Umezushi – Mirabel St.

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Okay, okay… so it’s been a while. I’m 6 months into a new job (which I’m loving) and if I’m honest, I haven’t eaten in many new places that I’ve had much to comment on. Make of that what you will. However, after being spotted by Z a little while back, the two of us have been hankering to pay this little hole in the wall a visit.

Table layout at Umezushi

No neon in sight.

Umezushi sits just by the MEN Arena, tucked away in one of the unit spaces on Mirabel St. There’s an almost industrial vibe about the area. The surroundings are hardly glamorous and it couldn’t be further from the neon, slap-an-exclaimation-mark-on-it sushi counterpart up the road. I have no real issue with the YO! Variety generally, but it was wonderful not hearing the slightly racist waiter call button sound off every few minutes. In fact, Umezushi is absolutely unique in that it doesn’t have a gimmick or a style guide – it’s just fresh, carefully prepared food and the place is clearly run with love.

We counted a grand total of 23 seats in the restaurant – seats mind you, not tables, individual seats – and looking after the place were two chefs (the kitchen is open plan) and a single member of waiting staff who was running the whole show. The romantic in us wanted to believe that these three were in fact all owners too, living out their dream. Perhaps they are.

As it was the first time we’d been out for dinner in a while and really felt like a treat, we opted for the Umezushi sampler. This is the all singing, all dancing set menu and at £45 I must admit I was crossing my fingers that it’d be worth it. I need never have worried as what we were presented with was worth every penny and more.

The dishes were lined up in the following order, and every single one was really rather excellent:

 

Maki - Cucumber & Pickle Hosomaki and Avocado & Salmon Uramaki

Maki – Cucumber & Pickle Hosomaki and Avocado & Salmon Uramaki

Sashimi – Bream, Salmon & Tuna

Sashimi – Bream, Salmon & Tuna

Nigiri Selection – Tiger Prawn, Unagi, Salmon, Tuna & Seabass

Nigiri Selection – Tiger Prawn, Unagi, Salmon, Tuna & Seabass

Tempura – Vegetables, Cuts of Fish, a huge Tiger Prawn and White Bait

Tempura – Vegetables, Cuts of Fish, a huge Tiger Prawn and White Bait

Hot Dish – we choose the Seafood Glass Noodles, but there is a selection.

Hot Dish – we choose the Seafood Glass Noodles, but there is a selection.

Soup – Miso with some fantastic tasting Clams

Soup – Miso with some fantastic tasting Clams

Fruit/Dessert – I took Plum Sake (I was stuffed) and Z took Melon with Aloe Vera syrup. There was a fantastic sounding Mango Tempura & Vanilla ice-cream, but I genuinely may have burst if I attempted it.

There is real care put into everything at Umezushi. You can actually see the chefs taking their time in getting the cuts right.

The pace that the dishes were brought out was well-timed, the quality outstanding, ingredients are clearly fresh each day, portion sizes are good and the place is immaculate to boot; that’s really all there is to it.

It’s difficult not to root for this place, because they’re doing everything right. We sat for nearly 3 hours and thoroughly enjoyed every second of it.  There’s a tangible sense of pride in the atmosphere and it’s infectious. Go down and try it, but book first. Seats at Umezushi are precious.

Sandinista!

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After working for several years in the grimey nightlife of Manchester, I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for so-called ‘dive’ bars. Ask me which is my favourite and up until recently I would have uttered ‘Mojos’ without hesitation. The throwback rum joint has been my favourite place to catch a drink for years – they got the look, feel and jukebox perfectly tuned to my liking.

Zombie

Zombie

However, a newcomer (less than a year old) has stepping into the ring and, for me, it’s got the perfect blend of atmosphere, lived-in chic, a touch of grubbiness and a lot of soul too. It’s not a total original, there are a few across the country, though you wouldn’t guess in a million years that Sandinista is a ‘chain’. There’s too much personality behind it. Little touches like gig tickets stapled to the back of the bar do a lot for this place. The open plan kitchen space in the middle of the room looks hand-made too. It’s a little rickety and built to a budget, but in a bar like this, that’s EXACTLY what you want. A bar run by proper booze hounds who know how to mix drinks and sod the rest.

