Saturday cocktails started a little too early this weekend. I just shouldn’t drink at 5.30pm on an empty stomach. Anyway we kicked off in Tarriff and Dale. Love this place! It’s a bit of a Northern Quarter cliche with it’s exposed brick walls and worn floor boards – but it’s done so well. I went for an Amaretto Sour. Yum yum!
After a second cocktail, we thought it was time to get some food in our bellies and strolled off to find Rudy’s Pizzeria in Ancoats. We got a little bit lost but fortunately the overwhelming smell of pizza literally led us to its door. Rudy’s was rammed and they wouldn’t have a table for another hour and a half (argh booze and empty stomach disaster!) but we were so enamoured with the place that we decided to stick out. They took my mobile so we could take a wander. Nearby was a lovely and rather delightfully empty bar called the Cutting Room. In fact this whole area of Ancoats was a very pleasant discovery for us. Rudy’s and the Cutting Room are in a pristine and beautifully arranged square by Halle St Peter’s (the deconsecrated church where the Halle Orchestra rehearse). I spotted some posh benches in the square and made a note to myself for summer picnics.
Luckily for my increasingly sozzled head, we only had to wait an hour for Rudy’s to call us. And in we went. Rudy’s is quite different to any pizzeria I’ve ever been in – it’s big and airy and feels a little industrial with lots of wooden benches to sit on. The huge pizza oven is slap bang in the front of the restaurant with lots of cool looking dudes in baseball caps making the pizzas.
We were given our super cool perspex orange neon menus as we sat down. Nice touch!
Time to order! Jamie and I traditionally don’t order the same dish, but on this occasion I desperately regret not double ordering. He went for the Ancozzese – a white pizza (ie no tomoto sauce) with wild broccoli and tuscan sausage. I went for an inferior (but still extremely good) Calabrese – a spicy sausage pizza.
I spent the meal trying to beg bits of pizza off Jamie! The dough is made on site following the cultural tradition and artistry of Naples pizza. And it really is delicious. I loved the atmosphere in Rudy’s – it’s felt New Yorky, off the beaten track, buzzy and chilled all at the same time. There were fab subtle designery touches around the place from the neon menus to the pastel geometric shapes painted on the walls. This place is quite literally effortlessly cool. And the staff were lovely and just very normal and friendly and funny. Do give it a whirl.
This saturday amidst some weird rain/hail blizzard, Jamie and I headed up to pretty Marple Bridge for a bit of sunshine food. Yes, yet again I’m talking about tapas! I think I might be obsessed. This time we were testing out Libby’s. By day a bakery and cafe, by night a tapas bar.
Due to it’s popularity we could only book at table at 5.30pm. We tipped up bang on time and the place was empty. I was disappointed. I don’t mind eating early but not in a deserted place! However, my worries were washed away (not by the crazy rain) but by the swarm of people that literally filled out the place within the next ten minutes. This is clearly the place to be in Marple Bridge.
The menu instantly got us excited! A nice combo of traditional tapas with some interesting twists thrown in. We ordered and waited. As I’ve waxed lyrical before on this blog – there is something very pleasing in ordering food, forgetting about it and the dishes appearing at different stages of the evening. I like the suspense and surprise.
First up manchego frito with apple and pear chutney. Deep fried cheese basically, but a bit classier! This was wolfed down by us. Crunchy coating, gooey cheese, tangy chutney. Winner!
Then came the succession of other courses: wild mushroom and tarragon gnocchi – this came in a rich creamy sauce – the mushroom had a lovely intense flavour and the tarragon lifted the whole dish. Next up – chilli and garlic king prawns – everything you’d expect a fine spanish version of this dish taste of – sweet, warming, tomatoey and delicious (shame about the prawn shells). And then the true favourite – slow braised beef cheeks – super sweet, flavourful and melt in the mouth. I’ll gloss over the duck lasagne which didn’t live up to the rest of the fab dishes – just a bit non descript. And finally parsnip and sweet potato pancakes – which were quite like bhajis! They tasted of curry – that is not a criticism though – these were crispy, spicy and sensational.
And to top the night off, once we paid the bill our waitress offered us some free bread on the way out. There was a big shelf of loaves in the corridor that hadn’t been sold during the day. We greedily helped ourselves to an enormous loaf of sourdough (I’ve been eating it today – so good!).
If you get the chance, do check Libby’s out. It’s a delightful buzzy little venue, the staff are superb and the food (duck lasagne aside) is exceptional.
I arrived before any of the other guests to discover a very invitingly laid table and a waitress. The Drunken Butcher himself was hidden in the kitchen. I was getting excited already. I was a bit nervous as I’d decided to rock up alone. I’d been wanting to go to a Drunken Butcher supper club for ages and I decided to chance it by myself.
My nerves did take a bit of a spike when the remaining seven guests arrived. They ALL knew each other and had in fact been friends for about nine years. Sharp intake of breath. Perhaps this wasn’t going to be so easy. Thankfully they were all delightfully friendly and interesting, so I got stuck into finding out all about them.
The starter was a work of art: beetroot and pickled celeriac salad, with blue cheese and walnuts. And it was exquisite. My favourite item were the walnuts which tasted like they were honey roasted. Iain achieved this flavour by roasting them then caramelising them with sugar.
Next course was homemade gnocchi with sage and tomato – delicious, squidgy comforting potatoey dumplings in a tasty tomato sauce. And followed up by a main of vegetable terraine and ‘ratatouille’ and crispy shallots. The resounding favourite element of this dish was without question the crispy shallots which everyone went wild for. Iain had treated them in the same way you would batter fish. Soaking the shallot rings in carbonated water for two hours before dipping in flour and deep frying. Oh yum! And there was a nifty accompaniment to our meal – a little shot of spicy tomato vodka. I examined my glass warily – it looked like tomato stock in a glass – not my thing. But as it happens it was my thing! Effectively a clear version of bloody mary – made from the liquid of sieved tomatoes mixed with vodka and tobasco. Thank you very much Iain!
And then came dessert. A yummy combo of grilled and caramelised pineapples with Iain’s home sour cream sorbet (great idea!) and blueberry sauce. And how the evening had flown by! I was so busy chatting to my table neighbours that I hadn’t noticed the time. They were cheeky, challenging, opinionated and funny and I loved chewing the fat with them. And to me this is the point of supper club. What a lovely relaxing environment to meet some new people.
And the final treat of the night, was when the Drunken Butcher (Iain Devine) appeared from the kitchen to have a chinwag with us all. Iain is charming, witty and he really knows his food. We got the low down on his cooking techniques and life in the food industry.
It felt like a unique night – the doors being opened to me to Iain’s cuisine and house and to a lovely bunch of friends. It definitely beat a night in front of the telly. If you want to find out more about the Drunken Butcher’s supper clubs follow him @drunkenbutcher.
The Drunken Butcher emerges from the kitchen at the end of the night for a chat