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Casual Recs for London/Manchester/Edinburgh


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Next week, my husband and I are going to be travelling to the UK - hitting Edinburgh, Manchester and London (with 4 hour flight stop over's in Dublin.)

Wanted some recommendations for "the best of" casual food. Not looking to get dressed up and fancy, just hit some of the best spots for local favorites (ie: like best fish n' chips or best curry...) (Obviously, the Dublin stop is limited. I'm *hoping* that we might have enough time to go out to a decent pub, as opposed to being stuck in the airport.)

Thanks in advance...we're really looking forward to this!

--Janet (GG)

Mochi, Foi Thong and Rojak - what more can a girl want from life?

http://www.frombruneiandbeyond.com

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On Manchester, as with London, it all depends how long you're there and whereabouts you are. Manchester is best known for Chinese and for its curry mile. It has one or two outstanding restuarants and a couple of very solid British-food type ones. If you're near the city centre, Red Chilli is Szechuan, fun, adventurous, and a must on any visit list. Yang Sing is a more traditional (still good, possibly over-rated) Chinese as you would expect in the UK (ie mostly Cantonese).

Curry-wise, if you're feeling adventurous, the Northern QUarter curry cafes were created for the local workers in the rag trade, are very cheap and mostly superb. They don't serve alcohol on the whole. I love Hunter's, Thom loves one of the others. Posh curry is led by EastZEast which is lovely if a bit 'luvvy' as its very near the BBC--posh curry still doesn't mean you have to dress up though.

If you're in the south of the city, Didsbury has the superb Jem & I, laid-back excellent friendly bistro with a bib gourmand, and Green's, usually rated one if the country's best veggie places.

Outstanding (but still not dependent on dress code I would say) is Abode in the city centre, worth doing a google on. Ithaca has got outstanding reviews for its Japanese/sushi and over-the-top styling. Grado's is a 'still good, but not as good as it should be' Spanish. The MArket is very seventies English, the CIty Inn is recovering from losing its chef, but still doing good quality British. The Modern I can't comment on.

The best pubs to visit in or near the city centre include Sam's CHop House (also for proper Brit food, pies and roasts and stuff), the Briton's Protection, the Peak and just outside The Marble Arch. Best bars--Trof, Cornerhouse, Bluu, and whatever is bar of the month in the current Olive magazine.

HTH

It no longer exists, but it was lovely.

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Well you saved me a job there Bertie!

Yep, pretty much as the man says. That's nailed it.

In terms of Northern Quarter curries I do recommend Mahaba (Back Piccadilly) for the nan breads and the Kebabish (Hilton St) for the general quality of the curries (the latter is a tad pricier than most though).

I'm off to Ithica on Wednesday actually, so curious to see what the food is like. Fingers crossed, but I think my expectations may be dashed (once again!).

I'd also flag up the Northern Quarter as the best spot in town for a quick lunch (curry cafes aside). Try Love Saves the Day Deli/coffee shop, Cup next door (cafe, record shop and purveyor of collectable crockery). Also the little cafe (Aromat?) in the Craft Centre which is worth a visit in it's own right.

Soup Kitchen can also be good, The Buddhist Centre is cheap for veggie/vegan etc, Oklahoma is quite an experience (tiny cafe housed in the kitchiest gift shop ever which also rents arthouse DVD's). All of the above are nice little refuelling shops as you take in area's the galleries, boutiques, shops etc.

Just don't expect it all to be quite chi-chi like Soho in NY/London. Various parts are still a little raw/characterful, as you will see.

Cheers

Thom

It's all true... I admit to being the MD of Holden Media, organisers of the Northern Restaurant and Bar exhibition, the Northern Hospitality Awards and other Northern based events too numerous to mention.

I don't post here as frequently as I once did, but to hear me regularly rambling on about bollocks - much of it food and restaurant-related - in a bite-size fashion then add me on twitter as "thomhetheringto".

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I had lunch at the Manchester Abode (the Michael Caines fine dining restaurant) on Saturday and it was absolutely excellent, certainly aiming for Mich-star given the quality of the cooking. Only slight negative was the size of the pudding - I wanted twice as much!

Nicest food i've eaten in Manchester, personally.

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just sent my mate to abode unfortunately it is shut for 'kitchen maintenance'..

Is that a euphemism one wonders.

We're not good enough for your mates anymore, huh?

I did think that being the cynical type, isn't the kitchen virtually brand new?

