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The Brits Throw Down S'mores Gauntlet To USA
National Toasted Marshmallow Day had the Brits challenging
the Americans at their own game. S'mores - a toasted marshmallow,
chocolate and Graham Cracker sandwich - are as American as the
star-spangled banner. But British log manufacturer Certainly Wood -
www.certainlywood.co.uk - has created an all-British gourmet version of
this campfire treat.
Certainly Wood asked UK-based celebrity chef Felice Tocchini to come up
with a British take on the square
Graham Cracker used in S'mores, as they are not available over here
(most people use digestives, but the American tradition is the square
Felice created a tastier, healthier version using only six ingredients,
unlike the original which features over 10 including artificial
flavouring. To complete the gourmet taste, British artisan marshmallows
from www.marshmallowdeli.co.uk and milk chocolate by Leicester's
www.cocoa-amore.co.uk have been added to the recipe.
A blind taste test of British versus American S'mores found nearly 100%
of people sampled considered the former more sophisticated and more-ish
than its counterpart across the pond.
S'mores are the focus of Certainly Wood's Get Outdoors With S'mores
campaign, which encourages parents to get their children out of the
house, enjoying the great outdoors all year round.
Their campaign features all sorts of ideas from building a den to
creating the perfect campfire on which to cook a range of delights
including British S'mores.
Find out more about the Get Outdoors With S'mores campaign here
ABOUT THE GOURMET SMORES TEAM
The Marshmallow Deli
Carmen has been an artisan marshmallow maker for five years.
Everything is handcrafted at each stage, from toasting the coconut,
making chocolate discs, cutting the marshmallow into perfect cubes,
sourcing new ingredients and creating an exciting marshmallow menu at Marshmallow Deli.
She always uses the best-quality ingredients to create the
most delicious marshmallows on this planet. She's created a
marshmallow that can be enjoyed by everyone including people who don't
want gelatine in their diet.
Cocoa Amore is a dedicated
and passionate Leciester-based team that loves to make chocolate. The
best reward for them is the smiles on their customer's faces.
Pete Gardner, Chocolatier, spent his formative years as both an artist
and a barman. It seemed only logical to take the step of combining his
imagination with an eye for detail and a flair for flavour
combinations, finding an outlet for his combined talents in making
They use only the best ingredients available to hand-craft their
delicious chocolates. Inside a prestige box you will find classic
flavours and some modern twists to delight and intrigue your senses.
They also share their love of the craft with customers and offer a
range of workshops.
The most important things in Felice's Fusion
Brasserie kitchen are the ingredients. You can be the best chef in
the world, but if the ingredients you use are mediocre, you will always
end up with a mediocre result. Felice goes to great lengths to source
the best possible produce, and as locally as possible, so he gets to
know the producer.
Felice is always looking out for new ideas, techniques and ingredients
- he was behind the world-famous sprout cake and the ultimate dunking
biscuit for a cuppa. He loves to combine flavours whilst trying to keep
it simple: what is on the plate needs to speak for itself.
ABOUT CERTAINLY WOOD
Certainly Wood is based in the heart of Herefordshire and is very much
a family business, with brothers George and Nic Snell at the helm.
Surrounded by acres of woodland, Certainly Wood's HQ is situated on the
family farm, where contemporary methods sit alongside traditional ones. It's the largest
specialist firewood producer in the UK, having pioneered the
kiln-drying process over ten years ago. So popular have their logs
become that pretenders to the kiln-dried throne have been springing up
all over the place but primarily Eastern Europe. Certainly Wood remains
the original and the best and their products are the ones recommended
by most UK stove manufacturers and distributors.
All their firewood and kindling comes from sustainable British
woodland, locally sourced from within a 100-mile radius of the farm.
Certainly Wood only uses hardwood for its products, as it burns for
longer with a more intense heat. Their kiln-dried logs, dried to an
average moisture content below 20%, produce a far cleaner burn when
compared to traditionally seasoned wood, which has a much higher
moisture content. Damper wood leads to sooting and tarring of the
chimney or flue, which can contribute to chimney fires.
Their premium-quality products are backed up by excellent, friendly and
knowledgeable customer service, which consistently scores over 95% with
consumers on independent rating site FEEFO.
In 2014 they processed and kiln dried over 19,000 tonnes of British
firewood and over 2,000 tonnes of British poplar kindling.
They're also the first company to be approved by HETAS under their new
Solid Biomass Assurance Scheme.
Summer Tang with Sarson’s
Rainbo’s Chicken yakitori skewers with ginger and sesame
’slaw and homemade pickles
Chicken yakitori skewers
800g chicken thighs (skinned and diced)
150 g ginger
5 cloves of garlic
1/2 bunch of spring onions
200 ml mirin
1 tablespoon salt
60 ml soy sauce
Pickle brine and red cabbage
80 ml Sarsons Pickling Malt Vinegar
80 ml water
50 ml mirin
100 g honey
100 g salt
1 clove of garlic
50 g ginger
1 tablespoon chilli flakes (optional)
1/2 head red cabbage
100 g coriander
1/2 tablespoon rice vinegar
25 ml water
100 ml olive oil
1/2 clove of garlic
A pinch of chilli flakes (optional)
A pinch of salt (to taste)
1/2 clove of garlic
12.5 g ginger
25 ml mirin
90 ml soy sauce
40 ml rice vinegar
1/4 head red cabbage
1/4 head white cabbage
50 g toasted sesame seeds
Make the pickle brine two days before. Peel the ginger, and then blend
together with the garlic and chilli flakes. Add to a saucepan with all
other ingredients, and put on a medium heat until it comes to a rolling
boil. Take off the heat and allow 24 hours to cool completely. Grate
1/2 head of red cabbage, add to the cooled brine and place in fridge.
Use from 24 hours up until 2 weeks, for a richer more flavour-layered
Marinate the chicken for 24 hours, then skewer for grilling. Soak
skewers for 40 minutes beforehand to avoid burning (if wooden).
For the dressing, peel all the ginger, and blend together the ginger
and garlic with the mirin until it turns into a paste. Add the other
ingredients. This can be prepared a day before serving to infuse with
Grate the carrots and cabbage, and dress with dressing and toasted
sesame seeds 15 minutes before serving to allow to marinate and take on
the fresh flavours of the dressing.
In a blender, blend coriander, garlic, vinegar, and water. Slowly add
olive oil. Tip into a bowl and add salt and chilli flakes to taste
before giving this a good mix.
Grill the chicken skewers on a hot charcoal grill for 6 minutes each
side, or until cooked through, or alternatively in an electric grill
oven at 180 degrees Celsius, for five minutes on each side, or until
Serve the chicken skewers over a bed of the refreshing slaw, with the
pickles and coriander sauce on the side for a perfect, healthy,
delicious summer lunch with friends.
Le Bab’s Lamb Adana kebab with soused radish, summer
vegetables and date chutney
Adana is a region in the South East of Turkey famed
throughout the country for its kebabs. They are known for being very
spicy, making liberal use of biber which is made by grinding dried red
peppers grown in the region. Biber can be found in Turkish and Arabic
supermarkets - alternatively, dried chilli flakes work almost as well.
To souse is to steep something in vinegar, and results in something akin
to an unfermented pickle. Recipe serves 4.
600g lamb mince (use minced lamb breast if possible)
4 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp biber or chilli flakes (reduce amount for a less spicy kebab)
1 tsp sumac
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 clove garlic, finely grated
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 tsp parsley, chopped
1 tsp thyme leaves, picked
salt and pepper
150ml Sarsons malt vinegar
1 heaped tbsp demerera sugar
150g frozen petits pois
1 clove garlic, finely grated
15 dates, stones removed
4 tbsp Sarsons malt vinegar
6 tbsp water
150g Greek yoghurt
Small handful coriander and mint leaves, chopped.
4 flatbreads (ideally a thicker, softer style such as naan or pide)
Make the souring liquor by dissolving the sugar and a pinch of salt in
the malt vinegar. Quarter or halve the radishes depending on size and
pour the liquor over in a small bowl or cup, ensuring that they are
covered. Leave in the fridge overnight to steep.
Mix all the kebab ingredients well in a bowl and season with pepper and
a little salt - the mixture will already have soy sauce in it, so be
wary of adding too much salt. Return the meat to the fridge to chill
for half an hour, which will make it much easier to handle.
Slice the courgettes into quarters along their lengths and then dice
into 1cm pieces. Heat a large frying pan over a high heat with some
Add the courgette pieces in a single layer and cook until nicely
coloured. Take care not to crowd the pan - cook the courgettes in
batches if necessary. Season with a little salt, add the grated garlic
to cook for just 1 minute and remove to a bowl. Return the pan to the
heat and pour in the frozen petits pois for 2-3 minutes until cooked,
then add to the courgettes.
Place the dates, vinegar and water in a small pan over a low heat and
cook until the dates have broken down and the chutney is smooth and
sticky, approximately 8 minutes. If the dates begin to catch at any
point, add a little more water.
Take the kebab mixture out of the fridge and divide into 4 equal sized
balls. Shape these into long, sausage-shaped kebabs on 4 skewers. Cook
the kebabs over a medium heat on the BBQ for 5-7 minutes on each side,
or until cooked through, or alternatively cook under the grill. Before
serving, reheat the vegetables briefly in a pan and stir the herbs
through the Greek yoghurt.
Place all the components on the table for people to help themselves to
and encourage them to construct their own kebabs!
Cava – undiscovered sparkle with Heart
Cava is a sparkling wine and overlooked by fizz drinkers
who gravitate to prosecco or, if feeling flush, champagne. Cava
has Denominación de Origen (DO) status with 95% the production
being in Catalonia. But what exactly is Cava and do we avoid it just
because it’s unfamiliar and generally inexpensive?
This effervescent libation is found in two types: white (blanco) or
rosé (rosado). Only wines from this region produced with the
champagne method may be presented and advertised as “cava”; those
produced by other processes may only be called "sparkling wines". In
the past it was often described as "Spanish champagne" but now
Champagne has Protected Geographical Status (PGS), though locally it’s
still referred to as champaña in Spanish or xampany in Catalan.
The Catalan word cava means "cave" or "cellar" and these were
historically used for the storage or aging of the wine. Winemakers
officially adopted the word Cava in 1970, probably with the
encouragement of the French, to distinguish their product from the
better- known Champagne.
Spanish sparkling wine was first made as early as the mid-1800s. But
now, according to Spanish law, cava can only be produced in the regions
of Aragon, the Basque Country, Castile and León, Catalonia,
Extremadura, Navarra, Rioja, and Valencia. It uses mainly traditional,
indigenous Spanish grapes and sometimes Chardonnay.
The rise in popularity of tapas bars, in the UK at least, has
introduced cava to a new generation of wine lovers. We taste this wine
along with decent food and this has elevated the perception of cava. We
can now find more cava on supermarket shelves and it’s worth trying a
bottle or two. Prosecco is the beverage of the moment, but in fact the
production of cava has more in common with that of traditional
i heart Cava is a new fizz on the block and at under £7 a bottle
it’s a good entry-level cava to try, and particularly as a cocktail. It
looks like a classic champagne but it’s a fraction of the price and is
ideal for a cava kir with the addition of cassis. It’s available
at corner shops such as Bargain Booze (don’t be put off by the name).
Cava is eminently quaffable as a summer evening flute and served with
light fish dishes and salads.
A boutique sake collection
curated by musician and DJ Richie Hawtin
ENTER.Sake is a boutique sake collection curated by musician and DJ
Richie Hawtin. Richie has been exploring the world of sake for twenty
years during his extensive trips to Japan. For the past three years,
through his ENTER. events across the world, Richie has tirelessly
promoted sake as a core part of the ENTER. experience. Every summer he
creates ENTER. in Ibiza, Spain, complete with Europe’s
largest sake bar stocked with special sakes not available anywhere else
outside of Japan. Now ENTER.Sake is beginning a new phase to bring its
sake collection to restaurants, bars, and wine stores across the USA
The ENTER.SAKE Minus cocktail is the most popular
Sake cocktail at Hawtin’s Sake Bar in Ibiza and it can easily be
prepared at home. Made with ENTER.SAKE Junmai, Shochu, Ginger Beer,
Celery Bitters and a lime twist - this sharp, refreshing cocktail is
the perfect summer drink.
ENTER.SAKE Minus Recipe
50ml ENTER.SAKE Junmai
1 Fill a highball glass with ice
2 Add a dash of Celery Bitters
3 Add lime twist
4 Pour 50ml Sake Junmai and 25ml Sochu
5 Top up with Ginger Beer and stir
ENTER.SAKE founder Richie Hawtin is a world-renowned musician and DJ.
Playing to crowds of thousands of fans, Richie has been a music icon
since the late-1980s and still continues to push the frontiers of
music, art, and technology today. Richie has also been a devoted sake
connoisseur for over twenty years since he first traveled to Japan in
1994. He has earned the Advanced Sake Professional Certification and
was made an official Sake Samurai by the Japanese Sake Brewers
Association in 2014 for his efforts in promoting sake abroad. He
continues to use his influence to open up young audiences to new
cultural experiences through his performances and ENTER. shows
ENTER.Sake is launching in select markets in Europe and United States
this Summer and Fall. Stay tuned for updates with new markets and
online shops coming soon. Keep up with ENTER.Sake events, videos, and
the latest sake releases at: http://www.entersake.com
ENTER.Sake is available at the following locations:
Morrell & Company Wine - NYC, True Sake - San Francisco,
Vineyardgate - San Francisco, Tao Downtown - NYC
Ibiza Wine Shops, Hermanos Meneghello, Vino Y Co, Bambuddha Ibiza, Es
Vive Hotel, Harbour Club Ibiza, Heart Ibiza, Jockey Beach Club, Lips
Reartes Beach Club, Minami Restaurant, Sushipoint, Space
French Wine Stores, Whiskies & Spirts – Beaune, Vinoboam - Beaune
More locations coming soon.
Ocado for Summer Cocktails
It’s summer and we take advantage of fine weather to see
friends. Perhaps a garden party or a barbecue - and we need some light
and refreshing drinks to set the event alive.
Ocado stocks everything necessary to present your guests with some simple but very different sparkling drinks. Prosecco and Aperol make a refreshing cocktail that’s just perfect on a summer’s evening: pour one-eighth of a glass of Aperol and top up will chilled Prosecco.
We celebrate long hot days, if we are lucky, and to mark the season why not use a little fresh blackberry purée in the bottom of a champagne flute, top up with chilled Prosecco and a few blackberries, and enjoy.
