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REVIEWS - Eken Magazine





Italian restaurants fit into one of two categories. The Tourist Italian, which offer all the usual Spaghetti Bolognese, Carbonara and garlic breads. The other is the genuine Italian, which highlights cuisine from a particular region of Italy, with fresh imported ingredients and genuine recipes and cooking. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love a bloody good Spaghetti Bolognese, but I do a pretty good one at home. And when I go out I like to try something different. Fortunately, Salvis offers the traditional. Previously running a specialist mozzarella deli, they have now opened their first Italian eatery. Stavis offer a genuine Sicilian experience or so they say. The girlfriend is half Sicilian, her father a chef so she can certainly give them a good testing. We went on a Sunny Sunday afternoon for a bit of lunch, nothing too heavy. Decor is simple and the Kitchen is open for a good nosey which always adds confidence to the dining experience. The menu makes for extremely good reading. There are so many dishes on it you would love to try.

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We ordered some of the smaller plates but it is only small in the title, as these guys do not believe in small portions. We ordered the Verdure Fritti (fried vegetables £8), Arancini di riso con ragu di carne (Rice balls with meat £8), Zeppole e Panzarotti (fried dough fritters paired with potato croquettes £6.50) and the bruschetta con pomodori (£4.50). Each as good as the other, we were both thoroughly delighted with what was on offer. We also spent a fair bit of time rubber necking at what everyone else had ordered and their plates seemed to look equally as good. The only downside I would say is the pricing. I think it’s about 10-20% more expensive than it should be. Is this because a lot of their ingredients are imported from the homeland? Maybe, so perhaps it is worth it after all. We will be returning.


May saw the return of a food festival hosted at the Lowry centre in Salford. Unfortunately it also saw the return of rain – lots of it. So it was a bit of a wash out which gives me no end of sympathy for vendors tucked up underneath their water bulging canopy’s. However one ray of sunshine amongst the storm was El Gaucho Grill. Street food can be a mixed bag. Sometimes overpriced and overrated sometimes brilliant and offers something new you may never have tried before. These chaps (or ladies in this case) are overwhelmingly in the latter. These guys know how to BBQ. I had the delight of trying out one of their rib eye sandwiches (in a barn/bap if you are a northerner like me) and dressed with chimichuri sauce.

5 STARS - Reviews - Eken Magazine
No brioche buns, no maple glazed syrup, no sprinklings of fairy dust here. Just simple meat in a bun. And oh my, was it good. The meat, crispy at the edges, smoky and so succulent in the centre, the chimichuri light and delightful. No pictures I’m afraid, I ate it too quick and the camera would have died in the rain. Unfortunately, these guys are southern based so rarely make a venture up north. Stalk them on their EL GAUCHO GRILL Facebook page to see if they may be rocking up near you sometime soon.


There are several of these ‘Greek’ restaurants around London. I went with some friends to the one at the Westfield Stratford shopping centre following some glowing recommendations from them. It has all the hallmarks of a Greek themed restaurant – plates on a wall, bookshelves filled with Greek tragedies, the odd statue and a bloke in the corner playing a bouzouki. The food is ‘typical’ Greek – hummus, halloumi, falafel, chicken skewers etc. However, once we started tucking in my friends were soon apologising and scratching their heads at the rather lame efforts of food we received. We ordered a mixture of small plates to share which included falafel, prawns, meatballs and grilled halloumi. The portions were small and expensive. The quality of ingredients tasted cheap, under seasoned and criminally over cooked. I never would of thought that halloumi could be so dry but The Real Greek sure as hell does a very good effort.

1 STARS - Reviews - Eken Magazine
On the plus side the flat bread was good but that is the only positive from the evening. Even the bloke playing the bouzouki is not going to escape some criticism – turn it down mate, some people are trying to eat, drink and have a chat here! In a lame attempt of a pun and to summarise this review I would say The Real Greek is actually The Really Bad Greek … ho ho ho. If I were you and you found yourself at Stratford feeling hungry, I would go to the far better Wahaca instead. It is just opposite the Big Greek.


