Wednesday 27 November 2013

Tea 42, Manchester

As many of you will know, I am always on the search for anything which will make my gluten-free life more normal. With our eldest also having recently joined the ranks of the increasing band of gluten intolerants, my weekend trip to Manchester to visit her, gave us both the opportunity to try out a brand new establishment in the city centre.

She had got wind of the opening of this cafe/bar, where their USP was to cater well for gluten intolerants, whilst mainstream options were also available. So it was no surprise to discover that the Managing Director, Will Hannah of Tea 42 is also a gluten intolerant. As I have always maintained, it often takes someone who 'walks in the same moccasins' to have the understanding and foresight to take the bull by the horns.
Bravo to him!

There was so much to choose on the menu, all clearly marked up for GF and, where appropriate, V. We had arrived for a late lunch, and having already eyed up the fantastic selection of cakes (all GF) in the display, we sat back in the crisp, stylish surroundings of this up-market cafe, to choose something hot from the menu. Before long, we realised we were being watched - not by the friendly waitresses but by the pictures on the wall, which were changing and moving, Harry Potter style! Following this little diversion we went back to the matter in hand and each chose just a starter/light bite. Daughter chose Oven baked Camembert with red onion marmalade and artisan toast and I chose Garlic mushrooms in white wine with double cream, again with the artisan toast.

Also sharing the same passion for tea, the two of us were in heaven to find that, as the name suggested, Tea 42 specialised in serving up a huge choice of teas. Whilst we were waiting, we both ordered a pot of Royal Tea, (not a teabag in sight) complete with a mini bottle of milk of our choice, which included cows milk; lactofree; soya or almond. This choice recognising the fact that food intolerance can be wider than just one food group.

As we waited for our order to arrive, we were able to take in the surroundings, appreciating the clever concept of being able to transform through the day from a morning coffee and afternoon tea space; to dinner and bar environment, which will be serving a wide selection of gluten free beers.

Our order arrived (excuse me for photographing my food but it is appropriate here!) looking and smelling divine! Neither of us were disappointed with our choice, and greatly enjoyed the amazing dark rich bread, made with molasses and treacle. What a refreshing change from the otherwise noble attempts at GF 'bread'.

After this delight, we were both so contented, we hadn't got enough room left to do justice to the cakes we had eyed up earlier - that would have to be for another time. And another time there will be, now that we have discovered a place to safely and comfortably eat.

Promoted as having a gluten free menu, it possibly still isn't perfect for coeliacs, although I gather they do have separate preparation areas in the kitchen. Coeliacs would need to check on an individual basis of course. However, what isn't promoted here is that gluten free choices are actually suitable for anyone and my fear is that much more education is still needed to make the 'anyones' aware that gluten free food, isn't freaky food to avoid.

So, our verdict on Tea 42 situated at 58 High Street, Manchester -

Whoop-whoop! finally somewhere that has sat up and taken note that there is an ever-increasing number of people having to follow a gluten free diet.
(*Rant alert* - I will keep begging the question, why?
What are the food producers and medical professions doing to address it? -*rant over*)

The food we had was excellent and beautifully presented.

The surroundings were fresh and stylish and I would look forward to enjoying trying a bar-style evening.

Value - whilst not targeting the value end of the market, it is sensibly pitched to reflect the carefully chosen menu and, as gluten intolerants, we are accustomed to paying a little more to ensure we have suitable good quality food.

I say, Tea 42 - certainly one to consider when in Manchester and I look forward to this group expanding out across the country. It can't come soon enough!

Sunday 24 November 2013

Seems Like Cheating...

This weekend, I have made the journey north to visit our eldest offspring in Manchester. Sharing the same passion for wildlife photography, we took ourselves off to Lyme Park near Cheadle on Saturday afternoon, in the hope of spotting a few parkland deer. For those of you who have followed my blog for a while, you will know that this is a slight departure from my usual method of deer observing.

The sunshine of the morning had given way to the chill of a wintry afternoon, with ice skimming the edge of the lake and the dog water bowls outside the tea bar. We decided to pass on the offer to view the famous shirt worn by Colin Firth in Pride and Prejudice, which had been filmed at Lyme Park a number of years ago. Instead, we chose to make our way along the tracks out into the park towards the deer reserve. At first we couldn't see any of the resident red deer but very quickly we spotted one, two, four, a dozen... I had seen similar numbers with my 'own' fallow deer herd but the difference being, these deer were comfortable in the presence of humans, unlike the fallows.

The light levels were getting quite low and although the deer were naturalised, they still kept a careful distance between themselves and the path, so photography was going to be a case of wait and see. However, there were a number of stags with full-blown sets of antlers who decided to grace us by strolling by, two of them stopping for a few moments to have a set-to with much clashing of antlers. It was lovely to see and we both stood and watched, grabbing a few shots here and there, when eventually the deer emerged from the grassy cover. By now, we were getting rather chilled though, and as we made our way back past the old hunting lodge known as The Cage, the draw of the National Trust tea shop became rather strong. The inevitable cuppa had to be the way of rounding off a brief but very enjoyable visit to this country park.

