Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Seasons Greetings from Beijing

Seasons Greetings from downtown Beijing, where I'm overseeing the building of the new 'Aroundtheworldin80dinners' global headquarters. This is in responce to the outbreak of recent challenges to the "Aroundtheworldin80.......' franchise (copyright: J. Verne). I nearly choked on my dim sum when I saw the BBC advertising an 'Aroundtheworldin80faiths' programme, hosted by some hippie knob in a cheesecloth shirt and beaded necklace. Not to mention the publication of an 'Around the world in 80 dinners' travel and cook book by another pair of knobs who did it the easy way by actually going around the world! And don't get me started on the return of the Hairy Wankers. Still, it is the season of goodwill, so may all of us at 'Aroundtheworldin80dinners Global Headquarters' wish y'all a Happy Christmas and a great 2009!

(card available exclusively from:
The 'Aroundtheworldin80dinners' brand is proving to be as popular as Mao (copyright:J.Lennon) among the local population. I'm hoping that this ambitious expansion of my brand, even at a time of financial crisis, will bring the culinary wit and wisdom of "the Great Helmsman" to an even wider readership and eventual world domination.

Sheng dan kuai le!

Sunday, 7 December 2008

St. John Bread and Wine, London

Some of you will have noticed that my age has changed on my profile, meaning that it was my birthday and another year older. To celebrate I met my good friend, Mel, in London for a long lunch at St. John's. It is the kind of place where you would find Tracey Emin or some such other East End hipster at the next table. And lo, there she was at the next table. Being too cool to ask for an autograph or worse, have my photo taken with her, you will have to take my word for it- or ask Mel.

We had the Mallard and red cabbage with a fine bottle of dry white, followed by freshly baked madeleines. The duck was pink, tender and moist, and the petit cakes awash with memories.

It was a memorable meal, long and slow. What better way to usher in another year. I have been asked recently if I am a father or a grandfather by pretty strangers,so I'm not sure how many more I can take. Still, to Mel and all to others who helped me mark the occasion, you made an old man very happy.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

New Samsi

On a bleak Friday night, an early winter chill blows through the mean streets of Manchester carrying Aureja and myself to a pre-theatre meal at the New Samsi. I'm not much of a one for the pleasures of Thespia, not enough car chases for my taste, but Stella was starring as the Sixties icon 'Nico' at the Lowry and I had promised to go. Aureja had volenteered to accompany on such a rare and potentially hazardous cultural outing and as such deserved an early bird treat. I know I've done Japan twice but Samsi sells Tokyo street food such as yakimono skewers as well as all the standards.

The food was excellent as was the conversation and company, followed by Stella's moving performance as the tragic German

After the theatre, we warmed ourseleves with mulled wine at, given the weather, the aptedly named North Pole. This has been relocated next to Urbis for, I can only guess, seasonal convenience. To my companion on such a cultured evening I would like to say, 'Sveikata'.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

King Cobra

How y'all doin'? Well, I'm back in Blighty and talkin' like a native Arkansasian. I had a wonderful time and ate some great food, of which more later. I saw my first College Football game (Go Reddies!), which included a pre-game ritual, 'Tailgating' where I drank good Southern beer, even better Southern Bourbon and ate a delicious Louisanan 'Dirty Rice' in 75 degree sunshine.
To try and assuage my post-USA blues, I took myself off to Rushomle and the Sri Lankan delights of King Cobra. I had a hot "Fish Chilli' and rice.

While it blunted my depression, it was the Cobra beer that really took the edge off. I will leave you with a view of Arkadelphia and and the B&B I stayed at.

Captain Hendersons' House, Arkadelphia, ARK

B&B seems such an inadequate term for such a magnificent building and just look at that sky. The breakfasts weren't too bad either, courtesty of Miss Vicky. And thankfully, not a sign of Stephen Fry anywhere.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Ted's Montana Grill, Atlanta

Well, chums, it's been some time since my last post and this is only a taster in that I'm still stuck on number 40. I've moved flat, started a new term and am preparing another visit across the pond, this time to Arkansas. Reports of this on my return no doubt. On my last trip I had an unscheduled stopover in Atlanta due to an act of God. According to Delta check-in, this meant I could bill he-who-art-in-heaven for my hotel. He also blessed me with the travelling companion from hell for the duration of my enforced stay in what is, normally, a fantastic city. Discretion (and my therapist) prevents me from giving out any futher details.
Ted's is part of the Ted Turner empire, which includes CNN, the Atlanta Braves and a heavy investment in large parts of Jane Fonda (which failed to turn a descent profit). He also owns a large ranch where he breeds Bison- which leads me neatly to the food at his Montana Grill.

