Hear ye! Hear ye! Clangs big bell. To all the gin lovers and the friends and families of gin lovers, you really need to read this. We have discovered the perfect gin gift for this Christmas. Or any other time of the year come to that.

The Experience

The Manchester Three Rivers Gin Experience has just been voted No.1 ‘Top-Rated Tourist Attraction in the UK after Premier Inn used TripAdvisor data to find the nation’s favourite places to visit. Not bad, when you consider the breath of attractions, we have available on this small island.

We recently visited the City of Manchester Distillery, on the edge of the Green Quarter to indulge ourselves in their 3-hour experience. This would culminate in us leaving with a bottle of gin, distilled by our own fair hands. Now, I have blended my own whisky before but I have never distilled anything, so myself and the pal I had taken with me, were quite giddy with excitement.

Because of the demand from people wanting to attend this popular event, the team have had to expand into a second railway arch on Redbank to be able to accommodate everyone. In the original base they have a capacity for twelve gin lovers, but the additional arch means they can now host up to thirty people.

We were first to arrive and were met by Manchester Three River’s, Louise Rivers-Hull, PR & Brand Director and one of the original co-founders of the marque. She showed us to the bar, where we were furnished with our first perfect serve Gin & Tonic of the evening and introduced to our expert gin host for the evening, Joe. Why do my G&T’s at home never taste this good?

Angel The Gin Still


Aviator Gin Cocktails

The History of Gin

Once our fellow distilling students had arrived and been similarly furnished with a drink, we were all asked to take a seat and watch a specially commissioned video presentation. The film detailed the history of the spirit and how it is interwoven with Manchester’s industrial heritage. I’m very proud of this noble city as it is and the passion contained within the video actually brought a proud tear to my eye.

When the lights came up, I noticed many others dabbing their eyes too. We then followed Joe downstairs to gaze in awe at the shiny, copper gin still, affectionately known as Angel. This is in honour of the area’s old name, Angel Meadows. We sipped on a violet infused Aviator cocktail, whilst admiring Angel’s smooth curves. Costing more than a small house, this piece of kit was imported from Germany and now master distiller, Dave Rigby, makes between 200 and 500 bottles of gin a day. All of which are labelled by hand. This is handmade, small batch gin making at its best.

The original vision for the brand, Joe explained, was that Manchester Three Rivers would work on three levels. It had to make a cracking gin and tonic, banging cocktails and to be a good sipping gin. Big brands like Gordons and Beefeater had only managed the first two but now small batch distillers have started to produce spirits that work just as well on their own, as they do in a cocktail or when paired with a mixer. In order to prove how good Three Rivers is, Joe passed round naked measures of the gin for us to taste. To me it was as good as a 12-year-old malt, which would be my normal straight-up tipple.

The Distilling Kit


Botanicals For Flavour

Distilling Our Own Gin

Then it was time for the main event. We were taken a couple of doors down the arches to the new distilling room, to make our very own gin. The large room holds around thirty mini stills and on two walls there are around fifty jars of botanicals. We each bagged a still and whilst we awaited further instructions, we were served another gin and tonic. Oh, if you insist.

As well as the stills and botanicals, we all had a brilliant bit of software which divides the elements you use in to flavour brackets, e.g. floral, citrus, spice etc and then how much to use of each. It really is a minute amount that you need for one bottle, so this programme is great for preventing merry distilling students making undrinkable gin. As you go along the computer builds your recipe and then stores it, so that you can order it again in future.

I wanted to make a Christmas gin, so that idea formed the basis of my recipe. A touch of allspice, a pinch of orange, a speck of almond, a shake of nutmeg and a sprinkle of oats. Before you think I’ve gone barmy; the addition of oats makes your gin a much smoother drink. Who knew?

Once distilled and decanted in to our bottles, we wrote the recipe on our labels, applied them and then Joe tested the ABV, as in what percentage proof it was. Most mainstream gins are around the 40°,Mine was 46°Wow! Obviously, I will drink it responsibly.

Our Mini Gin Stills


Someone’s Chuffed With Her Gin

Our Own Recipe Gin

Clutching our bottles, we bobbed back to the original arch, where we were thanked for coming with a champagne and gin cocktail. After which we wobbled off into the night and made our respective way homes. I think my Uber driver loved hearing my enthusiastic retelling of my evening, as he asked me for the website address and said he would buy an experience for his wife for Christmas. Either that or he was desperate to get this gin-soaked woman out of his cab.

Would we go again. You betcha!I have to say we had an absolutely belting night. Very slick, very professional but with a genuine warmth. The cost at £95 per head may on the face of it sound a bit dear but, you get three hours of fun and education, you learn a new skill and drink quite a lot of gin whilst you are doing it. Let’s not forget, you also get your very own 70cl bottle, made to you own unique recipe, to take home with you. If you think about it a bottle of Manchester Three Rivers usually retails around the £35/40 mark, so with everything else that you get as well, it is excellent value. I can guarantee if you bought someone this as a gift, they would think you were the most wonderful human on the planet.

