You may have heard of The Pen & Pencil in Manchester’s Northern Quarter because they were one of the first to make bottomless brunch the incredible thing it is in Manchester (including unlimited food – what more could you want) but it is also a quirky, Manhattan-inspired bar as well located just on the border of Picadilly Basin.

The name came from a mid-20th Century bar on East 45th Street in New York’s ‘steak row’ which was a popular haunt for the original mad men – journalists and ad men. As soon as you walk in, you can see the decor is inspired by this era of Manhattan-living and it brings a charm to the bar that you don’t get with other places in the Northern Quarter.

I brought my friend Hannah with me to sample the menu and neither of us had eaten there before so we didn’t know what to expect. Obviously, I had a little peruse of the menu before we went and had my eyes firmly set on the halloumi burger – grilled halloumi, spicy tomato chutney and rocket – but if I was to go again, I would definitely give the beetroot falafels or Moroccan lentil stew a try as they both sounded delicious.

My burger was really tasty, and they were heavy handed with the halloumi, which was a welcome surprise for me and the sweet potato fries were lovely and crispy. Hannah went for the Philadelphia Flat Steak, which she told me was one of the best steaks she has ever had – so that’s saying something!

To go with our food, Hannah had a glass of Sauvignon and I went for the ‘Hot Off The Press’ cocktail which was Manchester gin, Manzana Verde Liqueur, cherry bitters, lemon, gomme and egg white, and was a mix of sweet and sour, but very tasty.

One of the things I found quite strange about the restaurant was that they had no starter or dessert offering. I understand that this place is primarily a bar, but this girl usually wants something sweet at the end of the meal, so I was a bit disappointed to not even have the option.

If you need somewhere for a quick bite in the Northern Quarter or fancy a drink from their extensive beer and wine menu then give The Pen & Pencil a go. The staff are lovely and really knowledgeable if you’re stuck for choice and will make recommendations based on your likes and dislikes.

Have you been to the Pen & Pencil? What did you think?

This will be the final instalment of my Botanist posts, and I really hope you’ve enjoyed them and I’ve inspired you to check out all the amazing food on their menu. Find my review of the full menu here and the Sunday lunch menu here.

The Botanist recently launched their whole vegan menu which has some great and delicious choices on. I wasn’t invited down to solely try this menu, but I’d seen a couple of other blogging friends has made some tasty choices from it so I challenged myself to go completely vegan for the night (apart from one of my cocktails had egg white in which I only realised afterwards – I’m sorry, I’m sorry!)

As it was the third time I was working with The Botanist, they invited me to their restaurant on Deansgate. I went with my lovely friend Jacinta, but before she arrived (I was painfully early as usual) I took some photos of the gorgeous decor as I’d never been into this one before and I was blown away with how beautiful it was.

I took a seat in the dining room and ordered myself their signature cocktail, ‘The Botanist’ as it felt quite fitting. It was made with vodka, run and elderflower liqueur and was delicious – I’m a big fan of anything with elderflower in. Once Jacinta arrived, we had a read of the menu and made our choices.

For the starter, I went for the tempura-fried cauliflower, tender-stem broccoli and kale Manchurian with a sweet and sour sesame dipping sauce. When it arrived, I was impressed with how much you actually got as I know sometimes with veggie and vegan choices, the portions can be quite stingy.

Sometimes when I’ve had tempura battered things in the past, they can be quite soggy, but this was lovely and crisp and the sauce was a welcome accompaniment.

For the main, I went for the harissa aubergine steak with saffron and almond Israeli couscous, grilled baby gem lettuce and tahini dressing. I’m a big fan of aubergine, and even before going veggie, if it was on the menu, I would usually go for it, and this time it did not disappoint. I find it quite hard to get aubergine right when I cook it at home, but this one was so full of flavour and incredibly juicy – I would 100% order this again.

For the main, Jacinta and I shared the homemade banana doughnuts with salted caramel sauce and a peanut milkshake, and it was the perfect sweet treat to finish the meal off. I’m not usually a huge fan of doughnuts, but because this was the only vegan choice they had, I decided to give it a go. I think because the doughnuts were made with banana, it took the overly-sweet edge off them and it was almost like a sugary banana bread, which is right up my street!

I hope you’ve all enjoyed reading my reviews of The Botanist’s different menus and various locations – it’s been an absolute pleasure to work with them on this project, and I hope I’ve inspired you to give them a go.

My meal at The Botanist was complimentary in exchange for an honest review.

Invite me to try cocktails and I am there, especially when it’s at one of my favourite little places in Manchester!

Back in December, I was invited to try the brunch menu at 19 Cafe Bar (full post here) which is one of the best brunches I have ever had (and believe me, that’s a lot) so when they asked me to come down and sample their offering of cocktails, I wasn’t going to say no. I went with my friend Hannah to sample their offering.

The great thing about 19 Cafe Bar is that is it so close to Picadilly Gardens and The Northern Quarter and really easy to find. The staff are also so lovely and welcoming when you get there and really make you feel special. They talked us through the menu and asked us what spirits we liked and made recommendations based on that.

Their cocktails menu is really extensive, ranging from cosmopolitans to orange espresso martini (YUMMM) and everything else in between. We started with the Harlem Nights (tequila with vanilla and fresh fruit) and the New York Sour (bourbon, shaken with lemon, sugar and egg white with a red wine float) both of which were gorgeous.

