Whisky never tasted so stylish…
The highs, the lows and the love that stemmed. Beautiful Manchester.
After a summer of outdoor activities, beer gardens and sun terraces (yes, even in Manchester, naysayers), October heralds a time for taking it back indoors .
Personally happy to see the back of light summer salads, all I can see ahead is a series of extended Sunday lunches with friends and family and delicious decadent dinners.
Autumn is when the gates to foodie heaven are thrown wide open as there is no dish too grand, or temptation too realised that a huge winter woolly cannot compensate for.
When Malmaison kindly opened their dining room doors at Chez Mal for a preview of their new autumn menu, the stakes were high and the quality of the steaks were…well, high.
Much as I’d like to talk about myself, as I so often do, I will throw spotlight onto the food. When invited to try, I expected a mere morsel. A soupcon. An amuse bouche, if you will.
I have never felt so fed and this is testament not only to the dishes on offer, but my inability to stop trying all facets of the new menu.
Before I lay bare the Autumn 2017 dishes (or Fall collection – yes I know it’s american but we’ve got students all over Manchester having just started their first ‘semester’ and we all talk in ‘seasons’ now, not series, so let me have this americanism as it suits the fashion show analogy I’ve literally just thought of) to those on the ‘frow’, we’ll start, as did I that evening, with a cocktail.
And no ordinary cocktail, but one especially created for our fine city of Manchester.
Behold the Beehave!
If you like your gin of the Hendrick’s variety, mixed with Cointreau, honey, lemon, egg white (I used to balk at that, believe me, but it’s not what you might expect) and ginger ale, you will enjoy this delightful little mancunian tribute in a glass. And extra points to those who picked up on the Stone Roses homage.
The new menu offers everything you’d want in the way of warmers, comfort foods and beautifully put together steaks as cooked on the Josper.
Feast your eyes, and ‘fall’ (yes, still going with that) in love with what Malmaison has to offer to Mancunians, honorary and actuary, and visitors alike, this autumn.
First to the catwalk, the starters…
Introducing the mains
And so to the puddings…
All the deets
Sunday, Bloody Sunday.
You wake up in the morning, you’ve got to read all the papers, the kids are running around, you’ve got to mow the lawn, wash the car, and you think
Sunday. Bloody Sunday
With a few adjustments to the woes listed by Alan Partridge , I often do think the same. They’re doomful. It’s a whole day off work, but laced with doom and tedium. Not to be dramatic.
However, my fellow mancs, honorary and by birth, yesterday was a different animal altogether.
Imagine the scene.
A bus that drives you around Manchester, dropping you off at various locations for meat treats (it rhymes, you see).
Yeah, bit odd, but yeah…
…I hear you murmur.
Imagine that bus but with the addition of a team of chefs cooking up a storm up top, to provide you with mouth watering meaty morsels (alliteration) as you ride between stops.
That can’t be real, that’s insane…
I hear you mutter.
It is. But wait.
Imagine all that, all of that, with a saucy side of beers, beats and bantz! Can’t can you?! I knew it.
It happened and it happened to me one Sunday not too long ago (basically yesterday).
And us lucky carnivorous commuters couldn’t move for it on board.
It is at this point in proceedings that I should point out that all food and drink consumed was of a normal food colour. You can’t have a meat bus (it’s a bus of meat innit) without flashing lights and strobes so don’t be alarmed.
Before we’d even set off to our first destination on the tour, we were handed an amuse bouche of beer and pulled pork nachos.
One wet wipe later and we pulled up to Crazy Pedro’s.
Before we got on the bus and caused no fuss…well basically nothing, but it’s good to paraphrase an Oasis lyric in a Manchester blog, despite the passing decades.
Paired with this delightful morsel, we were handed a Punk IPA as a teaser for our next stop – beer tasting at Brewdog:
Sniff, sniff, sniff, sniiiiiiiff and then gulp
Naturally my gulp was more of a sip and a choke (I can’t take instruction) but I did get notes of lemons and limes, I’ll have you know.
Also have you heard of mouthfeel? Mouthfeel.
I don’t want to talk about it. I put that word up there with foodbaby and moist.
I’m going to admit bowing out of our beer tasting meat chaser. It’s not Meat Lust, it’s me. Parked up in Stevenson Square, even if I had got past the rabbit and black pudding (albeit wrapped in pancetta), the whipped cream would have sent me and my mouthfeel under.
