I imagine it’s quite difficult to think of an original, snappy name for a new restaurant, so I totally *get* the ‘does what it says on the tin’ type branding of Burger & Lobster, Dogs ‘n’ Dough and the like. But where is my Quesadilla & Caipirinha Cantina? I can’t seem to locate a Chip Butties & Bubbles Bar either (WHAT ARE YOU DOING RESTAURATEURS?). Beef & Pudding is the latest of this type, but it’s amazing what a buzz a name can create – I’ve been salivating like Beethoven* over the thought of it for many months now.
We arrived on a fully booked Thursday to a bustling restaurant with a great atmosphere and immediately turned to the cocktail list which is rather fizz happy (a term which I often use to describe myself because it so accurately illustrates my mood during 80% of my non-working time).
Strawberry and Vanilla Fizz (£7.50)
The Dripping Pig Ribs (£5.95) tempted three of our table – beautiful they were too, the ribs were sticky and pull apart served with a treacle dip.
The Tempura Monkfish was also a lovely little starter but at £8.95 I consider it a bit outside the price point for a restaurant of its kind. I really enjoyed it however, and if there’s ever an awkward silence, these can be used to perform a near perfect Vito Corleone impersonation.
On a Thursday, there is a special ‘dirty’ food menu. I’m not exactly sure what is dirty about a Thursday - maybe it’s the day before their bin collection, but this special menu contains extra burgers and giant slabs of meat. I chose my main dish from this menu but for reasons** which are probably alien to Christina Aguilera (who would most certainly embrace the theme with far more vigour than my blushed cheeks would ever allow me).
Our Bantersaurus Rex of a waiter took great pleasure in my order of The Big Boner (£19.95) and over-did the innuendo so much that my eyes were rolling in my head so dynamically I resembled a ventriloquist dummy whose operator was having a funny turn. Annoying name aside, this beautiful bone-in beef rib was my dish of the meal. Served with a smoky BBQ onion gravy, it was so large I took leftovers home and made beef rendang with it the day after.
Chips reminded me of my Mum’s. This is the biggest seal of approval I could ever give.
Mr P had The Pudding at £14.95. I prefer a softer suet and this seemed more pie to me, but it was packed with beef & Barbon Fell venison and I loved the mash and black peas.
Burgers didn’t go down as well – they were overcooked and lacked juice. The Howling at the Moon sauce in a pipette is a nice touch, but please beware as I almost required skin grafts to the tongue after sampling a drop.
I’ve seen mixed reviews for Beef & Pudding, but on the whole I really enjoyed it. There’s a great vibe, service is warm and friendly and co-owner Dave Mooney has an excellent moustache. I left fizz happy and took a big boner home***. If that’s not a good night, I don’t know what is.
*Beethoven the dog. There is no evidence to show that classical composer Ludwig had a salivation problem. I’m sure his mouth was practically moisture free.
**I was hungry
***I made a blue joke as my Mum confessed she doesn’t read my blog because ‘it’s all about food’.
Disclaimer: I did not pay for my food as my friend did because I am an awesome friend and a pleasure to have around. Or she wants me to get heart disease and die. Make your own minds up.
The Hand & Flowers – 2 Michelin stars, four AA rosettes and awarded best gastro pub in the country. Yet there is something about Tom Kerridge’s restaurant that makes people quite angry. ‘How can a pub have 2 Michelin stars?’ they cry from one corner. ‘How can this place be considered as good as Noma?’ comes from the other and there I am in the middle, looking a bit confused as I look for an exit route from this weird room I’m in.
I decided that the best way to attack this (the baying crowed had made me aggressive!) was to go with an open mind. I wasn’t expecting 2 star opulence nor predicting world class precision – I simply wanted to have some good pub grub and perhaps get a little squiffy.
There’s a lengthy wait to dine at The Hand & Flowers – don’t expect to be there a week on Thursday (unless you already have a reservation on that day, and in that case, enjoy!), it was 6 months before we could procure the first Friday lunchtime spot.
