Sunday 23 April 2017

Spring menu tasting at Gusto Liverpool...

There are some places I gravitate towards again and again; for me the formula for a great restaurant is simple and if I find good food, service and ambience in one place then I love to return. One place which I find gets it right consistently is Gusto and I am lucky enough to live close to both Gusto Liverpool and Gusto Heswall, decisions, decisions!
I have several happy memories at Gusto and I have whiled away many fun afternoons and evenings there over the years; way back before I was a food writer Gusto was a favourite restaurant of mine for ‘date night’ and I still love the warm and welcoming atmosphere.
We went along to Gusto Liverpool recently, to enjoy a preview of the spring menu which incorporates some new seasonal dishes alongside the usual Gusto favourites.
Garlic pizza bread with mozzarella is something I always order; the thin and crispy base topped with stringy cheese is comfort food at its finest.

We also enjoyed a portion of fragrant rosemary focaccia, which was perfect with olive oil and balsamic.

Continuing the cheese theme, my dining companion selected the fondue board of truffled Toma with celery, carrot and artisan bread as his starter. I like fondue, this fun retro dish is long overdue for a comeback and I thought it was a welcome addition to the menu which is ideal to share. 

I went for the deep fried Toma cheese with spiced tomato coulis for my starter and the tangy coulis worked well with the melted cheese encased in golden crumb. 

My main course choice of baked aubergine Milanese was rustic and filling and the peppery rocket salad was tasty with the generous portion of aubergine. 

My dining companion was drawn to the slow cooked pork belly with fried gnocchi, pork crackling, apple sauce and red wine jus. This dish was so well presented and the slight sharpness of the apple sauce complemented the succulent pork while the crackling added texture.

When it comes to side orders, the thick cut polenta chips at Gusto are unmissable and they always put a smile on my face, we also went for tasty courgette fries and truffled fries with Grana Padano to test the capacity of our (already groaning) table!

On to dessert and my dining companion went for a selection of ice cream topped with toasted almonds while I chose panna cotta with strawberries and balsamic, a perfect dessert for this time of year which brought together light and creamy flavours. 

Edward Pavillion
Albert Dock
L3 4AF

It was another enjoyable evening at Gusto which reaffirmed why I love this classy restaurant which combines style and substance in to one package. What do you all think, do you have a restaurant which you visit regularly and have you ever dined at Gusto? As always I cannot wait to hear your thoughts and thank you so much for reading this post.

Until next time,



Thursday 20 April 2017

Spring menu tasting at Ibérica Manchester...

The last time I was at Ibérica Manchester, I was there to interview Nacho Manzano, Oriol Castro and Mateu Casañas and interviewing these talented chefs was an incredible experience which I will never forget. Last night it was a pleasure to return to Ibérica Manchester for a spring menu tasting, the vibrant interior design always conjures up a holiday feeling for me and we gathered in the downstairs bar area where we enjoyed glasses of chilled cava Vilarnau, a fruity cava ideal for this time of year. We shared a selection of appetisers to start the evening, including trio de Jamones, toasted bread with tomato, a cheese selection board and bread with olive oil. We were introduced to the art of drinking from a Porron, a traditional glass wine pitcher which is used in many regions of Spain. I did not attempt drinking from it, but many of the guests were complete naturals at drinking from it!

We were whisked upstairs where long dining tables were set for us and we perused the menu for the evening which consisted of an interesting array of dishes. We sipped white wine, Perro Verde Verdejo from Rueda (only available at  Ibérica) as we started the feast of dishes; this wine has a fresh palate and it worked well with the first dish of baby carrot tempura in a light batter and the slight sweetness of the baby carrots was irresistible. 

Next it was on to crispy cauliflower and pak choi, the nutty flavour of the cauliflower was a treat with the mild freshness of the pak choi. 

A creamy ensaladilla rusa was up next, the tart and tangy taste of this really woke up the palate and it was a satisfying dish is perfect for spring. 

Tender octopus a la Gallega was another accomplished dish and the presentation was striking too. The distinctive octopus flavour was delicious and it paired well against the lightness of the ensaladilla rusa which preceded it. 

Croquetas are always a popular choice when it comes to tapas and we heard about how difficult it can be to make the perfect croquetas earlier in the evening, which made us even more appreciative of the crisp and fluffy croquetas de jamon which were served next! 

Succulent twice cooked lamb and chicken wings in Canarian mojo picón sauce were two more impressive dishes; I love the simplicity of tapas and I find that sharing a selection of them over a bottle of wine is the winning formula for a fun evening. The later dishes were accompanied by an excellent red wine, Comenge from ribera del Duero which was rich and smooth. 

A portion of pitu chicken rice was a favourite of mine during the evening; this hearty and rustic dish combines slow cooked chicken with creamy rice. 

On to dessert and who could resist crema Catalana foam, a sweet and airy dessert which was the ideal way to round off such a good evening, especially accompanied by a glass of rich Noe Pedro Ximénez dessert wine which is matured for 30 years. 

The tocinillo de cielo was equally delicious; this dessert is traditional to southern Spain, it is usually made with egg yolks, sugar and water and it has a light texture. 

Tasting the spring menu at Ibérica  was a journey of polished flavours and the menu brings in some intriguing new dishes alongside some well established favourites. It is easy to see why tapas are so popular when they are done well and Ibérica is a great place for a convivial evening of wine, food and company. 

14-15 Hardman St
M3 3HF

What do you all think, do you like tapas and have you tried any of these dishes? As always I cannot wait to hear your thoughts and thank you so much for reading this post.

Until next time, 



Saturday 15 April 2017

New menu launch at Grill on the Alley...

What is your beef? It is a good question and one I learned the answer to earlier this week when I went along to a Steak School and wine tasting press evening at Grill on the Alley, a stalwart of the Manchester restaurant scene for over ten years which has recently reopened following a mini makeover. Grill on the Alley is part of the Blackhouse group from Living Ventures and it has a warm and contemporary ambience thanks to exposed brickwork, soft lighting and a stylish bar area. A pianist played as we sampled a selection of cocktails such as Vanilla Duchess, which lent a tropical flavour to the evening with a garnish of fresh pineapple. The evening was all about unveiling the new menu too, which has several interesting twists such as a cocktail menu designed to pair with certain dishes (more on that later). 

We took our seats, eager to sample the delights which lay ahead and after a welcome speech from MD Scott Grimbleby, we were given a masterclass in beef and wine; Grill on the Alley works with premium beef suppliers Fairfax and wine expert Chris Cooper was also on hand to treat us to a selection of wines chosen to complement the meal. 

We had several cuts and varieties of beef throughout the evening, such as tender Galician sirloin and Australian Aberdeen black fillet, paired with wines which served to enhance the dishes. A Tannat wine from Uruguay was a personal favourite of mine, I had not tried a wine from Uruguay before and I was drawn to its fruity blackberry flavour. 

Another innovation at Grill on the Alley is the Perfect Pair cocktail menu, with choices of Aperitif, Main and Digestif cocktails. I like the idea of starters, mains and desserts in cocktail format and some of them have been created to partner with certain dishes such as the Steak Holder cocktail, blended to be the ideal companion to the Australian fillet. We tried this and it tasted irresistible with the combination of Bombay gin, black grapes, Plymouth Sloe gin, star anise, maple syrup, blueberries and lactic acid working perfectly with the intensity of the meat. 

A trio of desserts rounded off the evening on a sweet note and it was great to learn so much about steak and wine. Grill on the Alley is a favourite of the Manchester restaurant scene for a reason; it delivers a mix of sophistication and home comfort as well as impressive food, drinks and service. This place takes steak seriously, but there is also plenty on the menu if you prefer another dish, such as seafood and vegetarian dishes. 

Grill on the Alley
5 Ridgefield,
M2 6EG

What do you all think, do you like the idea of a steak and wine masterclass? As always I cannot wait to hear your thoughts and thank you so much for reading this post. 

Until next time,



Thursday 6 April 2017

Dinner at The Vicarage...

It is always a pleasure to take a trip to the countryside and I recently went to dine at The Vicarage*, a pretty Grade II listed country pub and hotel located in the area of Cranage, Cheshire. The interior design is warm and welcoming, with beams, fireplaces, vintage ephemera and antique furniture which combine to create a rustic charm in the bar and restaurant space. 

We took our seats at a spacious table next to the window, I sipped a glass of chilled Pinot Grigio as we soaked up the relaxing atmosphere. We enjoyed the bread selection with olive oil and balsamic vinegar to begin our meal, the bloomer bread is supplied by nearby bakery Mandevilles which was established in 1900, The Vicarage is a food focused destination and I appreciate their use of local and seasonal produce, with many ingredients sourced from Cheshire suppliers. 

My dining companion had the roasted tomato soup for his starter, which had a pleasantly tangy and springlike flavour which was a treat with the wedge of crusty bloomer bread. 

My starter of roasted celeriac soup with garlic, shaved celery and apple croute was well presented with delicate flavours and added sharpness from the apple. I loved the addition of the croute which brought in texture alongside the silky soup. 

For the main course, I selected the open lasagne of wild mushrooms, spinach, pine nuts and braised leeks in white truffle cream sauce. This dish was full of flavour, with the generous amounts of wild mushrooms tasting rich and woody against the fresh pasta and the truffle cream sauce while the leeks added a subtle and delicate element. 

My dining companion went for the steak night option, which offers a menu of several different steaks. He chose the 10oz ribeye with fat cut chips, onion rings, dressed watercress, confit tomato, mushroom and blue cheese butter. The steak was cooked to perfection to his preference of medium rare; the steaks served at The Vicarage are Welsh beef and it was tender and tasty. The accompaniments of crispy fat chips, golden onion rings and creamy blue cheese butter worked well with this classic and comforting steak dinner. 