For those who want a richer and more distinct fruit flavour then start your glass of fizz with some cherry liqueur. Your cocktail will be impressive and memorable.
Visit Ocado for all you will need to help with your summer food and drink.
Enjoy a taste of il bel paese at the Southend Italian
La dolce vita returns to celebrate the country that gave
the world its cars, cooking and culture
Saturday 5 September
Restaurant tables decked out with traditional red and white checked
tablecloths, the unmistakeable aroma of espresso coffee in the air and
the sound of lively conversation against a backdrop of opera. It could
only be… Southend-on-Sea???
Si!!! Thanks to the Southend BID, the Italian Festival returns on
Saturday 5 September, bringing the very best of Italian fare, flair and
fun to the High Street.
Visitors to the town centre can expect a feast for the eyes and
stomach, as a whole host of market stalls, displays and performers
bring a flavour of Europe’s coolest country to Essex.
Italia in Piazza is a genuine Italian market, offering a
wide variety of authentic Italian food and produce, including bread,
pasta, cheese and salumi.
Can’t get enough of cappuccinos, or simply love lattes? Make sure
you’ve ‘bean there, drunk that’ by visiting the mobile Espresso bar.
Here you can enjoy your favourite barista-made coffee at the
distinctive Piaggio Ape 3-wheeled coffee bar.
And when it comes to gelati (ice creams) don’t miss Rossi’s and
Tomassi’s – Southend’s very own Italian-heritage ice cream firms who
will be offering tastings.
Car cognoscenti will love the display of stunning Italian sports and
super cars, including classic Alfa Romeos. One highlight for petrol-heads will be an appearance by the Scuderia Ferrari team transporter,
as featured in the movie Rush – about James Hunt’s thrilling fight
with Niki Lauda for the 1976 Formula One World Championship title.
Could the Prancing Horse’s next superstar be found on the electric
karts? Suitable for children aged between 3 and 10 years old, mini
Kimis and Sebastians can test their skills around a safe, inflatable
Of course, no celebration of Italian culture is complete without music
and song. A tribute to the great Luciano Pavarotti will feature an
incredible look- and soundalike, recreating some of the big man’s most
famous arias, including every footie fan’s favourite, Nessun Dorma.
Southend Brass Band will play traditional Italian music, while choirs
Funky Voices and The Big Sing will also entertain shoppers and
day-trippers with a broad repertoire of songs. And to top off the
celebrations there will be an Italian flag demonstration, including
professional flag bearers wowing the crowds demonstrating the Italian
Inside the Royals and Victoria shopping centres there will be
Italian-themed craft activity workshops to keep youngsters amused. From
making pasta jewellery to learning a few words and phrases of Italian,
making gondolas and Venetian masks, even designing a pizza hat, there’s
‘un sacco di divertimento per i bambini’.
Click here to find some delicious recipes using
The East India Company products
Grapes & Wines - A
comprehensive guide to varieties and flavours
First published as Oz Clarke’s Encyclopaedia of Grapes, Oz
Clarke’s new Grapes & Wines, with Margaret Rand, is revised and
updated to present
the wine lover with the best information on a comprehensive selection
of grapes and the wines associated with them.
Oz Clarke has become a household name. He oft graces our TV screens and
has written a shelf-load of books on wine. This particular volume might
well act as an indispensable handbook for those of us who don’t know
much about wine and don’t even know enough to ask about what we don’t
Seventeen classic grape varieties are covered in depth, with another
fifteen major grapes also discussed in some detail. Oz touches upon
more than three hundred grape varieties in total, categorized from
Abouriou to Zinfandel.
This is a book that will help to demystify wine. Each section is a
one-stop-shop for information on the specifics of each grape
variety. The chapters on the classic grape varieties are
outstanding, with pages of historical context, terroir, taste profiles,
countries growing particular grapes, and also notes on the most
celebrated producers, as well as how to enjoy each wine at its best.
Grapes & Wines - A Comprehensive Guide to Varieties and
Flavours is a book to give confidence to the beginner or
non-professional wine enthusiast. It will be a must-have for anyone
lucky enough to go on a wine tour, and gives the home wine buyer a few
ideas for wines that will fit their personal taste. It’s great value
for money and is bound to become a best-seller. It’s beautifully
presented with illustrations, photographs, maps and diagrams, making
this book truly gift-quality.
Title: Grapes & Wines
Authors: Oz Clarke and Margaret Rand
Published by: Pavilion Books
The Rib Room – for more than ribs
The food scene in London has changed so much over the past couple of
decades. We have moved away from that
shocking reality of poor quality, few interesting options and culinary
apathy. We have some of the world’s best restaurants, the most vibrant
international dishes and a huge panorama of choices.
A few years ago no self-respecting food-lover would ever admit to
eating in a hotel – well, only if it was a smart one and then only for
breakfast. We have moved on from that concept of hotels not trying with
their gastronomic facilities. We all remember those lunches in dining
areas that still had a whiff of a Full English about them. Gone are the
days, mostly, when a dinner in one’s hotel was the last resort of the
The Rib Room is the dining room at Jumeirah Carlton Tower, not too far
from Harrods. Yes, it’s on the ground floor of a newish hotel building
but this is a classy and classic restaurant that shouts quality. It’s a
polished and refined establishment which stops short of intimidating.
The staff are friendly and helpful to a lunch crowd who are mostly
Ladies Wot Lunch, with a scattering of businessmen. It’s a quiet and
comfortable meeting place with the advantage of marvellous food at hand.
The dining room is bathed in dappled light from colonially-shuttered
windows. There are well-spaced chairs and cosy banquettes. The tables are bedecked with crisp white
linen and silverware in elegant fashion but the menu tempts with both
the familiar and the unique. The Rib Room has its beefy signature dish
The menu has seasonal changes which take advantage of abundant fresh
produce. My visit was in August so a corn and crab broth was on the
bill of fare. This was a light and creamy soup with fresh shellfish. A
delightful presentation and appropriate for a day when the sun beamed
through the windows looking over Cadogan Place. It’s the area which
once was the haunt of the likes of Oscar Wilde (he was arrested at the
Cadogan Hotel near here) and Lillie Langtry.
Summer vegetable salad, goat’s curd and summer truffle dressing was my
guest’s starter. This was a sizable portion of baby vegetables at their
best. There was evidence of real truffle along with tangy and fresh
goat’s curd. Even non-vegetarians would be charmed by this simple and
The main courses offer vegetarian options that don’t seem like a chef’s
afterthought. Bread-wrapped wild mushrooms, onion purée, baby
carrots and garlic velouté sounded interesting and it was. The
bread (or was it a pastry?) formed a crust supporting mushrooms which
had the very essence of wild fungi flavour. The velouté was a
delicious base, being flavourful rather than overpowering. A must-try
here for anyone taking a break from meat.
But it’s roast rib of beef that gives its name to this restaurant and
it’s a worthy signature dish. My guest is a son of
Yorkshire and a self-proclaimed connoisseur of the eponymous pud; he
considered his lunch to be ‘reet champion’ in every regard. The beef
was a perfectly cooked 160g slice from a joint selected from Donald
Russell, Royal warrant holder since 1984 and trusted supplier to H.M.
The Queen. A very hearty eater could go for a 220g portion but I’d
recommend that only for a rugby player or for dinner, when there is
more time to savour. Do have the crispy and fluffy roast potatoes here
as they are the traditional accompaniment to such a meal, along with
the aforementioned Yorkshire Pudding.
Prices are very reasonable at The Rib Room at lunchtime. There are some
wines by the glass, 2 courses for £28, 3 courses for £34, 3
courses and half a bottle of wine, water and coffee or tea for
£42.00. One doesn’t have to break the bank to enjoy The Rib Room,
and one feels rather pampered in this charming and timeless restaurant.
The Rib Room Bar & Restaurant
Jumeirah Carlton Tower
One Cadogan Place
Phone: +44 (0) 20 7858 7250
Visit The Rib Room here
Warren House – Kingston
We might be in London for a short holiday. We see the sights,
monuments, museums. We shop till we drop and we are
swept along by throngs of others looking for the same delights of
retail therapy. But there is another vision of England. It’s that
‘green and pleasant land’ of manicured gardens, country houses and
calm. There is just such an idyll and it’s only a short distance from
A magnificent Victorian country house provides a step back in time to a
gentler era where the sound of croquet balls being hit might likely be
the only noise to remind one that there are other people about. Warren
House has history, gentility and charm. Its fabric is original but
there are modern amenities to pacify even the addicted iPhoner or
Warren House is set in landscaped gardens, with facilities for both
commerce and leisure. But this area has been documented for hundreds of
years. Since the Middle Ages the neighbourhood has been on the route
from London to Portsmouth. Kingston Hill was well established
even before Charles I enclosed Richmond Park in 1637. Small estates
were established during the late 18th and early 19th Century, and in
1837 His Royal Highness Prince George, Duke of Cambridge, grandson of
George III, acquired the seat of the late Earl of Liverpool at Coombe.
The improved road to London brought the City within an hour’s carriage
ride, and the area began to attract the wealthy.
The original Warren House was built in 1860 for Hugh Hammersley on 16
acres of land leased from the Duke of Cambridge. Hammersley was a
partner in the successful London firm Cox and Co, bankers to the
British Army and they must have done very good business. The estate
remained his country retreat until his death in 1882, when it was
bequeathed to his wife Dulcibella, an ancestor of Sir Anthony Eden, a
future Prime Minister.
George Grenfell Glynn, the second Baron Wolverton, purchased the house
and land in 1884 and made additions to both. His wife, Lady Georgiana
Wolverton, was great friends with Mary Adelaide, Duchess of Teck,
mother of the future Queen Mary, who lived at White Lodge in Richmond
Park. Lady Georgiana continued to live at Warren House until her death
American heiress Lady Mary ‘Minnie’ Paget bought the
freehold of the property in 1907 and regularly entertained the rich and
the powerful at Warren House. Many of the noteworthy features of the
House - the Ballroom, the Persian fireplace, the Italian-style Loggia
and the Winter Garden and its Grotto - were added by the Pagets. Warren
House passed to her daughter, Dame Leila Paget. She was the first
British Dame, honoured for her work with the Red Cross in Serbia during
First World War. She continued this charitable work during the Second
World War when she converted Warren House into a military convalescent
The industrial giant ICI used Warren House as a Conference and Training
Centre until 2000. Since 2005 Warren House has been in private family
ownership, and continues as a fine conference and events facility, but
it’s also an intimate hotel and just perfect for a short break. The
hotel has 46 well-appointed bedrooms, a lounge, a bar, four inside
dining spaces, a fully-equipped cardiovascular gym, a sauna and a
heated indoor swimming pool. Outside is a garden chess set as well as
the aforementioned croquet lawn.
The hotel still sports many original features including a
magnificent carved wooden staircase. One still has the sense of staying
in a private stately home. The rooms have classic décor which
works perfectly with the architecture. Bath/shower rooms are modern and
the toiletries are covetable. Warren House is grand but comfortably
accessible and timeless.
After a tough day sitting in the shade of a tree, playing garden games
or reading a book, one will likely be starving and longing for dinner.
The Persian Dining Room is stunningly beautiful with exotic Eastern
mouldings and a striking fireplace that would be considered a
centrepiece were it not for the fact that it’s in a corner.
The menu is interesting, well-balanced and tempting. My starter was a
smoked haddock scotch egg. In fact there were 2 miniature scotch eggs,
each containing a quail’s egg surrounded by delicately flavoured smoked
fish. My guest’s starter was an equally light and innovative bowl of
grilled courgettes, peas, ricotta mousse and Gremolata sauce. Both
these dishes were flavoursome and very different. The chef was already
showing his credentials.
My companion’s main course sounded interesting and hearty. This was a
substantial serving of confit duck leg with duck liver and pomegranate,
served with spiced aubergine. The leg was cooked to perfection but
those livers were
like butter. I am not normally a lover of anything offally but these
were savoury yet not overpowering in any way. This dish is a must-try
for any meat-lover when they visit Warren House.
But vegetarians are not forgotten and I was intrigued by a cauliflower
steak, cauliflower beignet and crispy couscous. This was a unique
vegetable dish that turned the humble cauli into a triumph of design
and flavour. The slice of vegetable had organic architectural elegance
and the grilling gave additional flavour; the battered vegetables were
moreish and airy. Yes, only a plate of veggies but it was satisfying
My guest has ever been a man ready to sacrifice himself on the altar of
dessert, so he ordered the banana mousse and glazed bananas. The
presentation was attractive with short columns of banana topped with
crunchy caramel, flanking the mousse which had concentrated flavour –
once again the chef showing that simple ingredients can be elevated
into something noble.
We spent just one night at the Warren House hotel but that has acted as
an encouragement to return. The grounds are lush and leafy, the
fountains romantic, the rooms are havens for the weary, and the food is
Take a little time away from the capital on your next trip
to London. Kingston has great public transport connections, and if it’s
an hour away by horse-drawn carriage then you can bet it’s quicker by
train (from Waterloo) or car. There is even a river boat for those who
want extra adventure and have the lightest of luggage. Warren House is
a world away from the usual London hotel chains, and won’t disappoint.
Surrey KT2 7HY
Phone: +44 (0)20 8547 1777
Fax: +44 (0)20 8547 1175
Visit Warren House here
Côte – Dinner in
This is a lovely spot on the River Thames and well
patronised by shoppers during the day and socialisers in the evening.
But despite its modern façade, Kingston has history.
It belonged to the king in Saxon times, as its name suggests, and was
the earliest recorded royal borough. It was first mentioned in
documents as far back as 838 and it lay on the boundary between the
independent kingdoms of Wessex and Mercia. Kingston’s historic Market
Place has been a centre of the community since around 1170. Over the
past 800 years it’s been used for the punishment of criminals as well
as the sale of food.
We wanted an evening by the river after a hot summer day. This stretch
of water has inspired books, films and TV. It is where the Victorian
novel Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome has its opening scenes.
The area around Kingston Bridge is now a thriving café and
restaurant neighbourhood, and that’s where we were heading.
Côte’s Brasserie is a branch of a chain but let us
not be sniffy about that. If one didn’t know then one
would think that this restaurant, at least, was just a rather nice
independently-run contemporary space selling French food. Its location
would likely ensure
its popularity for much of the year but the quality of the food will
keep it full for most of the day and for all of the year.
