Tag Archives: chorlton

Thai Spice – Chorlton

7 Jun

Thai Spice – photo courtesy of toms-travel.net

Up front with this post I feel compelled to point out that I  hadn’t eaten much before we went out to dinner so by the time our meals arrived I was starving. Therefore my attention was off for this one and I may be missing some details, but I will try my best.

Different cuisines have differing levels of ‘public consciousness’. By this I mean if you stop the average man or woman on the street and ask you to tell them what they know about a type of food, they will be able to rattle of some standard items. If you were to do this with Thai food, there are a few standards: Phad Thai, Thai Fishcakes, Thai Green Curry. The recurring theme here is the fact that you rarely come across a cuisine which self references in the way that popular Thai dishes do. Despite this, there still isn’t really a great deal of public consciness around Thai food and certainly not of the great quality and variety of flavours it can offer. I have to be honest and say that I got a bit of a reminder of this myself recently at a restaurant called Thai Spice.

Thai Spice is a little restaurant on the end of the uber-trendy Beech Road in Chorlton. Home to some interesting little eateries and cafes, this is one place I’ve never set foot in despite having been intrigued by it. The small space creates a cozy atmosphere and a warm welcome at the door always helps. After being seated, we were straight down to the food and drinks (as I stated earlier, I was quite hungry). Being with friends who were willing to operate a share and share alike policy, we all ordered and shared. I picked out the Phad Prik Khing, which has a Thai Red Curry base.

Years ago I went on a Thai cookery course when I was in Chaing Mai and while I forgot most of it, I do remember the difference between Green curry paste and red curry paste. Its the chillies; Red uses dried red chillies and green uses fresh green chillies. So this dish had some kick to it. The kick was well offset by the sweetness from the sauce.Another little piece of retained knowledge I kept from that cookery course was the use of sugar. Unlike in parts of India where creams are more commonly used to balance the spice in dishes, Thai cooking commonly uses sugar as the key ingredient to do this, with cream added for flavour. The downside of this can be syrupy sweet Thai curries, a trap that was well avoided here, The green beans were fresh and crunchy and while the beef was too thin and flimsy for my liking, this dish was well-balanced and delicious.

Beef Phad Prik Khing – If you considered laughing at this name, you may not be as mature as you think… which is not necessarily a bad thing

Having done a number on my own dish, I prowled the table for my next target. I came upon a a cod dish which I have since been unable to identify on the  menu and would appreciate some assistance in identifying. As a sidenote, one of the reasons that I’m not really cut out for the food reviewing game is that I’m just there for the food. The idea of sitting and taking notes, takes the fun out of the moment. The downside is that I forget some of the details… I may have to start stealing menus.

The unidentified cod dish

Anyway, back to the dish. This seemingly luminous sauce hides some excellently cooked cod fillets. Flaky, beautiful cod and a light batter which has resisted the urge to become floppy and soggy under the pressure of that sauce. The sauce is almost too much for this excellent piece of fish but it stays just on the right side of sweet and spice offering up a sharp tang with the fish. (Descriptions like that are why I really need to start remembering the names of dishes. If I go back now, all I have to work off is this photo.)

Now add into the mix the substance of the meal. Sticky rice is something I usually don’t go for as I have a massive boiled rice addiction (I just bloody love the stuff), but on this occasion someone ordered some for the table, Presented in a small wicker basket and still wrapped in its steam bag, it was a great example of the side dish. Flavoursome, glutenous to the right degree and well bonded enough to required a spoon to scoop up a chewy clump of lightly flavoured rice pillow.

After the polishing off of the mains, the dessert menu came to us. Normally most South-East Asian restaurants don’t have interesting dessert menus, in the same way you wouldn’t really expect to peruse the burger menu at a Belgian patisserie. It’s just not really its key selling point, but today something caught my eye. The Chilli ice-cream had to be tried.

Chilli ice-cream in large amounts – cause and cure of ice-cream headaches all-in-one.

