Sunday 31 May 2015

NYL Restaurant and Bar, Liverpool

NYL Restaurant and Bar
I'm dead lucky. Two reasons. Firstly, I get invited to try out new menus at restaurants, which is ideal for someone whose main hobby is eating. Secondly, I have a ready supply of folk who want to accompany me on these ventures! My friend Lee is my usual partner in crime as we share a mutual love of mid-afternoon cocktails, eating lots, and making friends with strangers. 

This week we went on a little trip to NYL Restaurant and Bar in Liverpool. We made a bit of a day of it, which also involved buying lots of goodies from L'Occitane, befriending a delightful young chap called Alan in Kiehl's, an epic trek to the Rookwood (which was closed - hiss, stamp), and more cocktails in Lucha Libre. It was quite a day. 

When we rocked up at NYL, we weren't expecting anything quite so grand. The vibe is very much 'New York meets Liverpool' - thus the name. We thought it reminded us much more of traditional English high society, in a similar way to the styling of Hawksmoor
NYL Restaurant and Bar
The impressive former Royal Insurance building has been lovingly restored to its former glory, with wooden panelling on the walls, intricate plasterwork on the ceilings, and brown leather-clad seating. Lighting is muted as natural sunlight pours through the huge windows. It feels special.

We were greeted by the delightful Hannah, who seemed genuinely pleased to see us; she was probably wondering if we were already drunk - we were not, we were just very excited. After a quick chat we were offered drinks and given menus. We just sat and took in the scenery for a couple of minutes before deciding on cocktails.
NYL Restaurant and Bar
Big Apple: Smirnoff Apple vodka shaken with apple, lemon juice and caramel syrup.
Rum Old Fashioned: Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva Rum, sugar syrup, Angostura bitters garnished with an orange zest.
Lee and I have a standard MO for cocktail purchase. I tend to go for something very sweet and fruity, whilst she will opt for the one with all the alcohol in it. Seriously, the Big Apple has to be one of the best cocktails I have ever drunk in my entire life. It was sweet but tangy, and very refreshing. They should serve it in pints. The Old Fashioned was reassuringly strong with a lovely orange aroma.
NYL Restaurant and Bar - Cocktails
There's plenty of choice on the lunch menu, so we really didn't struggle finding something we both liked.

Chicken liver parfait, sourdough toasts, mango puree, chilli jam, sea salt: This was Lee's choice. A good ratio of parfait to bread which was snaffled with ease.
NYL Restaurant and Bar - Parfait
Slow braised BBQ ribs, house salad, homemade slaw: I know what you're thinking; 'I can't order ribs because they make a mess'. Yes, they usually do. These were great. The meat just fell off the bone so eating them was a breeze. The accompanying coleslaw was just brilliant. 
NYL Restaurant and Bar - Ribs
Brooklyn ale battered haddock, triple cooked chips, minted pea puree, homemade tartar, lemon gel: It was a contest between the fish 'n' chips and the sea bream, but Lee had been coveting this dish on a nearby table, so it won hands down. Nothing like a bit of food envy to cement a decision.
NYL Restaurant and Bar - Fish n Chips
NYL Burger - hand formed 8oz beef patty, smoked streaky bacon, brioche bun, baby gem, beef tomato, onion rings, pickle, applewood smoked cheese, triple cooked chips, NYL relish: It's not the prettiest burger I've ever eaten, but it really doesn't matter when it tastes this good. I'm sorry to say that I managed less than half because I got overly involved in those mammoth chips. I was floored.
NYL Restaurant and Bar - Burger
Ginger crème brûlée, orange sable biscuit, chilli ice cream: This portion was huge! The custard was delicately flavoured with ginger, which was complimented by the sweet orange biscuit. We felt the chilli in the ice cream was a little overpowering, but that may just be our preference.
NYL Restaurant and Bar - Creme Brulee
Lemon tart, raspberry sorbet, golden crumb, raspberry gel, lemon cream, basil coulis: I need to learn how to make basil coulis, for I declared it my new favourite thing ever. I was very fond of this concoction of flavours, but would have preferred it in traditional tart format, as that beautiful filling was lost a little in the smaller pastry shells. That's greed talking.
NYL Restaurant and Bar - Lemon Tart
After cocktails, several glasses of Pinot Grigio, lots of delectable food and a lovely chat with Hannah, we realised we had been there for pushing three hours. Neither of us could remember the last time we had experienced such a relaxed and leisurely lunch. The food was all great, but the surroundings and service really made it for us. If you're visiting Liverpool city centre any time soon, I suggest you make time to visit this beautiful restaurant.

