Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Modern Millie's Cafe Liverpool Road Eccles

My friend from Brownies, Gillian, is launching her new café today, Modern Millie’s (formerly known as Lou’s Kitchen) and we've come along for the launch. It’s Bank Holiday Monday, it’s raining, there’s free tea and coffee on offer, where else would you want to be?

MM’s is packed. There are no spare tables. I spot Gillian’s mother and seek her out to say hello. I tell her I know Gillian from Brownie’s and that I recognise her as Gillian’s mother. Gillian’s Mum doesn't remember me. She offers us her table and myself and the husband sit down. The place is noisy and smokey, customers are helping to clear the tables, the kitchen is a hubbub of clattering and chattering. Orders are placed, take away cartons are crammed full and passed over the counter, the cash register is red hot. Customers come and go as we read the menu. A waitress appears but we ask her to give us a minute. I hear a very well dressed woman telling someone she is from Holmfirth. “You know, Last of the Summer Wine”.
Danny opts for a corned beef and red onion barm. I settle for a toasted tea cake.
I go up and order at the counter as the staff look hard pushed.
“Two coffees, one black…”
“No thanks”
“One White”
“No thanks”
I ask for corned beef on a brown roll. I am told they don’t have a brown roll but they do have a brown barm.
Mugs of coffee arrive. Husband wonders out loud why I didn’t “just say barmcake in the first place”. He also wants to know why I asked him if he wanted sauce when he never has sauce. My answer to both questions is “no idea”.
Somehow I am flustered.
My toasted teacake arrives and is ready cut, buttered and piping hot. In fact it is so hot there is steam coming out of it. I appreciate this. I don’t have to fumble around unfurling a knife from a rolled up serviette. I don’t have to go to the counter to ask for more butter. I don’t have to attempt to butter a teacake on a plate the size of a small saucer. I don’t have to put up with a cold tea cake. I don’t have to put up with a dilatory waitress. The teacake is 60p. Delicious.  No frills. The corned beef barm is £1.80 and is wolfed down.
As we finish up I tell my husband an anecdote that my Dad likes to tell me, I don’t remember the incident. Apparently when I was about four or five years of age, I had gone on a trip to Manchester with my Dad. Father walked me round town (Manchester) taking a similar route that his own father had done with him in the 1930s and 1940s. We took in Tib Street, Shudehill and Victoria Train Station.  My Dad was looking for a suitable café for us. Finally we found one. As I heartily tucked into a plate of chips and looked up at the man behind the counter, I said to him, “Me and my Dad have been looking for a scruffy café for ages”.

(photos to follow....)

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Dumez Monton Road Monton It Wasn't A Problem

When I was little my mother brought me to Monton to buy school uniform and visit Monton Radio to pay the rental on our telly. Nowadays; café bars line the main strip here. As I breezed in through the front door of Dumez the man behind the counter uttered the word “sausages”, followed by a woman asking what the round curly ones were like. I saw her ponder a moment then she announced that she didn’t like the round curly ones and that she would have leek and potato soup instead. A couple and three kids took a window table and I shuffled along the queue. The sausage hater was then told that the leek and potato soup came with a bread roll, and the man behind the counter pointed behind her and said that in fact the soup was served with three different types of bread and still gesticulating, he said, “that bread there”. The woman didn’t look at the bread but nodded to him when he asked her if that was ok. My turn to be served next; as all the tables were taken downstairs I asked if I could go upstairs as I wanted to eat. In a very friendly manner he boomed, “yes!” and told me to to go upstairs, make myself comfortable and when I was ready, come back downstairs to order food. So, off I traipsed and took my seat at a table by the top of the stairs. The moment my bum hit the seat I stood up again and moved to a chair opposite. I didn’t want to sit right at the top of the stairs. The shop was incredibly warm.
After choosing my dinner I trudged down the stairs and went to the counter. I ordered the warm tomato bruschetta and asked for an Americano with separate cold milk. I was told this wasn’t a problem. My order was repeated back to me but the word “large” was inserted between “an” and “Americano” and my word “separate” was replaced with the phrase “on the side”.  I corrected him and said I’d like a “regular” Americano.  This wasn’t a problem. I was told my order would take ten to fifteen minutes. So, back at my upstairs table, U2’s “Angel of Harlem” was playing on a speaker on the windowsill. A couple and their (crying) baby left down the stairs and I smiled at the woman in a two faced manner as she passed me, secretly relieved that they had gone. I remained the sole diner for a few minutes, then two women and a baby loomed up the stairs and I overheard them talking about prams, baskets and a helpful woman in a nearby shop. My food arrived fifteen minutes after I ordered, with a profuse apology for the delay from the lovely looking chef/ waiter; they were having work done in the shop (hence the loud drilling noise). The very humble waiter addressed me as Madam.  The food was spectacular. Piping hot, spicy from the chilli, refreshing from the tomato, pungent with balsamic, crunchy with the bread, it had a lot going for it. My coffee, however, had not arrived at this point. I pointed this out to the kind Sir and it was fetched for me straight away with another apology.  I finished the bread before the tomatoes and fancied a bit more for mopping up. I asked for some more bread. Me and the waiter were trying to out-humble each other at this point. I ate the remaining bread, finished up my coffee and lumbered downstairs to pay for my extra order. I stood at the counter clutching my unzipped purse in my left hand and I asked how much I owed for the bread. The same man who had taken my order an hour before said it was ok, as I had waited so long for my food (it wasn’t that long actually) I owed him nowt for the bread. I thanked him and he said it wasn’t a problem.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

