Restaurant Review: Dogs N Dough, Manchester

Dogs N Dough – Not Manchester’s Top Dog

Dogs N Dough hid down deep dank stairs, accessed via a nondescript seedy alleyway. Wow, this place was dark. I wondered if Frankie & Benny’s and Spearmint Rhino had formed the super-franchise I’d long dreamt of. The décor was pure Americana; the kind of interior design that doesn’t exist anywhere in America. Dogs N Dough was an adult Disneyland of a restaurant -a guilty pleasure of sorts.

One aspect of American culture that wasn’t imported was frighteningly zealous customer service. The Dogs N Dough staff were OK; things arrived when necessary but in a rather despondent manner. I didn’t need my ego massaging, but I did expect some enthusiasm, which wasn’t there. I ordered nearly all Dogs N Dough’s bourbons (not at once); some at £10 each might have sparked the tinder of rapport, but they may as well have been JD & cokes.

The Dogs N Dough food was gloriously unhealthy; an indulgence, something eaten with an embarrassed smile. The dogs were tasty but didn’t overwhelm. I wasn’t thinking: “I know this is killing me, but it’s sure as hell well worth it”. They were however impressively impractical to eat. I love chilli con Carne; forcibly inhaling it through my nostrils after every bite of dog pushed our friendships limits. Call me old fashioned, but a plate, knife and fork work well for me. The pizzas were fine, appropriately served in a cardboard box, as they were literally standard takeaway pizzas. Dogs N Dough kindly catered for the obese, insane underbelly of Manchester, by offering pizzas for main course and dessert.

Despite its city centre location, Dogs N Dough was priced keener than Manchester’s glut of gourmet fast-food eateries. It had a fun, kitsch, laid-back atmosphere that Manchester does so well. Dogs N Dough was a great man-cave to watch sports in, but those excited by the food need to get out more.

Dogs N Dough Review Summary

Atmosphere 7/10    Cost 7/10    Quality 5/10    Service 5/10

Dogs N Dough Manchester Restaurant Review

Eatin’ Clean 😉

Dogs N Dough Manchester Restaurant Review

Enjoyable Filth

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The Swan Inn: Newby Bridge, Lake District

The Swan Inn – Proper Cooking But No Service

The Swan Inn’s charming atmosphere demonstrated everything right about British middle-class taste: all Kirstie Allsop and no Hyacinth Bucket. Unfortunately, the clientele was everything wrong with British middle-class taste: over-indulged mothers and carbon copy daughters, hawkishly scanning with beady eyes and anxious dispositions. The Swan Inn’s interior provided colourful, quirky, classy touches that remained traditional without being slavishly Laura Ashley. Regardless, on this summer’s day, the stylish dining area was upstaged by the pleasant stretch of River Leven, providing picture perfect picnicking in Newby Bridge.

The Swan Inn menu was pleasingly concise, full of solid choices that all sounded delicious. The unfussy food was as it should be, focusing on big flavours with sophisticated touches to retain interest. The dry cured rib of beef was so good it induced a fit of giggles. I expected to find Desperate Dan wearing his Sunday Best tucking into one. Non-vegetarians gearing up for an afternoon hike owe themselves this dish. If you are a vegetarian, order it anyway and don’t tell anyone. The baked Alaska was not a desert but a challenge – a right of passage for pubescent Inuits to prove their masculinity.

I wanted to love The Swan Inn at Newby Bridge, but service let it down: it wasn’t offensive, just non-existent. All outside tables were taken, yet no staff were outside. They were bizarrely inefficient: kept as far away as possible from the majority of diners. It wasn’t the end of the world queuing at the bar; however, when lunch arrived and more wine was required, staff weren’t allowed to take drink orders. I requested the tables worth of drinks at the bar but wasn’t offered a tray. No check back was received during the meal, and we had to clear our own plates as the desserts were served.

Regarding value, The Swan Inn in Newby Bridge was toward the upper price point of Lake District restaurants; however, the setting both inside and out was noteworthy, the portions generous and the ingredients top notch.

