Time for Society

I was up in Manchester for some meetings. After a long morning meeting I headed out into Manchester city centre for something to eat. On previous visits to Manchester I had seen Society before, I had even gone in there to see what it was like, but I had never actually eaten there. So, on this walk around the centre, and having looked around a few places, I ended up at Society.

A fresh addition to the city’s vibrant cultural space, Society is a hub of street food, craft beer, wine and cocktails and boasts an impressive line-up of talented independent traders. Society features four independently-owned kitchens, from the towering burgers of Slap & Pickle, pan-Asian specialists Manzoku Street Food, flavoursome Indian street food from Chaat Cart and experts in Korean street food, Yoki Social Table. Society also houses a cocktail bar and specialist taproom by craft brewery Vocation.    

The process is quite simple, take a seat, note your table number, scan in the QR code, place your order on your phone and wait for your food. With some of the traders you can order at the counter if you want to.

I did first peruse the different (phyiscal) menus and noted that Manzoku had a January special of bao buns. Now I quite like a good bao bun, so this was quite tempting.

I sat down at a table with a glass of water from the bar and looked over the menu. I decided to have the crispy chicken bao buns with a portion of crispy squid.

The January Special Bao Chicken was two fluffy bao buns filled with ginger and garlic chicken thigh in a crispy coating, with Japanese pickled slaw.

They looked great. The chicken was a little dry and overcooked for me, but did have a nice flavour. The rest of the dish was great, fresh and flavoursome.

Alongside I had the Spicy Salt & Pepper Squid. This was deep fried marinated crispy salt & pepper squid with a kick, chilli mayo, and togarashi spice.

When eating this I was reminded of the chilli squid I have eaten at Wagamama. It was crispy on the outside, tender squid on the inside. Nice spicing and I enjoyed the chilli mayo.

Overall I did like both dishes and really enjoyed them. It was a little more than I would normally pay for lunch, but I do think it was value for money. I would certainly have a night out at Society, having a beer and a few dishes from the different street food traders.

New Year Fish Supper

An annual tradition in our house is to have a fish supper on New Year’s Eve. This year we had a great selection of fish and seafood.

I bought some prosecco & lemon butter lobster tails from Aldi, these were rather good.

I made some crispy squid, using some fresh squid, which I then coated in seasoned flour and fried in oil. A combination of a crisp crunchy coating and sweet tender squid.

I also cooked some queen scallops, simply pan fried in butter.

I did baked lemon salmon fillets in the oven.

The prawns were cooked in a pan with herbs and butter.

All served with homemade paella.

At the airport, time for a quick lunch

I had been on a visit to Scotland and was making my way home. I really didn’t fancy eating on the plane, it was a short flight, but it was over lunchtime. So having time at Edinburgh airport I went to All-Bar-One for a quick small lunch. I did in fact fancy tacos from Bar Burrirto, but the airport branch didn’t sell them. The branch of Yo! Sushi, which I had visited before, had closed down in 2020. Liking the idea of small plates I went to All-Bar-One. I ordered two small plates which arrived promptly. This is kind of important in an airport situation as you are often time constrained.

The calamari was excellent and it was a good sized portion for a small plate dish. 

The squid was tender and the batter was crispy. It was served with a sweet chilli sauce. I really enjoyed the squid and would have it again, if I ever fly from Edinburgh.

The prawns in panko breadcrumbs was though slightly disappointing. When it arrived I actually thought they had bought me the wrong dish. What I got was in fact a skewer of prawns, which was then covered in panko breadcrumbs. 

I felt that this was a difficult small plate to eat (and would be difficult to share). The dish lacked flavour and I couldn’t really taste the prawns. 

My gate number was called, so it was time to pay the bill and head to the plane.

What should I have?

I enjoyed my last visit to Bills on Baker Street in July. So it was with some anticipation we headed there for dinner on a visit to London. Bills has an interesting dining environment, the different branches seem familiar, but different at the same time. The Baker Street branch appears to be smaller than other Bills I have been to.

Upon entering we were given a warm welcome, we had booked, and were shown to our table. One of the things I have found with Bills is that the menu changes quite often, so even though you may think, well I have that next time I visit, sometimes those very things disappear. So it does make, making a choice that little bit harder.

