Foodographic

Oct 12

Casa Brindisa, South Kensington

When we opened North Star Delicatessen almost eleven years ago, I spent a lot of very enjoyable time researching which products to stock. Some suppliers were new discoveries, but there were a few I already knew I couldn’t open without, such as Brindisa.

Back in 2003 Brindisa was a well established wholesaler of Spanish ingredients and we regularly placed orders for delicious cured meats, smoked paprika, paella rice, chorizo sausages for boiling, Manchego and our second best selling cheese,  Cabrales from the Picos mountains. This addictively astringent blue is so strong it takes the roof off the inside of your mouth and it’s pasty mottled appearance makes it look like it died from the pox.

After 16 years as a wholesaler, Brindisa set up their first restaurant ‘Brindisa Tapas’ in 2004, in London Bridge. Shortly afterwards they opened ‘Casa Brindisa’ in South Kensington followed by 'Tapas Brindisa' Soho in 2008 and their newest site, ‘Tramontana Brindisa’ in Shoreditch.

Today marks the 10th birthday of ‘Brindisa Tapas’ and they’ve been celebrating by offering all dishes at 2004 prices when things were more reasonable and young men had less facial hair. This put me in mind of our visit in May which I never got round to writing about. The photos were so gorgeous and we had such a great time, I’m happy to have an excuse to post it.

Casa Bridisa is a bustling, informal London restaurant, serving top quality tapas. The menu is subject to small daily changes depending on deliveries, stock and fresh seasonal produce and is almost impossible to choose from, but they always have Padron Peppers (£5.70) These are strong flavoured small green peppers traditionally grown in Galicia served simply seared in a blisteringly hot pan and sprinkled with rock salt.

From the ‘Charcuteria’ section, Iberico Chorizo (£5.25) is made from a mixture of minced or chopped meat and pork fat, all exclusively from Iberico pork, with the addition of salt and smoked pimentón before aging-drying.

Whitebait (£4.50) just simply fried and sprinkled with good salt and a squeeze of lemon.

Croquetas (£6.90) are deep fried and breadcrumbed balls of white sauce and whatever the chef has in the fridge. The Spanish are particularly good at it. These were de Jamon.

Beetroot, walnuts, pear and Picos Blue cheese - from the same area as Cabrales, but less…macho (£7.00)

Brindisa Cheese Board (£13.75) a bit of everything.

We washed all this down with Rebujito, a refreshing mixture of Fino sherry and lemonade. We were so relaxed, being in London without the kids, meeting friends, eating a rolling programme of tapas, chatting and drinking in the afternoon, that I ordered a second jug (we were WITHOUT THE CHILDREN) Sorry to be so provincial, but if I’d have known that they were charging an eye watering £19 for each jug of sherry and lemmo I think I’d have stuck to just one. I wonder what it cost in 2004…..

Casa Brindisa, 7-9 Exhibition Rd, South Kensington, SW7 2HE

www.brindisatapaskitchens.com

Oct 08

Balls of Chocolately Peanut Butter Heaven

image

If you like peanut butter and chocolate then things JUST GOT REAL. If you don’t, then I’m amazed you have the cognitive reasoning to read this because you are clearly not human.

A few years ago, someone bought me a book called ‘I’m dreaming of a Chocolate Christmas’ which is full of heavenly recipes with too many ingredients like ’Chocolate Peppermint Bourbon Walnut Fudge’ and ‘Chocolate Chip Pecan Rum Tart’.  

image

However, it’s an American publication so everything needs transcribing into metric measurement first. I’m sure bakers of America won’t mind me saying that their system of measurements is just daft. Just so as you know, a ‘stick’ of butter is a random 113g and a ‘cup’ of peanut butter does not weigh the same as a cup of sugar.

So, with thanks to author Marcel Desaulniers, here is an English version of Polly Conway’s recipe for the ridiculously named ‘Golly Polly’s Doodles’ which are one of the nicest things I’ve ever eaten.

Be warned though, they are quite a faff to make. Whilst I’m rolling these out, I make sure to tell my young children that mummy loves them very much and that because I go to so much trouble for them, they must NEVER put me in a home when I’m old.

Chocolate Dough

225g Plain Flour

60g Cocoa

½ tsp Baking Powder

½ tsp Salt

113g (or thereabouts FFS) Softened Butter

125g Granulated Sugar (plus extra for rolling)

40g Peanut Butter (smooth or crunchy, it’s up to you)

1 Large Egg

1 tsp Vanilla Extract

Filling

70g Peanut Butter

40g Icing Sugar

½ tsp Vanilla Extract

Heat the oven to 190C/Gas Mark 5

Line a baking tray with Baking Parchment or use a non stick mat

image

To make the dough, sieve the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt.

Mix the butter, granulated sugar and peanut butter together in a mixer or by hand for a few minutes scraping down the sides regularly to make sure the mixture is even.

Add the egg and vanilla and mix thoroughly for another minute before stirring in the dry ingredients. Stir thoroughly until you have a ball of brown cookie dough. Chill this in the fridge for 20 minutes whilst you get on with the filling.

