Restaurant Review: Rudy’s Neapolitan Pizza, Manchester

Rudy’s Pizza – Worth The Dough

Entry to Rudy’s Neapolitan Pizza was a lottery: like a meek sixteen-year-old slipping into Wetherspoons with fake ID and an even faker moustache, I prayed for access. Rudy’s Pizza is too cool for bookings and the queue was an hour. Fortuitously, Seven Bro7hers BeerHouse was ready and waiting moments away, temporarily quenching hunger pangs with excellent craft ales.

I was chirpily greeted and ushered to ring side seats opposite the chefs. I asked about the different Mozzarella – I couldn’t tell a word they said – but felt their passion and gratefully received delicious samples. Rudy’s Pizza is about simplicity; dough contains only four ingredients (flour, water, salt and yeast) and pizzas are only cooked for one minute. Rudy’s is proudly Neapolitan – not ‘thin and crispy’ and absolutely not ‘deep pan’.

Rudy’s pizzas are a thing of beauty. Billowing doughy crusts, rising and falling, before popping with lightly charred edges, run down to tissue paper thin bases. This is the pizza you lament you’ve only had in Italy. The luxurious salty cheese, nostril filling basil aromas, umami pumped tomatoes – this is what no frills Italian cooking is all about. However, toppings inelegantly slide from base to plate, like a collapsed drunk falling from a taxi and everything was very salty; but, with so much savoury deliciousness filling your mouth nobody cared.

Rudy’s interior was rather plain but the atmosphere carried a real buzz. Considering the characterful wine and reasonable price point – give me Rudy’s Neapolitan Pizza over High Street chains any day.

Rudy’s Pizza Review Summary

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

Rudy's Neapolitan Pizza Review Northern Quarter Manchester

Great Value Red

Rudy's Neapolitan Pizza Review Northern Quarter Manchester

Mozzarella Magic

Rudy's Neapolitan Pizza Review Northern Quarter Manchester

Just look at that crust…

Rudy's Neapolitan Pizza Review Northern Quarter Manchester

Slice of Heaven

Rudy's Neapolitan Pizza Review Northern Quarter Manchester

Polenta Cake

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Restaurant Review: Beigel Bake, Shoreditch

Beigel Bake – Brick Lane Brashness

Beigel Bake is an institution. There is a magical quality to this small piece of East London, offering authentic, no-nonsense, affordable food. Honest, family-owned, working-class eateries should fuel a city. Despite London’s vibrancy, residents lament the ubiquitous sandwich chains and predatory fast-food corporations everywhere. Foodies fighting for freedom against these globalised monoliths suffer the burden of £4 loaves of bread. Beigel Bake is extraordinarily industrious – open 24/7 and cranking out an impressive 7,000 bagels a day.

Unfortunately, Beigel Bake’s staff are outrageously rude. After my first visit to Beigel Bake, I attributed this to a stressful day, thinking nothing of it. I empathised that 24 hours in front of a perpetual line of Shoreditch hipsters could turn Mother Theresa into Robert Mugabe. The second time, the same older lady unnecessarily barked menacingly. The third I time waited patiently, and meekly pleaded: “Can I have four almond croissants please?”. The patron saint of impatience rolled her eyes so far back she toppled over. Every time, irrespective of customer’s behaviour, they are treated like a student telling their PE teacher they’ve forgotten their kit. I’d get my atonement by summoning the courage to ask for a bacon barmcake sarcastically, but I’m terrified of getting a hot cleaver hurled at me.

Regarding the food, Beigel Bake’s salt beef bagel’s are the star of the show. The meat is thickly sliced, hot, juicy slabs with a mouthwatering depth of flavour. The mustard packs a real punch, and the pickles are an absolute necessity. If the mustard brings too many tears to your eyes, the salmon and cream cheese is a reliable alternative. The bagels themselves vary from soft to chewy, and the mustard portion control fluctuates between a splodge and a deluge. It’s either a by-product of working so industrially or just spitefulness. On various occasions, the fillings were pelted toward the bag, rather than served on the bagel itself. However, this scatter-gun approach to bagel production was forgiven as the prices were so reasonable. It’s not all bagels; the giant croissants are the best possible way to spend 50p in Shoreditch.