Piquant Mixed Olives - spicy marinated olives with rose harissa, caper
berries and cornichons - were our nibbles as we leafed through the wine
list (many by the glass) and food menu. It’s not a huge bill of fare
but it’s comprehensive and offers a real flavour of France – good
traditional dishes that have had many pontificating with such phrases
as ‘Well, nobody does it like the French’, even when we do!
The Charcuterie Board was my starter and proved to be a substantial
spread of jambon de Savoie, smoked duck breast (outstanding), saucisson
sec and duck rillettes with baby gem salad and chargrilled pain de
campagne on the side. This would constitute a small lunch in some
quarters! Beautifully presented meats.
My guest’s starter was Baked Crottin, traditional goat’s cheese from
the Loire Valley, served warm atop a lamb’s lettuce and apple salad,
walnuts, croutons and sultanas. This is a classic combination with the
tang of the soft cheese contrasted with the sweet fruit.
Traditional Breton fish stew was my main course.
Sea bass was arranged on top of a sizable portion of mussels, clams,
prawns and squid with tomato, white wine and chilli. It was served with
a bit of theatre as the domed lid was removed from the
bowl. Under £14? A remarkable price. It was heavy on the fish
element and has enough delicious broth to make some
French bread an essential mopping-up side dish.
Poulet ‘Breton’ is a speciality here. It’s corn-fed chicken reared in
Brittany in the west of France.
Half Chargrilled ‘Breton’ Chicken served with frites and wild mushroom
sauce made with crème fraîche and thyme was my guest’s
main course. Nothing fancy or too cheffy, just chicken and chips done
right, with the quality of ingredients shining through. The sauce was a
masterful touch and full of earthy flavour from real wild mushrooms.
Chocolate and praline crêpe with caramelised bananas and
crème Chantilly was a shared dessert. This was a delicate finish
to the meal. The pancake was light and the bananas were a delightful
combination of crisp and soft. Very French but with a little exotica.
This was worth waiting for, although the apple tart had sounded
Côte Kingston is both contemporary and traditional. Its food can
be enjoyed by the whole family without breaking the bank. It’s great
value for money but quality had not been sacrificed. Service is
professional and the ambiance is vibrant. Well worth a visit.
Unit 6, Riverside Walk
Kingston Upon Thames
Phone: 020 8546 9422
Visit Côte Kingston here
Le Garrick – Covent Garden
Le Garrick restaurant and wine bar is conveniently located in the heart
of Covent Garden in London’s West End. It’s a little gem and after just
one visit has become my preferred restaurant, my dining establishment
of choice and a place I am almost loathe to promote for fear I won’t
get a table next time.
Their beautiful website gives a little history. Brendon, who owned Le
Garrick for 25 years, has moved on and passed
the baton to Dominika and Charles and they seem to be doing a sterling
job. Le Garrick is the sort of restaurant that one hopes will never
change. It’s a bit like a favourite old uncle who is full of character
and is very ‘individual’.
The ground floor restaurant is small but has the advantage of views of
the bustling historic neighbourhood of Covent Garden. This is
Theatreland and one might spot a famous face from one’s vantage point,
and there is always the chance of having a brace of thespians on the
neighbouring table. It’s that kind of restaurant.
But go downstairs to discover the real charm of Le Garrick. This space
was evidently once a cellar and it still retains alcoves and nooks
which create a restaurant which is, just like that favourite old uncle,
pleasantly eccentric. The ambiance is intimate, the staff are naturally
friendly and the food is simple yet for which to die – French food
which is better here than some restaurants I have visited actually in
La Belle France!
It’s unsurprisingly a traditional French menu with a host of classics
to tempt carnivore and vegetarian alike. It’s the sort of bill of fare
that has any Francophile salivating and any xenophobe admitting that
those French do have a way with food. It’s the kind of menu that has
one promising another visit just to try a little plate of this or a bowl
Escargots de Bourgogne was my starter. Six Burgundy snails (thankfully
without shells which are always so fiddly) cooked in garlic and parsley
butter. The menu says these are a ’must try!’ and they really are. Some
snails can be rather earthy but these were sweet and moreish in a
butter-dripping-off-chin kind of way.
Cassolette de calamar à la plancha au piment d’espelette was my
guest’s starter. That’s pan-seared calamari Basque-style with a
sprinkle of coriander, ginger, and the famous Espelette chilli. These
peppers were introduced into the Basque region of France from the New
World during the 16th century. They’ve got plenty of heat but rich
flavour too. More butter with this dish but I was too busy mopping
those juices to worry about weight-gain. This was memorable and just as
much a ‘must try’ as the aforementioned snails.
Faux Filet with sauce au poivre was my main course. This was a fairly
hefty chargrilled rare-breed rib-eye steak served with fries and
peppercorn sauce. I ordered mine medium rare and it was pink and
flavourful. This is a standard dish of steak and chips but it’s hard to
beat when done well. The wine list here is solid and sensible. A
great selection of wines by the glass, bottle or carafe. The
Côtes du Rhône was just right, alongside my overflowing
plate. Did I mention the generosity of servings here? Petit Pois
Grand-Mère - peas with lardons and baby onions - was hardly
necessary in addition, but those vegetables were fresh and light and
made me feel a bit nobler.
Authentique Cassoulet de Toulouse is the celebrated dish from
south-west France. This was my guest’s choice for main course and
appropriate for a cold and wet English evening. Lingot beans with duck
confit, pork belly and garlicky Toulouse sausage made a substantial
plateful which defeated my companion, who was all for asking for a
doggy bag for the leftovers. Another spot-on dish.
Crème Brulée was our shared dessert but with a little
Canelé by way of garnish. These sweets were the perfect end to
an outstanding meal. Le Garrick is right in every regard. The service
was professional yet fun, the décor added to the discreet
ambiance. The evening is still being talked about and a return is
certain in the very near future.
Le Garrick Restaurant
10-12 Garrick Street
Phone: 020 7240 7649
Visit Le Garrick here.
Roka Brunch – Aldwych
Brunch is perhaps my favourite meal of the week. It isn’t
a big, indigestible breakfast with the prospect of needing a nap by
10.30 (although I can be tempted by an English fry-up at almost any
time). It’s not a dinner, when one might be exhausted from the
exertions of the day and much prefer Marmite on toast, a cuppa and an
early night. This is Sunday Brunch and it is perfectly timed, and
something over which to linger.
Aldwych has the attraction of good restaurants and theatres. Its
transport connections are excellent, being within a short distance of
Covent Garden as well as Temple and Embankment Underground stations.
It’s the ideal spot to start a Sunday of unique shopping opportunities,
tourism and food.
ROKA Aldwych is the fourth ROKA to open in London and it marks the 10th
anniversary of the opening of the flagship of the restaurant group, on
Charlotte Street. This restaurant shouts understated class. One is
aware on arrival that this is going to be a rather impressive
establishment. The swish of the two sets of automatic glass doors hints
I have not, as yet, visited the other ROKAs but this one is striking.
There is a central open kitchen with its usual
counter seating but then there are regular tables with generous spacing
between. Although there are no outside windows in the main restaurant,
the height of the ceiling and the lighting create an airy and spacious
dining room that is welcoming to parties as well as couples.
The grey timber walls offer a neutral and natural backdrop to the
activity of this vibrant restaurant. It presents a very subtly Japanese
note to this not overly-themed restaurant, but the food is indeed
contemporary Japanese, based on tradition. ROKA takes the diner away
from the ubiquitous sushi (although that’s on the menu) and into the
broader realm of real Japanese food.
The word ROKA is the Japanese name for a meeting place where food and
drinks are served to friends (ro) with heat and warmth (ka). The Sunday
Brunch for me and my companion included both hot and cold dishes from
the regular menu, and main dishes from the robata grill: this method
originates from the fishermen of the northern coastal waters off Japan,
who would cook the catch on their boats.
The Brunch menu is divided in two with all of the starters
included, and then one has the choice of main courses, so we started
our culinary adventure with edamame salad with ginger and soy dressing.
These beans are light and just right as part of a starter selection, or
even alone with drinks before a meal.
Otsukemono no Moriawase are an array vegetable pickles which are so
popular in Japan, with each family having their own
favourite recipes …when they don’t buy them from the store, that is.
Horenso no Ingin Salada was an absolute delight and I am
stealing this simple idea for myself. It’s baby spinach leaves with a
light sesame dressing made with tahini, dashi stock and sesame seeds.
Tempura Moriawase is assorted tempura in some of the best batter you
will find in London. The seafood and vegetables were all cooked to
perfection in a crunchy coating that was practically greaseless. Just a
little spicy sauce was all that was needed by way of condiment.
Jagaimo to Tamago Salada was a real surprise and might fall into the
category of Japanese comfort food. It was a mashed potato salad with
bacon and egg and was moreish and, strangely, this did work with the
more traditional starters that included beautifully presented sashimi,
and sushi in the guise of the outstanding crispy prawn and avocado
maki, and others. The Gyuniku to Goma no Gyoza are a Japanese take on
Chinese dumplings. These were stuffed with beef and ginger and were
tangy and fresh.
Hinadori no Miso Yaki was my guest’s choice of main
course. This is grilled baby chicken with lemon, miso, garlic and soy.
The chicken was served atop a traditional table-top grill although this
wasn’t the cooking implement – the grilling had been done back in the
kitchen. It did make a striking presentation for one of the best
chicken dishes I have had in ages. It’s a must-try here.
Gyuhireniku no Pirikara Yakiniku is another worthy dish for
meat-eaters. This was a considerable serving of tender beef sirloin
with a little chilli and spring onions. Granted, it’s not overtly
Japanese but it fitted admirably with all the other dishes.
Then there was dessert. It was the ROKA dessert platter. I have had
dessert platters before so was just about getting my
coat on when it arrived. There has got to be a better name than ROKA
dessert platter. Yes, OK, it was dessert and it was served on a platter
but this was an extraordinary sweet confection of chocolate, sorbet,
ice cream …and some fruit to make the diner feel noble even after some
ROKA ticked all my previously pencilled-in boxes and added a few more.
It’s a matter of taste, for sure, but ROKA was very much my taste. My
taste for hot Japanese food. My taste for thoughtful design. My taste
for relaxing afternoon ambiance. I can highly recommend this Brunch.
It’s worth waiting six days for.
Phone: +44 (0) 20 7294 7636
Visit ROKA Aldwych here
Swan Upping is an annual ceremonial event and an activity
that has endured since the 12th century. The mute swans on part of the
River Thames are caught, weighed, inspected, ringed, and then released.
Centuries ago these birds were eaten and this exercise was game
Swans were regular food in the Tudor age, but legally these days mute
swans are only allowed to be eaten by the Royal Family and by fellows
of St John’s College, Cambridge on 25th June. Their quills were also
used for writing although quills from geese were much more commonly
used – but a swan's quill was said to last as long as 50 goose quills.
Traditionally, the British Monarch is the owner of all unmarked mute
swans in open water, but only exercises ownership on certain stretches
of the River Thames and its surrounding tributaries in Middlesex,
Surrey, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire and Oxfordshire. There is a Royal
Charter which Edward IV passed in 1482 preventing the claim of
ownership of swans by common people. In 2012, because of flooding of
the Thames, Swan Upping was cancelled between Sunbury-on-Thames and
Windsor. It’s thought to be the first time in 900 years that the event
couldn’t take place.
The Keeper of the King or Queen's Swans was an ancient office in the
Royal Household and was previously called the King or Queen's
Swanmaster, a position which dates from the 13th century. He was
assisted by three
swanherdsmen during Swan Upping. The title of Keeper was replaced by
two new posts in 1993, Warden of the Swans and Marker of
the Swans. The Queen's Marker of the Swans still organises Swan Upping
and he monitors the health of the local swan population. The Warden of
the Swans works alongside the Marker of the Swans, a post presently
held by David Barber, and together they conduct the event.
Swan Upping is a colourful occasion and is used as a swan census. It
takes place annually during the third week of July when the Queen's
‘Worshipful Company of Vintners' and the ‘Worshipful Company of Dyers'
provide Swan Uppers to row up the river in shallow boats called skiffs.
The first documentary reference to the Vintners owning swans comes from
1509, when the Company's "Under-Swanherd" was paid 4 shillings (20p) at
the time of the 'great frost' for 'upping the Master's swans'.
This ownership of the swans is shared between the Royal Household, the
Vintners and the Dyers, who were granted rights of ownership by the
Crown in the fifteenth century. Swans caught by the Queen's Swan Uppers
under the direction of the Marker of the Swans are not now marked,
except for a ring linked to the database of the British Trust for
Ornithology. Those caught by the Dyers and Vintners are identified as
theirs by means of an extra ring on the other leg. Today, only swans
with cygnets are caught and ringed. This gives a yearly overview of how
swans are breeding. Originally, rather than being ringed, the swans
would have been marked on the bill with identifiable notches.
Swan Upping is conducted over a week with different stretches of the
river being covered each day. As they row
past Windsor Castle, the Swan Uppers salute "Her Majesty the Queen,
Seigneur of the Swans". The crews of the skiffs have
ceremonial uniforms but for the working element of the job they are
clad in blue, red or white polo shirts and white
trousers rolled up over their ankles. Each boat flies the appropriate
flag for its livery company. When a brood of cygnets is sighted, a cry
of "All up!" is given to signal that the boats should get into position
for a quick capture.
At the completion of Swan Upping each year, The Queen's Marker of the
Swans produces a report which provides information on the number of
swans accounted for, including broods and cygnets. This enables the
most appropriate conservation methods to be used to protect the swans.
This ancient tradition has taken on a new mantle. The Swan Uppers are
caring for swans, not as a source of food but as a beautiful part of
the picturesque River Thames.
Mele e Pere
This is a little cracker of a restaurant and I am almost
reluctant to publicise it any further for fear that the prices will go
up and the chances of me getting a table will go down!
This is an authentic northern Italian, casual dining restaurant smack
in the middle of the very un-Italian Soho. Its ambiance, style, ethos,
whatever you want to call it, works at this location. In fact I think
it would work anywhere.
Mele e Pere is ranged over two floors with the main restaurant in the
basement level. Its bar is impressive with copper cladding and a shelf
of home-made vermouths enough to help launch any voyage of libation
discovery. Vermouth here is a signature beverage and it would be a
shame not to try one. You can try others on your return, for a return
is almost guaranteed.