However, magnificent as these naturalised parkland deer are, I still can't help but think, that there is something just a bit more rewarding for me in those few valuable shots of the really wild deer I have caught in the post dawn hours on my local patch. I do feel that I was rather 'cheating near Cheadle!'

Thursday 21 November 2013

Lighting up the Way

It was already a cold old evening when I left home at around 5.30 to go to a meeting in Cambridge on Tuesday. A huge disc of a yellow moon was rising in the clear sky, lighting up the way.

As I had my camera gear with me anyway, and without setting anything up, I grabbed a hurried but timed shot of this striking moon from the side of the road, whilst the evening homebound traffic streaked by. My haste created nothing but a frustrating burnout.

As I drove on towards my destination, gritting lorries passed me. It really was going to be cold, typically just as I was embarking on an outdoor shoot.

The 'Big Switch On' in Cambridge had been on Sunday but as the lights wouldn't be going anywhere for a while, I wasn't too worried - I could catch them any time. And so I did as I ambled through the market square and past the quaint Rose Crescent, the newly illuminated Christmas displays lighting up the way.

My purpose for the visit was to search out a new feature on Christ's Pieces. I wasn't quite sure where it was located but took a moment to capture some of the lights over the path way. With the leaves still hanging on, (a couple of frosts will see them off for sure and thus change the ambiance) the trees were bathed with a warm light from the street lamps, contrasted with the clear blue punctuation of the garlands of seasonal lights. During the long exposure, the flashing bicycle light added another string of dynamic punctuation to mirror those above, all together lighting up the way.

Finally, I found what I was looking for.
At the far end of Christ's Pieces is a world first - and on Tuesday night, it was being rather shy. Overcome by it's sodium cousins, it struggled to shine. For this was a glow in the dark path. I had had to look hard to find it. It didn't jump out at me as I thought it may have done, it was purely the reflective glint of some of the surface particles that gave the game away.

I struggled to find a place or a way to capture the unique surface, which has been on trial for the last month in this public space. On the face of it, a surface that can absorb energy during the day, to give out as light at night, sounds perfect but it was proving less than perfect on the evening I visited. Was I disappointed? Yes. I had hoped to be drawn along a totally way-out glowing path, something to make the brain buzz. Instead I found just a few remaining excited blue particles, desperately trying to light up the way.

Tuesday 5 November 2013

Remember, remember...

As a kind of follow-on from the fireworks display on Saturday, today I was fortunate to go with a group of colleagues to visit the Houses of Parliament, accompanied by our local MP.
Im afraid I can't show you many pictures as photography isn't allowed inside the building. However, I did manage a few in the impressive hammer-beamed Westminster Hall, the only building to survive from the old Palace of Westminster. The picture above shows the stairs from Westminster Hall which lead into the Palace of Westminster as it is today.
However, what I can admit is that this time around I found the visit very interesting. (Last time I had visited as a mildly disinterested 9 year old!)

Grateful thanks to Rt. Hon. Sir Alan Haselhurst for a knowledgeable and comprehensive tour.

So, mindful of the date, we were all happy to have safely concluded our visit to the Houses of Parliament.

Sunday 3 November 2013

Going Out With a Bang

Each year, the Saffron Walden Round Table put on a spectacular firework display on The Common, with charity buckets rather than an admission charge. This arrangement has worked well for a good number of years now, the main variant being the weather on the night. We have had everything from bare-tree hard frost nights, to still, mild and full-leaf nights. This year was a year to blow away any leaf still hanging on, as well as setting the fireworks off on a drift.

That is exactly what it did, as well as blowing the tripod around during the long exposures.

Some of the displays could almost have been tropical palms being blown around in a hurricane, except for the hundreds of wrapped-up townsfolk standing watching in amazement. At least the wind cleared the smoke this year making it possible to take pictures, unlike last year when the still conditions created an almost fog-out. Despite the vagaries of the weather, everyone enjoyed the display until the end.

PS. To the pyrotechnician - Rather than the realtively unspectacular 'fountain' finale, in future, can it perhaps go out with a bang, such as the one above, please? I think the whole crowd were waiting...

Mind you, there was a spectacular bang as the bonfire took hold ...big time! The firemen, who had been on 'display' duty were brought into action to damp down the surrounding trees and ground as the wind whipped the flames into dragon-like tongues...

 ...watched by the crowd.
Thankfully all was kept under control.

Meanwhile, the fun of the fair continued...

...until finally winding down for the evening.

Once again a splendid display and grateful thanks to all those involved.