Category Archives: Dining

FooD @ Moor Hall

I had been waiting for this for a while. I randomly saw a tweet about a new restaurant with rooms opening about 10mins from where I live that would have ex-executive chef of L’Enclume Mark Birchall at the helm. I knew I would have to give it a try. I don’t even remember how long ago it was, sometime last year I think, they had a lot of building work to do first so I just kept an eye on it.

Well the wait was finally over. The restaurant opened its door a month or so ago. I booked within a few days but like all new restaurants I like to give it a few weeks to settle in before going. It could have been open years, service was really good, better than a couple of places I’ve been that have stars. Although there was one point the table next to me set fire to their menu (by accident, I hope) and there was a little confusion about what to do. I doubt sorting out a menu on fire was on the training list. It reminded me of when we went to L’Enclume and a drink (maybe a dish) was dropped and about 10 people came running out of the kitchen to sort it out.

The sommelier needs a special mention. Engaging, really knew his stuff, all good pairings. I’ve been disappointed with sommeliers at other restaurants. I don’t drink wine at home, the only time I ever drink wine is usually with a tasting menu and the first time was at Sat Bains where the sommelier at the time was amazing. Since then none have been close. The sommelier at Moor Hall could be as good, maybe just a little bit more detail about what flavours the wine brings out in the food and the food brings out in the wine and he would be perfect.

Well, the food, what can I say? Every dish was on a scale of good to great. Usually there is at least one dish I don’t rate or even actively dislike but everything was done really, really well. There is an obvious massive influence from L’Enclume from the bespoke stoneware plates and bowls to the style of dishes. One dish in particular I have had three versions of now, first in The French, then at L’Enclume and now here. The beef in charcoal. The first time in The French it was Ox in coal oil which at the time was wow. Raw ox that tasted like it had just come off a BBQ. The second time was venison at L’Enclume, the coal wasn’t as strong but the meat was more melt in the mouth and all the little pearls accompanying popped with flavour. The dish was still good at Moor Hall but the beef didn’t standout, the charcoal wasn’t noticeable and the extras overpowered it a bit. Being a bit nit picky here but that dish at the other two places stood out, here it wasn’t in the top five. If i hadn’t had a similar dish before I’d probably have said it was great.

Anyway, I went for the 8 courses. Something that I really like is when you get a bunch of other things besides those eight. It came to 14 in total, 15 if you count the bit of prosciutto with pre-drinks. Standouts for me were the Baked Carrots, I really like contrast of temperatures so sticking something frozen on is great. The Grilled Scallop with cauliflower may well have been a standout dish, the purée and grilled cauliflower we fantastic and the scallop was so meaty. The toffee apple like desert is another winner.

A trip to Moor Hall has also added another thing to the list of what I would get if I won the lottery … a cheese room!!!

I’ve been waiting for a star in Manchester for a while now but instead I think there is a contender that a place 5 minutes down the road from where I live will actually get 1 (or 2)  first. I recommend you go see for yourself before everyone else finds out about it.

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FooD @urbisrabbit The Rabbit in The Moon Manchester …

Ready or not here I come … I’m going to kick off and get the negative bits out of the way. I had been following the progress of this restaurant since it was announced Michael O’Hare would be working with GG Hospitality to open new restaurants in Manchester. I’ve followed all the tweets, booked on the day it went live, read all the reviews …

I’ve seen a few grumblings about service and the music. For me I liked the music, it wasn’t too loud as some have said. I can see the 90s Hip Hop R&B being a bit of a generation thing, Michael is a couple of years older than me (if Wikipedia can be trusted) and most songs that were on I used to listen to as a teenager as I guess he might have done. After hearing so many shit versions of Ready or not on various TV adverts recently it was great to have the Fugees playing.

Service was slightly mixed. It was going great, it is slightly fast but most of the 17 courses are one mouthful. There are a mix or servers, girls in jumpers with a big rabbit on the front who put stuff down/take away and don’t speak and then the chefs including Luke Cockerill the 20 something year old head chef who talk you through the dishes. I feel a little bit for the chefs, I don’t imagine serving and talking through the dishes is in their comfort zone. A couple of times it felt slightly scripted but who cares, the restaurant has only been open a few weeks, I’m sure they will relax into it after doing it a few more times.