Every weekend until the end of the year, Southbank is home to a mixture of food and drink stalls and vendors. I love this kind of market. They offer plenty of choice and always something different from the norm. I promised myself to try something different, something new and after a quick waltz around the stalls … I went for a burger! But not just any old burger, this was a duck confit burger, with crispy skin bits and your choice of cheese. I plumped for goats cheese and honey and the end result was an extremely tasty burger and provided a nice break from the norm of beef. The vendors of the stall are called the Frenchie and I’ll be keeping an eye out for these guys in the future.

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A wet walk around Soho on a early Sunday afternoon, with growling stomachs and a lack of patience to wait for tables for some of the more popular venues led me and the girlfriend to Vinoteca. We checked out the menu outside and liked what we saw but when we looked through the window it looked rather empty and we could not even tell if it was open. What to do? Surely if it was good there should be someone in here by now. I know its 12.30 on a wet Sunday but surely someone, anyone must already be here if its good. I hate going in to somewhere when it’s empty. I think it must be my caveman genetics of wanting safety in numbers. But we got brave and bold and popped our heads in and apologetically asked if they were open – and they were. Too late to back out now, we were committed to eating here whether we liked it or not. Vinoteca likes wine, lots of it. The walls are stacked with it and you can you even buy a bottle of plonk to take away with you. I can’t stand the stuff personally (come on it all tastes like vinegar) so onto the food. Vinoteca offers a very rustic, very oaken and all rather nice and comfortable decor.

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Service was spot on but then again we did have our own personal waiter at the time! And the food, it was blooming lovely. I ordered the roast chicken leg with puree potato and the girlfriend had the goat’s cheese salad (this if you haven’t noticed is what the girlfriend likes to eat about 99%of the time!) And the prices are pretty darn reasonable. In fact by London standards and not just London, but Soho, the bill for the 2 of us for breads, mains and drinks came to a rather surprising £23, which to me is a bit of a bargain! I see on their website they have several other dotted around London so they must be rather popular. I guess we just got lucky and got them when it was a bit quiet. Oh and it looks like they change their menu daily so there is always something new to try. On our list to go back to again.




April 1st 2014. A curious one this. When I heard that Hollywood legend, Sylvester Stallone, was coming to town for a Q&A and a bit of story telling my immediate instinct was that I definitely wanted to go. But at the same time I hesitated at the minimum of £65 ticket prices going up to £1500 which includes a meet and greet. Fortunately for me, I have some friends who were able to blag us some tickets and off we went. The evening was hosted by celebrity journalist, Sandro Monetti, who led Stallone into one anecdote after another. Stallone told us stories of how he was so poor he had to sell his dog. How he turned down $300k for his script of Rocky because he wanted to star in at as well. We heard how intense his rivalry was with Arnie, to the point where they were trying to steal film roles of each other. He also gave Manchester exclusive news of there will be no more Rocky (in his words if he did another Rocky he would be fighting “arthritis”!) but he is definitely making another Rambo. For someone who is an absolute legend of star and screen, Stallone came across as very approachable, humorous and even quite down to earth. Something us Mancunians respect very highly. He dealt with what has to be said, a rowdy Mancunian audience, with a great deal of patience and I found that I rather had a great deal of admiration for him. The only let down was the actual organisation of the evening, which was an absolute shambles. From the stage presentation, the handling of security all the way through to the end of the evening which finished with a open Q&A with the audience which to be honest, was just embarrassing. I was very happy that I went and even happier that I got it on a freebie. Stallone walked away with a great deal of respect and love from Manchester. I only feel, after the way the evening was handled, I think Stallone may have thought of Manchester as a bit of joke. Next up, Arnie Schwarzenegger in November. Lets hope its handled by a more professional promotional organisation.

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The world’s longest running Soap Opera, now passing its 50th Anniversary has moved its production site to Media City in Salford but the original set and production centre is still in its original spot and has now thrown open its doors to visitors. So if you are like The Queen or (rather bizarrely) Snoop Dogg then you can visit the hallowed cobbles, pull a pint behind the Rovers Return or take a sneaky peep through Rita’s letterbox (ooh err missus!). The tour also takes you behind the scenes of this famous show. Many of the sets are still in place, props and dressing rooms and of course the famous street which can be explored at your own leisure. I’m not sure if you would go back once you’ve been but I think this is an excellent tour that gives a real opportunity to see how a TV show is put together and who is not interested in that even if you are not a fan of the show.

