Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Wahu

I'm always on the look out for new lunch spots and despite the initial impressions of Wahu being pretty poor, I waited for the hype to die down and any teething problems to sort themselves out before heading down to give it a try for myself. Wahu is the latest spot on The Avenue in Spinningfields and offers healthy express food to eat in or take away. 

From the outside Wahu looks exceptionally cool and certainly very enticing. Lots of bright colours everywhere, huge glass windows, neon lights, giant WAHU wording everywhere - I was feeling pretty optimistic about things as I headed in as it was certainly very busy. 
The range of options is fairly broad but like another high street chain you may be familiar with - you choose a base (the carbs), then a protein, then your extras (salad bits) and a topping (the sauce). Subway anyone? For some reason Quinoa is 75p extra (healthy types need to dig deep). 
I went for the "box of the day" which was Vietnamese chicken salad with red onion, carrot and light soy sauce. I didn't notice until I got back to the office as I wasn't really paying attention whilst I took photos (entirely my own fault) but this included absolutely nothing of any substance carbs wise - I ended up with a box of plain salad leaves, with a small portion of red onion, the same paltry portion of grated carrot and then a handful of over cooked dry chicken. Soy sauce had been added but not attempt had been at mixing so the sauce just sloshed around at the bottom underneath the leaves and only really made an impact once i'd eaten away at about half the leaves by which time everything that was left was starting to get lathered in the soy sauce making everything exceptionally salty.
Honestly it was appalling, i'd estimate about £0.30 for £4.95 and around 150 calories, I was so hungry I had to stuff down some Tesco salt and vinegar mini-donuts to keep me alive for the afternoon - totally backfire of my attempt at healthy eating. I'm all for healthy eating but I was absolutely starving. Despite only opening a month ago, the website shows protein shakes (which I wanted to try) but they weren't on the drinks board in the restaurant so I ended up with a cucumber, spinach and pineapple 'raw and fresh' juice which tasted exactly like every other one of those raw juice drinks you've ever drank. 
Overall this was absolutely terrible, verging on cynical for the paltry amount of food I received for the money and there is no way i'd ever consider going back. If i'd have not gone for the special of the day i'd have been looking at nearly £10 for a really poor salad and a drink. Not even a dessert or snack for that price is verging on daylight robbery. Absolute dross.
  Wahu on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Barnyard - London

Barnyard is the latest venture from Ollie Dabbous, the head chef at his eponymously named restaurant which I am yet to visit but have heard nothing but praise for. When wandering the back streets looking for Barnyard it was quite refreshing that in a row of darkened doorways it was fairly easy to spot as the entire place has been decorated as a (you'll never guess) farmhouse. A white picket fence surrounds the front of the restaurant containing within tables fashioned out of planks of wood, aged metal tiles, corrugated metal walls and suitably industrial looking lighting.
At 2.15pm on a Monday we had the entire restaurant to ourselves which was a fairly odd experience in itself, I'd hope for the restaurants sake that we'd just missed the lunch rush and at least we had very attentive service on the bright side. To be fair to Barnyard, quite a few people seemed attracted by the decor outside and wandered up to take a look at the menu only to quickly walk away.

The menu is split by food type, on this occasion the headers were Pig, Cow, Lamb, Chicken, Egg, Vegetables and Puddings with 3-4 options under each section to choose from.

We started with drinks - I had a banana and rum milkshake which came served in a slim line milk bottle with a straw and was spot on, creamy but not too thick and with a clear note of rum which was extremely pleasant.

The Barnyard Iced tea was the second drinks choice and a bit of an odd one initially, the component parts of English tea, pink grapefruit, lemon, agave, Scotch whiskey and Mica beer combined resulted in an a light hint of weird scum floating on the top, almost as if the mix had gone off in some way. The flavour was similar to a good sour beer, bitter but the coldness with the hint of lemon made it refreshing at the same time. An unusual experience that got better the more I drank and I would need to try again to be clear whether it was actually enjoyable or just the uniqueness that got to me.
First starter was lard on toast, which I immediately regretted it as as clump of semi-melted lard dripped on to my trousers, presumably never to be removed. The snack itself was great, I'd pictured a thick slice of sourdough appearing but it was more of a Swedish crisp bread, lathered in the lard and with a hint of pepper which made for a fun fatty trousers destroying opener.

