Hard Rock Cafe are well-known for their burgers across the world, and all 199 sites have been coming up with creations that define their corresponding city. For the next two months though, customers are being invited to sample the aptly named Local Legendary Burger offerings, with 8 being highlighted at Manchester’s Hard Rock Cafe over the coming weeks.
So, if you pop in this weekend, you can grab yourself the Indian styles of the Tandoori Spiced Chicken Burger, coming complete with chicken breast marinated with authentic tandoori spice and fresh herbs, topped with Jack cheese, cucumber and mint yoghurt. Or perhaps the Java Lava Burger from Seattle, America that involves the beef patty rubbed with espresso to release a subtle flavour of coffee, alongside homemade lava sauce, java onions, Cheddar cheese and smoked bacon. This works perfectly with its American cousin the Maple Old Fashioned, Hard Rock Cafe’s twist on the classic American cocktail that uses Makers Mark bourbon, cherries, maple syrup and orange juice, garnished with a stick of crispy bacon.
San Antonio in America are also featured, giving you an insight into the city’s culture with their Jalapeño Cream Cheese Burger. This comes layered with double-battered jalapeño slices and jalapeño cream cheese, alongside red onion and Sriracha mayonnaise. The South Pacific island of Guam also makes an appearance with their Chamorro Burger, using island spices that are rubbed into the beef patty, with layers of Pepper Jack cheese and homemade Chamorro glaze and chilli paste on top. Perfect to accompany is the Mai Tai One On that features Mount Gay Eclipse rum, Cointreau, Monin Orgeat, fresh lime and orange juice.
Other cocktails that work perfectly with the World Burger Tour include the likes of the Pomegranate Mule, blending Absolut vodka, Monin Pomegranate and ginger beer together, as well as the Mezcarita that offers Del Maguey Mezcal, Cointreau, Malibu and fresh strawberries for a Mexican flavour.
Of course no visit to the Manchester cafe would be complete without the Lancashire Hot Pot Burger that features a de-constructed Lancashire Hot Pot, minted lamb pate, potato rosti and onion frazzles, all topped with gravy!
As of June 1st though, four new burger variations will be available, including delights from Miami, United Arab Emirates, Vietnam and Guatemala. So you have two reasons to pop in and really splash out on your cultured cuisine!
Asian food is a cuisine that is rarely called upon in my world. I’ve nothing against it, I just prefer other types ahead, but like I am with my drink, on the odd occasion I will branch out, experience, learn and hopefully enjoy. With an invite to Sakana, the fairly new opening on Peter Street in Manchester, it would test my food based horizons.
What used to be a site occupied by Chicago Rocks, Sakana transformed the interior with clean, white decor that leaves no trace of the former tenants. The open kitchen at the back of the restaurant is a touch I always love, and the bar that greets you is a divide from the drinks to restaurant crowd. This is, of course, the first port-of-call for the Drinks Enthusiast, ordering a Sano Grog (£7) that blended Jack Daniels with Gosling Black Seal and Cointreau, topped with apple juice. Strong, with the whiskey and rum hitting the mark well, and the orange of the Cointreau dicing through on the odd occasion made it an interesting mix. Browsing the drinks menu whilst waiting for my plus one, I notice that the menu is actually split when it comes to the cocktails. My Sano Grog is classed as ‘Dai’, seen as classic cocktails that have lasted throughout the ages with a Sakana twist. I could have easily have gone for Blueberry Margarita with Olmeca Plata, or Strawberry and Coconut Caipirinha with Sagatiba, or indeed chosen from the Shakabuku or Kusuguri-Zeme lists which gave out recipes such as Lotus Blossom which includes Grey Goose La Poire, Kwai Feh lychee liqueur, Sake, lime, sugar and pear.
Upon the arrival, my guest for the evening opted for the One Inch Punch (£8.50), mixing Bacardi Oro, Cariel Vanilla vodka, lime juice, gingerbread syrup, blueberry puree, and ginger beer, this came under the Shakabuku portion of the menu that offered cocktails that gave a swift kick to the head that causes spiritual enlightenment.
Our helpful and polite host offered us our seats for the evening, a booth along the back of the bar that gave a great view of the kitchen and the master chefs at work. As it was before 7pm, the ‘Taste of Sakana’ menu looked the tempting option for two novices, with the chance to experience 4 dishes each for the price of £18.50 (you can of course go for less if required). So, as you would, 8 dishes were ordered including Pork Ramen which involved Loin pork, noodles and miso broth, also Donburi Pork Tonkatsu with deep fried pork in panko, Japanese rice and teriyaki sauce as well as Yuzu and Sesame Beef with grilled steak with a yuzu and sesame glaze plus fresh green salad.
