Friday, 25 March 2011

Master Chef , Liverpool (twice in one week!)

This month, Spring had well and truly sprung so what better to do than go out on a restaurant crawl? I was feeling in the mood to visit the home town of Liverpool and revisit an old favourite- this was proving easier said than done as most of my faves have gone bust thanks to pesky N*ndo's and co! I checked out Zorbas but after hearing not so favourable reviews lately, not to mention a huge price hike (capitalising on being one of the few decent Greeks in Lpool?), my mind turned to my pleasure, my pain, my passion- CURRY. The mothership aka the UnI in Renshaw St was calling me, but it didn't open til 6 and it was 5 and I wanted curry immediately, same went for Indian Delight. So the default diversion was Master Chef, which fitted in great with my eating buddies thanks to its fab BYO policy! Being the teetotal I am, I was happy as they are one of the few restaurants that do fruity Rubicon as an alternative to Coke and Sprite, along with a wide range of lassis. Master Chef has been in Liverpool for over 20 years and never fails to come up with tasty, exotic food, good prices and fantastic portion size. Great for nights out, quiet lunches, parties and solo diners, Master Chef is more versatile than run-of-the-mill curry houses. Recently refurbed without losing its character, the restaurant is a modern twist on the stereotypical curry house- twangy music, a sticky carpet and pictures of mosques and palaces are all present and correct, but the furnishings and layout of the place could be from a generic wine bar.

I ended up visiting twice in a week, so let me run you through both meals at once. Service and atmosphere was chilled and efficient, with a smile and helpful tips on what the meals included spice-wise. My only complaint was that the heating was on full whack- not the best thing when the temp outside is nearly 20 and you're shovelling hot food down your throat.

To start, I had samosa the first time which was packed with chunky fresh veg with a kicking aftertaste, costing under £2. Credit crunch tastic! The second time, I went along the road less travelled and tried an aubergine pakora and potato bhaji, also under £2 and they were fabulous. The aubergine melted in the mouth and was set off nicely with a wedge of lemon and the old chutney tray, the potato bhaji making a change from old faithful onion. The potato bhaji looked like a fishcake with golden breadcrumbs but was thankfully packed to the gills with spud, like the best chip butty you have ever had.

For mains, I went for veg achaari (medium curry with a pickle base, perfect for fans of chutney and piquancy) and madras. Both curries were of high quality and packed full of nutritious greens and potatoes, the madras firing up my tastebuds while the achaari enriched the senses. Achaari has a rich hot and sour taste, a rich alternative to Vindaloo without being ridiculously spicy. CURRY HEAVEN. Both meals were accompanied with a massive naan and lashings of basmati.

The dessert menu was standing on the table, tempting me into the perfect conclusion of a good meal out. I chose a Matka Kulfi, a pistachio icecream presented in a pretty pot which they let me take home.

Readers, in times of rip-off merchants and credit crunches, I recommend you get down to Master Chef. At £36 for 3 people (2 meat, 1 veggie, 2 courses, 1 dessert and soft drinks), this is a bargain. And with good customer service at that.

Master Chef on Urbanspoon

Kosmos, Manchester

Authentic Greek meze- a ray of sunshine!

The summer will soon be upon us again, and it's high time Vindaloo Queen started seeking out some Mediterranean eateries in Manc. After the feast that was Katsouris, my appetite was whet for a bit of evening Greek style. Unfortunately, my beloved Katsouris closes early evening, so it was time to deploy Google to get me to the Greek! First it suggested Bouzouki by Night, but it sounded a bit chavtastic/ drunken hen and stag rabble for my liking, I was looking for a rich tapestry of Hellenic delights. Then I found Kosmos- meal deals, a warm Greek welcome, away from the city centre, free parking nearby- a winner!

Fallowfield might not be the first place that springs to mind for a Mediterranean infused evening, but that's what makes Kosmos the diamond in the rough it is. Tucked away between the Curry Mile and Didsbury, it makes a welcome change from the Indian and pub food what populates this neck of the woods. The interior of Kosmos reminds me a bit of Zorbas in Liverpool with its blue hues and souvenir pictures from Greece adorning the walls, but with my favourite Greek pop and well spaced tables to add to the pleasant ambience. I was welcomed warmly by the owner, a cheerful Cypriot gentleman who was more than happy to chat to his customers.

As I arrived just before 19:00, I qualified for the early doors 2 course special for £12. Normally, these offers are never any good for veggies, but this menu was veggie heaven. To start, I ordered a combo of 2 dips (tzatziki and foul muddamas) served with stonebaked pittas, and the main event was Kolokithokeftedes (pictured, for those not in the know, courgette and feta fritters). As a twist on the bog standard side of rice-or-chips, Kosmos offers a third option, cracked wheat which was a welcome break. The dips were chilled and fresh, the courgette succulently infusing with the warm feta. This feast for Greek gods and Vindaloo Queens was extremely satisfying; its authenticity seemed to sweep me away from grimy Manchester to the beaches of Kefalonia. For the duration of the meal, I was in a sunny climate in a land where the grape is grown (Sorry Shirley Valentine!), confirming my beliefs that superb food isn't just about its taste, it's about its power to change your mood and give you the feeling of travel.

After such a sumptuous feast, I regret to say there was no room for Baklava or Loukoumades...

Kosmos Taverna Ltd. on Urbanspoon

Friday, 18 March 2011

Drip, Manchester

I didn't expect doggy style- call environmental health!

Back in 2009 when I was living in Germany, I went somewhere really exotic on holiday. That's right, I went to Manchester! (The things ex-pats do when they get homesick for good curry...) While I was there, I visited a fab cafe in the Northern Quarter called Drip and decided to visit again now that I live in Manc Land. However, it's true what they say, never visit the same place twice...

The prices are staggeringly high for a cafe in an old run down inner city and the service isn't particularly overwhelming, but this is made up for in its cosy interior and well stacked selection of mags. I sat there, engrossed in Jordan's love life until I heard a terrible cacophony. A family with a huge dog had rudely interrupted my coffee sesh, a hulking smelly beast of a thing and I was waiting for the staff to tell them to chain it up outside. But no, this group of freaks were welcomed with open arms with barely a drink bought with their dirty smelly dog. Isn't this some sort of environmental health breach?

If they welcome mutts in their eating establishment, I shan't be going back. It really has gone to the dogs.

Drip Coffee on Urbanspoon