The asparagus dish was served cold and featured a slow cooked duck egg with lemon vinegarette and torn sourdough bread, decorated with yellow flower leaves and sunflower seeds. The vinegeratte was very tart and clumped up under the veg, it wasn't clear whether this was deliberate or had been applied too liberally but there was certainly sufficiently on the dish to make sure the flavour was transferred to all the separate parts.
Short rib - two bite sized chunks of grain-fed short rib in black treacle outer, with a slice of pickle and mustard sauce. The beef was spot on but it was a pretty miserly dish for £14 - definitely not the main-sized portion I was expecting for that price.

Chicken wings - a dish of extremely crispy chicken wings, I saw extremely and I mean as in tap the coating with with a knife and it'd crack never quite seen wings coated like these. They were generously sized wings, juicy and tender and not the soft flabby meat you often see - everything flavoured with smoked paprika, garlic and lemon that packed a punch.

Corn on Cob - another slight miss, the corn was cooked just as I like so it retains plenty of crunch and it was plenty buttery but there was just no real flavour until I took a bite of the charred section. It also came served with a dirty great bolt screwed into one end to use to hold it with. It never felt entirely hygienic if I'm perfectly honest.
Finally, a special shout out to the toilets which were up there with the most terrifying I've ever been in, I felt like I was in a scene from Texas Chainsaw Massacre as I wandered down a corridor lined with wood, doors with no markings and the toilet hidden away at the end of a long creepy corridor with banging in the kitchens at the side. I'll definitely be going back one day to hide away in one of the nooks playing chainsaw sound effects to make people lose their minds (not really).
I'm still a bit confused as to whether the decor is meant to be taken seriously or is just a bit of dumb fun trying to stand out from the crowd. The total bill came to £55 inc tip and drinks and whilst we had a good time and enjoyed the majority of the food, there was nothing mind-blowing that would have me rushing back, an enjoyable if a little forgettable lunch.
Barnyard on Urbanspoon

Monday, 14 July 2014

The Bird - Berlin

The Bird is a steak house and burger joint tucked away on a leafy street in the quiet neighbourhood of Prenzlauerberg in Berlin and do the whole 'Dirty Burger' thing better than 99% of the burger bars in the UK. The place is hugely popular with locals (always a major positive) and when I popped in early on a Wednesday evening it was fortunate I had a reservation as they were already turning people away at the door as they were so heaving.

Things got off to an immediate good start on this visit as I ordered a pint of SchneiderWeisse only to be told it was ANGRY HOUR and so another free one would be following once i'd sunk it. Is there anything better than free beer? My first insight into how a blagger must feel every time they eat out, each gulp of the free pint tasting of guilt and shame (not really).
They have a range of almost 20 burgers including some unnecessary sounding nonsense (inc fried eggs and shots of vodka) which I completely side-stepped and instead went with their Big Crack which is their version of the classic McDonalds Big Mac. It came served with a mountain of hand cut chips in lots of wonderful shapes and sizes – a lot more enjoyable to pick away at then a generic portion of french fries. The burger came served in a toasted English muffin which is a twist I haven't seen before but that worked perfectly, perfectly toasted and giving some added crunch. The best thing about the burger (as you would hope but which often isn't the case) is the meat which is "ground daily from premium german beef" and the patties are served pink giving the meat it's opportunity to shine. It was essentially a Big Mac with the flavour dials cranked to 11, the meat lathered in American burger cheese and a version of Ronald's secret sauce. The burger was huge and at times I felt like I was having to eat around it like a melting ice cream to keep things from collapsing, I refused to give in to the easy option of a knife and fork and nibbled from all angles.
The dessert menu doesn't mess about - there was just a single option of home made cheesecake which I couldn't refuse and my god it was just as over the top of the burger. Just a text book slice of New York cheesecake, served up as a massive wedge – still cold and with sweet creamy cheese body and a thick layer of crunchy biscuit crust that needs real pressure to break up.

I do regret never having dug into the steaks and the few that I saw being served looked suitably impressive, i'll definitely head back and eat my own body weight in steak at some point but knowing that the burgers are so great makes it a tough decision to make. I look forward to heading back on my next trip to Berlin.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

A Wong - London

I heard a really interesting interview with Marcus Wareing on the radio recently that really struck a chord with me, I can't remember the exact words so I'll have to paraphrase here but the gist was that he was asked whether it bothers him people taking photos of his food and posting them via social media. His measured response was that in his opinion whether you were a regular at the restaurant or you'd saved all year to eat there the food, service and the entire experience should be of an identical standard.

Honestly, my expectations of service are pretty low - as long as I'm met with a smile, the food arrives promptly and clutter is cleared away I'm happy, I appreciate it must be a mind-numbing job at times so deserves some leniency. Having said that I've seen some diabolical service over the years including a fully comped apology meal at a Michelin star restaurant to apologise for an absolute clusterfuck of a night (highlights include a course being served on fire instead of smoked and the door staff losing my brand new jacket) or the time that a maitre'd almost had a heart attack in front of my very eyes as I drew his attention to the LIVE ANTS that were crawling out of sugar bowl that had just been delivered.

