Restaurant

Menagerie, Manchester

“This is Manchester, we do things differently here.” - Tony Wilson

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Since its launch last year, Menagerie has become a firm favourite with Manchester's celebrity crowd. Partly owned by Cheshire Housewives stars, Seema and Stacey, the exotic interior of the bar/restaurant is a definite talking point.

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Menagerie combines gastronomy with art/theatre and aims to take your dining experience to the next level.

Based on the edge of Spinningfields, the £1.5m development boasts a happy hour chandelier; a light fitting by day but at night dancers hang overhead to pour Champagne for guests. 

As you arrive you are met with a huge ornamental bird cage and a flock of white paper cranes suspended from the ceiling.

menagerie: noun - 1. A collection of wild animals kept in captivity for exhibition.

The gold leaf bar holds a sculpture resembling the Greek god Hermes. The walls are covered in ornate decor and neon light installations. There is even a bathtub which can be filled with Champagne. 

The restaurant area is big. Boasting 250 covers, it features a catwalk which runs through the centre of the room for performers to entertain diners and to host fashion shows and theatre performances.

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The venture has been so successful there's talk of it expanding into other northern cities and possibly even Dubai. 

The beauty of Menagerie is it doesn't take itself seriously. Everything is tongue in cheek and fantastically over the top, yet it still manages to keep the feel of glamour.

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The cocktail menu is quirky with names like "Jealous or Crazy" and "Mine Tastes Better Than Yours", which features a (fake) burning £20 note as a side garnish.

It's a fun place to enjoy brunch, dinner or an evening drink. I love it! 

The first time I visited was a few weeks ago for a hangover brunch. The friendly staff noticed that my friend was particularly struggling and suggested a Bloody Mary. She started to come back to life within a few sips.

The food hit the spot perfectly and we decided to return again today for a charity event.

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Following the horrific events in Manchester on 22nd May, Menagerie hosted a fundraising event, with all proceeds going to the official We Love Manchester Emergency Fund. 

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There was live entertainment, a fashion show, auctions and raffles, along with the occasional celeb or two. 

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Thank you Menagerie. It was a fantastic night to raise money for an even better cause. 

If you would like to donate to the official We Love Manchester Emergency Fund please visit: www.manchesteremergencyfund.com

Menagerie Restaurant

Puschka, Liverpool

UPDATE: Puschka is now, regrettably, permanently closed.

“I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best” - Oscar Wilde

The restaurant scene in Liverpool is booming. There are now more fantastic places to eat in the city than ever before.

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One of my favourite areas to visit for a meal is Liverpool’s historic Georgian quarter. I recently dined in one of the area’s most popular restaurants, Puschka. It opened its doors in 2001, why it’s taken me this long to visit is beyond me. Everyone I know who has been has raved about the place. 

It’s is a little independent restaurant on Rodney Street and has been quietly and consistently building an impressive collection of awards in recent years.

It isn’t clear where the name Puschka came from, apparently it may be a pet name for a friend of the owners, but whatever the origin, it’s certainly quirky and makes it all the more memorable. 

Inside the restaurant reflects its location, neatly sat between Liverpool’s classic Hope Street and bohemian Bold Street. The decor is intimate and cosy with candle-lit tables and fresh flowers. Pops of purple feature against a backdrop of wooden walls and floral cushions. 

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The delicious menus change seasonally with all dishes made fresh using, where possible, local produce. Provenance of ingredients is taken very seriously, so much so it has it’s own dedicated space on the menu.

Vegetables are brought in from farms over on the Wirral, meat is sourced from Lancashire and Cumbria, fish from Fleetwood. You get the picture!

We visited one lazy Sunday afternoon. Our waiter was charming and the service was great, the food took some time to arrive but that’s to be expected due to everything being freshly made. There is a little note on the menu to advise you to expect a slight delay. 

