Saturday, 16 July 2016

Wagamama, Spinningfields

Wagamama, Spinningfields
So I've told you before; I hated fish and anything remotely Oriental, apart from special fried rice from Golden Harvest. Then I got a grip and started to try new things, and found that Japanese food is actually amazing, and that I now love it.

I recently struck up an online friendship with a lovely lady called Zoë, who turns out to be the manager of Wagamama in Spinningfields. She told me tales of ginger and white chocolate cheesecake, and lovely bits which had me hooked on the idea of visiting. I have to point out that this wasn't on some weird site, it was actually Instagram! After weeks of chatting online, we finally met in person last week. She's a little doll and I gave her cake (see said Ginger and White Chocolate Bundt Cake). So I gathered my Japanese loving homie, and off we trot to have a chin wag about Japanese stuff, and eat lots of food.

After the initial excitement of a green haired weirdo delivering a massive cake had died down, we had a chat about the menu, waved at some of the chefs in the open kitchen, and soon declared that we just couldn't pick. We let them pick for us! We very nearly didn't eat at all, because we were too busy chatting with the nice folk who work there.

First up came drinks... (left to right)

Positive juice - pineapple, lime, spinach, cucumber and apple: I loved this even though it had cucumber in it; outfoxed.
Power juice - spinach, apple and ginger: By far my favourite. I'd never have known there was spinach lurking in this.
Laughing Buddha Beer: Best beer bottle I've seen in a while!
Plum wine: I had never had this before. It tastes a bit like wine mixed with cider; sweet yet not like a dessert wine (which kill me dead).
Wagamama, Spinningfields
Hitachino Nest - White Ale: Who doesn't love a craft beer with an owl on it? It has an ever so slightly spicy undertone, which complemented the chilli in the food to come.
Wagamama, Spinningfields
Sake: We're convinced that this got stronger the further down the bottle we got... served in rather cute ceramic pots though, which made us feel rather refined indeed.
Wagamama, Spinningfields
Ebi katsu - crispy fried prawns in panko breadcrumbs, served with a spicy chilli and garlic sauce, garnished with lime: They even have tails... That's right, not only did I eat prawns with tails, but they were gorgeous! Dip these lads in that lovely chilli sauce. 
Wagamama, Spinningfields
Grilled duck donburi - tender shredded duck leg in a spicy teriyaki sauce, served with carrots, mangetout, sweet potato and red onion on a bed of sticky japanese rice, finished with a crispy fried egg, shredded cucumber and spring onions with a side of kimchee: I could eat my own body weight in this glorious item; sticky rice, sweet shredded duck, that runny egg yolk, all finished off with a drizzle of teriyaki sauce. Why oh why have I only just found this?! Need it again, stat.
Wagamama, Spinningfields
Steak bulgogi - marinated sirloin steak and miso-fried baby aubergine served on a bed of soba noodles, dressed in a sesame and bulgogi sauce, finished with spring onions, kimchee and half a tea-stained egg: I had no idea that the Japanese did this stuff. Who's feeling like a complete buffoon now? Rare steak served on a bed of kimchi and noodles went down nicely, thank you very much. So filling though.
Wagamama, Spinningfields
Mix it up mochi ice cream - a combination of all three flavours of our mochi ice cream (coconut, raspberry and toasted sesame), little balls of ice cream wrapped in a layer of sticky rice, served with sauce: The cases look like lychees, but they are not... They are actually made from rice in some kind of witchcraft that we didn't understand. As for the ice cream, they are like ultra cold (so cold) sorbets, which are ridiculously refreshing, but will induce brain freeze in under three seconds. 
Wagamama, Spinningfields
White chocolate ginger cheesecake, served with a chilli toffee ginger sauce: Oh my lord. Cheese dreams are made of this. I gallantly announced that I could polish a full one of these if it were required. I mean the full cheesecake, not the slice. Yeah, I didn't even manage the slice... Poor show Doll, poor show. 
Wagamama, Spinningfields
Lemon and ginger tea, and espresso: Minor death had set in, it was still bucketing it down, and it was getting late. I couldn't move to save my life, so we opted for the sensible option of a nice hot drink! When wild things get old hey...?
Wagamama, Spinningfields
I can't even tell you how much I loved Wagamama after years of convincing myself that their food would surely be the devil's work. It was a combination of the drinks that differed to your standard list, those bowls of meat teamed with sticky rice and noodles, that god damn cheesecake, but equally as important was the lovely time we had chatting to Zoë and her team. Every one of the people who work there seem passionate about what they're doing, and even when they were rammers, seemed to genuinely love the food they were serving. I'm going back.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Ginger and White Chocolate Bundt Cake

