Grand Pacific High Tea

I am famously a big fan of afternoon tea, and after many years of trying out various afternoon teas across the North West, I’ve started to look out for the most unusual ones to try. That’s why the High Tea at Grand Pacific had been on my “to do” list for quite some time, and this month I finally got to experience it in all its glory with my mum and sister. It was an early mother’s day treat and we were not disappointed!

High Tea Grand Pacific

First of all, I have to mention the venue itself as it is just a stunning place. It’s a Grade II listed building, formerly the Reform Club, so as you’d expect it has some gorgeous architectural features. And the colonial themed decor really adds a feel of exotic luxury – it’s the perfect setting for a romantic meal or luxurious afternoon tea!

Grand Pacific Manchester

The High Tea itself is served in 2 courses, unlike the traditional afternoon tea where you’ll receive both savoury and sweet treats on one cake stand. I really liked this for the simple reason that I could really enjoy the savouries without being distracted by cake! Alongside this we had tea and a glass of prosecco.

High Tea Grand Pacific, savouries

High tea savouries 1

High tea savouries 2

The savouries (pictured above):

  • Smoked salmon potato cake
  • Salmon and tuna lomi
  • Classic sandwiches
  • Goats cheese arancini
  • Crumpet with crab butter
  • Eccles cake with cheese

High tea sweet course

High tea sweet treats

High tea sweet treats 1

High tea sweet treats 2

High Tea Sweet treats 3

And then came the sweet treats (pictured above):

  • Lemon tart
  • Passion fruit brulee
  • Jasmine tea bread
  • Sherry trifle
  • Sesame brittle
  • Lamington lollipop
  • Chocolate truffle
  • Pavlova

I think this has to be one of my favourite afternoon teas so far! Even though there were so many items to enjoy, I didn’t find myself as hugely full as I would do with traditional sandwiches and scones. Everything was the perfect size, which meant I could enjoy the whole thing. All the food was very original and felt a little more special than a traditional afternoon tea, with exotic flavours as you’d expect on a Grand Pacific menu. Even though I can honestly say I enjoyed everything, the standout items were the savouries, which is surprising as I’m usually such a sweet tooth! I didn’t find myself missing a scone or a slice of cream cake either, and very much enjoyed the mix of exotic flavours in the desserts.

So overall it’s a glowing review for me for the Grand Pacific High Tea. At £25 per person (including a glass of prosecco) it’s in a similar price range to many of the other afternoon teas in Manchester, and it’s more than worth it for something a bit unusual.

High Tea Manchester

Have you tried this High Tea, and are you a fan of more traditional or slightly quirkier afternoon teas?

My favourite lunch spots in Manchester right now

I’ve worked in Manchester’s Northern Quarter for about 5 years, and I have tried and tested so many lunch spots in the city centre. Seriously, there are more than I can remember! But there are a few that impressed me so much that they are regulars, faves, and my go-to places for lunch in the city. (There are actually a few more than this, but I decided they qualified more as “brunch” spots, so I’ll make sure I do a separate post about those). Here are my top 6 lunch spots you may not know about:

West Cnr 

West Corner MCR

Conquistador salad with fried chicken

This very stylish diner has popped up in the Northern Quarter in the past year, and not only is it very convenient for me, it also has my favourite salad dish in the city! Seriously, it tastes so good that I don’t know if it even classes as a salad. I don’t really have the time to dine in on a work lunchtime, but I’ll admit that I get my lunch from their takeaway entrance about once a week.

Slice

Slice Pizza Manchester

They serve amazing pizzas and focaccia by the slice and now have a tasty selection of salads, which are great as a side order or as a meal on their own. This little gem is very popular on sunny days thanks to its outdoor seating area and their delicious selection of Italian gelato flavours. You can eat in here (and enjoy an Aperol spritz), but it’s just as easy to grab lunch on the go. 

Evelyn’s 

Evelyns Manchester

If you like your lunch with instagrammable leafy interiors then Evelyn’s is perfect. It’s tucked away on Tib street and the menu is varied and hip. Healthy options include their “Green Bowl” but I went for this potato hash with fried egg on my last visit, which was amazing!

