altrincham · cheshire · Events · Food and Drink · Preview/Review · Uncategorized

Spend a happy hour or two on the new Altrincham Pub Tour

The word ‘tour’ adds a certain sense of panache to an activity doesn’t it.

It evokes a sense of discovery, education, gravity.

I mean it depends on the context of course.

I’m buying tickets for the Little Mix (or insert band you’ve heard of but are old enough to have given birth to – albeit amidst scandal as you were doing your GCSES) Tour

does not suggest this.

But replace

I’m going on a pub crawl

with

I’m going on a walking pub tour

and you’re literally good to go.

So. Imagine my glee when I found a new justification for going out for a drink, when the lovely people at Altrincham Unlimited kindly invited me to join them on the inaugural said tour – part of the new campaign Explore Altrincham.

Hosted by celebrated and hugely engaging Manchester writer and tour guide extraordinaire (honestly he was ‘extraordinaire’) Jonathan Schofield, the event takes you on foot to four of the best drinking establishments in Altrincham, interspersing historical fact with witty and entertaining anecdotes.

Yes I laughed out loud at a story about buttermilk and a potato – and I rarely ‘laugh out loud’. I usually make a kind of expelling of air type gesture at best.

Starting off at the Orange Tree Inn, walkers/drinkers/’pupils’ can buy a drink and settle down to listen to tales from Jonathan of the area, the pub (and the tragic tale from 1880 of its previous incarnation and site) and local life back in the day (a handy phrase I bandy about to cover a multitude of dates and decades).

We were even treated to anecdotes (and sandwiches) from the lovely landlord, Damien, of ethereal happenings in the establishment.

For anyone concerned about the physical aspects of the tour, the four stops are not too far from each other, the first three really aren’t and the first two certainly aren’t.

For the next destination was next door neighbour, the Old Market Tavern.

Indeed, Damien informed us that at one time we wouldn’t even have needed to step outside to get to our next destination, as you could used the adjoining cellar to gain access. However given the haunting story of who currently hangs out down there, I was relieved to hear that the passage is now bricked off.

Here we learned of local tales of political skullduggery and underhand tactics to pull in the voters – astonishing! Thank goodness systems across Britain and indeed the world are now free of such practise.

Almost using the green cross code, a short hop across the road takes you the very floral Old Roebuck. Or Roebuck. I’m never sure but have you seen the delightful beer garden?

It was here that we learned of bizarre pub games and sports back in the day even odder than Beer Pong. What? It’s weird.

And all I’m saying that is that I’ve never seen an entire cow’s head consumed on Man v Food.

Ribs schmibs.

It is at this point that walkers/drinkers/’pupils’ are treated to a trivia test – musical interlude, if you will. In small teams, we were to ‘name that tune/artist/band’ – all with local links.

Top tip – make friends with somebody on the tour who is essentially a walking Shazam (hi Richard).

The final destination (and what an apt phrase given its name and origins – I’m smug right now) is and was the subterranean Belgian bar Mort Subite.

Here, the lovely owner Wyn gave us a potted history of the building (the rumours are true – it was the mortuary) and raison d’etre of the bar.

It was here that our memories and concentration skills were tested, as the quiz and indeed tour reached its climax and us ‘pupils’ had to demonstrate what we’d learnt.

Some of us demonstrated it better than others. Then again some of us had enjoyed their Sauvignon Blanc more than others (what, I don’t even like wine…đź‘€).

And so endeth the story of a lovely group of local residents and Altrincham enthusiasts who one evening this week, embraced history and Beer and left leaving a little more wobbly informed.

It is at this point I emphasise that I remember a lot more detail from the stories than I have shared – I simply don’t wish to spoil the tour for you. Ok?

Genuinely, I urge you to delay no more and head to Altrincham Unlimited – Explore Altrincham for details, dates and booking information for both this event and the general walking tours.

Occurring on the last Thursday and Saturday of each month, they’re already proving popular.

So head along and learn a little more about this market town we all think we know but definitely love.

Dining · Events · Food and Drink · lifestyle · manchester · Preview/Review · Uncategorized · wine

An A in Fizzical Education – Altrincham Fizz Festival 

Last year I attended the Fizz Festival in Altrincham and had an absolute top drawer time of it. Read my account below and book your tickets for this year’s before they sell out! 🥂

Fizz Festival 2017 – Alty – 18/19 Nov

(Below originally published 17/11/2016)

Imagine a world where a whole festival of Fizz arrives on your doorstep. 