Beigel Bake’s perpetual stream of jolly police officers, snap-happy Brick Lane tourists, irritated local alcoholics and cooler-than-thou shell suit-clad students, all eagerly anticipating their 30p doughnuts, is as far away as Great British Bake Off as possible – which isn’t a bad thing. To learn more about Beigel Bake, this charming short film provides a nostalgic bagel-focused memoir of the food and people of Shoreditch (when it was a ditch).

Beigel Bake Review Summary

Atmosphere 10/10    Cost 10/10    Quality 8/10    Service 1/10

Beigel Bake Shoreditch London Review

Beigel Bake Hard At Work

Beigel Bake Brick Lane Shoreditch London Review

Beigel Bake Hard At Work

Beigel Bake Brick Lane Shoreditch London Review

Proper Bagels

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Restaurant Review: Bibimbab Cafe, Bloomsbury

Bibimbab Cafe – Time For A Korea Change

I fully expected to love Bibimbab Café. It benefited from a fantastic location – spitting distance from the fabulous British Museum. Unlike many of the surrounding restaurants, it bravely managed to be both independent and reasonably priced. These positive omens, combined with an unfamiliar cuisine and empty stomach, provided an appetising prospect.

Unfortunately, Bibimbab Cafe’s atmosphere was so dour, it made Pyongyang seem like Las Vegas. When I learnt Bibimbab Cafe was a Korean, I assumed South not North. Service was so anonymous, I came into the restaurant knowing nothing about Korean cuisine and left knowing less.

Feeling like the typical Brit abroad, the laminate drinks menu left me utterly clueless; with no support on offer, I meekly helped myself to a Diet Coke. The drinks menu was at least genuine, and no doubt familiar for the already initiated.

The menu focused on finely shredded healthy things honouring a sliced egg, terracotta broths with brillo pad sized tofu and uniform sushi. The website proudly advised: “Bibimbab can be almost anything you want it to be” – the one request it couldn’t accommodate was flavour.

The Spicy Pork was not spicy; I gave it the benefit of the doubt it was pork. It was languid with redundant floppy fatty pieces, served in an impressively anaemic soup. The Korean Style Beef had the elegance of a Döner kebab, but certainly had a punchy flavour that really was the dogs’ bollocks.

As Bloomsbury offers other Korean restaurants; unfortunately, I can’t justify a return to the Bibimbab Cafe.

Bibimbab Cafe Review Summary

Atmosphere 2/10    Cost 7/10    Quality 3/10    Service 3/10

Bibimbab Cafe London Review

Little help?

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Bar Review: White Stone, Cagliari

White Stone – In The Holiday Spirit

White Stone Bar sat on the busy Piazza Yenna –  Cagliari Marina District’s focal point. It provided perfect people-watching potential, made all the more attractive by very reasonable prices. Be warned: everywhere in Cagliari, music is hideously inconsistent, fluctuating between naff and painful. Think MTV dance hits, intertwined with a Phil Collins medley nobody wanted. Fortunately, there was ample seating outside, mostly free of irritation.

Given White Stone Bars low cost relative to the UK, it would be unkind to be too critical. I visited three times in three days – they did something right. That said, there was plenty of room for improvement. ‘Bourbon Sour’ was made with Irish blended whisky. Everything arrived with a completely unnecessary cherry. The margaritas were undrinkable. They weren’t blends

‘Bourbon Sours’ were made with Irish blended whisky. Everything arrived with a completely unnecessary cherry. The margaritas were undrinkable. They weren’t blends of tequila, lime and triple sec – just tequila with lime wafted over the glass for ceremonial purposes. Crucially, White Stone Bar’s consistency of drinks between servers was laughable. Even the same drink, made by the same person, in the same evening, differed considerably.

