Category Archives: Food

Fish and Chips in Felixstowe

When we arrived in Felixstowe we found the sea front and threw the car into the first parking space we found.

Fortunately the space was just across the road from the Regal Fish bar, which looks like a poky fish and chip shop from the outside, and a hollowed out hotel from the inside. There’s a choice of large or medium fish. I had a medium haddock (with chips and peas) and Julia had a large plaice with chips and salad. She fancied plaice and they only do large plaice, so she opted for salad to make it a bit healthier. She says…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Large plaice on a large plate

The medium haddock was quite large too.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Medium haddock – it was good despite looking like it had died writhing in agony

I really don’t know what to say now. It was excellent fish with good chips and good peas. I’d be happy to eat it every day.

So, excellent food, bright, clean surroundings and friendly staff. Beef dripping again. I forgot to check on gluten-free alternatives again. I must start checking that so I can look like a concerned and touchy-feely member of the 21st Century.

Don’t worry, I’m not softening, I’m just pretending to be concerned.

Meanwhile I saw this notice in the toilets – it seems that modern life is a lot more complicated than I thought. If Julia ever gets rid of me I’m going to become a monk. The vows won’t be much of a problem – after 30 years of marriage and 25 years with kids I’ve got the obedience and poverty cracked.

I can’t see the tonsure being much of a problem either.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The complexity of modern life

 

 

A Short Note on Pies

We had a bit of a mixed day yesterday – got off to a good start but ground to a halt on the Doncaster bypass. Got lost trying to get round it, more queues near York then made the mistake of relying on the satnav in Whitby. Switched it off, engaged brain and ended up in a parking space directly outside Mrs Botham’s tearooms.

Those of you who have been there before will know that the banner isn’t outside the teashop, it’s outside the bakery/cafe as you leave town for Scarborough. There’s a reason for this – mainly a queue in the tearoom and the realisation that we were going to be waiting ages.

We didn’t have to wait as long at the cafe, though it has to be said that the crab sandwiches at the tearoom would have been better than the prawn sandwich at the cafe. Julia’s decision to ask for salad proved to be a bad one as the onion swamped the flavour and the beetroot had no place in a sandwich. Beetroot, in fact, has no place in civilised society. Vile purple abomination.

We selected some pies – two for lunch and two for lunch next day (which was today).

We ate the standards pies for lunch and can report crispy crusts, flavourful fillings, excellent jelly, great texture and spiciness and an all round great eating experience. I’m a great fan of Mrs Botham’s pies.

The pork and apple pies we had today were crispy and well flavoured but had too much stewed apple in them. They could have used more texture and a little more acidity in the apple. And more meat in the pie.

I wasn’t as keen on the pork and apple.

But I preferred the pork and apple pie to the prawn and salad sandwich.

Beetroot, carrot, red onion, cucumber, sweetcorn, tomato, lettuce…

Not many prawns and a distinct tang of salad cream.

Basically it was a salad sandwich with a couple of prawns thrown in.

Pies good.

Sandwich not so good.

The Cream Tea Diaries

We had an excellent cream tea at Clumber Park on Monday – our second visit of the year. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

 

There are many things I could say about the National Trust, and they wouldn’t all be compliments, but they do know how to put on a good cream tea. At Clumber they may have staffing issues, as we’ve found on both visits, but the teas, when you eventually get them, are excellent.

To be fair, if you take scones, jam and cream it should be hard to get it wrong. On both visits the food has been excellent but the service has stuttered a bit.

 

There is actually a Cream Tea event coming up –

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

More Cream teas at Clumber

The Bempton Trip – a Shaky Start

The reports from Bempton Cliffs indicated there were 100s of Puffins at sea and hundreds more on the cliffs.

The weather forecast looked good.

We set off early, I had the reserve’s postcode in my pocket, the telescope in the back of the car and a song in my heart. A wife, the prospect of Puffins and plans for a large, cheap breakfast – what more could a man want?

We called at a Toby Carvery in Doncaster for breakfast.

£4.49 for a serve-yourself all you can eat breakfast isn’t bad, even though the tea is £2.09 extra.

