Friday, 17 February 2017

A preview of Wreckfish Bistro....

The chance to dine at a restaurant preview in a 19th Century building with no electricity, serving food cooked in an improvised kitchen using gas bottles sounds intriguing enough to begin with and when you also add chef Gary Usher to that mix, it is certain to be an amazing experience. 
Gary Usher is a chef restaurateur, celebrated for his inventive nature and passion which has seen him open three successful restaurants already, including Sticky Walnut in Chester, Burnt Truffle in Heswall and Hispi Bistro in Didsbury. He has won the respect of critics and food lovers alike for his culinary prowess and his ability to bring to life the vision of so many interesting restaurant concepts. 
His latest venture, Wreckfish Bistro, is located in Liverpool in a historic building which was once a watchmakers. Gary is hoping to open the restaurant permanently via crowdfunding and I was fortunate to attend a pop-up preview designed to give guests a flavour of what Wreckfish is all about. 


As you can imagine, the imposing building has plenty of character and inside, exposed brickwork and flickering candlelight made for a charmingly rustic atmosphere while a long table dominated the open plan space, where we would all take our seats for dinner. Many of the items used for the Wreckfish pop-up have been borrowed from local businesses and it is this kind of generosity and camaraderie which I find so appealing about the hospitality industry. As we sipped our welcome champagne, we watched in fascination as Gary Usher and his team set to work prepping the meal in the improvised kitchen at the head of the room. It is not surprising that tables for the preview sold out within fifteen minutes; there is an energy and creativity about his style of cooking which makes you feel that you are witnessing something special and it felt exciting to be a part of the evening. 


We enjoyed a selection of rye bread, sourdough and focaccia before the first course was served, a velvety cauliflower soup with a robust earthy flavour. 



The second course of sea bass ceviche was superb, with a delicate, zesty flavour rounded off by tangy pomegranate, lime and crispy kale. 


It was akin to witnessing a theatre production or performance art, as flames filled the air while the next course was prepared. The grilled sea bream was flaky and tender, with a crispy top where it had been flamed which added an appealing smokiness to the dish, while the courgette spaghetti, taramasalta and parsley oil added fresh and spring like flavours to the plate. This was fish at its finest, a dish with a simplicity which allowed the individual flavours to shine. 


The next course of spice rolled venison, chocolate, prune purée, red cabbage and juniper was a bold and sophisticated dish which demonstrated perfectly why Mr. Usher is so renowned. I loved the way the bittersweet chocolate complemented the venison and the elements of this course worked so well together.



Rounding off the evening was an incredible chocolate tart served with hazelnut praline cream and a wedge of golden honeycomb, which took me straight back to childhood with a combination of crunchy, bubbly texture and a subtle sweetness which paired well with the silky and intense chocolate tart. 


We soaked up the ambience as we relaxed over coffee; I met some lovely people, which was a definite advantage to this communal style of dining, which led to a convivial atmosphere with everybody chatting over dinner. I had the chance to meet Gary Usher at the end of the meal, he was down to earth and charming and it was a pleasure to meet this talented chef in person.
This was an evening I will never forget for so many reasons, the food was outstanding and the ambience was warm and welcoming but also raw and dynamic, with a real sense of anticipation in the air throughout. I wish Gary and the team every success with opening Wreckfish permanently, which will be an excellent addition to the Liverpool restaurant scene. Follow Wreckfish Bistro on Twitter: @WreckfishBistro and Instagram: @wreckfish_bistro



What do you all think, do you like the sound of this unique dining experience 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,

Camille 

xo

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Dinner at Scene Indian Street Kitchen...

Located in the Spinningfields area of Manchester, Scene Indian Street Kitchen* has a stylish and understated design aesthetic with soft lighting, dark wood and large windows overlooking the riverside terrace. The restaurant always has a relaxing feel to it, even when it is very busy, and I like watching the chefs at work in the open kitchen as they put the finishing touches to various dishes. I went to dine at Scene again last night and we settled at a table overlooking the terrace as we decided what to order and enjoyed a stack of poppadoms with an assortment of chutneys.


