Showing posts with label American. Show all posts
Showing posts with label American. Show all posts

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Red's True Barbecue - Manchester

I'm jumping belatedly onto the meaty bandwagon with this post, just as we could say that Red's True Barbecue has jumped on the current Americana obsessed culinary zeitgeist. I know everyone's already blogged about. I know most people cream over it. Whatever.

Red's True Barbecue has apparently come to Manchester to rescue us from the bad British BBQ (what, who doesn't like burnt sausages in soggy white baps?). Located on Albert Square in what used to be Livebait, they've installed traditional American smokers and grills and decorated the whole place like a bad 90's barn dance.

St Louis Ribs
The menu consists of a range of meats, dry rubbed, smoked and finished with sauce. There's the traditional ribs, chickens and wings padded out with burgers, steaks and some salads (most of which contain meat from the smoker). The sides are pretty traditional Americana fare - mac n cheese, fries, slaws, hush puppies ad nauseam.

Taste wise, Red's food is perfectly ok; if you like salty, smoky, sweet meat doused in slightly cloying sauces. It's the cooking skill that's all wrong - one meat item being dry would be passable as a fluke mistake, however all three (starters and both mains) was unforgivable.

Half a chicken
Luckily the sides were bang on. Mac and cheese was nearly as good as my Mum's, thick cheesy sauce and a good crispy crust; the slaw added a nice tang to the dishes and the heavily salted fries hit the heavily-salted-potato-products spot we all have. But for somewhere that bangs on relentlessly about how bloody good their food is and the religion of the meat etc etc needs to step up to that rhetoric and deliver.

Apart from that we were served by a series of nonchalant and not very tuned in servers, who must have been hired for their looks because that was the only thing going for them. And I'm not even going to start on the enamelled dishes.

All in all the only thing I like about Red's is their clever marketing campaign, which says a lot about the place - all style, no substance.

Cost for one starter and two mains (sides come as part of the mains) - £30.40 plus drinks and service.

Ps No photos, it's way too dark in the venue to take any so I've nicked 'em off Red's website. Please note, our food didn't look anywhere near as good as these staged shots.

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

Total - 25/40

Go again - No thanks, they're not doing anything special.

Reds True Barbecue, 22 Lloyd Street, Albert Square, Manchester M2 5WA - 0161 820 9140.

Red's True BBQ on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Neighbourhood - Manchester

Neighbourhood has been on my ‘to visit’ list for some time now, securing a place through good reviews and some shameless self-promotion (restaurants, please do not retweet every tweet people make about hanging out with you, thanks); but each time I have ventured near, the overspill of leopard print, shiny suits and false nails pushes me on elsewhere.

Neighbourhood - with thanks to Likerish Split
A few weeks back I was taken there; wasn't my choice, but my new personal development challenge is to stop being a dining control freak – NEWS FLASH – I am letting other people choose where we  go to eat (sometimes) (and not making bitchy comments before we have, at least, eaten there). I can't say I still don't get sweaty palms doing this, but if the meal is a disaster I am no longer crushed by catholic levels of guilt for weeks after.

Neighbourhood is located on the outer edges of the corporate world of Spinningfields. Owned by those chaps at Southern Eleven (all meat, stripped wood and Americana), Neighbourhood has been designed to recreate the feel of a Manhattan neighbourhood bar; unfortunately, like Spinningfields itself, it's all a little too clean cut, carefully constructed and image conscious.

Underwhelming shrimps
Dining on a Tuesday night didn't feel very neighbourly, in fact we didn't have any neighbours at all; our waiter made up for that, his customer service was spot on, he knew the menu inside out and wasn't afraid to describe the negatives as well as the positives of the dishes – this service, coupled with the good reviews and enjoying the food at Southern Eleven, initially promised good things from the night to come.

The buttermilk fried Chicken Lollipops we had to start were sweet, moist and salty - all my food cravings rolled into one great little dish; I am underlining the word LITTLE here. We'd ordered the Shrimp, Crackle and Pop because it sounded fun, a case of 'shucks you are so cool for putting rice crispies in a dish' – what actually came to the table was not fun; an overly reduced bisque with a cloying, metallic taste (that tainted my mouth for the rest of the evening), two chewy prawns and some very soggy rice crispies. For £9.

