Friday, 30 March 2012

Luciano's Revisited - Rivington, Horwich

Don’t judge us, but we ate at Luciano’s in Rivington/Horwich last week, twice, on school, nights. Not because it’s a particularly awe-inspiring place, but we needed some R&R and I was on some insane carb kick that has now, thankfully, abated a little.

Luciano’s isn’t far for us, that’s the beauty of it, but it’s also quite a pleasant place to hang out on a summer’s evening and they do the best pizza round our way. I’m not saying it’s the best pizza ever – it’s just good, homemade and served with a smile.

The first time (last week) we decided to sit straight in the restaurant, foregoing polite pre-dinner drinks mainly because I WANTED SOME CARBS. RIGHT NOW. The restaurant was mostly full and we were surrounded by young couples and groups of certain age ladies – there was a quiet, friendly buzz to the air.

Luciano's at the Millstone - with thanks to Chorley Guardian

Service was quick, efficient and friendly. The pizzas were freshly made, charred at the edges and bursting with flavour – the tomato sauce Luciano’s makes has a sweetly bold flavour; but it’s a good idea to ask for less cheese (unless you like your pizza smothered).

The kitchen was more than happy to listen to and comply with my many questions and demands. Wonderfully, if you ask for rocket it’s always served on top, afterwards and never cooked – as Luciano says “well we are Italian, so why would it be served any other way?” (Take note pizza chains of the North West).

Second visit was on one of those recent, unseasonably scorching evenings; feeling more relaxed we opted to sit in the bar and placed our drinks orders and waited. And waited. And went and looked for a member of staff. And waited.

Hungry to the point of thinking the menus looked good enough to eat we walked off into the restaurant, explained the situation to the maitre’d and were immediately seated. Again the place was buzzing – this time with various birthday parties and some more of those certain aged ladies (do they ever eat at home, maybe they were thinking that about us?).

Service here was attentive, quickish and efficient – a complete opposite to the main bar area. We did have to wait a little longer than usual for food, but we were in no rush and there were quite a few other diners there that night, so non c’ è problema then.

Sharing a pizza, with it’s liberal topping of anchovies and black olives (not enough to make it too salty, just enough for that moreish, mouth puckering tang), the staff were only too pleased to cut it up for us and place it on a stand so we could share and still look at each other (ah, romantic).

Look at all these olives

Our side of bread and olives was a bargain for £3.10 – big juicy olives seasoned with herbs, dried chilli and a massive whack of garlic, which made up for the fact they were pitted (thankfully with no hint of rancid oil). The olives were served with slivers of spanking fresh bread with a peppery, green, grassy olive oil streaked through with sticky balsamic vinegar, that clung to the bread in big musty blobs; divine.

T'boy seeking immortality and fame...and lots of olives

Luciano’s is a straight forward, useful addition to our local restaurants – they’re good at the simple things, which is what you need most of the time; but it’s done with such pride, care and in such a lovely setting that it makes something ordinary, truly extraordinary – plus there is no where in the area where you are treated so warmly, indeed Luciano’s smile could melt a million ice caps and the twinkle in his eye rivals any star in a clear night’s sky.

Pizza £6.95-£9.50, Bread and Olives £3.10, Beer £3.10

Food – 7/10
Atmosphere – 7/10
Service – 8/10 (excusing that minor blip in the bar)
Value for money – 9/10 (for pizza, not sure for full mains)

Total – 31/40

Go again? Yes, they’re great for mid-week meals or when we need a quick, friendly cheer up.

Luciano's Italian Restaurant, At the Millstone, Bolton Road, Anderton, Chorley PR6 9HJ - 01257 480205

Luciano's at the Millstone on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 29 March 2012

The Plough and Flail - Mobberly, Cheshire

Sometimes I think I expect too much from restaurants – maybe they bring it on themselves, maybe it’s the setting, maybe I just have high standards.

The Plough and Flail in Mobberly, Cheshire is set in the middle of sparrow laden hedgerows, lush fields and picturesque villages; stepping in, you’re surrounded by light wood, slate floors, exposed brick and comfy cushions. There’s also a wine cube, a special room for all their amazing stock of wine and their food is all locally sourced and seasonal.

Plough and Flail - idyllic setting - with thanks to themselves

On paper this is somewhere I’m going to love – commitment to local sourcing, drinks I’ll actually enjoy drinking, natural materials and period features, all set in an idyllic setting.