Mix the peanut butter, icing sugar and vanilla. It will be a little crumbly but will form into balls when pressed. If you have precision kitchen scales, you’re looking at each one being around 8g.

Form into 17 balls (yes, he says 17) and refrigerate whilst you work with the cookie dough again.

Divide the chocolate dough into 17 and roll them into balls. I do this by cutting the dough into half, half again and then quartering that to get 16, then I just take a bit off each one to make the 17th – told you it was a faff, but it’ll be worth it.

Get a chocolate dough ball and stick your thumb in it to make a dent. Make the dent bigger by thinning out the sides until it looks like a little cup then you can pop a ball of the peanut butter filling into the centre and smooth the dough round it until it is completely surrounded. Do this 16 more times.

Place them on a tray and sprinkle them with a couple of tablespoons of granulated sugar shimmying them round until they are all coated.

Place them on the prepared baking sheet about 1 or 2 inch apart and then bake them in the centre of the oven for precisely 6 minutes – if you overcook them they will be too hard and dry and all that time and trouble you took to roll the buggers will have been wasted.

Remove these beauties from the oven and cool on a wire rack. Store them for up to 5 days in a tightly sealed container – but I’d be amazed if they lasted that long without being eaten.

Aug 02

Home-made Whitecurrant Cassis

image

We’ve been arguing over our currant bushes for years. We’d bought one each of red, white and black but one died and we couldn’t remember which had survived. Unfortunately the birds get to the fruit every year before they get the chance to ripen and reveal the answer.

This year, we were ready for them and made sure to cover the bushes with a net as soon as the berries started to form. It turned out that the redcurrant bush was the one that had died leaving us with black and white currants, meaning my husband was right and I was, well, less right.

The white currant bush is quite prolific and we ended up with a reasonable haul, but no amount of Google searches could come up with an exciting recipe for them. I bunged a few in an almond frangipane tart for entering into the Wilmslow Show (first prize since you asked) but had no idea what to do with the rest.

image

I came across a recipe for a white currant jam with the most glorious pink blush but jam doesn’t really interest me much. White currants are quite sharp and don’t have that rich rounded intensity that blackcurrants have. They are very beautiful though, and the pearl-like fruit look gorgeous on simple custard based tarts or draped over cakes.

I put a query out on Twitter and the call was answered by the lovely and talented Stosie Madi from The Parker’s Arms in The Trough of Bowland who makes all manner of homemade delights from seasonal and foraged ingredients. She suggested I bottle them with booze which is clearly the top answer for what to do with most excess fruit.

I found an old ‘Readers’ Recipe’ for home-made Crème De Cassis torn from the Telegraph years ago, which I had never got round to making. I was tempted to produce a purely white currant cassis but suspect that much of the magic comes from blackcurrants which have a much more characteristic and fruity flavour.

All in all I’d estimate we had about 200g of white currants and about 25g of blackcurrants.

image

Leaving the stalks on, we soaked them in 125ml of fruity Voignier for 48hrs before heating the whole lot gently in a pan and then mashing until pulpy with a potato-masher.

image

We poured all the mixture through a muslin jelly cloth and suspended it over a bowl to collect all the juice. Once the pulp was cool enough we squeezed it to capture every last drop.

image

image

This juice was put into a clean pan with 275g of sugar. We stirred the liquid over a low heat until all the sugar dissolved, producing a rich, syrupy fruit cordial.

image

Once this had cooled we added one part vodka to three of syrup.

image

I poured it into six 100ml bottles which I had washed and sterilised by pouring boiling water into them and then placing them in a moderate oven for 10 minutes. The recipe suggests that the cassis must be left for at least a week before opening.

image

So our currants produced the most delicious light cerise coloured booze ready to be dripped into Champagne, Cava or Prosecco for a Kir Royale and an opportunity to celebrate the summer fruits of our labour for the next few months.

Jul 30

The Cheese Judge

image

At the end of every July, the pretty South Cheshire town of Nantwich plays host to the UK’s largest agricultural show. Hair-dressed horses, coiffured cattle, and showy sheep all head towards Dorfold Hall Park to try and pick up a rosette or some silverware. As the International Cheese Awards takes place the day before the Nantwich Show, this is also where cheese makers of the world unite.

Now in its 117th year, this prestigious event has become the biggest cheese show in the world. Key cheese and dairy produce buyers from every prominent supermarket and retailer gather at this annual event to meet cheese makers and find out what’s new in milk protein. Day one is judging, press and trade-only day, whilst the second day attracts thousands of cheese loving members of the general public who come to gorge on cheese samples and watch cookery demonstrations by celebrity chefs.

image

The International Cheese Awards take place inside an enormous marquee which, at 70,000 sq ft, is bigger than a football pitch. This year, a record breaking 4455 cheeses were entered from 26 countries in order to be judged by around 200 industry experts for the honour of winning an award in their class which would allow them to feature a gold, silver or bronze ‘International Cheese Award’ label on future packs. Out of all the entrants, only one gets awarded the ultimate accolade of being crowned Supreme Champion*.

