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.

cheshire · Dining · Events · Food and Drink · hale · Launch · lifestyle · Preview/Review · Restaurants · Uncategorized

Juniper Cafe Hale – bringing style to daytime dining

They do say that when one door closes another opens and that bittersweet fact is certainly true in Hale Village at the moment.

Whilst we mourn the disappearance of restaurants and businesses, there appears to be a plethora popping up in their place.

The latest arrival on the scene is Juniper. Now the fact the Juniper plant is an evergreen (yes I’ve performed a Google), bodes well for longevity.

I arrived like this (not really I walked).

Already successful in Bramhall, the stylish cafe has thrown open its doors in Hale and having already given its attractive fascia inquisitive side-eye over recent days, I was eager to step through.

Credit – Juniper Hale

The first thing that struck me was how tasteful and chic the furnishings and general look of Juniper are and is.

I had to double check that the establishment really did close at 7pm without an evening service as (and I don’t mean this in any way negative) there does tend to be a distinct difference in ambience between daytime eateries and those which venture into the evening. And Juniper has a feel of the latter.

If you’re heading to Juniper for breakfast, brunch, lunch, an afternoon snack or perhaps early bird dinner with the children, it has the feel of a destination place.

And indeed there’s no missing that that destination is Hale, given the beautiful local artwork on display by Hale artist, Neil Roland, especially commissioned for Juniper…

But does the food look as good as the decor?

Well yes!

But does it taste as good as it looks?

Also yes.

The menu covers a range of light food favourites, although don’t let ‘light’ fool you into thinking that you’re going to leave hungry.

Watching the dishes come out of the kitchen, I went full on meerkat sneaking a peak at those ordered by my fellow diners; smashed avocado, American pancakes, Belgian waffles, toasted bagels, Cheshire spring lamb kleftiko, Cajun chicken and a very exciting looking signature burger were just some of the plates promenaded by my table.

Eyes wide, mouth open, dignity just about intact, I allowed the procession to delight my senses but also to instil the terrible emotional state that is…

FOOD ENVY.

Dear god, what if I’ve chosen wrong.

I mean I had no option but to choose my choice.

Aside from the fact that it’s one of my favourite dishes, the name play was a pun after my own beating heart:

Behold the salad that is, the Hale Caesar:

You say Caesar, I say Geezer.

I was so smug when my dish was set down.

I mean of course I wasn’t.

Well yes I was.

Every single classic ingredient of the caesar was present (yes I’ve adopted such an affinity to it that I don’t even need to say the ‘salad’ bit now) and striking.

It came with parmesan. However, it was a parmesan basket. And parmesan crisps!

The chicken and bacon strips were plentiful, the leaves generous and crunchy, the croutons garlicky and the dressing classic.

My plus 1 (honestly he’s down with being made to be reduced to that insipid description) had to wait a little longer for his but…

*he’s a very patient man (he has to be – see me);

*it was only a very short wait; and

*he got to sample some pancakes whilst he waited.

His fajita chicken wrap was worth the wait.

Crunchy where it should be, soft in all the right places, the flavours worked wonderfully (I tried them just to make sure – my gender confusing name is on the line here) …

And never underestimate the power of a great chip.

They were great chips (again I tried them to allow me to keep on living my truth).

Great chips

I agree, great chips

Nigel Slater and your wonderful way of adding emotion, romance and nostalgia to your food descriptions? Eat your heart out.

And so thanks and praise go to the Head Chef, Saleh Ahmed and Manager, Imad Ammar, who, along with their charming and friendly team, are bringing an additional touch of style to Hale and its dining credentials.

For menus, bookings and indeed all the ‘deets’ please visit the Juniper website.

Now let’s end on another nod to the wonderfully named dish

Hale Caesar!

– second only to Hale Geezer in an exclusive list of locally influenced puns…

altrincham · cheshire · Events · Food and Drink · Football · hale · lifestyle · Preview/Review · The Arts · Uncategorized

Hale Barns Carnival 2018

I love summer.

With it brings a whole host of happiness in the form of holidays, festivals, galas and carnivals.

And so it’s that time again when the wonderful Hale Barns carnival rides into town.

