Saturday, 13 July 2013

Proof's 'Liquid Brunch'

Oysters: hangover-cure in a half-shell

Brunch. While there's some debate as to the origins of this portmanteau, there can be no debate that it's one of the most overlooked of mealtimes. Originally, brunch was a cure for 'Saturday night carousers'; something not as heavy as a full-on a Sunday roast for the hungover hordes. Though there was no shortage of boozehounds back then, there's just plain more of us now, waking up at the weekend with throbbing heads and rumbling stomachs, looking for the ideal brunch spot. But, where to go? Well, if you live in Chorlton or its environs (hell, even further afield - it's worth the journey) then Proof have stepped up to plate with their Liquid Brunch.

Beet 'n' Bloody
A drawback of most places that offer brunch is the lack of decent liquid refreshment. Sure, you've got your coffee and your fruit juices (maybe, a Bloody Mary at a push and a side of scowl from the bartender) but for those who like to treat their hangovers with more of the devil drink, the options are few and far between. But not at Proof. Thanks to the crack cocktail team, you can get back on the wagon in style with a selection of no less than six brunch-inspired concoctions. From the Margarita-based Holy Guacamole and a twist on the classic Bloody Mary, Best 'n' Bloody, there's something for all manner of ailment. So you don't have to listen to me prattle on about the merits of each one and list their ingredients, I've kindly added a copy of the menu below. Suffice it to say, that Proof have been mixing some of the best drinks in Manchester for years now, and their Liquid Brunch doesn't disappoint.

And it's not all liquid. They serve up three different bagels that will please meat-eaters, pescatarians and vegetarians alike. If you're brave enough, they also do a platter of oysters with all the trimmings. They're keeping it local too with bagels coming from the ever-popular Barbikan and oysters coming from the guys at Out of the Blue. If that doesn't tempt you, the price most certainly will. With a cocktail and a bagel costing just a tenner, or two cocktails for 12 quid, you won't feel to guilty about loosening those purse strings again after a heavy night.

We were guests of Proof and between each member of the group we managed to sip and scoff our way through the entire menu. Pairing a bacon and roasted tomato bagel with a souped-up Bloody Mary is a must; the Holy Guacamole with, you guessed it, homemade guacamole was a surprise hit; and if you like something less savoury the Brunch Martini is a sophisticated alternative. 

Liquid Brunch is served Saturday and Sunday from 12-4pm.

30a Manchester Road
M21 9PH

The menu: get browsing

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Chorlton Coffee Festival

Since I quit a fairly safe graduate job at the end of last year, I've gone through stages of working a mere two days a week to not having two minutes to myself to think! In part, I can thank the wonderful Chorlton Coffee Festival for that. Get your tiny violins out, please, people: as well as working three jobs, I am somehow heading up the marketing for this innovative wee festival happening in the lovely south Manchester suburb.

So, despite being in charge of the marketing shenanigans for the festival, I didn't want to get too salesy and blabber on about how great the festival is going to be (which IT WILL BE). Rather, I wanted to talk about a little coffee experience that Jamie & I had when visiting Berlin last year. An experience that made me re-think the way we "do" coffee shops in the UK.

Described as something of a 'hole in the wall', Double Eye is a teeny coffee shop, situated on a beautiful street in Schöneberg. Well, I think it was beautiful... it was a gorgeous, sunny day when we visited, and I was in love with Berlin, so everything looked a bit like I'd taken some sort of herbal high. Even though it wasn't near where we were staying, Jamie and I made a rather long trip over to this caffeine provider, as it appears as one of the best places to get coffee on most review sites and city guides. The queue was out of the door, practically half-way down the street. Normally, this might put me off, but we'd come so far! 

We patiently queued, and by the time we entered the shop itself, what really struck me was the sense of calm in the building. No impatient individuals, impertiently tapping their fingertips on the counter, but calm, Sunday-morning people, looking forward to a damn good cup of coffee, however long it would take. I couldn't work out whether this behaviour was mirroring that of the staff, or vice versa. The baristas were serving cup after cup after cup of coffee, happily. There was no sense of stress, or annoyance at the busyness, just a humble dedication to perfecting their flat whites. 