I like the variety on the menu at Scene and the samosa burgers are not to be missed while the Indo Chinese section offers a choice of fusion dishes and the superfood section offers a selection of healthy salads and juice shots. The array of dishes means that you can always find something intriguing to order, which you may not have tried before.


One word I associate with Scene is authentic, there is a genuine warmth to the restaurant and the menu is filled with dishes inspired by Indian street food classics which are often available on roadside stalls in bustling cities such as Mumbai. These dishes are hearty and filling and they combine a wealth of flavours; we decided on a dish I had not tried before to start with, gunpowder potatoes which are new potatoes cooked in a ‘gunpowder’ seasoning, a mix of spices which was well balanced with a fiery kick which complemented the crispy potatoes.



Our second starter of samosa chaat delivered a superb balance of sweet and savoury taste, with a combination of pastry with spiced potato and peas topped with chickpeas, tangy chutneys and yoghurt as well as a sprinkle of pomegranate seeds. I could eat this every day, it is a satisfying dish and I can see why it is a popular street food. 



We moved on to our main courses, my paneer butter masala was delicately spiced with a generous amount of paneer and a rich, creamy sauce. I enjoy ordering a vegetarian Indian dish as I always find this allows the aromatic spices to shine. 


I can never resist cheese kulcha naan bread, which is stuffed with mild cheese and coriander before it is baked in the tandoor oven until the cheese is melted and the bread is golden brown. 


 My dining companion selected the chicken lababdar, pieces of tender chicken in an onion and tomato sauce which had a subtle array of spices and a drizzle of cream. This was a winning dish with complex flavours which contrasted well with saffron lemon rice, which was bright and zesty.






Portions at Scene are generous and we had just enough room left to share a dessert of gulab jamun, a traditional Indian dessert which consists of sweet balls made from cream, semolina, pistachio, butter and cardamom which are dipped in a sweet saffron syrup. This was an indulgent dessert with just the right amount of sweetness and the gulab jamun were a treat with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.


Service was friendly and efficient as usual, at Scene the team are always ready to chat and I often end up learning new things about Indian cuisine from them which is a bonus! 


Scene Indian Street Kitchen
4 Left Bank
Manchester
M3 3AN

http://www.scenedining.com/


Scene is one of my favourite places to dine in the area, I love Indian food and the dishes have a finesse to the flavours which is hard to beat. 
What do you all think, do you like this style of food 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,

Camille 

xo


*I was invited to review Scene Indian Street Kitchen, this meal was complimentary. All opinions stated herein are my own and honest.


Monday, 30 January 2017

Dinner at Provenance Restaurant...

As soon as I heard about Provenance Food Hall and Restaurant* I was intrigued; combining a food hall downstairs with a stylish restaurant upstairs, this is a concept which appeals to my obsession with good food. Provenance is located in Westhoughton, just outside of Bolton and as the name would suggest, the ethos of the restaurant places an emphasis on the origin of the food. The Provenance philosophy is to offer a wide range of locally sourced food and the menu consists of a pleasing balance of fine dining inspired dishes as well as comforting classics, so there is something to appeal to everybody from lobster thermidor to sausage and mash. With everything from breakfast and afternoon tea to Sunday Roast available, this is a restaurant which has plenty to offer and the steak night every Tuesday always proves popular.
After a warm welcome from Stuart on front of house, we were seated at a candlelit table next to the window, allowing us to watch the world go by. The interior design aesthetic at Provenance is understated, with polished wooden floors and a neutral colour scheme accented by framed black and white photographs, some of which give a nod to the history of the building which was once a toy shop. Beyond the well-stocked bar area, the bustling kitchen was visible where evening service was well underway.

 

I sipped chilled Sauvignon Blanc which was fruity with a subtle note of citrus, as we consulted the menu poring over options including Chateaubriand, fish pie and the Provenance burger served with treacle cured bacon and Lancashire cheese.
I decided on the soup as a starter; a silky pea soup which had a fresh and bright flavour evocative of spring time, this was the perfect warming dish for a chilly evening.


