Tuesday 31 March 2015

Sticky Walnut, March 2015

So I went to this place called Sticky Walnut for lunch. I ate bread, quail, brassicas and plaice. It was all rather delicious. Then I had some chocolate tart with bits of orange and a sorbet.

To start, people who work in the kitchen had put breast and leg from a quail in a bowl with a carrot purée, choi sum and some dukkah (which is a mixture of nuts, herbs and spices from Egypt (where the Pyramids are). Around this they had poured a vegetable ‘nage’, which is a type of poncy broth.  

The same people had done some clever things to vegetables; they had caramelised cauliflower and served it with broccoli, carrot and walnuts (the place has walnut in its name too!) I particularly liked the Romanesco broccoli, which they had pickled. It made me happy.

With the plaice they had put some ox cheek into breadcrumbs, which I liked a lot. The fish was on what some restaurants would call a ‘bed of’ pearl barley (here they just called it ‘pearl barley’). They also used some wild garlic, which is a type of garlic that grows in the wild! I know, crazy huh?

One particularly clever person made a chocolate tart and served it with some clementine segments and a blood orange sorbet – I’d like to marry him.

Some nice people who do not work in the kitchen brought the food to me on plates. They were smiley and chatty but not overly so. I liked them.

I took some pictures… wanna see?

Breast & leg of quail, carrot, choi sum, dukkah & vegetable nage

Brassica salad, pickled Romanesco, caramelised cauliflower, purple sprouting broccoli, carrot & walnuts

Plaice fillet, braised gem, pearl barley, wild garlic, pickled cucumber & oxtail croquette

Hand cut truffle & Parmesan chips

Dark chocolate tart, blood orange sorbet

Sunday 29 March 2015

Ibérica, Manchester

The soulless abyss that is Spinningfields has never been at the top of my list of favourite places to eat in Manchester… so when the “chain restaurant” Ibérica opened there, I was not exactly chomping at the bit to visit.

On the day we did, my wife and I had initially been keen to check out at the newly opened BistroVin (above @SWofDeansgate) in Barton Arcade for wine, cheese and ham but it seemed they were not yet fully operational. With our hearts set on procuring some quality charcuterie, I grudgingly suggested Ibérica.

Probably in part fuelled by my mood, things didn't go smoothly initially. On arrival we were shown to a table on the mezzanine level, which compared to the high ceiled bar area, seemed a little confined, so we asked to move downstairs.

The host then seated us next to the only other occupied table in an otherwise empty section – I never know why places do this; I guess it makes it easier to wait on but surely no customer, given the choice, would choose such a seat? It’s not quite as freaky as going to sit next to the only other person in an empty train carriage but it’s still bloody odd… I asked that we sit at the bar instead.

After appearing like an awkward wanker, I was finally a happy bunny at the bar. The young lad serving was good but I didn’t appreciate a 12.5% service charge being added to the bill as standard AND the card machine prompting for further gratuities – one or t'other would have sufficed.

Generally, I found the food good – I guess good enough to warrant a listing in the Michelin guide (the Canary Wharf and Marylebone branches are listed after all).

We ordered a couple of ‘Pinchos’, Baby squid with aioli and Ibérico ham with green pepper – both were great little things that I’d definitely order again if I ever do return.

From the deli section we went for the Anchovies in vinegar, Cockles in brine, the Spanish cheese taster and some Juan Pedro Domecq Jamón Ibérico de Bellota – I found the anchovy dish particularly pleasing.

At £32.50 for the tin, the cockles were the single most expensive item we ordered. Each one was perfectly plump and delightful but I think you’d have to be some sort of certified cockle connoisseur to fully appreciate them at that price.

The jamón however, as expected, was worth every penny (£20). Ibérica offer a choice of three hams, which you can buy individually or as a tasting platter. One advantage of ordering the platter being that it can help you to appreciate the qualities of each. As it’s a personal favourite, I just ordered the Jabugo beauty.

From the tapas section, the picks of the bunch for me were the Ibérica’s Serrano ham croquettes and the Padrón peppers with Maldon salt – good examples of each.

Conceptually, the Asparagus, Manchego, onion confit & truffle oil toast was another good dish, although sadly let down by woody asparagus.

Slightly less successful were the Aubergine, honey & pinenuts and the Sea trout with almond puree, pickled cauliflower & smoked olive oil – the aubergine was far too sweet for my taste, cloyingly so. Despite being delightfully cooked rare, I found the sea trout dish as a whole, a little lacklustre. 

For dessert we ordered a portion of Churros con chocolate and the Torrija but received the Gloria cheesecake with Galician ‘Parmesan’ & dried strawberries instead of the latter. They weren’t the best churros I’ve had but, then again, I was in Spinningfields and not a Spanish plaza with the sun on my back… I guess that helps.

Despite being more impressed with Ibérica than I thought I would be, my natural snobbish proclivities mean that I’d always rather support local independents like La Bandera, Levanter in Ramsbottom and El Gato Negro (when they open soon on King Street), so I’m not 100% sure if I’ll ever make it back.

Saturday 28 March 2015

Levanter – Tapas, Ramsbottom

Shortly after I moved to Manchester, my parents sold their home in London and ‘retired’ to Spain. With several horses and an olive grove to tend, I’m not convinced their retirement is quite as “pipe and slippers” as they envisaged.

Nestled at the foot of the Sierra Gorda and San Jorge Mountains, their typically charming whitewashed Andalucian village of Villanueva del Trabuco is famed for its ‘Fuente de los Cien Caños’ (Fountain of 100 Pipes) and endless rows of 100-year-old Hojiblanca olives trees.

My parents sell their harvest to a local cooperative but one of their neighbours has started producing artisan oil using traditional methods. Taking the name from the Río Guadalhorce water feature, his @Aceite100Canos has started to receive favourable press and recognition with those that know about high quality oils.

As a favour to this family friend, I recently agreed to take some samples to the Spanish restaurants I know in the North West, to get their feedback on the product. (I’m guessing he hopes they order some too.)

As I say, I’m doing this as a favour and in no way am I financially involved in the business but it seemed a good excuse to get around and revisit some of the North West’s best Spanish restaurant offerings. First on the list of places to take a bottle liquid gold sunshine was the excellent Levanter in Ramsbottom.

Jamón Ibérico de Bellota Puro – a top notch 3 year matured 100% pure bred Jamón Ibérico de Bellota sliced fresh from the shoulder as you order.

Gambas Pil Pil – the king prawns are of course fabulous but my real pleasure comes from mopping up the hot garlic & chilli oil

Morcilla y Huevos – another dish perfect for bread dippers, baked handmade morcilla picante & Goosnargh egg.

Pintxitos de Pargo Rojo – deep fried red snapper & Serrano ham with baby octopus.

Pinchos Morunos – lovely juicy chunks of pork meat with moreish Moorish spices.

Atún a la Plancha – seared tuna steak & salsa verde.

Garroxta – this was my favourite of the cooked dishes. Goat’s cheese and beetroot are always happy bedfellows but, through baking, the cheese’s nutty notes were intensified which made for an especially splendid synergy with the sweet, earthy beetroot purée.  

Pimientos de Padrón – I always love some padron peppers with sea salt… I didn’t get a hot one though! L

Patatas de Levante – these are not your normal ‘patatas bravas’, they’re more like a cross between a chip and a crisp and they’re bloody delicious… ‘Levante’ salsa is pretty good too.

I don’t know what the good folk of Levanter thought of the bottle of Aceite 100 Caños I left with them. I’ll just have to go back soon to find out… any excuse!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Twitter Feed