Monday, 16 May 2011

Baekdu - Manchester

Baekdu is a place I've always wondered about. Located on the wrong side of the Northern Quarter, near to the Shudehill bus station and the big glass car park. It's a non-descript building with frosted windows so isn't the most inviting looking place.

However boy and I were very hungry and in  pre-gig rush; everywhere was turning us down/didn't appeal - and in a fit of desperation the boy pulled me in to Baekdu in the vain hope I would actually stop whinging.

What confronted us didn't actually appeal. The inside of Baekdu is a little dingy and resembles nothing more than a back street caff; with Argos tables, white tiles and laminated menus replete with pictures. Hmmm...

Baekdu was packed with a host of Asians chattering away and excitedly slurping large bowls of Korean specialities. I'd like to say they were Korean but I don't recognise the language and don't want to generalise that just because Baekdu is Korean that any Asian people hanging out there are definitely Korean.

The boy chose Korean Beef Stir Fry and I chose Fish Hot Pot. Service was quick and efficient and we were presented with metal chopsticks, cutlery and tap water served in mugs. Very homely! Food swiftly followed and any misgivings I had harboured instantly melted like noodles into hot soup.

My fish stew was still bubbling as it arrived and was chock full of white fish, shell fish and crab stick. What was unusual was that the fish was served on the bone, but this only served to add a lovely deep umami flavour to the soup, which was also liberally spiced (though a little under seasoned).

Seafood stew

The boy's dish of stir fry and noodles was the dish that stole the limelight. Tender strips of thin beef were cooked to perfection - none of this usual Chinese takeaway stewed boot leather (aka Vermilion's poor attempt). The beef, noodles and greens were lovingly seasoned with a deeply savoury and salty sauce, kicked in to life with hints of spicy chili and aromatic garlic. And for somewhere that serves such good food the portions are also massive. Usually it's a case of quantity or quality, but Baekdu performs on both equally well.

Beef noodles

Baekdu is a great little gem that I'm glad the boy dragged me in to (hear that boy, I'm practically complimenting you!). It's a little rough around the edges, but that's what makes it brilliant. The food is great, home cooked Korean food served with no pretension in a buzzy environment. I've paid a lot more across the city to eat food half as good as this. Let's hope that many other people pop in to sample their delights rather than just popping in when they've run out of other options.

Price for one fish stew, one stir fry and one beer - £14.75

Food - 7/10
Service - 6/10
Atmosphere - 6/10
Value for money - 9/10

Total - 28/40

Baekdu, 77 Shudehill, Manchester M4 - 0161 834 2227

Baekdu on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 15 May 2011, online farmers' market - Yorkshire

I've never ordered meat online as I'm one for a good old eye up and fondle of produce before I exchange any of my hard earned readies.

Lately I have been at a lose end when trying to find a good chorizo as the usual ones I come across are far too fatty/salty/harshly spiced and seem to rely on either far too much cheap paprika, giving them a bright orange appearance and tinny taste. Or rely on bunging in salt, spice and food colouring teamed with soft, poor quality meat that produces a salami of dire qualities that is worth nothing other than throwing in the bin (which is a insult to the poor carcass that was used to make such an abomination). Most chorizos carried by the big four supermarkets; even those carrying the supermarket's own luxury brand, fall into this foul category.

(NB - this does not apply to the wonderful Joselito Iberico Chorizo picked up in Harvey Nick's Food Hall earlier this month - unfortunately I don't own an oil field or have Daddy's millions to support regular visits there).

Having failed to source anything edible I turned my attentions to the faithful companion of the digital age - t'interweb thingy, and thanks to North West Chefs came across online farmer's market Paganum.

I chose the original chorizo, made with local freedom food pork, smoked Spanish paprika and aged for a minimum of three weeks. They also make a piccante (spicy) version, but I played safe as I wanted this to be a multi-use salami capable of being eaten on its own or used in various recipes.

The chorizo arrived vac packed and the boy and I couldn't wait to tuck in - we instantly made a 'bits and pieces' (see Butler's cheese post for explanation). The chorizo was finely spiced with a sweet and slightly smokey taste. The paprika wasn't overpowering and allowed the delightful porcine flavours of good textured, quality meat to shine through. The chorizo used a good ration of fat to meat, adding a delightful sweetness without leaving a layer of grease in the mouth.

The flavour of the chorizo is subtle at first but soon picks up. What is delightful about the product is that it allows for the flavour of the meat to be heard along with the other ingredients.

This is not just a chorizo for eating, we used it across a broad range of recipes including roast potatoes, frittatta and pasta - and in each incarnation the chorizo shone through and complimented the dishes. Unlike one of the supermarket versions, Paganum's chorizos use of quality meat meant that as well as a smokey Spanish flavour, a wonderful piggy taste was added to the dishes - and everyone knows that a bit of pig is always a wonderful addition to any dish. Paganum's use of more meat, rather than more fat, also meant that dishes weren't swimming in a layer of orange grease - great!

