Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Metaxa

Metaxa is so intrinsically linked with holidays in Greece that still now, the taste takes me back to those fantastic holidays. I guess the first time I tried it was as a complimentary post dinner liquor. It was the perfect meal in a perfect setting. You never forget your first time do you? Our first holiday in Greece was in Kefalonia. We ate a fine lobster spaghetti, the lobster caught by the owner himself that day in a little red boat. Afterwards, elderly Greek people started to slowly get up and dance to the traditional music. I fell in love with Greece at that very moment. That's when I had my first sip of Metaxa and there was no turning back, the genie was out of the bottle. It has a unique smooth herb-y flavour to it, a sweetness that I crave and that belies it's 40% alcohol. I usually find that the cheaper 3 star is fine (there's 3, 5 and the more mature seven stars which indicate the years it's matured). All I know is that one is rarely enough, just one more before bed.....



Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Coriander, Chorlton.

We've been fans of Coriander for almost ten years by my reckoning, since they were only up by Southern Cemetery. More recently they opened another branch right near to us in Chorlton. It was a wise move by them, it's one of the busiest restaurants in the area. Like any of our favourite restaurants, we've been through times where we seem to be in there all the time. But we thought we'd give it a rest for a while, we've not been since Christmas, so we were excited to return for Mrs Bacon's Birthday the other day.
It was as busy as ever and they've recently got someone to tweet for them which obviously helps with free publicity, inviting bloggers in etc.
I think I may have been the first to review the Chorlton restaurant and have always recommended it as the best Indian in the area. I've always paid for my food as well. Unfortunately our last visit was not nearly so successful.
The first warning sign was the yoghurt sauce. It was unnaturally, overly sweet. I'd guess that someone had added sugar to this. A bad and unnecessary habit if so. (Mrs B tells me the mango lassi was over sweetened too). I let it pass, beer was flowing and those poppadoms weren't going to eat themselves. Also, complaining about every single thing puts a dampener on a convivial evening.
Starters were fine, an enjoyable enough spicy Sheekh Kebab (£3.10).
For mains we had a Chicken with Methi & Mint, Chicken with fresh mint, fenugreek & natural yoghurt (£7.70). Unusually for us, it was a mild dish, but a friend had recommended it to us and as we were ordering another spicier one to share, we thought it'd be a good balance. It wasn't. What I've liked about Coriander in the past are the clean, almost Thai like flavours, it was their unique selling point. That was missing. This just tasted sickly sweet and saccharine. My Lamb Chilli Masala (cooked with onion, Ginger & fresh hot green chillies, £7.90) was super hot, but again there was something missing from the food we'd had there previously. They've changed the chef I bet, I said to Mrs B. I'm almost certain of it.*
She couldn't eat her Chicken with methi & mint, so they kindly sent out an old favourite as a replacement. Urban Style Chicken, (Chicken, chickpeas, peppers, onion, & garlic, £7.50). Nope, that wasn't as good as usual either. (Again overly sweet). Mrs Bacon left it. She never leaves food! (We normally take out boxes to freeze for lunches).
We were so disappointed, this food was a shadow of it's former self.
Chef's come and go and restaurants change, but what was so special about Coriander was missing on this visit for us. I want to be fair on them and hope that it was a one off. But it has to be said that the food we ate on Sunday was not a patch on the food we've eaten there (and the original restaurant) many times in the last ten years. The dishes we had were either hot, sweet or both hot and sweet. There was no subtlety or clarity in this cooking. Perhaps we were just unlucky in ordering the 'wrong dishes'.
I hope for their sake that their head chef was on holiday, as they need to do something about this quickly. It won't take long for other customers to work out the difference either, if it's permanent. I certainly hope not.

* I've been in contact with Coriander since and they told me that they do not have a new chef. They say that they are taking my points seriously. I hope my constructive criticism is a help rather than a hindrance as we've been regulars for the past decade.

Coriander on Urbanspoon

Monday, 28 July 2014

The Portmeirion Hotel Restaurant, Wales.

