Chowki – Remarkable Indian, Hull

Chowki – Remarkable Indian, Hull

Arriving in Hull after a busy day in Manchester, having completed a 100km cycle (with 5 massive hills), gone to town and had lunch with an old friend and taking a 2.5 hour train, I was understandably shattered. Chowki was close to my colleagues’ home in the Avenues which was a boon. We ate well and were impressed by the level of service, at times being waited on by two different waiters. The only disappointing aspect of the evening was the fog horn Hullean leviathan a few tables away from us whose loud-some grunts and squeals permeated the entire restaurant. While Hull is an underrated city, the same cannot be said for some of its populace.

We ordered two starters and two mains. The first starter was on the Indo-Chinese menu, this was the chilli pork. They did not have any ribs but had only the chilli pork in stock which was fine by us. You will note the photograph above is not pork but paneer, which was the second starter. The initial photograph was blurry so I did not attach it. The pork was delightful, on the sweeter side of chilli with a great kick. It was cooked well and was as plentiful as the above picture. The paneer chilli fry dry was delightful as well. Paneer has this rubbery texture which I enjoy enormously. The spice level was balanced and the value was hard to deny given the portion size.

I believe the above was Nick’s dish which was the Railway Lamb Curry, so called because it was once cooked by the chefs working on the Indian railways in the 1900s, presumably in India. Lamb on the bone gives loads of flavour to this spicy dish. The main spices are ginger, garlic, turmeric and coconut milk, curry leads, coriander seeds, fennel and cumin seeds as well as Kashmiri chilli. From Nick’s satisfied hums and rhythmic foot taps, I can tell that he enjoyed the dish. I found the small morsel which was offered was highly flavourful, beautifully cooked and the texture was excellent.

Finally, I had the South Indian garlic chicken, a classic Indian take away dish. It is not clear form my research whether this is a staple dish in India or whether this is a dish made for the less sophisticate British palate but it was divine non the less. This dish is made up of garlic, ginger root, cumin seeds, cinnamon, paprika, turmeric and green chillies. This was just superlative. With the pilau rice it was just great, soft flavours, chicken which melted in the mouth and a good level of spice, as well as a large portion size. This was a winning meal. We also had some naan bread which is pictured below.

Overall this was a superb meal, in a good location, which was economical and had great portions. Hopefully you shall visit on a quieter night than Nick and I did.

Launderette – Head Spinning Pizza, Chorlton, Manchester

Launderette – Head Spinning Pizza, Chorlton, Manchester

Now, Launderette was one of those restaurants, like Ma:toni in Split, which moves a person. I was amazed by their approach, their style and the quality of the food. The waiting too was top class and the location was paradisiac. I am dumfounded that I have not eaten here before. See below my take on this restaurant.

Truffle smoked cheese fondue with garlic dough balls. 

We started with perhaps too many carbs considering what followed. These were a sensation. The smoked cheese fondue was excellent but far too much for the measly 5 balls we were given. However, these were sensational, beautifully textured and gorgeous.

Crunchy popcorn halloumi with truffled honey

These were the second best part of the meal. These gorgeous bite size sweet and salty, truffle honey covered beauties were seismic. You would not believe how much flavour is packed into these. The runny honey, crunchy batter and rubbery cheese made for a tantalising combination.

Margherita, tomato, mozzarella, basil, basil oil (and PESTO?!)

This sacrilegious monstrosity was the margherita. This outright failed my much touted margherita test because it had pesto on it. Overall for a pesto and cheese pizza it was very good. But margherita it was not. Do not serve this in Italy.

Tangy BBQ chicken, mozzerella, bacon, fresh jalapeños, spring onions, sriracha honey, BBQ base

The second pizza we had was the BBQ chicken one. This is one of my favourite types of food and I have a discerning eye when it comes to BBQ sauce. The sauce in this pizza was sweeter BBQ, close to Korean BBQ, which I consider inferior in flavour to its smokier American counterpart. But that said, overall this was a treat with many advantages. The dough for example was superb, light and airy, as it should be.

Carbonara, mozzarella, Italian hard cheese, parsley, pancetta lardons, runny egg yolk.

