Cheshire Food Blogger

Thai Street Food at Chilli Banana’s Sunday Buffet

I have been eating Thai food until I pop, again. And this time was even more fun than last time. This time, Chilli Banana Wilmslow were shaking things up at their regular Thai Sunday buffet; introducing more street-food dishes including authentic Thai street carts to serve them up in! I got invited along to sample the whole lot and take some photos of the experience. Here’s how I got on….

We arrived just after 1pm and the place was almost full. Busy across both floors with hungry families, groups of friends and couples (old and young) meandering around the place with full or empty places getting their fill of tasty Thai treats. As we looked at the menu we were amazed at the variety on offer. Our table was upstairs on the terrace (that was covered up, with heaters on) directly opposite a cute Thai cart serving up fresh pork noodle soup… I knew what I was going to try first!

The list of dishes on offer featured an impressive 5 starters, 8 main dishes and 3 desserts plus traditional Thai coffee, all of which were being served up throughout the building. Each serving station had plates and an array of appropriate condiments/seasoning’s to enhance and personalise each dish to your liking.

You guessed correct, we started with noodle soup. Each bowl was made fresh to order by a lovely Thai chef. The dish comprised of a stunningly seasoned broth, pork meat balls, strips of pork, bean sprouts, cabbage and rice noodles.

Once chef had served you a bowl of hot soup, it was then time to top and season. Crushed peanuts and sliced spring onions added lovely texture and even more flavour to the dish. Sugar, fish sauce and chillies added an extra depth of flavour that you could tweak until you got it just how you like it.  This was such a stunning dish and I really couldn’t recommend it enough! A great was to whet the appetite!

Cheshire Food Blogger
Goyteow Moo Namtok (pork noodle soup) the stunning finished product ❤

Downstairs, in front of the kitchen all of the starter dishes were laid out, being readily topped-up by chefs on the busy shift. We sampled the vast majority of them, and there were a few real stand-out dishes. The Kanom Gui Chai was dim sum stuffed with chives and marinated in sweet soy. They were also referred to as ‘chive cakes’ and they really were delicious.

Another great dish from this selection was the Si Ooah – Northern Thai spicy sausage. This was served in chunky slices, and it was spicy. It was packed full of Thai flavours like lemongrass, chilli and spring onions. I’d not tried this before but I really, really enjoyed it.

The marinated pork and chicken skewers were also gorgeous and the peanut sauce served with the chicken was particularly good. There was also salad bits to choose from if you wanted to keep things light. The only disappointing dish I tried was the vegetarian spring rolls, the filling was a little thin on the ground so all you could really  taste was the pastry.

Cheshire Food Blogger
selection of Thai starters ❤

By this point, we were starting to get a little full. But there was still sooooo many dishes to taste, so we soldiered on. I wanted to try something a little different so went for the Kow Man Gai – steamed chicken and rice served with cucumber and a rich, fragrant sauce.  The chickens were steamed whole on a rotisserie, which made them unbelievably juicy and tender. I’d not tried a Thai dish like this before but I really enjoyed it and it did feel like quite a clean, healthy option that was still packed full of flavour through the sauce.

Back upstairs, and Bradley was getting stuck into ‘the curry shop’. A stall in the upper floor restaurant that was serving up Raan Kow Gaeng – a selection of Thai red, green and a pork stir-fry curry. We tried the Thai red curry and the port stir-fry… The curry was packed full of bamboo shoots and chicken and had a really nice creamy texture and was mild on the spices. The pork was a little on the salty side for me but overall it was a nice dish and the green beans were really crunchy.

As if that wasn’t enough, we still had some more dishes to try. This was one of my favourites, and I think another lighter option for those wanting to watch the calorie intake. The Pad Thai was stunning. This is one of my favourite Thai dishes, but to have it made fresh to order by a Thai chef and to watch him make it in front of your eyes in the middle of the restaurant is really special. I went for the vegetarian (tofu) option, but they also had chicken.

The finished product was stunning, and again you could add bits and season yourself to get the balance just how you like it with crushed peanuts and fresh lime. It was steaming hot, the tofu and egg tasted fresh and the veggies were crisp and delicious. The chef was a really nice chap too 🙂

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Traditional Pad Thai ❤

So after this epic feast, there was just puddings to go. I must admit, Thai puddings don’t really have anything on English, French or American. But we tried all options with an open mind and were in some cases, pleasantly surprised. First up was the Kanom Krok (coconut cakes) which were again being made fresh on a large purpose made hotplate that gently cooked the coconut milk, rice, sugar and spring onion (yes you read that correctly!) and the other dish we tried was the i-teem Kati (coconut ice cream with traditional Thai toppings). The coconut cakes were nice, quite light and sweet. However, I wasn’t keen on spring onion as a topping, I found this a little too savoury for a dessert!

The coconut ice cream however was delicious. The toppings were a little strange (diced sweet potato in a sweet syrup!) but overall this was a lovely way to end traditional Thai feast, particularly when washed down with a cup of kaffee bolan – Thai coffee served with sweet condensed milk. Naughty, but very nice indeed:-)

Overall we thoroughly enjoyed this culinary adventure and enjoyed the vast majority of all the dishes we tried. I think the introduction of street food to the Sunday buffet is fantastic. It adds a new sense of adventure and makes the whole thing a really fun thing to do on a Sunday afternoon.

There were lots of families there with young children, so I’d say the buffet was a great place for families and a good way to introduce kids to the exotic flavours of Thailand by allowing them try little bits that they like the look of.

This epic feast has also got us planning our trip to Thailand! Thanks very much to Steve and Mai for inviting me 🙂

Find out more about Chilli Banana on their website here, and to book a table at the Wilmslow Sunday Buffet, contact below:

The Chilli Banana Thai Restaurant,
71 Water Lane,
Wilmslow,
Cheshire,
SK9 5BQ

T: 01625 539 100

E: wilmslow@chillibanana.co.uk


I was invited to the Chilli Banana to sample the new menu and as such the meal was complimentary, However, as with all of my reviews, my thoughts and opinions are as honest and objective as possible.
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Cheshire Food Blog

Brunch (again) at Tomfoolery, Alderley Edge

It’s not a coincidence that I’m writing about brunch, again. I love brunch. It’s the ultimate weekend food. So when I got invited to try the brunch menu at Tomfoolery at 34, Alderley Edge, I just couldn’t resist.

