Monthly Archives: November 2010

The Sportsman – Seasalter – Whitstable – Restaurant Review

Ever since I started this journey of visiting as many different restaurants as I could and then writing my visits down on paper for others to read.  The first thing I did was to start to read as many other bloggers posts as I could, quickly I noticed a theme of the same few restaurants being reviewed by these blogs and constantly coming out with such amazing high praise.  The Sportsman was certainly one of these with it constantly getting very high praise from every person who I know has been there.  This being the case it quickly made it to the top of my long list of “Must Visit” restaurants, this list being made up of mostly local restaurants however a few special far distant establishments have made it to the top.

With my mind set on making this visit, I started to look at how I would even get to the restaurant being based in Devon and it being over 250miles away and 5 hours by car, I was not to keen on driving as I would most likely be falling to sleep in my lunch.  The train did seem like the best option but it would be an extremely long day with the itinerary being as follows -

  • 5:00am Wake Up
  • 6:15am Get Train @ Newton Abbot
  • 9:00am Arrive at Paddington
  • 9:20am Get Tube to Victoria Station
  • 9:35am Arrive at Victoria
  • 10:22am Get Train to Whitstable
  • 11:50am Arrive @ Whitstable
  • 12:15pm Arrive @ “The Sportsman” for Lunch booking at 12:15 via Taxi

The above would be the one way journey with the return journey being the same timing but in reverse, with me arriving back home around 11:30…. Needless to say this would be a long long day and would certainly be my self proclaimed “Pilgrimage to the Sportsman” a title I was hoping would soon be confirmed as acceptable, and earned.

With everything booked 2 months in advance via email the only thing left now was the long awaited day to come.

Finally the day arrived when I would soon be sampling the food which I had such high hopes for, oddly enough I was not sleepy at all when the alarm finally awoke me and jumped out of bed with a spring in my step.  I wont mention anything about the journey except that it all went without a hitch and arrived on time at whitstable station with no problems or delays.  As the Taxi started to leave the main town of Whitstable I still was finding it hard to believe such an amazing foodie establish lay somewhere on this beautiful stretch of beach, as the taxi driver proclaimed we had arrived I was even more amazed as we approached the large white building, which looked more like your regular local pub serving up Scampi and Chips than somewhere of fine dining.  However a small blackboard leaning against the window safely confirmed this was not your usual pub, with a note stating that it was fully booked for lunch which I doubt many places can say these days.

Walking in to the restaurant the first thing that strikes you is how bright, light, warm and airy everything is, with the bar directly infront of you. The staff immediately were great with such a warming greeting its almost like being greeted by family.  With warm log fires roaring and the large block wooden tables dotted around with a large space between each area it really does put you at ease, it is so far from being pretentious its hard to even explain it.  Everything in the main dining area welcomes you and puts you at ease, the waitresses and staff are all dressed in standard clothing, jeans with shirts or various other articles of plain clothing with not a single logo or mark showing staff in sight.

After talking with the staff for a few minutes and explaining the journey and them asking questions etc we were pointed to our table which was at the front of the restaurant and had a great view of the bar, and the lovely log burner.  The tables are very very chunky in construction and the chairs match this style, with the tables laid very plainly with your standard cutlery and small glasses, I was most impressed with the table decorations though with vegetables of various sizes and types and upon inspections was astonished to find these were real vegetables! these were a great decoration and gave great colour to the whole place.

With drinks served and our taster menu presented we awaiting the start of our meal, the menu was very plain and gave you no clue what so ever to what you would be receiving, as simple headings stated what the main influence would be such as “scallops” or “Roast Lamb” this immediately started to ring circles through my mind to what and how each of these elements would be served or how the presentation would even be.

Pork Scratchings, Apple and Mustard Sauce and Pickled Herring

So it begins…. this would be the first of appetisers which would start the meal, the presentation being clean and simple, having that rustic edge using the clean slate plates.   I had to sample the pork scratchings first and was very surprised upon picking my first up as these were not heavy at all and almost as light as a feather, to a point i’m sure if I was just to sneeze they would blow away, the taste was not your standard pork scratchings as well, they had a great light salty taste coming through which in the mouth almost melted onto your tongue and presented your taste buds with that fabulous pork taste, you almost didn’t even need to swallow as they melted away in your mouth.  The apple sauce added a great sweet taste to these and quickly, I found myself trying to find weird and wonderful ways of combining 1 or 2 separate pork scratchings to force even more sauce into my mouth with a slight heat of the mustard just coming to the palate at the end of the bite.  The pickled herring on first taste was very overpowering with the strong fish dominating the palate, however as I continued to chew and taste this small canape all the flavours started to come through and combined to produce something truly special, the soda bread added a great earthiness and with the sweetness of the pineapple, it all worked with the strong fish to make this my favorite item.

Whitstable Native Oysters with Apple Foam and Cured Ham

This would be my first ever experience of oysters as I have never been in a position before to sample this delicacy before.  The chef came out and presented these to us and gave a brief explanation of the dish and why he used these combinations, I loved this as it really does put you in the mind of the chef and gives you an idea of what he was trying to present and push across to his diners.  Being my first time sampling these my mother kindly passed on these being the not to adventurous type and I was only to glad to accept both of these to myself.  I decided to eat one down without chewing and the second to chew as this would then test the two different ways I keep being told one should eat these.  The first I held it my mouth to allow the flavours to develop and not knowing what to expect at all, I was immediately shocked by the strong salt flavour and the sort of creaminess which comes from the oyster luckily the apple foam quickly came through and added that sweet acidic touch which came through with the subtle hint of the meaty pork just developing at the end of the tasting, this was then swallowed without chewing.  The second consisted of chewing which although gave the same flavours, added a very creamy taste and texture which I found quickly I was not to fond of, however I now know for the future that I prefer to sample this type of shellfish in one go and not to chew.