The flavour had to be tried and the result was interesting. The cream tends to hide the spice up front so at first it tastes like a strawberry ice cream. Once it’s passed the back of your mouth, the spice sneaks in and kicks your tonsils on the way down. It’s a pleasant tingle at the end of a cold hit and the ice cream quality itself was of a good standard. My only issue was the size as I was struggling to get anyone to share this thing with me, I once again had to declare defeat to this dessert (as with my last post, this is becoming a bit of a habit of mine).

I’ve never been that favourable to Thai curries in general, either here or in Thailand as the sweet and chilli flavours are a bit hit and miss with me. On this occasion, they hit and I’d certainly give this place another go, just to find out what the hell that cod dish was.

http://www.thai-spice.co.uk/

Thai Spice on Urbanspoon

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The Hungry Gecko

4 Mar

Supper clubs. While the idea may be relatively new in terms of its uptake, especially here in the North, already a lot of ink has been splashed and a lot of keyboards hammered to lay comment upon them. Before writing this I have read at least four other blogs and articles about supper clubs to get a feel for what’s been written. In all honesty some of them have probably already captured the essence of them more than I could, or certainly with a better vocabulary. So if I can’t depict the event like a journalist then the least I can do is tell a good story. I had booked two places for myself and my girlfriend at The Hungry Gecko supper club. The Hungry Gecko is the idea of Jackie Kearney, one of the finalists from 2011’s Masterchef. Already I felt a little intimidated heading to the home of a top class chef.

This is a jackfruit. It becomes relevant later on in the post.

We pulled up slowly outside the house having reversed back down the street looking for the right house number. A clump of change for the taxi driver in one hand and a steadily warming bottle of white wine in the other, I pushed the door open, paid the taxi driver and made my way to the door. At this point my nerves were still with me as I wondered if it was too late to just sack it off and dive in the taxi to pick up some fish and chips to go with the Savingon Blanc. No, just ring the bell and wait. This must be the right house and I’m sure everything will go fine. Ten seconds late and we were warmly greeted at the door. We shuffled in and hung up our coats by the door as we were shown to the dining room. The table was beautifully set with restaurant quality touches such as the rustic style water bottles and the script-fonted place cards. As we had arrived at exactly 7:30 we were the second group to arrive. As we chatted with the other two guests who had already arrived, we were slowly joined by more people, each going through the same arrival procedures as ourselves; greetings exchanged, coats deposited and seats taken closely followed by the rearranging of place cards to suit.

With everyone seated and nicely relaxed, service began. The amuse bouche was a sweet and sour popcorn tofu. The paprika in the coating was a great light spice flavour but it was the texture of the tofu providing the backdrop to the sweet and sour. My bouche was thoroughly amused.

The starter was a great little soup listed on the menu as ‘ Buddha’s Delight, Chinese noodle soup with exotic mushrooms & bean curds, Served with crispy kale & chilli cashews’. Not to seem to have missed the point this, but I really loved the chilli cashews on the side. They seemed to be encased in almost a caramel substance. Crunchy, chewy, chilli. I almost forgot to eat the soup, which was prepared with 14 ingredients and tasted exceptionally fresh.

The Chilli cashews are in the bottom left, oh and there's also the soup

Any food that comes on a stick is tops in my book, but smokey tempeh and tofu on lemongrass skewers kicks it up a notch. Again, as a regular meat-eater, the texture was the first thing I picked up on, being softer and more uniform. What this actually meant was that the flavour from the satay sauce was fully absorbed by the tofu. I also have to say that the portion sizes were certainly to my taste. The jasmine rice mopped up the remainder of the sauce and nicely filled any remaining holes.

Balinese Satay Sticks and jasmine rice

Fortunately, there was still plenty of room in my dessert stomach so the next course was great and also my favourite named course of a meal ever: Pre-dessert. A duo of jackfruit & mango sorbet and lime & coconut sorbet. I hadn’t come across a jackfruit before but the menu description described it as an earthy pineapple and that pretty much spot on. This mixed with pineapple and coconut didn’t just clear the palette but striped it clean and left it zingy fresh.

