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.
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!
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!
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.
Mackerel & piquillo pepper paella
Slow cooked Jacob’s beef rib
Overall, great atmosphere, probably the best tapas we’ve ever had, but the main courses just did not match the heights of the tapas.
Malt & Anchor has taken over the spot in Cirencester town centre that used to be the home of one of our favourite lunch haunts, Eat Wild. In the National Fish & Chips Awards 2018, Malt & Anchor won the Best Newcomer award. Eat Wild was one of the best places for a quality burger – let’s see if Malt & Anchor is able to take up the vacant position in our favourites list with their fish and chips!
The restaurant is modestly sized with more tables upstairs. We get a table downstairs because we booked but walk-ins are soon being shown upstairs. I’m slightly disappointed that the new owners don’t even try to match the excellent music playlist of Eat Wild… but, having said that, no music is a great deal better than bad music.
Can they match Eat Wild for beer? I try Hooked, a small batch blonde ale, created by the Bespoke Brewing Company from the Forest of Dean. It’s a clean, refreshing ale with a slight tang of citrus, it should work perfectly with fish and chips. Rock has the Frobishers apple juice and soda.
Cod comes in two sizes here – regular and lite bite. Rock, being petite and ladylike, decides that the beer battered lite bite will be enough for her. When it arrives, she is very happy with the portion size and even happier with the quality. Fantastic batter, beautiful fish, excellent twice-cooked chips. The home-made tartare sauce is fabulous and even the mushy peas – Rock is not a fan of mushy peas – disappear from her plate.
I’m having the full-sized haddock with a lighter batter. I am very happy – everything on my plate is just as good as on Rock’s. The beer does work perfectly and it is very evident that Malt & Anchor is easily going to claim the position as one of our favourite places to lunch!
It has been a while since we visited The Swan. It was a regular of ours until it changed hands a few years ago. Now part of Thyme, a local hotel and cookery school where I once spent a day learning to make and cook pasta – we are eager to see if The Swan is as good (or even better) than it used to be. We are meeting our friends Jem & Sassy there for lunch in order to find out.
Rock starts with a fizz – a blood orange and pomegranate fizz to be precise. Juice of blood orange, fleshy pomegranate seeds and lemon juice all brought to life by a healthy measure of champagne. I have a pint of the Swan’s own real ale – Village Tipple. We are already enjoying ourselves.
Jem and I both like the sound of Matt’s Scotch egg. Matt Wardman is the chef at The Swan and a chef-tutor at the Thyme cookery school – so our expectations are high. The Scotch eggs are presented already cut to reveal runny yolk centres beautifully encased in home-made sausagemeat and breadcrumbs. Fabulous. Sassy is having the heritage beetroot risotto with mascarpone and parmesan reggiano. The beetroot gives the dish a vibrant red appearance and Sassy tells us that it tastes as good as it looks. Rock does not have a starter…she’s too busy with her fizz!
Jem moves on to the salmon fishcakes for his main course, served with garden leaves and aioli. The fishcakes are good size balls and well filled. The garden leaves are enhanced by the addition of apple and pomegranate. Both Rock and Sassy are having the squash and ricotta ravioli with crispy sage, pine nuts and parmesan. The ravioli is beautifully presented and tastes really good – though Rock feels that the pasta would be even better if it had been rolled a little thinner. I have the Southrop mutton shoulder shepherd’s pie served with kale. It tastes fantastic.
Salmon fishcakes, alioli, garden leaves
Southrop’s mutton shoulder shepherd’s pie
Squash and ricotta ravioli with crispy sage & pine nuts
Do we have room for dessert? Probably not, but when has that ever stopped us. Jem and Sassy go for the Monmouth pudding – baked breadcrumbs in cream, with jam, berries and topped with a soft meringue. Rock has a mix of raisin & Pedro Ximenez ice cream, pear sorbet and a shortbread biscuit. She tells me that the sorbet is just beautiful. I have the Limoncello & poppy seed semifreddo with macaroons. It is full of cream and sugar and probably many other things that potentially could lead to a heart attack – still, I’m having no difficulty in really enjoying it.
Pear sorbet, raisin & Pedro Ximenez ice cream
Limoncello & poppy seed semifreddo with macaroons
It has been great to spend time with Jem & Sassy and I think we are all in agreement about The Swan and its food. It is at least as good as it used to be and not much thyme will pass before we are back for more. We may have to wait a little while as The Swan is closing briefly for some reburbishment.
Daylesford Farm near Kingham is not only one of our favourite places for organic food shopping it is also a splendid place to eat. Today, after a night in Stratford-upon-Avon, we are heading there for breakfast.
Good quality coffee is important and it is superb here. Rock has a standard flat white and I have a large cappuccino. Now we are very much in the mood for food. I order the farmhouse breakfast – sausage, streaky bacon, fried eggs, tomato, mushrooms, toast & black pudding. Everything is really high quality, almost everything is organic – the bacon and black pudding are both excellent.
