Lunch@ Ox and Finch, Glasgow

Another railtrip – this one in the UK and another chance to visit Glasgow.  Today we are having lunch with our great friends Ilia & Muffin at Ox and Finch. Ox and Finch is in Sauchiehall Street and it was created by Jonathan MacDonald – formerly the head chef to the McLaren Formula 1 team.  It delivers a wide range of small plate dishes that often feature Scottish produce and usually in a Mediterranean style .

Our first choices are from the drinks menu.  Muffin has a glass of Villa Wolf Pinot Gris, a zesty German white with a good hit of fruitiness.  Rock has a Just the Ticket, a fruity IPA from the award-winning Fallen Brewery of Stirling.  Ilia and I also choose a Fallen Brewery ale – we both have their lager-style beer, called Odyssey. We are all happy.

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Toasted sourdough with smoked scallop roe taramasalata

Like most places that serve small plates, each dish is served as soon as it is cooked.  The first to arrive is the toasted sourdough with smoked scallop roe taramasalata.  Taramasalata is a favourite of Rock’s, but I really dislike it.  However, here it is so good – I’m almost a convert.

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Salt and pink pepper squid with orange, lettuce, chilli & saffron aïoli

Next is the salt and pink pepper squid with orange, lettuce, chilli & saffron aïoli.  The crispy squid works well with the orange and the aïoli is really good.  Then the seared scallops with piccalilli, Ramsay’s black pudding, cauliflower shavings, coriander and apple (see featured image). Again, I’m not a big fan of piccalilli – but this worked well with the scallops & the black pudding.

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Smoked haddock with truffle polenta, pancetta and a poached egg

The smoked haddock with truffle polenta, pancetta and a poached egg another excellent dish.  The fish and the egg are both perfectly cooked and the polenta is both creamy and not overtruffled. Side dishes arrive, one of red kale, toasted pine nuts and pomegranate molasses and the other – fabulous roast potatoes with a smoked cranberry ketchup.

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Turkey and smoked bacon meatballs, spiced red cabbage and  chestnut crumble

And still there is more….Rock and I really love the turkey and smoked bacon meatballs served with spiced red cabbage and a chestnut crumble.  Ilia is a huge fan of the confit duck leg with yellow curry, Thai basil and crispy rice. Plus, we have the slow-cooked lamb shoulder with bulgur wheat, apricots, almonds and mint yoghurt.

We cannot quite finish the savoury dishes, though we have given it a very good try – but we are still in the mood to order dessert.  Ilia and Muffin share the dark chocolate cremeux with coconut frangipane and coconut ice cream.  Rock and I share an extraordinary salted caramel and toasted buckwheat custard tart with a pear sorbet.  Wow….I need to lie down.

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Salted caramel and toasted buckwheat custard tart with a pear sorbet

Really great company, good beer and wine, some fabulous food and great service from the friendly and knowledgeable Lily.  We all enjoyed ourselves and, particularly for anyone who likes the small plate style of dining, I’d recommend Ox and Finch as a seriously good place to spend a bit of time.

 

 

 

 

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Lunch@ Red Lion, East Chisenbury ’18

It’s that time of year when we return to favourite places in order to hone our thoughts ahead of the WadeandRockandFood Awards.  Today we are back at The Red Lion in East Chisenbury – which has featured in our awards on more than one occasion in the past. Set in the Wiltshire countryside, the thatched inn looks like a typical traditional English country pub.  But, there is nothing typical about the Michelin starred food they serve here.

I begin with a pint of Who’s a Cheeky Monkey, a golden ale from the Parkway Brewing Company.  Meanwhile, Rock has a glass of viognier from the Vignerons Ardèchois, a French white with floral and tropical fruit flavours. Rock has the confit duck leg with a sauté of salsify and chanterelles, braised kale and roasting juices. Every element on the plate is cooked perfectly…it is a rich, unctuous dish. I have the Cornish cod with crispy chipirones (baby squid), saffron braised potatoes, mussels, fennel, Pernod and aioli (see featured image). My cod dish tastes fantastic but…there is something missing. I have no crispy chipirones!  The missing item is reported and then quickly delivered – they make all the difference, the crispy texture of the chipirones adds the finishing touch to make the dish absolutely sublime.

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Caramel poached apples with candied walnuts and sage ice cream

Desserts are always good here and so we are not even going to attempt to resist.  I have the caramel poached apples with candied walnuts and sage ice cream.  Unusual to see sage used in a dessert.  Using the right amount to give a clear taste of sage without overpowering the dish was judged to perfection. Sensational.  With hints of Christmas to come, Rock has the chocolate and chestnut layer cake with vanilla, orange cream and cranberry sorbet.

