Thursday, 25 October 2018

Campo Blanco, Whitefield

Campo Blanco, Whitefield
About bloody time really. We shamelessly stalked the opening of Campo Blanco after a summer of whinging 'we need a good tapas place round here'. Then one day we saw a sign go up, there was activity inside, and we were poised. A right little temptress on Instagram, they were driving me crackers! Then on Sunday we finally found ourselves spending a damp afternoon sampling their wares.

We walked in to see a well stocked bar, packed with some unusual bottles and an eager barman. I got chatting to Aaron, who co-owns Campo Blanco with his fiancé Faye Jennings, who told me all about their future plans and how they've strived to make it as inclusive as possible. Gluten free-ers, veggies and vegans worry not, for you will be fully catered for. He talked passionately about their organic wines, and how they make families welcome whilst not interrupting couples wanting some peace. 
Campo Blanco, Whitefield
The menu is extensive without feeling like you're faced with a wall in a Chinese takeaway, and once agin provided the age old conundrum of 'what in the hell do we order?' I think we did alright you know. 

Flatbread with manchego and chorizo: Thin, crispy bread with cheese and meat, which I really wish we had saved to mop up sauces. Note for the future. Or just order more.
Campo Blanco, Whitefield
Mussels - steamed green shell mussels in a green chilli and parsley sauce: These were Phil's choice, as you know I don't do shellfish as a rule. I did however steal some of that sauce, which was absolutely delicious. He demolished these pretty quickly.
Campo Blanco, Whitefield
Fried peppers - pan roasted baby peppers drizzled in green mojo (homemade green sauce made with coriander, parsley, garlic, chilli, shallots and sherry vinegar): A lovely piquancy to these. Could have been a little softer, but still great flavour.  
Campo Blanco, Whitefield
Sweet potato fries with bravas sauce and fried onions: Poor picture, great dish. We both loved the large pieces of onion on these. Great for dipping in sauce if you've been greedy and eaten all your bread early doors.
Campo Blanco, Whitefield
Crispy chilli chicken - fried chicken thighs coated in a homemade spice blend served with chillies, spring onions and chipotle mayo: Imagine if KFC was actually good, and didn't leave you feeling dead inside. Bingo. Not a smattering of grease, these were beautifully spiced and that chipotle mayo was top notch.
Campo Blanco, Whitefield
Steak medallions - tender medallions of beef, drizzled in chimi churri (homemade green drizzle with pepper, onion, olive oil, garlic, smoked paprika and ancho chilli): One of my two favourite dishes. Zingy, fresh chimi churri was utterly perfect on the tender beef.
Campo Blanco, Whitefield
Black pudding and blue cheese - traditional Spanish black pudding served with a blue pico cheese sauce: My other favourite. That sauce is unbelievable. If you don't like blue cheese, do not fret. It's incredibly delicate, and is the perfect partner to the local black pudding. I must insist that you order this. 
Campo Blanco, Whitefield
Churros with dulce de leche: Churros have to be ordered if they are on the menu. It's essential. I have to say, these are some of the best churros I've ever had, and this greedy girl has eaten a lot. They had the balance of crisp exterior and soft interior just right. 
Campo Blanco, Whitefield
We had such a lovely time at Campo Blanco that we are already planning to go back for brunch, and another trip for cocktails in the evening. I loved the passion of everyone involved, from the ideas being cooked up by Aaron and Faye, to their chef wanting every dish to look just perfect. They are nice people living their dream, and taking us along for the ride. I can't wait to see what they have up their sleeve in the future, as this seems to be an ever evolving venture.

Go here for a relaxed lunch, or enjoy the hustle and bustle of a busy evening service. Either way, you're going to eat some great food! I'll report back on that brunch.

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Rock Spice - Stretford, Manchester

Rock Spice, Manchester
Bubbles, lots of lovely food, good company and even a bit of magic. Sounds like a fun filled Friday evening to me.

Rock Spice is tipped to be a new breed of Asian restaurant, taking a step away from the local curry house, and fusing Pakistani, Indian and Bangladeshi cuisines with Western influences. They appear to be setting their sights high, with another three sites planned for Blackpool, Liverpool and London, with 20-30 eventually on the cards. Literally in the shadows of Old Trafford's East Stand, it's an ideal place to go pre or post match, although I fear if I went beforehand, I would sleep through the game. Although that may be a blessing at the moment...
Rock Spice, Manchester
Bubbles were flowing on arrival, and we soon spotted blogging pals Charlie and Simon (Gin Fuelled Blue Stocking), and Carl and Stephen (The Gourmet Gays).

