Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Some things I ate in Manchester during April

April has been a good eating month for me. A cracking meal at L’Enclume and return visits to The French and Manchester House – as seen on TV in BBC2’s Restaurant Wars (on which myself and my blog made a guest appearance.)

On a half term trip to New York, I was lucky enough to dine in Public, Per Se, Le Benardin, Brooklyn Fare Momofuku Ko and Eleven Madison Park. Per Se was the pick of the bunch in terms of food and service but I loved the vibe at Brooklyn Fare, Ko and Public.

On a short trip to Spain I gave the Michelin guide a miss and focused on eating good quality ‘peasant food’ in rural farming villages. Lots of Callos, Conejo and Carbrito – including a dish made solely from congealed goat’s blood.

My Manchester eating itinerary saw a return to some new and old favourites (Beef & Pudding, Mughli & The Shoulder of Mutton) as well as checking out some for the first time (Ban Di Bull, Nasi Lemak, Mud Crab and Côte).

Ban Di Bul – Korean

Ban Di Bul is a Korean restaurant, centrally located on Princess Street. It’s one of those places I have walked past on numerous occasions but had not got around to visiting.

I found the food on a par with other Korean offerings in the city (Koreana, Baekdu, Eat Goody & Seoul Kimchi) – as authentic as availability of ingredients allows but generally homely in style. 

Kimchi set – Kimchi (Spicy, pickled preserved cabbage), Oh Ee Kimchi (Pickled cucumber in red chilli), Kak Too Gi (pickled diced white radish)

Namool set – seasoned spinach, radish and bean sprouts

Dak mo rea jim – stir fried chicken gizzard. Great dish – all about the texture… like chewy, crunchy whelks.

Yok hae bi bim bum – steamed rice with raw beef and vegetables in a hot stone bowl. Nicely put together (unfortunately I didn’t get a pic before it was mixed).

Sae u gu I – prawns with special sauce. Decent enough. Cooked on the ‘BBQ’ in the centre of the table.

Ca dul ba gi – marbled beef. The quality of this was a little disappointing for the price Not the most marbled of marbled beefs.

O sam bul go gi – squid and pork with vegetables. A large portion with a deliciously fiery sauce.

Pa-jeo ri - seasoned spring onion. A lovely side dish, definitely worth ordering.

Mr Coopers House & Garden

The French may get all the national plaudits and TV coverage but it’s important not to overlook Simon Rogan’s ‘everyday restaurant’ in The Midland Hotel – consistently one of the best restaurants in city. For cocktail lovers, one of the best bars in Manchester too.

Fried brioche, black pudding, apple & bacon jam

Anise crusted sweetbreads, saffron risotto & fried leeks

Confit duck fritter, spiced red cabbage & roasted duck breast

Caramel tart with mascarpone ice cream

Spiced madeleines, lemon curd, apricot & orange

Shoulder of Mutton, Holcombe

With my wife and stepdaughter visiting the theatre in nearby Bury, I made a long overdue return visit to the excellent Shoulder of Mutton. Head chef Chris Yates is back at the stoves after a stint in the Michelin starred kitchens at Northcote Manor.

Pork scratchings with truffle salt – fabulous big house made scratchings. The perfect pub snack.

Hand raised pork pie with piccalilli

Carroll’s heritage potato, leek & wild garlic soup with bacon puffs – I rarely order soup but the ‘bacon puff’ swayed it. As it turned out the bacon puff was not as ‘bacony’ or ‘flaky’ as I’d expected but the soup was very good indded.

Goosnargh wheat fed guinea fowl – Cavolo nero, glazed carrot, spring cabbage and crispy skin. A good dish. 

Trio of desserts: Chocolate fondant with rhubarb compote,  Vanilla pannacotta with orange jelly, caramel espuma and pain d’epice crumb, Sticky toffee pudding with caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream. 

Beef & Pudding – Sunday Lunch

Beef & Pudding has been the subject of a number of reviews and blog posts since it opened a month or so ago – not all of them 100% positive. My wife and I love it, and the people. Not to mention, easily one of the best roasts available in the city centre.

Crispy tripe, Lancashire Cheese & pickled onions – great cheese, deliciously sharp picked onions but no where near enough of the crispy tripe!

Roast rump of mature English beef – Yorkshire pudding, crisp duck fat potatoes, market vegetables and gravy. My tip is to go for the roast from the specials board, not the set menu… it’s larger and you get two of the delicious Yorkies!

Crème brûlée – peppered raspberry vodka shot. A decent crème brûlée.