I recently bought a cheapish camera to try and improve the photos on this blog, I'm enjoying writing so thought why not try and present the food in a better light. The experience at A Wong and the change in service as SOON as the camera appeared on the table made me once again question the service bloggers receive compared to being completely anonymous and snapping an occasional camera phone photo versus placing a camera out on the table.

Food-wise A Wong was certainly impressive but this was a meal that will remain memorable for all of the wrong reasons - entirely down to the poor service and attitude of the staff rather than the food itself. 

So where to begin, A Wong is a modern Chinese restaurant near Victoria station (which is a bit of a black hole for things to do) so I arrived a bit early for the 6pm booking (they open at 6 for their evening session) and there was only one other table occupied yet I was lead right to the back of the entire restaurant and sat at an extremely dark cave like table like a school child hidden away in the naughty corner.

I originally asked if I could have the taster menu but was advised it'd take over 3 hours which would've meant more of a rush for a train than was ideal, this was despite the menu itself stating you need to allow 2 and a half hours. The table next to us later tried to order, explained they were pushed for time and were told this could be accommodated with no problem by a different waitress. Great double standards.

The most basic errors then became more prevalent - no question about whether I'd like a drink before ordering food or offer of water for the table. As the taster menu wasn't going to be possible I got stuck into the al a carte and planned to order a range of snacks as a 'starter' and then several courses to make up a large selection of mains to try several dishes. The waiter started to take the order, as soon as I mentioned ribs he asked to be excused and disappeared into the kitchen then was next seen a few minutes later ushering the next lot of customers in through the main door. A waitress then came over and asked to take the order, I told her we'd already started with the waiter so she apologised, tracked him down and sent him back over showing utter disinterest throughout. 

As i'd moved to the a la carte menu I assumed the food would arrive fairly quickly and asked to move tables to somewhere with a bit more daylight as there were still very few tables occupied (it was around 6.30 by this point yet and there was still plenty of natural light outside), We were told the table needed to be returned by 7.30, which was no problem whatsoever (assuming food wouldn't be hugely delayed).

So for a selection of mixed starters I ordered the following:

Pickled cucumber, which wasn't really 'pickled' at all per se, it was just thin slices of cucumber sat in sesame oil and chilli flakes.

Sweet and sour rib with toasted sesame - these were a real treat, loaded with meat and juicy fat and the sweet and sour glaze was really subtle and didn't take away from the flavour of the meat. I could've sat and eaten a huge portion of these.
Smoked duck, jellyfish and pork crackling salad - this was a really weird combination, the jellyfish was extremely crispy almost like a similar consistency to fennel or a root vegetable but was quite flavourless. The smoked duck and pieces of crackling added a much needed hit of flavour but the meat was few and far between.

100 year old egg in sweet, chilli soya and marinated tofu - Century egg is something that i'd somehow never got round to tasting and it was exactly as I'd expect it to be. The grey yolk pieces were incredibly creamy and soft and just so unbelievably eggy, I'd love to try it smeared on a thick chunk of toast for breakfast. The egg white (red in the picture) pieces had very little flavour and when mixed with the flavourless white tofu it was all in all a pretty odd combination - the chilli in the oil gave it all a slight flavour but not enough for me.
‘A.WONG’ Dim sum basket was the final starter and was accompanied with a side of more shambolic service. The dim sum came served in two baskets, the first containing a pork and prawn dumpling with crackling sat on top, the second was a shrimp dumpling with citrus foam. I completely missed the description of the third in the delivery of all the starters and just as I was about to tuck in another waitress rushed over to tell me that it needed to be eaten with a spoon as it was filled with liquid. Brilliant, so why was it delivered with chopsticks? "Oh I better fetch you a spoon". Turned out to be a steamed dumpling with ginger infused vinegar.

Between starters and mains I saw one of the chefs pop across to the Sainsbury's opposite and sheepishly rush into the kitchen with an orange carrier bag with vegetables tucked under his arm. I appreciate that kitchens run out of essentials from time to time but at least try and disguise what you're up to if you're popping to the local supermarket.

For the mains I went for the following items:
Crab and seafood in braised leaves - the leaf was wrapped into a ring and then heavily loaded with the crab meat and with some tiny cockles hidden away. Great delicate sea food flavours. 

