Thursday, 21 November 2013

Hanging Ditch Winefest 6

Sorry really rubbish photos from a wonderful event, cracking wine, company and entertainment as ever! 

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Jack Spratt, John Dalton Street, Manchester

This week we tried the restaurant Jack Spratt for the first time; we had a blooming good meal in relaxed surroundings and it was very good value.

I was surprised at the innovative menu, for some reason I was expecting Best of British type grub, but this was far more wide ranging. Plus the menu deal is excellent, two courses for £13 or three courses for £17. The dishes that we were served were all substantial and were well presented.

To start I went for crispy kedgeree balls which had smoked haddock in them, with a sort of curry style sauce and what was described as cauliflower puree. It wasn’t really a puree more pieces of very firm cauliflower but it was none the worse for it –the flavours were a good mix, and the textures worked well together. I was heartily impressed. My Beloved went for braised Ox cheek which was also delicious and looked a picture.

For mains I opted for the King Prawn Jamaican stew which came with two (big) cod fritters and rice. Again this was a really substantial dish and was very hearty – erring almost towards Cajun flavours. Real thought had been put into the textures and the presentation of the dish.

Dessert was difficult to pick as it all sounded good! I went for a double chocolate brownie which was lovely and gooey with indulgent panacotta and salted caramel with popcorn! The textures really worked and I was pleased with this dish. Perhaps I had expected the popcorn to be made from something (ie constructed to resemble popcorn rather than actual popcorn) but hey the crunchiness worked!

So all in all we had a really enjoyable night, the service was very good and they offered suggestions and advice (such as don’t order side dishes as there is enough food as it is!). The decor is quite cosy, there are a few plastic flowers knocking about but luckily not on the tables! The place gets quite busy (which is always a good sign) so if you want to go for the later time slots booking is recommended. We will definitely be back.      



Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Hanging Ditch - Guest Post! Tour of West Coast Wine

Check out this (Cookingopolis' first guest post) from my main man Eddie....

Getting my kicks at the ‘Ditch;
I shall begin by letting you into a little secret. I don’t really know what I’m doing when it comes to wine.
I’ve certainly drank enough to have developed likes and dislikes and on a good day I might even be able to spot the odd grape variety or flavour on the palette. Once the conversation turns to the likes of Malolactic fermentation however my eyes start spinning like fruit machines and the more mischievous parts of my mind begin to wonder where the next glass is coming from. As such, I used to approach buying wine with a great deal of trepidation. I knew just enough to know what I wanted but nowhere near enough to be able to reliably find it or even adequately describe what I wanted to others. That was until I was given a recommendation a few years back to try a new place just behind the Cathedral.
That place turned out to be Hanging Ditch Wine Merchants. For the uninitiated, the front end retail business is based around the concept of the ‘Vinoteca’ - a style of wine shop /bar popularised in Spain & Italy. What this means is that you are presented with the delightful possibility of being able to both shop for wine and to ‘accidentally’ (it’s amazing how often this happens) have a glass whilst you’re there.
What really sets Hanging Ditch apart though - as the Greater Manchester area is very well served when it comes to independent wine retailers, is the team on hand to help you. The knowledge they possess between them and the way they can break that down for simpletons like me is tremendous. I had the benefit of this knowledge recently when attending one of their frequent masterclasses (usually held on a Tuesday evening -themes change regularly) with a tour de force of the West Coast.
Ably presented by Katie Canfield (a California native and member of the in house team),for my £17.50 I got the opportunity to try a beer, six wines and a whiskey and enjoy both the shared experience of tasting in a group and matching my thoughts with the guiding hand of an expert in very informal surroundings.
For anyone who immediately breaks out in a cold sweat at the thought of a wine tasting, it’s nothing like what you’re thinking! This couldn’t be further removed from the stuffy stereotype of self-important types sloshing wine around in a glass whilst making vague statements about ‘palettes’ and ‘finishes’. Instead, this was a group of regular people with a shared interest enjoying something together and having some fun along the way.
The highlight for me from the evening was the stories that Katie was able to thread through the evening and these really held the event together. From having the park featured on the Sierra Nevada bottle label on her doorstep as a child to her experiences of meeting and talking to the unassuming vintner in Idaho who is turning out blockbuster stuff as a hobby and on through the legend of the Inglenook name and it’s subsequent resurrection by Francis Ford-Coppola (yes, that one), this was the detail that elevated this event from ‘people stood about drinking’ to the masterclass it was billed as.
For those of you who will occasionally treat yourselves to a glass/bottle/vat of wine and have had thoughts of trying something a little different, get yourself down to the ‘Ditch and have a chat with the team there. I’m sure you’ll walk away with a smile on your face and a bottle in your hand. Also, if you manage to get away without trying a glass of something, you’ve got more restraint than me.
Find out more about Hanging Ditch over at
Edward attended this masterclass as a paying guest and received no special treatment on the evening. He went on to purchase bottles of the Vickers Vineyard Chardonnay, Frog’s Leap Zinfandel and Inglenook Zinfandel. Some of these are astonishingly still intact, awaiting the right occasion for consumption!

