Earlier this autum, I had some foodie adventures.
I would have updated sooner, but what with back-to-back festivals, GBBO and an interesting adventure in France, my feet have hardly touched the ground.
So, my epicurean escapades included two more meals. Lunch in Manchester and another, with a view.
Manchester's queen of kosher catering, the lovely Celia Clyne invited me to visit her sparkly new kitchens. The site backs onto a river and in 2015, between Xmas Day and New Year's Day, the river came to visit, destroying the entire site. By chance, much of their prepped food and ingredients had been stored in a refrigerated truck in their car park.
"They had run out of the ones we normally have, so we'd had to take one that was raised from the ground — a few steps up" explained Clyne, who is a contemporarly of Evelyn Rose and taught A-level Home Economics and gave cooking lessons from her home prior to starting her own catering company.
Those few feet saved that food from a watery fate, as it sat just above the post-flood water level. It meant that the company still had food ready to serve at Limmud in Birmingham, where they were catering for 1000's. A large amount of equipement had also gone to Birmingham.
After a tour around the building, where I met Clyne's senior team — most of whom have been with her for many years — we sat down to lunch in her office. Also at the table was Mark Clyne, her son, who has been a part of the business for 20 years. "I started as a child, topping and tailing boxes of mangetouts." It's a family operation with husband, Barry Clyne, also at the helm.
Chef Ed Shaerf's food was a treat — even in the incongruous setting of her office. First up, a wooden platter of three types of salmon. A kilner jar containging a skewer of succulent, sticky-sweet, treacle and smoke cured salmon with a showstopper puff of smoke that escaped as you opened it; a salmon fish cake wth crisp, panko jacket, sitting on summery, green pea puree; and to round off the trio, salmon tartare on lightly-pickled cucumber salad. All perfect.
The next course was Middle Eastern-flavoured lamb with a spiced aubergine puree, thiin crisps of aubergine and a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds.
Dessert showed off some of their main attractions — a Rubik's cube of squares of fruit salad; a trompe l'oeil mini burger with chocolate ganache 'patty', topped with pineapple 'cheese', strawberry 'tomato' and doughnut 'bread' roll. The last of the trio was a tiny saucepan of pannacotta under a tangle of micro herbs (basil); crunchy and teeny weeny meringues. They sat on a large slate.
The northern welcome could not have been warmer. The team cater all over the country now so you'll probably taste their fare closer to home.
The last memorable meal of my September was at Galvin at Windows on the World. Windows on the World —or to be more precise — 'windows onto Park Lane and a corner of London inhabited by the Royals, the rich and the very rich' has long been dwarfed by the city’s other architectural giants, but remains an old favourite.
I've not been there since reviewing it for another newspaper just after it opened in its current incarnation in 2006. The 1970’s monolith itself looks tired and dated from outside. The dining room décor — which I reckon has been in place for at least 10 years — could also do with a spot of modernisation, but is suitably luxe-looking for a celebration.
I took my mother there for her birthday treat after a trot round Princess Diana's dresses at Kensington Palace.
We were there for the special set menu, which offers two courses for £31 and three for £37. On a Wednesday lunchtime, the dining room hummed with the conversation of business people. Our table — looking east — was close enough to our neighbours to allow us to ogle what they were eating without also forcing us to share their conversation.
Service — headed up by Fred Sirieux perhaps best known for his part in Channel 4's First Dates — was slick and friendly if speedy. Fred wasn't in the house when we visited — so our autograph books went unsigned.
A heavily accented French waiter insisted on advising us about the wine, before recommending a Chilean sauvignon that wowed my wine-savvy mother. The menu — three choices per course — had sufficient vegetarian and fish options and the waitress was amenable to swapping out shellfish and other traife components.
Warm artisan bread sat on the table with creamy Normandy butter. A first course of cured salmon was fresh and zingy. My main course pollock (pan-fried with and sitting in a very grown up-tasting cider velouté. Mumsy has only just stopped talking about her gnocchi, which came with sweetcorn and melting Camembert. Desserts — toffee apple terrine with caramel cream and a spiced rice pud with salted fudge and pineapple sorbet were wolfed down. I loved the rice pud — one of my comfort foods and that sorbet was pretty special.
The menu has now moved from the flavours of Normandy to more wintery truffle-centric choices. It’s great value and festive enough to warrant a special occasion. Well worth a trip up to the heady heights — and you might even spy Fred.