Glazed Brixham monk fish cheeks - the monk fish cheeks were tender and chewy as you'd expect but the dish was quite wet resulting in soggy batter. The pomegranate added it's dry sweetness to the dish. 

Dong Po slow braised Blythburgh pork belly - Star anise was an unexpected sweet addition but that worked really well with the fatty pork. The onion, diced veg and crisps on top all added much needed crunch to add to the pork.
Scotch beef rump with salsify, preserved plum powder and oyster sauce - like a refined and much lighter version of the oyster sauce you'd have from your local takeaway. The shredded beef with the sauce was very rich and warming. 

Braised abalone with shitake mushroom and abalone butter - I can't recall ever seeing abalone on a menu over here, I'd only previously enjoyed it in Hong Kong. Here it came served with a rich foam, the finely sliced seafood came served in one of the beautiful shells. 

Razor clam with braised sea cucumber, pickled cucumber and wind dried sausage - Just a fantastic mix of textures, the pieces of sausage dotted across the top were so chewy and satisfying. 

At this stage time we were passed 7pm so our waitress asked if we'd let her pour the rest of our wine. She also steamed in with the classic "let me suggest a dessert for you" which Google translation reveals actually means "hurry up and get the hell out of my restaurant"

In the end I chose the tobacco smoked banana, nut crumble, chocolate and soy caramel as it sounded like the type of over the top sugary treat that I hoped would help end the meal on a high. It came served as a large round chocolate ball that the waitress poured hot caramel sauce over, melting the chocolate sphere and revealing the tobacco banana ice cream hidden inside. The melted chocolate ball mixed in with the the soy caramel started to partially solidify which combined with the crunchy nut crumble was just fantastic. As someone who definitely prefers savoury to sweets it says a lot that this almost saved the entire experience it was that good. 
The other dessert was a coconut ice cream glutinous dumpling. Another show-piece, it came hidden under a covering of candy floss which as it was eaten revealed the chewy dumpling which had the coconut ice cream hidden away inside. All sat on a base of crumbled biscuit. Another stunning dessert.
At this point I moved to the counter to settle the bill, this in turn resulted in rapidly served chocolates and the the maitre'd heading over to apologise and insisting that I didn't leave a tip as "we'd prefer if you came back and gave it another try". Unbelievable scenes.

Overall, yes the majority of the food was of a very high standard (especially the desserts) but for the experience alone personally I'd never head back. If you're feeling brave and fancy trying some of this wonderful food I wish you luck.
A. Wong on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Antidote - London

Antidote caught my interest in March / April after a lot of very positive reviews and given it's central location (on a side street off Carnaby St) it seemed like an ideal lunch spot during a day trip to London. Carnaby St and Liberty are a great part of London to spend time in anyway, the streets lined with everything from high end boutiques to quirky little one offs but the  majority of places have a strong identity of their own to stand out from the rest. I have to admit setting eyes on Antidote almost immediately put me off the place - The logo is the sort of generic MS Word 95 clip art nonsense that I could knock up myself in 5 minutes and would absolutely make you think twice before heading in. Given the given the competition in London it must be responsible for so many walk people just walking on.  
The impressive blurb on the website states that "[The] kitchen is under the guidance of Mikael Jonsson, Chef/owner of Michelin starred restaurant 'Hedone'". I often wonder what 'under the guidance' actually means in these situations but am aware and appreciate that some of the top chefs have restaurants worldwide that they have to supervise. I'm a big fan of cinema and it always concerns me when a film is 'Presented by' or like that terrible Mama film that had Guillelmo del Toro's name splashed all over it only to have had an 'Executive Producer' roll - It was terrible as a result. Fortunately (bare with me), this meal was absolutely not terrible and the chef Chris Johns will be doing nothing but good things if he continues to produce food of the high standard that awaited me here. 

Aside from the logo, the restaurant itself was a delightful space - a fairly traditional looking dining room with clean, white table clothes, but with large open windows overlooking the back street of Carnaby street and the restaurants on the other side of the street. It was very open, with clean white walls throughout, very well lit (this was helped that it was a perfect spring afternoon) and airy with window boxes stuffed with flowers as the background for the meal. I was eating early but it was worryingly quiet for a lunch time on a Saturday, I'm talking 3 other tables of people within the hour it took for this meal. 
The menu changes daily which can often be a little too Russian roulette for my liking but fortunately it was hit after hit on the day I visited. 