Baked Lobster Mac 'n' Cheese has been the one dish receiving constant rave reviews, my twitter feed is littered with it, however our experience of it was anything other than rave. How Neighbourhood managed to create a dish of pasta that was simultaneously dry and chewy on top, whilst soggy and swimming in pasta water on the bottom, I have no idea. There was little sauce, any to be found was watery and under-seasoned; there was no hint of cheese and very little of lobster (two, chewy, tiny pieces) - at £15 the dish left a hole in both stomachs and wallets.

Rubbish picture, not much better dish
The Grilled Rock Bass with clams and spinach was the best dish of the evening, but don't take that as a ringing endorsement. The fish and clams were well cooked, obviously lobster mac chef didn't cook this one, but that was the only thing going for the dish. The accompanying sauce was so insipid it may have been better to leave it off as it was so unnoticeable, the spinach was limp, the taste akin to eating solidified dishwater and I doubt any salt had even been near the dish, let alone added to it.

Sweet tooth pizza - £15
For some reason we decided to stay for pudding; maybe it was hunger, maybe we wanted to find a saving grace, maybe I have such a dazzling personality (definitely not the latter – ed). We picked the Sweet Tooth Pizza to share; a car crash of brownies, marshmallows, pecans and caramel loaded onto a sweet pizza base. The base was overly chewy, the brownies overly dry - the marshmallow was nice and that's about it. At least this dish was big enough to fill us up.

Neighbourhood's menu promises taste, comfort and competent cooking - but just like Spinningfield itself and Neighbourhood's usual punters, the food is all about show rather than substance.

Price for two starters, two mains, a pudding and two glasses of wine: £71.50

Food - 4/10
Atmosphere - 5/10
Service - 7/10
Value for money - 3/10

Total 19/40

Go again? - No thanks, I'll stick to somewhere that knows money/looks aren't everything.

Neighbourhood, The Avenue, Spinningfields, Manchester – M3 3JE – 0161 832 6334 - Twitter

Neighbourhood on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Fire and Salt BBQ @ The Gaslamp - Manchester

Do you ever have that thing where you find somewhere you really like, think it's brilliant and then never go because there's one major flaw?

The Gas Lamp, I like to go here - photo with thanks to Drinking Aloud

It's like this at the Gas Lamp - one of the few pubs in Manchester that I like to go and hang out. Mainly because there's a great selection of beers and spirits, a bit because the staff are very knowledgeable, quite a lot because you don't get too many knob heads/beer nerds looking down on you there and 75% because there are sexy men who drink there. I like sexy men. With beards. And glasses. Foreign accents are a plus...
Here's lots of people and some sexy men in the Gas Lamp - with thanks again to Drinking Aloud

So how come I don't drink there too often? It's because I think with my damn stomach ALL THE TIME. The Gas Lamp has an amazing array of drinks, but the local eating choices are:

a) Mark Addy - would be great if it didn't stink of toilets and they didn't fuck up my food EVERY time I go there.

b) Australaisa - Really? People think the food is good? And they want to pay that much for it?

c) Oast House - too full of suits trying to have a dress down Friday on a Tuesday. And I have to share tables with other people. Other people are a drawback.

D) Neighbourhood - expensive and I wasn't impressed (bitchy blog post coming soon).

Luckily, those chaps at the Gas Lamp have gone some way to rectify this serious matter and to appease my ever hungry belly. From now till sometime in the future, the Gas Lamp will be playing host to the magnificent Fire and Salt BBQ.