Portmeirion means more to me more than pretty much anywhere in Britain apart from home. This is because we got married there ten years ago and return every five years to celebrate. It never loses it's magic for us, it really has a special place in our hearts. If you didn't know, essentially, between 1925 and 1975 Clough Williams-Ellis built Portmeirion on the Welsh coastline, in the style of an Italian village, 'pay(ing) tribute to the atmosphere of the Mediterranean'. Which is exactly why we got married there. 
We always stay in the same room in the hotel, on the corner looking over the water. Most people staying there take the package which includes breakfast in the hotel and an evening meal there (or at 'The Castle' further up). We remember the restaurant as being pretty good on our last visit so we were excited to eat there again for our anniversary meal.
Sadly, the food was a huge disappointment this time.
We took drinks outside the dining room overlooking the estuary before being led to our table in the conservatory section. Service was friendly but amateurish at times and in need of stepping up a bit for what they're trying to achieve. I could tell that there wasn't a strong front of house manager running the show. The main problem with Portmeirion though is that it's incredibly expensive; Michelin star expensive. The meal is part of the package, but different courses have different amounts of supplements. It's a really confusing mess to be honest and desperately needs simplifying. You only really know how much you've paid until you check out. We got quite a nasty surprise last time. I suppose all the cocktails and oysters we had at the Castle mounted up!
So what of the food? The head chef is way out of his or her depth in all honesty, it really wasn't too impressive considering how much it was. I guess they have a captive audience but it simply wasn't good enough.
The little appetizers were quite nice, a few little snacks and then some gazpacho and salmon.
We ordered three starters as we wanted to try a few.
Langoustine tails, pink grapefruit, smoked apple and celery (Supplement £5.00).
Crispy duck egg with smoked duck and truffle soldiers (Supplement £4.50).
Black truffle tart, iced feta, asparagus and purple shiso (Supplement £2.00).
Confit chicken and foie gras terrine, red pepper chutney, treacle and stout loaf and marmite butter. (Supplement £5.00). All were little more than average, the confit chicken foie gras terrine had very little taste of foie. There is very little point in eating foie gras if you don't get that luxurious dreamy taste.
I had a slight sinking feeling but we were with our friends and the wine was flowing, we were having a good time despite the food. 
Loin and cutlet of Welsh lamb, potato dauphinoise, confit onion, purple sprouting, apricot, anchovy and mint (supplement £9.00) really wasn't that good. The quality of the meat wasn't great, it was overly fatty but without the flavour. I often order lamb, it's probably my most favourite meat, this was probably the poorest I've had in recent memory. Such a shame. I could have sworn I saw that it's £30 when paying as a none guest as well, absolutely incredible prices for essentially average pub food (I've had better lamb in pubs in fact).
 Wild Seabass, Aberdaron crab transparent ravioli, fennel, coriander, lemongrass and crab consommé (Supplement £6.00) was even worse. It really was a dog's dinner this one. When you get food from a top chef, Simon Rogan for instance, they have the ability to make each flavour sing. In this case it was the opposite. The flavours were confused, muddy and weak. There was simply no love of food in this cooking.
Oh dear, it really was quite poor.
The desserts, Rhubarb and custard parfait, custard doughnut and rhubarb sorbet and the Coconut panna cotta with mango sorbet were both ok, but the presentation promised much more than what was delivered.
The problem with the Portmeirion Hotel restaurant is that it's in Portmeirion. It's like going to a restaurant with an amazing view. They don't always have to work so much as they have a captive audience anyway, in this case the guests who stay in this wonderful hotel. But really it could be and should be so much better. I hate saying it as this place means so much to me, but it's sadly the truth.
When we return in five years I hope we'll see an improvement but I wouldn't hold my breath as there's just no urgency for change.


Hotel Portmeirion on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

The Parkers Arms, Lancashire.

When The Guardian's Food critic Jay Rayner gave The Parkers Arms a great review recently, all of us friends and fans alike were so pleased for them. The Parkers is more than just a country pub to many of us 'supporters'. Following Stosie regularly on twitter connects us daily, almost like a big family of food lovers. When they get an unfair and malicious 'review' from the idiots on Tripadvisor, we sometimes fight back with a review of our own. I think it's important to support places like this over the onslaught of dire two for one cheap and nasty chain pubs that litter the country.
In contrast we've always had a friendly welcome and fabulous food at the Parkers. We get treated by AJ, (Stosie and Kathy) like members of the family, you see The Parkers isn't really like most other country pubs and we're not getting special treatment as bloggers, that's just what they're like.
We returned for a surprise taster menu again recently on a sunny Friday afternoon. Surprise in that we just trust chef Stosie to send food out of her choosing. We're not as you've gathered, fussy eaters (to be honest I've not got much time for them, to me they've just not grown up, they're still eating like children). Although we are fussy about quality.
 I was trying to imagine the kitchen when AJ told Stosie that Jay Rayner was in for lunch. It sounded like an agonising wait until the review came out. In that time I'd tweeted the man himself and suggested that he try the Parkers but in fact he'd already been and loved it. I always figured he would like this style of unfussy unpretentious food as he did.
The effect on trade has been steadily increasing, and don't they just deserve it.
We were getting the 'taster menu' but please note that Stosie cannot serve this at busy times such as Sunday lunch etc, but will by prior arrangement. It's really a showcase for her skills. If you follow her on twitter, blogger or not, you will always get her 'tweet treats'. (Photo below, Sammie gets tweet treats too, from his pal AJ).
To start, potato skins have been improved with the addition of chicken skins, we loved them!
Hummus and tzatziki. Appropriate as we have just returned from Greece.
Pork scratching, fennel mayonnaise.
Mushroom Parfait. An absolute must every time as Stosie has been christened the 'queen of parfaits'.
Crab Parfait. Possibly my favourite of all. The very essence of crab in one gorgeous light and creamy bite. (Stosie was worried about it melting in the heat, it still tasted divine).
Fennel cured salmon, beetroot confit crisp jelly.
Soused mooli & sweet chilli rice cracker 
 Parker's Pastrami.
Lamb Kofta Burgers.
Bbqd baby back pork ribs & black peas, black pea purée & falafel. I think this was my least favourite of the mains but I think it's because I'm all 'ribbed out' as you can't move in Manchester for ribs these days.
Charcoal grilled mackerel, Linda's gooseberries.
Valrhona chocolate delice.
Gooseberry fool. I love Gooseberries and these were from a near neighbour who swaps them for a meal. I like the idea of swapping goods and services for food, as I have with these photos.
What a wonderful way to spend an afternoon, eating beautiful food in such a fine setting. (I can't think of a nicer beer garden). If you're a food lover in the North West and haven't been to The Parkers yet, you need to get there as soon as you can. If you don't believe me, ask Jay Rayner.
*Please note I paid for this meal with these photos that you see here.
To see the photos in high resolution click here
To see the previous visit in February click here.

Parkers Arms on Urbanspoon