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

WA14 – Friday Chippy Tea, the great British institution

I grew up near the sea, on the Fylde Coast.

With Fleetwood a pebble’s skim away, you were (almost) close enough to hear the rustle of the fishing nets…

Needless to say we were not short of chip shops (for some reason I’ve never been able to call them ‘chippys’. Always chip shop. Like a formal Victorian).

This battered sausage is divine. From the chip shop, you say?

The nearest was a 5 min walk away and it would be on a Friday that those magical words would be uttered…

What would you like from the chip shop?

(ah it makes sense now – my mum says chip shop too).

My answer, by the way, would be

Everything. I’d like everything please. Except mushy peas. For me they’re the work of the devil, and I just don’t understand them.

When I moved to Manchester in 2000, I couldn’t understand where all the chip shops were at.

I mean there was quite often a tribute to the chip shop in that the takeaways offering kebabs etc might offer chips or even a jumbo sausage, but the traditional chip shop didn’t appear to exist.

There does appear to have been a shift in this regard over recent times. Even that great leader of our times, Manchester City Centre, has opened up a few chip shops in addition to stalwart Kingfisher…

I mean, no doubt there’s some irony involved, but still…

But it will always be the ‘burbs that don’t let us down. And so imagine my incredible (and I do mean incredible) excitement when a new chip shop opened a stone’s throw from home. I mean we even share the same postcode…

Residents of Hale, Bowdon (and definitely should be, if not actually) beyond will be no stranger to WA14 Fish & Chips

I mean it literally does what it says on the tin. It’s fish and chips, it’s in WA14. And on a Friday that’s where you’ll find a good proportion of its neighbours.

Now a grown up (I really am) it’s my job to stand in line on a Friday, listening to the frying of the fish, those dulcet tones of the chips being plunged into the hot oil, the chatter of the people in line – the communal excitement growing in anticipation of their pending supper, happy in the knowledge that the working week is over, and chippy tea is incoming.

But never have I stood in a chip shop line in such stylish and perfectly branded surroundings.

But fear not, Hale, Bowdon and beyond, fish, chips and, ok, mushy peas (if you have to) haven’t given way to a 16 course tasting menu with wine pairing. It’s all there. The pies are there, the gravy’s there, the jumbo sausages are there…

see there they are.

so it’s still the chip shop. Our lovely chip shop. But then some..

A range of fish choices, not only scampi but made with monkfish, and a pie menu like a gift from the gods.

Last night there was a distinct chill in the air in Hale (it’s ok – I don’t mean the parking rates have gone up again) and whilst Friday night chippy does not discriminate in terms of time of year, it is definitely best indulged in in colder climes.

And so anticipation at a peak as our food was seasoned (I don’t like vinegar – what an oddity I truly am reader)…

…it was time to leave with our boxes of delights.

Ouch

I was heard to exclaim as we headed off down the cobbled passageway that is Bath Street, our cardboard wares reassuringly hot to the touch…

Home in two minutes, front door shut to the world, no work the next day, the aromas of the chip shop filling our senses (and those of the cat – for the final time, just get off…)

…life is about these moments.

All this romanticism, nostalgia, talking of branding is all very well, but what was the actual food like, I hear my one reader cry (hi mum).

Bloody delicious.

You know that food term we all loathe and I would never lower myself to use…well here is some not food porn:

I opted for good old cod and chips. Served with a slice of lemon and pot of creamy tartare sauce , the chips were double cooked and with the effect that they were seemingly coated in a light batter. The cod was reassuringly white, soft in all the right places, mouth-melting, and the batter delicious and non-greasy.

My plus 1 in proceedings went with a chicken and black pudding pie and chips…

Every chip is the perfect chip

And

Mmmm

And basically silence as he emptied the box.

And along with a glass of wine, a beer, a can of pop, some trashy telly and a deep deep sense of relief and satisfaction that another working week has drawn to a close, what more can you want from your Friday night.

WA14 (and surrounding areas)? Take your place in that gastronomic waiting room on Ashley Road that is…WA14

And remember. Chippy tea is not just for Fridays, it’s for Mon – Saturdays. 1130-2100 (with a little rest from 1430-1630, Mon-Thursday’s).

For menus and full details head to https://fshnchps.co.uk/

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.

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

altrincham · cheshire · Dining · Food and Drink · hale · Preview/Review · Restaurants · Uncategorized

The Griffin brings summer to the table – Restaurant Review

Cheese. I love cheese.

I love it any which way (not cottage cheese. I don’t enjoy cottage cheese).

There is no finer state, however, than when its unashamedly melted. No messing about.

It’s no coincidence that I’ve been bought cheese books, cheese hampers, cheese vouchers, cheese…as leaving gifts/secret santas during my career.

