Sport is bad enough on its own. When you factor in a uniform, quite frankly I’m out. I went through a brief spell of fashioning sportswear in my early teens (I call those dark times, ‘the chav years’). Tracksuit bottoms were considered trendy AND comfortable, I was rarely seen without an ADIDAS jacket and once owned a pair of trainers so orange, they used to upset air traffic control signals. It is since this pair of footwear, that I made a promise to myself to never again wear a set of ugly shoes. This rule means it is simply impossible for me to go bowling.
However, when the chaps at All Star Lanes sent me an invite to visit them for food and cocktails, I wrote a list to help me make the decision. It looked like this:
Negatives: Breaking my ugly shoes rule.
Positives: Food. Cocktails.
Always trust a list, so I booked us in.
All Star Lanes is already an established brand in London. They’ve moved to Deansgate to try and spread a little bit of the magic that is doing so well for them down south.
It struck me quite quickly that All Star Lanes has to be the friendliest place in Manchester. I was left dumbfounded when greeted by a thoroughly lovely door man (I had no idea such a species existed); the lady on reception was so enthusiastic she was verging on giddy and waitresses brushed past with smiles as big as their hair. By this point, I was in such a good mood I handed over my pink sparkly dolly shoes and was raring to go. Hey, if President Nixon doesn’t mind getting his bowl on, who am I to resist?
All Star Lanes is no regular bowling alley, I’d have been able to pretend I was in the U.S of A if I wasn’t surrounded by the melody of Manc accents. It’s bright and bubbly and the atmosphere is infectious.
There’s waitress service while you bowl, so I ordered a Roller Girl and got to it.
The drinks menu is vast. Full of cocktails and American beers meaning there’s something for everyone. Children are banish-ed at night, so there are no squealing little twerps running around (sorry Mums & Dads).
Things started well when I got my first ever strike. It was at this point that I realised, despite their hideousness, that bowling shoes are particularly good for twirling. Perhaps I’d written them off unnecessarily.
My Roller Girl tasted of bubble gum. Need I say more? The hubby was most pleased that there was Blue Moon on tap which, I am informed, is much nicer than the bottled version.
I don’t mean to gloat, but I totally kicked the hubby’s ass. You may think that he let me win, but I’ve not been victorious in as much as a game of air hockey in our entire relationship.
Once I’d annihilated the hubby (did I mention that?) we were lead through to our table for the main event. We were sat in a cozy booth and given time to review the menu. There’s a wide variety on there, from sandwiches to steaks at a good range of prices, so you don’t have to break the bank.
I ordered a PB&J cocktail to stimulate my appetite while we waited. This tasted of dessert but with wonderful peanutty savoury notes.
To begin I had the popcorn squid. Served in an American style takeaway carton, I was giddy to see it was served with chopsticks (using them is one of my only skills). The squid was perfectly crisp and my giddiness turned to sheer glee when I spotted an abundance of tentacles. The aioli was slap around the chops garlicky, but hey, I was a bowling champ, I could smell of garlic if I wanted to.
Hubby had the hot buffalo wings, containing not an inch of floppy skin, packing a nice heat but without bringing on a sweat. The blue cheese sauce was superb and I found myself dipping my squid in it (remember what I said about being bowling champ?)
It was at this point that things got extremely exciting. ‘Don’t look now, but that ginger guy behind you is on the telly’ the hubby whispered. Being celebrity obsessed as I am, of course I looked right away. I gasped as I saw ‘that ginger guy’ was in fact Corrie bad guy Gary Windass. I was further thrilled when I saw he was sat with another Corrie villain, Nick Platt (although was slightly upset it wasn’t Adam Rickett, whose promising pop career was cut devastatingly short). I don’t have the longest attention span and so after texting all my soap fan friends my gaze was averted by the plate of food placed in front of me.
I ordered the rather vague ‘Pork & Beans’ and was a little frightened when my pork arrived on a mass of butter beans. This variety scare me as they appear to be regular beans that have been involved in a nuclear accident thus inducing an unnatural growth spurt. Not wanting to be rude, I gave them a try sporting the face of a child being forced to eat broccoli. Wow, these beans were something else; swimming in a meaty sauce with so much depth and flavour they sure as hell can’t be good for you. The pork had a gorgeous cheese and herb crust and fell apart easily.