The Butty Box Peel Green

My very good friend Richard recommended The Butty Box. His facebook status update; “Great breakfast at The Butty Box” inspired me to stop off to sample a few wares

. At the T Junction of Peel Green Road and Liverpool Road, in the car park of The Unicorn pub (formerly known as The Jules Verne), stands The Butty Box. As I approached the van I could feel the heat from the griddle. I asked for a strong coffee and a bacon barm. I requested well done bacon. I was asked if I wanted sauce, to which I replied; brown.  I watched the fella gently place the rashers on the griddle, I then handed over my £2.20 and went and sat down at one of the tables in front of the van. A couple of moments later  the fella brought my coffee and barm out. I told him he should have shouted me over and I would have collected it myself. The wind was getting strong and strands of my own hair were covering my face. I lifted the lid on my coffee and after glancing down at the pale liquid knew straightaway I would have liked it stronger. I sipped it and then decided to go back to the counter to  ask him to put some more coffee in it. He told me it was real coffee, Douwe egberts. I would have preferred my bacon a tiny bit crispier and I would have preferred a filter coffee, rather than an instant. I’d come back here again though. Definitely worth a stop off, say, on your way to Peel Green cemetery or as I was; killing time before an upper lip wax at The Brooke Hair and Beauty over the road.


Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Ann's Tea Room Cleveleys (A Teacake Is Not Just For Breakfast)

My first visit to Cleveleys this year and I’m taking in one of this seaside resort’s many tea shops and cafes;  Ann’s Traditional Tea Room, opposite Wilkinsons.

