Thursday 28 February 2013

The Bacon Guide to Prague.

In between Christmas and New Year, we went to Prague. It was probably the most enjoyable city break we've ever done. Firstly, it must be one of the most beautiful of the medieval capitals in Europe, and if you go just after Christmas, the festive markets are still on, which seems to keep the season going longer (unlike in Manchester where they pack up days before.)
Prague used to be a wasteland for fine dining, not so these days. There are two Michelin Star restaurants, one of which La Degustation Bohême Bourgeoise, we were lucky enough to visit. The beer is legendary, and we visited as many pubs as we could, all in the name of research! I think U Pinkasu was my favourite. These beer halls serve the most wonderful ale, normally Budweiser or Pilsner Urquell, but they've not quite got that 'cosy' factor as Belgian bars do. Czech pubs are normally brightly lit, and perfunctory, perhaps a throwback to the communist era. It's not really in the Czech way to give 'service with a smile' either, so they can seem a little brusque if you're not used to it. Also, there's still smoking currently allowed in pubs, which is very strange coming from the UK, where it's been outlawed for some time.
Here's a map of the best beer halls, pubs and restaurants in central Prague. As we only had three days there, we decided to stay fairly central. Also on the map is our hotel The Maximillian, a lovely boutique hotel that's very central and is next door to the best restaurant in town, La Degustation Bohême Bourgeoise, and Lokal which is great for cheap eats.
To enlarge click the map below:

All photos ©

Monday 25 February 2013

6 Craft Beers from Beermoth.

I had intended to taste all dark beers (porter and stouts) from Beermoth, but I just couldn't resist some of the new IPA's they had in stock, plus a few old favourites. Every beer they've recommended to me so far has been fantastic, and notably scored at least 90 on the American website Ratebeer (where 100 is a perfect brew.) I started off with Odell Cutthroat Porter. (£3.35) from Colorado. This was a light, clean and fresh porter Very drinkable, nicely balanced and smooth with roasted malts. A really enjoyable drink, this could easily be a session beer. 8/10

De Ranke XX Bitter. (£2.80) This is a beer I'm very familiar with from one of my favourite Belgian breweries. It's kind of like a Belgian beer mixed with an English ale. It's quite bitter, dry, herby, floral and very hoppy. It's refreshing and clean but with bitter peppery notes. 7/10

Next is a beer I'm not sure how I've missed tasting up until now, The Kernel IPA Centennial from London (£3.60.) This is lovely, floral, flowery and fresh and just a little bitter. It's superb, I really like the dry hoppy taste, but it's less bitter than the previous which I preferred. 9/10.

Brugse Zot (£3.70) maybe seen as bland if you're expecting a typical strong tasting Belgian brew, but I see it as a session beer. It's clean and has a little of that Belgian magic, it's not especially complex, but it's a good palette cleanser. 8/10

On another session, I also tried the Crooked Tree IPA (£4.10) another new US brew for me. It's a very bitter, tropical dry IPA. Super hoppy and citrussy, definitely one for the 'hop heads'. 8/10.

Last, but by no means least Beavertown Black Betty (£3.90) A superbly balanced smooth black IPA. Not bitter, sharp, or malty it's like black velvet. Just delicious. *Star Choice 9/10 .

Sunday 24 February 2013

All about Pies

Who ate all the pies? That would be me. I love pies. I also love living on Chorlton Green, so when the two combine as they did on Saturday, I'm a very happy chap indeed. The last Saturday of the month is the farmers market on the green, which was started by The Horse and Jockey.
A vintage Chorlton Green Postcard. Believe it or not, I'm actually on this picture!

It's a brilliant idea, but I know the stallholders have reported the takings to be down over the last 12 months, so I think we should support it. Mrs Bacon went down to pick up some pies for our tea from All About Pies. She came back with Wow Wow beef (with port), Minted Lamb and Homity (their best seller.) Years of training, and she knows the ones I'd choose!