My only grumble about the service was with the wine service. There isn’t a matching  flight so we bought a bottle, a glass was poured from it and then the bottle taken away. The problem was that our glasses weren’t topped up quick enough. I’v been places that have the opposite problem that top your glass up the moment you take a sip and it gets a bit OTT. But the glass should never be dry. About 10 dishes in we ordered another bottle and after the first glass no one topped it up. I think the problem was that it seemed like only one person was actually topping drinks up for the whole restaurant. To be honest I’d rather the bottle was just left on the table so I could top up myself. I think we threw the staff off at the end, the last course arrived and then a bill quickly appeared and was removed when I asked where the rest of our wine was. After that I had to ask for the bill and then after ten minutes had to ask to pay. We were probably at the table half an hour longer than the time it said we had to give it up by on the reservation. We had actually finished eating at the correct time it was just with not being topped up we had 3/4 of a bottle left. I’d have been happy to go back upstairs but we weren’t asked to.

Wow, I’ve wrote a lot just to say the only negative is I’d rather they left wine on the table or had more people topping up.

Should really talk about food as that’s the point.

What can I say, it’s good, it’s really good, it’s different, space age Asian, I get it now. It is hard to compare it to anything else, it’s like trying to compare a 3 course à la carte meal with a 10 course taster and then to a 17 course taster. The flow of the meal is totally different, the size of each dish is totally different. It would be easier to compare it to tapas than anything else. Dishes come at you in waves, the 17 courses came in a sequence of 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 2, 2, 1, 2, 1. From what I have seen I think that sequence has been evolving and probably the reason why there isn’t a wine pairing yet.

Most dishes are one bite, don’t worry, although from some of the pictures the pain au unagi looks the size of something you might get in Greggs it isn’t. It is one of the bigger things and I did take four bites out of it. The bacon butty although looks massive on twitter is only a twoer. The two noodle dishes took the most eating just because you need to use chopsticks rather than your hands.

By the way, when you go I hope you have clean hands and have been practicing with chopsticks. Besides the noddle dishes I think I ate everything with my hands. Oh, and it is always great having to be given instructions on how to eat something.

Highlights for me, crispy rabbit ears, wagyu nigari, duck nigiri and the plum stone (although I did think it was a bit of a waste of a plum), the plum sake is really good too. Mrs TramP loved the salmon skin inari. I’ve noticed from the pictures on twitter, the menu online and what I actually ate, in just a month there have been several tweaks and changes to the dishes already. I went to The Man Behind the Curtain last Easter and had been looking on twitter for pictures of the food and noticed lots of tweaks to dishes all the time. I suppose it is constantly evolving trying to hit perfection. Some of the dishes were a bit blah, but to be fair when I have an 8+ course tasting menu there is often something that I actively dislike. With this 17 courses I actually liked all of them, I just liked some a lot more than others.

Testament to the chefs, they all looked about 12 and unless all the old guys were hiding in the back, for such a young crew they are making some fucking amazing food. Could they get a star? On food they could probably get one today, service might need a couple of months to become really slick.

What are you waiting for? Book now!!!

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Food @HandFMarlow by @ChefTomKerridge

Yesterday I had my second visit to the still Two Michelin Stared Hand & Flowers Marlow owned by this year’s AA Chefs’ Chef of the year Tom Kerridge.

I went around this time two years ago (it is my birthday, my girlfriend’s birthday and our anniversary this week) when they only had one Michelin Star but it was a week maybe two later that it was announced that they had been awarded the second. It was brilliant and I couldn’t wait to go again. Tom being on the telly a lot since then hasn’t helped this and it has taken a couple of years to get a table at a time we could go. I guess the building work they are doing at the moment has helped that.

Anyway, lets get down to business. I’m going to do this in the style of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

The Good…

The food was fantastic again. You get complimentary whitebait and bread before the meal.

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To start, I had the Demi “En Croute” of Whole Baby Truffle with Foie Gras and Port. While Mrs TramP had the Parfait of Duck and Foie Gras with Orange Chutney and Toasted Brioche.

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It was a bit pointless Mrs TramP looking at the starter menu as she was always going to get this. She had it last time, loved it, and was always going to get it again. I had a little bit, it is so rich and scrumptiously (I wanted to put umptiously but that isn’t a word) lovely. I would of had it myself but I like to get different things. Mine was equally decadent. Brilliant flavours, the texture was a little unusual but the sauce that went with it was fantastic.

