Northcote. Tasting Menu Review

I was so excited to be eating at Northcote.  As we reserved our room less than a week before, the only time we had managed to get for dinner was 6pm for 6.30 pm, which was a little early but I was still very much looking forward to our dinner.

We arrived on the terrace to the smashing of glass!  One of the other guests had taken a swipe at his pint glass “because there was a wasp on it and it was annoying him”.  The guy escorting us,  didn’t miss a beat, he settled us at our table and then hurried about clearing the glass up and getting the glass smasher another lager.  All the while we are sitting there without drinks menus.  When they were finally delivered we were told that what ever we wanted would be on him due to the wait.  (Which they weren’t, they were added onto the bill, which was a little annoying, on complaining they were removed but still in a place like this, that shouldn’t happen).

We ordered Mojitos, they were delicious, we were also served our canapes one of which was deep fried and very moorish, the other was a parcel of nothingness.

I have shellfish allergies and they explained to me that I would be getting a broccoli dish instead of the prawn dish on the 6 course tasting menu.  Well given that the other extra dish on the 6 course is a cauliflower one, I really didn’t fancy a broccoli and a cauliflower course, so we opted for the 4 course with cheese, (which seemed to surprise the guy taking our order).

The restaurant had a lovely feel and we got a great table that was side on to the window. It was beautifully decorated and had a pair of Geoff Key paintings hanging on the back wall which went so well and brought a modern touch.

We ordered a bottle of Italian white to drink during dinner and advised that we would like a glass of red each with the lamb course.  The Italian white was delicious and ideally suited to the first 2 courses as they are light and could easily be overpowered.

The first course was “Infused Isle of Wight Tomatoes” I really enjoyed this, especially the little tube filled with cheese and onion, the lovage was a little overpowering but other than that this was my second favourite dish.

The next course was “Goosenargh Chicken Ceaser”  This was by far the worst course on the menu.  I strongly believe that my chicken was under cooked as it was pink.  At the time I told myself it must be thigh meat, that’s why it was pink but after (and I wont say anymore) I realised that both mine and my husbands chicken was under cooked.  Sadly it was also very bland to boot.

Next came the “Yorkshire Dales Lamb.” The Sommelier remembered that we wanted red wine and it was promptly delivered to the table.  I really liked the fact I could get a tiny little glass (was maybe an 80ml serving) as i’m not much of a drinker and hubby could get a normal sized portion!  The Lamb course was absolutely delicious and truly inspired, it was delicate and flavoursome and I wondered how an earth the same mind could have come up with this plateful of deliciousness and that awful chicken ceaser dish.

Next we ordered the additional cheese course.  We opted for the 7 cheese serving.  They have a cheese trolley that is brought to your table, they patiently explain each cheese and its almost impossible to choose but we both chose our 2 favourites and then filled in with the others.  The cheese was served with both bread and crackers, the only thing that was missing was butter but still we thoroughly enjoyed our mountain of cheese.  To make it even more delicious we were served a white port that was almost chocolatey to the palate and it complimented the cheese wonderfully.

The final course was “Strawberry Trifle” and this was a huge disappointment.  Why oh why do these places insist on deconstructing desserts.  The strawberries were from the garden and were sweet and delicious as was the verbena custard but as for the Strawberry jelly and the very odd, slightly textured, caramelised cream, again i’m not exactly sure what they were thinking, the website describes this course as  “mmm…summer in a dish” but sadly it was just a let down.

Coffee and tea was served on the terrace along with petit fours, Hubble and I disagreed which was our favourite but the mint aero one was one of the best petit fours I have ever had.  The coffee was served  by the cup, however the tea was served in a giant tea pot which felt very odd that one got such a huge serving and the other a tiny cup.  The tea was made from leaves and appeared to be pre brewed, then decanted into the giant tea pot.  My earl grey wasn’t as strong as I would have liked and again this method seemed a little odd, whats wrong with a tea strainer?

We retreated to our lovely terrace and finished our drinks off there, chatting the night away.  We both agreed we were glad that we had been but would not be returning for food.  It seemed to have an older clientele and I believe that the food reflected this and with the exception of the lamb dish, didn’t feel particularly modern and felt very safe. The staff on the whole were young and friendly but at times it all felt a little pompous, especially when being served by some of the older members off staff.   I do wonder how Northcote will survive if they don’t start appealing to a younger clientele.

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B&B at Northcote

I’m going to write Northcote up in 2 parts, one covering the bed and breakfast and the other dinner, as we have differing views regarding the different elements.

We had wanted to try Northcote for some time but had always been put off by the cost, about £300 for B&B which is just insane, never mind factoring in the cost of dinner, that is one expensive night away!  So when hubby showed me they had a special offer on B&B from £150 a night, I knew I just had to book! A Deluxe room was soon in the bag for Friday night.

