Artisan – Does It Change In A Year?

Artisan

“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.

The Broken Rose
The Broken Rose

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.

Skillet of smoked salmon, poached eggs, green vegetables, hollandaise and crushed potatoes
Skillet of smoked salmon, poached eggs, green vegetables, hollandaise and crushed potatoes

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.

Hot chocolate fondant with coconut ice-cream
Hot chocolate fondant with coconut ice-cream

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?

© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Australasia Late Lounge Review

Australasia

Australasia is bang in the middle of Manchester’s Spinningfields, the elite area full of businesses, retailers and residential folk. I’ve worked with them in the past as it is seen as one of the places to, well, be seen, which has been great to attract consumers towards a variety of brands that I work alongside. A concept that has started to enjoy a revival now the nights are drawing longer, is the Australasia Late Lounge, where ‘the lights go down and guest DJ’s set the mood for a sultry, sophisticated evening.’ What more could you ask for? A place to be seen, where you can relax the whole evening with a cocktail or glass of fizz, in the surroundings of one of the more sophisticated venues in the city.

The Late Lounge kicks off Thursday to Saturday every week from 11:30pm, with tables available to hire. But before then, perhaps hit the sister bar and canopied outdoor garden Grand Pacific. Joined in the middle by a staircase, you hardly need to walk far as you can enjoy a glass of sparkling Perrier-Jouet Grand Brut close to the guest DJ who likes to be situated outside, come rain or shine. The enclosed garden does give you the feel of being, quite literally, on the continent of Australasia.

Smoking Bundy Punch
Smoking Bundy Punch

Once the time arrives to head down to Australasia, you can succumb to the sounds, whilst grabbing yourself a comfy booth with an Australasia creation Smoking Bundy Punch in hand. Of course, a Gin Martini has to be the order of the day if you want to go classical. Tanqueray a recommended favourite, alongside a Grey Goose if you wish to feel a little James Bond.

The Late Lounge is also great for groups, with sharer vessels available with the extensive bottle serve list including the likes of Chase, Tanqueray No.10 and Beefeater with mixers of Fever Tree tonic, orange and cranberry juice, and Red Bull and soda water to create your own concoctions as and when you wish.

With a new cocktail menu being launched very soon, you may want to experience now the delights before the summer changes come into force, although I’ve been assured that if you do take the plunge this weekend, you have to be sure to return in June to give your rating on their new concoctions!

Suit up, dress on. Australasia Late Lounge is the place to unwind, mingle and enjoy till the early morning.

© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Australasia Review

Australasia - Smokey Old Fashioned

If you’ve ever ventured into the Spinningfield’s area of Manchester you’ll notice many a bar and restaurant serving businessmen, ladies who lunch or myself propping the bar up as I dive through the drinks menu. One such time happened last week, at a rather well-known yet unknown venue named Australasia. I say unknown due to its rather unique entrance – a triangle shard of glass sticking out of the ground with a door leading to a staircase. I remember I use to pass without realising it was there, and bewildered when it first opened of where this place was. Now I’m familiar, and after a chance meeting with the venues new BDM Gill Andrews and Bar Manager Jenny (of the Hilton’s Cloud 23 fame), I can report back to you all with wonderful memories.

As mentioned, I’ve been here before and have always kicked myself for not coming back many a time since, but with whispers of their new cocktail menu arriving shortly, coupled with food and wine menu revamp too, Australasia is breathing new life into their underground den. The drinks menu itself is simple, no descriptions, just names only. Daring but it works because the bartenders have to work to sell you a drink. You feel looked after knowing that the gentleman or lady behind the bar actually knows their stuff, the ingredients within and why you will love each and every one of them.

Oh, and also how to make them consistent.