Tomfoolery is a fairly new establishment and it’s safe to say it’s a unique little joint, located on Alderley Edge’s very popular London Road. It’s somehow seamlessly a bakery, café and burger restaurant all in one, which has been impressing its critics and customers since its launch in the summer.

It’s definitely got an eclectic style, which Bradley and I liked very much and felt instantly ‘at home’. It’s full of mismatched furniture, bright and colourful paintings on the walls and very retro wallpaper and lampshades. The theme is clearly focused on 80’s and 90’s film and game memorabilia – with miniature versions of Connect 4 and Hungry Hippos on the tables, which instantly take you back to your childhood in a way that really captures your imagination, and make you feel like a big kid again (not that we need any encouragement!)

We started by ordering coffees. It was 11am on a Saturday (Halloween to be precise) and we hadn’t yet ate or drank a morsel so coffee was in order. Bradley ordered his latte and I my cappuccino, both came served in big, cartoon-themed mugs placed on a vintage side-plate as a saucer and both with a homemade shortbread in the shape of a little cute ghost. A nice touch, we absolutely loved the coffee; strong as it should be but super smooth and the froth was silky and perfect. The biscuit was the bomb too.

Cheshire Food Blog
Cappuccino with home made ghoul-shaped shortbread

We also tried a shake. As although it was brunch, it would be rude not to try one. And you get the vibe that ‘anything goes’ in this place so we ordered a Peanut Butter Oreo Shake to share. Oh, my God. It was delicious. Naughty – but very nice indeed.

Cheshire Food Blog
Peanut Butter Oreo Shake ❤

So, impressed by the decor, mini-games, coffees and shakes – we were ready for what we came here for. The food. We browsed the menu, which had plenty to choose from, 2 pages of brunch delights, in fact and a nice little ‘toast’ section where you can build your own brunch by choosing the toast then a range of different toppings such as rarebit, home-made baked beans or smoked salmon.

Bradley, being the waffle-obsessed being that he is – went for the waffles with Maple Syrup. Except, this time – it wasn’t served with bacon. Tomfoolery’s version comes with fried chicken, and an egg – however you want it (he went for sunny-side up).

And me, being the avocado-obsessed being that I am – went for the smashed avocado, lime, pickled chilli and (poached) egg on a muffin. It was great to see such a healthy option on the menu, amongst others I must add.

Both dishes, overall, were lovely. Bradley did find the fried-chicken-instead-of-bacon a bit of a shock, but we had realised there was no bacon on the menu at all. This is because the guys at Tomfoolery at 34 don’t serve any pork in an effort at attract halal customers. I spoke to them about this to find out more, and they said they feel other meats are as good, if not better, for brunch therefore they don’t see pork as a necessity. It’s clear to see (especially from the eccentric theme of Tomfoolery) that they respect tradition but want to put their own spin and creativity on things and encourage people discover something new as a result… And that we did!

The waffles were delicious, as was the fried chicken, which was crispy, very well-seasoned and very juicy. We were not convinced that the egg went that well with the dish – but it was perfectly cooked as you can see from the picture, the yolk was so runny and the edges were a little crisp, just how we like them. It’s safe to say though, that Bradley is a bacon-maple-syrup kind of guy, as you can see from my last post!

My smashed avocado on an English muffin was lovely – the avocado was fresh and I really liked the addition of pickled chillies. The poached egg was slightly over-cooked for my liking, and the texture of the muffin was quite heavy and dense, but overall the dish was tasty and I enjoyed it.

Cheshire Food Blog

Cheshire Food Blog

I feel bad pointing out the negativities here, as the guys at Tomfoolery clearly do know how to cook. Their other reviews have been raving. I just think the brunch menu could be tweaked slightly to suit all tastes, and that a few things need perfecting to make the overall experience one to totally rave about.

As we ventured downstairs after brunch, we couldn’t help but have a nosy at the incredible looking cake counter. They had all sorts on offer from giant home-made cakes with loads of wonderful flavour combinations and some epic looking cookies too (the white choc chip and M&Ms ones really caught my eye!) We opted for a slice of the rather seasonal 4 tier pumpkin and carrot cake with honeycomb cream – and it really was delicious. So moist and absolutely packed full of flavour!

Impressive cake counter!
Impressive cake counter!
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4 tier pumpkin and carrot cake with honeycomb cream ❤

Cheshire Food Blog

Cheshire Food Blog

It is genuinely impressive that everything is handmade in-house at Tomfoolery, and overall I must conclude it was really great to finally visit these guys, and I can’t wait to go back for a burger!

Cheshire Food Blog
Amazing decor ❤
Cheshire Food Blog
Chefs at work in the kitchen upstairs
Cheshire Food Blog
Wild wallpaper upstairs at Tomfoolery at 34

Follow the crazy world of Tomfoolery at 34 on:

Twitter: @Tomfooleryat34
Facebook: www.facebook.com/tomfooleryat34
Or visit the weird and wonderful website: https://www.tomfooleryat34.com/
Tomfoolery at 34 Burger Joint and Milk Bar, 34 London Road, Alderley Edge, Cheshire, SK9 7DZ.

Pranzo Delitalia, Supper Club, Manchester

This weekend I went to my first ever supper club, and what an absolutely delightful experience. I first found out about Pranzo Delitalia on Twitter, they called themselves the Secret Supper Club – very intriguing indeed. I had made contact with Valerio (one of the two fine hosts,) who told me that after their recent trip to Italy to visit family they were coming back to Manchester with new recipes, authentic Italian ingredients and a desire to cook up a storm in the kitchen for some hungry food bloggers. Excited and armed with a bottle of Italian red for the hosts, off I went…

Pranzo Delitalia is run by a cool and trendy young couple, living in Manchester city centre. On arrival we were greeted by Valerio, who met us at the door and escorted us up to their very stylish first floor apartment. Our coats were hung and we were seated. A charming yet modern, open-plan kitchen and living area – with a table in the middle set with beautiful white crockery, fresh flowers and cute little napkins hand-wrapped with strands of wicker. An apt playlist of Italian music was playing through the speakers and we were offered soft drinks to accompany our meal (they don’t have a licence to serve alcohol, but if you do wish to drink it you’re welcome to take along your own.)

