The New Spring Menu at Iberica

I was very lucky to get invited to an exclusive dinner at Ibérica Manchester showcasing their new spring menu.  And even better Nacho Manzano, Executive Chef for the all the Ibérica restaurants would be cooking!

Iberica The man himself - Nacho Manzano (in the middle)
The man himself – Nacho Manzano (in the middle)

Clearly I didn’t read the invitation properly, I thought it would be a couple of hours of standing at a buffet nibbling on lovely tapas.

Nope, nope, nope. It was four hours long and a proper posh sit down dinner of five courses.  Maybe the clue was in the description ‘exclusive dinner’?! Well, I certainly wasn’t complaining.

Dish after delicious dish came out accompanied with exquisite wine.  Each offering colourful and curious and obviously, tasty.  In total I counted that we’d been served 14 dishes and we also got involved when the pescatarian on our table got fish dishes instead of meat.

Iberica cod brandada
Cod brandada
Iberica Warm lentil salad
Warm lentil salad
Iberica A nice waiter gamely posing for a photo
A nice waiter gamely posing for a photo
Ibercia GR 174 Red Wine
GR 174 Red Wine

Ibérica is a beautiful, classy and colourful venue – the staff were energetic, helpful and fun – and there was a buzz to the whole evening.

My favourite dish unexpectedy was a pear and spinach salad with feta, pine nuts and pesto.  INCREDIBLE.  My other top dish was the chargrilled octopus brought out for the pescatarian (he didn’t get much of a look in as we all piled in to try it).  It tasted like a juicy steak.

iberica pear and spinach salad
Pear and spinach salad

If you get the chance do go and eat at Ibérica – it’s a glamourous fun night out and the food is awesome.  And make sure you check out the ladies toilets – they are apparently the most Instagrammable in Manchester I’m still kicking myself for not taking my phone to the loo…

Ibercia the menu

 

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Sunday Afternoon Quickie: Wreckfish, Liverpool

Wreckfish in Liverpool opened a few weeks ago.  I was already a fan of Gary Usher’s other three restaurants Hispi, Burnt Truffle and Sticky Walnut, so I made sure to book in quick at Wreckfish.

What these restaurants do well is high end, interesting food at really affordable prices in simple, attractive contemporary venues.

Wreckfish is in a lovely old building in the centre of Liverpool, inside there’s lots of exposed brick and it has a cool industrial feel.  It’s really classy.

I went for crispy lamb’s tongue with pear puree and roasted peanuts for starter, and I attempted to balance out my meat consumption by having a vegetarian main of roasted turnip cakes and I finished with a dark chocolate and blackberry mousse for pudding.

The crispy lamb’s tongue was spot on, deliciously cooked and I loved the peanuts and puree that went with it.

I was less keen on the turnip cakes.  It was a bit of a non dish, nothing wrong with it, but it was just a bit bland and more like a side dish.  To the restaurant’s credit, they were very eager to hear our thoughts on the food and relayed back to the chef that I was disappointed with my main.

Jamie’s main, which was a roast beef dinner, was absolutely glorious though (see feature photo).  I got very involved in helping him eat his dinner having lost interest in mine.  I can honestly say it’s one of the best roasts I’ve ever eaten.

And I ended on a high as I was very pleased with my dark chocolate and blackberry mousse – just a very fresh and tasty pud!

All in all, I think it’s a brilliant restaurant, the staff were lovely, and the food (bar the turnip cake) was exceptional and great value for money.

wreckfish Crispy lambs tongue 
Crispy lambs tongue
wreckfish Turnip cake
Turnip cake
wreckfish Dark chocolate and blackberry mousse
Dark chocolate and blackberry mousse

An Evening of Vegan Treats With Jackie Kearney

Last night I got to stuff my face with the most delightful vegan street food treats at Jackie Kearney’s book launch.

For those who haven’t heard of Jackie, she was one of the Masterchef finalists in 2011 and is a committed vegetarian.