Laura’s leaving again. What shall we do? Cheese.

Laura:

yes.

I leave jobs to acquire cheese and related products (note to potential future employers  – I don’t).

Melted, gooey, stringy (all find food adjectives, I’m sure you’ll agreed)…

The good people living through the 70s had it right. The fondue.

Let’s find a legitimate way for people to unashamedly dip things in melted cheese.

And so when the lovely people at Chef and Brewer’s The Griffin, in Bowdon, invited me to try their new Spring/Summer menu, I leapt at the chance. And then I leapt again when I saw what was new on the starters section. I leap a lot (I mean not actually, that’s quite tiring).

Ladies and Gentlemen of Bowdon, Hale, Altrincham and surrounding areas? Let me present to you,

Cheddar & Yorkshire Ale Fondue.

This beautiful cast iron pan of bubbling cheddar loveliness is accompanied by a fine selection of spring vegetables for dipping, namely asparagus, carrot and cucumber crudités, along with beetroot pickle, caramelised red onion chutney and white and malted toasted bloomer.

Begrudgingly I shared with my plus 1, but there was plenty to go around – even given the ferocious way I attacked the board, before remembering I was in public.

The dish is a game of two halves – the cruditĂ©s allowing you to eat a dish that isn’t all-consuming and feels lovely and healthy, but with a fine, delicious centrepiece of tangy wonderment and excitement – that of the cheddar and Yorkshire ale fondue.

We said a sad but fond farewell to our very empty board and cast iron pan, ready to try two of the new dishes on the mains section.

Chef’s Summer Garden Bowl

Before I even picked up my fork, this aesthetically pleasing dish made my eyes light up, a cacophony of spring and summer flavours and colours.

This warm dish brings together new potatoes, asparagus, garden peas, baby gem, tenderstem broccoli and spring onion, all dressed with lemon oil.

Not only that, but there are a range of toppings to choose from including courgette & harissa flavoured rice skewers, rump steak, salmon, chicken, sea bass and last but not least, halloumi which I plumped for.

I’m not the best with lemon flavours but thankfully had pushed my silliness aside upon when choosing my main, as the Garden Bowl had successfully seduced me in its description. And it truly did deliver.

The lemon oil was subtle and perfectly complimented the range of flavours and textures in the bowl. A lovely, healthy dish which left me happy and with no need for dessert (spoiler, I had dessert anyway)…

Rump Steak with a Macaroni Cheese Topper

Steak is not new!

…I hear you cry.

No it is not. But certainly new to the menu is the concept of the steak topper. That’s actually new to me too, so double bubble excitement all round.

Frequent flyers of The Griffin will already have a place in their heart for their wondrous steak options.

Served with grilled tomato, sautĂ©ed mushrooms, lamb’s lettuce and onion rings, salad and, on this occasion, the potato of choice being triple cooked chips, the rump steak was cooked perfectly as per my plus 1’s request (medium rare), the accompaniments tasty and the chips triple-cooked to perfection (confession time, I also had a portion with my Garden Bowl – I couldn’t not).

But what about this talk of toppers?

…I still hear you say.

I am coming to it.

And here we go.

New to the menu are a range of steak toppers, namely:

  • mac ‘n’ cheese
  • stilton & peppercorn sautĂ©ed mushrooms
  • surf ‘n’ turf; and…
  • our old friend ‘Cheddar & Yorkshire ale fondue’, as previously seen as a starter!

My plus 1 went straight for the mac ‘n’ cheese which thrilled me greatly, being my guilty pleasure.

And the topper did not come as a mere hint or nod to the foodstuff, it was a dish in itself, arriving on the side for you to top your steak at your pleasure.

Creamy, comforting and downright wonderful, the steak topper does indeed deserve its place as a new dish on the menu.

Desperately fighting off feelings of fulfilment, there was still one course to go – pudding. And to retain some dignity, two spoons but only one dish was ordered:

Summer fruit sundae

To use a summer’s day analogy, if the first two courses were a fun day enjoying a bbq and beer garden with friends, the pudding was the happy, slow paced amble home, through a country lane, the scent of flowers flirting with your senses, cheeks flushed from the sun (let’s just pretend it’s not the UK), with glow brought from the sun setting on a happy day.

I’m basically saying it was the perfect, sweet ending.

Fresh pineapple and raspberries, mango sorbet, clotted cream ice cream, peach and pear pieces, raspberry coulis and toasted almonds.

I will let my photograph (and long, complicated analogy) tell the story.

