Now, I like a mince pie as much as the next person - more, probably, if the next person happens to be a miserable Scroogey curmudgeon, although possibly slightly less if the next person is Mr Liz, whose high regard for any pie that has pastry both on the top AND the bottom would lead him to eat one at every meal if so permitted. However, there does come a point at this time of year when even I start to hanker after a non-Christmassy meal, one that does not involve a fat fistful of purple Quality Street, or the surreptitious consumption of the contents of one's Advent calendar before closing up the windows again with an innocent look on one's face.
Step forward Pinchjo's, the estimable tapas restaurant on Burton Road in West Didsbury, run by the ever delightful Joe. Visiting here is ALWAYS a pleasurable experience, as the food is the best tapas I've had in Manchester and it's almost - almost - possible to imagine oneself in sunny Spain, swaying one's elegant shoulders to the latino beats in much the same way a glamorous senorita might had she not spent the previous few minutes trying to avoid the world's biggest puddles along Burton Road.
Even better, Joe's Winter Deal is still on this week - two tapas dishes, a pudding and a beer or glass of wine for £15 every night between 5 and 7pm. Mr Liz went directly to the meat section of the menu, selecting beef with artichokes in balsamic glaze and chicken skewers with a tomato sauce as the dishes most likely to contain a very high meat-to-vegetable ratio (he was correct, and blissfully untroubled by salad of any kind throughout his meal). The ladies (I include myself in this appellation, as it's my blog, and I can call myself a lady if I wish) both chose lamb koftas served with mint yoghurt: spicy flat discs of tasty meat served with what was actually the best salad I've had in recent memory - Joe must have some secret with December tomatoes that turns them into a blast of pure sunshine; whatever it is, it's a secret I am myself sadly ignorant of. We both then picked from the fish section - creamy seafood paella for me and a dish of plump, tender calamari to my left that I stole shamelessly from. Not a shred of turkey or a sprout in sight.
Truth be told, the ladies were both full by now, but as dessert was included we all bravely grappled with a little something. Mr Liz's chocolate cake was pronounced delicious, but only by him as it disappeared too quickly for anyone else to try it, and my creme brulee was small but richly delicious. The only slightly flat note in the whole meal was the almond cake, which was decreed a little dry and heavy; if I was a better friend I'd have shared my creme brulee, but I'm not, and I didn't. *hopes friend will forget this*
So, a most enjoyable, Christmas-free night, with nary a Noddy or a Mariah to be heard and no festive comestibles allowed. Oh. Except one. A small bout of Twitter bullying - of which I am not proud - had prompted Joe to whip up a batch of mulled wine of quite astonishing ferocity, laced liberally with brandy and goodness knows what else, and absolutely the most delicious drink this side of Barcelona. And trust me, until you've had tapas washed down with Joe's lethal mulled wine, you really don't know what it is to have to retire to bed at 9.30pm on the first night of the Christmas holidays...
- Pinchjo's is at 192 Burton Road, West Didsbury, Manchester M20 1LH, tel. 0161 434 2020 or book via their website. There are no pictures in this blog, for which I blame a/ hunger and b/ Joe's mulled wine, upon which I plan to lay the blame for everything - domestic and political - during the next few weeks.