The amouse bouche was a prime example of the risks though, I know fennel definitely has that marmite effect and boasts a flavour and consistency that can completely drive people up the wall but I love love love fennel and so this dish of pickled fennel with fennel sorbet was right up my street.
The freshly baked sourdough had been raved about elsewhere and was reassuringly out of this world, I'm trying to think back to a better in-house baked restaurant bread and only the loaves at St John (naturally) and I had early days Upstairs at Ten Bells (which led to an internal dialogue of "do you think I could get away with buying one of these to snack on afterwards"- I didn't) comes close for me. Sure, your Troves and Baltic Bakes up here do the classics exceptionally but they're from full on bakeries. Suffice to say, the first portion was polished off quickly and the offer of a second bag of bread could not have been snapped up quicker.
Green asparagus, brown shrimp and confit lemon
A very impressive looking plate of food - several large portions of mixed asparagus that were lightly cooked and perfectly tender, the knife needed very little pressure for the veg to give. The brown shrimp were dotted around the veg and herbs alongside pools of a sauce that tasted almost like marie rose sauce, which made for a subtle reminder of a prawn cocktail.

Jersey royal, crispy chicken and wood sorrel
A really special plate of food - hidden away were several variations on the chicken theme including rich balls of chicken liver, chicken liver mousse, and shards of crispy chicken skin and wood sorrel placed over the top which added a real tang to everything. A great mix of textures and the different takes on chicken all retained their own distinct flavours. Great to see some good old fashioned spuds appear on a starter like this, used sparingly they added some nice weight to the opener.
Cornish pollock, artichoke, puettome and mussels
The pollock was a very flavorsome piece of fish, which melted in the mouth. The mussels were well cooked but retained some lovely wet juiceness. Sea purslane was dotted around to add to the presentation but the crispy shoe string potato was the real winner looks and taste wise - a great accompaniment to the tenderness elsewhere. The artichoke had been charred and looked wonderful on the plate but as ever didn't overly impress me with it's lack of real flavour.

Suckling pig, spring cabbage and lovage
The plate here hadn't done the presentation much justice as it was all at one end and the juices looked like they'd slid a fair bit during delivery to the table. The three sections of pig were all excellent, with a lovely fine layer of crackling as shown above. The hasselback style potato added some further crisp to the whole dish and the cabbage and tangy tomato sauce were very good as sides.
Apricot, elderflower and almond meringue
Another serving that looked to have slid around the dish slightly, leaving it looking a little messy. The apricots and chunks of biscuit were sweet and worked really well, the meringue I found to be quite odd - it tasted quite artificial, a really strange end to the meal.

The options are 2 courses for £19, 3 courses for £23 or 4 courses for £40. I skipped cheese and only tried one dessert so the bill for two came to a very reasonable £70 including wine and tip. The starters and mains were certainly very imaginative and felt very fresh flavour wise but the dessert fell a little flat. Despite this I would definitely be tempted to go back and keep an eye on the menu regularly to see what treats i've been missing out on.

Antidote Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Review round-up - April / May / June 2014

As i'm sure is the case for most people, I find myself eating out several times a week - often just a quick check in at places to prioritise whether they're worth going back to for a full review or should be written off altogether. Some of these quick bites don't warrant a full blog post but are still worth discussing, so below is a journey through various smaller meals or snacks out i've had over the past few months.

Fu-Schnickens - Street food from Leeds
Popped down to the northern heats of the British Street Food Awards at the back of Granada Studios which was pleasantly busy early evening. A well laid out venue for this type of event, with traders spaced out around the courtyard outside and an indoor bar area. I'd eaten from most of the vendors before and was in a rush so headed straight for Fu-Schnickens as there'd been a fair bit of hype about their steamed buns on Twitter ahead of the event. I tried a couple of the pressed pork belly pork steamed buns - the buns themselves were fairly disappointing in all honesty, they were very small and too doughy for me. Size wise they were certainly smaller than similar style buns i've had from Yum Bun and Bao before in the UK. In terms of filling the pork was good and sufficiently tender and the carrot and mooli added some needed crunch but the sauce was so incredibly salty it almost completely overwhelmed the flavours.
Yum Bun and Bao have been successful in London for a while now and in a straight comparison this was a smaller portion of worse quality food for a higher price. I'm used to waiting on street food but over 15 minutes for these buns was really pushing it, I saw a guy that'd cracked a book open to start reading he'd been waiting so long. Pretty underwhelming stuff overall.