However, the size of the pour was gigantic. The Weights & Measures Act of 1985 evidently hadn’t reach Cagliari. The Negroni was intimidating, taking me all afternoon to tackle. I appreciate Italian’s love bitter flavours, but I’d consumed 500ml of Campari after three cocktails. I like an occasional bitter drink, but not to be pummelled mercilessly by them. I hoped Stockholm Syndrome would kick in, so I could perversely come to welcome my aperitif abuse, but sadly it never did.

Thankfully, White Stone Bar wasn’t just quantity over quality. Despite its tacky name, the ‘Between The Sheets’ cocktail was an ironically classy drink. By some miracle, it dodged the ever zealous Campari, although couldn’t survive the obligatory cherry. The sophisticated combination of cognac, rum, triple sec and lemon juice was rather wonderful. An excellent Mojito benefited from mint and lime swollen by the sun’s loving rays. A pleasing frothy, beautifully balanced Pina Colada was perfect on a late summer afternoon. White Stone Bar’s free aperitivos were in plentiful supply, and their budget buffet offered vegetable lasagne and vibrant salads, that were embarrassingly delicious for their low cost.

White Stone Bar pertained to being a proper cocktail bar but lacked the attention to detail required to be one. However, White Stone Bar genuinely friendly staff shouldn’t be unacknowledged, who were happy to chat in broken English, despite my shameful inability to meet them halfway.

White Stone Bar Review Summary

Atmosphere 7/10    Cost 10/10    Quality 5/10    Service 9/10

White Stone Bar Cagliari Review

The Holiday Spirit

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Restaurant Review: Tang KTV, Preston

Tang Restaurant- Never Left Wanton More

I want to like Chinese food, I really do. However, I can’t be cheaply seduced by salt, sugar and bright colours forever. Mercifully, Tang Preston fought against stereotypically luminous Chinese cuisine, with authentic dishes that thankfully did without fortune cookies.

Tang Preston’s vivacious manager Rob brought the restaurant to life: his omnipresence ensured diners were kept happy and his polite team organised. Rob happily elaborated on what was a potentially intimidating menu, covering Dim Sum, Cantonese and Sichuan cuisines. Perhaps the Chicken Feet or Fish Heads won’t tempt, but take his advice and break free from self-imposed Sweet N Sour Chicken prison. Tang Preston had a broader ingredient list than any local Chinese restaurant – don’t waste the opportunity for exploration

Regarding atmosphere, Tang Preston had a sparse philosophy to interior design. The PowerPoint menu presentation seemed unnecessary. Call me old fashioned, but I can do without rotating images of stomach and intestines – a humble Specials Board would suffice. More importantly, Tang Preston was spotlessly clean and populated by the local Chinese contingent, suggesting an authentic kitchen.

The Hot & Sour Soup was rich and thick, a little gloopy, but I found that strangely comforting. Is dipping prawn crackers into soup poor etiquette? Regardless, I was a Pavlovian dog to the sound of them sensually sizzling. It was packed with vinegary, peppery flavours that did me good. However, the vegetables were flaccid, not crunchy; thus, the dish lacked texture.

The Deep Fried Aubergines with their fluffy centres and crispy skins were so moreish they should be criminalised. The salty, chilli crumby bits were fiercely fought over and the best thing in the restaurant. They made a great alternative to chips, although weren’t any healthier.

The oddly named Char Siu Honey Roast were porky clouds, without an equivalent in British cuisine. They had a spongecake-like texture, punctuated by bits of bacon. The aubergines I could’ve eaten until my heart stopped or the restaurant closed. However, the Char Siu were deceptively filling, and prohibitively sweet to stop me from wanting more than a couple.

As with everything at Tang Preston, the Duck Chow Mein was very generously proportioned. I would have liked to have traded a bit more duck for loads fewer noodles, as there was a daunting amount. The duck itself was well cooked, while the Chow Mein had a good selection of lightly cooked vegetables Peking peeking out. Like a Thai Massage, I found the dish oily, but certainly enjoyable. It provided 3,000% of my RDA of MSG, but hey, it was the weekend. A Chicken Curry dish didn’t fare quite so well, offering more salt than chicken.