If you have missed the phenomenon that is the wonderfully juicy, tasty, life changing food from Fire and Salt, then you have obviously been dead or living under a stone, so let me explain:

Fire and Salt set up their company in order to bring the taste of the American South (as in rednecks, not Mexicalis) to Manchester. Firstly they ate a lot of sub-standard BBQ in the UK. Then they went to the roots of BBQ and journeyed round some overly conservative areas of the USA, eating much better BBQ, but keeping any liberal views they may hold firmly under their hats. Then they came home and built a bloody big smoke pit in their garden. Out of bricks. With their hands. Now they smoke whole pigs in their backyard (whole pigs! For hours! They don't sleep! And there's basting to be done!), then they feed said pigs (and other meats) to lucky, lucky people.

Brisket from Fire and Salt BBQ - I didn't take pictures as I was wolfing food, so here's one I stole

I popped along to the Gas Lamp last week to see what they had going - and boy, I wasn't disappointed. Paying a tenner at the bar, I sat back with a good quality rum (it would have been whiskey, but I was in a rum mood - bah boom...) and waited for my food to come out. A plate plied high with chicken fried ribs (not chickens' ribs, they would be TINY, but ribs chucked American Triple D stylee in the deep fat fryer. And fried. Like a chicken), oozy mac and cheese and some spicy okra corn tomato concoction that probably has a proper name, but I was concentrating on the food and not the names at that point.

Ribs - I could have eaten twice as many. Mac - the best in Manchester I'd say, as you could actually taste the cheese and the mac wasn't flabby; it all oozed properly in only the way a mac chock full of cheese can. It was nearly as good as mine. And that's saying something because mine is probably the best in the world. Actually, rephrase, it is the best in the world.

So bar coming round to my house, because you're not invited, go to the Gas Lamp and ingest the best food you will probably have all year, instead of some tasteless, churned out shite from around the corner.

Fire and Salt BBQ will be there from 6pm on Thursdays and it'll only cost you a tenner. Get there quick before all the food sells out.

The Gas Lamp, 50 Bridge Street, Manchester M3 3BW - Gas Lamp Twitter - Fire and Salt Twitter

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Slow cooked homeamde 'baked' beans recipe

At this time of year, our thoughts collectively reflect on the gluttony of the Christmas period; so much recipe and food writing at this time of year implores us to drop the dress sizes we’ve (so hideously, like the awful, unrestrained plebians we are) piled on, by detoxing/cutting out/practically starving ourselves back in to the svelte creatures we weren't pre-Christmas. To these writers/articles I say, "shut up."

A recipe post is no place for me to espouse my thoughts on faddy, cut-out diets (seriously you just need to eat less/move more – but that’s a rant for another day...); but I will ask you, how sustainable is something when you starve your body of essential nutrients? Even if for a relatively small period of time?

...anyway, before I get started... This recipe represents my approach to post-Christmas food; focussing on being healthy and restrained, whilst still being big on flavour, comfort and most essentially - including the essentials of a healthy diet.

This recipe won't make you lose 7lbs in a week, but it will nourish you and when conjoiuned with other healthy recipes and a bit more movement (even ten minutes pace around the block), will help you  lose your Christmas belly sustainably; without turning you in to a sugar craving, secretly binging, demented, calorie counting, label checking grump.

With this recipe you don't need to cut everything out of your diet - especially taste!

NB I have used dried beans in this recipe – it is always imperative that you prepare dried beans according to the packet instructions and never add them to recipes dried. Some beans, especially kidney beans, can be very dangerous if not prepared properly. You can use canned beans, but it does make for a more mushy consistency.

Slow cooked ‘baked’ BBQ beans

Serves 10 as a side/starter or 6 as a main – prep 15 min plus overnight soaking/boiling – cook time 7 hours (in slow cooker)


• 300g dried cannellini beans – prepared to the packet instructions (usually overnight soaking with 10 mins boiling, but please check)

• 300g dried kidney beans – prepared to the packet instructions

NB – you can substitute 4-5 x 400g cans of beans instead – just make sure you use ones that don’t have any extra sugar or salt. Feel free to use a mix of any beans, these are just ones I had in the house.