The choice is –

  • Bacon (varying from about right to leathery and burnt)
  • British Pork Sausages (they were good, but sadly I could only fit four on the plate)
  • Homemade Potato, Bacon, Cheese and Onion Hash (distinct absence of bacon and lack of cheese – pretty flavourless really)
  • Plum Tomatoes (as in tinned tomatoes)
  • Free Range Fried Eggs (looked rubbery but I didn’t have any)
  • Baked Beans Breakfast (not particularly good flavour)
  • Yorkies with onion and bacon (again, a distinct absence of bacon)
  • Free Range Scrambled Egg (a big solid mass with water in the bottom of the pan – I suspect sous-vide, as we now call boil-in-the-bag)
  • White or Brown Toast (unlike Harvester, which also provides muffins and crumpets)
  • Roasted Button Mushrooms (bland)
  • Tobys Breakfast Gravy (see my later comments)

There was also jam and marmalade available to spoon out of massive bowls and red and brown sauce, also to be spooned out of bowls. There was some pre-packed jam but, unlike harvester, no honey.

So, how was it?

It was cheap, quite a lot cheaper than Harvester, which is my benchmark now Little Chef has gone. But it didn’t quite offer the choice of Harvester, even though the sausages are much better at Toby.

The gravy was a mistake. It ran through a hole in the bottom of the Yorkshire Pudding, which I had filled with sausages. Sausages and gravy – yes. Bacon and gravy, hash and gravy – passable. Tinned tomatoes, beans, mushrooms – I’ve had them all with gravy. Scrambled eggs and gravy…

That memory is going to live with me for a long time.

There are no Harvesters on the way to Bempton, which is why I’d decided to try a Toby. The food was OK, but I think next time we go that way we’ll try Sainsbury’s, which is just 50 yards away.

Was this to be the worst bit of the day or merely the thin end of the wedge?

 

 

A Tale of Two Burgers

On Monday, after working half a day, I took Julia to lunch at Harvester. That’s the sort of man I am – tight, unromantic and practical. You get free salad at Harvester, which appeals to my frugal side, and allows me to pretend I’m being healthy.

Julia had the Spicy Sea Bass with Prawns, which looked as good as it sounded. Unfortunately it’s fish and as such it’s just nicely presented cotton wool with overtones of slime and bones. As you may guess, I’m not a fish fan, unless it’s in a nice crispy batter or neatly sliced into finger-sized pieces.

Despite my views, she enjoyed it and tells me it was delicious, well-cooked and full of flavour.

I had the classic burger. They refer to it as a “craft” burger. I’m not sure why, because it’s just a burger. It looks like “craft” has migrated from craftsmen, to craft beers to relatively ordinary food. What next, craft sandwiches? To add to the weight of marketing verbiage, the “craft” burger is served in a toasted brioche bun.

I’m not greatly in favour of toasted brioche buns. I don’t really like the shiny brown look of them and though they are better than the normal flaccid “burger bun” with quick release sesame seeds I don’t think they’re much to brag about.

Add a dryish burger and though it was good it wasn’t quite as good as the hype and I was reminded of my old school reports – “could do better”.

Part 2 follows later.

(And yes, it would be good to have a photo, but I forgot. Sorry.)

The featured image is a picture of my lunch – quinoa, chia, pumpkin seeds, beans, chickpeas, sweetcorn, dill and spring onions, plus a mango and chilli dressing. Since I actually read the instructions on the quinoa and found out that you can use it straight from the packet lunches have become very simple – tear open a few packets, open a few cans, chop a smidgen of veg, mix. It’s very easy.

Lunch left me full and feeling virtuous. What it didn’t do was leave me feeling like I’d had a good meal.

I suppose that persistence will eventually pay off.

Before that I’d been to hospital for the regular blood-letting. It had been a bit thick last week and they decided another test was needed. If they had to rush about before work, deal with car parking then queue for a slot before being stabbed in the arm multiple times they might not be so keen on all these tests. As the needle slid in through the bruise left by last week’s test, all these things come to mind.

Then, to add insult to injury, the bleeding wouldn’t stop.

They put the signs up on the new shop today – my first day of proper work in the new shop. It’s looking good, though if you look hard enough you can see that fat bloke with the camera who gets in so many of my shots.

Collectors World, Wollaton Road, Nottingham

Collectors World, Wollaton Road, Nottingham

The final highlight of the day was sorting a thousand crowns for an export order, including brandishing an eraser in the vicinity of a few of them to make minor improvements. It’s a funny old world…

Charles and Diana Crowns – a marital mistake enshrined in numismatic form. It’s like me having a coin struck to commemorate my diet.

