Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Chapati Café, Chorlton.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, Chorlton folk want value for money. We're not really like Didsbury around these parts despite the high house prices. We mainly like to spend our money on booze which is why there's so many bars and so few good restaurants. Take the new Chapati Café for example. We went on Friday lunch time and as we were leaving, almost every table was taken. A selection of thali curries on a metal tray will cost you from £4.50 - £5.50 depending on if you go veggie or if you have meat. As we wanted to sample some starters as well and my hangover needed feeding (what else is new), we had some of those too. So the whole thing cost us £15 for two with drinks. I loved that they had full fat coke in proper glass bottles, it tastes so much better. Chapati Café is definitely a lunch time place, it's cheap and cheerful, not somewhere you'll be going on a romantic date or for a cosy ambience.
The food is simple and home cooked in the very best way. It doesn't taste like restaurant curries which are usually too oily and leaden with ghee. No, this was how I'd imagine Indian family food would taste like. I had lamb (unfortunately not on the bone this time although they do this apparently on other days.) Most importantly for this area, they've got their prices bang on. I think they'll do well here. We're planning on returning for the lamb on the bone. At these prices, we'd be mad not to.

Chapati Cafe. on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Pizza and Wine, Heaton Mersey.

When the cat's away the mice will play. In this case, the cat (Mrs Bacon) was looking after a poorly relative and she's not quite as obsessed with pizza as me. So the fat mouse was sat in a sunny field on his own, in Heaton Mersey chomping on a 12" Chorizo pizza. So how did I get here? (I was asking myself that).
Well, following my regular complaints about the state of proper pizza in Manchester, a few people mentioned Pizza and Wine in the suburb of Heaton Mersey. I've not been there for years, there's no real reason for me to go there, but I will travel in my obsessive quest for good pizza.
It's just an average looking takeaway, (there are no seats, its tiny). Then you spy the amazing looking French wine list on the wall and you realise that you're somewhere a little bit different from the norm.
Good pizza is really a very simple thing. A thin base, decent quality ingredients, not too much sauce, just the right amount, not overloading it. I like an unhealthy amount of cheese on mine. Often, I've noticed local places are really stingy with the cheese. It needs to be all over, not in tiny blobs. It's the right balance of everything working in harmony with each other. You just know it when you taste it that it's just right.  (Also of course cooking it for precisely the right amount of time as below).
I personally don't want to see a mountain of bloody green leaves on my pizza either, leave them off please, they don't work! (A little tiny bit of basil I'll accept). And obviously there's a list of things that never belong on a pizza, starting with pineapple. If you like Hawaiian pizza then we can never be friends.
As I took that first bite sat in a field (like a vagrant, although I didn't have my Special Brew with me on this occasion). I just knew it was just bloody right. That juiciness of the cheese against the smoky salty meat and the savoury tomato sauce. Yes! They've made the effort to get everything spot on, it just takes a bit of effort and care. As we all know, you can find out anything you need to know about everything by just googling it for gods sake! There's no excuse, so how come so many places in Manchester can get pizza so wrong? Laziness and lack of wanting to do things properly I reckon. Simplicity isn't always so hard to get right, it takes effort.
They got it right here. The base wasn't as springy and bubbly at the edges (like say Honest Crust) but it was thin, flat and more solid although still crispy in style, more like the ones we've had in Europe. £9 very well spent. It's one of the best pizzas I've had in Greater Manchester. I wish they'd open a little place up in town, (how about the Arndale?), they'd make a mint.  If I had the money, I'd do it myself.

Monday, 18 August 2014

The Secret Kebab House.

I've no idea why it's called the 'Secret Kebab House' or when the secret began. I think it may have been Beau from Almost Famous that started it. It's a bit of an open secret and not one at all if you know Rusholme quite well. It's a tiny place though, easy to miss even if you're looking out for it. I had to ask somebody.
There are two giant meat spits, the shawarma. You can choose lamb or chicken, naturally I chose both with all the toppings. They're just £2.50 each. (The best £5 I've spent all year, I bloody loved them). It's all freshly prepared for you including the tandoori naan bread which is excellent.
I'm not going to be the first to tell the secret of the Secret Kebab House, but if you look hard enough you will find it. It's a secret worth knowing, just don't tell anyone else. After all, everyone loves a secret.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

El Gato Negro, Beat Street Manchester.