I was expecting to see the set menu we had in July, but it had changed already. It had gone up by two pounds and had lost the steak and chicken dishes we had had back then. So after reviewing what was on the set menu, we looked at the main menu.

While the rest of the table went with steak and chips, I wanted something different.

I was tempted by the chargrilled lamb rump. However having had an outstanding lamb rump in 2018 from the (now sadly closed) Cattle & Co in Euston, I knew I would have high expectations. The menu description of marinated lamb rump steaks I knew I might be disappointed. The sound of the Black & Gold Burger was quite tempting.

Chargrilled beef patty topped with cheese & truffle fondue, 24 carat gold flakes & grated black truffle. Served with rosemary salted fries.

As was the description of the Triple Truffle Shuffle Burger from the specials menu.

Topped with truffle mac & cheese, white truffle oil & dusted with freshly grated truffle. Served with rosemary fries

However I didn’t really fancy a burger, having only had one the other day in Harwell.

In the end I went with a dish I had been tempted to before on previous visits to Bills, which was the Lobster & Seafood Linguine.

Lobster & Seafood Linguine

Lobster, king prawn & squid in a rich tomato & chilli cream sauce with lemon oil.

The dish was nicely presented.

There was a nice lot of seafood in the pasta dish, which meant as you ate the dish you kept finding prawns, squid and lobster on your fork. Some places I have eaten this kind of dish, you get a meagre amount of seafood. I wasn’t overly impressed with the lobster, which either lacked flavour or was overpowered by the sauce. If it wasn’t there I don’t think I would have missed it, which was a pity.

I did enjoy the dish, I liked the cherry tomatoes with the pasta. Though I think it wouldn’t be something I would order again, if it was still on the menu. It didn’t blow me away. 

As for the rest of the table, well they all went with chargrilled 8oz sirloin steak with rosemary fries.

chargrilled 8oz sirloin steak with rosemary fries

They all enjoyed their dishes, but they did say I cooked a better steak.

Service was excellent, efficient and friendly. 

Overall we had a really nice meal.

Time for some Risotto Nero

I was staying in Wimbledon at the Hotel du Vin and had dinner a couple of times in their Italian themed restaurant. I had a nice starter of Fritto Misto. I went with fish for my main course and had the Risotto Nero.

Roasted scallops and squid seared in the pan served on a black squid ink risotto.

You have to say that the dish is very black, very black indeed.

A few weeks ago I had a squid ink paella and it was also very black. I have to say that it didn’t  look that appetising, however it was very tasty. There was squid and prawns in the rice. I am not sure I would have it again, but I am glad I tried it and it was good. So seeing the risotto nero on the menu I decided that I would give this squid ink dish a try.

Well the risotto I had was also very black. However the scallops and squid had been cooked separately and were added to the dish at the end. So it did look much nicer.

The risotto was al dente, and was quite good. It didn’t have the flavour of the paella, but I did enjoy it. The scallops were cooked well and were nice. The squid, was a little over cooked for me.

Overall I did enjoy the dish.

Homemade Gluten Free Fritto Misto

One thing I do quite like is seafood in crispy batter, what the Italians call Fritto Misto.

So after enjoying my recent attempts at gluten free Frito Misto, I thought I would cook it again. I went with the recipe I had used before.

Again I used the mixed seafood mix from Lidl. As part of their Andalusian range, Lidl had a bag of frozen prepared mixed seafood. It contains pieces of skin-in cod pieces, anchovy fillets, squid rings, chopped Indian squid and peeled shrimp. As I said before I do think there could be more shrimp (prawns) in there, but it is a good mix of seafood. I did take some of the squid rings and cut them into smaller pieces.

I took the seafood and defrosted it in a bowl and removed any excess water. I coated the seafood in seasoned flour and then left it for a while, a couple of hours all in.

I cooked the seafood by deep frying in hot oil. The end result was a crunchy coating on the seafood. This was then seasoned with a little salt.

Fritto Misto

I was staying in Wimbledon at the Hotel du Vin and had dinner a couple of times in their Italian themed restaurant. The restaurant was in the Orangery, and to be honest the air conditioning was turned up a little too much for me, as it felt quite chilly.

On another evening I looked over the menu and went with the Fritto Misto for my starter, which was also available as a main course.

The dish comprised deep fried squid, tiger prawns, mullet and anchovies, set on a bed of ailiol and served with lemon.

