Friday, 8 June 2018

Restaurant Review: Blue Pig, Northern Quarter, Manchester


A restaurant review from Manchester city centre today - and not another new venue that's sprung up either...

If you're familiar with Manchester, you'll have undoubtedly come across The Blue Pig before. This pretty blue traditional-looking pub sits in the heart of Manchester's Northern Quarter, close to the market side of the Arndale centre.

Not necessarily known for food previously, other than maybe a quick bowl of chips or a Sunday Lunch, The Blue Pig have relaunched their food and drinks menu with a fresh new take on pub fare! With this NQ stalwart under new management, I was happy to oblige when asked to visit to check out their new offerings*.

The Blue Pig pub Northern Quarter
The Blue Pig NQ New Menu

The new menu is perfect for grazing (my favourite kind of eating!) with their main 'Deli Menu' centred around charcuterie boards.

With a menu packed with a huge selection of cured meats and cheeses, artisan breads, pate and terrines, seafood and small plates - and all reasonably priced - this was right up my street.

We were treated to a 'tasting' evening to sample the new menu, trying a mix of some of the hero items, expertly paired with complementing drinks too.

Negroni Bramble at the Blue Pig NQ
Pork Crackling at Blue Pig NQ
The Blue Pig Northern Quarter Cocktails

To whet our appetite, we started with a cocktail: the Negroni Bramble - a refreshing mix of Tanqueray gin, Lillet and Pampelle grapefruit liqueur.

This was paired with pork crackling with fennel and coriander. This was incredible! I love pork crackling and you could tell some effort had gone into this. We were told that this was made with the Sunday Roasts at the weekend. It was so tasty and crispy - and huge!

Charcuterie Board The Blue Pig Manchester
Charcuterie Board The Blue Pig Northern Quarter
Charcuterie Board The Blue Pig NQ
Charcuterie Board The Blue Pig Northern Quarter
Charcuterie Board The Blue Pig Northern Quarter

Next up was the best bit for me - cured meats, cheeses and crackers!

This board was amazing; piled high with salami, extra mature cheddar, red Leicester, homemade fennel crackers, pickled vegetables and chilli jam.

You could taste the quality in all the components. The fennel crackers and cheeses in particular were really good.

Accompanied by a large glass of Spanish house red, this was definitely my favourite course. You can't beat cheese and red wine!

Tasting Board The Blue Pig Northern Quarter
The Blue Pig Manchester Vegetarian Food
The Blue Pig Manchester
The Blue Pig Northern Quarter

Continuing our feast was another sharing board! This time stacked with nibbles from the Small Plates and Seafood dishes.

The biggest eye-drawing item on the board has to be the vegetarian scotch egg! Created with a runny duck egg in the centre, sat atop ginger and rhubarb jam and encased in a beetroot falafel shell. As beautiful as this looked, it just wasn't for me - I think I love real scotch eggs too much! I found the beetroot falafel a little bland but the egg in the centre was gorgeous.

The board also featured feta-stuffed crispy olives with romesco sauce. I actually don't like olives but the beautiful sauce, creamy feta and crispy coating made these just about okay which is a big win for me!

My two favourite items were the tempura jerk prawns with citrus mayo and the Asian pork bon bons with pickled mooli and wasabi. The jury's out on which dish I favoured most - both were delicious. Did I know what mooli was? no (it's a type of radish, by the way); did I care? Absolutely not, it complemented the sweet and tender pork bon bons perfectly. The prawns were also awesome; lightly battered with great seasoning and a bit of a kick and juicy inside!

The Blue Pig Northern Quarter Lemon Curd Collins
The Blue Pig NQ Lemon Curd Collins
The Blue Pig NQ Chocolate Fondant
The Blue Pig NQ Chocolate Fondant

Last but by certainly no means least - dessert!

Our dessert was paired with a superb cocktail - the Lemon Curd Collins. Created with Ketel One Citron, Limoncello, real lemon curd, vanilla syrup, orange bitters and a splash of soda, it was both refreshing and sweet - the perfect palette cleanser. I'll definitely be back to order a round of these!

Then the pudding, oh the pudding. A classic chocolate fondant is one of my firm favourites and this one was wonderfully rich and gooey on the inside as it should be. The perfect size too to top of our tasting evening.

All in all, I was thoroughly impressed with The Blue Pig's new menu - I never expected to find food like this in such a setting. I'm ashamed to admit that I would have happily walked by The Blue Pig previously and would never consider visiting for something to eat but the quality, care and thought that's gone into their new menu is incredible.

There's so much on the menu that I know I'll love so I can't wait to go back, especially as everything is so reasonably priced - like their all-day charcuterie and cheese board offer of any 3 for £7, or 5 for £10. It's the perfect sharing lunch option for a catch-up with friends over a few cocktails!

Have you ever visited The Blue Pig for food and would you go back for this new menu?


Thursday, 31 May 2018

Bongo's Bingo - Manchester's Most Fun Night Out?


Coming at you with a review that's a little different today!

I was kindly invited down to Bongo's Bingo* at Manchester's Albert Hall so that I could share my experience with you lovely lot.