Or does it ever leave in the first place?

Is it always there, waiting, anticipating and then finally manifesting itself magically onto St Ambrose Playing fields on a chosen weekend each July?

Fellow residents, brace and prepare yourself for this Saturday 14 and Sunday 15 July for the second coming!

Attractions include 2 spectacular concerts, over 280 performers, bars aplenty, an outdoor cinema, gift and craft stalls, a fair and lots more fun, food and fireworks!

But wait. There’s one f missing from that alliterative statement – football!

At the time of writing, England are a mere 90 minutes away (maybe plus 30minutes, maybe plus penalties) from reaching the World Cup Final. And you won’t miss a thing. The Final (England or no England) will be broadcast via a big screen at the event, thanks to sponsors Benchmark Security and Robinson’s Brewery.

So there are no excuses not to head along this weekend. To find out more details (and there are lots!), head to www.halebarnscarnival.co.uk for a full list of activities, times and tickets.

For now, behold the Hale Geezer gallery, with a few snapshots from my own day last year at the inaugural event…

altrincham · cheshire · Events · Food and Drink · hale · health · lifestyle · Preview/Review · Uncategorized · wellbeing

One Mile Bakery Hale – best thing since sliced…well, you know.

I’ve always associated baking with cakes.

I’m not bothered about cakes as I’ve never had a sweet tooth – I’m all about the savoury.

I’ve never understood why I can’t just have a starter, main and then savoury again. Actually for that there is always cheese. And I am all about the cheese.

I don’t watch the ‘Great’ British Bake Off. I don’t consider it to be ‘great’. I certainly don’t consider Paul Hollywood to be ‘great’. I firmly believe that if you were to make firm eye contact with those steely blues, you’d be catapulted to the depths of a schmaltzy hell before you could say

Paul Hollywood isn’t ‘Great’…

Probably.

**Disclaimer – these are only the views of this writer. Plus I said ‘probably’ so, you know…**

I digress – but only ever so slightly.

But baking is not just cakes!

I hear you cry!

It is bread! Wonderful comforting, soft or crunchy, torn or toasted, taken neat or as a host for an accoutrement, bread is king, and baking is bread.

And so given my previous notion that ‘to bake is to cake’ (I know…), I had taken ‘me as baker’ off the table as a life skill.

That is until last week when One Mile Bakery Hale came into my life, leaving me with, indeed, a new skill, a feeling of inspiration and, most importantly, three wonderful loaves baked by my own floury hands!

Whilst One Mile Bakery Hale’s raison d’etre is two-fold (I will touch upon the first later – for those who just can’t wait, please read on here – come back please though), my focus is on their (spoiler) wonderful baking classes.

I’ve done a cookery class only once before. We all awkwardly stood round in a steel compound (industrial kitchen), nobody speaking, everybody giving each other’s pizza topping choices side-eye, followed by the most awkward lunch in living history as 20 of us ate our ‘masterpieces’ in silence.

The class I attended felt less lesson and more ‘get together and lunch with friends’.

As (well apparently loads of people according to Google search) said,

A stranger is just a friend you haven’t yet met

And whilst the socially awkward introvert in me would usually scoff at such an outlandish claim, the magic of One Mile Bakery Hale left this frightened mouse confident cynic enlightened.

Last Friday I attended Introduction To Baking alongside two other very lovely people and bread lovers.

The classes are held at the also very lovely home of Matt Townley, and right from the off I was made to feel less student, more friend invited over for lunch (and what a lunch – more later) and a spot of baking.

Asked whether any of us had baked before, aside from a one-off batch of cupcakes, I declared myself to be ‘the challenge’ – one which Matt duly met (he’s not afraid of a challenge – he plays for Bowdon RUFC, incidentally. His anecdote of a member of the opposing team leaving the field of play with an eyebrow hanging off will never quite leave me).

As I stood chatting , learning, kneading, mixing and basically baking with Matt et al (or whomever your al may be that day), my beginner’s nerves began to evaporate as the day went on.

Matt has a very natural ease about him, supporting and encouraging his company that all are bakers in the making and it’s all about following your instincts.