Artistic measures are a must at Sakana, as all the dishes came to the table with thought, care and attention to detail, with each dish explained to accompany. All served at the right temperature, and we had a nice balance of fish and meat, with some dishes, for example the Pork Ramen, offering a lighter side as the pork soaked up the miso broth. The eight dishes seemed a lot to begin-with, but the bites were the right size for an informal dinner chat, with chopsticks and cutlery clashing as my lack of skills hampered the ‘right way’. Other dishes that just missed the cut were the likes of Spicy Fish Ramen with noodle soup with spicy thai fish cake and spicy broth, as well as Yakimiso Pork Steamed Bun which involved slow miso pork belly, served with two soft and fluffy steamed buns.
Value for money? £18.50 is for sure a brilliant way to spend on a wide variety. No room for dessert perhaps, but always space for a night-cap. Of course, Asian cuisine much be finished with some Asian spirit styles, with my friend opting for the highly acclaimed Yamazaki 12 year whisky (£6 for 25 ml), with myself heading towards the Sake expressions, in particular the Kishinamien Umeshu plum Infused Sake (£6.90 for 75 ml). Warm, well-balanced and to be honest a great and fitting ending to a surprisingly good meal. I didn’t know what to expect for a cuisine that I’m not overly familiar with, but I’ll be back again for sure.
The vermouth category is often overlooked, with many customers not realising perhaps how much vermouth impacts a wide variety of serves, with the Martini and Manhattan cocktails probably the two most commonly known. I’ve featured a good range of vermouth brands on this site so far, from the well-known to the newly formed, but a common theme for these is the country of origin. Italy and France are the two stalwarts when it comes to production, and are seen around the country in nearly all bars, restaurants and cafés. It’s these experiences that we bring back to the UK and enjoy with perhaps soda or bitter lemon. But have you ever thought outside the box a little? Perhaps going for Belsazar, a German based vermouth?
Belsazar vermouth can trace itself to 2013 with its two creators, Sebastian Brack and Maximillian Wagner. They saw the lack of German vermouths in the market and looked into the fact that Germany is home to a wide variety of plants, herbs and spices. Wine is also a great export from the country, and the two founders teamed with Philipp Schladerer of The Schladerer Distillery, south of Braden, to combine these elements and produce what we see today.
For the base of each of the four expressions, wines from the South Baden region of Germany are sourced, in particular from award-winning wine makers at Kaiserstuhl and in Markgräflerland. They also keep it local for the acquisition of grape must, a natural sweetener used instead of normal sugar, and utilise the family run company Schladerer in the Black Forest for the fruit brandy that gives a twist to the finished liquids. Ultimately, with a blend of the 6 wines, they are flavoured with up to 20 different spices, herbs, peels and blossoms with the addition of the brandy and must.
Once each expression has been created, the liquid is aged within stone casks, believed that the temperature will be consistent compared to wooden oak barrels.
But how do each fare? Well below, I give to you my tasting notes –
Belsazar Dry – 19%
Fresh, strudel aromas of grape and apple on the nose. Light, slightly sweet and with notes of orange, bark on the palate. Slightly dry and bitter on the finish, with aromatic apricot lingering.
Belsazar White – 18%
Rich, sweet aromas of dried oranges and fresh peach on the nose. Thin and sweet upon the palate, with a slight explosion of herbal root and dry spice combining to a long, slightly bitter finish.
Belsazar Rosé – 17.5%
Slightly bitter notes of raspberry, grapefruit and orange on the nose. Light, floral and aromatic flavours of currants, peach and quinine on the palate create a dry, more herbal finish.
Belsazar Red – 18%
Rich aromas of vanilla, fudge and cocoa on the nose. Incredibly smooth, velvet almost, with a developing bitter cinnamon flavour around the cherry and spice base. Very dry on the lingering finish.
An interesting range, and definitely offers a different flavour profile to the Italian and French styles. I can see them working very well within the likes of these recipes –
60 ml full-bodied Cuban rum
30 ml Belsazar Vermouth Dry
1 teaspoon of Orange Curacao
3 dashes of Grenadine
Pour all ingredients into a mixing tumbler, fill with ice cubes and stir until cool. Pour into a pre-chilled Martini glass and serve with orange zest.
