A Sunday afternoon in Chorlton – Electrik Bar and Epicerie Ludo

This new semester began with the January edition of the Pangaea student festival, which, for the second time this year, I missed. Although last time was unintentional, I was ill for the whole of freshers’, this time I was punished for my carelessness, as I could not be bothered getting a ticket early and they sold out. Although I could have bought one last minute, I wasn’t too happy to pay 50£ for something that’s normally worth 25£. So I missed out on Pangaea, again.

However, the good thing was that I wasn’t too hungover to get out of bed and decided to go to Chorlton for a Sunday roast with my flatmate Tilly who is also a food enthusiast (read her blog full of amazing recipes here!). Although we got on the wrong bus and ended up walking almost all the way there, it wasn’t too bad considering the amount of food we were going to have! I had heard of Electrik Bar through Twitter and thought it’d be a good idea to go try their Sunday roast, which looked amazing, and we weren’t disappointed.

I rang them a little too late to book a table, but we decided to go anyway, thinking that we would be able to find somewhere to sit, as it was only two of us. It worked this time but I strongly recommend you call to book in advance, especially if it is going to be a lot of you, as it is very busy. What is interesting about this place is that you can see a rather different crowd than that of central Manchester, which is usually full of students. Electrik seems to be a favourite for families with children, as there were a lot of them, all well behaved. Anyway, let’s get serious and talk about the food. You can choose between a chicken, beef, pork or vegetarian roast, but we opted for an Electrik board: a bit of each, just because we thought it’d be a good way to get to taste everything. Our table neighbours looked quite jealous as we were served this massive wooden board full of different meats, buttery veggies, roasted and mashed potatoes, Yorkshire puddings and stuffing, as well as the extra cheese cauliflower we had ordered.

The meat was succulent, especially the pulled pork, which was terrific. The beef was nicely cooked and very tasty. The chicken, however, was a little bit dry, not quite as outstanding as the rest, but still good. The cheese cauliflower is worth mentioning again, and even though you have to throw in a couple of extra quid to get it, I strongly recommend you do because it is truly amazing. The vegetables could have been a bit more exciting, and there could have been a bit more of them, but the rest was so good it made up for it. We could not finish the whole board and left some of the mash and a couple of roasted potatoes as there was a lot of them. I wouldn’t lie if I told you that by the end of it we were so full we could hardly move. But it was just too good. Drink-wise we had a beer each, chosen among a very large selection of English and foreign beers.

Overall, Electrik is a very good place to get a Sunday roast from. If you call early enough you can book a large table and bring all your friends for a nice Sunday party. You can get sharing boards for 2 or 4 people, respectively 24£ and 46£, or an individual main for 11.50£. You can also add some extras for a few pounds, such as the cheese cauliflower I mentioned earlier. We paid 17.50£ each for a big portion of roast with three different types of meat and a beer, which I would say is a reasonable price. Also, for the locavores out there, the vegetables are locally grown in Manchester.

These cakes looked delicious, but unfortunately there was no way we could have any more food... Maybe next time!

These cakes looked delicious, but unfortunately there was no way we could have any more food… Maybe next time!

After the meal we walked around Chorlton, where you can find plenty of nice pubs and shops, and we went to Epicerie Ludo on Beech Road, another one of my Twitter finds. Nostalgia pushed me through the doors of this French fine-food shop, and I soon found myself eyeing the rillettes and the Camembert. However my New Years diet resolutions came back to my mind and I managed not to buy rillettes (which are, if you don’t already know, essentially duck meat cooked in duck fat). However me and Tilly decided to buy a few things for dinner and so we left the shop with artisan pizza bases, tomato sauce and mozzarella to make homemade pizzas (not French but oh well!) on the same night, as well as wine from Alsace, comté, Cornish yarg, baguette and a special box of chocolate for wine, to throw a little wine and cheese party the following night. Tilly also bought a box of Williamson Tea earl grey, which is very fragrant (I will definitely be stealing some from her, sorry Tilly!).

Chorlton is a bit out of the way from the places we usually go to as students, but it is worth spending an afternoon there for a change, and there are plenty of shops we haven’t had time to explore but are certainly very interesting. With all its cafés, restaurants and shops, Chorlton is definitely an up and coming area of Manchester, and reminded me and Tilly of North East London. So next Sunday get out of Fallowfield/Rusholme and go to Chorlton! To get to Electrik, take bus 85 from RNCM to Chorlton/Wilbraham Road Post Office, or walk down Alexandra road and then down Wilbraham Road, but it will take about 45 minutes from Oxford Road. From Wilbraham Road to Beech Road, simply go down Whitelow Road and then left on Beech Road.

