Thursday 18 February 2016

A Weekend in Cumbria.

Cumbria really is a wonderful region to visit as a food lover. They have the obvious advantage of having so much wonderful product on their doorstep. Apart from a few obvious suspects (like The French) you can as a whole, I think find better top end restaurants here than in cities like Manchester. As I've reviewed a few of these places previously, I'll do a post on the region, specifically Ambleside where we recently stayed for the weekend. The whole area is still very much open for business following the recent floods.
Lake Road Kitchen. Fresh from that amazing Marina O'Loughlin review in The Guardian. Always interesting and different Nordic inspired food.
Favourite Dish: Aged Beef. Also the bread is world class.
Old Stamp House. 
This is a lovely restaurant with reliably fine food. We had a very similar taster menu as last time which is excellent value at just £35 for five courses. Favourite Dish: Yew Tree Hogget.
The Samling.
Just outside Ambleside in Windermere, the food from new chef Nick Edgar is fantastic and it can only get even better as they settle in. Definitely the one to watch for the future.
Favourite Dish: Veal Sweetbread, Celeriac, Truffle.
The Drunken Duck Inn.
This is a fantastic pub with proper great food to match. 
Favourite Dish: Try the fish such as the Stone Bass.
L'Enclume. One of the best restaurants in the UK, I think there will be big changes afoot with new executive chef Marcus Noack and as they push for a third elusive star.
Favourite Dish: Venison Tartare.
Places to try next time. 
Talented ex- L'Enclume chef Kevin Tickle at The Forest Side is one of the most hotly anticipated openings of the year, I hope to visit very soon.
Holbeck Ghyll. Has a new head chef Darren Comish so definitely looks worth a visit. 
Cottage in the Wood. As recommended to us by their ex chef, Ryan Blackburn of Old Stamp House.

For more in depth Lakes reviews check out Cumbriafoodie

Tuesday 16 February 2016

A Guide to The Costa De La Luz.

We've travelled along the Costa de la Luz countless times over the last fifteen years. The 'coast of light' is the Atlantic western part of Andalucia which extends from the south at Tarifa right up to the port of Cádiz and beyond. You'll find miles of long wild windswept beaches, traditional white towns and some wonderful restaurants. Few Brits make it this far but lots of Spanish people holiday here every year. It's excellent value for money for this reason too.
If we start at the southern most tip at Tarifa, almost opposite Gibraltar. Popular with surfers, this scruffy fishing town has lots of appeal to us at least. We used to stay out of town at The Hurricane Hotel or their sister hotel, the Punta Sur but last time we were in the charming La Casa de La Favorita in the old town. In a lovely little square you can get lost in the maze of narrow cobbled streets full of bars and hole in the wall restaurants. Try tapas at El Lola.
Next up, Zahara de los Atunes was the first place we ever holidayed together, so we'll always have fond memories of it. We returned a few years ago it was as good as ever and have been back every year ever since. We used to stay in the traditional Gran Sol right on the beach but now we go self catering on the first line of the sea front, a most beautiful apartment (see here) with stunning views. (You can see the view as it is the first photo on this post).
Zahara is fast becoming a real gastro town with an emphasis on fish. You absolutely must eat the tuna tapas at the wonderful La Taberna de El Campero.
They also have their original main restaurant in Barbate further up the coast (see our review here). There is no need to visit this shabby town apart from that, it's not the most prepossessing place to stay. It does however have this, the best restaurant in Spain to eat tuna in many ways. Zahara de los Atunes is appropriately named after the fish because of the local and traditional seasonal Atlantic blue fin tuna fishing which takes place every May and June. Below, these sculptures are found all along the coast.
There is more good eating to be had in Zahara in recent times. Sample eclectic tapas at Zoko (soon to open a second branch on the beach) and Taberna Trasteo. 21 Restaurant is excellent, run by a charming Aussie chef and his Spanish wife. See below.
Pradillo is a decent choice too. Chiringuitos like La Luna and El Pez Luna are also a popular lunchtime budget options here. There is no real British equivalent to these beach shack cafés as they tend to reflect what Spaniards eat which are huge varieties of fresh fish.
El Palmar is one long sandy beach backed by restaurants and hippy-ish campers. There's not much else to do but sit on the beach all day until the spectacular sunset. Eat at Casa Francisco el de Siempre, which features in the Michelin guide. Below, surfing is popular all along this coast.
Los Caños de Meca is similarly hipp-ish, scruffy and very laid back with fine golden sands.
Conil de La Frontera is one of our favourite places to stay. It has the huge sandy beach as is standard around these parts but there is also a lively old fashioned town filled with tapas bars and buzzing restaurants. It seems to be the place where Spaniards love to holiday. There are some vivacious flamenco music bars too. As we stayed right in the centre, (in a cute central apartment, see here) I'd often drift asleep to the unmistakable clapping and emotional passions of the singers mixing in with my dreams. Dine on the beach at Francisco La Fontanilla and watch the sun going down as you eat fresh fish.
We very impressed by the Basque Txikote closer into town. Right in the centre, Freidor de Pescado is a southern Spanish version of a British chippie but with proper fish in huge varieties. Marisqueria La Pepa is opposite and run by the same people, it looks like a small British fishmongers. You can order fresh cold prawns and a beer and watch the world go by. Also try the ever popular Feduchy Lounge for great tapas with a twist.
Cádiz is a giant port in comparison but it is a good place to hang out for a few days. A few times recently we've decided to push the boat out and stay at the Parador de Cádiz, a modern luxury hotel at the end of the peninsula. Wow, what a place. It's still the only hotel I've ever stayed in where in the reception as you're checking in you can help yourself to fresh juice, coffee, croissants etc. Our modern sea view room overlooked the pool and out over the Atlantic.
Eat at El Faro de Cádiz one of our favourite tapas bars in Spain. Stand at the bar and order anything, it's all good here and cheap too. Also a must is Taberna Casa Manteca. Snack on Queso Manchego served on wax paper with a beer and mojama, salt cured tuna. 
You have to visit El Puerto de Santa María just so you can dine at one of Spain's finest restaurants and the jewel in the crown of Andalucian food. Aponiente is a restaurant not to be missed. See our latest review here. Head chef Ángel León, el chef del mar is a rare talent, a true original. He has just opened their new tapas bar La Taberna on their old restaurant location which we hope to visit this year too.
Sanlúcar de Barrameda is another wonderful seaside town to visit. We were a little underwhelmed by the famous Casa Balbino tapas bar but it still has to be done especially to sample the famous Tortillitas de Camarones, traditional prawn fritters (see the Aponiente version above). You can also do wine tours of bodegas, they make the famous La Gitana Manzanilla here and the sweet smell of it fills the air.
Once you visit the Costa de la Luz, it's highly likely that you'll plan on a return trip as we do every year.