Disclaimer: Lee and I were invited to sample the new menu at NYL. We were under no obligation to get quite so giddy, and I'm sure they did not foresee us striking up such a wonderful lunchtime friendship with Hannah - that was a happy accident.

 NYL Restaurant and Bar on Urbanspoon

Sunday 24 May 2015

The Clog and Billycock, Pleasington

The Clog and Billycock
The Clog and Billycock used to be our regular haunt. We sort of forgot about our Pleasington based pals as more and more decent establishments opened closer to home. A couple of weeks ago we were in dire need of a decent Sunday Roast. Manchester was off limits due to the current state of rail-specific doom, so we headed towards the Ribble Valley for guaranteed beef based happiness. 

They have a pretty good deal on Sundays now too; two courses for £17.50 or three for £21. You can also book online, which makes things simpler. In the past you could only book for tables of six or more. 
The Clog and Billycock
Basket of Clog bread with local butter, rapeseed oil, treacle vinegar, black pea humous: I needed this after a considerable amount of fizz the evening before. Sorted me right out. Pea humous is the future my friends, and I'm fairly confident that treacle vinegar can cure most ills.
The Clog and Billycock - Bread Board
Cream of asparagus soup: Deeply comforting, creamy, and surely very good for you as it's green.
The Clog and Billycock - Soup
Roast rump of beef, Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes, mash, seasonal vegetables, red wine shallots and roast gravy: Seriously, it's one of the best roasts around. It's not hard, yet so many places get it so wrong. This one is from the school of thick cut, pink roast beef with a load of well executed carbs. Their mash had me spritely in seconds, only to be inflicted with a new ailment moments later; I was so full I may have died.
The Clog and Billycock - Beef Roast
I'd been coveting the rhubarb and apple crumble for dessert, but when push came to shove, I'd already eaten way too may carbs. Thinking about it, the sugar would have helped to revive me, but I just couldn't face it. I'll just have to go back for round two...

Clog and Billycock on Urbanspoon

Thailand Cafe, Bolton

Thailand Cafe, Bolton
Last year John Torode hailed Bolton's Thailand Cafe as 'the best Thai food I have had outside of Thailand.' That's right; it's in Bolton town centre. I've intended going ever since, but never quite got round to it. Cue my friend Dave hailing it as a tour de force, and suggesting we go on a lunchtime jaunt.

So the other week I had this particularly 'interesting' morning planned, so decided to meet up with homies Dave and Phil for a lunchtime trip to Thailand Cafe. I was never a massive fan of Thai food until we went to Buddha Lounge in Whitefield, and now I'm sort of hooked.

It doesn't look much. In fact, it looks like the kind of town centre cafe you would expect in Bolton. However, we walked in to a warm welcome and a wonderful smell, so we were more than happy. All three of us are big fans of 'bits', so we ordered a nice little variety of picky things which we could share.

Chicken satay with peanut sauce: That peanut sauce... sweet, sticky and a bit sickly. It was out of this world. I could make myself quite ill with that stuff. The perfect accompaniment to the chicken.
Thailand Cafe, Bolton - Chicken Satay
Steamed dumplings - pork and prawn dumplings with dark soy sauce: I've just been thrown into a state of confusion. I adored these. I just checked out the menu - prawns!? I hate prawns, the evil little things. Turns out I like them in steamed dumplings. Who knew?
Thailand Cafe, Bolton - Dumplings
Massamun - chicken with potatoes, onions and peanuts: A creamy dish which is perfect for those with a sweet tooth like me. Turns out that Thai food is all about the mixture of sweet and savoury. I'm a bit annoyed with myself for only discovering this now at the age of 33. This was my favourite of the three curries we tried. I can almost see you all shaking your heads at me...
Thailand Cafe, Bolton - Massamun
Yellow curry - chicken with coconut, potatoes and onion, topped with shallots: It's not giving a lot away with the name there, is it? Again, a lovely savoury dish sweetened by the addition of coconut milk. Although the sauce is quite runny, it was soaked up by the pile of rice we had on the side.
Thailand Cafe, Bolton - Yellow Curry
Jungle curry - beef with ginger, fresh peppercorns, red chilli and vegetables: This was the boys' favourite. That warming peppery sauce was just delightful. It's worth mentioning that all the curries are available in beef, prawns, chicken or pork too.
Thailand Cafe, Bolton - Jungle Curry
Sticky rice: I loved these little pots! I'm a very simple soul at heart. Sticky rice was the perfect option to mop up all that beautiful curry sauce.
Thailand Cafe, Bolton - Sticky Rice
I cannot wait to go back to Thailand Cafe. Turns out that Torode chap knows what he's on about.

