Tasty Torquay Tour

I always look forward to my annual trip to Torquay, mainly because it involves eating out every night! Now I could not blog every thing I ate this week but I would like to mention my top three places to eat. Alas, no photos from this trip as did not have camera with me, so hope the links to the places help.

Probably the best fish and chips ever……

A trip to Dartmouth gave us an opportunity to experience Mitch Tonk’s Rockfish. The tag line of the restaurant is “Fish so fresh, tomorrows is still in the sea”- a fantastic advert in itself. The fish is caught locally and cooked in an open kitchen. The informal cafe style setting and cardboard serving trays make it a great place for families and the menu offering lots of different types of  fish cooked in either batter, breadcrumbs or grilled, had the old favourites but also some new fish to try. I went for the battered halibut, which was a chunk of meaty fish in a golden, delicate batter. The chips have to be some of the best I have ever eaten but I struggled to eat the portion I ordered and maybe would have been better off sharing with a friend! We also ordered a portion of sand eels, the special of the day, as none of us had tried them before. We were all expecting large chunks of eel, but were pleasantly surprised when long, individual battered eels came up, reminding me of whitebait especially with the mayo dip.  Great fish and chips, simply done but in a much better setting than a greasy chippy. Would love to see more of these types of places all over, as Dartmouth is so far away from me for it to be a regular haunt!

Views and Vino

After several recommendations and being unable to secure a booking last year, a visit to The Cary Arms had been planned for a long time!  The wait was well worth it, if only for the view (please do take time to visit the website as words just cannot describe it!). We got to enjoy the view from our table by the window as we perused the blackboard menus. The food is gastro pub fare done extremely well. My prawn and crayfish cocktail had a twist of a Bloody Mary sauce which gave a tang to the succulent seafood. My tuna steak was cooked to perfection, which made up for the fact that I had not been asked how I wanted it cooked! A fellow diner complained that his portion of hake wrapped in proscuttio was too small but I think he had just picked the wrong thing as everyone else was very happy with the size of their plates. To finish the meal off, I memorized the desserts board for our table, proud of myself, but then our waitress brought over the mini menu board! The caramelized pears on toasted brioche was divine and rounded the meal off well.

I would love to visit The Cary Arms hotel but think that may have to wait for a very special occasion!!!

The Orange Tree

After visiting Torquay every year for ten years, this is a firm favourite and one I look forward to visiting all summer. It is everything a restaurant should be and more and if I ever were to own my own place, I would want it to be like The Orange Tree. The service is second to none, friendly but not overbearing. The setting is serene and calming. The menu is seasonal and well thought out and often needs deliberating over to make sure the right decision is made! It always is!

This year again lived up to the high expectations. From the outset with homemade olive and parmesan bread to the moreish petit fours, the night of ideal food was excellent. A crab bisque with king scallops was creamy and fishy with the perfectly cooked scallops adding an extra hit to the foamy soup. This year, we decided to go for the sorbet course- my mojito sorbet had the right limey hit; however my friend’s pink grapefruit sorbet was too sharp and hit the back of the throat. But that was just one glitch.

Now as a pescatarian, I usually go for the fish, but the sweetcorn polenta with creamed mushrooms and tomato and pine nut sauce sounded too good to turn down. Having sampled Roast Potato’s Mushroom Polenta, inspired by Ottolenghi’s Plenty recipe, I knew it should be something good. And it was, so good that I found it hard to eat the legendary Orange Tree mash!

The restaurant makes choosing dessert easy as they offer a trio of mini desserts-a selection of their best. I had to have this and enjoyed a mini creme brulee flavoured with Tia Maria and a homemade crumbly shortbread; a slice of dark chocolate tart with pineapple and coconut ice cream; a mini summer pudding with creme fraiche and homemade honeycomb. All three were to die for desserts but the highlight had to be the honeycomb.

Anyone in the Torquay area at any point should make a big effort to visit The Orange Tree, to me one of my favourite top 5 restaurants.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Baby Borough

Real Food Market, Covent Garden

I love visiting Borough Market- a complete sensory experience for any foodie; I really wish I lived closer to it so it could be a much more regular haunt. I am always on the lookout for similar markets and think may have found a mini version of it with the Covent Garden Real Food Market.

After seeing The Dessert Deli mention the market on Twitter, I thought I would take myself off for a trip there.

As with any good food market, I could smell it before I saw it. This is why it reminded me of a mini, scaled down version of Borough. The day I went, there were about 15 stalls, with a range of products. The most popular stalls were the ones selling ready to eat food, including pasta and hot meat sandwiches which were popular with the swarms of Covent Garden tourists. There were also a few bread stalls selling their wares and lots of cake stalls. I paid a visit to the Dessert Deli and brought a slice of deliciously moist Banoffee Cake and some tiny fudgy chocolate brownies which were presented in a little gift bag, very handy for me to take as a gift to a party later on that evening! It was hard to choose what to get from the Dessert Deli stall as everything was presented in such a way that I could have eaten everything! But I had to resist the sugar rush especially as I had spooted another stall selling Oreo Cupcakes!