It’s just that the meal wasn’t quite right – it was almost a meal of two halves. The pâté for the starter was bland and livery, tasting as if it was bought in. However t’boy’s homemade hash brown and poached egg was a salty, crunchy, carby delight and the egg was cooked spot on – dribbling warm orange juices all over the hash, softening up the palate and just generally scrummy.

Corned beef hash brown and egg

Pheasant three ways was dry, stringy and tasteless bar the cute little pie; however this was horrendously salty and drowned out any other taste and was more pastry than filling. The dish was served with a scoop of lumpy mash potato (yes, an actual ice cream scoop, see picture) and some chopped carrots – very school dinner and not at all appetising.

Pheasant three ways - very dry

Again t’boy scored with his Gressingham duck – pink, soft, sweet and absolutely cooked to perfection, it also looked beautiful on the plate and tasted pretty much like that too.

Beautiful Gressingham duck

Would t’boy score a hat trick? He did indeed with a buttery, crunchy, sweetly sharp berry crumble. Gorgeous and generous I was left eating my overly lemony treacle tart with a lump in my throat – and that wasn’t just from heavy pastry under the custardy lemony filling I was swallowing. I appreciate a treacle tart needs a lemon tang to lift it up, however I’m sure this was actually just a lemon tart masquerading on the menu as treacle. I can only presume they a) ran out of treacle and thought I wouldn’t notice b) have a confused chef that isn’t quite au fait with the differences or c) were sent a wrongly marked lemon tart from the catering company they use.

Lemon tart? Treacle tart?

How a meal eaten by two people on one table can be so different for the parties involved, I don’t know – the skill, balance, cookery, look and taste of our dishes was so far removed that we could have been eating at different restaurants. Having sampled (a lot) of t’boy’s meal I know it wasn’t just my conceptions – he had some absolutely belting dishes and I, to use modern parlance, ‘lucked out.’

If The Plough and Flail can bring the quality of all their dishes up to the same considerably high bar that they so obviously are capable of, then it would become the country idyll pub I’d originally imagined it to be.

Price for two starters, two mains, two puddings and two beers –

Food – 7/10 (6/10 for mine and 8/10 for t’boy’s)
Atmosphere – 8/10
Service – 6/10 (we struggled to catch peoples’ eyes as they whizzed past)
Value for money – 7/10

Total – 28/40

Go again? If my meal could be as good as t’boy’s, then yes, but as the food quality is variable I’d only go again if I was in the area.

Plough and Flail, Paddock Hill, Mobberly, Cheshire, WA16 7DB - 01565 873537 - - website

Plough and Flail on Urbanspoon

Monday, 26 March 2012

Home Sweet Home - Northern Quarter, Manchester

With a name like Home Sweet Home, any outlet will really conjure up certain connotations and expectations; a new(ish) eatery with this very moniker, on Edge Street in Manchester’s ‘artistic’ (read hip, bohemian, twee and overpriced for this statement) Northern Quarter, certainly lives up to this expectation.

A hodge podge of random chairs and tables are fitted into a cosy, light blue and flowery wallpapered space; which is dominated by a large wooden bar, atop of which are piles of enticingly irregular shaped, homemade cakes.

Home Sweet Home with thanks to themselves

Home Sweet Home is very Northern Quarter – the furniture is thrift store mismatched, the typeface on the menu a little Barnum circus circa 1954 and the clientele is the usual mix of fashionably under styled hipsters, vintage inspired 30-somethings and boys in unfashionable (read very fashionable) knitwear.

However; please do not take this as a chintzy, style over substance, Northern Quarter identikit churn out. Our experience at Home Sweet Home was brilliant; the staff friendly and helpful even whilst being rushed off their feet, the food good and actually an alright price for the area (not cheap, but cheaper than some of the other NQ chi chi venues) and they seem to have found their niche rather than following the same old diktat of flowery little cupcakes drowned in buttercream and glitter with funny, dead film star names (no I am not a fan).

Little bro chose the cheese and tomato toastie – what it lacked in tomato (there was only one large piece) it certainly made up in cheese; oozy, warm, full of cheese and a tasty retro treat that sparked a good twenty minute conversation on where our Mum’s toastie maker has gone to and if she would give it to us.

