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.

100km Cycle – Manchester, Peak District & Cheshire

100km Cycle – Manchester, Peak District & Cheshire

It was 7am on a Saturday morning in the waning last week of summer. I decided to go on a challenging 100km cycle. I began in Didsbury and cycled to Bramall and went past the below phenomenal hall. See below the rest of my ride. I was pootling on at a good pace but simply had to stop for the below:

Next was the climb up Buxton. This was a gruelling two hill number which ended 552 metres above sea level. This was a stunning gentle but long climb. It snaked around and, as my fellow cyclist James said ‘it rises into the sky’. See below a humorous picture I snapped on the way up.

Once halfway up the second hill I was treated to a beautiful serene scene by one of the many reservoirs I saw on the trip. The reflection was quite moving. I listened to Live! by Fela Kuti and Ginger Baker and was so moved by this that I cried – I will admit it. I am often moved to tears listening to music but the combination of this and the scenery was just too much.

Below was the view going from this reservoir up the famous Cat and Fiddle Hill. This was one of the 5km climbs which rather knackered me on the other side. The downhill was magnificent. I topped out almost 60km/hour on the way down.

Once over the hump as it were I cycled through an idyllic little village in Cheshire. I spoke to a woman there who was raising chickens. We had a lovely conversation about the row of four houses in front of a stream, below a canopy of woodland where she lived. To me it was pure idyll. And they had the most wonderful plant pot (left bike).

See below a picture of the excellent photographer right before a 65km/hr descent. The last two hills were the toughest. 16% gradient steepest on the 1st one and 11% on the second. Both about 1km long and windy.

See below the map. I can’t recommend this enough. Even though I got lost in Macclesfield, the ride was stunning, quite challenging but ultimately immensely rewarding.

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.



Salford Museum & Art Gallery – Superb Fun, Manchester

Salford Museum & Art Gallery – Superb Fun, Manchester

Salford Museum and Art Gallery sits atop the famed Peel Park which is itself well worth visiting. My friends and I went here as our first stop in what was to be a jam packed Friday. See below my personal highlights.

Somehow the museum managed to re-create a street in late 19th Century Salford. This was a show stopping triumph for me. Going down the cobbled street (which smelled much better than it must have done at the time) and being able to look into a dozen different shop and home fronts was wonderful. I felt like a child discovering something wonderful. See above a brief shot of what to expect.

Bokelmann, Christian Ludwig; The Gambler

The Gambler by Christian Ludwig Bokelmann (1844–1894) was one of the highlights of the gallery for me. This struck me in its sentiments which seem to be anti-gambling. You see a smokey room with a young father clinging onto his betting slip, not taking notice that he has knocked over his pint. His probably wife is holding one of their progeny while the other, horrifyingly, is playing cards on the floor – seeming to get into her father’s nasty habit. The father is so engrossed in his habit that he fails to hear the dogs fighting in the background, indeed this blissful ignorance is shared by his floored daughter, seeming to echo the concern that her father’s habit can extend to children. Finally, the gang of old men in the background seems to point to what this gambler will become. In addition to being technically excellent, the sentiments behind this painting are clear and damning. A powerful painting.

Montague, Alfred; Ship on Fire off the North Foreland

Ship on Fire was the second piece in the gallery which struck me. I love ships at sea and I love motion. This is a dynamic combination of both. The ship on fire itself is not the main focus of this piece, the main focus is those escaping from it. This distinction is important. The spray on the top of the waves, the motion and the light are, combined, very powerful in denoting the chaos which ensued following the fire. What is particularly potent for me is being able to see what is under the water as well as above. The light from the sky illuminates hints of bodies beneath the water and parts of the ship. This for me is beautifully rendered and a powerful depiction of a frightful scene.

