Lebanese at Zaytoon’s

There is a little strip just around the corner from our house, less than a ten minute walk infact, where there are a handful of restaurants and bars. This cluster is home to two of our favourite bars in Chorlton as well as our faithful Yakisoba, always a reliable fallback when we don’t want to/don’t have time to cook.

There are a few other restaurants here that we have been meaning to try for a while and so on Friday night finally got round to visiting the rustic little Lebanese place, called Zaytoon. The place was busier than we have seen it before and we luckily arrived in time to secure the last free table. The owner came over within a few minutes of us sitting down to welcome us and explain the menu which was lovely. This is a small family run establishment with just a handful of tables and shelves down one side of the room stacked with all sorts of knick knacks, it sort of lent the feeling that you were sat in someone’s living room, which I thought was quite a nice touch!

We ordered a beer each and began to peruse the menu, aside from the fact I could see Barlow Moor Road out the window and the icy wind that was whistling around outside, I began to feel  a little like I was on holiday!

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For starters we shared some moutabel – a smoky aubergine dip similar to baba ganoush with toasted pitta breads, and some absolutely delicious falafel which came with tahini and a tasty spicy little salad. I am a big fan of falafel but do often find them to be disappointing – either too dry, too heavy or just plain soggy. These little beauties however were absolutely perfect in both texture and flavour, delicious!

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The menu is quite small, which tends to go down well with me, a few expertly cooked dishes are much better than a large menu of dishes that are just cooked averagely. The owner also reeled off lots of tempting sounding specials however, including lots of fish and lamb dishes, some specifically for two or more people. We decided to order off the menu this first time however, although next time we visit (and there will definitely be a next time!) I think we will sample some of the specials.

Rob ordered a chicken shish kebab while I went for the chicken shawarma, both were served with plenty of hummous, more pitta breads and a lovely big helping of salad. The salad, which had a special name but unfortunately I can’t remember it, was liberally sprinkled with sumac. Sumac has quite a tart, lemony flavour, and it worked really well on top of the salad. I love lemony citrusy flavours anyway (zingy!) so this was a big hit with me, I have already been out to buy some as I think it will be a good way to get Rob to eat more salads!

The chicken kebab was incredibly juicy and moist with a lovely subtle garclicy flavour while the flavouring of the shawarma was a little more robust. Both were very tasty and it just felt nice to eat a nice healthy meal of grilled meat with lots of salad, bursting with flavour. I was impressed with how the sumac helped lift even the most tired bits of iceberg lettuce!

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The menu listed baklava as the only desert, although when you can eat baklava, you don’t need anything else in my opinion! We were trying to be good however so decided to sample this another time! And we definitely will be back to try out some more of these lovely simple homecooked Lebanese dishes, as we assured the owner on our way out the door! It is well worth a visit!

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Chorlton Green Brasserie

So after our great blow-the–cobwebs-away bracing beachy march this weekend, we worked up quite an appetite and finally got around to trying one of Chorlton’s newer additions – Chorlton Green Brasserie. Located at the end of the foody haven that is Beech Road, just opposite favourite Parlour (see post on their award-winning Sunday lunch here) we had high expectations. Luckily we were not disappointed!

The little bistro is done out in a fab mis-matched shabby chic style. It has not been open all that long and I think with maybe just one or two extra additions to make it a little cosier, it will look really great. I was pleased to see that the menu was nice and succinct with just a few dishes to choose from in each section plus a couple of interesting sounding options chalked up on the board. In my opinion it’s much better to do a few dishes really well than produce a menu that is several pages long which takes ages to read! But I’m probably biased given how indecisive I’m known to be!! I also liked that the wines were divided into the sections of Good, Great and Brilliant – a nice touch I thought.

With impressive speed (at least for me!) we picked out our starters – blue cheese and beetroot tartlet for me, poached duck egg with bacon bits on a mustardy potato cake topped with hollandaise for the mister. These were both absolutely delicious. Egg and bacon are of course a classic combo and the little twist on this worked really well. The texture was lifted by some lovely crunchy kale.

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Just look at that perfect ooze!

My blue cheese and beetroot tartlet was equally scrummy, the flavours were really tasty and the pastry nice and crisp. I only realised after hoovering the little beauty up that it hadn’t come with the ‘Manchester salad’ described on the menu – I was only disappointed as I was intrigued to know what such a salad was!

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Onto the mains and Rob chose off the special menu – slow cooked shin of beef with mushrooms in a port reduction with horseradish mash, while I went for the fish pie – made with fresh cuts from local fishmonger Out of the Blue. The beef was fantastic, the port reduction was so tasty and, added bonus, I got to eat all unexpected mushrooms (as he cried out ‘mould’ and ‘fungus’. Weirdo. What sort of person doesn’t like mushrooms?! Sigh, the things I have to put up with…. 😉 )

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Not quite sure what happened to this photo, it’s rather ghoulish! And I didn’t have the chance to take another as it was swiftly demolished with a fork with the horseradish mash plopped on top…! (although only once the ‘mould’ was scooped off of course!)