Oil Slick

Oil Slick

I’m not going to babble on for ages about the subtle nuances of their different drinks. Instead I’m just going to tell you to go there. Start out with something rum-based and fruity and you won’t go far wrong. Thank me later.

 

Farewell Enzo – Osteria’s Swan Song.

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Out in the wilds of Cheshire, nestled amongst the bajillion pound mansions and Range Rovers, lived Osteria Mauro – jewel in the crown of the Enzo Mauro empire. Note the past tense. A humble Italian restaurant, frequented by the great and the good of Mottram St. Andrew – today is sadly their last day of open service. After 40 years in the industry, the well-loved Mr Mauro is sadly hanging up his spurs.

Osteria Mauro

Osteria Mauro

It seems a little odd to now start talking about the food, or the service, or the ambience (darling) – it hardly seems to matter now that it is all coming to an end. However after hearing so much about it over the past few years (Z used to work there) we felt it right to go and say our goodbyes.

What struck me was the fact that every person who walked through the door was so warmly received. They knew the waiting staff, managers and chefs by name and were welcomed as if returning home after a long absence. It became painfully clear that the people present that evening had likely been going to Osteria every weekend for the past decade or two. They themselves were part of the furniture. Part of the family. Almost every table was asking as to the future of the staff and the whereabouts of Mr. Mauro himself – (allegedly flying back to the UK today to see the place off in person).

Our initial intent was just to have a drink, sit and watch for a while, say farewell and leave. However after 30 minutes it became glaringly obvious that we would be amiss not to eat. It’s not as if we’d get the opportunity again.

Rigatoni Alla Fave @ Osteria Mauro

Rigatoni Alla Fave @ Osteria Mauro

I took the Rigatoni Alla Fave – a simple dish, but as it was sporting my favourite pasta shape and some in season greens, I couldn’t say no. It was well-balanced, the pasta very fresh and the garlic was just right. I confess to being rather heavy-handed with the garlic when cooking myself, so it was nice to see some restraint being exercised by the maestros in the kitchen.

Linguini Allo Scoglio @ Osteria Mauro

Linguini Allo Scoglio @ Osteria Mauro

Z took the Linguini Allo Scoglio – a mountain of fresh pasta, chockablock with divine smelling sea-food. The mussels were whoppers and there were a couple of huge tiger prawns to accompany the normal-sized ones still in their shells (I love peeling them myself). Plenty of squid in there too, making it quite a task for any one person to finish alone. Naturally both Z and I polished off the dishes with aplomb. A fitting tribute to the excellent chefs which will now, no doubt, be heading back to their home country in search of a new kitchen. Yes it’s sad, yes it’s a shame, but in the words of Dylan – ‘the times they are a-changing’. You can’t fight it.

It would be untrue to say that Osteria was full to the rafters with adoring clientele on their last evening (this reason alone could well be a big factor in the business changing hands). But those faithful few were clearly smitten. I have no doubt that they will now make the extra journey into Manchester, just to visit sister restaurant ‘Stock’, off King St. Forgive me for indulging in a little gossip, but I’m told that the lease on the Stock building is up soon too. It could well be that Mr Mauro is saying farewell to the North-West entirely. Time will tell.

Though for now, I thank him. He had the passion to build a much-loved home here, famed for good food and seemingly cherished for its warmth. I struggle to think of any other restaurants in Manchester that will be around long enough to create a legacy quite like that.

Best of luck Enzo & Familia Mauro.

Panaculty does cocktails.

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Ever the source of inspiration, Z suggested I added an extra ‘arm’ to Panaculty – a section dedicated entirely to the boozier parts of Manchester’s social scene. As Herman Melville would say it: “The watery part of the world.” I don’t think any other blog in the area is doing it – though please correct me if I’m wrong – so I thought I’d casually fill that niche in the market.

To celebrate, I’ve gone and done myself a bit of guest posting (who’d have thunk, eh?). I’ve pulled together a couple of my favourite cocktail recipes and done a short DIY guide for Kimberly and her @Home blog, which you can find here. Give it a once over and see how you like it.