We sat at that bar for a while and ordered a bowl of olives to go along
with citrus vermouth made in-house and Byrrh which wasn’t. That’s a
classic vermouth in the traditional herby style of a wine-based
apéritif made of red and fortified wines (mistelle), and
quinine. That quinine might not sound appealing but it’s the key
ingredient in tonic water. But back to the food! Our Ascolana olives
were stuffed with spicy meat, breaded and deep fried. They look
innocent but they pack a chilli punch and are addictive.
The menu here is seasonal and ever-changing. There are plenty of
regulars who will appreciate the new items throughout the year. Fresh
is evidently important at Mele e Pere. I hadn’t realised at the time of
my visit that they make bread, pasta, desserts and ice-creams in their
own kitchen. That isn’t always a recommendation in other restaurants.
The bread was outstanding here. Yes, it’s just a simple thing but it
shows attention to detail. I am hoping the owners will open a bakery
We ordered several starters including that amazing bread and focaccia
along with deep-fried squid rings with smoked aioli and parmesan. The
squid was light and the mayo a delicious foil to the delicate flavour
of the breading and the seafood. But the Parma ham and gnocchi fritti
is a must-try here. The gnocchi fritti were in fact light puffs and
perfect when paired with the savoury ham.
Fresh spaghetti with clams, garlic, chilli and courgettes was my
guest’s main course. He ordered just a small portion, which was still
substantial, and he had that delicious bread for mopping juices. This
was a beautiful and light dish of a good amount of shellfish and that
aforementioned home-made pasta. The strands were eggy yellow and rich.
A green salad alongside was all that was needed.
On this evening the menu offered home-made sausage and courgette –
another substantial plateful. The sausage was seasoned, grilled and
glistening and the sort that wins prizes in butchery competitions. Yes,
it was that good. The sausage was coiled and skewered, the courgette
was split, grilled and garnished and the diner was salivating at every
bite. Once again Mele e Pere showing that food need not be fussy to be
impressive. It just has to be right.
Wine at Mele e Pere is reasonably priced and can be ordered by the
glass, carafe or bottle, and after a vermouth or two
a small carafe might be in order. And there was still dessert to come.
A couple of scoops of Amalfi Lemon sorbet was enough for the two of us.
The attentive waiter had the presence of mind to lay two spoons. Tangy,
light and full of citrus flavour. This was a perfect end to a hot night
in Italy. Well, OK, London W1, but it was pretty near. Visit for a
long, lingering lunch, or even try some pastries for breakfast.
Mele e Pere
46 Brewer Street
Phone: 020 7096 2096
Visit Mele e Pere here
living with history
History is everywhere in Rennes but it’s actually
considered by thoroughly modern folks to be one of the most liveable
cities in France. That’s a hard juggling act.
Rennes had been in existence for centuries before the Romans and in 57
BC the local inhabitants joined the Gaulish coalition against Rome.
That didn’t work and there followed Roman occupation. In 275, the
threat of invasion by barbarians led to the erection of a brick wall
around the town. In the 9th century Rennes became fully Breton and was
to remain that way for many hundreds of years.
In 1491 the French army of Charles VIII unsuccessfully attacked Rennes.
Brittany having already surrendered everywhere else, Rennes stood
alone. Duchess Anne of Brittany chose to negotiate with the king, and
the resulting Treaty of Rennes, including her marriage to Charles VIII,
brought Brittany into the French kingdom. Tour Duchesne is an old tower
dating from around that time, and is located near the Mordelaises
gates. The tower is part of the original city walls, which date back to
the 3rd century, although rebuilt in the mid-1400s.
Timber-framed houses were a popular form of construction as there were
forests to supply the raw material. In 1720 a major fire destroyed all
the wooden buildings in the northern part of the city. The inhabitants
took the precaution of rebuilding in stone, on a grid plan with wider
roads. This modernisation has given Rennes two distinctive
architectural faces. There are those sweeping avenues, but the
medieval-looking streets still remain. Carrefour de la
Cathédrale has a maze of winding streets surrounding it and
that’s where one finds most of the city’s remaining half-timbered
houses, dating from the 16th century.
Lift your eyes and find exquisite carved wooden details on medieval
buildings. There are iron-studded doors, ancient shutters, cobbled
streets and granite. This isn’t a city that’s known for its stonework
as there are no local quarries. This problem has been solved by the use
of whatever stone was available, along with brick,
creating in some buildings something of a masonry patchwork.
Rennes Cathedral is solid and unmissable. It has a heavy, granite
façade that lacks the refinement of other French cathedrals that
have been built from softer honey-coloured stone which was more easily
sculpted. This is, externally, a rather sombre church. But step inside
and you will find one of the most impressive religious buildings in
France. There is a remarkable 15th-century Gothic gilded wooden
altarpiece flanked by some imposing candlesticks. The arched ceilings
are richly decorated and low lights pick out gold embellishments. Don’t
miss a few quiet moments here.
Rennes is a beautiful and compact city with a wealth of restaurants,
cafés and bars. It boasts a large and celebrated food market and
thriving gastronomic culture. Place des Lices reminds one of the
jousting lists for
sporting knights once found here, although it’s now alive with shoppers
every Saturday. There are many street names that give a nod to medieval
times. One might notice a clock tower on the Place and even that has
history. It marks the spot where prisoners were executed. There is even
a medieval prison that is now a nightclub and restaurant. Rennes is
home to two universities and more than 50,000 students. It’s not
surprising that the city has a vibrant night life.
It also has open spaces aplenty and these are well-used by locals and
tourists alike. One can find deckchairs from which one can enjoy jazz
or classical music. Parc du Thabor is a public garden which was built
in the 19th century on the site of the orchard of the Saint-Melaine
abbey. It’s the largest park in Rennes and in the centre of the town.
There is a museum of fine art and one covering Breton history, so
something for all the family. If one wants to cover more ground then
hire a bike for the day.
Rennes is just the sort of town which one hopes to find in France. Very
French ambiance, French food, beautiful old buildings, cobbled streets,
a market square and a glass or two of something reviving. Yes, we seek,
but seldom find, a gem that ticks all those boxes. But here it is and
just an easy hop across the Channel from Southend Airport.
Visit Southend Airport here
Learn more about Rennes here
Rennes – second capital of food
(or is it third?)
Rennes Market, in the Place des Lices, is there every Saturday, and is
considered to be the second- or third-largest in France, depending on whom you
are speaking to. It starts in the morning around 7.30 although there is
not the full complement of nearly 300 stalls and vendors till an hour
or so later. It’s usually the time-strapped locals who frequent the
market so early. They are looking for the week’s fruit and veg and
don’t want to be tripping over enthusiastic, iPhone-clicking
This isn’t one of the new breed of Farmers’ Markets that have sprung up
in the UK. This one has been doing it since 1622. The site has always
been an open space since the time of knights and the courtly sport of
jousting. The Place des Lices takes its name from the jousting ‘lists’
which was the arena where the tournaments took place.
The covered markets contain honey, cider, baked goods, charcuterie and
ready-prepared food, while outside there are avenues of fresh fruit and
vegetable stalls. In 1965 the halls were modernised to that which
we see today. There are now two market halls although there were
originally three: the missing one was used for the sale of fish but
that was deemed to be too malodourous and
was demolished. The fresh-fish vendors now occupy the same space, but
in the open air. There is also a small flower market
which is up the hill a few yards. Here you will find posies, exotic
blooms, potted plants and a beautiful perfume.
The market attracts about 10,000 visitors every week. They come for the
produce and to meet friends. This is part of the French lifestyle of
which so many of us dream, and it’s here in Rennes. It’s a pleasure to
browse the stalls, gathering ingredients for dinner. One might buy a
loaf of warm bread and some local butter, perhaps a ready-grilled
chicken and a scoop of potatoes cooked in the aforementioned bird’s
juices. A bottle of cidre might be heading home with the
soon-to-be-diner …and that cheese looks good!
One can build up an appetite long before a regular mealtime, but Breton
galette stuffed with a sausage is on hand to take away those hunger
pangs. This Rennes speciality seems to be eaten by everyone these days.
It’s a savoury buckwheat-flour pancake which once served as bread in
this region. There are several food carts at the market and regulars
will have their favourite. If in doubt, join the longest line.
If you are one of those poor unfortunates who had a mum who told you it
was unacceptable to eat on the street then you have my sympathy and a
suggestion of a proper sit-down restaurant. Crêperie
Saint-Georges will allow you to taste galettes filled with all manner
of savoury ingredients, and there are light crepes for dessert, too.
This is a striking restaurant with unique design and delicious food. I
ordered Georges Bataille (strangely all the menu items are called
George) – a galette filled with black pudding and apple, which was a
sweet and savoury dish with all the flavours of the area.
11 rue du Chapitre
Phone: 02 99 38 87 04
Visit Crêperie Saint-Georges here
Established early in 2013, TEA & TY is a specialist in,
unsurprisingly, tea. It has a convenient central location and is just
the place to sit down and enjoy a light bite and a reviving cuppa.
This is a rather trendy tea room with not a hint of chintz. The walls
are lined with huge tea canisters from which to choose one’s preferred
brew and small gift-quality tea caddies for practical souvenirs. The
tea is served from traditional Japanese iron pots and poured into
contemporary bowls. One can enjoy a pastry or a cookie or a savoury
tart of some sort, but it’s the tea that’s special here.
TEA & TY has a great selection of leaf teas from around the world.
They carry both black and green teas and also the less-often available
rooibos tea from South Africa, which isn’t a tea at all but has been
used as an infusion for generations. I enjoyed a bowl of
Japanese sencha tea and, keeping with the theme, a matcha cookie. No,
not very French, but there is a polished and eclectic side to Rennes
and I was doing just what the locals do, after all.
TEA & TY
16, rue Victor Hugo
Phone: 02 23 20 75 96
Visit TEA & TY here
Located in the heart of the city centre of Rennes, opposite the Place
de Bretagne, l’Amiral restaurant welcomes its guests with a nautical
sweep of its terrace roof. It’s a large, contemporary and tastefully
appointed restaurant which specialises in fish and seafood.
That terrace is the spot to grab on hot and sunny days. A lunch here is
pleasure writ large. The menu offers every genre of seafood from
lobster at the luxury end to the very reasonable Assiette de Fruits de
Mer. The portions are substantial and beautifully presented. I was
tempted by a bargain bowl of mussels which came with fries – a meal
over which to linger with convivial company and a glass of local beer.
But meat-eaters, who will likely be here under protest, have nothing
to fear. They will probably soon be heard to mutter ‘Well, I didn’t
expect that’, ‘Shall we book a table for Wednesday?’ and even ‘I think
that might be the best steak I have ever had’. Not bad for a
1 rue de la Motte Picquet
Phone: 02 99 35 03 91
Visit l'Amiral here
Rennes was made for lovers of good food. One can dine at home on the
best of local produce. There is authentic street food to enjoy.
Healthful and smart tea shops beckon, and the most stylish of
restaurants are all within walking distance of the centre of town.
Rennes is accessible these days with direct flights from Southend
Airport. Do remember to book a piece of luggage for the hold as there
will be plenty of bottles to bring back. The local version of Calvados
is well worth seeking out. One doesn’t need a car for a short break as
it’s a city to enjoy on foot. If the legs get weary then sit and
people-watch for a while. Order a coffee or a traditional cup of cidre
and wonder why you didn’t come here before.
Visit Southend Airport here
Learn more about Rennes here
Gymkhana is an Indian word which originally referred to a
meeting place. These days it tends to be an equestrian day event put on
by posh pony clubs; but not in this case. Gymkhana in London does fit
into the ‘meeting place’ category and it does have the feel of a nicely
appointed casual club, but there won’t be the smell of horse or stable
Gymkhana on Albemarle Street in Mayfair is an Indian restaurant serving
innovative food from the imagination of Group Executive Chef Rohit Ghai
in a venue that has been thoughtfully presented by owner Karam Sethi,
right down to the serving plates. Yes, it does indeed have a relaxed
ambiance but the food is Michelin Star all the way.
This isn’t an overly-themed Indian restaurant. The name Gymkhana gives
a hint to its ethnicity but the ground floor has marble table-tops and
booths along with dark wood which really gives the air of that
old-fashioned, much-sought-after French Bistro which one looks for but
never finds in the back streets of Paris. It flaunts a very buzzy and
The lower level must have originally been the cellar of an old Georgian
house or shop. This has allowed for a couple of private dining spaces
which still retain the curved ceilings that remind one of wine cellars
in France or Italy.
The main basement restaurant again sports dark wood aplenty with old
pictures from the days of the Raj, brass-edged tables and rattan chairs
adding to the old Indian club reincarnation. The ceiling is low, giving
a sense of calming intimacy. It’s much quieter here than above making
this the very spot for romantic encounters, discreet business meetings
or unwinding after a hard day at the coal face.
Gymkhana takes advantage of seasonal British ingredients so there will
likely be something new with every visit. This isn’t your usual Indian
restaurant menu at any time of year so even regulars will find not only
quality but unique dishes.
Gol Guppas with Jaljeera, Potato, and Sprouting Moong arrived as
pre-dinner nibbles. These are classic stuffed puffs but here they are
served on the best of English cottage china, once again introducing a
very Anglo element. But do try the Dosa here. It’s authentically crisp
(I have found many to be flabby and doughy) and light, with a rich
filling of Chettin Duck with traditional coconut chutney. This is a
winner at any time of year.
Rajma fritters are a take on Indian comfort food. These are balls of
kidney beans with a crunchy coating and they are moreish. But meat
eaters are not forgotten: Lamb Nalli Barra served with lightly pickled
onion were outstanding. The meat was glisteningly moist and meltingly
tender. It’s a substantial dish and seasoned to perfection.
Wild Muntjac Biryani with Pomegranate and Mint Raita was the main dish,
and there is innovation here even in the pastry crust which was crowned
with seeds, giving it a wholesome and attractive appearance that was a
shame to destroy. This is a dish over which to salivate while inhaling
delicate aromas of spiced meat and rice. A hearty dish but lightened by
the yoghurt and fruit.
Rose and Rhubarb Kulfi Falooda was my guest’s dessert. He pronounced it
to be excellent with flowery notes from the rose and just a touch of
sharpness from the rhubarb. I always think of falooda as something
along the lines of English trifle. It’s a sweet treat full of lots of
different good things.
Queens Club Cocktail was my preferred finish to the meal. I hadn’t had
wine with dinner so I could indulge in a little alcohol now. This hot
after-dinner cocktail had me intrigued: it’s Ketel One Vodka, coriander
seed and lemon zest syrup, clove and hot Darjeeling Earl Grey tea
poured over a clove and apple jelly, and into a proper cup and saucer.
