Every now and again the opportunity to eat something genuinely new and different and which pushes the envelope when it comes to the kind of food you ever even thought you’d enjoy — sitting down for the inaugural ‘PieSessions’ was one of those such occasions.
This month, we had the privilege of being invited along to one of the most exclusive and highly-anticipated dining events in Greater Manchester: an eight-course pie-tasting event created by pie-pros Ate Days A Week, Scotty’s Pies and a number of other collaborators.
Hosting a true first for the region, Notion Bar over in Stockport was packed out with over 50 guests who were all eagerly awaiting to taste pies from the local favourite, MasterChef contestant turned meat and pastry specialist Scott Eckersley-Bell, as well as Wigan staples Baldy’s Pies and Harwoods Patisserie.
At first glance, the popular SK Deep South-inspired dive bar might not look like the place to offer up a gourmet tasting menu, but what it did have was an accessible charm and a bunch of hungry people not only willing to keep their minds open but who simply love all things pie. Who doesn’t?
At the top of the bill was probably one of the most interesting things we’ve eaten all year: a Japanese-inspired ‘Pie-Scream’ which delivered the exact savoury spin as it promised on the tin. A malt-crust cone stuffed with smoothly pipped mash, katsu curry sauce and crispy Teriyaki bacon in place of a flake.
We believe we call that ‘making a good first impression’. From that moment on, we knew we weren’t just going to be eating any old meal and that it wasn’t just going to be plate after plate of what you normally consider a pie; everything was different and we can honestly say everything was good, if not amazing.
Next up we had probably one of our standouts from the entire night which was a garlic, ginger and soy pork mince tartlet with a perfect piece of honey-glazed pork belly next to it, as well as a light edamame and spring onion purée to balance out the strong flavours.
Following on from the opener, the pair delivered all of the tried and tested Asian flavours in a method most will have never experienced them in before and, in truth, we could have even taken some extra spice with that virtually perfect tartlet but they were careful not to thrash our palettes early doors.
‘Pie-Scream’ and a duo of pork we could have eaten a dozen of.
Two down, six to go and when we tell you it was plate after plate of precise pie-based ingenuity, we’re not exaggerating. From the short rib slider, which was almost like an elevated Wigan kebab, to the gentler poached cod pithivier which kind of reminded us of a seafood twist on a Cornish pasty, there was a single thing we didn’t like.
The way the menu was also carefully constructed not to beat you over the head with non-stop meat, pastry and gravy but to fluctuate between smaller bites and more substantial courses was already pretty impressive, as we managed to make it to the end of the meal at the perfect level of full.
We were even pleasantly surprised to see how the team tackled the issue of pudding, with a sweet and just sharp enough take on parfait with fresh orange, stem ginger and brown sugar, as well as a much richer chocolate, salted caramel and hazelnut brownie for a big finish.
To be honest, we loved the tiny little lemon madeleines they surprised us with as an after-dinner treat even more than the desserts (the two of us in attendance are lemon fiends, to be fair) but the best course of the night has to go to the ‘Big Jim Volume 2.0’.
It didn’t matter who was behind the course, it was banger after banger.It was genuinely a strong three-way tie between the pork tartlet, ‘Big Jim’ and
Speaking to Ate Days A Week Founder Andy James on our way out, you could clearly see how his passion for the concept had translated amongst his colleagues, into the excitement of the guests and then back onto him after he saw how well the whole thing went down.
There was a real buzz about the place that was nothing like we’d ever experienced before with other tasting menus and we think it’s because those in attendance had never sat down for a meal that was as experimental as this one whilst also being that accessible.
Yes, it might be a touch posher than pie, mash and gravy but it never stayed too far away from that simple British pleasure and while there were certainly a few thrills to give you that tasting menu feel, nothing felt out of place and neither did the diners.
Pulling off one of the best teas we’ve had in a long time from a tiny kitchen inside a rough-around-the-edges late-night drinking spot, we already know there will be a sequel to PieSessions not only because Andy told us so but because it was such a massive success. Count us in for the next one.
Medlock Canteen – a brand new restaurant for Manchester inspired by American diners and Parisian bistros
One of the year’s most exciting restaurant openings has confirmed it will open in just a few weeks’ time, with Medlock Canteen announcing new details.
The restaurant comes from the team behind Madre (the Mexican restaurant at Kampus) and Belzan (one of Liverpool’s top restaurants).
And when it officially opens in March, diners will be spoiled with bottomless coffee, a rotisserie chicken oven, and ‘strong sandwiches’.
Oh, did we mention they’ll also be offering 50% off for the restaurant’s soft launch period?
Medlock Canteen is taking its inspiration from eateries on opposite sides of the pond – the laid-back and accessible style of American diners and the hospitality of Parisian bistros.