Lowry, L.S, Bandstand at Peel Park

Sadly the Lowry at Salford Quays was closed at the time of our visit but I did get to see a few Lowrys (or is it Lowries?). Peel Park’s bandstand was the subject of many depictions but this one was my favourite. There is something haunting to me about Lowry’s works, they seem to be hinting at something deeper. The looming buildings behind the park, one of which I believe now houses the Salford Museum and Art Gallery, are almost sinister.

Cheddar Gorgeous drag installation

There are a great number of drag queens in Manchester and one of the more famed ones is Cheddar Gorgeous. I have been a fan of Cheddar’s for some years, following them on instagram when I had the misfortune of being a member of this application. Cheddar is described as a “gender divergent drag artist, producer and self-confessed unicorn-idealist”. I’m not sure whether I am able or willing to go further into that. However, seeing a piece of drag art close up was quite a moving feat for me. Often I see these through the medium of television or on You Tube but seldom up close. The dress was constructed well and fit within the fantasy that Cheddar created following research into a local fable.

Overall this museum was an excellent use of time, was supremely economical (free admission) and fulfilling. It was likely one of the highlights of my trip.

Five Favourites – September Edition

Five Favourites – September Edition

The time has come again for my five favourite album covers of the month .The below are a collection of covers which I have enjoyed on my musical journey through August. It has been a wild month for me which included much wonderful travelling. I look forward to September even more.

Thomas Dolby – The Golden Age of Wireless (1982)

I – I don’t believe it!
There she goes again!
She’s tidied up, and I can’t find anything!
All my tubes and wires
And careful notes
And antiquated notions

There’s something excellent about the idea of a stamp on an album cover with Thomas Dolby, then slightly less bald than he is now, tinkering with his tools. I have reviewed a Dolby cover in a previous Five Favourites and indeed reviewed The Flat Earth a very long time ago. Even the bottom ‘Fig. 1 Thomas Dolby’ is excellent. This is just great for me, especially the comic book quality present on many of his album covers.

Peter Tosh – Legalize It (1976)

A few Partners and clients of my firm subscribe to this blog so I shall not espouse a view in agreement or dissent with the sentiments of this album cover. However, I think we can all agree a cover this excellent should be illegal. There’s something so honest about the nomenclature of this album but also the idea of Mr Tosh, off his rocker, in the middle of a field of cannabis. I just find it so funny I felt I needed to share it with you. But humour aside it does make the point visually and concisely. A terrific cover.

Tool – Lateralus (2001)

Tool were one of my many re-discoveries this month. On my way back from Hull I listened to Fear Inoculum and Lateralus. The latter cover did strike me as, well, human, and also superhuman at once. There’s something really trippy about this cover. Perhaps the artist took a leaf out of Peter Tosh’s book (pardon the pun). There is something close to Todd Rundgren’s 1974 live masterpiece Utopia about this cover. The kaleidoscope background, prominence of eyes and striking blue which runds through the cover are quite impressive to me.

Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here (1975)

The team devised a concept for the cover involving two men — record execs fashioned in a style suggested by the album’s “Have a Cigar” — shaking hands to seal some unknown deal. Hipgnosis explained a handshake is often seen as an empty gesture, void of meaning or purpose. And the flames? A visualization of people’s tendency to remain emotionally withdrawn (or absent) for fear of “being burned.” Floydianslip

Well if there isn’t a more haunting cover from 1975. Two studio execs meeting in the middle of a row of large hangars which look like film studios, shaking hands on some unknown deal, while one of them is one fire. This is inspired to me. When listening to this album, I did feel like the man on fire. The quality of this record is off the charts, but the cover is also equally impressive.

Grace Jones – Muse (1979)

Produced by disco legend Tom Moulton, the cover of this album is most interesting. This cover was designed by a close friend of Grace’s, Richard Bernstein who created the covers of Interview Magazine from 1972-1989. This is so interesting to me, the scaled effect is repeated on the cover of Inside Story some ten years later. The extreme contrast and colourful ribbons mimic the colours at either side of Grace’s face. This is fun and colourful and excellent, as usual for Grace – though I am biased.

See you again next month!

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?