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A few days in the Netherlands – Vintage shopping, museums and culinary diary

Last week I finally had the chance to visit the Netherlands, something I had been looking to do for a long time. I went first to The Hague for the weekend then spent a few days in Amsterdam. I will mainly talk about The Hague here since I feel like less has been written on it (usually, everyone goes to Amsterdam), and I absolutely loved it. However, as I cannot hope to write the perfect guide to The Hague after spending three days there, I will write about the few things I most enjoyed. You can find the address for all the places in bold at the bottom. I arrived there on a sunny afternoon, which quickly turned into a very rainy evening. After a stroll around the city centre, me and the friend I was visiting went to the former fishermen village of Scheveningen to enjoy freshly caught fish at the iconic Simonis Aan de Haven. From kibbeling (a kind of Dutch traditional fish and chips) to grilled salmon and herring sandwiches, Simonis offers a large selection of seafood, in a corny yet charming sea-themed décor (think sea shells and sand on the tables and fake sharks and stingrays hung to the ceiling), and I very much recommend you pay it a visit.

We then walked along the beach from the fishing port to the other part of Scheveningen where the leisure port is. Despite the rain, the walk was very pleasant: there are plenty of sculptures and interesting buildings to keep you entertained, aside from the beautiful beach. We went past a colourful surf village, which was as empty as they are crowded in the summertime, but nonetheless enchanting. We reached the Kurhaus, in which the Rolling Stones played their first European concert in 1964, now a hotel surrounded with fancy restaurants and tacky entertainment centres.

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We then went back to The Hague, which is only a short tramway ride away (take the number 1 or 17), and went to the local art cinema, the Filmhuis, which is the equivalent of our Mancunian Cornerhouse. You can relax and have a drink and some food while waiting for the film to start, in a cosy yet spirited atmosphere. We went there randomly with no particular idea as to which film we should watch, and ended up seeing Une Nouvelle Amie (The New Girlfriend), the latest film starring French actor Romain Duris. What we thought would be a typical French rom-com turned out to be a psychological thriller, about love, death, and gender identity. It was an interesting film, and Romain Duris, along with the very talented Anaïs Demoustier are truly remarkable. You can watch the trailer here.

The following day, we all went to Delft, which is about 20 minutes on the tram from the city centre. I would not be honest if I did not say that I fell in love with this place. Although it is a pretty big town, its vibe is that of a small village, with cool pubs, restaurants, and, as I soon found out, lots of vintage, antique, and second-hand charity shops. Colin, the friend we were visiting goes to Delft every so often just to go to those shops, where you can find absolutely anything, from old (functioning) cameras for 2€ to handbags and liquor glasses. My favourite find is a 1980 mug commemorating Queen Beatrix’s crowning, which I found in a second-hand shop on the picturesque Markt, where the Nieuwe Kerk Cathedral is located. The Terre des Hommes shop offers an interesting selection of clothing, kitchen items, and books. If you take a stroll around the centre and along the canals, you will be able to find plenty more. We also stopped at the public library where we had a delicious appeltaart, the traditional Dutch apple tart with whipped cream on the side. On the cultural side, Delft has been the main centre for Dutch pottery manufacturing for centuries, and is where William of Orange was assassinated in 1584. It is also a very student-y city, as it boasts the prestigious Delft University of Technology.

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In the evening, back to The Hague, our first intention was to go to de Boterwaag for dinner, but it is a very popular venue especially on a Saturday night and we couldn’t get a table. We thus ended up going to Rootz, which is reputedly the best Belgian restaurant in the Netherlands. The menu is laid out in such a way that whichever dish you order, you can choose the suitable beer or wine, which is actually an excellent idea. The chips were to die for, and so was the accompanying handmade mayo. Three of us had the runderstoof, which is a traditional Flemish beef stew, and my dad had mussels cooked in white wine. It was all delicious and of excellent quality and I do recommend you go there. On the Sunday, after visiting the Mauritshuis, which exhibits paintings by the best Flemish artists, we had a stroll around the city centre and came across the most amazing vintage shop, called Acendi. Located on Papestraat in the Royal Palace district, among posh designer shops, this small boutique is a real treasure. There you can find sophisticatedly yet unpretentiously curated vintage pieces of clothing at a very reasonable price, and especially when I went because they had sales going on. For less than 100€ I managed to get a faux sheepskin coat, two skirts, a dress and a blouse, all in excellent condition. They had a large selection of lovely blouses, leather trousers, extravagant dresses, among other things, and I definitely would have bought more if I hadn’t been worried about airport luggage restriction…

