Categories
Bars Culture Events Manchester Music Popular culture preview The Arts

Preview: NQ Jazz – 21.10.2019 – Sue Rynhart & Huw Warren

NQ Jazz is one of my favourites things.

Yes we have Matt and Phred’s and I give thanks to the gods of live jazz that we do.

But Manchester needs even more and NQ Jazz gives us that more in a gloriously dark, underground befitting location that is The Whiskey Jar.

The rather marvellous Richard Isles Trio at The Whiskey Jar

To speak in New York terms (because, of course), if Matt and Phred’s is Birdland, The Whiskey Jar is Smalls (I’m basically using this opportunity to show off about the fact that I’ve been to both).

This Monday 21st October sees Dublin singer and composer, Sue Rynhart, take to the atmospheric Whiskey Jar basement bar, with pianist (and composer) Huw Warren.

Sue previously visited our fair city with a performance at the Manchester Jazz Festival and brings sounds which are an edgy blend of modern jazz mixed with contemporary sounds.

Credit: Karl Burke

Welsh pianist Huw, a BBC Jazz award winner, carries with him an international reputation for innovative music making.

Fresh from the release of their new single We Are On Time (Flower Seeds), join them (and me!) this Monday 21 October and kick start the week with a little NQ Jazz therapy.

For more details, visit https://nqjazz.com/

To hear Sue and Huw’s new single, visit Spotify – We Are On Time (Flower Seeds)

NQ Jazz is every Monday at the Whiskey Jar, 14 Tariff Street, Manchester.

Entry £5 (£4 students with ID), doors at 8pm, live music from 8.30pm…

Categories
Bars Events Food and Drink Manchester preview Preview/review Restaurants

School for Scandal hits First Street

It was back to school for me this week.

I wish I was young enough for that to be true in the traditional sense but for every realisation that you’re not getting any younger, there is a silver lining.

To be over the age of 18 is to have your name on a more important register – that which granted me access to new bar and bistro, School for Scandal on First Street.

Whilst resisting the urge to lean on the obvious links to education and squeeze everything out of this analogy, I’ll introduce a direct link – that of it sharing its name with the Richard Brinsley Sheridan play, first performed in 1777. The play ‘satirised the behaviour and customs of the upper classes through witty dialogue and an intricate plot, with comic situations that expose characters’ shortcomings’.

And just like the play, this dining spot satirises the behaviour and customs of the…

Just kidding.

To the crux of matters.

I attended the launch of this bar last night and was educated (soz) in fine cocktails, sharp edgy décor and fine samples of its gastronomic fare.

Previews of their food included the tasty pulled pork tacos, the frankly fantastic margherita pizza (I always say there’s nowhere to hide with this classic and this went straight to the top of the class), tempura prawns and mini burgers in brioche.

To achieve the full experience, I shall return, but for now, my assignment is to share the news that this latest addition to First Street, and indeed Manchester, is smart and sassy, and I predict that the future is bright…

Click here for more details and to enrol…

School for Scandal, 13 Jack Rosenthal Street, First St, M15 4FN

Categories
Bars Events Food and Drink Giveaway Manchester

Foodies gather – it’s the Manchester Eats festival giveaway!

I eat, you eat, he eats, she eats, we eat, they eat, Manchester Eats!

And how.

Manchester foodies lend me your ears! And your tastebuds.

There is a brand new Food Festival in town – hold onto your hats, we all have a whole new reason to eat… to be..to love Manchester.

Manchester Eats festival hits Heaton Park, on the weekend of 7 and 8 July, transforming the park into a food lovers’ paradise.

What exactly does paradise look like?

I hear you cry.

It looks like top celebrity chefs, Marco Pierre White, Ed Baines, Adam Reid, Matt Tebbutt and Mary-Ellen McTague conducting workshops and taking and talking us through our favourite subject. Food.

For those who like to walk the walk, there will be cooking classes for visitors young, old and somewhere in the middle to take part in, from vegan cooking to a chocolate masterclass.

I’ll let that just sink in.

And then say it again,

Chocolate. Masterclass.

For those of us who prefer to sit back and let others do the cooking, there will be a global food court, a healthy living zone and lots of Manchester favourites exhibiting their wares including Cottonopolis and Proove Pizza.

That’s not all. Oh no.

