Dinner@Hanoi Bike Shop, Glasgow

The road trip has reached Glasgow and we are meeting our friends Ophelia, Janice, Marley & Alska for dinner at the Hanoi Bike Shop. The Hanoi Bike Shop is a Vietnamese restaurant with a great reputation that has attracted many celebrities including Beyoncé. If it’s good enough for her then it will almost certainly be good enough for Janice!

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Sitting outside on yet another hot day and all but Marley (too young) are keen to try some Vietnamese and Glaswegian beers.  A selection of Jaw Brew Drop IPA, Saigon Export lager and Jaw Brew Surf pale ale soon arrive. The Saigon lager is genuinely Vietnamese and brewed in Ho Chi Minh.  Golden, frothy, the notes of rice and lemon will clearly work well with Asian food. Jaw Brew is a Glaswegian brewery.  Drop is an IPA with notes of grapefruit that will cut through the spice and Surf is a pale ale with apple and pine that should work well with fried or barbecued dishes.  Of the three, Drop is probably our favourite. Hot day, cold beer, food to come – all is good.

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Bun Cha

Prawn crackers while we wait for the dishes – each dish will arrive as and when it has been freshly cooked.   The first dish to arrive is the chicken Bun Cha – marinated chicken, char-grilled and served on skewers with vermicelli noodles, a fresh herb salad and a hot & sour broth. Fabulous.  Next the Cha Ca Quy Nhon chosen by Ophelia – Vietnamese fish cakes served with gem lettuce, pickles, vermicelli noodles and nuoc cham ( lime, fish sauce, garlic, sugar & chilli).  Wow!

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Cha Ca Quy Nhon
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Ba Roi Ram Duong

More beer and now Ba Roi Ram Duong – caramelised pork belly and pan fried sea bream served with cucumber kimchi, watercress and chilli.  Extraordinary – I think I may have been transported temporarily to food heaven.  At the other extreme Janice, who is always up for trying something new, has ordered some Kimchi – a side dish made from fermented vegetables.  By itself it tastes pretty awful but I’m sure it will work as a flavour enhancer for other dishes.

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Banh Cu Cai Dau Nanh

Next to arrive is the Banh Cu Cai Dau Nanh – daikon & soya bean cakes served with crispy shallots, birds eye chilli and syboes (Scots word for spring onions).  Rock loves them. Then, for Alska and Marley, are the Cha Lua pork & lemongrass kebabs skewered on roast sugarcane which comes with fresh herbs and blistered chilli sauce. Another winner.

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Ca Mop Ot 

Rock has selected Ca Mop Ot – Hake flavoured with tamarind and fermented chilli and served with a beansprout salad and a mango sambal.  She has now joined me in food heaven.  Janice has made a much wiser choice than the kimchi with Vit Ma Ong (see featured image) – crispy salt & honey duck leg served with  pickled red cabbage and syboe oil.  More beer and then finally, for Alska & Marley, Bap Gnot Va Dua Banh Ran – huge sweetcorn & coconut fritters with gem lettuce, pickles and nuoc cham.

 

 

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Bap Gnot Va Dua Banh Ran

We ordered less than the recommended number of dishes and, even with Janice’s enormous appetite, we could not eat it all.  An extraordinary amount of food, a massive variety of flavour combinations, fabulous quality of cooking and a more than modest amount of beer.  We all loved it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Cartford Inn, Little Ecclestone

As we head further north on our road trip we have reached the point of our first overnight stay.  We are staying at The Cartford Inn in Little Ecclestone and this blog will cover both our dinner and our breakfast experiences.  The Cartford Inn, originally a 17th century coaching inn, is set in the heart of rural Lancashire.  The current owners, Patrick and Julie Beaumé, have extended and refurbished the place over the last 10 years to create a venue that has won several food, drink and pub awards.

Arriving on a bright sunny late afternoon we are immediately offered tea and cake and feel very welcomed.  After a walk on a still super hot day we soon need something to help cool us down.  Rock chooses a Sipsmith gin mixed with Fentiman’s rose lemonade – perfect. I have a Moorhouse’s Pride of Pendle, an amber ale  – which is very pleasant but not exciting.

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I am more than ready for food but the heat has had a real effect on Rock’s appetite.  For her dinner she chooses a starter! Her hand-rolled bread crackers look spectacular and come with a harissa hummus and a green lentil & onion paté.  That is all she needs and she is happy.  I have the Goosnargh duck breast with pickled green strawberries, elderflower, nut granola and chicory.  The duck is beautifully pink.  The pickled strawberries are slightly tart but work fantastically well with the duck and the slightly sweetened nut granola.

The playlist here tonight is a little uninspiring – basically hits of the 1980s.  Now I love music from all eras but there are very few occasions when I feel ‘Rio’ by Duran Duran is what I want to listen to while I’m eating dinner. I move on to a pint of Giddy Kipper brewed especially for the Cartford Inn.  This is more exciting – a hoppy pale ale with notes of grapefruit. Rock’s appetite may have waned but I still have room for dessert and I’ve chosen the apricot clafouti with honey ice cream.  I love a good clafouti! This one is very pleasant but the batter has the consistency of a thick custard ….it probably needed a few more minutes in the oven.