Monday 15 February 2016

Favourite Chorlton Produce.

In Chorlton we must have the best produce shops in the city so I thought I'd do a round up of some of our favourite places and regular local food suppliers.
Fruit & Vegetables.
Elliotts Fruit & Veg. 8 The Square. (The Precinct). 
Great prices, lovely people and dog friendly. Photos below.

Khawaja Bros Mini Market. 63 Manchester Rd.
A huge and diverse selection of fruit and veg and lots more inside. 
Unicorn Grocery. 89 Albany Rd.
Co-op organic fair trade grocery.
Out of the Blue. 484 Wilbraham Rd.
This must be one of the best fishmongers in the UK. The produce here is second to none and the sushi made on site is excellent. Below Carabinero Prawns on the BBQ.
W.H Frost. 12-14 The Square. (The Precinct). 
'Butcher to the stars' and many of Manchester's restaurants there is a huge selection in the shop too. We like the Steaks, the Osso Buco (both pictured) and the lamb sausages.
J.W Robinson. 284 Barlow Moor Rd.
Old school butchers, we're huge fans of their home-made honey roast ham.
Epicerie Ludo. 46 Beech Rd. I'm in here at least once a day especially at the weekend. I can't resist their fresh bread and croissants and my favourite cheese, Époisses de Bourgogne, so much so that I must have put a stone on since they opened. Soon to move to larger premises down the road at Number 66.
Barbakan Delicatessen Ltd.  67-71 Manchester Rd.
Excellent bread and a huge deli selection of cheese, olives, meats etc. We can't resist their bacon and cheese loaf.


Thursday 11 February 2016

Valentine's at Ibérica.

I'm generally not a huge fan of eating in restaurants on Valentine's Day but some places like Ibérica are not having a closed menu as such, they're just adding a few special tapas for the occasion. You can choose to eat them or just their usual menu if you want which is rather a good idea. We got a sneak preview of what they have in store on Sunday and I got to use my new camera too.
Seared Wild Red King Prawns (£11).
Absolutely divine, product as good as you will find in Spain. In our opinion these should be on the menu permanently. If there are better giant prawns in Manchester I've not had them.
There is also Hake with Cockles & Potato Cream. (£10). Very good.

Textures of Chocolate. (£5.50) is another winner with us.
There is a Special Deli Hamper (£35). We didn't get to taste what was in these but there are chocolate lips in there made by the famous Patisserie Escribá from Barcelona.
I normally try not to pass comment on previews such as this but forgive me on this occasion, those prawns were too good not to mention it.
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