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!

P1060996a

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.

P1060998a
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!

P1060999a
Cha Ca Quy Nhon
P1070001a
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.

P1070002a
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.

P1070004a
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.

 

 

P1070011a
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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

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.

P1060960a

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.

P1060968a
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.

P1060974a
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@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.

P1060918a
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.

 

 

 

P1060913a

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.

P1060922a
Patatas bravas
P1060917a
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!

P1060923a
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!

P1060925a
Petit fours

Dinner@Tierra Kitchen, Lyme Regis

Tierra Kitchen has a reputation for producing exciting vegetarian food, with influences of Mediterranean and French cuisine, using local, seasonal and organic produce from Dorset and Devon.  Some people still think vegetarian food cannot be exciting, but I’ve been to this place before, I know their food can be innovative and extraordinary.  Tonight, we are here for dinner with Neko and Ziggy.

We are served slices of pumpkin seed granary and white focaccia – both of which are superb.  I’m surprised but pleased to find Stroud Brewery’s Budding on the beer menu –  an organic pale ale with a floral aroma – it is a favourite of mine.

P1060824a
Sauté sweet potato, cashew & quinoa cakes served with apple, celeriac and an orange dressing

Rock and I share the sauté sweet potato, cashew & quinoa cakes served with apple, celeriac and an orange dressing.  The savoury cakes are decorated with quinoa, fried until crisp, the apple and celeriac salad is dressed with balsamic alongside the piquant orange dressing. It is a riot of flavours.

P1060822a
Pan fried filo parcel of smoked ricotta with a salad of rocket & marinated fennel and a lemon zest dressing

Ziggy has chosen the pan fried filo parcel of smoked ricotta served with a salad of rocket and marinated fennel and a lemon zest dressing. The sight of the smoked ricotta oozing from the filo parcel makes us all want to try some. Neko has the carpaccio of rainbow beetroot in raspberry vinegar, served with a fine new potato salad and horseradish cream – the finely sliced beetroot comes in shades of pink, purple and orange and Neko says it looks good and tastes great.

P1060820a
 Carpaccio of rainbow beetroot in raspberry vinegar with a fine new potato salad and horseradish cream

Ziggy, Neko and Rock all choose the same main course – spring warm salad.  Crispy pink fir apple potatoes, asparagus, baby carrots and pak choi served with toasted cashews, plum anise dressing and the addition of pan-fried halloumi. Washing up must be very easy here – all the plates go back looking as though they are already clean!

P1060825a
Spring warm salad

In the interests of the blog, I choose something different…goat’s cheese and pecan tortellini with asparagus, spring onion and red chilli.  The tortellini pasta is top notch and everything works beautifully together.  Yet another clean plate.

P1060831a
Lemongrass crème brulee with passionfruit sorbet and shortbread

For dessert Rock and Ziggy share the lemongrass crème brulee with passionfruit sorbet and shortbread. While I’m having the Tierra Queen of Puddings – layered nut sponge, marsala poached rhubarb & plums, topped with a glazed Italian meringue.  Wow!

P1060833a
Tierra Queen of Puddings

If this food isn’t exciting – I don’t know what is.  One of our best meals for 2018 so far.

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!

P1060634a

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.

P1060638a

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.

P1060640a

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!

P1060644a

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!

 

Lunch@Y Polyn, Capel Dewi

We are on the road to spend a few days in Pembrokeshire and we have spent some time researching the best place to stop on the way.  Y Polyn is an award winning restaurant/pub owned and run by Mark & Sue Manson for over 10 years. It should be the perfect spot for lunch.

We are warmly greeted as we arrive and the place is already quite busy with diners. I’m keen to try a Welsh ale and they have two on tap from the Tomos Watkin Brewery.  I decide to start with the IPA which is a golden ale with an extraordinarily smoky taste. Initially, I find it too smoky but once the food starts to arrive – the smokiness makes more sense.