Beer and very full toasties - pinapple and pepper is HSH's trademark garnish,
I liked it a lot, the others thought it a little weird, nice touch I think

I waited a little while for mine, but I had already been warned that the homemade cookies take a full 15 minutes to bake, so I was well prepared (even if it was over 20 when I got them). Out popped my treat halfway through the bro’s food and I’m glad I waited for them. The cookies are made fresh to order, albeit they are the same chocolate chip cookies I can rustle up at home, but as t’boy says ‘it’s always nicer when someone else makes it for you.’ Served with a little glass of whole milk I had fun dipping my cookies in and felt very wholesome and content.

Homemade cookies and milk (it's full fat milk, the way it should be!)

Both treats were a little bit of homespun simplicity that took us back to our early 90s dining table, adding a comforting, calming and homely touch to the end of our day; so very Home Sweet Home indeed. This is a good place to stop from the chaos, sit down and let them take you back to an age where the most important thing in your life was if Stephanie next door would play Thundercats with you or not.

Ps – the coffee is also good here. Not as good as North Tea Power, but certainly a good strong espresso without too much of a bitter tang.

Pps – Home Sweet Home also do takeout, t’boy met us at the end of our family reminiscence and ordered the Cajun chicken with jalapeno and chorizo. It was pricey (£4.40! For a sandwich!), but wonderful – the most filled sandwich I have ever seen; bursting with a dry, smoky, good quality chorizo; a tender, moist mountain of spicy chicken, all followed up with a big jalapeno bang. Really worth it.

Take out sandwich - note the peppered pinapple added as garnish

Pps – Please don’t think I’m anti-Northern Quarter; it’s a unique place offering an alternative to the conforming blandness and corporate greed of the high street. There’s a varied mix of indie traders who really care about their customers and their individual needs. I’m just a little anti 'let’s all do the same food for an expensive price because we can get away with it and someone else sells cupcakes like hotcakes so we should do that too.' Oh, and I’m also very grumpy.

Price for one toastie (£3), homemade cookies with milk (£3), a sandwich (£4.40),
a beer (£3.80) and an espresso (£1.40) – £15.60

Food – 8/10
Atmosphere – 9/10 (even with the hipsters)
Service – 7/10
Value for money – 7/10

Total – 31/40

Go again? Definitely, I need to try out one of their monster looking milkshakes!

Home Sweet Home, Edge Street, Northern Quarter, Manchester M4 1HE –
0161 833 1248 – Twitter

Home Sweet Home on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Bakerie - Northern Quarter, Manchester

The smell of freshly baking bread is very intoxicating, apparently eager home sellers will bake a loaf just before having viewers round and supermarkets will pump the scent into certain parts of the store willy nilly. It conjours up images of home in Berkshire, all gathered round the Aga; even if you didn't have one and grew up on a Redrow estate in Wales.

Bakerie, on the very edge of Manchester’s Northern Quarter, has set itself up as a baker of fresh bread and a seller of good wine - according to the website it's the perfect place to chill out with your mates with good bread and wine around you. And it's certainly a chilled out space - walls in neutral, earthy tones are mostly unadorned, bar the recipes for Bakerie's bread that they make in house. There's an open kitchen with wholesome looking boys baking fresh batches; booths with blocky, leather seats and slightly subdued lighting to take the strain of your eyes.

Bakerie - paired back and modern, with thanks to Manchester Bars

What’s different about this place, and very refreshing, is that Bakerie hasn’t followed suit with other places in the Northern Quarter that have baking as their mantra - there's no vintage materials, no sickly pastels, no bunting and servers dressed up to the nines like 1940s hookers. Bakerie has a sophisticated, almost masculine atmosphere, without being overbearing or full on 'lads.'

Food is a mixed bag here – all of it is pretty decent, it’s just sometimes the prices seem a little high for what you get. The boards are an absolute bargain – choose five small dishes from a list of about seven; you get that AND a whole basket of assorted breads for just £6.50. I needed help finishing mine - this would work brilliantly as a starter for two or as part of a larger sharing meal.

Good value veggie board (don't worry, there's a meat one too!)

I chose the veggie board – garlicky homous, stickily spicy sweet potato, juicy stuffed vine leaves and alright (but very wholesome feeling) bean salad. Beautiful and bargainous – you even get a salad garnish to boot. The side of bread was massive - about five slices of all the different loaves they bake up - and good bread too. Light without being cakey, not too salty and some of it still warm even.

