Tuesday, 14 November 2017

George's British Kitchen - Leeds

George's British Kitchen - Leeds
A few weeks ago, I made a trip across the border into white rose territory to check out George's British Kitchen in Leeds. I love a little trip out, and found the train journey oddly soothing after a busy few weeks. I was so ready for an afternoon of relaxation, and this was the perfect antidote.

We walked into George's to be met by a chirpy young lady called Erin, who led us through the beautifully seaside themed restaurant to a booth which resembled a beach hut, complete with toy fish knocking about the rafters.

Indecisive as ever, I left my cocktail choices to our waitress Katie, who was given the usual brief of 'sweet and fruity', and over the visit returned the triumphs which were candy floss and parma violet flavoured drinks. I mean, one had candy floss on it...
George's British Kitchen - Leeds
Halloumi skewers - grilled using our charcoal grill and served on a bed of cauliflower and mushroom curry: Big fan of halloumi, with it salty squeakiness. Perfectly light, and paired brilliantly with mushroom curry. Who knew that was a match made in heaven? Ideal if you're planning on stuffing your face with a carb-laden main.
George's British Kitchen - Leeds
Chilli shrimp and mango chutney salad - fresh tomato and lime salsa, topped with baby leaf salad and hot chilli and garlic shrimp. Finished with smooth mango chutney and chopped spring onion and coriander: Tasty little shrimp in a sweet sauce, with a little hint of chilli in each bite. 
George's British Kitchen - Leeds
Chicken in a basket - tender chicken fillets in a light lemon pepper breadcrumb coating, served with sugar grilled smoked bacon, sweetcorn pancakes, campfire coleslaw, twice cooked chips and a spicy mayo dip: This was the kind of comfort food I had in mind. Thick cut sweet potato fries and Southern style chicken. My only feedback was that the bacon needed a little longer to get that crunch which would have been perfect. Minor. 
George's British Kitchen - Leeds
Wild ocean cod -  100% sustainable tender fillet of cod, sourced from the clear waters of the Norwegian and Icelandic seas. Served with twice cooked chips, mushy peas, chunky tartare sauce and a few pickles: You really do miss out on the scale of this fish on this picture. If you enjoy a good fish, you'll be thrilled with this. Simple, yet more than effective.
George's British Kitchen - Leeds
Steamed sticky ginger pudding - steamed sticky ginger sponge pudding filled with vanilla mousse, served with a jug of vanilla custard and homemade golden syrup ice cream: The wind was blowing, drizzle was in the air, and I was feeling a little mard. Ginger pudding cures all of these afflictions, it appears. Also, please note the addition of ice cream and custard. Not one or the other... both. 
George's British Kitchen - Leeds
Doughnuts - fresh homemade doughnuts with a chocolate dipping sauce, raspberry dipping sauce and candyfloss on the side: When I was little, trips to the seaside were incomplete if we didn't get a bag of doughnuts on the sea front, fresh from a fryer, filled with dark (probably filthy) oil, which seeped through the paper bag and scalded your hands. These doughnuts were far too superior! I wasn't complaining though. Again, candyfloss!
George's British Kitchen - Leeds
Go to George's for a chilled afternoon with lovely food and a great choice of cocktails. I adored the decor, and genuinely enjoyed the company of the front of house staff. Thanks for a lovely afternoon!

Monday, 13 November 2017

Sarson's Factory Tour

Sarson's Factory Tour
I consider myself to be very lucky. I've been writing about my food related adventures for about six years now, and it's led me down some pretty interesting paths; granted this usually involves gluttony and cocktails, but every so often, something really interesting crops up.

Imagine the scene... I'm sat eating my lunch in the cafe at work, when up pops an invite to the Sarson's vinegar factory. It's like a school trip, only I'm an adult! After resisting the urge to pack my walkman and a mini bottle of Tizer, I arrived at Piccadilly to be greeted by the lovely organisers and my fellow bloggers, who to my surprise were from all over the country.

As our taxi pulled up outside the Mizkan factory, the sun shone and the air was full of vinegar. Really, the factory literally emits vinegar from its pores. We were offered tea, biscuits, and the most fetching attire I have seen in some time. Kitted out in steel toe-capped boots, a lab coat, hair net, goggles and ear defenders, we were off to have a nosey round. I was even given a rather chic pair of rubber gloves because of my red gel talons - I've never felt more alive.

