Wednesday 6 December 2017

La Vina, Manchester

La Vina, Manchester
I must have walked past La Vina hundreds of times over the years. There are loads of tapas places in Manchester these days, and I have to say, I've probably been to most of them, but somehow I had never quite made it here. What a fool I am. 

I have a real thing at the moment for 'nice people'. I know that may sound soft, but it's been a bit of a year, and niceness is really very important to me as a result. We walked into La Vina to be greeted by nice people. We were hurried in from the cold and seated on the balcony upstairs. The chap even turned the music down slightly in that area because it was a little loud. Cute.

Now then. We ate so much food that I'm not even going to go through every single one in detail, otherwise you'll be here all night. Plus, the pictures say more than I can anyway. I'll just chip in with a few of my favourites. I am going to make a point of telling you that once again I ate olives... and enjoyed them. I'm officially all grown up.
La Vina, Manchester
Quesa Manchego - Cheese from La Mancha made from sheep’s milk and aged for six months, served with quince jam.La Vina, Manchester
Pan Tumaca - bread baked in-house, brushed with fresh garlic oil, grilled & served with freshly grated vine-ripened tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil and a pinch of smoked sea salt.
La Vina, Manchester
Chorizo reserva - cured chorizo with a sweet and nutty flavour: Cannot keep quiet about this chorizo. I sometimes find it a bit of an overpowering paprika party, but this was sweet and luscious and all sorts of magical. Order this.
La Vina, Manchester
Suqueta - a Catalan-style fish stew of prawns, white fish, mussels, and clams in a rich tomato, saffron and almond sauce.La Vina, Manchester
Croquetas de Cecina - cured beef croquetas and piquillo purée.
La Vina, Manchester
Pollo con salsa - Succulent chicken breast strips in a creamy, sherry, spinach, almond and date sauce: No exaggeration, this was unbelievable. Sweet and creamy with those beautifully chewy dates. It's on the 'what could you just have?' list.
La Vina, Manchester
Gambas pil pil - King prawns in garlic, chilli & olive oil.
La Vina, Manchester
Pulpo - Octopus leg pan-fried with olive oil, garlic, chilli, lemon and smoked sea salt, with piquillo purée: Looks a bit terrifying, but watch it glisten...
La Vina, Manchester
La Vina dessert tabla - Churros, strawberries and marshmallows with dipping chocolate and dulce de leche sauces.
La Vina, Manchester
Torta de Santiago - Warm Galician Santiago almond cake with a honey and lemon drizzle served with custard ice cream: It wasn't even my dessert, but I stole quite a bit of this. We swapped the vanilla for custard ice cream too!
La Vina, Manchester
 I'm cruising for a bruising posting this picture, but it's just too good to keep to myself. Phil totally took one for the team and offered to have his picture taken with these lovely lasses, when I looked on in horror when they asked to take my photo! Cheers dude... but look how happy he is!
La Vina, Manchester
We both couldn't quite believe how good La Vina was. It was one of those lovely surprises, where everything is on point. The food, the service and the atmosphere were bob on, add in flamenco dancers and you're laughing! Those girls must have been frozen...

Disclaimer: I was invited to the restaurant to complete an honest review. I was under no obligation to say nice things!

Toffee Apple Bundt Cake

Toffee Apple Bundt Cake
Evening all. Sorry I've been missing in action, but my Mac bit the dust! I'm back on track now, but literally have about fifteen recipes to write. Granted, some of this was down to having more energy to bake than to write... Anyway, here I am with a proper shiny lad for you.

I had this idea a while ago, and by some miracle remembered to make it when toffee apples were back in town. I could have made my own, but I went old skool, and got them from the grocer's down the lane.

This cake was for for some friends who had been bundt-less for a little while, so I decided to sort them out. Many thanks to Phil, who acted as bundt custodian, super-slicer, and cake informant to the masses. Sterling work.

Anyway, to the cake. This has to be in my 'family of faves'. Spicy apple cakes rock my socks, but this has the added bonus of having a toffee flavoured sponge. Using fresh apples in spices rather than chunks ensures you get a nice even apple flavour throughout the cake too.

