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

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 | 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.

Restaurant Review | Blue Pig | Manchester

If someone asks me what I want to eat, it’s usually cheese, bread and deli meats. Well, it was a match made in heaven when I visited Blue Pig Manchester, as that’s what they do best. Plus, they create some of the coolest vegan cocktails I have ever tried in my life.

You will find the Blue Pig just around the corner from Shudehill and the Arndale, and located on a neat little corner with outdoor seating – perfect those rare and sunny days in Manchester where all you want to do is sit outside with a cocktail, eating cheese and pretending your somewhere abroad.

Inside the decor is a mixture of pub, bar and rustic shop – which works perfectly with the food and drink they serve.

The best bit about the Blue Pig menu is that you can pick and choose what you have. You can choose any 3 for £7 or 5 for £10 on the deli products. They also have happy hours on their cocktails, Monday to Friday, 4 pm – 7 pm, where you can get two cocktails for £10 (even more of an excuse for an after work drink and nibble!).

To start, I have the Lemon Curd Collins cocktails (£7.50), which is shaken up with Ketel One Citron vodka, Limoncello, lemon curd, vanilla syrup, orange bitters and a soda top. It’s citrusy and refreshing – the perfect naughty lemonade to cool you down!

I’m a big lover of strong, smelly cheese, so being able to pick the ones to try was great! I went for a Creamy Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire cheese, which was creamy and crumbly.

The Lancashire cheese went perfectly with the air-dried Dorset beef, which was tender and chewy. I recently found a love of Biltong, and this one has to be one of the best I have ever tasted. The beef also had a sweet hint to it, as it was marinated and soaked in juniper and port.

You cannot get any stronger than an 18 month matured cheddar cheese, and the Quickes extra mature cheddar was a show stealer. The tang goes well with the chutney and crackers.

My favourite cheese out of them all was the Perl Wen, a Welsh brie that was so soft and creamy that it literally melts in your mouth. I think it’s one of the nicest brie I have ever tried, and I know I’ll be a regular back at the Blue Pig just for this cheese alone!

Finally, the last meat that I tried was the Cumbrian Air Dried prosciutto ham which was sweet and salty at the same time.

The last cocktail I tried was the Gin Swill, a vegan cocktail made with Tanqueray gin, triple sec, coconut syrup, lime and pineapple juice, drizzled over with Chambord for that sunset effect. Sweet, fruity and fresh. A perfect summer evening drink!

The staff were so welcoming and very knowledgeable of the dishes and drinks that they serve. If you are stuck for ideas, they’d be able to help you out with the decision of what to try.

thebluepigmcr.co.uk

The Blue Pig, 69 High St, Manchester M4 1FS

Review | Blood Brothers | Manchester’s Palace Theatre

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A musical and story that has been done time and time again and seen many tours all over the world, Blood Brothers never loses its charm and style.

Having seen the 2010 tour production with Lyn Paul in the lead role of Mrs Johnstone in my hometown of Bournemouth, seeing Paul reprise the role in her final production was terrific.

When a struggling single mother is faced with the decision of keeping both twins babies or give one away to a woman desperate for a child, the children are separated at birth, never to see each other again. Fast forward seven years and the boys connect and become blood brothers; the women have decisions to make as to whether they let the boys bond.

After debuting the role of Mrs J in 1997, Lyn Paul is a seasoned professional and natural on stage, noted as the ‘definite Mrs Johnstone’. She definitely lives up to this name, as her vocal performance and character brings tears to the audience’s eyes and them leaping to their feet for a standing ovation. A mastermind and a perfect actress for the role – Lyn Paul is a marvel.

Playing the two loveable, charming and comical Mickey and Eddy is Sean Jones and Mark Hutchinson. Seeing both characters from young boys grow up into men is a beautiful transition and both Jones and Hutchinson excel as young boys and their naughty minds.

Acting as the ghost of the past and every character’s conscience, the Narrator is played by the dominating Mathew Craig. Craig’s vocals are splendid, and he captures the audience’s attention from the getgo and guides us through the story.

This production, directed by Bob Tomson and Bill Kenwright, is entirely faultless and has to be one of the best productions I’ve seen this year.

Blood Brothers ends its UK tour at Manchester’s Palace Theatre and runs until Saturday, May 26th. More information and tickets can be booked here.