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Chocolate and chestnut layer cake with vanilla, orange cream and cranberry sorbet

We usually check that Guy & Brittany are going to be in the kitchen before we come because the food is always at its best when they are here.  On this occasion we failed to check and they aren’t here.  We need not have been concerned though – the kitchen team have delivered dishes that meet the very high standards set by the owners.

 

 

Another lunch@The Bell, Ramsbury

We are back at The Bell in Ramsbury but this time we are meeting our great friends Jem & Sassy for lunch.  The Bell is a 300 year old coaching inn and part of the Ramsbury estate – with its own brewery, distillery & smokehouse. More importantly, as it is seriously cold outside, all four of us are really glad to feel the warmth as we enter the bar.

I’m the only member of our group that is drinking alcohol today so, while a selection of juices, cordials and sodas are being ordered, I venture over to the bar to see the range of beers on tap.  For some reason entirely inexplicable to me, I am immediately drawn to an American Red ale called The Exhibitionist from the Bristol based Great Western Brewery.   It is an autumn seasonal ale – smooth and nutty with notes of toffee – perfect for this time of year.

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Rock starts with the Ramsbury Gin cured salmon with wasabi, avocado, cucumber and dill. It looks beautiful but Rock is slightly disappointed that very little wasabi has been used to heighten the dish. Jem has the game terrine served with Ramsbury Gold chutney, pickles and toast.  Five minutes later his plate is clean. I have the Brinkworth Blue with pickled beets, candied walnuts and a chicory & pear salad.  The blue cheese works fantastically well with the sweet walnuts and the tangy beets. Sassy has the same dish as me but, because she is not a fan, she has it without the blue cheese and still enjoys it.

Rock moves on to a small version of the Ramsbury Gold battered haddock with triple cooked chips, mushy peas, pickled onion plus both tartare and curry sauces.  Everyone agrees that the chips are fantastic, I say everyone because we were all keen to try at least one…..I had several! Pan fried herb gnocchi with butternut squash, pumpkin seeds and crispy sage is Sassy’s choice.  The gnocchi is good but not as light as she hoped it might be and she would have liked more sauce.

I’m having the crispy beef cheek with onions, confit carrot, creamed potato, tenderstem broccoli and a beef jus.  The tender beef cheek has been cooked slowly and is served as a large breadcrumbed croquette.  However, the beef cheek does not have the depth of flavour I was expecting.  It is very good but not quite great.  Jem is having the fillet of Loch Duart Salmon served with hollandaise sauce, fries and red watercress. He says the hollandaise is excellent.  

Rock and I share the warm apple terrine with a brown butter mousse, a mixed nut crumb and a cassis sorbet.  It is fabulous to look at with the brown butter mousse encased in a green gel to look like an apple.  And, while all the elements of the dessert are individually lovely it does feel like three different desserts rather than one harmonious plate. 

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Meanwhile, Jem and Sassy are sharing the warm chocolate brownie with chocolate sauce and vanilla ice cream.   It is fantastic!

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We’ve all had a very good time.  Great company, excellent beer, very good food and fabulous service from Mel.  The Bell continues to deliver a friendly, high quality dining experience in the finest traditions of the British gastropub. Our only regret is that they no longer serve the fabulous salted caramel truffles as petit fours!

Lunch @ The Blackbird, Bagnor

On our numerous visits to the Watermill Theatre near Newbury we have passed The Blackbird  without giving it a second thought.  So we were surprised a few weeks ago to see that it had been awarded its first Michelin star.  We can no longer just drive past…we have to go in and sample their cooking. So, today we are meeting our very good friends Tom and Maxine there for lunch.

The Blackbird has been owned by chef Dominic Robinson and his wife Marliz since October 2017.  Dominic leads a small kitchen team and Marliz works front of house.  Although fully booked, the place has several empty tables when we arrive and the staff turn a few prospective diners away.  This is because they have set a very firm limit on the number of diners to ensure that the kitchen can give every dish and every customer the attention each deserves.  Brave and impressive!

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Tom and Maxine arrive a few minutes after us and we order some drinks while we study the menu.  Tom and I both have a pint of Mister Chubb’s  – a well balanced session ale from the local West Berkshire Brewery.  It is one of several local beers on tap. Rock has an Elderflower cordial with sparkling water (guess who’s driving) and Maxine has a glass of English white pinot from the New Hall Vineyards.  It is light and floral with a hint of vanilla. Maxine says it is very smooth.

