Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Pizza Express, Bolton

Pizza Express, Bolton
I have a secret love affair with Pizza Express in Bolton. I'm going to be honest with you - it has little to do with the restaurant itself, and was the main reason that I agreed to do a review when approached by their PR team.
Lord Lever

Let me tell you a story. When I was 14 I decided to become a history teacher. This one time dream would later fizzle out at the thought of a class of sixteen year olds; but was my dream until I was 21. 

I remember when the idea was born though. Our class went on a field trip to Lord Lever's Roynton estate in Rivington. The sun was shining, Kieran Morris nicked my neon orange Adidas coat, and the ballroom tiles gleamed through the mud and debris in the wreck of the second bungalow. I've been Lord Lever's number one fan ever since. 

Similarly to now, in 1914 Bolton was experiencing hard times. The cost of war meant that Bolton Council could not afford to buy the desired parklands they so wanted for the the residents of the borough to enjoy. In stepped Lord Lever. I won't bore you with the details, but needless to say without his philanthropic gestures, Bolton would be very different today. 
Cobbled Wood Street, Bolton
Cobbled Wood Street, Bolton
William Hesketh Lever was born on 19 September 1851 at 16 Wood Street, Bolton. In 1849 the Bolton Savings Bank had been built on the site of an old timber yard, just a few doors down from the Lever household, and still stands proud as the home of Pizza Express today. Forget the branches you find in city centres and shopping complexes, this is a building with class. Still a listed site, the beautiful floors remain, and the decor is sympathetic to the building's past glory.
Pizza Express, Bolton
We've eaten here many times in the past, as up until recently I worked in the town centre; it's been the site of many a leaving do, Christmas meal out or post-work nibble. As a general rule, I'm not a massive fan of pizza, but I have to admit to enjoying the ones on offer here.

We were greeted by a pleasant chap who offered us drinks and nibbles whilst we looked at the menu.

Roasted tomatoes: We picked these as neither of us are overly thrilled with olives. Unlike the sunblushed variety, these were actually quite tart.
Pizza Express, Bolton - roasted tomatoes
Bruschetta Originale "Pizza Express" - tomatoes, red onions, garlic, fresh basil and pesto: This was heavenly. A waft of fresh bread hit us as it was set on the table; the centre was soft and fluffy and the salad crisp and fresh.
Pizza Express, Bolton - bruschetta
Doughballs with garlic butter: They don't look much, but I cannot resist a decent dough ball. Once again, a nice crisp exterior with a fluffy middle. No faff.
Pizza Express, Bolton - doughballs
Pizza American on Romana thin base - Pepperoni, mozzarella and tomato: My husband's pizza of choice. Everything is cooked fresh to order, so you get it exactly how you want it too. He had polished the whole thing before I had eaten a quarter. I think that means he liked it.
Pizza Express, Bolton - American Pizza
Pizza Pollo ad Astra - Chicken, sweet peppadew peppers, cajun spices, garlic oil, red onions: I have this every time I go to Pizza Express. Plenty of toppings and a nice bit of fire in the peppers. My only criticism (and tis is true of all pizza establishments) is the lack of a decent knife. They are too big to pick up as slices, and the blunt knives are more likely to injure me than cut pizza.
Pizza Express, Bolton - Pollo ad Astra Pizza
Banoffee pie and ice cream - banana, toffee, cream and crumbly biscuit: I'm always doubtful of desserts served in chain restaurants. Whilst I'm sure these are not home made, they were much better quality than the 'fresh (from the freezer)' types sold elsewhere. My husband ate it all anyway!
Pizza Express, Bolton - Banoffee Pie
Summer pudding - summer fruit berries, served with fruit coulis and mascarpone: I found the bread in this a little too dense, but really enjoyed the sharp coulis and fresh mascarpone. 
Pizza Express, Bolton - Summer Pudding
Bolton is a struggling town. There is much more happening in its culinary world than this time two years ago, but much of that is going on in the outskirts of the town. Whilst the likes of Tiggi's and Pacha Mama have departed, Pizza Express has been there the whole time. Whilst I don't normally do reviews of this nature, I was eager to do this one because of the location, and the fact that Bolton needs all the help it can get at the moment.

It is what it is. Nothing fancy, but they are serving freshly cooked food at a decent price. Its location is as much of a selling point; a little oasis in a sea of pigeons.

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Monday, 21 April 2014

Beef and Pudding, Manchester

Beef and Pudding, Manchester
I've been a bit absent in the whole 'Manchester dining scene' recently. To be honest, I've been pretty busy with a new job and baking too many cakes! I only found out Beef and Pudding was opening when I got an email from them. We couldn't make the preview nights, but we were in Manchester on the opening weekend for the Cake and Bake Show. It's just round the corner, so it would be rude not to eh?
Beef and Pudding, Manchester
Their corner site is impressive, with a smart exterior and those flashy neons that attract foodies like moths to a glowing lightbulb. Inside is just as grand, with a mixture of high benches, regular tables and leather booths. We could see into the busy kitchen, which appeared to be run like a well regimented battalion, with staff running round left, right and centre.