Her latest book is called My Vegan Travels.  Jackie has travelled a lot in South East Asia and picked up a ton of great ideas for cooking vegetarian and vegan food.  Her previous book Vegan Street Food was along a similar theme, but her new book is focussed on super simple, comfort food recipes.

I got to munch my way through: shitake mushroom croquettes, bombay veg sandwiches, beetroot and watercress samosas and artichoke torta.  All rather lovely.  But the icing on the cake for me as a greedy sugar fiend, were the chai doughnuts with raspberry jam and soft pecan cookie ice-cream sandwiches (with a vegan malted coconut and blueberry ice-cream). Scrumptious.

The book looks absolutely superb, so if you want to buy an original Christmas gift for a cooking enthusiast, My Vegan Travels is a great shout.

All the photos were taken by the talented Paul Wolfgang Webster.

Jackie Kearney shitake mushroom croquettes
Shitake mushroom croquettes
Jackie Kearney bombay veg sandwiches
Bombay veg sandwiches
jackie kearney beetroot and watercress samosas
Beetroot and watercress samosas

Northern Quarter Restaurant and Bar Express Menu

It was Saturday, and we were heading into town to watch a 6pm film at Home, and fancied a light dinner out beforehand.

After a bit of a sniff about on Tripadvisor, we decided on the Northern Quarter Restaurant and Bar. Partly because we’ve both been before and loved it, but also because they have a brilliant Express Menu – 2 courses for £14.95 or 3 courses for £18.95.

4.15pm is an early dinner, but it meant that it was quite a calm, quiet time in the restaurant, which is always rather nice on a busy Saturday in town.

We only went for two courses.  Much as I would have liked a pudding, I was fixated on having a tub of ice-cream at the cinema, so held off.

Jamie had a pale ale rarebit with Goosnargh duck egg and I chose Brixham crab cakes.  Both were delicious and the presentation was lovely too.

Pale ale rarebit with Goosnargh duck egg
Brixham crab cakes

And for mains, I decided to go carb-less with a flat iron steak and a salad and Jamie chose Goan chicken, Asian slaw and chips.  I’m not a massive red meat eater, but the steak was a triumph – very melty and tasty.  Obviously I had to test Jamie’s chicken too, which was succulent and full of flavour.

Flat iron steak
Goan chicken

All in all it was great value for money and a lovely way to spend a wet and windy Saturday afternoon.  The venue is really chilled, unpretentious and classy and I love the large glass windows which look onto the old Smithfield fish markets. I don’t go back to many restaurants, because I always like to be finding new spots to write about, but this place is worth breaking that rule for.

Umezushi Tasting Menu

I’d heard so many amazing things about Umezushi, I just thought it would be nice to pop in and have a light lunch on a Saturday.  However, Jamie got giddy and decided we should get the tasting menu.  I wasn’t going to argue.

This was the tasting menu:

Miso Soup

Sashimi

Nigiri

Grilled dish

Simmered dish

Dessert

Served with Japanese wine or sake.

We passed a lovely couple of hours munching our way through this lot.  I had the Japanese white wine, which was light and appley and very nice. And all the sashimi and nigiri was sublime, really fresh and beautifully presented.  The grilled fish was mackerel and again was just exquisite. And our final savoury dish was the ‘steamed fish’ which was another soup, this time with sea snail in! Very delicious.  Pudding was sake infused pineapple with a dollop of ice-cream.

The whole thing was a really relaxing, intriguing experience.  And I really liked the vibe in Umezushi – a tiny wooden interior that seats about 20 people, under a railway arch near Victoria – it felt quirky and cool.  And I loved that the toilet has a Japanese cityscape wallpapered all over the walls.  Oh yes, and the staff were very attentive and sweet too.

umezushi miso soup
Miso soup
Umezushi sashimi
Sashimi
Umezushi nigiri
Nigiri
Umezushi grilled mackerel
Grilled mackerel
Umezushi sea snail soup
Sea snail soup
Umezushi Sake infused pineapple and ice-cream
Sake infused pineapple and ice-cream

 

5 Tips to up Your Instagram Game

I’ve spent a good couple of years obsessing over Instagram – it’s absolutely my favourite platform.  I enjoy ogling people’s beautiful photos of food, latte art and travel destinations.  I also love the friendly, nurturing, community vibe on Instagram.  People are more likely to say nice things to you than on Twitter, which feels like a rowdier, more argumentative place.

