Monday, 31 January 2011

Tebay Services, M6 Northbound, Cumbria

This was just a quick pitstop on the way up to Scotland for work. The reason for posting is the not inconsiderable attention Tebay services has received, primarily because it isn't run by one of the big motorway services companies (Moto, Roadchef et al) and actually attempts to provide something good quality rather than just seeming to try and extract the most cash possible from you whilst offering the barest minimum in return. At least that's the theory. The gap might just have narrowed now that the competition are offering sandwiches and salads of a reasonable standard (thanks M & S and Waitrose).

I didn't have time for a meal in the cafeteria (£8.95 for a roast, a bit steep for motorway services, but not bad I guess if it's any good), so grabbed a chicken salad sandwich instead.

It was fairly good, definitely a notch up from even the aforementioned better supermarket offerings. Plus points: very good bread, a great textured chewy organic granary loaf; actually chargrilled chicken with some taste to it; crisp, fresh salad. Minus points: tasteless tomato (to be expected, it's January) and margarine (WHY?). At £3.95 it's not cheap but most other motorway service sandwiches top out over £3.50 so in that context it's reasonable value.

In summary, more of these please. Thanks.


Tebay Services
M6 Northbound
(Just after Junction 38)
Cumbria CA10

Sunday, 30 January 2011

The Chippie, Hawes

My weekends away with friends often turn into festivals of eating and drinking from which I generally need about a week to recover. This was shaping up to be one of these weekends. Fish and Chips were suggested to assist our recovery from a Friday night in the pub. We drove over to Hawes, and after a quick detour to the Wensleydale Creamery (plenty of free samples in the cheese shop) rocked up at the Chippie.

As it was bloody freezing we opted to eat in. The cafe was decked out in wood panelled booths and had a lovely warm fug from the fryers. Meal deals all round;- Haddock, Chips, Peas, Bread & Butter and a Pot of Tea (£7.55). I could see the fat fillets of haddock being dunked in batter then the fryers and thought we were probably in for a treat.

And so it proved. Splendid fish and chips. Beautifully crisp batter, not too thick or soggy on the fishward side. The fish just right, flaking and moist. Chips that ideal chip shop combo of crispy with a hint of grease (definitely beef dripping). Peas not too thick, not too sloppy. Tea, strong and brown. Bread, sliced white (although spread with marg when butter is better. A very minor quibble.).

All in all, thoroughly recommended. They have Ben Shaw's pop too. And pickled eggs.


The Chippie
Main Street
North Yorkshire

Fox and Hounds Inn, West Burton

West Burton is a lovely little village in the Yorkshire Dales. It has a large village green, a beautiful waterfall and just the one pub, the Fox and Hounds. Tourist trade is obviously crucial to business in these parts, and in deepest, darkest January it wasn't exactly roaring. Pints of Copper Dragon Best were not a great start, smelling and tasting ok but staying resolutely cloudy to the finish. The unsmiling welcome from behind the bar didn't exactly help the atmosphere either. Things improved as a few more punters came in and we switched to much better pints of Black Sheep Best.

By the time hunger set in we were fairly well lubricated and the menu of sturdy looking pub grub looked appetising. What arrived ranged from the tasty and homemade to the bland and fresh from the freezer. My cumberland sausage, yorkshire pudding, chips, peas and gravy (about £8) was average at best. The sausage was a good meaty specimen but everything else seemed to be from the freezer camp. And the gravy was too runny.

Sausage, yorkshire, chips, peas, gravy

Chicken curry (yes with half rice half chips)

Some of my mates fared better, chicken curry and steak & kidney pie were both good, flavoursome and definitely cooked in-house. Puddings were all decent too, I couldn't fault the sticky toffee.

Sticky toffee pudding (half eaten, couldn't wait)

No other tables were occupied in the dining room for the duration of our meal. There were 6 of us, enough to create our own atmosphere but it would otherwise have been rather peculiar as we were regaled throughout by compulsory classical hits from Radio 3. The stereo next to our table was accompanied by this sign:

Weird?! Do they have very sensitive clientele at the Fox and Hounds? Is it a bolthole for spies, oligarchs and Hollywood celebs whose business must be kept from the prying ears of the general public? God knows but it's definitely one of the more unusual notices to be found in a pub dining room.