We were greeted promptly and informed who our server would be for the afternoon. Our chap seemed a little nervous, and in the opening day excitement forgot to tell us about the craft beers on offer. My disappointed husband was served a pint of coke in a Tatton Brewery glass... evidence of treasure lurking behind the bar! This was soon rectified...
Beef and Pudding, Manchester
We were starved, but also fully aware that there was a dessert platter lurking at the end of this menu. No, I wasn't forced into having it by any means, but hell - dessert platter. It's my idea of heaven. In hindsight, starters were probably a tad foolish...

Cracked black pepper potato skins - raw heirloom tomato, basil & red onion ’stew’: Imagine Southern fried chicken... now apply that principle to potato skins. Yes my friend. Yes. Delicious. I was utterly devastated that I had to stop at four for fear of not being able to manage the rest of my meal, but alas, our server wrapped them up for me to take home. Raiding the fridge at 8pm that night - smug.
Beef and Pudding, Manchester - Potato Skins
Nearly a pig's ear - Andy Holt’s black pudding, pig cheek, lentil & Tatton ale gravy, curry spices: Subtly spiced with excellent texture, this was warming and meaty. Happy husband.
Beef and Pudding, Manchester - Nearly a Pig's Ear
The pudding - Beef & Barbon Fell venison suet pudding, horseradish paste, stockpot gravy, mash, black peas: The signature dish. Packed with hearty chunks of meat and oozing with gravy. Strangely, the star of the show for me was that rich yet oddly light suet pastry.
Beef and Pudding, Manchester - The Pudding
Cottage pie - prime British beef, simmered in gravy, seasonal vegetables, mash potato, buttered black peas: As a wee one, my dad called me 'Cottage Pie Burns'. No, he wasn't crackers and Burns is my maiden name. I loved the stuff. I couldn't get enough of it apparently! The inner yearning forced me to opt for it. Hotter than the surface of the sun but utterly delectable! I wasn't thrilled with the black peas, but they weren't a deal breaker.
Beef and Pudding, Manchester - Cottage Pie
The Pudding Plank - Sticky Toffee, Chocolate Tart, Cheese Glazed Eccles Cake, Bakewell Pie, Banoffee Cheesecake, Custard, Whipped Cream, Chocolate Sauce: The mother of all dessert platters. My favourite had to be the Bakewell pie, closely followed by the sticky toffee pudding.
Beef and Pudding, Manchester - Dessert Platter
Beef and Pudding, Manchester - Hot ChocolateThe latest addition to the New Moon family appears to have hit the nail on the head. Manchester has an explosive dining scene at the moment; more bloggers than you can shake a fork at, somewhere new opening every week, a real hunger (sorry) to fill any culinary gaps in the market... a decent gastropub is just so obvious, yet has been strangely absent from the city's dining scene.

Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of pubs doing decent food, but nothing to rival the likes of those you see in the Ribble Valley. Whilst the country cottage dwellings and rolling moor-sides have their appeal, I don't feel it's essential for the overall experience to work. Here sits a modern gastropub, sans thatched roof, serving up hearty British meals in the middle of the city. Tweed has been replaced with tan leather and fireplaces by bare bulbs hung by rope, yet the punters are pouring in, and Beef and Pudding is the new diners' darling. Plus they serve their hot chocolate in mini tankards... the crazy mothers.

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Thursday, 17 April 2014

April's Calendar Cakes Challenge - Easter Bakes

April's Calendar Cakes Challenge - Easter Bakes
Easter baking rules. Pretty pastels, hot cross buns, fruit cakes, biscuits, chocolate... the list goes on my sweet-toothed tribe of bakers. I love the Easter break, not only do we get two Bank Holidays, but the weather is usually improving too. This is the perfect time to whip up some sweet treats for your nearest and dearest.

So then, show me your buns... I want spice, flavour, garish fluffy chicks and terrifying bunnies - the whole shebang!

Entry Guidelines: 
    April's Calendar Cakes Challenge - Easter Bakes
  • Post your entry on your blog and include the ‘Calendar Cakes’ logo
  • Add a link on your post to your host DollyBakes. Laura is having a break from blogging for a bit, but will hopefully be back soon!
  • Link to your blog from here using the Linky tool below. It's dead easy...
  • If you don’t have a blog you can still join in, just share the picture online (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr etc), right hand click on it and copy image URL or link address. Add this to the Linky et voila! 
  • If you're on Twitter, tweet me a link to your post @dollybakes.

Calendar Cakes Challenge Rules:
  1. You can enter as many times as you like. Bake to your little heart's content.
  2. It can be your own recipe or one you found elsewhere (please just state where you found it).
  3. You can use old posts as long as you update them with the 'Calendar Cakes' logo and link back (see above).
  4. If you want to enter your bake into other challenges too then please feel free.
  5. You must submit by the last day of each month.
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