Of course I’m not going to leave you faithful few out in the cold. My favourite cocktail is the infamous ‘Whiskey Sours’ so I’ve rounded up my Top 3 Whiskey Sours in Manchester. Drum roll please.

#3 – Browns Brasserie, Off King St.

Not too shabby that one.

Not too shabby that one.

Points deducted for not using egg white, however they actually provide a choice of the myriad Whiskeys they have behind the bar. You could line up 10 in a row and they’d all taste different. The prospect alone makes me want to pull on my boots and head over there as we speak.

#2 – Terrace Bar, Thomas St.

D'you want a flake in that?

D’you want a flake in that?

Any more of a head and it’d need a flake. Though the smoothness of this particular Whiskey Sours isn’t the best thing about it. The barman there adds the Angostura bitters as the last thing to the glass. It’s a nice touch and gives it a unique and more interesting look.

#1 – Matt & Phred’s, Tib St.

 A humble winner

Wickedly wonderful, the guys there make them fantastically well. Smooth with a bite so strong it’d put Jaws out of a job. Egg white, very VERY light on the sugar (just how I like it) and better still, if you happen to be there at happy hour, you’ll get two of the lovely buggers for £7. I’ll see you at the bar…

So here’s to a new breed of blogging in Manchester. Charge your glasses and bottoms up.

Dough – Northern Quarter.

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Fast becoming one of the veteran staples to the ever-changing Northern Quarter, Dough has been on the corner of Thomas St and High St for just over 4 years now. They’ve got a the balance between cost and variety pretty well nailed, though don’t expect a whirlwind culinary experience. It’s pizza, done simply and well. You pay for what you get, it’s tasty and there is actually a lot to suit a variety of tastes.

As a quasi-Italian restaurant it’s exactly what you want. Busy and bustling, but never cramped and loud. For a two storey building with over 140 covers, that’s not bad going. But I digress…

The ace up their sleeve is the fact that they accommodate for both Vegan and Celiac diets. Hang on a minute, that’s kind of astounding for a food stuff that is predominantly a no-no for the wheat intolerant. Better still it’s not a hassle. Some restaurants will offer it, but grudgingly. At Dough, it’s second nature. There are choices for wheat-free, white, wholewheat and it’s easy. So, so easy.

 

Orangey, but only with the orange.

I even noticed a couple of wheat-free and alcohol-free beers on the menu. Not to everyone’s taste, but good to know it’s available. Myself, I took a Blue Moon. Never tried one before, though I’d happily have another. The supposed orange and spiced flavouring only tends to come through if you’ve got a slice of orange in the glass with it, but it works for me.

A little underwhelming…

Food-wise, we had a pretty broad selection from the menu. The starters are priced well enough and are just enough to see you through to your pizza’s arrival. I took the Baked Camembert, Z took the Buffalo Mozzarella salad and Mr B the Garlic Mushroom.

Just gooey enough; needs more bread.

My Camembert was suitably gooey – you know it’s right when it sticks to the inside of your teeth. However it could have done with an extra breadstick to mop it all up with. As much as I love cheese, eating several forkfuls with nothing else gets a bit tedious.

The pick of the bunch

Z was much underwhelmed by her salad, though Mr B raved about the garlic mushrooms. I’ve been back to Dough since and had the dish myself – hits the spots wonderfully.

For the main event, Mrs B and I took the Pulled Pork Pizza. Sweet, tangy and the apples are a nice touch. It’s very autumnal as it does tend to remind you of toffee apples on bonfire night a bit. Still, the BBQ sauce is pretty hearty and lifts the sweetness quite well.

Pulled Pork Pizza – sweet and tangy.

Z’s Dolcelatte Steak pizza looked the business, and in her own words, it’s “heavy going, but good.” For a steak pizza, I wouldn’t exactly expect the tenderest cut, so for me that’s a winner.

“Heavy going, but good.” – Z

However hands-down tastiest and best looking is the Paella Pizza. Mr B nailed his menu choices rather well (and again, I’ve been back since to sample said pizza myself). The seafood is plump and fresh – none of this rubbery nonsense – and the lemon and garlic sing very nicely together. It’s really nice to get a mouthful with a pea too – the tiny burst of sweetness is great.

