A few weeks ago, I was invited along with two of my Fantastic Four to try out a pescatarian taste tour at Tampopo in the Trafford Centre.

Whenever we make a trip to the Trafford Centre (TC), there is always a designated collection of restaurants we tend to frequent. The number one spot, tends to be Las Iguanas, followed by the safe bet of Nando’s. Yang Sing slides comfortably into third and then it’s sort of pot luck with some of the others. I’d only ever visited Tampopo once, it wasn’t a personal choice, it was where our friends happened to be eating so I remember playing it super safe and ordering a pad thai and not much else, distracted more by the good company than the good food.

 

 

Being invited to a pescatarian taste tour was going to be a great opportunity to force me into being adventurous, rather than settling for the same old dishes at the same old places at a venue we visit quite regularly (TC is on our doorstep pretty much, so a lot more convenient than making a trip to the city).

Enough of me gassing, I think it’s time we got straight into it…

We arrived early doors, and were escorted to the far end of the restaurant where a few tables had been set for the supper club style evening event. Jo, the deputy manager came over and introduced herself, she was to be our host for the evening. She was bubbly and full of life and explained the elements that had been arranged on our tables and Laxmi took our drinks order to settle us in before the evening got started.

 

 

Drinks: Virgin mojito, virgin pina colada and mango on the rocks. The mojito wasn’t to my taste – purely as I’m not a massive fan of ginger. The mango on the rocks? Delicious. So good, it was mango on the rocks for everyone on round 2. Order it, trust me.

Drinks in hand, prawn crackers arrived as our amuse-bouche and needless to say like every good snack, they got devoured pretty sharpish (G didn’t even give us a chance ūüėČ ). Whilst the first starter was being prepared, Jo talked us through some of the ingredients placed on the table that we perhaps wouldn’t be familiar with. Asian basil, lemongrass, pickled ginger and mooli (a type of horseradish). Mooli was an interesting introduction, it smelt like feet (genuinely) yet it tasted delicious. I always find it quite difficult to wrap my head around those kind of situations.

 

 

At the start, I was slightly confused by the guide book on our table, but Jo pointed out that Tampopo keep a mini library of them at the back of the restaurant, for customers to help themselves to. Confused? Well, the owner of Tampopo started the chain off right here in Manchester after travelling through Asia, with a mission to bring the flavours back here to the UK. The guide books were just a lovely touch to get us excited and talking about travelling, reminiscing and planning future trips. As a travel obsessive you can imagine how much this pleased me!

 

 

Time for food.

 

Course 1: Coconut prawn & smashed cucumber salad

Thai inspired prawns made with coconut milk and desiccated coconut, great start and it contrasted well with the cucumber salad. Cucumber salad really doesn’t sound like an exciting dish, but this is no ordinary salad. The Asian flavours really stand out here, and theres a spicy kick which turns this green watery vegetable into a real firecracker.

 

 

Course 2: Curry Udon sweet potato

When this dish landed on my plate my eyes nearly popped out of my head. My number one food pet peeve was staring right at me. A floating boiled egg in my curry udon. Oh dear. Jo explained this was no ordinary floating boiled egg. This was a soy soaked specialty that complimented the fried sweet potato hidden amongst the udon noodles.

Ok, today was about being adventurous so I gave it a go. And of course, as expected, it wasn’t half as bad as I had built it up to be in my head. In fact, it was delicious. I’m not a fan of egg in food full stop, but it works. It was good, but I have to say the curry udon itself was amazing! It wasn’t too thick and the fried sweet potato was perfection

 

 

Course 3: Nasi royale prawn, with fried egg on top

So at this point, we were cleaning up dishes left right and centre and we were starting to get full. But we were just about approaching half way so we had to power through. Nasi royale was perfect but the best part of the course was watching Hafs and G have bursts of excitement everytime Jo brought out a new sauce. Especially Ketjap, my sister jumped for joy when the bottle landed, after having lived in Indonesia she explained that this was their equivalent to ketchup and it led to her drifting off into daydreams of all the amazing meals she had experienced.

 

 

Course 4: Green curry veg & hot and sour tofu

I’ve historically never liked tofu, I’ve tried it many times and there’s only ever been one time where I’ve enjoyed it and that was in the airport at Hong Kong (I was also starved at the time). The hot and sour tofu here was delicious, I would order this again. The only problem, the spice was so intense I felt like my head was going to explode. I’m not great with chilli, and this was way above my level of tolerable heat, but I couldn’t stop eating it! I did actually have to push my dish away, one because the spice was becoming crazy intense and two, I was trying my best to leave space to make it to dessert. The green curry was really good, Jo mentioned that if we enjoyed this, the red curry would be right up our street. Unlike other green curries I’ve had, this bowl was balanced, not too spicy and thankfully the cream wasn’t thick and stodgy.

