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!

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Dinner@The Royal Oak, Bishopstone

We’ve been coming to The Royal Oak for over 10 years and very little has changed there…until now.  During 2017 they converted a nearby former pub into a hotel and at the same time refurbished the upstairs at the Royal Oak and built a decked terrace area outside – to create more space for diners, drinkers and those staying overnight.  All of this is part of an operation run by Helen Browning, chief executive of the Soil Association – so virtually everything we eat here will be organic.

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Pig’s cheek ragu

Rock decides to try the pig’s cheek ragu with penne pasta and parmesan.  The pasta is decent but not sensational, the ragu is full of flavour and there is plenty of parmesan.  I have the lamb two ways, confit and cutlet with minty mash and greens.  The lamb is fabulous with a great contrast between the almost barbecued taste of the cutlet and the deep richness of the confit.  The minty mash, using fresh mint, is also superb.  A pint of Arkells 3B helps to lubricate the whole affair.

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Lamb two ways with minty mash

We choose to share a dessert – baked cheesecake and rhubarb compote.  It is a very deep cheesecake, decorated with an edible flower – not too sweet but mellow enough to work with the tartness of the rhubarb.

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Baked cheesecake with rhubarb compote

The food is not sophisticated but it is very good and an improvement on our last visit, the new dining spaces give diners more room and the service, on this occasion from Tish, is friendly, efficient and helpful.

Lunch@The Bell, Ramsbury

The Bell at Ramsbury is another favourite haunt that we haven’t visited for a while.  It has been a good quality gastropub for some time now so, we are heading there for lunch with high expectations of great food and decent beer.

The bar area is very busy when we arrive and, as we are not wanting the more formal atmosphere of the restaurant, we squeeze round a small table until something bigger becomes available.  This gives us an opportunity to examine the menu and order some drinks.

Rock has an apple juice with soda while I have the Ramsbury Bitter.  The Bell is part of the Ramsbury Estate which has its own brewery, distillery and smokehouse.  The Ramsbury Brewery produces a range of real ales and I’m starting with the bitter.  It is an amber ale made with barley and Golding hops and carries a decent amount of flavour.

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Even though we were planning to have a relatively light lunch – I’m sufficiently excited about the starter menu to order the pan seared scallops with peas, parsley root purée, black pudding & ham crisp.  Three beautifully cooked scallops duly arrive with a small peak of crushed peas, the interesting pale purée, scattered crumbs of black pudding and two crispy pieces of ham.  Delightful.

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I order a second beer – this time Ramsbury Gold – which I enjoy a lot more than the bitter. We then wait for quite a while, watching as other tables that ordered after us are served and wondering if our order has somehow fallen between the cracks.  Eventually, Rock’s desire for some food has become unnerving and I go to the bar to find out what has happened.  We receive apologies and, not too long after, our main courses.

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Rock has chosen the small size Ramsbury Gold battered haddock with triple cooked chips, crushed peas and tartare sauce.  The batter is fantastically light and flavoursome and the chunky chips are top quality. I’m having the Ramsbury smokehouse venison sausages with creamed mash, kale and a red wine gravy.  The sausages are rich and meaty, the venison much more highly flavoured than pork or beef.  It’s a glorious version of sausage and mash.

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We order coffee and homemade salted caramel truffles which, because of the wait for our main courses, are taken off the bill.  The truffles are excellent. Great food, lovely atmosphere and, as far as we are concerned, they rescued the tiny glitch in service.

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Dinner@The Palm, Froxfield

The Palm is an Indian restaurant but unlike most, it’s not positioned on a busy city centre street or at the heart of a bustling market town, it is set in the middle of the Wiltshire countryside.  Tonight I’m meeting two people with whom I’ve shared many curry experiences over the years – Wills & Antonio.

Wills and I arrive together – Rock gave us a lift but she’s leaving the boys to it tonight.  However, Antonio is running late….he’s had a problem with a train.  We pass the time by working our way through a number of poppadums, served with pickles, chutney and raita, plus there is the opportunity to have a pint or two of Cobra.