Côte Brasserie

My often misguided foodist snobbery, means that I don’t normally “do” chains, but I do like a bit of French brasserie food and have heard that Côte is one of the better ones.

Having newly opened in Manchester (next to Gaucho, down the side of Kendals), I thought I’d check out their lunch deal. At £9.95 for two courses (+ £2 supplement for ‘steak frites’) I’d definitely go back. For the money, I couldn’t quibble with the quality of the food, service and environment. 

A fan of the traditional Nice flatbreads, I also ordered a Pissaladière. Being picky, I’d say that I’m not a fan of the cheap black olives and it could’ve had a few more anchovies but it still made for a tasty snack.

Chicken liver parfait with cornichons – chargrilled baguette.

Steak frites – chargrilled minute steak with frites and garlic butter.

Nasi Lemak at The Friendship Inn

Despite often seeing the students sat outside in the sunshine and visiting the nearby kebab shops, I’ve never been to the Friendship Inn in Fallowfield before - I’m just not a pub person (‘gastropubs’ and obvious exception).

On the flipside to the usual downbeat pub grub is a Malaysian led South East Asian fusion menu under the banner of Nasi Lemak. I first heard about this from their twitter account @NasiLemakM14. The prices and dishes are obviously largely aimed at the pub’s large student clientele

“Popia rolls” – not like the popiah rolls I’ve had in KL but decent enough as spring rolls. I opted for the vegetable filling which came “vinegar dip” (read sweet chilli from a bottle).

Taukua sumbat – fried tofu stuffed with beansprouts, cucumber and a peanut dip. A generous portion but I found the filling a little watery.

Ikan bakar – cod fillet baked on a banana leaf, smothered with onion sambal. The sauce was good but the fish let the dish down for me.

Nasi lemak – rice cooked with coconut milk, Malay herbs and pandan leaves with peanuts, crispy anchovies, cucumber slices and sambal sauce. This was good. Aromatic flavourful rice with lovely textures from the accompaniments.

Mud Crab, Didsbury

Mud Crab is the ‘new’ (not so now) offering from the group behind Felicini, Grinch and Cheadle Hulme’s (disap)Pointing Dog. I usually avoid places that have menus that appear to be trying to ‘be all things to all men’ but I found myself in Didsbury and popped in for a spot of brunch. To be fair, my expectations were low and it didn’t let me down.

Breakfast in a bun – sausage, bacon, fried egg & cheddar cheese. Not bad.

Buttermilk pancakes & maple syrup – apple compote and smoked bacon. Disappointing pappy pancakes.

Steak & eggs – flash grilled skirt steak. Tough as old boots.

Mughli, Manchester’s ‘Curry Mile’

For a year or so I’ve championed Mughli as the best ‘curry house’ on the Curry Mile – increasing numbers of people are saying it’s the best in the whole of Manchester. We certainly love it.

Popadoms with chutney tray: mango, mint yoghurt, Indian salad, chilli imli (chilli and tamarind), garlic pickle, red onions. Great to have a biyt more variety

Pani puri – puffed puris filled with chickpea and potato chaat, topped with sweet yoghurt, crispy sev, red onions and pomegranate seeds.

Chilli okra fries – bullet chilli and okra in a crisp Mumbai batter. Probably my favourite of Mughli’s ‘Street Food’ style appetisers.

Lamb chops – from the charcoal pit. Up there with the best.

Tamarind masala fish – fresh haddock in a masala batter, tossed in a chilli tamarind and lime dressing. Another fave, the spices well balanced for the meaty chunks of fish.

Kulchi – char grilled chicken tikka with minced lamb. As recommended by Haz (the brother who controls their social media @mughli). A great dish – full of authentic flavour.

Paneer korma – my wife, who prefers something mild, often orders the korma. I’ve heard talk that the new Mughli menu will be see the end of the korma as they continue in their development away from the hackneyed ‘favourites’ lingering from the curry mile’s heyday in the 80s – as long as they replace it with another mild option I’m sure my wife will be happy.

Sides: Okra & onions / Steamed rice / Tandoori parata / Dahl tarka

Saturday, 19 April 2014

L’Enclume – April 2014

How time flies! I last dined at L’Enclume in December 2013 (see here) – when you are blessed enough to have the UK’s best restaurant just 1½ hours drive away, a four month gap somehow seems way too long! 

The biggest news since that visit, aside from the naming of Simon’s, soon to be open, Claridge’s based restaurant Fera (which means ‘wild’ in Latin) is the fact that on Monday sous chef Tom Barnes won the 2014 Roux Scholarship.