Proper home made and imperfect is always superior.
I popped back down to take a few pictures, and chat with John who is All about Pies. He supplies The Beech pub. It's hard to resist, when the deal is a pint and a pie for £5. They are normally priced at a very reasonable £2 to £2.50 mark. You can also get them from Epicerie Ludo in Chorlton.

We really enjoyed them all, but if I had to choose one, it'd be the Minted Lamb, perfect with mash, veg & gravy. The crust is nice and crusty, and the classic lamb and mint is like a Sunday dinner in pie form. Perfect!

Friday 22 February 2013

Aldi Exquisite Collection Uco Valley Malbec 2011

There's only one way to describe this wine; and that's absolutely delicious. It's another Aldi bargain at just under £6. Their wine selection is really excellent and this is one of my favourites. It's actually quite expensive for Aldi, but you know you're getting your moneys worth. Pity they don't do something about their awful beer selection, as their wines are superb.

Much better to get one of these, than an average supermarket wine "on offer", often not a bargain at all but made artificially high so they can regularly put it on special.
It's smooth spicy, and blackcurrant notes are a real winner with me. I've also tried the Clare Valley Cabernet Sauvignon in the same collection, but this one is superior.
Just go and buy it, it's a steal.

Region: Uco Valley Argentina
Price: £5.99, 75cl
Grapes: 100% Malbec
ABV: 14%
Closure: Screwcap.
Scores on the doors: Very Good 8/10

Hicksons & Black's Deli, Chorlton.

Hickson & Black's is a cute little deli on the main Barlow Moor Road in Chorlton. I saw on twitter that someone had mentioned that their bacon butty was good, so me and Mrs Bacon stopped off on the way back from town.

They stock quite a few nice looking products, a good selection of British, French and Italian cheeses including Manchego, Mrs Kirkham's Lancashire and Pecorino Romano. I also spotted some very nice looking pies. All very tempting but we were strictly here for the take out sandwiches.

We ordered a Bacon, Egg & Tomato on a barm (£3.) We also asked what else they could recommend, they suggested a Lomo, Rocket, Manchego, Artichoke & Olive oil on a ciabatta.(£3.50.) You don't normally see Lomo in the UK, it's a Spanish dry-cured meat made from a pork tenderloin. It's often used as tapas in Spain, and it's absolutely delicious. Mrs Bacon couldn't resist buying some Morcilla (Spanish black pudding) either, another product you don't see that often here. Although I had some recently at Bar San Juan. They made our sandwiches while we waited.
We took our goodies home. I tried the old school bacon butty, it was great, exactly what you want with a moist and runny egg. 
Old school goodness.

The Lomo was even better. The rocket/meat and manchego ratio was just right and you could taste the drizzled olive oil on the fresh ciabatta bread. This for me is Chorlton's best sandwich right there. Superb.

Lomo, Rocket, Manchego, Artichoke & Olive oil on a ciabatta.

559A Barlow Moor Road


Manchester M21 8AN

Tuesday 19 February 2013

Estrella Damm Inedit Beer.

I was keen to try Estrella Damm Inedit as it was made in in cooperation with the brew-master of Estrella Damm and Masterchef Ferran Adrià of El Bulli fame. I noticed that Waitrose had it in, then I thought I was going to get some on the happy hour deal at Manchester sushi restaurant Umezushi, but disappointingly they'd ran out on the night we ate there. I also noticed that Etrop Grange had got it on their taster menu/beer pairing night. I finally picked a bottle up in a super big Tesco store for £5.
It comes in an impressive matt black cardboard box, the packaging design is spot on with the gold embossed star which I guess represents a Michelin star.
 First sip and I was thinking, is that it? It's a refreshing, hazy, fresh, soft subtle wheat beer in the Belgian Witbier style. It has a slight floral, coriander citrus element which is pleasing and it's would be a good accompaniment to go with food as it's apparently been brewed for. But for a real beer lover like myself, although it's not unpleasant, I was expecting a lot more. I think it's a beer for people who don't like beer. It's not a patch on Belgian Witbier's Blanche des Honnelles, St. Bernardus Witbier, or Blanche de Namur (Mrs Bacon's favourite beer.) Am I glad I tried it? Yes definitely, it's a decent beer and I would probably buy it again (I could imagine drinking it at a BBQ in Summer) but it's not the world class beer as I'd hoped it would be.