 

 

Course 5: Roti pancake

We died. It was heaven. There was a real nostalgia to this dish – even though we’ve never actually eaten this before. When my sister and I were young, my mum used to make fresh chapattis. Fresh chapattis have a taste like no other, but my mum would make us an extra special treat, the minute the chapatti flew out of the pan she would spread butter on it, butter that seeped in to the pores and then just before it evaporated mum would sprinkle a layer of sugar and roll it up whilst it was still warm. This roti pancake was almost the exact same concept. Except it was laced with cinnamon, the roti was made of puffed layers and effortlessly light. I would return purely for this dish.

 

 

H, G and I couldn’t fault our evening at all. Everything from the service to the food quality was fantastic that night. We enjoyed every part but of course how good a meal is marked on whether you return…

Well the taste tour evening was two weeks ago – and I’ve been back twice since.

TWICE.

And each time I’ve returned I’ve ordered some of the favourites from the taste menu as well as one or two other new dishes – and the new dishes we’ve attempted have been even better would you believe. i.e. sticky chicken wings (minus rice wine).

 

 

And of course, as well as discovering the food quality gets better and better, so does the service. People always raise their eyebrows when I brag about service at blogger events, as they reckon we only get treated well because people may have an idea that we’re there to review. To be honest, I think you can always see through fake-good service, because at the end of the day we’re all human so people can have bad days and people can have good days. But I can assure you out of my three trips in less than three weeks, they were all good days. Not kidding, I could genuinely gush about the service all day.

AND the other amazing thing I’ve noticed – is the staff here don’t just know the menu, they KNOW the menu. As a Muslim, we obviously want to eat dishes that are halal, that don’t contain alcohol etc… they get it. The really understand it. Because even items on the menu that we presume are halal, they are quick to point out if it isn’t and how they can rectify it to suit us. I don’t think I’ve been to a restaurant that has ever been so accommodating on that level.

This evening was all about being transported on the Tampopo taste tour.¬†Travel is a huge part of my life, it’s the essence of my blog, and I’ve often said that there are many different ways to reminisce about trips, and the tastes and smells of local food is one of the strongest.

With everything homemade, the finest ingredients imported and regular menu changes to keep everything current and up to date, Tampopo have ensured that our senses are truly satisfied throughout this journey. From the ambience, the knowledge, the literature, the food… from the simplicity of Japanese, to the complexities of Thai cuisine Jo and the team took us on that all important journey and we’ve been going back to re-visit it ever since.

 

 

*** Thank you to Jo, Laxmi and the whole team at Tampopo for a brilliant evening. The taste tour was complimentary but of course all opinions and photographs are my own and not edited. ***

Fancy trying it for yourself? Follow them on facebook and keep up to date with their taste tour events. 

 

 

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mumu steakhouse preston

 

Travelling all the way to Preston on a weeknight is not really my idea of a fun evening, however I had been hankering for a good steak for some time and if I had to go all the way to Preston to get it than so be it. Worth the risk I thought. Not only that, but it had been some time since my dad and I had indulged in an FD day (Father-daughter) and I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to spend an evening together, seeing as I’ve been so busy over the last few months.

The minute the clock ticked 5, I was off straight onto the motorway and within the hour I was back amongst the familiar landscapes of Lancashire, ready to tackle an evening at Mumu steakhouse.

We walked in, earlier than our booking, but luckily the restaurant was empty so we were¬†shown straight to our table. Table of choice as it happens, as there was no one else to compete with. It’s always a bit unnerving to enter a restaurant and be the only ones there, but I knew it wasn’t quite dinner time yet and it wasn’t long before the crowds started piling in.

The first thing you’ll notice is although there is good looking bar to the right as you enter, not a drop of booze is visible. Everything here is non alcoholic, juices, milkshakes and a selection of mocktails for those wanting something a tad more interesting. All the meat here is halal and it’s¬†good to know that it’s also locally sourced too.

The menu has a great selection Рbut not too much. A lot of similar restaurants tend to go OTT with their menu and it really dilutes the quality of the dishes. The menu clearly explained the different steak cuts, a big help for anyone unsure (my dad still felt the need to explain it to me anyway).