Rosemary & Red Onion Focaccia bread, Wholewheat Soda Bread and White Flat Bread

As anyone whom reads my reviews regularly will know I am extremely fond of home made fresh bread and knowing this and reading other reviews of the Sportsman I couldn’t wait for this dish to come.  I was not disappointed at all with a large wooden block presented filled with delicious bread, these were all describe at the table and we were also told about the home made butter which is made at the establishment.  The Flat bread would be the first to be sampled, this had such a hard tough crust and not only the base but the top as well, with it being a great bread to tear chunks off and fill with butter, it such a great texture being light insides but the crust offsetting this completely.  The soda bread was the shocker as this is something i’m not normally to keen on as its very very dense, however here the taste was just amazing with the flavours developing throughout chewing and then the butter hitting with a great salty flavour towards the end, I only wish here I had a huge pot of strawberry jam to compliment this amazing bread!!  Finally the focaccia was to be sampled, this was very very soft and made for quite a challenge to butter however I quickly learned this is better without the butter and just letting the strong flavours of the rosemary and onion come through fully in the mouth, the crust had the whole strips of onions and sprigs of rosemary and added a great alternative texture.  The best bit of the entire selection was the base of the Focaccia bread which had collected all the olive oil used in the cooking, and almost had developed into a fried bread which was dripping in this amazing oil, tasting this I was blown away and munched my way through my entire slice within about 2 minutes…… Unfortunately for my dining partner a invisible individual took her base of the focaccia….. (Whistles) we still don’t know who took that…

Scallop carpaccio with Walnut Oil

This dish arrived about 5minutes after the bread was served, so I was still very busy tucking into the bread and butter and therefore left this dish to the side for a few minutes, but as this dish was cold I doubt this affected the it at all.  The chef again presented this to us and immediately asked if we were “sqeemish” before describing the dish, considering nothing really affects me he proceeded to describe how he actually slices the scallop while it’s still alive so it’s very fresh.  This was dressed with some walnut oil, and fresh seaweed sourced locally, on first taste I was immediately hit with the walnut oil flavour which was the dominant taste at first, then the sweetness and saltiness of the scallop and seaweed combined with the nutty touches proceed on the palette to make for a great combination.  This was also a good dish to serve while eating with the bread, due to the additional walnut oil left on the plate, as this allowed one to take a sneaky bit of bread to “mop” up the remaining oil and juices.

Pumpkin Soup with Scallop wrapped in Bacon

This was presented in a great unusual way with the scalloping being held by a skewer just above the soup, I have to mention that upon picking up the delicate spoon it is as light as a feather! Literally I thought I would break it, but it’s made of very light weight wood and both myself and my dining partner were shocked at how light it was.  The soup was extremely tasty with a very strong sweet pumpkin flavour, but was seasoned and balanced well with it not being over salty at all, this was extremely rich though and I can appreciate why such a small portion is provided.  I could easily understand if the same portion size was offered as a starter, as by the end I can safely say I had enough which in my eyes makes it the perfect small taster.  The scallop was amazing, being crisp on the outside with the bacon adding that porky salty edge and the creamy, sweet and perfectly cooked scallop being gorgeous to eat.  Due to it being on a skewer when combining this with the soup it was great with both the sweetness of the pumpkin and scallop complimenting each other perfectly.

Crab Risotto

With this dish I love how the chef has only used the brown/dark crab meat in the actual risotto and then utilises the lovely white meat on top of the risotto.  Originally I thought this was just for presentation but I soon learned this had a very important purpose, due to when I tasted the risotto it was extremely flavoursome with excellent seasoning, however the flavours were just abit too powerful for my palette with the richness just proving abit too much.  Though when combining the light and refreshing tasting white meat with the risotto it took the richness away slightly, this for me just made for the perfect combination and the flavours which marry to make this one of the best risottos I have sampled.

Seasalter Ham Cured in 2008

This dish was exactly how described on the menu and was simply cured ham, however a twist was here yet again when the chef describing it with  a brief description, but urged us to read the accompanying page of writing.  This page describes how this pork came to be and the story behind it and was fascinating to read, this was great as it gave such a great insight into how this was produced.  The pork it self didn’t have a great strong smell to it and didn’t really have any smell apart from a saltiness, however the taste was surprisingly not too salty and was delightful, the meat was quite dry but the fat which was plentiful added some moisture to the slice and was needed.

Turbot braised in Vin Jaune with Smoked Pork

The immediate smell of this dish was so intense I couldn’t believe it with smells of strong sherry, and then of smokey pork to finish it off, I couldn’t wait to tuck into this one.  The fish was perfectly cooked and the pristine white flesh which just pealed and fell away, it was perfectly seasoned with a smooth texture, the below greens had a little bite still left in them which allowed for a change of texture of the smooth fish and was a appreciated addition.  The star of this dish though was the sauce it was so good I don’t think I can even start to describe it, it had the texture and initial taste of Hollandaise but then towards the end of the taste it smacked your palette with a strong sherry hit with a hint of acid which was just incredible, it was not too overpowering that it destroyed the fish but complimented beautifully. The smoked pork atop the fish was the final item to be enjoyed and I can only describe this as a beautifully crisp item of smokey belly pork which just cracked and fell apart in your mouth.

Roast Lamb From Monkshill Farm (Item 1)

This item was again presented by the chef who explained this was just the first lamb item and the main would follow, he explained how he was trying to modernise this traditional English dish with some oriental elements.  The item was a cut of lamb which had then been coated thickly in breadcrumbs and deep fried, this was accompanied by a small pot of mint dipping sauce.  I first sampled the lamb without the sauce and my breath was just taken away by how utterly tender the meat was with it just peeling away in your mouth, the bread crumbs were crispy and not soft but internal initial layer of breadcrumbs were just packed full of the lamb juices and flavours.  Next I dipped my remaining lamb into the dipping sauce and it was just insane how tasty this item was, the lamb having the same great flavour but the mint sauce being just so fresh, I can only start to describe this as a memory of when I was a child and picking fresh mint leaves in my Nan’s garden, it had a freshness which I have not tasted before in this type of sauce.  The liquid again was not your standard vinegar and had a hint of white wine or sherry which just made for such a sweet addition to the mint and lamb, overall this was just fantastic with the combination of flavours being perfect together.  By the time I had finished my lamb slice, I found my self just dipping my finger into the sweet sauce as it was just that good.