Yuzu - China Town, Manchester
I popped into Yuzu for lunch on a miserable Friday needing some hot food to pep me up for the afternoon and immediately knew I'd made a good choice - the room is fairly small, with space for around 40 covers and it's a great looking place, retaining a Japanese theme throughout decorated with bottles of sake and with wooden benches and seats at different angles to make the best possible use of the space. I started with the chicken kara-age - deep fried chicken thighs, still piping hot and just full of flavour. The ponzu sauce on the side added a lovely light citrus edge. Definitely no exaggeration to say these went straight into the top 10 things I've eaten this year.
For my main I had the prawn goyza lunch which came with rice, miso and cucumber. All accompanied with a Hitcahino Nest Ginger Brew from Kiuchi Brewery, an 8%er that was worryingly potent for a lunch hour! I can't recall the last time I went in with little to no expectations like this and was so utterly impressed by a place - i've been raving about it ever since to anyone that'll listen to my ramblings. I've already been back to dig into their offering further and the quality of food across the menu seems to be similarly high, Yuzu is definitely one of the finest restaurants i've been to in Manchester and is wholeheartedly recommended.
Yuzu on Urbanspoon

Panchos Burritos - Arndale Market, Manchester
The Arndale market is a hidden gem for street food type fare for lunches, whilst not the most visually appealing place to spend time there are some solid food options tucked away if you take the time to investigate. The one place I find myself going back to time and time again is Pancho's Burritos. It's very difficult to miss in the Arndale as despite the food court having around 20 food stalls, Pancho's actually occupies two. It does confuse me slightly why you'd ever have two of the same still in spitting distance of each other but I'd imagine this is down to the good reputation they've build up and the popularity they always seem to have small queues at most times of the day. On this occasion I had the new lamb burrito to take away, and as ever it was all prepared with the same attention as usual - generously stuffed with meat, cheese, guacamole and beans. It's cracking value for lunch - with a main, tortillas and drink for £6.
Pancho's Burritos on Urbanspoon

Bold Street Coffee - Liverpool
I feel a little bad for Bold Street Coffee as I went here after I'd been Baltic Bake so was on a high from finding a new favourite so it was up against it to impress me before I'd even wandered in. A fairly typical third wave coffee shop inside with the usual white walls, classic wood tables and art prints on the walls. As you'd hope, the coffee is taken ultra seriously and as a result it's definitely not a place to drop into if you're in a rush. I had a 10 minute wait for a coffee here and there was only a couple of people in the queue in front of me which pushed my patience slightly but I can't argue with the quality of the final product. I had a sandwich to takeaway for the train home and went with the vegan option of the day which was "garam masala hummus" with carrot, raisins and pea shoots. The masala was extremely mild but worked well with the savoury flavours from the hummus. The carrot and pea shoots added some much needed crunch. Overall a decent experience and if I found myself in Liverpool with some time to kill it'd be high on my list of places to sit off in.
Bold Street Coffee on Urbanspoon

Mughli - Manchester
This was my second time at Mughli and it definitely delivered on all fronts, no niggles with service at all on this occasion. I started with the sweet potato chips which seem to be popping up everywhere at the moment - these were flavoured with a hit of chilli and lemon though which worked really well with the sweetness of the potato. The deep fried Halloumi Menander on their own were fairly flavourless but the mild fruity dipping sauce bought everything together. Farfars were great, this time I was fully prepared for the chilli and enjoyed them all the more for that knowledge. The lamb keema samosas kept the high standard, perfectly formed crispy outer and lovely flavoured lamb tucked away inside.
Really this was all just build up to the main of the mixed grill which was just fantastic, the generous serving of mixed meats all sat on top of a lightly toasted pitta. The show stopper was the lamb chop, up there with Tayyabs in London for me. By the time I'd worked my way through the meats the bread was soaked with spice and fat and grease but held together so it was still edible and not just a big dish of mush. Such a great idea and whilst I dread to think how bad it was for me it was absolutely delicious.
Mughli on Urbanspoon

Manchester Central Library
I visited the extremely impressive new Central Library on opening day (and on numerous occasions since) and immediately noticed the cafe just the other side of the main lobby. Needing a break from the office and somewhere peaceful to spend the afternoon, I headed down and took the opportunity to grab some lunch and see what the food offering was like.
It's a fairly standard cafe layout, collect a tray and grab whatever food you fancy from the counter - sandwiches are either in supermarket style triangle packets or larger ciabattas that come accompanied with a couple of sides. On this occasion I went for the cumbrian ham and smoked cheddar ciabatta with Lancashire tomato chutney and baby spinach which I had served with vegetable crisps and a 'crispy side salad'.
The sandwich was good, the ham and cheese were fine and the tomato chutney gave a real tang to the sandwich. I have a weakness for vegetable crisps and these were heavy on the parsnip and light on the beetroot but made sense as a side along with the slightly watery coleslaw side salad. The generous slab of carrot cake was also decent - the sponge was moist and packed with raisins and carrot and plenty of icing. The sandwich with sides plus the cake and a strong black coffee it came to a shade under £10 which i'd say was slightly pricey but the ambience in the cafe was pleasant and i'd definitely return.
I've also been in for breakfast and had the yogurt and granola which certainly didn't scrimp on the topping and was an enjoyable and filling way to start the day for a couple of quid.