Deliciously theatrical and a cocktail which I want to replicate at home
Gymkhana will definitely appeal to those looking for uncommon food
that’s predictably good, in a restaurant with character in a convenient
location. Karam Sethi once again shows his flair for knowing what works.
42 Albemarle Street
London W1S 4JH
Phone: 020 3011 5900
Visit Gymkhana Restaurant here
Memphis in London
The Shaftesbury Theatre is both beautiful and historic,
and a worthy presenter of a show that is beautiful in a very
Memphis is a musical and a memorable and striking one. It is set in an
era of segregation, overt racism, poverty, and dreams. The story line
is perennial and simple but with a sting – boy meets girl, boy loses
girl. The main protagonists are Huey Calhoun and Felicia Farrell,
racism and music. These add up to be more than the sum of their
Huey is a poor, white, ill-educated clown of a chap who has a passion
for music – Black music. That’s not a claim to fame these days but we
are talking 1950s USA, and the South at that! These were troubled times
where even music had to know its place. He was on a mission to
popularise R&B and bring it to a wider audience.
A Beale Street club offers Huey a chance to immerse himself, or almost,
in black musical culture. And there was a young black singer called
Felicia who stole his heart but also showed him the brutality and
injustice of Memphis society. Huey could be musically black whenever he
wanted, but she was black every moment, noted Felicia. There were
realities to be faced.
Memphis is colourful, vibrant and a little shocking, particularly to
younger members of the theatre audience who have never actually heard
the N-word in such a public forum. There was an audible gasp from those
who had not grasped the aforementioned realities of life for non-whites
– a few gritty moments that were completely in context. There is a
hard-hitting story here which supports some cracking good songs.
Beverley Knight captivates from the first moment. In my humble opinion,
and I am no expert, she is the most polished and accomplished soul
singer around. She has the voice, for sure, but she has charm, elegance
and beauty. One warms to her character, Felicia, who has talent, humour
From 6 July 2015 the role of Huey Calhoun is played by Matt
Cardle. He has built himself a solid reputation since his success
with X-Factor. He brings sensitivity and credibility to his role along
with his powerful voice, energy and nifty moves. A great choice for the
part and for the partnership with Ms Knight, that makes Memphis so
There are other heroes in Memphis. The dancers are dazzling and the
musicians are first-rate. Don’t rush off after the stars have taken
their bows: stay until the music is really over and give those
musicians some applause too. Some nice bits of sax playing in the last
few minutes before the curtain falls.
Go to Memphis. I highly recommend this show for its social comment, its
musical score and its originality. It’s a fun show dealing with serious
issues and it’s a balance that it thoughtfully maintains. It’s a moving
story with songs that have all the style of 50s R&B.
Memphis at the Shaftesbury Theatre
210 Shaftesbury Avenue
Visit Shaftesbury Theatre here
For enquiries relating to the performance or general ticket enquiries
For general enquiries email firstname.lastname@example.org
Stage Door: Phone 020 7379 3345
Box Office: Phone 020 7379 5399
Fax: 020 7836 8181
Bombay Brasserie – Cool
Bombay Brasserie and Bar, Gloucester Road, South
Kensington has been an A-lister for the great and the good as well
as the just famous and now it has adopted a new, cool ivory-coloured
persona in place of the Rajesque opulence it once flaunted.
The restaurant has undergone a couple of transformations since it
opened in 1982 as one of London’s first Indian fine-dining
destinations. It has recently been refurbished and is now much lighter
and more contemporary than its previous incarnation. There are still
the famed sepia pictures of Maharajas gracing the walls of the bar and
on a panel next to the piano in the restaurant, but now Bombay
Brasserie is less fussy but just as classy as the old BB.
My guest remarked that Bombay Brasserie has perhaps the most generous
table spacing of any London restaurant of any culinary persuasion. The
restaurant evidently considers the comfort of its guests, and one truly
does feel like a guest rather than a customer. The service, overseen by
Operations Manager Mr. Shailesh Pandya, is, just like the man himself,
professional and friendly yet unobtrusive.
The conservatory has been transformed with the removal of the central
open kitchen. The walls are now covered with white-and-black Indian
folk murals and there is an outside terrace to enjoy on warm summer evenings. But the new private dining area
which seats about 18 is absolutely stunning. It’s a vision of dark
wood, carved-back chairs and Indian good taste. It’s understated
Executive Chef Prahlad Hegde is modest, charming and softly spoken but
heads an energetic and well-polished team. Chef Hegde is the hidden
cornerstone in the kitchen and his skill as a chef has won him awards
and deserved respect from his peers as well as those he feeds. It’s his
food that entices the visitor to return …and often. He doesn’t court
publicity but rather works quietly away to build a solid and creditable
worldwide reputation for Bombay Brasserie.
We visited on a hot and sticky evening. Yes, it’s true, they are rare
in London but when they arrive they are strength-sapping and tiresome.
Alcohol didn’t appeal, even though we were luxuriating in Bombay
Brasserie’s air-conditioning, but we were invited to try a couple of
virgin cocktails and they hit the spot, to the extent that we ordered
another round. Not exactly binge drinking and there was neither guilt
nor hangover. Tamaringer was an addictive concoction of sharp and
thirst-quenching tamarind spiked with chilli served with plenty of ice.
My guest’s libation was the equally moreish Green Refresher which
offers the much-publicised healthful properties of green tea along with
pineapple, mint, ginger and lemon.
This restaurant is far from being a high-street curry house (although
these are fewer in number they have long been well-loved institutions
and it was they, after all, who gave us our appreciation of spice).
Bombay Brasserie is famed for its accessible Indian fine-dining
ambiance and menu. Chef Hegde has a light touch, a deft hand and a
lot of passion for his craft. The menu has classics but also dishes
that are unique to this restaurant.
Non-meat eaters are well catered for here with seafood aplenty as well
as vegetable dishes such as the okra which shouldn’t be missed. The
griddled prawns and scallops are for which to die. I would venture to
say that those scallops are the best I have ever had in London, or
anywhere else for that matter. They are translucent and succulent.
Pan-fried Chilean sea bass on a base of spinach and mushroom is a fine
example of why this fish has become so popular and it’s a flaky
must-try on this menu.
Braised lamb shank should be the dinner of choice for any card-carrying
carnivore. It arrived simply presented with a light gravy on the side.
The meat was, and I know it’s a much-used cliché, ‘falling off
the bone’. That’s a more literarily nifty phrase than ‘sufficiently
tender as to be easily shredded with the blunt edge of a spoon or a
sharp look’ which would be equally true.
Bombay Brasserie and Executive Chef Prahlad Hegde
never disappoint. Its convenient location, its delicious food and
impeccable service have kept this restaurant buzzing. It might have
changed its décor, it hasn’t changed its name to Mumbai
Somethingorother, and the high quality of its dishes and presentation
remain the same. Any lover of good food will have this restaurant on
their gastronomic Bucket List.
Phone +44 (0)20 7370 4040
Visit Bombay Brasserie here
Gaylord in Mortimer Street
This is one restaurant that I have visited and wondered
why I had not done so long before now. Gaylord Restaurant was
established in 1966 so I would have had plenty of time. Its location
couldn’t be more convenient, being between two Underground stations and
near shops and theatres. I guess that it has become an Indian
restaurant institution and doesn’t get the publicity lavished on some
newer kids on the block …or at least new kids on other London blocks.
I liked it. OK, so that phrase doesn’t have great wordy impact but it
speaks volumes. It made a great impression on arrival. It’s cool and
elegant in a very ‘international crisp white linen and ivory’ way but
there were very Indian friezes by Prithvi Soni on the wall to give a
nod to the ethnicity of the culinary offerings. For me, this is just
the right balance of décor laced with exotica. I was comfortable.
The diners were an eclectic mix of American tourists and local Indian
and European regulars. There were couples as well as families enjoying
cooling drinks before their meal on this unusually hot and humid summer
night, in a London that seemed to be emulating the sub-continent.
Gaylord has a beautiful menu. That is to say the actual
menu is beautifully presented with heavy card pages,
muted colours, metallic details and a very practical landscape layout.
It hinted at the quality of food to come, when such attention had been
given before a morsel had even been ordered.
But we did order and started with non-alcoholic cocktails. I can
recommend the Virgin Paan Mohitos made with rose petals, fresh mint,
lime juice and buckets of ice. A thirst-quencher with a delicate
Gaylord remains faithful to its traditions that were started in India
in the 1940s. There are dishes which are familiar and there are others
that cross boundaries. I have never been keen on fusion dishes but the
Tacos here are worth trying. They are an Indian version of the Mexican
street food classic. The menu mentions soft tacos but ours were the
crisp corn tacos with that very particular flavour …and it really
worked with the filling of lamb seek kebab with a pile of garnishes. I
am sure the soft taco shell would have been good but the crisp one has
more flavour and is fun, although messy, to eat.
My guest ordered Mixed Vegetable Pakoras. Yes, a standard dish but that
standard does vary from restaurant to restaurant. These were just for
which I would hope. It’s all about the batter which coats those
veggies, and this gram flour batter gave a light, crisp and oil-free
pakora that was moreish.
Murg Gilafi seekh was my starter. Minced chicken had been lightly
smoked, giving a moist and juicy kebab. Served on a sizzling platter
with sliced onions, this was a winner. Golgappa shots
were delicious and amusing and a must-try if there are a crowd of you.
Tandoori prawns and chicken tikka are also good here, so order a few
starters to share in tapas style.
Gaylord Grill is a substantial platter of Tandoori Lamb Chop, Fish
Tikka and Murg Malai Tikka. The chop was
charred on the bone with meat that was cooked to pink perfection. The
chicken and fish were both melting and well-seasoned.
Vegetable Jalfrezi was my vibrant mix for a main course. A medley of
potatoes, green peas, peppers, button mushrooms, carrots were tossed
with warming spices and fresh coriander. This was a hot dish that was
both light and flavourful on an equally hot summer night. A dish for
any Indian food aficionado. It needed nothing more alongside than some
rice and Yellow Dal Tadka tempered with garlic, red onion, and cumin –
a hearty dal for sharing.
Baingan Hyderabadi should be a signature side dish at Gaylord.
Aubergine chunks, simmered in spicy masala gravy are truly addictive. I
am tempted to pop in for a portion of this and some naan bread whenever
I am passing.
Gajar Ka halwa is a traditional homemade carrot pudding and here it is
served hot with almond slivers and a great
deal of style. It arrived in a silver jewel box which added to the
general majestic ambiance of Gaylord.
This was a delightful meal and my only regret is that I didn’t visit
sooner. I look forward to becoming a regular for lunch, dinner and a
bite before going to the theatre. It will be a long time before I tire
of the beautiful menu.
79-81 Mortimer Street
Phone: 020 7580 3615 or 020 7636 0808
Visit Gaylord here
Bayeux – A stitch in time
It’s inevitable that the first thing people think of when
you mention Bayeux is the tapestry. Though it’s not actually a tapestry but a very fine embroidery. The Bayeux Tapestry is now on permanent display in a bespoke museum in the city of Bayeux in
Normandy, France. It’s unique and huge and merits a home of its own.
The ‘tapestry’ tells the story of the life of William the Conqueror and
the Battle of Hastings, and here comes another factual correction and
we are only at paragraph two! The Battle of Hastings was actually
fought at a place called Battle, although I suspect it was named only
after the Battle. It would have been too much of a coincidence
The tapestry tells of William and his passage from being just the
illegitimate son of the Duke of Normandy (with ‘Bastard’ as the only
appendage to his name) to rising to having ‘King’ as his title. One can
see the preparations for invasion; the felling of trees and the
launching of boats, and then the battle. Many men are shown as
conclusively dead and the English King Harold can be seen being the
well-documented recipient of the arrow in the eye.
The bloody event was to have a huge impact on Medieval England and it’s
still exciting interest today. The tapestry is made out of eight narrow widths of linen sewn
together. It’s 270 feet long and about 20 inches wide. The
majority of stitches used are ‘stem’ and ‘laid-and-couched’, which will
only mean anything to devoted embroiderers.
There are eight colours of thread and the five main colours are
blue-green, terracotta, light-green, buff and grey-blue. Nothing too
vivid and all obviously made with natural dyes. There are also areas
where very dark blue, yellow and a dark green are still visible – this
hanging is in amazing condition considering its age.
It is assumed that the man who commissioned the tapestry was Bishop Odo
of Bayeux. He was William’s half-brother. It is probable that the
tapestry was made to celebrate both William’s victory at Hastings and
the completion of Odo’s cathedral in the city.
The tapestry was likely made by women in Canterbury, Kent, where there
was a celebrated embroidery school. They used stitches very
similar to those found on the tapestry. Another indication that this
was sewn on the English side of the Channel is that some of the names on
the tapestry are spelt in the English way and not in the French style.
The tapestry shows 50 different scenes and there are 632 people, 202
horses, 55 dogs, 505 other characters, 37 buildings, around 40 ships
and trees, and lots of Latin. Adults will be charmed by the handiwork
and younger members of the group will be thrilled by the brutality and
But there is more to this beautiful town than the tapestry. The large
Norman-Romanesque and Gothic Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Bayeux was
consecrated in 1077 by the aforementioned Bishop Odo. The lower part of
the building is Romanesque, and is probably original. The upper part is
in Gothic style making this an architect’s dream structure to study.
But look inside to really appreciate the magnificence of the cathedral.
Bayeux is only a short distance from the Normandy Beaches, which have
been attracting more visitors than ever over the last several years.
There are various associated museums and exhibitions in the area, as
well as war cemeteries, commemorating very much more recent battles
than that shown in the Tapestry.
Bayeux has a wealth of restaurants and specialist food shops. Many of
these are housed in historic half-timbered
buildings, so take your eyes off the cheese for a moment and you might
find some characterful wood carving. And along with the cidre and dairy
products there is a little shop that actually sells bits of the Bayeux
Tapestry. Well, newly embroidered authentic replicas of the historic
hanging anyway. You can buy finished cushions, you can buy kits as
souvenirs and you can even have lessons on the stitches used by those
Kentish damsels who made the original.
Bayeux is an accessible and walkable town. Photo opportunities abound,
eating opportunities are ever present and one can just people-watch
with a coffee and an apple pastry. It’s easy to get there from Caen by
train, which itself has fast shuttle links to and from its airport.
There are flights from the gem of an airport at Southend.
