Category: Restaurant Reviews


Working on the IndyManBeerCon, they fed us. We were giving tokens and we could swap them for something delicious from the food village. Various street food specialists set up their field kitchens and cooked delicious fresh food to order. You asked for what you wanted and watched it assembled and cooked before your eyes. 

I had a delicious pulled pork burrito one day. I can’t remember the name of the street food vendor sadly, nor can I find it on the IndyMan website. Another day I had some Malaysian food from a kitchen called Nasi Lemak. I’ve had Malaysian food a couple of times now and find I always enjoy it. I had some Vegan Chicken Bites (I imagine it was tofu) covered with three types of sauce with some of those pickled vegetables that you see in Korean cuisine. It was delicious and probably did me a fair amount of good.

I did manage to get these pictures of the pizza I had on the third day from a street kitchen called Honest Crust. They managed to get one of those huge pizza ovens into the festival. The pizza was assembled before you cans you could watch it cook in the oven. I was told to try it and, even though there was a wait, it was more than worth it. I had a sourdough crust pizza with wild mushrooms. It was VERY good.

It wasn’t all beer. In a side room Three Rivers, a Manchester based gin company, had set up a gin parlour. I must find their distillery, they do tours I’ve heard. The three rivers referred to in the name are the Irwell, Medlock and Irk, the rivers that run through the city centre.

I suppose this post should have gone out before the last one but I wanted to get my review of ‘The Marriage of Kim K’ done and dusted while it was all fresh in my mind. We had, in fact, gone out for the pre-theatre dinner before seeing the play. A few days ago I noticed that one of the restaurants at the Midland Hotel was doing a special offer on dinner before you see whatever theatrical event you are planning to see. It was a bit of a bargain; £20 for two courses, £24 for three. You have to eat between 5pm and 6 30pm but that was fine as our show started at 7pm. Afterwards I imagine it all gets a lot more expensive. 

We arrived just before 5 and relaxed in the Octagon Bar, a wonderfully Moorish inspired space just off the main foyer. We liked the flowers in the foyer. The Midland always has a lovely display here and it’s here they have their beautiful tree at Christmas. Today there were hydrangeas. They grow well in English gardens, the colour varying depending on the acidity of your soil. They come in white, blue or pink. The flowers are tiny and what we admire are the coloured bracts that surround the almost insignificant flowers. What struck us was the ranges of colours, from pink through mauve to purple, that you don’t see in your gardens.

We were eating at the restaurant with the wonderful name of Mr. Cooper’s House and Garden. A long time ago Mr. Cooper had his house and garden on this site when, unbelievably, this part of the city centre was fields in the countryside outside the Georgian market town of Manchester. The restaurant prides itself on the quality of its food and ingredients are brought in locally from the rich farmlands that still surround the city. And some of the ingredients are actually grown on the roof of the hotel where there are also hives of Manchester bees. The entrance….

Giving the restaurant a ‘garden’ feel, you sit on, very comfortable, garden benches surrounded by garden pharaphalia. It’s a very relaxed atmosphere compared to The French, across the hotel lobby which is one of the city’s finest dining experiences. Mr. Cooper’s is spacious and light and airy. You aren’t sitting on top of one another so it’s easy to talk. Through the windows you get glimpses of some of Manchester’s best architecture like Central Library and St. George’s House.

I went for the three course option. For my first course I had a Terrine of Ham Hock. It came beautifully presented with these trendy, tasty vegetables, a quail egg and some candied walnuts. There were little dots of a delicious sauce. You can see some on the plate. It was so good I had to resist licking the plate! Not something you do in the Midland. I asked what it was. It turned out to be Carrot Jam. I didn’t even know that it existed! I’m glad to have made its acquaintance! Welcome to my world!

For the main course we both had Hake, served with Jersey Royal new potatoes and broccoli spears. It came with another delicious sauce, this time flvoured with the herb, Comfrey. It was good!