• 1 dried guajillo chilli – could use dried ancho or other dried, smokey chillies instead

• 100ml boiling water

• 2 x cans chopped or plum tomatoes – if using plum, make sure you break them up

• 1 tsp chipotle powder (can use 1 tsp chipotle paste instead)

• 1 tsp english mustard powder

• ¼ tsp cloves

• 1 tsp smoked sweet paprika

• 1 tsp dried thyme

• 2 tblsp molasses sugar

• 1 tblsp treacle

• 1 tblsp red wine vinegar

• Good grinding of black pepper

• 6 bay leaves

• 1 x large onion, sliced fine

• 400g smoked bacon in one piece – cubed – or smoked belly pork (I just used the bacon) - you can leave this out if you are veggie

• Sea salt, to taste


1. Prepare the beans to the packet instructions – when they are ready, rinse them and set aside.

2. Toast the dried chilli in a dry frying pan for a minute or two, until just smoking, but not burning. Whilst it is toasting, boil a kettle.

3. When the chilli is toasted, take off the stalk and remove the seeds (or leave in if you want spicy beans!). Place the chilli in a small bowl (you may need to rip it in half) and add 100ml boiling water. Leave it to rehydrate for 10 mins, whilst you make the sauce for the beans and layer everything together.

4. In a bowl add all the ingredients together; bar the bay leaves, onion, bacon and salt. Mix until a smooth consistency.

5. In the bowl of your slow cooker, put a third of the cubed bacon (use the fattiest bits for the bottom layer), then follow with a third of the onion and two bay leaves. On top of this add a quarter of the beans.

Layer it up

6. Repeat the layers, finishing off with a layer of beans – make sure they are under the top of the pot.

7. Pour the water the chilli has been rehydrating in, into the reserved tomato mixture. Chop the rehydrated chilli as small as you can (treat it like chopping fresh herbs) and add to the tomato mixture – stir in.

8. On top of your layers, add the tomato mixture – using the handle of a wooden spoon to poke through the layers and help it seep through. If the tomato mixture comes to way below the level of the beans (more than 2cm), add a little water to the pot.

9. Put the lid on and put the slow cooker on the low setting, (I only have Low and High on mine). Cook for six hours and check the seasoning. Add sugar/salt/vinegar/spice to your own personal taste. For mine I added ½ tsp of salt and a capful of extra vinegar – but always taste before and after you do this.

10. At this point check to see how done your beans are – beans will cook quicker the fresher they are, however there is no way to tell how old the beans in the packs you buy from the shops are, so you need to check on this recipe from about hour six onwards. Mine ended up taking seven, but another time has taken as long as eight.

11. Serve with whole brown rice and some quick roasted tomatoes (recipe to follow). Or if you’re pushing the boat out, with a baked potato, sweet corn and sticky chipotle chicken (recipe to follow). Streamed broccoli also suits this very well.

Not the best looking dish, but one of the most tastiest!

Ps – these beans taste nicer the next day, great for a nutritious, tasty and filling lunch that will make you the envy of the whole office!

NB – I bought my chipotle powder and dried guajillo chilli from Spice Mountain at Borough Market, but they also trade online. Chipotle powder is an amazing spice cupboard addition, however you can used two dried chipotle (prep the same as the other dried chilli) or a tsp of chipotle paste (available from big supermarkets) instead.

NB – You don’t have to use guajillo chillies here, you could use ancho (available in the speciality section of big Tesco’s) or other dried, smoky, fruity chillies you come across. Vary the chillies for different flavours or add a selection of your favourite to vary the flavour to your liking. You can buy dried chillies online at Spice Mountain, Steenburgs and Cool Chile Co.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Big Chilli Coook Off - Almost Famous

The first time I attempted to make chilli con carne was for my first proper boyfriend. I was playing domestic goddess whilst my Mum was away; ready to surprise him with a bottle of wine, some home cuisine and a night of unbridled teenage passion.

This isn’t a happy story – after using a state of the art Shwartz seasoning shake I duly burnt the mince so we had a chemically, fag-burn pile of grey mince with soggy veg to wade through; plus he wasn’t a fan of wine and I don’t think my crying over the meal helped. Needless to say the relationship didn’t last for long.