With Beurre Blanc Belsazar, fennel greens and balm, for 4 persons:
4 common scallops in shells · 100ml fish stock · 50ml Belsazar dry · 2 shallots · 120g butter · 50g French bread · 5g fennel greens · 1 sprigs balm · sea salt, pepper, cane sugar, oil
Cut French bread into slices and dry in the oven at 140 degrees for about 10 minutes. Carefully open the scallops with a knife, separate scallop meat from roe and offal, and clean the shell under running water. Lay the shell aside. Peel the shallots and cut into very small cubes.
Put 50g butter in a pan and let it melt, add breadcrumbs and fry lightly by stirring constantly. Now add 50 g of cold butter to the cooled base sauce and stir slowly with a whisk until the butter has completely dissolved. Scallops in 3 tbsp oil Sear on both sides in a skillet over high heat, add 20 g of butter and remove from heat. Leave the scallops in brown butter to infuse. Fill each bellied scallop shell with buttered breadcrumbs, lay each roasted mussel and sprinkle with Beurre Blanc “Belsazar”.
Garnish with fennel greens and balm. Cover again with a little of buttered breadcrumbs and serve immediately.
Liqueurs are a huge part of any bar offering, or indeed your own collection at home. Most of you have heard of the classics – Baileys, Tia Maria, Bénédictine etc, but there’s always one’s that stand out when browsing a little closer to the flavour profiles available.
How about Solerno for example?
A blood orange flavoured liqueur, Solerno is made exclusively on the island of Sicily by Master Distiller Lesley Gracie. Leslie is a well-known name within the industry as she is credited for the creation of Hendrick’s Gin. It’s with this knowledge that she decided to use blood oranges that are hand-picked at the height of harvest on Mt. Etna. At the Agrumeria Corleone, where five generations of Sicilians since 1890, the citrus oils from the blood oranges are extracted and processed within 24 hours to maintain the freshness.
Once extracted, it is married with Italian lemon and a neutral spirit base. The spirit is then lightly sweetened with natural sugar, then packaged in a Murano inspired glass bottle, coloured to tip the hat towards the deep red of the skin of the blood orange fruit.
So with a dive into a lesser used fruit profile, how does it fare? Well below, I give to you my tasting notes –
Solerno – 40%
Very fresh with plenty of orange aromas hitting the nose. Slightly bitter upon the palate, although the freshness dominates. Produces a mouth-watering texture with the intense pulp of the blood orange coming through. Creates a long, slightly bitter finish.
A great liqueur to have over ice, but maybe this will tantalize you?
75 ml Solerno Blood Orange Liqueur
25 ml Aperol
50 ml Fresh squeezed orange juice
80 ml Prosecco
Build the ingredients over ice and stir. Garnish with an orange slice or blood orange slice if it’s in season.
It’s not just cocktails that Solerno is good for. I’ve come across this cracking recipe if you’re looking for a different take on food –
Gemma Sciabica’s Solerno Sponge Cake
6 eggs, separated
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
½ teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons Sciabica’s Mission Spring Extra Virgin Olive Oil
½ cup frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
2 tablespoons Solerno Blood Orange Liqueur
In a large mixing bow, beat egg whites on high-speed until foamy. Add ½ cup of sugar slowly while beating until whites hold stiff peaks.
In another large bowl, combine flour, the remaining ½ cup of sugar, salt and baking powder. Make a well in the center and add egg yolks, olive oil, orange juice concentrate and liqueur.
Blend until smooth then gently fold in the beaten egg white mixture.
Pour batter into a 10 inch springform pan or tube pan.
Bake at 325 degrees for 50 to 60 minutes until the cake springs back when lightly touched in the center.
Turn the cake upside down to cool.
When cooled, run a knife around the edges of the pan to release sides and pull gently to loosen the bottom from the pan.
Serve the cake with fresh fruit soaked in 1 tablespoon of Solerno Blood Orange Liqueur and 1 tablespoon of sugar (per cup of fruit) and then top with whip cream.
The cake makes a wonderful base for Tiramisu.
Slice the cake into two layers and frost as desired. Try it filled with pudding and fruit, frosted with sweetened whipped cream.
The “Zacanta”, from James Fowler, UK World Class Winner 2014, served at The Larder House Bournemouth
2 bar spoons of Christmas mincemeat
15ml Spiced pineapple puree
50ml Ron Zacapa 23
10ml Kamm & Sons
10ml Lime juice
Pop all in a shaker and shake with good ice, then strain into goblet filled with fresh ice. Garnish with “Hot date foam” – a hot foam flavoured with dates (recipe below). Garnish finally with shards of orange zest.