I always plan a meal in a restaurant back to front. I always look at the pudding menu first and plan the other courses so I have room for the pudding. I couldn’t decide which I wanted so we had a Dark Orange Chocolate Tart with Mascapone Ice Cream with an Orange Crisp AND a Gooseberry and Elderflower Trifle. We sort of shared. Both were perfect. 

There were glasses of Pinot Grigio and coffee. If you’re in Manchester, you really should try this restaurant out.

Byron, not the famous romantic poet, the burger restaurant in Manchester. I not fond of burgers, you’re never sure what’s in them, especially at the lower end of the market. But sometimes you just have a yearning for some old fashioned junk food when no amount of quinoa will do. Manchester has its fair share of budget burger joints (you know the ones) but I decided to head for Byron. I’d heard good things about it. There are three in the centre of Manchester, the first on Deansgate, a new one on Piccadilly Gardens and, the one I headed for, in the Corn Exchange. If I changed my mind I could always go to Pho or Wahaca. But I stayed on course for Byron as I want to eat my way around all the food offerings in the Corn Exchange. Some pictures of the domes above the food court in the Corn Ecxchange…

You can enter Byron from the food court…

Or you can come in from Cathedral Gardens. In summer you can eat outside but there were no takers on a cold February afternoon.But it does have a glass conservatory on the side where you can have the illusion of sitting outside and still stay warm on a cold day…

I was on my own so I asked for a table where I could watch the world go by in Cathedral Gardens. You can see a lot. Around the gardens are Chetham’s School of Music with the brand new concert hall that I’ve yet to visit, there’s the beautiful façade of Victoria Station and the URBIS building, now the National Museum of Football. In the distance you can see the curved profile of the Peninsula Building, one of favourite office buildings in the city.

It was half term so there were a lot of young guys skateboarding outside. They were taking risks doing tricks. I wondered which one was going to end up in hospital while I had lunch. My money was on one of the youngest who was either foolhardy or fearless, or a combination of both.

My lunch arrived. I had a beef burger with blue cheese and all the bits and bobs in a brioche bun and some fries. All delicious. I had a glass of Merlot with it.

I had wanted some white chocolate cheese cake but it was off. So I had some hot chocolate fudge cake and vanilla ice cream. It was good but I really wanted that cheesecake.

Cathedral Gardens is home to at least two of the youth tribes of the city. Here are some more of the skateboarding guys outside the Cathedral. They like to hang out here with their girls who don’t skate but just watch the boys. And, in the warmer months, it becomes the favoured haunt of Manchester’s Goth community with teenaged guys and girls, dressed in black and heavily made up white make-upped faces, hanging out. But only the skater boys today, couldn’t even see any of their adoring girlfriends. Both tribes have been hanging out here for years. I suppose, as they grow up and go to uni or get a job, they stop coming and the area gets handed on to younger kids. I did have a narrow miss, a while ago, with a lost skateboard that had thrown its rider. It came at me with some speed and hit a wall with a crash, narrowly missing me. It was one of those moments when I realised I’d grown up as my first reaction was ‘B****y Kids!’ Fortunately I said it in my head as the kid who lost control of the board was so apologetic it would have been bad mannered of me to have cursed him out. And I really didn’t want them thinking I was one of those bad tempered old blokes who hates kids. 

It was up early for work and home in the middle of the morning to start the weekend. We decided to go out for lunch. I’d been hearing lots of good things about The White Hart in the village of Lydgateto the east of the Oldham area of the city. It’s up in the hills and almost in Yorkshire. In fact, before they reorganised the boundaries and put it firmly in Greater Manchester, it was in Yorkshire.

I’d never been to Lydgate so wasn’t sure of the route. It wasn’t easy to find. We thought it was simple to get to but a few roadworks and the odd wrong turn up a winding lane or six and we were completely lost. At one point I was stood in the middle of nowhere, looking at some horses in a field, desperately trying to explain to the restaurant where we were. More by luck than judgement we eventually found our way there, only 15 minutes late for our booking. 