Cooking for us on the night was Nadia – Valerio’s other half who’s joined him on his trips back to Italy to attend cooking courses there and pick up all the insider tips from the experts – Valerio’s mother and Grandmother. Nadia does all the cooking for their Supper Clubs, and what a talented lady she is.

We had been sent the menu a few days in advance, so it was clear the hosts were well-prepared to feed us a delightful Italian feast. And so it was.
 
The Food

Antipasto – Melanzane alla Parmigiana

Cooked aubergine and caciocavallo cheese covered in Nonna’s passata 

I am a real fan of aubergine because of it’s versatility, so to image it cooked with cheese and tomato passata sounded wonderful. The aubergine itself had more bite than I had expected, but this ‘al dente’ style served the dish really well, as sometimes when overcooked aubergine can by soggy. It was thinly sliced and lightly covered in a rich, beautifully seasoned homemade passata. The cheese was a finely grated dusting on top – a sharpness to it that cut through the rich tomato really well. Portion size was perfect, as there was also a fresh baked loaf, soft butter and olive oil to accompany.

Primo – Tortellini alla Panna

Meat-filled parcels of tender pasta prepared in a rich cream sauce

After a short wait, allowing some time for us to properly acquaint ourselves with the other guests, it was onto the next course. This time we were treated to homemade pasta – light, yet rich in colour and the flavour the pasta itself was absolutely beautiful, as good as I have eaten in some top Italian restaurants. Gently filled with soft Prosciutto, this has got to be the ultimate Italian combination. The rich cream sauce was just a very, very light coating – apparently exactly how it is supposed to be served the authentic Italian way in Emilia-Romagna. And just how Valerio’s mother serves it. So delicious and well executed I could have eaten the whole thing three times over.

Secondo

Filetto di Maiale – Emilia-Romagna pork fillet cooked in a rosemary and white wine sauce served with potatoes

Our plates were cleared and after another break we were suitably ready for the next delight. Thin and tender pork loin wrapped with the most delicious stuffing, including sage and other herbs. The sage was pungent but went well with the light rosemary and white wine sauce. The sauce itself was a delicate accompaniment and not too heavy at all. The potatoes were served mashed – creamy and buttery and very well seasoned. As a second course I thought this dish was perfectly balanced between the natural saltiness of the meat, the fragrance of the fresh sage and the rich and creamy potatoes. Lovely portion size too.

Dolce – Panna Cotta alla Vaniglia

Vanilla seed and passion fruit panna cotta

After our tastebuds had been relished to a wealth of savoury delights – it was time for something sweet. As my sweet-tooth isn’t as finely tuned as others, I was very pleased to see there was passionfruit involved in the dessert course, as it adds a slightly tart sharpness. Some of the other guests, whom which confirmed their sweet-tooths are well exercised on a regular basis (naming no names), confirmed this dish also hit the spot for the sugar-lovers. Served with a lovely homemade ginger biscuit and a dollop of fresh cream. The Panna Cotta was light, creamy and the vanilla came through nicely which balanced well with the tart of the passion fruit. Five completely empty dishes (and the same can be said for all of the courses) confirmed this was a winning dessert for all. Delicious.

Overall the menu, cooking, setting and ambiance of the whole night was really enjoyable. I would highly recommend Pranzo Delitalia Supper Club to anyone in the area who is looking for a dining experience a little bit different to the usual restaurant dining. Both Nadia and Valerio were welcoming and friendly, making us feel right at home from the outset. I think they did a fantastic job of the whole evening and would certainly consider returning for more Supper Clubs at their place in the future. Thanks very much to them both for all their efforts.

 


I was invited to Pranzo Delitalia on a complimentary basis as they were looking for a critique on their food from a food blogger’s perspective. I can however honestly say that I would love to return to one of their Supper Clubs in the future as a regular guest.

A humble pub lunch at The Hawk Inn, Haslington

Haslington is a quaint little village on the outskirts of Crewe, Cheshire. It has a church, a few shops, some lovely thatched roofed houses, a cafe, a chippy and a handful of pubs. Most of the pubs are mainly just for drinkers, however, one of them has made a special effort to become a foodie attraction in the village – The Hawk Inn.

Ran by Tim Cooke, who has been manager there for a year now, has a new Social Media manager on board – Becky, who kindly invited me along to try their food and let them know what I thought.

We arrived at the pub at 1pm, went straight over to the bar to be greeted by Tim himself, who was serving some locals at the bar. A warm, friendly welcome, he seated us at a lovely table in the dining room, next to the window with a view of the thatched roof houses.

I noted they had recently been awarded a hygiene rating of 5 – which was excellent to see, and they proudly displayed the green sticker on the door into the dining room.

We were offered drinks straight away, and given the menus to ponder. Our drinks arrived promptly, and we got straight down to business, examining the menu  and deciding what to eat on this sunny Spring Saturday afternoon.

The choice on the menu, I must say, is a little basic. However, this is not an issue if the dishes are well executed. Starters on offer consist of the all-time pub classic, traditional prawn cocktail, and then a few others which were a little more ‘outside of the box’ including spicy chicken wings, loaded potato skins with cheese and bacon and tempura king prawns. Being seafood lovers, we both opted for the prawn options – I chose the classic prawn cocktail and my guest the tempura king prawns. The prawn cocktail, I must say, was lovely. Very fresh, juicy, plump prawns, a lovely salad and the bread was delicious – soft, wholemeal and lightly buttered. The presentation was delightful, as you can see from the photograph. My guest’s tempura king prawns were a little on the small side, and I am not sure if there were homemade or not – but – they tasted nice, and turned out to be quite morish along with sweet chilli dipping sauce. Overall, two nice starters.