So to the food. We were given lots of dishes to try, which the team felt showcased what they had on offer. Apologies in advance for the poor lighting, we were not in a photo friendly spot! I'm sure you'll get the gist though.

Tandoori fish and vegetable canapés: Lovely bitesized pieces of white fish or vegetables covered in tandoori style spices, with tamarind and mint dips. Perfect with a glass of fizz. I'm not even going to lie, our table ate a lot of these.
Rock Spice, Manchester
Golgappas topped with panipuri: It was very unclear what was going on here. One was mint, the other was 'spicy', both had a little panipuri on the top, filled with spicy onions. Jeez Louise these packed a punch! A little strong for me, but a fun concept which got the table talking. They are hot dammit. 
Rock Spice, Manchester
Rock Spice, Manchester
Between courses, the delightful Harry Robson (fresh out of Hogwarts) was entertaining us with some magic tricks. I'm the first to say I hate table magic, and most magicians in general, but Harry is a right little diamond. He brings humour and some really clever tricks. Met with a table of over-thinkers and hand watchers, he managed to baffle us all by getting Simon's card into a sealed envelope. You're a wizard Harry.
Rock Spice, Manchester
Mixed grill platter: I'm pretty sure this is the Bolton influence in this 'fusion' style of cuisine. A big platter of meat which was very well received at this stage, as we were mightily peckish. My highlight was the charred spicy lamb chop.
Rock Spice, Manchester
Mixed pepper and mango salsa: Who even knew that I'd be sat here raving about a salad? This was absolutely delicious. Shards of tricoloured peppers with ribbons of carrot, mango and coriander. I could have eaten this whole platter. I want this with every curry from now on. A real star of the show considering it was something so simple.
Rock Spice, ManchesterChicken biriyani: God bless the arrival of carbs. My cousin's wife is from Pakistan (special mention to Sakba), and makes the best chicken biriyani. Very few come close, but I have to say this was pretty near. The chicken was well marinaded, and the rice had taken on rich flavours from the cooking liquor. 
Rock Spice, Manchester
Channa masala: Lifelong carnivore, absolutely loving this dish. The only one that we ate every scrap of. Cooked down to perfection, this was best paired with fluffy naan bread. Could just have this now. Furious.
Rock Spice, Manchester
Chicken afzaa: A pleasant creamy dish, which I expected to taste like a korma because of its colour. It was actually nowhere near as sweet, yet still very creamy.
Rock Spice, Manchester
Lamb karahi: Tender slow-cooked lamb in a thick, fragrant sauce. Great with rice. It was nice to see three very different sauces showcased over the variety of curry dishes.
Rock Spice, Manchester
Garlic butter naan bread: The lovely fluffy variety, rather than the type where the edges are like toast. The addition of melted butter infused with garlic kept them wonderfully moist too. Perfect for dipping in those sauces.
Rock Spice, Manchester
The chefs at Rock Spice had a lot of people to serve on Friday, all on the same sitting. Much respect to the kitchen, who managed to turn out great food which was fresh and piping hot throughout the night. Evenings spent eating lots of tasty food, catching up with friends, and sipping bubbles are the best type. Huge thanks go to Caroline and the Rock Spice team for our invite, and a very pleasant evening indeed.

Disclaimer: This was a free press event. I was not coerced into saying nice things, and to the best of my knowledge, no spells were put on me by Harry in order to sway my judgement. I just really like curry. 

Monday, 22 October 2018

Levanter, Ramsbottom

Levanter, Ramsbottom
I gave a huge cheer as Ramsbottom's Levanter won 'Casual Restaurant of the Year' at the Manchester Food and Drink Awards. I don't mind telling you that they got my vote after our visit a few weeks ago. Hidden behind the main flurry of shops and restaurants, Levanter and sister restaurant Baratxuri are nestled on Square Street, which feels like a peaceful little place to spend an afternoon eating tapas. 