We were guests of Manchester Three Rivers but as always, the review and opinions are our own and unbiased.




Photos: © Taste Today. Do not reproduce without permission

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Manchester’s finest brasserie, (in our opinion), Randall and Aubin, have added some seasonal flourishes to their already gorgeous menu, so we bobbed along to check them out. We love this addition to the local dining scene, it’s a little bit of Soho on Bridge Street and every time we go it is excellent, from the food to the service to the playlist. So what new treats were in store?

Randall & Aubin are known for their seafood and in terms of freshness and innovation, it is the best around but their menu isn’t just gleaned from the sea. They also gather the best dishes the land has to offer too. Prime steaks, rotisserie free-range chicken and roast Suffolk lamb steak to name but a few. Vegetarians and those trying to eat a more plant-based diet are also well catered for as we found out.

The man in charge of Manchester, James, bought me a delightful glass of fizz with the rather wonderful name of Astoria Fashion Victim.  An Italian rosé Prosecco-style wine with hints of strawberry and raspberry. This I loved. My companion chose a cocktail with a Manchester theme, The Bee’s Knees, made with local Three Rivers gin, honey and lemon. James also filled us in on what R&A had been up to since we were last in. He said that one thing they had noticed was that customers were bobbing in just for a drink on the way home from work but were then finding that their appetites were piqued and were ordering starters and sides to keep them going until dinner. So, the restaurant has added a new bar menu with small plates. Randall & Aubin are very good at taking notice of what their customers want.

We had free range to order what we liked and one thing that had caught my eye was a throwback to the 70’s. Devilled eggs. Visions of Fanny Craddock and poor beleaguered Johnny swam before my eyes. This simple but much-loved dish is enjoying a bit of a renaissance at the moment and thankfully R&A have moved it on from the garish morsel of the past to a more sophisticated hors d’oeuvre. The filling was herby with a nice hit of spicy heat and the eggs were garnished with crispy pancetta and delicate chervil. Alongside the eggs we had ordered a bowl of luscious, cheesy Bridge potatoes…pssst…that’s chips to us Northerner’s. Let’s face it, you can never go wrong with a chunky, cheesy chip. There are also Honey & Mustard Glazed Althams Sausages and Fish of the Day Goujons with R&A’s signature Tartare Sauce. Feeling decadent? There is always an excellent choice of oysters. Perfect with a glass of fizz.

For our mains we ordered two new dishes off the main menu. The daughter, who is trying to eat more of a plant-based diet, chose the Marseille Salad which came with grilled halloumi, avocado, cucumber, cherry tomatoes served on a homemade, sumac flat bread with a zingy garlic & oregano dressing. All in all, a lovely, light dish that will ensure you can manage three courses and not feel guilty.

Seafood is my culinary heaven so I had to order the new Tagliolini with crab and prawns. A finer version of spaghetti with the best Devon crab and prawn cream sauce. Can we just take a moment to let that sink in and admire the photograph?  Is there anything more beautiful than a plate of perfectly cooked pasta, coated in a glossy, rich seafood sauce, studded with plump, pink prawns and sprinkled with herbs? I think not. This will go down in my Top Ten Most Memorable Dishes. I think I need to book a table very soon.

As we had eaten light, we found we still had room for a dessert. Who am I kidding? 99.9% of the time we still have room for dessert. I love Randall & Aubin’s pudding menu because the non-chocolate sweets far outweigh the choccy ones. But then that gives me the difficulty of choosing just one from Tarte au Citron, Crème Brûlée, Sticky Date Pudding and Baked Vanilla Cheesecake. Decisions, decisions. In the end I went for the Tarte au Citron, a good balance of creamy and sharp with a rich, buttery pastry case. It was served with a beautiful palate cleansing blood orange sorbet and spiced, thin ribbons of mango. Glorious.

Of course, my table mate chose the Randall & Aubin Chocolate Cake with Milk Ice Cream. I have to say it did look very impressive and very rich. It reminded me of a Viennese Sachertorte, with its mirror glaze and moist looking interior.  Frankie was in cocoa heaven.

We love seafood and we love Randall & Aubin, we love the staff and we love their ethos. We shall return very soon.

We attended the course as guests of Randall & Aubin but as always, the review and opinions are our own and unbiased.








Photos: © Taste Today. Do not reproduce without permission

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Grafene, Manchester


Specially curated gins with Fever-Tree Tonics

British Fine Food

We have wanted to visit Grafene on Chapel Walks since it opened but just never seemed to have got around to it. Now we have and we are extremely pleased. This British Modern Fine Dining restaurant is superb and if it isn’t on your list of ‘must do’ Manchester restaurants then it should be.