We arrived just after 4pm giving us plenty of time to get ready for our 6 for 6.30pm dinner. We were shown to room no 3, which just so happens was the one room I really didn’t want to get! It was large and the bathroom was spacious but it was dark and very very red!

I expressed my disappointment at getting this room, to the lovely lady who had shown us to our room.  She very promptly offered go downstairs to see if there was another room available. We waited in the red room and the phone soon rang.  There was another room, yay!  But it would be a downgrade to a superior, its a brighter room with a terrace, she continued.  Done, we’ll take it!

We went back downstairs and on to room no 10.  This room was so much better, with a cute little terrace, just lovely!  Our milk and welcome pack was soon rescued from room 3 and we settled in.  The bathroom was smaller and there was an adjoining door but just sitting out on the terrace in the lovely sunshine more than made up for that.

This brings me on to my first niggle.  The website claims that the mini bar has “a complimentary range of soft drinks” now I don’t know about you but I don’t class water as a range of soft drinks.  Which meant that we ended up drinking £4 a bottle pop on that lovely terrace.

I’m going to write about dinner in a separate post, so I’m skipping ahead to getting back into the room!

We came back into our room and hubby said did you close the blinds, nope, then we realised that they offered a turn down service!  The blinds had been closed, the cover removed from the bed and the duvet corners turned back, with a little gift left on the pillow.

We had brought our after dinner drinks with us and settled back on to our lovely terrace late into the night, until rain stopped play.

We both slept well and noise was minimal especially as our room had an adjoining door. Freshly showered and relaxed we headed off to breakfast.

Breakfast was a rather stuffy affair and a little disappointing.  There was no atmosphere, no music, just quite snobby people talking loudly!  The starters were lovely, it has to be said.

But the full English was a real disappointment!  I have never had such strange scrambled eggs, not even in America, the white and yolks were barely combined!  The sausage was peppery, the bacon full of grease, and the black pudding couldn’t have been Bury black pudding, which seemed strange to us given the location of Northcote.

We escaped breakfast and had a wander around the gardens, which were fabulous and full of fruit and vegetables, we even saw a non chatty chef harvesting onions for that nights lamb dish.

Before we knew it the early 11am check out time had arrived and we were on our way.

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Manchester Smokehouse & Cellar

We had wanted to try a smokehouse in Manchester for a while now and Manchester Smokehouse and Cellar was the one we ended up in.  It was Reds on the corner that attracted us over and whilst we were reading the menu we spotted the Smokehouse sign just down the road.

It was just before 5pm when we arrived and the place was pretty much empty.  We were shown to a lovely large table with a sofa style seat on one side.  We sat side by side and enjoyed the view out into the restaurant watching the comings and goings of the place.

You probably know my views on ordering tap water by now and they happily obliged with a nice big bottle, the cider was a bit on the flat side though!  We decided on the Big Smoke, which is billed as all the best bits for 2 to share or a greedy one!  In reality it’s more than enough for 3 to share!

There were Americans at the next table who were really enjoying there food and were raving that it was as good as America so we really had some high hopes for our food.

Or platter arrived and apparently there was sliced brisket, burnt ends, baby back ribs, chicken, pulled pork and sausages, it was all a little on the brown side!  Served alongside was chips, beans, sweetcorn and garlic bread, however there was no sign of the promised coleslaw or pickled veggies.  There were four different sauces already on the table and we found all of these to be delicious, especially the bbq.

We found all the meat had the same kind of taste and it was pretty difficult to distinguish one from the other, the sides were the best part of the meal and we had a lot of leftovers.

By the time we were ready to leave it had really started to fill up and they were turning away people who hadn’t booked.  I’m not sure if we were just a little early in the day and didn’t have big enough appetites or it was coming off the back of a month without eating meat but unfortunately the smokehouse failed to blow us away and we wont be making a return visit anytime soon.

Hilton Deansgate Manchester

I had wanted to stay at The Hilton in Manchester for a long while now.  If you know Manchester, you know “The Hilton Building” or Beetham Tower as its officially called and its equally famous 23rd floor bar Cloud 23.  So I decided to shell out on an executive room, to get the full Hilton experience, which guaranteed us a high floor and came with access to the executive lounge on the 23rd floor, kind of giving us the hotel and 23rd floor experience in one go!

We arrived at The Hilton ridiculously early around 11am.  We went to reception and were told to come back after 12pm and were pointed towards the concierge who would look after our bags in the meantime.  The concierge was a local Salford lad, he was chatty and friendly and to be honest the only member of staff the whole stay who made any effort to be friendly to us.

