On The Plate: Rudy’s Neapolitan Pizza

Where:The beginning of Ancoats
Price: How can food this good cost so little?
Tastiness Factor: This is what Pizza Heaven tastes like
Return Custom: I try my very best

This review is long overdue. It is probably over a year ago now that I was searching for the best pizzas places in Manchester and I was not disappointed. There were two key results that kept making an appearance. One in Altrincham and another somewhat more accessible to the car-less. Rudy’s. I have since been a handful of times; my desire to go more frequently is dampened by the fact the you can’t book so if you want to go at a peak time, by which I mean any meal time, not just at the weekend, you will be waiting about 40 minutes for a table. Even for two people. Now if you plan well, you can go for an early dinner or put your name down at the door and have a couple of beers at the nearby bars. Or if it is sunny, buy your beverages from the shop and sit in the square. Is it worth it? Oh my God, yes!

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The key to Rudy’s is simplicity. Minimal decor, just enough so that you don’t feel totally like you are in an empty garage. A menu of a few key items: no starters, just pizza, drinks and a couple of extras like olives. Price-wise, the drinks are what you would expect, but for one of the best meals you can have in Manchester the pizza is a steal. Albeit, pizza being of a few basic and cheap ingredients, this comes in under the regular takeaway cost with about 125% more flavour and undeniable authenticity. This pizza is traditional, made with the very best of the ingredients. No stuffed crust or chips and gravy topping. The margherita (only £5.90 for a good meal-sized pizza) is my favourite. It’s pretty magical what they can do with cheese, tomato and flour.  I recommend sharing a side salad with someone for a bit of green and to have the bitter pepperiness of the rocket to contrast with sweet tomato sauce.

There is something very special about this food, there is love and pride in that dough and I can’t help but feel lucky to live near it. A lot of Manchester’s dining stars are places that fry or load or fuse things together. Hundreds of flavours in a single calorific dish is the going game. To find something so good and different is refreshing. Their food and the experience is wholesome. It’s the Church of Pizza where fresh ingredients are at the altar of worship.

If you are a celiac then this won’t be for you, but there are veggie/vegan concessions. The food is pretty kid-friendly, there is no separate menu but you can share pizza with them. Other than all of this, I’m not sure what else to say so I not going to over-elaborate on things because that isn’t their style. Only: Go to Rudy’s! Go in your jeans on a Sunday with your family. Go with your date on an evening. Share with your friends the best version of the food that everyone loves. And leave with a full tum and undamaged wallet.

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On The Plate: Cabana

Where:The Corn Exchange
Price: Expensive for what it is, but won’t actually cost too much
Tastiness Factor: ★★★
Return Custom: Nah, I’m good thanks

Shopping for specific clothing items can be exhausting. Particularly when one has monetary, shapely and time constrictions. Sitting down to have a bite is a point of relief from this. A moment to chill, where you buy what takes your fancy and don’t have to worry whether or not it suits you, only maybe if it makes you look fat. Cabana is alright. Not as chill as I was looking for, the music was a bit loud for a quiet Wednesday afternoon and with this came a pressure that I should be having ‘fun’. I was having a nice time but it was Wednesday, not Friday, I’m here to eat rather than let loose.

I’m going to start with the drinks. With a ‘girly’ shopping trip comes a desire for cocktails. I blame Sex and the City and possibly some kind of feminist power derived from drinking a sweet but highly alcoholic drink from a small straw known as a ‘cocktail’. It was unimpressive size-wise, but very nice. Not really worth the 2 for 1 offer and certainly not a worthwhile purchase full price. I followed this with a pint of Brahma, it was nice and more reasonable. Plus I was able to then establish myself as the alpha/butch one at the dinner table between myself and lady friend.

There isn’t too much that I can say about the food. Partly because I ordered fairly simple things and also because there just wasn’t that much. I went for a ‘street food’ dish option of fried calamari. Quite nice, not the best I have ever had but perfectly enjoyable. It was light and crisp, with a sharp bit of lime. It came with a garnish of sad greasy leaves that I ate out of spite due to the disturbingly small portions. Speaking of which, I paired this dish with a side of sweet potato fries, quite nice, but there was a happy meal-sized portion of them. I paid £4 for these. I would have been more satisfied by folding a fiver into a crane, setting it on fire and watching it drift off in a murky pond. But no, I had about 3 fries instead. Potatoes don’t even cost anything! The coleslaw was of a better size and perhaps the most interesting of the offering, it had a slightly mustard hint. But there wasn’t anything to really eat it with, there not being many fries or leaves, so it was kind of rich on its own. The guac was lovely, good and fresh, and warm having been made recently with ripened avocado.

