Sunday 30 June 2013

Lucha Libre, Liverpool

Edison vs Tesla, Coke vs Pepsi, Ali vs Frazier – a little bit of rivalry and competition never hurt anyone, right?

Note: Sadly Almost Famous and Lust, Liquor, Luck & Burn got a little hotter than they bargained for and burnt down thanks to a raging chip pan. Thankfully, even as the hoses extinguished the final flames, the ever bold people behind both didn’t let it dampen their spirits and have vowed to be back soon “Bigger and Bolder”.

That said, forget Reds and Blues for a moment - one rivalry that’s been burning away in Manchester Northern Quarter recently has been between the aforementioned burger behemoths Almost Famous (home of the ‘Triple Nom’) and their slightly more sophisticated neighbours SoLita, who brought Mancunians the Manc-hattan and the legendary Big Manc Burgers.

Whilst some manage to sit on the fence (aka enjoy stuffing their faces in both), most of the burger loving folk of Manchester will declare their love for one of the other. They are different but comparisons will always be made as they vie to serve “Manchester’s Best Burger” – personally, my preference is clear as I nailed my colours to SoLita’s mast long ago.

When AF opened “Lust, Luck, Liquor & Burn” however, like a young Montague I found myself drawn to the enemy camp and found my Juliet in their Tacos, Burritos and ‘fully loaded’ Volcano Nachos.

Which brings me to “Lucha Libre” – hearing that Liverpool had a similar “Mexican style eatery” that also serves a mean taco, burrito and nacho, with the spirit of Mercutio, I set off to see if there was indeed common ground, and ate:

Home Made Tortilla Chips with Guacamole and Chilli Bacon Jam – a good ‘guac’ with brilliant bacon jam.

Ceviche Cocktail – Well balanced and attractively served in a sundae glass, this featured fresh white fish cured in lime juice with tomato, onion, cucumber, green salsa and tortilla chips.

La Luna Nerga salad of papaya, apple and mixed nuts, tossed in a fresh leaves with ‘La Luna Negra’ dressing – wonderfully fresh flavours and crisp, crunchy textures.

Chilaquiles topped with Pork “Pil Bil” – tortilla chips smothered in a mild salsa roja, molten cheese served with fresh coriander, jalapeños and a fried egg. The sweet, smoky Pork Pil Bil is marinated in orange juice and achiote peppers.

“Baja” Fish Burrito – beer battered fish, sweet potato fries, pickled onions, red cabbage and habanero tartare sauce. I particularly liked the red cabbage and habanero tartare sauce elements.   

Quesadillas “Gringa” – marinated pork belly and grilled pineapple. My wife’s favourite dish, I only got to have a small bite… I’ll make sure we order two of these next time.

“Abanil Steak” Tacos – marinated strips of pan-fried steak with peppers and onions. “Chicken & Chorizo” Tacos – slow cooked chicken thigh and leg meat, in a rich tomato, chilli and chorizo sauce with queso fresco and coriander.

We also enjoyed sides of: Red Rice, Black Beans and the excellent Roasted Plantain Crisps with Pineapple & Chilli and Chipotle salsas along with a Chipotle Mayo.

We were rather stuffed but somehow made room for ‘pud’ in the shape of a triumphant Lucha Sundae – which brought together tastings from their dessert menu: Mexican Cajeta Jelly, Churros, Key Lime & Hibiscus Cheesecake, Cajeta Crepes and Chocolate & Chilli Brownie.

Taking it’s name from the high flying Mexican masked wresting, Lucha Libre translates as ‘free fighting’ – later in the year, the Liverpool outlet plan to fight for their share of the Manchester market as they open in Great Northern.

I hope that by then Lust, Luck, Liquor & Burn are back in the ring… Sherlock Holmes wouldn’t be half the man he was without be without Moriarty… a good bit of banter, competition and looking over the shoulder should help to drive “rivals” forward and result in a win for the people of Manchester (and Liverpool). 

Saturday 29 June 2013

Cibo, Manchester

“If you don’t’ have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”.

After a spate of what I feel were ‘average’ ‘meh’ and, on some cases, utterly ‘pants’ meals in and around Manchester recently, I’ve become a little disillusioned with “Hungry Hoss” – to save me from quitting it altogether, yesterday, I made the decision that I simply wouldn't bother writing up such experiences.

I’m going to concentrate on revisiting some old favourites; whilst writing about the best of the new places and hidden gems; exploring the surrounding counties more and continuing with tales of my travels. Bog standard burgers such as those from Byron will no longer feature on my blog!

The thing is, I never set out to be a “Manchester Blogger” – in my first couple of posts, made over two years ago now, I stated how I intended to use the blog to share ‘excitement and enthusiasm for food’ and in this respect, nothing has changed.

I’m aware that I created a rod for my own back when I started blogging about the ‘less special experiences’ and rattled off a post every time I popped out for a spot of lunch or a bite to eat.

When I have a great experience at a restaurant or discover somewhere I feel deserves more attention, I love to tell people about it – shout it from the rooftops! In the last few months, meals at Simon Rogan’s The French (see here), Pie & Ale (here), Grenache (here) as well as many on my travels have fallen into this category. 

