Monday 28 November 2016

Festive fun at Fazenda...

With the holiday season looming, this is the time of year when many of us plan a festive get together, so it was great timing when I was invited to a dinner at Fazenda recently, which was an opportunity for press and bloggers to sample the festive menu which has some tempting seasonal additions. I always enjoy dining at Fazenda, in fact it was one of the first restaurants I reviewed for this blog. The concept of Fazenda is that waiters serve meat at your table, with fifteen prime cuts available including familiar favourites as well as some types you may not have tried before. This style of dining comes from Brazil, and it is referred to as rodizio. There is also a vast salad bar at Fazenda, which you are free to serve yourself from throughout your meal, and as well as salad you can choose from sushi, cold meats, fresh bread, cheese and various hot side dishes.

We were warmly welcomed with Prosecco on arrival and there was a chance to chat over drinks before we were led to a large table where we would enjoy the feast to come! We helped ourselves from the salad bar first and we selected a variety of delicious food before we settled back at the table where we enjoyed pão de queijo (cheese bread balls) as we looked at the menu.

The wine flowed and there was a very festive atmosphere as the waiters appeared at our sides with a selection of tender meats which were cooked to perfection. One of my favourites was the turkey breast with cranberry, which was succulent with a hint of tangy sweetness from the cranberry. I also tried Bife de Presunto (smoked gammon) which is slowly grilled and my dining companion enjoyed a selection of steak including contra filet sirloin and picanha (cap of rump), while cuts of pork, chicken and sausages were also served and the red wine perfectly complemented the food.

We all had a great time sampling the menu and it was an evening of good food and company. There was just enough room left for dessert and we were treated to platters of cakes including Madeleines, macaroons and pastel de nata (Portuguese custard tarts).

We were sent home with bags which had another treat in store for us too, boxes of Brigadeiros, a popular after dinner treat in Brazil which consists of balls of fudge made from condensed milk and rolled in chocolate. Tasty!  We had a lovely time sampling the festive menu at Fazenda and the restaurant makes an ideal choice for a celebration at any time of the year.

Fazenda Liverpool 
Exchange Flags, 
Exchange St E, 
L2 3PG

What do you all think, have you dined at Fazenda and do you have any plans to go out for a festive meal? As always, I cannot wait to hear your thoughts and thank you so much for reading this post.

Until next time,



Friday 18 November 2016

Dinner and an interview with Nacho and friends at Ibérica...

This week I had the opportunity to attend the Nacho and Friends dinner at Ibérica restaurant in Manchester and to interview Nacho and friends. Nacho Manzano is the three Michelin starred group executive chef for Ibérica Restaurants and he also runs the award winning Casa Marcial restaurant in Spain. He had invited his friends and fellow chefs to collaborate with him for the very special evening, Oriol Castro, Eduard Xatruch and Mateu Casañas of the restaurants Compartir and the Michelin starred Disfrutar in Spain (recently awarded best new European restaurant 2016). They met and trained at elBulli, widely regarded to have been one of the best restaurants in the world with chef Ferran Adrià at the helm.
I sat down to interview the chefs before dinner, and they had plenty of interesting things to say.

Firstly my interview with Oriol Castro and Mateu Casañas, chef-patrons of Compartir in Cadaqués and Disfrutar in Barcelona:

Did the molecular gastronomy at elBulli rub off on to your style of cuisine, do you find inspiration in molecular gastronomy now or have you taken a different direction?
We try to work with different products, to find various techniques and concepts and create a wide range of plates. We work with salt, oil, tuna, meat…many different products to help us to develop different creations…the name we would give this is not molecular cuisine but maybe ‘techno-emotional’ to explain and define this style.  The most important thing that we find in this style of cooking is that it is vital to find something different, to create new things and to add value in the kitchen. That is important to us, to add value. Nowadays, we continue working with the same objective, to find different techniques and to innovate…at Compartir we create this in a more casual, informal and dynamic way for the guests.

Would it be fair to say that you are inventing your own style? 
Yes, at Compartir we try to make plates that the guests can share and to do something different in comparison to the other restaurants in the region. Disfrutar it is a different concept, we try to find new ideas and techniques to be a little creative. They are two restaurants with different styles and objectives but they share the same philosophy right from the staff and the waiters through to the chefs.

Beetroot and fruit salad with Ajoblanco sorbet. 

Your dishes are very creative, where do you find your inspiration?
We only have one secret, that we work every day in the kitchen. We work with the products, with the staff and with the team. You need to work every day to find new things, you cannot wait and look to the sky to find results … all you can do is work hard.

You have won several awards, are awards important to you?
Yes, they are important. The highest recognition is a Michelin Star and when you have the first Michelin Star you have the result you have been working for and maybe then you can feel more relaxed and that you are on a good path. We also won the 'best new restaurant in Europe 2016' and it feels good to be recognised for what we are building and for our passion to work and to cook. That makes us feel more relaxed, it feels good to gain recognition and win awards but the most important people are the restaurant guests, they are the ones who come to the restaurant every day. The press and media in our area say that we are the best restaurant in Barcelona, and all these things are important because then people know that when they go to the restaurant they are eating and choosing the best. So yes, it is important to be recognised.

Natural clams with parsley juice and seaweed emulsion. 

Sardine with monkfish liver and salt marsh herbs. 

Do you have a signature dish which sums up your restaurant?
Yes, at Disfrutar, we have a dessert which is a whiskey cake. It is a recipe we have created, to be served in an interactive style…when the waiters go the table to serve the dessert they take whiskey, hazelnut candy and vanilla cream to the table then the waiter pours a tiny amount of whiskey in to the guests hands, they rub their hands together and inhale  the whiskey scent on their hands before they start to eat the dessert. The dessert is designed to create an ambient and sensual is a dessert for the senses – taste, smell and vision but also an emotional experience.

Crispy egg yolk with mushroom jelly. 

What are your future plans?
We do not have future plans, our most important plan is to keep Compartir in its place, to change the offering a little bit and to work really hard every day to keep our label. If we can achieve even more then great, but to remain where we are now is important. We like to go step by step quietly, not quickly.

Was it difficult to design the menu for this evening?
When Nacho called us, we talked to him to understand the concept of Ibérica restaurants and we understood what we would find here and we tried to mix a little of the Ibérica idea with Mediterranean culture and to find things which would mix well. A combined menu inspired by both Ibérica and Compartir is the result, rather than two separate styles.

Do you find any inspiration in British cuisine?
Yes, for example we use smoked products and earlier on when we talked about the signature dish of Disfrutar I mentioned smoked whiskey, which we do not make in Spain so we source that from Scotland.

Ibérico red tuna. 

Tongue with lentil mole sauce, caramel coated onion, pickle gel and marshland herbs.

Interview with Nacho Manzano: 

Does travel inspire your dishes?
Not immediately, but later on when I recall things from the back of my mind, that is when inspiration comes from my travels.

Why do you think Spain has so many successful restaurants?
Due to the heritage and the patrimony of the country, the local cuisine of each area is really powerful. The local produce is very good and varied and there was a movement decades ago from a few chefs who worked hard in an avant-garde way, which is still the case now.
Despite the financial crisis a few years ago, a lot of restaurants are still there and they continue working and looking forward to different ideas and new things.

Is history and heritage important to your inspiration, does tradition play a part in your cuisine?
Yes certainly, at Casa Marcial the location of the restaurant is important to my inspiration, the personality of the surrounding terrain inspires me... all around me there are the mountains and the house where I was born and where I still sleep … so yes the terrain and history gives me plenty of inspiration.

Cheesecake with raspberry sorbet.

Celery panna cotta with fennel slush, apple soup and seaweed. 

So that concluded my interview with these amazing chefs. After the interview and some champagne, we took our seats for the meal itself, which was incredible with so many stunning flavour pairings, elaborate presentation and quality ingredients. It was a privilege to interview Oriol, Mateu and Nacho and to gain an insight in to their success. Their passion for their profession was truly inspirational and their success is proportionate to how hard they work and how much effort goes in to the development and creation of each of their dishes.

14-15 The Avenue
M3 3HF

Compartir Restaurant
Riera de Sant Vicenç,
s/n, 17488 Cadaqués,

I hope you found this interview interesting and which of these dishes would you like to try?  As always I cannot wait to hear your thoughts and thank you so much for reading this post.

Until next time 



Sunday 13 November 2016

A curry night at Eastern Revive...

I was over in Chester on Friday and by the time my partner picked me up in the evening we were both tired and hungry. With no dinner plans arranged, we decided we were in the mood for a curry and after a little research, we decided to head to Stockton Heath where we have dined a few times before due to the wealth of great restaurants.
We made our minds up to aim for Eastern Revive, which we have walked past before and it is so handy as the restaurant is right opposite a car park. I was already dreaming of freshly baked naan bread, fragrant rice and spicy curry, the only snag was that we did not have a reservation and by this time it was after 8pm on a Friday, peak time for any restaurant. I was not sure they would be able to accommodate us and my spirits plummeted as we walked in to see every table full, but we were immediately welcomed by the charming front of house and seated at the bar area, after being assured they would find us a table. I sipped chilled white wine as we perused the extensive menu, filled with tantalising options including familiar favourites and chef’s specials.