While the yolk was not completely runny this was the show stopping pizza of the lunch. Sadly no guanciale but overall the wonderful savoury and salty bacon and pecorino combined with sumptuous oozing mozzarella and the sweet egg was overwhelming. This was the one with almost nothing left of it when we left!

Overall this was a restaurant of astounding quality. While there were a few culinary choices which rather baffled me, in all this was one of the finest pizzerias I have had the pleasure of dining at in this country. Cannot recommend enough.

 

 

Seven 54 – Excellent Late Dinner – Didsbury, Manchester

Seven 54 – Excellent Late Dinner – Didsbury, Manchester

Picture the scene, I had arrived in Manchester late one Thursday evening. My friend was on her way down from Edinburgh and would not arrive until almost 9pm. For some reason the British public insist on eating at 4pm every night so the chefs go home early in this country. This was one of my chief frustrations when I moved here, as it happens. I knew time was of the essence. The first choice for dinner was not serving food due to staff shortages (thanks anti-vaxxers). The second, Seven 54, had a whole half hour of kitchen opening left, to my great relief.

My friend Aife, being what one might term a ‘skinny legend’ opted for the grilled prawns, cooked in smoked garlic butter, served with toasted sourdough. Prawns are supposedly excellent. They are semisweet, mildly salty and savoury, and not too calorific. The smokey texture of the garlic butter as well as the richness of the butter added to the prawns’ flavour and left Aife one happy diner.

I went for something a bit more substantial, the chicken schnitzel, with the divine caper herb salsa, garlic aioli, french fries and charred lemon. We were trying to figure out what consisted of the caper herb salsa. I asked the waiter to fix me a jar of it so I could take it home to Matthew but the kitchen was closed at this stage. British dining culture strikes again. The German word for this dish means ‘cutlet’. Often one would find this dish with veal as the central meat but this would not accord with my environmental sensibilities. Thankfully Seven 54 served it with chicken. The chicken was breaded with flour, eggs and breadcrumbs before being fried in lard or oil.

The real star of this dish for me was the capers and the fabulous aioli. The combination of the crunchy schnitzel, skin on fries and salsa was almost too delicious to bear.

Finally I ordered the spiced sweet potato and chickpea pakoras. This was served with something called ‘twisted mayo’ which I dare not espouse a view on. These were quite delicious and unusual. Typically these are filled with vegetables or onions but this one was made with sweet potato which was great for me. The sugary potato mixed with the savoury chickpeas and excellent batter (notice the larger crumbs also) made for a delicious dish.

Overall an excellent meal, which did not break the bank. I would recommend this to you if you are in Didsbury late one evening and cannot find a place which is still serving food. The welcome was great, the waiters were attentive and the environs were beautifully decorated. What more do you want?

 

The Greek – Authentic Mediterranean, Hull

The Greek – Authentic Mediterranean, Hull

My goodness did we order a lot of food at this place. It will take me some time to get through them all so hold onto your hats. I shall try to be as brief as is likely in the following. Suffice to say this meal cost us about £21 each, including a bottle of Retsina vine wine, which was most welcome considering that I had just cycled 250 miles, the last 30 miles of which my seat post was shrinking mile by mile, which rather hurt my knees for weeks afterwards.

The dolmades were one of our first order, stuffed with rice, mint & seasoning and coupled with fresh yoghurt. This was delightful, refreshing and not too heavy so was perfect as one of our many starters.

See above a photograph of the home baked greek bread with olives, on which we nibbled throughout the meal. It is always my advice to save room on bread, avoiding bread can often conserve your appetite and leave room for a variety of dishes. If you do not want a huge meal, on the other hand, do stock up on bread as this will limit your appetite.

The Saganaki was a beautiful hard cheese pan-seared at high temperature, until bubbling, forming a nice golden crust. This was so flavoursome, and resembled halloumi in its texture but was a tad more acidic, which I enjoyed immensely.

While the stuffed red pepper is perhaps not the most attractive, this sweet pepper, stuffed with wonderfully seasoned feta was one of the overall winners of the meal. The tangy and salty flavour of the feta, which was a tad on the more grainy side as opposed to smooth (a good thing in this instance) paired very well with the nicely roasted pepper.

