Wednesday 26 August 2015

Burnt Truffle, Heswall.

I love the hospitality industry and I love working in restaurants. Especially the likes of Burnt Truffle in Heswall. You know all about it I'm sure, the second restaurant from Gary Usher and the team behind Sticky Walnut in Chester. As ever with these shoots, I can't claim a completely unbiased opinion (so feel free to ignore anything I say about the food). I'm there to do a job; to take photos.
Whilst I'm working, I'm not hungry, not in the slightest. I'm totally focussed, obsessed even, on getting the shots. Photos of the dishes from every conceivable angle I can think of. The natural lighting isn't quite as good as had anticipated at Burnt Truffle, the windows are smaller than at Sticky and the ceiling lights are making shadows. It all makes a difference. You can edit this in the post processing but it's never as good as the best lighting on the day. I worry and fuss about the smallest details. It's not like blogging where it doesn't really matter if you get the shot. Here I am determined to do the very best job I can do, being a perfectionist I suppose like the best chefs are. (Before anyone pulls me up on this, being a photographer is nowhere near as difficult or as hard work as being a Chef).
Gary is not happy with one of the dishes so takes it off the menu. I can tell it's really pissed him off. It'll return when they've got it right. The devil is in the detail. To care so much is to get things done properly, no cutting corners.
Below. To start. Great bread is always a good sign of a great restaurant.
It's only after a few hours of shooting can I relax and have lunch. Following the first shoot I eat. The Jacob's Ladder & Truffle Chips is wonderful, the meat unctuous and glossy with those perfect chips. A regular of Sticky Walnut on another table tells me that these chips are the best he's ever tasted.
I return for another session to photograph Gary, Emma and Wongo. I get some decent shots, they're like a little family, they even have a dog (well my dog; Sam on loan who has been waiting patiently outside on the terrace).
This time I cannot resist the Lamb's Tongue (even better than I remember it from Sticky Walnut) and The Duck Confit.
 If you're a fan of Sticky Walnut, you'll know exactly what you're getting with Burnt Truffle. Deceptively simple brilliant bistro food and just proper cooking. But if it is so simple, why doesn't everyone do it like this? Even just reading the menu, it's interesting, they never go for the obvious, I want to eat everything on it. Most menus look exactly the same these days. Not here. As I always say, there's nowhere quite like it in Manchester.
For my part I left there confident that I'd got my shots but a little downhearted that I can't work (and eat) there every week and sad that we've not got a Burnt Truffle where I live in Chorlton. Well not yet anyway.
More photos from the shoot here.

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Monday 24 August 2015

The French, Manchester.

If you have a terrible memory as I do,  it's easy to forget how good a restaurant is if you've not eaten there for well over a year. As it is with The French. On this occasion we went for lunch and the £50 for 3 courses deal they have on (with a few extras). This represents excellent value for money for a restaurant of this quality. We were impressed yet again by the food which is even better than I remember it. The service too is always on point. We are treated more like returning members of the family by the whole team here especially manager Kamilla (effortless charm and ultra efficiency personified).
Crispy pig trotter and belly, hay emulsion. Well moist porky bites.
Seaweed cracker, fresh crab, radish.
Beetroot with goats cheese, walnut and pineapple weed.
Grilled courgette flowers with lamb's sweetbreads, peas, pea juice and ramson capers.
Ox in coal oil, pumpkin seed, kohlrabi and sunflower shoots. We opt for the three courses but there are a few additions! You cannot go to The French without eating the signature dish. It's always a pleasure to eat and remains one of the best dishes in the city.
Holker Suckling Lamb with lamb sweetbreads, chard, carrots, lamb juices with garlic. This is probably the finest lamb we've ever eaten (from Holker in Cumbria).
Cheese Trolley.
Poached cherries and sweet cheese, hazelnut and oxalis. The desserts were an improvement on previous trips.
Macerated strawberries, yoghurt mousse, strawberry glass, toasted oats, sweet cicely.
Coffee and treats. Wines. Furmint, Istenhegy, Arvay 2011 Tokaji, Hungary 2011.
Vina Tondonia White Reserva Bodegas R. Lopez de Heredia Rioja Spain, 1999.
Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Domaine Grand Veneur, Rhone Valley France 2010.
Schloss Vollrads, Auslese, Riesling, Rheingau, Germany, 2009. 

