Tag Archives: manchester restaurant review

Oxnoble (Castlefield, Manchester)

30 Nov

by Annabelle Williams

(Just to make you aware, this was a free meal offered by the pub. Wanted to let you know that)
Not being particularly well versed on Georgian potatoes, I had assumed the Oxnoble to be named after some kind of valiant bullock. Clearly, this made more sense when it was explained to us that we were sitting in Potato wharf… ‘but of course’.  Inside, the Oxnoble feels like a ‘proper pub’. There’s a log fire, there’s woods beams, there’s tinsel (?) and there’s also a really warm, convivial atmosphere. Generally lovely.
A 'proper pub' - The Oxnoble

A ‘proper pub’ – The Oxnoble

 
Alex, the manager gave us a brief history on ‘Potato wharf’ and the prominence of that particular spud being sold just over the road, back in the day (1804). It was interesting to hear his vision and how he’s keen to remain true to the pubs roots whilst also offering food that’s a little different (I see you, Pan fried wigeon breast). Also important to the pubs ethos is the ability to source local produce, to which the chef has a pretty free rein, I like that kind of freedom, always have. Alex encouraged us to give genuine feedback on our experience of the meal and so we began….
 
Ham Hock Terrine

Ham Hock Terrine

For the starter we began with a Ham Hock Terrine served with curried chutney. This wouldn’t be something I would normally choose, and infact I didn’t, Nina did. I tried it though, rich, curried, cold. I’m sure well cooked, but not my thing.
 
Pan fried wigeon breast

Pan fried wigeon breast (starter – Specials menu)

The Pan fried wigeon was pretty damn lovely, though the fact  I’ve been unable to get the phrase ‘the cat amongst the Wigeons’ into this review in a clever way feels like a failing. I don’t know how many of you have tried Widgeon before but it’s a little duck, a dabbling duck. To be fair, I chose this dish as it seemed an unlikely starter, but also because it was served with black pudding mash, chocolate red cabbage and green beans and it sounded like it had sass. True enough it was a small bundle of full on flavour and nice to try something I’d not encountered before. Success.
 
I’d just like to stop at this point to acknowledge my confusion over the two menu’s which seemed a little disparate in terms of price point and produce. Whilst I like the philosophy that most people could eat here, I’m not sure if one menu is to the others detriment? The two for £10 (which I think is bloody good value) just feels like a completely different offering than say the Braised venison. Not an issue for me enjoying my meal but potentially making it harder to truly promote whilst it’s being all things to all people. Anyway, on to the mains..
 
Braised venison shank

Braised venison shank (main – Specials menu)

Bearing in mind my plus 1 (hey Nina!) is not often a meat eater I was a little taken aback nay, astounded, that she chose this. As it’s brought out of the kitchen this is the type of dish that commands attention, presented as an imposing structure sat on a bed of bubble and squeak.  I don’t want to have to talk about meat falling off the bone and yet here I am…this isn’t a portion for the faint-hearted though, I would suggest you try and finish it only if perhaps you pursued the deer, caught it with your hands, and broke its spirit over a series of days…
Corn fed chicken breast

Corn fed chicken breast (main – specials)

Never one to shy away from too much meat, I went for the chicken. Nicely cooked, but what stood out was the parmesan and sweetcorn souffle..I know, I know but really, it was light and cheesy with a touch of the sweetcorn cutting through. I have to say that the courgette fritters were disappointing. Not might I add, due to how they were cooked but more to do with the accompanying creme fraiche and sweet chill sauce drowning the crunch and becoming a little cloying. 

 

Chocolate and Hazelnut dessert

Chocolate and Hazelnut terrine (dessert – Specials menu)

Nina and I were split on this one however I was pretty excited to have another terrine that wasn’t made of ham, and found the cherry kirsch to be a nice sour counterpart to the richness of the chocolate.

In summary, despite my turmoil over the double menu the Oxnoble is a cracking pub that I would happily eat in again. I like that there’s not a pub like this on every street corner, I like that the chef’s classically trained and I really like that it serves beautifully cooked food without a hint of pretension. I expect that it continues to be popular, because it’s easy to support a pub like this. Although not hidden away, finding such a place in the city centre which doesn’t feel like the space it inhabits can sometimes be pretty damn precious.
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Thomas Restaurant (Northern Quarter, Manchester)

6 Sep

Written by Annabelle Williams

Arriving at Thomas Restaurant and bar I was a little flustered and nervous, especially given that I have never attended a food blogging event.