The White Hart used to be the village pub of Lydgate I imagine. It still functions as such to a point but pubs that just sell drink in the UK don’t really do well anymore. The ones that do well have good food. That’s the route The White Hart has gone along. The chef is very highly thought of, producing food that has a great reputation. Foodies from all over the city make the journey up into the hills to sample it. I hope they have better luck than we did with the trip. This is what the exterior looks like.

Inside it’s had a makeover. It does look like a traditional English country pub with open fires and low beamed ceilings but has some modern touches that wouldn’t look out of place in some trendy eatery in the city centre. Great staff as well.

It isn’t one of those places where you go if you are hungry. The portions aren’t that big. You go for the quality of the food and the tastes that the chef creates. They brought us some breads. They make their own. I had some sourdough bread (the pale one) which was tasty. The darker one was flavoured with treacle and walnuts. It was fantastic! I’ve not tasted bread so nice in a long time. I tried to flirt my way into taking a loaf home or even getting the recipe. No chance. But I did flirt well enough for the waitress to bring me another slice.

We had a bottle of Chilean Merlot.

We had some lamb, potato and mashed carrot and swede. It sounds simple, but the delicious sauces that came with it elevated it to a taste sensation. Not a huge portion but utterly delicious.

For pudding we had cold rice pudding with a sugar crust with blood orange segments and orange sorbet with an orange peel crisp. All very cheffy and wonderful.

Here’s the view from the pub across to the city centre. It was a misty early spring day but you can make out the towers of the city centre about ten miles away. You can make out the dark block of the Hilton Tower on the left and, if you look to the right, the distinctive profile of the CIS Tower.

I’m afraid I’ve been neglecting this blog the last few days. I’m really busy at work. When I’m not actually in the office I’m working at home so when I do get some Tom time, the last thing I want to do is to pick up my iPad and start again. It’s not been helped by work actually uploading more stuff for me to do without asking. I think I’ve achieved a certain amount and when I log back on there’s more to do. At least it will be reflected in my Christmas bonus. Well I hope it will be.

I got up early this morning with my targets set and by 1 pm I’d reached them! I think I’ve done about 70% of the work I’m supposed to, so am well on course to finish on time by a week on Wednesday. I’m trying to clear Thursday this week so I can slip out. As I’d done well today I decided to slip out (again) for a cheeky glass of Pinot Grigio and some late lunch. I know! On a Monday. I’m on a slippery slope. 

I went to one of my favourite informal dining places, ODDEST in Chorlton. To go with the wine I went for some of their ‘small plates’. I had Crispy Pulled Pork Parcels with Soy and Sesame, Spiced Lamb Koftas with Mint Yogurt and Grilled Rosemary and Smoked Garlic Marinated Halloumi Cheese. And some skin on fries to mop up any residual juices. It was delicious.

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Apparently we are famed around the world for our liking of our national dish, Fish and Chips. I’m told that fish and chips has now been supplanted by a new national dish, Chicken Tikka Masala. It’s an Indian inspired dish that has been developed using Indian spices by people who have come nfrom the Indian sub continent to live here. Ask for it anywhere in India and you will be met with blank looks as its a British dish that has yet to make it back over there. Though I enjoy Indian food, I’ve yet to try it.

Back to the Fish and Chips. Traditionally it was poor people’s food, a cheap, nutrious meal that was picked up on the way home on a Friday night, wrapped in yesterday’s newspaper to keep it warm. And we still say, if someone has something bad said about them in the newspapers, ‘Never mind, it’ll all be chip paper tomorrow.’ It was usually a white fish, like Cod, dipped in batter and deep fried. It was accompanied by thick cut, deep fried potatoes called chips. They are a bit like fries and, here in the North, we still prefer chips to fries. You also might have a side dish of Mushy Peas. These are dried peas soaked over night in a water and bicarbonate of soda mix, and then cooked until the collapse into submission. You would have bread and butter and a pot of tea o wash it down.

Nowadays, with fish being expensive, it isn’t a cheap option for the poor of the industrial cities and towns. And designer versions have made their way onto the menus of the expensive restaurants and the big hotels. There are still plenty of fish and chip shops about, some being better than others. A fish and chip meal was a traditional part of a trip to the seaside so we decided to have one for lunch.