First rule of tapas - staring blankly at the menu, fully aware of the fact that I will be unable to choose an adequate amount of dishes, owing to the fact 'they all sound so nice'. Cue a meat platter! Happy days. Lots of carnivorous 'bits' to keep me happy. Look at this meat!
Levanter, Ramsbottom
I will always over-order carbs. Every time. However, Levanter's sourdough comes with these nice salsa and oil/vinegar dipping pots, which made me feel continental rather than greedy. 
Levanter, Ramsbottom
Levanter, Ramsbottom
Garbanzos - chickpeas, spinach and egg with cumin seeds, garlic and breadcrumbs: A festival of textures awaits in this dish. Not only is it packed with flavour, but the breadcrumbs and slightly toasted edges on the chickpeas gave a nice crunch too. Pop open that yolk!
Levanter, Ramsbottom
Rabo de Toro - ox tail braised in Rioja, served with tomatoes, celery, carrots, butter beans and garlic: Star of the show. Beef in red wine will always be a hearty little number, but add in those smooth butter beans, which seem to have been steeped in the flavour of the dish, and it's sent to another stratosphere.
Levanter, Ramsbottom
Merluza Y Salsa de Tomate - Hake fillet seared on the plancha, with sun-dried tomato and anchovy salsa: I'm not a fan of seafood but Phil is, so we always get at least one fish dish. He loved this one, which came served on a generous bed of salsa. This was a little too fishy for me, but even I loved the meaty hake.
Levanter, Ramsbottom
It's always nice to have a ride out to Ramsbottom at the weekend, especially when wonderful food like this awaits. All the staff were warm and friendly, spoke about the dishes with some vigour, and seemed genuinely pleased to serve their guests. We got chatting to a nice couple who were sat next to us too, who were already planning their next trip, which would involve staying over and lots of wine! 

Go here for a relaxed dining experience when you have lots of time. Do not rush this one. Your food comes when it's ready, so you could happily spend all afternoon here without even noticing the time. We're also plotting an evening trip, and a visit to sister restaurant Baratxuri. 

Thursday, 4 October 2018

Mama Kelly, Amsterdam

Mama Kelly, Amsterdam
Before we begin, channel your inner Pink Lady. You're a Mean Girl, and it is Wednesday. 

When I researched where to go in Amsterdam, all the same places kept popping up, so much so that I felt like we were old friends by the time we left. Then I stumbled upon Mama Kelly, in a fluke that shall be from this moment forth, known as the biggest fluke of all time. Flukesville. Imagine my face when I came across the pictures below on Mama Kelly's Instagram. There shone a shiny pink demon. We were going.
Mama Kelly, Amsterdam
Pictures nicked from Mama Kelly's Insta
Powder pink booths, art deco style gold metalwork, golden pineapples and lobsters dotted around the gaff, and sumptuous cushions at every table. Walking through the door was definitely no disappointment. The whole restaurant shines pink. It felt very much like a homecoming.

Getting there was a bit odd. It absolutely lashed it down. Our plan of getting the tram to the other end of the city was utterly kiboshed, so we spent about 45 minutes stuck in traffic with a grumpy taxi driver. We pulled up at the Olympic Stadium, which was like a 1920s ghost town. It has a bit of an odd feeling about the place, mainly because it feels quite remote. Then there he was, a pink chap ready to welcome us in from the deluge. This pink palace welcomed us with open arms.
Mama Kelly, Amsterdam
Three floors of pure glamour await, which when juxtaposed with this odd building, makes you feel like you've just entered another universe.

