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Hotels Manchester Photography Popular culture Preview/review Travel Uncategorized

Bowled over by the Hilton

Brought up by cricket-loving parents. I can boast that I was there at the infamous Headingley Test in 1981. I was barely stringing a sentence together given my young years

what’s new?

(Good one, me. Who just wrote that too. About me)

… but I was there.

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And so with that grounding, I had no choice but to have a fondness for the game. I have to admit that my love lies more in the memories that it brings for me than the stats and quality of that day’s fielding…

My Dad in the garden, listening to test match special with its permanently crackly, radio interference against the dulcet tones of RP voices, detailing that day’s play.

I might not be able to tell you all the intricacies of the game, but I’ve seen Warne bowl and I’ve seen Beefy bat. And I like Boycott’s bonkers bantz.

And for those who have no interest in the game whatsoever I’ll get to the point which involves one of the newest hotels to hit Greater Manchester;  Hilton Garden Inn, at Old Trafford Cricket Ground (aka the Emirates Stadium).

Just celebrating its 3 month birthday, I recently checked both myself and husband in to celebrate our 9 year anniversary.

We do that thing where we try and come up with some sort of genius yet tenuous link of a gift, according to what anniversary it is that year; i.e. paper, pottery, copper, ketchup, Pot Noodle, titanium and so on and so forth.

To help our quest, we open up the options to both the modern list and the traditional list (we cheat, essentially, as it can be a ball-ache).

This year I went with ‘willow’. We’d both wanted to check out the new hotel on the block at some point and so I forced a link with cricket – (willow being the bat, those who aren’t au fait with the romantic cricketing description…

the sound of leather on willow

Unfortunately our wedding anniversary inconveniently lies outside of the cricket season (or, more accurately, those games played at Old Trafford Cricket Ground this year.

No matter, this could be a recce for next summer.

Booking a room that faced the pitch (imagining dropping the ball on that one), the view was fantastic enough to please any cricket fan (again, play or no play) and impressive enough for those who don’t know their googly from their search engine).

Throwing open the curtains and french doors alike (it admittedly took a number of goes – reassuringly stiff), your balcony is there waiting for you, the pitch opening up from your privileged vantage point.

On this occasion it was the perfect position to watch the sun go down over Greater Manchester.

One can only imagine the thrill of sitting there watching play on a summer’s day, from your room.

With your little fridge available in the room for cold beverages at will, and a bathroom that doesn’t involve queuing with your fellow fans, you could be forgiven for feeling positively like an MCC member (basically fancy-pants cricket-goer decked out in mustard and maroon).

Away from the view, for a second, The hotel itself is modern and stylish. The rooms comfortable, and the members of staff warm and welcoming.

There was brief hilarity in the hotel bar and restaurant when my request for a margarita cocktail was misunderstood for a margherita pizza (to be fair, it’d be a cold day in hell when I rejected either), but a good night was had by all (both).

Throw those curtains wide (making sure you’re decent first)
So your trip to Trafford be for cricket, football, music or just for the sunsets, I recommend the Hilton Garden Inn at the Emirates Stadium.

Howzat!

Well very good, since you asked. And we’ll be back next summer.

And he’s out
And he’s out!
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Food and Drink Hotels Manchester Photography Preview/review

Fall fork first into autumn at Malmaison

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…

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Seared sea scallops – Bury black pudding, celeriac puree, apple and Jerez vinegar
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Buffalo mozzarella, roast warm squash, pumpkin, charred onion
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Pepper seared rump carpaccio – celeriac puree, sauteed potatoes, pickled mushrooms and black truffle oil

 Introducing the mains

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Josper winged rib
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Josper prime rib
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Josper fillet steak
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Mushroom and black truffle macaroni – gruyere and parmesan cheese sauce, topped with brioche herb crumb
 

And so to the puddings…

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Valrhona chocolate pave, salted caramel ice cream and caramel sauce
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Classic vanilla creme brulee
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Treacle tart and cornish clotted cream
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Celebrity Culture Food and Drink Hotels Manchester Photography Popular culture Uncategorized

Brasserie Abode – bringing it home.

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.

Cliche checklist:

  • Lonely travelling salesman
  • Lonely travelling for work to the other office person
  • Lonely can’t get a drink anywhere else person
  • Lonely person
  • Person
  • Lonely
  • Bit seedy?
  • Lonely
  • The Major ordering his sherry in Fawlty Towers (six o’clock Fawlty!)


Brasserie Abode is NOT that place.


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 –

 Spacious yet divided into areas which feel intimate, the lights are low and the quality of the service, high. 

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 ⬆️

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All the visuals 

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Food and Drink Hotels Manchester Photography Popular culture

Malmaison brings the Millennial touch to Afternoon Tea 

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

drum roll

Hank Marvin.

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.


There was nothing cheeky about their Afternoon Tea in terms of taste and ingredients – it’s the perfect balance of pretty and  plentiful. 


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.

I’m relevant.

Relevant 

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.

Whilst each cake brought something different yet equally decadent, it was the pannacotta which stole the show for us both…

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.

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