I also enjoyed sampling some flavoured oils and balsamic vinegars and brought a bottle of truffle infused balsamic glaze.

I had hoped to buy and sample some cheeses as was promised on the leaflet, but alas no cheesy stalls for me. I would love to return to buy some more goodies but will have to wait until the holidays as the powers that be have moved this market to a Thursday from Saturday, am sure there is a good reason for it, but this does mean us mere mortals who usually work in the week cannot visit on a regular basis.

If you are in the Covent Garden area on a Thursday, don’t make lunch or afternoon plans and go along to the market and enjoy a delectable feast.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Birthday Bournemouth Beach Banquet

Got to be the best thing I have eaten all year! Made it myself this weekend!

Off on the train to Bournemouth for a day out to celebrate hubby’s birthday. Now I like to do my research before I go and eat anywhere but can’t always find out an honest opinion about restaurants from internet search engines. I had met Nick from Lost in the Larder at the Jo Pratt event a few months ago and I remembered that he came from that neck of the woods so I contacted him. A big thank you to Nick as he came up with several recommendations, all of which looked great.

The first one I booked was The Print Room; unfortunately a week before we were due to go I received a phone call to say it had gone under!

So back to the recommendations and I booked West Beach

It was easy to find, being on the beach and we were seated by the window ( thankfully not outside due to our delightful British summer weather!). We enjoyed a fabulous lunch; being a beachside restaurant, fish is their speciality and they do it very well. There was just one small drawback, birthday boy hubby ordered a lemon tart for dessert; unfortunately we were told 25 minutes after we ordered it, that it was not available. The staff were apologetic but it was just a shame we couldn’t have been told earlier. However, the other two courses were perfect and could not be faulted at all.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Making Whoopee

Pies of course, what else were you thinking about?

Having admired many photographs of these and having tried M and S ones, I decided to have a go at them myself.

I am not a baker, think it comes from me being more of a throw it all in and see what happens type of girl! I know that baking is more of a science and I do try but I have a reputation for making delicious cakes but they look awful! To quote a current advert “you can’t measure taste with a spirit level!”

Back to the pies; I found two recipes- one from Simon Rimmer from Something for the Weekend - Chocolate Whoopie Pies
and one from the Sainsbury’s magazine Vanilla Whoopie Pies

Both the recipes were fairly easy to follow, using different methods to add the marshmallow filling. I particularly liked Simon Rimmer’s melting marshmallow technique, reminscent of childhood marshmallow toasting. However, my problem came with the size of the pies. Both spread out during the cooking process and I ended up with huge whoopies!!!! The chocolate ones looked liked cookies and had a cookie like texture when eating. The vanilla ones were more of a cupcake sponge like quality.

The proof of the pie is in the eating and I had two willing volunteers (who had both tried my baking before and survived!!!) -the more popular ones were the vanilla ones; the chocolate ones were too chocolatey, maybe because of their large size! I may make them again but will continue to research recipes to find one that might work for an incompetent baker like me!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Cricketers, Clavering

A birthday treat for me was a visit to The Cricketers in Clavering.  This is famous for being owned by Jamie Oliver’s parents. We had been looking forward to it for months and after several recommendations from colleagues I was anticipating a great night.

The hotel room was simplistically luxurious; a four poster bed draped with purple silk had me from the minute we walked into the room! Having watched too many Hotel Inspectors on the TV, I have become a hotel critic and feel myself doing the checks just like Ruth Watson or Alex Pollizi, but could not find anything to moan about!

Of course, the whole point of this visit was to sample the food. We had booked a table in the restaurant and ate off the set priced three course menu; you can also eat in the bar from the same menu and pay for dishes individually. The set price of just under £30 was good value.

Unfortunately, we were left a little underwhelmed. Or we could have just had very high expectations.

The service seemed almost haphazard; there did not seem to be one particular waitress assigned to our table, I think we counted at least 5 different people who approached the table. I am not saying there is something wrong with this but didn’t seem like a personal service. It was also a little on the rushed side at the beginning of the meal, something that worried us as we knew there was nowhere else to go after the meal and it was looking like we were going to be finished very early! However, it went to the other extreme after the main course and we were actually forgotten about for 40 minutes or so! We were finally remembered and the dessert menus brought over.

Anyway back to the food. A delicious basket of home made bread, including a sun dried tomato focaccia was left for us to nibble on during the 5 minutes we had to wait for our starters. Hubby enjoyed a minestrone soup while I tucked into the best part of the meal, a homemade spaghetti with crab and chilli. The pasta was cooked to perfection, al dente and was very obviously home made. The simple crab, chilli and tomato sauce was just enough to coat the pasta and made me want more!

