Friday Fun: Social site for tea drinkers

Does your office always argue over whose turn it is to make the tea? Then worry no more – a new social platform has launched to take the stress out of brew times. says it will make the decision for you.
Simply sign up, register your preference of drink strength on a scale of 0-5, number of sugars and preference of beverage and the power of web will rush you a welcome cuppa.
Well so it says.
Seeing as it’s Friday, I signed up and have even attempted to infiltrate the Manchester What If tea club of two members.
Still waiting un-refreshed though…………………………………
In reality it’s a bit of fun which could cheer some office workers by providing a virtual teapot to gather round while being a neat bit of marketing from a major milk manufacturer.

End in sight for Marmite recipe dispute?

Could it be that the great Marmite debate is about to be settled?
Regulars to this blog will know that the discussion about whether the tea-time favourite had changed its recipe has been rumbling on for almost two years now.
(I first blogged my suspicions of a sweeter, thinner recipe back in February 2007)
Since then it’s been the subject of many more posts and comments, but then this week, I received the comment below from the tireless Marmite investigator Beverly Fox.
She has been demanding some answers from manufacturers Unilever ever since and it seems has been finally rewarded for her efforts.
She said: “With the voucher sent to me by Peter Scott back in September, I bought a small pot of Marmite and was astounded to find it was exactly the same as the good old original product. Is there something odd going on with production? If, as I wrote in September, there had been an inferior batch which was withdrawn, why are people still writing about the problem. I’m still eating the small pot, but when it’s finished I shall buy another and let you know if it was as good. I have to say I was relieved and happy to have the old product at last. I hope it wasn’t just a one off!”
Come on Beverly buy the next pot soon ………..the end to this debate is in sight!

Another independent cafe gone from the city

Sad to see that Zest in Piccadilly has shut its doors. I’m probably a bit late to notice this, and haven’t been able to find out why, but my recently started traffic diversion enforced commutes by train took me to its door in the hope of a fresh smoothie – only to find it is no more.
I was a big fan of Zest. (I know I had a bit of a go about their rubbish garnish once but that was only because the rest of the offerings were so good.)
An independent trader which prided itself on being Fairtrade, Zest was one of the few places that you could get a smoothie when I first started calling in seven years ago.
Perhaps the rise of Innocent and all the other pre-packed versions that you now can’t help fall over everywhere you go had an impact on that particular market, but there were plenty of other fresh reasons to call – sandwiches with fillings that were different from the norm and not the overstuffed size of small towns, homemade soups and veggie breakfast barms that were just perfect for a weekend brunch.
Their recent-ish introduction of a hot lamp hotel style cooked breakfast never really appealed – after all there’s no shortage of places doing fry ups in that area. But maybe that move in itself says a lot about customer expectations.
Perhaps Piccadilly’s cafes are forever doomed to be pie and chips, all day breakfast, chips with your chips sort of a places.

Roger rabbit and a change of scene for Red Chilli

Good to see that my favourite China town eaterie, Red Chilli has got a smart new look – and some new menu items to savour.
I once described the rather garish interior as “painted walls with geometric designs (which) give off a sort of Beijing Claris Cliff, art deco feel to the place”, but now a much more subdued colour scheme and bamboo styling makes it a far more restful experience.
But don’t worry, the menu is still as wild as ever. I sampled a new special “braised roger rabbit” and yes that is how it’s described on the menu!
I’m unsure whether it was the name if the deceased bunny or some Chinese reference point that I’m ignorantly unaware of – suggestions welcome below.
Names aside – it was mighty delicious, lean, hot and gingery with chucks of “roger” and succulent Chinese mushrooms.
Red Chilli can always be counted on to serve up something out of the ordinary but consistently good and well-priced and it’s new look gives a cosier more intimate feel.
It also seems to have become the restaurant critic’s darling – see these reviews;
The Guardian’s Jay Rayner: Magic dragon.
The Guardian’s Matthew Norman.
But I found it first – see my MEN review from 2005, now in the new City Life website.
Red Chilli is at 70 Portland Street, Manchester.