Date Foam –
Boiling hot water 150 ml
Heat the above until dates become very soft and form purée
2 bar spoons pro espuma hot (thickening stabiliser agent)
Put into espuma gun
Keep hot until use (water bath) All the dates, none of the hassle
The ‘Ron de Replay’ Zacapa 23 cocktail at iconic London venue BOUNCE
This winter, ultra-premium rum brand Ron Zacapa has partnered one of London’s most iconic and talked about venues, Bounce to launch the game stopping new – Ron de Replay
Sip on this perfect serve as you practice your table tennis serve in Europe’s first premium ‘Social Ping Pong Club’. Taste the rich and smooth flavours of Ron Zacapa 23, aged 2,300m above sea level in the ‘House Above the Clouds’ in Guatemala, perfectly combined with orange liqueurs and chocolate bitters in this new signature cocktail. And in a final touch befitting a creation from these two aspirational brands, the drink is crowned with a bespoke luxury Rococo chocolate ping pong ball, especially created for Bounce.
“It was interesting for me to create a drink that complements the garnish, usually it is the other way around. The orange and chocolate flavours in the drink are designed to enhance the flavours of the chocolate ping pong ball, and are best enjoyed together.” Jacek Czekaj, bartender, Bounce
Stir ingredients over a cocktail jar to blend and achieve perfect density, before pouring into a rocks glass over cubed ice. Garnish with orange rind pinched to release the oils, and finish with the luxury Rococo chocolate ball. Enjoy, order another, and repeat!
Or how about some of these simple Christmas creations?
• 60 ml Ron Zacapa Rum
• 8 tablespoons of watermelon
• 2 dash angostura bitters
• 15 ml Mint Syrup
• 5x mint leaf
• Muddle the watermelon in a cocktail shaker
• Shake all the ingredients together
• Double strain into a chilled Martini glass
• Garnish: mint leaf
• 30 ml Ketel One
• 20 ml fresh lemon juice
• 25 ml basil-strawberry syrup
• 1 kg crystal sugar
• 50 gm of fine chopped basil
• 10 large mashed strawberries
• Boil 1 litre of water with the crystal sugar, add chopped basil and mashed strawberries
• Cool down for 24 hours in your refrigerator
• Shake the ketel one, syrup, lemon juice and 1 barspoon chartreuse vert with ice for about 15 seconds
• Pour in Collins glass with ice cubes and top with champagne and crushed ice
• Add mint covered in powdered sugar and some rose water bitters to top off
• Garnish: mint sprig covered with powdered sugar and a strawberry
• 60 ml Don Julio blanco
• 20 ml fresh lime juice
• 15 ml Agave water
• 5 fresh blackberries
• 2 grinds of black pepper
• Agave and black pepper rim
• Muddle blackberries, add the rest of the ingredients,
• shake hard and double strain into a rimmed rock glass over ice
• The black pepper and agave nectar lifts up the natural character of blanco tequila (Don Julio), balanced with fresh lime and some fresh blackberries for some extra depth and a fruity feel
FESTIVE RUM BUTTER PUNCH
Ingredients (Per serve)
• 50 ml Ron Zacapa
• Small fingernail of butter
• Pinch of any spice including cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, clove, cardamom
• 10 ml honey or Agave nectar
• 30 ml hot water
• Add all ingredients to a Punch bowl, stir and serve
Fever-Tree’s Hot Ginger Punch
– 150 ml Havana 7 Year Old (or suitable alternative)
– 600 ml Fever-Tree Ginger Beer
– 200 ml Fever-Tree Ginger Ale
– 15-20 cloves
– 6-10 Star Anise
– 1 vanilla pod
– Orange peel.
Gently heat the rum, ginger beer and ginger ale in a suitable pot for 5-10mins. Do not bring to the boil. Meanwhile, slice vanilla pod from top to bottom and add to the pot along with the rest of the spices and stir. Keep pot on a low heat.
Add a few twists of orange peel and gently stir to taste. Heat for further 5 minutes gently ensuring liquid does not come to boil.
Ladle punch into a small glass tankard along with spices and peel.
Maybe a tasty recipe for rum and food?
Edible Stories Zacapa Reserva Christmas Beef
Ask your butcher for a three inch cut short rib cut, also know as the Jacobs ladder.
Make up your Zacapa Reserva marinade, for 1 kilo of meat mix 300 ml of the rum with 200 ml of water and a table spoon of salt and teaspoon of cinnamon. Take your whole piece of beef and place in a deep tray with the marinade ensuring the fat side of the meat is face down in the marinade. Cover with cling film to make air tight to keep the aromas in and leave in a fridge for 48 hours.
