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Friday, 18 April 2014

Chiquito in Manchester's Printworks: A Pleasant Surprise (and a VERY Sticky Chin)

We all have our weaknesses. One of mine is cheese, although to be honest this has now gone so far as to be regarded as a way of life rather than a weakness; a lifestyle choice, if you will. Another is Tex-Mex, that oh-so-irresistible hybrid of American portion size and Mexican flavours that can wreak such havoc on one's waistline and, on particularly shameful nights, one's chin. So when I was invited to try the new menu at Chiquito it was hard to say no - it was quite simply full of things that I wanted to eat, so I went.

And I'm very glad I did. This is not a chain I've ever thought to visit, particularly as the one we were invited to is in The Printworks - a dark, cavernous, scary sort of place that I've never found very welcoming and have always been, frankly, quite snobby about. Once inside, the restaurant has a slightly "generic Mexican" feel about it, with its bright colours and patterns and sombreros left lying casually about - this is not a place I would come to on a Friday night, when it's all too easy to imagine those sombreros being sported by squawking hen parties and over-excited kids. But on a Monday lunchtime it's all very restful and welcoming indeed - good, salty popcorn immediately appears (I eat the lot, which serves my friend right for being a millisecond late in arriving) and I order a Margarita that is deliciously sour and has only half the rim dipped in salt - my absolute preference in these matters. A word of advice though - order it without ice, which takes up wasteful portions of the glass that could more usefully have accommodated more tequila.

For a starter, we share the Fully Loaded Nachos. I'm going to come right out and admit that these were perfect, and some of the nicest I've had anywhere. Yes, this isn't high-end cooking, but the tortilla chips are good quality and there isn't a duff one amongst them - too often with nachos there are a few heavily laden beauties that everyone fights over and then a million sad, dry, naked ones skulking around the edges of the dish. That simply isn't an issue here - Texan cheese sauce, jalapeno peppers, melted cheese, guacamole, sour cream, homemade salsa and spicy chicken is liberally slathered over the whole lot and it soon becomes very clear why they've given us a little handwipe for afterwards. This costs £10.95 and I would come back just to eat this.

Mains don't quite live up the standard of the nachos, but are decent nonetheless. From the vast menu I have the Southern Fried Chicken and BBQ Pulled Pork from the Tex Mex section - Southern fried chicken breast topped with BBQ pulled pork and melted cheese, served with skin-on-fries, corn on the cob, onion rings, homemade coleslaw and BBQ sauce (and as you can from the photos, some of this was pretty randomly arranged on the plate). The corn cob is overdone and the BBQ sauce a little sweet, but the coleslaw and onion rings are excellent and the chicken and pork both have a good flavour (even if I can feel my arteries clogging as I eat them). My friend has "The Border" from the Hot Baked Wraps section - strips of crispy southern fried chicken, lettuce, ranch dressing and smoky BBQ sauce in a soft flour tortilla and served with the same fries and coleslaw as my dish. She enjoys it very much, although is glad she asked for the BBQ sauce on the side as, like me, she finds it a little sweet.

So: I'm not ashamed to admit that I enjoyed this meal more than I thought I might. Prices for mains are - in my opinion - approaching the dear side, with mine coming in at £14.95, but I notice they offer a 25% student discount (I always knew that doctorate would come in useful for something) and a well-priced lunch menu. Go ahead and judge me if you want, but I ate at Chiquito's, and I liked it: I'm pretty sure there's a song in there somewhere...

- We dined as guests of the restaurant and were not asked to pay for our food or drink. I was however pleasantly surprised by the whole experience and have tried to reflect that honestly in this review.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Holland's Pies Launch New Flavours at Manchester's Albert Chop House; Southern Girl Allowed to Stay Up North a Little Longer

There are few things in life so satisfying as a really good pie. Indeed, whilst I would like to make bold claims that my defection from the south to the north was closely linked to matters of education, history and culture, it's probably more to do with the fact that - in my opinion - nobody appreciates the beauty of a pie more reverently than someone from the north of England.