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Apricot clafouti with honey ice cream

After a decent night’s sleep we are ready for breakfast.  We have good Atkinson’s coffee and exceptional croissants. Rock has the vegetarian breakfast (see featured image) – fresh asparagus, poached egg, sautéed potatoes, cherry tomatoes & mushrooms.  I have the English breakfast – the asparagus and potatoes replaced by black pudding and Honeywell’s bacon & sausage.  The poached Ryan Bee’s free range eggs and the Honeywell’s sausage are both excellent.

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English breakfast

We had great service in the evening from James, Danny and Ellen and at breakfast from the very chatty Craig.  We also loved the fact that Patrick & Julie take a real interest in their guests.

Great place to stay, great place to drink and a pretty good place to eat too!

Lunch@The Bear’s Paw, Warmingham

The start of another road trip and, with world cup interest at fever pitch, there may be some passing references to football in this blog.  The first stop for the tour bus is The Bear’s Paw in Warmingham. The Bear’s Paw is a 19th century Victorian Inn in the farming village of Warmingham that was completely refurbished about 10 years ago, following a major fire.

I always kick-off with a beer and I’m having a pint of Southern Cross from Cheshire brewers Weetwood Ales.  Described as a New World Pale Ale, it is zesty and carries some hints of lemon and pine from the New Zealand hops that are used to make it.  Rock is passing on alcohol but teams together an apple juice with a good measure of soda.

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The pan-fried fillet of sea trout is my next goal.  It is served with a creative midfield of potato, herb & garlic gnocchi, green beans, broad beans, sundried tomato, parmesan and sauce vierge.  Everything tastes good though I find the gnocchi a bit heavy.  Rock shoots for the loin of rabbit wrapped in smoked bacon and playing alongside a crispy leg rillette, butter poached potato, carrot puree, summer vegetables and a red wine jus.  Rock thinks the sticky jus is a touch too strong for the delicate rabbit.

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Great teamwork from Jack, Bria and Holly out front and Ben in the kitchen.  Now, I think there may be an England match on tonight. C’mon England!

Dinner@Yak the Himalayan Kitchen

Tonight I’m with Gino and we are heading into the Himalayas.  Not literally, only in terms of cuisine.  Yak, the Himalayan Kitchen is one of the more recent additions to the stock of eating places in Old Town. Our usual fare on my nights out with Gino is either curry, tapas or Thai…so this will make an interesting change.

Less unusual is the fact that we both need a beer.  Yak can meet this request and they can even provide Nepalese beer.  Well, I say Nepalese  – Gurkha lager is actually brewed by Hepworth’s in West Sussex.  It is a perfectly fine lager, very refreshing and it is likely to work well with the Nepalese spices that we are expecting to find in the various dishes here.

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Before we even order any food we are presented with poppadums – not flat like you would have in most Indian restaurants but slightly thicker and shaped like bowls.  The taste of the poppadums is the same except for the dipping sauce that comes with them.  It is highly flavoured, quite different and very good indeed.

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Gino starts with the steamed lamb momo (see featured image).  Momos are small, delicate steamed dumplings – far closer to Chinese dumplings than the heavy English variety.  These are filled with ground lamb mixed with herbs, spices and a little oil and served with a home made stone ground chutney.  Very good indeed. I have the Himalayan pork ribs marinated in Nepalese spices and roasted, served with sweet and chilli sauces. They taste great though you really need to abandon all good manners and pick them up to eat them properly.

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For his main course Gino has the Sagarmatha Kukhurako Ko Tarkari – a chicken curry cooked with onion, ginger, garlic and Nepali spices.  I have the Himalayan Khasi Ra Hario Bodi Ko Tarkari – a lamb and green bean curry.  We both have Bhuteko Bhat – rice fried in ghee with cumin, garlic & mixed vegetables.  Both the curries have a dry, earthy flavour – very nice and, again, quite different to curries we’ve experienced elsewhere.  The rice is less obviously fried than you would get in most Chinese restaurants – it seems fresher and all the better for that.

Overall, eating Nepalese has been a fascinating experience and one that I think most people would enjoy!

Lunch@Abbey Home Farm (3)

Abbey Home Farm has an organic shop and cafe near Cirencester and it is one of our favourite places for lunch.  I was not planning another blog about this place…so there are no photos of Rock’s lunch.  But my meal is so extraordinary that, while I would not be prepared to share the food with you,  I’m very happy to share some pictures and commentary.

As usual I begin with a Tom Long – an amber bitter from the Stroud Brewery.  Always good.

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I have chosen the summer vegetable and cheddar pasty with a selection of salads and a homemade chutney.  The pasty contains courgette, carrot, potato, onion and cheddar all wrapped in beautiful pastry. The salads include: green bean, broccoli  and sesame seeds in a peanut satay sauce; rice with parsley and tamari soy sauce; apple, strawberry, orange and nectarine; salad leaves, tomato, beetroot and fennel; an edible nasturtium; and there’s mung beans, radish and sprouts in the coleslaw. I may have missed a few ingredients but it feels like I have a bit of every home grown organic vegetable or fruit that is currently available.  And, is it possible to have your five a day in one meal?