So who are these ‘industry experts’ who sacrifice their waistlines and risk a weeks worth of bad dreams? Well this year, one of them turned out to be me.

image

Judges were divided into clusters of 3; two being industry experts and the other being ‘press judge’, representing the vote of the common man. My fellow judges were Alan Mandle, expert cheese maker from Cumbria’s Appleby Creamy and Kay Barlow, a cheese technician from the Co-operative.

None of the judges know which categories they’ll be judging until the last minute but obviously everyone prays not to be given the ‘novelty cheese’ group where we all have to politely nod over reconstituted sticky toffee and pesto cheeses. All cheeses are presented in plain packaging to ensure a blind tasting and a fairer result. Obviously I was hoping for some dirty blues and maybe something that had spent most of its life maturing in a cave somewhere in Europe but it was not to be.

 image

Our first category was held in an enormous fridge ‘Soft, Semi-soft or Cream Cheese without Additives - other than Blue Veined Cheese - without rind. Open to non UK producers’. Without wishing to be rude, it seems that ‘reading’ or ‘following instructions’ are skills not exercised by cheese makers as we had to disqualify some of the cheeses that clearly contained rind and additives. We were left shivering in the cold, solemnly dipping our spoons into various pots of American style bland white cream cheeses and mascarpone – basically lots of cheeses which could have done with a bloody big carrot cake underneath them. We agreed on the best ones and moved swiftly on to the next section.

image

Category 2 ‘ Best Organic Cheese - Cheddar. UK producers only. Open to any cheese made from organic milk’ was much more interesting. Out came Alan’s grading iron (basically an apple corer for cheese) and he expertly shoved it in, twisted it round and pulled out a tube of cheese for us to sample. Only an amateur would just shove the cheese into their mouth straight away apparently, so I watched Kay and Alan closely, whilst pretending I wasn’t about to do that very thing. The first step is to squash the cheese in between your fingers to test the texture and take the chill off it as cheese should be eaten at body temperature. Good Cheddar shouldn’t crumble but should be slightly sticky and soft.

Each cheese is judged on texture, colour and flavour but there were other characteristics to look out for. Alan explained that some Cheddars looked a bit ‘wet’ on the grading iron. This ‘free moisture’ exposed the fact that some had seen better days and were coming to the end of their optimum eating span. So out of the cheddars we tried, some were too acidic, some were too old, crumbly, sticky or sour. Some had crystals in them, some tasted like an actual farmyard floor and some had a kind of caramelised flavour (caused by a culture called Helvetica apparently if you ever have the need to pull that piece of info out of the bag) so we gave the gold to what turned out to be Taw Valley because it had a great mellow taste and a well balanced character.

image

My fellow judges were less than enthusiastic about our final category ‘Smoked Flavour Added Cheese - Hard. Open to UK and non UK producers.’ I ended up with a serious case of cheese envy as I watched the other judging teams tucking into some glorious looking weeping soft rind cheeses, crisp white goat’s cheeses rolled in ash and gorgeous looking blues with more veins than an old lady’s calves. Still, only one was a processed sausage shaped cheese and most of them had a reasonably delicate flavour with some coming from good quality smoky paprika. I was happy to hear that we’d awarded the Gold to The Cheshire Cheese Company’s Smokey Redwood which, it turns out has been awarded Gold in the International Cheese Awards 8 times since 2006.

 image

I have now added ‘cheese judge’ to my CV and suspect it’ll be a while until I remove the shiny black enamel judges badge from my favourite coat. I just want to say that if anyone needs me to judge an International Chocolate award, I’m available.

*The 2014 Supreme Champion Trophy was won by Colston Bassett Stilton

Deanna's own Cakes -

Message me if you would like me to make one for you and yours.

Jun 26

The Nag’s Head at Haughton

image

I have long been an admirer of Nigel Haworth’s Clog and Billycock and have had the pleasure a fair few times. Nigel is Chef Proprietor of Northcote, the Michelin starred restaurant, hotel and cookery school in Lancashire. The Northcote Group also own Ribble Valley Inns (RVI) a small group of high quality rural pubs which focus on good food made using carefully sourced local ingredients.

RVI menus aim to capture the essence of a region through its traditional food and drink. Lancashire favourites such as lamb hotpot, Morecambe Bay Shrimps, black peas, Lancashire cheese, proper piccalilli and pork scratchings have all been brought back to basics to taste like they’re supposed to,  when they were made in family homes and not mass produced in factories.

Now I’m pleased to discover that RVI have finally arrived in Cheshire with The Nag’s Head at Haughton – although they’ve picked an area so rural it’s the kind of place you’d head for when you fancy a drive out into the country or are en route further down south.

image

Building a menu around local seasonal ingredients is not a new thing in Cheshire. My work with Taste Cheshire has given me the opportunity to discover some fabulous local pubs doing just that; David Mooney at all his New Moon Pub Co venues, George & Dragon in Holmes Chapel andRing o Bells in the rural part of Chester to name but a few. Even the multi award winning Yew Tree in Bunbury, only a mere 10 minute stumble away from The Nag’s Head, is able to point to the very field their vegetables came from that morning.