Hubby had the steak sandwich topped with Roquefort, which was utterly delicious, served with a pot of gravy for French dipping (yes, I dipped my pork in it. Bowling champ? )
I always go on about my love of condiments but nothing makes me happier than a decent selection. What made this different? A giant pot of mayo just for me (hubby had gravy, he didn’t need any).
I was so glad that the coleslaw was of the creamy variety, which I much prefer to these vinaigrette versions that have been everywhere recently.
Too full to even function, we had to turn down dessert, but the menu was so very tempting.
Our server on the night was a trainee, but she was cute as a button and eager to please. No complaints there.
It was at this point that General Manager and all around dreamboat Angus Pride (what a name, what a hunk) presented himself to us, eager for feedback. We honestly couldn’t think of a negative, it was all wonderful.
All Star Lanes is showing Dog Bowl how it’s done. Friendly staff, great food and a wonderful atmosphere. It’s the full package. As is Angus. Adonis Angus.
It’s not just changed my mind about bowling and ugly shoes, it’s become one of my Manchester favourites.
Disclaimer: I have not watched Coronation Street for some time, and so cannot comment on the current rapscallion nature of Gary Windass or Nick Platt.
Further Disclaimer: I was invited to review All Star Lanes and so did not pay for the meal or bowling. I would happily return and pay full whack however, as it really is bloody brilliant.
Drinking on an empty stomach is never a good idea. I either end up in tears, conducting one of my famous hugathons (nobody is safe) or performing the ‘Hit Me Baby One More Time’ dance in the street. I was off on a hen do and a spell of sunny weather had initiated an afternoon drinking session.
We were in Northern Quarter haunt The Blue Pig and after taking one sip of my Old Fashioned, I knew some form of sustenance would be required to prevent me being sick on my shoes. I was going to settle for my favourite snack of choice, a bag of crisps, but it turned out the gang were also feeling a tad peckish so we decided to turn to the menu.
My Old Fashioned
Espresso Daiquiri - Like the tastiest tiramisu
There’s a Parisian feel to The Blue Pig and so it felt perfectly natural to order meat and cheese sharing platters.
Both were phenomenal. Highlights for me being the tangfest of a blue cheese, sweet wine poached pear and a pate so delicious, I wanted to inform my companions it was made of actual human brains just so they wouldn’t want to eat it anymore. The herbed focaccia was fluffy and sweet, cured meats salty and sticky. All served with really bloody good chutneys.
Service was fairly terrible. Drinks took forever, which could be because they sat on the bar for five minutes while the staff had a chat. I watched the bubbles in my prosecco slowly die along with my hopes that this would be a glowing review. I’ve been to The Blue Pig for drinks before and enjoyed the laid back atmosphere; however, they can’t quite pull it off effectively on a busy day.
I’ll be back though, cocktails are great and I need some more of that pate.
You’ll be glad to hear that there was no bad Britney dancing or overzealous hugging that night. Although we did nearly get beaten up over a taxi. I love you Manchester.
There is not a sport I am good at. I run like Phoebe from Friends, swim like a frog with two left legs, 1, 2, 3, 4 I surrender from your thumb war. It’s just a sad fact of my life that people like Jessica Ennis & Michael Phelps got my fair share of sporting talent.
I particularly hate bowling as this is the sport that people continue to ask me to participate in during my adult life. It never ends well; I’m incapable of competing without the barriers up, I was once laughed at by a child for using the same weight of ball as them, and don’t mention the time we got thrown out of a bowling establishment after my drunk friend ran topless down the alley whilst celebrating a strike (it was a boy by the way. I don’t have ‘those’ kinds of friends).
However, I was recently invited by Manchester Confidential to try the newly opened Black Dog Bowl. I’ve spent the last few years avoiding Black Dog Ballroom after encountering one of their bartenders at an event. I can say with ease that he was the rudest and perhaps also the meanest bartender I have ever had the displeasure to meet. So much so that the hubby actually refused to come to their new venture with me. I may not like bowling, but I do love food and so took along a friend instead.
We declined the offer of a bowl due to a combination of lack of socks and the bowling trauma mentioned above. The place looks fantastic and there’s a good atmosphere, although it does get a little loud.
We were offered some cocktails to begin. There’s a large selection, handily split into sections separated by spirits. I wanted the Maple Bourbon Smash but they didn’t have the correct ingredients and so settled for the Black Dog Brown.
My companion doubted the authenticity of her Singapore Sling, but it looked very impressive.