Roast Lamb (Main 2)

When this dish was presented we were asked if we wanted more of the delicious mint sauce which came with the breaded lamb, to which I jumped at the chance, and I love how the restaurant encourages you to change the flavours of the dish to your own liking.  The first item sampled here had to be the most dominant on the plate which was the lamb chop, it was immensely tender which the knife just sliding through the pink meat, the taste which filled your mouth again was very flavoursome and was cooked to absolute perfection.  The gravy which is amazing has that great home cooked flavours which remind me of my mum’s roast dinners, it was very well seasoned and added a great compliment to the lamb and even better with the addition of the fresh tasting mind sauce.  The braised shoulder of lamb had a crispy top which I can only compare to belly pork, this would be the item your family would be fighting over when your leg of roast lamb is pulled from the oven at Sunday dinner, it was great tasting with a crisp crunch to the bite, the shoulder meat itself just fell apart with the slightest touch of the fork.  The vegetables were all great with the main vegetables being cooked well with a good bite to them at the centre but being soft on the outer edges, the greens which lay beneath the lamb chop were beautiful and full of butter which only complimented the tastes of the other elements.

Rose hip lolly with “Cake Milk”

I have to admit here this was one dish I was particularly looking forward to, due to the nature of it being such a great way to present and eat any form of food…. On a stick!!.  The main lolly was made of iced rose hip and had a nice suttle sweetness, this was presented already deeply immersed in the milk.  Now the milk is what the restaurant calls “Cake Milk”, I believe this is because it is actual cake which has been ground down into the milk, as it had a very sweet and strong vanilla taste also there was very small/fine grains throughout the liquid.  Once you had lifted the lolly out of the mixture and sucked off the milk, when you replaced your lolly back into the milk, I was amazed to find how quickly the milk quickly set around again to allow for a repeat performance.  The two difference elements made for a great combination with the subtle sweetness of the rose hip working with the strong vanilla flavours of the mixture, this is a dish I will remember for many years to come not only for the originality, but very good combination of flavours.

Iced Cream Cheese with Pear

With this dish I was surprised to see ice cream with cheese which had almost been melted over it, I don’t know how this was achieved but it made for great eye catching presentation.  The main ice cream was very good with a subtle sweetness and not that over bearing vanilla flavour normally held within ice cream, I like the flavour that cream cheese brought to this and thought it worked well.  The sweetness was to be found in the meringue and crumble topping which was lightly scattered across the entire dish, it presented your taste buds with such different flavours and textures it all worked very well with one another.  Once you added the pear into the above equation this just became the perfect dish with the pear being intensely refreshing and just brought the entire dish together in terms of sweetness,texture and being surprisingly refreshing.  I was very impressed by the portion on this dish, with normally tasting menus getting smaller towards desserts, but being the pudding lover I am was more than happy with this being a great size.

Apple Sorbet – Shortbread – Junket – Dark Chocolate Moose with Sea Salted Caramel

Here I decided that due to the Apple sorbet being the only item mentioned on the menu, this should be the item to be tasted first.  The sorbet was toped with a light cream and just under was a layer of popping candy/space dust which pop and sizzled on your tongue and was very surprising and unexpected, but not disliked.  The apple sorbet was so packed full of apple flavour i’m sure at one point I was eating simple pureed apple with the taste being gorgeous, and not being too acidic or too sweet.

Next was the shortbread which upon picking up, I discovered this was very very light and did not feel like your usual dense shortbread which I have become used to sampling, it had a very light taste with a subtle hint of butter which worked well, this was a welcome change to dense, clingy and brittle shortbread we are served all too often.

Junket was next, Ill say now that I have never tried this before so have nothing to base the flavour on, but the smooth and pristine white liquid on the base had a strong milk flavour with a hint of vanilla, which when combined with the taste of the compote and nuts on top made for a great flavour combination, the nuts did slightly over power the other tastes but I liked how this worked and provided a nutty edge to the dish.

Finally was the dish i’m sure i’ve dreamt up many times in my sweetest dreams, the moose was intensely packed full of dark chocolate flavour and was as light as a feather with air bubbles showing throughout the moose.  Beneath however lay what I can only describe as liquid gold, being the salty caramel mixture which was complete liquid and proved quite difficult to get onto the spoon, however the work was payed off with the intense sweetness of the caramel which was calmed slightly by the salty addition.  The combination of the slightly bitter dark chocolate combined with the very sweet caramel, made for a dish that should have a permanent place in the heaven of chocolate.

This brought a close to the tasting menu and my lunch on this day with the coffee’s served and the bill brought to the table.  The entire meal came to £136 with the tasting menu being £55 each and the rest being made up of the 10% service charge and drinks, I think for what was served this was great value with myself in the past paying double this for some tasting menus,only to leave still wanting something extra or not being full and contempt.  I was happy to not only pay the 10% standard service charge but also pay some extra with the service on this visit being absolutely fantastic, everyone was friendly, courteous and the fact the chef made the special effort not only to come and greet his diners, but also explained some of the dishes it made for a fantastic visit. We even found ourselves just standing and chatting with the waitresses at the end of the meal for a good 15minutes before leaving, they were so kind enough to point us in the direction of the great local walks around the area, across the beach etc and showed great concern about us getting lost, which shows the great personal care is taken by them all.

Overall – 10/10

Now this is the first 10/10 I have ever given on this blog, and i’m sure this is not something that will come around all too often.  The Sportsman for me is something that is such a rare thing in todays dining culture, the service was personal and polite without being too much with every single person being such a pleasure to talk too.  I can’t even put into words how un-pretentious the entire place was, the whole place makes you feel you can sit there in your sandy boots, with your jeans and hoody on, to only then be absolutely shocked by such amazing food and surprises which lie ahead to experience.  The food was mind blowing with combinations, local produce and flavours which i’ve never experienced before, and doubt I will experience again in the near future, with the food being such locally sauced I could see the farm from the window with the lambs still grazing.

The only adding thing I can do to put try and get my point to how nice and relaxed this environment was is this picture…….

Say hello to “Oliver” who was sat at the bar with his owner who had just come back from his walk and was more than happy to pose for the camera, I think his calm, happy, content  and eager  look on his face is exactly what this place represents.

Unforgettable and I now am already planning my next Pilgrimage.

Cary Arms – Torquay – Devon – Restaurant Review

The Cary Arms has been a firm establishment set in the history of Torquay for many years, it is set right on the beautiful beach of Babbacombe.  Years ago it was more known for a Summer drinking location which serves your standard pub grub, and would be a place to go for your sunday afternoon drink and then attempt to stumble up the HUGE! hill, which it has also become known for.  The restaurant was re-launched 18months-2 years ago, since then it has been becoming more and more known as a Gastro-Pub style restaurant serving fine dining in a calm and relaxed environment.  This has been shown only recently when at the start of November (2010) it was awarded “Gastro-Pub Newcomer of the Year” from the “Top 50 Gastro Pubs” association.

