

Trio of desserts: Dark chocolate ganache, kirsch cherries, rhubarb Pannacotta & crème brûlée / Rhubarb, vanilla and ginger sundae

The Peacock at Rowsley on Urbanspoon

Bollington Packet - a ploughman’s lunch on the idyllic Cheshire waterways.

Chef Ashley Clarke, head chef at All Star Lanes (ex Mash and Air) has recently bought the Bollington Packet Canal Boat Restaurant, moored at Bollington, near Macclesfield.

He is offering a wide range of bespoke cruises for up to twelve people – serving afternoon teas, lunches and traditional 3 course fayre at very reasonable prices. He will be serving local produce, including excellent bread from local artisan bakers Flour Water Salt.

Recently, myself and some fellow foodies were invited on board for Ashley’s maiden voyage – he has plans to replace the modernise the kitchen galley, so give him a follow on twitter (@BollyPacket) and bear the “Bolly Packet” in mind for something a little different.

Bollington Packet Boat on Urbanspoon

V-Nam Cafe, Manchester

An old favourite, V-Nam Café (opposite Wing Yip on Oldham St) is a highly regarded café / restaurant, serving homely Vietnamese cuisine. I ate:

Gòi Ngó Sen (Lotus Root Salad), Cua Lột Sốt Me (Tamarind Soft Shell Crab) Chim Cút Nướng (BBQ Quail) and Bọc Lá Dứa (Pandan Chicken) – all dishes are freshly prepared and tasty and made me extra eager for my trip to Vietnam in the summer.

Vnam on Urbanspoon

Mama Flo’s, Stockport

Another homely place, Mama Flo’s on the A6 in Stockport is a Jamaican restaurant and takeaway, formerly located in Gorton. It’s only been open a couple of months but has already built up a loyal local following – I have had more word of mouth recommendations for here more than any other place recently.

I have had takeaway on a couple of occasions, including their fish dishes and Ackee and Saltfish. Eating in, I recently had their Jerk Chicken - it may not be the best jerk in Manchester but Mama Flo’s has undeniable authentic charm.

Mama Flo's on Urbanspoon

Nutters, Rochdale

From a jerk to a Nutter – for her birthday, my wife gave me the simple brief of taking her “somewhere with a tablecloth”. Not many places these days afford such luxuries but Nutters is the perfect place for old school indulgencies with a modern twist.

At £42 for six courses at dinner, his surprise ‘Gourmet Menu’ provides almost unparalleled value. We had: Canapés, Butternut Soup, Brill, Salmon, Peppered Limousin Beef, Cheese or The Dessert Medley (or one of each to share) as well as Coffee & Petit Fours - plus a baby clementine soaked in Grey Goose Vodka! 

 Nutters on Urbanspoon  

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