Learn more about making your own tapestry here
Visit Southend Airport here
Learn more about Bayeux here
Visit the Bayeux Tapestry Museum here
London for Foodies,
Gourmets and Gluttons
This thick, square tome is a veritable guide to all things
delicious in the capital. We are truly spoilt for choice so it’s handy
to have some pointers. Yes, it’s all a matter of taste but authors
David Hampshire and Graeme Chesters have presented a comprehensive
cross-section of suggestions. There are chapters devoted to restaurants
and others to various genres of food purveyors. Its style is chatty and
inclusive and the text doesn’t ramble.
London for Foodies, Gourmets and Gluttons isn’t a book just for those
with cash to splash. There is a section devoted
to Street Food which offers vibrant options that won’t demand a second
mortgage. Borough Market has become a magnet for food-lovers from
around the world. Plenty to see and taste and those foods are just as
diverse as the people trying them. This market does double duty as a
fresh food market and a Street Food arcade.
For a look at a colourful and thoroughly authentic market then head for
Leather Lane which has held markets for 400 years or so. It’s not
polished but it’s real London, with everything from fresh veg to big
knickers, along with those eclectic plates. This is absolutely Street
If you would actually like to sit while you sip then this book has a
wealth of tea and coffee houses. I am guessing that you are a food
lover and likely passionate about recipe books, and London for Foodies,
Gourmets and Gluttons presents Books for Cooks. It’s a celebrated
bookshop with food books of every kind. There is a café at the
back which doubles as a demonstration area for some of those cookbook
Persepolis is one of my personal favourite food shops in London, and
probably anywhere. The food is exotic and delicious and mostly Persian.
The owner, Sally Butcher, is almost always serving and entertaining
with her own brand of warm and hilarious humour. She is not only Mrs
Shopkeeper but she is the writer of some very engaging cookbooks. This
shop is a must-visit!
As I’ve said, it’s just a matter of taste, but the two authors have
coincidently chosen so many of my favourite haunts. It’s a pleasure to
leaf through the pages while making plans for the next market visit, or
to dine at that restaurant with the unique curry. This is gift quality
and should indeed be a gift for any lover of London and its food. Gone
are the days when we had such a (deservedly) bad reputation for food.
London for Foodies, Gourmets and Gluttons illustrates how far we have
come - and it’s only scratched the surface.
London for Foodies, Gourmets and Gluttons
Authors: David Hampshire and Graeme Chesters
Published by: Survival Books
Kettner’s, I used to feel, seemed somewhat out of
place in this corner of the great metropolis. It’s a genteel
establishment and that’s not for which this corner of town had once
been noted. This old Soho had evolved from a bolt-hole for
religious-refugee Huguenots to the haunt of far less noble sorts who
peddled X-rated films and associated iffy pleasures. But it has
changed. Restaurants are higher end and it’s now a hub of entertainment
for shoppers, drinkers and diners.
Originally Kettner’s was a terrace of four Georgian town houses. It was
opened in 1867 by Auguste Kettner who was once the personal chef to
Napoleon III. Napoleon went into exile in England, where he died in
1873. The restaurant became infamous as the rendezvous for such
luminaries as Oscar Wilde who dined here (although he couldn’t remember
the menu at his trial). He did, however, remark that it was ‘Kettner at
his best’. There is a legend that King Edward VII ordered a secret
tunnel to be built between Kettner’s and the Palace Theatre, where his
mistress Lillie Langtry trod the boards.
The Grade II listed building is a veritable maze of rooms. There is the
Brasserie, and then there is the Champagne Bar, and eight Private
Dining Rooms. Summer evenings find the brasserie bathed in gentle light.
Plenty of white linen, muted colours, mirrors, long-aproned waiters and
animated conversation. Kettner’s is undoubtedly smart but it’s far from
dusty. There is appropriate live music between Tuesday and
Saturday from 7pm: a white grand piano fills a corner, to add to the
expectation of some rather good food.
Lobster “Mac n Cheese” is a decadent and comforting dish much
appreciated by my guest. It might sound an unlikely combination but it
has actually become a contemporary classic. The ingredients work well
together when the shellfish is well flavoured and the cheese isn’t
overpowering. A great Kettner’s plate.
John Ross Traditional Oak Smoked Salmon, Crème Fraiche &
Cucumber Salad was my starter. That fish also has history: it’s smoked
over wood chippings in a red brick kiln dating back to 1857, just the
right time frame for
Kettner’s. The salmon was beautifully oily and rich.
Roast Sea Bass Fillet with Cucumber, Mussels and Tarragon Salad was my
dining partner’s main dish. The fish was flaky and moist and the salad
delicate. The Cabernet Sauvignon Dressing was a great pairing. A good
sized portion, too.
Beef Bourguignon with Creamed Parsley Mash was my nod to the French
origins of Chef Kettner. This was attractively presented in a copper
pot, giving a rustic air to this beef in red wine. This is a comforting
dish of rich gravy and meltingly tender meat and vegetables. It’s
served often in many restaurants but, to be honest, the Kettner’s
version is the only one I have really enjoyed in London for a long
while. The mash was perfect and smooth and just enough. Did I mention
the generous portion sizes at Kettner’s?
Glazed Lemon Tart is another classic dish served here. It looks simple,
and indeed it is but it’s also for which to die when done properly.
This was deliciously sharp with a thin pastry crust. My only complaint
is that I didn’t have more room.
Kettner’s is unique. It’s just a matter of taste but I loved the
décor, the ambiance and the food. It’s become an institution and
for good reason.
Brasserie opening hours:
Monday – Wednesday: noon – midnight
Thursday – Friday: noon – midnight
Saturday: noon – midnight
Sunday: noon – 22:00
Bank Holidays: noon – 22:00
29 Romilly St.
Phone: 020 7734 6112
Visit Kettner’s here
Late spring in Burgundy. The banks of the canal were
festooned with the
colours of wild flowers: the blue of cornflowers, the
blood red of poppies and the yellow of other blooms which were unknown
to this horticulturally-challenged city girl.
That’s the beauty of barge travel - it relaxes the mind and makes space
for civilized exercises such as the pursuit of good food and wine and
culture. The Abbey at Fontenay was just a little way away from the
canal run and the excursion was well worth the effort of dislodging
myself from floating luxury.
Bernard of Clairvaux, an abbot and the primary instigator of the
reformed Cistercian order, founded the Abbey of Fontenay in a Burgundy
valley in 1118 with strictly implemented austerity, which he felt had
become so lax in other monasteries. The monks moved to Fontenay Abbey
in 1130. Nine years later the Bishop of Norwich fled to Fontenay to
escape persecution, and he helped finance the construction of the
church which was consecrated in 1147 by Pope Eugene III.
By 1200 the monastic site was finished and housed as many as 300 monks,
and in 1259 the pious King Louis exempted the Abbey of Fontenay from
all taxes. In 1359 the Abbey was sacked by the armies of King Edward
III of England, and was damaged anew in the late 1500s. In 1745 the
refectory was destroyed, and by 1789 all of the monks had left the
abbey due to the terrors of the French Revolution.
Fontenay Abbey was sold by the revolutionary government
in 1820 as a national asset, and turned into a paper mill by the paper
maker Elie de Montgolfier, nephew of the balloon inventors. I dare say
that he took advantage of the abundant running water on the site
for his paper-making process. (Paper was one of the key components in
those celebrated balloons.) Marc Seguin, the inventor of suspension
bridges and French railways, was the owner of Fontenay from 1838.
The paper factory closed in 1905.
Edouard Aynard, a patron of the arts, married a Montgolfier and he
started the restoration. His descendants still live in part of the
abbey and work on the buildings continues. In 1981 the abbey became a
UNESCO World Heritage Site: it is the oldest preserved Cistercian abbey
in the world. The grounds have a classic and manicured garden which was
listed in 2004 as a "Remarkable Garden" by the National Council of
Parks and Gardens. The grounds cover over 1,200 hectares.
The Abbey welcomes 100,000 visitors each year so one needs to pick
one’s day and time to avoid following a bus-load of tourists. It’s
enjoyed at its best when the buses leave and tranquillity reigns. One
gets a sense of the spirituality of this spot that was used for worship
for so long.
The Entrance Lodge is the first building that you will visit. It
once marked the limits of the Abbey complex. There was a porter who
greeted visitors to the monastery - pilgrims and the poor for the most
part, one imagines.
Notice the round hole in the wall? That’s where you would get a
less-than-warm welcome from a guard dog: his accommodations were on the
other side of the wall.
Pass through that lodge and you will see a huge tree. It’s several
hundreds of years old and dominates the garden. It’s likely that these
lawns were vegetable plots when the monks were in residence. There is a
corner that once housed hunting dogs, too.
The cloister here is magnificent and has remained intact since the 12th
century. This must have once been a promenade of contemplation. One can
almost imagine one hears the soft padding of white-clad monks walking
in silence. Simple yet impressive architecture offers sheltered passage
to all the main monastery rooms.
Younger members of your party might not be interested in the finer
points of Romanesque architecture but they will be interested in the
hydraulic hammer which was reconstituted in 2008 as part of a European
project involving 7 technical schools. This hammer is a working replica
of hammers that would have actually been used by the monks in their
forge. There is a turning water-wheel which powers the hydraulic
hammer, causing it to be raised and then to fall under its own
considerable weight. This was used for refining metal coming from the
The monk’s dormitory is stunning. Raise your eyes and
find what looks like the skeleton of an upturned wooden boat with its
ribs as joists. The room is bare now, just as it would have been when
the dormitory was first built. After some time the monks were given
small partitions to afford at least some privacy. They slept on straw
mattresses and in the cold. There were prayers in the adjoining church
every few hours, and sanitation was primitive. Those must have been
exhausting and unhealthy days, but probably no worse here than out in
the broader world at that time.
Fontenay Abbey is one of the most impressive and most sympathetically
restored building complexes I have seen anywhere. It’s well worth a
visit. Walk the cloisters, admire the stonework but take time to sit
and enjoy the quiet.
Phone +33 (0)380 92 15 00
Visit the Abbey here
Learn more about luxury barging holidays in the region here
Read more about this trip here
For more images of La Belle Epoque visit Mostly Travel here
Gouda – a cheese for all seasons
We have many cheese choices in specialist shops and even
our local supermarket. Gouda can easily be overlooked. It seems to have
been with us forever and we don’t even notice it anymore. The first
mention of Gouda cheese dates from 1184, making it one of the oldest
recorded cheeses in the world still being made.
This round, yellow cheese takes its name from the Dutch town of Gouda,
just a short distance from Rotterdam. It’s the Netherlands’ most
popular cheese and, in fact, accounts for more than 60% of the cheese
produced in the country.
Gouda is a traditional hard cheese covered in a wax rind which is
usually yellow but does also come in other colours. The flavour is mild
and creamy but as the cheese ages the taste intensifies and becomes
more interesting. The cheese is dried for a few days before being
coated with a yellow waxy substance to prevent it from drying out
further. Cheeses of 18 months old or more are considered as Mature
Gouda and coated in black wax.
Gouda is pronounced "Hou-da" by the Dutch and is usually made from
pasteurised cow’s milk. There are seven recognised types of Gouda
cheese, listed by age. Graskaas (spring cheese) is young Gouda ready to
be consumed within 4 weeks of production. Other designations are Young,
matured 8 to 10 weeks, Matured – 16 to 18 weeks, Extra Matured – 7 to 8
months, Old Cheese – 10 to 12
months, and Very Old cheese – 1 year or more. There is also the
extra-aged, Overjarig cheese. Each cheese becomes firmer in texture and
more complex with the passage of time. As it ages the cheese develops a
caramel-like sweetness with crunchy crystals, making this the savoury
cheeseboard equivalent of the very trendy salted caramel. Aged Gouda is
perhaps my favourite hard-hard cheese.
Although the cheese is named after the Dutch city, the cheese isn’t
made there, but Gouda is the centre for trading, as in the Middle Ages
Dutch cities could be awarded total monopoly on certain goods – Gouda
acquired the right to hold a cheese market. Most Gouda these days is
produced in cheese factories but 300 or so farmers still produce
"Boerenkaas", or Farmer’s cheese. This is a protected form of Gouda
made in the traditional way using unpasteurized milk.
One can still visit that colourful market that is held one day each
week for several months of the year. Porters in jaunty hats, farmers in
blue traditional costume and noble wagon drivers all help to make this
a lively spectacular. There is much banter for the benefit of the
tourists, and handjeklap in which buyers and sellers slap each other's
hands and shout prices until they agree, and that’s when the slap
becomes a handshake. The porters carry the cheese to the weigh-house to
be weighed, tasted and taxed.
Gouda is available in large wheels, each weighing between 10 and 25
pounds although there are some producers who make 60lb cheeses. They
are mostly sold in smaller slices to the family shopper. It’s eaten in
sandwiches, it’s used in cooking and the more mature cheese is cubed
and nibbled along with a good glass of red or some beer.
Give Gouda a try. Find a good cheese shop and taste the unexpected
depth of some fine Dutch cheese. The Cheese Market in Gouda is great
fun. The town is beautiful with more to see and do when the market
finishes. You could visit a restaurant and ask for Gouda Fondue or
other dishes made from the town’s most celebrated product.
Museumhavencafé for cheese fondue
Open from 1 May
Thursday - Sunday from 12:00 to 18:00
Phone +31 6 44267175
Visit Museumhavencafé here
Read another article about Gouda here
See more images of Gouda here
Learn more about Gouda here
Visit Voyages SNCF here
Learn more about other destinations in The
by history, carved in stone - Normandy and England
We share so much. Those Norsemen who pillaged the coast of
Britain and settled inland also did the same in France, and indeed in
such numbers that a region took their name – Normandy, populated by
Normans, a corruption of Norsemen!
Caen is the principal city in Normandy and is just 15 km from the
English Channel, or La Manche as it’s called in French. This beautiful
town is now linked to the south of England by the new route from the
increasingly popular Southend Airport. It takes less than an hour,
making this hop shorter than many people’s daily commute.
Caen is known as the city of William the Conqueror, and for its
historic stone buildings constructed during his reign. He rose from
obscurity to become a force on both sides of that aforementioned body
The man who was to become William I of England was born in the late
1020s and was the illegitimate son of the Duke of Normandy. In 1035
William inherited the title of Duke of Normandy, a far more genteel one
than William the Bastard which was his other moniker.
In the 1050s and early 1060s William became a contender for the throne
of England, then held by Edward the Confessor, who had no children.