I did tell him to go to the modern told him all about the view & the seasonal cooking etc but he said he wanted comfort food, i then mentioned michael caines and that changed his mind again.

you don't win friends with salad

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I did tell him to go to the modern told him all about the view & the seasonal cooking etc but he said he wanted comfort food, i then mentioned michael caines and that changed his mind again.

I shall let you off then! Mind, our lunch menu does a wicked fshnchps now.

It no longer exists, but it was lovely.

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Where do you work?

He's chief hotplate flipper at Linda's Pantry, Manchester's uber-greasy-spoon*.

Ok, ok, he's at The Modern.

Cheers

Thom

*You can see Emma from Linda's on the BBC's latest "Who will you support?" promotional montage for the European Championships.

It's all true... I admit to being the MD of Holden Media, organisers of the Northern Restaurant and Bar exhibition, the Northern Hospitality Awards and other Northern based events too numerous to mention.

I don't post here as frequently as I once did, but to hear me regularly rambling on about bollocks - much of it food and restaurant-related - in a bite-size fashion then add me on twitter as "thomhetheringto".

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I nearly rang you yesterday Thom. We were in town for a certain gig at the Man City ground last night. Had a quick beer at Trof and was tempted by This and That- the curry cafe next door. Is it any good? ( We ended up at Croma by the way for what was probably my quickest sit down meal of my life. At my behest I should add, as we were running late.)

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I nearly rang you yesterday Thom. We were in town for a certain gig at the Man City ground last night. Had a quick beer at Trof and was tempted by This and That- the curry cafe next door. Is it any good? ( We ended up at Croma by the way for what was probably my quickest sit down meal of my life. At my behest I should add, as we were running late.)

Ohoh, small world! Was that the Foo Fighters gig? I very nearly went to that myself but we are utilising our babysitting parents for all they are worth at the minute and didn't feel we could spring for another night out.

This and That is... ok. Some people really rate it and it got some infamy for being the cheapest place in town as it did three (veggie) curries and rice for £2.50 (Matthew Fort picked it out for some "50 Cheap Eats" article some years ago).

Certainly not a bad option, and you can't fault the convinience. Croma always does the job if you stick to pizza - decent food, quick, cheap, friendly, nice space. Pasta is a bit more of a mixed bag.

Off to Ithica tonight for food so shall report back. I shall try not to let the fact it's a freebie taint my editorial independence.

Cheers

Thom

Edited by thom (log)

It's all true... I admit to being the MD of Holden Media, organisers of the Northern Restaurant and Bar exhibition, the Northern Hospitality Awards and other Northern based events too numerous to mention.

I don't post here as frequently as I once did, but to hear me regularly rambling on about bollocks - much of it food and restaurant-related - in a bite-size fashion then add me on twitter as "thomhetheringto".

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Off to Ithica tonight for food so shall report back. I shall try not to let the fact it's a freebie taint my editorial independence.

Or the fact that you can't get the spelling right. Didn't you study the GReek myths at school?

This n That is only good cos its cheap. Without that people would go 'but this is all frozen veg not very well re-heated...'

It no longer exists, but it was lovely.

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Obviously, the Dublin stop is limited.  I'm *hoping* that we might have enough time to go out to a decent pub, as opposed to being stuck in the airport.

Four hours will give you enough time to leave Dublin airport and go for lunch. Malahide is a nearby seaside suburb which is well worth visiting (take a taxi, it's not far). There are three pubs there, the best one for lunch is Gibney's. The food is straightforward, I'd recommend the cod and chips. An alternative lunchtime spot is Cafe Bon, a bistro which is downstairs in Bon Appetit.

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Or  the fact that you can't get the spelling right. Didn't you study the GReek myths at school?

No, Greek wasn't big at my local Comprehensive.

Probably still isn't unless they've brought in a GSCE is Kebab Studies.

Actually if they have, I might look at night classes.

Cheers

Thom

It's all true... I admit to being the MD of Holden Media, organisers of the Northern Restaurant and Bar exhibition, the Northern Hospitality Awards and other Northern based events too numerous to mention.

I don't post here as frequently as I once did, but to hear me regularly rambling on about bollocks - much of it food and restaurant-related - in a bite-size fashion then add me on twitter as "thomhetheringto".

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Well my goodness.

I won't post a big review (well, not too big), partly as I can't be arsed and partly as I don't want to swing this thread too far off topic, but my experiences were as follows:

The decor I did not like. Black, black black. And glittery, with mirrors, art deco-style chandeliers and sparkly wall paper. It did not look good in natural daylight (it needs a OCD cleaner with a feather duster), and I found the seating and layout a touch claustrophobic.

