Sticky Pinny and I are getting a bit of a reputation as supperclub obsessives! Less than a week after our trip to my home supperclub in Edinburgh, we found ourselves on a train hurtling across the penines to Manchester. Now, I have a love/hate relationship with Manchester. It always seems like, culturally, it has loads going on. However, this is set against what often feels like a very aggressive, intimidating, gritty and quite dirty city. It also didn’t help that as I entered Piccadilly it was a busy half term shopping day – i.e. hell on earth. I was in two minds about turning round and getting on the next train to a quiet, tranquil countryside idyll.
But fear not, I persevered – the pub was not far away! And what a good pub it was, but more about that shortly. Our reason for descending upon Leeds’ inferior sister 😉 was because we had reservations at The Hungry Gecko supperclub. This is the new catering endeavour of Jackie Kearney. Jackie was in the final four of this year’s Masterchef. She is probably best remembered for her frenetic, yet astonishing talent in the kitchen. She was the one who went a little bit mental when Ottelenghi guest judged, and was forever cutting her fingers off! I was excited to try her innovative veggie streetfood, that she has now become associated with.
So to the pub! Which wasn’t the most central of venues, but was worth a look in nonetheless. The Marble Arch, on Rochdale Road, is probably the kind of pub that The Adelphi wants to be. It has the old fashioned charm, in fact it feels more like you’ve stepped back in time, rather than being in a pub that’s old. The walls are all colourful glazed tiles and are festooned with antique beer bottles. It’s a cosy and welcoming little place. The Marble, who have pubs across the city, brew some of the nicest ale I have ever tasted. And to be fair to them, it’s more or less the only thing they sell – and that’s why it’s so popular with the locals! My personal favourite is the ‘Ginger’ ale, which is warming, yet refreshing and leaves a gingery tingle on the tongue after every sip. I moved on to a strong, yet bizarrely unctuous IPA and was livid when we had to leave before I’d had chance to sample the chocolate stout – next time! I spent a good hour perusing their many menus, which includes an ale menu, a food menu, a wine menu, and the best one – a cheese menu. One can create their own cheese platter and I will certainly be back to do this soon!
Anyway, with our bellies full of ale we made our way to Jackie’s. It’s based in a beautiful Victorian house, on a quiet and unassuming street. We nervously rang the bell to be let in. Our host Lee, Jackie’s husband, was lovely and warm and immediately put us at ease. What was fun was that we were sat round a big table next to the kitchen so we could watch Jackie hard at work. This is a brave thing to do as the chef, but great food theatre for the guests. unfortunately Jackie was very unwell, and hats off to her for continuing. It didn’t impact on the food though, but it was a shame we didn’t get to chat much to her, but Lee made up for that.
Our starter were some wholesome Tibetan momos. These were dumplings that Jackie had learnt to make from Tibetan monks. What is lovely is that the menu gave little stories to each item of food. It was great to learn about what meaning each of the courses had for our chef. The dumplings were served with an absolutely amazing ginger miso. It was certainly my day for ginger after the ale! Also on the plate was a colourful chilli sambal dip. I shovelled it down and did not discover the hidden heat for a good few minutes, very enjoyable! Jackie has mastered the creative layering of spices that take a good while to kick in. It was a real taste journey and very surprising as I had not experienced anything like that before.
The main course was also stunning. Huge pieces of tender paneer roasted with veg and spices and served with channa pilau rice. This was Jackie’s audition recipe for Masterchef and you can see why she got through! My only criticism was that it was a bit dry, I could have done with some sauciness. However I guess this was provided by the accompanying coriander chutney and pomegranate raita. One would never guess that it was all veggie, we all felt full and satisfied!
The dessert was less up my street – a Vietnamese coconut creme caramel. It was certainly inventive and well put together but I’m more of stodgy pudding kind of guy! However it was definitely up Susie’s, creamy, light and wobbly! It was served with warm pineapple and melt in the mouth ginger sable biscuits. We ended on Asian inspired petit fours and masala spiced tea – quickly becoming my favourite drink having had this at Aoife’s last week as well.
The food was all presented beautifully and with style. The edible flowers nasturtiums and violas we a nice touch. Susie and I can certainly learn a thing or two from Jackie on this one! Jackie was controlled and graceful in the kitchen and nothing like her stressful TV persona! The food was unusual, intriguing and exciting. It felt like a real treat to be invited into her home and to be cooked for as well. I hope that she feels better soon and we’ll go back one day to have a proper catch up. Best of luck to her and her up and coming foodie projects, which all sound very exciting.
On the downside the journey home was HELL! Bearing in mind how close Leeds is to Manchester it still took about 3 hours. And bizarrely, when I ran to the taxi queue at 1.30am, I was preparing myself to battle with a line of drunken idiots and yet no one was there, not a soul! Does no one go out on a Friday night anymore?!