My fish pie arrived topped with creamy mash and a giant scallop!

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While the flavour was good and there was nothing really wrong with this dish, I have to say it was the one disappointment of the meal. I think for fish pie to be really stand out it has to be truly and absolutely spot on and I think that perhaps I have been spoiled by the bloody brilliant fish pie at Bistro West as well as my other favourite fish pie at a beach-side pub in Elie, Scotland! The odds were probably rather stacked against this poor fella from the start…

By this time we were pretty stuffed, but not to be deterred from our duty of testing out this new restaurant, we gallantly soldiered on and agreed to share a desert – and of course it had to be the Death by Chocolate Pot, especially when I read that this was served with the intriguing sounding beetroot shortbreads!

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Now there have been many Death by Chocolate deserts over the years, but this is one that really is worth dying for! (Well, almost!) It was absolutely sinful, filthy, luscious. Very likely the best chocolate desert I have ever eaten! Yuuuum!

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Desert was accompanied by espresso, look at this adorable cup!

All in all, I think the Brasserie is a welcome addition to Beech Road, plugging the gap for a slightly more upmarket ‘restauranty’ eatery on the road. With a just a few tweaks I think it could go from being Great to Brilliant (as per its wine menu!)


Sunday Lunch at The Parlour

The weekend before last I had a mission – to finally get to The Parlour on a Sunday afternoon in time for Sunday Lunch! Despite living in Chorlton for a year and a half, I have so far failed, despite several attempts, to get to The Parlour early enough to secure a table (you can’t book) for their legendary Sunday roast. (Winner of the Observer Food Monthly’s 2012 Best Sunday Lunch, no less!) The Parlour is one of my favourite places in Chorlton and I have eaten and drunk there many another time, in fact having lunch there one Monday on a day off was a particular tease as we tucked into the leftover roast beef in a sandwich – perfectly pinky red and juicy, cooked exactly to my liking. Mmmmm.

So this weekend we were up bright and early and at The Parlour for a rather early 1240pm! Even still we secured the last table for 4! After a little time warming up and letting our appetites grow while enjoying a pot of tea and the Sunday papers in the lovely cosy relaxing environment of The Parlour, we were ready to order. Despite the fact we knew there was a delicious and massive roast dinner to come, we couldn’t help but order some tasty starters to share. The mackerel pate with granary toast was absolutely delicious and definitely helped whet our appetite.

We moved from tea to red wine and soon it was time for the Main Event! We all went for the roast beef over the pork (or nutroast). It arrived on a plate towering with scrumptious looking food including perfect roast potatoes and mashed potato, roast parsnips, carrot and swede mash, braised red cabbage and a mahoosive Yorkshire pudding. All smothered in a generous helping (there’s nothing worse than having to ask for extra gravy!) of rich and flavoursome gravy. The beef, I must admit, was a teeny bit disappointing, in comparison to the beef I had previously had there – it was only just still pink in the very middle of the slice which is a bit over-cooked for my taste. However, I should probably have specified that I’d like some properly pink juicy meat! The roast potatoes were smashing – perfectly crispy on the outside and soft and fluffy inside. I’m a big fan of roast parsnips and liked that they came glazed with mustard. I’ve never had both mashed potato and roast potatoes on a roast dinner and remain somewhat unconvinced that both are needed. In fact, while the carrot and swede mash was tasty, I may just venture it out there that I’d perhaps like a little more un-mashed veg on my plate, particularly with all that scrummy gravy sloshing around, just to keep the texture varied. But maybe that’s just me! The two real stand outs on the plate for me were the red cabbage and the Yorkshire pudding. Firstly the cabbage, this was a welcome surprise to find on the plate! We couldn’t work out exactly what the flavours were but it seemed almost like cloves or star anise had been used. However it had been cooked, it was absolutely gorgeous! The yorkie, oh the yorkie. Thankfully this was not one of those towering Yorkshire puddings that looks amazing on arrival to promptly flop, collapse and go soggy leaving you underwhelmed and disappointed. No, this was a perfectly cooked Yorkshire pudding. The texture was bang on and it remained resolutely un-soggy right ’til the end – the perfect gravy mopping companion!

Please excuse the pictures, I had to resort to using my phone when my camera battery unexpectedly died!

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Summer Solstice, where are you?

