Drop of Eden Valley to drown my sorrows

Friday, October 31st, 2008

When my flat was constructed in 2006, at the peak of the city centre building boom in Manchester, decent workmen were hard to find, or so it seems.  One employee of venerable but notorious subcontractors, Boddgit and Scarper, found a new use for 4 inch nails:  Namely to use them not only to station a roughly fitted cupboard shelf but also to make an elegant, if unnecessary, belly button piercing in the hot water pipe that feeds the kitchen tap.

It is a miracle that this did not result in a visible leak until late summer of 2008.  The nail finally rusted away and now most of the hall floor, skirting and cupboard wall has been temporarily removed, whilst a dehumidifier is valiantly trying to soak up the excess “moisture” like a digital sponge.

I often find that Aussie Shirai (I assume that is the plural of Shiraz) are a bit drying in the mouth, so I don’t drink anywhere near the amount of down under wines that I should.  I am not about to launch a flood of reviews but let’s try to redress the balance one drip at a time eh?  A drop of Eden Valley “The Saviours” 2003 had been sitting in my rack for a while.  I needed something to take my mind off things.

Mmmmm nice legs - that's what 14.5% alcohol does to you...


Gaucho Grill wine rip-off rages on

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

I’ve written before about the rip-off wine mark-ups at the Gaucho Grill (branches in London and Manchester).

Although the wine is outrageously priced, I do pop in occasionally for a top class steak.  And so last week saw me in the Manchester restaurant.  I thought it would be interesting to revisit the wine prices.

In my post of March 2007, I benchmarked a bottle of Susana Balbo Malbec (excellent stuff) at an eye watering mark-up of 250%.  The bottle, available at the time from the Wine Society at £11.95, was marked up to £42.

Time to check out the latest prices.  I checked the Wine Society website and, fair play, it is in stock and still £11.95.  Inflation rate = 0%.

When I checked out the Gaucho Grill wine list, the price has inflated by a Graf Zeppelinistic 22.6% to £51.50.  This now makes the mark-up (against retail price, and one assumes that Gaucho can buy much cheaper) a groin kicking 331%.  By far the highest I have ever seen in any restaurant.

The matured meat may be superb, but I would rather cut my pupils out with a serrated steak knife, than pay these prices.

By all means eat at the Gaucho, but when it comes to wine, just say “NO”.

La Capitana Carmen̬re 2005 РBig Yellow Taxi

Saturday, October 18th, 2008

When I was a kid growing up in Cheadle Hulme, a post war suburb of Manchester, there were shops everywhere.  Within just 10 minutes walk of a fair sized shopping centre in the village, was another conurbation of shops based around the Kenilworth pub.  On one t-junction there was a chemist, a newsagent (RS McColl), a greengrocer, a post office, two bakers, two butchers (Breens’ and Pimlott’s), a toy shop (Playland), a Chinese takeaway, a Shell garage (gas station), a hardware shop, a small grocer and, rather bizarrely, a garden centre (Spreadboroughs – donkey’s years ahead of its time).

Thinking back, it’s amazing that we allowed Tesco and the other major supermarkets to put virtually all these businesses out of business.


Negresco, Manchester – live and let die

Thursday, October 16th, 2008

So, for all Tony Blair’s efforts to be remembered as a world leader of stature, the only true legacy he leaves behind is his controversial 45 minute claim, and a slightly more insipid and politically correct (in every sense) BBC.  Meanwhile battered PM, Gordon Brown, has just turned the world on its head with a well received financial rescue package that most countries are following.  Gordon has gone from zero to hero in one single policy announcement that took about 45 minutes to deliver, and press rumours have him auditioning for the new James Bond movie, The 600 Billion Dollar Man.

Time will tell whether the economic tankers of the world will be steered clear of the rocks of doom by midshipman Brown.  But oh how Tone must be wishing he was here to be seen to solve the defining crisis of our times, rather than his current brief to search in vain for an answer to yesterday’s problems.  I wonder if he rues the day he handed over to hapless Gordon, whose Falklands moment could only have been a financial holocaust.  And what of David Cameron?  Nero to Oh Dearo.

Memories eh?

I took this photo a while ago, but the place shut down before I got around to reviewing it.  Shame really.  It did have a sort of sense of James Bond’s New Orleans, but it has always been a bit of a graveyard site.

Negresco, Napoli or New Orleans?

Born again Binary Bar – bigger, badder, better bogs

Tuesday, October 14th, 2008

In February of this year, I slagged off Binary as a stealth bar and it looks like I wasn’t the only one left unimpressed as customers stayed away in droves.

In the summer, during peak drinking season, the owners had the balls to shut it down for serious refurbishment and it re-launched recently.  I wanted to go back for another look, so I popped in to watch England refurbish the Kazakhstan football team, eventually wallpapering them by five goals to one.


