Dinner at the Manor review: Fat Ladies, friends and full bellies

You know when you’ve wanted something for a really long time and you keep getting really close to it and then falling short at the last moment? Until just a few short weeks ago that was me and Dinner at the Manor. Dinner at the Manor is a Leeds based supper club with an excellent reputation, so excellent that tickets for the monthly events sell out pretty much centuries in advance as soon as they are announced. Right now – much to my dismay –  it’s sold out until March 2013, which is why I felt super lucky when I finally bagged some tickets for one of their events a few weeks ago.

Dinner at the Manor events are usually themed around a famous chefs’ cookbook and this month it was Two Fat Ladies that were headlining. With cold nights closing in the indulgent and comforting menu was a delight to behold (on paper and on the night).

Dinner at the Manor cooks Sticky Pinny and Martini Man reveal in their post on the evening that the recipes they used were inspired by the Two Fat Ladies rather than taken from their book, which was apparently a bit hit and miss in terms of accuracy, the evening they served up was anything but hit and miss though, here’s the menu..

My partner in crime for the evening (that’s a joke for you, Edwards) was my lovely colleague Becs, a rare find who is as food obsessed as I, Becs can justify the eating of cake merely by telling you what day of the week it is.

“It’s Tuesday Fay, you can definitely have a cupcake with your lunch.”

On a dark, cold, Saturday evening with a hint of magic lingering in the air, Becs and I arrived a little late at the Manor. We were relieved and utterly grateful to find the other guests had left us a quota of the canapes and a generous serving of the warming sloe gin fizz. I’d love to tell you more about the venue, but unfortunately it’s a secret. All I can reveal is – it’s beautiful and filled both Becs and I with thoughts of selling family members into slavery in order to buy something just like it. We’d steal silver to be Ladies of our own manor.

Moving onto the food, which is what we did as soon as we arrived, we wasted no time in tucking into quail scotch eggs, crab cakes and poor man’s caviar, which we swilled down with the warming lightly spiced gin fizz.

During the excitement of the evening (read, as a result of greed and mass wine drinking) I forgot to take photographs of all that I consumed. Special thanks therefore go to Dinner at the Manor and in particular their photographer Nick Barker who have filled in the photographic gaps.

These are the canapes that welcomed us:

Scotch eggs made with quail

Scotch eggs (photo courtesy of Dinner at the Manor)

The Scotch eggs were salty, meaty and crunchy.

Sweet crab, coriander and corn fishcakes (photo courtesy of Dinner at the Manor)

Sweet crab, coriander and corn fishcakes at Dinner at the Manor

I scooped generous heaps of chilli jam on top of my crabcakes. Condiment heaven.

Crostini topped with poor man's caviar

Crostini topped with poor man's caviar (photo courtesy of Dinner at the Manor)

And, though all of the canapes tasted fantastic I especially loved the caviar, a aubergine pate/baba ganouch, which I intend to make myself soon.

After the canapes we were escorted to the beautifully dressed dining room and given an amouse bouche of an onion and ale veloute in a super cute cup (yes, cute=small because I am small). I was sure I had photographed this course but alas, my camera tells a different story. We chose our own seat at the table and at this point there was a little trepidation about how the night would turn out. Viewing thousands of episodes of Come Dine With Me had filled Becs and I with the notion that we could end up sharing our meal time with socially inarticulate snobs, or worse still, but we needn’t have worried. Everyone was open, chatty, friendly and made us feel no shame at all about our value bring your own wine choices.

Salted Whitby cod fishcake with black olive and red pepper tapenade at Dinner at the Manor

Salted Whitby cod fishcake with black olive and red pepper tapenade (photo courtesy of Dinner at the Manor)

Service from course to course was speedy, which was quite a feat considering their were two full tables of diners and only two chefs. Within moments of our veloute vanishing down our throats, with the slightly bitter ale and sweet onions tickling our tastebuds on the way down, we were looking at our starters. I would never have considered putting a tapenade with the slightly sweet fishcakes, but the result was fabulous and I had to resist licking the tapenade remnants from the plate (Dinner at the Manor make excellent condiments).

The main event was slow cooked pork, which had been bought locally. It was surprisingly light and served with a gorgeous jus and perfectly sliced boulangere potatoes. I like to tell people that my food – boulagere potatoes included – is rustic, in reality I’m just not as good at making things this straight and pretty.   A bowl of exquisite salsa verde was put on the table to share. It cut perfectly through the sweet apple and caraway. I ate two thirds of the bowl of salsa verde by heaping spoons in quick succession when my fellow diners were engrossed in conversation. I hoped no one noticed.

Pork with carawayapple, orange, figs and red wine, served with boulangere potatoes and braised greens (photo courtesy of Dinner at the Manor)

Next up was a surprise course and what a perfect surprise it was.  Before moving on to dessert we were presented with palette cleansing sour cherry sorbet. I cannot understate how much I love cherry flavoured things and stirred by my very deep love of all things cherrylicious, I actually remembered to take out my camera and photograph the goods. I’m slightly pained that I may never encounter this sorbet again (Suzy can I have the recipe please?!)

Sour cherry sorbet

Sour cherry sorbet

Quite unusually, dessert was the course I was looking forward to most on the evening and when it arrived I loved and cherished every mouthful. The sponge was very light for a pudding but the spices inside combined with the sticky ginger wine sauce meant there was a huge depth of flavour in every single bite. It gave you a hug from the inside.

Gingerbread pudding with sticky ginger wine sauce

Gingerbread pudding with sticky ginger wine sauce (photo courtesy of Dinner at the Manor)

With such a free-flowing succession of food and conversation, coffee time seemed to arrive quickly to us diners, but was probably an eternity in coming to our chefs, who joined us to chat while we munched on these beautiful little lemon meringue cupcakes. If you are wondering how I managed to hoof down all of this food, I’ll let you into a little secret – it’s amazing how much two bottles of Pinot Grigot will aid you in such an endeavour.

Lemon meringue cupcakes

Lemon meringue cupcakes (photo courtesy of Dinner at the Manor)

And so concludes my first trip to Dinner at the Manor. I almost wanted to keep it a secret and hummed and aaahed about blogging about it, it’s hard enough to get a ticket as it is! I hope you appreciate me sharing.

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