There’ll be an all-day menu served alongside those bottomless coffees, with guest welcome to sit as long as they like.
You can expect breakfasts ranging from classic Full Englishes to duck-egg hash to ‘millennial eggs’ (smashed avo and poached eggs).
There’ll be familiar brunch dishes like oats, pancakes, and breakfast sandwiches, plus French inspired dishes like a crab and gruyere omelette, with several brekkies available to take away.
Then at lunch, chef patron Sam Grainger is promising a ‘strong sandwich game’ – we’re talking roast beef sandwich with caramelised onions, gruyere and jus; turkey schnitzel with mozzarella and marinara; and a grilled cheese with three different cheeses and pickles.
And in the evenings, it’s all about steaks and fish of the day, as well as that rotisserie chicken oven.
Believed to be the only restaurant rotisserie oven in Manchester, Medlock Canteen will be serving chicken baguettes with chicken mayo, butterhead lettuce and jus at lunchtimes, and half- or whole-chicken with a choice of sides all day.
You can even pick up a chicken in a bag to take home with you.
Owner Chris Edwards said: “Picture your typical canteen; a spot where everyone and anyone can gather.
“On one table you have a group of friends catching up over dinner, two colleagues are sitting at the bar enjoying a post work drink, a worker pops in for a coffee before their night shift and a couple swing by for dessert en route home from dinner.
“We want people to come as they are, use the space as their own and eat and drink as they desire.”
Owain Williams added: “Medlock Canteen is inspired by American diners and French bistros. In these venues, everyone is always welcome for unfussy, traditional, everyday faire.
“The British equivalent of these spaces has always been the pub but the community bond created by these spaces has become collateral damage in the UK’s reframed relationship with the pub.
“We still want the community, the accessibility and the prices, but it needs to exist in a different atmosphere suitable for the city dwellers of Manchester.”
Medlock Canteen will be opening on 23 March at New Jackson, just past the Deansgate Square skyscrapers.
There’ll be a select number of soft launch bookings, which will give diners 50% off the food bill – you can sign up here.
Ancoats restaurant publicly exposes ‘angry influencer’ after spat over free meal
A restaurant in Ancoats has publicly exposed an influencer (twice…) who tried to ask for a free meal in exchange for exposure.
Lucky Ramen, a tiny spot on Blossom Street that has had queues forming for its noodle soups and Asian brunches, has become embroiled in a spat with an unnamed social media star.
It all started yesterday when the restaurant went public with a message it had received, which was requesting a complimentary brunch in exchange for a post on Instagram.
Lucky Ramen shared the message and wrote that they were ‘thrilled you appreciate our food’ but that the team ‘appreciate paying customers even more’.
They described it as ‘another thrilling DM from a blue tick superstar asking for a free feast in exchange for an Insta post’.
Which was already dramatic enough, but the influencer in question has been quite cross that Lucky Ramen in Ancoats has taken a swipe at them publicly.
It appears they’ve followed up with a much less polite message, saying the independent business is ‘bang out of order’ for trying to expose them.
The influencer asked: “So you think people like us don’t deserve to eat for FREE???”
They argued that they were trying to promote the restaurant for free, offering ‘time, labour, effort and positive energy’ in exchange for the free meal as compensation.
The unnamed user then said: “Your arrogance makes me sick. Haha very funny, you got a couple of giggles but we’re the ones that are laughing.
Lucky Ramen in Ancoats brunch menuLucky Ramen in Ancoats brunch menu
“We go where we want, eat what we want and lastly – it’s all for free! WHOS LAUGHING NOW???”
Of course, Lucky Ramen hasn’t left that message in the DMs either, once again sharing screenshots on its Instagram page.
And they’ve chosen to smack the influencer with pure sarcasm in retaliation…
They wrote: “Dear angry influencer. Okay, aaalright… you got us! We’re truly sorry for attempting to uncover your behind-the-scenes tactics yesterday and, you know, us trying to make a living and sh*t.
“But hold on, the new message we just got deserves more than a standing ovation!
“This follow-up DM is a total game-changer, and guess what? We’re now rolling out the red carpet for all the free meals you desire. And that’s not all – our chefs are ready to part ways with their Crocs and Birkenstocks, throwing them in as an extra bonus for your tender love and labour! Even my dad’s medal of honour from the Japan war is up for grabs – he’s feeling generous the old geezer, and he’s even contemplating wheeling in his new eco-friendly hybrid wheelchair for you!
“Just hit us up with another DM, let us know when you’re swinging by to collect your well-deserved goodies, and don’t forget to leave a glowing 5-star review on both Google and TripAdvisor.
“We appreciate your understanding and, once again, sorry for the “inconvenience” we caused.
“Bon appétit + Arigato-the-f*ck-outta-here.”
Will the influencer reply again? Someone pass the popcorn.