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.



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.


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.


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.


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.



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.

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.

Seared sea bass

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

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.

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.

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.

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.


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

Spiced beef brisket, red cabbage jam and shallot
Pan roasted hake, crushed turnips and Bromham carrots
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

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

Scallop & black pudding tortellono with swede purée, pickled pears and chicken jus
Pan-fried halibut with celeriac purée, poached Cox’s apples, Burbage shiitakes and a Noilly Prat beurre blanc
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!


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!

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.

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.

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!

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!










Lunch@Greys Brasserie, Easton Grey

We are celebrating an anniversary today – so we want to go somewhere special.  Grey’s Brasserie at Whatley Manor has a great write up in the Good Food Guide and the kitchen is staffed by the same people who produce the dishes for the Michelin starred Dining Room at Whatley Manor.  This should be a safe bet!

The place is almost deserted when we arrive and the hard floor of the restaurant gives it an almost clinical feel.  Rock enjoys a glass of the Côtes du Rhônes Visan, a rich and fruity red. I have pint of Easton Ale from Arkells Brewery – unfortunately, I find it rather flat and uninteresting.  Thankfully, other diners have started to arrive and they create some atmosphere.

I have the baked crayfish and macaroni thermidor to start.  The dish has plenty of seafood, the macaroni is soft and the sauce is packed with flavour.  A decent start though maybe lacking in the sort of culinary subtlety that I was hoping for.  Rock has the whiting goujons with tartare sauce which are crisp and tasty.


Next Rock has the crispy duck leg with roasted pumpkin, date puree and charred onion ….except the duck leg is not crispy and the dish seems to be totally uninspiring.  I have the glazed ox cheek with spiced red cabbage, parsnip and kale.  The red cabbage and the crispy kale are really good.  However, the ox cheek is the most tasteless piece of cooked meat that I have put in my mouth for a very long time and the parsnips taste as though they were cooked several days ago and then reheated for today’s lunch.  Both main courses are taken off the bill by Marco the restaurant manager.

For dessert I take one last gamble on the brioche bread and butter pudding with plum ice cream.  It is pretty good though the plum ice cream is a slightly bizarre flavour to use with bread and butter pudding and doesn’t really work.


This is really nothing like the experience we were hoping for…..all bets are off!

Dinner@Cantina Maya, Devizes

There is a distinctly multicultural, global feel about the traditional UK market town of Devizes tonight. We are here for dinner with our good friends Gino & Cosmo and it is also the night of the Devizes Carnival Parade which has an Indian theme. We pass paper constructions of elephants and cows held high in the air plus dancers and musicians festooned in multi-coloured outfits, all parading the town streets on our way to Cantina Maya – a restaurant that specialises in authentic South American food.

The carnival spirit is contagious and once inside Cantina Maya we head straight for the cocktail menu. A Caipiranha  for Gino, a Plantation Punch for Rock, a Mexican Mule for Cosmo and a Rhubarb Rhubarb for me. As you might expect, we all try a taste of each cocktail….the Plantation Punch and the Mexican Mule win round one.

Gino decides to have the Queso Fundido to start – a melting pot of cheese with sun-dried tomatoes and black olives served with corn chips. Rock & I share the Quesillados de Nopales – blue tortillas filled with griddled cactus, courgette, tomato, red onion, salsa verde, coriander and with mozzarella drizzled over the top. Cosmo has the Black Bean & Avocado Tostada. The vibrant food flavours just add to the carnival atmosphere. We need more cocktails – Gino moves onto the Plantation Punch while I have a Margarita.

Next I have the Lamb Tacos – tender, slow cooked lamb in a sweet Hibiscus sauce served with potatoes & watercress in soft tortillas. Gino has the Xinxim – a Brazilian stew of chicken and prawns cooked in a mild cashew sauce with lime and coconut. Cosmo has the Fish Con Coco – cod cooked in a lightly spiced coconut sauce. Rock has the Mayan Peanut Stew – chicken cooked in a lightly spiced peanut sauce. We enjoy sampling each other’s dishes in much the same way that we enjoyed sampling all our cocktails.

Gino and I can still find room for dessert. He has the glorious Lime & Coconut Syllabub while I enjoy the rich Chocolate Fondant served with ice cream.

Chocolate Fondant

A beautiful evening with wonderful friends – fantastic food, great cocktails and fabulous service from Rebecca and her team. Sometimes life is just a carnival!