I might have mentioned before that Quesadillas are my FAVOURITE THING EVER and so ordered some with spicy chicken. Quesadillas are impossible to do badly, and these were indeed rather good, but they were served with no dip. This is like serving fish with no chips, sausage with no mash, chicken nuggets without tartare sauce (actually, I think it might just be me who eats that). To have a dip-less quesadilla is like having a guitar with no strings, they just don’t work.
I fell in love with the Shrimp Po Boy at Bubba Gump’s restaurant in Florida (don’t judge, no one knows shrimp like Bubba) and so was desperate to try another. However, once again they didn’t have the ingredients. Craving seafood, I opted for the Southstand Sandwich. Grilled shrimp were coated in southwest sauce, sat on top of crunchy coleslaw before coating in a thick layer of melted cheese. This was tasty enough, but the bread was cut far too thickly. I turned it into an open faced sandwich and we were on to a winner.
The D.B’s burger arrived impressively, stabbed through the heart with a steak knife as if it had angered the chef in some way.
This was further confirmed by the fact the patty had been cooked to within an inch of its edible life. Covered in pulled pork, smoked bacon, cheese and bbq sauce it still managed to be full of flavour, but the brioche bun was cut inaccurately meaning it all fell apart. Fries and onion rings were however done very well.
Service was aloof at best and downright frosty at worst. The wine menu is decently priced and so we initially thought we’d stay for a drink afterwards but the staff were not particularly welcoming and so we ventured to my nearby favourite Gorilla instead for Happy Hour.
With a few small tweaks, the food could be really good and their presentation is bob on. But they need to sort out their stock and teach the staff to smile.
It is an assumption that if you are offered a free meal, you repay this hospitality with a glowing review. There are indeed positive things to say about Dog Bowl, but the cold service outweighs all that. I was once bitten by a black dog outside Tesco, it turns out they’re just not very friendly.
I thank Manchester Confidential for inviting me and my feedback has been given directly back to them. However, if I tell fibs on my blog, then there’s no point to it what so ever. And I’m a crap liar.
A few weeks ago, the hubby went on a rather unconventional stag do which involved him walking up a mountain. Hills have unfortunately been at the centre of a number of my near death experiences (I’ve had a few); I was once taken off my feet by a wind so strong, it seemed to be the invisible embodiment of the Child Catcher and another time I was involved in a freak sledging accident, after which I was rather traumatically treated for a swallowed tongue, despite not suffering from such an ailment. Subsequently, I tend to stay away from these death traps and had no urge whatsoever to perform a similar task in sympathy. Instead, I met up with some friends for a much less stressful and more dignified practice, lunch.
My friends are quite health conscious (why are they my friends again?) and so we chose I Am Pho, a Vietnamese restaurant that I’ve read rather a lot of glowing blog reviews about. A bowl of noodles is one of the only things that shuts me up (although all the slurping means I’m always audible) so I was looking forward to doing some listening for a change.
Set in the middle of China Town, it’s a busy little place but we were seated with no trouble. One of the foods I love as much as noodles are condiments and so I made sure that I was sat next to them so I could caress them when nobody was looking.
A Vietnamese salad was a highlight, bounding with fresh and fragrant flavours without any element overpowering another.
Spring rolls were crisp and tasty with a moan inducing dip.
I didn’t have a starter as I really wanted to try the Vietnamese baguettes that I’ve seen on telly so much. At only £3.50 I assumed it would be starter sized, however it turned out to be half of a French stick. This was packed full of Chinese pork, salad and coriander. What a fine sandwich it was. I usually hate fresh coriander, but with the other ingredients it took on a sweetness that I’ve not encountered before. It was totally unputdownable.
Unfortunately I did have to put it down, as I had a massive bowl of noodles to tackle. I chose the Pho Bo Dac Biet, or as I like to affectionately call it, number 22 (please note Pho is pronounced ‘Fuh’. Think lower case F).
This contained a broth so tasty that you really wouldn’t if it was used in an act of water boarding. It flooded and caressed the bowl full of rice noodles, chicken, beef and onions.
A plate of beansprouts, chilli, holly basil and lime provided further enhancement to this lagoon of lusciousness.
Despite the gob-smackingly good food, the service was painfully slow. This didn’t bother us as we were happily chatting and not in a hurry, but it really needs to be better.
The service won’t put me off however; it’s mega cheap, I can’t stop thinking about number 22 and have a second date with that tub of condiments.