I lunched on a moist Bison meatloaf and washed it down with several glasses of a fine New World pinot noir to ease the pain of the unwanted company of the witch sat across the table. Back at the Airport, I fled to a waiting connection to Paris, leaving the witch demanding immediate transportation direct to Manchester. They should have given her a broomstick.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Half Way

Just a quick note to mark the half way point of my epic quest. 40 restaurants in a year isn't bad going and I've had some great comments, as well as press interest ( see South Manchester Reporter 7/8/08 pg8). My aim of reaching 80 is looking wildly ambitious so I will post restaurants of interest without adding to my list, but when the opportunity arises, I will grab it with both hands.
So, good readers, keep reading, keep commenting and above all, keep eating. Remember,


Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Around the World in 40 dinners

Loch Fyne at Ye Olde Cock Inn

To celebrate the half way point in my culinary quest, a jet-setting Lucia joined me at the newish Loch Fyne fish restaurant at the Olde Cock Inn at Didsbury before flying off to Rome.

While Lucia toyed with the remains of her first course, we toyed with the funny side of eating at the Olde Cock Inn and I thought of what Sid James or Kenneth Williams would have done with the smutty innuendos so neatly served up just waiting for the arrival of the punchline. My train of thought was broken by the arrival, not of a suitable punchline, but a succulent plaice. A tender and tasty fish if ever I saw one.

Now, Loch Fyne is in Scotland and allows me to put a red dot on that fine nation. I have been to the original Loch Fyne cafe on my way to Inveraray. On the shores of Loch Fyne, Inveraray is the ancestoral home of the Dukes of Argyll. The most infamous Duke was the 11th, who divorced his wife, Margaret, in 1963, citing her infidelity with 88 men. The most shocking piece of evidence was an early polaroid of a naked Margaret fellating a man, later identified as Douglas Fairbanks Jr. And there's the punchline, the most famous daughter of Loch Fyne photographed with ye olde cock inn.

Monday, 4 August 2008

St. Petersburg

It all started innocently enough, a chat to Lawrence over a late night drink. Lawrence is the editor of the South Manchester Reporter and ever the news hound, showed interest in the blog. So an interview was arranged with Susannah, who agreed to experience the full deal and accompany me to the new Russian eatery on Sackville St, St. Petersburg. My initial nerves were assuaged on meeting Susannah, who proved to be an engaging, intelligent and entertaining dining companion.

We gorged our way through Borsch, Derevensky, Gorodskiye and Miasnie Kotlety as well as the odd vodka. The food, I have to say, was excellent and I will return.

We swopped histories, stories and enough jokes to fill an entertaining evening at the Leningrad Empire. And I hope Susannah got enough copy to win a Pulitzer.

Friday, 25 July 2008

The Modern at Urbis

All you sophisticates out there will know that the Modern was reviewed in last Sundays' Observer by that giant of restaurant reviewers, Jay Rayner, who voted it a resounding success. In no way wishing to follow in that great man's wake, I had arranged to lunch there with two of my favourite sophisticated women, Hilary and Sharon (aka the Cheeky Girls), before Jay's piece appeared. While the food at the Modern is predominately British and does not merit a red dot on my 'aroundtheworldin80dinners' map, it is worthy of a mention and praise. I ate, quite possibly, one of the best plates of fish, chips and mushy peas I have had the pleasure to taste.

Ably assisted by the lovely Lizzie, we ate and drank our way through the afternoon in fine style. This was complemented by the wonderous view of Manchester's skyline afforded by the well appointed and positioned Modern.

In short, it was an afternoon to remember. However, after three bottles of rose at the 'Hanging Ditch' wine merchants, the rest of the day proved to be a bit fuzzy.

Sunday, 13 July 2008


I know, from the sublime to the ridiculous, but it still counts-Ikea is Swedish and thus, merits a red spot on the 'aroundtheworldin80dinners' map. Aware of the impending end of the Ikea summer sale, Jenny, Lucia and I took ourselves off to Aston-under-Lyne for late night knick-knack shopping and some tea. We made a hearty selection of salads, potatoes and of course, meatballs which proved to be surprisingly cheap, cheerful and tasty.

While I finished mine, Jenny and Lucia amused themselves with an ingenious game of 'cats cradle' using Swedish liquorice laces.

Given that the centres of our towns and cities on any Friday night are a sea of binge drinking, vomit and death by kniving, Ikea provided a safe haven where we could shop till we drop and sterotype other shoppers without fear (note:avoid the kitchen dept while sterotyping in case of culture-putdown rage in the vicinity of readily available knives). Tummies full and with bags of sale priced goodies, we went home singing Ikea-themed show tunes-'She'll be coming on a meatball when she comes', 'I could have shopped all night' and who could forget, 'I just met a shop called Ikea'.

Friday, 11 July 2008


Under a canopy of scaffolding lies a Korean gem, Koreana. I remember it being above the Siam Orchid on Portland Sreet some 15 years ago, but I'm also informed that has always been on King Street West. A mystery indeed.I mention this as my memory might not be as it was, but I lunched with an old friend, Lisa, who added the extra piquancy of a friendship renewed to a fine meal.

Along with tasty starters and soups, we had Chicken Gang Jung and a Dolsot Bibim Bab, a glorious pot of prawns, vegetables, egg and rice with chilli sauce to taste. Jasmine tea and Bek Se Ju, a rice wine flavoured with ginger and gingseng helped it all go down.

When I got home, a rare North Korean cookbook in my possession reminded me that "you will fully feel the nostalgia whenever you enjoy the Korean dishes not only on the festive days but usually with your friends".


Immigration would seem to be the staple diet of certain tabloid newspapers,keeping the great swathe of barely educated middle England fuelled with their daily bile. I loved to poke a stick at their prejudice by telling them that their beloved fish and chips was historically a mixture of Jewish and French cooking brought on the tide of 19th century immigration. And you will have noticed that this very blog is built on the continuing flood of welcome immigrants, the latest hailing from Ethiopia.
Pal Lucia and I had a pre-movie lunch at Habesha, an Ethiopian eatery on Sackville Street. We had Chicken Firfir, a lamb dish called Derek Tibs (which I half expected to say 'they call me Mr Tibs') on a bed of spongy Injera bread and, in another moment of nationalistic irony, washed down with an Ethopian beer called 'St George'.

Fully fed, we strolled down to the Cornerhouse to digest 'The Vistor', a sensitive and thoughtful essay on Immigration and post-9/11 America. I know that food is only part of a culture but bring me your poor huddled masses as they can only add to the wealth of nations.

Friday, 6 June 2008

Fuji Hiro, Leeds

And so to another gem t'other side t'it Pennines- 'Fuji Hiro' in Leeds. FH is a family run and homely Japanese cafe that Manchester so lacks. We seem to be stuck in the post-industial food factories like 'Wagamma' or sets from a Kurosawa historical drama, 'Fuji Hiro' is small, ergonomic and cosy providing bowls of ramen, plates of rice and a sweet plum wine that I need to find. On our way from Bradford and after a quick visit to the Henry Moore Institute for some refreshing glasses of Rose, Di and I stopped into FH for a tasty snack of goyzas, miso soup and tea.

Still full from lunch at the Kashmir, we struggled but stuck to our task with a determination that boarded on the reckless like Tensing and Hillary. There is a mountain metaphor struggling to get out here but like Randuph bloody Fiennes, I can't make it to the top so a simile will have to do.

Di and I finished as best we could, headed down the hill to the station and back across the Pennines to the warm embrace of the Red Rose County.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

The Kashmir, Bradford

Kashmir is the disputed boarder region between India and Pakistan, oft in the news and deemed to be 'most likely' spot for the beginning of nuclear armageddon. Perhaps fearing the worst, a few left the region in the 1950s to work in the dark satanic mills of Bradford. In 1958, lovelorn and homesick, they opened 'The Kashmir' to provide comfort and a descent homecooked meal for their fellow Asians. 50 years on, it's still there. On a visit to the Henri Cartier-Bresson exhibit at the National Media Museum, Di and I lunched there on the best Shami kebabs and Kheema Madras in the land.

As a regular visitor for 30 years or more, I have never tasted better. But then again, it is flavoured with memories.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008


With the academic year drawing to a close I've been marking for what seems like an eternity. I can't even read a newspaper without marking it! To escape the torrent of words that I feel swamped by, I made my way into Hulme and to the Carribean delights of 'Buzzrocks'. After starting in a van, 'Buzzrocks' has established itself in the post-modern new builds in post-Corbusier Hulme, serving the multicultural denizens of that parish, not to mention the visitors from far and wide to sample some great West Indian food. I opted for the Jerk Chicken special with rice and peas.

Fed and watered (great grape soda!), I waded my way back to the sea of words that awaited me. Thank heaven for the small islands of culinary culture that surrounds the dead sea of the University and the thousands of scrolls that struggle to be translated into numbers.

Thursday, 24 April 2008


As a film historian, Tampopo has a special place in my heart. This pan-Asian noodle bar is named after the 1986 Juzo Itami film, 'Tampopo', an extraordinary Zen hymn to soup and sex. To those of you who haven't seen it, see it; to those of you who have seen it, see it again! Sorry, I digress. I went to Tampopo in search of the ever elusive bowl of Pho. Pho is a Vietnamese noodle soup usually associated with breakfast, but is , as they say, a movable feast. Anthony Bourdain asked "Is there anything better to eat on this planet than a properly made bowl of Pho?". I can't answer that as there is precious little to compare it with in Manchester, which is notoriously short of Vietnamese restaurants. This Pho was wonderful.

It was fragrent, soothing and restorative, and just what I needed after an encounter with the pure Kurtzian evil that manifests itself as my boss. Manchester....I'm still only in Manchester!

Wednesday, 2 April 2008


With Tibet in the news, I had a brainstorm and headed to the Manchester Buddhist Centre in search of sustenance, if not enlightenment. I know Tibet is not a country but it is 'an ethnic autonomous region' and that's close enough, as is the Buddhist Centre being its representative in Manchester. The attached cafe is called 'Earth' and sells reasonable vegetarian food at reasonable prices. Not being of the Buddhist or vegetarian faith, I felt like the Devil taking Mass and ordered the Lentil and Veg stew.

If the Chinese Authorities recently described the protesting monks as 'the scum of Buddhism', then the stew could equally be described as 'the gruel of Buddhism'. If I had to eat this everyday, I would protest too. It was as bland as Kundun. No wonder I once witnessed a Buddhist monk, in his full robes, tuck into a hearty plateful of roast beef and yorkshire pud.