The catch all term 'Street food' might be one of the most overrated food 'genres' in recent times. At its worst, I find it can be expensive, unimaginative, poor quality, often amateurish and can be just a modern bandwagon jumping way of reclassifying crappy 'dirty' food served from a van. Neither was I convinced by the recent spate of street food events and parties. I'd been scarred by a different event last year where I'd queued up in a freezing cold warehouse for 45 minutes for a couple of hots dogs and a small can of craft beer and had been fleeced £25 in the process. No, give me a warm restaurant where there's service and comfy seats, I'll leave these events to the young folk. Of course, there were a few exceptions. Hungry Gecko when she was at the Beech, and Honest Crust were a few I've enjoyed along with some others, but I remained miserably steadfast. (I'm not really counting more permanent markets like Levenshulme or Altrincham in this moan).
Then we recently attended the Moretti Movement event at Granada studios which wasn't overly full, was well organised and most importantly the food was all pretty damn good. Those bloody Londoners coming up here and showing us good food eh?
I had to give Beat Street a go though as they were hosting El Gato Negro, a Spanish tapas bar that's been on the to eat list for years. To be honest, it's a bit of a treck to go to Ripponden for tapas, we'd usually travel for Michelin star restaurants although it is in the guide as a Bib Gormand. Also we travel to Spain quite frequently so have visited a number of tapas bars all over the country. (See my Top 10 Tapas Bars post here). Anyhow, as they were going to be at Beat Street, I jumped at the chance to try their stuff out.
I have to say that I really enjoyed the event as a whole, the sun wasn't out so it wasn't too busy so it was pretty easy to get served at the bar and order food. (I can't be doing with queuing for food). I really like the space and the newish venue too. I suppose it helped that I was already pretty pissed when I got there. It was also great to meet some familiar faces and a few people off twitter that I'd not met before. Even meeting the owner of a place I'd not given a great review to recently was convivial enough. (Drinking beer at about 7% makes every night a happy one, although sadly not the morning after).
So what of the food? El Gato Negro played it relatively safe on their first outing (I believe they will be back a few more times with some different dishes). So we got;
Pimientos de Padrón.
Catalan Bread. (Pa amb tomàquet). 
All for £12.
It was all absolutely fine to go with the beer (not mind blowing) although the pimientos had so much salt on them they were actually crunchy. We couldn't eat them. 
We will however definitely be returning when El Gato Negro come back to Beat Street. 
We had a lovely night at Beat Street, it didn't completely remove all my reservations about 'street food' in general but this is where we are at the moment in Manchester. There are good and bad traders as there are good and bad restaurants. Hopefully as 'the scene' progresses, as time goes on, people will be more demanding and we'll see more innovation and vision with better quality food at events like this and others. Having traders with more experience such as El Gato Negro in Manchester can only help street food events to evolve here. We'll be certainly back to try more in future.


Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Lounge 12, Manchester House.

It's been nearly a year since I ate at Manchester House, we are due a return. In the meantime we were invited to the Lounge Bar on the twelfth floor to sample a few cocktails and snacks from the new menu they have up there and to give our opinions. This food has no connection to chef Aiden Byrne's restaurant downstairs as he hasn't got the time to check everything here as well (he doesn't want to put his name to food he has no control over, which is fair enough). It's more in the way of dips and small snacks to go with your drinks. I think they should expand it though to include more tapas style dishes, but these are a pretty good start. (See our review of Cloud 9 Bar in Prague here for the sort of thing I mean.
We like that there's no dress code unlike Cloud 23. Dress codes never remove the 'troublesome' element in my experience, in fact just the opposite. (An impromptu visit to Cloud a few years ago was unsuccessful as they refused me entry for trainers, I've never forgiven them for it!) The cocktail menu has been redesigned and simplified but is still extensive. Cocktails; Mine. A Smoky Old Fashioned. A mix of Woodford reserve bourbon, maple syrup and Jerry Thomas bitters, smoked with oak chips and served over an ice ball.
Hers; a Raspberry Mojito. A popular fruity variation on the classic recipe with Havana Club Especial gold rum, raspberry liqueur, lime juice, sugar and fresh raspberries, topped up with cloudy apple juice.
Black Olive Tapenade, Aubergine Caviar, Pickled Red Pepper, Orange and Cardamom Green Olives, Basil Pesto.
Mango Mojito. A more tropical variation on the original, with Sailor Jerry spiced rum, mango purée,lime juice, sugar, mint and soda water. And a Mint Julep; The classic recipe with Woodford Reserve bourbon in place of the cognac and Crème de Peche with touch of brown sugar for sweetness.

Please note we generally do not to review 'comped' meals or drinks on this website such as this one, but we will occasionally preview and photograph select restaurants and bars when invited. 
Manchester House on Urbanspoon