And so as we approach what will hopefully be a long and happy summer, The Griffin promises to be the perfect host, not only in its new menu but with, I’m told, the setting – the outside bar in the extensive beer garden in operation, and its own festival, hoping to raise lots of funds and awareness for MacMillan Cancer Support, along with Altrincham Matters:

(Poster credit: Altrincham Design)

All the details can be found here

Bon appetite!

altrincham · cheshire · Dining · Food and Drink · Preview/Review · Restaurants · Uncategorized

Altrincham, say hello to my Tre Ciccio

Tre Ciccio means three chubby friends.

Is that not the mostly lovely translation you ever did hear?

Such a lovely language.

After trips to Venice, Rome and with the prospect of a three week trip round parts of Italy for my honeymoon, I vowed to learn Italian.

I couldn’t keep saying

prego

to absolutely everything. Embarrassing.

At the time I was commuting every day to Leeds and so had plenty of train time to learn the language, 5 days a week.

Armed with the CDs (yes CDs) I started in earnest. I abandoned my mission in earnest too, rocked asleep by Transpennine Express (my excuse) sooner than you can say

sogni d’oro

(thank you google).

In fact during that futile attempt to make an effort, the only phrase that stuck was

Mi dispiace

I think mostly because I’m a serial apologiser (apologist?), but mostly because of the comedy, growly way it was said on the CD.

Yes, CD.

Anyway I have been back to Italy a couple of times since and am still pulling prego out of the bag, but at least internally I’m screaming mi dispiace each time.

And then it’s phrases like tre ciccio which make me want to download a podcast or something and engage more in the language than simply listening to it, googling it and knowing my favourite dishes.

And so we get to the point and the hidden charm that is Tre Ciccio.

Hidden isn’t entirely appropriate as a description, given that at the time of writing it only fully opens tonight and so it’s been less hidden, more actually not there yet.

But everything about Tre Ciccio makes you feel like you’ve discovered something special and secret. This could be down to its unassuming appearance – small, quaint but stylish and the narrow staircase which takes you down to what feels like an exclusive space which is candlelit and intimate (I can’t speak for the daytime yet).

Invited to the soft launch the evening before Moss Lane’s Tre Ciccio’s official opening on Valentine’s Day, I was lucky to try the latest arrival to Altrincham’s fast-growing gastronomic scene and I’m already looking to book in again to share the experience with my partner in crime.

We return to our lovely three chubby friends when we learn that chef Francesco took inspiration from a family run village restaurant he visited when on a return home to Campania, Southern Italy. Luckily for Altrincham, Franceso and two friends from the industry have turned what was a vision into reality right here.

What sets Tre Ciccio apart from the others is its signature dish of Roast Chicken and Potatoes. Or

Pollo Arrosto e Patate

Like the rest of the menu, the section dedicated to the Pollo was select, offering a small but adequate range of variations on a theme and not overwhelming, as some Italian menus can be, concentrating on a select range of anti pasti, salads and pizzas, in addition to the

Chicken and potatoes

(doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it? Mi Dispiace.

To start I tasted the Cuoppo Fritto:

The batter was light and tasty, the fish inside soft and juicy in all the right places.

Presentation was cute but not gimmicky, in a paper cone reminiscent of the seaside.

Back to the aforementioned 3 week English speaking trip…

Prego and so forth

we took in 6 separate destinations and quickly developed a constant variable by which to compare each place – the caprese.

Caprese takes mozzarella and tomatoes and generally basil – three beautiful flavours and colours – the Italian flag on a plate if you like. We consumed a high number of caprese and so have declared ourselves subject matter experts.

Tre Ciccio offered up a caprese salad – rocket, tomatoes and mozzarella, and I arrogantly declare it lovely. Tomatoes juicy yet firm, mozzarella creamy, rocket rockety! Peppery and fresh. I’m not going to delve into my thesaurus here.

And so we head back over to the chicken.

So original to see this dish, and variations thereof on an Italian menu.

Again, inspired by the southern region of Italy, I had the plain roast chicken and potatoes and there was nothing plain about it.

The flavours were out of this world – such a seemingly simple dish (although I doubt the attention to flavours and cooking method were without incredible thought and execution, given what I tasted) there’s nowhere to hide.

Tre Ciccio can stand proudly by this dish and I think it will ultimately be what sets them apart in the Italian dining world of Altrincham. I’m not adding any sort of hierarchy as all bring something great to the literal table but this is definitely what should take you to try Tre Ciccio for something different.

The skin is well seasoned and mouth-watering, the meat succulent, the potatoes possibly the best roast potatoes (I can’t deal with the term ‘roasties’ sorry – I’m precious I know ) up there with the best I’ve ever had if I’m honest. Fluffy, flavoursome and crispy in all the right places.

I promise upon ordering that I’d asked for a portion just for one (pinky promise) but ended up with a portion for two and much as I could probably have demolished it eventually (it was that good), I instead tried to retain some small piece of dignity.

I bravely asked for a doggy bag.