We all really enjoy the homemade wholewheat bread made with black treacle – dark, packed with flavour and hopefully a hint of what’s to follow.  Tom is starting with the raviolo of scallop and Kennet crayfish with young leeks and rapeseed.  It arrives looking a little like a bowl of froth but Tom says it tastes fabulous.  Maxine has the tart of Brillat Savarin (a cows milk brie) with onions, grapes, walnuts & celery.   I have the tartare of aged beef with smoked chilli, hazelnuts & lime which is served with home-made crackers. The flavours are fabulous. Rock, a woman with a very modest appetite, decides to pass on the starters.

We are having a wonderful time…great company, excellent drinks, very fine food and attentive service. Can they maintain this high standard for the main courses? Rock, whose appetite has been growing, is having the wild sea bass with chestnut gnocchi, roast salsify & sauce lie de vin (a red wine reduction).  The sea bass is perfectly cooked with a crispy skin, the gnocchi is delicate and the whole dish is ideally complemented by the salsify and the sauce lie de vin.  Tom is having the Onglette of braised beef en crepinette with parsley snails & Raclette (a semi-hard cows-milk cheese).  The dish is beautifully presented with the crepinette sitting like a tower on an island of parsley snails – all surrounded by a moat of exquisitely created beef jus.

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Onglette of braised beef en crepinette with parsley snails & Raclette cheese

Maxine is having the fillet of plaice Bonne Femme with mashed potatoes & trompettes de la mort (black chanterelles).  Again the dish is beautifully presented – the almost pure white plaice contrasts with the almost pure black chanterelles and both sit on a bed of perfect mash surrounded by a chive cream sauce. I’m having the roast partridge with a  confit of savoy cabbage & quince (see featured image).  Less beautiful to look at than some of the other dishes – with legs still attached it almost looks as though a perfectly butchered partridge has been shot out of the sky and has landed on a bed of mash on my plate.  But it tastes divine and works particularly well with the quince.

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Plaice Bonne Femme with mashed potatoes & trompettes de la mort

Not only do we have the capacity for desserts, but the non-drivers – Maxine & myself – can also cope with a dessert wine. Maxine has the sauternes from Chateau Monteils which is pale but still rich and sweet with just a gentle hint of acidity.  I have the Moscatel Naturalmente Dulce from Spanish winemakers Finca Antigua – it is velvety sweet with a very long finish and also has a touch of acidity.

Next I’m having the palm sugar rice pudding served with a salad of mango, coriander & Kalamansi lime. The palm sugar is in the form of a caramelised disc that sits on the rice pudding and its sweetness contrasts superbly with the fresh mango and the zingy lime. Maxine is having the bavarois of malted milk with poached pear, hazelnuts and Frangelico (a hazelnut liqueur).  A beautifully created single bean chocolate fondant is for Tom with Baileys ice cream and camp coffee mousse. Rock is going for the tart of poached quince & pistachio with pistachio ice cream. The pastry is amazing, so light and delicate that they must have a pastry wizard in the kitchen.  Another set of clean plates.

We are enjoying ourselves so much that there is no question of leaving before coffee and petit fours.  And the petit fours are worth waiting for…tiny lemon tarts, salted fudge and chocolate ganache with cherry are all savoured with our coffee.

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The Blackbird is right up there with another nearby favourite The Woodspeen.  If you like modern, beautifully balanced international cuisine then head for the Woodspeen.  If you want highly flavoured, more classic cuisine with a strong French influence then head for the Blackbird.

Lunch@ Noya’s Kitchen, Bath

Another theatre trip, this time to Bath, and another pre-theatre lunch. We are unreasonably excited about the prospect of lunch at Noya’s Kitchen.  Noya Pawlyn grew up in the UK after leaving Vietnam in a boat at the age of seven.  Rave reviews of her Vietnamese kitchen promise fresh ingredients, herbs & spices cleverly combined to create aromatic dishes with layers of flavour.  Noya’s Kitchen was also named as ‘The Best Newcomer’ in the Crumbs Magazine awards for 2018.

There is nothing Vietnamese about the beer here – though it has been carefully chosen to complement the dishes.  Livewire is a session IPA from the Electric Bear Brewing Company – a microbrewery based in Bath.  It is a great craft IPA with fruity notes of peach and orange and a subtle zing of pine. Perfect.