Traditional Prawn Cocktail
Traditional Prawn Cocktail
Tempura King Prawns, served with salad and a sweet chilli dipping sauce
Tempura King Prawns, served with salad and a sweet chilli dipping sauce

Our starters were cleared promptly, and we were asked if we would like the main course right away, or if we would like a little break. As not to rush things we opted for a break, which gave us chance to have a chat with Tim about some other things the pub is now offering. He told us about how they have a pizza oven onsite, and are using it to make homemade, stonebaked pizzas which they serve Wednesday to Saturday 6-10pm. Also available for customers to take away if they pre-order and collect. Popular with the locals, this addition to the menu offered a nice alternative to the more traditional pub grub. Tim was kind enough to bring one out to show us, and even though (for my taste) it looked a little undercooked – the ingredients were clearly very fresh, and the pepperoni smelled delicious.

On to the mains. Again, a very traditional choice of mains on offer; all homemade pub classics such as Steak & Ale pie, Beef Lasagne, Vegetable Lasagne, Curry of the Day, Gammon Steak, Beer Battered Fish & Chips, Scampi & Chips and a Classic Burger topped with bacon, cheddar cheese served with a homemade coleslaw. All of these dishes are also available in smaller, Light Bite options served at lunch time. Also on offer during lunch is a variety of sandwiches and jacket potatoes.

The pub also offer a range of 21 day aged steaks (a 10oz Rump & Sirloin), but unfortunately these need to be ordered a day in advance. This is good in the sense that you know the meat is fresh and from a reputable Butcher – but not so good if you fancy an impromptu steak dinner! All their meat, however, is sourced locally from the wonderful Glebe Farm in Astbury, Cheshire.

'Light Bite' 5oz Gammon (usually served with a fried egg & homemade chips)
‘Light Bite’ 5oz Gammon (usually served with a fried egg & homemade chips)

Our mains arrived promptly and we both opted for ‘Light Bites’ – I chose the classic scampi and chips, a little guilty pleasure of mine… and my guest was ‘being good’ on her healthy eating regime – so she opted for the 5oz gammon, which they were happy to serve with a side salad instead of the usual fried egg and chips 🙂

Traditional Scampi & Chips - a pub classic favourite
Traditional Scampi & Chips – a pub classic favourite

The scampi was lovely, typical pub grub which really hit the spot. The homemade chunky chips were the real showstopper – light and fluffy inside but really crispy on the outside and not at all greasy. The gammon steak was an excellent sized potion, perfectly cooked and a really lovely slab of fresh, juicy meat from their local butcher.

With hearty portions for both starter and mains – we really did not have room for puddings, but there was a good selection on offer – Hot Belgian Waffle served with homemade toffee sauce and vanilla ice cream and Treacle Sponge with custard, to name a few.

Overall the visit to the Hawk Inn was pleasant, tasty and welcoming. Although the food is very traditional in its offerings, it is well executed, locally sourced and in many cases homemade.  They are clearly making a good effort to appeal to wider audiences, by introducing their stonebaked pizzas to the menu – and should be commended for that. The atmosphere was a little lacking, but perhaps because on a sunny day like today, most punters were out and about enjoying the long-awaited sunshine. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a quaint pub lunch in the area where you can catch up with friends or family, without the distraction of a ‘hustle and bustle’ atmosphere that is present in many other pubs nowadays.

Thanks to Tim and his team for welcoming us along.

Sophie -x-


Disclaimer: Tim invited me and guest to go along to review the pub’s menu and picked up the cost of our food bill in doing so.

Exclusive Tasting Evening at Don Giovanni’s, Manchester

Antipasti Italiana
Antipasti Italiana

I was recently lucky enough to be invited to an exclusive menu tasting evening at Don Giovanni’s, by the lovely Ghida – who came across my blog on Twitter and thought I’d be a good addition to the guestlist, which mainly featured other food bloggers and some of Manchester’s food journalists and website contributors. What a compliment 🙂

The purpose of the event was to sample some of their new dishes, and we were treated to a fabulous 7 courses – including wonderful nibbles upon arrival and the most decadent dessert to finish off the evening. We were also there to test out Don Giovanni’s new function room – which has recently undergone a £30,000 refurbishment.

The Food

Nibbles: huge, plum, juicy, salty green olives. The most perfect little dough ‘pillows’ accompanied by a fresh basil pesto for dipping. The perfect combination to wet your appetite before starting any meal – the dough pillows we light, fluffy and small enough not to fill you up too much. The pesto was really fresh and complimented the olives and pillows well. Very morish, but I knew what was ahead, so had to restrain myself from eating one too many…

Dough Pillows
Dough Pillows

Wine: the meal was accompanied by a wonderful white wine (there was a red on offer too, but I stuck to white). Crisp, refreshing and perfectly palate-cleansing between bites. I’m no wine connoisseur (although I do drink my fair share when dining!) – but this bottle seemed like a fantastic and carefully chosen accompaniment.

Starters: to start things off, we were treated to a wonderful platter of Antipasti Italiana (pictured above) – a generous selection of cured meats, aubergine, courgettes, olives, mozzarella, peppers & tomato served with grissini sticks. So fresh tasting and the perfect starter to chose if you’re undecided and like to share with friends/family.

Selection of Mains: 

The first main course dish we sampled was the Ravioli di Spinach, which is egg ravioli filled with ricotta & spinach, served in a butter and sage sauce. I love ravioli, I just think it’s such a comforting and satisfying way to serve pasta – this version didn’t disappoint.  The pasta itself was indulgently eggy, the filling light and fresh – with an even coating of the rich buttery sauce topped off with sharp shavings of parmesan cheese.

The next we sampled was the Insalata di Polpo – a warm octopus salad with potato, celery, olive oil, red chilli and lemon juice. At first, I thought this was quite a strange concept, as I’ve not come across this combination before. It did however prove to be very tasty indeed – the octopus was plump, fresh and juicy and I actually really enjoyed it alongside the wedges of well-seasoned potatoes.