I said the same when The French opened and this visit reaffirms our belief: in our opinion there is no finer restaurant in Manchester in terms of service and food.  
3 course lunch, sparkling cocktail, glass of wine, coffee and treats.
* Paid up front. Bill reimbursed by 
A version of this post will appear on Bookatable. (No editorial input).

The French by Simon Rogan - The Midland Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday 19 August 2015

10 Exciting New Restaurant Openings.

There are so many places opening that I can hardly keep up but sadly some of these in this city will be more of the same, devoid of any inspiration or quality. Here though I count ten of my personal favourite new restaurant openings in Manchester and further afield (in the order that I think of them).
1. Baratxuri Bar.
Finally we are getting a Basque pintxos bar in the north and it's run by the lovely folks at Levanter so you know they'll be serving up proper pintxos in a Northern Town.
Where: Ramsbottom.
When: Mid September.
2. Sticky Walnut 3.
For their next restaurant following Burnt Truffle, Gary Usher will be hopefully looking closer to Manchester to open a third fantastic bistro.
Where: Chorlton, (possibly).
When: Unknown.
3. The Forest Side.
Chef Kevin Tickle from L'Enclume and Rogan&Co is a Michelin star trained chef so we know the food here will be something to look forward to.
Where: Grasmere, The Lake District.
When: Late Autumn.
4. StreetXo.
We loved StreetXo Madrid so much. It was the best meal of last year so we eagerly wait for chef David Muñoz's street-food operation to arrive in London this year.
Where: 15 Old Burlington St, London.
When: It has already been delayed several times. Hopefully before Christmas.

5 ‘Global Brasserie’*
The Mughli team and chef David Gale take over the old Superstore site so I'm expecting it to be more like The Railway Café than Mughli in Rusholme.
Where: Tib Street, Northern Quarter.
When: Later on in the year. 
* Not actual name.
6. Lunya.
Where: Barton Arcade, Deansgate, Manchester.
When: Early October.
I'm really looking forward to the arrival of both these tapas heavyweights at 6 & 7.
7. El Gato Negro
Where: King Street Manchester.
When: Autumn.
8. Wahaca. 
Yes, a chain but a fantastic one. 
Where: The Corn Exchange.
When: 10th September. (My birthday).
9. Polpo.
Another decent London chain is rumoured to be venturing north.
Where: Possibly The Corn Exchange.
When: Unknown.
10. Rudy's Neapolitan Pizza.
Proper Neapolitan Pizza in Manchester? Yes please.
Where: Ancoats.
When: Mid September.

One more place is in Chorlton and will be opening towards the end of the year. Unfortunately I've been sworn to secrecy but it is a cuisine that we don't already have and it is exciting! Watch this space.


Monday 17 August 2015

Bitoque Gastrobar, Bilbao.

I found out a curious fact whilst researching pintxos bars in Bilbao. The chef (and owner?) at Bitoque Gastrobar is in fact from Manchester. So an experimental gastro bar in a city of world class food with a chef from my home town? Further investigation revealed that chef Darren Williamson previously worked for three Michelin Star Martin Berasategui too! I get the impression from websites that he's quite well known in restaurant circles. We had to go and check it out. I had the intention of asking him if he'd like to come over to open a temporary one night pop-up, cooking for us here in Manchester but I soon realised when we were there, that this is a ridiculous idea and I have no idea how to organise it logistically even if he agreed.
We arrive to an unspectacular but friendly local bar with a slightly less experimental menu than I had anticipated. However the food we find out is equal to any of the famous pintxos bars in San Sebastián. I caught site of the chef. Yep, he looked like a Manc but he didn't really look approachable, stood outside having a cigarette break. What was I thinking? He doesn't know me from Adam!
However we enjoyed the food here and would certainly recommend if you're in Bilbao (it's not too far from the Guggenheim). So if by the off chance you're reading this chef and fancy a short stint in your home town serving some of your fantastic pintxos to your fellow countrymen, give us a shout. We've changed, we can appreciate it now, honestly. We have an Ibérica now and everything.
We ate a creamy Salmorejo, Mushroom risotto, Ravioli and prawns (a touch over sweet), foie (always a joy) , gooey veal cheek (a favourite) and plump croquetas for relatively very little money.
Further reading. An article (translated from Spanish) via El Correo about the chef here.