Next up, the mains. I had Roast Lancashire Grouse with Hand and Flowers Carrot, Lime, Toasted Lentil Dahl and Carrot Cake. While Mrs TramP opted for the Tenderloin of Wiltshire Pork with Pickled Mustard Leaf, Malt Glazed Cheek, Garlic Sausage and Potato Dauphine.

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Oh, and we shared some Broccoli with Hollandaise Sauce and Toasted Hazelnuts on the side. For anyone that knows me this is going to sound bizarre, but on my plate was maybe the best thing of the entire meal…the carrot! It was the most fantastically sweet carrot tasting carrot I have ever had. Bonkers I know. Mrs TramP’s pork dish was an adventure of flavours. Every bit was so different but all blended brilliantly to make the whole dish come together. I would have had this myself but she got in there before me.

Desert is where my rule of getting something different went out the window. The last time I went they had a pear soufflé that ruined all other deserts for me. To my delight when opening the menu (I think I went to the desert page first) they had pear soufflé on again. It was slightly different, this one was a Pear Soufflé with Caraway Crumble, Caramelised White Chocolate Ice Cream and Pear Sauce.

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We both had it. It was great but the one I had last time was better. I think last time there was cinnamon and maybe walnut. Caraway is pretty distinctive and I’m not sure it went with the pear as well. It was still really good though.

That was the good. The food as fantastic, couldn’t fault it.

The Bad…

I wouldn’t say anything was bad. Just not as good as last time and slightly below expectations of a restaurant like this.

The service was lacking a bit. I think the main problem was waiting times. The Hand & Flowers is small and as a result busy. You get a two hour slot and that is it. With this in mind I want to be served quickly at every point. Because we had been before we arrived pretty much bang on time as we knew if you are early you don’t get sat down and there isn’t really anywhere to go. Last time we also ended up sat outside having a drink while waiting for a taxi. We were seated and given menus, our drinks order was taken pretty quickly but it must have been at least ten minutes before our food order was taken. Five minutes of that we must have been sat not looking at the menu. It was then another five or ten minutes before the whitebait and bread came. After that the starter and main came out at good intervals. Some how the people on the table next to us came in after we did, ordered after we did but received their food before we did. They did have bread but I’m not sure they had the whitebait so I am guessing that was the reason.

The next wait was to order desert. We knew what we were going to have but we took the menu anyway to look at teas and coffees on offer. This wait felt like forever. After about two minutes we had decided. We closed and piled up the menus and waited…and waited. There are what feel like a million people running around all with specific jobs, I wasn’t going to grab one to say look we don’t have much time and we what the soufflé that takes fifteen minutes to cook. We must have waited for at least fifteen minutes to order a couple of soufflés a pot of tea and a coffee.

Although I have another waiting gripe there were a couple of other little things about the standard of service. This one was probably my fault, I have a bit of a thick Wigan, Scouse, Manc mash of an accent but when I ordered my main I said “Roast Lancashire Grouse” and the waitress said, “lamb bun?” “No, the grouse”, I pointed, she looked at me like I had two heads, I said “grouse” again, still pointing. She understood. I can’t be that bad at speaking, maybe I am. When the starters came the waitress who brought them had mine in her left hand and Mrs TramP’s in her right. I’m sure she said “Foie Gras Parfait”, I pointed and said “that is hers”. She then leant over me to give Mrs TramP my starter. I had to stop her and tell her that one was mine. Am I that bad at speaking? Probably.

That leads to another thing. This one is Michel Roux’s fault for doing that program about service. This really wasn’t something that I was bothered about (or even thought about at the time), neither was people not being able to understand what I say. But, all Mrs TramP’s food was served across me. It is pretty small in there, and we were sat in a pretty shit position next to where the food comes out. The waiting staff all came past me to get out of the way and then put the food down. But if they were quick they could have stood on my left to put Mrs TramP’s food down and then walk around me to put mine down. I suppose they don’t make a rule of serving from one side and not over people as it is pretty small and on some of the tables it would probably be difficult to do.