Thus when the word "pie" appeared in my email inbox, closely affiliated with other words such as "Holland's", "tasting", "Guinness" and "Albert's Chop House", it was clearly a cause for immediate pastry-based celebration. Holland's are a proper local brand, based in Accrington and esteemed purveyors of pies for over 150 years - and the top floor of the Chophouse in Albert Square was unsurprisingly packed last week for an official tasting of the new Guinness range that launches at the end of this month. Holland's are also seemingly not a company to let people go hungry, for here is what we had:

Steak & Guinness Pie; Steak & Guinness Pudding; Steak & Guinness Top Crust Pie. We start with a mighty triumvirate of the new flavour combination - and very lovely they all are too. My favourite of the three is the pie, which has lovely crisp pastry and a gravy so thick that even when cut in half it remains staunchly contained within its pastry shell. You can really taste the booze as well - I'm not a big fan of Guinness on its own, but when cooked it has the most beautiful sweet flavour and it certainly comes through in each of these pies. The pudding, made with a non-suet crust, is a big hit with my dining companion and we both enjoy the Top Crust Pie. This is virtually a health option, as it has added vegetables and just a small disc of pastry on the top; it has to be said though that it probably only counts as healthy if you don't eat it following half a pie and an entire pudding.

Pub Classics Chicken & Ham Pie. This is one of two new flavours being added to the Pub Classics range and is also my favourite pie of the whole night - large chunks of chicken and ham hock in a creamy sauce with a sprinkling of dried thyme on the top. Indeed, I have just eaten another one for my tea tonight, and am starting to worry that people might begin calling me "Pie-head" - with some justification.

Limited Edition "Heroes" Pie. This is probably the most divisive pie of the night - designed to mark the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the First World War, this is essentially corned beef and vegetables all minced up together. I was brought up on corned beef and therefore quite enjoy it, although I think it needs more seasoning. My friend is, however, not so au fait with 1970s British dining habits and is slightly frightened by the whole thing. Something of an acquired taste this one, it seems.

Pub Classics Peppered Steak Pie. If the "Heroes" pie doesn't have quite enough, this one is MAGNIFICENT in its liberal application of seasoning - chunks of steak in a thick dark peppercorn sauce with even more black pepper on the top. This is the other new flavour in the Pub Classics range - it is lovely, and I'm pleased to say there is one of these in my fridge ready to eat another day (as long as everyone promises not to call me "Pie-head".

It's easy to be sneery about a mass-produced product, but I was genuinely impressed with the pies I tried - the pastry is excellent and the fillings tasty and generous. Yes, I'll continue to buy pies from smaller producers (such as the lovely Bradley's Bakery, who make their debut at Levenshulme Market this Saturday), but I'm happy to give a place in my eating schedule to these as well. After all, excessive pie consumption is one of the terms of the visa that allows me to remain in the north - even if it does look suspiciously like I have written it on myself with crayon...

- This was a free event hosted by Holland's Pies, during which written feedback was requested on each of the new flavours. I was not asked to write a blog about the pies but I enjoyed them, so I have.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Beef and Pudding, Manchester: Yep, it's THAT Pudding Again

There are many, many things I love about Manchester. I consider it to be absolutely the perfect size, for example - large enough to have lots of interesting things to do but small enough to walk from one part of town to another (well, in theory, if it's not raining) and to run into someone you know en route. Social media has, if anything, made Manchester feel even smaller - in both good ways and bad. A new restaurant can create a real buzz on Twitter before it's even opened - it really did feel last week like everyone was talking about Beef and Pudding, the new "urban pub and kitchen" in Manchester city centre from New Moon Pub Company founders David Mooney and Paul Newman. This is of course a good thing, but do you all really need ANOTHER photograph of what is already the restaurant's signature dish, that beef and venison suet pudding?

Well no, you probably don't. Last week saw a "soft launch" period in which people on the mailing list were invited to dine for half price; everyone went, and everyone had the suet pudding. But as several people have asked me for my highly esteemed and considered opinion on the place*

*expressed incredulity that I wasn't one of the first with my face in the trough

here are a few thoughts on the two visits I have already made.

Soft Launch:

We went on Tuesday, and found it hard to believe this wasn't a well-established restaurant - the staff are young, confident and friendly, and Nic Duncan seems to have already made the kitchen her own, turning out food that is both innovative and comforting in the generosity of its portions and in its focus on simple, tasty flavours that most people will be very interested in eating. The presence of Gordal olives on the menu and the quality of the bread basket tells you all you need to know really - the king of olives served in a pretty cool tin and a mountain of fresh bread served with both butter and olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

On to the starters, and the only misfire of the night. The "Blanc" sounded fantastic - fresh crab from the North Wales coast with pink grapefruit and coronation mayo - but the balance was all wrong, with the delicate crab totally overwhelmed by the astringent grapefruit and no taste of the mayo at all. This is the point of a soft launch though, and so I would be tempted to try this again next time - in the right proportions, this would be a stunning dish. The Dublin Bay Prawn Thermidor with spinach and garlic toast is already a stunning dish - large, succulent prawns in a rich cheese sauce that I would eat every day were it not for minor inconveniences like the need to fit in my clothes.