In Defence of British Food, and a Discussion of Netiquette

I’ve just been reading an exchange between two bloggers who have different views on British food. They were very polite to each other, though there was definite disagreement, and raised the question about how to handle such a situation.

I don’t know about you, but I tend to avoid disagreements by ignoring them. Does my opinion really matter that much if it’s going to upset someone? Much better to stay positive and friendly.

When I was a salesman the all purpose remark for those times. “Yes,” we would say to the customer,”there’s a lot in what you say.”

All you had to remember was not to tell them what there was a lot of. Sorry about the grammar, but I think it conveys the general idea.

My first experience of on-line disagreement was with sports forums, where the most argumentative people in the world seem to congregate. If there was a word to be misinterpreted, a nuance to be missed or an erroneous opinion to be expressed, they are the ones to do it. I soon learned that it was easy to upset people, difficult to explain why you were being misinterpreted and impossible to change anyone’s mind.

In the case of the food debate Ellen Hawley, who writes Notes from the UK, wrote a post called Is British Food Dull? She lists a number of things which show some dull food, praises some American food, discusses the idiocy of modern British chefs and doesn’t use the letter “u” enough.

I think the poor woman is American, so I’ll forgive her the spelling. I’ll also forgive her comments on British lasagne, because most of it does taste as she correctly says, like glue. Mine doesn’t, because (a) my mother taught me to make it with a cheese sauce and (b) I can’t be bothered to make it these days.

When you have such British staples as Shepherd’s Pie, Cottage Pie and Savoury Mince (a school dinners favourite) why bother with sheets of pasta? All that excitement from just one portion of ground up meat.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Cottage Pie (with Sweet Potato topping) served with carrots and samphire

She’s not wrong about modern chefs either.

However, I can see that having our national cuisine run down by a woman from a country that brought us biscuits and gravy, American cheese and pumpkin pie, could be a little irritating. (Not that you can really hold one blogger responsible for the gastronomic iniquity of a Nation).

This brings us on to Emma at EMMA_FOODS, who stood up to defend our national cuisine. It didn’t go too badly to start, but then she admitted she was from London. Well, London isn’t Britain, despite Londoners thinking it is. (Personally I find it just as irritating to be lectured on food by a Londoner as by an American – they eat jellied eels and pies and liquor).

She then goes on to say “I don’t think we are just the stereotypical bland, dull, stodgy cuisine we once were”. Hang on, I thought she was refuting the idea that our food was bland, dull and stodgy…

Then she goes on the praise the current crop of British chefs. I’m not going to say anything – partly because it’s not polite to criticise and partly because I can’t spell gimmicky.

It’s also partly because I don’t see much wrong with traditional food. There’s a reason we eat what we do – mainly it’s because we can grow it, which used to be important. I like kale and carrots and Brussels – they go well with pies and roast meats. I also like mushy peas, black pudding and Yorkshire pudding (either with gravy or with jam and white sauce). Porridge, in particular, is stodgy, dull, boring and very good for you according to modern thinking.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Chicken Pie with Brussels and red cabbage.

It’s nice, as Emma points out, that we have access to so much other food from other places, but that doesn’t apply all over the country. It’s not bad here in Nottingham,but if you live in Lincolnshire or Cornwall (as Ellen does) the picture is very different.

We are also experiencing a growth in distilleries in the country as a whole, particularly with gin, for people who like drinking scent, and a rise in Farmers’ Markets and Farm Shops, so quality local food is more readily available. This is despite the fact, as I have said before, that they re becoming more like supermarkets. I bought samphire from several farm shops last year, and it all came from Israel.

As for popular modern food – pan-fried sea bass and lamb shanks are only fried fish and stew so what’s all the fuss about?

Strangely, I seem to find myself unable to see much difference between the two positions of Ellen and Emma, and I’ve now stepped in to disagree with both of them. Traditional food, done well, is pretty good. Things like curry and Chinese are pretty mainstream, and in big cities there’s plenty of other food about if you want it.

I didn’t even set out to discuss food, I was meaning to talk about the etiquette of avoiding arguments. I’m not sure I’ve managed that…

I am, however, interested in your views, so what do you think. What’s the best way of avoiding arguments on the web?