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I’d been talking to nice Margaret at work and had told her we were going to Whitby and might have a Fish and Chip lunch. She’s been to Whitby and told us to go to The Magpie Cafe on the harbour that has a reputation for selling some of the best fish and chips in Yorkshire. She warned us that, because of the reputation of the place, we might have to queue for a while to get in. And so we did, in the street outside for about half a hour. The little guy in the blue T looks fed up because he’s just had to queue for a hour to get in.

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It was worth it though. Inside it was like going back 50 years but that was no bad thing. We started with smoked salmon pâté with chutney and warm bread. This was something that our poor ancestors would never have tasted, maybe they wouldn’t have even heard of it. It was delicious. We didn’t have the brown bread and butter or tea either, we went for a bottle of Pinot Grigio, a dryish white wine that would be good with fish. Wine would never have featured in the homes of our poor ancestors as well. It possibly features a bit too much in our home though!

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The fish was cooked to perfection in a coat of light, crisp batter. Likewise the chips without the batter of course. And here’s our dish of mushy peas. For the price of a side dish of mushy peas today you could have fed a family of four with the entire meal 60 years ago.

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If you are in Whitby, we can heartily recommend The Magpie Café for the Fish and Chips.

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My former work mate and good friend, Andy and I both had the same day off. As we hadn’t seen each other in a few weeks, we went to the Manchester Jazz Festival yesterday to have a catch up and to listen to some good music. It’s a ten day packed festival. I’m not so into my jazz that I know all the different acts that turn up but, over the years I’ve been going, I’ve never been disappointed and often been pleasantly surprised. Andy has a slightly different story to tell. Maybe I’m just lucky. I certainly was yesterday. 

I had to drop some papers off at the University then we drove over to Chorlton to park the car and catch the tram into the city. So much more civilised than trying to drive into the city these days and finding reasonably priced parking.

Beer and jazz got together well but midday was a little too early to start so, having got tickets for some of the day’s offerings, we went to get some coffee. Well coffee for me, Andy prefers a nice cup of tea. The coffee and tea came courtesy of one of those mobile coffee vans like the Prosecco one I’d found on New Cathedral Street on Saturday. It’s called Azulito which I think means ‘Little Blue’ in Italian. These little vans are so cool and the coffee was delicious. And Andy thought the tea was good as well, so many coffee shops can’t do a decent cup of tea. Azulito was providing patrons of the jazz festival in Albert Square with coffee and cake.

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The first concert we went to was free. It was a group called The Alexandra Ridout Quintet. Alexandra is only 17 and is the BBC Young Jazz Musician of the Year, 2016. The four guys in her band couldn’t have been much older themselves. She plays the trumpet and did it brilliantly. A well deserved winner of the BBC award I thought. In spite of their youth, the Quintet were the closest to what people think jazz is. They start a tune and each of the band took time to extemporise on the tune. And there was that jazz thing where people applaud each musician as they finish their part, not waiting till the end of the piece as you would in almost any other kind of music.

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A video from the band on YouTube….

We then had ten minutes for a swift walk down to St. Ann’s Church for the second performance of the day, The Paul Towndrow & Steve Hamilton Duo. These two guys came down from Scotland to play at the festival. Paul played the saxophone while Steve played piano. The music was beautiful and ethereal and fitted well in the beautiful surroundings of the church. 

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An example of their music from YouTube…

This chap seems to be in charge of the festival. Well he does all the introductions of the different acts that I’ve seen over the years. Here he is in St Ann’s Church…

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And back in the Albert Square pavilion introducing the last act we saw yesterday…

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The last act we saw was called Skutch Manos. It was a revelation of a concert. There was jazz but there were elements of rock, folk and flamenco as well. Three musicians; a guitarist, a percussionist and a guy with a double bass, they filled the tent with sound and wit. It was sensational. I’m pleased to see that they are local and do a lot of gigs across the city and surrounding areas so I will be able to get to see these talented people again.