Having seen this award was given and hearing from a few people different reports, I had it set in my head that I must get down as soon as possible.  My chosen evening however they had a special event on, with the famous saxophonist “Greg Abate”  playing and a special set menu was to be served.  Considering that this would be a special event I thought this would be a great chance to get down and try out some of there offerings.

Unfortunately the Saturday evening turned out to be wet and absolutely freezing, and leaving the house to walk to the pub I was really questioning should I go……. However being brave I wrapped up and managed to get to the start of the long and STEEP hill down to the pub, at this time both myself and dining partner was questioning the worthiness of such a trek.

After much complaining and “sighs” we both started down the hill avoiding the extremely slippery drain covers, by the time we made it down we were both absolutely freezing.  Upon walking in to the pub we both have never been so delighted with the pub absolutely glowing with heat, the internal wood surfaces just giving that feeling of warmth.  Upon entering the pub it is very inviting with a good sized bar stretching right the way through the main restaurant,with seating located both around the bar and in the restaurant area.  The area is very relaxed and not pretentious at all, it puts you completely at ease with small sea-side nik-naks dotted around, the atmosphere it creates is very relaxed.

The waitresses are all young and dressed in relaxed clothing, with jeans and hoodies/sweaters with “The Inn On The Beach” printed on the back, again adding to that relaxed feeling.  Due to the dress and their mannerisms they are incredibly approachable, polite and create a chilled out atmosphere the pub is aiming for.

Having now being seated at the back of the restaurant, near a great wood burning fire crackling away, we were very happy to warm up from the walk down the hill earlier.  The tables were very solid wood, with wooden benches/chairs used.  I will not comment too much about the entertainment on the evening but suffice to say the band was incredible with Greg being a particular delight of the evening, the staff had managed to positioned all the tables to allow for everyone to get a great view as well which was a great plus.

The menu was then presented to us, which on this evening was a set menu priced at £38 and formed of 3 courses.  The menu had some really tempting choices and with only 3 starters and 4 mains, it took me a good time to finally come to my decision.  The style of cuisene was really pushed towards classic/modern british, with famous classics you would expect such as belly pork, chicken breast and the famous sticky toffee pudding.

The young lady waitress kindly took out orders and as the band began to play, I suddenly realised that no bread was insight and then it dawned on me that we had no bread plates……….. my heart suddenly skipped a few beats as this is normally what I look forward to the most in these gastro-pub style places.  I know they say simple things for simple people but something about that still steaming soft chewy homemade bread with lashings of butter just makes my spirit lift!  After 15mins myself and dining partner finally came to the conclusion that no bread or amuse bouche would be appearing tonight.

Starter : Pork, Ham and Smoked Bacon Terrine

Immediately this dish jumped out at me due to the stunning colours and how everything jumped off the plate, even the neutral colours of the Brioche and terrine blended so well with the great glossy dressed salad, and stunning blood red plum compote.  The brioche bread was lovely and soft with only the slightly of toasting on the outside of the slice but with a good crunch in the crust, it had a great sweet taste and this melded very well the other elements of the dish.  The salad was your standard mixed leaves with a light olive oil dressing, standard item really here but were fresh with a good bite and the olive oil added the needed texture to the item.  The terrine it self was excellent it was served ice cold, but was not too loose and allowed for a good slice to be cut away from it, due to the lovely amount of bacon rind  wrapped around this the flavour on the outside was gorgeous with a strong smokey flavour.  The ham in the terrine really did have a kick and could easily over power many items, however the plum compote worked so well with its sweet plums it added such a wonderful additional element and I just couldn’t get enough of this.  I really did enjoy this starter, to a point I would travel down the enormous hill just to pop in and grab this as a light lunch.

Main : Mushroom, Blue Vinny and Butternut Squash Wellington

I am still foolishly aiming to keep trying different out of my normal comfort zone dishes and avoid the usual selections I make, such as the Belly Pork or Duck etc etc.  When I saw this item on the menu I thought this would be a good chance to swing away my normal narrow minded selections and for once step into the dark dark corners of vegetarianism.  Again the dish was presented well with the wellington being not as I had expected.  In my head I envisioned a large cylinder of puff pastry, and inside would be many chopped mushrooms with tones of cheese, then a small touch of butternut squash, this would be served as a single slice on the plate.  However what was presented instead was a more refined dish with a large portobello, placed atop a thin slice of butternut squash and then a very small amount of blue vinny cheese placed on the mushroom, all wrapped in puff-pastry. The puff-pastry was the first element to be sampled, the top pastry was incredibly crisp and airy, with the layers all giving different flavours due to the mushroom and cheese leaking into the internal layers.  The base was very soft and soggy, but being the heathen I am….. I loved this as all the flavours had soaked/absorbed into the pastry and seemed to have the most intense flavour!  The mushroom provided a great earthiness when combined with the strong cheese and without this, the cheese would have just been too overpowering.  The whole wellington worked well apart from the butternut squash which I found the flavour didn’t really come through in the dish, this element was not missed though and if it was not named on the menu I would have said it was not needed.  The cranberry sauce was great with a really sharp acidic taste which complimented the wellington well, and worked well to lift the entire dish up in terms of strong flavours.  This dish was also served with your standard side dish of buttery vegtables.  The dish all worked well and every element from the internals of the wellington to the sauce and side veg, all seemed to blend exquisitely.

Dessert : Slow Baked Lemon and Lime Tart

Now comes the favorite part of any meal for myself…… dessert.  I was brave again here and resisted the urge to go for that good old favorite sticky toffee pudding and pushed those voices in my head aside and decided to go for the “heathy” option of a tart (I think I actually fooled my head into thinking this was healthy to get away from the pudding!).  I was immediately impressed when served the dish by the size of the slice with a large spoon of Chantilly cream with a raspberry coulis.  The tart it self consisted of the main filling being very well set and great to slice with the edge of the spoon, it had a great strong lemon flavour but being sweet at the same time with no element of sour at all.  The topping was a lime jelly with strips of lime rind spread throughout the topping, this added a very strong sour kick to the dish and would be slightly overpowering if it was not for the tart pastry being very sweet.  The pastry was great and crisp with your spoon snapping through to the base of the plate with a bang.  All three of these elements of the tart made for a great combination, however, with the addition of the cream and the slightest bit of coulis  just lifted the entire thing to the next level, you would need to ensure you did not over power the tart with the coulis as this was extremely sweet and took away the sour kick of the lime.  After consuming this I can safely say I was full, with this being a particularly filling dish, but being a perfect end to the three courses.