When I first spotted this place on Thomas St in the Northern Quarter, I had to admit it looked ever so slightly incongruous, compared to some of the other establishments on Thomas St. It just looks, I don’t know, slicker than some of its neighbours.

Inside, despite it being a rather gloomy Wednesday afternoon, the restaurant’s got a light and airy feel with high ceilings. It’s a good-looking joint and perhaps it was the French wine but the inside space felt almost ‘tardis’ like with a mezzanine floor and open kitchen. The bar and seated dining area are on the ground floor and the first floor features more open dining space, the kitchen and an outdoor terrace. Finally on the second floor, there is the Clubroom. This room’s a cosy and comfortable spot for all manner of music, drinking and bonding with friends. There’s even some talk of jazz nights coming soon.

When asked what cocktail I would like (you had me at ‘hello’ Thomas people) I saw the words ‘Joan Collins’ on the menu and couldn’t resist. I didn’t take a picture of it because I was too busy enjoying its majesty. A long, refreshing, summery (yes, I know) cocktail with Gin, lemon, grapes and tonic. Classy but satisfying.

For starters we were presented with Crab Cakes, Potted Smoked Duck Breast and Warm Goats cheese & Onion Tart.

I’ve always had a hard time picking favourites as I am an indiscriminate lover of all things food. However, given that crab cakes are one of the few things I tend to avoid (so easy to get wrong) these were rather lovely. Comforting yet elegant and well complemented by the lime and mango; my mind may have been changed.

The Potted duck was rather nice to look at, and equally as enjoyable to eat, though I do feel like there can never be enough Chorizo salsa in the world. Finally the Goats Cheese & Onion Tart was a firm favourite around the table. *Did someone call it a cheesecake?* It was like that in the savoury sense of the word.

Potted Smoked Duck Breast

For the mains we shared Pan fried Fillet of Whitby Plaice, Yorkshire Lamb Shank and Artichoke risotto.

The Plaice was subtle and no doubt expertly cooked, I have to say that I tend to favour something with a richer flavour therefore the Yorkshire lamb shank was more my taste. This was a serious piece of meat and the Savoy cabbage and Pancetta combo hidden under the lamb was a nice counterpoint. Though, erring on the heavy side I would say that this would be a dinner time main.

I had at this point become ‘Meat drunk’ and stopped taking nice Instagram pictures and decided to go for the ‘Money shot’.

Yorkshire Lamb Shank

The artichoke risotto with a crumbed duck egg yolk was blinding. This was so..good. The egg actually oozed and the risotto was very rich and flavoursome.

Artichoke Risotto

So, then it came to dessert…typically this is where some people start to lose pace, but not I. The picture of the Tart Tatin below demonstrates this, I’m like a wrecking ball.

Tart Tatin

If I were forced to choose a favourite dessert (which is an infrequent occurrence in my day-to-day) it would have to be the Tart Tatin, but followed incredibly closely by the Thomas Tiramisu and Lemon tart.

Lemon Tart

Thomas Tiramisu

Before I forget about the wine..

I do love me a good Viognier, aromatic, floral, apricot-y?…The Aimery Viognier we drank was no different. Also, the Macon Villages was rather special. Refined, floral, with good structure, and a nice acidity. Basically, good eatin’ wine. I didn’t try to food match with the wine, I drank it and enjoyed it.

Finally, I think a shout out (is that even appropriate?) should go out to the waiting staff who were charming and efficient and of course a warm thank you to Nicky and Yvonne for being such good hosts. So to wrap it up, a really lovely evening and some really good eating. Nice also to get out of the house and meet some of the Manchester foodie community.

www.thomasrestaurant.co.uk

Thomas Restaurant & Bar
49-51 Thomas Street
Manchester
M4 1NA
0161 839 7033

Solita (Northern Quarter, Manchester)

9 Aug

NB I’d like to point out that I was invited to a free evening before the opening of the restaurant and did not pay for my food and drink, however I have still written an independent review.