Over the years I’ve honed my chilli making skills to be somewhere near passable – I like the results anyway – but it’s nowhere near authentic; my version has a satisfying savoury sweetness with a smoky/spicy kick and is cooked low and slow for a melt in the mouth finish – but this isn’t about my chilli, this is about the latest speciality night at Almost Famous.

Digressing from burgers and their usual Thurs-Sun opening policy, The Big Chilli Cook Off pitted three of the Famous chefs (yes, even burger joints have chefs) against the two owners, with Manchester’s joe public (well those that paid for the pleasure) judging/scoring each chilli.

Straight through the door and we were presented with a Lil’ Sloppy Juan, which was meant to be a slider, but was almost the size of a regular Almost Famous burger – pink as per usual, the patty was cajun spiced and slathered in crispy onions, cheese, chipolte paste, famous sauce and plenty of chillies.

Lil' Sloppy Juan - sloppier than your Mum

Then the chillis – you controlled which order you ate them in; with no hint as to taste/spiciness, so each bowl was a gastronomic gauntlet, that was both fun and tongue trembling scary at the time. You got as much guacamole/cream cheese/salsa etc as you could fit in your bowl/mouth/tummy to enhance/cover up the flavour and to dip the unlimited nachos in - take it from me, totally filling. A rundown of the chillies was thus and in order of my favourite (least first, favourite last):

• John Wayne – from the name I expected a large, swaggering chilli that was going to sternly yet respectfully slap me round the chops before lingering on my taste buds until disappearing off in to the sunset – I found this chilli a little under seasoned and without much depth of flavour. Good, but no cigar, pardner.

• Ben’s Bad Ass Chicken Chilli – I have issues with the meat here, call me snobby but I like red meat in my chilli. This was the fiercest of the chillis, apparently the recipe was loaded with plenty of scotch bonnets thrown in for the chilli fiends, however this made it a bit too spicy for me, but good flavour (once you got past the heat) and I enjoyed the non-textbook inclusion of sweetcorn.

• Mad Dog’s Meaty Feast – this seemed more like a stew than a chilli; no bad thing as it was full of gamey, winey, umami flavours with super tender meat and a mellow spicy tickle underneath from the added chorizo. I got two bowls of this, not technically allowed, but so what, I’m a rebel/glutton or something.

• Jailbreak/bait – Very nearly my favourite chilli; this was a super smoky mouthful of tender beef with a bit of a kick at the end to make you sit up and listen. Topped with pulled BBQ pork, which added a whole extra dimension of flavour/texture it certainly was a contender for the top spot and was the one that received the most votes over all.

• Flippin fuckin bloody chilli – Just beating jailbreak/bait for the extra depth of flavour and a slight tone down in the spice, I loved this chilli and damned myself for eating it last - when I snuck back for an illegal second helping it was all gone.

Chilli bar - I wish all bars were this meaty

So you just went and judged what chilli was best was it? No, remember we were at Almost Famous so there was some audacious theatricals to keep the punters happy- as the night was an homage to southern style eating, food contests and general Man Vs Foodness then the only thing for it was a hot wing eating contest.

These singed my nose hairs - not sure what it did to the people eating them

Hot wing eating? Ah this was no volume/speed challenge though – this was a sheer, bloody minded heat/pain contest; the winners those that could make their way up to the hottest chicken wing and successfully keep it down/not die. Call me a masochist, but there is nothing more pleasurable than watching 13 grown men gasping, tears running down their face and calling out for their Mummies. I don’t know how they made it to the end as even the penultimate wings singed my nose hairs and made me gag as they were walked past. Brave men, we will remember them all.

Chilli Cook Off wasn’t as formal or busy as Pig Out, but was a whole lot of fun – I went home full of meat and booze; stuffed and happy that I had watched a table full of grown men reduced to blubbering wrecks. It’s the simple things in life.

Almost Famous, nondescript wooden door between Keko Moku and Socio Rehab, 100 High Street, Northern Quarter, Manchester M4 1HP – Twitter

Please note I was given my ticket to this event, but I was under no obligation to write nice things, I just really enjoyed myself and thought it would have been well worth it for the £15 I would have paid.

