Restaurant Review | Pre-Theatre Dining Menu, Grafene

It seems to be my weekly activity at trying the pre-theatre dining menus in and around Manchester (I mean, I’m not complaining at all!). Last week, I was fortunate enough to be invited to try the new menu at Grafene. I have been waiting to try the food at Grafene since moving here, so as you can image I was very excited to be able to come and sample some of their favorutirs before heading to the Palace Theatre for an night of entertainemtn.

Grafene’s menu features a British Tapas selection, which is a reflection of brand new head chef Ben Mounsey’s thoughts and feelings about modern British life. Dishes on the menu include cleverly reconstructed classics and plates, giving the customer the opportunity to sample dishes from the dinner menu in a more relaxed format, with three plates for £20.00 and five for £30.00.

Menu

The British Tapas menu.

To start, I had a Passionfruit and White Chocolate Martini, which is a twist on the classic Pornstar Martini. Almost tasting like a mix between a White Magnum ice cream and a Solero ice lolly, the combination of flavours was heavenly, and definitely one I will try again in the future.

Passionfruit and White Chocolate Martini

My passionfruit and white chocolate martini, served with a passionfruit coated with melted white chocolate inside and caramelised on top.

The cocktail menu was very impressive, with original cocktails being added to the mix of more classics, including “The Mancunian” and “Grafene” just to name a few.

But, more importantly, I was immensely impressed with the mocktail list. My guest isn’t drinking alchol at the moment (maybe I should take a leaf out of her book…). Usually, you get the classic tiny section of the drinks menu for the mocktails, where it’s just a Virgin Mojito or something of the similar with a Virgin infront of it.

Grafene are the rule breakers, with an incredible mocktail list that has been carefully thought out. Definitely try one of the mocktails, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

To start, we were presented with two loaves of bread – mini loaves! You had a garlic bread, served with garlic butter. The other was a treacle and rye loaf, served with corn on the cob butter. Both were lovely and warm, which melted the butter, which complimented the flavours of the dough. And don’t they look adorable!

To start I went for the corn fed chicken wing, served with croquettes, charred gem cauliflower. The chicken was so tender that it felt like it melted in my mouth. The char grilled veg was flavourful and the crisp texture matched the soft chicken wing.

My guest is a vegetarian, so went for the veggie option of this dish – which didn’t loose any of the flavours that were in the meat version. She also went for the beetroot, granola, spinach and verjus salad, which looks so beautiful with lots of colour and the presentation was lovely. The granola and beetroot gave the salad a sweet kick to it, which was a pleasant surprise.

I then went for the rendered duck leg, herbs, beet piccalilli and I’ve never had lamb so juicy before, it was excellent! I’ve never really like piccalilli before, but this beetroot sauce was beautiful, and complemented the dish wonderfully.

My guest ordered the mushroom, truffle soup that was packed full of flavour and presented beautifully.

To finish, we both chose the brownie in a bowl. The brownie was more like the texture of meringue, which was great because it made the desert not to heavy and rich. The brownie was served with chocolate shards and mint mouse.

Overall, the service at Grafene was wonderful and the food was very tasty and the presentation was incredible.

If you are looking for somewhere for a pre-theatre dining menu with a bit of sass and swarve then you need to visit Grafene!

Grafene, 55 King Street, M2 4LQ

www.grafene.co.uk

Review | The Last Ship | The Lowry, Salford Quays

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Growing up in a house where the Police records were played on repeat, the style of Sting’s writing is one I am very familiar with. The Last Ship certainly didn’t disappoint with this.

After a successful UK tour, Sting’s new musical The Last Ship is a creative and emotional piece of art.

After leaving his life in a community of shipbuilders in Newcastle, the show’s a tribute to Sting’s own life. Gideon Fletcher represents Sting, who sails away in the navy. Fast forward 17 years, where Gideon finally returns home to find the town in a battle against the authority about the closure and fall of the shipping industry.