Estrella Damm Inedit
Style: Belgian White (Witbier)
ABV: 4.8%
Score: 6/10
Available from: Waitrose & Tesco

Saturday 16 February 2013

The Hungry Gecko at The Beech Chorlton

I've always wanted to eat the food of Jackie Kearney who you may have seen as a finalist on BBC1's Masterchef. I tried to organise a group of us to go to her Dining Club at her house in Chorlton, she's actually a neighbour of a friend of mine, and it sounded like a fun and different night out. But what with one thing and another, we couldn't agree on a date, so it was put on the back burner - yet another thing on the long list of things 'to do'. So when I found out that she was going to be bringing her Asian street food from her silver van 'Barbarella' into the beer garden of my favourite and local pub The Beech, (see my review here.) I was excited to try it.
What a genius idea!

We went down on Friday evening. Always keen; me and Mrs Bacon were actually the first to be served. We ordered the Paneer Shashlik Roti Wrap, spicy marinated fresh paneer with cachumba salad, with coriander chutney & raita (£5), the Sloppy Joe Rendang, grass fed Cheshire beef with coconut & lemongrass, in turmeric roll, served with Asian 'slaw (£5), also the Murtabak & Smoky Tofu served with Asian 'slaw (£4), and the Nasi Goreng & 5 Spice Pork Belly (£6.50.) It was all great, really fresh, the good strong spicy flavours work very well with beer - a perfect combination.

Nasi Goreng & 5 Spice Pork Belly.

Murtabak & Smoky Tofu served with Asian 'slaw.

Jackie told us that she will be changing the menu as she goes along to be seasonal and to see what is the most popular. The clever thing about it is that you can have it as a proper evening meal like we did, have one dish as a snack or tapas or eat at the end of the night after a load of beers (I can see myself doing this quite often.) I think it was a bit of a nightmare for them driving this big beautiful van all around the country and I would imagine costly. She told us that she was sitting in a square in Manchester and a friend of hers said 'you need a space to park your van - a semi permanent spot.' The Beech was the perfect place (especially for me as I'm 2 mins walk from there.) She approached the pub and they agreed.

Jackie hard at work.
She will be serving her Asian street food inspired menu every Friday and Saturday from 4pm till closing, and on Sunday from 12pm until late. If last night was anything to judge it by, this venture will be a huge success for her and The Beech. The atmosphere was brilliant, a bit like a festival - but with people of all ages - and the regulars like us. It was really busy in there, but luckily we'd got our seat at 5pm.

We were imagining it on a warm summer night (remember them?) sitting outside drinking beer and eating this great food. It maybe tempting for a few regulars to have a moan about how busy it is now, but this venture can only be a good thing for The Beech, Chorlton and all of us who like going out, drinking beer and eating!

Sloppy Joe Rendang.
The Hungry Gecko at The Beech
Beech road
Hungry Gecko at The Beech Inn on Urbanspoon

Friday 15 February 2013

Parlour, Chorlton

What's in a name? Bacon's not actually my real name. Before I started this website, I was thinking whether I should really start a blog or not. Did I really want to photograph every meal I ate out? Once I started, I knew I'd not stop, and so it came to happen. If I did start, I thought I'd call it Bacononthebeach after a favourite quote from Homer in The Simpsons, you can see the clip here.  As I live just off Beech road in Chorlton, I changed the a to an e. Once I'd thought of the name, I just had to do the blog, because the name existed so the blog would have to.
Our favourite bistro on Beech road, Parlour was previously called Marmalade, then before that it was The Nose, and The Blue Note even further back. These were all separate businesses, but in the same venue, which hasn't changed that much since it was The Nose.