Home Sweet Home - Manchester
Finally enjoyed the Home Sweet Home 'signature bake' - the apple pies baked inside a cake. The amount of calories this must contain is terrifying, The pie was a sweet pastry Mr Kipling style pie with those ultra sweet pieces of apple and the thick rich apple sauce all baked within a sponge cake baked to the usual high standards of Home Sweet Home. The thick red icing (just look at how much there is in the middle!) and various sweets on top all added to a pretty ultimately over the top brilliant cake. They tweeted me afterwards mentioning that they sell these cakes whole if you order in advance, what a treat that'd be.
Home Sweet Home on Urbanspoon

Penelopes Kitchen - Media City, Manchester
I went over to the Imperial War Museum for the morning and had a quick wander around Media City to see what was about. I noticed a board advertising Penelope's and recognised the name from Twitter so decided to drop in and see what they could offer me for brunch. Easily up there with one of the finest decisions I made that week, the menu had plenty of great sounding food on it and I treated myself to their bacon pancakes. It came as a stack of four nicely sized light pancakes, with a rasher of bacon hidden in the middle all covered in lashings of maple syrup and with tiny crunchy bacon pieces covering the top - all held in place with a skewer to stop the mountain of food collapsing. It was a fantastic plate of food, all the individual parts were just as you'd want them and it worked together really really well - definitely up there with the best brunches in the city in my view. I also had a coffee, which was traditional diner style filter - I was given a cup and could have as many top ups as I wanted (a dangerous game to play).
Penelope's is fairly well hidden away but well worth tracking down, if this was my work canteen i'd be the size of a house by Christmas. There was nothing about Penelope's I didn't enjoy, it's a great place to sit and spend time - the canteen is decked out with all sorts of random props and lights that look like they've been donated by studios. There's even a huge map where they list the various ingredients and which local supplier they come from. I did see some chat recently about possibly opening on weekends, in the meantime i'll have to wait until my next trip to Media City in the week where I fully intend to eat my way through as much of the menu as possible.
Penelope's Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Meatwagon - Trinity Kitchen, Leeds
Receiving a text message saying "The Meatwagon is in Leeds!" is a pretty great way to start any day. I've been having a not so secret love affair with MeatLiquour burgers since they opened their first temporary restaurant in New Cross and started this entire burger craze over the past few years.
They were serving a super stripped down menu with a choice of three burgers and no sides or drinks. I had a dead hippie and it was just as great as the first one I ever had, the mustard fried patties just heaving with flavour and fatty grease. I could honestly sit and eat these all day if my body would let me without giving in on itself and the good news is this was just a taster ahead of them opening a place in Leeds permanently so i'll soon have the chance to eat these magnificent burgers again on the regular. I foresee plenty of trips on the Trans-Pennine Express in my near future.
MEATliquor on Urbanspoon

Duck and Waffle bar, Heron Tower - London
Despite the fact I was living in London when it opened, I have to shamefully admit that this was my first trip to Duck and Waffle. The bar and restaurant live on the top floors of the Heron Tower, I know someone that works there and constantly argues that it's the tallest building in London at 40 floors - the shard doesn't count as it's "south of the river". Londoners, sigh. The journey up to the 38th floor in a glass lift on the outside of the building is alone worth making a visit to Duck and Waffle - some of the views are just breathtaking.
This trip was sandwiched in between lunch at Antidote and an evening meal at A Wong so I didn't get stuck too heavily into the snack menu but did enjoy a tray of oysters and an ox's cheek doughnut as well as a Marmite black velvet (champagne, Guiness reduction plus Marmite). I'm an absolute fiend for Marmite so couldn't resist the latter, it was really odd drinking boozy Marmite at first but after the initial oddness it became really enjoyable. Oysters were generously sized and came with the typical sides to add flavour. The ox cheek doughnut was the real winner in all of this, a generous fat round ball of dough rolled in spicy paprika sugar and served with a pot of apricot jam for dunking. The ox cheek hidden away in the centre was juicy and tender with a little kick of heat to it, combined with the soft doughy body of the doughnut and warming outer sugar it all worked together perfectly.
Duck & Waffle on Urbanspoon