Amuse-bouche of a squid ink black bagel, fresh salmon, a Hollandaise mousse, crispy samphire, scallop roe powder and crisped fish skin.

The restaurant is named in honour of the Nobel prize winning material, Graphene, that was developed at Manchester University. Apparently, it is the strongest material on earth and the implications for its use are far reaching. Grafene, the restaurant is another modern development made in Manchester. The interior is industrial yet intimate, in a palate of muted dark blue and mustard yellow, with glossy herringbone tiles and a mixture of tables and booths.


Grafene’s home baked treacle rye mini loaves with tomato powder dusted butter.

New Chef At The Pass

The owners, Paul and Kathryn Roden, recently brought in a new Head Chef to take charge of the kitchens. Ben Mousey, late of the three AA Rosette, The Lawns on the Wirral and the Michelin starred Restaurant Fraiche, has had a career that has taken him around the world.

In turn Ben has brought his Sous Chef, Alex Prescott over from The Lawns and after the meal we had it is obvious they make a formidable team.

Pork cheek with a curried carrot and golden raisin veloute and charred heritage carrots and pickled carrot shavings.

While we browsed the food offering we ordered one of Grafene’s specialty G&Ts. The specially curated list pairs craft gins with a matching Fever-Tree tonic and even better they are £6 to £7 each. Bargain! I had a Monkey 47, an award-winning German gin that contains 47 unique Black Forest botanicals teamed with Fever Tree Light tonic and it was just perfect. We dined off the main dinner menu, on the £45 for 3 courses, bread and surprises deal.


Lamb with nasturtium leaves, beets, spinach and a rich verjus.

The first surprise was an amuse-bouche of a squid ink black bagel, fresh salmon, a Hollandaise mousse, crispy samphire, scallop roe powder and crisped fish skin. The bagel was too tough to cut with a knife and fork, so we had to pick it up. A little messy but who cares when it tastes divine?

Next up was the bread board. Warm, crusty bread and butter would definitely be on my last supper list but now I would have to specify that it would have to be Grafene’s home baked treacle rye mini loaves with tomato powder dusted butter. Nothing else will do.


Top Flight Menu

On to the starters. For me, beautifully soft pork cheek with a curried carrot and golden raisin veloute and charred heritage carrots and pickled carrot shavings. The combination of the sweet and sour was exquisite and had me ooh’ing and ahh’ing throughout. My companion chose the lamb with nasturtium leaves, beets, spinach and a rich verjus. An earthy, well balanced dish with beautifully tender lamb.

Torched monkfish with baby turnips, baby Pak Choy, urchin butter and a linseed cracker.

If the starters were good the mains were on another level. Mine was torched monkfish with baby turnips, baby Pak Choy, an unctuous urchin butter and a linseed cracker. My dinner buddy chose corn fed chicken breast and wing with croquettes, charred baby gem lettuce and a cauliflower puree. Both dishes were just divine.

Corn fed chicken breast and wing with croquettes, charred baby gem lettuce and a cauliflower puree.

At this point another surprise arrived at the table; a pre-dessert dessert. I thought I was in heaven. Unlike double denim, double dessert is an excellent idea. Ours was a little bowl containing a quenelle of creamy, refreshing coconut sorbet, sat on a bed of smoked, dehydrated coconut crumb, that had a subtle yet glorious hint of fresh mint. On the side was a little jug of sweet, intense fruit punch sauce to pour over.

Rice pudding with rhubarb and liquorice.

Frankly, I would have been happy with just that for after’s but our puds were still to come. Today was a good day. Now there was a slight standoff when making our choices because we both wanted the rice pudding with rhubarb and liquorice but when we are reviewing we always try and choose different dishes to get a good overview of the menu. In the end I decided on the deconstructed Eccles cake with a Lancashire Bomb cheese ice cream. Wow! This actually made me laugh out loud. The combination of the sweet currents and a savoury ice cream was unlike anything I have had before and I loved it. Am I losing the plot? The Abel Heywood’s Manchester Tart had me close to tears recently and now this. I blame my age but I’m still having the rice pud next time though.

We’ll Be Back

Deconstructed Eccles cake with a Lancashire Bomb cheese ice cream.

The biggest surprise we had was the depth and complexity of the flavours we encountered throughout the meal. No one flavour fought or overpowered another, rather they all melded beautifully in to each other, creating a symphony for the palate. We recently dined at a new, very ‘lofty’ restaurant, that we enjoyed very much but to be honest it wasn’t a patch on Grafene.

As I said, this was the first time we have eaten at Grafene but from what I have heard Ben’s menu and style of cooking is an improvement on previous incumbents’. We don’t have anything to compare it with other than other restaurants and I have say this is some of the best fine dining Manchester has to offer and I think their only rivals, or running mates, depending on how you look at, are the team over at Wood

We were guests of Grafene but as always, the review and opinions are our own and unbiased.









Photos: © Taste Today. Do not reproduce without permission


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