So you ready for a little vinegar lesson? Great!

So who the devil are Sarson's?
First thing's first, they are a lovely bunch of people. Everyone we passed seemed to greet each other, and everyone knew each other's names. We were treated to a short history lesson by Caroline, who's genuine enthusiasm was rather infectious. She told us the tale of Thomas Sarson, who set up his vinegar making business back in 1794. George III was on the throne and Nelson lost his eye that summer (I added these facts in. No-one is as geeky as me). They still make Sarson's vinegar in the same way today - that's over 200 years!

How do you make vinegar?Sarson's Factory Tour
Malt: Sarson's vinegar is made with malted barley. Those of you who have been on brewery tours will see little difference at this stage. The starch in the grain is exposed by cracking it. This is called grist.
Sarson's Factory TourMash: Just like brewing beer, the grist is then added to hot water called 'mash', and added to the mash tun. Nature works her magic using the enzymes in the barley, and that starch is turned into sweet water, or 'wort'. This room smells like heaven. It's like Ovaltine pillow spray.
Sarson's Factory TourSarson's Factory TourSarson's Factory TourFermentation: Everything gets cooled, and the yeast is added. If you were making beer, you would throw the hops in at this stage, but things are slightly different for vinegar. It takes six days for the yeast to convert the sugary wort to alcohol, and the yeast is then separated from the 'bright wort'.
Sarson's Factory TourAcetifier: This is the real craftsmanship, which cannot be replaced by an automated system. Good bacteria called acetobacter in these giant wooden vats known as Acetifiers. They're a bit special. More modern stainless steel versions are never going to give the depth of flavour that these do. They're full of wood wool (looks a bit like sawdust), which turns the alcohol into acetic acid, which gives us that vinegary taste we are all familiar with. This process takes seven days, whereas most competitors complete the process in 24 hours.Sarson's Factory TourBottling: The vinegar is then standardised to 5% acid (the British standard) and pasteurised before being bottled and boxed.Sarson's Factory TourFor more info, see https://www.sarsons.co.uk/how-vinegar-is-made.
I had a great day with Sarson's and my blogging amigos. It really made me think about other big brands, and question the whole 'are supermarket own brands' really given the same care and attention? Maybe not all brands are produced with the same love as Sarson's, but I know I'll never buy another brand after meeting the people who work there.

Thank you for allowing us into your little world, it was a pleasure.
Sarson's Factory Tour

Monday, 23 October 2017

Maxibon Bundt Cake

Maxibon Bundt Cake
I'd never even heard of Maxibon bars. You all know I love a bundt shaped challenge, but when my friend Wayne suggested an ice cream bar themed birthday cake, I had to do a bit of research. This involved a trip to my local Tesco, purchasing a box, and eating two in my lab coat (read pyjamas) to check for flavour, consistency and aesthetic. I saw my challenge, and accepted it.

It comprises of rich vanilla ice cream with chocolate chips, half drenched in chocolate with hazelnuts, the other half with Maxibon biscuits. Easy gig. The melted ice cream bar will help transform your cake from a vanilla sponge, to actually tasting like the genuine article, so don't skip this. This is bundt alchemy, bakers. Embrace it, Snape would be so proud.

Needless to say that this cake got a bit of a laugh as well as destroyed. Mission accomplished!

Ingredients:
  • 225g butter
  • 450g golden caster sugar
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 350g Homepride plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 200ml vanilla yoghurt 
  • 2 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 200g chocolate chips
  • Two Maxibon bars, biscuits removed and ice cream melted
To decorate:
  • 1 jar chocolate spread (not Hazelnut)
  • 100g finely chopped hazelnuts
  • Biscuits from your melted Maxibons (I used more...)

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/melted butter, 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 chocolate chips.
  6. Pour the yoghurt and vanilla extract into a jug.
  7. Sift in a third of the flour mix followed by half the yoghurt. Repeat this until everything is combined.
  8. Tip in the chocolate chips which are now covered in flour, which will stop them from sinking like stones!
  9. Stir in the melted Maxibons.
  10. Give everything a quick mix on a low speed for about 10 seconds.
  11. Tip your batter into your prepared bundt 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, melt your chocolate spread in the microwave until it's quite runny.
  15. Stir in the chopped hazelnuts.
  16. Tip over the cake.
  17. Decorate with your Maxibon biscuits, and bits of the box if you so please!
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.