Finally served with the bill was a small sweet which was a slice of Devon “Rock”, which is a lovely sweet suckable sweet, it even had the name of the restaurant printed and was a great memento to take home.

Overall – 9/10

This was a particular favorite meal of mine, with all the elements just blending so well.  When thinking back to the meal, not a single dish jumps out at me, and for once they all do! with every dish being a delight to remember.  Everything from this evening was great from the relaxed service from the young (and very very attractive) waitresses, to the speed at which everything was served with a good break between the courses as I didnt find myself looking at my watch wondering how long since my last course.  The food here was a delight with the starter being the favourite dish of the evening and makes the whole trip of the steep hill worth it.  I would love to give this a mark of 10/10 (my first), however the only complaint that comes to mind was the lack of bread at the start of the meal, as this has become a real highlight of visiting Gastro-pubs and sampling some great home cooked bread.  I hope this would be changed in the future, and when I next visit would love to find this addition.

I would recommend the Cary Arms to my friends and family.  I cant wait to return to try their standard menu and will be interested to see how that fares compared to this special set menu.

Also for those watching their waistlines, just make sure to park at the top of the hill and not be temped to get a taxi up to the car, as the walk will really help burning off some of those consumed calories!!

The Crown Inn Restaurant – Amersham – Buckinghamshire

This restaurant has recently undergone a few changes, a main of these being the introduction of new head chef “Stephen Conway”.  Stephen comes from the restaurant held at “Stapleford Park Hotel/Spa” which holds a 2 AA Rosette.

The restaurant is situated in Old Amersham, and is not alone when it comes to fine dining establishments with various pub eateries, Pizza/american style restaurants and the well known “Artichoke” restaurant being only steps away across the road.  The Crown is pushing towards a fine dining experience, with a relaxed service and non pretentious food.  They want the ingredients to speak for themselves without the need for oddly shaped plates, and unneeded pretentious micro salad leaves dotted around the plate etc.

The cuisene type I would say is Modern English with a French influence, but steering away from the Gastro-type food which seems increasingly popular these days.  Anyway enough about the type of place and onto the visit.

Having driven into Amersham, arriving in the Evening the place is very oldy-worldy, with the little boutique stores and historical buildings scattered around.  The restaurant it self is held in a very very old building and is styled in the traditional Tudor style with the white walls with the large black timbers placed.  Walking in we were greeted by the manager and considering I was staying the night was shown to the room etc.

Moving onto the main event I was seated on a small table, in the corner of the restaurant.  The restaurant is very minimalist with bare wooden tables, with a small flower arrangements and large tall candles.  The lighting is very dark which adds to the atmosphere of the dining room, this would be a good place for a romantic meal, however the tables are placed quite close together.

The whole dining experience is trying to be a slightly stepped back fine dining approach, with the waiter placing a bottle of unopened bottle of water on our table, for myself to open and pour, which I do not mind, however opening the bottle could have been a nice touch.  The waiters were dressed in casual natural colours and are very young, which make them very approachable.  I think the staff here are still in the learning experience of the new chef and menu, as they seemed slightly not at ease with the serving etc.  Seeing however that the restaurant was only relaunched 2 weeks ago with the new chef, this is to be expected and time expected to be given to learn/experience the new chef dishes etc.

Looking through the menu, everything was as expected with items worded very simply and stating the main star of the dish followed by the accompaniment.  A few items also noted the local roots of the ingredients included beef from the local area.  Browsing through the starters I was leaning toward the beetroot salad, however noticing the large blackboard over in the corner of the dining room I immediately had chosen my starter selection.  Moving onto the mains I selected the pork cheeks, but I had noticed that this item did not mention any form of carb/starch which would be served with the meal.  When the waiter came to take the order I enquired about the lack of side with the dish, which he responded that the items are served exactly as worded and nothing else would be on the plate.  He suggested ordering a side which was listed, of which I chose the “buttered anya potatoes”.

Bread was then served cold and consited of, homemade white, with a wholemeal soda bread also.  This was presented with different cuts of the bread with triangles of butter placed atop.  The white roll was very good and airy to eat with the crust being extremely chewy, it had a strong salt flavour which is normally lacking in a plain white bread.  The brown soda bread was extremely dense but had a good crunchy crust and was my preference over the white selection.  It would have been more pleasant for this bread to be served slightly warm, however I believe this suits the whole rustic dining experience that the restaurant is aiming for well, being non-fussy food.

Starter : Smoked Duck & Celeriac Remoulade

When the dish was served, I was very pleased they kept to the style they were hoping for with no small micro leaves etc dotted around the place.  The presentation was exactly how described on the menu with thin slices of smoked ducked turned back on themselves, and rotated around some salad.  The duck was very rich with a good strong smoked flavour, it was tender to the cut and when paired with the peppery salad it worked very well.  Looking at the remoulade I was at first concerned that this could be too rich, due to there seeming to be an abundance of aioli/mayonnaise however when I first sampled this I was very pleased to find this was extremely light and not at all rich.  When paired with the rich smoked duck the flavours all blended and worked very well, with the celeriac provided a light tang/refreshing taste and earthing the very smoked duck.  I really liked the dish as a whole and found everything paired great, with the salad providing that little bit of pepperiness needed for the remoulade, the duck giving the strong background flavour of every bite.