The atmosphere in the restaurant was lovely. Elegant enough to enjoy a celebration but relaxed enough for a laid-back group meal, not in the least bit pretentious.

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Once inside you feel like you’re in a little haven off the beaten track, you don’t want to leave.

“Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing” - Oscar Wilde 

One of my biggest gripes in life is when people quibble over the cost of freshly made, good quality food. Sadly many of the reviews I read of Puschka mention how expensive the menu is. I’m not sure how people can go to a restaurant like this, producing the wonderful food that it does, served by such lovely - well trained - staff, and not expect to pay decent money for the experience. 

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Puschka is a little hidden gem. If you’re a foodie it’s definitely one to try and well worth the cost. Just make sure you book in advance!

The only downside to our visit was that we were too full from our starters and mains, we were unable to even consider dessert.

I’m hoping to return this week to sample some pudding as a birthday treat… so family, if you’re reading this, hint hint!

Puschka

Neighbourhood, Liverpool

Love thy neighbour as yourself, but choose your neighbourhood. - Louise Lester Beal 

Following our glamorous day of fashion shows and celebrity talks at the British Style Collective, my friend and I were looking for somewhere equally as glitzy to have dinner. 

We landed on Neighbourhood Liverpool, having visited the sister restaurant in Manchester last year. With a focus on live music and cocktails, it was the perfect place to continue our stylish weekend. 

Set in an imposing Grade II-listed building on Castle Street, built in 1868 for the Alliance Bank, it has recently been renovated into an elegant restaurant with a pop twist. Pink parlour seating and marble tables under 80s neon signs give the space a laid back Miami vibe. 

The menu is described as all-day brasserie style with European and new American cuisine influences. Offering breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner, as well as a vibrant bar area, Neighbourhood has something for everyone to “Dine. Drink. Dance.”

I had a beetroot salad and my friend had an aubergine bake. We both ordered a side of the most delicious roasted sweet potato wedges (so tasty they were hoovered up before I remembered to photograph them. Bad blogger, but a good excuse for a return visit!) 

For pudding my friend had lemon meringue pie while I couldn’t resist the chocolate bomb. 

Service was excellent and the atmosphere was buzzing. Our seats were perfectly elevated so that we could people watch across the bar.

We enjoyed ourselves so much we returned the following morning for Sunday brunch. 

Breakfasts have really taken off in this area of Liverpool and Neighbourhood has jumped on this opportunity to offer a bottomless brunch menu. Available on Saturdays and Sundays only, diners can enjoy unlimited Prosecco, Cocktails or Bloody Marys alongside a range of delicious breakfast dishes for just £35.00. 

The venue also offers two private dining rooms catering for upwards of 30 guests and a mezzanine level which is also available for private functions. 

As well as the Manchester and Liverpool sites, Neighbourhood is opening a third venue in Leeds next month.

Regardless of when you visit, be it in the evening for cocktails or a hangover brunch the following day, make sure you dress to impress!

www.neighbourhoodrestaurant.co.uk

L'Enclume

Following the success of last summer's Fäviken review, I asked my brother, Andrew, to write about his recent trip to L'Enclume.

Regarded by many to be Britain’s greatest restaurant, it’s a feast of a review, and one which I hope you will enjoy...

Foodie ‘bible’ The Good Food Guide awarded L’Enclume its maximum 10 out of 10 rating for the fifth time in its 2017 guide, and named it to be its top UK restaurant for the fourth consecutive year. 

Owned and run by British chef Simon Rogan and his partner Penny Tapsell, the double-Michelin star, five AA Rosette winning L’Enclume is their flagship restaurant amongst what appears to be an ever-expanding number of other eateries.

When I checked recently, as well as L’Enclume, other eateries in the group included the Rogan & Company restaurant and Pig and Whistle pub in Cartmel, The French and Mr Cooper’s House & Garden (both in Manchester), Michelin-starred Fera at Claridge's and the Roganic ‘pop-up’ restaurant (both in London); the Aulis development kitchens at L’Enclume and Claridge’s and, as if that wasn’t enough, a 12-acre farm just outside of Cartmel.

