The tales of a half-Spanish, Southern guy with Yorkshire roots living in Bolton and looking for some half-decent grub

Saturday 20 June 2015

Luciano's at the Millstone, Anderton

Over the course of one week in May, seven different people I know had a meal at Luciano's.

Some recommended the place to me in person, some posted on Facebook about it and a one even took to Twitter to rave about their experience.

I felt the whole of Bolton was in on a secret I hadn't discovered yet so immediately put it at the top of my list of places to try.

It was a Wednesday and therefore it was Quiz Night at our local pub from 9pm.  This meant we had a few hours after work to have an early dinner, so we took the opportunity and headed to Anderton.

Although we were eating early, at 6pm, we were not the only diners but the bubbly waitress allowed us to take our pick of tables so we ended up by the window looking out onto the beautiful garden.

I was, as per usual, lured into a goat's cheese starter.  This was no ordinary, run of the mill goat's cheese starter however as it presented the cheese in three different ways:  goat's cheese with red peppers and balsamic vinegar, a second portion covered in batter and honey and finally, a tempura style version.  

This is probably the best starter I have had in a long time!

Hannah couldn't resist her usual favourite starter either and gleefully tucked into her tomato and mozzarella salad with basil dressing.  It was made with the freshest of tomatoes and the cheese was full of flavour.

Almost everyone associates Italian restaurants with pasta or pizza but I always find that they do the best steaks too.  

Filetto ai Porcini was my choice that paired a massive but perfectly cooked fillet steak with pancetta, porcini mushrooms, thyme and a red wine sauce.  It almost beat me.


After umming and ahhing over whether or not to have steak, Hannah went back to her traditional Italian choice of pasta.  She was pleased to have done so as the salmon tagliatelle was excellent.

Bolton and the surrounding areas have some great restaurants when you look hard enough.

We had a lovely meal at Luciano's and have learnt a valuable lesson: when lots of people are recommending somewhere, get your skates on and go!

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Tuesday 16 June 2015

Ty Coch Inn, Porthdinllaen

When someone mentions holidays in the UK I think of five hour queues on the A303 to spend a weekend in the rainy West Country.

This entrenched dislike of the British vacation hails back to childhood trips that paled in comparison to our annual summer holiday to Spain.

More recent family breaks back down to the south of England have started to repair the damage done in my youth but I can't say I was entirely enthused when Hannah told me about the trip to North Wales she had booked for us.

All my fears were swept aside however when we spent an amazing weekend exploring the fabulous beaches and eateries of the Llyn Peninsula.  And in glorious sunshine too!

One highlight of the trip was the Ty Coch Inn which is a must visit for anyone heading to the area.

Rated the third best beach bar in the world, the Ty Coch Inn is hidden away in the tiny village of Porthdinllaen.  There is no car access for non-residents so visitors have to either walk through the golf course or stroll along the beach to reach the pub.

We chose to go through the golf course to get there and then headed back via the beach.  Regardless, both ways have amazing views of the bay and were very tranquil.  

After your 20 minute walk you can reward yourself with a cool drink and some lunch either sat at their picnic tables or perched on the famous beach wall. 

I had a tuna and cheese panini and Hannah had a chicken, ham and mayo sandwich.  The lunches are generous and fresh with really quick service despite the fact that it can get very busy.

It isn't the food that makes the Ty Coch Inn a must visit destination.  It is the spectacular views, the lovely walk and the ability to have a drink on one of Britain's most serene beaches.

It is secret spots like this one that have converted me into a fan of the UK holiday.  Who knew that a Welsh vista could take the breath away?!  

How to find the Ty Coch Inn:
Getting to the Inn can be a little bit tricky so don't follow the Sat Nav as you might end up driving off a cliff!

Head to Morfa Nefyn and drive down Lon Golff towards the Nefyn and District Golf Club.

Before you get to the golf club there is a National Trust car park on the right.  This is the best spot to park but make sure you have cash to pay the £4 charge.

From the National Trust car park you can either walk up and through the golf course or down the stairs at the rear of the car park which take you down to the beach.  

Be careful at high tide as beach access is restricted.

Wednesday 10 June 2015

Ibérica, Manchester

I head back to Spain a fair few times each year to see family or rediscover the concept of sunshine.

Each visit back to the motherland sees the two of us spend far too many lunches at one of the local tapas bars of southern Spain.  

You would think that I'd have had my fill of tapas by the time we return to England, but this isn't the case. Spanish cuisine (the best in the World) draws me in like a bull to a matador's cape.

A couple of weeks ago Hannah and I headed into Manchester for her final checkup after laser eye surgery.  Inevitable, as is always the case when we head into the city, I suggested we grab a bite to eat instead of heading home in rush hour traffic.  