Early on, after accepting a couple of freebies and invites to PR launches and events, I realised that this aspect of blogging was not for me and no longer get involved in it all by always insisting on paying for my meals… simply put, it makes me feel ‘uncomfortable’.

CIBO in Didsbury is just one of a number of new places that has ‘been courting the bloggers’ since it opened - of course, this is a strategy that can backfire at times.

We are lucky in Manchester because the majority of the better known food bloggers such as Dolly Bakes, Mrs Petticoat, Bacon on the Beech, Food Geek, Mcr Foodies and Good Gobble are a well travelled bunch who ‘know their onions’ and are not afraid of being honest, even when presented with a free meal!

But, from another perspective, an ‘invited blogger’s’ experience is never going to be same as the on of the next ‘average Joe and his hard earned cash’ who walks through the door…

When restaurants have invited the bloggers in the staff will have often been notified of their arrival; said blogger will have been greeted extra warmly; given the best seats in the house; plied with alcohol; schmoozed with, and extra attention to detail would have been paid to the ingredient selection, cooking and presentation of their meal.

So, why am I writing up about Cibo, if I decided yesterday that I wouldn’t?

Well, I do have some nice things to say about Cibo. (Note: ahead of ordering, the restaurant did not know I was a blogger but asked later once I started taking pictures of the food.)


The service was great – from the off, every team member was smiley and seemed genuinely interested in providing a welcoming atmosphere and positive experience.

I love what they have done with the place – the décor and general styling is clean, fresh and comfortable. Tables are well spaced and welcoming. For me, it’s a huge improvement on the previous occupant, La Tasca.

The menu reads well and is reasonably priced. Especially the ‘Cicchetti e Fritturi’ menu.

The Zucchini Fritti, San Danielle Ham with Burrata Cheese & Umbrian Virgin Oil and Baccala Mantecato were decent enough, as were the Stuffed Artichoke wrapped in “Lardo” despite their ‘lardo’ being more pancetta like and not the white fatty goodness, I am familiar with.  


Fried Fennel I found the batter too doughy and stodgy. Arancini Siciliani – for me, these needed more rice; I found the filling too wet and hollow tasting.

Lamb & Pistachio Meatballs – these reminded me of dog food in appearance with compressed, smooth, dull grey meat and a lacklustre sauce. They would have been better texturally if they had been made in a little more of a rustic fashion; there wasn’t even any bite in the pistachio.

Calves Liver Veneziana – the liver was pinkish but the sauce for me was again uninspiring and lacking in depth.

Panfried Fresh Sardines – a reversal on the liver dish, the accompanying dressings was fresh and zingy but I found the sardines overcooked.

So there it is… whilst I enjoyed the place this is what could be my last post about “meh” food… let’s hope I can find more places that can refresh my excitement and enthusiasm’ – when I do, I’ll share them here. 

P.S. I am not planning on cutting back on the amount I eat out so I'll still be sharing my views on all places I eat via Twitter: 

Wednesday 26 June 2013

Cañota Casa de Tapes, Barcelona

Cañota Casa de Tapes is a funky, modern ‘taperia’ owned by the Iglesia brothers. The brothers are well known in Barcelona for their celebrated seafood restaurant ‘Rías de Galicia’ and for their partnership with Albert & Ferran Adrià in Tickets (see here) and PAKTA (here).

What we ate:

"Toasted Bread Con Tomate la Roseta” – a DIY classic. "Gillardeau Oyster with Ponzu" (Ostras Gillardeau) – a fabulous quality oyster with a Japanese twist.

“Burgerbull” a recipe from Calima’s two Michelin starred Dani García featuring Havarti cheese, vegetables and hot mayonnaise. I’ve eaten at Calima and loved it (here) - although this does not compare with the rest of Dani’s food, it was tasty nonetheless.

"Russian Salad" (Ensalada rusa) – a decent salad with the tasty addition of salmon roe and bread sticks. Pulpo a Feira – served warm, diners are encouraged to ‘mash the potato with the fork and mix it up with the oil, red pepper and octopus’

“Molecular Wings - Atomic Hot Wings” (Las Alitas Atómicas) – arriving in a Cobbler Shaker, these were fab. The wings had a crisp texture and the sauce was delicious and, despite the name, not overly fiery.

"Bowl of Avocado, Spicy Tomato & King Prawns" (Cuenco Aguacate con Tomate Picate y Langostinos) – a great dish with a beautiful king prawn and tortilla chips.

"Galician Spicy Potatoes" (Patatas Bravas) with sauce by Albert Adrià and light alioli sauce – my personal preference would be for a potato with a bit of colour or crispness but this is the way they are seemingly served in these parts. 

"Galician Veal Entrecote" (Entrecotte) – a first-rate piece of meat, perfectly cooked.

A note about the service: coincidentally, the same lad who had looked after us as Tickets served us in the main. All the staff were industrious and good humoured.

A comparative note about the ‘experience’: Cañota is very much your local ‘taperia’ – much of the menu is based on classic tapas dishes with a few ‘progressive’ tweaks. If you are only in Barcelona for one or two days, there are more exciting tapas joints to visit but for these staying a little longer Cañota is well worth checking out. 

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