Main: Cider Braised Pork Cheeks, Caramelized Apples

Now on first inspection with this dish, it was the complete opposite of the starter, with there being many elements I had no clue to what they were.  I was expected exactly what the menu had stated, however what was presented was cheeks placed upon a bed of spinach, and surrounded in a Kidney Bean/Beans/Barley(Or some other starch due to the breakdown of the actual object it was hard to identify) cider sauce.  I enquired with the waiter to what these additional items were on the plate and his reaction was more of surprise and not knowing what these items were, and oddly stated “Exactly what it states on the Menu”.  Anyway ignoring this I was extremely pleased that the waiter had forgot my side order of potatoes, but considering my dish had a huge pile of beans etc, I did not make a fuss.  Onto the food, well the style of the presentation was truly rustic and looked great to the eye, with the stewed apples placed a top the 3 chunks of pork cheek.  The base sauce was filled with all types of beans, barley and chopped bacon and was very good, provided a great sweet taste of cider which was cooked well and provided no sharp alcohol hit showing it had been successfully burnt off.  The pork cheeks were brilliant, and literally when pushing my fork into the meat it just fell apart in to beautifully sweet strands of meat, this was the absolute star of the dish.  The apple on top was very good and soft but had a good bite in the centre of the wedges, which I like as they give you a chance to change the amount of flavour kick each fork full gives.  Overall this dish I really did enjoy it was so rustic and had the taste of such great home cooking but with a fine dining “lift” in terms of flavour, and gladly was not overally salty with the combination of cheek and bacon.

Desert:  Chilled Lemon Tart & Ginger Ice Cream

I had originally selected the Pear and Almond Tart from the menu, but unfortunately they had ran out of this dish and it was replaced by a Lemon Tart.  I did not mind this being a fan of both types.  Again the dish was served extremely plainly with no frills or anything extra on the plate, and gave that rustic feel that was apparent throughout the meal.  The ice cream was good with large bits of Stem Ginger placed through out and when lucky enough to have a large chunk of ginger on my spoon, it provided that great ginger taste hitting the back of your throat.  The tart had great pastry, being very crisp and the base being not at all soft and giving a great crack when tackled with my spoon.  The tart filling had a strong lemon flavour but without having the slightest hint of sour coming through, it was a great flavour that lasted on the tongue and when combined with the slight heat of the ginger worked very well.  I really enjoyed this small tart and was nice to have a full ring of pastry instead of just a slice which is normally served.

The entire meal came to £36.50 including water, food and coffee, which I feel is very good value for the amount of food served, with the main and desert being well portioned.

Overall – 8/10

The food is where this restaurant shines with some true rustic dishes and flavours presented.  Everything was cooked well and I cannot find fault in any aspect of the cooking or food, I will be very interested to see how the chef continues to change/adapt the current menu to his way of doing things and sure things will only improve in terms of great traditional cooking.  The only let down of this establishment seems to be the service, with the front of house staff still needing some additional training, or maybe to sample the current menu, which they might have not had time yet to do.

I will be returning with excitement in a few weeks time im sure, to hopefully find the same great food but with matching service to really make for a fabulous evening and meal.

Cupcake Decorating Class with Chepstow Cupakes

Baking is a sort of secret passion of mine, I love to do it but I seem to always struggle to get the time and always say “Im going to give Christmas baked gifts this year to family”, but my words never really turn into reality.  This year I am really making an effort with baking and trying different cakes,tray bakes and lately having been really wanting to do more cupcakes.  Now making the basic cupcakes are not that difficult, but the decorating which separates this standard fairy cake sponge to a true beautiful cupcake is the great decoration.  I started looking around Devon for various cupcake decorating classes which I thought would be vast and many being run, however I was soon disappointed to find these are extremely difficult things to find.  I tried all sorts of places from garden centers, to even emailing the various bakers around to see if they could offer a class.

All of these efforts and emails did not turn up a single class, I did however find a single class being held at a local garden centre, but typically it was being run on a weekend I am in London on my food tour! (Always my Luck).  I gave up all hope at this point and decided it was just not going to happen.  Several weeks past when one morning I was checking the various tweets of people I follow, I noticed a re-tweet of Chepstow Cupcakes doing a class near Ashburton in Devon.  I quickly emailed “Helen” who explained the class would be covering the various different styles of decorating from icing to piping, I managed to secure a place for 1Pm on Saturday 13th November and is being held in a small garden centre.

As I drove into the car park and parked the car I couldn’t help but feel slightly nervous, as I really didn’t know what to expect.  When I walked into the small garden centre cafe I was quickly greeted by “Helen” who was waring an apron covered in pictures of Cupcakes so I immediately knew I was in the correct place.  Looking at the table before me in the room, it was full of different bags, piping kits, paint brushes, knives etc.  Helen quickly put me at ease as she is very welcoming and invited me to take a seat while we wait for the others.

In front of me lay a box infront of each decorating “station” it had 6 plain sponge cupcakes ready to be decorated and these are what we would be working on.  Various other little piping nozzles and other items I don’t even know the name of.

Soon after the rest of the class arrived consisting of one older woman (Considering im 24, she could be between 30-100, Im not getting in trouble for guessing), and 2 young girls which Helen did say normally she does not allow but considering the class was so small it shouldnt be a problem.

The class should have last 2 hours, however Helen was very helpful and was happy to provide any specific help we needed and it actual over-run until I had to leave to due to a prior arrangement.  I am sure the class continued on well after I left. In the end I produced the above, which my Pirate I am still extremely fond of, I think I really need to find a way of somehow flash freezing him to preserve it.  The other attempts I tried were mainly playing around and I think I need much, much more practice with the use of the piping bag and the various nozzles.

Overall this was a great afternoon spent and was alot of fun, Helen provided a great class and left it very open to everyones different requests to the point we could taylor it almost to what we wanted.  I will definitely be wanting to attend these classes again, and hopefully make a even better pirate 2.0.

More information on these classes etc can be found out on http://www.chepstowcupcakes.com.

St Werburghs City Farm Cafe – Bristol – Restaurant Review

After hearing about this place from a few sources and getting the impressions of a bunch of farmers, picking the produce and literally carrying it into the kitchen to be served and cooked, I had to pay this place a visit.  So on a dark and wet Friday afternoon I made my way up to Bristol to meet a fellow foodie for lunch.

Now having the directional sense of a paperbag in the wind, and having my car with sat nav in for repairs (Damn Torbay Garbage trucks hitting it!) I was forced to rely on the good old AA directions.  Following the directions I was amazed to actually found them accurate and arrived in the road which I needed to be at, now as the rained poured down and looking out of my car window, all I could see was houses.  Now at this point im thinking this surely cannot be a farm location yet alone a cafe?

Oh how I was proved wrong, as I parked the car and turned the corner, ahead was literally a full field of allotments, which made me start to think this could actually be the correct location.  As I moved closer not only was I more shocked by the sight of pigs, ducks, chickens and various other animals, I was pleasantly pleased to see a sign for the “cafe”.  As i moved closer I thought surely this cannot be the place everyone goes on about, as the outside looks dirty, not inviting and is literally surrounded by farm life…..  However this is the cafe, but how the exterior is masking such a small rustic place.