Thailand Cafe on Urbanspoon

Sunday 17 May 2015

Bourbon Biscuit Bundt Cake

Bourbon Biscuit Bundt Cake
So... when I made the Custard Cream Bundt Cake a couple of weeks ago, I promised a Bourbon biscuit one. This meant me tackling a chocolate flavoured bundt, which I don't do many of to be honest. I'm dead picky with chocolate cake; it has to be moist and not too sickly. This one had the added pressure of having to taste just like a Bourbon biscuit too!

Using my new found biscuit-based alchemy, this cake tastes just like my tea time fave. A concoction of different chocolate ingredients also helped create a nice soft cake, without a hint of dryness. A shedload of Bourbon biscuit spread on top doesn't hurt either.

As soon as I posted the possibility of this recipe making an appearance on my blog, I've had folk asking about it. I almost regretted mentioning it! Anyway, here it is, you keen little lot...

  • 225g butter
  • 450g golden caster sugar
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 310g plain flour
  • 40g good quality cocoa powder
  • 3 Bourbon biscuits, whizzed up in a food processor to a fine dust or 'flour'
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 200ml vanilla yoghurt 
  • 50ml chocolate milk
  • 1 heaped tablespoon of Bourbon biscuit spread
  • Jar of Bourbon biscuit spread (minus 1 heaped tablespoon!)
  • Bourbon biscuit to decorate

  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. Add the extract.
  6. In a separate bowl, measure out the flour, cocoa, bicarbonate of soda and salt.
  7. Pour the yoghurt and chocolate milk into a jug and stir in the Bourbon biscuit spread.
  8. Sift in a third of the flour mix followed by half the yoghurt mix. Repeat this until everything is combined.
  9. Stir in the Bourbon biscuit 'flour'. 
  10. Give everything a quick mix on a low speed for about 10 seconds.
  11. Pour the mix into your prepared tin. 
  12. Bake in the centre of the oven for about 1 hour 15 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. 
  13. Leave the cake to cool for ten minutes before removing from the tin.
  14. When the cake is fully cool, pop the Bourbon biscuit spread into a jug and heat in the microwave for around 20 seconds to loosen it. Tip over your cake and decorate with a biscuit!

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.

Saturday 9 May 2015

Five Guys, Manchester

Five Guys, Manchester
Seriously, they have to be the ugliest burgers ever. They're consistently ugly too. From New York to Manchester - both wrinkly and squashed, with bits hanging out all over the show. So why do I go to Five Guys? Because these ugly ducklings taste sensational. 

Keep your Maccy D's and BK's; these takeaway burgers are in another league. Not only do they openly tell you where all their produce is sourced, but they advertise the fact that there are no freezers on the premises, and everything is cooked from scratch. No burgers sitting sadly on shoots. You tell your server exactly what you want, so you don't have to start rhyming off all the stuff you don't want. I'm a fan of this simple system! And they play decent music... 