Upon our arrival, the entrance bar area was rammed with posh looking people and we had to awkwardly share a table with a gentleman wearing a cravat. I cursed myself for not getting tipsy beforehand so that I could have cut the silence surrounding the table by regaling him with stories about what an arsehole my cat is.
We ordered a couple of cocktails while we waited and enjoyed a generous helping of spicy nuts (I’d insert a joke about spicy nuts here, but my Mum might read this. Hi Mum!)
Smoked martini (£10.50) mint Julep (£8.50)
Despite the claustrophobia caused by the bar area, the dining room is far more spacious and the atmosphere relaxed. I didn’t fear placing my elbows on the table like the commoner I am and at one point even removed my shoes.
Complementary whitebait was spot on and I loved the bread which was soft and spongy with really good butter.
The menu is so strong that the inner turmoil it created has no doubt taken a number of years off my life.
I finally settled on the carpaccio of unsmoked salmon (£14.50) which was beautifully delicate but when paired with the decadent caviar and ‘punch in the stomach’ strong whisky jelly, it made my heart go all of a flutter.
Soft, fluffy blinis
Mr P however, had picked my favourite dish of the two, the crab ravioli with smoked butter (£11.50) was silky and rich, with undertones of onion cutting right through the smooth crab.
I was in such a quandary when it came to picking just one main so ordered the obvious choice -the course that won The Great British Menu for Tom in 2010. The slow cooked duck breast with savoy cabbage, duck fat chips and gravy (£28) was full of big meaty flavours, but it left me a bit bored. Very much like Rachel Stevens, it looked great and did what it is supposed to do well, but it lacked personality and didn’t make me feel anything at all.
Mr P’s dish on the other hand was an absolute belter - his half beer roast chicken had been brined for many hours, leading to a soft and tender meat. Beautifully topped with black truffle, garlic and thyme - if my duck was Rachel Stephens, this was Beyoncé. A cheeky little thing that hit all the notes perfectly and had a nice meaty rear.
Sides were all great, I especially enjoyed the purple spouting broccoli (£4.50)
We hadn’t driven for three hours to let a distended stomach cut our meal short so went straight in for a dessert and ordered extra cocktails for good measure (which were all awesome).
Fleur de Cana (£9.50)
I had the sweet malt gateau with malted ice cream (£9.50) which was perfectly ‘nice’ but again I was left underwhelmed and I’ve decided I shouldn’t be allowed to make decisions in the future. But this is a decision in itself, so I don’t know where to go from here.
Again, Mr P picked the better dish and I was struggling to hide my anger towards him. The pear soufflé with caraway crumble, caramelised white chocolate ice cream and pear sauce (£9.50) was pudding perfection. Sweet and billowy, it disintegrated once in the mouth as all good soufflés should. Luckily Mr P let me finish it off, so we can stay married for now.
I had no complaints about the service. Everybody was warm and friendly but there was very little interaction, which wasn’t a problem for us because unlike some couples we see in restaurants, we actually like each other.
I do believe it is overpriced, but there’s a set lunch menu at £19.50 for three courses which is phenomenal value.
I almost feel that in awarding The Hand & Flowers two stars, Michelin are doing them a disservice. This is a great restaurant with top-notch food, but because of this silly accolade, people are expecting a Noma or L’enclume experience. So my suggestion is this: ignore the awards. Go to The Hand & Flowers with an open mind, empty belly and big fat wallet. See it for what it is – a pub with really good food.
Disclaimer: no offense to Rachel Stevens.
I’ve been a bad blogger again. We’re only half way through March and I’ve already got a backlog so large that it is threatening to consume me - bursting out from the inside of my soul like a vampire exposed to the mid-day sun (I am not a vampire, I just resemble one because of my pale complexion and glittery/oily t zone.) To combat this, I am writing a little summery of where I’ve eaten recently - if you care please have a little read, if not, as you were.