Ginger and White Chocolate Bundt Cake
I made a new friend. I met Zoë on Twitter, and soon got chatting about eating out, cake, and scoffing chocolate fingers in bed. It was obvious she was friend material. One of the things we discussed was her love of ginger and white chocolate cheesecake. Can you smell smoke? Yeah, that was my mind in overdrive. The combination of white chocolate and ginger is one of my favourites, so why have I never put this in a cake? Dingus.

This cake is all gingery and lovely, and has a secret swirl of giner-nuttiness running though the centre. Cue one very happy Zoë when I saw her. I bloody love making cake for people. I rarely make the same cake twice, but I may have to treat myself and do this one again very soon.

Ingredients:
  • 225g butter
  • 450g golden caster sugar
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 350g Homepride plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 5 tsp ground ginger
  • 200ml vanilla yoghurt 
  • 6 good quality stem ginger cookies - blitzed to breadcrumbs
  • 150g white chocolate chips
  • 1 jar of white chocolate spread

Method:
  1. Preheat the oven to gas 3/160 c
  2. Prepare a regular sized bundt tin - 2.4l, 10 cup, 10 inch with Cake Release spray and dust with flour. 
  3. Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. 
  5. In a separate bowl, measure out the flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt and ginger.
  6. Pour the yoghurt into a jug.
  7. Sift in a third of the flour mix followed by half the yoghurt. Repeat this until everything is combined.
  8. Give everything a quick mix on a low speed for about 10 seconds.
  9. Remove three heaped tablespoons of batter, and pop into a small bowl. 
  10. Stir the chocolate chips into the bigger of the two bowls.
  11. Stir the crushed biscuits into smaller bowl - retaining about 1 tbsp for decorating later.
  12. Add half of the cake mix to your prepared tin, followed by the biscuit mix.
  13. Spread the biscuit mix into an even layer, and cover with the remaining 'standard' batter.
  14. Bake in the centre of the oven for about 1 hour 15 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. 
  15. Leave the cake to cool for ten minutes before removing from the tin.
  16. When the cake is fully cool, warm your white chocolate spread in the microwave, and tip it over the cake. 
  17. Sprinkle with the crushed ginger biscuits, and off you trot!
Bloggers: Please respect the fact I am sharing my own ideas and basic recipe. Blood, sweat and many tears have gone into getting this right, so you may enjoy a perfect bundt. If you wish to re-blog a recipe from these variations, please credit my blog and link to this original post rather than pasting the recipe on your own page.

Manchester House, Manchester

Manchester House, Manchester
Way back when, I was an avid viewer of the Great British Menu. We had watched it from the start, but as fine dining exploded in popularity, the contestants got more and more interesting. In 2009 they pitched a chap called Aiden Byrne against one of our faves, Nigel Haworth of Northcote. At 22, Aiden was hailed as the youngest person ever to win a Michelin star, and was destined for great things. We fell in love with his cooking style, and became regulars at his gasto pub, The Church Green in Lymm. 

In 2013, Aiden opened Manchester House with those of the Midas touch, Living Ventures. The hope was for Manchester's first Michelin star since the 1970s. Simon Rogan reopened The French at a similar time, yet unbelievably, neither have convinced the Michelin inspectors that they are worthy of the title of 'very good cooking in (their) category' - yes, it really is that vague. 