The mains were great. I don't think much more needs to be said about The Pudding: beef & Barbon Fell venison suet pudding with horseradish paste, served with stockpot gravy, mash and black peas. This was quite simply the best pudding I've ever had - the suet crust was crispy on the outside yet soft and fluffy on the inside, packed with tender meat and sitting on a bed of superlative mash, with the black peas adding both taste and texture. I would have liked to have tasted more horseradish, but then I have been known to eat this particular condiment straight from the jar so I perhaps have rather specialist tastes. Across the table the Flattened English Rump Steak with shoestring fries barely touched the sides, with the citrus rub imparting just the right flavour and the chips pronounced an excellent example of their species.

For dessert, it had to be the Pudding Plank, offering generous tasters of the Sticky Toffee Pudding, Chocolate Tart, Cheese Glazed Eccles Cake, Bakewell Pie and Banoffee Cheesecake along with custard, whipped cream and chocolate sauce. Looking at this photo, I appear to have scored a bonus Chocolate Brownie - this was one of my highlights, along with the peerless Sticky Toffee Pudding. We washed all of this down with an excellent Zinfandel from what is an interesting and well-priced wine list - although not all of them had been delivered on the night we went.

In short, we loved it so much, we went again at the weekend for Sunday lunch. This looks set to be one of the best-value deals in Manchester, with two courses for £12.95 or three for £14.95 from a set menu. Three of us had the pâté, served in dinky little buckets that yielded a hidden apricoty treasure at the bottom, whilst the other two had the prawns and smoked salmon with Bloody Mary dressing. The pâté was by far the most successful of the two dishes - the smoked salmon was lovely, but the dressing was on the hot side and the prawns, although plentiful, were small and tasteless. Bearing in mind the good-value ethos of Beef and Pudding, we both felt we'd rather have had fewer prawns of better quality.

No issues at all with the roasts though. Four of us had the Roast Rump of Mature English Beef, cooked through or pink and served with homemade Yorkshire pudding, duck fat roasties, vegetables and gravy - this was delicious, and left two boys unable to finish their potatoes, so generous were the portions. The Roast Pork was even better, offering perfect crackling that caused something of an unseemly scuffle at an otherwise decorous table. We were too full for pudding - although before you feel too sorry for us, bear in mind that two of us had already been to the Cake and Bake Show as a warm-up to this gluttonous feast.

So is Beef and Pudding perfect? No, not yet - but it's been properly open for less than a week and I am already booked in for my third visit. Although, this does admittedly say as much about me as it does about them...

- Beef and Pudding is at 37 Booth Street, off Fountain Street, Manchester M2 4AA: go there, immediately.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

The Cake & Bake Show Returns to Manchester Central 4-6th April 2014: Comfy Pants at the Ready

A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to be a judge at The Great Didsbury Bake Off, a position for which I felt I had been in training my entire life. In practice, it was everything I've ever dreamed of - a sea of cake requiring my immediate consideration. A sea of almost fifty cakes, in fact, which left me washed up, adrift on the shores of gluttony, and swearing that I would never eat cake ever, ever again.

Well, all that's out the window now, for it's almost time for the return of the splendid Cake & Bake Show. This year's show looks to be even better than last year's, running at Manchester Central from 4th-6th April and offering the following:

- Celebrities at the show include Rosemary Shrager, GBBO winner John Whaite, Simon Rimmer, Eric Lanlard, Britain's Best Bakery's Mich Turner & Peter Sidwell as well as this year's Great British Bake Off winner Frances Quinn along with other familiar faces from the show: Kimberley Wilson, Glenn Cosby and Christine Wallace.