Vapiano

Vapiano lunch Manchester

Vapiano is a chain you might already be familiar with, but it has made the list because I love the bespoke fresh pasta dishes made in front of you, the bright spacious interior, and the weird (but convenient) paying system which means you don’t have to wait for the bill at the end. You can get your food really quickly here, but the place is very chilled out and you don’t feel rushed. Which makes it kinda perfect!

Oak Street café bar

Oak Street Cafe Bar Manchester

This cute café can be found inside the Manchester Craft and Design Centre and it’s a tiny but peaceful spot with an ever-changing menu of freshly made soups, salads, quiches, stews and cakes.

Ezra & Gil

Ezra & Gil Manchester

Ezra & Gil is the latest addition to my list, because it’s usually so full that I’ve only just had chance to try it out! It’s popular for its amazing coffee and speedy service. It’s very rustic inside, but their menu is tasty with great specials and I loved this unusual dish of butternut squash and feta on rye toast with a poached egg.

Have you “lunched” in any of these spots?

Jamie’s Italian, Manchester

It’s been a while since I ate at Jamie’s Italian, but after seeing it featured in an article on Manchester’s most beautiful chain restaurants, I was feeling eager to return. It certainly is a gorgeous interior – the grade II listed building is actually an old bank and the restaurant has kept plenty of the original features. We were seated at a table on the mezzanine balcony, and had a great view over the restaurant as well as getting plenty of lovely spring sunlight from the huge high windows up there.

Jamie's Italian Manchester

We were invited down to Jamie’s to celebrate the launch of their new Super Lunch Menu, which is excellent value at two courses for £12.95 or three courses for £14.95 (available from Mon-Fri 12-6pm), and has a nice range of options. However, we couldn’t help but be tempted by the day’s specials which just sounded too amazing when our waiter described them!

Jamie's Italian - Tuna steak special

Jamie's Italian - Pork chop special

I went for the tuna steak, which came served with a beetroot and quinoa salad and yoghurt dressing. And I can’t even explain how delicious this dish was, as well as looking pretty. I was expecting my tuna medium rare (it’s Jamie’s style) and it was cooked to perfection. And although I thought it sounded like an unusual combination, it actually went perfectly with the salad and dressing. In fact it was the yoghurt dressing that really added something special – I don’t know what was in it but it tasted amazing! Craig opted for the pork chop special which came served with pea and mint mash, and again this pairing was delicious, even if it did sound like an unusual combination at first.

The Cocktail Menu at Jamie’s Italian is very tempting, with plenty of variety and new (Italian) twists on familiar cocktails. I decided to try a Florence Fizz, made with Limoncello, pomegranate juice, elderflower cordial and prosecco, and it was very refreshing and summery – the perfect thing for a sunny evening in Manchester.

Jamie's Italian - Florence Fizz cocktail

And for dessert we opted for the Epic Brownie. I’ve had a brownie dessert at Jamie’s before, but it has since been slightly reinvented with salted caramel ice cream and lashings of proper chocolate sauce as well as the signature caramelised popcorn topping. It’s a delicious and fun dessert, and still as amazing as it used to be. It’s also one of the dessert options on the Super Lunch Menu, which is great news!

Jamie's Italian - Brownie

Jamie’s Italian in Manchester is such a gorgeous venue that it’s easy to forget its part of a chain at all. It’s ideal for a special occasion, particularly if you consider their glamourous private dining room located (excitingly) in the old bank vault. But also this new Super Lunch Menu makes it ideal for a reasonably-priced lunch or early after-work bite and drinks with friends.

Follow me on Bloglovin to keep up to date with my posts

Zouk Cookery School

In my Christmas gift guide last month I suggested that a cookery skills workshop would be a great gift for a foodie-type person, and a couple of weekends ago I got the chance to try one out myself at Zouk. Zouk is a lovely Indian restaurant in Manchester, and when they offered me a place on one of their half-day cookery workshops I jumped at the chance, because I really wanted to know the secrets to making dishes that taste as delicious as in a restaurant (because no homemade curry ever really compares).