Spot on – the lemon and garlic go together brilliantly.

All sufficiently stuffed, all came in at less than £15 a head (minus drinks) and all very tasty. Though if you do go, avoid the rabbit food. Pizza parlours are really no place for a salad anyway.

I Am Pho – Chinatown

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With all the burger-slinging that’s going on in the NQ (Don’t get me wrong, I’m definitely a fan; just look at the sauce stains on my shirts) it’s still sometimes nice to take a step back from all the grizzly, gooey, stuff-it-in-your-faceness of it all. Enter ‘I Am Pho’ – a Vietnamese haven.

Beef Pasta @ Pho

Beef Pasta @ Pho

You’ll find it next door to Long Legs *ahem* in Chinatown, and the immediate impression of the place is simple and stripped back. There’s no extensive menus like many other restaurants in the area, and it’s all basic enough to make you feel really quite welcome.

The satay had a touch of hoisin about it. Nice.

The folks at I Am Pho have done everything possible to make eating Vietanmese food as accessible as they can for us ‘philistines’ here in the UK. It’s not a million miles away from other cuisines in town, but there is a slight ritualistic touch to it. I’m a fan of having a bit of procedure and customisation to my food, so I’m going to come right out and say how much I enjoyed it. Not only are all the condiments clearly labelled, but our young waiter spent a good deal of time answering our questions and explaining what the various sauces and spices would do to the dishes. Great service from start to finish.

Very…’zingy’. More please.

After perusing the menus for quite a while and taking a couple of Vietnam’s finest beers to settle us in, we ordered. For starters, I took the Beef Jerky Vietnamese Salad, and Z went for the classic Vietnamese staple of Summer Rolls. I didn’t get close to Z’s rolls, as they were deemed too good to share, while my salad was fresh, sweet, sour and better still, the textures were bang on. Crunchy, chewy and soft – I’d eat buckets of the stuff.

Bowl actually the size of a small moon.

When it came to the mains, we were happy to be led. Our host asked us whether we like our dishes spicy. We assured him we did indeed. Z took the Bun Bo Hue (Bun noodles with beef and pork) and I plumped for the Pho Bo Tai (Thinly sliced beef cooked in its own broth). NB. I’ll point out now that while both of us thoroughly enjoyed our dishes, neither of them could be called spicy. Only once we introduced a few Birdseye chilies did we really turn the heat on. Perhaps the two of us are becoming more seasoned in our tastes, but still.

Pho Bo Tai

The beef in my Pho Bo Tai was tender and still pink in places, which still excites me a little. The stock was rich and deep, but I still wanted to throw myself into the deep end so I added Pho’s own home-made Beef Paste. It’s pretty hefty stuff, so just a dab’ll do you; definitely worth it though.

Extras – they do make a difference

You’ll notice from the snaps that we were brought a selection of beansprouts and various leaves to add to the dish. The long stems are saw-leaf and the other is Thai basil. I’ll admit both were relatively new to me, but I was pleased to find that adding them did actually alter the flavour. It’s not just a token sacrifice for the sake of it.

Condiments galore

Just a word of caution. Unless you’re superhuman, you’re probably not going to finish all the broth and noodles. If you’re torn between which to choose between, I recommend the broth. If you get full, experiment with the condiments, then pick the bowl up and quaff it back in great measures.

‘Hue’s’ house? RUN’S HOUSE! *Say what?!*

Ever in the shadow of the culinary repertoire of bigger cities like London, it’s nice to see that Manchester is still on the up. An extra cuisine here and there is only a good thing for the waistline of Manchester. I Am Pho really did deliver, and the whole affair including 2 x starters, 2 x mains and a round of beers came to around £30 odd quid. Needless to say I left there a very happy (and full) chappy.

Bar Snacks & Cocktails @ Browns Brasserie

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Standing on the grave of ‘Athenaeum’ is the latest incarnation of the Browns chain. It’s been in manc for a few years now, though only recently has the sweet rumour of decently mixed cocktails been whispered into my ears. Well, I had to give it a go, so Z and me take it upon ourselves to venture in.