Almost Famous on Urbanspoon

Monday, 10 September 2012

EXCLUSIVE Breaking News - Almost Famous Chilli Cook Off Tues 25th Party of the YEAR

STOP PRESS - date changed to Tues 25th Sept - STOP PRESS

What would you like in your mouth than a big bit of meat? How about hot, spicy, smoky meatiness? How about hot, spicy, smoky meatiness at a ONE OFF EXCLUSIVE end of summer special party with even hotter girls and even sweeter booze? And what if you could only find out about it/book it HERE?
After the success of Pig Out and to celebrate the passing of the sweetest/warmest/sexiest season, on Tues 26th Sept the Almost Famous kitchen staff will man up take on two fearsome conquistadors for a head to head chilli cook off and they want you to grab some asbestos mouthwash and then get yo’ sweet asses down to celebrate with them for this fiery, one off special.

Bubbly, spicy, fuck yeah goodness

Put the date in your diary NOW, underline it in red and buy yourself a ticket – it’s only £15 per person (with just a £5 deposit needed; so save up your money from selling crack to kids and pay the remainder on the night). What’s that, you need to be in beddy byes by 9pm? Don’t worry; there are two sittings – 5.30-8pm for the babies and 8.30pm till close for the bigger boys. (The later session will go on sale as soon as the first one sells out WHICH IT WILL BY TOMORROW - limited tickets you hear?).
‘But I can just stay at home with my Asda value mince and packet of Schwartz seasoning,’ I can hear your baby mouth whine. This isn’t any old chilli, or any old chilli eating night fools, this is a FAMOUS CHILLI NIGHT – as you enter it starts with the Lil’ Juan, a slider more sloppy than yo’ Mama’s kisses; then there’s going to be the five, fuck off chillies and because Almost Famous value you so much/this is a cook off (duh) they’re asking you to vote which one is best. This will all be followed by music, dancing with yo’ sister and pickling yourself in overproof moonshine.

This ain't your sister (left), but that is yo' mama (right)

So it sounds like a pretty tasty night for anywhere, but this is Famous baby, so you know it’s not going to end there don’t cha? They’re laying down the gauntlet to anyone* who thinks they’re hot/man/crazy enough to enter the Wings of Death competition. Pitting man against lady against chicken; whoever can get to the hottest scale of wings (start at suicide, end at DEATH) and eat more than the measly maggots trying to out-compete them, walks away the victor with a limited edition bottle of Fuck Yeah sauce and claims to international bragging rights/fittest girls in the Northern Quarter/being more winning than Charlie Sheen.
So how do you get to be part of the hottest, spiciest, meatiest party in town? Through this website and NO FUCKING OTHER, BABY. Nosh has secured a pre-order on the tickets, nowhere else can you get your hands on the hot little beauties (or the tickets either) – seeing as Pig Out sold out in two hours I’d order yours RIGHT FUCKING NOW – come on you pussy NOW on this link HERE!.
Ps Dress code Daisy Duke/Bo and Luke Duke/Brokeback/Magnum/Trailer Trash for FREE BOOZE.

Almost Famous, 100 High Street, Northern Quarter, Manchester M4 1HP
*The Wings of Death competition is open to first six fools, I mean people, who email through the contact page HERE – closing date for your entry is midnight Mon 25th Sept. North West Nosh and Almost Famous accept no responsibility if entrants end up wetting themselves/crying to Mummy/ in A+E.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Fire and Salt BBQ Pig Out - Almost Famous, Manchester

We all know I like a good piece of meat in my mouth - so when Almost Famous announced that they were teaming up with Fire and Salt BBQ Company for a night of Pig Out piggy porn, you know I was first in the queue for my ticket, my palms sweaty with excitement, pulse racing.

Unlike the usual no booking malarkey that Almost Famous runs, this night was a) out of their normal Thurs-Sun opening hours/days (exciting! Clandestine!) and b) ticketed (strangely conventional for Famous). Watching Twitter, like I do because I get bored at work/have nothing better to do with my life, the tickets sold in double quick time promting Famous/Fire and Salt to roast two piggies and put on a double sitting.

