Saturday 28 February 2015

Manchester House – Feb 2015

Despite undoubtedly serving some of the most skilfully created, artfully presented and ambitious food in Manchester, it has been ten months since I last visited Manchester House.

The reason for this comes down to the fact that, no matter how good chef Aiden Byrne’s food can be, something about the whole ‘Living Ventures’ restaurant experience has never quite ‘sat right’ with me.

Mercifully, thanks to my recent lunchtime visit, I think I’m finally over whatever has been bugging me. With an all round more relaxed feel and maturity, the place seems increasingly slick and, quite frankly, “less up its own arse”. Even the front of house staff now appear as if they have been hired for their skills and not just for how good they look in their jean and waistcoat combo.

With that out of the way, let’s get down to the best thing about Manchester House… the food! (I opted for the six course lunch with the ‘extended a la carte’ option.)

Turnip soup, chestnut mousse & confit chestnut with Goats cheese brioche, whipped goats butter and shaved chestnut – I loved this, resembling a cheesy ‘fondant fancy’ for grown ups, the dinky Goats cheese brioche with its whipped goats butter centre was both flavoursome and playful.   

Warm Comté soup, pear purée & barbequed blackberries – the Comté ‘soup’ with blackberries was a interesting flavour combination that I enjoyed; the accompanying ‘black pepper meringue’ however was less successful, it was far too cloyingly sweet, which made worse by the pear purée.

Deep fried frogs legs, parsley & garlic – I loved this creative and quirky dish when I had it previously, and it’s still a favourite; with flavours and textures that work so well together, it’s a real joy to eat.

Oysters & caviar, Vichyssoise & potato – the components of this dish were good. I enjoyed the bursting liquidity of the spherification and the flavour of Vichyssoise but was not convinced that they fully flattered the oysters and caviar; the dish lacked a little acidity for me, which the salty, richness of the caviar would have enjoyed.

Crisp langoustine & suckling pig with seaweed salad – as in the frogs legs dish Aiden’s classical skills shine with the suckling pig elements of this dish; the puffed rice and use of seaweeds show the clever contemporary edge which is ever evolving as Aiden strives for Michelin stars.

Cured duck, foie gras mousse, celeriac, sourdough & pennywort – the next dish was a cleverly textured dish with deftly balanced layers of flavours – the petri dish married blackberry, celeriac and pennywort with a foie gras mousse and smoked foie; the duck fat toast bore more foie gras mousse, a fine dice of celeriac and duck ham with delightful morsels of duck, including tongues and caramelized wings.

Monkfish tail, white onions, anchovies & wild garlic – mainly thanks to the acidity of the anchovy fritters, this, was my favourite dish of the lunch. Enrobed in Jabugo ham, the monkfish had been delightfully cooked.

Longhorn beef sirloin & cheek, new season truffle potato soup – although not as creative as some, this dish featured prime ingredients and flavour that packed a punch.

Beetroot, hibiscus, rhubarb & Greek yoghurt – a visually stunning dish with flavours to match.

Walnut ice cream, pear, orange & fennel – another beautiful dish with innovative with combinations of flavours and textures; I particularly enjoyed the fennel.

Friday 27 February 2015

Altrincham Market & Altrincham Market House

When penning my blog posts I generally like to keep some vague chronology to them. As such, I should really be writing up the lunch I had at Manchester House, but seeing as chef Aiden Byrne is one of many who recommended I get myself down there, I’m sure they won’t mind “Alty Market” jumping the queue.

During ‘The Alt. Festival of Food & Drink’ on 27 - 29 March, Altrincham Market House will be hosting a collaboration between themselves and Manchester House – part of which will involve a special six course menu, created by Aiden Byrne, using seasonal and regional produce, inspired by the market’s regular traders.

I digress; this post wasn’t indented to tell you about a one off special event, its purpose is to tell you how amazing Altrincham Market House is day in, day out!

Open 6 days a week, until 10pm (6pm on Sundays / closed Mondays), the space has become akin to a modern day “town square” – a hub where people eat, drink, shop, relax, work and meet.

The main draw for me was the presence of Honest Crust; I’ve had their wood fired pizzas many times before at various festivals and markets around Manchester and Stockport, from their mobile oven. However at Alty, they have a permanent spot, home to their rather fabulous, fancy pants, shiny blue beast, imported from Napoli.