- A 'Welcome to the Jungle' cake installation, the largest cake installation the UK has ever seen - a walk in jungle created by CakeBomb. Everything will be edible, from the leaves and the grass to over 1700 handcrafted flowers and animals including a life-size baby elephant. It has taken a team of 20 over 6000 hours to create ahead of the show - which of course leaves me thinking that I will go blundering clumsily in with a million shopping bags full of cake purchases and knock the lot flat in seconds. You can see a sneaky preview here alongside some fine acting skills from John Whaite.

- A Nielsen-Massey Cupcakes and Cocktails Bar with cupcakes made by Cake Boy (aka Eric Lanlard, aka hot Frenchman) and cocktails created by VANILLA.

- Experiential stands from companies such as Billington's as well as live cake decorating.

- Hands on free modelling sessions with Renshaw - I need this class, as I have some Renshaws icing in my pantry (not a euphemism) and have not the slightest idea what to do with it.

- Hundreds of stands offering the latest sugarcraft and baking equipment as well as delicious cakes, breads and pies - my advice is to go to Bradley's Bakery for one of their mighty pies early doors, as they sold out early last year and I had to have a little cry behind some macarons.

Tickets are a very reasonable £14.50 - see The Cake & Bake website for more details. And if you want a flavour of what the show is all about, here's an, ahem, most informative blog post all about last year's show. See you there - I'll be the one in the roomy cake-eating pants...

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Zizzi at Manchester Piccadilly: A Tale of Two Pizzas

There's been a lot of talk in the last couple of weeks about blogger integrity. This began with an interesting piece from Jay Rayner about whether it was possible to be honest and impartial in reviewing a free meal, and ended in a bit of a free-for-all in which bloggers were pretty much presented as a bunch of slavering hyaenas, rampaging the streets of Manchester in search of free food and booze and generally turning up at the opening of an envelope etc etc. My own policy has always been a/ honesty, whether it was free or not, and b/ only to go to places I think I would probably have gone to anyway as a paying customer.

And so, when the invite came through to attend the launch of the latest branch of Italian chain Zizzi in Manchester's Piccadilly Gardens, my first thought was to say no. There is a Zizzi in Didsbury not ten minutes from my house, and I have never been; a little hypocritical, then, to go to a freebie at one in town. But the reason I've never got round to going to my local Zizzi is my inability to see beyond my fervent love of Gusto Didsbury - also part of an Italian chain and one of my very favourite places to eat. And, if I'm being perfectly honest, the invite talked of live music and plenty of Aperol Spritz and just sounded, well, like really good fun.

And it was. First impressions were excellent - we ate downstairs and were very impressed with the look of the new restaurant. The high, arched ceiling prevents the space from feeling claustrophobic, and there are some thoughtful touches here, from the beautiful wall panelling to the tins of olive oil on each table. The staff also couldn't have been more helpful, coping superlatively well with a restaurant full of hungry people all sitting down to eat at the same time and still finding time to chat - there is a really friendly, welcoming atmosphere that bodes well for this restaurant's future.


The food itself wasn't quite so perfect, although we did find much to enjoy. We chose from a limited menu, and were brought a generous sharing platter to fight over amongst the four of us as a starter - calamari rings, garlic bread with mozzarella and caramelised balsamic onions, mixed olives, tomato and pesto bread and Italian cured meats. The standout here for me was the garlic bread, which offered exactly the right balance of stink-inducing garlic, mild melty cheese and sweet, soft onions - I really enjoyed this and ate a great deal more than my share. We felt the meats could have been of a slightly higher quality, but I think a slight toughness to the texture was probably a result of getting so many platters ready ahead of time leading to some of it sitting about for a while.

Mains were patchy but with some flashes of quality. I had the linguine ai gamberi: king prawns and courgette ribbons in a hot roquito chilli, tomato and lobster sauce, and found it a pretty pleasing dish - good pasta, cooked al dente and served with generous amounts of courgette and prawn in a nicely spicy sauce. I couldn't taste much lobster going on, but the sauce did have an excellent texture that perhaps reflected its presence if not its flavour. Elsewhere on our table, the dish of choice was the intriguing-sounding Rustica Pizza Pescatore, one half topped with king prawns, courgette, mozzarella, roquito chillies and creme fraiche, and the other with crab, baby plum tomatoes, parsley, capers and rocket. Sounds good, doesn't it, and it looked really good too when it arrived. Unfortunately, both of our pizzas were cold - and although the staff explained that the crab topping was meant to be cold, the prawn half and the entirely of the base was also scarcely above tepid. To be fair, this was instantly put right, and new pizzas brought - we were assured these were fresh out the oven and they were certainly much warmer, although still not perhaps the temperature we would have liked.