So what is Bongo's Bingo, exactly? Well, I'd say it's a cross between a rave, bingo hall gaming and a risqué comedy show - throw in alcohol, rowdy crowd-participation and even a box or two of Coco Pops and you've got yourself a fun-filled night!

This time I popped along after work on a weeknight so it was ever so slightly less raucous (only slightly!).

Bongo's Bingo Albert Hall Manchester
Bongo's Bingo Albert Hall Manchester
Bongo's Bingo Albert Hall Manchester

Firstly, it has to be said that the Albert Hall is just the most stunning venue. The Grade II listed Wesleyan chapel has been lovingly restored by the folks behind neighbouring venue Albert's Schloss and still retains a lot of the original features, like the amazing stained glass windows.

Pleasantries aside, time for bingo! 

Night Out Bongos Bingo

 So what went on? The night saw several dance-offs, a glow stick-filled interlude and of course, loads of off-the-wall prizes - which on the night included a life-size cut-out of daytime TV king, Phillip Schofield; a huge inflatable dinghy and a Henry Hoover! Of course there were also traditional prizes like cash and even a holiday up for grabs too!

It's difficult to capture just how fun Bongo's Bingo really is. Looking back at my photos, I've missed confetti cannons, balloons, mass singalongs, table dancing and shouting profanities at total strangers (absolutely necessary and encouraged for the faux-winners!) - all I can say is that I was too busy joining in!

The night is absolute mayhem from start to finish but it's completely brilliant.

Bongo's Bingo in Manchester
Manchester's most fun night out

Crazy, chaotic and a whole lot of fun - Bongo's Bingo is an absolute must do. I guarantee that your face will hurt from laughing at the end of the night!

You'll want to book tickets so be sure to check out the upcoming dates in Manchester - and great news for anyone outside of the city, Bongo's Bingo tours the country so it's likely there's an event close by!

Have you been to Bongo's Bingo or is it something you think looks like fun?


Saturday, 19 May 2018

Restaurant Review: Mr Lau's Dim Sum Bar & Restaurant: Warrington


Another restaurant review for you today - and once again I've strayed from Manchester city centre!

I was kindly asked to try out Mr Lau's Dim Sum Bar & Restaurant*, a well-established eatery in Warrington town centre.

Warrington is not too far from us at all (in fact, we technically have a Warrington postcode!) but it's not somewhere I've thought to try for a meal out.

I'm a big fan of Chinese food but usually opt for a takeaway rather than a sit-in dining experience so I was unsure what to expect from a restaurant I'd not heard of before.

Mr Lau's Dim Sum Bar & Restaurant
Mr Lau's Dim Sum Bar & Restaurant
Mr Lau's Dim Sum Bar & Restaurant
Mr Lau's Dim Sum Bar & Restaurant Cocktail Happy Hour

Mr Lau's is definitely deceiving! It doesn't look like much from the outside but upon walking through the door and ascending the stairs, you'll find a real feel-good atmosphere. The music is pumping and the bar area has a great buzz about it - it becomes clear that this is not simply somewhere to just eat Chinese food!

The seated restaurant is found down another set of steps - a large, modern space with low level lighting and an open kitchen at the back for all guests to see.

We were promptly greeted by our cheerful and friendly server who ushered us towards the cocktail list while we browsed the vast menu (seriously, I wanted to take a picture of how large it physically is but couldn't get it in shot!).

Encouraged to get two cocktails as it was Happy Hour, I didn't need much convincing to oblige and ordered a couple of Lychee Martinis which were absolutely delicious!


Unlike a lot other Chinese restaurants, Mr Lau's is specially dedicated to Dim Sum - small dishes of traditional bites and steamed dumplings or buns, usually shared around the table. I love this style of eating so I was more than happy to try a few different items for our starter.

The easiest dish for us to choose was the Char Siu Bao - a small plate of beautifully fluffy steamed bao buns, filled with sweet and sticky roasted pork pieces. These were totally divine and tasted really authentic and homemade.

Next up was the Siu Long Bao - another pork-based option but this time in the form of a steamed dumpling. Steamed dumplings usually divide my husband and I - I love them, while he usually finds that they're not to his taste though he's happy to try them. These ones were delicious; served in a traditional steamer basket, they were light and packed full of well-seasoned filling. They were so big, they were difficult to tackle with the chopsticks!

Finally, we opted for an item from the 'Gourmet Dim Sum' selection, Crispy Prawn Wontons. I usually find wontons a bit hit and miss when ordering them from takeaways - very often they are over-fried, resulting in a rock-hard dry outer pastry. These however were the best I've ever tried! The pastry was flaky and just the right amount of crispy, while the whole prawns inside were huge, juicy and incredibly tasty. 

Mr Lau's Dim Sum Bar & Restaurant
Mr Lau's Dim Sum Bar & Restaurant
Mr Lau's Dim Sum Bar & Restaurant


Happy to continue the sharing of dishes, we chose a couple of our usual favourites for our main courses.

First, Salt and Pepper ribs. I adore the flavours of Chinese salt and pepper seasoning. I've actually recently begun to get to the bottom of a food intolerance and while I struggle with onions and garlic in particular, I'm happy to take the risk and discard the larger pieces to enjoy that classic salt and pepper flavour!

The ribs were huge and plentiful - we would definitely order these again!

Our second choice was Char Siu Peking - roast pork (at this point, I realise we had a lot of pork during this meal!) in a sticky, sweet peking sauce. I'd say that this dish was smaller in size but with plenty of large pieces of melt-in-the-mouth pork, it was more than enough to share.

We also complemented the mains with side orders of salt and pepper chips and egg-fried rice. 

The huge portions at Mr Lau's unfortunately meant we had zero room for dessert - we left feeling very full and incredibly satisfied with the standard of food and service we received.

We're not short of reasons to return either, especially with lots of offers through the week to enjoy including 'Dim Sum Mondays' (all Classic Dim Sum dishes at £2.95 each), 'Half Price Wednesdays' (50% off the entire a la carte menu) and 'Aromatic Fridays' (free crispy duck!).

We loved the party atmosphere at the restaurant, perfect for continuing your evening with friends - quite possibly at the fabulous Emily's cocktail bar next door!

Is Chinese food something you like to choose for a meal out?


Sunday, 29 April 2018

Kahlúa Brunch Club - The Loft, Manchester


Something fun in Manchester city centre today - Brunch!

Last Sunday I headed down to new venue space, The Loft for the Kahlúa Brunch Club* - a boozy breakfast club with added interactivity in a cool industrial setting.

The top floor of 13 Quay Street (just on the edge of Spinningfields/off Deansgate) has been taken over by drinks group Pernod Ricard and transformed into a big communal bar space for hosting pop-up events focused around their portfolio of spirit brands which include Havana Club rum, Absolut vodka and Beefeater gin.

I was super excited to hear about the Kahlúa Brunch Club as I'm already a huge fan of the liqueur - a White Russian is my favourite cocktail!

Promising a delicious two-course brunch along with two Kahlúa-based cocktails to accompany the food, I was ready to get my brunch on!

Kahlua Brunch Club The Loft Quay Street
Brunch Club at The Loft Manchester
The Loft Quay Street Manchester
Kahlua Brunch Club at The Loft

The Loft is a brilliant space, created with plenty of exposed brick, reclaimed wood and heaps of industrial cool.

So much detail had been put into bringing the Mexican flavour of the Kahlúa brand into the space; with bright bunting, scattered coffee beans, cactus decorations and yellow flowers.

The team had also made a really cool lounge area to relax in before the brunch fun - with comfy seats, a dart board and foosball table. We were also encouraged to hang out in the space after the event if we wanted to, where the bar was also opened to continue the fun!

Kahlua Quay Street Manchester
Kahlua Brunch Club Manchester
Kahlua Brunch Club Cocktail Making
Espresso Martini Cocktail Making Manchester

Before our first course, we were each given the tools and ingredients needed to make our own espresso martinis, with easy to follow instruction from the event team.

Having worked in various bars and in particular a cocktail bar, I have to admit that I don't usually like cocktail making exercises! I enjoy making cocktails at home and for friends but if I'm going out, I tend to like my drinks making for me nowadays! Though I do get that for some people, it is a nice novelty.

Fortunately the cocktail making here wasn't particularly labour-intensive! We were given a mini shaker containing the espresso, Kahlúa and vodka, already measured out. All that was needed was the addition of ice, a vigorous shake and a garnish with coffee beans.

Kahlua Stack Poached Egg Hollandaise Avocado
Kahlua Brunch Club The Loft Manchester
Kahlua Brunch Club Manchester Pancakes

The set two-course food menu on offer is together by local caterers Grape & Grain.

First up was 'The Eggcellent Kahlúa Stack' - a twist on an Eggs Benedict, with smashed avocado on an English muffin topped with a poached egg and Kahlúa and maple infused ham. This was delicious and the extra hollandaise sauce housed in an empty egg shell was a fun touch!

Next on the menu, 'Kahlúa Rainbow Cakes' - a colourful stack of pancakes topped with Kahlúa infused warm chocolate sauce. We were given a selection of toppings to accompany these and not being able to choose just one, I added mini marshmallows, chocolate buttons and fresh strawberries - yum!

Cocktail with Kahlúa Chockahlúa Orange

To finish, a final round of cocktails were distributed - the 'Chockahlúa Orange' was created by Australasia bartender, Chris Bains. I really enjoyed this one - a delectable concoction of Kahlúa, Olmeca Tequila, Crème de Cacao, Orange and Chocolate Powder.

Brunch Club with Kahlúa The Loft Quay Street

Brunch Club Tee - Joanie Clothing
Floral Midi Skirt - Nasty Gal

At just £20 a ticket, the Kahlúa Brunch Club is amazing value - especially considering that the cocktails are £7 each at the bar, so essentially for just £6, you're getting a delicious two-course brunch too!

With dates running all through May, including the Bank Holidays, I'd thoroughly recommend a visit - you can grab your tickets here. Don't miss out before it leaves town!

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