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Everything posted by Sturge

  1. Oh go on then...there was a great sense of occasion - especially among Thom, Gary and Bapi, at least one of whom thoroughly enjoyed the wine flight. I blogged it here,but basically: Last night, a bit of Wirral glamour came to Manchester in the shape of Marc Wilkinson and a selection of culinary toys including a smoke gun. It was the first Harvey Nichols guest-cheffery occasion that I can remember, and like a small-town theatre in summer, the bar and brasserie had gone dark in order to focus the collective mind on the matter in hand: 40 Mancunian covers, keen to taste Marc's food without trekking to Oxton for it. As I breakfast contemplatively on the herby caramelised pecans boxed up for the ladies to take away after dinner, I can report that all went well. There was a jovial, slightly excitable atmosphere – by its nature, it's not often that the HN dining room is full of customers whose main interest is in the food – and Gemma Perry, Marc's right-hand girl, ran an unflustered service. For £90 with plenty of matching wine (£65 for me, the poor non-boozer), we had a dinner that I'd rank, if I was the Hornby sort, somewhere in Per Se's slipstream but far above our recent sortie to Mr Underhill's in Ludlow, which has held a star for years, and probably over Purnell's, Juniper old and new and Simpsons as well. Highlights included the novelty of a dish of smoking olives with a plume that rose when the lid was lifted ("They taste," said Tim, "like they've just come out of a house fire"), and an extraordinarily tender loin of rabbit swapped in for the foie gras course in case baby H'n'H, now 34 weeks and kicking like a mentalist, was adversely affected by all that vitamin A. There was also a revelatory pairing of sweetly seared scallop – not pictured, that's another one of his scallop dishes – and fresh, clean pineapple puree. Wilkinson does like to fiddle, but he gets the balance right, and the processes he puts ingredients through serve to clarify the flavours: my melon and almond soup came with little barrels of melon stuck with slivered almonds, like tiny fruit and nut angels, and the almonds themselves were ridiculously...almondy. The verjus drizzlings with a piece of seared sea bass and aubergine yoghurt shook the whole thing awake, although I will admit that I thought it was tamarind for a while, and I hadn't even had a drink. Things slowed down marginally towards the end, and I decided that I would willingly have sacrificed one of the dessert courses in order to leave while I was still awake. Then Tim asked me whether I would have missed the chilled, fizzy grapes, the lemongrass pannacotta with the sour cherry foam, or the deconstructed Sachertorte with the shot glass of apricot sorbet and warm, mouth-filling chocolate moussey stuff. I didn't have an answer for that.
  2. If anyone's struggling with the suspenseful nature of the head-to-head regional battles, the new issue of Olive magazine may offer some clues. They've interviewed one GBM chef from each region. Perhaps they selected them by tossing a coin.
  3. Apparently it's all building complications from hell down The Elliot. Paul H told me late summer, which is longer than they were planning for.
  4. Given the author's take on the spelling of Stuart 'professional northerner, shit radio presenter' Maconie's name, how seriously should we take his research into Michelin matters?
  5. Juniper are planning a whole month of events, set menus, special dinners etc before Paul and Katie leave at the end of April, so if you want a la carte it might be wise to go in March...
  6. Hi Stephen It depends on what you're looking for and when; in the city the dinner options weren't great cop when I was last there, but I've had good lunches at both Cafe Paradiso (inventive, veggie, well-regarded) and the Ballymaloe-affiliated cafe at the Crawford Art Gallery.
  7. Easy there! I've been, a long time ago now, and while I can't remember anything much about the food apart from a nice warm glow of generalised tastiness, I do remember that the place itself is a bit artfully styled, but comfortable and friendly rather than pretentious.
  8. I've been to Ramson's, but it was with a friend of Chris's so the experience was obviously skewed in our favour. Everything (mackerel with gooseberries I think, and something involving beetroot - it was a while ago) was delicious apart from the bread, which he tasted, was horrified by and started vowing all sorts of remedial action. It's been refurbed fairly recently and has a nice feel to it, everyone gets prosecco when they arrive and there's some good wine. Chris is what you might call a divider of opinion, not 'zany' so much as sternly idiosyncratic, and he's got a real thing about salt and not having it on the table - you can ask and you will get it but you may have to discuss the issue at length first. He is totally devoted to the restaurant, Italy and lovely food, though, and not in a gushy quarter-finals of Masterchef way. He means it. I'd say try it. And conceal some salt about your person.
  9. I second The Old Convent. We stayed there while I was on the long course at Ballymaloe and it was a welcome break. Rooms are super-lush (and surprisingly cheap) and there is a supreme effort made with the food. Sometimes it works and sometimes not, but if you have an allergy beware. It's a set menu and I called ahead to warn them that my boyfriend, who is weird, will not eat pasta or melted cheese. One of the courses was....lobster mac'n'cheese, served with a semi-patronising smile and the encouragement to 'try it, it won't kill you'. Now I've made it sound a bit shit. But I did enjoy it, and it's an unusual venture (and menu) for around there.
  10. I hear shitfaced is happyfaced in much of the country, but you just have to look at other threads in this forum - or at the shortlist for Thom's Northern Hospitality Awards - to see that what you suggest isn't the case. I do like a pie, though
  11. Hello I went for afternoon tea at Harvey Nichols (slick UK department store with restaurant, this branch in Manchester)) at the weekend and thought you might like to know what's being served there at the moment. Afternoon tea for two is £16 including tea or coffee (Champagne tea is £30 for two) and is served on a three-tier cake stand. The bottom tier was 6 finger sandwiches (about an inchwide and cut lengthwise from pre-sliced white/wholemeal bread): cucumber, egg, ham, smoked salmon and poached chicken with an overpowering tomato chutney. The sandwich on the outside was dry, suggesting it had been sitting around 'in formation' for a while. The next tier held two little scones (with dried fruit in them, a mistake I think) served with a mini pot of their own strawberry jam and a quenelle of clotted cream. You spread your own and cream always goes on first! Then 4 cakes/biscuit - there were four of us so we had 8 to choose from. These included: a triangle of shortbread, small square of sponge iced white and decorated with little chocolate and red jam cherries, small slice coffee cake, small slice (flavourless) chocolate fudge cake, rocky road covered in chocolate, little lavender curpcake (lavender on top and baked into sponge, too herbal by far for me), cherry bakewell, and I can't remember the eighth one for the life of me. Drinks offered are loads of different teas, plus cappucino, filter coffee, espresso, latte, hot chocolare and mocha...and of course champagne. So the tea takes a back seat! Hope this helps - good luck! Emma
  12. Sturge

