Monday 30 September 2013

Rosylee Tearooms, Manchester.

It's only been open for about six weeks, but I've seen nothing but good reviews for the Rosylee Tearooms. We went on Saturday for an early lunch. The sun was out on Stevenson Square and even Manchester was looking at its best for a change. It didn't even really feel like England, more like a European city Square, well almost. We sat outside, next to a large table of friendly and high spirited Dutch Manchester United fans, which added to the unreal nature of it. The sun was really shining on us, and everyone was in fine spirits. I didn't even mind when our neighbours started playing Michael Bolton on a little stereo. 
I had a look inside, they've done a great job, it's totally different from everywhere else round these parts, it feels a bit Parisian, with the tiles, and plants hanging down from the ceiling. Sometimes all it takes is a little imagination and some creativity to design the right ambience. The staff were all really lovely as well and dressed elegantly. I had a good feeling about this place even before we ate.
From the Light bites part of the menu we ordered the Minted Lamb Ballantine. Slow braised lamb with mint, feta, olives, red onion marmalade, cucumber ribbons, and confit cherry tomatoes. (£6.95). Also the Goats Cheese Bonbons. Panko breaded goats cheese bonbons with pickled red cabbage tapenade, roasted red peppers, and pea shoots. (£6.50). We were really impressed with the presentation and both tasted as good as they look.

It was at once obvious that we were in the hands of a kitchen who know what they are doing. The head chef and some of the team are from Simon Rimmer's Earle and Greens. (I've been to the latter and very decent it was too.) I would say that this food was a level above where I presumed it'd be. The portion could have been a tiny bit bigger though for me for the price, but it was very nicely put together. They are clearly doing things the right way, with flair and attention to detail. 
A chat with Grace from Rosylee Tearooms confirmed it; she really knows the industry well, and it really shows already. You'd be surprised at how many places open without a clue and with a gaping hole in their business plan; the food's just not good enough. (Not mentioning any names). She told us that they're not having an official opening for a while but a long soft opening to get everything just right. They're planning events like a jazz singer; we were saying that's another thing places often get completely wrong; loud and crap pop music can totally spoil the ambience of a place (the only thing Mr Coopers got wrong for us).
We shared a mains as we have a bit of food fatigue at the moment. It had to be the Fish & Chips. Beer battered cod steak with thick cut chips, Manchester caviar, Rosylee tartar sauce and a saffron crème fraiche (£11.95). 

Lovely crispy batter, excellent fat chips (although I'd prefer French fries), and very nicely presented again, this was another total winner for us. I suggested to them, maybe they could offer a few other types of fish as an option as cod's so bland, (and unsustainable), but otherwise it was all good. 
We had to go for a couple of puds. A freshly made éclair and a fabulous Crème brûlée . The subtle addition of rosewater lifted it from a good Crème brûlée, to one of the best I've had. The éclair was very good from what I remember, although it was pretty much down in two bites with me.

The lunch came to £35, but they'd sent out the desserts for free, which if you know me, you'll know pleased me no end. We'd already fallen for the Rosylee Tearooms anyway.  
I can't say enough good things about this place, we really liked it. One of my favourite none Rogan restaurant openings of the year I reckon. 
So I suggest you go down to Stevenson square and try it for yourselves. 
I cannot guarantee sun though, or friendly Dutch football fans. 

Price: Pretty good. A tiny bit overpriced for me. But it is the NQ.
Lovely. Slow at times though.
Atmosphere: Loved it, inside and out. The sun helped  as well.
Food: Very good bistro food.
Star dish:
Minted Lamb Ballantine.
Score: 7/10.

Cafe De Flore‬ - ‪Doctor Rockit‬.
‪Belleville Rendez-Vous‬ Soundtrack.
‪Tea For Two - Django Reinhardt‬.
Boum - Charles Trenet.
‪La vie en rose‬ - Grace Jones.‬ ‪

  Rosy Lee Tea Rooms on Urbanspoon

Friday 27 September 2013

Independent Manchester Beer Convention.