T’boy went down the comfort route and opted for the goulash; thick, warming and paprika-y though a little 2D in the flavour – it was lacking an extra layer of flavour I’ve found elsewhere, that rich undercurrent of umami savouriness. This was served with a hunk of Bakerie’s bread, but for £8.45 there wasn’t as much food on the plate and it just seemed a tad too much for what we were served.

Goulash and big hunk of bread

The staff are great, the food is pretty good, they have brilliant drinks and it seems like they cater for everyone - there's gluten free, vegan and veggie options galore. Whilst we were eating there was a good mix of families (distracted), students (hungover), suits (deep in discussion) and general bods all getting what they wanted and looking pretty happy about it too.

Bakerie’s a good place for honest food – there doesn’t seem to be anything pretentious or over styled here and it’s nice to see somewhere that makes their own bread, but then isn’t committed to shoving the fact down your throat at every single turn. It’s just there, they do it and that’s that. But the best thing about the place is that it’s not all about the food – here’s a space that’s equally good for having a drink in and not feeling like you have to order; a hard feat to manage, but one they’ve pulled off well and by serving quality food too, usually it’s one thing or the other in these places.

Price for one veggie board, one goulash and two beers (both t’boys) – £21.85

Food – 7/10
Atmosphere – 9/10
Service – 8/10
Value for money – 7/10

Total – 31/40

Go again? Yes it’s a great place for after work food and drinks, or for whiling away a lazy Saturday afternoon.

Bakerie, 43-45 Lever Street, Norther Quarter, Manchester M60 7HP - 0161 236 9014 - Twitter - Facebook

Bakerie Bread and Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Custom Cakes from Andrew Nuttall

Here's another blog about cake. Yes indeed, it really is another blog about cake. I realise I might talk about cake a lot and often blog about it too, however it's a) nearly Mother's Day (good reason for cake) and b) I've found someone who makes really ace cakes. Not cupcakes, not cake pops, not homemade lumpy things or twee sugar craft flowers; but the most imaginative cakes you could think of and even some you can't!

I thought I'd have a chat with the talented Andy Nuttall and see where he gathers his inspiration from and what it's like to be a budding baking genius (and where we can get our hands on his designs).

Andy Nuttall - minus a cake
How did you get into baking?
I started baking at a very early age, my Auntie Lynne always baked for the family (and she is amazing!) - I was lucky and always had a great birthday cake, it seemed to me that this could make or break my party when I was a kid. Baking as a kid meant I could make a mess with ingredients and got to lick the spoon at the end - I mean, which kid doesn't like liking spoons? It wasn't just baking - fresh ingredients were a big thing in my house when we were growing up and I was always encouraged to use them, trouble is I started using the lot! (Andy is a chef at Southern Eleven when he's not creating cakes - ed).

What's cake making about for you?
Making/eating cakes and sweet stuff is what my childhood was about and I’ve been lucky to carry that passion and enjoyment into my adult life. Baking has allowed me to channel my creativity - the sponge is my canvas and the fondant is my paint. The other great thing is that my two beautiful daughters are able to get involved - they show loads of interest (and yes, just like me, they love to make a big mess!). One of the best things is that if you make a mistake you can eat it and nobody will ever know. I’ll spend till 4am on a cake, even after a 13 hour shift in the restaurant kitchen because I love it, the creativity and the feeling you get when you reveal it. I made a replica of an 18 year old’s bedroom and when I delivered it his Mum cried with joy; I had no idea my work could touch people like that, it’s a great feeling.

Fancy a cake? Or three!

Is there someone who influenced/inspired you?
From an early age I was influenced by my family and also through school, I had an amazing Home Ec/Cooking teacher called Mrs Thornton, who was passionate about food and just loved to teach – this really rubbed off on me. From there I went to Blackpool College and they lined up the opportunity of working in some pretty cool kitchens such as Buckingham Palace, where they had this really flamboyant pastry chef. He knocked out things I’d never seen and as a 17 year old and this really fired me up. From there I worked at Paul Heathcoat’s in Longridge, a two Michelin star kitchen where I was actively encouraged to play with food and experiment with the puddings.