I didn’t get into blogging for freebies; however it became apparent quite quickly that it simply comes with the territory. Over the last year I’ve turned down quite a few offers of free meals (which I found quite difficult as my two favourite things are food, and stuff I don’t have to pay for) because I didn’t want to call my integrity into question. But recently I was approached by the people at Linen who asked if I would like to visit them for a review. I’ve not been to Linen before, but have a good friend who raves about it. I was in a quandary. In need of guidance I looked to the skies and asked for a sign from my ancestors. I was left with silence. Princess Diana had nothing to add either. I finally thought to myself, ‘what would Mufasa do?’ and at this point my cat meowed. I knew Mufasa was speaking through her. To defy his orders would almost certainly end in bloodshed. He’s a lion!
Linen is housed in Manchester’s 235 Casino which did trouble me a bit as I’m frightened of casinos. I watch a lot of films and know what goes on inside them. I might get my hand stabbed by a pen, be accused of cheating and attacked with a hammer or be left locked out on the roof all night on my own. I didn’t want any of these things to happen to me and so took the hubby along for support.
Things started well when I was asked for ID on the door. ‘Do you think I’m under 18?’ I asked with glee. She informed me that the age limit is 21, but as that’s taken 10 years off me, I’m happy. I might have a badge made to commemorate the occasion.
The restaurant isn’t open for lunch, so we booked in for an early dinner. The casino’s dress code of ‘smart casual’ is obviously quite lenient as there were some right scruffy scoundrels in there. Linen is set at the far end, past all the slot machines and roulette tables, but once at the top of the curved staircase, you may as well be in another building. A bare brick ceiling is scattered with spot lights, which shine prettily on the elegant dining room beneath.
I get embarrassed when ordering cocktails with rude names (I was raised by Catholics!) but upon a recommendation from our lovely waitress Sylwia, I had the Porn Star Martini. This was brilliant on its own but came with a shot of champagne which sent me into a bubble filled frenzy.
I made the hubby order the rather un-masculine Toffee Apple. This is the kind of cocktail that could get young children hooked on alcohol with the uncanny resemblance to its namesake.
To begin I ordered the hen’s egg topped asparagus. I initially thought this was under seasoned but once rolled happily around in the runny egg yolk and herby truffle oil, it was wonderfully balanced. The asparagus had a nice bite and was surprisingly un-woody, despite the spears being so large.
Hubby had the charcuterie board, which was just the right temperature (sometimes they’re too cold). Made up of smooth, milky mozzarella, smoky meats and sweet roasted tomatoes; it was so very tasty. I’m not a big fan of breadsticks and would have preferred some bread, but they did add a nice crunch. A very pretty dish.
During our interval, I paid a visit to the casino toilets. I was shocked to find that there are naughty pictures in there! I was terrified of being caught staring at this nude male, but then thought ‘sod it’ and took some pictures instead.
Once I’d cooled down I ventured back to our table where I was informed by the hubby that there is no female equivalent in the mens (his disappointed look assured me he wasn’t fibbing).
As a general rule, I order anything with Black Sticks Blue in it (it reminds me of Garfield the cat, orange and sharp). My dish was a juicy pork chop which was practically drowning in the stuff. Served with a pear and rocket salad, it was a gorgeous plate of food.
Hubby had the veal escalope which had been scattered with crisp sage leaves before being wrapped lovingly in prosciutto. Its accompaniment was a sweet masala sauce and parmesan mash, which although was a little gluey, was decadently delicious (although I HATE piped mash).
Cauliflower cheese was like a savoury, gooey crème brulee. Its crisp skin was so amazing I wanted to peel it off and wear it as a Leather Face-esque mask, running around the casino frightening and confusing the under-dressed scruffs. This however, seemed like a little bit too much effort, so I ate it instead.
The wonderfully charming Sylwia assured us that we couldn’t leave without trying the desserts and so we ordered her favourite dishes.
The sticky toffee pudding was just as it should be, although the toffee sauce could have been a little bit warmer.
The blood orange cheesecake was absolutely superb. Light and delicate with a gorgeous orange sherbet crunch.
Service was great. The team did know that I was there to review and so I can only hope that it is always to this standard, but we were really impressed.
The restaurant did lack a bit of atmosphere when we first arrived, but this soon improved as it filled up and the air was awash with laughter.
We both loved Linen. I suspect the fact that it’s in a casino might put some people off, but once inside, you forget your location. It’s a great place for a special occasion without splashing out mega bucks. Great food, brilliant service. Mufasa was right after all.
