Saturday, 28 June 2014

Grillstock, Manchester #MeatMusicMayhem

Grillstock is a self proclaimed ‘festival of meat, music & mayhem’ taking over Manchester’s Albert Square on 28th & 29th June.

Over the two days they have a US style low 'n' slow BBQ competition, over 40 bands and a bunch of DJ’s playing Americana rock, funk, blues and country sounds - Vintage Trouble headline tonight, with Hayseed Dixie topping the Sunday bill.

After blagging myself a two day ‘Press Pass’ and a spot on the judging panel for the ‘Chef’s Choice Competition’ I popped along on Saturday morning to check things out with a view to returning tomorrow for round two.

Here are some pics of what to expect if you are thinking of heading down.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Sticky Walnut – Hoole, Chester

I’ve written about Sticky Walnut on a couple of occasions (here & here), so let me keep this one simple: 

Sticky Walnut is a friendly neighbourhood “bistro” with outrageously good food and a screwy twitter feed.

They are not the sort of place that serve amuse bouche. If you want your bouche amused you should go elsewhere. If you want to eat the kind of food shown in pictures below, that I promise tastes even better than it looks… go to Sticky!

Rosemary & thyme focaccia

Oven roast beets, sticky walnuts, spicy pumpkin seeds & fresh ricotta

Broccoli soup with toasted focaccia

Grilled focaccia, fresh peas, fromage blanc, mint & lemon

Flamed & tartare of mackerel, pickled cucumber salad, grape vinaigrette

Beef tartare, baby gem hearts, parmesan & polenta chips

White & green asparagus, pink grapefruit, crispy hen’s egg

Hot smoked salmon Caesar salad, soft boiled egg, parmesan

Plaice fillets, peas, asparagus, radish, butter emulsion

Glazed Jacob’s ladder, onion puree & truffle chips

Chargrilled rump of lamb, warm potato salad, spring onion & capers

Hand cut truffle & parmesan chips

Dark chocolate tart, milk ice cream

Strawberries & custard, Prosecco jelly

Turtle Bay – Caribbean Restaurant, Manchester

Call me a snob but I don’t usually “do” chains. I’ve been to Nando’s once and TGI’s but have never stepped foot inside a Frankie & Benny’s, Bella Italia or Chiquito and I probably wouldn’t have gone to the newly opened Turtle Bay in Manchester had I not just written my post on where to find “The Best Jerk Chicken in Manchester”.

After turning down an invitation to rub shoulders with the “VIPs” at the official launch on the eve of their opening (Shane Ward AND his sisters were there!), I went along on their opening day, which was more of a coincidence than a plan.

It being the first day, I’m not going to mention service, as it wouldn’t be a true reflection. Staff had obviously all been newly trained and there was a large team of managers in, pulling strings – as always with new places, true colours start to show after a few months once there has been some staff turnover. 

Décor-wise I was really impressed… I was expecting it to be way tackier than it actually was. Some of the detailing really impressed, most notably the shipping container seating, speaker decked bar area and Castrol GTX light fittings. The reggae tunes add to the atmos too.

Naturally, I ordered the Jerk Chicken – 12 spice & herb jerk marinade and Grilled, Sour Orange Chutney, Caribbean Slaw and Rice ‘n’ Peas. Unlike a few of the better places around Manchester, the chicken here is not cooked from scratch on the BBQ but finished off with just a lick of flame.

However, I still found it really quite good. The jerk had a spicy kick to it; something I didn’t expect from a chain. I assumed they’d play it safe with a mild chicken and then offer the spicy sauce on the side. (The sauces that were available separately were the shop bought ones from the likes of Encona and Grace, which I have no problems with.)

Problems however were found with the Fried Dumplings, Sweet Plantain and Sweet Potato Fries – I found the dumplings far too chewy, the ‘sweet’ plantain overly sweet and the fries cold and soggy; probably not helped by the metal cup they were served in.

I also had the Street Burger – which came with jerk glaze, grilled bun, baby gem, tomato, onion and Caribbean slaw. To my mind, compared to other burgers available in the city this was pretty poor (although only £6.95) – which can be a problem of chains if they are not prepared to adjust their menus to suit / live up to expectations and tastes of the local market.

One more ‘pro’ was the refreshingly fiery Homemade Ginger Beer – another ‘con’, £4.95 for the Salt Fish Pattie, which was a little too limp and lifeless for my taste.

I know a couple of people who have been and had similar experiences. In the meantime, I’d be happy to go back again for the jerk and will be keeping my ear to the ground re the rest of the menu.

Turtle Bay on Urbanspoon

Paratha Hut – Levenshulme, Manchester

Through events such as Guerrilla Eats and Beat Street in sunny Manchester and Kerb, Urban Food Fest and Street Feast in the capital, “Street Food” continues to be the latest food trend amongst the hipster youth.

So, when I pulled into Water Worx Car Wash (between Longsight and Levenshulme on the A6) to sort out the mess that a bird* had left by taking a dump on my driver’s side window, my interest piqued when I saw a sign for Paratha Hut.

With prices ranging from just £1 to £2 for a freshly cooked, this is what I’d call ‘real’ street food – cheap, quick and tasty food served at the side of the road, primarily for workers and the local community (and anyone who happens to be passing).

The paratha dough and fillings are kept in the fridge and rolled out, filled and cooked to order in a matter of minutes. I ordered the Keema expecting it to be lamb mince but it was made with minced chicken. There was a good kick from green chillies and coriander seed with perhaps a little too much black pepper for my taste.

The paratha itself had been rolled delightfully thin and cooked well so it was not too crisp and nit too doughty. To be spot on it could’ve been a little more buttery and flaky but for £2 maybe I am expecting too much?

It was certainly good enough for me to go back the next day and try the Gobi and the Peshawari parathas  - both delicious, especially when dipped in the accompanying yoghurt and deceptively mild looking chilli sauce.

Perhwari Hut is a real find – it has been there a year and seemed popular on both my visits. It’ll certainly be getting plenty of my custom in the future.

(*the feathered variety).

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