If you’re looking for reviews of Solita, there are plenty to choose from. Given their expert courting of the restaurant reviewing and food blogging communities of Manchester, they’ve managed to get the kind of press coverage typically reserved for a small-scale city-council scandal.

I must admit, I liked the place. The food was really good quality, the staff were friendly and despite the fact that the target dempographic came off a bit as being ‘All things to all men’, there was a clear vibe to the place that said that great food was the first and foremost focus.

So everything you need to know about this menu has already been blogged. Hungry Hoss gave the place a fair and thorough menu review (though I’m fairly sure he’s been adopted as the unofficial mascot of Solita judging by the Twitter feed), Things To Do in Manchester confessed to a new-found Bacon Jam addiction thanks to the menu and Andrew Stevenson made no bones about the areas for improvements, as well as praising some of its ingenuity.

So what am I bringing to the metaphorical table then. Well, the place mats of course.

Allow me to explain. One of the points that stood out to me in this stylish red leather and black wood bar was that the place mats on the table were also the menus. Seemed at odds with the slick look, but it worked, but the thing that it was missing were some descriptions of the items. You don’t want to have to break out your smartphone at the table and pull up a blog to find out what the Pulled pork sundae or the salt cod balls are all about do you? Of course not! So I’ve made a new menu. This one gives you a bit of a heads up about the dishes. It’s a menu and a restaruant review, or for those of you who like a good portmanteau (two or more words bashed together to make one new word) its a ‘Revmenu’ of a ‘Restremenu’. Just print out a copy and take it with you. You’re guarunteed to be considered a sophisticated, ‘in the know’ sort of diner.

If anyone does take a printed copy of this with you, please, please, please send me a photo.An entire review condensed into a menu sized print out.

Your new A3 placemat menu, just print off and take with you.

What more could you want? Now run along you cheeky scamp and grab yourself a Pulled Pork sundae and some Salt Cod Balls.

Yang Sing – Gastro Club (Chinatown, Manchester)

21 Jun

Have a look around the dining room

Tucked away on the edge of Chinatown is a bedrock of the Chinese restaurant community since 1977. Yang Sing is a restaurant that’s often mentioned yet never have I visited. I’ve got my favourites in Chinatown: my favourite Cantonese restaurant, favourite Sichuan, favourite bakery, so why do I need another restaurant? In hindsight that’s a bit like saying “I’ve already got this block of gold, what the hell do I need another other one for?’

Yang Sing appears palatial upon entering through the entrance of rich dark woods into a dining room decorated in ornate wall paper and seemingly intimidating aura. The reality couldn’t have been further from the truth. Even after turning up (fashionably) late thus forcing the staff to put an extra seat at the table, the service was nothing short of delightful. Polite but still friendly and our host for the evening Bonnie was accommodating to a level I’ve rarely seen from a restaurant, especially considering the number of people in the group. 

My first visit to Yang Sing was as part of the Gastro Club and as such, a fine banquet of a meal. To see how fine, I’ve included the menu below:

Menu from the Gastro Club evening at Yang Sing

 

Now before you get too swept up in the pageantry of this menu (easily done), just take not of one interesting part of it. Specifically the part that says: ‘Our ostrich comes from a farm in Preston

A Preston based Ostrich farm? Really? Really! And here it is – Preston Ostrich Farm

But we’ll come back to that in due course. Firstly, you need an overview of this seemingly overfacing menu, so let talk about some of the highlights on offer here. First and foremost is a great dish, the Steamed razor clams crowned with vermicelli, golden garlic and premium soy.

Steamed razor clams crowned with vermicelli, golden garlic and premium soy

On being presented with this dish, it looks like it’s just washed up on the beach and been scooped up onto your plate. I mean that in a good way of course; the noodles and the soy make this look like an assortment of seafood fare that’s been caught up in a razor clam in the tide. Great presentation and thankfully backed up with great flavour. The clams were excellently cooked with a good bite but soft texture. The soy adding the salt that the slightly seafood sweet clam balanced and the vermicelli giving the final substance to the dish. You could probably have a whole plate of these, but whose got room for that when you’ve got more dishes on the way.