I feel like I’m saying the service was crap. It wasn’t, it just wasn’t fantastic. It wasn’t as good as last time and it wasn’t what I was expecting from a two Michelin Star restaurant. One guy, the main one, was really good. My beer was getting low, he asked did I want another. He pointed out to other staff that peoples drinks were getting low. When he brought food out he told the people he was serving what they were getting. He had an approachable manor,  I noticed that when other people asked questions it was almost always to him. There are what I would say a lot of people serving and they all have their own roles and it is clear that some are there to top drinks up and not say anything. But for me that can be a bit strange. One bad thing though, he didn’t ask me did I want a third beer when my second ran out. Mrs TramP had a full glass of wine. I had nothing and I finished drinking my beer during the time we were waiting for our deserts. I probably wouldn’t have had a beer but I would have had something else if someone had asked. Again, with that many people running around I didn’t know which one to grab to ask for a drink, so I didn’t ask and just waited.

I’m sure you have been waiting to hear about more waiting. This is a real bugbear of mine. It happens to me all the time in restaurants and does make me really agitated and irritated. The bill! We finished desert, we finished our tea and coffee. I wan’t to order an Armagnac, Mrs TramP wanted a port and we both wanted the bill. But no-one came to us, we must have been sat there for another ten or fifteen minutes waiting. The people on the table next to us had asked for the bill, it came, the server walked off, the guy spent thirty seconds reading the bill (as everyone does), he got his credit card out (as most people do) and he sat and waited for at least ten minutes (why do we have to wait?). This is what really bugs me everywhere I go. I ask for the bill, I want to pay and leave. I don’t want to wait ten minutes for a card machine to appear.

So you might have guessed. All that unnecessary waiting throughout the evening meant that when we asked for the bill our time was up. A bit annoying but I knew we only had two hours. We ended up stood at the bar (in the way of everyone) waiting for someone to take my money and give us our drinks. We must have been stood there at least five minutes before the bar man took payment and I had to say we were waiting for drinks. More irritating was no-one took our seats in the entire time it took us to be served, drink our drinks and leave (maybe the next people were late).

The Ugly…

What can I say for this bit. There isn’t anything really besides it being a restaurant and not a pub. I’m not sure why they say it is a pub. It isn’t. It wasn’t two years ago when I went and it still isn’t now. Hopefully with the bar extension that is happening it will become a pub and after your two hours is up you will have somewhere to go and have a few drinks without having to stand at a tiny bar covered in empty glasses right in the way of everyone.

Other ugly parts, unrelated to the restaurant. The people in there. I know I’m a scruffy bastard, I have a rather large beard, dreadlocks, I’m overweight and I struggle with smart casual. I know there isn’t a dress code in there and it is supposed to be a pub but come on, you are going to a nice restaurant, make a little more of an effort than jeans and t-shirt or a scruffy old jumper with holes in it.

That bad section looks really long. It wasn’t at all bad, if you get the chance to go then you should. The food is fantastic and to be honest I couldn’t give a shit how I’m served it.

I think what made the waiting around worse was one particular bloke in there who wouldn’t stop talking crap. Long story short, a guy proposed to his girlfriend and the guy on the table next to them wouldn’t shut up about it, to the point were after the couple that got engaged left and new people sat down he started to tell them about it. He also talked shit about the building work that was going on. He said they were supposed to be shut for all of September but they had changed it “a couple of weeks ago” and are going to be shut for October. Erm, what? I booked on the 10th of July and at that time it said that the restaurant would be shut for three days in October, not all of it! When the new people came in who he was regaling about the previous people getting engaged he started telling them what to get and he said get the pork it is a “creation” and that even the waitress had told him not to get the steak as he can get steak anywhere and the pork was a “creation” so get that. Shut up, no she didn’t. I heard him order (yes he was very loud as well), the waitress came back to take the order and he said to her, “I was going to get the steak, but I can get steak anywhere can’t I? I want a creation and well the pork, that is more of a creation isn’t it? Yes, I will have the pork, that is a creation”. In that time he didn’t pause, and the waitress didn’t say anything. I remember what he said as it was super irritating him keep saying “creation”.

So that is that.

The (very) Good, the food.

The (slightly) Bad, the service.

The Ugly, the clientèle.


Food @BrewDogMancs

It’s been a few weeks now, but the last time I was in Manchester I took a trip to BrewDog. It would be rude not to. I had heard that they had changed the menu from burgers and pizzas to BBQ. I wouldn’t class the new menu as BBQ but that’s just me.