And so I survived my visit to the casino, feeling ten years younger, with all my limbs intact and a phone full of rude pictures to show my friends. I just might go back.
Disclaimer: I was invited to review Linen and so did not pay for the meal.
Spinningfields isn’t a place I often venture to. Being a 5 foot 4 tall high heel hater means I often get lost in the crowd which induces flash backs of when I was 6 years old, nearly drowning in a wave pool (my neighbour was my David Hasselhoff, dragging me to safety. When I see him, I still hear the Baywatch theme tune).
However, before our rather dreadful experience at knob head central Neighbourhood, we nipped to The Oast House for a drink.
Yes, it was busy but it had a nice atmosphere and I enjoyed sitting out in the sunshine. It’s a funny little building and I imagined my drinking companions were Bilbo and Frodo. I liked the fact that with them around, I wouldn’t feel so short.
After having a peek at the menu, we arranged to go back a few days later with the best buds.
The following Sunday the weather had taken a turn for the worse so we had to sit inside and snagged the final empty table. I’d seen lots of pictures of their famous hanging kebabs and so had eyes for nothing else. I liked the fact that if we had any trouble from the Spinningfield types, my kebab could double as a weapon. I’ve been watching Game of Thrones a lot and am fairly certain my swordsmanship would be up there with Jaime Lannister’s.
I was really impressed with the drinks menu.
A wonderfully illustrated book, it’s full of beers, cocktails and bubbles.
You have to order at the stand; there’s no fancy waiting service here but that suits the laid back feel.
Food arrived promptly. ‘Do you want garlic butter on your kebab’ the waitress asked to which I stared at her like a maniac. ‘But of course!’ The melted loveliness poured seductively down the meat; dropping into the bowl of chips below in a show of the most delicious Chinese water torture.
I had the beef which was succulent and charred; hubby the chicken which was equally delicious; all the meat exuding a gorgeous smokiness. The chips were declared ‘the best in Manchester’ to which I must agree, so wonderfully seasoned.
A scrummy little side salad.
We ordered some flat bread which was brilliant for soaking up every last drop of butter.
The burger was reported to be a bit overdone, but not to the detriment of the flavour.
Chicken and chips looked really rather splendid.
I didn’t have a pudding (I’d done my usual and eaten all the bloody bread), but the hubby had the lemon meringue pie. Meringues spiked like the shards of an iceberg but all gooey in the middle like a polar bear. Polar bears are gooey? Yes?
There was a musician playing his acoustic guitar which added a peaceful tranquillity to the bustling restaurant. I was swaying and singing along like a drunkard (I may have been a bit of a drunkard).
I loved The Oast House. It’s nothing fancy, but it’s a perfect place to while the day away or for a quick bite before a night out (the garlic butter is so good, I’d just write off any chance of pulling). I was so surprised by how great the food was.
Next time we go, I might just take my kebab skewer and challenge the bouncers of Neighbourhood to a dual.
I’m obsessed with New York. There are 8 million stories in the Naked City and mine is far from over. When the people behind very pleasant bbq joint Southern 11 opened a restaurant claiming to bring NYC to Manchester, I didn’t pay too much attention as I knew it couldn’t be emulated. New York has a magic that is all its own. However, this didn’t stop me getting a little excited when our friends asked us to accompany them to Neighbourhood on a birthday meal.
The evening started badly. As we approached the venue, I was stunned to spot a burly bouncer protectively guarding the door. A bouncer at a restaurant? Did they expect trouble if a dish was sold out? Perhaps their unique take on a classic often riled their diners? Was their food heavily laced with hormones which incited rage? I was confused. Confusion lead to shock as said bouncer shook his head dismissively at us before stating ‘Those trainers are too casual, mate’. The ‘mate’ in question was the hubby. He’s not one to brag but is a ‘sneaker geek’ who would hardly be seen in muddy Reebok Classics.
As if I’d swallowed my tongue, I was speechless. Luckily, my more socially confident friend informed him of our reservation. To this he grunted before opening the door, wafting the scent of cold exclusivity in our faces. Inside we found a reservation desk of four seemingly beautiful mutes, one of whom led us to our table without uttering a word.