P1060525a

Bread, butter and oil are placed on our table – both styles, foccaccia and seeded, are excellent.  The restaurant is using a Spotify playlist of 1980s classics….ok, but I would prefer something a little more interesting and contemporary. Rock begins with the duck ragu served with papardelle, pangritata (a mixture of breadcrumbs & fresh herbs toasted in olive oil) and parmesan.  It is very good.

P1060526a
Duck ragu with papardelle, pangritata and parmesan

I have the roast guinea fowl breast, pithivier of slow cooked leg, roast root vegetables, savoy cabbage and parsley velouté.  The breast is moist and succulent, the pithivier is made with melt in the mouth pastry and the filling is full of deep flavour.  The root vegetables (a mix of carrot, parsnip & celeriac) are sensational. I don’t usually rave about root vegetables, but wow!! To celebrate I move onto to the Tomos Watkin OSB – darker than the IPA and much more to my taste.

P1060527a
Roast guinea fowl breast, pithivier of slow cooked leg, roast root vegetables, savoy cabbage and parsley velouté

The main dishes and the sight of desserts being delivered to other tables have encouraged us to try one or two desserts ourselves.  Rock has the warm treacle tart with maple & pecan ice cream.  The treacle tart is obviously sweet but there is a noticeable citrus element that really heightens the flavour experience.  The pastry is fantastic and the ice cream is really nutty.

P1060532a
Baked egg custard tart with blackberry ice cream

I have the baked egg custard tart with blackberry ice cream.  Again great pastry and the baked egg custard is probably one of the richest custards I’ve ever tasted – full of cream.  The blackberry ice cream is nice but I’m not entirely sure it is the best accompaniment for the egg custard.

P1060535a

As coffee comes with ‘sweeties’ we cannot resist.  A small bowl of biscotti, shortbread and a rich chocolate fudge leaves us feeling well and truly fed.

We have had fantastically friendly, efficient and well-informed service from Gloria and Steve, the food has been fascinating and high quality – this has set the standard for our trip.  Let’s hope that some of the other places we visit can hit this standard.

Lunch@Pizarro, Bermondsey

José Pizarro has established himself as one of the leading chefs in London’s growing Spanish tapas scene.  Pizarro is one of three restaurants he has in London and we are looking forward to having our lunch there before heading to the theatre.  We have to battle our way through the snow and bitingly cold temperatures ….I can’t remember being so pleased to arrive at our destination as I am today!

We are warmly welcomed and José is not only in the house – but comes over to talk to us and to the other diners.  I have an Estrella Damm, a mediterranean lager brewed in Barcelona, while we study the menu.  Pizarro is not just a tapas restaurant – there are more substantial Spanish dishes on the menu.  However, Rock and I decide to share a selection of tapas dishes to start.

P1060430a
Croquetas

The first tapas dish is croquetas of blue cheese and spinach.  The blue cheese is not very  strong and the croquetas are crispy on the outside and silky soft inside.  Fantastic.  Next we have beetroot salad with mahón cheese.  This is not only one of the most beautiful dishes I have ever seen, it is also one of the best tasting.  A mix of finely sliced yellow beetroot mixed with red endive, blood orange, zingy capers, crunchy sunflowers seeds and mild mahón cheese….spectacular!

P1060431a
Beetroot salad with mahón cheese

The last tapas dish is tostada de sardina ahumada – basically smoked sardines with a piquant tomato paste on small pieces of toasted bread.  The flavours are sensational.  No wonder this man has a reputation for tapas!

P1060436a
Tostada de sardina ahumada

For the main course Rock chooses the mackerel & piquillo pepper paella.  After the glorious tapas, she finds the paella disappointingly bland.  I have the slow cooked Jacob’s beef rib with grilled onions and romesco sauce.  It is an extraordinary piece of meat – as thick as my forearm and nearly as long.  The beef is tender but there is just too much meat for me and I’m disappointed that the waiting staff did not recommend that I had another vegetable or rice to help balance the dish.  We take half the rib home with us for later enjoyment.

Overall, great atmosphere, probably the best tapas we’ve ever had, but the main courses just did not match the heights of the tapas.