However, I’m a fan of RVI , so have been keen to find out what Nigel Haworth makes of Cheshire’s food heritage. It’s been lovely over the past few months to follow tweets from local cheese makers, honey producers, breweries and The Cheshire Smokehouse excited by a visit from Nigel and his team sourcing ingredients for the menu. ‘Locally sourced’ is not a buzz phrase for the big man, it’s a fundamental part of his work.

image

We were invited to have a bit of Sunday lunch the weekend before The Nag’s Head officially opened on June 9th. It’s had a complete refurbishment, exposing genuine oak beams and stone brick walls which they’ve cosied up with subtly equine themed furniture. As in the other RVI venues, framed images of local producers are dotted about on various walls and on place mats.

image

Lunch was complimentary but we were asked to pay for drinks. I couldn’t resist their house cocktail ‘Bloomin Nag’ a Bloom Gin based concoction with strawberry liqueur. It was nicely balanced with a smooth taste like Vimto and an assassins grip so stealthy I didn’t realise it had got to me until I asked my husband if I could try some of his ‘Mone Barrow’ with my bread.

image

We’d scoured the menu before we got there but they’d made the sensible ‘opening weekend’ decision to offer a limited Sunday menu rather than the whole shaboodle so we’ll have to return for dishes such as ‘buttermilk turnips with smokehouse pork loin’ and ‘Slow cooked venison shoulder with smoked almond crumb’.

There’s usually a devoted children’s menu, but this time our kids were offered smaller versions of the main menu, ours were thrilled to be offered their first ever prawn cocktail. I love the free RVI kiddies puzzle pack (The Ribble Rabble) which includes things like Nigel’s recipe for biscuits and word searches based around healthy vegetables and local specialities.

image

Husband started with ‘Angus Beef Tartare with Cauliflower and Horseradish, Roast Mone Barrow Marrowbone and Sourdough toast’(£7.50) The cauliflower was served as both a puree and pickled shavings.  I rarely get flummoxed by culinary processes but to successfully shave a cauliflower is no mean feat. There must have been some kind of blanching and brining which show Northcote influences. The tartare was topped with a quail yolk in the shell which caused me to obsess a bit over what they did with all the quail egg whites.

image

My starter of ‘Burts Cheese Eggy Bread with Heirloom Tomatoes, Sweetheart Cabbage and Split Lemon Dressing’ (£6.50) also showed highbrow technical influences. The shredded cabbage was lightly pickled whilst several varieties of tomato were served roasted, pickled or dried and preserved. The slab of eggy bread was light and fluffy and I was glad they’d not mucked about too much with Claire Burt’s excellent semi-soft blue cheese which droopily sat above the rest like a mottled high court judge on a warm day.

image

As he’d opted for beef to start and didn’t fancy battered hake or poached chicken, husband chose Lancashire Hotpot and pickled red cabbage (£13) It looks like you can take the chef out of Lancashire… but this, of course, was as good as it gets. If aliens came down and demanded that humans nominated someone to show them the best example of a Lancashire Hotpot, we’d pretty much nominate Nigel’s - although I suspect my husband would have preferred a portion twice as big.

image

Traditional Roast Beef brought some of the nicest beef I have ever tasted. When I told my husband that Nigel had chosen to keep to his Morecambe butcher rather than source Cheshire beef, he adopted his smugface. He likes to spend many a long winter night telling me that Lancashire vegetables and beef are better than anything produced in Cheshire because of the perfect growing conditions and alluvium soil (zzzz) It seems Nigel agrees. Whilst the beef was remarkable, the rest was only ok; potatoes a bit pallid, Yorkshire pudding a bit soggy and cauliflower cheese. If it wasn’t for the mange tout the dish might have been more beige than a Gregg’s shop window.

image

I decided to forgo pudding but my daughter tucked into strawberry sundae with tiny perfect meringues (made with quail egg whites perhaps?), chocolate brownie and strawberry ice cream from Manchester based Ginger’s Comfort Emporium. I am a fan of theirs but my 6yr old boy found his Pure Origin Chocolate ice cream a bit too serious and dense for his childlike preference.

image

Husband had the cheese board which represented the best of Cheshire (Chorlton Cheshire, Bourne’s Smoked Cheshire and Burt’s Drunken Blue) which left him mumbling slightly about Lancashire again. I suggest they also introduce some of Anne Connelly’s Federia an Alpine style cheese made near Malpas.

image

The Nag’s Head have an outside seating area in a pretty garden.

What with The Hollies Farm Shop and Blakemere shopping village nearby, I’d recommend a drive over that way for the day, stopping at The Nag for lunch or dinner but if you try the ‘Bloomin Nag’, you’ll have to order a cab.

The Nag’s Head, Long Lane, Haughton Moss, Near Tarporley, Cheshire, CW6 9RN

01829 260265

(All photographs used in this blog are mine apart from the interior and bar shots which were supplied by the PR)

Jun 13

Black Dog Bowl

image

I’d wanted to go on a family bowling trip for ages but my 6yr old son hasn’t quite learnt the art of losing graciously, so has a tendency to go nuclear within seconds. This can be swiftly dealt with by a sharp index finger to the off button and a ‘go to your room’ with Wii bowling at home, but was it time to risk going public?

image

Also, how do competitive grown-ups share a lane with children? When I last went bowling, children were given cumbersome foam tubes to stop bowling balls veering into the gutter, but that’s far too restrictive for the style of play we adults like to call ‘humiliation and risk of divorce by bowling ball’.