Dessert was a sexy trio of chocolate tartufo, tiramisu and lemon meringue sundae, and certainly looked the part. I couldn't try the tiramisu as I don't like coffee and found the lemon dessert a little overly sweet; the tartufo was beautiful though, lovely dark chocolate mousse, not too sweet and with just the right texture. We also had a chocolate fondant-style dessert from the allergens menu for the dairy intolerant member of our party, and this was pronounced superb by everyone on the table, including the dairy lovers.

So am I glad I went? Yes. The menu has some interesting options on it, and some of the dishes suggested that it would be possible to have a pretty good meal here without spending a fortune - particularly in view of the high numbers they were catering for on Friday night. I reckon I will give the Didsbury one a whirl sometime as I'm interested in trying from the full menu - I'm desperately hoping I don't get a taste for it though. Two good Italian chains in such close proximity to a greedy person's house spells nothing but trouble...

- Zizzi Piccadilly is at Piccadilly Gardens, Manchester, M1 1LU; tel. 01612 368855. We ate as guests of the restaurant, but then you already knew that :)

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Things to Do in Manchester now Spring has Sprung: The Great Didsbury Bake Off, Clarins at Hard Rock and Liz Kershaw in the Northen Quarter

Now, truth be told, I am pretty fond of Winter. I like that I have a birthday in November, for example, and that throughout December the presence of Christmas makes virtually any amount of louche behaviour perfectly acceptable. I like putting the heating on, and drinking red wine, and eating mashed potato in the knowledge that no-one will see the full extent of my thighs for several months. I like watching television with a fleecy blanket over my knees in the manner of someone several hundred years old, and one day, sometime soon, I hope to own an electric blanket which will cause me to go to bed ever earlier each night.

Still, Spring is pretty good as well. Travelling to and from work in daylight, for one thing, and not having to get up extra early to scrape several tons of ice off the car. Going out in the evening without having to apply fifteen layers of clothing, many of which will find themselves left, forgotten, in an ale house somewhere. Today is the first day of Spring, and I for one have a number of enticing events booked in my diary over the next few weeks to celebrate this cheery fact. To wit:

1. This Saturday 22nd March marks the occasion of the inaugural Didsbury Community Craft, Vintage and Local Products Fair at Parrswood High School. Nothing spells out the imminent arrival of Summer like a local fête, and this one pretty much has the lot - over 50 stalls including face painting and tombola, a pop-up restaurant from no less than former Mark Addy chef Robert Owen Brown, and, best of all, a Bake Off. And who is judging this Bake Off, I hear you cry. Well, it's the best, most random line-up since someone thought to team Mary Berry up with Paul Hollywood: Robert Owen Brown, Tina O'Brien (aka Sarah-Louise Platt off Corrie), Emma from Heaton's Cakes and....ME. Full details of how to enter are here on the website, but essentially - and I think I've got this right - you make and bring the cake, I eat the cake, I nod wisely and look thoughtful whilst pretending I don't have a face full of crumbs, somebody wins. Although clearly, the real winner here is me.

2. Beautifying Clarins treatments at The Hard Rock Cafe. Whilst these bright sunny days are all well and good, it's easy to feel like poor old Blanche DuBois emerging warily into all this harsh daylight, blinking blearily and wishing we too could festoon every lightbulb with a paper lantern to disguise our pasty winter skin. Clarins seem to realise this, and will be on hand at The Hard Rock Cafe in Manchester's Printworks on Tuesday 25th March between 6 and 8 to administer samples of their new ‘radiance plus booster’ - the name alone makes me feel slightly better about my too-much-mashed-potato complexion. I'm a big fan both of Clarins and of Hard Rock, who do great cocktails and some pretty fine burgers, and as this free event offers a welcome cocktail, a selection of food from the new menu and Clarins goodies, I'm pretty sure you'll spot me there.