English earl Harold Godwinson was another candidate and it was he who
was named the next king by Edward as he lay on his deathbed in January
William was having none of that and mounted an invasion of England from
Normandy in September 1066. He
defeated and killed Harold, probably not personally, in the Battle of
Hastings - which was not actually fought in Hastings but a few miles
away in a place called, unimaginatively, Battle. In the wink of
an eye we had a new king. William was crowned King of England on
Christmas Day 1066.
Many castles in England were constructed during William’s reign, making
the statement ‘we are here to stay’. One of the most famous is The
White Tower which is the central keep of the Tower of London. This is
one of the city’s most iconic buildings and it’s made of stone from
The very best examples of Caen stone buildings are, unsurprisingly, in
Caen! This is a charming city and walkable. In fact a trip here from
the UK is easy without a car. There is a speedy and frequent link from
London Liverpool Street, and the train station is actually at Southend
Airport, and therefore convenient for foot passengers. There is a
regular shuttle bus from Caen Airport into the centre of town.
Once you are in central Caen you’ll find everything within a small
area. There are pedestrianised shopping streets
to tempt skilled retail enthusiasts, but don’t just look at goods in
shop windows, look at the shop itself. There are some striking
half-timbered buildings still standing even after the bombardment that
Caen suffered during the Second World War.
The Abbaye-aux-Hommes was founded by William the Conqueror in 1067 as
penance for marrying his cousin Matilda (who founded the Abbaye aux
Dames for the same reason). William was buried in his Abbey – a marble
slab in the choir marks the site of his tomb.
The Early Gothic choir replaced the original Romanesque sanctuary in
1202. This is the earliest example of Norman Gothic and became the
model for many future choirs both in France and England. The
Abbey is made from local Caen stone which was also used for Canterbury
Cathedral and Westminster Abbey, and is a fine example of Norman
Romanesque. There are twin Romanesque towers topped with Gothic spires
that are 84m high, giving Caen the nickname "city of spires."
Caen doesn’t disappoint. It’s simple to get there, and decent hotels
can be found for under 100 Euro. One can indulge in café
culture, and enjoy the local cuisine. Buy a bottle of cidre, a baguette
and some fine local cheese, and relax with a picnic in a park. Go for a
unique calvados cocktail, and watch the sun set on ancient stones.
Learn more about Caen here
Visit Southend Airport here
For more images of Normandy visit the Mostly Travel Facebook Album here
The British Museum in London is famed the world over for
its displays of artefacts and curios. Granted, there are some that feel
many of these objets d’art should be returned to their place of origin,
while others feel that they are safer where they are. That conundrum is
best left to wiser heads than mine.
There is a new display at the British Museum and it’s stunning and
eclectic, and very much built of one man’s passion for beauty,
stability and grandiose statement. In 1898 Baron Ferdinand Rothschild
bequeathed to the British Museum as the Waddesdon Bequest the contents
from his New Smoking Room at Waddesdon Manor. This collection didn’t
comprise racks of pipes and humidors but works of much more universal
Waddesdon Manor in Buckinghamshire was built by Ferdinand Rothschild in
the 1870s in the style of a 16th-century French château. It is
now a National Trust property, open to the public and managed by the
Rothschild Foundation. It houses a celebrated collection of
18th-century French porcelain and furniture, as well as a noteworthy
collection of European paintings.
There are almost 300 items in the Waddesdon Bequest, which include
ornate and jewel-encrusted brooches, plate, enamel, carvings, glass and
maiolica - Italian tin-glazed pottery. The Holy Thorn Reliquary
probably dates back as far as the 1390s, but most of the collection is
from the late Renaissance period of the 16th century - although there
are a number of 19th-century fakes. There are also more mundane items
such as handles and a knocker, to contrast the sumptuous baubles, as
well as the most exquisite miniature wooden carvings.
The collection was started by Baron Ferdinand's father, Baron Anselm
von Rothschild, and may contain some works from earlier family
collections, as Mayer Amschel Rothschild (1744–1812) had a thriving
business dealing in coins and other precious objects. The collection
was modelled on the regal European Schatzkammer, which is a German word
meaning Treasure Room. Nobility in Germany and Austria in the
16th century were avid collectors of priceless works of art.
Baron Ferdinand's bequest was specific in nature, and failure to
observe the conditions would render it void. The bequest stated that
the collection must be housed in a special room which should be called
the Waddesdon Bequest Room. Until late 2014 the collection was
displayed in a much smaller room. Its new home is a larger gallery on
the ground floor, close to the main entrance on Museum Street.
The new gallery has been funded by The Rothschild Foundation. Next to
Rooms 1 and 2, the Waddesdon Bequest Room now forms part of a series of
rooms which document the history of collecting and the growth of the
British Museum itself. One sees the glittering collection through open
doors as one approaches with mounting anticipation.
For more images of the Waddesdon Bequest visit Mostly Travel Facebook
Visit the Waddesdon Bequest at the British Museum here
Jim De Jong – Say it with
flowers …and cheese
Rotterdam is fast becoming known for food. It’s the
Netherlands and it might be a bit of a cliché, but, yes there is
cheese. Chef Jim De Jong was challenged to make a menu composed of
Holland’s most iconic staple, and his creations were stunning.
Jim has his culinary focus on seasonality, freshness, and vegetables,
with the addition of herbs and flowers. He grows as much as he can and
then buys local wherever possible. His menus are constantly changing
and evolving. He is influenced by French cuisine as well as traditional
We asked Jim to present six courses with the common factor being
cheese. Many a chef would be daunted by the prospect but Jim was
delighted at the very thought of creating a feast that would remain
engaging, exciting and intriguing right to the last bite. He presented
dishes that were beautiful, delicious and fun.
Restaurant De Jong is underneath the arches – railway
arches, that is. That might not sound a
classy address but this neighbourhood is being polished and preened and
is becoming a magnet for energetic chefs and bar owners.
It’s a light, bright and contemporary restaurant with an open kitchen.
It is tastefully understated, offering not a hint of the quality of
food awaiting its diners. The tables are well-spaced in this
restaurant, with ambiance that changes as the sun goes down.
Smoked quail’s egg with Hay-mayonnaise and mustard powder was our first
dish, or more accurately, bowl – the serving vessels are well
considered at Restaurant De Jong. The spice offered a sharp
counterpoint to the egg and the creamy mayonnaise.
White asparagus and Bergens Blonde cheese, samphire and buckwheat
followed. The cheese was soft with Brie notes but this is Dutch. The
white asparagus is much preferred in Europe to the green which is
ubiquitous in the UK.
Blauwklaver cheese with artichoke, lemon, flax seed and
oxalis was next. This ’blue clover’ is a soft blue cheese and one which
I shall be seeking on my next trip to the Netherlands. Oxalis was the
floral garnish and is a member of the wood-sorrel family.
Pickled onions and radish, Charmeur goat's cheese broth, and lovage
with radish flowers was my dish-of-the-meal. Those pickles had bite
that complemented the cheese. Reminded one of the very best cheese and
onion crisps one has ever tasted …in less crunchy form.
Green asparagus, old Texels sheep's cheese and mustard was next in
line. Texel is one of the Dutch Wadden Islands. This cheese is made
from raw sheep’s milk, and has been produced for more than 500 years on
the island. This is another cheese for the wish-list.
Dessert was rhubarb, lavender and yoghurt, giving a perfumed finale to
the meal which was inspiring, amusing, conversation-provoking and the
most marvellous showcase for Dutch cheese and dairy products. It’s a
shame that the Netherlands seems known
outside its borders only for Edam and Gouda. These are both fine
cheeses, but one could have quite a gastronomic adventure in Holland
just discovering the lesser-known local cheeses.
Chef Jim De Jong might not consider himself an ambassador but he proved
himself to be just that. He has passion and culinary vitality. His
support of local food is commendable and he offers both the Dutch and
visitors a glimpse of how good the food here can be. You might not get
a chance to eat these same dishes but perhaps this menu will give a few
ideas. It’s a sure bet that Chef Jim will have other memorable dishes
Restaurant De Jong
Boog 1/Raampoortstraat 38
3032 AH Rotterdam
Phone: 010 465 7955
Visit Restaurant De Jong here
See more images of Rotterdam here
Visit Voyages SNCF here
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La Belle Epoque – 5-star
floating through Burgundy
What a grand title for a barge! Luckily the lady lived up
to her name and our expectations, which she did actually
exceed in every way.
A barge, even a big one, presents the very real prospect of tight
accommodations, iffy facilities and, still worse, the likelihood of
mediocre food cooked by a well-meaning hobbyist chef on a gas burner at
the back end of the boat. La Belle Epoque was surprising, charming,
delicious, luxurious and relaxing, and those dreads soon evaporated.
We were met at our appointed hotel in Paris - the receptionist was
expecting us, and took charge of our luggage so we were able to have a
few hours in warm, sunny Paris. Just time enough for a meal of
steak-frites and a glass of something red and reviving, surrounded by
locals. The holiday had started and we hadn’t even seen our vessel.
Our minibus arrived, and not one of those U-Drive efforts hired for the
day, either. A smart blue 9-seater in the European Waterways livery
with the company emblem on the door. (In fact this bus was to follow us
along the route, and ferry us to various places of interest.) A smiling
couple introduced themselves to us and the other passengers, and loaded
the luggage. We were off.
A couple of hours of dozing found us alongside a beautifully painted
and substantial Dutch barge. This particular boat was built in the
1930s to carry cargo around the European rivers and canals in an era
when they still offered the fastest and most reliable travel options.
La Belle Epoque had been sympathetically converted to a floating hotel
but it still retains some features which made Dutch craftsmanship so
The trip started with a warm welcome from the assembled crew and a
glass of chilled champagne. Canapés were nibbled before we were
escorted to our cabins. The Belle Epoque has 6 guest cabins boasting
modern en-suite facilities, single or huge double bed, crisp linens,
brass portholes, dark wood, mineral water aplenty, turn-down service
every night, and even a chocolate on the pillow. In short – bijou
There is ample space in the saloon which acted as both lounge and
dining room. Two long sweeps of banquette tempted
voyagers to linger over apero and savouries in the evenings before
dinner or to unwind with a best-seller before a stroll along the
towpath: one can walk through idyllic French countryside between locks.
La Belle Epoque moves at a good walking pace so not much chance that
you’ll miss the boat. For anyone needing more speedy travel than
Shanks’s pony, there are bikes which allow for a mini Tour de France
into nearby historic villages before meeting the boat a few locks
But it’s not all about taking naps in dappled sunshine, hiking by the
canal or cycling through Burgundy. There are also guided excursions
every day. There might be a walk to a nearby chateau, a visit to a
village market, perhaps a wine tasting break ...well, this is Burgundy
and a famed wine-producing region after all!
Our first meal set the scene for the whole trip. This was,
surprisingly, not advertised as a culinary-themed adventure although we
had hoped for some interesting dishes. Chef Selby presented French food
to the highest standard. On our first evening we enjoyed crayfish
timbales wrapped in cucumber, duck with orange sauce, pears
poached in red wine and all expertly paired with both red and white
wines. He progressively ticked off all the classics – beef from the
pale Charolais cattle, coq au vin, frogs legs …and then there were the
cheeses! There were several of these after every meal. Chef Selby chose
regional cheeses, soft cheeses, blue cheeses and hard cheeses. All from
France and showing their diversity.
Our daily guided excursions took us to such beautiful villages as
Flavigny-sur-Ozerain, where the film ‘Chocolat’ was set; Alesia, where
the last battle between the Gauls and Romans took place in 52 B.C. (and
a visit to the museum); the exquisite World Heritage UNESCO site of
Abbaye de Fontenay founded by St Bernard in 1118, which is unmissable;
the 16th century Château d’Ancy-le-Franc with the biggest
collection of Renaissance murals; and the vineyards and town of
Chablis, dating back to Roman times.
France is popular for barge cruises, but all cruises are not created
equal. Whilst it’s true that this was my first experience of such a
holiday, I would have to say that European Waterways, on La Belle
Epoque, have thought of everything. It’s a floating hotel with
almost-individual attention from the staff. There might not be room for
an Olympic pool
on deck but there is a hot tub. No, there isn’t a bespoke library but
there is a selection of books on the food and drink of the region, and
one might notice a copy of Rick Stein’s French Odyssey. That’s no
surprise as that book is associated with the eponymous TV series that
was partly shot on a European Waterways boat.
La Belle Epoque is polished, both metaphorically and actually. If this
is an example of the whole fleet then European Waterways deserve to be
proud. I wholeheartedly recommend this trip to any food, wine and
history lover …or lovers of doing nothing while the scenery drifts
Visit European Waterways here
Read about an excursion during this trip here
For more images of La Belle Epoque visit Mostly Travel here
Gouda is a city and municipality in the province of South
Holland. It’s an historic town which was granted city
status in 1272 by Floris V, Count of Holland. Most tourists will know
Gouda cheese but might not even realise that there really is a town of
the same name, which has more to offer the world than its delicious
In the Middle Ages a settlement was founded by the Van der Goude
family, who built a castle on the banks of the Gouwe River. This
low-lying area was originally marsh but has been drained. By 1225, a
canal was linked to the river and its estuary was made into a harbour.
Gouda is a strikingly beautiful town with easily walked streets. The
Old City Hall at the Markt square was finished in 1450 and is one of
the oldest Gothic city halls in the Netherlands. The Waag (weigh house)
was built in 1667 and is found just opposite. It is an imposing
structure with a marble frieze (the original of which can be seen
inside the building) depicting the process of weighing cheese and
noting the weight for taxes. It is now a national monument and
houses a cheese museum and souvenir shop.
The Gouda Cheese Market is held every Thursday morning from 2 April to
27 August. One can enjoy the traditional scene of farmers haggling over
the price of cheese with the traders. There is much hand-slapping
before the deal is finally sealed with a handshake, just as it has
always been. These days have a festive air with many of those farmers,
wagon drivers and cheese shifters wearing tradition costume. Yes, there
are plenty of clogs.
Grote or St. Jans Kerk (Great or Saint John Church) is the longest
church in the Netherlands. It’s dedicated to John the Baptist, the
patron saint of this town, and was built between the 15th and 16th
centuries. But it’s more famous for its stained glass windows which
were made between 1530 and 1603. The windows were made and installed
primarily by the brothers Dirk and Wouter Crabeth. I am no glass
specialist but these windows are the finest and most
numerous in one building that I have hitherto found in my travels. As
far back as the 17th century they were considered a tourist attraction.
