Saturday 22 September 2012

The Brasserie at Alderley Edge Hotel

Since stepping up to the Head Chef position in 2006, Chris Holland and his team at the Alderley Edge Hotel & Restaurant (see here) have built up a solid reputation for serving some of Cheshire’s finest fine dining cuisine and earlier this year they revamped part of the restaurant’s former lounge area as a brasserie. 

What they say: The Brasserie at Alderley Edge Hotel offers simple, high quality Retro Classic food with a slightly modern twist.

What I ate:

Twice Baked Three Cheese Soufflé with Truffle Croutons – a great example of a twice baked soufflé – the texture was spot on and neither of the three cheeses dominated. The croutons were a little too crunchy (hard) for my liking but the truffly scent and flavour from them was heavenly.

Scampi & Monkfish “In a Basket” with Triple Cooked Chips and Tartar Sauce – a perfect example of one of The Brasserie’s ‘retro classics with a slightly modern twist’ – the twist here being the twisted wire basket, bespoke ‘newspaper’ and wedges of fresh lime, which I found preferable to the usual lemon.

Dry Aged “Mr Frost’s” Rib Eye Steak, Triple Cooked Chips, Watercress – Chorlton’s award winning W.H Frost Butchers supply many of the top restaurants in Manchester and its surrounding areas and the quality always shines through when cooked well as in this case.

Retro Vanilla Arctic Roll, Poached Blueberries – I ordered the ‘arctic roll’ more out of interest to see how it was served than because it sounded like the best thing on the menu; fortunately it both looked the business and tasted great. The ‘roll’ part was light and spongy encasing smooth and creamy ‘artic’ – but it was the mixture of fresh berries, gelée and pâte de fruit that delighted most. 

Food high points: the chips were immense – worth going back for alone. It was also a pleasant surprise to find a delicious steak ragoût nestling under the rib eye.

Food low points: as mentioned, for a greedy guts like me, the portions were a little on the small side but I suppose this is reflected in the prices – an extra side of those fantastic triple cooked chips is the way forward!

Décor / ambience: sleek, slick and sexy in black red and silver – as their website claims, ‘the perfect ambience for a cocktail, a quick coffee or a leisurely meal.’

Service: service was great: swift and attentive – for me the staff struck the perfect balance between formality and friendliness one might expect from a swanky brasserie attached to a four star hotel in an affluent area.

Verdict (Would I return?): most definitely and I must get back to the main restaurant too! 

Brasserie at the Alderley Edge Hotel on Urbanspoon

Sunday 16 September 2012

Lily’s Indian Vegetarian Cuisine, Ashton-under-Lyne

Next door to (and owned) by the A.S.M cash and carry in Ashton-under-Lyne (near Ikea), Lily’s is a vegetarian café serving mainly Gujarati specialties and sweets.

It’s a real hidden gem mainly frequented by locals in the know. I used to work in the area and would dutifully pay them a visit at least weekly. If I ever find myself anywhere near that part of town, I simply have to pop in for a snack, feast or for some take away delights!

What they say: Lily’s do not have a website but details of opening times and its location can be found on, where it is listed in their Top 100 for serving ‘some of the best veggie food in the country.’
What I ate:

Of course, over the years and numerous visits I have tried most of the menu. These are some of my favourites though:

Paneer Pakora: these are wonderful - with their cheesy centre and spiced, crisp coriander batter and sauce; I find them one of the most moreish things on the menu.

Lily’s serve a wide range of prepared snacks such as Samosas, Bhajiya and Kachoris. These can be bought from the counter to take away or eaten in (I always buy a selection to take home) – favourites include the Lentil Kachoris, Peas Kachoris and the Stuffed Whole Chilli Peppers (not as hot as you might think).

Sev Puri: there are a few puri based chaats (savoury snacks) one the menu including bhel puri, pani puri and dahi; but it is the sev puri that comes out on top for me – the combination of tamarind and spices is great but it’s the texture from the crisp vermicelli like ‘sev’ that makes the dish for me.

Masala Dhosa: dhosas are great and Lily’s ones are always top notch – be warned though, the gravy is quite spicy!

I love paneer and Lily’s serve a great range of paneer-based curries: Chana Paneer, Palak Paneer, Muttar Paneer and Chilli Paneer – all are great!

As well as the more popular Gulabjamun (the orange coloured one) Lily’s also serve Kalajamun (the darker one). The not so sweet Kalajamun, from what I understand, use essentially the same ingredients as Gulabjamun but the sugar is added at a different stage in the production and caramelised to give the darker colour.

Food high points: for me Lily’s has so many high points but I almost always order Peas Kachoris and Paneer Pakora.

Food low points: for my wife, she often finds some of the dishes too spicy – but don’t let this put you off; to use a local phrase, she is a bit “mard” when it comes to spice.

Décor / ambience: Lily’s is very much a café style setting, albeit a modern one decorated in red and black with faux leather seating. It is always clean and full of friendly folk!

Service: the staff at Lily’s are super friendly and helpful.

Verdict (Would I return?): as often as I can – if I still worked in the area, I’d be there every week without fail!

Lily's on Urbanspoon

Saturday 15 September 2012

Loch Fyne, Alderley Edge

Eating out a lot has its advantages and sometime disadvantages. What we save on dishwasher tablets by eating out does not always cover the costs of what we eat – as a result we occasionally look out for some of the great offers and prix fixe menus that are available.

When I saw that Loch Fyne in Alderley Edge were offering two courses for £9.95 or three for £11.95 I thought we’d save a few bob (although, things do not always work out as expected.)