  • 225g butter
  • 350g golden caster sugar (plus a little more for dusting the apples later)
  • 150g dark brown sugar
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 350g plain flour
  • 2 tsp cinnamon (plus a little more for dusting the apples later)
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 250ml toffee yoghurt (I used Muller Light)
  • 1 medium eating apple
  • 1 tin of Carnation Caramel

  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 or 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. Add the extract.
  6. In a separate bowl, measure out the flour, spices, bicarbonate of soda and salt.
  7. Pour the yoghurt into a jug.
  8. Meanwhile... Peel and core your apple, and thinly slice. Don't worry about lemon juice to stop browning, instead dust with cinnamon - just enough to coat the apples. Give them a good stir. 
  9. Sift a third of the flour mix into the main bowl, followed by half the yoghurt mix. Repeat this until everything is combined.
  10. Give everything a quick mix on a low speed for about 10 seconds.
  11. Pour 3/4 of the mix into your prepared tin. 
  12. Poke your apples in, in a clock formation.
  13. Cover with the rest of the mix.
  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, stir the caramel and tip it over the cake.
  17. Decorate with toffee apples, or whatever you like really!

Fat Tony's at Kosmonaut Manchester

Fat Tony's at Kosmonaut Manchester

I like Kosmonaut; they have a decent array of drinks on offer, we can usually get a comfy seat (massively underrated in Manchester), and more importantly, it's unfussy. Now don't get me wrong, I enjoy a fancy cocktail as much as the next girl, but sometimes I just want comfort, and enough personal space to avoid a panic attack.

Allow me to set the scene. It was cold, so cold. We rocked up at Kosmonaut to be greeted by some delightful chap in a woolly hat (don't blame you pal), who was excited to tell us all about the new Fat Tony's menu on offer. He quickly furnished us with drinks, and left us to peruse the menu.

I was always a fan of Fat Tony's predecessor, Hip Hop Chip Shop, so was keen to see if they had changed the feel of the place. I liked the old HHCS, because it was relaxed, and they gave me fried halloumi. Tough act to follow lads.

General Manager Danny Smith has been quoted as saying “we want Fat Tony’s to to deliver tasty, well presented and simple food with top quality ingredients". Show me what you got.

Disclaimer time... we ordered too much food again. This was for two of us. 

Manchester egg: A soft boiled egg, wrapped up all cosy in a black pudding jacket and breadcrumbs. Genuinely heard someone use the phrase 'Insta-friendly' the other day. I was appalled, but I think this picture should be the definition.
Fat Tony's at Kosmonaut Manchester
Roasted bone marrow with sourdough and pickles: We went wrong here. Although this was really good, it's also very rich and filling. It's a miracle that I've not got gout at my age.
Fat Tony's at Kosmonaut Manchester
Chicken burger with winter slaw: Tasty, moist chicken, coated with a cripsy buttermilk batter and drenched in an ever so slightly spicy gravy. It's only a little thing, but I love how they serve lots of the dishes with massive pickles. Pickles improve most things.
Fat Tony's at Kosmonaut Manchester
Steak poutine with handmade chips, beef gravy and cheese curds: This, all day, every day. If you never listen to me ever again, just hear me out this once. I'm going to swear, yes, I am. This is the shit, my friends. Let me break this down for you. Rare steak, sat on a bed of crispy wedges, topped with cheese curds, and utterly soaked in beef gravy. All your essential food groups right there! It's making my brow furrow because I don't have it here now. Eat this, multiple times.
Fat Tony's at Kosmonaut Manchester
Handcut chips: Because we didn't have enough carbs already... oh wait... They remind me of the 'proper chips' my grandma made for us when we were kids. She didn't put sea salt on them though, that's an improvement.
Fat Tony's at Kosmonaut Manchester
You know what? We had a really nice time. I wasn't feeling very well on this particularly dismal Sunday, but this lifted my spirits. It would be unfair of me to finish the review without thanking all the staff who were on that night. Being nice costs nowt, but they did their jobs with the kind of sincerity which makes me want to go back, and tell everyone I know that they have to go. So go.

Disclaimer: I was invited to the restaurant to complete an honest review. I was under no obligation to say nice things!
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