It’s been a great weekend for food on my North West of England trip, catching up with friends.
On Friday afternoon, after working from our Manchester office, I jumped on the train over to the lovely historic city of Chester.
Porta’s Tapas, Chester:
My friends Rita and Jo took me out for dinner at the lovely Porta tapas bar.
This quaint, intimate and laid back setting was perfect for catching up with friends. We were sat on the balcony, with a birds eyes view of the kitchen which was mesmerising! Our table was small so we ordered three dishes at a time, and kept ordering more until we were done!
My favourite dishes were the Slow-Cooked Ox Cheeks, Chorizo & Lental Stew and the Jabon Croquettes. A lovely addition was a plate of King Prawns thrown in for free that had been cooked and needed eating. Oh go on then, if we must!
The staff were brilliant, offering advice on which dishes to choose, and great banter to match. As we paid at the end of the evening, we even chatted with the Chefs, as the small kitchen was right behind the front counter.
The price was really reasonable, my bill coming to £35, and that included a bottle of Merlot I shared with Jo, and the necessary large Estrella beer I had on arrival. http://www.portatapas.co.uk
The City of Liverpool:
The following morning, after a late night chatting with the lovely Rita, I jumped on another train and made the 45 minute journey over to Liverpool. I wasn’t meeting my friends for drinks untill mid-afternoon so wanted to try something different for lunch. Fanca’s Cuban Street Food came up on an internet search, perfect!
I love Liverpool, the history, the culture and the friendliness of the local people. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve visited in the past, from Music Festivals and gigs, to exploring the infamous Beatles Cavern Quarter, and catching up with friends.
Fu Cafe, Gradwell Street:
Arriving late morning, I had a wonder around the shops, then needed a coffee pick me up. Avoiding the vast number of chain coffee outlets in the main shopping part of the city, I wandered down to the Ropes Walk area in the south of the city, anticipating that there would be some independent coffee bars. Plus the Cuban food place was in that direction.
I came upon a cool little placed called Fu Cafe, which describes itself as ‘the UK’s first dedicated Baijiu Bar’. Baijiu means ‘white liquor’ in Mandarin, and is allegedly the best selling white spirit in the world! As it was only 11am though, it was possibly a little early to sample some Baijuu, so I opted for a flat white coffee instead.
The deco in the bar I’d describe as Oriental with a modern twist, I liked it. My flat white was good and got a free pot of popcorn thrown in.
Finca Cuban Cafe at Merchant House:
I was hungrily excited walking just a few minutes further up Gradwell Street, turning into Parr Street, where Merchant House is located.
Merchant House is a canteen style bar, which houses Finca’s Cuban Street Food kitchen, as well as the Night Crawler Pizza bar. It has similarities to Headrow House and Belgrave Music Hall in Leeds.On talking to the bar man, he cofirmed that it is actually owned by the same people.
There’s an abundance of real ales, IPAs and beers on offer at Merchant House, including one from Leeds based North Brewing Co.
I ordered a small IPA then headed to the outside court yard to Finca’s. Upon recommendation I chosed the slow-cooked Pork and Gammon Cuban sandwich. It was simply delicious. The Gammon was marinated in Agave, and the Pork Shoulder in a Mojo Citrus sauce. The subtle Gouda cheese melts so well and the sandwich was finished off with Pickles and Mustard.
On the side I had 3 different croquettes: Gouda cheese, Red Pepper & Crayfish, and Spring Onion. These were also delicious with the melted cheese oozing out with every bite.
I was suitably full after devouring my lunch. I had a half an hour walk to the other side of the city where I was meeting some of my old work colleagues for drinks. This walk was much needed to aid digestion, I even skipped tea that evening, as I was still full from my Cuban feast, but it was well worth it!
Chester & Liverpool, November 2016