Monthly Archives: March 2012

Dinner at the Manor goes underground for afternoon tea!

As part of our quest to visit as many supperclubs and underground tearooms that we can, we continued this year with a trip to Cafe Nouveau at Home based in Huddersfield, for the cake and wine matching event. Cafe Nouveau is run by Marie-Claire who has become a firm foodie friend this past year. Marie-Claire is a self proclaimed baker obsessive who loves to bake every night! She bakes and decorates beautiful cakes for all occasions as well as running this monthly tearoom from her pretty home.

Those of you who know me will be aware of my sometimes ‘grumpy’ attitude to afternoon tea. As pleasant as it is, sometimes all I want is a decent meal at a ‘proper’ time. Having said that my recent forays into afternoon tea have been glamorous and fulfilling, so I take it all back!

At Marie-Claire’s we were invited to walk straight in through the front door without knocking. On arrival everyone else was already sat down around the large dining table that was groaning under the weight of delicious treats and vintage china. Martin, Marie-Claire’s husband was quick to take our drinks orders. A delightful array of choice was on offer and so I opted for a spiced masala chai, which is quickly becoming a firm favourite of mine. It was served in a fun, Danish device that was a bit like a wine carafe.

We were invited to start with the savouries, which were sandwiches of Wensleydale and carrot, BLT and an open sandwich of poached salmon. These were dainty and tasty and beautiful to look at it. Other savouries were mini sausage rolls and an onion tart. The tart had lovely crispy and chewy pastry. The sausage rolls had a nice spice and garlicy taste. They provoked debate about what they should be called with some feeling they were too dainty for the robust working class title of ‘sausage roll’. I thought that was tosh though!

Cheese and Onion Tart Dinner at the Manor Cafe Nouveau

Next up were some light and fluffy fruit scones with jam and gooey clotted cream, lovely! Then we started to be introduced to the main event of the day – a selection of handbaked cakes all paired with a different glass of wine. Rob and his wife of the eponymous Hoults Wine were in attendance and had carefully picked a wine for each cake. This was no mean feat as cake is well suited to sweet dessert wines but Marie-Claire was clear that she wanted ‘normal’ wines to be paired to the sugary treats.

Scones Dinner at the Manor Cafe Nouveau

First up was a strawberries and cream cake. The fruitiness of this cake was paired with a sparkling pinot noir rose. They were a perfect match, bringing out each other’s light freshness – a good summer combo. Next up was a vanilla cupcake. There was much discussion about how hard it had been to find a wine that suited the intense sweetness of the buttercream, but success was found in a Niento Senetiner Torrontes from Argentina. The richness of the wine stood up to the buttercream and was delightful.

Cakes Dinner at the Manor Cafe Nouveau

Now it was time for an apple and cinnamon crumble cake, which was a family recipe for Marie-Claire. The wine it was paired with was my favourite – a Sables and Galets Gewurztraminer from Austria. This was so rich, you wouldn’t be able to drink more than a couple of glasses. But in terms of using it as a complex pair it was truly exciting. Our final pairing was a decadent gateaux opera that Marie Claire had perfected at a Betty’s cookery class that I hope to do this summer. The coffee and chocolate notes in this were paired with a Bremerton Selkirk Shiraz from Australia. This was not my cup of tea at all. I do like red wine but this was too smoky and savoury for me. I could imagine the cake working with another red wine though.

Just as everyone was groaning about how full they were the salted caramel macarons were whipped out! These were stunning. They were so perfectly made I was convinced that Marie-Claire had bought them in! She was full of tips about how to get them right, including leaving your egg whites out for a few days before using them. Anyway an Austrian dessert wine was brought out for this. I liked the macarons and I liked the wine – just not together!

Gateau Opera Macarons Dinner at the Manor Cafe Nouveau

A great afternoon was had in the end. I admit I was not on my best form as I was in the process of cramming for a job interview the next day and was using the tea as respite! It was a delight to visit Marie-Claire’s lovely listed home and sample her delicious baked treats. I learnt a lot about the wine, but in a relaxed and informal environment. A secret dining success!