Friday, 20 October 2017

Wedding Bundt Cake

Wedding Bundt Cake
When the going gets tough, some people turn out to be utter angels and restore your faith in humanity. Enter Nicola. I barely know her, yet her kind words have been a real comfort to me when I felt at my lowest. She's a little firecracker whose positivity is truly infectious. She reminded me that choosing happiness really is the best way, and that negativity has no place in my life.

Well she was getting hitched. There was only one thing for it. Nicola is a designer, a lover of hip hop, uses words I don't understand, and is generally down with the kids in every fashion. It had to be the naffest of all wedding inspired cakes; I'm talking feathers, fake rings, pearls, glitter, silver balls, a garter, and those God-awful kitsch decorations that can still be sourced in 70s friendly cake decorating shops. Unfortunately, most folk through it was pretty! Oh, and it was made using her favourite beer. Obvs.

I hatched a plan with my pals Katey and Rick to surprise little Noo on her last day in work before the big day. Needless to say she was over the moon with her cake, which made me a happy little bundt baker. Bundts happen to good people...
@Noo_Law
Pics shamelessly stolen from Instagram @Noo_Law

Ingredients
  • 225g unsalted butter
  • 100g of vegetable fat 
  • 550g golden caster sugar
  • 100g soft brown sugar
  • 6 medium eggs
  • 450g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 250ml Heart and Soul Session IPA (or lemonade, or anything else fizzy for that matter)
  • Still tropical water (not essential, but will bring out the tropical flavours in the hops)
  • 300g icing sugar
  • The naffest of sprinkles and decorations.

Method
  1. Grease and flour a regular sized bundt tin (2.4l, 10 cup, 10 inch). 
  2. Soften the butter and vegetable fat and then cream in the sugar in stages.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time on a slow setting.
  4. Add all the remaining dry ingredients to a large bowl.
  5. Sift in 1/3 of the dry ingredients, followed by 1/2 of the liquid. Repeat until all the flour and liquid is used up. Fold it in gently...
  6. Tip: at this stage it will look a horror. Do not worry... 
  7. Give the whole thing a quick mix for about 10 seconds or until well combined. Tah dah!
  8. Spoon the mix into the tin.
  9. Bake at gas 3/160 C for about an hour and a half. Just turn it after about an hour.
  10. It should be shrinking from the sides and a skewer should come out clean.
  11. Let it cool in the tin for ten minutes then turn it out. 
  12. Allow to cool fully before icing. 
  13. Mix the icing sugar with the flavoured water, so that it's a thick, yet pourable texture. 
  14. Tip it over the cake with the same frivolity as tossing a bouquet! Same goes - try not to hit anyone.
  15. Sprinkle with as much naffness as you can get your hands on.
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.

Amaretto and Lemon Birthday Bundt

Amaretto and Lemon Bundt
The more posts I write about my friends, the more I realise that none of us are a full shilling, as my grandad would say.

Understated, shy, quiet, beige... said nobody ever about Anna. She's my kind of odd lad; she has lilac hair, a plethora of brightly coloured tattoos, and she's probably the most enthusiastic Zumba teacher you will ever meet. Oh, and I really like the way she says fluf-eee in a Swedish accent. She's actually Swedish, not a weirdo. Well, she is a weirdo, but for totally different reasons.

It was her birthday recently. She's been a bloody diamond with me recently, and always seems to know the appropriate action to take; sometimes it's an emergency kitten GIF at 11:30pm, or a slab of cake delivered to my desk, with no words, just a look*.

Partial to a splash of Amaretto, I decided to do an almond and lemon flavoured cake, laced with Anna's favourite tipple. Any cake where you add ground almonds ends up being moist and slightly heavy in weight, yet strangely light in texture. I needed something a bit sturdy to hold the weight of all the glittery, sugary stuff I topped it with!

Not cutting the cake at work made Anna the most unpopular person since the fool who 'parked in the god damn barrier' incident of 2015. Does Anna strike you as someone who cares? Absolutely not. She skipped out of that office, and even managed not to get the kids drunk off icing. Winning.
Anna - reserved type
Stole this right of her Facebook, I did.
Ingredients:
  • 225g butter
  • 450g golden caster sugar
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 330g Homepride plain flour
  • 25g ground almonds
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 200ml lemon yoghurt 
  • 2 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 5 tbsp Amaretto
To decorate:
  • Everything.

