Secret Lunch

It's all just one big restau-rant...

Thursday, 17 February 2011

It's over here --->

For no particularly good reason:

Secret Lunch has moved to a tumblr blog

and started posting stuff again. This is a good thing!

Monday, 2 November 2009

Hook, line and sinker at the Marble Arch

Oh lord knows what’s going on now... I’ve been feeling somewhat erratic of late, not helped by pursuing my usual demons of drink, insomnia and Star Trek. However I’ve now watched all of DS9 so really can’t use that as an excuse to stay up for one more episode any more. And I’m not going to even start on Voyager until I’ve settled down a bit. That and I’ve got a bit of flu which never helps.

Anyway let’s have a restaurant. To be honest I’m appalled at myself for not managing to go to this place before. It’s the Marble Arch, a splendidly-tiled brew-pub just up Rochdale Road from the Angel (as reviewed in the previous post). It was a Friday night and it was heaving! The main body of the pub crammed with post-work drinkers knocking back any of the 10 or so varieties of ale on offer. My friends had planned to go in there specifically for cheese and lo and behold by the time I got there they had demolished almost all of the platter leaving me with a crust of bread and a smidge of stilton. They agreed that they should really have opted for the larger plate (given that there were five people to feed) and half considered persuading the staff into giving us some kind of “upgrade”. In the end (after two of them had left) we decided that we should just go for the whole shebang and head down to the dining room and have some proper dinner. And somehow we all had fish.

At some point we had a brief discussion of the Manchester Blog Awards (yes, Secret Lunch didn’t get shortlisted but I seem to know all the winners this year) and realised one of our number writes on the Manchester Zedders blog - who were runners up. He had some kind of squid risotto, which looked very strikingly black what with all the squid ink. Our other remaining diner had what looked like some kind of fishy soup affair - not bouillabaisse but something approaching it. I can’t remember what they said about their meals and failed to go poking around their plates with a fork - so I’ll see if I can encourage them to comment instead.

I think I had pan-fried Pollock which came delivered with lots of rather tangy little shrimpy things and some interestingly multicoloured mash. The fish was perfectly cooked, clearly very fresh and about twice as substantial as it looked. Really I have no criticisms whatsoever. All in all an excellent place for varied beer and food and I’m looking forward to going back for some meat as soon as possible.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Economy of feathers at the Angel

The other day a mate of mine phoned me up. "Listen, drop whatever you're doing and get down here now. We've got 4 grouse lined up and only three people..."

I dropped whatever it was I was doing.

The Angel is an unassuming pub on Rochdale Road, just as you head out of Manchester. It's also been got somewhat of a reputation for doing particularly good food thanks to mentalist chef Robert Owen Brown - who is (inevitably) another occasional drinking buddy. Robert is always very self deprecating about his food, often saying things like "it's just shit" - but get him started on game and he gets excited and talks about getting some rabbits in or acquiring a quantity of pheasants and then how he passed on the excess plumage to a local hat maker.

So, grice! As far as I can gather, grouse are pretty difficult to get hold of this season. Even if you are as blue blooded as they come. How Robert got hold of them I don't know and won't be asking but there they were. Four beautifully roasted (with a good bloodyness factor) birds accompanied by a boat of bread sauce, proper rich insane gravy, vegetables, crisps, and a slice of fried bread underneath each bird, saturated with the juices of it all. God it was amazing. Seriously gamey. Slightly challengingly gamey, the thighs particularly so.

And you know what? I've been so excited about the main course that I've completely forgotten to mention the starter. Which was spam fritters. Again it was pretty bonkers - dirty dirty spam coated in an insanely light batter drizzled over with a syrupy sweet sauce. It's so wrong that it's good.

We were indeed privileged to get this fare - the spam I think was a normal menu item however the grouse were definitely a special favour. All-together we paid around £30 a head for this including beers, but I suspect we paid slightly under the odds given the cost of the raw materials.

And here's another first for Secret Lunch... I have actually received a "guest review" of the same place from some friends I sent there the other week:

Thanks for the lunch recommendations :) we went to the Angel for our Sunday Lunch but we made a bit of a mistake: we'd already eaten black pudding for breakfast. So we didn't fancy black pudding again, despite it being a feature of two of the Angel's main courses. Two black-pudding-oriented dishes is quite a rarity so I have to assume it was something pretty special, but I guess we'll never know.

Instead we went for the smoked haddock, and the salmon. My haddock, served with a perfect poached egg, was a bit salty for me but otherwise delicious. My other-half's salmon was pan-fried and served with creamed leeks, really nicely cooked and with a really clear flavour.

For the price (11 or 12 quid per main course) we were a bit disappointed that we had to order extras like potatoes separately, but never mind.

I also had the Angel beer since it said "only served in the Angel pub" on the tap - it was nice stuff, very straightforward and drinkable.

The people we were with had the roast beef and the chicken with black pudding sauce, both of which were good apparently. We were too full for pudding though, even the one that came with tracklements.

However before you all go booking yourself a table, rumour has it that Bad Bobby Brown has just left the Angel and is moving on to some new waterside restauranteering opportunity. This will definitely have to get checked out once he has settled in....

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

The Walrus and the Bentobox

The latest twists in my life have been taking me on somewhat of a ride - up hills of effort, down descents of excitement and in contrast to working for my previous employers seems to be keeping the doldrums and depressions short and snappy rather than protracted and bitter. It's much more fun working for myself.