Rosylee Tea Rooms, Manchester
With my lack of sweet tooth and aversion to all things twee, tearooms aren’t my natural habitat. I’m normally drunk as a skunk when I walk past Rosylee Tea Rooms and too busy singing Busted songs to even noticed its existence but it was their early evening menu that eventually caught my eye (£17.95 for three courses with a glass of wine). My pate dish was a bit mean on the bread but my salmon was cooked just how I like it with perfect seasoning. The portions aren’t the largest, leading to a rare dessert course for me which wasn’t quite as tasty as its predecessors. All in all a lovely little place, but the waitresses are so young and pretty, it almost brought on a mid-life crisis.
Salmon with samphire
Red’s True BBQ, Manchester
I have to hide behind a cushion when recounting our visit to Red’s as our experience was rather painful and a bit frightening. After an hour and a half wait we were lead to a darkened red room which reminded me a paedophile photo processing den. Nothing untoward happened there, but I’m still emotionally scarred. They’d run out of a lot of food, starters weren’t ordered, mains were cold and the burger clearly couldn’t cope with the pressure of its whopping £16 price tag and kept falling over. Add to the mix a rather rude manager and you have a restaurant that I probably won’t be visiting again. Apparently there’s a queue around the corner every night anyway, so I’m sure they won’t miss me. To finish on a positive, staff were friendly and I liked the potato salad.
Coast 2 Coast, Horwich
With a few exceptions (Pieminister, Byron) I feel the same repulsion towards chain restaurants that Woody Allen has for normal adult relationships, but with American style chain Coast 2 Coast opening up so close to my house (literally a stone’s throw for a person with average to good upper body strength), it seemed rude to write it off without a visit.
Starters were actually alright, the whitebait contained far too much coating but the calamari was spot on. It all went a bit wrong with the mains however – my fajitas resembled road kill and tasted as such. It’s expensive too, so I question the value for money and make sure you’re thoroughly hydrated before venturing though the doors as a person could complete a 500 piece jigsaw puzzle of a pile of beans in the time it takes them to make a frickin’ mojito.
Dead badger/chicken fajitas
Sweet Mandarin, Manchester
We’ve always been fans of this Northern Quarter Chinese restaurant - some of the mains tasted suspiciously similar, but my king prawn satay was bob on and crispy duck was consumed at a frightening rate by our group. I’ve found the service a bit on the cold side previously but was quite the opposite on our recent visit. It was enjoyed by all.
Il Toro, Horwich
The poor folks at Il Toro had to put up with a work’s get-together of mine (never underestimate the rowdiness of a group of drunken accountants on 31st January) but they did so without fuss and with decorum. The presentation of the food is rather dated but they know how to cook a steak – mine was plump and bloody topped with a rich dolce latté sauce which was delicious.
The Mouse Trap, Ramsbottom
What a lovely little find this cheese shop proved to be! Sat in the middle of Ramsbottom, my savoury green pesto scone with chilli jam was a real winner, lining my stomach before our ale trail and at £3.50 with a cup of tea or coffee, a real bargain. There’s also a deli full of goodies to take away, but I like my cheese smelly, so didn’t want to ruin the enjoyment of our gang by bringing along such a pungent odour.
I WANT THIS FUNNY ORNAMENT FOR MY HOME
So, there you have my North West round up. Some good, some bad, some downright ugly (I’m looking at you Reds). Thank you for feeding me Manchester.
One of my main personality traits is self-deprecation. There is a very good reason for this. The reason is that I am an idiot. I’m always falling over, accidentally offending people, setting fire to my hair… I’m the modern day female version of Mr Bean, but with a love for steak tartare and without the cool car. As a result of the above, I detest cockiness and shy away from the over-confident. This is probably why I instantly took a dislike to Living Ventures’ newest joint, Manchester House - with its ‘we’re going to get a Michelin star’ attitude and pompous pricing, I wanted them to bugger off to America where this kind of attitude belongs.
I am going to be a bridesmaid next year for the first time in my grown up life - this has caused an explosive level of excitement (I pose no real danger to humans, but I might combust and frighten some local cats) and monthly meetings are required to plan this joyous event/get drunk. I don’t have the attention span to stay mad at anything for long so I enlisted the lovely bride and fellow bridesmaid to accompany me to Manchester House, in an attempt to plump up the other bridesmaid, so she doesn’t make me look quite so bad on the day.