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Chicken lollipops

Antonio eventually arrives and we can order something more substantial.  Wills selects the spiced chicken lollipop – chicken marinated in ginger, garlic and Szechuan sauce and then dusted with a gram flour batter.  Antonio has the mixed tandoori kebab – a combination of lamb tikka, seasoned sheek kebab and chicken with mint, fennel and coriander.  I have the seared sea bass,  marinated in tamarind & pineapple.  All the starters are quickly dispatched and enjoyed.

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Seared sea bass

Our very lively conversation covers football, moving house, work-life balance, challenging television appearances, problems with trains….and much more.

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Tandoori mixed grill

Onto the main event.  Our table is crowded with dishes of Rajasthani lamb, chicken tikka dansak, the chef’s recommendation – a chicken dish in a bright red sauce, sag aloo, garlic & peshwari naans and pilau rice…..but will that be enough food for three growing boys?

After another Cobra or two the answer is clear – all the food has been good – particularly the vibrant red chicken dish and the naan, but there is no way we can finish it all.

Great to see Wills and Antonio – a good night out in the Wiltshire countryside!

Dinner@Siana, Old Town

Siana is one of the newest restaurants in Old Town and, as I’m meeting Gino for one of our regular culinary adventures and neither of us has been there before, this seems like the ideal opportunity to try it out.  Siana is on the sight of Mela, an established curry house that closed down in September 2017.  It will be interesting to see if Siana offers something different to the area.

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Patna samosa chat

A traditional pint of Cobra helps us concentrate on the menu choices.  Gino chooses the Patna Samosa Chat – lamb samosas served on a bed of chickpea chat masala, spiced with fresh herbs and tamarind.  It sounds and looks fabulous but Gino is less than inspired by the taste – the samosa pastry is perfectly cooked but the filling errs on the side of bland.  I am having the Lamb Tikka and I’m more fortunate than Gino – my lamb is beautifully flavoured.

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Lamb tikka

For his main course, Gino chooses the Chicken Tikka Shatkora.  Shatkora is a citrus fruit regularly used in Bangladeshi cuisine.  It is something like a cross between a lemon and a grapefruit – it is sour, bitter and gives the dish a real tang! It is a bit too bitter for Gino – even when mixed with everything else we have ordered for this course.

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Chicken tikka shaktora

I’ve chosen the Chicken Bengal Special – cooked with 21 different spices, onions, peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms, fenugreek, garlic and ginger.  It looks similar to Gino’s  but without the shaktora.  I really like the wide range of flavours and, along with the sag bhaji, it serves to dilute the power of the shaktora dish.  Plus we have decent chapati, excellent nan & pilau rice.

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As usual, we have ordered more than we can comfortably eat.  The food has been well presented and the general quality has been more refined than you find in many restaurants of a similar type.  I’ve really enjoyed it and I’m confident that I’ll give Siana another try in the future….I’m not so sure about Gino!

2017 Food Awards – Part 2, Pubs

WadeandRockandFood Awards 2017

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

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Spiced beef brisket, red cabbage jam and shallot
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Pan roasted hake, crushed turnips and Bromham carrots
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Cinnamon and pumpkin creme diplomat with golden syrup ice cream and candied pecan nuts

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

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Stornaway black pudding with bubble & squeak and a crispy hen’s egg
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Braised beef cheek with horseradish, wild mushrooms, creamed potatoes & borderlaise sauce
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Lemon tart with damson sorbet

 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 

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Scallop & black pudding tortellono with swede purée, pickled pears and chicken jus
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Pan-fried halibut with celeriac purée, poached Cox’s apples, Burbage shiitakes and a Noilly Prat beurre blanc
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Chocolate bark, poached pear with a hazelnut praline ice cream, home-made granola with a rum punch sorbet, chocolate creméux and a citrus Genoese sponge with apple & créme fraîche

Food Awards – Part 3, on small independent food providers, will follow in the next few days.