There is a clear passion for his craft from Matt and equally, (and obviously) from journalist turned baker Elisabeth Mahoney, who conceived of the wonderful concept that is One Mile Bakery back in 2012, and who I was fortunate to meet that day.

The first One Mile Bakery was based in Cardiff, the basis of the business being a service which bakes and creates ‘artisan bread, seasonal soup and delicious preserves’ and delivers them to customers by bike, all residing within one mile.

Recent additions, Exeter and indeed our very own Hale do indeed follow this premise, along with bringing classes to the masses (I should add that each class is held with only a handful of bakers to ensure intimacy and that personal touch – I just wanted to go a bit tabloid and rhyme ‘classes’ with ‘masses’).

However, both Elisabeth and Matt were keen to stress that whilst Elisabeth shares the ethos of One Mile Bakery, provides a guiding light and practical advice, each baker in literal residence, so to speak, takes the baton (or breadstick? baguette?) and is free to run with it, injecting his or her personality into matters along the way.

This not only includes the way they bake and cook, and the ingredients they grow, source and select, but in the way they conduct their cookery classes.

And so back to that fateful day (how ominous sounding – I love a bit of drama).

Amidst anecdotes of eyebrow extraction and my own pretentious tale of my husband and I nearly filing for divorce over a tense homemade ravioli stuffing session one afternoon (overstuffed indeed), we learned to bake three loaves; a classic white tin loaf, an organic seeded wholemeal and a French pain de campagne (that is, country loaf).

Provided with our own scrapers (forgive me Matt, this may not be its technical term but I’m still on a comedown from being allowed to take it home – I’m deadly serious), ingredients, bowls and places at the lovely kitchen island, we each learned the importance of taking charge of the dough and not being afraid to gently but firmly take it in literal hand and mix, pull and shape it until risen, proved (proven?) and ready to take its seat in the oven.

I loved Play Doh as a child and needed (no poorly executed pun intended – well maybe a little) encouragement to get my fingers dirty.

That said, when it came to flipping my dough over or into a tin or basket, or deciding that my rising wasn’t quite as ‘risey’ as my fellow learners, more reassurance and encouragement was provided immediately putting paid to my wobbly bottom lip, and all was well with the world, once again.

Equally important to the skills we were provided with that day, was the hospitality also bestowed upon us.

Not only were we provided with elevenses in the shape of some of Matt’s own toasted bread and preserves, but lunch too.

The vibrant dancing, summer aesthetics of the dishes laid before us were equally matched by the flavours and as we all sat round Matt’s family dining table breaking bread and chatting (even his gorgeous cat Poppy popped by to say hi), it was easy to forget we weren’t just all enjoying a leisurely lunch at a friend’s house (this temporary memory loss was down to the friendly and comfortable scene, not the 2 glasses of crisp and delicious Sauvignon Blanc I enjoyed).

Man of the match for me – Matt’s glorious watercress soup.

Now I won’t go into all the nuances and practical stages of the baking as I urge you to head along and find these out yourself.

What I will say that over 5 hours (including time taken to eat all that delicious food and laugh lots along the way), I went from bread consumer to bread baker and utterly astounded myself by producing this bounty…

Reader? I’ve not stopped banging on about it since. And it tasted delicious! My bread!Me! Ok, One Mile Bakery Hale had something to do with it.

And given that Matt’s delivery list is currently full (keep an eye out ready to pounce for a place), I feel fortunate that I have the tools (metaphorically speaking but also with reference to my new ‘scraper’), to keep my household in at least three different loaves myself.

I also wish to point out that if you’re lucky enough to get on Matt’s delivery route, all packaging is 100% plastic free – delivery bags, soup containers and garnish pots are not only totally recyclable but 100% compostable too.

And so, on the list or not, with a number of different classes available including French Baking, Introduction to Sourdough and Italian Baking, I urge you to follow my lead and try one out.

Inspired is not the word. Well it is, it just feels understated.

It’s no exaggeration to say that if I can do it, anyone can!

Waste not a second more and head to the One Mile Bakery Hale website here.