Kimchi Princess - Berlin
I'd had Kimchi Princess on a list of places to try in Berlin the last few times I'd visited but a;ways never made it somehow. I'm glad to have finally made the effort.
I had the Bibimbap for my main, which was the first time I'd enjoyed the Korean classic so I can't categorically state whether it was a strong example or not but I enjoyed it very much. A deep bowl filled with various elements including rice, marinated beef, various traditional vegetables and with a perfectly ripe to burst fried egg sat on top. There was chilli and kimchi also hidden away which added some deeper heat flavours to the whole dish.
I also had a side of 'Sexy Chicken' wings, which I felt like an idiot asking for but was worth that pain. 6 chicken wings in perfect crispy batter and with soy garlic sauce poured over, the remainder of the sauce pooled in the bottom of the bowl for dipping as I went along. The chicken was really well flavoured and this made a great side, great value for a few Euros.
Bizarrely the side of kimchi I ordered was probably the weakest part of the meal - I love kimchi and could sit and eat it all day with no fear for how much I'm going to stink later as a result. This was nowhere near as strong tasting or foul smelling as I'd hoped for, I still polished it off but wish it'd had more of a kick to it. 

Kosmonaut - Manchester
I ended up in Kosmonaut early evening on one of those "let's have a few drinks" days that turns into a right session and I'll be honest by the we left the bar and grabbed a table I needed carbs pretty badly so looked for the heaviest sounding item I could find on the many. I've read numerous negative comments about the pizzas in Manchester aside from Honest Crust, who have disappointingly decided to settle in Altrincham rather than the city (at least they'll be easier to track down now!). So I start this review with a disclaimer that I was 6-7 beers deep by this time but this Neopolitan pizza (with the traditional toppings of anchovies, capers and black olives) accompanied with a half of Brooklyn summer ale was absolutely banging. It came with a nice thin crust, charred on the edges and cooked well enough throughout that it held together and didn't get soggy in the middle. It was clearly less than a minute out of the oven as it was served as the cheese was still in that perfect moment whereby it's hotter than the sun and dribbles everywhere as you try to pull slices away from the pizza. I really enjoyed this and will definitely head back sober in the future to try again and check out the wider menu. As a quick side I also had one of my favourite beers so far of the year in here, Wu-Gang Chops the Tree by Pressure Drop. A pale, light and fresh herby wheat beer - absolutely cracking and worth hunting down if you're a beer fan.
Kosmonaut Bar on Urbanspoon

North Tea Power - Manchester
I'd been craving cold press coffee since I had one at The Barn in Berlin early spring and as soon as NTP tweeted they were working on some I was watching closely for them to perfect the recipe and get them bottled. Their take on the cold brew was spot on, I was impressed that it came in what has to be one of the coolest looking bottles I've seen all year. It was served over ice and tasted exactly how I was hoping, like a chilled strong black coffee with well controlled sweetness so the proper coffee flavours were the focus. It was certainly a very intense hit of coffee. I also had a toasted reuben, I know I had a slight whinge about my experience last time with take out but I have no complaints at all this time, not even the wonky tables could get me down. Definitely my favourite spot to sit off on a summers day at the moment, I hope they keep the cold brews coming.
North Tea Power on Urbanspoon

Beef and Pudding - Manchester
So I did it, I finally did it - I rounded up 3 unsuspecting friends and convinced them that we HAD to order and defeat the Manchester Meet head on. For those not in the know, the Manchester Meet  is a giant beef rib joint that weighs in at a 'minimum' of 7lb (approx 3.2kg) and comes served with sides of peas, carrots and beef dripping chips. I can definitely confirm that this was the first time my main has arrived accompanied with a full sized carving knife! Fortunately I had the common sense to be sat with an ex-chef who carved it pretty successfully and saved us having to hack away at it like Neanderthals. The best thing about this whole meal was that the meat was so well flavoured that at no point did it start to get bland - from the perfectly charred edges through to the beautiful red meat and fat in the middle it was a never-ending joy to eat. Aside from the ribs it was pretty much all meat with a perfect layer of fat throughout. I'll be honest, we almost broke towards the end and didn't manage to finish, the unexpected delivery of a top-up of chips half way through was pretty brutal but we powered through - the unlimited sauces (BĂ©arnaise, au poivre and 'proper gravy') definitely helped me a whole lot. The plan was to go on for a night out afterwards but we were all utterly ruined and just needed to drink a lot of water and feel very sorry for ourselves.
The highlight was the waiter mentioning that we were the first table he'd seen that had actually finished one. On that basis I'm proud to report, that in the battle of Hunger Jams vs food: Hunger Jams won.
  Beef and Pudding on Urbanspoon