 

 

After giving our drinks order, I asked our waiter, Mani, for his recommendations. The burger, rib-eye steak and chicken wings were his top tips. Funnily enough, that was pretty much what I had in mind anyway, I tweaked my order ever so slightly to correspond with the sauces he recommended.

Our starter, chicken wings in buffalo sauce landed, I immediately gasped at the portion size. Wow there were six wings on our tray, all a pretty decent size. Best plan of action was going to be to taste a few and take the rest home. We had both ordered a big main to get through so we had to be sensible.

Turns out, it just wasn’t possible. The moment I sunk my teeth into that first piece of chicken, I was hooked. That¬†buffalo slightly spicy sauce was delicious. Both of us just didn’t stop. My dad’s not one for a large appetite and he’s not usually a big fan of chicken either, but this starter really went down a treat. It was only a starter, but I would certainly return just for this, bring the rest of the family too.

 

 

Needless to say, we finished the lot. As much as I love Mo, there was no way any of that chicken was making it home that night.¬†Mani popped up almost on cue with a warm bowl of lemon water as we obviously hadn’t even bothered with the niceties of cutlery,¬†we’d decided to go traditional and picked our wings apart by hand. the cleansing bowl meant we could simply remain where we were and await our next dish without having to get up and wash our hands.

Our energy levels lifted a notch, as we excitedly waited for our mains. The starter was impressive and we hoped it bode well for the what was to follow. Pretty soon we were lost in our usual weird and wonderful conversations, my dad educating me on the importance of good quality socks (bizarre I know, but my dad assures me it is an important topic).

Another great thing about this restaurant, the open plan kitchen, visible as soon as you walk in. It was so clean! When you’re dealing with meat, grills, sticky sauces… it was nice to see such a clear kitchen workspace. and there were no issues with intense smells or smoke (very unlike how it would have been had I been cooking in my own kitchen). The standard of the whole restaurant was very impressive. The music wasn’t blaring, allowing us to have this very serious ‘socks’ conversation without having to shout over background noise.

Just as my dad was getting into the nitty gritty details of how he had scoped out the appointed sock-maker for the Queen in his quest for perfect pair of socks, I was saved by the arrival of our hefty mains.

I had chosen the famous homemade 6oz burger with smoked cheese and shoe string fried onions and portion of sweet potato fries. My dad, the 11oz rib-eye with secret Mumu sauce and hand cut fries.

 

 

Ultimate test, was it how we requested? Yes it was! Both were medium rare, perfect. You know what, when it comes to halal steak restaurants, getting the meat exactly how you ask is pretty much most of the battle. It was refreshing to finally have somewhere that got it just right first time.

With the burger, a handmade patty is always going to win my heart, this one was beautifully topped with caramelised string onions and the salsa was a fab addition. There was a special offer that month, free milkshake with every burger meal and it made for a great accompaniment.

Alas we were faced once again with the dilemma that finishing our mains would result in us being full to the brim and wouldn’t allow any room for dessert. It was a risk we decided to take. There was no way we were about to waste any of this quality meat. Dessert would simply have to wait for our next visit.

I’ve never been very complimentary to halal steak houses, everything is usually quite samey-samey. Mumu have done a fantastic job, choosing a few dishes and putting their efforts into doing them well. I’ve read further reviews since then which actually compliment the fish dishes as well as the meat ones, which is good to know.

I’ll be honest, there was a chance this experience could have gone terribly wrong as my dad is probably one of the fussiest eaters I know (not an exaggeration, dad you know its true!) but it was such a relief to see we both left behind empty plates. My dads only criticism, he could’ve done with some more mushrooms.

Mumu steakhouse was definitely the perfect venue for an overdue FD day, met all dads criteria: clean, well cooked meat and we had no other distractions.

Definitely worth the 60 mile round trip.

 

 

*** Big thanks to Mumu Steakhouse for inviting us down that evening, and to Mani and Matthew for providing us great service that night. Thanks to my dad for joining me after work and for providing me with some thought-provoking conversation ūüėČ As always all opinions and photographs on here are my own. The only editing once again has been brightness (it was quite dark in the restaurant). My dad and I very much look forward to returning with the rest of the family!! ***

 

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the-halal-food-network

 

Since returning back from Spain, it’s been¬†very, very busy! (not that I’m complaining)

Bit of a roundup: We landed late on Friday, caught up with work Saturday, spent the day at BlogOn on Sunday (which I can’t wait to write about), back to work on Monday and then the new Scene menu launch on Tuesday, it’s literally been non stop.