Run by Cracking Wine, last weekend was Altrincham’s 2nd Fizz Festival, Hale Geezer’s 1st attendance and 30 seconds in;  red-faced. Not the ‘glow’ of someone who likes their drink more than just a friend, but more the deep puce that bedecks only the foolish. 

I’m no stranger to wine, sparkling or otherwise. My drinking career now in double figures, two wine-tastings and a champagne masterclass under my belt, I hoped not to show myself up at the first stall. 

Hope springs eternal…

wrote Alexander Pope. 

And so it was only a matter of time before I made my first fizz faux pas.

This lovely lady looked at me as I awkwardly approached Fizz Guru

Hello!

Hello!

Awkward pause on my part as I read out the lady’s own flyer to her as she waits patiently for me to say something normal.

I don’t. Lady offers me prosecco, still stone cold sober and socially awkward, I make a kind of ‘mmmm’ noise. More of a still wine/champagne fan, I usually drink prosecco as a substitute for the latter, feeling hard done to, (please note I no longer hold that view) and so I’m ready to roll out my usual 

I drink prosecco but it’s actually a bit sweet for my taste

line when I clock the bottle from which I’ve just tasted and, noting the ‘extra dry’ on the label, gleefully add

Although this is lovely and dry and so really nice.

I’m pleased. I was too sober and awkward to even notice what it was but I’ve nailed it here. I’ve begun the tasting with not only a declaration but an intelligent one.

I wait for the lovely lady to place a crown on my head and pronounce me attendee of the weekend when she tells me sweetly (which as it goes is apt) that extra dry on prosecco bottles often means the opposite. The Fizz Guru proved her credentials in one sentence.

Pop, Fizz, Sip…Make a Right Tool of Yourself
It still doesn’t make sense to me but I had to go and didn’t wait for the explanation. I said thank you. And went to a second stall, far away from pitying eyes. 

My prosecco education only just beginning, I next meet this lovely man from Con Gusto. I look at him pleadingly, and his six open bottles of prosecco. Keen to erase the memory of the daftness surrounding my first Fizz of the Festival, I clutch my flute like a 21st century adult female version of Oliver Twist towards him. 

Please sir, can I have some more

No that would be mental and technically incorrect as I hadn’t yet tasted any of his wares. I just like an oft-used literary analogy.

No, he came to my rescue and  before I had chance to show myself and my co-taster up (yes there was a witness to my woe – my husband who is a kind of passive foot in mouther, such is the regularity to which he bears close witness to my acts of awkward), the lovely man started talking. He left no room for me to trip up. And so I learnt that prosecco should not just be treated as a substitute for when I tragically can’t have champagne, it should be tasted and treated with respect. As I’ve tarred all prosecco with the same rude brush, I missed an obvious clue as to why the ones I don’t like, I don’t like. For a start a good prosecco should have the name of the house/vineyard on the label, not just an Italian random word (Vaporetta a case in point). 

Speaking of labels, I truly was seduced by the first of the wines I tasted: 

The picture is of the house where the grower and his family live. This blog post won’t be me trying to impress you with my notes of notes of apples and hay, and so forth but know that I bought this lovely tipple as consider it a light aperitif and, dare I say it, a session prosecco.

Having tried another three we were swayed by this more flavoursome affair and when a Fizz preserver was thrown in, I was in love.



 We even managed to throw in some knowledge of Italian sparkling wine – we knew from experience that the Italians do not consider the flute necessary and that the Italian’s version of champagne was not prosecco but in fact one that I had been introduced to in Northern Italy a couple of years ago. Yes reader, I cannot remember what it is called. 

A google later – Franciacorta.

Buoyed, we visit Hush Heath and I fully admit to being one of those heathens scared of the prospect of English Sparkling Wine. In fact as with prosecco, I have been educated and have a new found respect. Attending the festival, I was accompanied not only by my husband but an attitude of ‘I am looking forward to the champagne, not so much its fellow fizzes.’

Silly me.

The lovely lady (I know: I do know other adjectives but they were! They were all lovely!) grabbed us immediately with her enthusiasm and passion for the Kent based producer and family who run Hush Heath, that interest was piqued even prior to anything being popped.

Reader, I walked away with two bottles, one of which is served in 1st class on British Airways and on the Orient Express. How quintessentially English. And what a lovely drop!

By now I was feeling very happy and very confident (read pleasantly…tipsy) and headed over to the Champagne Thienot stand. 