Was it cakes first and then sugar craft, or did you know you wanted to make really pimped up cakes?
Cakes are the easiest way for me to bring my ideas to life, however the sweet stuff has always attracted me; from simple bread and butter puddings to homemade ice creams. I’ve always made cake but have only recently come to cake creation as the knowledge I’ve learnt as a chef has allowed my ideas to become reality. Having kids started me with the sugar craft as it’s just like an adult version of Plasticine – it really gets the creative juices flowing!

Is there a reason for such inspired cakes or is it just what your customers ask for?
I get so bored of seeing the same kind of cakes everywhere, the same cakes being reproduced year after year. I want to make cakes that are personal and have some kind of meaning. You won’t see me making a flat white cake with happy birthday scribbled across it, which can be knocked up in an hour. If you want that, then get down to the supermarket because I’m not what you’re looking for.

Where do you get the ideas from for your designs?
I often visit art galleries and find inspiration for ideas; I look also around and take note of what’s around me on a day to day basis, simple things like buildings can just spark me. I seem to look at objects now and break them down into separate parts, almost deconstructing then reconstructing them in my mind. I also take inspiration from my clients, so you could say I was inspired by them, I just channel them in a very creative an unusual way.

What’s the artistic process like?
When I’m asked for a cake I want to know everything about the person it’s for to get an idea of what makes them tick so I have an initial consultation where I find out as much as I can about the person and ask lots of questions, some of which are not even related to cakes. Then I research as much as possible, draw out some sketches and make mock models of the final cake. It all helps to iron out any problems with the design. Sometimes people will come with a very bog standard idea and the end result will be totally different once I’ve seen what they’re like and explained just what it is I can achieve for them.

Have you ever been asked to do something really weird as a design?
Yes, there have been some very strange requests, such as a unicorn with a badger’s head and I’ve also been asked to design a few ‘adult’ cakes (but only for the over 18s!). I prefer designing and making the stranger cakes, it’s what I want to do. I do have some crazy ideas locked up inside my head for a rainy day – like a flying wedding cake! I’ve got some really out there ideas for that one!

What's been the most difficult design for you to do? Why?
Definitely the Apache helicopter; I made it 3 times before I was happy with it. As the client worked on one I to research it inside out, it had to be spot on. Making it was hard going as it was almost if it didn’t want to be made – parts not fitting together, rota blades flopping and the tail snapping were just a few of the problems. Luckily I got there in the end (I’m not one to give up) and the client still has the Apache part of the cake on his desk, which makes me very proud.

The complex Apache cake

I also struggled with the Bolton Wanderers’ Reebok stadium because of the sheer amount of engineering in the building; but I learnt a lot of skills and cake decorating tricks, so it was a really enjoyable process. The original brief had been for a basic BWFC logo on a flat cake, however you know that I don’t do those! But by far the most difficult cakes have been for my two girls. They’ve not been amazingly difficult, a fairytale castle cake and a make up bag, but they are the most important and hardest critics I’m ever going to come across. I’ve made a rod for my back though as each year I have to make a better cake than the year before!

Where can we get your cakes from?
Just from me, I don’t sell through any shops and don’t have a studio yet (thought that’s a plan for the future). I’m local to Bolton and will deliver locally (and further afield for an extra charge).

You can contact me through: Facebook or Twitter. Or drop me an email on
Plus check out the blog for up to date pictures of my latest creations.

Look forward to creating something as crazy as you!

Please note - all photos are courtesy of Andy Nuttall so please ask him if you would like to reuse them.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Competition time!

What's your favourite spring time risotto?

Spring is springing, birds are singing and we've got a corker of a competition for you.

In collaboration with Essential Cuisine Home Chef Stocks (for more on their wonderful products check here), Noshy wants to know what your favourite spring time risotto is. Keep your ideas seasonal and take some inspiration from the wonderful produce shooting up all over the place at the moment.

Wonderful, top of the range crock pot - what a lovely prize!

First prize is a risotto masterclass with industry chefs, a top of the range crock pot, the whole selection of Essential Cuisine stocks, chef's drizzle bottles, apron, cookbook AND lots of other Essential Cuisine and cooking goodies.
There's also four runner up prizes consisting of cook books, aprons, bottles, stocks and other wonderful goodies from those lovely people at Essential Cuisine.

Entering is really simple - just head over to the Essential Cuisine Facebook site and write the title of your favourite spring time risotto on their wall eg. 'Smoked pancetta, pea and scallop risotto.' (click here to enter)

The five entrants with the tastiest sounding recipes will be asked to supply more information, whereupon each recipe will be cooked in the famous Noshy kitchen and taste tested by a select panel of judges.