Fortunately, I was gifted an opportunity to find out how it all worked with a timely invitation to try the new menu at Dog Bowl on Whitworth Street, Manchester. As it happens, the wonders of modern technology have rendered foam bumpers a thing of the past and they’ve been replaced by a mechanical guard that rises for the kids and lowers again when adults want to bowl properly. Dog Bowl also provides lighter weight bowling balls and an easily moveable frame so families can share a lane yet no-one’s game is compromised.

We were all convinced we could answer their ‘Penny Lane Challenge’ where 3 strikes in a row gets you your next game for only 1p, but after 2 consecutive strikes, the pressure became unbearable.

image

Let’s just skim over the details of our particular game, but my son behaved beautifully whilst his older sister lost her mojo when I suggested she was better using a regular underarm technique rather than hurling it towards the ceiling. My husband and I both got a Strike on the first bowl before my luck went downhill, seeping away with each subsequently pathetic shot until I was sorry I hadn’t taken advantage of the electric bumpers myself.

image

Still, for over 18’s there’s always consolation by cocktail and halfway through my Blood Heart (Bacardi Oakheart, Chambord, basil, fresh strawberries and lime) I realised I didn’t care so much after all.

image

I’m probably shooting myself in the foot by telling you this, but if you are bowling, go early. We got there when it opened at 12pm on a Saturday and had the place to ourselves for a glorious half hour before the other 4 lanes started filling up with teenagers swinging their hair and their ‘tude’s all over their place.

So, lunch. As you’d expect, the menu is based mostly around Tex-Mex Americana; chips and dips, wings and burgers and smoky, sticky finger licking deep fried things. Dog Bowl carefully source ingredients locally and everything is prepared from fresh in their own kitchens which, for a bowling alley that serves USA style food, is refreshing.

image

The children’s menu (under 12 yrs) offers 3 courses for £6.50. Our kids bypassed starters and both opted for a tortilla pizza which was covered in enough gooey melted cheese to keep them happy, and absolutely no green vegetable matter at all – which was fine by them.

They followed this with a chocolate brownie, vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce which, as you can see in the photo got a 6 yr old’s finger in it quicker than your average camera’s shutter speed.

image

I know most bloggers go crazy for all that on trend Deep Southern food, but it can leave me feeling heavy, like I’ve swallowed a bowling ball. Afternoons spent slumped in carbohydrate induced sedation are not ideal when you have kids, so I was keen to find a lighter alternative.

image

Dog Bowl have a range of ‘little plates’ if you don’t want to commit to a full meal; bar snacks such as nachos, quesadillas and pork crackling designed to eat so you can still keep one hand on your ball.

BBQ Shrimp Skewers with Cajun Spices and BBQ butter (£5.50) were a good opener but greasy with the bread underneath soaking up the bbq butter like a sponge.

We ordered smoked chicken wings which are available in numbers between 6 and 20 to share or not. They come slathered in one of 5 home-made sauces ranging from sweet to very hot. We picked the one in the middle, ‘Chipotle’ which was full of both tang and spice as described on the menu. These wings came from chickens who had been working out, with big bulging birdy biceps so a portion of 6 was actually plenty to share, despite me obviously wanting to initially go for 20 – for myself.

image

Main courses as you’d expect, feature hearty hamburgers and meaty sandwiches with a couple of vegetarian options. My husband ordered chicken fajitas with 4 tortillas, guacamole, salsa and sour cream. There’s something so satisfyingly child-like about constructing your own fajita and these were pretty good, although another tortilla wouldn’t have gone amiss with the generous amount of chicken.

image

One of the two salads on offer ‘Smoked chicken and bacon’ was full of interesting bits and filled me up enough to keep me in an upright position for the rest of the afternoon but not over stuffed.

image

image

We were too full for desserts, so I can’t tell you much about them.

I recommend you book yourselves into Dog Bowl for a Saturday morning family bowling challenge with lunch once in a while. This bowling alley is owned by the people behind Black Dog Ballroom and you can choose to do any combination of bowling/not bowling/eating/not eating and drinking there.

Despite The Black Dog traditionally being a symbolic representation of depression cited by luminaries such as the great Winston Churchill and the maudlin but sweet voiced singer Nick Drake, in this case it was actually the opposite.

Dog Bowl, 57 Whitworth Street West, Manchester, M1 5WW Tel: 0161 228 2888

Foodographic Manchester restaurants

May 29

Trishna London

image

Ooh, a blog about a London restaurant, the world is really short of those.

Pipe down cynical self, because I actually haven’t written any yet. I’d also never been to a Michelin starred Indian restaurant before, so was curious as to whether it was going to be all crushed poppadom dust and lentil caviar.