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A video of Skutch Manos. But to be honest I haven’t been able to find a video that comes close to seeing these guys live…

We had a late lunch/early dinner. I’d wanted to go back to Wahahca again but Andy isn’t keen on hot, spicy food which surprised me. I think he’s had a bad chilli at some point which isn’t what Wahaca is about with its subtle flavours. We settled on Cabana, a Brazilian restaurant in the Corn Exchange. I’d not tried this one so it was another I can tick off my list of Manchester restaurants I need to try. And, being Brazilian, it’s kind of flavour of the month with the Rio Olympics about to start.

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We started with cocktails. I had a Mango Caipirinha which they drink a lot of in Rio I’m told. It was good. Andy ordered a Red Tailed Parrot but didn’t notice it was 2 for 1, so he ended up with two! Had a sip…also delicious.

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We ordered BBQ steak and chicken wrapped in bacon with French Fries, grilled corn on the cob and Rio beans.

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For pudding Andy has these mini doughnuts stuffed with Nutella. They came with a hot chocolate dipping sauce. And I went with ice cream.

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It was about 5 when we finished. Not a good time to try and drive out of the city. So we caught the tram back to Chorlton and spent an hour of so in ODDEST. A good day.

As part of my day off yesterday I treated myself to lunch out. We’re not exactly short of restaurants in Manchester these days so I was spoilt for choice as to where I could eat. I decided to try one of the many new restaurants that I hadn’t tried and, indeed, an entirely new cuisine.

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I went to Pho (pronounced ‘puh’, almost like you are saying the sound of the letter ‘f’) in the Corn Exchange. It’s a Vietnamese restaurant. Even though it was a Tuesday lunchtime, the restaurants in the Corn Exchange were really busy with people who didn’t mind getting burnt to a crisp braving the al fresco terraces on Exchange Square. And why weren’t they working? Though they must be well off to be treating themselves to lunch on a weekday. Like me I suppose.

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I’m not a fan of hot sunshine and my skin positively hates it so I headed inside to find a table under the dome and out of the sunshine. The air conditioning made it a comfortable option to the 95F outside.

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I was pleased to be dining near people who looked like they might know something about Vietnamese cuisine. It’s always good to eat where the locals eat, they know what’s good.

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Having never been to Vietnam, though it is on my list, I have no idea if the decor was authentic. I think it leaned more to ‘Manchester Cool’ as opposed to authentic ‘Ho Chi Minh City chic.’ When I get there I’ll let you know.

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I never know what wine to drink with Asian foods. European cuisines are easy. I think that it’s got something to do with Asian countries not having a tradition of wine making. Not entirely true of course but I did try some Chinese, European style wine. It was a Merlot. I’d found it in China Town. I saved it until we went to see some friends who import wine. We tried the Chinese Merlot and then a French Merlot that they import. The difference was staggering with China going to have to work hard to reach the quality of the French wine. And sometimes the tastes of the food, though delicious, can jar with the subtle tastes of the wines. Beer, on the other hand, works well and really was welcome yesterday on such a hot day. I went for an imported Vietnamese beer called Halida. It was delicious.

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For first course I had these rice paper parcels stuffed with rice, vegetables flavoured with mint and coriander. It came with a peanut dip. And chopsticks which are difficult to use with these parcels but I persevered. I hope people didn’t notice me stabbing at the food to get it to my mouth though.

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For the main course I had a Fragrant Banana Flower Salad with slivers of beef. It was so good And had some hits of chilli that had me reaching for the beer.

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After all that chilli, a nice cooling bowl of Coconut Ice Cream.