To pretty much misquote Samuel L Jackson in Pulp Fiction (yes I do reference popular culture that isn’t stuck in the 90s all the time. some of the time), as much as we love the food, we love tasty beverages to wash it all down with.

And so whilst it’s not in the title, Manchester Eats and also, dagnammit, Manchester drinks too.

Cocktail lovers (and let’s face it, who doesn’t love a cocktail), will be treated to displays from mixologists, fizz fiends will be in a frenzy over the Prosecco tent, Manchester Gin will be there to indulge our love for mother’s ruin and so much more.

In addition, official charity partners the Diane Modahl Sports Foundation will be providing an activity zone all weekend, with interactive, accessible sporting activities for both children and adults.

The family friendly festival will also host a dedicated children’s village with live DJ sets.

Have I whetted your appetite?

Does whet even have an ‘h’ in it?

Well lookie here.

You could purchase tickets to temptation by visiting the Manchester Eats festival website here..

But wait.

This honorary manc is giving you honorary, real, or even just lovers of mancs, the chance to win tickets to foodie heaven!

With two pairs of tickets to give away, you are so right to be excited.

To enter, click the link below. Entries close at midnight on Friday 29 June.

Click here to enter!

Winners will be whizzed straight onto the guest list before you can say ‘Manchester doesn’t need Michelin stars to rule the world’.

Categories
Bars Culture Events Food and Drink Manchester Photography Preview/review Restaurants

Restaurant Review – Ibérica’s new seasonal menu

Whenever I go for tapas I’m reminded of a probably not that amusing exchange I overheard about 12 years ago in the Living Room, Deansgate.

Two, I’m sure lovely, gentlemen were discussing life and loves (although talking about one lady they met on holiday the word ‘love’ may or may not have been used:

Salt of the earth she is, she’ll ‘love’ anything

Anyway, talk turned from this down to earth lady to where they were going to go for dinner .

Clearly inspired by the talk of all things Spanish, one gentlemen declared

I’ve got the perfect place. I know this lovely little Spanish place…

Us earwiggers were filled with visions of a lovely hidden gem, Spanish eatery, known by only the in the know Mancunians, kept secret by loyal diners who wanted to preserve their discovery at risk of it being too popular. We strained our ears further, ready to commit to memory this wonderful little gastronomic tip-off.

Turns out he was talking about La Tasca next door.

Now no offence to La Tasca, but it was pretty much the only ‘little Spanish place’ anyone knew in Manchester in the 2000s (save El Rincon).

We are now spoilt for choice. Spoilt being the word and very much so when describing a recent evening at Iberica, Spinningfields.

Invited to an evening to launch their new Spring Menu, I wondered if the aforementioned gentleman had been. Perhaps he was quietly introducing those in his trusted inner circle to a lovely little trattoria he found, Bella Italia.

I digress (and wish to add my digressive digs are not at the chains I’ve mentioned – there is a place for all).

Now back to the lovely place that is Iberica. A grand venue, the decor and interior was light and spacious which perhaps isn’t what the usual Spanish restaurant aesthetic is but made for an immediately different feel to the tapas experience.

A true celebration of Spanish cuisine, we were introduced to the upcoming evening’s fayre by Nacho Manzano, the Executive Chef for Iberica Restaurants.

And our menu for the evening was thus

Reading like a who’s who (and who we didn’t know was who, but definitely left knowing who they were) of Spanish delicacies, what was to follow didn’t disappoint.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I invite you to immerse yourself in this gallery of Iberican delights…

Jamon Iberico Juan Pedro Domecq

Contemporary Spanish Tapas

Beef tomato and salmorejo

img_4411

Pear and spinach salad

img_4419

Cod brandada

img_4447

Cantabric tuna salad

img_4450

Poached hake

Much Loved Classics

Patatas Bravas

Chorizo

img_4453

Albondigas

img_4454

An Iberica Icon

Pluma

Desserts

Torrija

img_4456

Carmelised Spanish rice pudding

img_4457

Dish after dish, the combination of the beautifully thought out details and aesthetics were a treat for the senses.

To pick a favourite would be like picking my favourite child. If my child were a Spanish dish, that I’d set upon with just enough dignity to avoid a patatas bravas disaster down the front of my white top.

A weird analogy all round.