3. Lovely Liz Kershaw launches her new book at Twenty Twenty Two in the Northern Quarter. People called Liz are nearly ALWAYS lovely, but this Liz is culturally important as well, and will no doubt have lots of interesting stories to tell when Clint Boon interviews her about her new book, The Bird and the Beeb, on Monday 7th April. Liz's autobiography - which came out on March 12th - promises to spill the beans on her long and eventful career on BBC Radio, a medium in which women are still under-represented. I would also like to know how she keeps her fringe under such immaculate control, although it is unspecified whether the book deals with this thorny issue. Doors open at 6.30, with Clint and Liz in conversation and some of Liz's favourite tunes between 8 and 10.30. There will then be a Q & A, a book signing, and more music until late - and all for a fiver. Tickets are available from the venue, or here via Bop Local Productions.

So hurrah for Spring - it's surely only a matter of time before the ice cream van is doing its merry rounds once more. In the meantime, I've got cake judging to prepare for and am off to find my roomiest pants...

Monday, 10 March 2014

Manchester Drinking Classes: Don't Shoot Tequila at Cord Bar, Northern Quarter

Never let it be said that I am not a true professional. Not content to educate eager young minds all day, every day during the week, I choose to further my own education at weekends by taking part in erudite, mind-improving activities - only last Saturday, for example, I was to be found eagerly studying in the downstairs bar at Cord. True, the subject of the lesson was tequila, a spirit with which I already have more than a passing acquaintance, but anything calling itself Drinking Classes is clearly highly educational - and just happens to include alcohol as well.

Drinking Classes operate in over twenty cities throughout the UK, and offer 90-minute experiences on five different spirits: Vodka, Gin, Rum, Whisky and Tequila. Most of the Manchester events are presented by Neil Garner, a personable and highly knowledgeable soul who has been a bartender for 18 years - you might know him as one half of Bar Wizards, who dazzled us with their shaking skills on Britain's Got Talent a few years ago. Saturday afternoon's class was Don't Shoot Tequila, aiming to persuade us that tequila is a fine and subtle drink deserving of slow sipping rather than reckless necking - I need no convincing of this, and nor did my companion Didsbury Girl, who we both agreed probably had no need of classes teaching her to drink either.

We started with a good, entry level tequila blanco in the form of Calle 23. We were also given a generous shot of sangrita, a spiced, peppery tomato juice that is traditionally drunk alongside tequila blanco in Mexico and which was absolutely delicious. We drank our tequila from a champagne glass, in order to better appreciate its aroma and flavour, and whilst I am aware this has resulted in a series of near-identical photographs, I have at least tried to vary the angle for entertainment and variety purposes.

The second tequila we tried was our favourite of the night. The Olmeca Reposado has been aged in ex-bourbon casks, and we could really taste this in its sweet, woody notes - even the non-tequila sippers (and yes - there were plenty in attendance) liked this one.

Next up, Curado agave-infused tequila - a surprisingly fruity, jaunty little number. Neil also brought out a dish of worms at this point, and was - I think - a little taken aback by how swiftly they were devoured by the marauding masses. I declined, as did the gentleman sitting next to me - after worriedly asking me what was inside a worm. Didsbury Girl suggested "guts", I suggested "praline", but in the end we agreed a worm was probably a bit like a Revel - if you were lucky you might get caramel, but on other nights it might be an unlucky orange or coffee worm.

Shot number four was my second favourite - Tapatio Anejo, another warming, aged tequila. Whilst the heat in Mexico means that tequila can't be left to age for too long - the inevitable evaporation would result in too great an angel's share - we did feel that you could taste a much better flavour in those that had been left to rest awhile.

Finally, it was cocktail time, and Neil demonstrated how to make the perfect Margarita before gamely allowing each of us to have a go ourselves. Obviously the one made by Didsbury Girl and myself was outstanding - you see her here giving it her all and displaying her fine wrist action, as well as a few shots of Neil showing us all how it's really done.

All in all, we very much enjoyed our first brush with Drinking Classes - they're not cheap, but Neil is a great host and Didsbury Girl and I both learned a few things as well as sampling some really good tequila. The class was really well attended and had a great atmosphere despite being at 3.30 in the afternoon - turns out it's perfectly possible to enjoy 40% spirits at pretty much any time of day. In the interests of professionalism and thoroughness we'll be trying a few more classes over the next few weeks (it's this kind of attention to detail that's got me where I am today) before presenting our full and considered report. In the meantime, you can find out more about them and book classes here on their website. Next stop - whisky...

- We were invited to the class as guests and were not required to pay for our places. However, we were not asked to say anything positive, and genuinely had a lovely (if slightly drunken) afternoon.