I just worked out that I've been drinking beer for nearly 30 years. Jesus, that's actually quite scary. Even early on I worked out that if I was going to be drinking a fair bit of it, I might as well make sure it was going to be good stuff. Thankfully I get an amazing choice in Chorlton, in my view it must be the very best place in the country for proper real ale. There are well over 20 outlets, and the places that do well seem to be the ones that have the best choice (Electrik, Marble, The Beagle, The Bar etc). However, I live in a little bubble of real ale excellence, a lot of people outside of the big cities may not have such a fantastic choice.
Some recent beers I've enjoyed.
We do very well in Manchester too, with more and more beer festivals throughout the year. Sadly I missed the Chorlton one this year, but I will be going to the Independent Manchester Beer Convention on Thursday 10th to Sunday 13th October 2013 at Victoria Baths. (There are currently only tickets available for Thursday and Sunday.) Even for a beer festival the list of brewers are excellent;
Arbor, Beavertown, Birra Del Borgo, Birrificio Italiano, Bitches Brewing, Blackjack Beers, BrewDog, BrewFist, Brodie’s, Buxton, Camden Town Brewery, Cromarty, Dark Star, Emelisse, First Chop, Harbour, Hawkshead, Kirkstall Brewery, Liverpool Craft Beer Co., Lovibonds, Magic Rock, Marble, Mikkeller, The Moss Cider Project, Quantum, Redchurch Brewery, RedWillow, Roosters, Siren Craft Brew, Summer Wine Brewery, Tap East, The Kernel, Thistly Cross, Thornbridge, Tiny Rebel, Toccalmatto, To Øl, Weird Beard, Wild Beer and MORE!

I've been in training for this for 30 years, but there's only one problem, how can I possibly sample them all? for more details.

Soundtrack; ‪Amos Milburn - One Scotch, One, Bourbon, One Beer‬.

Thursday 26 September 2013

Electrik, Chorlton Manchester.

As I mentioned in a previous post, Electrik is probably my favourite bar in the Chorlton centre amongst some high quality competition. They've got an amazing beer choice, and a chilled, scruffy vibe, plus they make a seriously good mojito. On the rare occasion we go clubbing in town these days, we always meet there first for a cocktail.
But I've never eaten at Electrik, despite hearing good things about their Sunday dinner. I popped in today for a burger. I was very tempted by the Electrikuted Dog; Giant smoked pork dog smothered in chilli and cheese (£6.80). I've seen photos of this beast on twitter. But as tomorrow I plan to go to Dogs & Dough in town, I opted for the Electrified Burger; beef chilli, cheese, Jalapenos, our own dirty sauce (£8.50). Being the greedy sort I also had to get the Mucky Electrikfied spicy fries, cheese sauce and Jalapenos (£4.50). 

As usual, I had eyes bigger than my belly. Bloody hell it was huge when it arrived. Big, juicy, dirty and just a bit sloppy, even for me this was a trial to get through! It's not the best burger I 've ever had, not the worst by an means either. I reckon it would have gone down better after a few more pints of Warsteiner. There are better places for burgers in town, but it's big simple bar food that would nicely end a mammoth drinking session where this would work best. The chips were equally plentiful and mucky; I couldn't even finish them, and I'm a 'professional'.  Maybe I'm finally burgered out. This came to about £16 with a pint, which is probably a bit more than I want to spend for lunch, but I really didn't need the fries as well.
Shall I return again for the food? Yes definitely, and I'll be getting a big f*ck off dog next time. Will I ever learn?

Soundtrack; Electrik Red - So Good.
  Electrik on Urbanspoon

Wednesday 25 September 2013

El Campero, Barbate, Zahara de los Atunes, Spain

Barbate is a scruffy little Spanish town on the coast of the Costa de la Luz, the wild and rugged coastline that stretches from the straits of Gibraltar up to Portugal. We've explored this part of Andalucia many times over the years, it's 'real' authentic Spain where you don't often hear English spoken and you'll not see British cooked breakfasts served. As much as I love a fry up, I've never understood the concept of going to a country where the food is generally superior to back home, but eating just British food.
We've not been to Barbate before though and probably wouldn't have bothered unless food was involved as it's not especially prepossessing.
I'd got a hot tip that El Campero was a fantastic restaurant, that pretty much just served tuna in its many forms. Turns out it's quite famous round these parts, and can serve 350 a day in peak season! It's on a side street surrounded by blocks of flats, I had a very good feeling about this place though, it just felt right. We were given the proper menu, but luckily noticed the tapas menu inside which is what I wanted so we could sample as many dishes as possible for very little cost.
They brought us out some very good quality bread (it's nearly always excellent bread in Spain I find), and some small chunks of complimentary Mojama paté.
So this is what we actually ordered:
Atún Picante (Spicy tuna, €5.50). Stunning!
Lasaña Fria de Atún (Cold tuna lasagne €3.75.) Gorgeous!
Mini Burger de Atún (Tuna Burger, €4.75.) We loved the specially made box it came in.
Bombón de foie, mojama y queso con crema de manzana. (Foie Bombon, salt-cured tuna and cheese with apple cream). This is a Michelin Star dish right there and it's just £3! (€4). Unfortunately we had to share it!