Insalata di Polpo - Warm Octopus and Potato Salad
Insalata di Polpo – Warm Octopus and Potato Salad

Next was the Tagliata di Manzo – thin slices of 10oz sirloin steak, served with rocket & parmesan shavings and cherry tomatoes. This was a very popular dish – everyone seemed to really enjoy it. The meat was so tender, pink throughout and seasoned really well. It was lovely alongside the sharp and creamy parmesan, juicy sweet cherry tomatoes and the fresh rocket salad.

Tagliata di Manzo - sliced sirloin steak with rocket and Parmesan
Tagliata di Manzo – sliced sirloin steak with rocket and Parmesan

The final of the main course offerings ended up being my favourite of them all – the Capesante Casereccie. This is a fantastic dish of seared King scallops on a pea puree, with sliced fresh red chilli, pea shoots and red currants. The scallops themselves were huge and cooked to absolute perfection. They still had the roe attached – my personal preference as I think this part of the scallop has so much flavour. The chilli was present but subtle, and the pea puree was creamy savoury – balanced so well with the juicy red currants. This really was a lovely dish – presented absolutely beautifully as well. Very impressed!

Capesante Casereccie: King Scallops with Pea Puree, Pea Shoots, Red Chilli and Red Currants
Capesante Casereccie: King Scallops with Pea Puree, Pea Shoots, Red Chilli and Red Currants
Capesante Casereccie
Capesante Casereccie

The dessert: What better way to end an Italian feast than with the mother of all Italian puddings – the classic homemade Tiramisu. As you can probably tell from my blog, I don’t have the sweetest tooth – so I am usually happy to skip the decedent puddings in favour of a simple Affogato or a scoop of ice cream. In this instance, however, I was prepared to make an exception. When the Tiramisu arrived, there was a slight gasp from all in the room. It was huge and finished to perfection – it looked absolutely divine. Once we had all taken our photos of it (typical foodies!), it was carefully sliced by the tentative waiter who served us all a slice. The taste really did not disappoint, it was incredibly light, fluffy, creamy – with a wonderful light touch of coffee and Amaretto flavour. A truly fantastic end to a wonderful evening of great food, fine wine and excellent company.

Homemade Tiramisu

Homemade Tiramisu
Homemade Tiramisu

I have since returned to Don Giovanni’s – but this time to dine in the restaurant which is elegant and modern, yet still has a warm, intimate feeling. The function room is great – it has loads of space and in total can accommodate 50 people seated and around 80 people standing for a canapés style party. It’s equipped with a full PA system and a projector, which I’d say is ideal for a range of private or business events. It also has its own iPod dock, if you want to play your own music.

The staff at Don Giovanni’s are very friendly, knowledgeable, polite and attentive. They are always happy to discuss and recommend dishes from the menu (if you’re indecisive, like me) and tell you more if desired about the ingredients and how they are cooked. Overall, I would say Don Giovanni’s is a highly recommended establishment, and I look forward to dining there again soon.

To find out more about Don Giovanni’s, or to book a table online, please visit: dongiovannis.co.uk.

Restaurant One Eighty, Wilmslow

On my recent quest to find out more about the North West / Cheshire based contributors to The Great British Cook Book – I discovered an absolute gem of a restaurant. Situated on Wilmslow Road in Handforth, just a short drive out of Wilmslow town centre – is Restaruant One Eighty – part of the BW Plus Pinewood Hotel. This year the restaurant and kitchen alone have received a £1.5m renovation, and it shows.

The new 85 cover restaurant, opened in April this year, is visible from the hotel reception and is elegantly decorated with a modern, tasteful touch. The staff were very friendly and knowledgeable about the menus and dishes. Our waitress offered to talk us through the options; a Seasonal Menu –  which features Executive Chef Colin Starkey’s enhancement of current seasonal produce, all sourced from local suppliers. From this menu you can select dishes individually or sample a 6 course tasting option which Colin has put together, to give a true feel for all the dishes it has to offer.

The second menu option is their A La Carte Menu – a selection of classic starters, lite bites, mains, grills, sharing plates and desserts – all with a modern twist. We opted to combine choices from each menu, to ensure we sampled the best of what Restaurant One Eighty had to offer – and we were not disappointed.

The Food

To start, Bradley opted for the ‘pigs’ in blankets in a sticky mustard glaze. As you can see from the photo, these came served in a cute silver pot stuffed to the brim with juicy, meaty, morish little bites of sticky goodness. He was reluctant, but he let me try one. Absolutely divine, and with a sort of festive feel to them. Not your average starter – but very satisfying, especially for meat-lovers!

I opted for the smoked garlic king prawns, celeriac & pear ‘slaw with dressed lambs leaf. A great sized portion – the ‘slaw had a creamy, mustard flavour which wasn’t at all overpowering and coated the prawns perfectly. A light, fresh, excellent start to get the taste buds eager for the next course…

Beef & Pork Steak Burger
Brioche beef & pork steak burger with applewood cheese, dry cured bacon, onion marmalade and aspen fries
Pink Beef & Steak Burger - slow cooked for 2 hours
Pink Beef & Steak Burger – slow cooked for 2 hours
Aspen Fries, to with truffle oil and grated Parmesan
Aspen Fries, to with truffle oil and grated Parmesan

On to the mains, Bradley AKA meat-lover of the century, OF COURSE opted for the steak burger. And this one did not disappoint.  A brioche beef and pork steak burger with applewood cheese, dry cured bacon, onion marmalade and aspen fries. To say this was a taste-sensation would be an understatement. As you can see from the image (*drools*), the meat was pink throughout, mouthwateringly succulent and it was perfectly seasoned. We later found out from Colin that the burgers are slow-cooked for 2 hours in a water bath to achieve this amazing ‘melt in your mouth’ taste and texture. A really excellent burger – one that would be tricky to replicate at home, so if you’re in the area I urge you to go and try it.  As for the glossy, soft brioche bun – perfectly glazed for that amazing high-shine finish. It just seemed to ‘hug’ the burger so neatly, which is a breath of fresh air compared to many burgers out there which are served on thick slabs of bread, making it almost impossible to pick up and eat properly. The aspen fries (coated in truffle oil and sprinkled with grated Parmesan) were also to die for, crispy, soft and a great sized portion. This was a very impressive main course indeed!