    Savory Cocoa Recipes?

    I was at a restaurant recently where they served a starter of seared foie gras with slices of brioche studded with cocoa nibs. They also do spiced catfish with a chocolate salsa-type arrangement and more besides...it's called The Cocoa Rooms! The brioche-foie combo was fine, nothing more, and a bit luxe for a group do perhaps. But better to know that these things are out there! I'd stick to the mole.
  13. I'd recommend you get hold of Sue Lawrence's Book of Baking, which is on Amazon for around $20 I think. It's not all Scottish but there are some regional recipes in there and often there's a nice little story attached - she's obviously a proud Scot and a lovely writer too. Emma
  14. It does make sense, that's an excellent way of describing how much to use - and I will keep smushing to an absolute minimum! The whole flavoured syrup thing opens up lots of possibilities. Cointreau here I come, although perhaps one to keep away from the children... Thanks very much!
  15. I'm doing a couple of novelty cakes for friends' children at the moment and came across Peggy Porschen's book Pretty Party Cakes. In it she instructs using sugar syrup to 'soak' both parts of a layer cake before they're sandwiched together. I tried this and liked the moist results it gave, but it's not something I've come across in my English books before. I'm guessing it's pretty standard practice among American bakers - would this be right? And any hints on the degree of soaking would be gratefully received. I was quite cautious on the first attempt and just gave a light brushing. If you use this method, what would you say is the optimum wetness? Thanks! Emma
  16. Don't know about the service itself but you're right, the calibre is high. The contributing editor, Clarissa Hyman, is a good eater with a very fair and thoughtful approach to restaurants - I'd always give somewhere she suggested a try.
  17. I believe Yorkshire is next for another Three Fishes but not sure when/where - has anyone heard anything about location?
  18. I was able to attend one of the protoype sessions at the cookery school earlier this year. It's based in a lovely building, newly kitted out. Simon Rogan took us on a couple of interesting field trips including a visit to Holbarrow Farm, which grows the majority of the veg and rare/unusual herbs for the kitchen. I wouldn't say he's a born teacher and the kitchen space is a bit awkward, but it's fascinating to see all the bits of kit in use. Some of the recipes you try are more accessible than others - I'm going to have a go at recreating the shallot puree (there's a lot of sieving involved for nearly every dish). sadly I didn't have time for dinner but other attendees were pretty gushing. Not the slickest school, but if you're prepared to help him 'warm up' then it's worth the cash.
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