The premise of the night was turn up, eat pig, leave satisfied - however being an Almost Famous night there was also plenty of chutzpah and theatre thrown in for good measure. Not only did we get to eat pig, we got to see piggy as well - before we tucked in he was wheeled out for us to page homage, straight from the BBQ. Oink oink.

Hey there little piggy, you going to get in my belly?

The pig had been cooking for the past two days in Fire and Salt's traditional southern style BBQ pit (and Southern style doesn't mean like Essex here); basted, tended, cared for, obsessed over (pretty much how I like to be treated) and then the kitchen monkeys at Almost Famous had created some absolutely blinding dishes for us to get wet over (like the state I get in if I'm treated like that piggy...).

First out  - pork scratchings; well you couldn't have a flithy night of pigging out without the most dirty, salty, crunchy bar snack ever - seemed to get everyone right in the mood as by the time the ribs came out everyone was practically drooling about what was to come - hyped up by the frenetic finger picking of the the banjo player and the skimpy shorts worn by the waitresses (my, they were skimpy!).

First out were Fuck Yeah ribs, totally melt in the mouth - in fact not even mouth as the bones came out in my fingers and just left the spicy, smoky, sweetness of the meat for me to shovel in - needless to say I ate as many of these as I could and greedy nicked any spares that were lying around, baring my teeth if others came near.

One of the three portions of ribs I manged to gobble

Then a double dish for double fun - on one side, a bacon sandwich with the Famous makeover; basically that finger-lickin' famous ketchup, god I could murder one of these every morning. Then a carnita; a soft little taco filled with achingly tender pork, hot sauce and a lime laden guacamole that lit up your mouth and made your eyes pop out of your head.

Carnita and bacon sandwich *drools*

Out came a slider - a mini-burger that was modelled on the eponymous Famous burger but topped with JD maple candied bacon, BBQ onions, baconaise (yeah like there wasn't enough pork on the menu), cheese and BBQ sauce. Mini-burger, but a mighty mouthful.

Then, when I really couldn't fit in any more food and was beginning to feel a little Man Vs Food, out came the pork platter. An overflowing plate of porcine perfection, served on Famous sweet potato and potato fries and accompanied by a selection of sauces and dips, including butter, because we all needed more calories/fat/death in our bodies right then.

In case I hadn't had my fill of meat, some pork for me to stuff in my (mouth) hole

All the while we porked out the drinks were flowing; the staff were chatting, relaxing and serving the needs of the of us vile gluttons in the true friendly Famous style. I stuffed pork in my mouth, gobbled inordinate amounts of meat, tasted a range of wonderfully thought out flavours and licked my fingers almost to the bone. Evern thinking about it now brings me out in goose pimples.

From the smiles and full bellies of the diners the night was a super success - it's good to see somewhere trying something a little different. As with anything that's put on at Almost Famous you know the crazy amount of dedication and passion that has been poured in to every detail of every dish and at Pig Out, you could definitely taste it.

Ps Keep an eye out on the Almost Famous website/twitter for more food obsessed nights as I'm sure there will be plenty to come.

Almost Famous, 100 High Street, Northern Quarter, Manchester

Almost Famous on Urbanspoon

Almost Famous on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Solita - Northern Quarter, Manchester

Named after the area of Manchester it sits in SoLiTa - south of Little Italy, natch - doesn't really have much to do with Italian food; bar the manager's background and the fact that their small wine list is all sourced from Sardinia. That's a good thing though, as I've said before - Manchester is awash with Italian places and not many good ones at that.

Solita's got a big bold menu to go with a big bold cooking device in the kitchen - an Inka grill; the first in Manchester. Super expensive, it's able to cook meat very quickly whilst retaining the juiciness and producing the same char you get off the BBQ - minus the burnt sausages and food poisoning.

Inka Grill - serious kit

This boldness runs through the decor - all blacks and reds, leather seats, cartoons on the wall and the biggest blackboard you'll see in your life. The main dining room is dominated by the corner bar - the vibe is funky and upbeat. There's two private dining rooms upstairs and a large bar in the basement - all decked out in the red/black/leather theme.