Seared Sea Bass with warm fennel, tapenade and sauce vierge
Seared Sea Bass with warm fennel, tapenade and sauce vierge
Seared Sea Bass - beautifully presented
Seared Sea Bass – beautifully presented

I opted for a more ladylike option of Seared Sea Bass with a warm baby fennel salad & new potatoes, tapenade and sauce vierge. What a delight – the sea bass was crispy, tender in the middle and the potatoes were sauteed and slightly buttery.  The sauce vierge was fragrant with basil, a delicate accompaniment to the fish which was seasoned to perfection with beautiful, floral presentation. Altogether an excellent fresh and satisfying main course, leaving just the right about of room for pudding…. 😉

The above dishes were all from the A La Carte menu – however, when it came to dessert time we decided to switch it up a notch, why ever not?! Both puddings were from Colin’s Season’s Menu – it was rightly noticeable that this menu showcases a more ‘fine dining’ approach, and it was so good to be able to combine the two experiences.

Berry Trifle with Limoncello
Berry Trifle with Limoncello

I chose (after much deliberation, as they all sounded so divine) the Black Berry Trifle with Limoncello. The description didn’t give much away – all I knew was I love trifle, love limoncello and was intrigued by the element of mystery and anticipation – so I went for it, and it’s safe to say it was a great choice. The dish was a deconstruction of the traditional trifle – all the elements were present, just not in a way you would expect, which I loved. The edible dark chocolate pot was filled with a silky fresh cream and topped with a sweet biscotti and flaked almonds. Around the edge of the plate were little drops of sweet limoncello blobs, a sharp berry compote and some crunchy dried berries. All in all a great variety of textures and flavours – hats off to the chef!

Michel Cluizel chocolate & caramel with Maldon sea salt, honeycomb and granola
Michel Cluizel chocolate & caramel with Maldon sea salt, honeycomb and granola

Bradley, once again, chose the richest and most decadent dessert option possible – Michel Cluizel chocolate & caramel with Maldon sea salt, honeycomb and granola. Just wow. The chocolate was divine – smooth, silky and felt very indulgent, a real treat. This was offset perfectly by the salty crunch to the granola sprinkles. An absolutely perfect finish to an excellent dining experience!!

The Great British Cook Book (TGBCB)

Colin Starkey, the Executive Chef at Restaurant One Eighty, has also contributed a fantastic looking dish to The Great British Cook Book., and he was kind enough to share some images with me. The pictures below are of his Galloway-breed Ribeye beef steak served with tempura Oyster, duck fat chips and a rich, clean sauce to accompany. Doesn’t it just look incredible?!

Ribeye beef steak with tempura Oyster, duck fat chips and a rich, clean oyster sauce
Ribeye beef steak with tempura Oyster, duck fat chips and a rich, clean oyster sauce

The recipe is available now in TGBCB, and is adapted to be accessible and easy for people to recreate at home, as with many other dishes in the book.

The Final Dish for TGBCB
The Final Dish for TGBCB

Colin’s restaurant has already been awarded an AA Rosette and has also received excellent reviews since opening in April. If you would like to find out more about Restaurant One Eighty and to see their current menus, click here. Colin also posts regular foodie updates on Twitter, to keep updated follow @ColinStarkey37.

On a final note – if you would like to purchase or download The Great British Cook Book, you can do so here (which is the official site, and also the cheapest place to purchase the online copy!)

With love, Sophie’s Scran -x-

Baltic Cellar, Manchester

When I was lucky enough to be cordially invited to the exclusive launch party of Baltic Cellar, Lloyd Street, Manchester – I felt honoured. I only started my food blog in August this year, and the response I have received from the foodie world so far has been fantastic. So as you can imagine, I was looking forward to this one. And, I have MDOG_MANCHESTER to thank – so thanks dude 😉

The invitation promised flames, grills, vodka on-tap and a mind-bending surprise… How could I possibly refuse?! Well, I couldn’t of course, and I was so eager that Bradley and I were the first ones there and had to be told on arrival (red carpet and all) by the Tuxedo-clad bouncers to come back in 5-10 minutes when the hostess had arrived! I was excited, to say the least. Lesson learnt – next time ‘fashionably late’ is perhaps the cooler option.

It is safe to say – Baltic Cellar delivered on all that was promised, and then some. These guys truly know how to eat, drink and entertain you. Basically, they know how to party – and I am now told they are taking bookings for Christmas – so if you’re looking for something with a bit of a twist, I would highly recommend this place.

Set just down the road from Albert Square (the Christmas-capital of Manchester), Baltic Cellar is exactly that – the entrance is on the street, with windows and steps looking down towards their main seating area and large bar. To entertain us in the queue was the amazing performer Beth Sykes (pictured above), who put on a flawless fire show, complete with actual flame swallowing. Very impressive.

Once inside, we were greeted with ‘Champagne’ and canapes – a simple yet very effective collection of Latvian and Lithuanian cheeses, cooked meats (Polish smoked sausages, smoked hams), olives and grapes. All were fabulous, very morish – but my favourite had to be the perfectly hand-crafted smoked salmon and creamed cheese eclairs…  a super light and fluffy filling encased in a pretty little choux pastry parcel. So, so good, I think I ate about 15…

Then was time for a short entertainment interval – the wonderful Beth Sykes again, but this time a change of costume and style completely. It turns out Beth is an incredible, mesmerising and extremely talented contortionist. A true artist, ‘mind-bending’ indeed, I couldn’t take my eyes off her – neither could Bradley… Ahem.. OK, now back to the food 😉

Next, we were to be seated for dinner: a traditional Russian ‘Zakuski’ (Russia’s answer to Tapas) whereby you sit together, drink vodka and eat a traditional selection of salted herring, Russian salad (like a chunky coleslaw), pickled and marinated cucumber and Salo (cured fat, I wasn’t too keen on this, but I did give it a go!) As we were seated, the Russian drinking rules were explained to us, something along the lines of: the person who wears the Russian hat must pour the drinks. They must always pour one for themselves when pouring for others. They must hold the bottle by the neck… Thank fully, being the designated driver, I managed to stay sober and avoid the hangover… This also meant I remember all of what happened next!

