Friday, 17 October 2014

Restaurant Review: Mr Cooper's House and Gardens, Manchester


You're not short of interesting lunch options in Manchester these days which is a good job bearing in mind the fanny-on we had before settling on a venue for this one. Aiden Byrne's Manchester House was the first choice, but we left it too late. No table for us. The Aumbry in Prestwich seemed a solid back-up suggestion and I was looking forward to seeing how much of Mary-Ellen McTague's fun-looking cooking from GBM would make it onto the lunch menu. Not to be; I got a call a week ahead saying they were closing the place for a refurb. And so finally to the rather fancy city-centre Midland Hotel, and Simon Rogan's Mr Cooper's House and Gardens.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Restaurant Review: Caffe Vivo, Newcastle upon Tyne, Quayside


There's some fine eating to be had around the Quayside these days, much of it bearing the imprimatur of Terry Laybourne. Cafe 21, Caffe Vivo and The Broad Chare are all within the lob of an olive pip's distance from each other. Must be handy if the ice machine breaks down, or you get shafted on a cheese delivery. The last man to hold a Michelin star in this fair city, these days Laybourne's places are more about good food at a reasonable price. The Broad Chare was just awarded a Bib Gourmand for doing that exact thing. On a rare weekday sans travail, we had a very enjoyable shuffle round the river (The Daniel Buren thing at Baltic is great, especially when the sun shines- you've got until 12th October before it packs up) before, after much indecision and the toss of a coin, we headed for Cafe Vivo.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Downsizing and Tidying Up


A couple of weekends away, like the ones we've had recently, are all it takes for things to get unruly in allotment land. We spent a few hours down there today harvesting bits and bobs and having a well-needed tidy. There is an extra impetus to get all our veg out of one side of the allotment as we've decided, after some deliberation, that having the whole plot is a bit of a stretch and so we've offered it up for newcomers. Better to do half a plot well than constantly be chasing our tail, or planting great swathes of minimum-effort veg; that's the thinking anyway.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Restaurant Review: Hop and Cleaver, Newcastle upon Tyne, Quayside


I'd watched, and hugely enjoyed, the first 4 or 5 episodes of Netflix's House of Cards, starring Kevin Spacey and Directed by David Fincher, when I read an article about why the online streamer had been confident enough to throw $100m at the project in the first place. Basically, they'd noticed from their data that a shit-load of subscribers watched the entirety of Fincher's stuff on their service; ditto Spacey's back catalogue. Meanwhile, the original BBC version of the political thriller had garnered a surprisingly high number of streams. x+y+z= SURE FIRE HIT! All of a sudden I felt slightly used, if not outright soiled. The programme that I had thought I'd stumbled upon serendipitously turned out to have been custom bloody designed for People Like Me; they'd sussed out what I liked, fed it straight back to me, and guess what? I'd lapped that shit right up. I gorged on the rest of the thing, enjoyed it plenty, but with a newly jaundiced hint of quease.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Restaurant Review: St Sushi, Eldon Square, Newcastle upon Tyne


Since Eldon Square has been getting redeveloped I've seen the odd poster in there claiming that some sort of premium food options are in the pipeline. This is surely well needed as, unless I'm just not noticing them, there are very few decent spots to grab something tasty on those occasions when, for whatever reason, you just have to venture in there. Every time I walk past Spud-U-Like and it's offer of a potato, beans and cheese for £4.49 - now there's some mark-up! - I'm struck by the dearth of imagination invested in Eldon Square's eateries. In which desert, St Sushi sticks out as a verdant oasis.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Product Review: Beer52


How much is your integrity worth? I had cause to find out the value of my own recently when I received a nice email from from a company called Beer52. Eight bottles of beer, that's my price. In my defence I should say that since I started flinging these gobbets of screed into the electro-ether I have not exactly been inundated with offers of free stuff, and those that have arrived have been easy to turn down on account of falling into either the "weird" or "crap" categories. The offer of 8 actual bottles of booze in exchange for a few words seemed more than fair, although I did wonder how I'd live with myself if the beer wasn't up to snuff. What a relief all round then, as I can in fact report that Beer52 are doing a cracking job, both in terms of the service they provide and the beers they dish up. Plus, I've got a money-off code for you to have a bash at, of which more later.

Monday, 15 September 2014

The last harvest?


September has provided some us some serious gluts as well a couple of useful lessons, all set to a soundtrack of ominous, if not outright grim, undertones. More on that last bit later, but first here's some of what we've hauled in and been otherwise up to as the days shorten and cool.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Restaurant Review: Fat Hippo Underground, Newcastle upon Tyne. Revisited.