We left to explore Manchester and get some lunch.  We had a lovely walk down the canal and through the gay village. We had burgers for lunch at Jamboree Footfest on Portland Street which were great, especially as we got 3 courses for £19.99.  We arrived back after 2pm and were able to check in straight away even though check in time is officially 3pm.  The entrance is pretty unremarkable and we underwhelmed by reception and again by waiting area for the lifts.

We were given a room on the 19th floor, it was pretty similar to the standard room we had got in London a few weeks before and was painted a really horrible shade of brown.  It of course had the obligatory Nespresso machine that somehow miraculously makes a room executive.  The bathroom had a separate shower cubicle and we had bath robes but other than that I could barely see what made this room executive.  The view was pretty good and although we backed onto the lifts there was no horrible clunking noise that you sometimes get with rooms close to the lifts.

We decided to go up to the Executive Lounge.  You use your room key to gain access and it was a little strange. It was full of reserved tables and people having afternoon tea on 3 tier cake stands.  We later learned that they use the Executive lounge as an over spill for Cloud 23 and there were only about 6 tables available for the lounge guests, fortunately we got the only one left by the window and the very scratched glass floor and we enjoyed a lovely afternoon tea, minus the 3 tier stand but none the less we had a lovely relaxing hour.

We had an early dinner booked at Wood Manchester so were out from 5pm but they apparently serve canapes and alcohol for a few hours in the evening.

We slept pretty well I awoke in time to see the sun rise over Manchester .A quick shower later and we headed back to the 23rd floor, for the other perk of the Executive room, breakfast!  This time the lounge was full of hotel guests.  We secured the same table as we’d had the day before by the window and enjoyed a pretty decent breakfast.  The coffee was by way of a commercial Nespresso machine that no one knew how to use and it appeared that one guest would tell another and then they would tell the next.  I usually have earl grey tea which I made using the tea pots provided, however on first pour I realised the teapot contained lots of unwanted “bits” that happily floated into my cup, yuck, so I braved a latte instead from the dreaded Nespresso machine.

We used the express check out and with that we were on the free Manchester bus no 3 and back to Manchester Piccadilly train station.  I’m so glad that we decided to stay at the Hilton Manchester but I wont be rushing back there again anytime soon.  I think its probably more of a special occasion kind of a place but just for a night out in Manchester I think its a waste of money and a little bit of a let down.  Something that promised so much but failed to deliver.

Wood Manchester

I had been wanting to go to Wood Manchester ever since it opened its doors in the Summer of last year.  I liked the idea of the open kitchen, the blind tasting menu but more importantly I wanted to try MasterChef winner Simon Woods’ food.

We were out in Manchester watching Fuzzy Sun and I had already booked cocktails at The Washhouse for 7pm, so the only chance we had of eating at Wood was to have a really early dinner.  On checking out the website I noticed that they had a Theatre menu that is only £27.50 for 3 courses.  I thought I had come up with a perfect plan but unfortunately on checking the availability online, there was none!!  Sulky face was most definitely out!

Two days before we were due in Manchester I thought I would check again, there must have been a cancellation because there looking back at me was availability for dinner at 5.15pm, perfect!

We arrived almost exactly on time and received a warm welcome at the door.  Our coats were taken and we noticed they operate a funky playing card coat check system, which was a fun touch.  We were shown to a fabulous table for two, right alongside the open kitchen.

We honestly could not have received a better table if we had paid for it.  We were at the business end of the kitchen and we could literally hear and see everything that was going on.  The icing on the cake was that Simon was there working in the kitchen.

Our waitress was professional and i’m not sure if she was a little shy or standoffish but the service was efficient if a little lacking in the friendly department.  Water was brought for the table and I have to admit to judging a restaurant on how they deal with you when ordering tap water.  I am happy to report no problems here, a large carafe and some lovely glasses were soon brought over.  We also ordered a bottle of the house white which was excellent and drank very easily.

We both ordered the Ham Hock Terrine to start, followed by the Flat Iron Steak, we were warned that it would be served pink which was perfect for us.  Whilst we waited for our food to be cooked we watched the entertainment in the kitchen.  It seamed an easy partnership between Simon and the guy we thought might be the head chef.  We even heard him confess to missing an order of Flat Iron steak!

The Ham Hock Terrine was delicious and came with a celeriac remoulade and a piccalilli and we demolished it in no time at all.

Then arrived the Flat Iron Steak, mine was a little thicker that Hubbies and was therefore more pink, Hubbies I have to admit was a little tough as it was overcooked, however when the waitress checked if everything was ok, we both said yes!