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Pho’s terrace faces the back of the Cathedral. We are in the very heart of Anglo Saxon and Medieval Manchester here. I wonder what the people who lived here 1000 years ago  would make of a restaurant selling food from a country and culture of that they had no idea tha it even existed? The terrace was deserted, even with its beautiful view of the Cathedral on offer. This side of the building was in full sun. One of the waiters had put a thermometer out there and the suntrap hit 105F! They were advising people to sit inside. image

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I’m not a fan of burgers. You’re never sure what’s in them and you hear a lot of rumours about the cheaper ones you buy in supermarkets. And I’m not a fan of certain American burger chains. But, of late, we’ve had a slew of upmarket burger restaurants opening in the city. They make a big show of the provenance and quality of the meat they use so I’ve tried a couple of them out. I did, a while back, venture into Almost Famous on Great Northern Square. I was lured in by the hysterical rumours that it was the best burger joint ever! Well you have a lot to live up to if you’re putting out claims like that. What I got was a soggy brioche bun covered in some unidentifiable gloop stuck to the kitchen paper roll that lined the plastic basket it was in, limp fries and warm wine. I was expected to pay before I ate, get my own cutlery and was given a roll of cheap kitchen paper as a napkin. Even McDs runs to napkins. Not impressed.

So it’s been a while since I ventured into one of these places. But I have tried out the Handmade Burger Co restaurant that has opened up in the Old Courthouse Building on Deansgate on the edge of Spinningfields. I’d heard good things about this place from people I knew who had actually been there instead of the rantings of people on Twitter and the like. Their thing is that the burgers are made from quality, local ingredients, freshly, in the restaurant, every day. It works. I was going out for dinner later so didn’t want a huge meal. I ordered a small burger which came a lot bigger than I thought it might be. It was perfectly cooked and delicious. No one had slathered it in gloop. The fries were crisp, thick and chunky and hot as we like them in the north of England. We’re not at all happy in Manchester with those skinny fries you get in other places. The wine was at the right temperature. The staff were friendly and attentive without being overbearing. No one loftily waved me across the restaurant to find my own knife and fork. I had a proper napkin. It was a good experience. I can recommend this place. You will have a good experience.

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If you want a Handmade Burger Co experience in your own home you can have it in Manchester by ordering it online through a company called Deliveroo. You order and then they pick up your food and Deliveroo it to your home. Here’s a friendly Deliveroo guy outside Handmade Burger Co.

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I spotted another Deliveroo guy on Albert Square. He had this huge box on his back and delivers on his push bike. He said it wasn’t heavy but can catch the wind as he rides through the city on his bicycle. Nice guy but not a job I’d like to have. 

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I had a couple of hours free this afternoon and I’d missed lunch. To fill the time I thought I’d go to Pret á Manger on Spinningfields for a sandwich, a coffee and one of those delicious chocolate mousses they do. It would have cost me about £10 and then I did intend to have a glass of wine later.

I was walking down The Avenue and past Comptoir Libanais, one of Manchester’s new restaurants. I like The Avenue, you can eat in Barcelona, Bangkok, Rio or, in this case, Beirut. Comptoir Libanais means Lebanese counter and it’s a rather smart version of a Beirupt canteen. They were offering two courses for £9.95 and, even with a glass of Lebanese wine, it still came in for under £20. Bargain! In I went.

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The food was delicious and the restaurant is well set out, part restaurant, part delicatessen, part souk. It was busy with lots of  glamorous ladies of a Middle Eastern origin, fashionably dressed and surround by bright yellow bags from Selfridges.

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I had some Falafals with a sesame dip which were delicious.

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And then a Sirine Salad. It was a salad of hot chicken and feta cheese with little gem lettuce, red onions and cherry tomatoes, topped with toasted walnuts and pomegranate seeds. It was filling. I had a glass of chilled, white, Lebanese wine from the Bekaa Valley in the Lebanon, an area that has been making wine for thousands of years. Sirine is a famous actress from the Middle East. Her face features all over the restaurant.

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There was a delicatessen area where you could buy Lebanese essentials to try at home. And there was the souk part where you could buy all kinds of things you might find in a market in a Middle Eastern city. No haggling though. 

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I was in the main part of the restaurant. But between that and the street is a covered terrace where you can have a drink and informal, small plates of food. I liked the blankets over the backs of the chairs that you could wrap yourself in if you feel the cold. This is Manchester of course, not Beirut. 

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After my couple of hours in Beruit, it was back out into Manchester. Round the corner from Comptoir Libanais, No 1 Hardman Square, Spinningfields is rising fast.image

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