According to no less an authority than Beardy McPirate, we have reached "peak burger". Burgers are on less menus in the UK than they were a year ago, although you'd be hard pressed to tell that from a quick mooch round recently opened restaurants in these parts; that down n' dirty menu vibe just keeps on trucking. If however at some point in the not-too-distant we see a move away from Americana to whatever's trendy in London three years prior (something that looks like the Clove Club please), some of our less brilliant burgeries may be in trouble.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Restaurant Review: The Butterfly Cabinet, Heaton


In these times of ferment and flux, it's comforting to find something that hasn't really changed in years. Not in the interests of nostalgia, but actually to negate the need for it; when you find something, years later, just as you left it then there's no need to pine for the past. Which brings us to a seriously decent brunch in Heaton.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Restaurant Review: Hooked, Alnmouth


With friends visiting from darn sarf, we spent an excellent day and night at Kasia's folks caravan in Northumberland recently. Being right on the beach it's perfect for strolls along the sand which can often be beautifully and eerily lonesome affairs, as tourists eschew this particular stretch in favour of the better known destinations such as Bamburgh and Seahouses. Fine by us. A hard day's paddling demands the cadence of a decent feed, one which we hoped to find at Hooked in the ever-pretty village of Alnmouth.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Bank Holiday Beanfest


A couple of hours were wrested from a busy bank holiday on Sunday morning and spent among the crops and weeds. After a storming July, August has been decidedly nippy, with wild talk of frosts in those sheltered rural areas that seem so inclined to it. It was therefore very nice to feel the the heat of the sun chase away the last of the dew as we worked.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

The Gits Strike Again


There was a story on the news tonight about how homo sapiens are now thought to have spent a good few thousand years alongside our neanderthal cousins before the latter bit the dust, trading, exchanging and even mating with them. Well, we saw some powerful evidence for the existence of unevolved barbarian DNA in the gene pool when we went down to the allotments last night. After a period of relative and very enjoyable calm, the marauding turds that have taken it upon themselves to vandalise the water supply in the past have had another go.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Alas Poor Polytunnel...


...I knew him, Horatio. Although thinking about it, people usually give inanimate things the female gender, don't they? And you're almost certainly not called Horatio, so what the hell am I on about? Oh well, at least I didn't get the quote wrong like everyone always does. Never mind Shakey Bill, the big news I'm trying to communicate here is that our polytunnel is shafted. Again.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Restaurant Review: Fatoush, Westgate Road, Newcastle upon Tyne


About halfway through our meal at Fatoush I realised, in a rare moment of clarity, why it is that I like Lebanese food so much. It's basically a big old barbecue! There's a whole bunch of salads, dips and breads to get things going before the main event - great wodges of meat grilled over flames of varying intensity - demands everyone's attention. It's a convivial way of eating which lends itself to sharing. Civility and deliciousness all at once, what else could a person want? Saying that, it's still perfectly possible to mess up this kind of stuff, resulting in neither of those fine outcomes. Thankfully that was not the case at Fatoush, a newish joint up the top of Westgate road where we recently enjoyed a cracking rendition of Lebanese favourites.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Food out, Rye Grass in


Just in case you think it's not actually us that does the work on our plot - I noticed the other day that all the pics on here are of veg, without any evidence of who's toil produced it - here's me digging up some onions. In a couple of hours at the plot we managed to get on with some harvesting and weeding, and sowed some green manure which will be a first for us if it germinates.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Restaurant Review: Osaka, Newcastle upon Tyne


I might as well say it straight off the bat: if I know anything about any food, then Japanese is not it. In the unlikely event that you're here in search of some sort of, I don't know, expertise, then sorry, but the next few hundred words are set to disappoint. Is the food they're serving up in Osaka - that most contentious of words - authentic? No idea. Does it conform to the conventions of any particular region of that place? Not a clue. I've had my fair share of chicken katsu and half-arsed sushi in my time but that's about it. As blind a guide as I may be, what I can tell you is that the food we had in Osaka went down a treat and I reckon it's well worth your consideration.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Hot Hectic Harvest


You'll no doubt be relieved to hear that the lack of recent allotment-based noise coming from these parts does not result from a total failure of the harvest, but slightly the opposite. Trips to the plot currently resemble a vegetal version of supermarket sweep as we career around, trying to keep on top of harvesting/watering/weeding. We've got more food resulting from our toil than we've ever had before, resulting in straightforward meals of salads and roast veg, enlivened with a sprinkle of za'atar here and a splash of sriracha there. The weather has been great in this corner, verging on heatwave conditions. I stole a few hours at the plot Saturday gone, managing to give our parched plants a rare morning drink before it got too damn hot to dig.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Restaurant Review: Sunday Lunch at House of Tides, Newcastle


Since we had a mostly stellar dinner at House of Tides, I had wondered if they were going to open for lunch at any stage.  The cheapest midweek menu still clocks in at £45 per head, not including service etc which takes dinner here into what for us is very much the "treat zone". When I heard they were indeed opening for Sunday lunches I got us booked up and then wondered what we'd exactly we'd be eating. A full-on roast presumably, but how would this most traditional of meals look once refracted through the "casual fine dining" lense? And what would the pre and post-roast options look like? Read on.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Cafe Review: Cabosse, Warkworth


There are a few things I should tell you about Cabosse, although only one thing I really want to, such is the singular, opulent brilliance of the item in question. But, in the interests of utility and context, let's set the scene a little first.

Allium Overdrive


We must be either mad dogs or Englishmen, because it was sweltering in the midday sun on Saturday. Having been frolicking up in Northumberland (of which more in due course) during the first of two weeks off work, the weeds required tackling. As did the autumn-planted onions and garlic, as the first really substantial harvest of the season was undertaken in earnest.

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