My dining companion ordered the baked camembert, which was served with freshly baked paprika pastry twists which were buttery and flaky. The side of pickled vegetables was also a nice addition to the dish, as their sharpness contrasted well with the intensity of the cheese.



It has been a while since I have enjoyed a really good plate of fish and chips, a classic dish which is a favourite of mine, but which can so often be underwhelming. I decided to order this for my main and I was glad I did as it was a good example of how satisfying this simple dish can be when done well. The individual components all shone in their own right, a large fillet of flaky haddock encased in golden beer batter, served with chunky chips, a tartare sauce which had a piquant bite and crushed peas. This was an excellent plate of hearty comfort food and it restored my love of fish and chips and reminded me why I find it so hard to resist. 


My dining companion was equally enamoured by his main course of rump steak, cooked medium rare to his preference and served with mushroom, confit tomatoes, pickled onion rings and chunky chips. The steak was tender and juicy and the Béarnaise sauce he chose to accompany it was creamy and rich, with a delicate herb quality which sat well with the flavour of the steak. I always find it refreshing when a steak comes as a complete meal, rather than having to order multiple sides to complete it and the accompaniments at Provenance were classics which brought out the flavour of the juicy steak. 



On to dessert and who could resist a sticky toffee sundae; this was a wise choice which held layers of fresh cream, ice cream, rivers of toffee sauce and chunks of sticky toffee pudding. There is something about an ice cream sundae which I always find to be evocative of happy childhood memories and I would certainly order this dessert again. 


My dining companion ordered the chocolate mushroom, which we had already seen on the menu and were eager to try. This was also recommended to us by Stuart who served us throughout the evening, who explained that it is something of a signature dish for award winning head chef Lewis Gallagher. We were wowed by the appearance of the dessert, which looked like a mushroom and was beautifully plated with shards of chocolate and pistachio textures. The smooth milk chocolate flavour was a treat; not overpoweringly sweet and well balanced by the pistachio. Overall this was a stunning dessert which showed the creative flair, technical skill and imagination which I admire chefs for.




We settled back and relaxed over a cup of coffee as we enjoyed live music from the pianist who was playing the baby grand piano, the ideal way to complete such a lovely meal which delivered in terms of both excellent service and delicious food. I liked the idea of Provenance and I found that the combination of food hall and restaurant worked well and the relaxed ambience and sophisticated food created a winning formula which made for a lovely evening.



Provenance Food Hall & Restaurant
46-48 Market Street,
Westhoughton, Bolton,
Lancashire,
BL5 3AZ

 01942 812 398


What do you all think, do you like the sound of a restaurant which serves fine dining and comfort food in a friendly setting? As always I cannot wait to hear your thoughts and thank you so much for reading this post.

Until next time,

Camille 

xo



*I was invited to review Provenance, this meal was complimentary. All opinions stated herein are my own and honest.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Cocktails and sushi at Neighbourhood Liverpool....

Last night I went along to Neighbourhood in Liverpool to enjoy a press tasting of some of their food and cocktails. Neighbourhood is a stylish restaurant and bar located on Castle Street; this area of Liverpool is one of the best places to go out for food and drinks as there is such a good selection of restaurants and bars in the vicinity. I have visited Neighbourhood in Manchester many times and I am happy that there is now a Neighbourhood in Liverpool too, adding another cool venue to the wide range of bars and restaurants in Liverpool. 



Neighbourhood has a strking design aesthetic which is sympathetic to the history of the building which was once a bank. There is a sense of grandeur about the place, with lofty ceilings and a mezzanine level with a stunning private dining space. Many of the original features of the building are still visible, which gives it even more of an air of elegance. 



We were welcomed with Prosecco and given some hints about what the evening would entail, including tastings of food and drink as well as a surprise.  We took our seats in the opulent private dining area, which has a vast table with wraparound plush leather banquette seating. In no time at all we were served delicious cocktails and platters of dainty food began to arrive at the table. We were treated to a selection of goodies including mini burgers, succulent lobster tacos and prawn tempura in a light and golden batter. 