Round The Twist
Round The Twist

For example, the Smokey Old Fashioned. A base of Woodford Reserve coupled with maple syrup and bitters over an ice ball. Smoke, courtesy of oak chips via a chemical flask, adds the sense of magic to the drink, as well as aromas which linger even when the smoke has cleared. Fantastic, and I’ve only ever had them from their fellow Alchemist. Consistency really is the key for these kind of places.

A couple of other new delights to wet your appetite over the next few months include Bushfire and Alice Spring Punch. Bushfire has the combination of Grey Goose Citroen, Benedictine, fresh grapefruit, lemon juice and sugar syrup with a good sprig of thyme soaked in Sunset Very Strong Rum and lit. Slightly sour for my liking as I’m a man with a sweet tooth, but the freshness made this a winner for me. The herbal Benedictine and grapefruit mix well with the citrus flavours, and the hint of the Sunset rum gives it a slight kick if sipped. Alice Spring Punch blended Russian Standard vodka with lychee purée Briottet lychee liqueur, Monin Hibiscus, fresh lemon and topped with Australian ‘Champagne’. A lovely tangy hit from the Australasian ‘Champagne’, with the hibiscus and lemon punching well against the double dose of lychee and vodka. Fantastic lingering sweetness too.

The highlight of my visit for me personally came in the form of a short drink named Round The Twist. Using Russian Standard vodka, stem ginger purée  fresh lychee, lime juice and velvet falernum, it created a well-balanced, mouth-watering drink that offered freshness with a lingering velvet and lychee flavour.

So the above gives a good idea of what to expect from the Australasia team, but of course some of the staples have been kept including the Pineapple and Jasmin Daiquiri, Ladyboy Martini and The Australian Porn Star (£7.95 each). Coupled with a menu that includes wine, both Champagne and sparkling wines from Australia, New Zealand and England and a good offering of seven Sake to go with your oysters, sushi and tempura delights, Australasia really does cover all the basis that you expect.

As mentioned, new menus are coming out, I’d book yourself in before you miss them.

Check out more photos via my Facebook page.

© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Liquorist Trails Review

During the Manchester Food and Drink Festival last month, a Manchester based company named The Liquorists held 3 different trails around the many bars and restaurants Manchester has to offer. The Liquorists themselves are Jody Monteith and Tom Sneesby, 2 guys who know everything and anything about drinking in Manchester, so ideally the perfect hosts for 2 nights of exploring!

Due to commitments for the London Cocktail Week, I missed out on their ‘Trail of the Flowing Bowl’ which involved some of the city’s best rum bars. Never one to become distraught over missed opportunities, I signed myself up for their ‘Nominees Trail’ on the Saturday. This trail involved visiting a selection of bars and restaurants who were nominated in the festivals awards including best bar, best restaurant and best newcomer.

White Lady - Grill on New York

After gathering in the festival’s hub in Albert Square, Tom lead us to our first stop of the night, Vertigo. The site of the ex. Japanese restaurant Ithaca, it nows houses a modern European menu created by Head Chef Ian Armstrong. Making our way up the stairs to the top floor (the restaurants split over 5 levels), we all gathered round the rooms center bar, where Tom gave us an introduction to what the night had to offer, a little about the company he works for and the drink he was creating in front of us, a Jameson’s whiskey sour. Now I have to admit, I didn’t finish mine. I’m not a fan of whiskey sours but there were plenty of offers in the group to finish it off! We also enjoyed a small beetroot risotto with a herb sour cream to accompany.
After making our way down the flight of stairs, we walked over to Australasia in Spinningfields. Located underground, the entrance looks almost like a shard of glass sticking out of the paving stones. Walking down the flight of stairs, a long, sand coloured room is ahead of you where the seating of the restaurant is, with the bar behind. Here we enjoyed a Grey Goose mix in an Australasian Iced Tea or Fonzerelli’s Punch. Whilst sipping a two rather delightful cocktails, platters of Sushi were brought out (my heart sinking as I’m not the best when it comes to chopsticks!). Rather cunningly, I used the safe bet and re-named the platter ‘finger-food’!

