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
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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!

 

Lunch@The Hardwick, Abergavenny

The Hardwick is either a pub with restaurant quality food or a restaurant with the feel,  atmosphere and furnishings of a pub.  Either way, it is the place to sample the food of  one of Wales’ leading chefs – Stephen Terry.  We are here for lunch and it shouldn’t come as any surprise  to learn that our expectations are very high.

We are welcomed at the bar in the first room of The Hardwick – a room with deep leather sofas and wood panelling on the walls.  Rock chooses an elderflower pressé from Belvoir while I decide to try the Sundown golden ale from the Untapped Brewing Company – a Welsh brewery based in Raglan.  The Sundown is a refreshing golden ale with hints of sweetness and spice – very good indeed!

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The sourdough bread here is made by award winning baker Alex Gooch and it is wonderfully light and has a fantastic flavour. I want to be adventurous and so I choose the panzanella (Italian style bread & tomato salad) & puntarelle (a variant of chicory) salad with grilled halloumi.  The dish is a blockbuster of strong flavours that work wonderfully together – by the time I finish it I doubt that my tastebuds will ever be the same again.

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Rock has the roast beetroot and heritage carrots with Neal’s Yard goat’s cheese, pine nuts, grilled castelfranco (aka edible rose) and tardivo ( a variety of radicchio).  It is a beautiful dish, with texture from the pine nuts and the rich creaminess of the goat’s cheese.  If anything, there is too much goat’s cheese and it slightly overpowers everything else.

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Rock moves on to a starter size of the braised rabbit with deep fried polenta, soffrito (a braising liquor of finely chopped vegetables and olive oil) & parmesan.  The rabbit is tender and the soffrito brings everything together.  I have the pan fried mackerel with deep fried crushed new potatoes, watercress & anchovy mayonnaise, purple sprouting, chard & a lentil salsa.  My tastebuds are brought back to life by the stunning mayonnaise and the salsa which both complement the perfectly cooked mackerel. Wow!

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We’ve been overwhelmed by a myriad of flavour combinations and interesting quality ingredients.  It looks like a pub, it feels like a pub ….but it tastes far better than most restaurants!

 

Food Awards 2017 – Part 3, small independents

WadeandRockandFood Awards 2017

Awards part 1 focused on our top restaurants, part 2 focused on our favourite pubs and now part 3 focuses on four small independent food providers that gave us something special during 2017.

Lynwood & Co, Lechlade – best breakfast

We visited Lynwood & Co after seeing it named in the Guardian’s 50 best breakfast places in the UK. The coffee is sublime and, with bread made by Max Abbott of Sourdough Revolution,their bacon sandwich is unbelievably good. Lynwood Review

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Sourdough bacon sandwich

Beadlam Grange Farmshop, Beadlam – best cheese

A great cheese counter filled with carefully selected cheeses and staffed by people who really know a lot about the goods they are selling.  You can taste before you buy and you are unlikely to be disappointed.  Introduced us to Black Cheddar! Beadlam Review

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Black Sticks Blue, Barncliffe Brie, Mrs Bell’s Ewes Milk Blue and Charcoal Black Cheddar

Mannion & Co, Helmsley – best coffee and cake

Beautiful coffee and fabulous, freshly baked artisan made cakes.  The cakes are often decorated with fresh fruit and interesting herbs that put them on a level above the competition. Mannion & Co also gave us the best pasta dish of 2017! Mannion Review

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Blueberry & thyme frangipane tart and a cappucinno

Blackwell, The Arts & Crafts House – best attached tea room

Usually when we visit an historic house and/or gardens the cafe or tea room seems to be only there to provide basic sustenance.  However at Blackwell they have an Arts & Crafts approach to food with a focus on quality, freshly prepared dishes.  We loved it! Blackwell Review

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Warm salad of pulled ham, orange & fennel served with Puy lentils, toasted pumpkin seeds, mixed leaves, honey mustard dressing and toasted homemade bread

Here’s hoping that 2018 gives us as much food joy as 2017!

The Spicery@home

We use The Spicery, a Bristol based mail order business that supplies some of the best restaurants in the UK, to supplement our home larder.  For far too long now we’ve had a pack called Seekh Kebab Night sitting in a cupboard looking terribly inviting.  Tonight we are going to create….

The pack includes spices for: seekh kebab; sizzling peppers; naan bread; garlic chilli chutney; raita herbs; chana masala; and even salad.  Extraordinary.  Most of the spices are familiar – we use mustard seeds, fenugreek and ginger all the time.  But ajowan, amchur and asafoetida – they are all new to me.

Rock works on the naan bread and the chana masala.  I work on the chutney, the raita, the sizzling peppers and the salad.  We share the task of creating the seekh kebabs.  The salad and raita just need mixing, pans for the chutney, chana masala, sizzling peppers and the kebabs are on the stove plus the naan bread is in the oven.

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The whole process takes us most of two hours – but it is worth the effort.  All the dishes taste fantastic – super hot but flavoursome chutney, zingy salad and raita, fabulous naan and the masala, kebabs and peppers all work really well together.  We only used half the ingredients so, maybe we should do this again next week…

Coffee&cake@Bettys, Northallerton

Bettys is a very civilised place. Traditional surroundings, staff in uniform and all the baking, patisserie, tea and coffee brewing skills you expect from a quality British institution. We’ve been to the Harrogate and Ilkley branches before – now it’s the turn of Bettys in Northallerton.

I have a cafetière of coffee made with Kenyan Karatina beans while Rock is happy with a cup of Bettys cafe blend. We share a piece of the Autumn berry cheesecake and the tangy lemon slice. They are both excellent with the cheesecake winning the beauty contest and the lemon slice winning on flavour.

As usual, as we leave Betty’s we wander into the shop to buy bread and pastries for later. It would be foolish not to!

Breakfast@Lynwood&Co, Lechlade

If you read The Guardian’s ’50 best breakfast places in the UK’ it almost feels like they have been reading this blog. Six of the 50 places have been featured in WadeandRockandFood. However, the article did bring one nearby place to our attention that we have not visited – Lynwood & Co.

This cafe in Lechlade has a relaxed friendly atmosphere. It is owned by Australian, Rob Broadbent, who makes an extraordinary flat white for Rock and an equally beautiful cappucino for me. Great coffee makes a great start to any breakfast. Can the food match the coffee?

We don’t have to wait long to find out – even though every item is freshly cooked. I have scrambled eggs on sourdough toast with smoked salmon. It is sensational but, at first, I can’t exactly work out why. Then, I taste the bacon sandwich that Rock has ordered and is raving about between mouthfuls. Now I understand – it is the bread!

The bread is made by Max Abbott of Sourdough Revolution. His bread is the lightest sourdough I have ever tasted and it is full of flavour. Max is in the cafe while we are there and takes the time to chat to us about his baking process.  Indeed, it’s all about time with Max – his starter goes through stages of fermentation and then his dough is fermented before being put in the fridge for several hours. In effect, each loaf takes days from starter to baking!

While chatting I try a pot of the tea. Only because I’m aiming to linger here for as long as possible. The tea is very good but it does not reach the standard set by the coffee.

Just in case I have not made myself clear – the bacon on Rock’s sandwich is fantastic and the smoked salmon on my plate is equally fabulous. In any normal breakfast – these would be the stars of the show. But this is not normal, here the coffee and the bread outshine all the other stars – Lynwood & Co is simply on another level!