Winners will be notified, sent the prizes AND gain worldwide fame from being featured on this site and the Essential Cuisine Facebook page.

What are you waiting for? Get entering!

NB - Term and conditions apply. For more info leave me a message on this blog, my facebook or on the Essential Cuisine Facebook Page.

Monday, 12 March 2012

The Old Forge at the Bob Smithy - Horwich, Bolton

Located up on Chorley Old Road; the Old Forge is a new, intimate dining room that has opened alongside The Bob Smithy pub - they’ve knocked through into the next door cottage to create 34 covers and a kitchen to boot.

The Old Forge is a buzzy little place with the added bonus of not being far from home, plus the view from Chorley Old Road is spectacular on your drive up. The attached pub, the Bob Smithy has some fantastic local ales on tap, that you can also sup in the dining room if you fancy.

The Old Forge at The Bob Smithy - with thanks to

Once a favourite pub of ours, we’d stopped going as we felt it had lost a bit of charm, but we’d heard there was a fancy new look and food being served, so we bobbed along after a bad day at school. T’boy and I were lucky to bag the last table by the door in the new dining room, or in fact anywhere, as the whole place was heaving (the busiest we’ve seen it in a very long time) and more people were piling in as we settled down.

The dining room is small and has been decked out in greens and browns, creating a warm and cosy atmosphere without being overbearing or claustrophobic. The rest of the pub has had a little makeover too - very considerate in muted creams, which seems to have put the heart back in the pub whilst bringing it up to date.

Service was very friendly from the young team, if somewhat a little chaotic and forgetful; but they were all too pleased to help and ferried back and forth to the kitchen to find out the answers to all our questions.

Menu - with thanks to The Bob Smithy

T’boy had a special of duck leg on chickpeas with beetroot reduction; the duck perfectly cooked, sweetly salty and gloriously sticky with an earthy undertone from the syrupy beetroot. The dish could have done with some extras other than just the chickpeas as there was an enormous and rather over facing amount of these.

My dish of pan fried sea bass and cous cous was a big disappointment and was very confused. The fish was not pan fried at all, but seemed to be steamed and was sat atop some very bland and extremely soggy cous cous – an ode to wetness that wasn’t offset by anything else on the plate. There was a sort of save from a zesty pineapple salsa and drizzle of curry oil – however there was only a woeful amount of these and neither sat well with the fish.

It’s obvious a lot of care has been taken with the redecoration and rebranding of The Bob Smithy, it's a family business and there's a lot of personality and love in the re-vamp. Scanning over the menu it seems that The Old Forge is being pushed along the gastropub route (with prices to match), unfortunately it’s not quite there yet – hopefully over time the food will refine to match the prices they’re charging.

Price for two mains and two pints (both t’boy’s!) - £40.40

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

Total – 27/40

Go again – Yes to give them another chance to see if they get over their teething problems, but for the quality you get at the moment it’s too expensive and I can pay the same price for better food at The Chetham Arms or Suzanna's, both of which are also just down the road.

Ps Sorry for the lack of photos, had no battery on my phone!

The Old Forge at The Bob Smithy, 144 Chorley Old Road, Horwich, Bolton BL1 7PX – 01204 842622 – Twitter

Old Forge @ Bob's Smithy Inn on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Pin Ups In Pinnies Launch - Matt and Phreds

Cakes, booze and pretty ladies all in one room sounds too good to be true; however this Tuesday, such temptations were in abundance at the Pin-Ups and Pinnies' launch at Matt and Phreds in Manchester's trendy and, quite aptly, vintage obsessed Northern Quarter.

Amaretto and Limencello mini cupcakes (I ate at least six, then I stopped counting...)

Welcomed by a very vintage lady (not old, just glamorous) and handed a glass of fizz, we were whisked by Alex, the brains behind Pin-Ups in Pinnies, in to the moody darkness where we were plied with more bubbles and oodles of mini cupcakes brought round by some delectable pin-ups, al a cinema interval ice-cream ladies from the good old days.

Alex Barnett - owner of Pin-Ups and Pinnies

Pin-Ups in Pinnies is a bespoke cupcake company, which has created a unique approach to help them stand out from the raft of other cupcakeries that have sprung up in the last year; offering boozy cupcake flavours injected with that 50's glamour that is so sought after at the moment.