Australasia Pornstar - Australasia

The Alchemist was next on the trail, located just round the corner from Australasia (check out my review on The Alchemist here). The new Bacardi Oakheart was on the agenda, with Oakheart Mojito’s being crafted for us while we enjoyed crispy King Prawns on skewers.  After taking in the wonderous setting, we hopped into a taxi and travelled to The Lowry. Their first floor bar was host to Galliano Ristretto Coffee shots that were handed out to be sipped and savoured, followed by a new creation named the Black Forest Gateaux cocktail. We enjoyed the ‘dessert’ part of the night on the balcony overlooking the River Irwell, while waiting for us inside were chocolate fondant’s with salted caramel, and I can safely say they were being made short work of!
The last bar of the night was a short taxi trip to Blackdog Ballroom in the Northern Quarter. Brugal Golden Mojito’s were created for our arrival as we made our way past the bar to the pool tables. A very sweet Mojito cheesecake finished the offerings off well, with a few games of pool to round off a great evening.

Smokey Old Fashioned - The Alchemist

The next night, The Spirited Ventures trail took place (the theme of the night was that all the restaurants we will be visiting are owned by Living Ventures). Once again, we met in Albert Square and Tom hailed a taxi for us to travel to our first port of call – Grill on New York. A smaller group than the previous night, we were able to sit round one of the restaurants circular tables, and enjoyed the cocktail White Lady. The drink called for the use of  Oxley gin, Cointreau and lemon juice to create a great appetizer! Duck spring rolls were brought out for us to compliment while we introduced ourselves to each other and Tom talked a little about The Liquorists and Living Ventures.
Grill on the Alley was next up, just a short taxi ride away off Deansgate. Sitting next to the bar on high tables and boothed-like seating, we were served a PPP Caiproska (pepper, Pernod and passion fruit) and Thai fish cakes, both being given thumbs up by the group! Live music entertained us from a far, with the restaurant bustling both upstairs and down. A short walk to Australasia (see above for last nights visit) culminated in an Australasia Pornstar with the use of Grey Goose vodka and a range of Sushi to tickle the taste buds. 

PPP Caiproska – Grill on the Alley

Unfortunately, Living Ventures new restaurant, The OastHouse was not completed by the time the Manchester Food and Drink Festival rolled around, so we made our way round the corner to The Alchemist for two different offerings in the same bar. Hot Cognac laced mulled wine was a great winter warmer on a chilly night, with chicken skewers being brought out as we sat on the Union Jack leather couches at the end of the bar. Now me being me, i talked about one of The Alchemist most popular drinks, the Smokey Old Fashioned, pretty much all night. Low and behold, a tray of Makers Mark Smokey Old Fashioned’s were place on our table! Fantastic! A round of applause was given to our host as he had to scoot off to help de-construct their tent at the festival hub, while we finished the night sipping and enjoying our Old Fashioned’s, Cognac muld wine and some tasty looking mini burgers.

Two very good nights were enjoyed by all, with Tom showcasing the best that Manchester has to offer in a relaxed, yet almost without knowing it, busy night. Hard to believe by the end of one night, you’ve enjoyed 5 bars, 5 fantastic cocktails and 5 different light-bites.

The Liquorists are hosting a Vodka Trail next, and you can bet you’ll see me on that one!

Check out The Liquorists website here or here

© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Alchemist Review

There’s been a lot of talk lately in the Manchester area, and one place that keeps getting a mention is a bar that ‘is proud to stay true to the principles of bartending’. They name themselves The Alchemist, and their situated in the busy Spinningfields area of Manchester.