And I’ve felt awful for not finding time for the blog, but I have been working on many an exciting project…

Whilst we were away, I was scheduled to launch a new Manchester specific google map on the blog, on the 19th of September. A severe lack of good internet access meant it didn’t go ahead as scheduled. (I needed to do some tweaks before it went live), BUT I think that was secretly a blessing in disguise… as it gave me a few extra days for a new idea to dawn, which I’m very excited to share.

Now, I’m afraid this won’t actually appeal to everyone, as the project is specifically designed to help Muslims. However, you may have someone in your life who could benefit from this service, so don’t be too discouraged… (and who knows what it could lead to in the future).

For those who aren’t aware, Muslims, like other religions have certain criteria regarding what we can and cannot eat. Our meat has to be halal (prepared in a certain way) and we do not eat pork.

In my ‘About Me’ page, I mention how a lot of my Muslim friends and family choose to travel to Islamic countries, usually because they have good access to halal food. Whereas Mo and I go anywhere the wind takes us, we’re both super adventurous with cuisine (within the confines of our religion), though having meat every meal is not always essential for us.

However, when you’re away for a long period of time and you’re not accustomed to a vegetarian/pescetarian diet, or when you are in a country that has a very meat influenced local menu, it can be particularly testing.

SO,

My partner in crime, G, and I have decided to create a network which is aptly called: The Halal Food Network. And together with Mo and my darling sister, we are launching it live – TODAY.

 

halal-food-network-home-page

 

The concept, well it’s really, really simple.

With over one billion Muslims across the globe, we want to call on as many of you as possible – in all sorts of towns and cities to join our group and help us to create one giant super map. A super map that allows you to zoom in on wherever you may be and at any given time and search for halal eateries nearby.

We have launched a Facebook group, which we encourage you all to join, to engage in conversation and become part of a community aimed at helping each other out.

We’ve created a VERY simple form for people to submit restaurants that they know are halal, or even quite simply have a few halal options.

 

halal-food-network-add-a-restaurant

 

We’re not putting any ‘halal’ criteria as we want to trust our friends in the network and ask that everyone do their own small check before visiting anywhere to make sure it lives up to their own personal ‘halal’ standard. (Takeaways can be added too if restaurants aren’t available). My team and I will then upload each entry onto the map in batches for all to use.

If you’re interested in following our journey (wherever it may lead), but do not want to be involved in the conversation, then we’ve set up a page where we’ll be sure to post up each new batch of restaurants that has been added and any other news that might come up, from time-to-time.

We want this to become a tool that eventually anyone can use wherever they are in the world. We’re not making money from it, we’re not out for anything – other than to encourage Muslims to travel the world, to discover and to experiment in a manner that is permissible!

Where’s the map you say?

RIGHT. HERE. www.thehalalfoodnetwork.org

I’ll keep one handy on my side bar too, but the main one will live on our site.

We’ve got lots of ideas to build on this and I’d especially like to hear from bloggers (or ANY individual!) from anywhere in the world who may be able to contribute a large number of establishments. Please do drop me an email if you’d like to get involved and I’d be happy to share some of our upcoming ideas: thehalalfoodnetwork@gmail.com – let’s work together!!

 

 

So, what do you think? Are there any other great food networks out there who have already achieved this? Vegetarians? Vegans? Coeliac’s? I’d love to see and share them! (Even contribute if I can).

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eidmubarak

 

I know I know, it’s pretty late… but I couldn’t go to bed without writing even a brief message.

It’s that time of year where once again, it’s Eid! and I have spent a wonderful evening with my family (minus a very special member) indulging in¬†an amazing home cooked feast and enjoying their¬†great company.

For those of you that celebrated today, I hope it’s been just as special.

This is our second Eid of the year, Eid al Adha and it’s sad to think how long we have to wait until the next. This Eid also marks the end of the Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia, the largest gathering of Muslims, over two million people this year.

Part of the pilgrimage involves gathering in an area around Mount Arafat to re-enact the actions of our Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) from more than 1400 years ago. It was here that he delivered his final sermon.

A number of middle Eastern news agencies reported interviews with pilgrims who were there yesterday and they spoke of how climbing the hill made them reflect on the Prophets words in that final lecture. A speech that spoke against oppression, asked that we all unite as one and treat each other with respect. They spoke about how his message was one of peace, a message that most of our 1.6 billion Muslim population strive to live by.