Me and my daughter poke our head round the door and plonk ourselves down in the window. The place is busy, tables are full, people are eating and the place is alive with chatter and activity. We have two laminated menus on our table. I glance around and see mis-matched china and cake stands, I like what I see. It’s quaint. Daughter is surly and mumbles to me that she wants a hot chocolate. I implore her to chose something to eat but she tells me the chippy on the front would have done her. I force her to try a cheese toastie, without the salad or coleslaw. A  nervous waitress appears but we ask her to give us a minute as we haven’t quite decided. Almost immediately another waitress appears at our table, she is older and obviously more assertive; so, with a notebook held in her left hand (level with her chest) and her right hand holding a pen which is poised over the notebook, head cocked to one side and without taking a pause for breath, she booms,
“Yes, can we help you? soup of the day is veg we have some lovely quiches we don’t have turkey but we have chicken”
There is a moment’s pause before I give our order of one hot chocolate, a black coffee with separate milk (“It comes like that anyway”), a toasted teacake and a cheese toastie. I ask for a side order of crisps instead of coleslaw and salad. She thinks that they can do this.
The laminated menu in front of me points out that a teacake is not just for breakfast.
The nervous waitress slowly places a knife and fork wrapped in a serviette in front of me and  then slowly carries out the same procedure in front of my daughter. She disappears and returns a moment later with our food and drink.
I am presented with the smallest cup of coffee I have ever seen in my life.
I glance around the small premises, there is a middle aged couple sitting at a table by the counter. I hear the man of the partnership giving out advice earnestly, he is telling his lady friend that her life will never be the same if she accepts. I notice his bottom set of false teeth are moving around in his jaw.
Our assertive waitress, who I suspect is Ann Herself, is telling a customer that the bread rolls from the health shop are tasty; she didn’t think they would be, but they are. She goes on to give this customer very detailed directions to the health shop.
I bite into my toasted teacake. It’s fresh, hot and buttery but is quite bland. There aren’t many currants or sultanas in it and it isn’t spiced.
I can hear Ann pontificating and I notice she has an unusual habit of placing the emphasis on words at an unexpected point in the sentence.
“I am surprised at WHAT they did have IN, I’m getting an awful lot of people IN asking for them” (aforementioned bread rolls from the health shop)
She suddenly switches subject and talks about the best way to cook meat.
“When you braise it’s HALF that size when it is actually DONE”
My daughter says her toastie is ok. She is pulling it apart with her fingers, stretching the stringy cheese to about a foot off the plate.
A customer at the till is querying whether the place is open tomorrow (Sunday). Ann says she is opening tomorrow but she’s going to see how it GOES, you know, SEE how it goes till about two thirty.
The new pots in Cleveleys seem to be a talking point in Ann’s Tea Room. Do you know people are throwing rubbish and cigarettes in them? There are no flowers in them. One woman feels like going to the council to ask what she is paying for. Even the new benches, you can’t tie your dog to them in case anyone sits down and it bites them. I should wait till I see them, they are horrendous.
Ann is at the door greeting a couple of elderly women, “Good AFTERNOON Ladies”
Next, we witness a massive to-do. The quiet couple sitting to our left, had, a moment earlier, been sitting looking at a tea pot and two cups and saucers in front of them which had been put there by the nervous waitress. Instead of pouring the tea, the lady had got up from the table and gone to the counter. I didn’t hear what she said but I heard Ann’s reply, everyone in the tea room heard,
“In a tea room the tea has to be served in a cup. You are the only person to complain. Tea in a tea room is to be served in a tea cup”.
The quiet lady and her husband grabbed their china tea cups and took them outside without saying a word. As Ann shut the door behind them she said,
“She should go in a transport Caff”
To labour her point further Ann explained that she is sticking to her guns, this is what she does and she is not changing for anyone. An Octogenarian to my right sipped her tea, turned to her daughter and said, “It’s all kicking off”.
I have my head down, concentrating on the laminated menu, so as not to catch anyone’s eye.
I am slightly scared that Ann will catch me taking photographs and wonder what I am up to.
I love the explanatory stickers, (or afterthoughts) on the menu.
Crostini = “Crusty Bread”
We now serve cafetiere filter coffee for two £5 =(4 cups closed brackets
The man with the wobbly false teeth is still at it in the corner,
“I am a man, but I don’t like men, men are boring”
Bland toasted teacake notwithstanding I actually love this place. Sitting in the window is an ideal spot and if you don’t want a mug of tea or coffee then it comes highly recommended.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Olympus Bolton

A pre-theatre dining experience; fish chips and peas at Olympus Bolton before the pair of us trot over to the Octagon for the Shakespeare production of 12th Night. Six o' clock on a Friday evening, we’re greeted at the door by one of the lovely waiters, he says hello, tells us we can sit anywhere we like and as he does so he waves his outstretched arm, gently pointing  to all areas of the restaurant. We find a table right at the back, in a quiet corner, I pass a man eating a jacket potato; right at the back of us, a table of elderly woman park up and as one of them is standing peeling off her coat, she asks if the rest of her chums have seen the Great British Sewing Bee.
Not our first visit to Olympus, we’re familiar with the routine; a simple, friendly system of ordering ensues; waiter hands menu over (then discreetly buggers off); choose your meal, order and pay at the counter then meal is delivered. No nonsense proven system, no one waiting around for food and probably one of the many reasons why this place is either packed or generally ticking over, whatever time of day you visit.
The baked potato eating man leaves his table and starts on the piano. The gentle plink plonk is non intrusive and really creates a fabulous atmosphere –to me anyway. I detest hearing commercial radio stations whilst I am dining; this is great. I am happy. We’re starving so we order fish chips and peas twice (Danny goes for the larger sized meal), two slices of bread and butter, a portion of gravy and an extra portion of chips.  Two coffees, one with milk, the other with cream. When it all arrives, we immediately feel over faced but we crash on. The pianist strikes up “I Don’t Know Why I Love You Like I do”. He hits a couple of bum notes.
Next is Elton John; “Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word" although we both agree the Olympus Pianist does some twiddly bits on the bass keys that Elton John doesn’t know. We argue over the next song, Danny says it’s “The Girl from Ipenema”, I think it’s “Do You Know The Way To San Jose”. I am right of course and Danny serenades me in a voice which is in the style of Stuart Staples. We wonder if he does requests (the pianist) and Danny wonders aloud whether he knows any Belle and Sebastian. I plonk some chips and peas on a butty and take a massive bite, I am in heaven, just as the chorus from "Twenty Four hours From Tulsa" looms over. A few tragic ballads later, "You’ve lost That Loving Feeling" and “You Don’t Buy Me Flowers Any More” and we’re full to bursting point. We can’t manage the extra chips.
The final number as we’re starting to leave is “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head” If music be the food of love indeed……(food is fabulous by the way)