Tataki de Atún Rojo (€10). Extremely high grade tuna.
 Tortillita de Verduras y Gambas. (Little tortilla of veg and prawns, €2.50).
 Semi Mojama de Atun (€9).
Langostino en Tempura con ali-oli de tomate (€3). Probably the most superior, lightest, crispiest tempura we've ever had; superb!
Other fabulous stuff.

We were completely blown away by the food, it was extremely good quality, the tuna of course is second to none, but the skill of the chef in preparation as well. The prices too, are very reasonable, and much of the food was as good as if not better than some expensive Michelin starred places we've been to.
So why tuna?
Well obviously it's that old thing terroir again, it's simply the very best product that's local, so they use it, and they serve it in at least 30 ways.
Chef Jose Melero known locally as 'The Master of Tuna' says;
“We never buy tuna less than 30 kilos in weight and mostly around 10 years old. We are extremely careful who we buy it from and we freeze it at minus 60 degrees – or ‘calidad sashimi’ – so we can use it all year round.” *
The almadraba, the fishing of bluefin tuna is limited only to May and June when the fish migrate to the Mediterranean. Barbate is perfectly located as the straits are quite narrow. Mojama is the method that they use to salt-cure the tuna.
 We enjoyed our lunch at El Campero so much that we went to their sister tapas bar in Zahara de los Atunes (literally 'of the tuna') a few days later.
It's about 10 minutes drive down the coast. We were staying there anyway. It's a fantastic little seaside village with a beautiful long sandy beach that's almost like some of the beaches you see in Australia or the West coast of the States. We watched the sunset and then went to eat!
Here's a top tip for you, if you ever want a table in Spain. Everybody comes out at exactly the same time, and never before 9pm. So if you want your pick of tables just turn up at 8.50pm - simple. By 9.30 we just sat at our table watching Spanish families milling about trying to find tables that just weren't available as they filled up extremely quickly. Seems everybody knows how good El Campero is. There's nothing better, when you've got a table and you have all of the lovely food to be eaten ahead of you!
I really like the decoration inside, it's modern and clean with quirky nautical details.
This is what we ordered this time, all off the tapas menu.
Just look at those prices! Unbelievable.
Langostino en Tempura con ali-oli de tomate (€3). We ordered this again as it was so good.
Taquitos de Pescado de Roca Fritos. (Fried rock fish nuggets - €9).
Ortiguillas de Mar Frita (Fried Anemones - €7). I've not seen either of these things much in the UK. Do we even eat them?
Brocheta de Rape Vieiras y Langostinos. (Monkfish, scallop and King Prawn Kebab (€9.50).
Croqueta de Pescado o Mojama. Homemade Fish or Mojama Croquettes (€6).
Other stuff, including a nice pudding Queso Cuajado not made of tuna! I think this below is Beef Sirloin tip in Pedro Ximénez Sauce. (€4.50.) Turns out they can do excellent meat dishes too.
Everything was superb again, just that bit better than at the average tapas bar, even in Spain. People often recommend tapas bars in the UK, and they're nearly always a massive disappointment, if they were only half as good as El Campero, I'd be very happy indeed! They also seem to serve exactly the same several dishes over here, but as El Campero shows, tapas bars in Spain often have much more variety, based on what products are good locally.
It's worth noting that in my opinion, a place like El Campero simply couldn't exist in the UK. This is because British people don't eat much fish. In Spain everyone eats fish, it's not a delicacy for the middle classes, everyone eats lots of it all of the time and in great variety. Something I'll be exploring in more depth next week.
So to conclude, if you're in Andalucia and you like tuna, hell even if you don't like tuna, this place is an absolute must! Probably the best none Michelin star/guide meal of the year for us.
 Price: Amazing value. Michelin guide food at low prices.
Atmosphere: Especially like the buzz of the tapas bar in the evening.
Food: Extremely good.
Star dish:
Score: 8.5/10.

*Quote Souce: Dining Secrets of Andalucia.

Soundtrack - White Sandy Beach of Hawai'i - Israel Kamakawiwo'ole.