Upon opening the door you are greeted with a oddly designed room, with clear wooden tables with posters and flyers everywhere, advertising various local things.  On first glance I was quite intimidated as the place was full of mothers with children screaming etc, but I found a small table near the door and took my seat.  The first thing that I noticed was that there is no menus at all on the tables, infact no cutlery or anything.  Looking around I noticed various black boards full of different lovely dishes which some I did not expect to see in such a place.  The main board which I started to browse had such dishes as-

  • Pumpkin, Black Bean & Goats Cheese Burrito, with herb Quinoa, Mixed Leaves, Roast Pepper and Chilli Salsa and Sour Cream
  • Smoked Haddock Chowder, Served with Bread & Butter

Now considering the setting I was immediately expecting to see the standard fare you would expect, such as sandwiches, afternoon teas etc etc, however although sandwiches are made upon request these are not advertised and the seasonal changing menu is pushed to allow the local produced to be used.  Now having had a quick scan I returned to my seat and awaited my friend to arrive, during this time you notice various farmers etc in muddy boots walking in for there hearty lunches of hot stew etc.  You will also see some even carrying various baskets and bags carrying the very produce which soon will be our lovely lunches, this is such an impressive setup and truely is local people, providing local seasonal food.  As you look around the room you will see fake tree like branches used as arching and plants etc which all help to give you a great feeling of the outdoors and the farm (although tacky, but it works).

When my friend arrived, we left out coats on our chairs to make sure our table was not taken as it was fully packed inside.  All ordering takes place at the small counter which holds all sorts of lovely treats of cakes etc, with orders taken you are given a wooden numbered spoon with your table number.  Within minutes your hot drinks are placed on the side and you are called up to collect.  Having now returned to the table we both awaited our food which within 15minutes was served.

The food was served on clay plates which are all made local and have a real identity to them as the imperfections make for a great unique item.  With the food served we quickly notice no cutlery was present, with the waiter noticing and stating it was up at the counter, this shows what sort of cafe this is.  It is the rustic small cafe, serving good, filling and hearty food with no poshness or niceties needed as the workers move in and out.

Free Range Spicy Pork Burrito , with Rice, Cheddar Cheese, Salsa and Sour Cream. I was not expecting such a large portion of food as my hopes of a light lunch quickly faded away, I started to inspect my plate.  First impression was certainly freshness with such an array of amazing colours which all helped to give this farm dish something special.  Now hoping for a light lunch I moved the majority of the rice to one side as this would be the most filling item, and decided to leave this as the Burrito wrap would be enough starch I think.  The salsa was great with a strong taste of coriander and combined with the sour cream worked great.  The burrito itself was soft on top with the cheese generously melted, with the base being brilliantly crisp and giving a great texture to the dish. Inside the wrap hid a lovely and smooth Pork Chilli, packed with kidney beans which were cooked to give a good bite, overall it had good taste, but the pork didnt really come through.  The main element of the spicy pork did not have any noticeable spice to me, and could have done with a good kick to really heighten the dish.  This was truly a rustic filling dish though and eyeing up the fabulous looking cakes could only manage 3/4 of the burrito and few bites of rice.

Almond, Banana and Chocolate Cake.Now standing at the counter and choosing this delicious looking delicacy, I couldn’t believe as the young lady behind the counter cut such a huge! slice.  Carrying it back I was happy to see the slice seemed to be packed full of nice chocolate chips and banana.  The cake was unbelievable moist and dense, and certainly filling and something you would need after a good day on the farm.  The taste of the chocolate certainly came through when a chocolate chip was in the bit of cake within the mouth, and the whole cake provided a great taste of banana.  However the taste of almond was lacking, and with no sliced/whole almonds to be found im guessing a essence was used or ground, but this was not enough and couldn’t be tasted.  Now forgetting the lack of almonds this was a great moist and tasty cake, really a stick to your ribs stodgy pud!

Value – My whole meal came to a great value total of £12 with a coffee and dessert, I think this is great value for such local produce.  The cafe also pushes that they can make any dish for children and a cost reduction is applied to these dishes which is a great way to help a small family save some pennies.  The value here is great with very big portions.

Overall – 7/10

This is a true showing of what can be done with a group of dedicated people providing such great service to the community, local produce and a true seasonal menu.  I would love to give this a higher score and if I could score on ambiance and surroundings alone it would be higher. The food itself is good, filling and exactly what a farmer needs at the end of a long day, however some little things let it down such as the lack of kick in my “spicy chilli”.  I think for a member of the public, looking for a good lunch, this would be perfect for a cold winters day for a hearty meal, but some of the tastes I think need to be boosted to give the plate something that little bit extra and added flavour.

This place would be great to go with the kids and watch the animals around the farm, and see where the food comes from.  Then go for a good hot chocolate and a slice of cake!

Rodean – Kenton – Near Exeter – Devon – Restaurant Review

I have heard about this establishment a few times from different circles, however nothing really came from it, it was always “Oh I know someone that went there” or “I have drove past that” and no one seemed to have firm reports.  Having noticed this trend I started looking around and found their website with a small sample menu, the website did seem very outdated.  Once I started digging around though I found an updated website, but finding this is no easy task, so to help anyone the address is:

http://www.rodeanrestaurant.co.uk/wordpress/

Having now found this site the sample menus were impressive with such dishes as

  • Darne Of Hake & Prawn Served On Roasted Bok Choi & Pommes Sautee
  • Duck Leg Confit Coated In A Cider And Apple Sauce

The food is mainly French based with small hints of modern English cuisene from the online sample menu.  Also looking through the website I immediately noted pictures of freshly made/baking bread in the oven, for me this immediately shows abit of class when a restaurant make the effort to serve home made bread.  This would need to be tested though, as previously seen in other high class establishment this can sometimes be a sin rather than a blessing with some of the poor samples I have experienced of late.

The restaurant is located in the small village of Kenton which is a 10minute drive from Exeter, and easily accessible from the M5, and is on one of the main roads leading to Dawlish.  I managed to book the table through their Twitter page, this is becoming more and more common at the moment and is such a easy way to book etc and I do encourage other restaurants to get on Twitter asap to spread updates etc.