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On to the Mains… Well, as you can imagine, we were all rather full by now. The main feast however was yet to begin – as now followed a beautifully presented small-servings platter of homemade savoury delights:

  • Beef Goulash, a tender and slow-cooked warming stew with paprika, carrots and onions.
  • Chicken & Mushrooms, served with hand-picked forest mushrooms in a sharp creamy sauce.
  • Bigos, a traditional Polish dish which stews the rich flavours of sauerkraut, smoked sausage, smoked ribs, cabbage, onions, plums and wild mushrooms – so incredibly tasty.
  • Chicken Cedar, chicken in a light creamy sauce topped with cedar nuts.
  • Vegetable Ragu of braised cauliflower, carrots, peas, potatoes and tomatoes.
  • Pork Stroganoff, a traditional 19th century Russian dish served with lean pork strips and a rich, tasty sauce.
  • Grilled Meats – Chicken or Salmon Shashlik,  we tried the salmon only, which was cooked on an authentic Baltic charcoal grill. Marinated and ‘slow grilled,’ it tasted incredible. This  was my favourite dish of the evening, as the fish was mouth wateringly succulent and cooked to perfection.

The the side-dishes were also excellently seasoned; creamy mashed potatoes, spicy rice and skinny, crispy fries. Yum.

Then, this happened…

Possibly THE most decedent, varied, sweet and indulgent (and biggest!) dessert selection I have ever seen in a restaurant (not counting my nan’s pudding spread a family Christmas buffet…) Although we were full to the brim, there was no way we could refuse trying these little beauties – all homemade: Cheese Cake, Honey Cake, Chocolate Cake, Napoleon Cake (Polish variation called Kremowka). Just divine. The berries helped cut through the sweetness with a little sharpness and bite – the perfect end to a true Baltic Feast.

All in all, the dishes were hearty, authentic, homemade and very morish. The party was swinging, the staff extremely attentive and knowledgeable about each dish and the vodka (so I am told), was excellent quality. I will leave you with a few images which capture some other highlights of what was altogether an excellent evening. Thank you.

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If you would like to make a reservation at Baltic Cellar, please contact Inesa on 0161 971 6047 or click on balticcellar.com!

East Z East Manchester: Christmas Menu

It was a pleasure to be invited to East Z East’s launch of their Christmas menu a few weeks ago; as you are well aware I love all things spice and can’t resist a decent cocktail. This place has plenty of both – as well as wide range of milder curries & mocktails for the more faint-hearted (or designated drivers!)

Their Riverside branch is in a great city-centre location on Blackfriars street. They even offer a convenient valet parking/concierge service free-of-charge, which is a great asset if you’re a non-city dweller. The building is modern, trendy, well-lit and has a sophisticated feel to it. It’s not your average curry house, it kind of has an elegant, luxurious twist to it which I liked.  We were greeted by the manager and shown to our table, seated in the large private dining room upstairs, where we could play our own choice of music through the sound system – great to add an instant party atmosphere!

To drink, I decided on a mocktail, (sadly), as I was driving… but I must say, it was deliciously fruity, refreshing and hand-prepared in no time. The rest of the cocktails all looked really impressive, each featuring different fresh fruits and funky shaped straws (pictured above, top left: the East Z East Touch Mocktail – Strawberry, raspberry and blackberry shaken with elderflower and cranberry juice).

So – the food. First of all I think 3 courses for £21.95 is excellent value for money from a Manchester city-centre Christmas menu. To start we were greeted by the BIGGEST tray of chutneys, pickles and yogurt selection I have ever come across, along with a couple of poppadoms each – just enough to get the taste-buds tingling.  There were 8 different chutneys to choose from; and the plum chutney and chilli pickle were amazing. The lamb chops were meaty, well spiced and morish, the chicken tender, juicy and had just the right amount of charcoal grilled goodness on the outside. Yum.

Next were the curries… Pictured below are the two curries I tried; the Balti Seafood and the Murgh Tikka Makhani. The seafood curry featured huge king prawns and was in a medium-spiced balti sauce, similar to a bhuna in heat and intensity. The Makhani was like a tikka-massala but without the coconut. Instead it featured the more ‘grown-up’ flavours of cream, pistachios, almonds and tomatoes. An altogether more delicious answer to the overly-common ‘tikka masala’ – and I liked it. Garlic naan breads, cooked to perfection, thin, bubbly, crispy – just how I like them (as the last thing you want o do is fill up on thick bread, especially if you’re on the cocktails!)

Finally, the puddings. I must admit, I don’t usually go for puddings when I go for a curry. I usually find I’m too full so don’t bother. However, when the place has it’s very own ice-cream bar, featuring flavours such as Ferrero Rocher… I could not resist. Pictured below are just two desserts from the Christmas Menu;  Gulab Jamun (a sort of sweet dumpling, served warm with madagascar vanilla ice cream (a really delicious, sweet, light option – I would highly recommend) and a Swiss Chocolate Cheesecake served with (any) scoop of ice-cream from the ice-cream bar… 😀 both desserts were an absolute delight. They have both made me think twice about desserts in an Indian restaurant, the perfect end to a mini-culinary adventure!

Click here for more information about East Z East and to enquire about Christmas bookings, contact 0161 834 3500.

 

 

 

Lunchtime trip: Chapati Cafe, Chorlton

Fabulous, friendly service
Fabulous, friendly service

If you have an appreciation for good homemade food, Indian/thali cuisine, different flavours, textures and spices all on one platter – this place is a must-try.

It’s laidback cafe style, quick, super-friendly service and value for money are all second-to-none for a lunchtime jaunt or a bite to eat with your buddies. They are open from 11:30am – 7:30pm, so it’s ideal for lunch or an early dinner. This place is awesome.