After the marinade has soaked in to the meat, drain the left over marinade into a deep baking tray add 700mls of red wine, four bay leaves, 500gms of sliced carrots and 500gms of slice white onions. Then place the beef bone side up to ensure the meat is in you rich revamped marinade. Cover with foil (double layered) again ensuring it is air tight. Place in an oven at 130 degrees and leave for 7 hours to braise slowly.
After the braising carefully take the foil off and drain the juices passing your well cooked vegetables through a sieve giving you your rich Zacapa reserva sauce. Cut your beef into the desired portions which should be so succulent and tender the bones should be falling off the meat which for presentation can be used as a base for your meat on.
Get your Christmas teeth stuck into a Gallo Family Vineyards Autumn Red with venison steak, blackberry sauce and horseradish and potato rosti!
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes
· 4 venison steaks (use beef if you can’t source venison)
· 1tsp black peppercorns
· 1tsp dried mugwort (optional)
· 225g blackberries
· 425 ml chicken stock
· 75 ml Gallo Family Vineyards Autumn Red
· 4 tbsp sloe gin
· 1 tsp blackberry jam
· Lemon juice, to taste
· 4 medium sized potatoes (maris piper are good for this)
· Horseradish root (to taste)
· Vegetable oil for frying
· Salt and pepper
1. Crush enough back peppercorns to give your venison a light coating, don’t make them too fine or the flavour will be overpowering
2. Finely chop enough dried mugwort to do the same
3. Mix the mugwort and pepper together and roll your venison in it, giving a light coating.
4. Leave in the fridge over night or if it is less than 2 hours before you cook the venison, leave it out on the side
5. If you do refrigerate the meat then make sure you take it out in good time for it to be at room temperature when you cook it
Horseradish root & potato rosti:
1. Cut the potatoes in half and boil for 5 minutes.
2. Remove from the pan and leave to drain and cool
3. Grate the potato with an ordinary grater
4. Grate some horseradish root into the mixture to taste and season with salt and pepper.
5. Heat the vegetable oil in a frying pan, form the grated mix into patties and fry until golden. If you have problems with the mix falling apart try adding a little flour or egg
6. Keep warm in the oven until the venison is ready
To cook the venison:
1. Season the meat with salt
2. Heat a large frying pan and cover with a film of oil
3. It should be just smoking. Add the venison steaks. Turn each piece as it colours – be careful not to let the pepper burn too much – and keep turning until the meat is well coloured
4. If you are cooking the meat to rare small steaks will take a matter of 2 or 3 minutes while larger ones will take under 10 minutes
5. Rest the meat for at least as long as it cooked for in a warm place and then slice across the grain. While the meat is resting make the blackberry sauce
1. Press and sieve the blackberries
2. Add the Gallo Family Vineyards Autumn Red to the pan used to cook the venison, stir and reduce for a few minutes
3. Add the sloe gin, blackberries, blackberry jam and boil until the sauce coats the back of a spoon, add seasoning and sharpen with a squeeze of lemon juice
Place the potato rosti on a plate with the sliced venison steak. Spoon over the blackberry sauce and serve with wild cabbage or sea beet.
I’ve been to the Manchester branch of Hard Rock Cafe a fair few times over the years, but it had been a while since my last visit. Time to duly rectify this with a burger hit on #NationalBurgerDay of all days!
Although the rise in smaller independents that cover Manchester, Hard Rock have always had a good selection of burgers available including the likes of the Mushroom & Swiss, which combines sautéed mushrooms and melted Swiss cheese, and the Fiesta which heavies on the Mexican flavours of roasted jalapeño salsa, melted Jack cheese, freshly made guacamole and pico de gallo. However Hard Rock were vying away from the menu a little on #NationalBurgerDay in that all burger loving customers could create their very own with choice from a great selection of toppings!
In my element of course, the choices of sauces were vast and included the likes of tangy, heavy metal, texan, bbq, ranch, blue cheese, red pepper, butternut squash and zucchini. To go with your choice, bacon, cheddar cheese, Jack cheese, Swiss cheese, onion frazzles and caramelised onions were amongst the options to fill out your piping hot meal. My choices turned to be Sloppy-Joe (sweet chili pepper seasoning), American and Jack cheeses along with bbq sauce, complete with a double burger and side of fries and blue cheese and horseradish mayonnaise.
Considering I’ve never had the pleasure of the American classic they call Sloppy-Joe, I gambled with a great pay-off as it really enhanced the burger flavours, with the two cheeses mixed well to round the experience off. I love bbq sauce, so that added richness to it all and gave me something to mop the fries with.