The second one I went for was East Side (Absolut vodka, shaken with mint, lemon and sugar with a hint of gingerbread) and Hannah went for the frozen Strawberry Daiquiri, which wasn’t on the menu but they insisted that we tried it. I’m always a little bit dubious when it comes to things with gingerbread in, as I find the flavour can be a bit sickly sweet sometimes, but this wasn’t overpowering at all. I also tried Hannah’s and it was really refreshing.

The last round we went for was the Aviation (Tanqueray gin, lemon, maraschino cherry liqueur and creme de violet) and a Manchester Gin & elderflower tonic. If I’m honest, this one was my least favourite as I’m not a huge lover of violet, but if that is your thing then this will be right up your street. The gin and tonic was lovely as well – without being biased, I’m a big lover of Manchester gin!

If you’re after a tasty cocktail in the city centre or a spot of incredible brunch, then definitely give 19 Cafe Bar a try – they have something for everyone and you won’t be disappointed with the amount of choice!

Have you been to 19 Cafe Bar? What did you think?

 

 

I absolutely love eating out; it’s one of my favourite things to do, especially when it’s a new restaurant that I’ve never been to before, and even better when the experience is one of the best which is why I couldn’t wait to share it on the blog.

When I was invited to try the new spring dishes at Iberica, I couldn’t reply quick enough: Iberica has been on my hitlist for as long as I can remember, and every time I work in Manchester and walk past it (our office is just around the corner) I feel like I wrack my brain for an excuse to visit because it’s a little bit too fancy for your regular going out occasion. It’s situated in the very popular area of Manchester called Spinningfields which is full of restaurants, bars but also businesses.

Spanish food is one of my absolute favourites, so much so that we are toying with a tapas menu for our wedding. I’ve been to a few different places in Spain, and every time the food has been incredible, so I knew that Iberica had a lot to live up to when it came to authentic Spanish dishes.

The first thing that struck me about the restaurant was how lovely the outside terrace was. We went on a very sunny Friday evening, and it was packed with date nights, birthdays and after work drinks soaking up the Manchester sunshine. We opted for a table inside and were seated upstairs which had big windows and also a view of the kitchen. As we walked up, I noticed how lovely the downstairs bar was too with its Spanish-inspired tiles and gorgeous decor.

We were greeted by a waitress who talked us through a few of the dishes and brought us a jug of sangria. We were also treated to a plate of Juan Pedro Domecq ham, which had been cured for 42 months, and the toasted bread with tomato. The ham was some of the best Iberica ham I’ve ever had (and I’ve had a lot in my day) and the bread was the perfect accompaniment with lovely sweet tomatoes on top.

For the main, it was a tough choice because I could have quite happily eaten everything. We went for the classics – patatas bravas, manchego with quince jelly and calamari, and also went for the chorizo lollipops (which someone from work had recommended). As we were there to try the spring dishes, we also went for the warm lentil salad (with poached egg, pea shoots and baby carrots) spring vegetables (sauteed seasonal vegetables topped with melted idiazabal cheese) and the cod brandada (salt cod with vegetable crisps).

I’m not joking here when I say this was one of the best meals I’ve ever had – not just Spanish meals – actual, all-cuisine-encompassing meals: It was incredible and the sangria washed it down perfectly. The spring dishes were so fresh and full of flavour, and the others we ordered were amazing as well. My favourite (which surprised me a bit) was the spring vegetables, which were so heavenly, and quite a light dish, even with the melted cheese. I’ll definitely be trying to recreate that at home.

Even though we were absolutely stuffed, they tempted us with dessert (which didn’t take much if I’m honest). I went for the caramelised Spanish rice pudding and Jordan went for the churros. The desserts were the perfect thing to finish the meal, and the rice pudding was lovely. It was the Spanish version of a Creme Brulee which is one of my favourite desserts of all time.

If you are after incredible Spanish food, a stunning restaurant and really attentive, lovely staff, then I would highly recommend giving Iberica a go. It’s the perfect place to celebrate a special occasion or if you’re a bit of a foodie – definitely one I’ll be going back to soon!

Have you been to Iberica? What did you think?

Our meal at Iberica was complimentary in exchange for an honest review.

Gusto is one of my favourite chains of restaurants as I feel as though they have a little something for everyone from sharing platters to pizzas. Recently their Didsbury restaurant went under a renovation and the end result is lovely.

They have covered their outdoor seated area and redone the indoor decor very tastefully. I went to visit them a few weeks ago and I wanted to share my experience on the blog.

We decided to go for the set menu on our visit (and the three-course option, obviously…) We started with the bruschetta and calamari. The bruschetta was so lovely and fresh and the calamari were incredibly tasty as well.

For the main course, I couldn’t resist a pizza – I went for the caprino (goat’s cheese, roasted red peppers, pine kernels, caramelised onion, pesto, mozzarella and rocket). Jordan went for the classic Gusto burger with truffle fries.

I went for a little wander around the restaurant with the manager who showed me the new kitchen layout, their pizza oven and the new interior pieces that they’ve introduced.

When I got back to the table, we ordered desserts. My favourite, sticky toffee pudding was on the menu so I went for that and Jordan had the brownie with pistachio ice cream. After the three courses, I was absolutely stuffed, but it was amazing.

If you’re in the Didsbury area, I would recommend giving Gusto a go. They have a set menu, brunch menu and a la carte, which has something for everyone.

Have you been to Gusto before?

Our meal at Gusto was complimentary in exchange for a review. All views are my own.