Method:
  • Preheat the oven to gas 3/160 c
  • Prepare a regular sized bundt tin - 2.4l, 10 cup, 10 inch with Cake Release spray/melted butter, and dust with flour. 
  • Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
  • Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. 
  • In a separate bowl, measure out the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt.
  • Pour the yoghurt, vanilla extract and Amaretto into a jug.
  • Sift in a third of the flour mix followed by half the yoghurt. Repeat this until everything is combined.
  • Give everything a quick mix on a low speed for about 10 seconds.
  • Tip your batter into your prepared bundt tin.
  • Bake in the centre of the oven for about 1 hour 15 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. 
  • Leave the cake to cool for ten minutes before removing from the tin.
  • When the cake is fully cool, decorate however pleases you. I made my icing out of icing sugar mixed with Amaretto, and threw the party aisle of Tesco at it... 

* The look meaning, I couldn't give three shits about your gym plan, you need cake. Eat it. Now.

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.

Belgian Waffle Bundt Cake

Belgian Waffle Bundt Cake
It's a bundt cake, but it actually tastes like a caramelised, toasted waffle. If that wasn't enough, it's then topped with more waffles. Waffles, waffles everywhere. Wafflesville, Waffle County.

I was walking round Sainsbury's when this idea hit. I bloody love a good waffle. I was buying some boring chicken before a particularly heinous gym session, and I was craving them more than anything on Earth. And there she blows. Never one for a boring bundt, I was dreaming of stacking it sky high, drowning it in caramel then drizzling with more syrup. It was happening.

I feel I need to warn you though, this is not for the faint hearted, and only serious sugar eaters need apply. This has to hold one of the quickest 'desk to demolished' times we have so far. This one was snaffled pretty quickly, perhaps on a par with the Salted Caramel and Peanut, and Malted Milk creations.

Quite a few of you asked for this recipe ASAP, so please accept my apologies for the delay, but expect a flurry of bundt recipes over the next few weeks as I catch up!

Ingredients:
  • 225g butter
  • 350g golden caster sugar
  • 100g soft brown sugar
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 350g Homepride plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 200ml toffee yoghurt
  • 2 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 4 toasted waffles
  • 3 tbsp golden syrup
To decorate:
  • 1 tin of Carnation Caramel
  • 4 more toasted waffles
  • Berries
  • Sugar pearls

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/melted butter, and dust with flour. 
  3. Cream the butter and sugars 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 and salt.
  6. Pour the yoghurt and vanilla extract into a jug.
  7. Sift in a third of the flour mix followed by half the yoghurt. Repeat this until everything is combined.
  8. Whizz up 2 of your waffls in a food processor, until they are large crumbs. Tear the others into 1cm squares - ish. 
  9. Stir the obliterated waffles into the cake mix with the golden syrup.
  10. Give everything a quick mix on a low speed for about 10 seconds.
  11. Tip your batter into your prepared bundt 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, warm the caramel in the microwave until it's a runny texture, then tip over the cake in a fanciful fashion.
  15. Decorate with more toasted waffles, a drizzle of golden syrup, berries and sugar pearls. Understated, you know.


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.

El Taquero, Manchester

El Taquero, Manchester
I was fifteen when I went watching Bush. Gavin Rossdale... he of the shaggy hair and gravelly voice, and then boyfriend of my idol, Gwen Stefani. I was the biggest Gwennabe in town (not literally). I emerged from the Labatt's Apollo a sweaty mess, with a crushed ribcage, covered in bruises, stinking of smoke, and with a beaming smile because I got to touch his hair as he crowdsurfed. It was magical. My poor parents were waiting outside. I wouldn't have let me in the car!

I proudly wore a t-shirt with 'Bush' emblazoned across the chest to my school non-uniform day, like a badge of honour. Kieran Morris and Gareth Hopkins laughed at it during science, then I realised for them it had a very different meaning. Sherpherd's Bush lads, Shepherd's!

