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.

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

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 shipmates 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.

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.

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.

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! 

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Adam’s Restaurant, Birmingham

As a good little primary school teacher, committed to keeping abreast with the latest developments in my field, every year around this time I make the journey down to Birmingham to visit the Education Show at the NEC.

Dedicated as I am, I always make sure I’ve seen everything by lunchtime so I can head into town for some sustenance. Last year I ate at Min Min Noodle Bar and the Michelin starred Simpsons.

This year, Adam’s Restaurant was the top of my list.

Achieving a Michelin star within a few months of opening, Adam’s is unbelievably a “pop up” with only a two year lease. (There are plans afoot to move to as larger premises in Birmingham once the lease expires.)

I opted for the 9 course tasting menu, which came with a series of canapés. Each dish was well conceived and executed faultlessly. My favourite dishes were the Spelt and the Veal. Service was exemplary.

Beetroot & goat cheese meringue

Steak tartare with miniature ‘egg yolks’

Liquid roast chicken with sage & onion stuffing


Razor clam, garlic, jersey royal new potatoes

Wood pigeon, golden beetroot, watercress, white onion ash

Skate wing, dashi, cucumber, pumpkin seeds, saffron tapioca, roasted prawn powder

Spelt, chanterelles, trotter, chantenay carrots, egg yolk puree  

Red mullet, bouillabaisse, asparagus

Veal, ‘pot au feu’, cheese on toast, Périgord truffle

Carrot, candied walnut, soy sauce

Apple, toffee, cinnamon, vanilla

Blueberries, goat curd, sorrel, oats

Friday, 28 March 2014

The French by Simon Rogan: First Birthday

In my day job, as a primary school teacher, I have a display of ‘inspirational’ quotes, which I update from time to time.

One, from a young Miley Cyrus, which has been on the wall for a while, reads: ‘‘I will learn from my mistakes and trust my support team. My family and my faith will guide me through my life's journey.

Hoping to get the kids working more than twerking, I thought it was about time this came down. So I took to the Internet to find quotes from more ‘famouses’ - this time, with links to Manchester.

I found a couple of thought provoking ones from Alan Turing:

A computer would deserve to be called intelligent if it could deceive a human into believing that it was human.” and:

We are not interested in the fact that the brain has the consistency of cold porridge.

A classic from David Lloyd George, “Don't be afraid to take a big step. The most dangerous thing in the world is to try to leap a chasm in two jumps.

Another from Emmeline Pankhurst, “Trust in God - she will provide.

A belter from Noel Gallagher, “Fame is something that is bestowed upon you because of success. Success is something you have to chase.

One to motivate the children to work harder in maths from David Beckham, “My parents have been there for me, ever since I was about 7.

And one from Victoria Beckham, which encourages the kids to take home those crappy pieces of artwork that they do during wet breaks: “I'm not materialistic. I believe in presents from the heart, like a drawing that a child does.

Tenuous link Klaxon!

Of course, when we think of presents, we think of birthdays and when we think of Posh and Becks, the first think that pops into our minds is the fact David famously popped the question in The French at The Midland.

Which brings us to the fact that The French by Simon Rogan has just celebrated its first birthday.

It may have not been given the deserved Michelin star in its first year but it was named the UK’s 12th best restaurant in the Good Food Guide and my No. 1 restaurant in Manchester.

All eyes may be on Simon Rogan’s Fera at Claridge’s and, of course, L’Enclume but the people of Manchester remain lucky and proud to have The French.

I’ve written more than enough about Simon’s food over the years, so I'm not going to bore you by commenting on each dish. Most of the dishes were new ones to me and were all* top notch. (*the one dish that I found slightly weaker was the Butter poached plaice – it lacked a little something for my palate, perhaps a little acidity?)

As a special birthday treat, Restaurant Manager, Kamila Płońska, allowed Simon Rogan and his Head Chef Adam Reid into her realm to sauce certain dishes and parley with the customers. 

Rye, mackerel, lovage

Celeriac & apple

Baked potato with cheese

Trotter, ham fat cream, sage

Smoked cod, pickled mushrooms, marrow & garlic

Quail eggs with leeks, kale & mustard


Swede dumplings, duck yolk sauce, onion, nasturtium

Ox in coal oil with pumpkin seed, kohlrabi & sunflower

Caramelised cabbage, scallops, coastal herbs, smoked roes

Baby beets, Ragstone cheese with artichoke cresses

Butter poached plaice with seeded breadcrumbs, roasted cauliflower & mussels

Reg’s guinea hen, dripping potatoes, turnips, Hen of the woods & rosemary

Forced Yorkshire rhubarb, crab apple, Douglas fir oats, yoghurt

‘Lancashire coals’ with liquorice, fennel & milk

Sass ‘n’ soda

Birthday cake with pulled sugar

Tea & petit fours

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