If anyone eats: Soup, Dim Sum, the main course and then asks for the dessert menu, lock them up as a menace to society. Tang Preston can’t sell more than two hundred desserts a year – there just aren’t enough morbidly obese people in waddling distance. Tang Preston is a small, industrious restaurant, providing warm welcomes, generous portions, an interesting menu in a casual atmosphere – try it out.

Tang Review Summary

Atmosphere 5/10    Cost 9/10    Quality 7/10    Service 8/10

Tang Preston Restaurant Review

Hot & Sour Soup – tastes better than it looks

Tang Preston Restaurant Review

Char Siu Honey Roast

Tang Preston Restaurant Review

Deep Fried Chilli Aubergines

Tang Preston Restaurant Review

An XXL Chow Mein

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Restaurant Review: Peachy Keens, Manchester

Peachy Keens – Keenly Priced & Far From Peachy

First impressions of the bizarrely named Peachy Keens were positive: bright, clean, but juvenile. With over thirty starters, the variety on offer was quite astounding; yet, restaurants trying to be everything become nothing – Peachy Keens Manchester was no exception. I self-righteously tittered at the giant ‘ORIENTAL’ neon sign looming over the school canteenesque dining room, and queried the authenticity of ‘Fish Fingers’ listed under ‘Italian Starters’. This cacophony of branding strangled any potential atmosphere although may appeal to a younger demographic.

Peachy Keens Manchester’s food was disappointing; although, given the exceptionally frugal price, expectations should have been no higher than ‘edible’. The assortment of sushi all tasted the same e.g. of nothing. The Salad Bar was OK but punctuated by tasteless olives and unpleasant cheese. Peachy Keens Manchester’s hot wings were predictably far from hot, rendering themselves redundant. The “Grill Section” masqueraded as a legitimate piece of kitchen equipment – it warmed grey lumps up – rather than cooking steaks to order. My steak was impossible to cut, let alone digest by a human. The Lamb Rogan Josh was ungodly,  smelling like Satan’s left over takeaway; after I was too terrified to return for hot food.

Peachy Keens Manchester’ desserts were either sickly or luminous – the pastry chef made Ronald McDonald look like Michel Roux. Things resembling Aftershock were avoided and ice creams were a psychedelic dripping mess; although, neatly formed miniature cheesecakes were surprisingly edible and in endless supply.

I was amicably greeted, seated and warmly bid farewell to; but, the Peachy Keens Manchester staff were impressively morose. However, the team were organised, with plates quickly materialising and disappearing when required.

Peachy Keens Manchester offered all-you-can-eat food for the price of a nearby swanky cocktail: nobody can ask for better value. Furthermore, Peachy Keens Manchester provided the ultimate in variety and convenience, perfect for young families or groups with differing dietary requirements. Unfortunately, the food ranged from acceptable to offensive.

Peachy Keens Review Summary

Atmosphere 3/10    Cost 10/10    Quality 2/10    Service 4/10

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Restaurant Review: Langs of Longton, Longton

Langs of Longton – Never Dissapoints

I was comfortably seated in Langs of Longton bar-come-quarantine area, overlooked by an imposing television, bizarrely playing a muted David Jason rerun (sadly not Danger Mouse). I assumed the silent flashing images kept the more docile Longton diners amused during busy periods.

The Langs of Longton décor and ambience needed work: the generous littering of bold red flowers, sharp monochrome furniture and harsh black finishes appealed only to Cruella De Vil. Fangs would be more appropriate sign above the door. I could live with the interior design if it were consistent, but part vaudeville, part Ikea, mixed vertical stripes, patterned carpets, canvases a la Changing Rooms circa 1999 and contemporary lighting was restaurant schizophrenia.

A stocky bold gentleman, ‘Ross Kemp on Langs‘, orchestrated the service efficiently. He was charmingly on first name terms with most of The Langs of Longton diners – a reassuring sign of happy clientele. I was lead to the thoughtfully laid out large dining room, with a partially open kitchen providing a vibrancy to the restaurant.

