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!


Sunday, 4 March 2018

Restaurant Review: New Menu at Bundobust, Manchester


A food review today and not a new restaurant opening, rather a menu relaunch from an old favourite of mine, Bundobust!

The independent Indian street food and craft beer concept, first established in Leeds before opening in Manchester in 2016, has a really laidback vibe and great food - a winning combination that still sees this Piccadilly basement restaurant packed out on a regular basis.

I've resolved to try to eat a little less meat this year, something that isn't going fantastically well. When I heard that Bundobust were relaunching their entirely meat-free menu with new additions and improved recipes, I knew it was something I wanted to check out*!

Having already got firm favourites in mind, I headed into town after work one evening to see if any of the new dishes could top the old classics.

Bundobust Indian Street Food Piccadilly
Bundobust Indian Street Food Piccadilly

One of the great things about Bundobust is that the drinks line-up is as equally in the limelight as the food. Their ever-changing blackboard of regional and wider-known independent beers is certainly impressive and the staff are more than happy to offer up their knowledge and a little taster if (like me) you find it hard to choose!

My date's Bombay Dazzler, created in collaboration with Bundobust by Yorkshire Brewery Northern Monk, was so good that I had to order one on the next round. With flavours of ginger, cardamom and coriander, it paired perfectly with the Indian spices.

Bundobust have also added an array of new cocktails to their drinks list. I opted for a Desi 75 - a refreshing mix of Sipsmith sloe gin, lemon, cinnamon syrup and prosecco.

Northern Monk Bombay Dazzler Bundobust
Desi 75 cocktail Bombay Dazzler Bundobust

On to the food!

As well as reworked dishes, there are five brand new additions to the Bundobust menu that we were presented with. They are (clockwise as pictured below):

GOBI MUSHROOM MANCHURIAN - Mushroom & cauliflower pakoras in an Indo-Chinese sauce

PANEER KADAI - Paneer cheese cooked in a deep cinnamon, fenugreek, red pepper & tomato sauce. Served with bhatura

PAV BHAJI - Mashed up cauliflower, potato & peas. Flavoured with garam massala. Served with a spiced toasted brioche bun

RAGHDA PETHIS - a spicy mushy peas & potato cake, topped with turmeric noodles, tomato, onion & tamarind chutney

CHOLE SAAG - Chickpea & spinach massala. Served with puri

Bundobust Manchester new street food menu
Bundobust Manchester new dishes
Bundobust Chickpea Curry

There's some great additions here! I love that most of the more substantial items come with a bread on the side. I wasn't so sure about the toasted brioche bun but the bhatura and puri were excellent - light and tasty and perfect for dipping!

For me, the Paneer Kadai was definitely a highlight. Even though it was full of delicious, big chunks of paneer cheese, it wasn't too rich at all. The sauce was deep, smokey and aromatic - just perfect!

My favourite dish however was the the Chole Saag. This chickpea curry was so unbelievably tasty, with a rich massala sauce and folded fried puri on the side for scooping up every last bit (which I did).

Bundobust Indian Street Food
Bundobust Vegetarian Indian Food Manchester

Of course we couldn't resist ordering our favourites from the last visit: the Tarka Dhal, a classic medium cumin-infused lentil curry sat atop basmati rice, and the Vada Pav, a spiced fried potato burger. I don't know what it is about the Vada Pav but I found myself thinking about it regularly - thankfully, it was just as good as I remembered!

Bundobust Vada Pav Potato Burger

With an all-vegetarian, mostly vegan and often gluten-free menu, Bundobust surely is a crowd-pleaser - even for an enthusiastic carnivore like myself!

You can check out the full Bundo menu here.

Are you a street food fan?


Sunday, 18 February 2018

Escape to the Country: A Weekend in the Lakes


Today I've got a bit of a mish-mash of pictures from last weekend. February is pretty special for us as it's when we got together (a whole nine years ago now!) and also when we got engaged, on Valentine's Day two years ago.

At Christmas, we got a really thoughtful gift from Chris' family of a one-night getaway voucher. If you follow me on social you might've seen that we recently booked New York for our wedding anniversary in July so we thought it'd be nice to use the voucher for a little break between Christmas and the big trip!

Even though I'm from North Yorkshire and fairly near the Lake District, I've never actually been for longer than a day trip. We'd been saying for a while that it'd be nice to spend a day or two up there so it seemed like the perfect opportunity!

We found the perfect little base at the wonderful String of Horses Inn about 15 minutes from Carlisle - a great location for the North Lakes.

As we couldn't check in until 3pm on the Saturday, we headed into central Carlisle for a few hours first.

Outside Carlisle Castle
Pizza at Dutch Uncle

Now, I have been to Carlisle a few times before and I wasn't really sure what we'd have to do there...

We decided to head to the castle first but having set off later than we wanted to, it had just closed by the time we got there! We had a little wander along the castle walls as you could walk all the way around the exterior.

You might be getting the impression by now that we hadn't planned this trip particularly well...

I was under the impression that Hadrian's Wall ran near enough through the city centre too but after trekking up and down a few of the trail paths, we realised that it was probably a few miles before we would reach anything resembling the wall.

With that, we gave up and did what we do best - went for some food and a beer! We came across the brilliant Dutch Uncle, tucked away within Carlyle Court, not far from the castle grounds.