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It may be a bit steep in price (£16 for adults) but I went to see a David Bailey exhibit at the Tate in London recently and paid the same price and I know which gave me far more value for my money and it was so much more enjoyable too. Oh, the tour guides alone are worth the price of a ticket, extremely funny and informative, they should have their own show. The tour is initially available until October 2014 and the owners will decide what to do with the set at this point so you might have to be quick if you do not want to miss out!




When she walks in a room the men smell sex and the women smell war’ – thus it is Helen of Troys (played by Lily Cole) eternal legacy to be known as the face that launched a thousand ships, a 10 year war and thousands of deaths. This is Simon Armitage’s interpretation of Homers Iliad and premiered at The Royal Exchange in Manchester. It is an impressive fete, to manage to retell Homers story of the Trojan War in such a small setting. Although it does feel at times more like a narrative than a play it is still a thrill to watch. We begin with an ageing Zeus, now forgotten and no longer worshipped by man, forced to begging for his living, recounts the story of the war in Troy and the absurdity of its waste of life. Agamemnon has laid the walls of Troy to siege for 10 years. His troops are tired and hungry, arguments are rife amongst his camp. Meanwhile inside the walls of Troy, the Trojans fare no better. Imprisoned within their own city, bitterness and resentment is aimed towards Paris for kidnapping Helen.


For such a small setting there is great use of lighting and sound to give an immense feeling to the settings and battles. The ending is no surprise – the story of the Trojan horse is legendary. And in the end, Zeus finishes his story and returns to his begging and the world moves on, a reminder to all that power is given, not taken. I saw this during July 2014 and the show has now finished in Manchester and can be seen at the Shakespeare Globe in London.


The 10 year old Tony award winning show continues its tour and comes to Manchester for 5 nights. If you have not heard of it before, think Sesame St for adults. The puppets think their lives suck, drink, have sex (think Team America!), cheat on one another and try to find their purpose in life. I am not really one for musicals but with numbers like ‘Everyone is a little bit racist’, ‘The internet is for porn’, and ‘If you were gay’ the show seamlessly moves from one scene to another. And most importantly it is entertaining, witty and very funny. The puppeteers are not concealed and add to the puppets animation with their body movement and facial language. As the girlfriend put it – ‘If you try to fully explain it to anyone it doesn’t sound that good, but it works’. Go see if you can. Seen on May 31st.





Bolton born Simon Aldred returns with his third album, Herd Runners. For me Cherry Ghost is one of my favourite all time singers. His first two albums (thirst For Romance (2007) & Beneath this Burning shoreline (2010)) are often tracks that I still listen to on a frequent basis. He is one of those artists who have not enjoyed the chart success that you think they so rightly deserves – what is wrong with kids these days (I’m so old!). But at the same time you still want him to be your best kept secret so you can still go to his gigs in close, personal settings. To me this is an easy review. Everything he writes and sings sounds so heartfelt and serene. The production often brilliant, the voice still has the touch of American country and the lyrics beautiful and industrial. Unfortunately it seems this could be his last album as he packs up his guitar, tired of years of touring and instead turns his attention to songwriting. If his recent US ITunes number one song with Sam Smith is to go by, it looks like a path to greater success he so richly deserves!

5 STARS - Reviews - Eken Magazine



Yeah him of The Strokes fame, returned to Manchester at Gorilla Manchester minus his famous bushy hair. I am a Strokes fan but not really aware too much of his solo work, just the odd song or two. But this was a gig for my girlfriend as she is a big fan of his first album. Although, she tells me his 2nd album was pretty poor (she said ‘it was a bit rubbish’) so we went along with a bit of apprehension as to which songs he was going to play. Fortunately for us, it was most of the first album so a good time has had by all. On a side note, Gorilla is probably one of my new favourite places for a gig. Great quality of sound in a nice spacious (but not too large) venue that has great AC. No sweat dripping from the walls here!