Animated chatter filled the air as waiters whisked past us bearing plates piled high with delicious looking food which I could not wait to try for myself. As promised, in no time we were led to a table for two in the upstairs section. I like the design aesthetic of Eastern Revive, which is cool and contemporary with leather banquettes, abstract art (which is also available to purchase) and striking lighting.

We started off with the classic choice of a stack of spicy and plain poppadoms accompanied by a variety of chutneys including an intriguing green apple one which woke up the palate with a zesty flavour. We decided on the mixed starter to share, which included tender meat kebabs, crisp onion bhajis, samosas and succulent tandoori chicken alongside fresh mixed salad.

For the main course I chose tandoori paneer accompanied by masala sauce. The cubes of paneer had a wonderfully creamy and slightly smoky flavour perfectly complemented by the mild and delicate masala sauce.

My dining companion chose the chicken Karahi, perfectly cooked chicken in a zingy sauce full of green pepper and a good kick of spice.

Our side dishes of pilau rice, cheese and garlic naan bread and plain naan bread served to complete the gargantuan feast.

I love it when a last-minute plan works out so well and we enjoyed our evening so much. The food was excellent, served in generous portions at realistic prices and the service was great with a friendly team who went out of their way to accommodate us and they were always on hand throughout the meal.

Eastern Revive 
Unit 1
West Ave
Stockton Heath


What a good find, I can now add Eastern Revive to my list of favourite Indian restaurants which includes Rumi in Liverpool and Scene in Manchester. Do you like Indian food and what is your favourite dish? As always I cannot wait to hear your thoughts and thank you so much for reading this post.

Until next time,



Sunday 6 November 2016

Living in the moment...

Recently I lost somebody close to me, she was a kind, strong and generous person and the world will be a duller place without her. Of course, we all experience loss and it is times of sadness and adversity which often serve to create a crystalline focus on what is important in this fleeting life. Now, this post may be a little different from the ones you have come to expect from me, it is not about a restaurant or an event, but rather something a little more introspective and personal which I ultimately hope will resonate with many of you. Life is difficult, this is something we can surely all agree on and there are many tough moments which we all must get through. I suppose it is these arduous moments of heartbreak and pain which make us appreciate the good times, and every piece of struggle makes the moments of triumph so much more worthwhile. Nevertheless, sometimes when you are going through a difficult time it can be tough to see the speck of light at the end of a long and murky tunnel, but I assure you that it is there, believe me I know.

Life is a perplexing tangle, a thorny thicket of ups and downs which can sometimes be exhausting to withstand and when it all starts to feel a little bit much it is essential to find the off switch and spend some time doing the things which make you happy. I adore the work I do; I love writing this blog and I enjoy writing about food and drink for magazines and experiencing amazing things because of my work. Nevertheless, this post is about forgetting work occasionally and focusing on enjoying life. Take the other day for example, I was rushing off to the city and I was surprised to see how deep the carpet of leaves had become on my usual walk to the station. Taking in the copper, gold, russet and amber tones I stopped for a moment and stared around me as more leaves fell from the surrounding trees in a colourful cascade. I realised how lucky I was to be there experiencing that simple yet poignant moment, heralding the change of the seasons.

Autumn is so evocative and I always feel it is symbolic of the slate being wiped clean, ushering in the approach to a new year and all the wonderful possibilities it may hold. Watching the parade of autumnal colours, I acknowledged rather shamefacedly that I had not been taking note of the pleasures which punctuate our every day on this planet, simple things like catching up with somebody over a coffee.

With the perspicacity that only grief can bring about, I resolved to spend this weekend doing simple things which make me happy and in doing so, to press the reset button on my overburdened mind. I urge you all to do the same as I do not think that we always realise how much stress modern life contains and how good it feels just to slow down here and there.
I love to share with you so much content about food and events on this blog, but you may not feel you get to know much about me as a person and I want to say thank you for all the support you show me and how many amazing comments I get from readers around the world.

In the spirit of fun and adventure, we set off today for Llandudno in Wales, somewhere which holds a multitude of good memories for us. We had no fixed plans, no time schedule to adhere to and it felt great. We ate chips and gravy whilst looking out to sea, played games on the pier and lingered over coffee as we watched groups of people strolling by.

Wandering along the sea front, the icy fingers of winter brushed against us and the sea swirled in a tumultuous white mass. I took a deep breath and remembered, life is here to be lived.

Do you think it is important to take a break from the stress of life occasionally and what are the simple pleasures which you appreciate? As always I cannot wait to hear your thoughts and thank you so much for reading this post.

Until next time,