Monday, 25 July 2016

Spanish Weekend Guides ~ Madrid.

Madrid was actually the first Spanish city I visited way back in the early 90's. I vaguely remember long booze fuelled nights stumbling from one tapas joint to another. I wasn't so discerning but I loved the city then and still do. More so than Barcelona I think although I'm not sure why, maybe it feels more Spanish than touristy. We're still regular visitors to the capital including a trip earlier this year. This guide is seen as an outsider though, there of plenty of local bloggers and food folk who will know lots more than I do. Although we have explored quite extensively over the last few years within the limitations of time, there will always be lots more places to visit.
Where to Stay.
Touristy Plaza Santa Ana was always somewhere I'd gravitate for 20 years ago, so I still have a soft spot for this area. So the Room Mate Alicia is a fine choice, a modern swish boutique hotel, some rooms have extended terraces overlooking the square. (View seen below).
We've also stayed in the Hotel Plaza Mayor, the corner suit at the top of the building has a terrace. On our last occasion we were in the very smart NH Madrid Eurobuilding with view across the city, the best hotel room we've ever been in.
What to do.
At some point in the weekend I'll stroll around the admittedly tourist Plaza Mayor, but on a sunny day even in winter, sitting here with a beer watching the world go by is always a pleasure. We will also usually spend half a day near the lake in Retiro Park (photo above). These are the luxuries I suppose of knowing a city quite well rather than feeling the need to do everything in one weekend. I often visit the Prado Art Gallery at some point (near to the park). The collection is so huge, it's wise to select specific artists. I usually head for the Velázquez room, specifically Las Meninas also the Hieronymus Bosch paintings are a must see, especially The Garden of Earthly Delights. *Note the Spanish call him El Bosco. Lastly, I always make an effort to view Goya's Black Paintings once more, they never lose their power for me. 
Also; visit the Thyssen Museum if you have time.
Where to Eat.
As you may have guessed, this list will be very long. We've eaten in many great Madrid restaurants, yet there are always so many more I want to try next time. My select choices;
Sacha. Is an institution in the city and one of my favourite restaurants in the world. It's also a place where chefs eat, whether local or visiting superstar chefs, those in the know always head to Sacha as will we. Quite right, the food is sensational. Don't miss; the bone marrow.
Restaurante Alabaster. A 'product' restaurant that has no real equivalent in the UK, (apart from Hedone maybe) an obsessive quest for the best products. Don't miss; the sardines.
La Tasquería. A modern temple to nose to tail. We loved it all here.
Don't miss; Manitas, alcachofas y cigala. Pig's Trotter, Artichoke, crayfish.
Street XO. 
Utterly brilliant, we've been to this street food joint three times in two trips.
Don't miss; Pekingese Dumpling, crunchy Pig's Ear & Strawberry Hoisin Sauce.
Michelin Stars.
If you want a fine dining meal on your weekend, try these places.
Punto MX Michelin star Mexican food, we're huge fans of this restaurant.*
DiverXo. Not for the faint hearted, cutting edge cuisine and the only three star restaurant in Madrid. ***
La Terraza del Casino de Madrid.  Perhaps a safer bet, exquisite food in opulent surroundings. **
Coque, Madrid. Well worth a detour outside of the city for this two star. **
Tapas.
Mercado de San Miguel. A vintage market building full of little bars and food stalls.
La Casa del Abuelo. Old school and simple food, the first place we ever had snails.
La Gabinoteca. Excellent modern bistro style tapas.
Taberna del Chato. In the heart of tourist-land, a great little bar for a pit stop, good modern snacks.
Chocolatería San Ginés. A must for your late night post drinking churros, I've been visiting this place for 20 years, hopefully I'll be going for another 20.
Places I've yet to try. 
DSTAgE. I have it on good authority that this is the place to go for some of the finest food in Madrid so I was gutted that I missed out on a booking here last minute. *
Also highly regarded and on my to eat list; La Malaje, Triciclo, Kabuki, La Tasquita de Enfrente, Al Trapo, 99 Sushi Bar, Santceloni, Sala de Despiece, Albora, Restaurante Lakasa.
Day Trips from Madrid
If you're in Madrid for more than a few days both Segovia and Toledo are fantastic day trips out of the city. Segovia is especially noted for it's famous Suckling Pig. Try restaurant José María and for high end, highly rated is chef Rubén Arnanz's Villena.


Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Grafene, Manchester.

A few weeks ago, I travelled over to Losehill House Hotel in the Peak District (hence the rural backdrop in some of the photos below). I was commissioned to photograph some of the food and cocktails we can expect to see at the new Grafene on King Street in Manchester from owners Paul and Kathryn Roden, their Executive Chef, Darren Goodwin and Head Chef Damien Cunliffe (previously of Volta). As follows.
Crispy Lamb Breast, spinach, saffron yoghurt and pomegranate.
Pickled Mackerel, Chilled Sorrel Soup, kohlrabi and apple.
Tunworth Potato Purée. Charcoal grilled vegetables with truffle and parsley.
Their own Bresaola with Caesar salad.
Cocktails ~ 'Gin & Beets'.
'Rosalita'.
'Smoking Bulleit'.
Egg, buttermilk waffle and smoked bacon. Obviously a breakfast dish, Grafene will be open all day...

...Including Afternoon Tea.
Desserts. Sorrel Posset with sumac meringue.
Goats curd & strawberry cheesecake, macadamia nut crumble & white chocolate.... and more...

Full Menu here www.grafene.co.uk

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Favourite 25 Dishes This Year....so far.

I usually do these lists at the end of the year, but by that time people are bored of them as there are so many others around. So I'm doing a 'best of' half way through the year as a little recap on some of our food related travels. Compiling it reminds me of all the good things I've eaten so far and how I really should go on that diet. I've tried to keep to one dinner, one dish where possible. Otherwise some places would have dominated. These are not in any real order, that would be an impossible task, just as they occur to me....
1. Welsh Wagyu 4 ways, Ynyshir Hall, Wales.
 2. Cuba libre of foie gras with lemon granite and rocket salad, Quique Dacosta, Dénia, Spain.
 3. "Falsa Lasanga" Fake sea urchin lasagne at Sacha, Madrid, Spain.
 4. Seared Wild Red King Prawns at Ibérica, Manchester.
 5. Sardina ahumada en tosta con queso de Arzúa, tomate y cebolleta. Alabaster, Madrid.
 6. Smoked Egg Yolk ~ Clam ~ Celeriac & Bacon Soup. The Samling, Windermere.
7. "Olivas" La Terraza del Casino de Madrid
 8. 'Singapore Laksa', Carabineros, Coconut cream. Shiitake Mushrooms, StreetXo, Madrid. 
9. Carabineros, El Gato Negro, Manchester.
10. Pig's Trotter, Artichoke, crayfish, La Tasquería, Madrid.
11. 'Atomica' N'Duja Pizza, Honest Crust, Altrincham Market.
12.  Pork Belly Steamed Bao, Ibérica, Manchester.
13. Slow cooked beef short rib, Tuscan fennel sausage, n'duja. Sugo Pasta Kitchen, Altrincham.
14. Kuai Tiew Duck, Siam Smiles, Manchester.
15. Suckling Pig, Coque, Madrid.
16. Ashes rice, Quique Dacosta at Ibérica, Manchester.
17. Beef Tartare, Burnt Truffle, Heswall.
18. Txuleton‬, Levanter, Ramsbottom.
19. Tiara with salted fish & pickles, La Salita, Valencia.
20. Roast Lamb, summer cabbage and hyssop. Dan Cox at The French, Manchester.
 21. Arroz cremoso de Tripas de Bacalao, poltrota y encurtidos, (Creamy cod rice). Saiti, Valencia.
22. Organic Beef Hamburger, Canalla Bistro, Valencia.
23. Oyster from Valencia, avocado and 'horchata' of galanga, Ricard Camarena, Valencia.
24. 'Posh' Lobster Soup, Rob Owen Brown at Palate, Chorlton.
25. 'High Peak' Rack of lamb at The Lowry Hotel, Manchester.