I was reading a London food blogger called Burgers & Bruce (great name again especially if you love both burgers & Bruce Springsteen.) She had only gone and reviewed Parlour, our local. We've been to Parlour loads of times as it's only two minutes from Bacon towers, but how come I've never had a burger before or even noticed it on the menu?
I popped in on Thursday lunchtime, they've really got shabby chic down to a tee, and I was able to take Sam the collie as well, he was very happy with that. I ordered a pint of Harviestoun Bitter & Twisted, a quite weak but decent session beer that was perfect for lunch time at only 3.8%. I really like the old school dimpled pint glasses, they have cute little half pint ones as well which are hard to get.

I  knew I was going to have the Handmade Beef Burger with Cheese, Caper & Gherkin Mayo, Proper Chips & Beer Batter Onion Rings (£10.75 + bacon £1.00 extra.)
When it finally came, it did not disappoint, with the bun from local bakers J B Richardson (you can see my review here,) which is just across the road, and the meat from Frosts, the two main elements were sourced very locally. The burger was lovely and juicy, it sounds daft to say this, but it really tasted of meat. Done just the way I like it as well. I also liked the gherkin and the mayo and it was definitely worth paying the extra pound for the bacon.

I was now eating Bacon on (the)beech (road!)
I'd always prefer thin fries to chips, but these thick chips were good and crispy and quite well done which is how I prefer them, as were the crunchy onion rings (I'm not normally a big fan.)

The bill came to £15.15 with a pint, and they bought me and the dog some water.
It was a lovely lunch.

I returned to Parlour a few days later for their Observer Award Winning Sunday Lunch with Mrs Bacon and my Mum & Dad. It opens at midday and we got the last table at about five past 12 - unbelievable! It's very popular, although you can reserve a table if your party is over 6 people.

We started off with the Ham Hock & Apricot Terrine with Piccalilli (£5.25) which was pretty good, but the Mackerel Paté with Granary Toast (£4.95) was even better (I'd have preferred bit more paté though.)
Ham Hock & Apricot Terrine with Piccalilli.

Mackerel Paté with Granary Toast.
My dad said that his Sweet Potato Soup of the Day with Granary Bread (£4.75) was the thickest soup he'd ever had (this was a good thing for him.) Then came the Pièce de résistance; the Sunday dinner. We all went for the Roast Topside of Beef & Yorkshire Pudding Served with Roast Potatoes, Mashed Potato, Carrot & Swede Mash, Honey Mustard Roasted Organic Parsnips & Braised Red Cabbage (£11.95.)
Sunday Dinner does not get much better than this. (said in a Greg Wallace voice.)

Nice crispy roasties, but please can I have some more?
Before it came Mrs Bacon was concerned there wasn't going to be enough gravy; we both like it swimming in the stuff, and if there's not enough, it's a gravy crisis. We ordered extra to be on the safe side. The massive dinners came, along with 2 extra jugs of gravy. Mrs Bacon was now worried we'd got too much as there was plenty on the roasts after all. "You better eat all that," she said. "No worries", I said. I love my gravy, and can quite happily drink it with a soup spoon. This was very good gravy as well, so I did.
The empty gravy jug.

The roast was big, the meat was good, the roast potatoes were lovely and crisp (I'd have liked another to be honest but I'm a greedy guts.) The mash was nice and creamy as well. Nicola Duncan the previous chef has gone to Damson in Media City, (see my review here, ) but the famous roast lives on, as it has done from the beginning. We didn't have room for a pudding. Our lunch came to £76.65 with a few drinks, which we all agreed was good value.

We left at about 1.30 and Beech road was buzzing, every table was full inside and outside despite it being February.  Another fine reason to be grateful we live in Chorlton, Parlour is real a winner with us.

Price: Good value for the quality.
Service: Friendly, charming, occasionally a little slow.
Atmosphere: Buzzing Chorlton.
Food: Great. "Traditional local with a modern edge."
Star dish:  The award winning Sunday Dinner. (With a special mention for the fab burger!)

The Parlour on Urbanspoon