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!


Thursday, 26 April 2018

Restaurant Review: New Opening - Tre Ciccio, Altrincham


Today's post brings another exciting new restaurant opening in Altrincham, Tre Ciccio!

Tre Ciccio's concept is simple - authentic, rustic Italian food created with great ingredients and a small menu focused around classic Neapolitan wood-fired pizzas and slow-roasted chicken.

The restaurant has been trading for a few weeks but has very recently unveiled its new outdoor terrace area - just in time for the pre-summer heatwave we've had!

I popped along to the launch night of the terrace area a few weeks ago so was delighted to be invited back for the full dining experience*.

We unknowingly picked a fantastic day to visit; booking for Wednesday last week when the UK's mini heatwave kicked off. I rang ahead to ensure we were sat in the wonderful outdoor terrace area to make the most of the weather.

Italian Altrincham Tre Ciccio Outside
Tre Ciccio Italian Altrincham Menu

We kicked things off with a light house pinot grigio while we perused the menu. I loved that the wine was served traditionally in tumblers like most great Italians do!

Italian Altrincham Outdoor Terrace
Bread Basket Tre Ciccio Altrincham
Fried Seafood Fish Tre Ciccio Altrincham
Mozzarella Bites Tre Ciccio Altrincham

Tre Ciccio have a great antipasti selection, made up of traditional Italian appetisers. We decided to share so ordered the Pane e Pinzimonio - a bread basket of warm focaccia, Altamura bread and crisp Carasau, accompanied by olive oil and balsamic to dip; the Cuoppo Fritto - a Neapolitan-style selection of lightly fried sea food including calamari, prawns and small whole fish served with lemon and garlic mayonnaise and lastly, Bocconcini Fritti - lightly crumbed and fried buffalo mozzarella bites with fresh basil and Marzano tomato sauce.

Tre Ciccio Outdoor Terrace Seating
Tre Ciccio Altrincham Salernitana Pizza
Tre Ciccio Italian Wood Fired Pizza
Tre Ciccio Altrincham Salernitana Pizza
Tre Ciccio Altrincham Calzone

Though Tre Ciccio's Italian-style roast chicken was tempting, we're both big pizza fans and having been greeted with the restaurant's huge pizza oven on arrival on the top floor, there's no way we could pass them up!

The pizza menu is made up of 'Classic' and 'Gourmet' pizzas. There's a wide range of options (while still being authentic - absolutely no BBQ sauce bases or pineapple here!) and I truly struggled to choose!

I finally settled on the Salernitana - topped with sliced pancetta, fior di latte cheese, parmesan and basil. My date went for the Calzone Napoletano - traditional folded pizza with salami, prosciutto, fior di latte cheese and basil.

My pizza was so good! Amazingly tasty and fresh toppings with a wonderfully chewy and slightly charred crust characteristic of a perfect wood-fired pizza!

The calzone was awesome too - piping hot inside with the ideal amount of filling and not too doughy.

As the sun set out on the terrace, we decided to share a tiramisu too (which by this point was too dark to capture!) and it topped off a fantastic meal perfectly!

Tre Ciccio is super close to where I live so I'm excited to have somewhere this good to stroll over the bridge to after work for a few beers and great pizza.

I'd definitely recommend this unassuming Italian for perfectly executed, authentically Neapolitan pizzas with a laidback, friendly neighbourhood atmosphere. They definitely give Altrincham Market favourite, Honest Crust some honest competition (geddit)! With the added bonus of having your own table!

Will you be visiting Tre Ciccio the next time you're in Altrincham?


Thursday, 22 March 2018

Restaurant Review: New Opening - Blanchflower, Altrincham


Today I've got a food review - and an exciting one at that! A new Manchester gem, recently opened in my town of Altrincham.

Alty newcomer, Blanchflower opened up by the popular market hall a few weeks back for brunch/lunch and I'd often wandered slowly past the window, making a mental note to check out their Eggs Benedict.

I was delighted to hear that they had just launched into evening service with an exciting and innovative menu, keeping their core 'artisan bakery' status as a key component. With this, I was thrilled to accept their invitation to try out the new menu*.

Let's delve in!

N.B. since my visit, Blanchflower's menu, along with portion sizes, have changed somewhat. The below review is based on the smaller plate sizes, with us choosing five dishes to share.

Altrincham Blanchflower Menu

As touched upon above, the bakery element is Blanchflower's real selling point. Having taken centre stage during the day with freshly baked bread and pastry; baked goods are certainly not forgotten during the evening. 

After settling at our table, we were given the most magnificent bread bowl. Every kind of bread was explained (their signature sourdough bread is the product of a three-day process, don't you know?) and we were encouraged to let the waiting staff know if more was desired. My favourite item was the sea salt 'cracker' which was beautifully crisp and covered in just the right amount of coarse sea salt. Accompanying our bread was a saucer of house-made thyme butter - delicious!

The best bit? Complimentary, of course. No overpriced stale hunks of baguette added to the bill here!

Though only just opened for dinner service, the restaurant was surprisingly busy and so I struggled to get many shots of the interior. 

Blanchflower manages to achieve an almost industrial cool, while still feeling like an intimate dining experience. Modern without being overly slick, the atmosphere pairs perfectly with the food.

First Round

As noted above, we were advised to order five dishes to share (without puddings). The menu is split into sections, 'Bar Snacks', 'Small Plates', 'Larger Plates' and 'Puddings' and the dishes brought out in order of their respective position on the menu.

I was very pleased to hear this as sharing small plates is my favourite kind of eating; there's nothing worse than food envy!

Our first choices were the Fried Buttermilk Chicken with Homemade Sriracha Mayo and the Ox Cheek Croquettes with Truffle Mayo.

The chicken could have possibly had a little more seasoning for my taste but was crisp on the outside and lovely and juicy inside. The sriracha mayo was an excellent accompaniment too.

The ox cheek croquettes were incredible and quite possibly my favourite dish of the meal! They melted in the mouth and were full of flavour. As someone who loves the taste of truffle too, the mayo really took these to the next level!

Second Round

Our third dish hot off the counter was Rainbow Trout with Fermented Pepper Hollandaise, Potatoes and Chives.

This was our 'wild card' dish - not something either of us would usually order but it sounded interesting so we went for it!

It turned out to be one of the highlights. The fish was cooked perfectly with a crispy skin and the hollandaise with the peppers made it really flavoursome. 

Third Round

We were looking forward to these! The larger plates were certainly more substantial and looked impressive!

We chose the Free-Range Herb Feb Chicken with Green Sauce and Roast Jerusalem Artichoke and the Charcoal Grilled Bavette Steak with Potato Gratin and Juniper Carrots.

The chicken was probably my least favourite dish of the evening. Usually a safe bet, I found myself leaning towards the bigger flavours of the other dishes we tried - it was still delicious!

Another highlight of the meal was the bavette steak. Full of flavour and charred on the outside, it was perfectly cooked - and the potato gratin was amazing! 


Comfortably satisfied, there was still room for dessert!

Our waiter recommended the Cardamon Spiced Custard Tart with Poached Rhubarb which I didn't hesitate to choose, while my date opted for the Apple & Almond Streusel Tart.

I thoroughly enjoyed the custard tart but have to say that the apple tart (which I stole a mouthful of) topped it!

I think that Blanchflower is a fantastic addition to Altrincham's burgeoning food scene. Style and substance and a focus on quality ingredients make this place a real gem, almost too good to share. I think I've found my favourite local restaurant!

I'll definitely be back to try their brunch soon.

Let me know if you agree that Blanchflower looks like a restaurant worth travelling out of Manchester for!

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