It’s just a shame that a small minority have tainted us all with such a deadly reputation. A¬†reputation¬†that has unfortunately been encouraged and hyped up by Western media and in some countries has made things very difficult for the large population of peaceful Muslims who live there (yes France I’m talking about you, but don’t worry you’re not the only ones).

Don’t panic, I’m not going to go off on a political rant, after all today was a day to celebrate!

To celebrate all that we have been given. To be grateful for all that we have. And most importantly, to pray for those who are less fortunate.

One of my favourite things to do before I go to bed on any Eid, is to find pictures of how people all over the world celebrated this blessed day.

I saved one of the links to share: Eid Al-Adha 2016 in Pictures

Maybe I’ll set myself a target to make more friends across the globe this year, so next Eid I can share my own gallery ūüôā

 

 

Eid Mubarak once again and good night! x

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westbridge

 

There’s no shortage of hotels in London, all shapes, all sizes – usually fairly expensive compared to most European cities. But then this is London and London dances to the beat of it’s own drum.

We were driving down, boot crammed with suits and outfits ready for another family weekend wedding extravaganza and my dear mother had organised for us all to stay at a hotel not far from the party shenanigans Рso we were close enough to be with family but at least we had somewhere peaceful to retire at the end of the day.

The Westbridge Hotel is a beautifully decorated (and fragranced) boutique hotel in the heart of East London. About a 10-15 minute walk from the Westfield Stratford shopping mall, the ArcelorMittal Orbit and West Ham Football Club, the hotel is well located (especially handy for anyone needing to visit ExCel London).

The investment in East London around the time of the London Olympics has reaped dividends. The place is absolutely unrecognisable from when we used to visit family a few years ago. East London finally feels like a real part of this great City and deservedly so.

We arrived late in the night for a 2-night stay¬†and even after midnight were greeted by the loveliest staff. The polite and friendly nature¬†of all of the staff is one of the standout features of this place. Whilst the hotel front faces out onto a relatively busy road, once you’re in there, you’ll find yourself in the most tranquil of spaces. Within seconds you forget about, and in fact cannot even hear the traffic. Pretty rare for a London hotel.

My family and I occupied 3 of the 4 suite rooms in what seemed like a private floor of the hotel. (A treat from my Mum – as Mo and I have never even stayed in a suite before). All 3 rooms were decorated to a high standard, befitting of the monarchs they were named after. Large beds, gorgeous, cosy sitting areas and of course, all en suite. You’ve got your usual kit too – free super fast wifi, hairdryer, mini fridge, tea and coffee facilities etc.

 

Westbridge hotel London Review

Apologies for the bad quality and severe lack of photos. With so much to remember for the wedding and as we had arrived so late at night, I had first of all left my camera at home and second, was way too tired to do anything but sleep that night!

 

Back to the room…

The beds are sumptuous and we simply melted into them after the long, hectic days at the wedding parties. Everything here is efficient but uber-comfortable. Even the carpet was warm and fluffy.

The bathrooms are again of a very high spec, luxury amenities were provided (and smelt¬†divine)¬†but the space is¬†slightly on the smaller side. Not that this was an issue as for a city break, all you’re looking for is a quick shower before you head out for a full day in the city. But each suite’s bathroom was slightly different from the other so it’s something you can clarify at the time of booking.

The buffet breakfast was pretty impressive too, the perfect way to fuel up before you head out. There’s large selection of pastries and breads, eggs, hot and cold meats and fruit as well as hot and cold drinks. And the extra bonus for us, everything is halal – including the sausages and rashers. The smile on my family’s face could not have been any bigger.

Weather dependent, there is also a lovely outdoor courtyard with comfortable rattan style furniture where you can take your breakfast or coffee. Luckily for us, the weather was pretty good all weekend so we had breakfast outside on our last morning.

My sister made use of the small, but well equipped gym and we all loved the addition of the guest exclusive lounge area, a luxurious retreat from the hustle and bustle of London life (also a great spot for family photos ūüôā )

The hotel was pretty busy which is clearly a good sign of the standards they provide. But everything about this place really made us feel as though we were staying in a home away from home.

Would we stay here again? You bet we would!

 

The Westbridge Hotel,
335-337 High Street, London, E15 2TF

 

Have you been to East London recently? Stay anywhere great or do you prefer to stay closer to the city? 

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