This is a hard one to really go at and drag the receipts on because it only cost about £23, considering I had two drinks that isn’t loads. But I was unsatisfied with the portions, which in turn attributes value to the food. I really am bitter about those sweet potato fries. And honestly it is pretty stingy for a chain to cut back in such a way. My friend had a ‘meal-sized’ dish and that was pretty scrawny-looking. The food was nice, the staff were friendly, but I wouldn’t go back. It was nothing special. There are better places. And I deserve them.

 

Places and Times

A few days before my 19th birthday I moved from a village of a few thousand to a city of several million. Once goodbyes were said I was alone in a dingy attic room on the eighth floor of never-ending corridors. I could try not to be dramatic and describe the situation in any other way than like the opening of a young adult novel of a heroine plunged into scary and unknown circumstances–but that’s what it was. (Spoiler alert, the girl overcomes obstacles, learns about herself, gets the guy and is currently living in the happily ever after.) I have never been one to crave company, not in such an acute sense of the word. Introverted by nature, aloneness equated to ‘me time’, doing what I want and not worrying about other people. But then there wasn’t an option, being alone was no longer a respite in a house full of family or a school of old friends, it was the default. I could hear a thousand voices a day but not a single one familiar.

This is softened by a little by routine, the same faces in your class once a week, the girl who cooks dinner at a similar time to you, the guy working the evening shift at the Spar but these aren’t relationships. I can not name a single person I lived with for nine months three years ago. I could make a lucky guess as they were white, female and born in the 90s. Sarah? That sounds right.

One place it is hard to feel lonely is at the cinema. Some people wouldn’t dream of doing this alone, I know that there is a certain anxiety around this but once you get over the suspicions that people will judge you for being alone it is pretty great. You can go see whatever you fancy without needing to convince someone or worrying about them being late or needing to get there at a specific time yourself. Plus once you are there, it is dark and there’s no talking so you don’t need anyone. Doing things like this are important, not just if you are lonely but also so that you become comfortable with yourself. It’s an aspect of confidence to be happy making your own plans and taking yourself out for dinner. You can find out what you really like without outside opinion.

Not one to go too far out of my comfort zone I chose the Odeon at the Printworks to do this. Making it a safe place in a strange city. Somewhere that being alone didn’t matter so much, where I could lose myself for a little while in the emotions and stories on screen. I’m lucky, I don’t need that now like I used to. With the recent hand over to the Vue, its change reminded me of my own.

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Sitting alone in the dark is a good growing point but also not a long term solution. I’ve found, one way to make friends is to find people who like the same things as you. After trying a few friendship interest groups/societies I found that big crowds of strangers isn’t my thing–way too overwhelming and not good for the social anxiety.  So films were a good talking point, particularly for a student of the arts. ‘That’s a really cool thing, it reminded me of this film.’ ‘Oh, I have seen that, it was good.’ ‘They are making a new film, it is out now.’ ‘I want to see that, let’s go.’ And there you have it: pockets of interaction. Now I can’t recommend this entirely, I saw a few films with acquaintances before making a proper friend. Including an instance where a guy brought another friend along almost to diminish the possible date-like situation that hadn’t originally occurred to me. But going to see films with people tells you things about them. What they find funny? Do they have good taste? What are their manners like (did they talk through the film)? Do they breathe heavily in an annoying way? These are all good things to know about people. Particularly if you are looking for a person to spend a lot of time with, perhaps in a romantic arrangement of sorts.

First dates, from my limited experience are strange, you can accidentally be committed to spending too much time with someone you don’t like or the opposite: not have any plans and end up sitting in the same bar for 5 hours. I met my tall friend outside of what was the Odeon. Cinema dates are generally considered a no-no, but preceded by coffee and followed by drinks you have a good layer of getting to know someone.

  • Coffee – Do I want to stay on this date, am I attracted to this person?
  • Film – See something you had planned, share an interest- sexual tension?
  • Drinks – Established post-film, agreed upon if both parties are interested, and you have films to talk about during any potential lulls.