As you can expect from somewhere that's got a fancy pants BBQ grill - most of the food is going to be cooked on there and anything else on the menu is going to compliment it. The style is big, comforting, American, smokey - there's pulled pork, burgers and steak; there's rooster skin to start and the mash has 40% butter in it. Don't visit if you're on a diet.

We started with nibbles; Rooster Skin; - so wrong (fried chicken skin), but so utterly moreish (I just tried to forget how much fat was in it, something you will learn to do at Solita). Another delightful nibble was the salt cod balls - not too salty or dry, which is a feat other restaurants can't cope with when it comes to salted cod all pepped up with a fresh parsley, caper, salsa verde type mayo under them.

Salt Cod Balls

Starters were massive - I could have seriously eaten on of these for my mains! The signature at Solita seems to be the pulled pork sundae; chunks of tender, smokey pork layered up with a tangy BBQ sauce and that mash - 60/40 mash to be specific ie. 60% potato and 40% butter. We also tried the Bacon Jam on Sourdough - more for comedy rather than anything else. There is nothing comedy about this dish - you get the sweetness of the pork tempered by a chilli kick; there's these intense smokey, syrupy, chocolaty, coffee flavours going on. Something simple is made superb - this is a must have dish off the menu.

Pulled pork sundae - if it's not bad enough, it's topped with more rooster skin...

As they've got this inka grill, we thought we'd give it a whirl and ordered burgers and hanger steak, just to do our colons a favour. Not sure if it is the way they're cooked or the mix they use, but the burgers seemed over processed - I know they use WH Frost's meat, so I am guessing it's the way they make them in the kitchen. If the texture was a little off, the taste was spot on - charred from the grill with the right balance of seasoning and some added freshness from some bits of veg that were thrown in to the bun for good measure. The hanger steak was brilliant; so soft and rare and juicy - covered with a rub that tasted of fire and chocolate, which just complimented the meat brilliantly.

Because we were intrigued by it, we also ordered a deep fried mac and cheese with pulled pork - well, we'd abused our arteries that much that we didn't think that there was much harm in sticking in another week's worth of fat and calories. We just couldn't fit in - it was all the things a good mac and cheese should be, then deep fried. Comfort food at it's best (and worst!).

Half of a Deep Fried Mac n Cheese

We did order sides, but there was no need to, we were so full - bit sad we didn't eat too much of the Smoked Buttered Veg (yup, even the veg is bad for you here) and it was delicious. However the triple cooked chips were a let down; everything was perfect, bar the taste - a bitter aftertaste of hay.

Just to sound the death knell for our circulatory system, we ordered pudding - they had Deep Fried Coke. That's Deep. Fried. Coke. I had to order it. Turns out I made a good choice; churros with a heavy dose of cinnamon, topped with Cabrelli's ice cream - it was meant to be vanilla, but we had coconut, which worked exceptionally well with the cinnamon notes in the churros and the coke - so where was this coke? They'd put some in the churros batter,obviously, but then - genius - they poured post mix coke syrup over the whole thing. Oh my.

Deep. Fried. Coke.

Solita is refreshing; there's nothing like it in the Northern Quarter (yes I know Americana is big right now, but we're not in London so we're not drowning in these places); they're going for a different audience here - midweek eaters, people shopping in the city centre and families; expanding the Northern Quarter and offering bags more variety. I like that and I think it'll last.

Price for two nibbles, two starters, three mains, two sides, one pudding - £62.70

Food - 8/10
Atmosphere - 8/10
Service - 7/10 (but they were newbies, so don't judge them too harsh)
Value for money - 9/10

Total - 32/40

Go again - yes the food is mostly great and it's a lovely place - really different and doesn't break the bank

Please note - Solita asked me to eat with them and gave me my meal free; however I was under no obligation to say nice things - I liked the food!

Solita - Margolis Building, Turner Street, Northern Quarter, Manchester - 0161 839 5600 - Twitter - Facebook

Solita Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon