Sunday, 31 July 2011


13 Shaw Rd,
Heaton Moor,
Stockport SK4 4AG

Chorizo sandwich: £6.55 (all prices are for eating-in)
Soup and buttered bread: £4.25
Slice of chicken pie: £6.95

I try so hard to love Heaton Moor's lunch scene.  On the one hand, it's burgeoning, it's occasionally imaginative, and it's found in a number of terribly nice delis.  On the other, it's expensive.

Pokusevski's epitomises this dilemma.  After a recent refit, its Scandinavian-esque interior and white-walled back yard provide a soothingly cool place to eat your over-priced sandwiches.  The menu board above the deli counter is misleading - its (incredibly reasonable) prices are for take-away only, it is only once you're seated that the lunch menu is brought to you, and you realise that this is yet another "seven quid for a panini and bits of green" place.  Once you read beyond the multiple takes on the [insert name of fancy organic European meat product] + [insert name of slightly unusual cheese or vegetable] hot/cold/panini sandwiches, the menu is creative and more unusual than that of Kro or the Orangery.  Slices of homemade pies and quiches, both containing plenty of honest ingredients but priced around the £6-7 mark, along with good breads and interesting soup combinations, mean that it would take a while to get bored of what they have to offer.

I had the butternut squash soup with buttered bread, and the soup was delicious. Sweet, slightly nutty, and creamy, each mouthful was a delicious, sunset-coloured slurp. The bread tasted like rye but appeared to be wholewheat, and was cut into thick slices.  My brother's grilled chorizo sandwich came on ciabatta but with only a smear of chilli mayonnaise, although with an unadvertised helping of tangy and crisp coleslaw.  You can't really go wrong with chorizo, but the sandwich could have done with an added ingredient to justify its £6.55 price tag.  My dad's slice of chicken pie contained large chunks of chicken and plenty of softened leeks, as well as coleslaw on the side.  The pie was bland as neither the chicken nor the leeks had much flavour, and could do with a couple of other ingredients to give it some oomph.

Although Heaton Moor might be middle-class paradise, it would be nice to be able to eat lunch for under £8, after the tip and a drink have been taken into account.  As the credit crunch begins to hit even the solicitors, consultants and yummy mummies, Heaton Moor's cafes and bars are going to have to readjust their prices in order to survive.  Maybe they could start now.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Food Trend Wishlist

Food trends that I’d like to see in Manchester.

1)       Pork buns
2)       Dumpling shops
3)       Chipotle peppers
4)       Food trucks

Manchester tends to cotton on pretty quickly to national and global food trends: we have cupcakes and handmade noodles, and Vietnamese and South Indian are starting to figure on people’s Friday-night-dinner maps.  But some things are still missing.

New York’s continuing and growing obsession with pork buns (pillowy white buns filled with succulent roasted char siu pork) does not yet seem to have crossed the Atlantic.  Seeing as they are portable, delicious and cheap, they should be well on their way to becoming a national obsession here.  Manchester’s Chinatown is the second largest in the UK, and has been undergoing a bit of a culinary renaissance recently, moving away from the kungpao/black bean/General Tso’s chicken menus that previously predominated.  Now, with Hunanese, Szechuan and Korean cuisines becoming commonplace, the next step will hopefully be East Asian snack foods, including pork buns.  Both Chinese bakeries – Ho’s and Wong Wong - sell pork buns, but these are poor imitations of those available in New York (and China), with stodgier buns, fattier pork and unappetising fillings (only in Wong Wong, where pork buns come with either pineapple or scorching-hot honey).  Either the current providers need to reinvigorate their products, or new pork bun stockists need to come on the scene.

Similar to my obsession with pork buns is my one with dumplings.  Thin-skinned, soupy, pork or seafood, I love them almost equally.  It should be possible to get a take-away serving of six or so freshly made dumplings for a reasonable price.  Unfortunately, this is not currently the case.  Perhaps the East Asian snack food bar dreamed of above could provide these along with tasty pork buns.

Chipotle peppers are smoky and spicy, imbuing whatever they’re cooked with a unique Mexican aroma and flavour.  They tend to come either dried or in sauce in a can, and can be used with everything from eggs, to sauces, to vegetable dishes to meats.  Their smokiness adds an extra dimension to whatever they’re used in, and becomes slightly addictive after a while.  Chipotle hummous and mayonnaise may sound like unorthodox combinations, but hit all the right tangy-spicy-smoky notes.  As a nation that prizes spicy things and sandwiches, we really can’t afford to miss out on the chipotle fever that has swept the United States over the past couple of years.

Last, but possibly most important, is the issue of food trucks.  Currently taking London by storm, they’re an excellent idea.  Manchester has a relatively compact city centre with a lunch scene that manages to be both pricey and moribund.  Vans selling fresh-cooked falafel, curries, wraps, noodles and sandwiches would provide good quality and cheap lunch and snack foods to a working and shopping population that tends to have little time to spend on lunch but requires enough top-notch fuel to get them through hectic afternoons and evenings.  Being able to spend under a fiver on lunch would be beneficial to the legions of low-paid office workers inhabiting Manchester’s glass and concrete blocks, and the take-away aspect would satisfy the most time-conscious of bosses and workers alike.  For people looking to test their culinary skills in the open market before starting a restaurant, cafĂ© or catering company, food trucks provide venues that can be based in the city centre but don’t have the sky-high rents attached.  Everybody wins, as long as the health-and-safety brigade ensure the trucks remain proper standards of hygiene.