As we schlep northwards along the M6 motorway and then on to the A590 towards Cartmel, I have a few things mulling around in my mind.

Firstly, where on earth would you find the energy to run several award-winning restaurants, a pub, and a farm? 

Secondly, I’m thinking about this review, and one particular salacious detail: the cost of our visit.

It won't come as a surprise that dining at one of the world's great restaurants is not going to be cheap. Understandably, for some the cost will be beyond justification. So let’s get it out of the way early: our visit - including dinner at L’Enclume with accompanying cheese and drinks flights and a one-night stay in a suite, but excluding any tips - cost, for two people, £821.50. 

Finally off the M6 and driving deeper into the Cumbrian countryside, the final thing mulling about in my mind is… what are those strange noises coming from the bottom of our car, and where the bloody hell are we? 

For our last epic food adventure my wife and I travelled over 1,000 miles to arrive at Fäviken, one of the most remote restaurants in the world. We took two plane journeys, hired a car in Norway and drove across the land border to rural Sweden. Not once did we get lost.

We’re asked to arrive at L'Enclume for midday. The small historic village of Cartmel is located in a quieter corner of the Lake District. Surrounded by mile-upon-mile of farmers fields, it has a character quite different from the well-known touristy towns of Bowness-on-Windermere, Ambleside or Keswick.

Prior to being shown our room, we’ve been invited to take a tour of L’Enclume’s farm. It’s with some embarrassment that, less than 100 miles from home, with crunching noises of stone boulders forcibly acquainting themselves with the underside of our car, tyres spinning attempting to struggle up a 1 in 3 single track, that we make the call to the L’Enclume reception “hi, we’re lost!”

‘Our Farm’ is conveniently located only a mile north-east of the village. Inconveniently, we’re at L’Enclume’s former farm which is still listed on their website. It is 1 mile west and, to complicate matters further, we’ve taken a wrong turn along a path which is car-destroyingly craggy, narrow and steep. Very steep. Reception kindly direct us back to the restaurant and arrange for us to be driven to the farm.

Our farm was conceived and built by chefs with a clear vision - to strengthen the link between food, its development, and the environment - advancing the relationship between cooking and growing.
— L'Enclume

At the farm we meet one of the growers, Simon. A more patient and laid-back character you could not wish to meet.

Red baron onions (also known as shooting onions)

Red baron onions (also known as shooting onions)

Simon walks us around a handful of polytunnels showing us the raised beds where many varieties of vegetables, herbs and edible flowers are grown.

Chickweed

Chickweed

We’re encouraged to pick and taste the fresh herbs and flowers. 

Peach trees in blossom

Peach trees in blossom

Simon explains that the farm is in its 4th year and that the ingredients grown here are used in Rogan’s Cartmel restaurants, as well as being transported down to London to be used in Fera and Aulis at Claridge’s. The farm is said to supply over 90% of L’Enclume’s produce.

The thing I admire most is that nothing goes to waste. Even food waste from L’Enclume is recycled and used as compost at the farm; the farm-to-plate-and-back-to-the-farm ethos.

Winter Purslane (miners lettuce or claytonia)

Winter Purslane (miners lettuce or claytonia)

The effort that has gone into controlling the consistency and the quality of the ingredients is truly impressive.

Cows, chickens and pigs are also reared at the farm and there is an orchard where it is planned that a variety of fruit including apples, damsons and pears will be grown.

I’m informed there are plans to build a smokehouse and possibly a meat curing room up here. I’d go a step further and, during the summer months, move Aulis at L'Enclume to this location too.

After an enjoyable 45 minutes or so walking around the farm we are collected and driven back to the village. 

We’ve booked the Cartmel Escape package, and our room is one of the suites.