Shockingly, no dessert for me though. My creation left me struggling to even attempt to look at the menu, which was by no means a bad thing. Good food had been consumed and it did what all food should do; filled me up!
I’m sure Hard Rock Cafe will be offering similar deals in the future when it comes to creating your own burger, but if you pop in on a day that they are not, you won’t be lacking options on the menu. The previously mentioned are only a few from the menu that also boasts Hickory BBQ Bacon and Cheese and the ever-changing Local Legendary, which offers flavours unique to Manchester!
Go in, order a burger, leave full and wanting to return quickly. #NationalBurgerDay or not, sometimes you can’t beat a more recognised figure.
There’s generally considered to be three main brands of vermouth in the world that most, if not all bars and restaurants will stock. I’ve already featured two within my site, Martini Rossi and Cinzano, but I’ve finally been able to discover the third major presence, Noilly Prat. But compared to the stories of the two Italians, Noilly Prat begins its life out at sea with the French.
Lets take a look.
It’s long known that wooden barrels will ultimately change the characteristics of any liquid within, with the climate surrounding varying the degrees of flavours produced. This process was stumbled upon when wine use to be transported by sea, being exposed to the elements whilst being stored on deck. The long journeys meant that the wine carried a deeper flavour profile and colour compared to its original state, something that Joseph Noilly, a herbalist, wanted to take full advantage of. In 1813, Joesph worked on the process and recipe for what we would now know as Noilly Prat, ageing the wines outdoors and over four seasons. In 1850 Louis Noilly, son of Joseph, began ageing wines in the fishing village of Marseillan in the south of France, eventually forming a partnership with his son-in-law, Claudius Prat in 1855 from which Noilly Prat & Cie was founded and registered. Unfortunately, Louis Noilly died in 1865 and his daughter Anne-Rosine, widow of Claudius Prat, took over the running of the company for nearly 40 years.
But how is France’s first ever vermouth created?
The village of Marseillan produces the local grape varieties of Picpoul and Clairette which are then pressed and the must aged in oak casks that are themselves between 20 and 60 years old. These casks are then exposed to the elements of the Mediterranean in the walled enclosure of L’Enclos for 12 months. While this is happening, the indoor cellars in La Maison Noilly Prat (built by Louis Noilly around 1850) is the Chai des Mistelles which houses vast Canadian oak vats that can hold up to 40,000 litres of wine. Here the mistelles wines are matured for 12 months which ensures slow oxidisation, producing a rich, golden wine by the end of the ageing process.
Once matured, the two wines are brought together before a secret selection of herbs and spices are macerated for three weeks, then carefully extracted. Afterwards, the wine is allowed to rest for six more weeks.
So how does the range fare? Well below, I give to you my tasting notes –
Noilly Prat Original Dry – 18%
Herbs and spices within include Roman Chamomile and Gentian from France, Nutmeg from Indonesia and Bitter Orange from Tunisia.
Sweet aromas on the nose with a fresh herbal note, slight citrus and well-rounded feel. Slightly bitter on the palate, although smooths off to a light texture, yet a growing bold hit of chamomile, wood and fennel. A little dry on the finish, but the smoothness delivers.
Noilly Prat Ambré – 16%
First produced in 1986. Herbs and spices include cardamom, cinnamon and lavender.
Fresh, rich aromas of banana, vanilla and orange on the nose. Lots of sweetness coming through, especially once upon the palate. Cinnamon, aromatic orange and plenty of herbal flavours blend well together before producing a long, slightly dry, bitter spice finish.
Two of the more easier to drink vermouths on the market, and I can only imagine the Rouge expression will be just as good. In the meantime though, I’ll be enjoying one of these, heralded by Martini di Arma di Taggia, the famous head bartender at the Knickerbocker Hotel in New York in 1911/12, who declared that Noilly Prat Original Dry was an essential ingredient of his “martini cocktail”, one of the very earliest examples of the classic dry martini cocktail.
The Classic Dry Martini
1 part Noilly Prat Original Dry
2 parts Grey Goose vodka or Bombay Sapphire gin
Dash of orange bitters
Lucques Olive or twist of lemon
Place all the ingredients in a mixing glass filled with ice and stir well for 20 seconds. Single strain into a classic cocktail glass and garnish with a Lucques olive or twist of lemon.
Noilly Prat is also famous for its food pairings, with this French classic probably one of the most well known –
L’Apéritif & Oysters
Served in the fashionable cafés of France; it is traditionally served before dining as it whets the appetite.