But highlights for me from the Contemporary section were the Pear and Spinach salad:

img_4419

and the Cod brandada:

img_4447

From the Classics, the Chorizo:

img_4453

The aptly named Iberica Icon, Pluma – here I must add that I’ve never eaten pork like it. In a good way, of course:

img_4455

…and last but not least, from the Desserts, the Torrija:

img_4456

In summary, I urge all to head to Iberica this summer and try for yourself their astounding line-up of dishes, both classic and contemporary alike.

Just keep it down when discussing it in The Living Room – we don’t want everyone finding out…

http://www.ibericarestaurants.com/restaurants/iberica-spinningfields-manchester/

Categories
Bars Culture Fitness Food and Drink Manchester Photography Preview/review

Manchester plays host to Fizz Club – cava load of this! (sorry)

I’ve been a member of a number of clubs in my life.

Chess club, book club, netball club,

Never has my enthusiasm been so strong, my interest piqued so much, my commitment been so absolute than for this particular club I’m proud to be a member of.

That of course is Fizz Club, as brought to us by the people from the fantastically popular The Fizz Festival

Imagine, if you will, a place you can go where everybody knows your name. And they’re always glad you came.

Actually on that point, I’m pretty sure only the lovely ladies who run the club know my name and that’s because I’m like an excited puppy when it hears the tell-tale jangle of its lead – my ears pricking sharply up at the pop of a cork.

To use another canine analogy (and why wouldn’t you), I’m like Pavlov’s dog. The cork is my bell, and at the mere POP I’m salivating, flute in hand.

That’s a bit gross, but you get the general idea.

Anyway, I basically love fizz, sparkling wine, whatever you want to call it.

Actually we need to call it fizz – it’s what the club’s called, after all.

And whilst my favourite is and always will be champagne, I thought that to be educated in all things fizz would be serve me well in two respects:

  • I would have the opportunity to expand my mind as to all of the different varieties and types of sparkling wines there are out there, as well as tasting and learning about different champagnes on the market; and
  • It would hugely justify my obsession with fizz it I placed it within an educational context.

I can drink it because I know a bit about it and I’m in a club and I need to be a good club member. So there.

And so duly did I join Fizz Club as did my husband (men, go join!) and I haven’t looked back since.

Up until this year, Fizz Club evenings had taken part in the suburbs, with tasting events in locations such as Hale and Knutsford.

However, this year Fizz Club is sharing the love further and taking their tastings into central Manchester as well. Perfect for anyone living in, working in, visiting, basically anything-ing Manchester.

Event are open to non-members too but at this point I shall link to all the deets of the advantages of what it means to be a member:

Become a Fizz Club member

Last week I attended the inaugural city centre event. Originally planned to be held at Kiehl’s on King Street, the Beast from the East and Storm Emma put paid to that, causing the store to close and matters in hand relocate next door to the wonderful El Gato Negro Tapas, with a chance to check out their top floor bar and dining space (that of the rather marvellous and infamous retractable roof better utilised in summer).

And so the Spanish theme was no coincidence (El Gato Negro Tapas had already been on board to provide us with delicious canapés to accompany our tasting), Cava was on the menu, with five different wines to taste and pour over.

I personally have a penchant for Cava over Prosecco as it’s made in the traditional method, in the same way as Champagne (note how I capitalise the drink types – fizz is that important) and is generally more dry than its sweeter Italian counterpart.

From the Catalonia region and the area of El Penedes, Cava traditionally brings together three grapes: Macabeo, Xarel-lo and Parellada.

  • Bodegas Sumarroca Cava Brut Reserva

The first was brought to us by the lovely people at El Gato Negro Tapas themselves and on their menu at a cost of £6 a glass.

Decidedly toasty and very bubbly I would happily and unashamedly drink this as a session Cava. That is not to insult it by saying it can be knocked back without due care and attention. It’s to save it was lovely and light and I could drink lots and lots and lots of it…

The next four were brought to us by Codorniu.

I say brought to us – the poor rep and guest speaker joined Kiehl’s as a victim of the weather, and held hostage in Aberdeen. So more accurate is to say the next four were sent to us by the lovely man from Cordoniu and presented to us and poured by the equally lovely Janet who runs the whole lovely fizzy affair.