However, it has to be said that I heard a number of my fellow meatbusers that it was the best yet. More fool me.
My photography skills of said dish matched my adventurous approach to it – woeful…
It was time to move on with a lamb fajita (secret ingredient popcorn which weirdly and seriously worked) and a Tickety Brew set against a delightful denim backdrop…
Ray and his people specialise in dogs and waffles. Hotdogs. ‘Franks’. It took me longer than decent to work out what a frank was, it has to be said.
All this set against a Studio 54 soundtrack, it’s a great place to visit even when not being taken there on a meat bus.
Now I had an amazing pun all lined up for this last tasting. One of my better ones. Alas, today I realised that my original play on words is the tagline for one of Manchester’s newest food outlets.
Still I’m going with it (good work Taberu).
This last saucy surprise was a fluffy steamed bun, filled with pork and spicy sauce.
Final foodstuff? Take a bao.
To sum up my saucy Sunday, Meat Lust served up a top three hour tour filled with mouthwatering meat, fine Manchester beats, a generous serving of bus beers and plenty of onboard laughs along the way.
Sticky fingers crossed, the tour returns to Manchester again soon.
For now, enjoy all the saucy deets
It was on a balmy night in Manchester when Brasserie Abode threw open its doors, banged on its bongos and welcomed Manchester into its loving, refurbished arms.
If the recently rebranded bar and restaurant is anything like its welcome party, us mancs (born and honorary) are in for a treat.
Last Thursday I got a glimpse into the mirrored spectacle that is the new Brasserie Abode. On Piccadilly, it’s the bar and restaurant of, yes, Abode Manchester.
My first foray into the Manchester hotel bar ‘scene’ (pretty sure it’s a scene), was back in 2000 and the bar at the V&A hotel (Manchester Marriot) when I worked for Granada TV. A shooting schedule’s throw from the studios, the bar was oft frequented by those who both did and didn’t have homes to go to, after a hard day’s media-ing.
Seeing as you didn’t ask, my top 5 hotel bar moments:
- seeing Hank Marvin (Malmaison – he looked hungry);
- being given drinks on the house because the owners were having a dinner party ‘out back’ (B&B in Edinburgh);
- seeing Tilda Swinton with one of her two infamous (at the time) other halves..or quarters, I suppose (The Mandeville, London);
- watching a man stand on stage holding an eagle aloft for 15 minutes,saying nothing. absolutely nothing. then eventually walking off again leaving the audience, and eagle, equally confused (Tenerife, obvs); and
- I can’t think of a fifth.
Despite these examples, I’ve always been a bit dubious about hotel bars – they can sometimes feel a lonely place and a bit of an add-on.
- Lonely travelling salesman
- Lonely travelling for work to the other office person
- Lonely can’t get a drink anywhere else person
- Lonely person
- Bit seedy?
- The Major ordering his sherry in Fawlty Towers (six o’clock Fawlty!)
Whilst they don’t guarantee Hollywood stars with unusual spousal arrangements or perplexed birds of prey, they do bring a stylish, French themed, smart and sophisticated destination bar and brasserie to Manchester.
Previous incarnations included Michael Caines fine dining restaurant (not a lot of people know that – they do actually) and a Hotel called the Rosetti.
Another tick on its mancunian credentials (the main one being actually being in Manchester, of course) which the building brings, is in its DJ history. Amongst others, one Mr Dave Haslam used to play down in the basement (now the restaurant) – legendary night Chica Chica Boom, 2003?
Well the DJs are back on the menu, including VIVA Ems, recently returned from up and coming festival Glastonbury.
Along with some fine friends on the bongos and trumpet, she entertained with a fantastic set at the launch. I understand it’s vocal house and tech house.
I can confidently say that her house brought the launch night home at Abode.
House puns. Right there ⬆️
I’m yet to sample the restaurant side aside from some fine canapés – oysters. I managed to eat my third lifetime oyster which was a pleasure.The first two, some years back, were taken in the safety of my own home. There was carnage and drama on that occasion. I won’t go into details but think choking, tears and recriminations.