A wonderful gentleman regaled us with tales of this champagne house which, for 30 years, is fast building a reputation for modern luxury. Not a mass producer, the champagne is reassuring difficult to come by and the chosen house Hollywood opted for at the Oscars.

Thienot we liked you, we really liked you!

(if just one person gets this reference, I’ll be ever so pleased)

Red Squirrel really opened up our eyes (and wallets) with its sparkling Chardonnay where the wine is bottled before fermenting is finished, leaving the fizz to happen inside the glass. As our (yes) lovely teacher taught us, that means each bottle is unique.

After trying a Canadian sparkling wine and revisiting an Austrian sparkling wine last tasted on a trip to Salzburg almost 10 years ago, we took away with us this lovely NV:

Finest Fizz flashed its fairylights our way and we enjoyed a journey  which began with Skinny Rose (275 calls a bottle if you’re wondering) and lovely. As well as bringing with me a bias against prosecco and English sparkling, I’d never rated Rose but in a Fizz form it’s generally delightful.

From this lovely fellow in the checked shirt, we took away a Fizz stopper accompanied by this fantastic Lopez-Martin Carte D’Or Premier Cru NV:


Anyone still reading may have noticed that this post has gone from being quite text heavy to decidedly image led. This may or may not directly correlate with my levels of sobriety by the time I’d reached the latter stands. 

may or may not 

Over at Laurent-Perrier, we joined a great family with whom we enjoyed a talk from a gentleman who took us through his famous wares, providing a great context to each bottle – which champagne was the polite gathering, which was more Christmas morning, which was the more heady New Year’s Eve. After the funny anecdote about the Frenchman and the scotch egg…

I’ll just leave that there

We all needed a break. We needed a Kit Kat and so we all took our fingers and our fizz and tasted the Demi Sec which was perfect for dessert; the Kit Kat proving a superb substitute for a chocolate fondant.

With wobbly legs and a fuzzy head, I took respite from the fizz and headed over to Booze and Burn and their amazing array of candles.


In the absence of smelling salts, this was just what I needed to reawaken my senses and separate brain from booze. 

Recycling at its best, they use eco soya wax and recycled wine bottles and their heady scents are sensational. I also learnt a none Fizz fact  too – soya wax also burns evenly and so you don’t get that wasteful ring when the wick has burnt down.

The two lovely (yes) ladies s(c)net (sorrynotsorry) me on my way with a beautiful Pomegranate Noir:

Last and not least (really not) was the friendly fizz purveyor of Oddbins (Chorlton)

His stand was pretty and I drank my first (and admittedly) not my last, sparkling red, the beguiling yet ominously titled Black Queen Sparkling Shiraz.

Cold, red and sparkling, your senses don’t know what to do. Thankfully (for my diginity) my brain did and, reactivating, told me that after upwards of 30 tastings, it was time to collect my purchases and leave this fantastic scene.

With 5 bottles, two fizz stoppers, a candle and a wealth of fizzical education, I cannot wait to attend next year’s – if only to redeem myself with the Fizz Guru.

The Fizz Festival Cheshire

cheshire · Dining · Events · Food and Drink · hale · lifestyle · manchester · Popular Culture · Uncategorized · wine

Drink alone? You’re having a giraffe

Every few weeks, I get to sit upstairs at Hale institution, Danilo’s, and taste fine sparkling wines under the guise of education..


From the people who also bring us Altrincham’s Fizz Festival, I learnt three things at this month’s Fizz Club:

  • I am incapable of turning down a top up (I knew that really);
  • Brimoncourt Champagne is mighty fine; and
  • Giraffes would rather die of thirst than drink alone.

It’s true.

I imagine you’re exclaiming 

Awwwwwwww…

in a high-pitched way, like I did. However. it’s not completely about friendship and social loveliness.

As giraffes are made up of long things, including eyelashes, this can leave them particularly vulnerable to approaching predators, when bending down to drink. They need a drinking buddy. A watchman. Not a drop shall pass their lips without company.

I like this. Although the only thing which has ever prevented me from drinking alone is social awkwardness, rather than lions or something.

Why the odd, slightly depressing giraffe tangent?!…

I hear you cry (one person).

Why I’m glad you asked mum reader.

Before I even go into the champagne itself, I want to talk about the packaging. 

Brimoncourt not only bring fantastic champagne to our tables, but do so in only the most beautiful way.