Incidentally Cordoniu is pronounced

COD-ON-YOU

Got that? Good on you.

My mind is blown nearly as much as a few years ago when my brother-in-law returned from his honeymoon in the Champagne region with news that Moët is pronounced with a hard t.

Yep.

Cordoniu is the second biggest Cava producer, the first being (I’ll whisper it out of respect to our lovely friends at the former), Freixenet (pronounced FRESH – EN – NAY).

  • Codorniu Brut NV

This was described as a Brut non-vintage entry level Cava. Perfect as an aperitif, it was very fresh and again light.

Whilst it had an earth aroma, its taste was the opposite and for me quite fragrant.

  • Codorniu Zero

This next Cava came with a quiz question

What do you think has been removed, thus resulting in its name?

I had already decided that sugar had been removed because I am currently obsessed with a certain slimming club and trying to see how much wine I can squeeze out of my syns allowance. So without even tasting it properly, I declared sugar and whilst desperate to love it as it could be my go to ‘skinny’ cava, I was saddened to learn I didn’t really.

Just why I didn’t like it became embarrassingly clear when the answer was revealed to be

Alcohol. It has no alcohol.

Oops. I’d genuinely rather have a vimto as my alcohol free drink of choice. Having said that, this is personal taste on my part and there were others who liked it.

  • Codorniu Vitcultura Ecologically Brut

The next tasted came with another revelation. Introduced as an organic cava, I immediately thought

Marvellous, no hangover. I shall strive to enjoy this come what may.

However our esteemed host told us that whilst sulphur can indeed provide people with something of a reaction, it isn’t what causes hangovers. Drinking lots of alcohol itself causes lots of hangovers. Nothing to do with sulphur content and so organic whilst a good thing in many respects, isn’t the answer to a hangover free drinking session.

I can hear a pin drop.

This wine is aged between 9 – 12 months and had a distinctly apple-y aroma and flavour. A good Cava to enjoy with traditional tapas and a little bolder (some might say ‘funky’. Just like Mark’s 90s ‘bunch’).

  • Codorniu Reina Ma Cristina Blanc de Noirs Vintage

Last but not least was the 2013 produced Vintage which was actually made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes.

Aged for 15 months, I was expecting not to enjoy this as much (yes I appear to run firmly with pre-conceived ideas in life, must stop this) as I tend not to like champagne on the more vintage side which I think is a contradiction to my liking my reds robust and full-bodied), this was not as complex and heavy as I expected it to taste and I liked it.

Advised it was a good food wine, particularly fish, I could see how it could hold its own whilst not taking over the show.

And so the inaugural city centre Fizz Club night was drawn to a close. But not before we were asked if we would like to enjoy more of what what was left from what we’d tasted and liked beforehand…

As mentioned earlier, Fizz Club is affiliated with and run by the same lovely people who treat us all to the annual event that is The Fizz Festival, held in South Manchester.

If you’ve never been, you’re missing out. Handily, though, I have and am happy to provide you with a run down of what goes on here:

An A in Fizzical Education

So what are you waiting for?

The next city centre event is at Randall and Aubin on 25 April 2018 but if you can’t wait that long, head along back to the ‘burbs to Didsbury on 21 March 2018!

Details of these and all events can be found right here!

Cheers and see you at the next one 🥂

Categories
Bars Food and Drink Hotels Manchester Photography preview Preview/review Restaurants

eXchange Food and Drink Lounge – call me ☎️

It’s a rare day I pick up when my phone rings. It’s a hell freezes over day I call someone else.

I’m not a monster, a social pariah, arrogance personified. I guess you could call me the ultimate screener. But it’s not through a sense of selecting who I want to talk to. It’s more blanket than that – I don’t want to talk to anyone. On the telephone that is.

What is this sorcery? You can hear them, you can speak to them, but you can’t see their facial expressions.

I’m a face reader, ready to add all sorts of dramatic interpretation to your expression in response to my ‘hello, it’s (insert real name here)’. How can I apply a wild assumption without a face to go on?

The telephone ☎️📞. Not my best friend.

But why the random, slightly odd confession? Why it’s my not totally tenuous link to the location of my latest Manchester dining experience: eXchange Food and Drink Lounge. Built on the location of what was a telephone exchange back in the 1890s, I love a nod to the past and eXchange Food and Drink Lounge on Portland Street does this well – not only in its name but in its interior decor.