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Housed above a fantastic coffee shop in the centre of the village, the room is spacious and has a nice blend of modern features and antique furniture. It has everything you could need or expect.

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Our room and restaurant package includes “a half bottle of Classic English sparkling wine from the Nyetimber Estate, homemade nibbles in your room upon arrival, dinner for two from our full taster menu, and an overnight stay with breakfast the following morning at our sister restaurant Rogan & Co.”

It’s now 2pm and, despite wanting to save ourselves for the meal tonight, we’re ravenous. Regrettably our stay is on a Tuesday when Rogan & Co is closed so, on receptions suggestion, we try the nearby Cavendish Arms; an excellent recommendation.

The British weather is at its changeable-worst.  Sunglasses are needed to protect eyes from the sun, but also from the sporadic hail storms too. After lunch we opt to have a walk around the village, tracing the path of River Eea. 

Even if it wasn’t home to one of the worlds best restaurants, picturesque Cartmel would be worth a visit.

Possibly unfairly, it has recently been called ‘Roganville’ due to the number of establishments Rogan has here.

While we walk around we discover why. Almost everywhere you look, L’Enclume employees are busily hurrying in and out of buildings dotted around the village, all working feverishly to make the great engine work.

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Should you ever make the trip, I encourage you to play a game somewhat alike Whac-A-Mole; you win a point for every L’Enclume employee you spot entering or exiting an unexpected property. The loser pays the bill at the restaurant.

Just perfect dishes, showing faultless technique at every service; extremely rare, and the highest accolade the Guide can give.
— The Good Food Guide ’10’ rating

We arrive at the restaurant just before 7pm and are met by Sean, L’Enclume’s assistant head waiter, who shows us to our table in the conservatory.

L’Enclume is housed in a 700 year-old stone-built former smithy.

The interior is almost Scandi-style with rugged whitewashed walls, plenty of slate, glass and dark wood; bringing many of the Lake District's natural elements into the dining room. Decorative metal wall panels and a couple of anvils are dotted around (L’Enclume is French for the anvil).

Service is the perfect mix of friendly-formal. Too often in fine dining restaurants the service can be awkwardly formal, uncomfortably so. Not here. Sean takes the opportunity to ask if we have any food allergies that they should be aware of and, despite them being on the menu, takes it in his stride when my wife informs him that she is allergic to oysters.

L'Enclume vegetarian tasting menu (with optional wine flight)

L'Enclume vegetarian tasting menu (with optional wine flight)

The evenings menu is presented in an envelope on each table. The diner has the choice of whether or not to open it before the meal, or to leave each dish as a surprise.

We’re introduced to Valentin Mouillard the sommelier and, mistakenly believing it will result in fewer glasses of wine, opt for the Standard wine flight as opposed to the Signature (£70 versus £110, per person).

Before our meal begins we’re invited for a tour of the kitchen. During each 3-4 hour evening service this kitchen serves up anywhere between 800 to 1,000 plates of food. 800 to 1,000(!!) 

I expect to find a scene of carnage. Food splattered on the ceiling. Purple-faced chefs bumping into one another. Expletives. Kitchen porters whimpering in the corner.

We’re met with a remarkably calm and spotlessly clean kitchen. A comparatively compact space filled with a relatively young team. At the centre of it, Head Chef Tom Barnes. Cool as an organic cucumber (but not keen on having his photo taken). There’s not a morsel of food on the ceiling or anywhere else for that matter, but for the plates.

Truly, I make more mess when making a single round of toast.

We return to our seats. The main event is upon us. The procession of food and drink is to begin.

I'm no Jay Rayner and don’t have the word-smithery or tastebuds to be a food critic, and so will not go into detail attempting to describe the food. I hope the photographs speak for themselves. If they don't, the accolades the restaurant routinely receives surely do.

If you've read our Fäviken review, you will have read that I am vegetarian, my wife is not. I'll show each course, and where the dishes differ - many courses were the same for us both - will present my wife’s meal first followed by mine (denoted with a v).