What they say: join us for fabulous fresh seafood at our stunning restaurant on Brook Lane. We have lots of outside seating for perfect summer dining. We are open every day from 9am for breakfast so pop in any time for a drink, a light snack or a full seafood feast. We look forward to welcoming you very soon.
What we ate:
We ordered a Basket of Freshly Baked Bread – this was served in a box marked ‘Bread’ (handy) and came with both butter and oil & vinegar. Pleasingly, the oil & vinegar induced proper vinegar and not that sticky sweet balsamic glaze that seems to be ever more trendy – and even more pleasingly, you actually got to pour it yourself as opposed to the predetermined amount that again seems to have become the norm.
I started with half a dozen Loch Fyne Oysters: 
two served traditionally with a mignonette sauce; two with tempura batter with chilli jam and two grilled with garlic & herb crust. The cooked ones were great but for me you cant beat the traditional.

My wife started with Potted Peppered Mackerel served with a toasted bloomer – nicely done.
For my main, I seemed to forget about the two courses for £9.95 menu and ordered the Lobster Frites
(I find it hard to resist a whole baked lobster; especially if it is served with garlic butter, French fries and mayonnaise!)
My side of Pan-fried Samphire in Garlic Butter was good too.

My wife opted for the Shellfish Platter for one with oysters, king prawns, crevettes, langoustine, crayfish and some wonderful smoked prawns.
Food high points: the smoked prawns were great – an unexpected highlight.

Food low points: the ‘tempura’ batter on my starter oysters could’ve been crispier. 

Décor / ambience: Loch Fyne is a chain restaurant operating in forty plus locations – the décor is tried and tested and fit for purpose.

Service: the service was spot on (but as the waitress was only serving one table, you would expect it to be.)

Verdict (Would I return?): We dined midweek (at around 6 o’clock) and were the only customers, as a result there was little in the way of atmosphere. This did seem a shame as the food is decent enough and the fixed price set menu looked great value – maybe we’ll return for that soon (but will probably end up having the lobster again!)

Loch Fyne on Urbanspoon

Friday 14 September 2012

London Carriage Works “Pop up in the Park”

A couple of weeks ago, on what started off as a drizzly Sunday morning, I donned my Hunter Welly Shoes and made my way to Sefton Park for the launch of the Liverpool Food and Drink Festival (see here).

I’ve been to a few food festivals, farmers’ markets and alike before and expected to eat my way around the stands and stalls, sampling cheeses, chocolates, jams and other assorted goodies and most likely the odd burger or other barbequed delights.

I certainly did not expect to be sitting down in luxurious surroundings with chandeliers, draped curtains and fine linens enjoying a fabulous three course meal – but then I hadn’t read the festival website and did not know that Chef Paul Askew’s London Carriage Works would be ‘popping up’, supported by the students of the Academy Restaurant from the Liverpool Community College.

What they say: “Pop-Up restaurant in the Park” - Imagine a day in sunny Sefton Park immersed in the sights and sounds, colour and banter, aromas and tastes from the stalls and vendors. From noon book a prime spot to watch the same show from the comfort of your own seat, enjoying the best ingredients and delicious dishes whilst relaxing in The London Carriage Works - LFDF's first pop-up restaurant.

What I ate:

Following a Trio of Breads and an aperitif of Ferran Adrià’s Estrella Damn Inedit Beer, all guest were presented with a perfect amuse bouche consisting of Gazpacho with Tuna Carpaccio.

I have had the beer on a few occasions before; it’s a remarkable drink and makes the perfect aperitif. Inedit, with its interesting coriander, orange peel and licorice flavours, is made by combining a lager style beer with a German-style weissbier. The two beers are brewed separately and undergo a  ‘secondary fermentation’ once added to the 750ml wine style bottle.

For my starter, I selected the Roasted stuffed boneless ‘Catforth Lancashire’ quail with celeriac puree and a green apple and tarragon jus – the dish was beautifully presented and a testament to the skills of Chef Paul Askew and his London Carriage Works / Liverpool Community College team that they could produce food of this quality in their ‘field kitchen’. 

If I was impressed by my starter, the main totally blew me away:  Pan roasted fillet of Peterhead hake with morcilla, baby leeks, spinach and haricot beans with a rich fish cream – the hake (always one of my favourite fishes) was absolute perfection; wonderfully fresh and silky.

The ‘cassoulet’ of beans in the creamy fish sauce was packed full of flavour and the whole dish was taken to another level with the addition of the salty and crispy morcilla – wonderful!

For afters, a Trio of the London Carriage Works Festival Desserts: a Lemon Verbena Pannacotta, Raspberry & Lavender Pavlova and Orange & Stem Ginger Cheesecake.

I ended my meal with a double espresso from Illy Coffee.

Food high points: as mentioned, hake is one of my favourite fish; this piece was perfection – possibly the best I have eaten anywhere!

Food low points: if anything, the desserts were the weakest part of the meal but it is understandable that, with a lack of a pastry kitchen, they had chosen items that could be prepared ahead – but they were still very enjoyable.

Décor / ambience: Considering I was sat in a tent the middle of a field in Sefton Park the pop up had a great atmosphere – a real sense of being part of something special and a definite highlight of the Liverpool Food and Drink Festival.

Service: the service from the London Carriage Works and Liverpool Community College Academy Restaurant team was nothing short of excellent.

Verdict (Would I return?): If they repeat the pop up at the 2013 festival, I’ll be there. In the meantime, London Carriage Works (see here) has been on ‘my list’ for ages and I’m now hoping to get along as soon as possible.  Similarly, since a great report from my brother-in-law, I have been intending to try the apparent ‘hidden gem’ that is the Liverpool Community College Academy Restaurant (see here). 

Academy Restaurant on Urbanspoon London Carriageworks on Urbanspoon

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