To find out more about the wines served that day, have a look at Marie-Claire’s wine pairing list

Happy in Hummingbird Kitchen

This is a quick post about my brief visit to Chapelallerton’s Hummingbird last night. This is housed in what used to be Angel’s Share and is slap bang in the middle of Chapel a’s thriving bar and restaurant scene. I’ve always felt that this area was a bit style over substance and that the actual quality venues more based on the fringes, like the lovely Sunshine Bakery.

Hummingbird has a trendy vibe with a modern, colourful and warm decor. They have fab hummingbird wallpaper on the ceiling (the new trend apparently) and lots of huge canvasses and glass and light and air – a pleasant place to spend an hour or two indeed. It’s staffed by young, attractive staff – living the LS7 dream!

We started on cocktails as it is happy hour every week night from 6pm to 7pm. This means all cocktails are £3, a true bargain! There was nothing overly familiar on the list, which was probably a good thing as I would have been boring and opted for a martini. We first opted for a strawberry mojito which is based on gin. It was strong and fruity and very enjoyable indeed. It was made with love and care and didn’t take ages, which is often the danger with cocktails! Our slightly ill friend opted for a fruity punch mocktail which she seemed very pleased with. My second choosing was a green hornet, which was basically a margarita with additional mint. It was served in fun retro glasses and was similarly strong and punchy, yum!

The menu is very straightforward – meat or fish from the grill, sharing platters and a series of tapassy style starters. We opted for the grill and between us ordered fish, chicken breast with garlic butter and rump steak with red wine jus. The fare is all quite pricey (£12-£14 for a standard main course) and the portions not huge. We were annoyed that the chips were described as ‘a small handful’ on the menu – why on earth would you put that?! Anyway they came in those annoying silver baskets and meant we only had about 5 chips each. Having said that, they were good chips – basically chip shaped roast potatoes. And as they were so rich, being cooked in pure lard, I probably wouldn’t have managed more than 5 anyway! I had the chicken breast and it was wonderfully moist and soft but with a chargrilled exterior. The garlic butter was a bit weak but as a combo it was great.

With the portions being small we opted for dessert. One of us had the profiteroles with chocolate mousse and praline. The other two of us opted for the cheese board. It’s a very innovative cheese menu actually. 5-6 cheeses are listed and each come with their own unique accompaniment. I had a strong cheddar that came with mini pickled onions, Yorkshire fettle that came with a fun chilli jelly and Exmoor Blue which came with a saffron chutney (not very nice). My other cheese buddie went for the Irish cheese which came with a much nicer tomato relish. These were presented beautifully on little wooden boards with homemade crackers and grapes and walnuts.

So all in all we had a satisfying meal indeed. The downsides were the prices and sizes of the main courses. The upsides were that it was obvious that absolutely everything was homemade when it can be easy to cut corners in this type of establishment. As we were leaving we were watching friends tuck into the platters, which looked brilliant. I think it’s a great place to go and meet friends and have a relaxed, chilled out and wholesome dining experience. The cocktails were fun, tasty and innovative and worth it during happy hour. Monday to Thursday they also do a set menu, which would perhaps make the food a bit better value for money.

A Beeton Banquet at Dinner at the Manor

We went back in time to the Victorian era at the weekend for Dinner the Manor’s supperclub inspired by Mrs Beeton. We hunted out delicious and unusual recipes from her classic Household Management to give guests a taste of times gone by.

Upon arrival guests were treated to a cocktail consisting of home brewed ginger beer and pear vodka. The ginger beer was actually quite easy to make and came spiked with lemongrass flavours as well as firey ginger – it was so fizzy and we were were afraid the bottles were on the verge of exploding! Luckily they didnt! The pear vodka had been infused last summer with some of the Manor’s bounty of pears.

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Secrets of the supperclub

We often get asked what it’s like to run a supperclub from my home as well as what we did to get it started. So I thought I’d write this post to give you a behind the scenes look into Dinner at the Manor.

We decided we wanted to run a restaurant from home having seen supperclubs reported in the media. Kerstin Rodgers’ book Supperclub, was a huge inspiration and really helped us from getting from pipe dream to reality. Although Susie and I do not live together I knew she was a good cook and thought we’d make a good team at running Dinner at the Manor. Susie runs food blog Sticky Pinny.

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