Rock is trying something different – one of the supercharged breakfast dishes created by the Daylesford nutritionist! Fennel, orange & ginger radiance tea poached pears, coconut yoghurt, mint and toasted walnuts. Rock is really enjoying the mix of delicate flavours that all combine beautifully together.
That has well and truly set us up for the morning ahead. Now for some serious food shopping!
We have been resting a while after the seasonal excess. Now it’s time for our first blog meal of the year and we are starting as we mean to go on – aiming for quality. Paul Foster from Salt, was named as the Up-and-Coming Chef of the Year by the Good Food Guide 2018….so this should be a great place for lunch.
Rock is pleased to see that they stock an elderflower pressé by Lovely and I am equally happy to try the Harry’s Heifer ale from the Church Farm Brewery in nearby Warwick. Lovely soft drinks are handcrafted in Bristol and have won several Great Taste Awards. My Harry’s Heifer is an amber ale with citrus and floral notes. It is excellent.
We want something more than the set lunch but we cannot manage the 6 course tasting menu so we are choosing from the a la carte. I decide to start with the cured halibut with a cep ragu, yellow chanterelles and crispy onion. The halibut is soft and delicate and works well with the mushrooms & onion. As I’m not a great fan of truffle, I’m disappointed that truffle oil has been added to the dish (it’s not mentioned on the menu), and for me the flavour is just too strong for the halibut.
Rock decides against a starter and her first dish is spiced pheasant breast with lentil dhal, butternut squash and yoghurt. She is enjoying it but it doesn’t quite have the wow factor she was hoping for. I have the beef onglette with braised shin, beef fat hollandaise, crispy artichoke and pickled radish. The braised shin is a little tasteless but the onglette is medium rare, tender and full of flavour. I love the crispy artichoke and the hollandaise is inspired. Both main dishes were sadly served warm rather than hot!
The most interesting sounding dessert on the menu is the brown bread ice cream sandwich with blueberries and sorrel. That is the one we have decided to share. The ice cream is sandwiched between two flat tuiles made from brown bread, there are fresh blueberries, a blueberry syrup, strands of sorrel and a sorrel granita. It is fabulous. We both have coffee which is served with delightful choux buns filled with Scots pine custard.
It has been a meal of two halves, the starter and main courses were good – the dessert and petit fours were great.
The WadeandRockandFood Awards 2017 follow another year of dining out in hundreds of restaurants, pubs and cafes. The awards aim to celebrate the very best eating experiences we have had over the last 12 months. Awards 2017 part 1 focused on restaurants, part 2 focuses on pubs and part 3 will focus on small independent food providers.
In 2015 we found several sensational pubs. In both 2016 and 2017 we have not been quite so fortunate – with many places falling short on imagination and quality. However each of our top 3 pubs, shown below in alphabetical order, are definitely worthy of their place.
King William, Bath
Not in the most fashionable part of Bath but well worth the short walk from the town centre. Fabulous beers on tap and interesting food that is beautifully prepared. Informal, friendly atmosphere and great service. King Review
Punch Bowl, Crossthwaite
Cumbrian hospitality at its very best. Warm, welcoming and beautifully prepared food presented with style and good humour. Should be near the top of the list for any foodie visiting the lake district. Punch review
Red Lion, East Chisenbury
Our favourite gastropub was in peak form when we visited a few weeks ago. Guy & Brittany Manning deliver dishes that are always good but often exceptional. We’ve been dining here since before they earned their first Michelin star …and that was back in 2013. Lion review
Food Awards – Part 3, on small independent food providers, will follow in the next few days.
The WadeandRockandFood Awards 2017 follow another year of dining out in hundreds of restaurants, pubs and cafes. The awards aim to celebrate the very best eating experiences we have had over the last 12 months. Part 1 will focus on restaurants, part 2 on pubs and part 3 on small independent food providers.
We have had an extraordinary year in terms of visiting restaurants of the highest quality. As usual, we have narrowed it down to 3 UK restaurants that we loved the most, plus an award for the best international eating experience. The top UK restaurants are listed in alphabetical order followed by the winner of the international award.
Arras is relatively new and we hope it continues to thrive… as it produces very interesting dishes. Balancing a combination of flavours is the key when being inventive and this kitchen contains people with very finely tuned palates. The balance of flavours often borders on perfection! Arras review
When you visit a place that has two Michelin stars it is impossible not to have very high expectations. At Marcus they delivered food that met and exceeded those expectations and the level of service and attention to detail was extraordinary. Marcus review
The Woodspeen, Woodspeen
The Woodspeen is the only establishment in any category to have appeared every year in our Awards. Their success is due to the excellent food and service that they consistently deliver every single time we visit. Wood Review 1Wood Review 2
The Artist, Bucharest
The Artist gave us one of the best eating experiences we have had anywhere in the world. Extraordinary food presented in exceptional ways – almost like a culinary theatre! Artist review
The WadeandRockandFood Awards parts 2 and 3 will follow over the next few days.