The Prosecco continued to flow as more bottles arrived at the table, complete with sparklers which created a festive atmosphere. The surprise of the evening was revealed as Neighbourhood chef Jordan arrived to give us all a sushi masterclass. He talked us through some fascinating information about the origins of sushi and the history of this popular delicacy, before he started to make us various sushi rolls to enjoy.





We were given the chance to join in, making our own sushi. I enjoyed seeing the various types of sushi being prepared and we also sampled some vegetarian sushi, avocado rolls which were so tasty and perfectly complemented by the cocktails and Prosecco. After so many delicious dishes, the evening concluded with a plate of tempting desserts including chocolate brownies which had a deep flavour and a rich and chewy texture.


Thank you very much to Chloé, who hosted us for the lovely evening. I met some great people and caught up with some friends, it was a fun night and we heard all about the legendary Neighbourhood Nights with live music and cocktails flowing until the early hours so I definitely need to go along soon to enjoy Neighbourhood again.


Neighbourhood 
62 Castle St, 
Liverpool
 L2 7LQ


What do you all think, have you dined at Neighbourhood 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,

Camille 

xo


Sunday, 22 January 2017

Banana loaf with Madagascan vanilla icing...

I was excited to have the opportunity to collaborate with Ape Snacks recently, who sent me a box of their healthy coconut snacks which come in several tasty sweet and savoury varieties and they are full of fibre and gluten free too. I have always loved baking banana bread and my family always enjoy it when I bake a loaf of it, which usually means that it does not last for very long! This weekend I thought it would be fun to bake a banana loaf topped with some of the snacks which Ape Snacks sent to me. I used my favourite banana bread recipe, which I always go back to again and again; it makes a very moist loaf which is just irresistible and I find it is great for breakfast or served as a dessert.


This time I wanted to make it more as a cake which we could all enjoy with some afternoon tea, so I decided to bake banana bread with Madagascan vanilla buttercream icing, topped with walnuts and Ape Snacks crispy coconut curls with salted chocolate. This recipe is so simple, and it turns out well every time I bake it.




Ingredients 
2 free range eggs, beaten  
140g self-raising flour
140g sugar (I use ordinary granulated sugar, caster sugar is not necessary) 
1 teaspoon baking powder 
2 ripe bananas, mashed 
140g butter or margarine

Icing and Topping
140g butter, softened
280g icing sugar
1-2 tbsp milk
Ape Snacks crispy coconut curls with salted chocolate
Walnuts 
1 teaspoon Madagascan vanilla extract 

Method
In a mixing bowl, cream the softened butter or margarine and sugar together with a fork until fluffy, beat in the eggs and then add the mashed bananas. Add the flour and baking powder to the bowl and mix everything well until it forms a smooth mixture which drops from the end of a wooden spoon. Meanwhile heat the oven to 180°c (gas 4) lightly grease your loaf tin and line it with baking parchment.


Pour the banana bread mixture in to the loaf tin and bake on the top shelf of the pre-heated oven for about 30 minutes, until the loaf looks golden and springs back when you press it gently and a knife or skewer comes out of the loaf clean.


Make a batch of Madagascan vanilla buttercream icing, by creaming together the icing sugar, butter and milk in a bowl along with a teaspoon of good quality Madagascan vanilla extract. Add a little more milk to make a more fluid icing (which I wanted for this loaf cake).
When the loaf has cooled, turn it on to a plate and layer the icing over it, smoothing out with a palette knife. Decorate with walnuts and a sprinkling of the Ape Snacks crispy coconut curls with salted chocolate, and there you have it, the perfect cake to accompany your afternoon tea.








What do you all think, have you baked a banana loaf recently and would you like to try Ape Snacks?As always, I cannot wait to hear your thoughts and thank you so much for reading this post.

Until next time,

Camille

xo