What's funny is that it isn't really the coffee itself that I recall. I remember something soothing and milky, with a complimentary sweet biscuit perched on top. It's how relaxing the environment felt when I was waiting inside. It didn't matter to anyone that there were tens of people in need of a coffee: every customer was treated as if they were the first person to order a coffee that day.

In many coffee shops in the UK - and here, I'm talking about the huge, city centre chain ones - there's such an impatient and unfriendly attitude with regards to buying takeaway coffee. Yes, I know you're incredibly important and are in a terrible rush to get your caffeine fix, but really, must you be so surly? Of course, Starbucks is like totally changing the customer-barista interaction now baristas are being so personable and being forced to ask our first name when we order a drink.

If, you are in Berlin, by the way, and want a damn good cup of coffee - to be remembered for how amazing the coffee itself is - make sure you hit Bonanza: simarly relaxing, though professional to the point I thought I'd walked into some New York advertising agency when I saw the baristas.

So, drinking in coffee in Berlin is how I came to be involved with Chorlton Coffee Festival. When I met Lorelei, the festival producer, and heard her desire to promote cafe culture as it is on the continent, and internationally, in the UK, I was sold. Unlike other coffee festivals in the UK, it's not about getting huge sponsorships from industry suppliers (though some sponsorship would be nice if any kind benefactor is listening!), it's about celebrating the independent spirit of Chorlton's cafes, bars and restaurants.

Chorlton Coffee Festival takes place on the weekend of 28th - 30th June, across 30+ venues in the area. Establishments will be offering coffee related deals and hosting related (and not-so-related!) events across the three days. On Saturday 29th, Chorlton Central Church will transform into the festival 'hub', with tastings, demos and workshops from related businesses. As I - and all of the other volunteers involved - have given up many hours, days and weeks to get this festival together, please support us by coming along, drinking a cup of coffee (or tea!) and celebrating all that's great about cafe culture by relaaaaxing.

Double Eye 
Akazienstraße 22, 10823 Berlin
0179 456 6960

Oderberger Straße 35, 10435 Berlin
0176 6169 1496

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Winner Winner, Chicken Dinner

Lovely Beagle branded glasswear sporting Buxton's Dark Nights and the Kernel's London Sour

Never have truer words been spoken than the title of this post. Spotting The Beagle's Chicken In A Basket night - chicken served three ways - our pulses raced as it was confirmed that fried would indeed be one of the ways it would be cooked. Then I stupidly decided to give up fried chicken for Lent (yes, it has got that bad). Cue moral dilemmas. Being agnostic I'm not really that strict on the whole Lenten abstinence, and decided, for the sake of democracy - as Jamie's analysis of fried chicken is only going to end in one answer: "good!" - to go and eat everything anyway.

I will ashamedly admit that we had never before visited the Beagle. Though it had most definitely been on our to-do list since I picked up a mysterious flyer promising a beer house with dining room (bastards! I shouted, they've stolen my concept!) at IMBC, we had failed to make the lengthy two bus-rides journey over. Whilst we have an array of chicken eateries on our doorstep, this journey proved we will travel far and wide for our land-burdened feathered friend. On entrance, the bar made me feel a little like I was in a very sophisticated German beerhouse - and even reminded me a little of Die Henne in Berlin (chicken on the brain or what?!) - though on moving into the restaurant area, it felt a little more like I was in a super stylish granny's living room.

Though we would be provided with beer as part of the deal, we opted for something different as an aperitif, and Jamie wisely selected us a half of the Kernel London Sour (at 2.3% perhaps one of the lowest ABVs I've seen on something actually drinkable!), and another of the Buxton's Dark Nights (4.6%) - an American style Porter. Having acquainted my palette with a rather less sophisticated Irish porter in an attempt to enjoy beer as a young girl, I ended up becoming rather good friends with it, and so the Dark Nights was right up my street. Whilst I could appreciate the er, aperitif style of the Kernel (it certainly got one's mouth watering!) the barman's description of it tasting like salt & vinegar crisps couldn't get out of my head, and I passed this on to Jamie. Good news all round as he's loving the Cantillon brewery at the moment, whose Geuze beer isn't altogether dissimilar to the Kernel's offering. I should also take this opportunity to award Jamie with a small round of applause for managing to refrain from any puns on its name given what we were here to eat...