After leaving his love Meg behind, Gideon attempts to woo her on Gideon’s return only to find out that he has a daughter, Ellie.

Taking on the challenging role of Gideon with high expectations, ex-Corrie star Richard Fleeshman shines on stage and is a beautiful storyteller.

At moments throughout the show, Flesshman’s voice might remind you that of Sting’s, hitting the lower sections of the songs with gravitas and emotion, while remaining a bit raw.

Even though it’s set back in the 1980s, some of the issues and themes within the show are apparent in today’s society, which makes it all the more intense to watch.

I have to emphasise the fantastic lighting and projection designed by Matt Daw that takes the audience from the local pub to actually on the ship itself. Daw’s and Rob Mathes’ orchestrations are simple yet very effective in changing the scenes quickly.

The show is a beautiful piece of work, and it could be the next ‘Billy Elliot‘ – a show of solidarity and community spirit.

The Last Ship is at the Lowry until Saturday 7th July and tickets can be found here.

Restaurant Review | Ibérica Spinningfields | Pre-Theatre Dinner Menu

I love tapas – at least, I thought I knew what tapas was. That was until I visited Iberica, in Spinningfields, where what I knew of tapas was flipped on its head.

My guest and I took a seat on the outside terrace, seeing as the sun was shining and it was too glorious not to sit outside, and browsed the drinks menu first.

The most important part, right? Being a Spanish bar, naturally, the wine was excellent, and we started off the meal with a glass of Cava each.

We also nibbled on fresh green olives and some cured serrano ham,  which had a lovely chewiness to it.

When choosing the food, that was simple – there were so many options that stood out to me straight away.

For the first part, you choose two tapas – seeing as there was two of us, we ordered four different ones so we could mix between us.

The asparagus toast, topped with melted Manchego cheese, onion confit and truffle oil. It was delicious, and the Manchego and truffle oil complemented each other wonderfully – sometimes truffle oil can be too overpowering in dishes.

Secondly, we shared the beef tomato and salmorejo, with garlic breadcrumbs and beetroot granita, with a hidden surprise of capers. The sauce was light and fresh, and the dish was so easy to eat (I definitely wanted another one straight away!)

We also shared a warm lentil salad, which came out with a soft cooked egg which we were instructed to break and mix into the lentils, pea shoots and roasted baby carrots. I was suspicious about this one if I’m honest, but the mix of the salad, lentils and the poach egg mixed together was splendid. The egg acted as the salad dressing, and the flavours complemented the lentils and roasted carrots amazingly.

Finally, the last tapas we chose was the salted cod brandada served with vegetable crisps. The cod was almost like pate, and the melted in the mouth with the crisps. The mint sauce was crisp and very fresh.

After your tapas, you chose one tapa from the menu (I never thought that it was singular for tapas) from the choice of three options.

I chose the twice cooked lamb, with marinated cherry tomatoes & red peppers from León. The texture of the lamb was divine, and broke away easily, similar to pulled pork.

My guest chose the poached hake, with hollandaise sauce & baby gem lettuce. Both the sauce and fish were full of flavour.

Finally, we were served a sweet apple liqueur in a shot glass with an ice cube and slice of apple, which was very refreshing and sharp.

I have to mention how lovely and attentive the staff were – they made our evening even more special.

The menu is available every day from 5 pm to 6.30pm and works out at £18 per person (not including drinks).

If you are looking for a new place to try for a pre-theatre dining option, or going out for some delicious food, then Ibérica is for you!

I will definitely be returning with more of my friends to try more of their tapas dishes (and for another Sangria!)

14-15, The Avenue Spinningfields, Manchester M3 3HF / ibericarestaurants.com

Review | The Play That Goes Wrong | Opera House, Manchester

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I remember the first time I caught a glimpse at The Play That Goes Wrong – they performed a 20 minute version on the Royal Variety Performance many years ago. That clip has been the most rewatched clip on my Youtube, as I instantly fell in love with the style, comedy and all-around entertainment that it gave me. Since then I’ve been dying to see this production, and the UK tour cast certainly lived up to my high expectations.