The drinks aspect of this is a little flawed as trusting things go well you may end up being kicked out of bars because they are closing. Oh to be young.

I trust that some of this sounds a little calculated, but here is the outcome: The other week I visited the Odeon with my best-friend, housemate and long-term boyfriend (all one person). We saw Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and it was great. It would be the last time I would go to that cinema as the Odeon. As we were leaving I couldn’t help but think about the me who first went to that cinema, the me that was coping as best she could, and the me that I am now. It would have been the greatest of comforts to have known how far I have come from then. To know that I wouldn’t fail, that I could find happiness and people that like me.  I have changed and so has the world around me.

 

 

On The Plate: Yo! Sushi

This week’s serving of culinary critique is a familiar constant in my own dining experiences around Manchester. This being the place I had lunch with my mother when scouting the university I would one day learn at, where I would eat independently in a restaurant for the first time and now is a place that delights and comforts me (somewhat like re-watching A New Hope).

Where: The Arndale, opposite Next along from the Disney store
Price: If you are smart about it not too much, if you order whatever you fancy you may need to take out a loan
Tastiness Factor: 25-100
Return Custom: Where else would I eat on a Monday?

Picture this: You are flush with the payday IV, fresh cash oozing in your bank account healing the economic wounds of the previous week, you earned this. You deserve to TREAT YO SELF. Three deadly words. A quick blade to the throat of whimpering student loans. But who can treat you better than yourself? You exactly what you want so give it to yourself. Now the Arndale is a busy and bustling place but if you are after a treat this is where you will find one.

After finding that special something for your special someone (you). You’ll be tired and hungry. As an individual I have never had to wait for a seat at Yo! Sushi. They can usually squeeze you in at the bar and when it’s busy you get the satisfying feeling of being sat before the party of four in front of you. There seems to be a lot of pressure around eating alone but Yo! Sushi is busy with moving plates and the dual sided bar seating so you won’t feel awkward to be alone. Plus you may get sat opposite a mirrored pillar so you can spend your meal checking yourself out. So not only will you be sat quickly but with the conveyor belt of delight, bringing tempting dishes right to you, you can start eating as soon as your butt hits the seat.

I feel now is a good point to issue a quick public service announcement: Monday is the day to go to Yo! Sushi, unless you are made of money or like spending a black market kidney’s worth on a 30 minute meal. I popped in on Sunday the other day for a light-lunch with my tall friend who had eaten earlier. I had a few green plates, playing it conservatively, I just needed a tasty bite to eat. A total of coming to around £7. My tall friend, spent about £15, having a couple of snacks. But, when it is Monday it’s no sweat, as a wide selection of dishes are £2.80, including the pricer sashimi plates. So you can fill any sized tum at a reasonable price.

Now what’s what? For those less familiar with Yo!’s offerings or wanting a recommendation here are some of my favourite dishes that are currently available on blue Mondays:

The Dynamite Roll: Crunchy dried onions, sriracha spice and meaty tuna. A relative newbie to the scene but bringing its all. No additional sauces required and this maxes out on flavour and texture.

Now sushi, in general is about delicate flavours. Salmon sashimi and avocado maki (also recommendations) won’t take you to Guy’s fatty- salty- sugary flavour town but will highlight their own flavours. When the ingredients are this fresh and high quality you don’t need additional salty soy or fiery wasabi. While the two accompaniments are nice to offer some variety, sushi rice itself is already seasoned and each thing has its own palate to enjoy.

Tofu Katsu Curry: Tofu is a divisive thing, many curl their nose up without even trying it first. As someone who doesn’t each much meat other than fishes and birds I dabble in the world of protein alternatives (meat subsites). Tofu is an elusive temptress, done right and it is a silky delicious accompaniment but it’s also very easy to do wrong where you end up chewing on a soggy bit of sponge. This tofu is right, very right. Soft on the inside, crispy on the outside topped with a fancy chip shop curry sauce on a bed of soft sticky sushi rice. Mmmm.

Yo! Sushi is tasty and convenient, played right it can also be reasonably priced. Whether you are a raw fish fan or not, you can sit down to plate after rotating plate of tasty goodness with unlimited fizzy water!