In 1939, at the start of World War II, the stained glass was removed
for safe keeping; the windows were restored when peace once again
reigned. This must surely be one of the most impressive town churches
in Europe. The simple white walls are a perfect foil for the bright
illumination of the coloured glass.
A stroopwafel or syrup waffle is a classic Dutch confection and a
speciality of Gouda, its town of origin. These are addictive sweet
waffle biscuits which are deftly cut through to produce 2 discs which
are spread with a caramel sauce. They are made on waffle irons with
shallow indentations to produce a fine lattice. A firm dough rather
than a batter is made from flour, butter, brown sugar, yeast, milk, and
eggs. The sweet filling is made from boiling together molasses, brown
sugar, butter, and cinnamon.
The stroopwafel was first made around the late 18th century by a baker
using breadcrumbs and syrup. In the 19th century, there
were around 100 waffle makers in Gouda, which was, at that time, the
only city in which they were made. After 1870 they were also produced
in markets in other cities. In the 20th century factories started
making the popular biscuits, and several still exist, helping to stock
supermarkets around Holland and beyond.
One cannot live by stroopwafel alone although many would
probably have tried. For those looking for Gouda’s
savoury dishes then visit the park near the Mallegat Luis at the
Schielands High Seawall. Here you will find the small but perfectly
formed Museumhavencafé in 'tIJsselmeer House. This building was
once the waiting room for skippers of vessels going through the locks.
These days it’s a café which serves such delights as cheese
fondue along with local beer and spirits. If you are lucky you might be
serenaded by an accordion player.
Holland is a small country with an exceptional transport
network connecting its cities and towns to each other as well as
European rail hubs. It’s now possible to reach Gouda
easily from London by train with just a couple of changes. Voyages SNCF
might be the first place to look for travel advice for any history-,
cheese- and cookie-loving tripper. They will help plan rail transport
to Gouda as well as other destinations in The Netherlands and the rest
Open from 1 May
Thursday - Sunday from 12:00 to 18:00
Phone +31 6 44267175
Visit Museumhavencafé here
Read another article about Gouda here
Learn more about Gouda here
Visit Voyages SNCF here
Learn more about other destinations in The
A Citrus History of
Sicily is a large island just off mainland Italy. It has a
variety of landscapes and the imposing Mount Etna which has donated volcanic soil to the fertile tapestry. It
boasts long and unspoilt beaches that are deserted even in the
pleasantly hot months of April and May, and if one is lucky one can
watch dolphins at play as the sun goes down.
The island is blessed with picturesque villages and small towns,
museums, shops, fresh air and food. There are subtropical areas growing
exotic prickly-pear cactus and there are citrus trees for which Sicily
is so famed. Lemons, oranges, blood oranges and mandarins all grow
within sight of Mount Etna.
People have known for thousands of years of the health benefits of
citrus fruit. Earliest cultivation of these fruits dates back at least
2500 years to Asia. According to various authorities the oldest
reference to oranges and lemons is in a Sanskrit text. Many
specialists in the subject believe that the fruit we know today
originated from a sour fruit found growing wild in China.
The lemon was also enjoyed in Roman times, as we know from
archaeological evidence that they were grown in Pompeii. Planting
continued across North Africa and then in southern Spain by the 8th or
9th century. By the 13th century planting had extended from Seville to
Granada and into Portugal and Sicily when North African migrant farmers
and botanists brought citrus to the island to grow in the emir’s
beautiful gardens. It was this citrus production that earned the hills
and valleys around Palermo the name "Conca d'Oro" (golden seashell) in
The modern English word orange, like the Italian arancia, probably
derives from the Arabic naranj. The capital of the Arab world at that
time was Palermo and the wealth of the city was said to rival that of
ancient Baghdad. The Jewish population flourished and was respected by
the resident Moslems in Sicily, and that mixed population enjoyed life
along with the increasing number of Christians. (Those were the days!)
All these diverse groups contributed to Sicily’s unique culinary
On a practical note James Lind, Fellow of the Royal Society, discovered
while he was serving as a naval surgeon in 1747 that citrus juice could
successfully treat scurvy, a disease that was the scourge of the
British navy at that time, and recommended taking this during long sea
voyages. Toward the end of the 18th century, Sicily began shipping
lemons and oranges throughout the world as their health-giving
properties became ever more widely recognized.
Blood oranges are so called for their red flesh and deep red juice.
When ripe, their skin may also have a reddish hue. In Sicily, the most
popular blood oranges are the Tarocco, the Moro and the Sanguigno.
Though used extensively in salads and desserts, blood oranges are
sought after for their striking red juice which is rich in
antioxidants. Mandarins, Valencias and navel oranges are also grown in
Sicily, but the blood orange is considered particularly Sicilian.
Citrus production begins in October with the Mapo. The Clementini,
which are also members of the tangerine
family but are seedless and sweet, ripen at that time, too. The
seedless Washington Navel orange is grown along the southern coast and
is popular between October and March.
Lemons growing around Siracusa continue to be a very important economic
staple. The Siracusa region is considered to be the centre for
production and processing of fresh lemons for both the Italian and
European markets. On 3 February 2011 the name Limone di Siracusa was
registered as having Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status.
This PGI-awarded fruit is characterised by a high juice content, the
amount of essential oils in the skin, and the high quality of those
oils, which are used in the cosmetics and other industries. The local
variety of lemon is called a femminello because of the fertility of the
plant, which has flowers throughout the year. It is quite unusual to
find a fruit tree that can have both blossom and mature fruit on its
branches at the same time, but here they are in Sicily.
This is an island of great natural beauty and historic charm. One can
enjoy modern city amenity but also seek out those shady orange and
lemon groves, smell the blossom and appreciate fruits that have shaped
the destiny of Sicily.
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address the very particular... Read More
Best Salads Ever
It’s summer and so we eat salad. Yes, we eat it but often without enthusiasm. Carnivores often consider salad as the green stuff left on the plate after the meal is finished, and those of us who eat everything get heartily sick of more lettuce, cucumber and
tomato... Read More
Patara Thai Restaurant Knightsbridge
There are few restaurants in Knightsbridge that don’t
exude some kind of classy charm. It’s that kind of area. High-end
residents and visitors looking for food to match... Read More
Counter Vauxhall Arches
So many of my reviews start with ‘Well, it was worth the
long journey’ and stoically ‘It’s a bit off the beaten track’. This
evening I had no need of such stoicism. Counter Vauxhall Arches is just by Vauxhall Station. That isn’t estate-agent
speak for a bracing march away, not a healthy hike away but really just
there... Read More
Brooklands Hotel for Dinner
Brooklands is rather unique. It straddles contemporary
design and the historic connections that its very name evokes. One
might not be familiar with Brooklands Hotel but almost everybody will
have heard of the Brooklands Racing Circuit... Read More
Brooklands Hotel Surrey
I live in West London but whenever I consider a weekend break I turn right instead of left at the end of the road. That takes me to central London with the thronging crowds, fuss and rush. Lots of excitement, it’s true, but it hardly constitutes relaxation, and perhaps if I turn left... Read More
McQueen at The Kensington Hotel
Well, perhaps not the man himself, but The Kensington Hotel is presenting a delightful afternoon tea that is inspired by the
fashion designer who is the focus of an exhibition in London called Savage Beauty. Alexander McQueen was born in... Read More
Dishoom – Kings Cross
Dishoom is the latest branch of the now well-established Old Irani
Cafés of Bombay. They were originally opened last century by
Zoroastrian immigrants from Iran to India. In fact they have almost all
disappeared from that city but have found new fame and followers in
London. This new Dishoom at King’s Cross opened... Read More
Kanada-Ya (or how I found my noodle)
I have wanted to visit for a while. No, this isn’t a
Michelin-starred restaurant. No, one isn’t dazzled by drifts of white
linen tablecloths or the shine of silverware. It’s a café, or at
least a café of the Japanese kind... Read More
Bern – classic and chic
Bern might not be the first place one would think of for a
short city-break. In fact, Switzerland probably isn’t a country one would list first for
a quick holiday. It’s all Alps, chocolate, or chocolate in the shape of
Alps, isn’t it? Well, no! And it’s easier to get there than one might
expect... Read More
Adam Handling – Asian Accents
Adam Handling has been crowned 2014 British Culinary
Federation Chef of the Year. That’s no surprise. He is a young man who
has already chalked up accolades and praise, and now he has his own
name over a restaurant door – Adam Handling at Caxton. St Ermins is a hotel of character just around the corner... Read More
Champagne – a brief encounter
The weather becomes warmer. We dream of those balmy days
and longer evenings with friends. The picture might include floral
frocks, a bowl of salad, a platter of salmon and, of course, a bottle
of champagne. It is, for those gatherings, the dot above the i, the
finishing stroke of a pastel watercolour... Read More
Strawberry Hill House –
Former grandeur restored
Strawberry Hill. Even the name conjures visions of
pastoral idylls, perhaps a water-colour of mature trees with the
promise of a gently-flowing river just over that grassy knoll. Well,
the reality isn’t that far from the pastel dream and there is a House
that is at the very centre of the quintessentially English scene... Read More
The Three Faces of
You couldn’t make it up! A story that, on the face of it, sounds quite improbable. The King in the Car Park … indeed a sovereign
in the Social Services Car Park. Richard III, or at least his mortal
remains, were discovered... Read More
Flat Iron – Beak Street
The second Flat Iron opened last July. This could be the start of something big, or at least lots of little somethings if the size of the Beak Street branch is anything to go by.
Flat Iron fits perfectly into its environment. The area has long been trendy, bohemian and edgy. Carnaby Street is just around the corner and that was... Read More
Tea Emporium at Noodle House
Kyle Whittington is a modern tea merchant. He imports the
finest of teas and he educates and amuses his audience. You could say
he teases with teas. Although the custom of tea drinking dates back
thousands of years in China, it was not until the 17th century that tea
first appeared in England. It has been overshadowed by coffee but it’s
now enjoying a revival... Read More
Le Menar, Fitzrovia
Head Chef Vernon Samuels has high-end international
credentials covering a good number of ethnic cuisines in some
celebrated restaurants around the world. At Le Menar he paints with a
North African culinary palate. He adapts and teases but never offends... Read More
Bunny Chow Soho
The name might not entice the uninitiated across the
threshold, that’s true. One might suspect that it’s only salad on
offer: well, that’s chow for rabbits, isn’t it? But on the other hand
it could be a menu of dishes made out of bunnies... Read More
Mestizo has Mexican owners, chefs and staff. This isn’t an overly
themed eatery: Mestizo has a few nods to its ethnic roots and the most
visible is the bar, which on closer inspection one finds is stocked
with the national beverage, Tequila: 260 different bottles at last count... Read More
Famous Detective Falls
Now I have the attention of my dear, curious reader!
Always eager for some dramatic news. Did our hero trip over a
ski pole? Perhaps a slide on a fondue slick? Who is this unfortunate
sleuth, anyway? In truth, this is old news …over one hundred year-old
news, and the aforementioned detective is none other than... Read More
Ramen Restaurant Ippudo opens in London
The original Ippudo was founded in the Kyushu region of Japan in a
district of the city of Fukuoka. It opened its doors in 1985, but this
latest establishment is designed to be the flagship European restaurant
of the group. Ippudo has over 120 restaurants serving... Read More
Airport to Bern with SkyWork
I have flown from London’s Southend Airport a couple of times and I must admit that I first considered the prospect
to be something of a joke: Where was Southend, to start with? Isn’t it
somewhere near the edge? It sounded a long way off, but then I actually
tried it... Read More
François Geurds –
I have met François Geurds on a few occasions now.
A couple of times at his eponymous FG Restaurant and also at the newer Food Lab. For once,
the Michelin judges have awarded their coveted stars with logic and
insight... Read More
Kensington High Street is smart. There is the usual
complement of restaurants in the area and they range from the
expected Lebanese to the trendy European casual restaurants; but this
is a wealthy neighbourhood so there are eateries here that might demand
a second mortgage. One would expect to pay a premium... Read More
The Taste of Belgium
It’s so near, but almost totally overlooked from the
culinary perspective. Belgium is one of our closest neighbours but is
overshadowed by the gastronomic giant (the French believe their own
publicity) next door... Read More
Rotterdam – beds,
buildings and gastronomic surprises
It’s attracting lots of gastronomic and architectural
attention, and it does indeed offer a wealth of national and
international food outlets. The new Markthal is a traditional market
with piles of fresh vegetables, meat and fish and, yes, cheese as well;
but its attractive and striking environs are also garnished with a good
selection of restaurants... Read More
There are crowds of folks to feed and we don’t, speaking for
myself, have a clue what to do. A nice plate of ham sandwiches will
likely impress and perhaps a plate of cheese sandwiches on brown bread
for vegetarians so they don’t feel short-changed. Catering sorted. But,
in truth it’s not that simple... Read More
We in northern Europe have had a long and delicious
relationship with spice. We tend to think it’s just been this modern
era of the local curry house that has developed our taste for food with
spice and colour. But consider those old recipes that predate the
high-street Taj Mahal... Read More
Chocolate at Home
I am biased, it’s true. This book was destined to have a good review on
two counts. Firstly I adore the author, Will Torrent; and chocolate
comes a close second to Will.
Will Torrent has worked with the best – with such culinary worthies as
Brian Turner CBE and Gary Rhodes... Read More
Southern Oregon – sleep and eat
The average British tourist heading for the US on vacation
will likely have limited horizons. There is the Big Apple, Florida, California...
But the US is a huge country. Surely there must be other locations to
stimulate, charm and fuel the globe-trotting traveller? Well, yes,
indeed. There is Oregon... Read More
The Markthal - Rotterdam
We are thinking about a pre-Christmas break, a
rejuvenating Spring get-away, a Summer city break, and there are the
familiar cries of ‘Let’s go to Rotterdam.’ OK, OK, so I am pulling the
leg of my dear reader. It’s a shame that we don’t have Rotterdam as our
first thought – and I can’t see why... Read More
Oregon – Colourful in every way
The Portland area was originally inhabited by two bands of
Upper Chinook Native Americans. The
Multnomah people settled on and around Sauvie Island,
and the Cascades Indians settled along the Columbia
Gorge. Oregon and its tribes were first ‘discovered’ by the expedition of Lewis and
Clark in 1805-6... Read More
Contemporary and Historic
Groningen isn’t the first destination in The Netherlands
of which one might think. It’s invariably Amsterdam that gets that accolade, and a very
fine city it is. But Groningen, in the north of this, one of my
favourite countries in Europe, is like an accessible snapshot of all
things Dutch... Read More