From the mains there were two great dishes, the King Prawns in Saffron had a wonderful flavour of fresh garden peas. Considering the vibrant colour and mildly creamy texture of the sauce this was the last flavour I would have expected which led to me spouting the sentence ‘ It tastes like peas’ with a level of amazement that might suggest that I had just discovered the taste of peas for the first time and needed to inform the others. The prawns kept up their end of the deal in this dish to being plump and just the right amount of meatiness. The colour that the saffron infused into the sauce to give it a brilliant yellow without fear that you may be about to swallow a small chemistry sets worth of food colouring and e-numbers (I hope).

King prawns with saffron sauce

Can you see any of the garlic in there? Trust me, its there.

The Stir Fried Cheshire Pak Choi acompanied by longevity, prosperity and garlic cloves gets top marks for a poetically pleasing name but also for its taste. Pak Choi was crisp in a broth base with the flavour of garlic and duck eggs mildly seasoned and spiced to give this dish a refreshing quality typically only found in chinese dishes. The part I particularly enjoyed was the whole garlic cloves which had been mellowed by the broth leaving them with just the subtle undertone of garlic as you bit through them.

Tjhe one dish I wouldn’t have expected to be talking about by the end of the night was the dessert. When someone says to you strawberries and popping candy, it doesn’t put you in mind of a Heston Blumenthal classic. Having said that though, this dish prompted more conversation around the table than any other. The strawberries were perfectly ripe and packed with the sweet, moreish fruit juice that you hope for but never get in supermarket strawberries. The popping candy melted into the side of the soft strawberry flesh and was already partially popping before you got it in your mouth. Then you just sit back and let the popping candy do the work. The simplicity of this dessert was such a great decision at the end of this lavish meal that it felt refreshing and reinvigorated the room. Wouldn’t have traded it for any other dessert at that point.

Strawberry and popping candy mash-up

By the end of the meal, that seemingly intimidated dinning room seemed a lot cosier and a more relaxing place to be. I think that’s part of the charm to this restaurant, that beneath the imposing appearance is a warm inviting place to eat. You may even want to just drop in for some dim sum and a sit down, but should you want the full banquet experience, there’s enough here to satisfy.

Yang Sing on Urbanspoon

Round up post – Baekdu and Felicini

28 May

Here’s some short round-ups from my recent wanderings…

First up is Baekdu. Perched on the edge of the Northern Quarter just near Shudehill bus station is an unassuming Korean restaurant. Head through the doorway and it gets even more unassuming; very little decor, plain black furniture and big windows on one side. Having said that, if you’re coming to a restaurant for the decor, you’ve missed the point.

So if you’re not here for the look you’ll need to know what the foods like. The news is it’s good stuff.

The potato pancake is awesome on many levels. ‘How many levels?’ Good question. I’d say three. Firstly, it’s visually appealing. The orange hue from this pancake is great to look and the colour comes from the addition of carrots but also indicative of the great flavour. The outside is crispy but with a starchy centre which makes this almost comfort food-esque in texture and taste. The third and final part which brings it up from comfort food to moreish dish is the addition of soy. When dipped, this becomes quite an addictive salty dish, despite how filling it can be.

Potato Pancake – Crisp coating and a starcy, salt-flavoured centre

The bibimbap is also worth noting. Anything that turns up sizzling in a dish and covered in chilli sauce clearly has my attention. Warm rice, vegetables, mushrooms, chili sauce and egg all combined to give a fresh tasting but filling dish.

I’d say we struggled to find anything on the menu that wasn’t vibrante, well seasoned and full of flavour. And remember, don’t judge a book by it’s cover.

Next up was Felicini in Didsbury (not on the same night as Baekdu). Now I’m aware that Felicini isn’t new and ‘hip’, but it does one thing right. It makes good quality Italian food. So many places can get Italian dishes wrong, so you need a good staple for Italian food. This post however is about one dish. The Chocolate Brownie and Pistachio Sundae

This is the Sundae. By the way, that’s the Double Deep New York Cheesecake in the background. Also awesome.