Whilst I may have a deep neurotic suspicion of the telephone, I do enjoy a tasteful telephone aesthetic.

And so, with no danger of having to use any of pictured receivers, it was a relaxed honorary manc who settled down for an early Friday evening dinner.

There were lots of different groups in – families, couples, friends, dads and their lads (my Manchester United supporting plus 1 (other good clubs available) using his powers of deduction to dramatically declare…

United are at home tomorrow).

And at a glance, the menu caters for all and is what you might categorise as ‘good grub’, offering staple sections of salads, burgers, pizzas and mains including dishes such as rib eye steak, Pieminister pie, mash and gravy, and sweet potato and spinach curry.

And whilst there is absolutely nothing wrong with good honest grub, as it were, I actually think to call it only this would be doing eXchange a disservice because our experience there was that it was much more.

The thing that caught my eye immediately on the starters menu was ‘croquette of the week’.

The ‘of the week’ concept rarely stretching beyond sausages and pies, (and the croquette being a rare sight on any menu), it was a no brainer. I was having croquette of the week, no matter what filled its breadcrumby exterior (mixed seafood).

It was everything I hoped for and more. Or, to be more accurate, they were. Three (count them) beautifully golden crunchy croquettes filled with a fluffy, warm potato seafood mix, accompanied by a lovely tartare sauce dip.

Comfort on a plate.

My ‘actual manc plus 1’ diner dived into the fish tacos and declared them delicious.

I ‘dove’ in too and concurred.

Again this isn’t something you’d often see on a menu and, as with all dishes at eXchange, whilst at first sight they are the staples you’d expect, there’s originality and a level of freshness injected to some of its offerings, whilst keeping it simple enough to cater to a wide dining demographic.

Without particular intention (although I did declare I’d start the year vegetarian until I ate a sausage roll by mistake), I kept to a meat-free theme and chose the haddock and chips for my main.

You (I) want to see golden batter, soft white flaky fish and big, bold, ‘crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside’ chips, when I order such a dish. I got it.

The batter was light and the flavours ran through to the chips underneath. A self-declare connoisseur, I really need to write a Top 10 Manchester chips blog at some point, if only to give myself an excuse to indulge. Anyway, I’d put these thick cut chips in that list.

‘Actual manc plus 1’ chose the ‘Good Vibes’ burger and good vibes indeed were experienced from the cajun chicken breast with slaw, jerk mayo and mango salsa.

He also had the good fortune to choose the thick cut chips which also worked for me, as I didn’t have to share a single one of mine.

Before our puddings, our lovely server, recommended a delicious drink. In fact I’m going to halt here just to say what great service we had from our server from start to finish and whose name I wish I’d asked (not in a creepy way) – he was friendly, lovely, polite, infectiously smiley and his recommendations were spot on – thank you.

Anyway, speaking of which we both enjoyed (we being my fellow diner and I, not our server although I would have happily bought him a drink had he not been working – again not in a creepy way) a beautifully presented Original Manchester Gin with elderflower tonic, which was like summer (remember that?) in a glass.

You might be bold enough to question the timing of my gin, given that I had wine with my starter and main. Well, to quote Tony Wilson,

This is Manchester. We do things differently.

And so it was into pudding and what a treat. Admittedly there was something of a wait between these two courses but I didn’t mind this – time to enjoy your drinks, you don’t feel rushed and some waiting time removes the danger of feeling too full and unable to enjoy your next course. Which we absolutely did.

We chose the trio of creme brulee, the trio being chocolate, coffee and vanilla…

and ‘Chef Chris’s’ chocolate brownie, served with chocolate sauce and amazing salted caramel ice cream – Chef Chris? Our compliments…

Throwing myself head first back into the telephone analogy (and putting aside my own personal aversion to telephone calls – it’s important we ignore that for a moment), allow me to liken our experience to such –

eXchange Food and Drink Lounge, we’ve added you to our friends and family.

Sorry that was terrible, wasn’t it?

Let’s keep it simple,

eXchange Food and Drink Lounge, if you called, we’d always pick up.

Not much better.

Just basically go and try their great food in relaxed surroundings – you won’t be disappointed.

Telephones etc.

All the deets