Ibérica, the trendy new tapas restaurant in Spinningfields, was the obvious choice.

Ibérica has been the talk of the blogging community this spring and has received rave reviews from all parts.  

It is clear, as you walk in, that this is no ordinary tapas bar.  The flamboyant decor certainly feels Iberian but upper class Madrileno rather than rustic pueblo.

After we were seated, I ordered sangria (obviously!).  The jar based drink ended up being a triumph and one of the most perfectly mixed sangrias I have had.

Hannah had a Diva Cocktail which included a beautiful mix of cava, strawberries, and raspberries. Very refreshing for this sunny day.

Gazpacho with red berries, beetroot and anchovies
Refined and refreshing.  I don't normally choose cold soup unless it is a boiling hot day but the flavour was superb, light and creamy.

Ensaladilla Rusa
It is the law to order a tuna and potato salad when eating tapas.  My favorite! The Ibérica version is much more smooth than a traditional Spanish one but still delicious nonetheless. The Piparra peppers gave it a unique kick. 

Twice cooked lamb, marinated cherry tomatoes and red peppers from El Bierzo
Succulent lamb that fell apart perfectly.  It is unusual to see lamb on a tapas menu but we loved it.

Ibérica's Serrano ham croquettes
The service at Ibérica was exceptional and José needs a special mention for his attentiveness all evening.  He recommended the croquetas which again I don't normally choose.

His recommendation was spot on - WOW!  If you go, take José's advice and try them.

The Ibérica burger with secreto pork loin & Piparra peppers
A tapas burger?  Had to try it!  Not a bad effort and it lasted seconds before we scoffed them both.

Octopus a La Gallega with potatoes & pimentón de la Vera
My Abuela's special and the traditional dish of Galicia, where my family are from. Nothing can match fresh pulpo from a pulpería in La Coruna but this was a valiant effort. I got this dish all to myself...

Fried chorizo lollipops with pear alioli sauce
The best thing I ate at Ibérica by a country mile.  So rich and well complimented by the adventurous pear alioli.

Tapas is supposed to be small, cheap bites to eat whilst you have an afternoon beer in the sun.  Ibérica doesn't try to bring a traditional style of tapería to the North West like Levanter does in Ramsbottom. Instead it offers upmarket twist on tapas, refined dishes that take you on a Spanish adventure right here in the heart of Manchester. Whilst it's not cheap, it's worth a go.

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Monday 8 June 2015

The Queen's Head, Glanwydden, Conwy by Hannah

North Wales holds very happy memories for me. My Nanna and Poppa lived in Colwyn Bay and later Llandudno for more than 30 years and my childhood was full of visits to these seaside towns. With so much to do in the surrounding area, I never got the chance to explore further down the coast.

For our wedding anniversary I decided to treat the hubby to a weekend away. After hearing so much about Abersoch from my colleagues at work who visit regularly, I did what any Boltonian does when tempted by a recommended holiday...  I booked it, packed it, and f*cked off. I don't mess about!

On the way to Abersoch I wanted to stop off in Llandudno for old times sake. Since my Nanna moved back to Bolton I've not been back for about 4 years. With hunger pangs growing, Elliott came up with a blinding idea for lunch which I'd totally forgot about - The Queen's Head.

This place is pretty hard to find. It's very off the beaten track but this fabulous pub food is a must. I've been here many times and every visit is just as good as the last.

Serving traditional pub grub with a couple of alternative choices on the menu, the Queen's Head caters for everyone's tastes. The interior is cosy, clean and really hospitable.

Elliott went for a special - Connemara Mussels sauteed in garlic butter on spinach and glazed with Llanrwst smoked cheddar served with salad and French bread. 

For me (who was starving) the Monkfish and King Prawn Curry in a light mango and coconut sauce, timbale of rice, mango chutney and a poppadom. The dish also comes with a small dish of apples and sultanas, but with hating all things associated with raisin-type objects I opted out which the chef kindly obliged. The extra sprinkle of coriander completed my dish and made it a winner from the first mouthful.

The food is so fresh and tasty here. Even Elliott started digging into my curry across the table and I had to stab him with a fork to stop him, naughty husband!

The service was, as always, impeccable and we couldn't ask for more. 

It was a shame I was too full to sample the delights of the amazing cakes and tortes situated behind the front desk. Nevertheless, the curry and my fave Southern Comfort beverage was a brilliant start to our break away.

I tried to get a photo of the outside of the pub but I got caught in a sudden rain shower so the picture really doesn't do it justice.

For somewhere quite out of the way, the pub was packed with people eating which speaks volumes. I'm so glad we remembered to stop here, it truly is a hidden gem in the Welsh countryside!

More Wales blogs to follow!