In summary, I didn't quite know what to make of the Fox & Hounds. There were some good things (some of the food and beer, the puddings, the setting) but plenty of bad (some of the food and beer, surly staff, weird signs). Maybe it would be better in summer...


Fox and Hounds Inn
West Burton
North Yorkshire

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Lotus Restaurant, Northenden (Takeaway review)

Dosa mission part 1 accomplished. I worked late tonight so wanted to grab a takeaway on the way home. As Northenden is only about 10 mins drive away I thought I'd give Lotus a try from the list on my previous post.

Hopefully they do better trade on the weekends, as the restaurant was deserted at about 8pm on a Thursday night. The staff seemed pleased to see me, and eager to know how I'd found out about them. Apparently their weekend buffets and banana leaf meals draw in the punters.

I ordered a chicken masala dosa (£5.30 I think) to go. A dosa is probably not the best choice for takeaway as the pancake goes a bit floppy in transit. Thirty seconds under a hot grill crisped it up nicely though.

The results: not bad at all. It was certainly much more appetising than my crap photo suggests! Crisp, thin dosa, nearly as long as your arm. Spiced potato and chicken curry fillings, generous with the chicken. Classic accompaniments - sambhar and two chutney's. The spicing was fairly decent throughout, with plenty of curry leaves and mustard seeds in evidence, but not really enough heat. South Indian food usually purges you with a full-on chilli blast. This was a bit tame in comparison with my past experiences, but I guess this could just be them catering to the market. Most of the South Indian spots in London are canteens catering to the local Tamil populations, not a particularly big market in Northenden I suppose. The locals here might not have such high spice tolerance levels.

In summary, definitely worth further investigation. I'll be back to try out the curries. They also have a Malaysian menu to check out.


289 Palatine Road
M22 4ET

Lotus Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Where to find South Indian food in the North

I discovered the joys of food from the South of India whilst living in London for a while. Southern Indian food tends to involve lots of:

coconut, curry leaves, vegetables, chilli, mustard seeds, fish, tamarind, quickly cooked stir fried dishes

as opposed to food from Northern India which tends to include lots of:

ghee, meat, bread, dairy products, cumin, garam masala, slow cooked stewed dishes

This is a fairly rough generalisation, and students of Indian cuisine will probably say it's nonsense and point out that there are dozens of distinct regional cuisines in India. True, but I think I've got the basics at least sort of right (hopefully).

Most of what's commonly found in Northern England is firmly in the Northern India camp in spirit at least. Ever since I returned from the smoke I've been trying to compile a list of places to get a South Indian fix starting with Leeds and Manchester (where I'm most likely to be found). This wholly unscientific survey is based around googling the word dosa.

Photo credit: (© alasam / Flickr)

For the uninitiated a dosa is a thin crispy pancake made with lentil flour. The classic version, the masala dosa is stuffed with spiced potatoes and served with sambhar (a sort of thin veg curry) and chutneys (usually including coconut). A good dosa is as long as your arm and bloody lovely (see photo!).

If it's got a dosa on the menu it's on the list. So far I've got the following six:

Lily's Vegetarian Indian Cuisine, Ashton-under-Lyne (actually Gujurati I think, which is NW rather than S India. Dosai apparently available though so it gets in)

Lotus, Northenden (seems to be Malaysian & Indian)

Sindhoor, Burnage (looks the part)

Arti, Roundhay Road (website is a bit wafflesome)

Hansa's, Leeds (also Gujurati so not technically South Indian. Dosai present and correct. Bit of a Leeds institution by all accounts)

Spice Quarter, Leeds (one of those all you can eat wok station joints, so probably terrible. Dosai listed though!)