Beetroot and vegetate (v)

Beetroot and vegetate (v)

Fermented tea and pumpkin juice (v)

Fermented tea and pumpkin juice (v)

Chickpea wafer with flowers (v)

Chickpea wafer with flowers (v)

Truffle pudding (v)

Truffle pudding (v)

Stichelton, millet and bone marrow

Stichelton, millet and bone marrow

Turnips, maran yolk, stout (v)

Turnips, maran yolk, stout (v)

Salted gooseberry and herb tart (v)

Salted gooseberry and herb tart (v)

Scallops with kohlrabi and seaweed

Scallops with kohlrabi and seaweed

Kohlrabi and seaweed (v)

Kohlrabi and seaweed (v)

Perilla bouillon & Mushroom bouillon (v)

Artichoke with stout and Ragstone (v)

Artichoke with stout and Ragstone (v)

Aged veal in coal oil, shallot and sorrel

Aged veal in coal oil, shallot and sorrel

Heritage tomato in coal oil, shallot and sorrel (v)

Heritage tomato in coal oil, shallot and sorrel (v)

Grilled prawn, carrot, nasturtium & Roasted carrot and nasturtium (v)

Grilled prawn, carrot, nasturtium & Roasted carrot and nasturtium (v)

Turbot with onions, smoked eel and monk’s beard

Turbot with onions, smoked eel and monk’s beard

Roast Cauliflower, fermented mushroom, yeasted apple (v)

Roast Cauliflower, fermented mushroom, yeasted apple (v)

Turbot with onions, smoked eel and monk’s beard

Turbot with onions, smoked eel and monk’s beard

Roast Cauliflower, fermented mushroom, yeasted apple (v)

Roast Cauliflower, fermented mushroom, yeasted apple (v)

Stuffed cabbage and offal & Stuffed cabbage and mushroom ragout (v)

Stuffed cabbage and offal & Stuffed cabbage and mushroom ragout (v)

Salt baked celeriac (v)

Salt baked celeriac (v)

English mushrooms (v)

English mushrooms (v)

George Norrie, Head Waiter (and part-time forrager)

George Norrie, Head Waiter (and part-time forrager)

Cheese course (v) (optional)

Cheese course (v) (optional)

Valentin Mouillard, Sommelier

Valentin Mouillard, Sommelier

Quince and gingerbread tartlet (v)

Quince and gingerbread tartlet (v)

Liquorice custard and sea buckthorn (v)

Liquorice custard and sea buckthorn (v)


I’m drowning here, and you’re describing the water!
— Melvin Udall

There is a scene in the movie ‘As Good As It Gets’ when Jack Nicholson's character utters the above quote.

It is never far from my mind each time sommelier Valentin Mouillard approaches the table with yet another bottle of wine together with a detailed description of its contents.

Possibly unwisely, given that we’re not big drinkers, my wife and I opt for the Wine Flight and the Cheese Flight. This guarantees that we will be served at least 11 glasses of wine during the meal and, on more than one occasion, our sneakily-efficient sommelier jumps in to top-up our glasses while we are distracted. As a result my wife and I are ‘merry’, and - as you can see - my camera is showing the signs of being inebriated too.

Interestingly, at the start of the evening I was the only person taking photos. Fellow diners look at me with quizzical bemusement while I snap photos of every course. Three-or-so hours later almost every diner has joined me in taking blurry photos of food. Drunk-face selfies appear surprisingly popular too.


Pear, rhubarb and sweet cheese Anvil (v)

Pear, rhubarb and sweet cheese Anvil (v)

Pine cones and mint cake (v)

Pine cones and mint cake (v)

We leave the restaurant at 11pm having enjoyed one of the best meals of our lives.

Overnight a decent coating of snow has fallen on the surrounding hills.

Breakfast is served at Rogan & Co. It's a delicious start to the day, and the perfect way to end our 24 hours at L'Enclume.