Obviously I’d tried to get into Gymkhana, but since Fay Maschler gave it a 5 star review in the Evening Standard, that’s now harder to get into than a wet pair of size 0 skinny jeans. I called to book a couple of weeks before our visit but they could only squeeze us in at 5.30pm. As I’m only just wiping the grease off my chin from lunch around that time of day, we decided instead to dine with its older sister Trishna in Marylebone Village.

image

Trishna’s website describes the ‘informal and sociable atmosphere… with a focus on convivial dining’ and mentioned it was ‘not your average curry night’ which helped to sell it to the husband and minimalise any eye rolling in regard to him ‘doing one of my food things.’

The double fronted restaurant is divided into several wood panelled dining rooms all enhanced by the most wonderful smells; aromatic spices so fragrant they would make the Bisto Kids change religion. We decided to choose from the a la carte menu but there are also various multi course ‘Taste of Trishna’ set menus with or without matching wine flights.

image

Poppadoms ‘Trishna style’ arrived whilst we were narrowing down our menu choices. A basket filled with different textured shards complete with mango chutney and a tomato and shrimp chutney so intense it was more like umami’s mammy.

image

Restricting ourselves to only one starter each was almost painful, so we narrowed it down to three between two of us.

image

‘Haldi Chiperones’ - crispy fried baby squid coated in a lightly spiced batter of turmeric and fennel seed, topped with crunchy fresh samphire (£8.50)

image

‘Quail pepper fry’ with Keralan spices, lots of black pepper and Indian onion (£9.00)

And from the Tandoor selection ‘Gilafi Duck Seekh Kebab’ with green chilli and spiced pineapple chutney (£10.00) which I’d wanted after reading the menu online.

image

They’d listed the green chilli first as a dominant component, then warned us that it was spicy hot both when we’d ordered and when it was served. Let me assure you, I can hold my own when it comes to chilli and my husband laughs in the face of the Scoville scale, but turning up the heat dial to 13 didn’t do it that many favours. The heavy green chilli overpowered the meat like a pumped up Godzilla on a duck shoot and rendered the meat almost unidentifiable, which was a shame as it had great texture.  

Trishna specialises in the coastal cuisine of south-west India and seafood is carefully sourced from the best, sustainable suppliers on the Cornish, Dorset, and Scottish coasts which is why Dorset Brown Crab with butter, pepper and wild garlic is a great example of a typical Trishna dish.

image

At £22.50 it’s the most expensive main course but we found it reasonably good value for money. The crab meat had been removed from the shell but there was lots of it, so I assume one portion came from more than one crab. The white and dark crab meat mixed with butter and subtle spices rendered it richer than a Russian oligarch whose numbers have just come up on the lottery. 

image

‘Andhra Lamb Masala’ with curry leaves and coastal spices (£20.00) was an excellent home style curry where the thick, rich sauce had been reduced right down until it clung to the tender pieces of boneless slow cooked lamb.

As well as perfectly cooked basmati rice, we’d ordered the Duck Keema Naan with cucumber raita (£6.00) because it’s such an original sounding dish, but the filling was the same as that in the Seek Kebab so I’d recommend you choose one or the other.

image

Much as we were tempted by desserts, which included delights such as ‘Chocolate pista-cashew chikki cake with peanut jaggery ice cream’, we were done in. I thought the After Dinner Cocktail list was inspired and reluctantly dragged myself away vowing to return for every single one of them.

Service was that perfect balance between relaxed and formal with obvious in-depth knowledge of the dishes. At times though, I did feel victim to the ‘up sell’ with our waiter keenly pushing tasting menus, wine flights, bottled water and desserts. I saw a little light go out in his eyes every time I chose not to have something he tried to sell us.

image

What with Trishna’s pivotal location amongst the much moneyed of Marylebone whose Indian takeaways would be incomplete without gold leaf, I don’t think they need to depend too much on my occasional Northern tourist cash.

It’s the start of a long and happy process for me to compare Trishna with the likes of Tamarind, Benares or Gymkhana and to understand what qualifies one excellent Indian restaurant over another in the eyes of the Michelin guide. However, I do know from having judged awards myself, that with such a rich palette of flavour combinations that actually stimulate feelings of pleasure in the brain, Indian restaurants are usually the ones to beat.

image

Trishna

15 -17 Blandford Street
Marylebone Village
London W1U 3DG

| +44 (0)20 7935 5624
| info@trishnalondon.com

Foodographic Manchester restaurants

Apr 03

Beef & Pudding, Manchester

image

Three years ago Chef David Mooney (pictured above) and restaurateur Paul Newman began their New Moon Pub Co brand by renovating ‘The Lord Binning' in Kelsall, Cheshire. Their simple aim was to breath life back into an old village pub making it a welcoming hub for the local community, whilst serving great food people wanted to eat, using locally sourced ingredients.

Since then, they’ve opened 3 more Cheshire pubs; The Old Sessions House, Knutsford, The Hanging Gate, Weaverham, and The Montgomery on The Wirral.

