Restaurant Review | eXchange Food and Drink Lounge | Manchester

Tucked away in the Hotel Novotel on Dickinson Street is the hidden gem that is eXchange Food and Drinks Lounge.

If you were to walk past it, you might not notice it, but it’s one to visit.

Offering a small bar menu that serves classic pub food, you have enough choice for to find something you like, but not too much that you cannot choose what you want to eat.

The atmosphere and interior is a mixture of pub and cocktail bar – high tables, large windows, and bright walls makes the venue look bright and welcoming.

For starters, I went for Franks hot sauce chicken wings, with a ranch dressing (£5). The spicy coating of the chicken wings was sticky and yummy, and the refreshing ranch dip was perfect to dunk the wing into.

My guest had the mini baked camembert, with celery and carrot sticks (£5). You can’t go wrong with camembert, and the dish certainly didn’t disappoint. A side of bread would have been nice though to dip into the gooey cheese.

For mains, I chose the harissa spiced salmon on top of a bed of tomato and tabbouleh salad (£15). The fish was a little bit overcooked, and a sauce alongside the dish would have been welcomed, as the tabbouleh was a bit dry. But the flavour was fantastic and rich.

My guest went for the big one and ordered the 10z rib eye steak, served with skinny fries and garlic butter (£19). The steak was cooked to perfection, and the juices oozed with every bite. A minimalistic and straightforward arrangement of the food has its pros and cons – the plate did look a bit empty apart from the steak and chips, but on a positive note, what you see is what you get, and there are no hidden surprises.

Even though we were pretty full from the starter and main, of course, there’s always space for a cheeky dessert.

I chose the trio of creme brulees – coffee, chocolate and vanilla flavour, served with shortbread biscuits (£6). The thought of the vanilla creme brulee leaves me weak at the knees and wanting more. Smooth, sweet and creamy – exactly what you expect and want from the much-loved dessert.

My guest chose the classic bread and butter pudding with custard and berries (£5). A portion slightly on the smaller side, but still creamy and sweet.

A simple but sophisticated menu with something for everyone. Fantastic service and a lovely experience. I shall be returning.

Exchange Lounge – 21 Dickinson St, Manchester M1 4LX

 

Restaurant Review | Asha’s Manchester | Pre-Theatre Dining Menu

The British people love a good curry. It’s actually said that chicken tikka masala is the nation’s favourite dish. Over the years, we have become more adventurous with our taste, donning a vindaloo or even a spicy Dhansak. Manchester is famous for its curry mile, but I was invited to a curry house where they make your dining experience a bit more refined.

Opening its doors on Peter Street a three years ago, Asha’s is not your ordinary curry house. Gorgeous gold chandeliers adorn the ceilings above the purple velvet booths creates a unique and stylish experience.

The pre-theatre dining menu is either a two (£17.95) or three courses (£19.95), with a glass of house wine, beer or soft drink. The menu is served Monday to Friday 5:30 pm – 7 pm, and Saturday and Sunday 3pm – 7 pm.

It might be a step up from the standard curry house, but it’s not too posh for poppadums, and that’s where we started. Served with a selection home-made chutneys, my favourite was the mint and coriander sauce, and of course, mango chutney!

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Being recommended to try the starters with the sauces, the waitress brought us over a new selection and our starters.

For the starters, we chose one vegetarian speciality platter and one meat one. The speciality platter included a gosht seekh kebab, murg malai kebab and seafood seekh kebab. The gosht was a gorgeous lamb kebab and seasoned well. The seafood kebab was a bit of an odd texture and sadly didn’t have much flavour to it. But the murg malai chicken kebab was a winner for me, as the chicken was oozing with flavour and moisture!

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The vegetarian speciality platter included paneer ka soola, tandoori broccoli and Aloo Matar ki Tikki. All full of flavour and punch, you wouldn’t even know you were eating vegetables and baked cheese! My guest clearly loved the starter as she wouldn’t let me even try all the selection, but she finished them all and had a clean plate, so I guess she liked them.

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For our main course, I wanted the classic chicken tikka to see if it reached my high expectations for it. It certainly did. Named the Murg Makhani, the chicken tikka in a tomato and cream gravy, delicately flavoured with dried fenugreek leaves. The chicken was cooked spot on, and the sauce wasn’t too tomatoey and had just the right amount of spice. Served with a bowl of rice and naan bread, I could not fault my main course.

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My guest went for the Murg Tikka Salad, with corn-fed chicken tikka cooked in a tandoor oven. Served on a bed of salad, drizzled with fresh coriander and olive oil dressing. There was too much dressing on top, leaving the whole dish very oily. The flavour of the chicken was delightful and had a good kick of heat to it.

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It is hard not to like and have a good time in a curry house, even when there’s only a small amount of people sat down during the early evening. Manchester is swimming with places for a good curry, but you should definitely try Asha’s for the fantastic service from all the staff and the gorgeous and tasty food that the talented chefs create. It’s one to check out while you’re here!