This meant that not one, but two Roux Scholars cooked my lunch, as Tom was back working alongside 2011’s winner, L’Enclume head chef, Mark Birchall.

Simon was in London working with the group’s third Roux Scholar, Chef Dan Cox, getting ready for the opening of the year. It’s amazing that Simon has such a strong team – the 3rd star has to be ever closer… if ever a restaurant qualified as "Une des meilleures tables, vaut le voyage", L’Enclume is it.

I treated myself to the 20 course lunch:

Oyster pebbles – with the fabulous ‘oyster leaf’, one of the few dishes that remains since my last visit.

Chicken dumpling – a brioche dough ball, filled with a chicken ragu made from all the best bits; topped with crispy skin.

Ragstone, malt, tarragon – my least favourite of the canapés. Not because I don’t like the flavour but because it seems more fitting as a part of a cheese course or crossover dish than a canapé.

Smoked eel with ham fat – although the croquette itself hadn’t changed the new straw and cloche presentation added a bit of theatre and a whole lot of smoky essence.

Cow’s heel, curds, onion ashes – loved this one. The ‘wafer’ had been made from a cow’s Achilles tendon using what I can only surmise was a technique taking inspiration from a pork scratching? As usual, my words cannot do it justice but unlike Achilles himself, it was without weakness. 

Raw scallop and caviar – another dish unchanged from last time. You don’t mess with perfection.

Asparagus and crab sack – it’s always good to see what lurks in Simon’s sacks. This time it was filled with crabmeat and topped with a mushroom crumble and the first of the season’s Wye Valley asparagus.

Creamed potatoes, Tunworth and duck gizzards – vying for dish of the day, the next little pot topped with Viola petals and English truffle featured creamed potatoes, Turnworth cheese and a rich duck gizzard ragu.  


White turnip, maran egg, nasturtium leaves – growing up, one thing I wouldn’t eat was turnips… I think it’s because Worzel Gummidge’s head was made from one but the guys at L’Enclume sure do make them sexy. The thin ‘noodles’ of cured pork fat helped.

Valley venison, charcoal oil, mustard and fennel – another main stay on the menu… such wonderful bold flavours.  

Glazed langoustine, carrot, watercress, raw langoustine, scurvy grass, hazelnuts – for me, this is the one that took the title of dish of the day. The langoustines were exceptionally good quality. The first part of the dish featured a rye cracker topped with the raw langoustine, grated hazelnut and lumpfish roe.

The second part had the glazed langoustines, black pudding and alliums topped with an airy langoustine cream and watercress.

Salt baked beetroot, ox tongue, yoghurt and apple marigold – visually striking though it was with the vibrant pink beetroot wafers, this was the only dish that was not entirely to my taste. Each component was good, especially the cubes of glazed ox tongue but they didn’t come together for my palate; I found the wafers too sweet and was unconvinced that apple marigold was the ideal leaf to accompany.

Brill grilled over spruce, mussel, salsify and sea vegetables – back in the game with this one. The salsify (both the cream and root) was superb; as were the plump mussels and perfectly cooked fish.

Holker milk fed lamb, sweetbreads, kales and ramson – another killer dish. Stunning sweetbread, delightful hen of the wood mushrooms, swede and a classical flavourful bone roasted sauce.

Rye, stout, gingerbread – the first of three canapé style dessert dishes. A lovely, subtle stout cream lifted by fresh mint leaves.

Sea buckthorn and butternut – excellent with a liquorice crumb.  

Caramel, sheep’s milk, celery – an interesting one this; very much a ‘crossover’ dish with savoury touches. I was not completely sold on it and would like to try it again.    

Yorkshire rhubarb, apple, sorrel and brown butter – this was absolutely delightful; a perfect example of Rogan’s wizardry in getting the most from ingredients; exquisite rhubarb and sharp Granny Smith puree.     

Yoghurt, pear, walnuts and sweet cicely – having shattered the candy cloak sprinkled with sweet cicely powder, the penultimate course was another masterpiece of subtlety and balance.

Celeriac / Sweet cheese / Malt / Douglas fir and apple – to finish, miniature ice cream cones and a refreshing glass of Douglas fir and apple ‘fizz’.

As mentioned, I firmly believe that Simon Rogan’s flagship restaurant serves “Exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey” and it is only a matter of time before Michelin bestow their highest honour upon L’Enclume.

Then, along with Simon’s presence is London, hopefully further international recognition will follow as some of the Worlds 50 Best panelists and alike finally start making their way to Cartmel.

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