Brasserie Blanc, Manchester (closed Feb 09)

Saturday, October 11th, 2008

Raymond Blanc, founder of high profile restaurant with rooms, Le Manoir aux quat’saisons, and currently starring in the latest culinary reality TV show from the BBC, The Restaurant, has another business interest, a chain of eateries.

I showed up at Brasserie Blanc in Manchester only to discover that Monsieur Blanc has not visited the place in two years.  The brasserie looked unloved and was almost completely empty.  Would this be a culinary delight, or should Raymond come and close his own restaurant?


The new Full Monty – it’s Riesling!

Friday, August 29th, 2008

I went to the opening night of Les Puddings Noir (sic) at Manchester’s Library Theatre.  I have seen so many good productions there.  For such a small theatre it is so innovative and interesting, but this was an amateur dramatic company (MAD).  However, whilst expectations were low, I had a funny feeling that it might be a laugh.

Many have tried and failed to make fun of Lancashire haute-cuisine, and the black pudding from Bury used to be the butt of Bill Oddie, uhm, I mean the butt of jokes by Bill Oddie.  Butt nowadays you can find this modern day delicacy in restaurants the world over – Ecky Thump!

Because it was the first night of an amateur production, of course the audience was full of family and friends.  A credits VT rolled to announce the play with rapturous applause for every actor (many were kids).  As complete neutrals, we thought it would be fun to whoop and holler at random names.  I wonder if it spooked them – there were a couple of ropey performances.  But on the whole, the production was a stupendous hit.  At the curtain the crowd went wild and rightly so.  My sides ached, and my eyes watered, and my black pudding swelled.  I predict that this will be a worldwide hit one day soon, and movie rights are likely to be worth more than the Full Monty.

Funnily enough, a local (Bury) butcher had taken the opportunity to give away free black puddings – step forward Chadwick’s Original.  Tonight I sampled the black pudding (sliced, gently fried in olive oil with an egg) and it was as good as the show named after it.  The best black pudding I have ever eaten and all the tastier for being slightly, albeit accidentally, burnt.

So choosing a wine to go with it was a problem.  I have been on a world tour of Pinot Noirs recently, to the boredom of many, and I have been thinking of moving on.  I have a secret desire to try a few Rieslings but I know so little about the grape.

I like the idea that the 1997 Rheingau Kabinett I found in the fridge was only 9%.  Very light and drinkable.  I also found it fruity and with a sweetness that complements black pudding in the way that a well delivered line sweetens a sour script.

Les Puddings Noir was mostly well delivered.  The two teenage mums (played by Alana Thornton and the awesome Danielle Wrigley) were only marginally eclipsed by James Creer’s hilarious French maid.  The writing was the real star, though.

Risky Rioja 2003

Thursday, August 28th, 2008

The Marqués of Risk Management

A mate, and former business client, used to take me to Rafa’s El Rincon in Manchester (I always paid).

When it came to whistle wetting tapas oil, Marqués de Riscal was our weapon of choice, partly because it was bloody good, partly because it was bloody and good, mostly because the bill payer knew it was bloody good value.

Taking good note of my cyber-mate, Rob‘s evaluation of the 2003 Rioja vintage, I popped into Sainsbury’s in Manchester and after a bit of mooching, selected a 2003 Marqués de Riscal Reserva at only £9.99, apparently £3 off (but I remember Rafa selling this stuff for less than 20 quid – not much of a mark-up!)

I wonder if the reduction is because most of Sainsbury’s customers had read Rob’s comments about 2003 and have already moved on to looking for the reputationally better 2004 and 2005 vintages.

I was not put off.  The wine, to me was top notch, tasting mostly of blackberry and apple crumble with cream and vanilla pods.  I always look out for Riscal in Spanish restaurants in Manchester, Spain and other places.

Lots of Rhubarb but no lamb

Monday, August 25th, 2008

We met Jeffo and (pregnant) Michele in Didsbury (Manchester) for Sunday lunch.  Jeffo knows these parts well and had tasted his “best lamb ever” at a place on Burton Road – Rhubarb.

Rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb...

It was small and well packed with tables, but pretty full of happy looking customers.  A bistro type atmosphere but with the warming sense that you are visiting old friends.

We rejected the Sunday lunch special menu in favour of the à la carte.  We were only there for one dish, “is the rump of spring lamb on?” Jeff enquired and was advised that we could order anything from the menu.  So we ordered lamb all round.


The one Stock bucking the market trend

Tuesday, August 19th, 2008

Whilst bears everywhere are majestically prowling and growling to everybody that they told them so, stocks around the world continue their downward spiral.  This does not affect Manchester as much as it used to, as the Stock Exchange here is now an Italian restaurant.

Stock market? cube? pot? ing leg?