The bougiourdi was by far the least appealing visually. However, this feta cheese baked in the oven with tomatoes, fresh chilli peppers, garlic, sprinkled with extra virgin olive oil was the most flavoursome. An explosion of flavour which I could not stop nibbling at.

Finally we enjoyed the above beautiful lamb kefte, consisting of grilled lamb with chips, tzatziki & pitta. Tzatziki is made with made with strained yogurt, cucumbers and olive oil, and can be flavoured with lemon, vinegar and dill (or sometimes mint). On this occasion it was dill, if I am not mistaken. The lamb was well grilled and balanced in its spicing, and was a good portion in view of the mammoth meal we enjoyed up to this point.

Overall, this was an excellent meal with astonishing good value. I would absolutely eat here again on my upcoming trip to Hull.

 

Dough Eyed Pizza – A Sensation, York

Dough Eyed Pizza – A Sensation, York

Picture the scene, we are en route to Bishop Wilton, and have decided to stop halfway. We have cycled alongside the river on the way into work and are met with a spectacular picture of York Minster. The restaurant we want to go to is closed so we do a quick search on Trip Advisor and alight on the #7 restaurant in York. Lo and behold, it is a pizzeria in the centre of York, facing the central market. Dough Eyed is an unassuming restaurant, specialising in Neapolitan-style savoury & sweet pizzas, plus cocktails & craft beer. Neapolitan-style pizza typically consists of a thin and soft crust—if it is cooked correctly, the crust will bubble up and be charred in spots.

As I have written before, when going to a new pizzeria, I will undertake the Margherita test. This does not mean getting trashed, it means trying the original ‘Marge’ pizza to determine the quality of all of the pizzas in the restaurant. Suffice to say, I was astonished by this. It was exactly correct. I like the dough to be on the softer side and this was perfect to me. The tomato sauce has the correct amount of acidity which cut through the flavour of the mozarella, which mild and creamy, the taste is salty with a slight tang. I would have preferred for the basil to have been added at the end of cooking rather than at the beginning, which tends to leave the leaf dry and shrivelled, but I am nit picking. A phenomenal pizza.

Nick and his red shirt ordered the Napoletana, consisting of anchovies, tomatoes, fior di latte mozzarella, fresh basil and extra virgin olive oil. As you’ll know I am not fond of fish. However, I can say with confidence that Nick enjoyed this pizza immensely. He got through the whole thing in record time. Anchovies have a number of flavours, including  sweet, sour, bitter, and salty, along with a fifth flavour known as Umami. Together with the creamy, soft, fior di latte and the aforementioned acidity of the tomato sauce, this was most likely a winning pizza.

Finally, I should like to close with a picture of my cycle, Excelsior, before York Minster. I would like to think my cycle is more impressive but perhaps I am in the minority.

 

Oliver’s Pantry – Best Breakfast Ripon

Oliver’s Pantry – Best Breakfast Ripon

Our penultimate day of travel, from Ripon to Bishop Wilton, saw us stop for breakfast at Oliver’s Pantry. I recall Nick asking me if we could go to some lesser cafe because there was a statuette of Tin Tin in the window. I did away with his Aryan proclivity and put my foot down on Oliver’s, and what a triumph it was. I would have to say this is among the finest breakfasts I have had in Yorkshire and wish I could have eaten more.

I have known Nick a long time and I think only on one occasion did he opt not to eat the Full English. At Olli’s the full English was absolutely lovely. The sausage was local, rather than Danish as in full English breakfasts across the land. The bacon was likely Danish but the egg was poached beautifully, wherever it was from. Clean plate and positive grunt is always a positive from Nick.

I had the chorizo hash which consisted of, you’ve guessed it, chorizo, sauteéd potatoes, poached egg and delicious red peppers. This was an explosion of flavour which was only enhanced by the enormous amount of oozing cheese poured all over it. I pity their washing machine. The potatoes were a triumph I thought, beautiful fluffy and soft but still solid. The acidity of the chorizo pierced through the other softer flavours on the plate and delivered a balanced and excellent breakfast, which gave me plenty of energy for the ride ahead.

Finally I should like to draw your attention to this delightful doggy that we saw on our way back to the hotel. A highlight in our brief sojourn through Ripon.