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Fabulous relaxed dining, good beer and great food…

 

Lunch@Tierra & Mar, Cirencester

Tierra & Mar is a relatively new tapas restaurant in Cirencester.  It is owned by Brett and Silvia who met while working in a variety of Michelin starred restaurants across England, Australia and Spain.  They have brought their skills to the Cotswolds and today is our chance to see what they can do.

It all starts very well.  Rock has sparkling elderflower, while I try a Spanish beer.  Inet Damm is described as an award winning malt & wheat beer brewed with spice – it is extraordinary. Created by the El Bulli chef, Ferran Adria, and the Damm brewers – it manages to incorporate the flavours of coriander, liquorice and orange peel in a way that is completely harmonious.  More importantly, it seems to work with a very wide variety of food and thus perfect for tapas.

Excellent canapés of empanada with mediterranean vegetables and crackers topped with marinated sardine & yoghurt arrive next. These are followed by freshly baked bread rolls in two varieties, rosemary and brown, and served with extra virgin olive oil. This is so good and we haven’t even started our tapas yet!

The first dish is a smoked duck breast & confit duck leg terrine served with pistachio, poached plums and red onion marmalade. But it’s not that simple – there are also small cubes of jelly, dashes of cream and herb sprigs (see featured image).  The combination of flavours is just outstanding.

Next is monkfish wrapped in Serrano ham with pea and mint puree, chorizo jam, sauteed potatoes and an almond & garlic sauce.  The monkfish is soft and almost melts against the crispy ham wrapping, again the complexity of flavours and textures is amazing.

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Monkfish wrapped in Serrano ham with pea and mint puree, chorizo jam, sauteed potatoes and an almond & garlic sauce

 

The tuna tartare follows – raw marinated tuna served with avocado, grated horseradish, slivers of radish and tiny pieces of finely toasted bread.  It is very clever – the use of marination and the highly skilled balancing of quality ingredients creates a refreshing and vibrant dish.

 

 

 

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Tuna tartare

Then patatas bravas and marinated fried chicken wings with pickled carrot, carrot puree, parsnip, basil and a honey & orange chicken sauce.  The patatas bravas are simple but you need some simple to go with the complexity of the other dishes.  The chicken wings are part of another fabulous balance of flavour combinations.

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Patatas bravas
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Spiced chicken wings

You would think after canapes, bread, duck, monkfish, tuna, patatas bravas and chicken that those with modest appetites, like us, would not even contemplate dessert.  However, the food here has been so exceptional…we have to try one.  We go for the poached rhubarb with pistachio, ginger and cream cheese icing.  It is yet another beautifully presented dish – soft rhubarb, crunchy pistachio both enhanced by expertly flavoured jellies and creams. Sensational!

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Poached rhubarb with pistachio, ginger and cream cheese icing

We don’t have time to stop for coffee but Paco, who has looked after us fabulously throughout lunch, gives us some beautiful petit fours anyway.  There have been a few contenders this year….. but so far this has been our best meal of 2018!

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Petit fours

Brunch@cafezique, Glasgow

No Rock today but I’m joining my good friends Ilia, Muffin and my godson Zord for a late brunch at one of their favourite places – cafezique.  Tables are set out around a bar area that encircles the small open kitchen, plus there are more tables upstairs on a mezzanine level.

It’s buzzing here and, after a short wait, we get a corner table downstairs next to the window.  Zord needs distracting and a really generous bowl of beautiful black and green olives does the trick.  Ilia and I are similarly distracted by a fine bottle of Samuel Smith’s Organic Lager.

Properly cooked food takes a little longer but it is worth the wait.  Muffin has the cullen skink with bread.  For anyone who does not know what the traditional Scottish cullen skink is, I’ll do my best to give you an idea.  It is a thick soup made with smoked haddock, potatoes and onions and often flavoured with parsley or bay leaf.  The freshly baked bread is excellent here – the cafe owners, the Zique family, have a bakery too.

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Cullen skink

Ilia is having the big breakfast – fried eggs, shoulder bacon, black pudding, sausages, beans, tattie scone, mushroom, tomato and toast.  A plate of quality products – both the bacon and the sausages have great flavour.

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Big breakfast

I’m having eggs black – a version of eggs benedict – soft poached eggs on a muffin, with hollandaise and leaves plus Stornaway black pudding rather than the bacon you get in a benedict.  The eggs are beautifully poached, the hollandaise is top drawer and the black pudding is fabulous.

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Eggs black

Now, did I mention that the Zique family are bakers…time for cake.  Muffin has an excellent fruit scone with butter and jam.  But, I’m about to enjoy the highlight of this whole experience – a baked cheesecake.  No sauces, fruit or any other addition – it just does not need them.  It is the lightest baked cheesecake I think I’ve ever had – and I will remember it for a long time.

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Great food, friendly and helpful service mainly from Eva and Fiona, quality beer ….oh, and that cheesecake!