Paganum's is not just a purveyor of a good chorizo, they also supply fresh meat, offal and sausages, plus can be hired out to provide a hog roast for your various functions. The price of their produce isn't cheap, but can be guaranteed to be sourced from local farms with high welfare and good husbandry techniques; plus postage is free and only takes 48 hours, so it's a lot better than some other mail order companies. And good news for all you mutton lovers - Paganum's stock Bolton Abbey mutton too, so if you have super problems (like me) sourcing it locally, you can get it here. One other great feature of the site is their meat boxes - think veg box, but full of everything a family of carnivores could devour in a week.

Whilst Paganum isn't cheap, it's a great site for well-sourced meat, especially if you don't have a good local butcher or like me can't track down a decent chorizo or a leg of mutton for your Sunday roast.

Price for one original chorizo - £4.75, delivery - free!

Paganum Produce Ltd, Church End Farm, Kirby Malham, North Yorkshire, BD23 4BU - 01729 8380727 -

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Please note, I was sent this sample gratis, but was under no obligation to say nice things.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

The Crown - Worthington

Popping out for lunch to say goodbye to a work colleague it was decided that we should stop by The Crown at Worthington for their lunch time meal deal.

The Crown at Worthington is a traditional pub with a large extension to the rear. The front of the pub is definitely the most charming (I find the dining room at the back a little soulless), with little nooks and crannies, old mismatched furniture and whitewashed walls.

The Crown at Worthington - with thanks to

We first decided to stop via the bar, which was well stocked with a large selection of local ales on tap, plus the largest array of locally made flavoured pork scratchings and nuts I have ever laid my eyes on.

The lunch menu is quite restrictive, the usual pub classics such as pie and fish and chips - there's nothing that really stands out too much, but for £5 it's a fine list of lunches. If you really want something else there's also an a la carte menu, a pie menu and their famous 'Butcher's Block' menu - a selection of locally reared, 21 day aged meat plus accompaniments.

However we are all aware that there's a recession on and opted for the £5 lunch menu and boringly we all opted for the pie.

If I'd been paying full price for said pie I wouldn't have been that happy. The pasty top was a little thick for puff and seemed slightly stale. The filling had chunks of soft beef with a nice thick sauce, which was fairly tasty, though a little salty for me. The pie came with hand-cut chips and I can see what they were trying to do here - but instead of thick, homemade, beefy chips, these were soggy and let the dish down. All others had mushy peas, except I can't stand them, so the staff were more than obliging and changed my side to a massive grilled tomato (both sides), sprinkled liberally with salt and herbs - a really good accompaniment that they should serve with all the pies.

Having saved a packet on lunch we opted for the pudding - which was almost the same price! Whereas I'd been a little underwhelmed by the bad pastry and lacklustre chips, my pudding was divine. Belgian waffles were served with caramelised bananas and Frederick's banoffee ice cream.

The criminalisation on the banana was crisp and buttery, coupled with the sweet waffle and the creamy ice cream the pudding came together in a banana-ry cacophony in my mouth. No matter what everyone else had for pudding (they all had sticky toffee pudding, which was good, but not a touch on my pudding) I wasn't jealous. Not one bit!

The Crown at Worthington is a great place for good pint and is good value for a cheap and comfortable lunch. There are let downs on the menu, but for £5 I wasn't complaining (though they are following the recent trend for puddings at about £5 each - see previous posts for more on this gripe). If I was dining here in the evening at full price I don't think I would be overly happy, unless they ramp up the care and attention to dishes - maybe I'll pop back to find out later in the year.

Price for one mains and one pudding - £9.95

Food - 5/10
Service - 7/10
Atmosphere - 6/10
Value for money - 8/10

Total - 26/40

The Crown at Worthington, Platt Lane, Worthington, Standish, Wigan WN1 2XF, 08000 686678

Crown at Worthington Ltd on Urbanspoon

Monday, 2 May 2011

The Mark Addy - Salford

A great meal is not usually preceded by "Ergh, you're not going there are you?!" Which was the comment we received from the boy's boss in the pub just before I popped down to The Mark Addy on the Salford/Manchester boarder.

Thankfully it's been a few years since the boss has been there and in that time Robert Owen Brown has taken over as Head Chef and brought the menu bang up to date in line with the modern homage to various bits of animals that used to be detained for poor northern tables, locally sourced produce and sustainable fish.

Robert Owen Brown - with thanks to Citylife

I'm not going to wax lyrical about how Robert Owen Brown and Fergus Henderson (of St Johns fame) are best buddies as a) it's pretty apparent in the menu and b) Jay Rayner did such an excellent job of explaining it in his blog that you can read it there and I'll save on word count.

We'd booked an 8pm table at the Mark Addy and were shown to a large circle table in the middle of the restaurant, unfortunately we weren't next to the window overlooking the canal, but we could still see the murky waters swirling past.