Both of us went for something from the daily fish specials- I had turbot with prawns, chard and a ginger sauce, hubby had Baked Cod with Saute Potatoes and Red Onions. Mine had the option of new potatoes and homeade chips; I went for the potatoes which were tasty but I did covet the chips when I saw them on another table! I also chose a rocket and  parmesan side salad while hubby went for the seasonal veg (according to the menu, these came from Jamie’s garden!); the sides were done well but were nothing fabulous. The fish was tasty and worked well with the chard and the prawns. I was a little wary of the ginger sauce; there was a lot of it and it had quite a custardy consistency. Hubby enjoyed his cod and saute potatoes- almost a posh and healthy fish and chips!

The dessert menu didn’t excite us too much, I had caramelised peaches with mascarpone which lacked flavour. Hubby had a pecan and pear pavlova. The pecans were yummy and worked well with my caramelised peaches! I ended up with them all as hubby doesn’t like them! The meringue was beautifully done.

We were left to sit on our table and finish our drinks and do my favourite thing-people watch! There were quite a few big parties in and I would definitely recommend for a special celebration.

After a good night’s sleep, we were looking forward to breakfast (again feeling like the hotel inspector!) The service picked up and was a definite improvement on the night before. Mr Oliver Senior served us, along with another friendly waiter. The usual tea, coffee and juice were served along with a fresh yoghurt and fruit compote which was virtuously healthy! Then we were offered a choice of a full English breakfast, smoked haddock, a variety of eggs or fruit salad. Hubby had the full English which comprised of poached egg and bacon served with a bowl which included a meaty sausage (0ne of the best hubby has ever had), tomato, mushroom and saute potatoes. Hubby enjoyed the quality of it but would have liked more! I went for the smoked haddock and poached egg which was simply done and enjoyed with lots of warm buttered toast.

Overall, it was a pleasant weekend break away and if you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life I would recommend it for a quiet place to relax and enjoy some good home cooked style food.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

World Cup Party

Mini jellies, tiramisus and trifles

Ok so I may be a few weeks too late with this post, but had to include my party food that I made for our World Cup BBQ. We threw a BBQ to celebrate the first England match, and well enough said about the footy eh?!?!

I made a selection of BBQ food, I wanted to do something different than the usual burgers and sausages. Most of our friends appreciated the effort; however one person did complain that there were no burgers! I had to resist the urge to poke a lamb kebab somewhere the sun don’t shine! It was my desserts that were the most popular though so here they are in all their miniature glory!!!

The jellies were made from a packet ( a busy domestic goddess has to cheat sometimes!) and finished off with mini lemon slices or fruit.

The tiramisus and trifles had the same basic starter mixture (more details to follow once have found the recipe!!!) and then I just adapted it with vanilla for the trifles and amaretto for the tiramisus.

These were easy to prepare and had the WOW factor.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Cooking with Jo Pratt

On receiving an email inviting me a chance to cook with Jo Pratt, I jumped at the chance. Have got both her books In the Mood for Food and In the Mood for Entertaining and cook from them at least once a week. She makes recipes easy (hubby can even manage them!) and puts them into easy sections to choose from, perfect for the entertaining queen, whether it’s a romantic breakfast for two or cooking for a lads night in.

Anyway back to meeting Jo! I managed to find the venue Food at 52 Cooking School, arriving hot and sweaty and wondering what I was letting myself in for. The evening completely exceeded all my expectations from start to finish. The event was run by Wildcard, on behalf of Tilda to promote their new range of easy to use Stir Fry Rice range. After thirst quenching drinks, much needed on a very hot day and canapes, along with some mingling with fellow bloggers, we were given a presentation about Tilda rice. This was informative but I found my attention being drawn to the fabulous house we were in, there were so many interesting things to look at. If you ever get the chance to go and do a course at Food at 52, go for it, if only to explore the house that looks like it should be featured in a glossy interiors magazine!

We were then introduced to Jo, who then demonstrated different ways with the Stir Fry Rice range; a prawn soup that was very virtuous, a lamb dish which my fellow cooking companion devoured and some duck pancakes that had been made more substanial using the rice as extra filling.  Then we were let loose in the kitchen, armed with a wok, a burner, Stir Fry Rice and a plethora of raw ingredients. My fellow cooking companion admitted to not being a cook so we chose the ingredients together, making our own Prawn and Pepper Peking Rice. We then enjoyed this alfresco in the gorgeous courtyard.

The night came to an end with the arrival of my taxi and so I went all gushing and asked Jo to sign my cookery books; she was very friendly and approachable and that just made me admire her even more!

The goody bag came with some samples of the rice which came in handy the other night when I couldn’t be bothered to cook and this is when they come into their own. A quick and tasty meal that took less than 5 mins to cook and just needed the addition of some prawns, chicken and vegetables. I would definitely keep some in the cupboard for those can’t be bothered nights.

Thanks to WildCard, Tilda, Foodat52 and Jo Pratt.

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized