Archive for the Lancashire Category

Manchester – Rusholme – Kurdish food off the Curry Mile

Posted in England, Lancashire, Manchester, Rusholme, United Kingdom with tags on January 28, 2019 by gannet39

Rusholme famously has a mile of mediocre curry houses, except for the occasional gem like this one. In my opinion the better places are run by the most recently arrived immigrants and it’s best to swerve the more longstanding restaurants. Thanks to the war in Iraq, the local curry scene has been enlivened by this great little spot..

Kurdish Restaurant (Elementary A), 4 Grandale St, Manchester M14 5NS

This café-style place is down a side street off the main drag away from the posher curry houses. It seems to double as a social club which is always a good sign.

As soon as we sat down a small complementary bowl of chicken and lentil soup arrived. It wasn’t great to look at but it was very tasty (B+).

Our first main was Lamb Quzy (also spelt Quozi or Kozi), a famous Iraqi dish where traditionally a whole lamb is stuffed with a mix of spices, nuts, currants, vegetables and more minced lamb and roasted (recipe here) and served on a bed of rice. Obviously it had been scaled down here but was still delicious (A) and the rice was good too (B+).

It came with another two soups, chickpea (B) and lamb with (A) for the grand total of £6.

Also the ‘Kurdish Kebab’ was effectively a very delicate keema kebab (B+) and came with grilled marinated liver (A).

With a large salad of red onion, lettuce, lemons and marinated red cabbage (B), three naans made on the premises (B), two cups of salted yogurt (B) and four cups of strong black tea the total bill came to £17, which given the quality of the food was an absolute bargain.

I’ve been to the Kurdish area in western Iran and if anything the food in this restaurant is better. A solid recommendation.


Manchester – small plates in the city centre

Posted in City Centre, England, Lancashire, Manchester, United Kingdom with tags , on January 27, 2019 by gannet39

Like the UK in general, the restaurant scene in Manchester has come on in leaps and bounds in recent years. Here are two of my favourites for Mediterranean flavours…

Google map here.

The Refuge (High Intermediate A), in The Principal Hotel, Oxford St, Manchester M60 7HA

I need to declare a conflict of interest here as one of the proprietors of this top notch small plates restaurant is my best and oldest friend from school but believe me, my boy knows his grub, and if it wasn’t really good, I wouldn’t write about it.

As well as holding the contract for this hotel bar and lounge, Luke and his business partner Justin run their own restaurant, Volta in West Didsbury, and a boozer, Electriks Bar in Chorlton, both of which I also highly recommend for good food, drink and vibes.

The Refuge is located in the former office building of the Refuge Assurance Company who occupied the building for nearly 100 years, from 1895 to 1987.

Their red neon ‘Refuge’ sign, at the top of the building’s sixty-six metre tower, was an Oxford Road landmark for much of this time. The building has now been converted into an opulent hotel called The Principal

It has a beautiful red brick and terracotta exterior.

The walls and pillars of the bar area are decorated with decorative ceramic tiles known as Burmantofts facience.

Beyond this there is the tastefully decorated restaurant which seats ninety in cosy banquettes.

On the far wall is a legendary stencil which was taken from an old poster the boys found in the cellar.

As luck would have it, I occasionally work in an office just two blocks up the street. Usually I eat a light Thai lunch in Chinatown, but when I deserve a treat, I come to the Refuge.

The food takes inspiration from Mediterranean cuisines; Spain of course but also North African and Levantine. The small plates are best shared with friends and you need at least two but ideally three per person. Everything I’ve ever had has been great.

The menu is always changing but here are some past favourites; Sake cured salmon with spring onion and ponzu, Lamb tagine meatballs with apricot and pistachio, Char grilled cauliflower with carraway and pomegranite, Chargrilled Picanha steak with smoked Cafe de Paris butter, Mackerel with couscous , Daal Makhani, Salt cod croquettes, Battered squid, Salmon on rye, Roast baby new potatoes with bravas sauce, parsley and aioli, Grilled broccoli with beetroot Romesco and hazelnuts. Click the pics to enlarge them.

Service has always been friendly and on-point. As a miserly Yorkshireman if I was to criticise I’d say some portions are a little small for what you pay but hey, you’re getting top quality grub in a beautiful space in trendy Manchester so it’s to be expected.

And now for the competition…

This is a highly renowned tapas bar in the central retail district of Manchester. Luke loves it as well despite the fact it is a rival.

El Gato Negro (High Intermediate B+), 52 King St, Manchester,

This is a review of my experience in 2016 so the menu and wine list may well have changed. I’m sure the quality of the cuisine is still the same though.

To drink I had the Morfil Garnacha (B+), one of the cheaper wines at £21 a bottle. I also got complementary Aqua Panna.

The Jamon Croquettes were very good (B+).

As were the Lamb Skewers (B+).

I loved the Syrian Lentils too (B+).