The most perfect scotch egg in the world. 

We were given a couple of morsels to begin: a perfectly cooked scotch egg (look at that yolk!), and something lovely and buttery on brown bread. I had to ask the waiter what it was who replied "just potted cheddar". Now to he who works there, and probably is lucky enough to pinch a bit every day of his working life (late at night, when going for a 'fag break' but secretly going on a fridge scour - that's what I used to do), it may just be potted cheddar, but to me, it was one of the most delicious things I had ever eaten on bread before EVER. Even with the chicken still to come, this decided it: the Beagle was my new favourite restaurant.

Now, I can't say I'm altogether taken with this new fad of serving things in a basket (think burger bars), but I was going to let this slide for tonight, and was more than pleased when I spotted that the Beagle had carefully sourced lovely stylish baskets for the evening. Despite that, chicken in a basket ain't ever gonna look pretty so there's no photo, but you do get to hear my comprehensive description! First of all, my guilt re: Jesus' death subsided as the fried chicken was 'popcorn' style, and therefore not even what a fricken aficionado would term fried chicken due to its lack of grease. The coating was light and tasty and easily popped! into the mouth. The spicy Buffalo wings were seriously spicy (though I'm only one step up from a Korma kind of gal) though didn't set my mouth on fire as much as the ones we tried at the Bird in Berlin (more of what they're about here). Fortunately, the sides offered blue cheese dip which made them easily manageable for someone as wimpish as me. We were also given a purple cabbage slaw and crudités of carrots and celery (the chef's Mum had clearly taught them that you must always get at least one of your five-a-day in your evening meal!).

BBQ Beanz & blue cheez dip
Back to the chicken, as we still had a breast and a leg of chicken each to get through... My guess is that they might have been cooked sous-vide and then finished off in a pan as they were so wonderfully tender. Or they're just really good at cooking their poultry to perfection too! We were also given the best chips ever: perfectly seasoned with what I can only imagine was crack-salt as I am still craving more of them now, a whole week later. There was so much food we had to ask for a doggy bag to bring half of the chicken home, which I thoroughly enjoyed in a club sandwich the next day.

We were, of course, also given matched beers with the chicken with a choice of either Quantum's American Amber Ale (5.3%) which I really enjoyed; not overly hoppy and therefore a great choice for me. We were also served Magic Rock High Wire (5.5%), which - to be honest - I don't remember at all, but beer ratings websites seem to score very highly so it's probably not bad!

This would have small children crying with tears of joy
Dessert was still to come and took the form of a retro ice cream sundae. The ice creams were phenomenal - the strawberry even better than a Mini Milk (what high praise!), and I would hazaard a guess that the other was a dark chocolate sorbet. All served up with strawberries, bits of brownie and honeycomb, and topped - slightly too high, for my liking - with whipped cream (the proper stuff) - we manage to get through most of it, as we were worried it might not transport so well in our doggy bag.

All in all, a highly successful evening! I think that's evident from the number of seemingly superfluous statements I've made in this entry, but it's all true. My only criticism would be that when I heard 'matched beers' I thought there would be set beers provided to compliment each of the courses and had dreams of some sort of treacly dark beer to go with the dessert. Nevertheless, booze was enjoyed, food was demolished and even better, it was a bargain! £20 per person for a pint, a nibble, pracitcally an entire chicken, sides and dessert. I hear other great themed nights are on the cards, so please Beagle, reserve us a spot now, because I can't wait to see what you'll do with a prawn cocktail...

The Beagle
456-458 Barlow Moor Road, Chorlton
Manchester, M21 0BQ
0161 881 8596

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