But for now, I can give my two penneth on Brasserie Abode as a bar –
I think the biggest compliment I can give it (purely in the context of my above musings, you understand ), is that you definitely wouldn’t be depressed here, or here out of desperation. You wouldn’t know it was a hotel bar. And by that I only mean good things.
Definitely a destination bar, there’s no place like Brasserie Abode.
Another house pun ⬆️
All the deets
All the visuals
When I was young, I had two major concerns about getting older:
I wouldn’t be allowed to wear my hair in a ponytail anymore; and
What would I do about coffee mornings – I hated coffee and indeed tea.
What world I was living in where the latter was a real worry, I don’t know. One of my own making, clearly straight out of a Miss Marple story.
Anyway, it was a concern and whilst I still retch whenever coffee’s near me, two further things have since occurred to me:
You can get your adult badge by drinking herbal tea which is quite nice; and
The coffee morning isn’t a concept that comes up too often. It’s fine.
What is a thing, and a big thing at that, is the increasing popularity of the afternoon tea. A quaint and quintessentially English affair which has taken hold, and is not just reserved for tea shops, The Ritz or, indeed, ladies of retirement age.
The afternoon tea has entered our bars, hotels and restaurants and, when done well, is a beautiful thing (especially when champagne enters the fray.
Celebrating 17 years since I started working, living in and generally loving Manchester, myself and my husband, took ourselves off to Malmaison.
Here in the city before even I arrived (imagine!), Malmaison has held its own amongst new arrivals over the years, including The Lowry, Radisson Edwardian and, more recently, Gotham.
Malmaison always reminded me of two things:
Its past connection to another Mancunian stalwart, Mick Hucknall; and
Yes he of the Shadows and popular rhyming slang, Hank Marvin was once spotted in the lobby there, by a very excited young lady (me). Speaking of which, when I sat down for afternoon tea I was …hungry.
Thankfully Malmaison didn’t disappoint.
It is not for me to use or assume gender stereotypes, but I took a man (it’s ok, we’re married) who, whilst would be perfectly at ease amongst sandwiches with their crusts removed, was reassured by sight of the savoury selection.
The chipotle chicken and avocado wrap and burger sliders brought the millennial touches to the table, with a nod to the traditional with the smoked salmon sandwich.
I know, I used millenial again. It’s what I’m doing now.
Scones are always my favourite part of afternoon tea (champagne aside), and what I put most stock in. They didn’t disappoint…
Technically a Devonian (born but not bred), the scone debate between Devon and Cornwall is obviously an issue close to my heart. So close that I couldn’t remember which county coveted which – jam before cream or cream before jam?
I hedged my bets, and dressed each half a different way…
A quick Google afterwards reminds me (tells me) the Devonians likes to do it cream before jam (left).
Plenty replenished and happy (but far from finished) it was time for tea (the champagne was, of course, long gone).
And here, I am trying and wanting to use both perfect storm and storm in a teacup. But both sound a little negative and it wasn’t. I’ll just go for it and assume the rest of my text assures that there was nothing bad about it
The fruit and traditional teas available proved the perfect storm in a teacup.
Look they were good, is what I’m saying, and beautifully presented.
We were brought a little teapot each which could be refilled as required.
No confusing apparatus that looks like something out of a laboratory (I won’t name names, but there was plenty of time to ponder their tea brewing process in the lift down to reception that afternoon back in 2015), just a selection of teas, a teapot of hot water and really lovely people to refill it for you.
Between us we sampled English breakfast, peppermint and green.
And you can’t have tea without cake and happy to report that each tasted as delicious as they look below…
The strawberry and vanilla mini pavlova caught my attention and it was everything I’d hoped. Trust me, I invest hope in such things. And it’s the little touches such as the little sliced strawberry on top which brings the elegance to proceedings.
Tea for two but with a feast for more, I urge all Mancs – honorary or otherwise, and indeed Manchester guests to book in.
The balance between the classic and modern will suit Millenials, Miss Marples and both male and female diners alike.
Especially if you’re Hank Marvin.
Yes, I did that in the title. It’s tenuous but almost could have been brilliant.
Running through my veins is champagne – or at least it would if only I could.
Another passion is Italy whose prosecco has in recent years probably tripled the sale of flutes and quadrupled the use of the phrase Fizz Friday on marketing materials in pubs and bars up and down the country.