What’s nice about Zouk Cookery School is that there are a range of themed workshops to choose from, so you can pick the one that most appeals to you – from Zouk Signature Dishes (including Spicy Prawn Cakes and Lamb Lazeez) or the Tikka Masterclass (including Tandoori Mixed Grill dishes and various tikka curries), to masterclasses that focus on vegetarian or seafood dishes. The idea behind each session is to focus on a few selected dishes, which are chosen to give people an idea of the different herbs, spices and flavours involved.

Zouk cookery school

I chose to take the Punjabi Masterclass, which focuses on a menu of dishes from the Punjab region:

Starters

  • Punjabi Lollipop: Chicken wings marinated in pomegranate and gently cooked over hot charcoal
  • Lamb Chops: Char-grilled lamb in a secret Mughal marinade

Main courses

  • Lamb Karahi: Prepared over hot flames with tomatoes, crushed peppercorns, cumin, ginger & garlic
  • Chicken Jalfrezi: Chicken pieces cooked with capsicum, onion & eggs in a thick spicy sauce

Sides

  • Pilau rice
  • Naan breads with various toppings and fillings

On arrival at Zouk restaurant we were welcomed with a warming cup of home-made desi chai tea and then split into 2 groups. Our group went into the main restaurant kitchen first, to learn how to make the main courses and pilau rice under the guidance of a chef. Because these dishes are best made as a big batch in large pots, this part of the class was like a practical demonstration, which we got involved with by adding ingredients and taking turns at looking after the pots. We picked up plenty of tips this way, and it was obvious many of us had lots of questions about the best ways of doing things. Once we’d finished on the curries our groups swapped over and we had our turn at preparing the starter dishes. This was more of a hands-on session and we all had individual stations where we prepared our chicken wings, lamb chops and marinades following the step-by-step instructions of the chef. These were left to marinate for a while before we cooked them on the charcoal grill. We then had a demonstration of how the naan breads are prepared and baked in the tandoori oven (which takes literally seconds!).

Zouk cookery school chef

Zouk cookery school starters

Zouk cookery school grill

Zouk cookery school bread

Every workshop ends with everyone sitting down to eat the dishes they’ve made and people even had their partners and friends turning up for this part, which I thought was nice (and another reason this would made a nice gift!). All of the dishes we prepared were fantastic – my personal favourites were the Punjabi lollipop and the Lamb Karahi. I was impressed with everything I tasted though and will definitely be attempting to recreate some dishes using the recipes and step-by-step guides we were given to take home.

Zouk cookery school food

The classes cost £80 and after attending this class I’d definitely recommend them for all curry enthusiasts and as the perfect gift for someone like that. Many of the people on my workshop had received their place as a Christmas gift, and all of them loved it. And what’s great is that if you are buying a gift but you don’t know which class to book your friend on to, you can buy a gift card and they can choose themselves from the course programme, which makes it ideal!

Has anyone else ever been to anything like this?

Follow me on Bloglovin to keep up to date with my posts

Be inspired: summer botanical cocktails

Warm summer evenings are the perfect excuse to enjoy a refreshing cocktail, and if you fancy mixing up something a little unusual and adding a hint of nature, perhaps you’d consider adding fresh herbs to your list of ingredients and creating a botanical cocktail. I teamed up with Ness Botanical Gardens to show how herbs can be combined with spirits to create great cocktail flavours, and they’ve put together this great infographic showing the best spirit and herb pairings. It’s a handy guide to which flavours complement each other, and a great place to start if you fancy giving botanical cocktails a go.

There are even some ready-made recipes to try. I added my own vodka, strawberry and mint concoction to the list, which I think is the perfect thing for a summer afternoon. But I think the gin, honey, elderflower and coriander cocktail sounds amazing too (I love my gin cocktails!).

Botanical cocktail guide

Follow me on Bloglovin to keep up to date with my posts

What I did for my 32nd birthday

It was birthday at the weekend and even though I’m making my way through my early 30s faster than I’d like, I had a lovely time celebrating with friends and family. I had two birthday gatherings, both involving cake, wine and games. Last weekend with my friends at Home Sweet Home in Manchester (by the way, if you’re ever looking for a piece of delicious cake that is as big as your head, make your way there!), and then with my family on my actual birthday.