I’m actually lying, that concept traumatises me in case I’m told off for asking (I’m admittedly the biggest baby this side of Brooklands), my lovely fellow blogger Skinny Kitchen Secrets asked for me and those lovely people did oblige:

Dessert and I bore people to death with my

I don’t really have a sweet tooth. I mean I like sweet things but would rather have a starter or something savoury blah blah blah

But I took one for the team and tried dessert so that my lovely readers (my mum) don’t have to – yet you must.

I tried two.

Count them.

Well I shared.

It was tart Tuesday people (in my world anyway)! And both were beautiful. Special mention goes to the pistachio ice cream adorning the chocolate tart

Torta al Choccolato

And the light refreshing sorbet on the lemon tart.

Or

Torta al limon

On each, the base was light and crumbly, hosting (yes hosting) rich dark indulgent chocolate on one and zingy, refreshing lemon on the other.

Again, keeping the thesaurus on the shelf, I will simply say that as someone without out a sweet tooth, I could have eaten both. Twice over.

All in all, I was lucky to be invited to try Tre Ciccio at their soft launch but can say that I will be back in the next couple of weeks with my husband who would like to eat there without doing it from my doggy bag too. And I can’t wait to take him.

Altrincham, make your acquaintance with these delightful three new chubby friends –

You can say prego to me later.

(Mi Dispiace if that’s the wrong use of prego)

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altrincham · Alty Christmas · cheshire · Christmas · Events · lifestyle · Popular Culture · Preview/Review · Shopping · The Arts · Uncategorized

Pop in to the Pop-up at Open Studios this Christmas

I don’t enjoy shopping (stay with me). Specifically shopping in Manchester or the Trafford Centre.

Don’t get me wrong, both are fantastic shopping destinations when nobody else is there. Unfortunately, as much as  I think the world revolves around me, nobody’s afforded me the luxury of closing off entire city centres to allow me to swan round.

Again, don’t get me wrong, I enjoy ‘accomplishing’ goods, be they for me (me me) or others, I just don’t enjoy the push and shove of the busy crowds.

Two or three years back, I became an online Christmas shopper. A slave to ‘tracking my order’. Smugly avoiding all human contact. Mission accomplished. Except it all became a bit…clinical and sad. Yes presents came to me. But in the guise of aggressive, brown cardboard packaging, soulless cellophane, and more often than not, in the form of a ‘sorry we missed you’ calling card.

You’re not sorry. I can tell.

Last year, I found my happy medium and did all my Christmas shopping in Altrincham and Hale (cheating on the area very briefly with Knutsford – close enough for it not to be a total betrayal, I feel).

It felt good to support local businesses and traders, and comforting to know that there was little risk of me buying family members, the same as somebody else.

I still shudder when remembering that fateful Christmas when my brother and I both bought my mum the same Simply Red CD (what, she liked them. Not that much though). And not only that, the same Christmas card.

Whilst the Hucknall horror is never far from my mind during Christmas shopping season, time heals and lessons are learned such as not buying everything from HMV (we’re talking pre-download times).

And so I intend to do the same again this year; that is, shop local. And yes I am still speaking of this in the future tense. Raspberry to those who’ve already shopped and wrapped. It’s not envy – I genuinely enjoy the panic and terror of the mid-December dash. I do.

I don’t.

And so, actually getting to the point. Amongst the already lovely independent shops and market stalls, I was thrilled to hear about the new shopping experience on the Alty block this Christmas – the Pop-Up shop at Open Studios.

Even more opportunity to support local traders and designers whilst finding unique gifts that will make everyone love me

…I  thought (yes I do think in blogpost soundbites, actually).

Located on Stamford New Road, the Studios are hosting the Pop-Up until Christmas Eve (yep – no doubt, I’ll be last to leave), with work from a range from a number of rotating makers and artists – original paintings, prints, jewellery, cushions, bags, Mick Hucknall albums, crafts – I can’t wait to do my panicking there.

Lino prints and t-shirts by Meadowlark Prints
Artwork by Jo Bramall-Smith – Raspberry Art Studio
Ceramics – Gabi Komar

Working in that heaving metropolis that is Manchester City Centre, I’m winning if I roll into Altrincham interchange before 5.30pm, so the Open Studio’s late night opening until 8pm during the week, is of great appeal – especially given the odd time the trams are delayed (bless them).

If you want to get involved on the other side of the fence and wish to sell your wares to lovely, calm, non-panicky consumers such as me, artists and makers are encouraged to call in for a chat.

So with 19 (at the time of writing) more shopping days until Christmas (it pops up at weekends until 6pm too), know that I’ll be popping in before it pops off.

Open Studios
47-49 Stamford New  Road
Altrincham
WA14 1DS

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