The dish was garnished with some chilli and herbs. I am not sure how authentic the chilli is, something I see at Wagamama on their chilli, squid. I picked off the chill and squeezed some lemon juice onto the dish.

The batter was thin and crispy. You could taste the fish in the dish. The aioli was a little rough, but was okay.

Squid Ink Paella

When I was down in Ealing at La Rueda Tapas Bar in Ealing I was initially tempted by the paella choices they had, including a squid ink paella. In the end we had tapas. I would have liked to try a squid ink paella.

Recently I was working in Bristol, and went for a walk at lunchtime with a plan on getting something to eat. It was a Thursday so I headed out to the Temple Quay Market. Didn’t really fancy anything from the market, so I headed to the St Nicholas Market. It was rather busy. In the end I headed down towards La Lola for some squid or paella.

I was impressed to see that La Lola have expanded their menu and one of the choices was a squid ink paella. Well it was bit of a no-brainer, so I decided to try out their dish.

As with previous visits, I was given a warm welcome, I ordered my paella and took a seat. It arrived quite quickly, with some aioli and a slice of lemon.

You have to say that the dish is very black, very black indeed.

I have to say that it doesn’t look that appetising, however it was very tasty. There was squid and prawns in the rice.

I am not sure I would have it again, but I am glad I tried it and it was good.

tama squid

Staying in London I headed to Wagamama in Ealing. I had a the yasai yaki soba for my main, but I also wanted a side dish as well.

I chose the tama squid, which are crispy fried squid balls, drizzled with okonomiyaki sauce and mayonnaise. finished with aonori and bonito flakes.

tama squid

I thought they looked great. These were crispy with a smooth centre. The okonomiyaki sauce was tasty, the aonori and bonito flakes added flavour and texture.

I really quite enjoyed them.

Not as good as it was

Back in 2018 I made a few visits to The Real Greek in Cabot Circus and had some great food. Of course with lockdown, any early return visit was scuppered.

So recently I was in the Westfield Shopping Centre with my son and we decided, on my recommendation, the branch of The Real Greek they have there.

It was quite a hot day and it was rather warm in the restaurant. We looked over the menu and thought about what to eat. The menu has changed since I ate there four years ago, so some of the things I had enjoyed then, were no longer on the menu.

In the end we went with the fixed price Filoxenia Dinner Menu.

You make one choice from the four options.

For the first option, I went with the Greek flatbread, whilst my son had the crudités.

As for the second option, my son chose the Houmous and I went with the Santorini Fava.

From the hot meze options, I went with the Loukaniko Beef & Pork Sausage Skewer, and my son chose the Fried Kalamari.

For the final option we had chips and the Saffron Rice.

The Santorini Fava was something I haven’t had before, and is yellow lentils from Santorini, cooked and blended with herbs and spices, topped with a salsa of tomatoes, onions, capers and caper powder. 

It was nicely presented  and worked well with the flatbread.

The houmous was a blend of chickpeas, rich in tahini and spiced with cumin, topped with paprika and roasted red peppers. I had a taste and it was really nice. 

For the hot meze, the Kalamari was crisp squid rings served with lemon mayonnaise.

Compared to the grilled kalamari I had in 2018 this was a real disappointment. The previous dish was described as “Our own unique version, using the freshest squid and a sticky Greek honey and paprika marinade.”

The Real Greek describe the grilled kalamari as “Our own unique version, using the freshest squid and a sticky Greek honey and paprika marinade.”

My thoughts back then were:

I think you can tell a lot about a restaurant on how they cook squid. The dish looked interesting and not quite how I imagined. The squid was tender and tasty, the marinade wasn’t overpowering and enhanced the dish.

This time, what we go was, squid rings in a crispy coating. It could have been okay, however the squid hadn’t been cleaned properly before cooking and a couple of pieces still had the inedible membrane attached.

As for my Loukaniko, Beef & Pork Sausage Skewer, this was a traditional Greek sausage from Thrace, chargrilled and served on a bed of Greek Slaw.

Well it was, what it said it was. The sausages was tasty and I enjoyed the slaw.

This was a very different dish to the one I had in July 2018, then you got a lot more sausage.

Loukaniko beef and pork sausage

Overall I was to be honest quite disappointed with the whole experience. I don’t think I will be making a return visit anytime soon.