Beginning my career in both the job sense and as an Honorary Mancunian back in 2000, my first week working in the media began with a cliched bang – champagne in the office to celebrate a colleague’s success and sent home with a bottle to celebrate the company’s share success, I was off to a good start.
However – at that time, my young, naive tastebuds weren’t that interested in champagne and were fairly underwhelmed.
Oh thanks, that’s nice.
16 years on and that apathy is a long and distant memory
Let’s have champagne.
And so I’m a sucker for anywhere where I can sample, sip and learn more about my passion for the good stuff.
Come the weekend of 12 and 13 November, I’ll be paying my first visit to Altrincham town hall to perform an act of what I consider to be my civic duty to concentrate my efforts in sampling champagne, prosecco and cava from a range of producers who I feel need my reassurance and help to know that their products are fit for flutes across Greater Manchester.
Such is my commitment to the cause, I will be their guinea pig and try their tipple more than once if they need me.
Talking to a friend, whilst it is my first fizz festival in Altrincham, I learnt that it is the second and so I squeezed them for information.
It’s fantastic and most of all generous.
My friend bought a case and stocked up for Christmas
I zoned in on generous and case so next Sunday 13 November, I’ll be off for tastings and tutorials not only at the town hall but round Altrincham. And it’s all in the name of research, education and civic duty.
I have a friend. Let’s call him Beer (no I’m not metaphorically telling you I have a drinking problem, Beer is an actual man). Beer, I said (typed), give me three words to sum up your thoughts on The Blue Pig.
I like it.
Thanks, Beer, I said.
Beer wanted to expand on this and I allowed him to.
Parisian beer tent
Even better, Beer, I said.
Why are you called Beer, I said.
Beer was gone. He hadn’t died, just gone offline.
The first thing to say about The Blue Pig, in the Northern Quarter, is that inside it does give good Parisian bar. Parisian bar in ‘the old days’.
The actual bar area itself is something to behold and for those who haven’t stepped through the blue hue (or heu bleu), you’ll be surprised at how much more compact it is than my picture below suggests. And by that I mean it is ostensibly grand for its size, in quite a marvellous way.
The fixtures and fittings, are iron, in general and both impressive and a little unnerving.
Let us look at these meat hooks…
Can’t see them? You’re perhaps distracted by the events and promotions on the boards (more on these later – see how I tease). A closer look…
A nod to the pig, I guess. At pains not to embarrass myself by misinterpreting the various styles, nods, homages and raison d’etre of The Blue Pig, I turned to the bar’s website to see if I could quote a summary of its wondrous usp. I’ve lifted this…
…an illustrious drinking hole situated right in the heart of Manchester’s Northern Quarter.
Along with Beer’s summing up of the bar…
I like it
No, the other one
Parisian beer tent
…my own summing up is Pigs in Paris. Swine on the Seine. Erm Hogs in Hermes?
Anyway the heavily scribed ceiling is pig-heavy and fun to read, twisting your neck to a variety of angles in the process.
Drinks. Great cocktails. Current rival to Lost In Tokyo for great, good value (not, in this case, code for cheap and nasty) cocktails which are Happy Houred up until 7pm.
My favourite of those tried, both feature on the House Creations page – the exotic Madame and the Quincy, which I sampled only yesterday (bang upto date, this blog, you know).
I was seduced by its promise of vanilla vodka, honey and lime. Only once had the process started did I read the ingredients properly and did CHILLI jump off the page at me.
As I turned white, my partner in crime (let’s once again, call him the Rabid Mime), whispered the comforting words…
It might be alright
It turned out it was alright. Mostly down to the excellent customer care which came from the bartender who either noticed my pallid complexion, heard the reassuring…
It might be alright
or, more likely, is good at his job, and took the time to ask how soft I am (my words) to which I replied very and so bespoke me my own mild version. He even checked in on me a few minutes later.
The Quincy was delicious and made me feel daring. Kind of the same effect that diverting from Beef Monster Munch to Pickled Onion Monster Munch has on me.
The bar also prides itself on its craft beers and my two friends, the Rabid Mime and Beer both bear testament to this.
On a final note, The Blue Pig is red hot on its events. A few weeks ago I found myself late to the party, when I walked in on the climax to a loud, lively game of Oink! Punk Bingo.
Mental Bingo, as I like to call it, is really taking off and popping up all over Manchester.