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Amsterdam

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After these three days in The Hague I went to Amsterdam for another couple of days and although it was my first time there I came across a few very good places, which I am going to share with you. The hotel was located in Amstel, near a street called Utrechtsestraat, where you can find a lot of Indonesian restaurants as well as a few Indian places. There are also plenty of boutiques, which all have that cool vibe I quite like. Also, go have a look at Marqt, a large organic/health food shop which sells delicious bread among other things, located on that same street (there are a couple more around Amsterdam). On the last day before leaving we also had lunch in the café downstairs from Hotel Toon. In this tastefully decorated café-bar, you can enjoy Mediterranean-inspired dishes such as Shakshuka (a kind of omelette with lots of tomato sauce, spices, and different toppings of your choice), and a roasted aubergine salad (which was supposed to have pomegranate, but they had ran out so we got red currants instead, and it worked well). They also have different types of bagels, salads and cakes at a reasonable price. For drinks you can have beer, wine, and tea/coffee. The atmosphere is very pleasant, and I particularly liked the music, which was a mix of Latin and Eastern-European inspired tunes. Just round the corner from the hotel was the Bar Lempicka, a rather sophisticated yet really welcoming brasserie where you can enjoy nice wine and nibbles, or a more substantial meal if you feel like it, and the staff is very friendly.

Toon

Toon

Toon

Toon

Near the Rijks Museum is a great little street called Nieuwe Spiegelstraat, on which there are plenty of antique shops and art dealers, and two shops that retained my attention. The first one is Episode, which sells, yes you guessed right, vintage clothing. It is more messy than Acendi but the choice is enormous, and if you’re not too much in a hurry, take the time to look through the racks, you might find some great pieces in there. Episode also has three other shops in Amsterdam, one in Utrecht, Haarlem, Brussels, Copenhagen and Paris. The second one is Van Roselen, a family-business that sells all sorts of fine chocolates and chocolate from around the world, which would please even the fussier chocolate-eater (you can buy chocolate with up to 99% cocoa for instance).

And finally, I must add that this trip was the occasion for a museum marathon (7 in 5 days!), and although I recommend you go to Mauritshuis and the Rijks museum because of they show beautiful pieces by Vermeer and Rembrandt among others, there is a less famous museum I strongly recommend. The Tropenmuseum is a large ethnographic museum located in East Amsterdam, a bit out of the city centre. It is nonetheless worth doing the extra mile for if you like the study of non-Western cultures. From India and Morocco to Mexico and Papua, the history and culture of the peoples of the world is presented and explained, and there are also special sections on the colonial history of the Netherlands. Suitable for people of any age (there are special activities for children), I strongly recommend you go to this captivating museum.

The Parade - Tropenmuseum

The Parade – Tropenmuseum

Here are the addresses of the different places I mentioned all along this entry, sorted by city and alphabetical order. I hope you enjoyed reading about this trip, and if you have any questions, recommendations or opinion on the matter please let me know.

Amsterdam

Bar Lempicka – Sarphatistraat 23

Episode – Nieuwe Spiegelastraat 61

Marqt – Utrechtsestraat 17

Toon – Utrechtsestraat 18

Tropenmuseum – Linnaeusstraat 2

Van Roselen – Nieuwe Spiegelastraat 72

Delft

DOK Delft Public Library – Vesteplein 100

Terre des Hommes – Nieuwe Langendijk 33

Scheveningen

Kurhaus – Gevers Deynootplein 30

Simonis – Visafslagweg 20 (you can also find Simonis in the centre of The Hague at Gedempte Gracht 405H)

The Hague

Acendi – Papestraat 3

Filmhuis Den Haag – Spui 191

Rootz – Grote Marktstraat 14

The 5 best cafés where you can study in Manchester

January. Post-Christmas food coma, bad weather and good resolutions. And exams.For all my fellow UoM students, January is not the most fun month of the year. Essays are due, revision notes are piling up, and the dissertation deadline is just ‘round the corner. So those who are already sick of spending their day in the Learning Commons (great building, sure, why does it always have to be so crowded…), this post is for you. Studying in a café isn’t for everyone, you’d have to have good headphones or be immune to noise. Noise actually helps me concentrate, because it forces me to make that extra effort that stops me from being distracted. What’s better than going to a café for a couple of hours? You can get food, nice coffee, and a different environment. And they say change is as good as a break. Anyway, here is my top 5 of Manchester’s best cafés for studying, or for an actual break if you have time for that.