Firstly – don’t go on a Saturday night. We made this mistake and while the place was positively brimming over with atmosphere, I’d be pretty peeved if I’d gone in there for a meal, then realised I’d have to scream my order at the waitress mere inches away. Don’t get me wrong, the interior is gorgeous, due in no small part to the fact that the original use for the building was a bank (Jamie’s Italian anyone?) However the vaulted ceilings mean the slightest noise really does carry. And boy are there some noises in Manc.

Bar Snacks @ Browns

Three plates for £11 – amazing

We called ahead and booked a spot at the bar, but on arrival the place was so crammed to the rafters we actually got shown to a table instead. It was probably for the best and definitely gave us a welcome amount of breathing space. Wrestling elbows onto a quarter inch of bar space wouldn’t have made for such a nice night.

Now, to the liqour. Our first round consisted of a ‘Whisky Sours’ for myself (not on the menu, but they gladly whipped me one up) and Z’s order of a ‘Gin Jam’. A very interesting creature; inside you’ll find Whitley Neill Gin, De Kuyper Apricot Brandy, Grapefruit & Lemon juice and a touch of Marmalade Vodka. It was sweet, tangy and from the sip I sampled, almost chewy. I’d happily order one myself one day.

Cocktails @ Browns

Cocktails @ Browns

The Whisky Sour was decent, though there didn’t seem to be any inclusion of egg white. Admittedly it’s not to everyone’s taste, but I’m a fan.

As those slid their merry way down, we naturally become a little peckish, and though we didn’t want a full meal, Browns thankfully have a rather excellently priced bar snack menu. Three well-portioned plates came a grand total of £11 – I thought it was outstanding. They’re brilliant for sharing and though the two of us have – how can I put this delicately? – ‘accomplished’ appetites, neither of us felt hard done by afterward.

(I feel I must mention at this point, that the young lady serving bravely carried a chalkboard menu over to our table. She could barely see over it and turned an exhausting shade of mauve as she waded through the crowds. Extra points for service there.)

Wild Boar & Chorizo Meatballs @ Browns

The garlic & horseradish sauce…wow.

First was a row of Wild Boar & Chorizo meatballs floating on Garlic and Horseradish sauce. The balance of the boar and chorizo was stunning. Both shined through equally well and neither overpowered the other. As for the sauce…Woof! It was strong, punchy and extremely moreish. Who ever created these wonderful little treats, I bow to them.

Chilli Beef @ Browns

The sweet salad was ace.

Second was Chilli Beef on a Thai-style salad. It was tender, fresh and really very tasty. The slivers of carrot and courgette were noodle-like in size, sweet and had enough crunch to sit with the soft beef pretty well. No great heat from the chili, but I won’t hold that against them.

Deep Fried Calamari with Butter

Deep Fried Calamari with Butter

Thirdly (because I feel using the word ‘lastly’ would be too cruel) was Deep-Fried Calamari with Butter. Elegant, simple and the squid had just the right bite. Far from chewy, but with the lightest resistence as your teeth sink through it. Nice.

In short, I was impressed. There were tables around us groaning under the weight of steaks that can only be described as ‘obscene’, and despite my usual penchant for red meat, I couldn’t have cared less. All it took was three perfect little plates, and I was sold.

Bloody Mary & Rum Punch @ Browns

Bloody Mary & Rum Punch @ Browns

Appearances from Z’s ‘Bloody Mary’ and my ‘Rum Punch’ settled the evening very nicely indeed, and though my concoction of Overproof Rum, Lime, Orange, Grenadine & Pineapple slid down a little too sweetly, it was a very decent liquid dessert.

Next time I venture to Browns, it’ll be on a drizzly, overcast Thursday afternoon when no sod is about. I’ll be ordering six bar plates all to myself thank you very much. Pull up a stool, order a tall glass of something sharp and dig in.