Fast forward almost exactly twenty years. I am the age my mum was when she waited in the car for me, and although this realisation makes me feel old as hell, the prospect of seeing Gavin made me feel fifteen again. It hammered it down twenty years ago too, which turned my perm a little wild. The main concern of my hair in 2017 is my pink dye running, but I think you will agree that this is testament to my refusal to grow old gracefully, and should be fully embraced. Still goes frizzy.
Ticket collection
What culinary merriment could befit such an exciting evening? Mexican food of course. It was the perfect time to sample the new kid on the block El Taquero. Brainchild of Franco and Simon of Solita fame, they have the Midas touch when it comes to feeding the masses of Manchester. Would it be authentic though?

Before I excite you with pictures of food, I'm going to run through the cocktail offerings. I had four in quick succession, and rabbited constantly about my joy at seeing my favourite Cazcabel Honey tequila on the menu.
Clockwise:
Frozen strawberry Margarita with Cazcabel
Tommy’s Margarita - Cazcabel reposado, Cointreau, lime and agave syrup
Honey Margarita - Cazcabel honey, mango puree, strawberry syrup, Cointreau and lime
Frozen mango margarita with Cazcabel
El Taquero, Manchester - cocktails
Not on the menu yet... cactus fungus and cheese: Looks like hell. Sounds like hell. Tastes like heaven. When have I ever lied to you? Simon insisted there was 'too much cheese' on this. Can't believe he actually uttered the words. Perhaps he was unwell or something. So cactus fungus, unsurprisingly, tastes a bit like mushroom. Get past the word fungus please, let it go. Can't recommend these enough.
El Taquero, Manchester
Al Pastor - spit roasted, marinated pork with pineapple: If you're one of these who can't abide warm pineapple, forget everything you've ever known about the stuff. These sweet little nuggets are the ideal bedfellow for that tasty pork.
El Taquero, Manchester
Queso Fundido - Mexican cheese fondue with Chorizo, Pico de Gallo and tortilla chips: Behold for a moment the pot of melted cheese, which comes with the warning 'make sure you eat it quickly, otherwise it solidifies back to cheese'. Never worry about my speed when it comes to eating cheese.
El Taquero, Manchester
Birria - Slow cooked beef brisket served in a rich gravy, with green chilli and warm tortillas on the side: This is so so rich. If it was dish number one, I'd have scoffed the lot, but I was already flagging. As you can see from the pictures below, we probably weren't even half way! This is the equivalent of someone stroking your face while you stuff it with quesedillas. Blissful.
El Taquero, Manchester
El Taquero, Manchester
Tacos Dorados - Deep fried crispy taco, filled with potato, topped with guacamole and salsa: Fill my carbs with carbs please. Then deep fry it. Then top it with stuff. This is why we get on so well, El Taquero and I. But five minutes before, I was 'stuffed', yet here I am, eating this like a total warrior. Note - you'll be needing more tequila at this point.
El Taquero, Manchester
Chargrilled chicken thigh pieces in a spicy lime marinade with avocado: When your carb eating days are done (for now), do the right thing... opt for chicken. Look at those crispy charred bits.
El Taquero, Manchester
Churros: Never have I been too full for churros with experimental dips. 'We want to know which you prefer'... challenged accepted like a soldier ready to commence battle. First up, chocolate. A staple and standard accompaniment to the wonder that is the deep fried tubular doughnut, and excellent it was too. The next one threw me off my even keel. It was packaged as 'salted caramel', but I knew there was something lurking in there which wasn't normal. Turns out they use goat's milk, which is never, ever for me. Goat juice can do one, however, I'm sure those of you who love a bit of goat's cheese will adore this.
El Taquero, Manchester
If I'm being honest, I really did not know what to expect from El Taquero. After speaking to the lovely Mexican chef, I'm confident that they're doing everything right here, hell, they aren't afraid to serve cactus fungus in a taco, because they know damn well that it's brilliant. What I loved about this place was the speed and quality of service that accompanies the experience. Our waitresses excitedly recommended cocktails, and seemed genuinely excited about the food.

Go here for a quick bite with friends, and down a few cocktails while you're there. I really must insist that you sample something with Cazcabel Honey in it though, or at the very least have a quick shot. It really is a game changer.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

The Alchemist, Media City

The Alchemist, Media City
Here I go again, fresh out of my gym gear and perving over pictures of food I ate ages ago. What have I become at all? Hungry, that's what. My natural state is stuffing my face with carbs and sugar, not stretching into lycra (granted, my lycra is covered in pictures of food). 