In this case, the general premise is your bingo card contains band names or singers, not numbers. Bursts of songs are belted out, not numbers, and it’s a race to identify the artist and cross them off your card, if present.
I arrived just in time to see my friend victorious, but not before she had danced in a dance off to a dancey tune for reasons I’m still not entirely clear on, but did lead her to walk away with free wine and this…
And so there we have it.
The Blue Pig, the Parisian Beer Tent, is stylish in appearance, fun and extensive in its drinks, its food, according to its website;meaty and luscious (it smells good) and its events calendar lively, loud and on point.
To paraphrase The Thick of It‘s Julius Nicholson, The Blue Pig is positively hoggish.
February 2015, around the same time I arrived fashionably late to the party that was the iconic television drama Mad Men, I arrived early to this bar. Very early.
After aimlessly circling a building in pursuit of this exciting new establishment I’d been reading about, some more googling led me to realise I was about 3 months early. Shivering on the corner of a damp Hilton Street, closer examination of the tantilising piece on Manchester Confidential saw me realise my error
…Pen and Pencil looks set to launch this May.
Never has a less sensational, more factually dry statement been pulled out as a quote. I do this to remind ‘last year me’ to learn to read properly (should anyone do ‘a me’ and not note my opening paragraph, don’t wait until this May to go – it’s open. Now).
There were a couple of traits about this brand new bar (again, please note it’s not new now and is definitely open) that caught my (lazy) eye – and both harp back to New York. In fact, the Stevenson Square area, through upto Hilton and Tariff Streets, respectively, is indeed becoming its very own little New York. Bars such as Noho (explicitly) and Kosmonaut (implicitly) take their lead from the NQ’s brother from another mother, and Pen and Pencil follows (sharp) suit.
The original Pen and Pencil, I read, was on what was referred to as Steak Row, in New York – one of a number of bars/restaurants such as Editorial and Front Page, so called because of its patronage of newspaper and ad men.
I don’t know whether Manchester’s own ‘hacks’ are following suit with our very own Pen and Pencil (in my media heyday, back in the good old 2000s, it was always, and sadly, the dizzy heights of the Press Club – influence? a working man’s club, circa sometime way in the past) but it’s in the ad-men, and their spawned Mad Men, where the bar places its roots.
None more so in the drinks and their aesthetically pleasing host menu.
Accompanying each section is a pleasing, retro, vintage, nostalgic, basically OLD, inspired ad from the past, which have the ability to make even the most mundane of orders (no offence pint of Heineken please drinkers), feel stylish.
To quote the most excellent series character Roger Sterling (sorry Mr Draper, your schtick can get a little old and whiney sometimes)…
You don’t know how to drink. Your whole generation drink for the wrong reasons.
My generation, we drink because it’s good, because it feels better than unbuttoning your collar, because we deserve it.
We drink because it’s what men do.
Now I don’t know about you, and leaving aside the gender specificity of Mr Sterling’s statement, I’m definitely a kick-back to his generation. And so, Pen and Pencil offers me plenty of options in order to reap what I deserve. And none more so from the cocktail list…
Here we find a couple of lovely little nods to Mad Men – the Thyme and Life (a play on the famous building in which Sterling, Cooper, Draper, Price resides for part of the series, (and where I once saw Boy George – imagine), being one. The John Bruno is actually named after the original proprietor of its NY namesake. This girl can… (use Google).
It’s not a theme bar and not dissimilar to other New York inspired bars and restaurants in the area, and I mean this positively and most sincerely folks (I’ve gone all Huey Green – god I’m old fashioned – he’s the maternal granddad of the late, tragic Peaches Geldof, people of this century).
They do a fine Malbec, table service at quiet periods and also food of which I have not tried.
I’m yet to be too affronted by a bar in the Northern Quarter, granted (although, Cottonopolis, perhaps you’re on the wrong side of town) but I like Pen and Pencil and haven’t yet fallen off the perching stools in the window, closely next to a big sloping gap.
Since that fateful, daft evening, back in February 2015, I’ve frequented (and actually found and got through the open door of Pen and Pencil) a fair bit and it will definitely remain in the category, alluded to below, by the great (albeit sometimes whiney) Don Draper…
I keep going to a lot of places and ending up somewhere I’ve already been…
It’s 2pm and I’m sat in a coffee shop, writing about the etiquette of working in a coffee shop. The more I worry, the more I write about the worry, the longer I spend here, the more I worry. The circle of strife.