Having been on a few courses and done a load of experimenting on Instagram, here’s some top tips for you:

  1. Learn to take good photos.  This may sound a bit obvious, but Instagram is the most visual social platform and your photos need to stand out to get noticed.  Here’s a brilliant article on how to take better photos with your smart phone – I found it super helpful.
  2. Write good captions.  Yes, it is primarily a visual platform, but you’ll pack more of a punch if you’ve written something interesting alongside your picture.  A lot of people use it almost as a journal, to share little stories from their day, while others use bantery fun captions – the range of writing styles is huge, so pick an approach that’s right for you.  I’ve got most inspiration from scouring accounts like Orla and Me, Old Fashioned Sus, Allison Sadler as they express themselves brilliantly and authentically.
  3. Get some Insta role models. As I mentioned above, I have a ton of these.  I don’t just seek inspiration from them in terms of how they write their posts, but I look for ideas for how they compose photos, how often they post, who they are following, what hashtags they use and how they use Instagram stories.  I want to the learn from the best.  Other accounts I love are Alison Perry, Father of DaughtersPhillipa Stanton
  4. Use the photo editing phone app called VSCO.  It’s free, but it’s not that good unless you pay for some filters.  Instagram itself offers filters and editing tools, but they are a bit clunky and uninspiring.  VSCO is more subtle and the filters are great. Because I largely stick to the same filters it gives my feed a more cohesive, consistent look.
  5. Use a planning app.  I use Mosiaco (which I paid about £5 for), but I know that there are free apps others like Planoly and Preview.  Mosiaco allows me to test out what my photos are going to look like with the rest of my Instagram pictures before I post them.  Again, so I can try and aspire to the Insta dream of having a gallery that is well thought out and is following a deliberate colour palette.

I hope these are helpful and if you have any tips for me – do comment below.

I also offer one to one Instagram training, if that’s something you’d find useful, whether that’s for your personal account or for business please get in touch.  And here’s my Instagram feed, if you want to check it out.

Tuesday Night Pig Out at The Con Club, Altrincham

Last night I headed out to the Con Club to meet my friend Kate for dinner.  It was Tuesday night, so a proper meal out felt rather extravagent, but having just got back from my holiday, it seemed like the perfect way to try and distract myself from my post holiday blues.

The Con Club is opposite Altrincham Market and is a gorgeous venue – it’s an old building (1887) that was renovated last year, and the Con Club opened as a restaurant in November. It’s a really trendy, beautiful place now – spacious, high ceilinged, modern and fun.

Con Club The beautiful interior of the Con Club
The beautiful interior of the Con Club

We arrived at 7.30pm and the place was buzzing! Who knew that Altrincham is the place to be on a Tuesday night? I ordered a Yakatori Beef dish with Asian veg and Kate went for a sirloin steak with fries.  We were both very pleased with our choices.

Con Club Yakatori Beef dish with Asian veg
Yakatori Beef dish with Asian veg

Having just got back from Italy I ordered a Italian wine: Levorato Primativo.  It was fruity and delicious.  And I felt like I earned myself some brownie points for not staying safe and ordering my usual glass of Malbec.  Check out my recent Help, I’m in Wine Rut blog post to read more about my attempts to push myself out of my wine comfort zone.

We both finished off with decadent puddings, I chose a carrot cake with coconut sorbet and Kate opted for a chocolate lava cake with popcorn ice-cream.  My carrot cake was excellent, but I have to confess to having pudding envy for Kate’s dessert, which she described as the most chocolately cakey extravaganza she’d ever eaten.

con club chocolate lava cake with popcorn ice-cream
chocolate lava cake with popcorn ice-cream

We both had a superb evening at the Con Club, it’s lively, stunning to look at, the food is fabulous, and the staff couldn’t have done enough for us, making us feel very spoilt and well looked after.