It’s going well, the formula works, but the plan was always to open in Manchester.

image

When David went up to receive his ‘Outstanding Contribution to the Industry’ award at last year’s ‘Chester Food, Drink and Lifestyle' Awards, they introduced him by saying that if you cut him in half he'd have Cheshire running through his centre, but that’s not actually true. Although he has lived and worked in Cheshire for decades and uses a lot of local Cheshire produce on his menus, he’s a Manc through and through, so this opening on home turf means a lot to him.

I don’t want to go into details (because I don’t know them) but I suspect watching his former business partner Tim Bacon hoover up the Manchester restaurant scene recently is also providing plenty of motivation for Paul Newman to succeed in the city centre.

Paul is one of those people who really understands how to work social media and you’ll find him all over various virtual platforms. He’s even created an app so people can access discounts and special offers for all New Moon Co pubs via their smartphone.

image

image

So here it is, Manchester’s Beef & Pudding, officially open to the public on Friday 4th April after a week-long soft launch. Again they’ve chosen a previously unloved, sticky carpeted pub ‘The Crown’, and injected a bit of New Moon Co love into it. A total refurb has given this perfectly situated but neglected pub an urban edge softened by a lot of wood and that fashionable ‘all things to all people’ seating including banquettes, regular tables and high bar stools.

My day job with Taste Cheshire is to promote local producers and Cheshire’s better dining establishments and David Mooney is a fellow champion. So I’m overjoyed to see he’s included a lot of the good stuff on the Manchester menu; water from Peckforton HillsTatton Brewery ale, bread and desserts from Williamson’s of Castle bakery, Hunter’s Gin and locally sourced meat. 

image

The menu is Cheshire first, Northern second, and Best of British third.

The Beef & Pudding kitchen is headed by Nic Duncan who previously lead the team that won the Observer Food Magazine’s best Sunday lunch at The Parlour in Chorlton.

Cocktails are a big feature here, as is the carefully chosen wine list and Tattinger Champagne, so they’re aiming to attract city centre drinkers as much as diners with a decent appetite. 

image

To start, I chose Dublin Bay Prawn Thermidore with organic spinach and garlic toast £9.95 - 5 juicy prawns bound in a light mornay sauce which reflects David’s classical culinary influences (Raymond Blanc, Marco PW) The whole thing is covered with scorched Gruyère and served in a scallop shell.

image

'Nearly A Pig's Ear!' £7.25 features an earthy round of Lancashire black pudding, pig cheek, and a curry scented lentil and Tatton ale gravy - a proper iron-rich stomach liner.

Although mainly what you’d describe as ‘hearty’, the menu also features a range of sharing planks (made for New Moon Co by Cheshire’s brilliant Bark and Burr) as well as salads, pasta dishes and steaks.

image

For my main, I chose Poussin Curry £13.95. It’s not really on to judge a new menu practised at a soft launch but it’s likely someone in the kitchen got the hair dryer treatment from Nic once I told her about my poussin’s ‘supermodel’ proportions - all legs no breasts. I’d also ordered a side of vinegared black peas which worked as perfectly as pulses do with curry.

image

My husband used to work for the architect that designed Manchester’s Beetham Tower and remembers it when it was just a rough sketch on the back of a beer mat so he had to choose the namesake burger.

In a town becoming saturated with burgers ‘you’ve never seen before’, ‘The Beef’Ham Tower Burger” £15.95 is doing its best to hold its own. From the ground floor upwards it’s a house made burger, sweet chilli brisket, horseradish, suet pudding with mushy peas served with chip shop gravy, onion rings and salad. It might be a nice touch to top it with an olive in a nod to the chap that owns the top floor triplex complete with it’s own high rise olive grove - I kid you not.

This towering treat is sandwiched between a brioche bun and served with dripping chips and a squeezy pipette of ‘howling at the moon’ sauce. Their own recipe chilli sauce is made with scorchingly hot Scotch Bonnet peppers and, although we’re no wimps when it comes to heat, it still needs refining to take the sharp edges off a bit.

image

The desserts are much the same as they are across all New Moon Pub Co sites; mainly Northern classics such as Bakewell tart, sticky toffee pudding and Eccles cake with cheese, all prepared at David’s stepson’s Cheshire bakery. They also serve Mrs Dowson’s excellent Ribble Valley ice Cream but I’d have been happy just pouring that jug of proper crème anglais all over myself.

Children’s menu available - No McRubbish.

If you want to make someone happy, gift vouchers are available.

Beef and Pudding

37 Booth Street off Fountain Street

Manchester 

M2 4AA

0161 237 3733

info@beefandpudding.co.uk

Foodographic Manchester restaurants

Feb 10

Red’s True Barbecue, Manchester

image

I got an email the other day inviting me to some new BBQ thing in Manchester.

Originally based in Leeds , Red’s True Barbecue have given the old Livebait site off Albert Square a £1.1 million makeover to create a 185 cover restaurant devoted to authentic ‘low n’ slow’ cooking. The last noteworthy thing Leeds got before Manchester was Eric Cantona, which brings me nicely to the point that anyone putting the word ‘Red’ in a Mancunian restaurant name is immediately at risk of pissing off the blue half of the city.