So that's all good yes? Anyway one of the exciting new things on the cards may involve me going to work in Germany for a few months... which having told my ex brought up rather a lot of unpleasant reaction over the weekend, harking back to our breakup (and most worryingly seeming like she was editing the story somewhat) making me feel very very upset. Didn't help that I was rather hungover mind... In the end it got to the point where we were both sulking at each other and I just figured it wasn't any good having this going on around the kids and said my good-byes.

So the therapeutic lunch was at Walrus - where they have a rather neat five-pound "bento box" deal.

Walrus itself is all very Northern Quarter cool - and environment wise feels a bit overly WHITE... very very white... white banquettes all around with little white tables and white stools and the odd bit of duck-egg blue trim. It's also starting to look a touch shabby for all the scuff marks despite only having been open a year or so. On a busy night perhaps it makes sense, but for me on a quiet monday lunchtime it's a little jarring.

The food though wasn't bad - rice alongside meat or fish or veg in a sauce and a couple of nice little oriental nibbles on the side. For a fiver this is really rather exceptionally good - the nearest equivalents like Rice seem to cost slightly more and not be anything like as refined. It comes served in a lozenge-shaped wooden box with mandatory chopsticks. To my mind there was perhaps a bit too much sauce going on with my chicken and perhaps not enough sauce with my companion's vegetables but it was all quite tasty.

The service was order-at-the-bar where there was a slightly bored looking young Russian guy who I spoke to for a while about the betrayal of the socialist revolution and cultural variations in tea-drinking habits and education systems. The food arrived reasonably quickly and was as fuss-free as one would expect for a cheap lunch. And yes - it really is a very very good deal and despite the whiteness I will be doing it again.

The next encounter with my ex we just got on with the usual stuff and didn't talk about it... but I have a sense of foreboding...

[update, nov 2010] the bento boxes have gone down-hill somewhat of late; I went in there a few weeks back and the nice gyoza have been replaced with over-salty cremated chicken bits. Not good. Staff changes and cutbacks by the taste of it.

Monday, 29 June 2009

Falafel - or is it safe to come out yet?

Probably not... but nuts to it. [This is edit #5]

I’ve had a funny few months since the last post, including a number of ongoing changes to my life. However I’ve been pretty quiet here. Why? Because ultimately I’ve been put off by some goings on in my personal life and crossed wires on the internet. To those involved I sincerely apologise for my part in surfacing this all over the last few days. Time to move on.

I figure I may as well review Falafel in Rusholme. Manchester’s curry mile is a bewildering place - full of neon, flashy asian lads driving their souped-up micras and mondeos up and down causing hazards to navigation, jewellery emporiums, sari shops and endless endless restaurants.

I have a very close friend who lives there, someone I've never grown tired of spending time with and think the world of... one of our favourite places among the melee is Falafel - a thoroughly Palestinian purveyor of deep fried crispy chickpea delights. Falafel’s falafel is truly excellent, and while not quite on a par with Hashem in Amman it certainly tickles the spot. It’s a basic café-type place, no pretensions of restaurantness here, but formica tables and padded benches and top notch felafel, foul, mutabal and salads.

Also worth a go are the fatyer however DO NOT have the spinach one as it’s rather disgusting and tastes like the spinach has come out of a can; lamb or cheese are both much better. It’s also pretty cheap - for a few quid you can get a felafel wrapped in a soft naan with salad and a pot of mint-infused tea. If you’re not too far away it’s well worth the pilgrimage for lunch or a swift and inexpensive supper.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Fromages à Paris

Bombing around Paris on a bike can go either of two ways... Either slowly and sedately following the pretty girls on their Velibs down the cycleways by major roads, avoiding hapless tourists. Or it's fast and furious racing with scooters up and down little one-way side streets forever trying to work out where the next possible turning in the other direction might be (they seem to assign directions to said streets en masse). Really it is immense fun and very easy to out-pace others travelling by metro or even RER.

The first place I went to eat was Astier up in the 11eme arrondissement on recommendation from a food and cat lover I know in Manchester. Frustratingly the process of getting in touch with my friends meant that some wires were crossed - they were supposed to meet me on Pont Neuf but went straight to the restaurant - leaving me to spend an hour or two farting around wondering where they might be before twigging that they were already there. By the time I arrived they were onto the cheese which was absolutely fucking amazing. A huge platter of marvellous marvels in all grades of stinky oozyness. I did get to have a pudding - a very nice orangey moussey thing interspersed with layers of chocolate, one of my companions had the Rum Barbar (cake plus rum equals good) and we managed to demolish a bottle or two of excellent Pic St Loup.

All in all I was very disappointed not to have had the whole shebang (particularly given my friends ravings about how good it was) so am seriously promising myself a proper visit in the not-too-distant future. À la prochaine!

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Breakfast at The Betjeman Arms

I've not had a proper holiday in about a year - so have decided to have one despite the risk of letting things slip a little at home that I need to go away. First stop was an extended weekend with friends, eating vast quantities of rather nice curry and a bit of roadkill - and then impulsiveness took me and I bought myself a Eurostar ticket.

Right now I've just had breakfast at the Bejeman Arms at St Pancras, watching the trains glide in and out, rather excited at the prospect of actually getting on one. With a bit of luck my bicycle is already half-way to Paris by now. It was a reasonably reasonable breakfast however what points they gained with the tasty sausage they completely lost with the bacon which was utterly dried out and a bit like cardboard, only crunchier.

The service however was provided by a very pleasant, smiley and well spoken young lady who when informed of the state of the bacon first offered to fetch more of it and then got me a free cup of coffee instead. I suppose it's not free really as she has thereby swung me into leaving a tip.

In summary; great atmosphere, good service, bad bacon.