Teacup, NQ Manchester

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Forgive my descent into nostalgia, and for being ‘that guy’, but I’ve been frequenting Teacup (previously just ‘Cup’) on Thomas St since I first arrived in Manchester nearly seven years ago. I’ve had some of my best and worst days in there, which is why the recent shift in it’s layout, marketing and decor really shocked me. Out with the old and in with the QR codes.

Suppa and a Cuppa @ Teacup, NQ

Gone is the once chintzy, homely feel. Instead you’ll find pitch black walls, New York artisan serving area and a bit of a loft-style feel all round. I didn’t quite know what to make of it if I’m honest. While the place is busier that I’ve ever known it, it doesn’t quite offer the same level of comfort it once did.

Enough about the decor, more about the food. Dropping in for lunch the other weekend isn’t quite as easy as it used to be. Purely down to demand, finding a table at lunchtime on a Saturday is a bit of a hail mary pass, though once we were settled I was pleased to see the menu is much the same. Sandwiches, soups, smoothies, shakes and of course, Tea. The latter of which I found the most impressive. There were other mains-type dishes, but I’ll be perfectly honest, they were rather pricey for a quick lunch. £10 for a pie is a bit much, even for the NQ.

Lunch @ Teacup, NQ

Both of us opted for the Pork and Fig sandwich, and I’ll start with the good parts. Firstly the quality of the pork was excellent, while the fig chutney was sweet and well-balanced, the home-made coleslaw was a great accompaniment. I doused mine in pepper and it was fantastic.

Pork & Fig Sandwich @ Teacup, NQ

Pork is good, Slaw is great.

I’d have liked a little more pig in my sandwich, but I suppose that’s always the case really.

The main attraction – and rightly so – is the tea itself. I’ve enjoyed every single pot of tea I’ve had in this fine establishment, and as I read through the new copy on their menu, it re-affirmed why I fell in love with it in the first place. Suiting the connoisseurs and newbies alike, they offer detailed descriptions that don’t patronise or alienate anyone. For this I applaud them.

Chai Tea @ Teacup, NQ

So warming it almost hurts. Yum.

I took the Chai Tea (it was a cold day) while the Lady plumped for a big old banana milkshake. Both excellent. The sense of ritual and propriety is wonderful when watching the egg timers count down to the first moment you’re allowed to interact with your tea. As an englishman, I think the pomp and ceremony of it all is sometimes the best part. However in this case the Chai itself was outstanding. So rich and warming that it almost stung the nostrils.

Banana Milkshake @ Teacup, NQ

Banana Milkshake – Fresh and full of flavour.

While I will mostly likely keep visiting Teacup for a long time to come, it does make me a little sad that the place has undergone such a drastic change. Though the savior is the fact that at it’s core, the quality remains. Go for the grub, stay for the tea.

Note to self: Try the rainbow cake. I regressed about 15 years when I laid my eyes on it. Must give it a bash on my next visit.

Grill on New York St

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It seems you can’t go far in the North West without coming across a Living Ventures/Blackhouse venue; some might think the lack of variety is a bad thing. Though in the case of the Grill on New York St, I couldn’t care less.

After a couple of very decent visits in the past it was the first place that came to mind when my Daddy-o was down in the rainy city for dinner with my better half and I. The atmosphere in the grill is often busy and bubbly, but never distracting. The three of us could talk without being overdubbed by neighbouring diners or even the open plan kitchen. The service was brilliant – no more needs saying.

Tarquino Shiraz Malbec

Let it sit for a little – it’ll warm up a treat.

We opted for an old favourite on the wine list. The Tarquino Shiraz Malbec. It’s warm and comforting and seems to deepen the longer it’s left open. At £22.50 I personally think it’s well worth it, given the surroundings.

Chicken Liver Pate @ Grill on New York St

Very pretty. Very tasty.

All three of us favoured the Chicken Liver Pate to start, which was served with toast, cranberries and red onion jelly. The jelly lacked the punch I was expecting, but the pate was smooth and you really can’t help but running your finger round the inside of the ramakin to clear up the last of it.

Pork Wellington @ Grill on New York St

A stunning special – the mini scratchings are ace.