I was really looking forward to the Scotch Eggs with Morcilla but sadly the flavours just weren’t there for me (C).

The Ribs were okay (B).

And to finish, the Yorkshire Rhubarb & Cream Crumble was a winner (B+).

I pushed the boat out with a £7 glass of Emilio Lustau Moscatel (B+) to go with it.

And even further out with a glass of Alvear ‘El Presidente’ Brandy from Cordoba which was a new one on me and unexpectedly good (B+) for a £5 glass.

The staff were very attentive, as was the chef owner which makes a nice change. My total bill with a tip came to a greedy £80.

So a couple of Mediterranean inspired gems to bring you some sunshine in the Rainy City. Enjoy!

Manchester – Vietnamese food in Northenden

Posted in England, Lancashire, Manchester, Northenden, United Kingdom with tags on November 20, 2015 by gannet39

I love Vietnamese food and will happily travel a long way to get my fix (please see my Hanoi and Saigon posts), so when I heard about this place in Manchester I was on the train and through the front door like a ferret in a drainpipe.

Mi & Pho (Elementary A), 384 Palatine Rd, Northenden

According to people who keep an eye on such things, Mi & Pho came out of nowhere and became the Trip Advisor #1 restaurant in Manchester, a position it held for a month before somebody mucked up their algorithm with a poor review (inevitable, there are always snarks). More recently they have won Restaurant of the Year for the North of England in the Food Awards.

Such accolades are quite an achievement for a small no-frills café located in Northenden, a highly unfashionable part of town. They’ve done it on the strength of their food which is authentic and healthful while being excellent value for money. Much of this is down to their chef, a cousin of the owner, who quit his restaurant job in London to come and work up here. It also helps that they are nice people who give all their customers a warm welcome.

Three of us were made to feel very much at home by the young owner before tucking in to…

Gỏi Cuốn – rice paper summer rolls with prawns and roast pork. I make these at home with leftover roast chicken, love them so much.


Gỏi Du Dử – green papaya salad with mango, carrots and mixed herbs. Not as spicy as it can be, which is good, as a version I once had in Thailand with grated chilli is officially the hottest thing I’ve ever eaten in my life!


Bún Huế – hot and spicy soup from Huế province with bún noodles, and in our case tofu and vegetables.


Bún Sài Gòn – southern style stir fried marinated pork with onions, lemongrass, chilli and beansprouts served with bún noodles, mixed salad, pickled vegetables, crispy shallots and crushed peanuts.


Pak Choi Chinese cabbage stir fried with tofu.20151102_191241

Salt and pepper spare ribs.


Bánh Xèo – pancakes made with rice flour and coconut milk and stuffed with pork and bean sprouts. A bit oily but oh so good.


This would be a bit of an overkill for three normal people but we finished everything off! It’s the kind of food that’s so good you just can’t stop eating, and it feels okay to do so because so much of it is healthy veg and herbs.

We didn’t get round to trying the Pho (pronounced ‘fur’) as it’s a meal in itself. But I’m sure it’s very good given the quality of everything else.

My only criticism is that they should get an alcohol license. You can BYOB and we got our beer from the Polish shop a few doors down but they are missing a trick by not selling it themselves.

So, top marks (A). Just wish we had an authentic place like this in Sheffield.

Manchester – Asian food in Chinatown

Posted in Chinatown, England, Lancashire, Manchester, United Kingdom with tags , , , on November 20, 2015 by gannet39

Every now and then I get a bit of work in central Manchester. I always head for Chinatown for lunch as there are so many good places to eat there.

My current favourite is…

Siam Smiles (Elementary A), NEW ADDRESS: Deansgate Mews, Great Northern Warehouse, 253 Deansgate, Manchester M3 4EN
OLD ADDRESS: 48A George St,

2018 update! The new location on Deansgate Mews (ie no longer in Chinatown) is a little hard to find but still very much worth the effort. Once in the Great Northern Warehouse go up to the Odeon on the first floor but turn right out of the doors onto the hidden mews. The shop is smaller and less rough and ready, but the menu is pretty much the same. The duck soup is great!

I have Marina O’Loughlin to thank for this one as she gave them a rave review in the Guardian.

It’s a no-frills place with plastic chairs and condiments in Tupperware boxes, located in a cellar which doubles as a Thai supermarket. It’s quite easy to miss as there’s no sign but when you’re on the street just keep an eye out for a downward flight of stairs.

As I only ever have lunch, a bowl of Kuay Tiew soup noodles is all I can manage. Pictured is the Chicken Kuay Tiew with flat rice noodles in a Nam Sai (clear) broth. Simple, clean and delicious (A). And very good value as well.


Haven’t had the chance to go for an evening meal yet but it needs to be done, soon.

I Am Pho (High Elementary B), 44 George St, Manchester M1 4HF

A decent bowl of Beef Pho but nothing spectacular (B). The bean sprout pancake is okay too (B).