I'm a big fan of the Alchemist in Spinningfields, so when a new one opened at Media City, I was dying to go. Plus, their sharing platters and desserts were very much fresh in my mind. Although it's a few weeks back, I had started my crackers gym routine, and picked this as my treat day. 

So let's start with the cocktails. The Alchemist are the Nicolas Flamel of the cocktail world; fizzing, bubbling, colour changing, and monogrammed hip flasks to take home, are all standard shenanigans here. 

Clockwise:
3.5oz of Happiness - Portobello gin, Chambord raspberry, vermouth, citrus: Very much a fan of choosing happiness at the moment, so it seemed the obvious cocktail to start with. It did indeed make me happy, because it tasted very much like heaven, and I got another flask for my collection. My mate Tricky tells me there's always time and reason for a hip flask.
Key lime pie - Bacardi Carta Blanca, Midori melon, Koko Kanu, apple, lime and vanilla meringue foam: The spoon sits on top of the meringue. Cocktails you can eat are high on my 'Rach could drink herself to death with this' list.
Rhubarb and custard - Chase rhubarb, Licor 43 vanilla, lemon, egg whites: Another cocktail masquerading as a dessert. I remember the days where the thought of egg whites in a cocktail made me think of bodybuilders, then I realised they were more towards cake on the egg spectrum. 
Bubblebath - Tanqueray gin, Aperol, Chambord, lemon and apple: Had to have at least one that bubbled! It literally goes wild before your very eyes. Straight out of Potions class. Snape would be so proud, always. 
Penicilin - Ardbeg 10 year, Chase marmelade vodka, lemon, ginger, burnt cinnamon: Wow wee this was a strong lad! A bit like Autumnal arson on the nose, but with a very smooth taste. The lemon and spices encourage a sweet rather than bitter taste. 
Solero - Ketel One vodka, Passoa, mango, apple, orange, citrus, white chocolate cream foam: This one is a little bit special. That cream is so thick, it's genuinely like eating a Solero lolly, King of summer coolers. 
Cocktails
The Alchemist is by no means just a cocktail bar, the food is pretty good too. Last time I went, I tried the vegetarian sharing platter, so it seemed only right to sample the meat one this time round.

Sharing platter - wings, nachos, falafel, beer battered prawns, pork bon bons and dips: It really did not disappoint. Highlights included cheese smothered nachos and falafel dipped in sweet chilli sauce.
Sharing platter
Padron peppers with salt flakes and crispy shallots: These little blighters have become somewhat of a fave, and have to be ordered if they are on the menu, for comparison purposes, naturally. Sweet yet perfectly salty. A great accompaniment to cocktails.
Padron peppers
Salt beef tacos with salt and pepper fries: Now this is the kind of thing I had in mind for cheat day. The fries that are as addictive as crack, and soft tacos rammed with salt beef, cheese and salad. This very much did the trick. I just had to address the sweet/savoury divide...
Salt beef tacos
Katsu chicken curry with panko breadcrumbs and coriander rice: And very pretty this was too. My dining partner in crime fancied something a little spicy, and the 'Chinese chippy' style curry sauce did not let us down. Note - my fries dipped in this sauce was perfection!
Katsu chicken curry
Belgian waffles: Did someone say sweet/savoury divide? Waffles to the rescue! I could eat them every day of my life. Fresh waffles dipped in sugar and cinnamon with a good dollop of ice cream ensured that I could barely move for around fifteen minutes.
Belgian waffles
Sticky toffee pudding: Oh how it glistens so... I have tried so many good ones recently. Gone are the days of the claggy sponge which you could weigh down your Sunday papers with. This was light, fluffy, and drowning in sauce. Good sauce to pudding ratio guys.
Sticky toffee pudding
Another brilliant trip to the Alchemist really does add fuel to the fire that this place certainly is not all hip flasks and no substance. Living Ventures do detail well, and that monogrammed hip flask on the sideboard acts as a constant reminder of the brilliant time you had, and how much you want to go back for another. 

Fox, Hale Barns

So life has been a bit upside down of late, so I'm playing catch up. While this in itself is a lovely task because I get to look at some mouth watering photos and recall happy memories, it's also meant that I've spent the last few evenings being very hungry indeed.