Finally, pre-dessert gave way to the main event, dessert. The dessert was (and to add impact, I’m copying straight from the menu)

Pear & frangipane tart with vanilla & star anise ice cream,

Served with salted almond praline & goji berry sauce

Best Dessert Ever. I tend to talk food up a lot but this honestly is the best dessert I’ve ever tasted despite the fact that I’m a massive chocoholic. The pear and frangiepane was sweet, slightly firm and casually delicious. The ice cream brough the star anise flavour through beautifully holding the aniseed’esqe flavour excellently inside that creamy ice cream. The salted almond praline gave it the deep flavour and the goji berry added the high notes. For me this dessert practically sang, giving me one of those rare moments in a meal where I actually sit back, stop and muse over the flavours I’m experiencing. This wasn’t just the end of the meal, it was a true show-stopper.

The dish to beat

A great evening spent with good people in a lovely home enjoying exceptional quality food. I’m amazed that I left. I’d like to extend my gratitude to Jackie for the evening. I know that for the time being there aren’t any more supper clubs in the diary coming up, but I would highly recommend keeping your eyes on The Hungry Gecko, as I’m sure there will be some great things to come.

Why I Fell in Love with Goat’s cheese

20 Feb

My god, I bloody love cheese. For Christmas my lovely girlfriend bought me a box of Pong cheeses. The fact that I’ve eaten a third of a wheel of Stinking Bishop despite the fact that I don’t really like the smell, is firm testament to my unwavering affection for what is essentially gone-off milk.

And it goes with so many things as well. In Hong Kong recently, I had a cuttlefish ball filled with American cheese and by Jove the flavour worked! My favourite cheese based fusion however is the Goat’s cheese salad at Croma. Now before I fall into the cliché of verbally drooling over the object of my affections, I want to set the scene.

Place yourself in a restaurant. It’s warm and the night outside is bitingly cold. The place is busy and the air is filled with conversation and laughter from other tables, but the most prominenty thing in your mind is your hungry. And what a hunger it is. Starving, famished, ravenous. You scan the menu looking for something to fill this hole and it needs to be rich and satisfying. Then as your eyes flit down the page, they fall upon this:

The main event - Goat's cheese salad

Goat’s cheese baked on olive bread, served with mixed salad leaves, olives, roasted pine kernels and sun-blushed tomatoes, with a tomato and balsamic vinaigrette

It’s a genious dish. Creamy and partially crumbly goat’s cheese is excellently set off by the tomato and balsamic vinegarette. For the texture to match that soft cheese the olive bread is lightly toated and the crisp salad keeps it fresh. Its a dish that sticks in your mind not just because it tastes great, but because you don’t expect it to taste as great as it does.

But of course, man cannot live on goat’s cheese salad alone, so while we were here we thought we’d give the drinks menu a go. First upwas the Espresso Martini. Coffee infused martini with a vanilla vodka. In terms of the impact on your faculties, two or three of these may have the same impact as a Vodka Red Bull with its caffine-alcohol mismatched attack on the brain. The taste however is worlds apart and is a much more sophisticated, as you would expect.

Espresso martini for those who need a little caffine in their alcohol

The classic Margherita is well delivered here to. Sweetened lime and tequila with that salt encrusted glass. The only mistake I saw here was serving it in a martini glass.

Croma is a personal favourite of mine for all its menu fare, so I’ve held myself back from going on about everything on the menu. It does what places like Pizza Express fail to do; give that Italian pizzeria experience with great food and a simplified menu. Give it a go, and definately try the goat’s cheese.

Croma Chorlton on Urbanspoon

The pub down the road

24 Nov

“We’re off down the pub for a few pints and some dinner”. That sentence couldn’t be any more English if it was covered in clotted cream and its first name was Nigel.

The pub is a staple of British life, or at least mine. The development of the gastro pub has raised the standard of pub food from the traditional chicken in a basket of years gone by. So the Horse and Jockey on Chorlton Green is no slouch in pairing fine food with fine brews.

Since undergoing a massive overhaul several years ago, the Horse and Jockey has really become a corner stone of the local community. Hosting everything from Farmer’s markets to Bonfire night displays, this pub has also stepped up the food and drink on offer. As well as an extensive drinks selection, the pub now has its own microbrewery producing some tasty beers under the Bootleg Brewing Co. brand.