Those in the know, proclaim that Honest Crust serve the best pizzas you can find anywhere Greater Manchester, and I’m inclined to agree. As is often the case, I chose the spicy ‘ndjua topped ‘Atomica!’ As is always the case, it did not disappoint… quality ingredients, cooked to perfection.

Being a greedy so and so (and wanting to be able to show you the best there is on offer, natch) I also ate from Tender Cow (from the folk behind Mumma Schnitzel). Tender Cow serves grass fed flat iron steaks in ciabatta bread with a choice of toppings – I went for the Steak, horseradish cream, tomato & red onion option. Cooked medium rare and brushed with a little garlic butter, it was hearty and tasty… great stuff!

When in Malaysia I developed a love for Nasi Lemak; traditionally a breakfast dish of creamy coconut and pandan infused rice, topped with a spicy sambal, peanuts, cucumber, boiled egg and delightful little ‘ikan bilis’ (dried salted anchovies). There was no egg with this version but it did come with a choice of curry to accompany – I had the Beef Rendang. The ‘nasi lemak’ part outshone the rending for me.

After a further mooch around outside, I purchased a loaf of Trove sourdough, cheese, eggs, wool and some dried pasta and tins from Bounce Back Food who make a “one for you, one for society” donation to the Greater Manchester ‘food bank’ Fare Share.

Back inside, I enjoyed a lovely ‘cortado’ from Market House Coffee and a trio of macarons from Sam Joseph Chocolatier next door – I love a good macaron and these were great flavours: Lemon & Apricot, Blackberry & Lime and Raspberry & Caramel.

So there we have, my first of many trips to Altrincham Market – it’s the best of its kind that I’ve ever been to, and definitely worth a visit.

It’s probs worth mentioning that there is often live music, stuff for the kids and some highly recommended bars nearby, Riddles Bar, Market Tavern, Mort Subite and Belgian Bar. Enjoy!

Thursday 26 February 2015

La Bandera – Spanish, Manchester

When La Bandera (‘The Flag’) opened its doors late last year, it did so with little fanfare.

The first many of the typically well informed Manchester based foodie busybodies had heard of the place was when Bacon on the Beech tweeted a link to the website.

La Bandera’s Twitter account was swiftly located; from this it seemed that City player, David Silva, had already been in for a taste of home. (La Bandera remains popular with both City's and United's Spanish contingents.)

As an independent operator that showed promise, I decided not to rush in but give them a couple months to find their feet before checking them out. With a few friends in tow, I ended up there sooner than planned late one evening.

We ordered several dishes for sharing… a few bottles of red and several reorders of food later, midnight was drawing in but with true Spanish hospitality they showed no signs of kicking us out… despite some mild rowdiness (for which I apologise).

Managing to fend off my greedy and impatient dining companions, I managed to grab a few pics of the food but plan to go back in the daytime when the light is kinder. I particularly enjoyed the “Gambas al Ajillo” “Espárragos Trigueros” and “Arroz Mar y Montaña”.

The “Patatas bravas” and “Ensalada de Pollo con brotes tiernos” were also popular amongst my fellow diners.

Pan con tomate – fresh tomato and garlic toast with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

Acietunas de la casa – marinated olives

Patatas bravas – spicy potatoes

Espárragos Trigueros – asparagus

Lágrimas de Pollo con “piperrada” – chicken strips in honey chilli sauce with onions, peppers & tomatoes

Pulpo a la Gallega – octopus with paprika and potato

Puntas de Solomillo con Serrano – diced steak with garlic, olive oil and Serrano ham.

Gambas al Ajillo – king prawns in a garlic and parsley sauce with fresh chillies

Alitas de Pollo con Mojo verde – marinated chicken wings with coriander and garlic Canarian sauce

Ensalada de Pollo con brotes tiernos – baby leaves with smoked chicken, rosemary and apple

Arroz Mar y Montaña – “Sea & Land” chicken, pork and shellfish rice

Bacalao con salsa Vizcaina – wild cod fillet in a traditional northern sauce

Lubina al Pil Pil – grilled seabass in garlic, parsley and chilli sauce


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