2 parts Noilly Prat Original Dry
Twist of lemon
Add ice into the wine glass and pour the Noilly Prat Original Dry. Stir once and take the peel of a lemon and squeeze over the glass. Garnish with the twist of lemon and pair with oysters for a French touch.
Noilly Prat, despite now being owned by Bacardi-Martini, retains its French heritage and inspiration to create not only some classic and unique serves, but a range that offers a difference to your usual Italian vermouths. More acceptable for most I would say, and great t introduce people to the category of vermouth. Vermouth has grown leaps and bounds this past year, with many small, artisan producers releasing liquids to capture the resurgence of a category that has been around for over 100 years now. Stock up for a spot of elegance within your food and drink offerings, or indeed look out for the range within your favourite bar. I’m hoping you won’t be disappointed.
“There always seems to be something new popping up in the Manchester restaurant scene. New concepts, new ideas, re-vamping tired menus or giving a new lease of life into forgotten venues. These are what seem to define many a city’s food culture. To be fair, nothing against that. It’s what keeps us on our toes – the buzz through social media, word of mouth or a quick e-mail and text after you see the erection of a ‘coming soon’ sign. In Manchester, there is one company that seems to get the most buzz no matter what the concept or idea, and to count their venues to the mid-twenties is an astounding achievement. Living Ventures have proven once again that they can transform even the most quirky of locations into a masterpiece in the form of Artisan.”
You could possibly recognise the above statement. For avid readers of my website, this is taken from my previous visit to Artisan last September, and it’s a statement I still stand by. Why? Artisan is evolving, Living Ventures is evolving. Manchester is evolving.
Bold words perhaps? A visit to Artisan this week could very well prove my point in the coming weeks as the venue opens a second bar within its establishment, following on from the success of opening its original floor plan to accommodate the tipple crowd. That’s not all though. One word could be the buzz of Manchester very soon – Cinema. I will say no more, yet.
My reason for coming back this time around was a simple one though. I enjoyed the food on my first visit, and it is still spoken about today between me and my partner, and anyone who will listen to me, but my only criticism was to be the cocktails. Good, but not what I would call great. I took on board a recommendation I gave previously, ordering the aptly named The Artisan (£6.95) which involves Green Mark vodka, Aperol, pomegranate, mint and apple juice.
No tin cup in sight, instead a hurricane glass to show off the mint and apple pieces. The Aperol dominates, creating a drink that had a slight sweetness to it, but fresh, red fruit flavours burst, resulting in a slightly dry finish. Perfect for what was a humid evening. My partner (once again, to be called Miss J from here onwards) chose The Broken Rose (£6.50), bringing together Beefeater, rose liqueur, almond syrup, pineapple and lemon juice smashed with rose petals. It looked stunning, yet simple, with the dry nose of the rose petals being a great invitation to sip. The almond and rose create a rich flavour blend, although it was to be a rather short offering. Slightly sweet, but ultimately a good choice.
The food menu seemed a little sparse compared to our last visit, but by no means did that mean a lack of choice. If you know me well, I do love a menu that offers you more than one dish to salivate over. Artisan gave me several, and it has me itching to come back to try the one’s that I had to cut from my chosen order, the St Louis cut salt and pepper pork ribs with kimchee and coleslaw (£14.95). To back up a little though, Miss J opted for a starter the Braised meatballs in tomato sauce (£5.95), a dish that, she proclaimed in a simple phrase, came with “awesome meat”. She was right too, being enjoyed with a light sauce, steaming hot, fresh and plenty of heavy meat. No light and airy meatballs here.
I went for a simple dish too, the Prawn salad with guacamole (£7.50). Good presentation, but the prawns didn’t taste fresh, and the pairing with guacamole seemed a little pointless, it just didn’t seem to compliment. For the price, I’m afraid it just wasn’t worth it.
To the mains now, and as mentioned, the St Louis cut with pork ribs was to be my chosen champion from within the multiple choices I could have enjoyed, whilst Miss J went for the Skillet of smoked salmon, poached eggs, green vegetables, hollandaise and crushed potatoes (£10.95). Again, both came with some good presentation, with the smoked salmon looking alive with colour, dripping soft poached eggs and creamy hollandaise, giving off rich, warm flavours. The kimchee and home-made coleslaw complimented my St Louis cut in both look and flavour, with the meat being well-seasoned and cooked, giving a dry pepper and herb edge to it all.
With us both leaving a little room for dessert, the stand-out Hot chocolate fondant with coconut ice-cream (£5.95) came for us each, one with gingerbread ice-cream and the other with salted caramel. Hot, rich and incredibly moorish. A great way to finish the evening.