Slurping the Las Valles (Spanish house red), trying to recognise the supposed ‘intense fruit on the palate’, I eyed the window ledges lined with promotional bottles of sealed but empty champagne bottles. The decorations reminded diners that yes – don’t take our word for it – champagne is sold here. I had flashbacks of student filled Plungington, Fallowfield and Wavertree and proudly displayed Jack Daniels bottles and pyramids of Carlsberg empties.

Enough chit-chat and on to the food: it was all excellent and presented beautifully. The black pudding – tragically never the belle of the ball – looked as good as it ever could. The streak of vibrant sweet potato was attractively set against a warm black slate; it was hearty without being stodgy, perfectly seasoned and cooked. The fishcakes had a great balance of flavours and kept their texture admirably. The gammon was generously portioned and attractively presented; perhaps not carrying a huge depth of flavour, but certainly succulent and tasty. The homemade ketchup, poached egg, chunky chips, wilted greens and mustard cream were all greedily but gratefully shovelled in. The beer battered haddock goujons with peas à la français, tartare sauce, skinny chips, was thankfully grease-free and wolfed down. The sushi was carefully prepared and pretty as a proverbial. The assiette of desserts was unusual and charming. Deserts shouldn’t take themselves too seriously, (leave that to the starters), and this had a welcome fun element.

The Langs of Longton kitchen was very big on miniature stuff. Almost every dish had an obligatory small thing, to make you scrunch your cheeks up and feel broody. Want chips? There’s a miniature chip pan for that sir! Any vegetable sides? Use the dwarf sized copper-pots! Serving a risotto? No fear, the micro skillet is here! Coulis Madam? Got it: shot glass! What isn’t miniature are the portions. After three courses I didn’t feel so much full but heavily pregnant. I had meat-sweat hallucinations of Langs of Longton morphing into a maternity ward, which I felt strangely grateful for.

Langs of Longton provided slap-up dinners (whatever that means), at reasonable prices. There are few restaurants that compete with Langs of Longton for value, especially considering their high quality of cooking, across a surprising range of dishes. The décor wasn’t my cup of tea, but the friendly organised service and attention to detail on the plate (or slate) certainly was.

Bravo!

Langs of Longton Review Summary

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

Langs of Longton Restaurant Review

Langs, Preston – Great Value

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Restaurant Review: The Shampan, Preston

The Shampan Didn’t Curry Favour

In the most fantastic piece of PR hyperbole ever witnessed, The Shampan Preston promised a ‘zen like atmosphere’. Last time I sat under gaudy neon, watching giant TVs playing hypnotic music I waited for lap dances, not a Chicken Tikka Masalas. I have visited on various occasions, and more than once the staff were comically rude and void of rapport. My all time favourite example was a Shampan Preston’s server abruptly

I’ve visited The Shampan Preston many times, usually, the staff were comically rude and void of rapport. My personal favourite demonstration was a server abruptly stopping in his tracks, cartoonishly double taking, and with a broad smile, zealously proclaimed my partner looked like ‘Ugly Betty’ – the ensuing awkward silence was suffocating.

I have thick skin and a nose for a bargain, so keep crawling back. The Shampan Preston’s Early Bird Menu offers fantastic value, guaranteeing a decent meal for cheaper than I can cook myself, minus the hassle.

The poppadums, sundries and starters were uninspiring but perfectly edible. If used in conjunction with The Shampan Preston’s Early Bird offer, they’re basically free. If you like food that is so hot it makes you cry, go for Chicken Naga Naga. It’s the highlight of The Shampan Preston’s menu, saturated with flavour and full of married together oomph. There is something to be said for eating a meal that doesn’t leave you painfully leaking from every orifice; if you don’t enjoy the exhilaration of inflamed stomach lining and trachea, the Nepali Chicken is a tasty, sensible choice. The Classic Favourites are fine but forgettable, the Madras being particularly flavourless. The side portions and bread were generously portioned, moreish and fabulously unhealthy. The Shampan Preston’s drinks were pricey, but with the Early Bird Menu being so inexpensive, this was no cause for alarm.