They were in the running for the title of ‘Best Bar’ in last month’s Manchester Food & Drink Festival awards, it utilises a corner section of one of the buildings, where you enter to be greeted by a range of friendly staff (a touch which I feel needs to be standard in all restaurants and bars). I made my way to the bar and was handed both a food and drinks menu to scour through, although my attention was diverted to their rather impressive back-bar of spirits and wines! I like my passion fruit in drinks so I plumped for a Passion Fruit Meringue Martini (£5.95), which boasted a mix of Russian Standard vodka, passion fruit liqueur, passion fruit syrup, lemon mix and culminating in flambéed meringue foam. The finish product looked very impressive, with their policy of ‘staying true to the principles of professional bartending’ shining through in their creating of the meringue. The drink itself was rather light and well balanced, with a hint of sweetness on the palate lingering on the after-taste (great for my sweet-tooth!).

Passion Fruit Meringue Martini

While I was enjoying the Martini in the comfort of their old fashioned Union Jack leather sofas, my Chicken Tandoori Wrap (£6.75) arrived with a good portion of crispy fries to go with. The dish looked ample to someone who was after a bite to eat instead of a full lunch, and with a pot of sour cream sauce to compliment, I can safely say it went down a storm! The chicken wasn’t too overpowering in its flavour, and there was a good wrapping of salad to boost your 5-a-day. Too often I’ve eaten wraps where the chicken has cooked the salad that comes with it, but this seemed to be spot on. It’s as if the chefs have the same policy as the bartenders – attention to detail.

Whilst enjoying a Diplomatico Rum Reserva Exclusiva over ice, I took in the surroundings that The Alchemist has to offer. There’s no shortage of places to sit, with a long perch table along the window as well as comfy leather bar stools and scattered tall tables close by. The restaurant itself is situated at the end of the bar (although you are more than welcome to eat at any of the bar tables) with simple traditional dark wooden square tables leading around the side. Their use of lighting is a noticeable feature too, with snow lights falling from each large windowpane, which at night must look the part from both inside and out. The bar has small lanterns hanging from the ceiling in a range of different lengths and theirs a sign of The Alchemist on the wall that surprisingly doesn’t look out of place.

Chicken Tandoori Wrap

The bar itself is also a sight for any professional bartender to get a little bit giddy over! A spirit collection that includes Chase vodka, Elements 8 rum, Martin Millers gin, a range of Patron tequila and my personal favourite of Diplomatico Rum Reserva Exclusiva are all below small alcoves of the wine selection that stretches the length of the bar. Highlights of the list include Johnson Estate Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (£25.95 or £6.20 / £8.85 for a 175ml / 250ml) for the whites, a Castillo de Clavijo Rioja Reserva (£21.95 or £7.35 / £5.25 for a 175ml / 250ml) in the red section and for the rosé drinkers a ‘classy and seductive’ Dinastia Vivanco Rioja Rosardo (£23.95 or £8.15 / £5.70 for a 175ml / 250ml). Their range of wines start at the £13 bracket and rising to £42 for those special night outs. Champagne and Prosecco are also available with brands such as Veuve Cliquot Yellow Label (£65), Prosecco Doc Bel Star (£23.95) and Dom Perignon 2002 (£135) chilled for you to enjoy. Cocktails are also a main attraction here, with the menu divided into 6 main categories. Depending on the style of drink your after, there’s no shortage of options and ideas. The list includes ‘Artisan’ (hand-crafted) cocktails from The Alchemist’s very own bartenders, molecular techniques involving smoke, foam and fruit dust and a rather interesting concept that includes the use of flavoured caviar. One that caught my eye was the Maple Manhattan. Woodford Reserve is stirred into Antica Formula (red vermouth), aromatic bitters and grapefruit zest. It’s then topped with lemon and maple syrup foam! Non-alcoholic cocktails are also available with a good selection of teas and coffees to finish your visit off.

This is a superb place to visit, whether its for a drink and catch-up with friends, meeting with clients or enjoying a 3 course meal from their menu (the fillet steak fajita sounds like a winner!)

Check out The Alchemist website here – http://www.thealchemist.uk.com

 

© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.