Lunch@Arigato, Newbury

Time for our first Japanese meal of the year.  We are meeting our good friends Antonio & Elisabetta for lunch at Arigato in the centre of Newbury.  Set in a Georgian building on the edge of the Avon & Kennet canal, Arigato appears to be a great setting for some interesting culinary experiences and for catching up with friends that we haven’t seen for a while.

We are running late so, when we arrive, Antonio & Elisabetta are already there.  Antonio is enjoying a glass of red wine and, as it is impolite to let anyone drink alone, I order a pint of Asahi Super Dry.  This is a clean, dry Japanese rice lager with some slightly sweet notes that can be picked up as it goes down.  The more sensible and more generous ladies have ‘volunteered’ to drive.

Food soon arrives and the first dish is a Miso soup, made from a dashi stock of fish and seaweed, it is a pleasant beginning.  Antonio and Elisabetta are both having sushi rolls – sesame covered sticky rice rolls filled with salmon and fish roe.  Rock and I are sharing tuna Tataki with Miso and seabass tempura.  The tuna is perfectly prepared – marinated, then just seared on the outside – then sliced to show the inside almost raw.  It is lightly coated  by something that is both a sweet and sticky and accompanied by a sharp and tangy sauce.  The tempura batter is very delicate and the seabass inside is beautiful.  Meanwhile, the next dish for Antonio and Elisabetta has arrived…crispy squid served with lime and salad vegetables.

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Tuna Tataki with Miso

The conversation is lively and covers a very wide range of topics – work, Yorkshire, appearing on TV, holidays and other great places to eat.

Next Rock is having the vegetarian Gyoza, steamed Japanese dumplings served with a dipping sauce.  Antonio & Elisabetta are enjoying the chicken Katsu curry – the breaded and fried chicken has been added to a silky rich curry sauce and served with rice and salad.  I’ve moved on to the chicken Teriyaki noodles – ginger, honey and sesame oil flavours work their way through the dish and I’m really enjoying it.

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Chicken Teriyaki noodles

Antonio and I still have room for dessert – he picks the green tea Mochi and, knowing Rock’s love of chocolate, I pick the chocolate Mochi.  Very intense flavours, interesting consistency – well worth trying.

Good food and great company – it’s what lunch should always be about!

 

 

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Lunch@Bill’s, Newbury

Bill Collison used to be a greengrocer but these days he has a string of restaurants around the UK. We are visiting Bill’s in the Market Square of Newbury for lunch.

I start in my usual way by examining the beer menu and I find that it would be inappropriate to order anything other than Bill’s IPA. Brewed exclusively for Bill’s restaurants by the Adnams Brewery of Southwold, it is a light and golden India Pale Ale with just a hint of citrus.  Rock has Bill’s elderflower cordial with sparkling water and, as a connoisseur of elderflower cordials, she is impressed.

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The lunchtime menu is an interesting mix of British favourites, with other dishes influenced by Italian, Asian and Cypriot cuisines. Rock and I decide to mix and match – we pick dishes that will work together and I’ll swap some of mine for some of hers.

Rock’s choice is easily the most interesting. Roasted aubergine, lentil & chickpea dhal served with cherry tomatoes, coriander chutney, toasted almonds and a grilled flatbread. It is beautifully put together and works extremely well with my Thai green chicken curry. The green curry is fiery, boosted by the flavour of fresh lemongrass, sugar snap peas and served with coconut rice.

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I’m briefly fascinated by a conversation at the next table. The couple want to order a ham omelette from the breakfast menu but they stop serving breakfast here at midday on weekdays. However, these diners are incredibly insistent and the manager is called. He explains that the breakfast chef has finished for the day but says that he will personally cook them ham omelettes. I think the manager deserves a pat on the back.

We are impressed enough by our food so far that we decide to share a dessert. The banana and honeycomb cheesecake served with frozen yoghurt and salted caramel sauce tastes like a variation on a banoffie pie but the frozen yoghurt brings it back from the overly rich sweetnees of banoffie. It is good.

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Bill’s is not fine dining but it does appear to be a restaurant chain that can produce both simple, familiar dishes and more interesting international plates.