Wednesday, 16 April 2014

New Aldi Wine.

I finally made it down to Aldi to pick up some of the new limited edition wines they currently have in stock. These represent remarkable value as usual, and never come as part of a 'fake' offer like Tesco tend to.
Exquisite Collection Alsace Pinot Blanc. (£6.79).
Tasting of green apples and cool lemon peel, fresh and clean. I really enjoyed it. 8/10.
Exquisite Collection Anjou Rouge. (£5.99).
This cabernet franc from the Loire Valley was lovely, light, savoury and perfumed. 7/10.
Exquisite Collection Albariño Rias Baixas. (£5.99).
Clean and fresh and very slightly acidic, I bought three bottles and am going back for more whilst stocks last. 8/10.
Exquisite Collection Fleurie. (£6.49).
Ripe and savoury with red brambly fruits and soft tannins. 7/10.
Exquisite Collection Muscadet. Sevre et Maine Sur Lie (£5.99).
I loved this, it's fresh, light and lemony clean with a slight mineral flavour. 8/10.
The Exquisite Collection New Zealand Pinot Noir. (£6.99).
I have to say this is not my favourite style of wine, (I'll still drink it nevertheless,) but it's a steal at this price. Thin, pale and raspberry. 6/10. 
I'll be updating this post as I try new ones.
Just remember, I'm no expert, I just like to drink wine.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Rogan & Co, Cartmel.

I've not been to Rogan & co before, Simon Rogan's other restaurant in Cartmel. I get the impression that previously it was just simple bistro food, looking at old reviews anyway. That has now changed with the recent appointment of Head Chef Kevin Tickle and a refurbishment. Apparently, Mr Tickle has been an important part of the L'Enclume kitchen for the last few years, and now with the expansion of the Rogan 'empire' to Claridges, he's been given full control of Rogan & co.
So we were very excited to visit on Friday, we were going to Cartmel just to eat there. Mrs Bacon had taken the day off especially. That gives you an idea of how seriously we take our food!
It was a beautiful day too, the drive up from Manchester is all part of the anticipation of eating some seriously top class cuisine. After a brief wander with the dog, down by the stream that flows next to the little restaurant, we went in early to make sure we had secured our favoured seat by the window. As we were driving, it was a glass of white wine each to start, but the one I chose wasn't actually to my taste. So they brought over all the bottles they had of white by the glass, for us to sample all of them to decide. Like a little wine tasting. Such a nice touch and really great service. We loved it already.
Onto the food. We were having the new 10 course taster menu Chef Kevin is developing. Everyone else in the restaurant was ordering a la carte. So without further ado. To start; Snacks; Black Pudding beignet with mustard emulsion. I could just eat these all night. If you opened a tapas bar just serving just this you'd be onto a winner. The other, a light cheesy amuse-bouche; Westcombe cheese cracker, cheese snow and pickled onion was perfect too.
Heritage potatoes, herb emulsion and caper. Simple and lovely, the humble potato as the star, very L'Enclume in its style as you might expect. The quality of all the products especially the veg is always superlative.
Sea Kale, St. James, onion and crispy buckwheat. Mrs B's favourite, she loves her greens. Me, slightly less so.
Potted rainbow trout, soured cream, watercress and alliums.
Superb bread and the best butter I've ever tasted.
Hedgerow spring offerings with roast ox tongue and smoked bone marrow. I was a little disappointed with the ox tongue, I expected more depth of flavour and tenderness like the one I had at The Parkers Arms recently. Or, possibly a lambs tongue, we've had some lovely ones at the Sticky Walnut.
Butter poached brill, kohlrabi, bay shrimps, scurvy grass and charred leek. Beautiful. What I love about tasting menus is the opportunity to eat dishes I'd never have ordered a la carte.
Suckling British Lop, mead glazed carrots and hedge garlic. Possibly my favourite dish. One cut of pork was a little bland, but the other two were just right, especially the part with the crackling, so juicy.
Rowan shoot, preserved plum and buttermilk. All three of the puddings were very strong we thought. I couldn't choose between them.  
Rhubarb, elderflower wine, brioche and brown butter.
Sheep's milk ice cream, hazelnut, sorrel and acidic yoghurt. 
In the end, an impressive meal. There were no weak courses at all. I personally would have preferred one less dessert and an extra meat course, perhaps some lamb or mutton, because I know how good the local product is. Comparing it with a recent meal at The French, it was just underneath in terms of having the 'wow' factor, but it's obvious that Chef Kevin Tickle is a star in the making.