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Sunday, 6 October 2013

The Big Indie Wine Fest, Manchester Town Hall, #MFDF2013

This weekend we had a great time sampling some stonking wines at The Big Indie Wine Fest which was part of the successful Manchester Food and Drink Festival. It is always good to go to the town hall, and look around the Great Hall in all its gothic splendour and look at the twelve murals which represent key moments in the city's history.

There was around 12 different wine stalls from which there was plenty of wine to sample. Plus there was also Salvi's and Delamere Dairy to buy some cheeses from.

Favourites included Corks Out, the Chester based wine company, we particularly liked their Caberero Cepa Malbec.
The friendly guy from Bakerie was there too, and as ever we liked the oaky Chardonnay on offer.
Hanging Ditch was there and we were very pleased to win a bottle of Little Rascal Shiraz from them. I also loved their plummy Navajas Rioja Reserva, perfect for autumnal nights.
The stall we liked the best though was Tour De Belfort, which is an organic French wine producer which has a shop in Hale, Cheshire. The staff, especially co-owner Muriel, were very friendly and we bought some 2012 Semillon for my dessert wine loving boyf and a full bodied 2012 Malbec for yours truly.

Hanging Ditch

Cheers with Corks Out

Pacta Connect UK, gorgeous Rose


Wonderfully smooth from Dusty Road Wines

Thursday, 3 October 2013

The City Arms, Manchester

The City Arms is one of the best boozers in the city centre. It is full of character and there is a huge selection of real ales and whiskeys. It feels like a very old fashioned type pub. This is a real favourite amongst CAMRA members. There is seating in the back room, a dart board, a smoking area outside and lots of books to peruse.

Last time I went I tried an ale from the Greenfield Brewery, which is served quite a lot at this place, and Pride of Pendle from Burnley brewery Moorhouses.

Go check it out, you won’t regret it.

The Manchester Food and Drink Festival

The Manchester Food and Drink Festival is now into its second week. Yesterday I finally got to visit ‘The Hub’ which sits proudly right outside the town hall in Albert Square. It was great to see that it is well frequented – us Mancs like our food and drink! The Drinking Tent has a vast selection of Real Ales; over the course of the festival they will serve a hundred different types. I tried a red ale called Double Hob which was 4.8% and was very satisfying with a nutty flavour. After this I had a Trooper the beer created by Iron Maiden for Robinsons, which I think is a pretty good drop. All ales are £3.50. In the drinking tent there was also stalls run by Bakerie and Apotheka and a DJ who played some fairly eclectic tunes.

Outside the tent there are a number of stalls from the major players in the Manchester food scene along with some lone traders selling food and drinks. We were very pleased to stumble upon Shirleys which were doing a roaring trade in baked goods. We had pork pies, which were very good (mine had stilton on top of it). The sizes of the pies and pork slices have to be seen to be believed!