Amaretto sour & Aviation
Manchester House wasn’t what I expected at all. There was no arrogance or pretension and it exhibits a genuinely laid back feel. There’s lots of space and a big open kitchen (head chef Aiden Byrne was cooking on the day).
Onion & parmesan brioche with caramelised onion butter, onion consommé topped with parmesan foam (so good we asked the waitress to slip some spares in our handbags. She declined)
The lunch menu is a very accessible £27.50 for three courses and each one was thoroughly delicious.
Warm fennel broth, lobster boudin and fennel confit
Chicken, celeriac and apple, black pudding puree
Cod loin, white sprouting broccoli and salt cod mousse
Huntsham Farm sirloin, wild garlic, truffle oxtail pomme-anna
Honey and vanilla parfait with pomegranate and rhubarb
Dark chocolate delice, mixed berries and avocado ice cream
I chose off menu for the pudding and the Manchester Tart (£8.50) is one of the loveliest desserts I’ve had for a long time – a perfectly balanced modern take on this beloved dish of ours.
Rainbowroons (my puns still need work)
Service was warm and personable from the young team who were all very natural in their roles. I had to stop myself from sending Facebook friend requests.
We were not overly full after our meal and there was talk of a quick nip to The Oast House for a kebab (the other bridesmaid didn’t look as if she’d gained an inch!) but sometimes it’s nice to leave a restaurant while your outfit still fits.
I do find the a la carte and tasting menus very pricey for a new and unproven restaurant but I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the lunch offering and I’m eager to go back myself.
I don’t mind admitting when I’m wrong, heck, it happens so often that sometimes I just assume it* and I was indeed too quick to judge Manchester House. Will it get a Michelin star? I’m not sure. But who cares? Certainly not me.
*Things I got wrong:
‘The Spice Girls will never be popular.’
‘Nobody will ever vote for Boris Johnson.’
‘Bread doesn’t make you fat’
Despite my love of London I’ve always been a bit frightened to venture out of its centre. Donal McIntyre instilled in me a deep fear of heading to Brixton, the baddest boys in pop East 17 caused my worry about Walthamstow and it was Professor Green who created my mistrust of Hackney. However, after I was online bullied by Mr Green*, I decided to disregard all warnings and visit his borough, just to spite him.
We got a taxi to the restaurant (one step at a time people) as I was frightened of getting lost or bumping into the above mentioned rapper. This proved a good decision, as it is rather easy to miss.
I don’t know who this Rita lass is, but I instantly loved her gaff. It’s a simple room and perhaps a little bit crowded but they play good music and there’s an open kitchen full of hunky chefs who look like they could very well be in a metal band.
Deep fried lotus fruit
Hard cidre (£5.50)
Kola Fernet (£6)
Frozen rita (£6.50)
Sour cherry bourbon (£7.50)
To begin we shared the Szechuan pepper squid (£3.60), which could have been a tiny bit crisper for my tastes, but the spicing was exquisite. We also ordered the steak tartare from the specials menu, which was intended as a main, but who are you to make the rules? This was beautifully done, with an abundance of pepper and chilli, however, a bit stingey on the bread.
For our main we shared the fried chicken (£19). Easily the best fried chicken I’ve had the pleasure to try, and by eck I’ve eaten a lot of it in my time. This was served with a tub of sausage gravy and a pot of honey for dipping – I now finally understand why Pooh Bear had such a weight problem.
A side of green chilli mac & cheese (£4.50) was a delight to eat, the dish containing a lot of stealthy chilli flavour topped with cooling guacamole.
At this point I was so full that I feared I may suffer from stomach tearing but I had my eye on the apple and tamarind crumble (£4.50) which was rather bloomin’ wonderful and after its completion I was so glad that I have spent the last three years growing my hair to Rapunzel length so it hid my swollen belly.
To put it simply, Rita’s is a wonderful place and I would venture straight into Compton if it meant I could eat there again. Just sitting in the restaurant increases your cool rating by at least 5 points (my cool rating went up to 7/10!) My rating went straight back down however, as I was so uncomfortably full afterwards that I had to go back to the hotel, put my jimjams on and have a little lie down.
Disclaimer: Professor Green told me off on twitter for criticising his music, so in hindsight, I deserved it.
*These are not the chefs. This is the metal band Mastodon.
My name is Vicki and I’m a Londonaholic. It started as a young girl with our annual family trip in my Dad’s burgundy Rover but as I’ve gotten older, it’s become far more severe. Now, 3, 4 even 5 visits a year aren’t enough; just when I think I’ve had my fill, the urge is there again and before I know it, I’m on the Virgin Rail website scoring us a cheap deal for a couple of front facing seats. I love the way I feel when I’m there, I adore escaping among the tall buildings, as I breathe in the buzz of the city. Within this frantic habitat, I find peace.
So it was no surprise when our first visit of the year was within its first week. I’d had my eye on the newest Hawksmoor venture, Foxlow for a while and after veteran food critic Richard Vines stamped it boldly with his seal of approval, I booked us in for lunch.
What did the fox say?
Any restaurant in which I can have ribs as a main and a starter, can never fail in my eyes (exception = Frankie & Benny’s) so I’m just going to get straight to the point and admit that I adored Foxlow.
The cocktails I enjoyed on the day arrived surprisingly quickly yet their speed did not detract from their quality, my favourite being the sharp and eye squinty Pickle Buck, concocted from rye, ginger ale and pickle juice; a flavour sensation that could awaken even the deadest of taste buds and as a result, I am almost certain could be a cure for the zombie virus.
Rockefeller Fizz (£5)
Meat is treated lovingly. I know this as we were seated by the open kitchen – big slabs were often removed during our visit and basted with a tender hand and brush leading to fall apart, juicy mouthfuls of pure brawny heaven. So very tender, like consuming the best protein shakes ever.
Five Pepper Squid (£7)
Iberico Pork Rib (£8.50)
Eight Hour Bacon Rib with Maple & Chilli (£16)
Ten Hour Beef Shortrib with Kimchi (£16)
Sides have always been a strength at any Hawksmoor gaff and Foxlow continue this trend. The sausage stuffed onion was incredibly good – sat in a pot of onion and sausage gravy which we were informed was so tasty because of the lashings of cream it contained. This could stand as a main dish in its own right.
Sausage-Stuffed Onion (£3.50)
Broccoli with Chilli & Anchovy (£4.50)
Fries with Bacon Salt (£3.50)
I couldn’t resist the Peanutella & sweet toast (£5.50) and was glad I didn’t - the perfect mix of sweet and savoury and a great portion size to share for two people with very fatigued bellies.
Service was particularly good. Our handsome dreadlocked waiter excused our food scattered table by proclaiming ‘a messy table means you enjoyed your meal’ in soft hushed tones which made me fall in love with him a little bit. (Hey, handsome dreadlocked waiter, call me?)
James & The Giant Peach Tea (£7)
With sides it is a bit on the pricey side, but for the sheer amount of flavour they manage to pack into one meal, I feel it’s worth it.
Do you have a friend who has decimated their taste buds through smoking? Has a loved one recently turned into a zombie and you’re looking for a cure? Do you wish to meet a handsome dreadlocked waiter who doesn’t mind if you have poor table manners*? Well, I implore you to get down to Foxlow as it may just change your life.
*Hands off, he’s mine.
Nothing good ever happens to me on a train. Falling over, vomiting and being the victim of a teenage bully at least half my age are all unpleasant things I have experienced while travelling on our country’s railway lines, so when a friend asked if we would like to join them on the Real Ale Trail to Ramsbottom on a steam train, I was worried that my run of bad train luck might ruin the experience for everybody, as is so often the case.
I decided to prepare for the day by wearing so much pink that I resembled a five year old girl and/or a boiled sweet; my theory being that the Gods would probably like both of those things, and spare me any ill treatment during the trip. This however did not work as planned and we were pelted with furious rain and angry winds (did I mention I was dressed as a five year old girl on a Summer’s day?) so when we finally arrived at our lunch destination, Eagle & Child, after walking for ten minutes up a hill with a very aggressive angle, I also resembled the illicit love child of Aunt Sally and Worzel Gummage. Thankfully, the manager promised to seat us despite our lack of reservation and swiftly took our drinks order without asking me for any proof of age*. What a helpful chap he was!
Eagle & Child is a gorgeous pub with a warm atmosphere and quirky decoration which sets it aside from others. I instantly liked it.
We were in a bit of a rush so didn’t have time for a starter which always distresses me, but I was too worn out to have a temper tantrum so resorted to having a little cry in the toilets.
The fish & chips was the most popular choice amoung our group and it was as good as any I’ve sampled – the dish ticking all the necessary boxes required for it to be a success.
The turkey and ham pie was a bit of heaven in a pot -topped with the cheesiest of toppings, it warmed me up from the inside out.
The burger looked so good that I almost regretted my fish & chips decision and I was in such awe that I forgot to take a photograph.
Pig, slow cooked belly, sticky cheek + hock pie, bubble & squeak
Onion rings – I loved the different varieties of onions used, brilliant stuff.
Our food took a while to arrive although this was probably a bit more apparent to us as we were in such a hurry, but everyone was really helpful and pleasant.
I’m definitely going back to Eagle & Child, I’ve got my eye on that burger and their Sunday roast is award winning. But this time I will dress age/weather appropriately and be travelling by car. That climb means I’m saving up for a pacemaker. Any donations are welcome.
*I am more than old enough to drink alcohol. Despite what my wardrobe suggests.
Not being a morning person means that I rarely eat breakfast. As an insomniac I’m either under-rested and grumpy or as an enthusiastic boozer I’m hung over/still drunk. I’d much rather stay up late dancing to Katy Perry* then sleep till noon than be awake at the break of dawn eating cereal. To be honest, I’m not at my best in the morning. Nobody has ever used the word ‘zombie’ before but I can see in their eyes; the mild terror shows itself for a moment before the realisation hits that I am a harmless, yet slightly messy haired civilian. At this point I’m normally handed a cup of coffee and a hair brush.
The only time I get excited about a morning meal is in America. I’m normally jetlagged so it almost feels like lunch, there’s always lots of syrup covered bacon involved and I can blow bubbles into my chocolate milk without being labelled childish (Americans appreciate silly acts such as this).
I’ve had a no freebie rule for a while now, but when Franco, the evil mastermind behind Solita invited us down to try the brunch menu full of American grub, I didn’t hang about; after spending approximately 50% of my disposable income there over the last 18 months, I consider it cashback.
Word had clearly gotten around and the restaurant was rammed on only the menu’s second day. The place was so full that we were forced to be seated at one of the high tables in the main room perched awkwardly on a stool. Those stools are the only thing I don’t like about Solita; I haven’t fallen off one yet, but it is inevitable.
Here’s what we had:
Steak & Eggs Benedict (£6.90)
I loved this take on the traditional eggs benedict – the steak was cooked perfectly on the Inka grill and the hollandaise was great. I’ve loved capers since I accidentally ate one in a salad and so was mightily pleased by the generous sprinkling of this peculiar looking foodstuff.
Salt beef hash (£8.90)
Mr P’s favourite – it had the perfect ratio of beef to potato and the brown sauce was spicy and tart. He would have preferred a fried egg on top but I’m quite passionate about my love of a poached egg; bursting its spherical yolk is one of my favourite things.
Truffled egg on toast (£5.90)
We loved this dish at Spuntino and Solita have done a mighty fine job of it. Gooey cheese, runny egg yolk and truffle oil - if you don’t like this combo then you should lose your right to vote or make any important decisions in life. In fact you should go and sit in a dark room and cry. NOW!
Buttermilk fried chicken, sausage gravy, maple syrup (£7.90)
This is the kind of sweet/savoury mix that a lot of people don’t get, but once you’ve tried it your life will never be the same. The chicken was insanely moist yet with a lovely crunchy coating and the creamy sausage gravy was beautiful. This was my favourite dish of the day and I beg Solita to put this chicken on the evening menu. Chicken and chips all round.
Blood orange mimosa (£5)
Breakfast cocktails were invented for medicinal purposes to cure a hangover and for this we should all stop shunning pre-12pm booze. This was sweet yet tart and a good price too.
It’s no secret that I’m a massive Solita fan girl. I love them so much that I gained a dress size for them. Hell, I even got up early, and I never do that. But this menu is worth doing all of the above for. There’s a full English toad in the hole, a builder’s breakfast wrap… There really is something for everybody.
Manchester, brunch just became a whole load of awesome.
*I’m far too cool to listen to Katy Perry, I’ve been hacked!
Spinningfields isn’t an area of Manchester that I often venture to and when I do it’s The Oast House with its hanging kebabs of Babylon which exclusively receives my custom. However, with the numerous January 50% off deals, I decided to do something crazy and try somewhere new (give me a break, I fear change.) I’ve not been in too much of a hurry to try fellow Living Ventures venue Artisan due to a number of wildly differing reviews but after having a peek at the menu, I thought it seemed quite inviting.
My friend and I arrived on a busy Thursday evening and had to wait a while for our table to clear. I found the hostess very intimidating but that may be because she was so beautiful, she could only be a baddy from a film. Fleeing this evil temptress* we perched ourselves at the bar and ordered a cocktail. I didn’t have high hopes for our drinks as I watched the bartender shake the mixer with the enthusiasm of a depressed teen, but they were tasty and refreshing, even if they disappeared in approximately two mouthfuls.
Artisan is quite far from my natural habitat: the lights are dim, bar stools uncomfortable and everybody there is so bloody tall which reminded me how angry I am about not being taller (or a baller.)
The menu is diverse – from pizzas and pastas to salads and sandwiches. Some might call it a little muddled but I always welcome a decent choice.
To begin, my companion had the meatballs in tomato sauce (£5.95) – she found the sauce a bit artificial tasting, but I thought it was lovely and presented beautifully with the nice touch of a big slab of bread for dipping.
The only problem I had with the dish was that it made mine look so underwhelming. Baby scallops with curry butter and cauliflower puree (£6.95) had wonderful flavours but it had gone a bit cold and seemed such a measly portion compared to the meatballs. I felt like a child on Christmas day who had received only a chocolate orange when their sibling had been gifted a mountain bike (on second thoughts, I’d prefer the chocolate orange, will somebody get me one?)
For mains, my friend had the famous donner kebab pizza which I enjoyed so much I pinched a second slice off her. It was rather messy looking but the base was thin and crisp and I loved the toppings – by far the best dish of the meal.
Yet again, my choice was the inferior of the two and I was starting to get a complex. The pulled pork sandwich (£10.75) was fairly terrible – falling apart pretty instantly into a sloppy mess and let’s be honest; it didn’t look that great to start off with. The chips however had a certain dirtiness to them that I enjoyed.
Baby gem wedges with salad cream and prosciutto crumble (£3.50) was a lovely little side dish- the dressing was tart and zingy and the textures, spot on.
The staff were very good, but frequently trying to upsell which always gets on my nerves. Plus we had to query our bill as the 50% hadn’t been taken off which I found more annoying than usual because I was still quite hungry (you wouldn’t like me when I’m hungry).
Artisan isn’t for me I’m afraid. It has a similar vibe to Neighbourhood and seems more interested in being on trend than serving consistently good food. The dishes were too hit and miss to warrant a return visit and I would really begrudge paying full price for my meal. Which, we almost did. The scoundrels.
*I’m sure the hostess wasn’t evil. But she had a twinkle in her eye that could only mean trouble. Lock up your sons.