From the elegant website to the corks in the bottles, the brand exudes elegance and art, much of this down to its CEO, Alexandre. 

Our charming host for the evening, Diogo,  

took us through the history of the house, which included Alexandre’s background of a paratrooper and art collector, evident not least in the design of the box for the first champagne tasted:


See I got to it. 

The ethos of Brimoncourt’s first champagne tasted, the Brut Regence, is ‘the wine of sharing, the wine of friends’.

And so the giraffe (forgetting the dark undertone of just why they share).

Lovely, isn’t it?

Finally to the champagne itself. 

Brut Regence, NV 2013, is 80% chardonnay, 20% pinot noir, and *spoiler alert* my favourite of all tasted.

We tried this champagne twice; once from a 750ml bottle, the second from a magnum. 


Having actually paid attention at previous tastings, I was able to nod sagely as we were told that champagne was best served (and tasted) from a magnum. In the latter there is a greater proportion of liquid to air and aged for an extra two years.
It was at this point I again pointed out to my partner in wine how much better my life would be were I to drink champagne from magnums from a huge new fridge in which they would be housed. 

I don’t think he heard me.


It was a lovely, light, bubbly affair which might be described as a high quality session champagne, to be enjoyed with friends, high spirits and laughter.  It’s got the happy factor and so I can do no more to recommend it than advise that I ordered two bottles immediately (alas only the standard 750ml – stupid regular sized fridge).

We went on to try the Blanc de blanc – 100% chardonnay and yes it’s slowly dawning on me that a chardonnay is not a chardonnay is not a chardonnay. 

This was more complex, aged for 4-5 years and delightful but more suited to drinking with dinner.

Indeed Diogo described it to us as a gastronomic wine – a feature of which is it makes you salivate and want to eat. 

But what is the ideal food to eat with this particular champagne?

Well, funny you should ask (gets out notes), sushi and indeed seafood in general.

The packaging is again so pretty and stylish. 


This, design depicts a poem about the Champagne region, as written in chalk on blackboard – a nod to the earth’s minerals and the growing of the grapes. Just lovely.

The Brut Rose was presented next and a deeper colour than perhaps some I’ve tasted. Diogo explained that that there are two methods to making a sparkling Rose; the blend or the bleeding method. 

The Champagne region is the only place where the blending method is legally allowed and, indeed, this is a champagne made of a blend of white and red grapes.  

40% pinot noir (an unusually high ratio), 35% chardonnay (which brings in the freshness) and 25% pinot meunier. 


A more complex rose champagne than perhap most, this would definitely hold its own beyond a toast or aperitif before dinner. Again, a gastronomic wine, our host recommended cheese and cold cuts. Oh to be able to sip on this beautiful fizz each time I indulged myself in my frenzied cheese habit, sat in my pyjamas in front of Eastenders (other good soap operas are available).

Oh but the box. It’s pink, poppies and feminine. Perhaps my least favourite, to be honest, as whilst aesthetically pretty, maybe hammering home a misconception that rose champagne is for ‘the ladies’. But lovely all the same:


Finally, we were treated to the Extra Brut, a vintage from 2010.

80% pinot noir, 20% chardonnay, this champagne is aged for 6 years.

Lovely and perhaps the champagne most likely to stand upto being served at dinner: seafood, oysters, lamb, korean…any of your Monday teatime staples.

I jest (more Tuesday), but an opulent champagne perhaps for a special occasion. And so the final box is befitting of its standing: 


With its design based on the gardens of Versaille, it is the epitome of how Brimoncourt positions its champagne – elegant with many layers and surprises.

Whilst I look forward to sharing my Brut Regence, in the spirit intended, I might just lock all the doors to predators and have it all to myself.

Cheers!

All the deets:

The Fizz Festival and Club

Cracking Wine

Brimoncourt Champagne 

Danilo’s

Dining · Food and Drink · Restaurants · Uncategorized

Bistrot Pierre – red sign at night; this diner’s delight…

French. It was a word that struck fear into my heart for four years at school. This was down to one Madame who used the language as almost a weapon.

The seemingly innocuous…

Bonjour la classe

…still has a Pavlovian effect on me – one of fear

Still, getting that ‘A’ enabled me to order that parmentier de poisson in Bistrot Pierre – Altrincham last Wednesday, and know that fish pie was incoming (and how).

Parmentier de poisson

 

Small chain restaurant, Bistrot Pierre, is reassuringly no CafĂ© Rouge – which is ironic, given the red hue to all of my images, as I basked under the red neon sign .