This came with a purple potato salad which although it was lovely, was a huge portion and I got a little bored of it, if i’m honest, but Hubbie soon managed to polish off both mine and his.

We chose dessert off the set menu and I went for the lemon meringue and Hubbie went with the rhubarb brulee which before I had even tasted it, I knew would be too tart and I wasn’t wrong but Hubbie was very happy with what he had ordered.

The lemon meringue was absolutely delicious the most special part was the beautiful lemon posset that the meringue was sat on.

We were finished for 6.30pm which was just about perfect, as we needed to run across town to the washhouse for 7pm.

We had a lovely, if not perfect meal but we both agreed that we would like to return to try the tasting menu later on in the year.

The Washhouse Manchester

The Washhouse is one of those places that you have sort of heard about but never been. One of those places that’s hard to get into and makes me question can I really be bothered to try? How good can it really be?

I pushed my questioning to one side and decided I was going to try to get in. The booking line is only open 12-4pm week days and I have to admit to a nervous anticipation when I dialled their number! Please, please let them have a table for when I want it!!!!

My call was answered by a very friendly guy, not at all stuck up like I was expecting! I asked for 2 loads for the 24th at 7pm and no problem came the reply! What???? I’ve got a table???? They take a £25 deposit, that is redeemed against cocktails on the night and that’s it, as easy as that we were all booked in.

After legging it from Wood Manchester on First St, which is on the other side of town, we arrived to an empty Washhouse, with much excitement I picked the phone up, pressed the button and told them we had arrived. We’re just getting your table ready came the reply, so we took a seat on the little bench in the window and waited!

Next minute there are five bums pressed up against the window, a group of girls have arrived and are having their picture taken outside.  They spill into The Washhouse and wonder aloud how they get in, we tell them they need to phone.  They also have to wait and there is much laughing and giggling as we are all excited to see what lies behind the giant washer door!

The door opens and I hear my name, we push through and are soon seated opposite the bar.  The hostess is lovely and instantly put us at ease, we are poured glasses of water and given menus and are left alone to choose our poison.

We look around and take in the place, its smaller that we imagined and somehow elegant.  What a fab seat we have been given, we can see all the amazing creations being poured and wonder what each one is.  The bartenders are chatty and the interaction is spot on.

We choose the botanical garden and a pineapple tiki one that I don’t remember the name of!  We watch whilst they are made and wow they look amazing, the pineapple one is one fire, literally!!!  Seriously how many places give you a marshmallow to toast before you drink your cocktail?

The cocktails are delicious and even better they come with a little bowl of retro crisps, which it turns out gets topped up the minute you have finished it, its like a little never ending bowl of deliciousness.  The sound track has obviously had a lot of thought put into it and the packed bar is soon singing along, there is a lovely buzz to the place which is a mixed bag of couples and groups.

We order another round of drinks and my hubbie soon finds a bowl of coco pops placed in front of him, awesome!

He sits and eats them with the biggest grin.  I have a poppy drink that is both sweet and delicious, seriously can this place do any wrong?  We both declare that The Washhouse is something else and we need to return again soon, very very soon.

Fuzzy Sun Band @ Jimmys nq

On Saturday 24th March we had the pleasure of seeing Fuzzy Sun at Jimmys in the Northern Quarter, Manchester.

Jimmys is somewhere we are probably a little old for, but nonetheless we arrived about 9pm.  It was already pretty packed downstairs and the support band were already in full swing.  The girl singer reminded me of Kate Bush somehow!

There was an hours wait almost for Fuzzy Sun to arrive on stage and the already packed Jimmys suddenly filled to capacity.

Fuzzy sun, high from the release of their EP “Want Love” were in fine form, performing to the packed crowd.  They played a great set and the knowledgeable audience really got involved and engaged with them.  The relationship on stage between the lead singer and the lead guitarist was pretty special and the energy was ovewhelming!

I really hope that Fuzzy Sun go on to greater things, as this is a good band with a great sound. Watch out for them supporting The Blossoms on tour in May.

How do you get into The Man Behind the Curtain?

As you might well know TMBTC is situated above Flannels clothes shop in Leeds city centre. The only sign that TMBTC is there is this window display! (This pic was taken earlier in the day, I did not go in, in bright turquoise trainers)!

As we approached Flannels a man with a clip board opened the door and asked for our name, he ticked us off his list and directed us towards the lift! It’s not everyday you see information like this outside a lift. I’ll get out at the third floor please!

On exiting the lift we were greeted with the fabulous reception area.

The actual restaurant is almost hidden from view, which adds to the anticipation of what’s to come!

We were shown to a large table in the corner which couldn’t have been any better for two people watchers like us as we had a fabulous view over the entire restaurant.

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