The Anchor Coffee Shop

The fact that this small coffee house is just 2 minutes away from my home and 10 minutes away from the main campus is not the only reason it has topped my list. A former pub rescued by a local church-run charity, The Anchor is the most welcoming place in Manchester. The back room has long communal tables, which means there is plenty of space for you to sit or have a meeting if you have a group-project due (bear in mind it is closed on Wednesday mornings because it hosts a community project on that day). The front room is warm and cosy, although a little bit noisier. The Anchor serves very high quality coffee, and I really recommend the Cuban: it is simply amazing. They also serve bagels and soup, which are good-value for money. Keep an eye on the bagel of the month as well, it is usually a sophisticated and seasonal.

Power sockets: +

508 Moss Lane East, Manchester M14 4PA – Monday to Friday 9am-5pm

Takk

Takk is a Scandinavian café on Tariff Street, close to Piccadilly Gardens and North Campus. The main room is pretty big yet surprisingly quiet, which makes it an ideal spot for a study session. Lightly and tastefully decorated, with bookshelves and artwork, you will feel at home there. The sandwiches are delicious, and they also have a range of warm cheap mains (about a fiver). The coffee is really good, and they sell cakes and pastries as well, to keep your brain going. The only downside is the very limited choice of tea, but the place is just so pleasant it makes up for it.

Power sockets: ++

6 Tariff Street, Manchester M1 2FF – Monday to Friday 8:30am-5pm Saturday 10am-6pm Sunday 11am-5pm

Grindsmith Great Northern

Grindsmith is a new independent café located in Salford, which has opened a small outlet in the Great Northern (access on Deansgate). A short walk from Oxford Road Station, it is ideal if you live around that area, or if you like to go to the old John Ryland library. The place itself is very luminous and most importantly very quite (there is music but it is light). There is a very good choice of coffee and tea at a reasonable price, as well as toasties, soups, and cakes to choose from, and again, it is far from being overpriced especially for the area. It closes at 7pm, which is a bit later than the others, and there are plenty of power sockets.

Power sockets: +++

Great Northern Warehouse (access from Deansgate, across Sainsbury’s) – Monday to Saturday 7:30am-7pm Sunday 9am-5pm

North Tea Power

For those who like to multi-task, North Tea Power is ideal. Located in the Northern Quarter just two-steps away from Piccadilly Gardens and Market Street, you can go there for a study session in the middle of the day or after a quick shopping break. A little noisier than the others, NTP might be more suitable for a group discussion, but if, like me, you don’t mind the noise, it is a very good place to go. Although the choice of food is limited and sells out quickly (go early for lunch), the sandwiches are very high quality, and they offer a small range of creative salads. On the drink-side however, they have plenty to choose from, and the loose-leaf teas are good. There also are breakfast options available for those of you who like to start early.

Power sockets: ++

36 Tib Street, Manchester M4 1LA – Monday to Friday 8am-7pm Saturday 10am-7pm Sunday 11am-6pm

Oak St. Café Bar

This peaceful café located in the Craft and Design Centre is the best if you want to have a lunch break in the middle of revising. It has an extensive toastie menu as well as a daily menu with soups, frittatas, and yummy snacks as well as cakes. Everything is homemade, and delicious of course! It is very small, but never crowded on weekdays. They also have a big choice of teas, coffees, and homemade cold drinks. The only thing is that the wifi is only free for an hour, which could be a good thing if you’re trying to study without the temptation of online procrastination…

Power sockets: +

Craft and Design Centre 17 Oak Street, Manchester M4 5JD – Monday to Saturday 10am-5:30pm Sunday 11am-5pm

I hope this article gave a good overview of where you can go for a coffee/study session around uni and in town, and I am looking to make another article like this with places in the Fallowfield/Withington area because I know most of you guys live around there. Also, let me know if you know a good place, I’d be more than happy to feature it.

Good luck with your exams!