Mark Addy interior -with thanks to

The restaurant is very 1970s (not much they can do to change it - see referenced JR blog); but has lovely exposed vaulted ceilings, the aforementioned broody views of the waters and an open fronted kitchen to have a look at Robert Owen Brown doing his thing.

Unfortunately when we visited his 'thing' seemed to be very slow and a little off kilter, which was further hampered by very slow waiting staff (although they were very lovely to be fair).

To start we ordered half a dozen natives on the half shell. Seeing as we had only ordered oysters it took a full 40 minutes from the order taking until the dish came out. If I hadn't been involved in a long overdue catch up with old friends and the fact that, try as I might, I couldn't catch a member of staff's eye, I would have said something. It may have take a long time to come out, but the dish of oysters were so spanking fresh it was almost worth it.

Oysters on the half shell - spanking fresh!

The Mark Addy's menu has some unusual items and it was two of these dishes that were the stars of the starters (after a further 25 min wait after the oysters). A simple dish of Leagram's day old curd on crumpet looked simple - almost too much cheese on a crumpet with a little balsamic drizzle. However simplicity, in this case, was genius - the sharp, creamy curd softened by the buttery crumpet and offset brilliantly by the sweet and sticky drizzle. The crumpet expertly toasted to be slightly crunchy, contrasting with the soft curd and adding texture to what could have been a boring or overly soft dish.

Curd on crumpet - simplicity and genius

Another simple but genius dish was the daily special of razor clams. The clams arrived in the shell, simply cooked with garlic, butter and a little parsley. The clams were well cooked and not chewy at all, unlike clams I've had elsewhere. The garlic butter was simplicity itself, but set off the sweet flesh and let the freshness of the produce shine through.

Razor clams

After a long wait (again) the mains came out from the kitchen and looked great. Whilst everyone else was served I was left without a meal. In time a member of staff arrived to explain that chef had 'inadvertantly' sent my rabbit to another table and 'unfortunately' it was the last rabbit in the house and would I please choose something else?

I chose bone marrow - none left, pork belly - none left, whiff - none left etc etc. I was left in a quandary - I didn't want something heavy, I don't like suet or batter and I wanted something a bit lighter. In the end I had to choose the monkfish cheeks off the specials. Seeing as most of the dishes I was asking for as replacement were off the mains menu, I was surprised that The Mark Addy was so understocked and had run out of staple dishes so easily.

Surprising the cheeks managed to be on my table in about five minutes flat from ordering - I'm guessing that my fluffed dish was put on the priority list. The monkfish was good, but unfortunately in the rush to get it out the cheeks were a little undercooked and chewy and the sauce it came with was slightly under seasoned, but the mussels that came out with it were soft, fresh and delicious so there was a saving grace.

(Plus we did get a bottle of wine for free - I did ask if we could have the dish for free instead as I wasn't drinking, this was agreed, but it was the wine that was taken off the bill at the end - it had been such a long meal that I really didn't have the strength to complain).

The other mains were of good quality, the steak had been well hung and was well cooked - an intense beefy flavour shining through and the hoggert was intensely rich with soft and salty root veg to compliment. The posh scouser had managed to get the last portion of sea bass off the specials, which was a lovely dish - the fish succulent and again expertly cooked, displaying the skill that the kitchen possesses when it puts its mind to it.

Sea bass and razor clams

Puddings were ordered and once again we were left waiting - also they didn't reach the pinnacles of the mains/starters. The main highlight was a dark chocolate cup with a divine lavender cream - made off site a waitress informed us. The choux buns made with this season's rhubarb were slightly chewy and a bit lacklustre: on top of this puddings start at £5.25 and I'm against this excessive pudding charging that seems to be going on across gastro pubs and other establishments lately.

Lavender chocolate pot - apparently made off site (v.good shortbread though!)

In all the Mark Addy has the chemistry to be a really great place. The setting is moody and slightly retro, which marries well with the homage to the now fashionable unfashionable cuts of animals and the broody dark waters sloshing past the windows. To be really great the kitchen needs to get it's timings right and needs to employ more dynamic staff - our waiting staff were lovely, but we could never catch their eyes and anything we asked for took an age to arrive or be acted upon.

The food is good and has the potential to be great, it's not expensive (apart from pudding) and the commitment to local, seasonal and quality produce is a approach and is there to see. Robert Owen Brown has a great cooking style and hopefully with a few more tweaks The Mark Addy will put Salford (and Manchester) on the culinary map.

Ps - try the homemade pork scratchings - divine!

Pps - check out the website as they often have events on such as a foraged food night or a tasting menu.

Price for one nibble, six starters, five mains, three puddings and drinks (and a free bottle of wine) - £114.75

Food - 8/10
Atmosphere - 7/10
Service - 6/10
Value for money - 8/10

Total - 29/40

The Mark Addy, Stanley Street, Salford, Manchester M3 5EJ - 0161 832 4080 - @TheMarkAddy

Mark Addy on Urbanspoon