The Shampan Preston is not designed for romance but is a great value midweek eatery for chilli-heads looking for speedy service and lots of choices.

The Shampan Review Summary

Atmosphere 2/10    Cost 10/10    Quality 6/10    Service 2/10

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Restaurant Review: The Sparling, Preston

The Sparling – Flying High

There’s something admirable about restaurants supporting local interests; The Sparling advised their “meat [is] brought in from Hamlets of Garstang, our superb sausages from Mr Pugh’s Pigley Farm, fresh fish from West Coast Seafoods in Fleetwood…” The Sparling’s menu was full of traditional offerings which frankly all sounded tempting, but with enough variety to remain intriguing.

The home made chicken liver parfait was made to look as presentable as possible, but is never the belle of the ball; regardless, it was delicious, creamy and full of flavour. Not dissimilar to Foie gras but lighter on the wallet and the bad karma. The black pudding, poached egg and hollandaise sauce were perfectly simple and simply perfect: the hollandaise was silky and sensual, dribbling over the rich dark bloody oats. The roast duck was satisfyingly crispy, served with sensational celeriac puree, and buttery truffle-mash the size of a fat woman’s overdue new-born. The roast beef was an attractive piece of cow; not ground-breaking, but tender and plentiful. The house red was pleasant, slightly peppery – as good as could be expected.

Unfortunately, The Sparling lacked life and was a little cold. However, a mid-afternoon visit was unlikely a fair reflection of their general atmosphere. The Sparling itself was tastefully decorated, predominately with neutral contemporary furnishings and natural finishes. Diners are given a substantial greeting and a hearty goodbye, with service being friendly and efficient throughout. The only minor gripe was being poured large glasses of wine as standard.

Based on the early-bird menu, Garstang’s The Sparling is probably the best value restaurant in the Preston area.

More of this, please.

The Sparling Review Summary

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

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Restaurant Review: Face Chinese Restaurant, Preston

Face Chinese – Needs A Little Lift

Following the flurry of fabulous reviews, I popped into the peculiarly named Face restaurant with high expectations. I was ardently greeted by an older Chinese gentleman, who I suspected of harbouring great esoteric wisdom, but modestly kept the exchange to a warm welcome.

I cunningly sneaked in just before the Early Bird Menu deadline, which provided excellent value for money. With such reasonable prices, Face would need to serve Sweet N’ Sour E-Coli for me not to return.

First impressions were that Face was bright and clean – a shiny face if you will. Ultimately it was all very predictable. There was nothing wrong with the decor, but Preston City Centre cried out for something less ubiquitous. Unfortunately, the atmosphere was drowned by the surrounding sea of empty tables. However, a flurry of ladies proceeded to glide around, providing the most efficient and polite service imaginable.

Like Hong Kong itself, the menu was exciting and diverse. Mercifully, unlike every other Lancashire Chinese restaurant, the menu didn’t overwhelm. It contained ingredients not found anywhere except Nigella Lawson’s pantry, so Face provided a good excuse to eat out. Lesser known Hong Kong dishes such as Frog’s Legs created a talking point if nothing else. Dishes like Lotus Seed Buns, Blackbean Chicken Feet and Beancurd Rolls gave the impression of authenticity. That said, the Deep Fried Mussels felt like a Scotsman’s idea of pescetarianism.

The piping hot food materialised quickly but consisted primarily of salt and sugar. I was giddily happy. I’m no health freak, sodium chloride and I are best buddies; however, drinking three litres of Coca-Cola to remedy it got tiresome. This kind of dining was good-time food, the MSG filled my veins and my little brain lit up. Despite my opiate like stupor, I didn’t forget other local restaurants outclass it.

Face Chinese Review Summary

Atmosphere 4/10    Cost 10/10    Quality 6/10    Service 9/10

Face Chinese Restaurant Preston

Deep Fried Mussel

*Since this review was first published, Face Chinese Restaurant is unfortunately no longer with us – hence the lack of link*