Friday, 14 March 2014

Penelope's at The Pie Factory Media City Salford

Firstly, to get to Penelope’s, park on Booth’s car park and walk round (charge= £1.50 for an hour)*  We tried to park on The Pie Factory’s car park but were refused entry.
Having noticed a “Café” sign on my way to work one morning, I wasn’t sure whether the place was open to the public, or whether it was just for the media types at The Pie Factory
Mensa candidate of the year now realises – yes - Penelope's is open to the public.
We were there early doors, Friday morning; I’d seen a photo of the pancakes on twitter, I knew what I wanted straight away. We ordered the said maple syrup pancakes, with added bacon rain. Danny asked for butter instead of maple syrup. We helped ourselves to filter coffee, a mere snip at £1.80 for free refills.

At the counter whilst we were ordering, the very handsome chef told us that Penelope’s pancakes are the best in Manchester. They are number one in Manchester’s Top Ten Pancakes. I believe him.
Immediately I sit down, I love the place. Tables and benches on one side, comfy sofas to the other, table football to the middle.
Chef politely shouts to us that our food is ready and we collect it from the counter.
Food was absolutely bloody lovely. The nicest, lightest pancakes I have ever eaten, bacon was cooked to perfection, nothing chewy about the bacon at all. Just the perfect balance of syrup and savoury. 

Danny tries my syrupy pancakes, he agrees he'll have the same as me next time. 
I say to my husband that I could happily stay here all day. My plan would be; eat pancakes, have two coffees, transfer to comfy sofa and read a book whilst having further coffees. Couple of hours later I would move to a table and bench and order lunch, then stay till 2.30 drinking coffee.

I spy a woman at the counter, with a bag emblazoned with the logo, “itv”; whatever she buys is taken away in a brown paper bag
A woman at the table in front of ours offers us coffee, we decline and then head off to work.

Penelope's is spectacular. 

(*Park at Anchorage Quay tram stop for an hour free, further to walk from Booth's though)


Saturday, 1 March 2014

Selo Deli Monton Road Monton Eccles

Monton road, the New Chorlton for the over 40s. I found myself here, on the hottest day of the year 2013. I ordered at the counter and sat beside the door and  waited too long for my Americano. Something caught my eye on my right, a baby crawled past, wearing nought but a nappy. The mother hollering (from her table) for the baby not to go too far, as it was busy main road outside. I half expected the baby to stand up, put its hands on its hips and reply, "It's ok Mother, I know my Green Cross Code". Just as the baby was about to make an escape Mum scooped him up and ran back to her table.

The coffee was very strong and flavoursome, I enjoyed it, even in 80 degree heat.  As I sipped I heard a woman cackling like a magpie.  Her “laughter” startled me so much, I turned around,  I spotted her at a table towards the back of the shop, throwing her head back in mirth. After tipping the last drop of coffee in,  I peeled myself from my seat and asked a passing waitress what kind of coffee they served, her answer went thus;

“Do you know what,  loads of 'em 'av bin tellin' me that this mornin'", she did a quick body shake, shoulders then hips, and said, "I'm thinkin' it's the way a meck it" As she said this she threw her right arm out to the side of her body.  It was more Nellie Pledge than Beyonce. 

As I overheard a woman’s voice pleading, “Say bye bye to Grandma and Grandad”, a serious looking woman then appeared from the kitchen and told me that, obviously, they had their own name on the packets of coffee. She pointed to where they were on the nearby shelf. Nellie Pledge was no where to be seen. 

I still really don’t know what kind of coffee they serve.

I much recommend Selo Deli, I implore you to take yourself there the next time you find yourself on Monton Road.