The food is split into two with the restaurant style menu and the pub menu intertwined. When I popped down with a few friends we took the sensible approach and ordered a few beers and more food than we could sensibly eat. The meal was nearly entirely derailed by the shocking announcement from the bar that there were no Manchester Eggs. Now I assume that a staggering demand for this god-like snack left them egg-less, because to have under-ordered would be bordering on criminal negligence. Anyway, hiccups aside we order our meals and waited.

All starters should be served in slab form

All starters should be served in slab form

The starters arrived first, as is the custom and the envy across the table was palpable. My choice of nachos could not have been more wrong. While the dips were good and the cheese was salty, they were average at best. My girlfriend’s choice of the chipolatas with Coleman’s English mustard couldn’t be a bad call as the sausage meat was great. The best choice by far on the table was the potted ham hock terrine with wholegrain mustard dressing and crusty bread. While I didn’t get to taste it, I’m assured it was good.

Corned beef isn't posh but its 100% class

Corned beef isn't posh but its 100% class

The mains were good, but my really interest was in the classic take of corned beef hash with fried egg and HP sauce. The hearty, meaty texture looked spot on and again the taste (I was told) was good. I would have asked for a bit but my steak and ale pie with fat chips or creamy mash, carrots and peas , a mammoth pie and mash combo capable of filling the gaps in your hunger like concrete filling foundations. It is however a little tastier. The main event for me was the burger. Specifically, the ‘Ultimate Burger’ which towers above puny normal burgers. I have a photo proving that this burger was as big as my girlfriend’s head, but she won’t let me use it, so I’ve done this artist’s impression.

My girlfriend and 'The Ultimate Burger' (To Scale...ish)

All in all, the food was good standard pub fare, but in a pub as long as the food is warming and homely, the beer is cold and crisp and the atmosphere is good, then I’ll happily stay for another pint.

Chocolate, Banana, Toffee and Lemon

14 Nov

Dictionary.com defines a cupcake as:

  1. A small cake baked in a cup-shaped container and typically iced.
  2. An attractive woman (often as a term of address).

As I would never be so crass as to discuss the second definition, I am of course talking about the first.  Sweet Tooth Cupcakery on Oswald Road in Chorlton. Situated next to some old garages in a building which you could easily pass off as being in need of some good demolition, the interior is what you would expect from the name. Floral patterned, pastle colours and a beautifully quaint wooden pull-draw display case housing the delicate looking cupcakes.

Despite really loving the cupcakes, I’ve found this blog really hard to write. Don’t imagine that this is because I didn’t love the cupcakes, because I really did. Even after a big sunday dinner, I still manged to eat two of them and that cream on top is rich and dense. The truth is I get a little too emotional about desserts. A long love affair with sugar based dishes started with my grandfather making me chocolate Angel Delight and carried on ever since. So now when faced with anything sweet and delicious, I find it hard to put into words how good it is.  So for a change and to get me out of forcing out an unsatsifactory blog, I’m going old school with a ‘Hartbeat’ flavour.

If you can’t see the gallery clips below, they are up on my Facebook page. I would also recommend having the Hartbeat gallery music to acompany this in the back ground, which you can find here. So as the irriplacable Tony Hart used to say ‘Now, it’s time for the gallery’

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What’s with the bacon, Mr Black?

10 Oct

A short blog really to talk about a one of the best bacon sandwiches I’ve ever had. Hickson and Black in is one of the relative newcomers to the deli scene in Chorlton but made a good name for itself. The deli / cafe has all the classic deli ingredients: fine cheeses, cured meats and olives the size of your head.

On Friday night we had a friend staying who had come up from ‘that London’. We’d had a few at the Horse and Jockey’s beer festival followed by some 7 year Rum back at ours. All of this adds up to the need for a good hangover breakfast.

One of the secret weapons that Hickson & Black’s has in its arsenal is the bread. From the bloomers to the barms to the bagels, I have never managed to find a baked product here that I don’t enjoy.  However if you find yourself ordering a Bacon barm from here, you’ll come up against a killer combination of the beautifully crusted yet light bread coupled with bacon so finely cured you’d swear it had been cured in even more bacon.

I dare say as I get round more of the delis in Manchester, I will add to the list of great bacon sandwich providers, but for now this is on my recommend to visit list.

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