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Choosing our starters is very easy because we can share a trio – one of each starter on today’s menu.  A beautiful plate soon arrives with: a tofu & waterchestnut crispy dumpling; a pork spring roll with a lettuce cup & dipping sauce; and an egg summer roll with avocado. I’m not a big fan of tofu but the crispy dumpling is sensational.  The spring roll is fabulous and while the summer roll is the least interesting, it is still very pleasant.

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Rock is having the chicken ginger chilli stew with jasmine rice for her main course.  Served in a bowl, the spicy and aromatic stew is packed with flavour and a liberal serving of sliced pickled cucumber is refreshing alongside the mild chilli heat.  Rock is loving it. I’m having the crispy chicken noodle salad (see featured image).  Several pieces of warm chicken with crispy skin have had a liberal dusting of crushed nuts to amplify the crunchy texture.  An array of fresh coriander leaves, sliced red onion, radish, chopped carrot, pieces of chilli plus the noodles surround the chicken.  There is also a fantastic dressing that holds another myriad of flavours. It is, pretty much, heaven on a plate.

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After so many savoury sensations – we can’t bear to leave without trying dessert.  A soft and unctuous chocolate torte is served with homemade mango and passionfruit ice cream, a mango coulis, fresh coconut shavings and pomegranate.  Wow!

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This has been one of our very best meals of 2018.  The promise of aromatic dishes with layers of flavour has certainly been delivered.  Noya and her team are creating a Vietnamese food experience that should not be missed and we suggest the Michelin and Good Food Guide inspectors make a beeline for this place.  We went on to see a very enjoyable play but it is definitely lunch that will stick in our memory!

 

 

Breakfast@Brooks, Bristol

How often do you get to sleep in a rocket and then wake to a freshly cooked breakfast?  After a fantastic night in Bristol, we stayed over at Brooks Guest House in one of their retro rockets.  There are several shiny silver capsules on the roof of this guest house which you can stay in.  They may be retro but inside you are transported to the 21st century by modern equipment.  Plus, you get great rooftop views over Bristol.

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The breakfast menu here is a galaxy of choice. Mueslis, yoghurts, compotes, juices, fresh fruit and a range of cooked dishes.  We both have coffee – which is not out of this world and brings us back to earth.  Then I decide to give the West Country organic yoghurt with a homemade blackberry compote and decorated with fresh grapes and strawberries a test flight….now we have lift off!

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Rock is having a launch pad of French toast orbited by strawberries, raspberries and blueberries with creme fraiche (see featured image).  It really shines like a star in the breakfast firmament.  If you are at all familiar with our breakfast blogs, you won’t be surprised to discover that I’m having the full English – this time in an effort to stave off any feeling of weightlessness. Streaky bacon, slow roasted tomatoes, sausage, fried mushrooms, poached eggs and toast – really fabulous even though when I probed the poached egg yolk globes, they were a little firmer than I like. Plus, I really need black pudding in my breakfast universe.

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Overall, an almost stellar breakfast experience and a night in a rocket is one mission we won’t forget.

Dinner@No.1 Harbourside, Bristol

Tonight we are on our way to a Superorganism gig with my niece, Edda.  First we are meeting her for dinner at No.1 Harbourside in the centre of Bristol.  We’ve chosen No.1 Harbourside because: it’s serving food on a Monday night; it’s reasonably close to the gig venue and; as Edda is a vegan, we need to find somewhere that caters well for vegans.

We meet Edda outside and the place is buzzing when we get inside. People either at the end of their working day or at the start of their evening – drinking, eating, chatting and enjoying themselves. Rock and I both have a beer and, following a heavy session the night before, Edda takes it easy with an Elderflower fizz.

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I have the Butcombe battered cod with smashed garden peas, homemade tartare sauce and hand cut chips.  Good chips and decent crispy batter covering the cod.  I’m happy.  Edda loves her spiced cauliflower & chickpea burger in a bun from the Bristol-based Assembly Bakery and served with house slaw, handcut chips and salad leaves from the Severn Project urban farm.  It’s just a shame that I failed to take a decent picture of it.

Rock, who as always is far more difficult to please, has the Thai fishcakes made with salmon and whiting and served with brown crab mayo, red onion, heritage tomatoes and Severn Project salad leaves (see featured image).  She thinks the fishcakes are very nice but she is struggling to find anything Thai about them.

Another beer for me and we are all set for the gig.  A short walk to the SWX and we are now having a brilliant time watching the fabulously unique stage performance of the quirky and groovy Superorganism.  It’s all good!