“…we would love you to come down before the public opening so we can give you an exclusive peek at how we do things. Our pit masters will give you a masterclass in our kitchens including tasting various cuts of meats, rubbing and trimming some cuts.”

When a Yorkshire ‘pit master’ offers to give you a masterclass, you’d expect to have to don a hardhat, grab a canary and get down a mine.

Well I now laugh in the face of me laughing in the face of such an opportunity and I see the light - £20 grand’s-worth of neon lights actually. 2 of the 3 owners I met were not bandwagon-jumping Yorkshiremen but meat-worshipping South Africans.

image

These men have researched authentic barbecue and smoking techniques so thoroughly that what they don’t know can be written on the back of a stamp with a thick marker. A lot of animals have sacrificed their lives for Red’s to have developed what they see as the perfect recipe rubs, optimum smoking times and temperatures for barbecuing specific cuts of meat. This is not some woolly Anglo-attempt at Americana; this is the true science of carnivorous combustion.

image

Co-owner Scott Munro met us at the bar for a cocktail and a bag of home-made jerky before giving us a tour of the restaurant which is a bit like walking round TGI Friday’s on a bad acid trip whilst wearing shades.

Red’s has been decked out in an urban industrial style with the restaurant’s intestines on display for all to see; distressed walls, exposed piping, fenced off open storage, purposefully cracked tiles, girders, wood, brick, bare bulbs, metal.

image

There’s a main dining area and bar out front, with satellite offshoots of smaller dining rooms and ‘the rub room’ - a private area for slaw munching ‘slebs overlooking the kitchen. VIP diners sit in a booth around a metal slab that has a sluice drain in the middle of it, like Jeffry Dahmer’s dining table.

image

In the back kitchens Scott and his fabulously named co-owner/chef Clint Britz showed us 3 huge smokers with a total capacity for rotating 1300 lbs of meat every day, amounting to 20-25 tons per month. Nothing is pre-prepared and held in a fridge.

In a mind-blowing level of detail, they have identified which are the perfect woods to create the ideal type of smoke, optimum breeds of cattle and best butchery techniques. They even went to see Melissa Cookston for advice - three-time World Champion BBQ Pitmaster and the only female to have won the prestigious Memphis in May World Championship BBQ Cooking Contest.

image

They let me have a go at cutting their St. Louis ‘square’ pork ribs whilst dazzling us with information about their 20 hr ‘Dalmatian’ rub (salt & pepper based), the ‘circle of truth’ smoky ring around their slow cooked brisket, and how varying proportions of sugar and fat break down during long cooking. Red’s also make their own beef jerky, pork scratchings, Texas style smoked sausages and smoked peppered bacon.

image

It’s not just the meat they micro-manage. They have obsessed over burger buns for the perfect sweet/savoury ratio which they lightly toast to get the correct absorption of juices without it falling apart. The ‘dirty sauce’ they squeeze onto their burgers has been developed with a range of spices including aromatic fennel seeds whilst their ‘Tangy Deep South Slaw’ is made with vinaigrette, not mayo. At the tables customers can choose to add various homemade BBQ and chilli sauces.

image

You can’t just show a rabbit to a greyhound without it going into a mental frenzy and so it is with food bloggers. After a dizzying hour being aurally tantalised with descriptions of juices, rubs and marinades, we needed feeding. Scott perched us at a table with a bird’s eye view of the kitchen and ordered a couple of burgers. Burgers are almost a side thought here, so I’m keen to go back and try slow cooked dishes like Texas beef brisket and the long beef ribs with a ‘divine side’ of 12hr BBQ pit beans.

image

‘The Pit Burger’ (£15.95) includes two flame-grilled over hickory steak patties topped with sliced brisket, pulled pork, bacon, cheese, pickle, tomato, lettuce, dirty sauce, American mustard and BBQ sauce stacked on a glazed brioche bun. All full flavoured if a little on the salty side – it took a couple of cocktails to wash it all down, but that might just be me.

image

They’ve also introduced Manchester to 'The Donut Burger' (£12.95) - two house-made 100% steak burgers, melted cheese, smoked peppered bacon, dirty sauce and deep fried crispy onions, between two glazed donuts. Apparently Melissa Cookston’s restaurant only uses one split donut – the lightweights. At 2000 calories, it’s a bit gimmicky for me but the photo I uploaded of it on social media got such a huge response immediately, it’s working as a hook to get Red’s noticed.

image

So far, Red’s True Barbecue have taken no short cuts – the fit out, the research, the recipes, the suppliers, the menu, the website, the marketing. They open in Manchester on February 13th and plan to open another two Red’s this year (including Nottingham) aiming to have around 15 to 18 restaurants in total over the next five years.

They have thrown down the heat proof oven mitt, does Manchester need another edgy restaurant selling burgers and pulled pork, or has it developed a taste for True Barbecue?

Red’s True Barbecue, 22 Lloyd Street, Albert Square, M2 5WA

Tel: 0161 820 9140 e: albertsquare@truebarbecue.com

OPENING TIMES

Mon-Wed 12pm - 12am

Thur, Fri & Sat 12pm - 2am

Sun 12pm - 10pm

Foodographic Manchester restaurants