My first impression was ‘WOW, THIS IS LOUD’ (capitals added to portray just how loudly I had to say this). But the music in there was BRILLIANT (I shouted this as well). Oh L’amour by Dollar, Set me Free by Kim Wilde, Like a Prayer by Madonna, I was in a shoulder bobbing frenzy. Storming hit after storming hit had me dancing with the vigour of my 8 year old self.
The restaurant looks cool and has clearly had a lot of money spent on it.
I wasn’t a fan of the mirrored tables as it is impossible to look in them without having a double chin.
I love a cocktail and have started choosing those that get you drunk the quickest (it’s cheaper and means you can go to bed earlier.) I went for the sazerac. Punch in the face strong, I liked it a lot.
Lobster tacos were tasty but overcooked and stringy. Impossible, therefore to eat with your hands (I tried and resembled a family dog playing tug, growling and all) but once armed with cutlery I enjoyed them very much.
Hubby’s crab salad was unpleasantly cold and overpowered by the other flavours.
The oysters were attractively presented and by the speed our friend gobbled them down, I’d say they were a hit.
Neighbourhood hosts a very busy bar area and I couldn’t help but feel uncomfortable that we were sat so close to it. It felt as if we were dining in the middle of a dance floor. The room was awash with testosterone and fluttery eyelashes (not from the same people).
Mains arrived swiftly. The burger was overcooked, under seasoned and so big I couldn’t eat it with my hands (I can fit my whole fist in my mouth, I assure you it’s not small).
Chips were much better, skin on and well salted. I would have liked to be offered some sauce for dipping however and they should definitely add coleslaw to their menu.
The fillet steak was also overcooked and criminally under seasoned. If your chefs are members of the salt police, I’d suggest providing some on the table. At £22 the steak initially seemed well priced, but this doesn’t include any extras. With fries and a sauce, you’re talking £30 for a very underwhelming dish.
Wild Mushroom Rigatoni, to quote my friend ‘tasted like a 49p pack of pasta and sauce’.
The Wild Boar Ragu was a pretty little dish, but overly sweet with tough chunks of wild boar.
Service was very rushed, but our waitress Alana was very good and worth commending.
As the night commenced, I couldn’t help monitor the situation on the door. The bouncers were continually turning people away. Not scruffs and vagabonds, but smartly dressed and polite. Those who looked like extras from TOWIE, with their silly hair dos and sheep like fashion sense walked straight in. At one point, they allowed a full group of women in before stopping just one who then stood at the door, pleading for access. The bouncers seemed to be enjoying this display of public humiliation very much.
The thing is New York isn’t like that at all. Yes, it’s cool, but that’s why everywhere else follows. But never uninviting. Not once unwelcoming.
All Neighbourhood are doing with their door policy is alienating a massive section of potential customers who will hear of it through word of mouth and instantly write them off. If the food was outstanding, it would make a bit more sense, but it’s hardly Dabbous. We dined at Michelin star shoo-in The French a number of weeks ago whose staff didn’t even glance at our footwear (although I can assure you, my sparkly pink flats are fabulous). If it’s so important, give people half a chance by implementing a dress code. Don’t describe yourself as ‘casual’.
Neighbourhood needs to decide if it wants to be a restaurant or an exclusive bar. At the moment, it isn’t doing a very good job at either and to treat people in such a manner is utterly shameful.
My opinion of Neighbourhood further plummeted last week when a company director reacted badly to some online criticism. Her response? ‘Don’t come back…’ Well, don’t worry, I won’t.Your attitude stinks and your food isn’t much better.
Neighbourhood, we will not become good friends.
I will leave you with the words of my favourite restaurateur Franco Sotgiu from Solita ‘Inclusive not exclusive’. Word to your mother (those words were rap genius Vanilla Ice, sorry Franco).
The other day, I started to ponder all the amazing meals I’ve eaten that I haven’t written about. I’ve decided to quite literally ‘write’ this wrong, if only for my only fleeting memory, which unfortunately is failing me like my GCSE IT teacher.
I took the hubby to The Harwood Arms as a birthday present. I devised a mini-break totally dedicated to his loves and interests and took him on a food trip of London geared towards to his tastes. The drawing factor to The Harwood Arms was their famous venison scotch egg. The hubby loves a scotch egg; large ones, black pudding ones, even those mini versions that I want to throw at small children. I knew their specimen would be worth the trip alone.
Brett Graham, sheer hunk of a chef from The Ledbury, is the guy at the reigns of this Michelin starred pub (I’m now envisioning Brett Graham at the helm of a gang of huskies. He is powerful and dominant. Again, he’s wearing no top.