For dessert, we were both drawn to the chocolate options and my dining companion went for the chocolate marquise with hazelnut brittle, white chocolate, raspberry and Oreo ice cream. This was a stunning dessert in terms of presentation and the flavours matched the appearance, with the slightly bitter chocolate marquise offset perfectly by the raspberry, white chocolate and the Oreo ice cream. 

I ordered the chocolate brownie with crushed honeycomb, chocolate sauce and honeycomb ice cream. The brownie was indulgent and the crushed honeycomb and honeycomb ice cream counterbalanced the chocolate. 

I would recommend The Vicarage for a delicious meal in tranquil surroundings, the service and food were equally good and it is clear that Executive Chef Steven Tuke has put a lot of thought in to menu development. The countryside setting makes this the perfect choice for a short break, which is ideal since they have recently launched six new luxury suites which have been individually designed with features such as king-sized beds, freestanding roll top baths and large walk in showers:

The Vicarage; Freehouse & Rooms, 
Knutsford Road, 

01477 533393

Do you like the idea of country inn with rooms 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,



*I was invited to review The Vicarage, this meal was complimentary. Opinions expressed herein are my own and honest. 

Wednesday 5 April 2017

Dinner at Suri...

Last night I went along to dine at the new Suri* restaurant in Manchester, which recently opened on King Street. I love this area of Manchester and I liked the sound of Suri as soon as I heard that they serve contemporary Middle Eastern and Mediterranean inspired dishes. 
The stylish design features a long bar area downstairs, flanked by booths with plush cream upholstery, while upstairs there is another floor of the restaurant with large windows and an open kitchen where you can see the chefs hard at work. 

We were warmly welcomed and given a choice of tables; we chose to sit by the window and we consulted the menu which consists of a sharing style concept with dishes split in to graze, field, farm and waves sections. We were treated to sampling an array of wines, before we settled on glasses of Merlot Xinomavro, ‘Paranga’ Kir Yianni from Greece and Minervois, ‘Les Plots’ Chateau Coupe-Roses, France. The wine menu at Suri is impressive and the team are extremely knowledgeable in terms of recommending wine choices. 

The Persian spiced bread with fragrant textures and oil caught my eye immediately and it lived up to expectations with a light and airy quality and delicate flavour, it broke apart easily and tasted amazing with the chunky dip of smashed vegetables and chickpeas. 

We were advised to choose three dishes each to experience a range of what the menu has to offer. My Chickpea kibbeh, with spiced yoghurt was a great choice and the golden croquettes of root vegetable and chickpeas worked well with the refreshing citrus yoghurt. 

The Hanout split prawns with smashed avocado were equally good and the meaty seared king prawns were complemented by the ras al hanout spices, while the crushed avocado, sesame and coriander added a lighter balance to the dish. 

The Sumac chicken with white beans and chorizo was tender and delicately spiced, I hesitate to resort to the old cliché of ‘melt in the mouth’ but needs must in this case as it certainly did and the roasted fennel wedges and rich tomato, butterbean and chorizo ragu were all the adornment this simple yet outstanding dish needed. 

I was treated to a current special of sea bream kebabs, which were crispy and satisfying with a mild sea bream flavour.

A summery salad of vine tomatoes, rocket and crumbled Wensleydale provided a combination of bright flavours which was ideal with our other dishes. 

My dining companion was dazzled by his choice of ox cheek with cumin and Pedro Ximenez. The slow cooked ox cheek was succulent and the sherry added a sweeter depth while crushed potatoes, flash pickled red onion and citrus yoghurt allowed the flavour of the ox cheek to shine. 

Spiced pork belly, with a crackling mustard sauce was another inspired dish and the pork belly bites were delicious with the zingy mustard and crackling yoghurt sauce.

A large portion of Za’tar fries were perfect to share and the spicy seasoning and fiery sliced chillies made these fries a tasty side order.

On to dessert and would you believe I just about managed to find some room when I saw the tempting options such as cardamom vanilla cream, rhubarb, rose and ginger. We decided on two desserts to share, the preserved lemon curd mousse served in a rocks glass with sweet, peppered red berries and a filo and sesame shard was a taste of summer and the zesty mousse created a sensational flavour paired with the tangy peppered berries. 

The second dessert of chocolate slab with burnt orange ripple was recommended to us and I am so glad it was. The chocolate brownie was so rich that the chocolate seemed almost liquefied, I tried in vain to get the trade secrets to such a moist brownie from one of the chefs, but he explained it was down to a special combination of ingredients! Whatever the secret, this was a slab of bliss with the orange syrup and whipped mascarpone. 

Suri is a welcome addition to King Street, blending modern and elegant interior design with excellent food and service. The sharing style menu works well here, as the convivial atmosphere makes it the ideal place to get together with friends over a couple of bottles of wine and sample a variety of dishes. 

Suri Restaurant & Bar
22 King Street
M2 6AG

 0161 641 7700

What do you all think, do you like the idea of a restaurant with a sharing menu of dishes inspired by the Middle East and the Mediterranean 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,



*I was invited to dine at Suri, this meal was complimentary for review purposes. Opinions expressed herein are my own and honest.