Despite having been to Manchester House many times for different reasons, I have never actually eaten in the restaurant. To be honest, we did so much fine dining over a number of years, that we almost got bored of it. We went from flying to Girona for dinner, to just fancying a burger. However, a suitable amount of time has passed, and curiosity got the better of me. 
Manchester House, Manchester
The dining room is decked out in the typical opulence that you would expect from Living Ventures; everything has its place and nothing is there without careful consideration. The open kitchen allows you to watch the team of chefs beavering away, and the dark denim and tweed of the front of house team seems smart, yet welcoming.

I was driving, and experiencing a 'minorly-mard' bottom lip at the thought of not being able to drink cocktails in my favourite bar in town. However, when this was explained to our waitress, she quickly pointed out that they have mocktails for just such an occasion. The alcohol was not missed. Whilst Paddy enjoyed a few craft beers, I opted for a Kiwi Cooler (kiwi, lemon juice and apple juice, topped with lemonade) and a Raspberry Lemonade (raspberries and lemon juice, topped with lemonade).
Manchester House, Manchester
We had decided to try the three course lunch menu, so as no to overdo it. In my experience, three courses very rarely means three in the world of fine dining. There was once an incident where a nineteen course tasting menu at Royal Hospital Road ended up being twenty six, which was wonderful and tragic in equal measure, seeing as the three course at Maze in the same afternoon was actually eight. There's always extra goodies, which I am sure are sent to test you. I couldn't take my shoes off.

So, on to the food.

Nori rice cracker, sweet peas, lemon and goat's curd: So so pretty, yet frighteningly tasty.
Manchester House, Manchester
Carpet clam with lam tartare, broad beans and lovage: The thought of seafood used to send me running for the dunes, however mixed with the raw lamb, this was just beautiful.
Manchester House, Manchester
Crisp chicken skin, foie gras mousse and aged Parmesan: These onions look so unassuming, but I assure you, they are the standout part of this already fantastic dish.
Manchester House, Manchester
Ribblesdale goat's cheese and onion soup with Jabugo ham jelly: It was unbelievable. I don't have words to describe how much I loved this dish. The theatre of its presentation detracts nothing from just how wonderful it tastes. My favourite. 
Manchester House, Manchester
Cured mackerel, dill, turnip and caviar: Look at this! Pretty dishes seem to be their forte at Manchester House, but never at the expense of taste.
Huntsham Farm long horn beef, cepe mushroom and roast onion purée: We saw a massive piece of this beef in the open kitchen when we walked into the dining room. There was no way in hell that I was missing out, none whatsoever. It really did not disappoint either. So rich, but the depth of flavour that came from that jus and the onion purée that accompanied it were just perfect. Massively filling for something which looks so small. Beef plus. 

Wild sea trout, artichoke, prawns and broad beans: This one was Paddy's choice. How can something that looks so small be quite so filling? Magic perhaps. 
Manchester House, Manchester
Caramelised white chocolate, blueberry, yoghurt and lemon verbena: This is where things got interesting. Although this was Paddy's dessert, I have to admit to stealing a considerable amount of that caramelised white chocolate! Too good.
Manchester House, Manchester
Poached raspberry meringues, pistachio sponge and cucumber ice cream: I challenge you to find me a more beautiful dessert than this. Go. Not only is it stunning, but it tasted like an actual dream too. Mix the two desserts together and you have my idea of bliss. Or give me both. Do that. 
Manchester House, Manchester
Macarons and madeleines: Gee whizz. I just want them to bake for me all day long. They have some sort of baking witch in the kitchen, who I feel I need to befriend. I'd happily pay for a big plate of these to come with my cocktails upstairs. Please take note, I will be asking for this next time I visit the lounge.
Manchester House, Manchester
Manchester House, Manchester
Cake ache and food fatigue had set in. Remember what I said about the fallacy that is the three course fine dining menu? See what I mean now? Even the tea and coffee comes with a choice of home made chocolates. 
Manchester House, Manchester
We had such a lovely afternoon at Manchester House. How they haven't got that elusive star is utterly beyond me, and adds fuel to the fire that Michelin are out of touch. I've been to some restaurants that have had a star for donkeys' years, yet are nowhere near this standard. Regardless of awards and accolades, Manchester House is a lovely little place to spend the afternoon, and I'll definitely be returning.
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