Ps I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve had to sort out the autocorrect which arrogantly changed matters to One Mike Bakery Hale, so if you seen any I’ve missed please shout out.

Beauty · Celebrity · cheshire · Events · hale · Launch · lifestyle

Terence Paul super salon hits Hale!

Hear ye, oh owners of hair!

Hale has a new reason to be.

Hair today and guaranteed to be hair tomorrow (I know, I know!), stylist to the stars Calum Tierney, along with Olivia Hammond, has brought a bigger, better and well more super Terence Paul salon to the village and into our lives.

Building on the success of its previous location, Terence Paul Hale has moved to the previous Lloyds Bank building and the stars were out in force (that phrase always sounds ever so aggressive doesn’t it) to celebrate at the launch party, hosted by Vital Management.

Hale loves a launch and last Saturday at the salon proved no exception.

Many of Calum’s clients were there including Corrie’s Catherine Tyldesley and Katie McGlynn to celebrate the new shinier salon, and give us (Mail online showbiz alert – I love an alliterative phrase so sorrynotsorry) a teaser of how top tresses can look…

(Credit: Elspeth Moore photography)

See how pretty (sigh).

For appointments call 0161 928 0707 or visit the website here for details.

altrincham · cheshire · Events · hale · lifestyle · Popular Culture · Preview/Review · The Arts · Uncategorized

Altrincham Word Fest – Life writing and Personal Narrative with Kate Feld.

This is an incredibly self referential blog.

I’m writing about writing.

Life Writing, in actual fact.

I’m writing about my life which today involved attending the first event of the Altrincham Word Fest,

Life Writing and Personal Narrative

Writing will eat itself in this blog post. It could only eat itself more if I’d also been able to attend and blog about the blogging event,

Creating Content Online with We Blog North…

a network I’m happily a member of, and a class happening later in the run.

This afternoon, I spent a very happy, inspiring and creative two hours with writer, journalist and lecturer, Kate Feld, a group of lovely actual and aspirational writers, and the two lovely people who have conceived of this rather marvellous festival, Anne Earley and Yoko Isami.

Taking place between 12-27 May, Altrincham Word Fest is

a two-week celebration of writing which will take place in the town.

To quote Sydney Youngblood (my cultural references giving me away, YET again,

If only I could…

go to each and every event along the way.

Fate, a full time job and life plans dictate that I can’t, and after today’s workshop, this makes me sad, in essence.

Two hours was never going to be long enough (unless the session had been shocking, meaning two hours of tension), and I left thirsty for more.

A writing style I tend to gravitate towards myself (write what you know. I know me, me, me and how to use WordPress – a bit), I was keen to hear how a successful writer and essayist hones her craft.

The first thing I learnt was that essay means to attempt or try.

When writing an essay we must be looking for the answer to something. There must be a question.

All too often, my question is along the lines of

Why did I do this thing in the anecdote and can someone else relate or provide reassurance that I’m not unique in my socially awkward ways?

After examining the various forms of essay writing, we were tasked with a, well, task (perhaps it’s a thesaurus I need before a life writing class).

Put pen to paper (or fingers to lap top) and write freely for 15 minutes on something that’s happened recently or is in your mind. It can be small. Insignificant. Mundane.

To quote our mentor Kate,

The exuberant gloriousness of the ordinary

I loved that quote.

I wrote it down and everything.

As usual I had many socially awkward and anxious interactions and concerns to draw on.

I chose an incident from Thursday night. Here is my scrawl and here is it written up verbatim just now (ok I corrected it’s to its) on my ill used vanity blog, Memoirs of a Laura (I know…)

The Ladies and the Ironing – an essay

Waste not want not.

Now I feel I’ve almost been given permission to write about myself, this (along with the incredible injection of enthusiasm) could spell trouble.

Which I will then write about.

Against a backdrop of tales of eating, drinking and general messing about in Hale, Altrincham and surrounding areas.

And Manchester (plug and indeed plug Honorary Manc)

If you love to read, write, learn, be inspired, do make sure to check out the programme of events happening over the next fortnight, brought to Altrincham by

Altrincham Word Fest

Altrincham Unlimited – Alty Word Fest

The Real Story