Birthday party

Birthday board games

Home Sweet Home Manchester

A weekend birthday is the best sort, because it means you actually get time to play with your presents! I enjoyed a few hours trying out some new calligraphy pens, as well as embracing my geeky side with the extended edition DVDs of The Hobbit trilogy and this cute second hand Tolkien book.

Calligraphy brush pens

The Adventures of Tom Bombadil

And me and Craig also managed to fit in a night away in a country hotel – The Huntsman Inn in the hills above Holmsfirth. As part of their Dine and Duvet package we ate a hefty 3-courses of amazing food, and enjoyed romantic prosecco and strawberries in our gorgeous room. We stayed in their Suite, and just how pretty is the décor?! Even though the weather wasn’t the greatest, it was so lovely to see the rolling hills and lambs right outside our window.

And how better to spend a birthday than eating drinking and enjoying the things you love.

The Huntsman Inn, Holmsfirth

The Huntsman Inn stay

Holmsfirth hills

Follow me on Bloglovin to keep up to date with my posts

NYC-inspired dining at The Pen and Pencil

Manchester’s Mad Men-inspired bar The Pen and Pencil has a new evening menu, and last week I went along to check it out. I’ve never actually been before, but I’ve heard a lot about this place and as soon as I walked in I could see why it has become so popular. It has a great laid-back vibe and cool industrial Manhattan decor with bare brick walls and exposed metalwork. We got a great seat on a long low table with comfy wide cushioned benches, but there are also nice bright window seats and cozy booths. And the creative advertising agency theme (inspired by Mad Men) can be seen with the retro adverts on the walls, and it works really well with its location in the Northern Quarter.

The Pen and Pencil, Manchester

 

It’s a bar with a great cocktail menu, so I made sure I got to try one as soon as I arrived and I went for The Long Pink Stick which was pretty and pink (as the name would suggest). Made with gin, elderflower cordial, raspberry syrup, and Fentimans Rose Lemonade, it was extremely refreshing on a hot day.

The Long Pink Stick gin cocktail

I’ve checked out the daytime menu a few times because I work in the area, and it sounds pretty exciting. It is New York themed and covers off both brunch, with steak and eggs; avocados and pancakes; and lunch, with burgers and sandwiches. However I’d gone along to try out the new Supper menu (served after 5pm), which has small plates to share like tapas or large plates. There were around 12 options for each plate size, and even though that’s not too much choice I did still have a dilemma over what to go for. The NYC-inspired menu includes some classics – burgers; the “Buns of Anarchy” sliders (with a choice of fillings);steak and ribs, plus some quirkier options – Seafood Ceviche; Harissa Aubergine and Lobster Bisque.

In the end I went for a classic – New York Strip Steak. It came chargrilled to my liking and served with amazing skin-on-fries, a portobello mushroom and cherry tomatoes. I had a choice of sauces and went for peppercorn, which was delicious and creamy, and I was grateful to receive a generous portion so that I could dunk my fries in it. I thought this was a great steak dish – very tasty and quite reasonable at £13.50.

New York strip steak, Manchester

New York strip steak, Manchester NQ

And Craig also went for a classic – the half rack of sticky ribs. As you can see, this was quite massive, and I thought for £7.50 this was excellent value. You’d hardly need a full rack! Again there was a choice of sauces (he went for BBQ Cola) and it was served with skin-on-fries and fresh apple mustard slaw. His verdict? The meat was soft and tender, literally falling of the bone; the sauce was tasty; and special mention goes to the amazing slaw!

Half rack of sticky ribs with cola sauce

Half rack of sticky ribs with cola sauce, Manchester

Overall I think this is a great venue for after-work drinks and food, and I would definitely like to come along to try their brunch as well. I can see why it has become popular and I hear it gets very busy at the weekend, but I preferred it nice and quiet as it was during our visit. I also think they should seriously consider putting together a dessert menu, because I would definitely have been up for that!

Follow me on Bloglovin to keep up to date with my posts