I was a bit perturbed a few days before our reservation when they rang to confirm. I was told to be wary on the day as there was a Chelsea football match scheduled. I acted nonchalant then put the phone down and panicked. Chelsea football match? How could this possibly have anything to do with me? I haven’t been to a football match since I saw somebody throw a pie at David Beckham at Burnden Park in 1995.
After a spot of googling, I unravelled this puzzle. The Harwood Arms is a stone’s throw from Chelsea ground Stamford Bridge. I was scared. I’ve seen The Football Factory, I know what goes on. Those people get drunk and bash each other’s brains out. What were we to do? We couldn’t hide our northern accents and I knew they’d be able to sense my fear. But I’d promised the hubby a venison scotch egg, we had no choice.
When the day arrived, I pulled myself together and calmly went to the restaurants. Yes, there were many blue shirts around, but they all seemed quite jovial and nobody tried to hit us which is always a bonus.
The restaurant is a lovely little quaint pub sat on a quiet corner. Once inside, it is full of natural light and fresh flowers. There’s a bar area which did seat quite a few football fans, but they looked more likely to put their children through private school rather than somebody through a window.
The venison scotch egg is not on the restaurant menu but can still be ordered from the bar snacks.
Coated in thick shards of salt, its treasure hidden inside its crumb.
The menu is pub grub, but ultra-refined.
Duck with morels and butternut squash purree.
A crumble topped onion was stuffed with meat.
Deer T-bone with morels and garlic potatoes
Raspberry jam sandwich
The service is informal and amiable but polished. The atmosphere is relaxed and family friendly. Even the swarm of football fans at the bar did not impact on the ambience one bit.
It’s a bit out of the way but The Harwood Arms is worth the journey. The food is stunning, the staff are wonderful and the football fans unimposing. Brett Graham’s venison scotch egg is just as gorgeous as him. (I’m imagining him eating one. Does this man ever wear a top?)
My mum is an obsessive lady. Barry Manilow, Neil Diamond, the TV programme Borgan, once she likes something, she LOVES it. A Sunday roast is up there with her all-time favourite things. I think I probably consumed one every single Sunday up until my adult years. As a result I shunned the Sunday meat, veg and gravy fest. For years not one roast potato passed my lips, my life was a roasted meat free zone; I started to forget the Yorkshire pudding’s very existence.
Then one day I visited my Mum’s for her obligatory Sunday meal. It was a light bulb/eureka moment. This was brilliant! Why had I been denying myself for so long? What other meal allows you to have so many varieties of carbs on one plate? I wanted to douse myself in the home made gravy, pouring it over my head as Trevor did to Little Mo in Eastenders (this seems like a genuine kindness to me now). I contemplated making a giant Yorkshire pudding hat, so I could eat it as I went about my day. I considered putting mash potato in my pockets in case I got peckish. I now eat them as regularly as I can, scouring the country for that perfect version.
We’ve been fans of Knott bar for a few years after being introduced to it by some friends. It’s got a friendly atmosphere, tasty wine and a fantastic selection of beers. Sat across from Deansgate Station it’s ideal for me, as it means I don’t have to travel too far on foot for a cold alcoholic beverage.
I love to sit at the bar and watch voyeuristically as the food comes out of the kitchen, each time daring myself to pinch a chip as it sails by leaving its deep fried scent behind it.
After noticing they do a brilliant value roast, we booked in with the best buds to sample it.
The roast is £7.99, with a supplement of £2 for each extra course.
Lamb was juicy and tender, served with solid creamy mash and crunchy garlicky roast potatoes. Cabbage still had a nice bite and the gravy was packed full of deep meaty notes. I couldn’t believe that I loved the parsnips, they’re such a none-event normally, but these were honey roasted and firm. A homemade mint sauce perfected the dish, adding sour sweetness to the event.
The beef was equally good, served with a doughy and perfectly seasoned Yorkshire pud.
There’s nothing fancy here, no towers of vegetables or drizzles of jus, just honest, well cooked food.
I was too full for a dessert, although I did have my eye on the orange steamed pudding.
There’s not just the roast on offer, there are sandwiches, a full English breakfast (served all day) and an abundance of veggie offerings.
And so I must carry on my life realising that I am turning into my mother. Roast mad, an irrational hatred of Philip Schofield and a fondness for cardigans. When I start voting Tory, please stage an intervention.