Although the influence of L'Enclume is obvious and natural, make no mistake, this is the real deal. It's seriously good food, literally from the ground up. Foraging is of course an important part of the whole ethos of L'Enclume and something that this chef does a lot of, which shows in his cooking. It will be very interesting to see how Chef Kevin Tickle develops his own style in the years to come, as I don't think it's beyond possibility that we could see two Michelin Star restaurants in Cartmel in the future. 8.5/10. 
Sammie enjoys Cartmel.
To see the photos in high resolution click here.
The 10 course taster menu will be priced at £65.
I negotiated it for £55 each (plus service, wine etc) as it's still in development.
Our bill came to £134.70 for two.

Rogan & Co. on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Côte Brasserie, Manchester.

Like most people obsessed with food and eating out, I'm against chains generally. This is because by their very nature they're places that have all the heart and soul and idiosyncrasy removed from them. The very things we actually look for. It has to be like that. Everything is usually formulaic and strictly regulated by head office. It's a system that works to some extent.
 However, I was keen to try the new Côte Brasserie. Since the sad demise of Relais de Venise L'Entrecôte last year, there are few places that I can go in town for simple steak-frites to my knowledge.
We just don't have that little local family run French bistro on the corner that's been there for years, so where else is there? They couldn't afford the sky high city centre rents for a start. Only chains can afford to move in. (Perhaps a reason why we don't have a good tapas bar right now as well, until Ibérica move in next year).
I have to be honest, I had a pre-conceived idea from the beginning, 'like a slightly posher version of Café Rouge' was the general gist from a quick google search. Not bad reviews though to be fair.
The fit out cost £1million. Where does that money go? Clearly I went into the wrong profession as there's some money to be made here. It does look pretty good though.
I knew what I was having and ordered before I'd even sat down. Patience is not a virtue I posses as Mrs Bacon will quite gladly elaborate on. At some length.
Luckily the food came in super quick time. Steak Frites; Char-grilled beaten out minute steak, frites and garlic butter (served pink, £9.95).
 Do you know, it wasn't bad, not bad at all. I enjoyed the melting garlic butter on the thinly cut meat. It's not the best steak I've ever had, but for the price it's never going to be and it was miles better than I'd anticipated. I always prefer frites to chips, know matter what anyone says, so I savoured these. I asked the waitress where the meat had come from? Australia she replied. Oh dear, that can never be a good thing can it? Another piece of money saving logic from a chain perhaps. Transporting meat 10,000 miles is ludicrous and wasteful. They do know that we have cattle just a few miles from the city centre don't they? (I actually pass some everyday on my cycle around Chorlton Waterpark). 
Despite this, I really enjoyed my simple lunch for what it was and it is pretty good value. I even went for an unplanned Crème Caramel. Traditional set vanilla pod custard with dark caramel and cream (£4.50). It was spot on. I could eat that any and every day of the week.
They moved me onto the set lunch which is £9.95 plus a £2 surcharge for the steak. The prices are reasonable, but I didn't like the 12.5% surcharge they automatically add to the bill. Both waitresses were lovely though. 
The final tally came to £18.39 including tip and a glass of house red. £4.40 for this seems a bit steep to me, but then I never normally order just a glass, a bottle is more my style.
I would return to Côte Brasserie for a quick lunch (ordering exactly the same again) which I didn't expect to be saying at all. L'Entrecôt still has the edge for me in terms of that special sauce they have and the second helping of fries, but we don't have that any more. Neither do we have that clichéd French bistro from my imagination based on Robert Doisneau photos that I'd ideally wish for in our city. Until then, Côte Brasserie will have to do. 6/10.
100 % paid for independent review.
Cote Brasserie Manchester on Urbanspoon