First, to Fox in Hale Barns. I decided to start with this one because it has to be the best meal I have had in a long time. That's correct, I'm getting it out there, right here, right now. Fox can do no wrong in my eyes; from the location in pretty Hale Barns, the people who work there, the decor, the outstanding food, and the Jo Malone influenced products in the toilets. Everything about this place oozes unctuous luxury, but in a refreshingly relaxed environment. This makes no sense unless you have been.

I felt so strongly about this that I pretty much wrote my conclusion in my introduction. I suppose I had better show you what all the fuss is about with the actual food.

Let me set the scene... The day is cold, bright and sunny, and my dining companion and I are headed on a scenic 'A road' tour through Altrincham, and into the leafy suburb of Hale Barns. They have a Booths... you know where I'm headed. I'm a big fan of a weekend road trip, so this made the excursion doubly exciting. After an initial kerfuffle with finding the car park, getting overly excited about the aforementioned Booths, and cooing over the beautiful exterior, we were greeted, seated and drinks were in our hands in record time. 

Sourdough garlic bread - half cheese, half tomato: I was hungrier than I had ever been in my entire life, and also a tad melodramatic, whilst perusing the menu. Our utterly delightful waitress (whose name escapes me, annoyingly), quickly suggested sourdough garlic bread whilst we decided. Unable to agree on our preferred flavour, half and half was ordered - perfect.
Sourdough garlic bread - half cheese, half tomato
Owner Danny Fox came for a chat whilst we were mid starter based conundrum, so we let him pick his favourites for us. Oh Danny, you picked two little belters.

Prawn pil pil - baked king prawns in olive oil, garlic, chilli, paprika, lemon, chopped parsley, served with crusty sourdough bread: For someone who used to have a pathological fear of eating prawns, I couldn't leave these alone. They weren't even my starter! Beautifully cooked in a rich and spicy sauce, mopped up with crusty bread. Not comfortable yet? You must be crackers. This dish is the equivalent of warm fluffy socks after a soak in a hot bubble bath. 
Prawn pil pil
Duck and pomegranate apple salad - mixed leaves, apple, pomegranate, toasted mixed seeds, balsamic and honey dressing: Forget everything you know about salad, immediately. This was so tasty! Warm duck, a tangy dressing, sweet fruit and those wonderfully nutty seeds. These are my kind of leaves.
Grilled hake - roasted cherry tomato, chorizo, puy lentil ragù, basil and a hint of chilli: Another recommendation from fantastic Mr Fox himself. I wish I could have captured the smell of this for you, and hasten the development of the technology which would allow me to do so. You will just have to trust me that this is Autumnal bliss.
Grilled hake
Roasted succulent sirloin of Red Hereford beef, Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes and steamed vegetables all finished with a rich red wine gravy: Warmed me right through this did. Behold. Already drenched in that glistening gravy, they give you more on the side; Fox and I are going to be friends. Anywhere that serves me parsnips when I'm already a little chilly will be forever in my good books. It even comes with a glass of free prosecco.
Sunday roast
We picked some skinny fries and grilled asparagus to have on the side of our lunches, the star of the show being the addition of sesame seeds to the asparagus.
Sides
Sticky toffee pudding with a rich butterscotch sauce and ice cream: There's a nip in the air and wind in my hair; pudding time is upon us. Looks as dense as a house brick with its saturated toffee sponge, but was genuinely as light as a feather.
Sticky toffee pudding
Crème brûlée - oven cooked cream with mixed berries: Good crack on that sugar crust, not too sweet and served with a lovely homemade compote.
Crème brûlée
Drinks: Lovely selection of drinks, ranging from decent beers (can highly recommend Lagunitas Day Time for those not wanting to be hammered at lunchtime), mocktails and cocktails, and an impressive wine list (finishing the bottle is highly recommended for those who do wish to be hammered at lunchtime).
Drinks
Drinks
We rounded the meal off with a rather civilized pot of tea, which came served in a very pleasing speckled duck egg blue teapot and cup. Even their tableware makes me smile.
Why am I writing this up whilst on a gym and meal programme? I pretty much summed up Fox at the start of this post, and I'm sure my pictures alone will have left you fancying a trip. Fox is everything I love about dining out; good company, wonderful food, a bit of friendly chat with our servers, comfortable surroundings, and those little extras which make the experience that bit special. Front of house and kitchen teams are together working in perfect harmony, which will make you want to stay all day.
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