There's this weird thing about Amsterdam. They don't do cocktails. If they do, you have a choice of three; dark and stormy, Aperol spritz or a Moscow mule. They were all rubbish. I can't even remember what we ordered at Mama Kelly, I just know they were pink and perfect in every way. First decent cocktail in weeks due to doom antibiotics. Worth the wait.
Mama Kelly, Amsterdam
Mama Kelly, Amsterdam
Mama Kelly, Amsterdam
Burrata with avocado cream and country bread: Ellie doesn't like cheese, except goat's cheese and halloumi. Hates cheese. Ordered burrata. Crisis averted! Even she agreed this was incredible. Soft cheese on a bed of whipped avocado cream, served with crunchy bread. Textures!
Mama Kelly, Amsterdam
Halloumi served with roasted vegetables, peppers and green herbs: An absolute delight. Thick chunks of halloumi with sweet vegetables. Not too heavy, whilst still being very satisfying indeed.
Mama Kelly, Amsterdam
Flat iron steak from the charcoal grill with beurre Café de Paris: Wow. It looks like a decent steak, but was so much more. Served on a bed of sweet squash with onion seeds, its pink centre and sweet flavour were tantalising. Ate every single morsel.
Mama Kelly, Amsterdam
Lobster risotto - fresh lobster prepared in bisque: Stand down, the claw is not in a shell. Turns out after an initial lack of clarity on the matter, Ellie very much enjoyed the lobster in this dish.
Mama Kelly, Amsterdam
Broccoli with fresh chilli and roasted almonds: A rather lovely combination, which means I will want almonds with my little trees from this day forth.
Mama Kelly, Amsterdam
Homemade fries: Look how crispy they are. Wonderfully golden and perfect with steak.
Mama Kelly, Amsterdam
Blondie with caramel sauce and sea salt: We were in no shape to be waving around dessert menus, yet here we were. Very rich as expected, the vanilla ice cream helped.
Mama Kelly, Amsterdam
Sticky toffee date cake: Looks very similar to sticky toffee pudding, but tasted and felt much more like parkin. Still great! I think it needed some ice cream to lighten it a little though.
Mama Kelly, Amsterdam
What a wonderfully strange experience in this pink wonderland! Go here for an evening of glamour, and food that will knock your pink socks off. And yes, I did wear an Amsterdam dress. Extra...
Mama Kelly, Amsterdam

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Cinnamon Bun Bundt Cake

Cinnamon Bun Bundt Cake
Bundt challenge... yesss...

Roast club vibes were strong, and my friends had been watching Masterchef. It's quite the combination. Someone made cinnamon buns, and the cravings were real. I was promptly challenged to a cinnamon roll bundt. Now, in the interest of never making the same cake twice (and full transparency), some of you may recall a similar cake a few Christmases ago. This was going to be different.

The NutriBullet was out, and full on bundt witchcraft commenced. This wasn't going to be a cinnamon flavoured cake. I wanted it to be a cake, but taste like the breaded variety. The only way to achieve this is by putting the yeasted items in the cake. It works. The icing is excellent too! This is the best version of about five American recipes I mashed together, then tinkered with as a I made it. The browned butter makes all the difference. This is a trick I got from a friend who's a chef. Trust us.

Give this one a go over the colder months for instantly warmer cockles!

Ingredients:
  • 225g butter
  • 450g golden caster sugar
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 350g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 250ml vanilla yogurt 
  • 3 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 5 tbsp demerara sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon mixed together
  • 1 shop bought cinnamon bun (optional), whizzed to crumbs in a food processor.
Frosting:
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 120g full fat soft cheese
  • 300g icing sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Enough full fat milk to achieve a spreadable consistency
Method:
  1. Preheat the oven to gas 3/160 C (150 C fan)
  2. Grease and flour an average sized bundt tin of 10 cups/10 inch diameter or 2.4 litre capacity.
  3. Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time on a low setting. You'll see the mix get noticeably fluffier.
  5. In a separate bowl, measure out the flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt and spices.
  6. Sift in 1/3 of the dry ingredients, followed by 1/2 of the yoghurt. Repeat until all the flour and yoghurt is used up. 
  7. Fold in the cinnamon bun crumbs.
  8. Give it all a quick mix on a low speed for about 10 seconds, or until smooth.
  9. Pour half the mix into a greased and floured tin, sprinkle over the demerara sugar mix, then top with the rest of the standard mix.
  10. Bake in the centre of the oven for about 1 hour 15 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. 
  11. Leave the cake to cool for 10 minutes before removing from the tin.
  12. Leave to cool fully.
  13. To make the cream cheese frosting, first melt the butter over a gentle heat until it starts to brown slightly.
  14. Meanwhile, whip the cream cheese with the vanilla extract until smooth. 
  15. Carefully pour in the melted butter, being extra careful as it is well hot!
  16. Add the icing sugar a bit at a time, therefore avoiding a sugar style mushroom cloud. 
  17. This is the variable bit. You want your icing to be spreadable, but not runny. Just add enough milk to achieve that consistency.
  18. Spread over the cake. If you are using the cinnamon bun tin, I found swirling over the shape of the buns with a teaspoon revealed the pretty design underneath. It works just as well on a standard bundt though.
  19. Sprinkle with a little cinnamon.