This wasn’t my original intention. I was going to blog about Foundation Coffee House. This is where I am. This is where I worry (it has to be said, not exclusively). I still will.
Coffee shop etiquette is certainly not a new topic. It’s been been very well documented and advised upon for years. I, myself, have progressed well since I took my first step some years ago onto the bottom rung of my existing for a period of time in a coffee shop career. Very well. I made it through the door, for a start. I don’t drink coffee. Or tea. And I can’t even say the word ‘brew’. For whatever reason some sort of inner snob comes out and the concept of the brew repulses me (I’m just scared I’ll be made to make one). Therefore I thought the coffee shop would have nothing to offer me but most of all, consider that I would have nothing to offer it. But I soon learnt of the chilled cabinet of the chilled drink, the high calibre chilled drink. Fancy in its name and branding, beckoning me over:
I’ll provide you with an alibi to your coffee shop loitering, a friend, a companion, an excuse. I am your passport to here. And I promise that my aroma will not cause you to be even a little bit sick in your mouth.
Yes, I made it through the door of these new-fangled places some time ago. Yet the length of my stay will never not be an issue for me.
Like a good little ball of anxiety, I do my research before going somewhere new. Pleasing reviews and descriptions of Foundation Coffee House.
Particular credit goes to manchesterwire.co.uk for getting me through the door
…(Foundation Coffee House) is massive, minimalist and you can stay all day.
Stay all day. All day. STAY.
Don’t get me wrong, I hate any form of loitering or advantage-taking. And the light bulb moment for me (occasionally, the bulb flickers and blows again) is that the coffee house/shop/palace, whatever, is a living, breathing, ever-evolving extension of your home. Everything’s fluid – we work wherever we are, whenever we want (give or take the availability of a plug socket after so long – I’m with Apple so every god-forsaken 5 minutes).
Again, the above isn’t a revelatory comment, but a reason why the common or garden coffee shop (sorry Starbucks) has little to do with Foundation Coffee House and an increasing number of other outlets predominately in the Northern Quarter, and popping up throughout the rest of the city. They’re spaces to carry on your day – all for the price of a drink.
It’s now 3.20pm and the space has filled up nicely and I’m feeling more at ease. It’s a huge space, situated on Lever Street, in a Grade II listed building. It’s sectioned off nicely into different seating arrangements – tables, benches, booths and the obligatory outward- looking window perch. That’s where I decided to base both myself and my worry. I like people watching, I found a plug socket (I’m sure there are many dotted about) and I can’t be seen from the counter. I’m not hiding, per se, more preserving my anonymity for when the inevitable lurking charges are brought against me.
Indeed, from the off, the innocent…
See you again…
from the pleasant man behind the counter had set me off into a ‘oh god I’m not to stay. It’s assumed I’m off‘ type panic, that sent me straight to the other side of the place.
Fears allayed all round. Various groups and individuals come and go. Talking, working, typing, sipping, and basically just being here.
That’s my summary of Foundation Coffee House. It’s perfectly ok to just be here. Don’t go overboard and not buy your ticket to type – there’s a fantastic choice of hot drinks (if you have to like that sort of thing), smoothies, various soft drinks in the chiller; and light refreshments.
I won’t pretend to understand the nuances of coffee culture, and I’m not going to do the title ingredient justice at all, but the blurb on the back of the drinks menu tells me it’s…
…traceable, sustainable coffee from bean to cup.
There you have it. I’ve been here almost two hours without a hint of judgement or discomfort (not self inflicted) and I reckon I have another hour in me to play with Instagram and work out what the hell im doing with Pinterest, before I move on. I’ll even pay another trip to the counter (although someone guard my plug point…). I’ll definitely be back.
Oh, a quality sipping, talking, meeting, reading, writing soundtrack too. The Who, The Kinks, The Zombies and other various Thes.
So remember, it’s ok to be here at Foundation Coffee House. If you’re like me, there’s no finer praise indeed.
5pm – just finished adding in my photos and I’m still here – without judgement and hassle but with 100% phone battery.
5.05pm – just to add I did buy crisps too, I earned my window seat.