It is every bit as deliciously decadent as it looks. Chewy, chunky fondant brownies with crushed pistachio over pistachio ice cream. Every bit was sweet, slippery goodness and perfectly balanced with the sugar content too.

Incase you were worried that you may have to get to the end of this dessert and look down at your plate with longing then fear not. This thing is massive. For the first time in my life I had to give up on it. Dessert 1 Me 0.

Sometimes a restaurant has one dish that is worth going back for, almost regardless of the rest of the menu. This is one of those dishes.

Check out the menu www.felicini.co.uk

Fire, Salt and Grits

31 Oct

Can't even remember what this cocktail was called but look at it. It comes with cheese for God's sake!!

Searing summer heat radiates down as we walk across the bleached white stone-covered car park. The wooden shack we’re heading to is cobbled together from a blend on mesh, stone and timber covered in flaking paint. This fragile-lookingstructure holds something much more wondrous than you would imagine; the finest smoked brisket, sausage and ribs in Texas.

I don’t normally start a review of one restaurant by talking about another; however the taste of good home-style ‘Deep South’ barbeque takes me back to that smoke shed in Texas. Southern 11 fits nicely into Spinningfields by pulling off the slick interior and ambient lighting which almost seems to be a pre-requisite for restaurant ownership in the area, however much like that shack in Texas, the appearance is misleading (I’m not sure if I’ve over-used my trip to Texas enough in this post yet… I went to Texas you know). Inside you’ll find a restaurant that is putting out plates of authentic barbeque food and at very reasonable prices.

A few of the states that make up 'The Southern Eleven'

I took a few friends along with me so that we could eat party style: a few mains and all the sides we could stomach. Fried chicken, smoked beef brisket, pork ribs and pulled pork.  The smoke cooked meat is always tender due to the low heat and long cooking process allowing the meat to retain all its moisture while absorbing the smoky flavour. The pulled pork was a great example of this, being salty, moist and beautifully flavoured by the hickory smoke.  As I said in my previous blog from the Manchester Food and Drink festival, the only slight disappointment (and I do say slight) is the brisket. A slow smoked brisket (8 hours or more) will have what’s called a smoke ring running through the meat demonstrating how much flavour it’s holding. This is where the ribs swing into play to save the day. Tender, meaty and embalmed in a sticky BBQ glaze, they hit you with the sweet bbq sauce before delivering the finishing blow with the great rib flavour.

Ribs and fries served on a slab of wood

All of that’s great but you need a break from all of that meat, so I started to work through the sides. The parmesan truffle fries were just exceptional. Never before have I been so wowed by chips, but a cheesy, intense flavour from a light, crispy chip is too good not to rave about. The barbeque beans were a favourite on the table and avoided the trap of just being beans in a gloopy BBQ sauce. The spices in the sauce cut through the sauce creating a warming sensation inside that is as much emotional as physical. My personal favourite side though had to be the sweet corn pudding. Now this I had never come across. I think Nigella Lawson summed this dish up better than I could as ‘particularly gratifying’. A sweet, sticky side that goes excellently on pulled pork over some jalapeno cornbread.

Ok, you've got yer bbq beans, yer cornbread and yer sweetcorn pudd'n

My main was the Southern Chicken dinner. The name alone sparks the image of a home-cooked fried chicken dinner that the dish itself more than delivers. The chicken is tasty with a beautifully crisp skin that has great flavour. Add to this a slather of sausage gravy and that cripsy skin is excellently complemented. The Pulled pork however is a personal favourite of mine. Slow cooked, traditionally over an open barbeque pit, this pork is so soft it can literally just be pulled from the bone in strips. Great with the sides or just on its own I took more than my fair share from my girlfriend’s plate.

Winner, Winner, Chicken dinner.

What more can I say, the atmosphere was lively, the food was great, the service was friendly if occasionally duplicated with our drinks arriving several times and to cap it all of the cocktail menu was great. I got so many great shots from the meal that I’m putting even more on the facebook page. The best type of cooking is the kind that evokes emotions and pulls you straight back to another time or place. Southern 11 has this quality in spades and I didn’t even make it to the dessert menu. Still, there’s always next time.

Southern 11 on Urbanspoon