This casual bar/restaurant was just what we were looking for with a small but interesting street food-inspired menu, cocktail list and great beers at good value.

We shared a Nduja, Prosciutto and Rosemary Pizza with a side of Dutch Truffle Fries with Garlic Mayo which was insanely good!

With that, we headed to the hotel.

String of Horses Carlisle Bedroom
String of Horses Faugh Heads Nook
String of Horses Room Carlisle

The String of Horses is based in the small village of Faugh, Heads Nook, just outside of Carlisle. It's a traditional coaching inn; I LOVE old pubs, especially having worked in one back home for around 6 years.

I must say, I didn't know what to expect of this one as a hotel but it completely blew me away! Our room was so lovely and the whole inn itself has so much charm - with proper oak panelling, brasses and ornaments lining the walls, wooden beams, leaded windows, open fires, winding corridors and low ceilings.

Satin duster jacket - Lavish Alice (sample sale)
Off-shoulder choker tee - Tobi*
Green tassel earrings - H&M
Leggings - Tobi*
Polka dot socks - Joanie
Gold holographic sandals - ASOS

Our voucher included a meal so we chilled out in the room a while before getting a little dressed up for some hearty pub food for dinner!

I've been living in these black moto leggings from Tobi lately! I teamed them with my off-shoulder choker tee - I love that it shows off my new roman numerals shoulder tattoo.

String of Horses inside pub
String of Horses Carlisle Sticky Toffee Pudding

Sunday was earmarked for exploring the Lakes. Being at the north side of the area, we chose Keswick for our day trip.

Our minuscule amount of research took us to Derwentwater, a three-mile long lake in Keswick, surrounded by dramatic peaks.

We weren't really equipped for much walking so we parked up by the lakeside and strolled around the water's edge and took a little trail up to the Friar's Crag viewpoint. Even though it was on-off raining/snowing, the views were beautiful!

Derwentwater Lake Cumbria
Keswick views Lake District
Keswick Lake District
The Lakes, Keswick Derwentwater

A brief stop in Keswick town centre for lunch and we were off to our last activity - something I booked in advance and was really excited about!

I can't remember how I came across Alpacaly Ever After (great pun), I think it was on Tripadvisor, but it was such a good shout!

We spent Sunday afternoon with Farmer Terry (super friendly and knowledgeable) and his rescue alpacas - even getting to feed them and take selfies with these cute and goofy animals. A perfect day!

Apacas Keswick
Alpaca Farm Lake District

I'd love to go back with some proper hiking gear in the summer and do some further exploring.

Have you been to this part of the Lakes before?


Sunday, 4 February 2018

A Little Bit of What You Fancy (Does You Good)


As we step into February, I was thinking about what myself and so many people around me have sacrificed during the month of January.

I'd put on weight last year after our wedding (which I fully expected after letting go so spectacularly!) so I'd decided that as soon as January hit, I was going to get serious about getting back into shape.

There seems to be opposing views on New Year's resolutions but I am firmly in the camp that if it takes a new year to give you a fresh start and the motivation you need to achieve your goals then good for you, girl! For me, I like to indulge a little at Christmas - drinking, eating, partying, spending, you name it - so January is the perfect clean slate.

Once January hit, I gave myself a week's grace and then it was straight into an intense diet and increased activity down at the gym. I've made some great progress so far - but approaching the last week of the month, I realised that I was unnecessarily punishing myself.

Like many of my friends around me (who've been doing Dry January, cutting things out like carbs and sugar and putting themselves on a spending ban), I was becoming miserable! I found myself not looking forward to weekends because I didn't want to make plans that would involve meals out, alcohol or even caffeine - I was happier in work, keeping myself busy without temptation.

And that's when I decided it was time to ease up. Having a treat every now and again isn't failing; sometimes it's needed to help you stay on the right track.

With that in mind, I allowed myself the first treat of the month - a wander into Altrincham with lunch out at Toast and a potter around the market, plus a few beers later on. It's not much but it did me the world of good!

January ootd - Green Faux Fur Coat and Fedora

Fedora hat - Primark
Green faux fur coat - Mango
Jumper - Tobi*
Velvet constellation bag - Ali Express
Leggings - Tobi*
Boots - Office

Blogger Prada Dupe - Velvet Star Bag
Latte at Toast, Altrincham
Interior Toast Altrincham
Brunch Toast Altrincham
Flowers at Altrincham Market
Browsing Stalls Altrincham Market
Altrincham Market Photo Stall

Even though I wasn't overly dressed up, feeling happy in my new casual pieces from newly discovered site Tobi, just slapping on a bit of makeup and getting out really lifted my spirits.

Sometimes I think I can be a bit hard on myself; I always strive to do the best that I possibly can and recently, I've been reflecting on the fact that not only is this not always possible, it's not necessary either. 

As part of the goals I've set for myself this year, I want to give my wellbeing a bit more attention. I need to remember that I don't have to go through life at 100mph, all or nothing. I can, in fact, take more time out for myself and not feel bad about doing so. 

So with my health goals in mind, I've decided that I don't have to smash them in record time - I can take things a little slower and not completely deprive myself of  everything. 

It's all compromise and I need to get better at not beating myself up over the small obstacles that make reaching life's goals that bit more enjoyable.

Did you set any New Year's resolutions? Do you feel differently about them now we've reached February?

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