The Swan Inn Review Summary

Atmosphere 9/10    Cost 5/10    Quality 8/10    Service 3/10

The Swan Hotel Newby Bridge Restaurant Review

Hearty Portions In Cumbria

The Swan Hotel Newby Bridge Restaurant Review

Hearty Portions In Cumbria

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Restaurant Review: Las Iguanas, The Trafford Centre

Las Iguanas – La Paz’d The Test

Las Iguanas is thankfully on the perimeter of the Trafford Centre eating area, sheltered as much as possible from the crowds of traipsing shoppers, and the cast of Big Fat Gypsy Weddings. However, it struggled to create any real identity and Caipirinhas atmosphere, due to the forced nature of the Disneyland nature of the mall. The lack of any walls or perimeters between the restaurant and the rambling consumers didn’t help.

The Las Iguanas menu was attractive, well laid out and diverse without being overbearing; coincidentally, very much like my Latin American friends. The “vivo; hot, hot, hot very hot habanero chicken wings” (their real name) were full of lip-smacking tangy flavour. They were perfect for spicy food lovers, who aren’t registered insane. It was disappointing when only two small wings arrived, as it didn’t suggest this on the menu, but for £2.90 it was not unreasonable. The delicious sounding Albondigas; lamb meatballs with apple, parmesan, mint and nutmeg served with garlic and coriander rice was another dish full of flavour and surprisingly very well balanced. The braised tomato sauce the lamb arrived in wasn’t particularly flavourful, and the sauce a little thin. Again the portion sizes weren’t massive, but this was taken from the ‘Quick & Light Lunch Bites’ menu. The desert menu suggested more tequila and received a wry smile of approval. The Affogato Cubano was chosen, and a delicious but microscopic scoop of dulce de leche ice cream drowned in spiced rum espresso promptly arrived.

The Las Iguanas Cocktail Menu looked exciting and well matched the food; however, the Iguana Cosmo was a rookie mistake. It was luminous, syrupy and bland (and not double strained). In fairness to Las Iguanas, this will likely appeal to the casual cocktail drinker, who doesn’t appreciate that cocktails should taste of the alcohol within it. The Pisco Sour was thankfully sour and tasted of decent Pisco. With very generous Happy Hour drinking times it is harsh to be overly critical. Furthermore, the wider drinks menu contained interesting details such as Caipirinhas with Apricot (no me neither) and Espresso Martinis with Guyanese rum.

Finally, a heavily pregnant lady (I hope!) was our main point of contact – thank you for your efficiency and pleasantries.

Las Iguanas Review Summary

Atmosphere 4/10    Cost 7/10    Quality 7/10    Service 8/10

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Restaurant Review: The Aspinall Arms, Clitheroe

 

The Aspinall Arms – Picturesque Posh Pub Grub

The River Ribble stretches around the encircled green pastures, while a medieval church older than Jesus looks over this idylically located gastro-pub. Aided by its pretty front facade, The Aspinall Arms Clitheroe provides real character. The interior of The Aspinall Arms was equally charming, with muted tones and pleasing attention to detail. I enjoyed leafing through the eclectic book collection, soaking in the quaint atmosphere, feeling quite the country gent.

Service was excellent by an approachable Lancashire Lass from start to finish. Although the food arrived sluggishly, which was pre-emptively apologised for. Aside from a lack of welcome and immediate direction upon arrival, The Aspinall Arms Clitheroe service was faultless.

The Aspinall Arms Clitheroe Menu all sounded tempting, although was a frenetic mixture of British gastro-pub stuff overly punctuated with a plethora influences. Despite The Aspinall Arms Clitheroe quintessential British appearance, it’s foreign muck Charcuterie Board was its highlight. I found seeing Rabbit & Prune Suet Pudding and Fragrant Thai Chicken salad on the same menu slightly disconcerting. I had falsely high expectations for the Smoked Haddock & Salmon Fishcakes, which were well formed and seasoned but one dimensional and lacking in smoke. The Rump Steak was mouth watering medium rare, fiercely seared and tasted beautifully beefy. The obligatory glass of Malbec made an appearance, which performed its function competently. Speaking of alcohol, The Aspinall Arms Clitheroe had a freakishly large display of whiskies which was marvellous to ogle.

The Aspinall Arms Clitheroe wasn’t the cheapest place in the world, but the charming surroundings and fresh ingredients justified its not unreasonable price. It’s a pub unlikely to provide everyday eats but one likely to return to. For the ten evenings a year when the weather permits Al Fresco dining, The Aspinall Arms Clitheroe would be delightful. For a post-church, Sunday wee dram – nowhere could be better.

The Aspinall Arms Review Summary

Atmosphere 9/10    Cost 6/10    Quality 7/10    Service 8/10

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