This trip was a re-fuel pre Trafford Centre hell. Granted, it's not cheap, but Five Guys are one of the closest things I can get to the legendary US burger. They just taste different to your standard UK offering. For two burgers, a portion of fries and two soft drinks, you're talking about £25. Warning - do not attempt two portions of fries unless you are seriously hungry or a total warrior! We never finish one portion between us. 
Five Guys, Manchester
Bacon cheese burger with pickle, lettuce, tomato, onion and ketchup: It looks a proper nightmare, but tastes just dreamy.
Five Guys, Manchester
Plain bacon cheeseburger: My husband hates any kind of sauce or salad. His 'meat, cheese, bread' brief will be hit every time when extras have to be added rather than omitted. 
Five Guys, Manchester
They might look a bugger, but they taste great and aren't laced with the horrors you would expect from the likes of your big high street chains. Five Guys will remain one of my favourite burgers for some time I think.

Five Guys Burgers and Fries on Urbanspoon

Friday 8 May 2015

Scene Dining, Manchester

Scene, Manchester
A good curry has to be up there as one of my favourite types of foods. I adore 'bits' - anything I can graze on where there's variety. I love Mexican and tapas for the same reason, but when push comes to shove, I'm always going for the spicy option. Scene Dining is a new Indian 'street kitchen' in Spinningfields which does just that. 

I'm naturally wary of this part of town, as I often find some of the venues' Twitter accounts awash with pictures of footballers and their subsequently papped beautiful people, a sniff tiresome. In reality, I can't ever recall seeing a footballer in these parts during the day, and the only busty blonde I've been photographed with is my homie Lee, and that was a selfie! I think we're safe. 

So this week the above mentioned busty one and I went to sample Scene Dining. We picked the windiest day ever, and unfortunately arrived looking a tad dishevelled. Our attentive waiter arranged a bottle of Pinot Grigio pretty sharpish, and a few fights with a brush later, it was business as usual. 

Although there is the standard 'starter, main, dessert' format, we opted for the street food style dining so we could sample lots of dishes without appearing pigs of the week. However, we ordered so much food, that this happened anyway. Ah well. 

Plain and spicy poppadoms with dips: Given the choice, we went for both. Great dips and plenty of them too.
Scene, Manchester - poppadoms
 Chicken tikka: Moist chicken with slightly charred edges, served with yoghurt dip.
Scene, Manchester - Chicken Tikka
Seekh kebab: Served slightly pink with soft onions and a coriander dip. Yes, they were as good as they look.
Scene, Manchester - Seekh Kebab
Gunpowder potatoes: These are definitely the new kid on the block when it comes to Indian potatoes. Whether chipped or chunked, I adore these. Just enough spice to give a subtle kick, but no harsh raw chilli powder taste.
Scene, Manchester - Gunpowder Potatoes
Paneer butter massala: By far my favourite dish of the evening. A rich sauce with big chunks of creamy paneer. Team this with a cheese naan and it's a match made in heaven. Plenty of calcium for those bones...
Scene, Manchester - Paneer Butter Massala
Samosa chaat: It's genius. Samosas with chickpeas, salad and pomegranate seeds, served in a spicy poppadom. This was the dish that finished us off. Loved it.
Scene, Manchester - Samosa Chaat
Saffron lemon rice: Fluffy and light with a subtle zing. A perfect accompaniment to our other dishes.
Scene, Manchester - Saffron Lemon Rice
Cheese kulcha: I'm a sucker for a cheese naan. If it's on the menu, I'm having it. Lee didn't even question that this was being ordered. This is the 'cheese inside' variety, which makes everything that bit tidier whilst stuffing your face.
Scene, Manchester - Cheese Kulcha
Just look how much food that is for two girls... Our attempt at eating it all was pitiful, however a lovely waitress suggested that she could box it up for us to take home. What a legend.  We sat nursing our bulging bellies, vowing we never needed to eat ever again, and remeniscing about the lovely goodies we had just eaten. Then there it was. The mention of gulab jamon, and Lee announcing that she had never tried it.
Scene, Manchester
Gulab jamon: So there we were. Separate dessert stomachs engaged and powering through one of the best examples of this dish I've ever eaten. If you've never tried these, they're like syrup soaked doughnuts which have the texture of frangipan. We destroyed them.
Scene, Manchester - Gulab Jamon
Scene's street food menu is all about sociable eating, so go with your friends and enjoy sampling lots of different dishes, and complaining about how full you are. The staff are fantastic, the dining room is spacious and bright, and the quality of the food was just bob on.

Scene Dining on Urbanspoon
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