Their mint and coriander sauce was a highlight for me amongst all their other amazing flavours and textures. It is refreshing and sharp and really works well to cleanse the palate between bites. You can have any combination of tender meat and lovely veg dishes, I went for the one meat 2 veg option, which worked really well. We were in-and-out within about 25 minutes, perfect timing as we were on our lunch break from the office. It is safe to say we all loved it, and at an average price of £5.50 per Thali (steel plate pictured below) we will certainly be back for more!

Here are a few snaps of our visit there a couple of weeks ago:

Spiced lamb curry, bombay potatoes and a dahl (lentil) dish, served with a samosa, chutney, rice & chapati
Lightly spiced minced lamb curry, bombay style potatoes and a tasty dhal (lentil) dish, served with a veggie samosa, pickles, rice & chapati
Authentic, simplistic decor and wall art
Authentic, simplistic decor and wall art really caught my eye. The mismatched tiles on the wall look great, I want them in my kitchen!
If you like to turn up the heat...
If you like to turn up the heat… a handy bowl of freshly chopped chilli on the counter – a nice touch and an easy way for spice lovers to turn it up a notch!
Aimee went for the chick pea veg option, extra pickles and no extra chilli's!
My buddy Aimee went for the chick pea veg option, and the chicken curry instead. Both of which were highly commended by her. She had a cold too, so the she welcomed a bit of spice to help!

For more information, please visit: www.chapaticafe.co.uk and if you’re in the Manchester area, make sure you pay them a visit!

Bistro 1847, Manchester

Bistro 1847, Manchester: Amazing food, super-cool decor, warm & intimate atmosphere
Bistro 1847, Manchester: Amazing food, super-cool decor, warm & intimate atmosphere

To sum it up, Bistro 1847 is a true delight. It’s modern, yet warm, friendly, intimate… and the menu pretty much speaks for itself – culinary vegetarian innovation served in an ambient, super-cool setting. I even took away some decor tips for my new house!

That aside, it’s the menu options that truly are a breath of fresh air. You can either choose a ‘Taste of 1847′ – the perfect introduction to Bistro’s most popular and distinctive dishes, offered as a set menu (there is a 5 course and a 7 course option). This menu showcases the chefs’ pinnacle dishes, and effectively means the ‘foodies’ of Bistro 1847 have done the hard work for you, making this menu choice a ‘tricky decision‘-free dining experience. The most difficult choice you’ll have to make is which scrumptious cocktail to start with 🙂

The second menu option is to ‘Graze, Share and Explore’ – pretty much what it says on the tin. This menu features a range of smaller tapas-style dishes, which are all ordered at once, and arrive when they are ready. In my experience, this is similar to the ‘wagamama’ style of dining, it’s more informal; dishes arrive when ready, so not necessarily all at the same time. I love the element of surprise behind this modern style of dining, and these guys really do it well. I’d say this is the perfect option for a group of friends, who want to wine, dine and chatter – whilst sharing a varied feast of delicious small plates. Just one tip: order extra beer-battered halloumi, as you may not be as inclined to share this one!

His & Hers Cocktails - the Maple & Orange 'Old Fashioned' and the 'Bistro Bastillia'
His & Hers Cocktails – the Maple & Orange ‘Old Fashioned’ and the ‘Bistro Bastillia’

I am a big believer that we eat with our eyes, as well as our taste-buds, and these guys have both presentation and taste down to a fine art. I took some foodie snaps of our dishes from their ‘Taste of 1847’ menu, for you to feast your eyes upon:

Perfectly bite-sized spelt & rye crispbread, baba ghanoush (aubergine dip) with pomegranate seeds
Spelt & rye crisp bread, baba ghanoush with pomegranate seeds

Baba Ghanoush is an aubergine based ‘dip,’ which is served here on perfectly bite-sized pieces of crisp bread. It was nice to start with informal ‘finger-food,’ which tastes amazing and looks great too.

Beer-battered halloumi, seashore herbs & plants, mushy pea emulsion, smoked lemon curd & gin pickled shallots
Beer-battered halloumi, seashore herbs & plants, mushy pea emulsion, smoked
lemon curd & gin pickled shallots

This was the second course, I was told by Manager Rebecca that this is one of their most popular dishes, and I can see why. I have never tasted halloumi like it. Often dubbed ‘the squeaky cheese’ for its rubbery texture (as so many people over-cook it), this version was spongy, yet firm and almost had a meaty-texture to it. I wouldn’t hesitate to say it was cooked to perfection, and accompaniments compliment it so well. Hats off to the chef!

Heritage carrot, farmhouse curds, pearl barley, wilted cavolo nero, herbs, flowers & carrot top oil
Heritage carrot, farmhouse curds, pearl barley, wilted cavolo nero, herbs,
flowers & carrot top oil

This is a risotto style dish using barley instead of rice, which makes it lighter, fitting well with the two different menu options. The flavours are delicate and the presentation super-pretty, a highly seasonal dish using locally sourced heritage carrots. Yummy.

Chocolate, lime & sea salt brownie drizzled with coconut cream
Chocolate, lime & sea salt brownie drizzled with coconut cream

I think this photo speaks volumes to be honest. Chocolate brownie is the ultimate pud, and this one was nothing-short of heavenly.  Tasty, delicate hints of additional flavours from the sea salt, lime and coconut cream give this pud an elegant, more ‘grown-up’ feel, which I liked a lot.

Petit fours and tea or coffee's to finish (these ones were vegan chocolate truffles!)
Petit fours and tea or coffee’s to finish (these ones were vegan chocolate truffles!)

To finish, a choice of tea or coffee with petit fours. A great way to finish this wonderful, distinctive dining experience. I shall definitely be back for more, hopefully next time to Graze & Share with a few close friends, both veggies and non-veggies! If you’re even slightly curious, I urge you to try it as I’m sure you won’t be disappointed. Featured here is just a snippet of their wonderful menu, a full copy of which is here: bistro1847.com/menus/ManchesterAutumn.pdf

If you want to find out more about Bistro 1847, their website is: bistro1847.com, and they are located:

58 Mosley Street
(Entrance on Booth St)
Manchester
M2 3HZ

0161 236 1811
bdm@bistro1847.co.uk