But the food? Seriously very good. Best sushi I have outside London, by a long, long chalk. Not the most exciting selection, but really absolutely spot on. wonderfully put together and with the highest quality of ingredients - amazing o-toro tuna belly and the biggest salmon roe I've seen. Teriyaki unagi was also good.

Oh, soft shell spider crab sushi too. nearly forgot that. Also pretty good, but not as enojoyable as it should have been. It was served with the crab kind of lukewarm and it seemed to have a light dusting of batter before being fried. Served cool it had gone a bit flaccid, but would it be realistic to cook it to order and roll the sushi as each dish was ordered?

Carpaccio of wagyu beef was also spot on, and that was followed by a black cod which was absolutely the match for the version I had in Nobu NY (many of the Ithaca's chefs are ex Nobu, and yes I know Nobu London is actually rated more highly than the NY original).

I was really quite shocked.

Desserts were a return to mediocrity - a trio of creme brulee for me (I fancied something dairy after so many clean flavours) which tasted nice - chocolate, passion fruit and green tea - but were very much the three bears: One was too firm, one was too runny, and one was just right.

It's not excessively pricy for the nature of the food - £18 for the benchmark black cod; around £5/£6 for the sushi - 2/3/6 pieces depending on what type it was. Wine list was interesting and ticked all the bases without being especially exciting, and was put together from about five merchants including Boutinot, C&O and Bibendum.

Restaurant is ground and first, next floor is a bar and top is a private members club. Service was a little creaky in this early period, but generally was professional, competent and very friendly. The bar had around 50 Japanese whiskys and of course a champagne list as long as Grover's arm. They also do a set lunch menu that came in at about £17 and which avoids the more interesting sushi but includes the black cod.

I'll certainly be back again as a paying customer, and in all honesty that is not something I expected to be saying. Yes the Cheshire-bling environment (and possibly the other clientele?) can grate, but I'm telling myself the same thing I would if I was sat in some tumbledown beach-shack eating the most incredible simple fish dishes - it's all about the food, not the interior design.

Cheers

Thom

Edited to add:

I stress all the sushi were room temperature (chilled sushi is not a good sign) but the spider crab seemed slightly warmer, meaning we weren't sure whether it was meant to have been freshly cooked and served hot or not.

And one gripe with the black cod - there was a smattering of sizable pin bones in there which wasn't the case when I had the dish in NY. When it tastes so good I'll forgive them, but I'm not sure it would pass muster with Nobu himself.

Edited by thom (log)

It's all true... I admit to being the MD of Holden Media, organisers of the Northern Restaurant and Bar exhibition, the Northern Hospitality Awards and other Northern based events too numerous to mention.

I don't post here as frequently as I once did, but to hear me regularly rambling on about bollocks - much of it food and restaurant-related - in a bite-size fashion then add me on twitter as "thomhetheringto".

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Edinburgh - Khushi's on Victoria Street is a good and big and buzzy curry spot. The Cambridge Bar on Young Street does remarkable burgers in a pleasant pub setting. The turkish restaurant Hanedan on West Preston Street is a personal favourite of mine, small but they have everything you need for a good meal to hand. On a "best in genre" type list, we would probably claim a place for David Bann's vegetarian restaurant on St Mary's Street - a classy modern bistro style place that often gets great reports.

Catherine

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In Edinburgh there's a lot at good prices... Forth Floor at Harvey Nichols is good for the view of the castle and an early coffee, while the cafe in the back of the magnificent Valvona & Crolla does great pizza and pasta all day. However, trying to leave without spending a fortune on cheese, meat and wine in the deli can be tough...

The wonderfully over-the-top bar in the Scotsman hotel does pretty decent brasserie food for around a tenner. It's frankly worth it for a drink in the unbelievable room, if nothing else.

L'Alba d'Oro just into the New Town is a great chip shop, which also implausibly sells fine champagne and cognac (nudging £1,000 a bottle). Their sage and onion breaded fish is great, and both the squid and scampi are decent.

Chop Chop is supposed to do fantastically authentic Chinese dumplings for very little money, though shamefully I've not made it through there yet. (Joanna Blythman reviews it very warmly here.)

And then, a little to the north of Edinburgh, is the lovely, relaxed Wee Restaurant that is definitely worth the half an hour-ish drive to get there. The chef has worked at Charlie Trotter's and with Martin Wishart in Edinburgh, but has gone his own way and is producing superb, simplified food in a fantastic setting. Three courses at lunch are about £16, including Saturdays. Booking ahead, however, is absolutely essential.

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