 It was already winning before a single saucisson was served (it’s not particularly a sausage based affair but alliteration- big fan).

Unveiled, the building immediately had an effect on Alty town.

The red light (predictably this is the only photograph in the whole collection without a red hue) and not forgetting the mural…

A lovely muriel, to quote Hilda (RIP) Ogden

… a beautiful addition to a town under immense regeneration (anyone mentioned the regeneration?).

I think the people behind Bistrot Pierre had already won fans just by the aesthetics they’ve brought to that corner of town, not least from me…

oooh la la!

not really. I edge towards the theatrical but I’ve never had an internal thought, or even external exclamation based on a clichĂ©d French exclamation. See also me in Italy and ‘Mamma Mia’, or, erm Liverpool…

meff

I do like meff. It’s immense.

After tempting us with its pretty lights and mural, Bistrot Pierre finally opened its doors proper on Friday 2 December. A winning combo of its pre-opening popularity and my disorganisation, when it came to me booking I couldn’t get a table for dinner for a weekend or Thursday within at least the first fortnight, so a Wednesday evening it was. Which is the new so on and so forth.

Actually, the atmosphere was easily befitting of a weekend – busy, bustley, happy; the restaurant was thriving.

As detailed in one of my favourite Manchester blogs (ok, fair dos, it’s mine), I’m partial to a red light – Honorary Manc blog – Palace Hotel –  and so was very pleased to be seated in the window right under the red light

Roxanne, Roxanne…

I’ve basically done the obvious jokes in the Palace Hotel blog post, but one more never hurts.

The restaurant itself is stylish, smart and decidedly Parisian.

 

And the glorious red and iconic sign is the thing and leaves diners to bask in its glow (again, accounting for why all my food photographs look red. Still delicious, but red)…

 

The service is polite, not stuffy, attentive, not invasive, and the house glass of champagne cheap, cheerful and enjoyable (top of my wish-list – do they do a house champagne and is it reasonably priced enough to drink without abject guilt on a Wednesday when nobody’s achieved anything more that day, than managing a tram trip to town without tantrums and tears).

I’m still smarting from a couple of Mondays ago on the tram, when we were all crammed in like – well like humans in an Albert Square in December – and a lady commuter and self-appointed Tram Monitor boarded at Brooklands and started shouting at us all to move down as it’s

so unfair, oh it’s so unfair.

I should point out that since Altrincham station, us selfish standees had become closely acquainted enough to identify the brand of each’s others fabric softener, and, short of forming Cheshire’s answer to the Human Centipede, had nowhere else to go. I should secondly point out that the declarations of things being

so unfair, just so unfair

were called out from her ample and fairly roomy position ON THE TRAM.

I digress, I know, but it’s good to let things out, lest you think of them every morning, every Monday to Friday, when pulling into Brooklands station.

Back to the Bistrot, we ordered sourdough, olive oil, balsamic and a gently softened garlic bulb with which we brushed our way into garlic bread heaven. No we did. Delicious.

Starters, between us we ticked all the French staple boxes – fromage, champignons, bacon, cream and brioche.

 

The perfect time between courses, our magnificent mains arrived. My husband’s Boeuf Bourguignon not only tasted delightful but its presentation and make up a real surprise and treat.

img_3737

After enjoying all with a bottle of Grenache/Syrah, the two of us indulged in our oft performed end of dinner tango of…

yes, we’ll take a look at the dessert menu.

it doesn’t hurt to look

(weak laugh)

followed by the predictable and well-rehearsed…

Oh it all looks so tempting, but we’re just too full!

We’re having to admit defeat!

ha ha. ha….ha.

Ever polite, ever gracious, our server joined our laughter, pretending he’d never been privy to the whole tedious routine before, and so we left. Despite the story that this image suggests, we paid before exiting…

img_3739
Not beating a hastry retreat without paying. He’s just a bit light on his feet. Runner, that is.

 

So there we have it, Altrincham, Hale and surrounding areas (out of towners could even tram hop to it – I promise Tram Monitor only appears at peak times, Monday to Friday. At Brooklands), Bistrot Pierre is mighty fine. Bon, you might say.

Bon. C’est tres bon.

Merci Madame, for enabling me to one day round off a blog post with some basic French. And assisting me in finding my round a menu in Altrincham. Oh and I did check into that Ibis in St Omer without hilarious consequences too. Or aussi, as we say in France.