Before hand I was a bit gutted. I was looking forward to a Los Feliz or Lincoln (did the name get changed because Mancs can’t pronounce Los Feliz, Lincoln with the 2nd L isn’t that much better). I’ve had plenty of them in the past, even though the overlap between me living in Manchester and Brewdog opening was about six months. I took my brother on a bit of a pub crawl one time and we stopped for a Loz Feliz, he liked it that much (and it didn’t come with anything so didn’t fill you up) we ended up having two each. I think it was Dean who cleared our boards and said “did you enjoy the 2nd one” to which my brother said “even better than the first”.

I loved the Loz Feliz…

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But we needed food and I will give most things a try before I judge them. The price is a bit steeper, but at least you get a side. Why couldn’t you have had sides with the burgers, Brewdog Manchester? I went for the brisket with macaroni cheese (I’m not American so you can f*ck off with your Mac ‘n’ Cheese (shouldn’t that really be Mac’ ‘n’ Cheese?)). Mrs TramP went for pulled pork with burnt beans.

I have to say it was all really good. I think I made a good choice in side dish. The brisket was slightly spicy, but it was one of those that every bite added to the spice making it hotter and hotter. The macaroni cheese cut through it perfectly. The whole thing was quite filling, I wouldn’t really eat two in a row like I did with the Los Feliz, even though I probably could. The bit of pulled pork with BBQ sauce I tried was also really good. To be honest, you have to try pretty hard to mess pulled pork up. Then there was the burnt beans. Now I’m not a fan of baked beans, I will eat other beans but I don’t often chose to. Soft beans, lovely sauce with bits of meat in. I could be a convert. Mrs TramP said she could eat them all day and could have just had a big bowl of those without the pulled pork.

That was the good, now for the bad. The two slaws (if you can all them that) were crap. One was just shredded red cabbage the other white cabbage and onion. There was no dressing on them at all. Come on, a bit of vinaigrette or mayo based dressing could have made those slaws  and made the meal great. Leave them off or make them better.

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Over all the new menu is great and I would definitely work my way through it if I moved back to Manchester. But there will always be a place in my heart for the Los Feliz. Is it BBQ, I’m not sure.

 


The French Manchester

A few weeks ago Mrs TramP and I had a flying visit through Manchester and as part of that we went to The French by Simon Rogan. When I lived in Manchester I always thought the city centre was a bit lacking in the way of top quality dining. For a city like Manchester it should have at least one Michelin Star but right now it doesn’t. Hopefully Simon Rogan can change that.

Like many, I first heard of Simon Rogan through Great British Menu. Everything he made looked amazing, they could have scrapped the competition and just let him cook the full thing. All of his dishes made it into the top three. Since then I’ve really wanted to go to his restaurant L’Enclume in Cartmel but it’s a bit out of the way. To go there I would really need to make a holiday out of it, I’m sure one day I will.

So imagine how happy I was to read Bacon on the Beech blog about Simon Rogan at The French in Manchester. As soon as I read that blog I knew I had to go. If I were you I would take a read of that blog post, there isn’t much more I can say that hasn’t already been said in that one.

The food was great, staff super attentive, nice atmosphere, smart casual dress code.  As for the dress code, I either wear a suit or dress like a TramP, I find smart casual very difficult. But I shouldn’t have worried about it. There must have been at least 5 blokes wearing jeans and a shirt. One guy even had white pants, a green t-shirt, red sued moccasins with no socks on. I was worried I was going to find him stabbed after he left and stepped out into the middle of Manchester being dressed like that.

But enough about that, it’s all about the food. You have a choice between 6 or 10 courses. Come on, I was always going to pick the 10. I don’t know if they did it because me and Mrs TramP both have dreads or if it was an accident but they initially brought us just the vegetarian menu to look at.  Looked nice but I’ll take the meat menu thanks. Before the 10 courses even started they brought some little extras out and another little treat at the end. I set out to take a picture of every course but failed miserably. My favourite dish of Ox in coal oil, pumpkin seed, kohirabi and sunflower shoots looked so good I had eaten it before even thinking about taking a picture. That dish was amazing, raw meat that tasted like it had been on a BBQ. If you want to see it head over to Bacon on the Beech.

I think I have said enough, if you are in Manchester and want to experience fine dining get yourself down to The French before everyone finds out and you can’t get a table.

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