Any comments on the above?
Any other hidden gems?
I'm going to head off to one of the Mancunian offerings in the next few days........

Y McGregor, Altrincham

More soup. Raining again and sudden head cold = more soup.

This is a nice spot for a bit of lunch in Altrincham. Soups, sandwiches etc all made on site. I opted for the sweetcorn and onion soup (pictured) with a chicken, spinach and Mediterranean veg sandwich. The soup was a sturdier beast than the description might suggest, all those stewed onions combined with the corn giving it a stocky sweetness. The bits on top are mixed seeds proffered at the counter. They gave it a nice bit of texture - sort of like health croutons.

The sandwich wasn't quite so good, the bread (a seeded roll) didn't seem overly fresh but fillings were fine. Good chickeny chicken. The staff seemed very friendly;- the woman behind the counter was busy offering two old dears a free sample of the other soup choice (Tomato Masala) which was confusing them no end ('Tomato what is it?' 'It's sort of curried..' 'Curried? Eh?')

Soup and a sandwich was £5.95 to eat in, or just the soup £3.50. Cheaper to take away.


Y McGregor
29 Stamford New Road
WA14 1EB

Not far from the Metrolink

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Hunan Restaurant, Manchester

After a couple of pints spicy chinese food always makes a nice change from a curry. Having already been to Red Chilli twice since Christmas I didn't really fancy Sichuan. Still can't make my mind up whether I love or loathe sichuan peppercorns. A home cooking disaster resulting in a mouth-feel something similar to a trip to the dentists for root canal surgery may explain my ambivalence (Tip: when cooking with sichuan peppercorns don't measure them out in tablespoons). A quick search suggested Hunan in Chinatown. A review on Manchester Confidential was generally positive except on the matter of desserts. Having never ever chosen a chinese restaurant on account of pudding we decided to give it a try.

We loved it. The following dishes were ordered:

Countryside style green chilli stir-fried pork
Tender lamb belly hotpot
Stir-fried chinese leaves with chopped salted chillies
Pork and chinese leaf dumplings
Boiled rice

Being ravenous we opted for the 'as it comes' method, rather than starter/main. First up the green chilli pork. Searingly hot, salty, meaty, delicious. The lamb or beef version would probably be equally good. The chinese leaves followed swiftly and were also great. The salted chillies were obviously fermented to some extent, lending a slightly funky edge to the dish that worked well with the crisp leaves. The lamb hotpot was splendid, a rich meaty broth with the belly strips and various veggies floating around in it. Some of the belly fat must have been strained off as it wasn't overly fatty.

The dumplings arrived last but not least. Of the sturdy, chewy skinned variety rather than the delicate sort (like the Beijing dumplings at Red Chilli) they were spot on with the accompanying dipping sauce. I usually expect vinegar with this sort of dumpling, which is fine but never adheres to the dumpling. This was thicker and darker (roasted chilli paste, dark soy, vinegar?), giving the skins a fantastic tangy glaze with every dunk.

With boiled rice, 2 beers apiece, chinese tea and a generous tip the total was £50 for two. Service was a bit surly at first but lightened up and was almost chatty by the end. The room is quite smart looking and was fairly busy on a Thursday night.


Hunan Restaurant
1st Floor, 19-21 George Street
M1 4HE

Hunan Restaurant on Urbanspoon

p.s. photos to follow on future posts

Soup Kitchen, Manchester

Soup Kitchen has a simple formula for food; several soups served daily and a few other one plate meals (e.g. bangers & mash). Things are made a little more unusual by the presence of a bar, with the place open late Thurs - Sat night.

I stopped in for lunch on a cold, wet day and opted for the spicy lentil soup. The soup pretty much hit the spot; deep, thick with a slow building spice hit. Accompanying bread was a huge chunk of granary loaf.

I paid £4 which is a touch more expensive than the prices on the website, maybe they are takeaway prices. Table service provided was a bit slow, but otherwise fine.


Soup Kitchen
31-33 Spear Street
M1 1DF

The Soup Kitchen on Urbanspoon
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