Tag Archives: Birthday

Birthday Breakfast

5 May

Just a short piece on Matt’s handiwork from first light on my birthday; I must put this in because it is a memory to treasure. I – thankfully – was able to ease into wakefulness (admittedly slightly pieced by an impatient stomach) with a cup of tea, while he scampered around the kitchen in a mild agitation at the mission ahead of him. 

I watched this slightly chaotic spectacle for a while, intent solely upon being an observer (it was my birthday) until I surrendered with a smile. It was better this way – we ended up kicking ‘eggs royale’ ass. 

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Eggs Royale; Birthday Breakfast.

Hollandaise – it’s not impossible; be patient with it… Don’t rush the yolks turning to spaghetti-like ribbons by putting them over too high a heat – it will scramble. Whisk constantly, gently, lovingly…! Do not re-heat and make sure you add some lemon and black pepper in at the end. Saying this, I made the hollandaise because Matt’s prior attempts had been, in his own words, ‘disasterous’, so as the egg poaching king he concentrated on creating spheres of golden-yolked goodness. 

Swapping the smoked salmon for gravlax was definitely a winner – its sweet sharpness and dill curing wreathed through, cutting through the buttery hollandaise (hence why you need the lemon for a little more lift) without jeopardising the silken unity of the ingredients together.   

Serve with ciabatta and asparagus, and fall in love. 

Jack Spratt (and a night of Cats)

4 May

Jack Sprat could eat no fat,

His wife could eat no lean

And so betwixt the two of them

They licked the platter clean.

Reaching a final decision on a restaurant for my birthday entailed a relentless, two week long rummage through Manchester’s enormous store of eating houses. This I reveled in. My more-than-small infatuation with exploring has been known to irritate when, after the eleventeenth possibility for the night has culminated with (another) vow of, ‘this is perfect!’ only to be followed with a discovery of the next potential, I regularly hear an explosion of, ‘PLEASE, just choose!’. But I cannot, I can’t ‘just pick’. I am compelled to cavort around in glee.

Jack Spratt however, has been winking at me from the horizon for some time. After being subdued by the norovirus in January, our maiden visit was – regrettably – forced to be postponed. The winsome connection with the nursery rhyme goes back to their days as sellers of solely lunchtime food to the conscientious customer (everything being nutritionally valued). Owned by two brothers and their friends, Jack Spratt drew us in with their unexpectedly wonderful evening menu and promises of first-rate dining without all of the ‘fuss’. It seemed then, that at the end of my two week stint of imagining birthday meals, Jack Spratt was meant to be. My significant other and I agreed instantly and in an unaccountable burst of organisation, our seats were booked. As it was my birthday, my comrade had procured two tickets to see Cats at the Manchester Opera House later that night so we arranged for an early dinner. We had also heard it could get busy.

After all of the legwork and research I still  was under the impression that Jack Spratt lay in the Northern Quarter; I believe I am discovering that my sense of direction is not simply underdeveloped, but nonexistent.  Just to note – it isn’t. It resides on John Dalton Street, just north of Albert Square. Please do not wander into the Northern Quarter, you will miss a beautiful night. 

After we had materialised and found our way within, we were seated at a table next to the window which looked out on the bustling inner-city streets of central Manchester. This, although I do delight in people-watching, would normally have made me feel uncomfortable – not only could we see out, but everyone can see in! I’m not sure I appreciate the feeling of being on show as I’m tucking in to my dinner. At Jack Spratt, this was not a problem; the windows were adorned with flowers and graceful paintings which camouflaged us from any exterior, prying eyes. It was all very country, very feminine. Another wonder, as I’d been expecting a far darker, more virile interior from a restaurant owned by two twenty-something lads. Nevertheless, it was radiant.

We weren’t drinking (I would more than likely fall asleep in Cats if I had a glass of wine), so while waiting for the starters I sipped on a cranberry juice that was made exciting with the freshly squeezed lime within – a nice touch. Our starters arrived in the nick of time as my stomach was trying to digest itself… I blame the smells wafting out from the kitchen.

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Rabbit terrine; Jack Spratt, Manchester.

Having not eaten much rabbit in my life, I had fixed upon the rabbit terrine with apple and grape chutney and a fabulously garlicky crostini. It was delicate and light, free from heavy binders that so often clog up spring dishes such as this. I’ll even get over my fear of rocket (and strange, peppery leaves like watercress) for this one…

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Goat’s cheesecake; Jack Spratt, Manchester.

Matt chose the goat’s cheesecake with a red onion and balsamic marmalade. Jealousy is a terrible thing, I know… I know that as he nipped to the toilet I should not have been stealing pieces of it, but it’s a confession on here – right? I couldn’t have eaten a whole portion to myself as it was a generous slice, but as a lover of all things cheese I can tell you that that goat’s cheesecake should be sanctified.

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Fish special of the day; Jack Spratt, Manchester.

For our mains, Matt was the wholesome Jack Spratt spirit incarnate – he chose the fish special of the day; lemon sole stuffed with anchovy on top of new potatoes. This uncomplicated choice was packed with sea flavour, cut by the baked lemon and  the mild artichoke. Initially, after stalking the menu with me prior to the night, Matt’s choice would have been the Mexican molé (described as ’48 hour slow cooked lamb in a chocolate infused Mexican chilli sauce served with desiccated coconut & almond red rice & a tortilla, with chunks of avocado and radish shavings’) but to our despair, there was no molé that night! While the special was enjoyable, it was not as sturdy a meal as we would have liked and if we do return, it will be for that evasive punch-packing Mexican lamb…

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16oz Cote de Boeuf; Jack Spratt, Manchester.

I, on the other hand, am forever overcome by the pull of more indulgent fare and today, it was the promise of (my interpretation of heaven on earth) potato dauphinoise alongside the 16oz côte de boeuf. The marbling in a rib eye has always earned it top place on the steaks list and this is no exception. Ordering my côte de boeuf rare, the meat closest to the bone (no surprise) was blue – not something that I object to… The meat itself slowly became saturated with the melting café de Paris butter which was heavy on the paprika and garlic. Devastatingly delicious! I would have preferred the dauphinoise with a wee bit more colour to the oven-exposed potato so as to ‘crisp them up’, especially with such a large piece of tender meat.

For a birthday meal, we both agreed that Jack Spratt was charming. It toed the line between relaxation and formality flawlessly, offering stunning plates of food (some almost art) in an environment catered to being able to unwind. If we could have fit anything in our bellied from the dessert menu, we most definitely would have tried. I think a big fat, ‘thank you!’ is in order for our evening…

Yours,

Joss.

P.S. We did feel a bit silly being ‘all dressed up’ for the Theatre in there, but they breezed over it..

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