Hunan Restaurant (Intermediate B+), 1st Floor, 19-21 George St (opposite Siam Smiles),

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I like my Chinese food spicy so I usually go for Sichuan food. It’s quite unusual to find a restaurant that specialises in Hunan cuisine.

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Both provinces are neighbours and both like to put a lot of chilli in their food. However the Hunanese tend to use fresh chilli more whereas the Sichauanese dishes prefer dried chillies.

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Also, Hunan cuisine is described as being dry hot (干辣), as opposed to Sichuan cuisine, which is hot and numbing (mala) due to the inclusion of Sichuan peppercorns.

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In reality you can get dishes from both these regions in this restaurant (eg the Sichuan classic Kung Pao chicken) but suffice to say whatever you order will be packing heat!

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I last came here for a birthday treat so I didn’t take any notes, but it’s all top tackle!

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Wong Wong Bakery (Elementary B+), 28 Princess St,

If I’m in a rush for my lunch I tend to just get a Char Siu Bau (steamed barbecue pork bun) to eat on the hoof. This small Chinese bakery does a very good one (B+).

Korea comes to Mancunia

Posted in England, Lancashire, Manchester, Northern Quarter, United Kingdom with tags , , on February 4, 2011 by gannet39


Baekdu Korean Restaurant (Elementary A), 77 Shudehill (corner with Hanover St), Manchester, M4 4AN, Tel: 0161 834 2227 GEM ALERT!

I’ve been going to stay with my old buddy Luke in Manchester for over twenty years now. Our shared love of good food has meant that eating well  is always top of our agenda when we get together. His flat is in the Northern Quarter, a cool counter-culture area that’s slowly being reborn out of the textile trade twilight zone to the east of the city centre.  It’s a great place to live with lots of little boutiques, bars and record shops on the doorstep.  Strangely though the restaurant scene here has always been lacking. Sure there are some great curry cafes, like Al Faisal and Yadgar on Thomas St where you can get a good lunch for next to nothing, but there has never been anywhere to get cheap quality food in the evenings. Until now that is.

Baekdu is located on the edge of the Northern Quarter, in an unattractive spot on Shudehill. It’s completely authentic serving classic Korean dishes to a predominantly Oriental clientele. The interior is basic with modern cafe bar furniture and bleak white walls, which make it a little too bright to be truly relaxing, but forget that, it’s the food that you’re here for.

Korean cuisine is hearty, healthy and hot. Most dishes come with Gochujang, fermented chilli paste, a distinctive ingredient which sets it apart from neighbouring cuisines.

The national dish is Kimchi, fermented Chinese (napa) cabbage with gochujang, which is eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner. You can see huge earthenware pots on very balcony in Korea which contain a year’s supply of fermenting cabbage for the family. Done well, it can be really delicious and the version at Baekdu is no exception (A).

Another distinctive Korean dish is Bulgogi (“fire meat”), usually wafer-thin sirloin marinated in soya sauce, sesame oil, sugar and garlic which is then grilled on an open flame. In more upmarket Korean BBQ restaurants the customers grill the meat themselves on small grills built into the tables, or even on hot stones, but here it is pan-fried. We had Dwaeji Bulgogi, a version made with pork, onions, peppers and chilli paste which was pretty good (B).

Also very famous is Bibimbap, literally meaning “mixed meal” which in its most basic form is simply a big bowl of warm rice topped with chilli paste and Namul, various small portions of shredded vegetables, some of which can be quite exotic (Bell flower roots and fern shoots anyone?) but not here as it would add too much to the expense. The version we had was Dolsot Bibimbap (B+) which consists of fried beef and a basic namul of mushroom, carrot, spinach, together with a raw egg which is stirred together will dollops of chilli paste. It’s served in a hot stone bowl coated with sesame oil which is so hot that it cooks the rice and egg forming a delicious crust is on the sides of the bowl (B+).

Some of our favourite dishes were the vegetarian ones; such is Sigumchi Namal, spinach blanched and seasoned with garlic, soy, sesame oil, sesame seeds and sugar (A) and Oi Muchin, cucumber salad, seasoned with garlic, spring onions, sesame seeds and chilli paste (A).

Gal Bi are delicious barbecued spare ribs that have been marinated in rice wine, soy, sugar and garlic (A).

Also the Haemul Pajeon seafood pancake (made with squid and spring onion) is wonderfully crunchy and tasty (A).

The only let down is the Hite beer (C-), which should be spelt with an S at the beginning, but despite that this place is a real find for me. When I lived in Japan, Korean food was a welcome alternative to the delicious but rather bland local fare, kind of like the role curry plays in the UK. Until now I had to go to London to get my fix (in particular Kimchee in Golders Green) but now it’s just a short drive over the Pennines, a sign the world is getting smaller. A real gem, don’t miss if you’re in the area.

With thanks to Luke Una

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