For mains Daddy-o opted for ones of the specials – Pork Wellington. I was skeptical but upon arrival it looked the business; really quite beautiful. The fillet of pork was exceptionally well cooked, very tasty and the accompanying ‘pork scratching a la GONYS’ were delicious.

Rump Steak & King Prawn Skewer @ Grill on New York StThe lady plumped for the Rump Steak and additional king prawn skewer, which we all agreed was the best choice, as it too had been cooked exactly to taste (rare in this case).

Fillet Steak @ Grill on New York StMy choice of the Fillet steak with Champ Mash was good and earthy, though the cut was a little overcooked for my liking. In most cases I’d send it back for another go, but the quality and flavour of the meat was so robust that I couldn’t stop myself woofing it down. Call me a heathen and have done with it – I stand by my carnivorous tendancies.

After a healthy rest the dessert menu arrived, and though I don’t tend to go for restaurant sweets all that much, something caught my eye. Pineapple Carpaccio…what the hell is that?!

Pineapple Carpaccio @ Grill on New York St

Pineapple Carpaccio – big win for Grill on New York Street

Well, this is it. Slithers of fresh pineapple cut into hexagons, laid delicately over each other almost like a stain glass window. It came with a stunning honey and ginger ice-cream that added a cool spice (if such a thing exists) to the fruit. A wonderful dish that finished off a wonderful evening in style.

While I was face down in a slate of pineapple, the lady was indulging in the cheese board. I’ll be perfectly honest and say I’ve no idea what types were on there, but the portions were generous and she seemed extremely satisfied.

Cheese Board @ Grill on New York StJob done Grill on New York St. Fantastic evening and I hope they keep that pineapple on the menu for the next time I head there.

Try Thai – Chinatown, Manchester

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While most people in the city were sitting out in pub beer gardens and sunny cafe spots, turning shades of alarming red and milk bottle white (candy canes come to mind), I thought the less travelled road into Chinatown merited a visit to the very decent and always welcoming Manc staple – Try Thai.

You’ll find it opposite ‘Wasabi’ on Falkner St, though do keep an eye out for the entrance – there are actually two. One leads you straight to the newer 1st floor restaurant, while the other takes you through the smaller cafe-style version that was the previous premises. Prices are fair considering you’re smack bang in the middle of Manchester, and portion sizes have always been generous on my visits.

Try Thai - Manchester

Don't let the neon put you off - it's a classy(ish) joint.

Decor is really rather nice. Lots of dark woods and interesting carvings around the place, plus the menus we were handed seemed almost brand new. Always encouraging to get that ‘new car smell’ before ordering.

We chose a couple of cocktails, Mai Tai and Gorilla Guava, which if I’m honest were rather uninspiring. They looked nice, but lacked any kind of kick. I’ll stick with a beer on my next visit.

Star of the starter show is the ‘Hot & Cold’ platter. It’s made for two people and hits all the notes you want it to. Thai style grilled chicken skewers were tender and tasty, the battered king prawns go fantastically with the tangy Penang sauce, veggie spring rolls were standard and the minced pork toasties were hefty, though a little overdone.

Hot & Cold Platter @ Try Thai, Manchester

Hot & Cold Platter - try all the dipping sauces. They're excellent.

Absolute winner is the Spicy Green Papaya Salad. It’s fresh, wonderfully zingy and if you’re a fan of chili – you’ll love it. It’s so addictive to eat, though tread carefully as the heat only seems to escalate as you go.

Mains were equally well executed and our choices of a Pork & Mixed Veg Vermicelli Stir Fry and good old-fashioned King Prawn Pad Thai were spot on. Not only were they both fresh and well-prepared, but the quality of ingredients was stunning. King prawns were huge, very tasty, well-cooked and plentiful, while the Vermicelli was made even more impressive by Shitake mushrooms that were full of flavour, without being too heavy. The two dishes came to about £20 in total, which for the quality we got, I reckon is ace value.

While we picked our own dishes, Try Thai offer some set banquets that look very attractive, as well as a HUGE range of veggie dishes too. One of my favourite places in Manchester and definitely worth spending the extra to ‘upgrade’ from the standard buffet places elsewhere in Chinatown.