After meeting at LAMDA while training, Mischief Theatre company’s founders Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields’ love of comedy was the catalyst for this incredible award-winning show, which has toured internationally and is still owning it’s West End home for four years.

Mark Bell’s direction of the show is one that allows the audience to be silly and laugh at childish moments. Using slapstick comedy in every element of the show is tremendous, and there’s never a dull moment on stage.

The Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society presents the Murder at Haversham Manor, but sadly things don’t seem to be going to plan from the get-go. With a set that keeps falling apart, lots of faulty electricals and a not to confident cast, will director Chris Bean’s directing debut be ruined.

I have to mention first the creative and smart set that the talented Nigel Hook has created. The details were remarkable.

The small cast of talented performers all deserved the standing ovation, and the teamwork between them was outstanding.

Jake Curran’s performance as the perfectionist director and lead star Chris Bean left the audience crying with laughter. The interaction with the audience was terrific, and he commented on the fact that “This is not a pantomime” even though there was a moment of “It’s behind you.”

The real star of the show was Max, played by Bobby Hirston. After every line, Hirston would turn to the audience with a goofy smile, almost overwhelmed by the fact that he was on stage. His multiple characters and the quick costume changes left the audience in stitches.

Throughout the show, we were reminded that stage manager Trevor, played by Gabriel Paul, had lost his Duran Duran CD and that Winston the dog was still missing. The fact that we could hear the stage manager talking on the tannoy throughout just added to the comedy.

While everything around them is falling apart – literally – the classic line of “The show must go on” resonated between all characters.

If you want to see a show that will have you laughing before it’s even started, you need to watch The Play That Goes Wrong. It is a remarkable show that needs to be enjoyed by all.

The Play That Goes Wrong is at Manchester’s Opera House until Saturday 30th June, and information and tickets can be found here.

Review | Awful Auntie | Manchester Opera House

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Growing up in a world of Harry Potter, Roald Dahl and Malory Towers, I love the adventures that characters can get up to in a big haunted house, so was very excited to see how the award-winning author and comedian David Walliams’ Awful Auntie was transformed into a stage production by Birmingham Stage Company.

After recent success with the tour of Gangsta Granny, Neal Foster’s adaption of Awful Auntie brings fun, panto-esk elements of comedy and spookiness.

Set in 1933 after Lord and Lady Saxby are murdered, young Stella Saxby must solve the mystery of her parent’s death, all without getting caught by her awful auntie Alberta. With the help of a friendly chimney sweep ghost, Soot, Stella is on a mission to stop Alberta becoming the owner of Saxby Hall.

The excellent music orchestrated music by Jak Poore sets the scenes for the murder mystery tale.

Timothy Speyer’s performance of Aunt Alberta reminded me of the horrible Miss Trunchball from Matilda, but a true entertaining perofmrnace. Loud, garish and a haunting laugh will make you hate this character quicker than you can say, Saxby Hall.

Georgina Leonidas and Ashley Cousins make the perfect team of Stella and Soot, and both actors bounce off each other to create some hilarious moments on stage.

The highlight of the show has the be the brief moments that the mad butler Gibbon passes onto the stage. Richard James’ makes the audience roar with laughter with his short moments between scenes where he’s seen mowing the carpet, catching himself in a giant net and burning the slippers for breakfast.

Aunt Albert’s owl Wagner is a puppet, moved by the talented Roberta Bellekom. The use of puppets is intelligent and entertaining, as they create scenes that might not be possible to attempt on stage, such as Wagner flying over the stage while holding onto a little puppet of Stella.

The mixture of storytelling elements makes this show entertaining for all the family, and I suggest seeing this production before it closes.

Awful Auntie is on at Manchester’s Opera House until Sunday 24th June and tickets are available here.