The food was brilliant, although I do wish I chose another starter. Trial and error though Is what I’ll be putting that down to. The drinks? Well, now I have something to talk about for both sides of the menu. Refreshing, well presented, and above all, tasty. Much better than our last visit, and even though I missed out on the likes of the TwoTone Daiquiri and Cinnaberry, plus classics such as the Negroni and Quick Old Fashioned, I can only imagine that I’ll be impressed upon my next visit, which incidentally will focus on these delights.
Give a place another chance, and you may surprise yourself. I look forward to crawling through the delights within their open planned bar area. Well the chairs and sofas do look like a comfy place to while away an evening. Won’t you join me?
A look at the new Turtle Bay opening in Manchester, by guest writer Carmen Chapell Elkin.
On Thursday 29th of June, Turtle Bay Manchester opened its doors for a Caribbean night to remember. The restaurant chain, which has branches all across the country, specialises in providing an exotic setting with delicious, spicy Caribbean flavours. The party was certainly in full swing when we arrived: guests were dancing, lights were low and, most importantly, a fabulous live band was playing from the balcony. While blasting out some of the most loved Caribbean songs, the band was great at keeping the atmosphere incredibly upbeat and getting the crowd totally involved. Turtle Bay had invited approximately 1000 guests to preview the restaurant before it officially opened to the public the following evening. When the restaurant is running normally, it sits 150 guests at any one time.
The restaurant’s unusual and well thought out décor – across two floors – really does emulate a Caribbean laid-back vibe; plenty of dark wood surfaces, metal boxes incasing old glass bottles, a neon sign with ‘flying fish and sky juice’… their promise of ‘transporting you to the Caribbean without a plane ticket’ is not all that unfounded. The authenticity is further confirmed through their drinks list: Ting, Red Stripe, Wray & Nephews Overproof white rum and Mount Gay dark rum. Often as a guest it is important to feel you can devour not only the best jerk chicken in the city but also the best Caribbean liquor.
Onto the prime reason for visiting… the food. I should first mention that, as we were enjoying the VIP party, we ate many nibbles but didn’t sit down to a proper meal there. Therefore, I cannot comment on the presentation, the portion sizes or the assembly of the dishes. I can, however, discuss the tit bits that conveniently came our way every thirty seconds, just in time for our next mouthful. The Jerk Pit Ribs were incredibly succulent, meaty and spicy. The mini Pulled Jerk Pork buns were also bursting with different flavours: tender jerk pork, rocket, fresh butternut squash, mango and even coconut. Another definite favourite were heaped spoonfuls of browned slow braised chicken on the bone with rice and peas. We were less impressed with the Jerk Pit Prawns in herb, chilli and garlic butter, and the curried goat was also forgettable. Notice that, apart from sweet potato and plantain, we came across no vegetarian options. After scouring the website’s menu, this seems to be quite representative of the limited non-meat or -fish options. No desserts were offered apart from slices of refreshing watermelon.
In any chain restaurant, there is the risk of having impersonal staff. Not true of Turtle Bay. Young, enthusiastic staff dressed in an easily identifiable red uniform – not identical, just all in red – greet you with a grin and really seem happy to chat to you. The gorgeous hosts at the door received us with larger-than-life smiles and an informal handshake, directing us towards the bar and the food dotted around.
Despite weaving enormous trays through the throng of guests, all the staff appeared upbeat and fully embraced the party mood – most, in fact, were dancing the trays through the crowd. Another feature – if this was the initiative of the couple of people I spoke to great, or if it was a suggestion of the management, even better – all staff introduce themselves as soon as they approach. Such was the case with a friendly, knowledgeable Dan who immediately acquainted himself with us, and informed us in a very friendly way that Turtle Bay was “the same price as Nando’s” and of their great cocktail offers. It is undoubtedly a skill to balance selling your product and making your audience feel entirely at ease with you, something Dan did effortlessly. He made me feel like he was a friend recommending a new place, rather than the employee of said establishment. Throughout the evening, I felt without exception the staff – chefs, hosts, waiters, bar staff – had perfected their approach to the public.
It would be hard to pinpoint the best part of our evening at Turtle Bay. It is a close call between the staff’s expert manner, deliciously flavoursome food, original décor and sincere, upbeat party atmosphere. As mentioned already, vegetarians would struggle at this restaurant. It would definitely be worth returning on a normal night to experience a regular meal with the restaurant. I am intrigued to see how the ambience would change: what a full meal looks and tastes like, whether the live band would still perform and, of course… sample dessert.