Asha’s, 47 Peter St, Manchester M2 3NG / ashasmanchester.co.uk

Restaurant​ Review | The Living Room | Deansgate, Manchester

I’ve been eager to try the brand new menu at The Living Room, which already is an excellent venue in itself. Situated between Deansgate and Spinningfields, The Living Room is becoming more and more well known, especially for its new Pornstar Martini trees.

With a gorgeous open bar, lots of high tables as well as booths, it’s a lovely place for a couple of drinks. Offering beers on draft, a wide selection of wines and lots of cocktails, you can find something to wet your whistle. The interior design reminds me of an art deco style, using a colour scheme of black, white and gold.

As we were greeted by our host Louis, who was very welcoming, friendly and happy to serve us, we were walked through the bar and into the restaurant area. It is beautiful. One side hosts almost veranda style tables, with vines atop the canopies, and fairy lights twinkling. The other side of the restaurant, where we sat, were booths around tables. Very comfortable seats, but you would feel a bit squeezed together if more than two people went for lunch.

For starters, we chose a tomato bruschetta, drizzled with balsamic oil and a mini baked cambert. The starters were very filling and tasty and could be a good meal by themselves.

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The bruschetta was tasty, and the tomato topping was fresh and flavourful. The baked camembert was delicious, served with chutney and baked focaccia bread.

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For my main course, I chose the truffle and hard cheese gnocchi, slow-roasted tomatoes, asparagus, spinach, pesto and toasted cashew nuts (£12.50). The dish was tasty but sadly didn’t wow me. I couldn’t taste the hard cheese or truffles, and the pesto tasted more like butter and garlic. A filling dish, but I wouldn’t choose it again.

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My guest chose the beef and Stilton pie, with tender pieces of beef, root vegetables and Stilton cheese, topped with a puff pastry lid. The dish was served with buttered mash and braised red cabbage and red wine gravy (£14). Sadly, the meal wasn’t served with the red wine gravy, and it was missing it. Personally, there was too much cabbage, and not enough mash served. The pie itself was beautiful and full of delicious, juicy beef.

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For dessert, I chose the Eton Mess (£6) with fresh raspberries, strawberries, crushed meringue, topped with whipped cream and raspberry coulis. Garnished with a sprig of mint and a dusting of icing sugar, the pudding was gorgous and fresh.

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My guest chose the baked vanilla cheesecake (£6) on a gorgeous oaty biscuit base. The cheesecake was served with strawberries, raspberries, ice cream and a raspberry coulis. The richness of the cheesecake was enough to send me into a food coma – it was fabulous!

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Verdict: Brilliant new menu (especially the desserts) – definitely the place to hang out this Spring and enjoy great food with friends.

www.thelivingroom.co.uk
80, Deansgate, Manchester
0161 832 0083

Restaurant Review | Mr Lau’s Dim Sum Bar + Chinese Restaurant | Warrington

I have to admit, I’m not usually one for Chinese food. Whenever we order a takeaway at home, I’m always wanting Indian. But I do like dumplings, noodles and chicken, so I knew I was going to love Mr Lau’s.

Going to Mr Lau’s, I was worried that I wouldn’t want anything on the menu, but oh my goodness. They have such a range of food on offer there’s something for everyone. From Dim Sum to Seafood sharers, it’s all freshly made in the open kitchen by six talented chefs.

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Decorated with Chinese lanterns and silver Buddha’s, the venue is lowly lit and atmospheric. There are lots of different sized tables, including a long one that we sat on. Whatever size your party is, they will have room for you.

in mr laus

Photo credit – Gabi Gbl. @gabi.gbl

On the table waiting for us was little baskets of prawn crackers and salt and pepper crackers, which were fresh and crispy. Water was quickly served to everyone and menus were ready on the table for us to read.

With lots to choose from, my guest and I went for a steamed Dim Sum sharing platter (£15.95) which included sui mai, har gau, duck + hoisin gau, beef sui mai with ‘lao gan ma’ chilli oil. A mixture of beef, prawn, duck and pork dim sum and it was all so tasty. The chilli oil was very spicy, so I didn’t have much. For the amount you got, that could easily be a lunch to share with someone, as it was filling, very tasty and flavourful.

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Our dim sum was gone too quickly, but the waiters were quick to clear the plates and bowls away and relay the table for the main course.

For my main course, I decided to go for the Chu Hau chicken (£14.95), which lived up to its name of sizzling chicken with soybean, garlic, ginger and sesame sauce, as it came out still bubbling and piping hot. With a thick sauce and a bowl full of chicken and veg, it was a very tasty dish. The only downside is that I then had to order a side of thin noodles (£4.95) on top of paying for the dish. I was quite surprised that it didn’t come with either noodles or rice, but to be honest, with the noodles, there was enough for two people to be able to share.