That's not so different, you say, but do other cake companies come to your event and serve the sweet treats dressed as 50s glamour pusses? Or provide you with your own glamorous pinnies so you can come over all Mad Men in your own kitchen? Or teach you burlesque in the privacy of your own home, whilst feeding you cakes and cocktails in the process (indeed, Alex is a professional burlesque performer with the stage name Fanny Divine)?

The versatility of the company, combined with Alex's creative approach and her development of a unique  experience means that Pin-Ups In Pinnies looks like it'll out last the simple fad for cupcakes and bring 50's glamour to all.

Some of the cakey delights we got to sample at the event

(Oh and the event was a super success, we gorged on cakes and bubbles - my favourites were the light and tangy limencello, the smooth amaretto; plus the wonderfully punchy anis and almost savoury notes of the absinthe mini-cakes).

I grabbed a few short minutes with Alex to quiz her about the ins and outs of Pin-Ups In Pinnies before we were sucked in and spellbound by the night's entertainment - a powerful serenading from the wonderful Em Brulee and some tantalising, naughty, nipple-covered fun from the aptly named Sherry Trifle.

Sherry Trifle teasing the launch party guests - with thanks to Nick Beedles

Alex, How did you get in to baking?
I used to bake a lot with my mum when I was younger and have always loved to make pretty, tasty cakes. I took a slight break from baking (and anything that didn't involve a microwave or kettle!) during my student years, but got back in to it again with a renewed sense of passion once I moved in to my own place.

Not sure Alex looked like this when baking with her mum!

Why did you decide to set up your own cake making business?
Due to the recession I found it very difficult to find a job that I actually wanted to do. Despite the fact that I have qualifications in both philosophy and law, I found myself working in mind numbingly boring jobs where I would spend the days daydreaming about what I wished I could be doing instead. So I decided that instead of sitting around waiting for the perfect job to come to me, I would go out and create it for myself! It was then just a matter of deciding what it was I was going to do. I had been baking cupcakes for my work colleagues and people would often say “ should do this for a living” and every time I would answer with the usual “oh, don't be silly!” Then one day it occurred to me, why couldn't I do it for a living? So, I combined my loves of vintage, Pin-Up, events and cakes to create the unique business that is Pin-Ups in Pinnies.

What has been the hardest thing in setting up a business?
It has been quite difficult setting up a business in the current economic climate; I would say that the hardest thing really comes down to the cost of it all. I'm lucky in that the type of business I have chosen to set up has relatively small set up costs (which is part of the reason I decided to give it a go!) However, as they say - nothing comes for free. So it has been a matter of doing as much promotion and advertising for as small a cost as possible, which just takes a little creative thinking.

How did you settle on the 50’s theme?
I absolutely love the 1950's so it was natural for me to go for this type of styling as I've always been drawn towards the era. I generally dress in a 1950's style myself and am rarely seen without red lipstick and 50's hair! I think that cupcakes and the 1950's go hand in hand. The 1950's was all about big hair and even bigger dresses and it was also a time that thrived on home baking and boozy treats!

50's inspired Alex

How do people react to this theme?
So far we've had a great reaction. It helps that there has been a recent resurgence in all things vintage so people are more in tune with the 1950's and home baking. The 1950's was such a feminine era that sits perfectly alongside pretty, girly cupcakes.

Have you had any strange requests?
Not yet, but I look forward to having some!

How is the business going?
Cath Kidston, so I think this is a great sign of things to come! I feel quite optimistic about the future of Pin-Ups in Pinnies and think that business will hopefully keep getting better. We have also been getting a fair amount of press lately and were interviewed on BBC Radio Manchester last week.


What next?
I hope that this will be the year that I finally succeed at world domination (we've all got to have dreams, right?)! But in all seriousness, I am hoping to be able to expand the business to its own venue (whether that is just an industrial kitchen or a bakery) and also to have my own custom made vintage ice-cream van that I can take to festivals and vintage weekends along with my delicious boozy treats and my gorgeous pin-ups to hand them out. Soon I’ll be getting some merchandise made so hopefully people will be able to wear their own Pin-Ups in Pinnies t-shirts and pinnies soon (ooh yes please – ed).

Ps Pin-Ups in Pinnies run special girly nights and also run a monthly competition to find the perfect pin-up, get yourself entered!

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