Writers/Bakers: 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. Please see my Creative Commons Copyright information for more details. Thank you. 

Monday, 1 October 2018

Wood, Manchester

Wood, Manchester
The deal was sealed. Aidan Byrne was poorly, and Simon Wood stepped in to take his place at the Bolton Food and Drink Festival 'Sunday Club' event. I have much love for Aiden, but was thrilled to find out Simon would be joining the ever entertaining Andrew Nutter for some Sunday evening tomfoolery. And there it began. Turns out we became his biggest fans in the blink of an eye, and ended up devouring a Tomahawk at Wood two days later. 

Bolton Food Festival Wood opened on Manchester's First Street site a sniff over a year ago, but I'm convinced that folk are not fully aware of its brilliance just yet, probably owing to the location. However, fellow new kids on the block Bunny Jackson's and School for Scandal are changing everything. I'm hoping that it's going to become a bit of an alternative playground for those who love a bit of decent music and good food.

Simon won Masterchef in 2015, opened Wood in August 2017, and bagged themselves an AA Rosette within a year. Then came plans for a second site in Chester's Indigo Hotel, and now Woodkraft is about to open in Cheltenham. Not bad really. There's no doubt that he's an extremely accomplished chef, but he's also a bloody nice fella too. And he likes metal. We like him.

He's not alone in this venture though. He managed to snaffle Mike Jennings as Head Chef, and has an excellent front of house team who make the experience even more pleasurable. I first met Mike when he was at Grenache, producing food that gave Salford a right kick up the backside. He's great.
Wood, Manchester
The styling of Wood is just beautiful, with nothing out of place and every item carefully considered. The kitchen is partially open, which allows nosy people like me to watch the chefs prepping those huge tomahawks. Makes you really hungry though. I suppose that's what starters are for!

I was on the antibiotics of doom at this point, so was sans alcohol, but our waitress (who clearly saw my anguish) quickly produced a mocktails list, and all was well. Phil opted for a nice glass of red, whilst we perused the menu, listening to The Pretty Reckless and Pvris. If you know, you know.
Wood, Manchester
The scent of steak being very much real, we were thrilled at the arrival of some freshly baked bread and salted butter. Always start a decent meal with some interesting carbs.
Wood, Manchester
Pigeon, fig, endive and belazu lardon: One of the best starters I have had in a long time. Crispy edges on that rich pigeon breast with the sweet fig neared levels of actual perfection.
Wood, Manchester
82°C belly pork, cider, Granny Smith, sage and onion: This was mentioned during Sunday Club, and had to be ordered. Phil's a massive fan of pork and crackling, so this was right up his street. Pared with tart Granny Smith apples, this is the culinary equivalent of a hug and a kiss.
Wood, Manchester
Tomahawk to share with green peppercorn sauce: The scale of it man. This bone in rib of beef makes me feel like a cave dwelling carnivore who will never be short of iron again. Granted, it is for two people, but it's still a fair 'un.
Wood, Manchester
Cooked to near witchcraft perfection, with a fragrant peppercorn sauce. Behold. I'm not saying anything else, because I've lost your attention to the pictures.
Wood, Manchester
Wood, Manchester
Baby jackets and broccoli with black onion seeds: Simplicity at its best. Soft potatoes with crispy, salty jackets, and crisp broccoli with sweet onion seeds.
Wood, Manchester
Citrus tutti frutti: Lemon, lime, grapefruit and orange heaven. I always opt for berries rather than citrus, but this was fresh, light and an absolute delight. At this point in the meal, I could not fault a single thing.
Wood, Manchester
Chocolate, espresso and salted caramel: Surprisingly light as a feather, and not overpowered by the coffee.
Wood, Manchester
 Tea: We needed the caffeine after all that food. Even the tea pot was cute.
Wood, Manchester
I will not have a bad word said about Simon, his team or his restaurants. I'll fight you. Admittedly, I just love eating out and trying new places. I will look for the positives over negatives every time, and always enter somewhere new expecting to love it. However, every so often I really fall in love. This is when outstanding food and service work in harmony, and I genuinely like the people running the show. Wood is firmly in this category.

Go to Wood for delicious food, warm service and great music!
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