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My guest wanted the seafood platter (£34.95), which is normally for two people minimum. Nevertheless, he ordered it and wow, I can see why it’s for two people, not one. It was a massive portion of fried salt and pepper crispy fish, king prawns, lobster, soft shell crab, mussels, langoustine, scallops and clams. The seafood was well seasoned and with beautiful garnishes. Sadly, his eyes were bigger than his belly so he couldn’t eat all of it, so I definitely recommend sharing this among at least two people.

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We ordered cocktails from the bar and got a Sex on the Beach and a bubbly Elderflower mocktail. The Elderflower mocktail was refreshing and was an excellent drink to match the flavours in the dishes.

We chose to not have a dessert, based on the fact that we were both so full from the starter and main.

Overall, the service, food and atmosphere were wonderful. The food was full of flavour and very tasty. I will definitely come back and bring my friends here for a meal (more like a feast)!

Information and how to book can be found here.

Mr Lau’s, 2 Springfield St, Warrington WA1 1BB / mrlaus.com

Review | Cocktail Masterclass | Emily’s Bar, Warrington

When someone mentioned doing a cocktail masterclass, I literally jumped at the chance. Learning how to make all the cocktails I love to drink has always been on my bucket list, and on Saturday I finally made that dream a reality.

Opening just over a year ago, Emily’s bar is a little hideaway, down a road that you probably wouldn’t usually go down. But you definitely should take a trip there, as the venue itself is beautiful. As you walk through the entrance, with fairy lights around the windows, the bar is bright, white and has the floor to ceiling mirrors (which gives the effect of even bigger rooms!). The bar is located in the first room and is filled with everything from spirits to champagnes.

On the bar, the cocktail station is set up waiting for you, with shakers, crushed ice and even a bunch of roses for the garnish on the French martinis. Behind the bar, and our guide for the afternoon, is a very smiley bar manager Yani.

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Greeted with a glass of prosecco, the host Vicky showed us to our table and explained how the afternoon was going to run. Ensuring that we were feeling relaxed and comfortable, we had popcorn and sweets waiting on the table, which all definitely got us in the mood for the afternoon ahead.

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I was first up to make a cocktail, and I did feel a bit nervous, but Yani explained everything in great detail. From how much alcohol goes in, to how to shake the cocktail up. If I had any questions, he answered them very quickly and always with a smile.

The first cocktail I made was a cosmopolitan, and if I may be so bold and blow my own trumpet, it has never tasted so good. I finally know how bartenders get that orange flavour and smell and learnt that there’s a certain way to shake these cocktails.

Then we were allowed to sit down at our table while the others made their cocktails, and actually, drink the one we have just created. The reason I’ve never done a cocktail masterclass before is that I was worried that after making a cocktail I wouldn’t have time to drink it, and would be rushed to make the next one, so I don’t run overtime. But we were walked back to our seat and allowed time to drink and enjoy what we have created while watching the others make theirs too.

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Next up, I chose to make a raspberry Collins, which had gin in it (my favourite!). I was instructed to muddle the mixture in the class with a muddler (for those who don’t know what it is, it looks like a little hammer), topped it with crushed ice and soda water. It was lovely, fruity and fresh!

My friend then made the classic Long Island Ice Tea. I never knew what actually went into one, so it was a learning curve for me when I found out that tequila is the main ingredient! You learn something new every day.

After the making part of the masterclass, we were allowed to sit down, relax and order another cocktail of whatever we wanted and watch the master at work, as Yani made the drinks for us.

I went for something off Emily’s brand new cocktail menu – the Amaretto Twist, made with Amaretto, gin, passion fruit and Campari. It was delicious (and looked it too!).

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My friend went for a mocktail this time (as the tequila from the Long Island was taking effect!) and he went for a virgin porn star martini. I love the alcoholic version, so was eager to see what the non-alcoholic equivalent would taste like. I was pleasantly surprised. Served with a shot of lemonade rather than prosecco, the overall taste of the martini was smooth, sweet and to be honest, tasted exactly the same as one with alcohol in it!

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As Yani and host Rachel said goodbye, I didn’t want to leave! We were lucky with a bit of sunshine in the afternoon, so we even got to sit outside on the newly extended pavement. Sitting there, with the glorious sun beaming and a cocktail in hand, I almost lost myself into believing I was on holiday abroad.

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If you are looking for a different type of get together, celebration or even a staff social, a cocktail masterclass at Emily’s Bar should definitely be on the list of things to do. It’s a fun, welcoming environment, and you leave having learnt something new, drunk a couple of cocktails that you can say you made yourself and finally cross creating a cocktail in a bar off your bucket list.

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Prices for the masterclasses at Emily’s Bar start from as little as £25 per person which includes anything you drink! Information and how to book can be found here.

Emily’s Bar, 2 Springfield St, Warrington WA1 1BB / www.emilys.bar

Photo credit – Gabi Gbl. Follow him here.