As we’re about to begin our journey home we pop into a local store to buy a couple of small presents for our two kids. The friendly shopkeeper enquires if we're here to visit L’Enclume. I ask if she's ever visited: "No, never. My husband probably wouldn't like it. He likes... you know... a big plate of food".

As we discussed at the beginning, for some the cost will be too hard to see past. If you see food as simply a fuel, or a means to an end, then you too probably won't 'get' a restaurant like L'Enclume. 

I struggle to fully describe my attraction to such places, perhaps it is because my wife and I have our own eatery. I was fascinated to see a business, soon to celebrate its 15th anniversary, and what keeps it at the top of its game. 

The UK restaurant industry has never been more competitive and there are more eateries trading today than at any time before. L'Enclume is currently rated as very best of them all. Such consistency is what is most impressive about L’Enclume, the fact that Simon Rogan and his team are able to deliver again and again, year after year.

In a tiny village in rural Cumbria a talented team are skilfully producing some of the world’s best food. A mile away, in L'Enclume, a team of expert chefs are creating award winning dishes from that produce.

If you visit make sure that you take in the whole experience and be sure to visit Our Farm. It is pivotal to the success of the restaurant, and it cannot be a coincidence that in each of the 4 years since Our Farm was born, L’Enclume has been named the UK’s best restaurant.

We thoroughly enjoyed our L’Enclume experience. The only way we can think to better it is to dine at the Aulis development kitchen, something we plan to do soon.

 

Many thanks to Simon, David, Amy, Mataya, Laura, Laudy, Clare, Sean, George and Valentin at L’Enclume, and Samantha at TCS for making our stay so enjoyable.

L’Enclume

Cavendish Street, Cartmel, Cumbria, LA11 6PZ

01539 536 362

Photography by mahon.photo

Wahaca, Liverpool

With the exception of a few flimsy fajitas made at home, or a tray of nachos at the cinema, I’ve not tried much Mexican cuisine. Drinks are a different story (I’m looking at you Tequila!) So when my brother suggested trying a new Mexican restaurant for lunch, I wasn’t too enthused. However, he was paying….

Wahaca is a Mexican street food restaurant on College Lane in Liverpool One. The Wahaca restaurant group was created in 2007 by Masterchef winner Thomasina Miers. A move inspired by her travels to Mexico and falling in love with the country and cuisine. 

Miers teamed up with fellow Mexico enthusiast Mark Selby to open a restaurant back home. They aimed to recreate the vibrant colours, flavours and character that they had both experienced in Mexico’s markets. The group has since grown and now has 24 eateries throughout the UK. 

Determined to do things a little differently to the usual Mexican food offerings, the menu focuses on freshly prepared dishes designed for sharing. The restaurant sources tequila and mescal direct from Mexico.

Wahaca have an honest approach to their menu. An authentic meal experience that shows off the vibrancy and freshness of real Mexican food. Think freshly made guacamole with lime juice, ripe Hass avocados, seasonal vegetables and zingy salsas. 

The decor is equally as zingy. Bold blues, yellows and greens are used throughout. There's an outside terrace area for customers as well as a football table. This place will certainly brighten up a dull day. 

Our waiter, Joey, suggested we order 2-3 smaller dishes each to share between us.  My brother is also vegetarian which meant we could sample plenty of dishes during our visit.

Joey circled each of our choices on our paper menus. Shortly thereafter our dishes began arriving, as and when they were ready…

Plantain tacos with sweet and spicy chipotle adobe and feta.

Roasted sweet potato, feta and caramelised red onion wrapped in a crispy blue tortilla and dotted with salsa. 

Slow cooked black bean and cheese quesadillas. 

And, crispy fried chunks of sweet potato. 

So, am I a Mexican food convert? Put it this way, if Donald Trump knew authentic Mexican cuisine was this good, he definitely wouldn’t be building that wall!

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