Well the clocks changed here this weekend, the nights are drawing in and today I left the office in the dark. As someone who loves daylight and the sunshine more than most (I think I was born in the wrong country!) this is something that I find really hard to adjust to and I find the lack of sunlight really quite hard to deal with it at times. How can you not feel a bit down when you leave your house in the dark in the morning and leave the office in the dark on the way home? No more walks, runs, bike rides or games of tennis in the park after work now for the next few months! I think the fact that my office is located in the lower ground floor of the building doesn’t really help either! Anyway, now we suddenly have gloomy darkness an hour earlier than we’re used to, it made me cast my mind back to the start of the summer to the longest day – the summer solstice. I always think that the summer solstice feels a little magical – so much promise in the air, the thought of people celebrating this day around the world from ancient times, to pagan times, to today. The feeling of awe and admiration for the power of the sun. Tonight the dark evening made me cast my mind back to this year’s longest day. Here in Chorlton local pub the Horse & Jockey tends to hold a celebration to mark the occasion and this year the night included some highly impressive fire dancers, in the spirit of remembering the (somewhat limited!) warmth and light we enjoyed just a few months ago, I thought I’d share a few pictures here.


Parsnip, Pecan & Maple Cheesecake

We went to my favourite cafe in Chorlton this afternoon, Tea Hive. It’s a lovely little place serving inventive, delicious and always massive slabs of cake as well as tasty and equally massive sandwiches and salads with fresh ingredients and really lovely homademade chutneys and relishes. They serve lots of nice lose leaf teas in mismatched tea pots and vintage style china teacups and saucers. They have a lovely peaceful little courtyard garden out the back where you can sit in the dappled sun and enjoy the use of oversized cups and teapots as plant pots!

Previous favourites have included honey and ginger cake. Today, despite being sorely tempted by the orange and almond cake, I spotted something delicious-looking billed as parsnip, pecan and maple cheesecake. I was intrigued and had to taste it! I can imagine the use of parsnip in cake to create a fluffy, moist sponge, in much the same way as carrot cake or the use of avocado, courgette or beetroot. But in cheesecake? Interesting! I am also a big fan of pecan so we settled on this.

I’m not usually a massive cheesecake fan, but the bearded one is, which is the other reason we settled on this particular delicacy (the pieces are so massive we decided to share a bit so as not to spoil our appetites for tea later –  we had something good planned, which I’ll post another day!!) This cheesecake however was really, really good, the topping was super light and fluffy and not too cloying or rich at all – my usual complaints with cheesecake. The base, I think, was ginger biscuits – another big tick for me! The gingery flavour combined with the pecan and maple was so delicious!

I guess the use of parsnip will have made the mixture really moist without making it too heavy, but as someone who doesn’t usually go for cheesecake, and has never made it, I’m not sure. Anyone else out there made anything similar?


Whisky & Ginger or Rum & Raisin?

We have a lovely old fashioned sweet shop in Chorlton, and I have recently discovered how amaaazing their fudge is. It’s almost like a cross between traditional fudge and that lovely Scottish delicacy I’m so fond of, tablet. Tablet is slightly more brittle than your usual fudge and has a more grainy sugary texture. Very sweet and sickly but oh so yummy!

Having quite a lot of dull tasks to complete this weekend, we decided a little trip to the sweet shop for some treats to help us along would be a good idea. They had so many delicious sounding flavours but we eventually narrowed the options down to whisky & ginger (two of my all time favourite things!) and rum & raisin (such a good combination!). Unfortunately we could not decide between the two and so had no choice but to buy some of each! 🙂

While both were indeed delicious, I liked the ginger & whisky fudge the best. It had a stronger flavour and had actual little pieces of ginger in it, mmm! Both fudges were ridiculously sweet and rich and melted in the mouth. Oh so good!

We also threw in some traditional rosy apples for good measure!

(I must admit I do feel ever so slightly sick now… should probably step away from the fudge for a while…)


Sunshine, cycling and brambles

On arriving home from work this evening, we decided to make the most of what was suddenly turning into a rather beautiful evening and head out for a bike ride. Cycling along with the dappled evening sunshine coming through the trees, warming my skin and raising my spirits, was bliss after a hectic yet dreary day in the office. Particularly as I had started the day shivering into my jacket standing on a tram platform in the sort of incessant drizzly rain that completely soaks you through and saps your spirit in a way no other rain quite does. I think the key to this terrible summer is to really open your eyes and be ready to jump at every opportunity the weather brightens, the day’s are so crazily changeable at the moment that the most horrendous of days can quite suddenly turn into a lovely evening, and vice versa!

As we whizzed along I savoured the feel of the breeze in my hair and on my legs as the skirt of my dress swished around. We continued along our route for a while before passing by a woman with a discarded bicycle at her feet rummaging around in the bushes. We slowed down to stop and I realised there were clumps of brambles, juicy and ripe for the picking. I got quite excited! I adore brambles! Is there a better ingredient out there for a crumble?! They’re also great in cocktails! 😉 However, we had nothing, absolutely no receptacle what-so-ever, in which to take home our forages. I shall have to return, and be more prepared in future!

The picture’s not great as it was taken on a phone, the sky was actually a lovely pale blue with wisps of fluffy clouds, but unfortunately this got rather over exposed!