Lunch@The Red Lion, East Chisenbury 2017

Last time we were at the Red Lion, earlier this year, Rock had a migraine and we had to leave before we had even started our lunch…just one of those things.  The time before that we left disappointed because, after having so many fabulous meals here, we had a lunch that fell short of our very high expectations.  Now we are back wanting to have our faith in this great place fully restored!

I get into the mood for lunch with a seasonal beer.  That Old Chestnut is a dark brown smooth bitter both malty and hoppy from the Ramsbury Brewery.  Perfect for the winter.   Rock has an organic apple juice from Luscombe with soda. Now we are ready for another Red Lion food adventure!

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My adventure starts with the scallop & black pudding tortellono with swede purée, pickled pears and chicken jus.  The tortellono is made with wafer thin fresh pasta and deeply filled with a mixture of scallop and black pudding.  The swede purée is silky smooth, slices of piquant pear, herbs, baby onions, chicken jus plus additional cubes of black pudding and balls of pear all combine to make this heaven on a plate.  Wow!

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Scallop & black pudding tortellono with swede purée, pickled pears and chicken jus

No starter for Rock – she is saving plenty of space for dessert.  Her main course is pan-fried halibut with celeriac purée, poached Cox’s apples, Burbage shiitakes and a Noilly Prat beurre blanc.  The halibut is perfectly cooked, the purée and the beurre blanc bring a riot of flavours that beautifully complement the fish and the apple brings a tart, refreshing zing to the dish.  The combination of celeriac, celery, celery leaves, poached and fresh apple work incredibly well with the halibut.  She is loving it.

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Pan-fried halibut with celeriac purée, poached Cox’s apples, Burbage shiitakes and a Noilly Prat beurre blanc

I have the roast partridge with cromesqui (a small savoury croquette), potato millefeuille, parsnips, prunes, quince and sauce poivrade ( a lightly peppered game sauce).  The partridge is succulent, the potato millefeuille is one of the best potato things I have ever tasted, parsnip purée and shavings of parsnip add different textures, the prunes add sweetness and the quince its own delicate flavour.  Plus the rich depth of savoury cromesqui is a delight. If we were not in a public place we would pick up our plates and lick them clean! Omg.

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Roast partridge with cromesqui, potato millefeuille, parsnips, prunes, quince and sauce poivrade

The Red Lion has held a Michelin star since 2013 and this is due to the skill of Guy and Brittany Manning.  Guy runs the kitchen and Brittany moves effortlessly between front of house and dessert creation.  We have loved Guy’s starter and main courses, we have talked to Brittany as she dashes between tables, now we will find out if the Brittany inspired desserts live up to the exceptional standard that Guy’s dishes have set.

We decide to share the Red Lion Café Gourmand – a modest portion of five different desserts.  Served on a large piece of slate we have: a chocolate creméux; a citrus Genoese sponge with apple & créme fraîche; home-made granola with a rum punch sorbet; poached pear with a hazelnut praline ice cream; and a chocolate bark with salt, chilli, pumpkin & sunflower seeds. Rich, indulgent chocolate, incredible sorbet and flavours that are both surprising and wonderful.  Have I said wow enough times already….I don’t care.  Wow!

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Chocolate bark, poached pear with a hazelnut praline ice cream, home-made granola with a rum punch sorbet, chocolate creméux and a citrus Genoese sponge with apple & créme fraîche

As ever, the service here has been wonderful.  We were mostly looked after by Ruth who was efficient, friendly and helpful.  On our way out we stopped at the entrance to the kitchen to thank Guy & Brittany for lunch and they happily took time to chat to us about some of our recent food adventures.

To summarise our experiences of the food at The Red lion….occasionally good, regularly great, often extraordinary.  This time round…absolutely extraordinary!