From the externals, I would immediately pass this due to thinking it was your local “Ale House”, however just turning around the corner from the main road you notice a large glass window showing the internals of the restaurant and dining area.  Parking is very easily found with on street and pay and display just opposite the restaurant.

Luckily enough arriving at 7:15pm I found parking directly outside the front door which was brilliant as it was extremely cold and frost already starting to form.  When entering we were immediately greeted by “lizzie” who is head of front of house, and Matthew Tilt’s (head chef) partner.  We were asked if we would like to sit in a small lounge/bar area before going through to our table, we declined the offer of a pre-meal drink due to one of my other dining partners needing to be up early the next morning.  We were then led through the dining area, which is extremely dim lit with only a few small wall lights providing a subtle background and the use of candles everywhere.  Unfortunately this is a bloggers nightmare as no matter how much you play with camera settings you will get that awful orange tint unless you use artificial lighting and the flash, which I refuse to do in a restaurant, due to other people.  So I do apologise now for the poor picture quality which I doubt does do the food justice, however my nice new DSL c/w Macro lens its winging its way on Santa’s Sled so not long to go.

Lizzie was very talkative and instantly put you at ease considering we were the only diners in the main restaurant area, and had a good chat about general life.  During chatting the other out of house waitress brought to our table a small pot of olives and took our drink orders.  Within minutes our drinks were placed onto the table and menus handed out.  The small olives which were slightly different than you average fare, were black and already pitted and soaking in what seemed a very sweet chutney/oil based chutney.  These were lovely and soft and extremely sweet with a light kick of chilli towards the end, and a great way to start the meal.

Looking through the menu’s you are offered the “House” menu which had offers such as “3 courses for £19” which on first glance seemed great value for money.  Having seen the A La Carte though we all decided to go for this choice, having such great diversity and different combinations on offer.  I noticed on the base on the menu that the chef is also advertising the restaurants twitter account, which I hope means in the future they will have some great offers and maybe some theme nights coming up.

Lizzie soon returned to take our orders and again was a great highlight to the calm dining room which at this time only had 1 other couple who had now been seated.  With starters and mains ordered, soon appeared a small “Amuse Bouche” of Broccoli and Blue Cheese Soup, this was extremely thick and for the more lady like diners, maybe a spoon could be a useful addition.  This had a deep strong flavour of blue cheese, but this was not overpowering due to the subtle flavours of the broccoli calming the flavour, and with the use of good seasoning was a brilliant start to the meal.

The table was then quickly cleared, the front of house are very good at being out of sight yet still knowing everything that is happening within the room, they stay within the bar area but are forever keeping a keen eye on the diners through the small walkway, this works well and due to the small area if they were based in the room it would be abit too much.

A few moments went by and a sense of worry was quickly dawning that no bread was in sight!, now having followed the head chef on twitter for a while, I was always very amazed by the large amount of different bread he is constantly baking and posting photos etc and was getting more and more worried that this would not appear….. However these worries were short lived as the waitress then appeared with a wonderful basket of homemade bread complete with a small plate of butters.  A large sigh was released when these did appear and I was thankful I had built my hopes up regarding this.

We were served 1 slice of bread which was cut from a small loaf for each diner of each flavour of which there was 3.  The three breads on offer were:

Granary – Lovely and served warm this bread very dense and had a great chew yet still being light to eat and not like a heavy stone hitting your stomach, the crust were not crusty and instead chewy which I love for my granary bread.

Pesto – This lightly green tinted bread was sampled next, again this was so fresh and warm it was excellent with the pesto flavour being subtle but still evident.

Sun Brushed Tomato – This was the star of the offering with the crust being crunchy to eat and a particular highlight, this red tinted bread was the best on offer with the strong tomato flavours exploding in your mouth and partnering lovely with the butter.

The above went brilliantly with the selections of butters which three were your standard fare, but the other three balls of rolled butter were each rolled in separate items which were -

Poppy Seeds

Sesame Seeds

Chopped Chives

I found the chopped chives worked brilliantly with the granary and I quickly used the whole amount of this one on my single slice and was brilliant.  If I could base the score of this meal on the bread alone it be an instant 11/10, and the bread is easily on par with the “Walnut and Raisin” bread I sampled at “The Square – London” a few months back.  I only wish Matthew Tilt could mail order this stuff as I would be first in Line.

Unfortunately however I will note that when the bread was served the starters were then served, within the next 2 minutes so myself and my other diners had not enough chance to even butter our first slice by the time our starters were served.  This made for the bread experience to be abit downgraded as the flavours of these beautiful loafs need to shine for them selves and would have liked abit more time between this course.

Starter – Warm Goats Cheese & Hollandaise Sauce, Resting on balsamic roasted vegetables.

Normally I will very rarely go for a starter which does not have a meat element, I do not know why this is but I will always tend to go for a duck/pork starter for no apparent reason other than my brain being lured by crispy cracking etc.  This evening though I went with a firm purpose of trying something different to start with and I can happily say I will be doing this again!.  The dish looked great with the pale goats cheese which was a large stacked portion, which was smothered in sauce and resting on a small toasted piece of bread with the vegetables placed around.  The goats cheese was great and smooth to cut, and when placed in the mouth it was just warm and incredibly dense, at first I was slightly worried about the richness of this, however due to the acid in the balsamic vegetables and the hollandaise sauce having a strong base of lemon, it worked brilliant to cut through this rich cheese and was some of the best I have sampled.  The vegetables were a mix of onions and aubergine and still had a good crunch, which combined with the good crunch of the bread on the base added a great change of texture which the clogging cheese can cause.  This dish however was incredibly filling but was worth it as the flavours were brilliant and strong.

Main – English Beef Fillet & Beef Bourguignon with Lavender scented creme potato with Pancetta & Morels.

The presentation of this dish was superb with the large fillet placed on a small mound of creamed potato with the beef bourguignon placed around the sides.  Firstly I sampled the brilliant and crisp pancetta which was so brittle it was hard to pick up, this had a lovely salty taste and provided an almost crackling flavour with the hint of dense fat.  The beef fillet itself was large and sliced directly through the centre horizontally which when moved showed the lovely perfectly cooked rare meat, this was very tender and provided good taste.  The creamed potato was slightly disappointing due to the lack of flavour however this was due to the incredibly strong powered bourguignon, which had an incredible flavour with chunks of beef that just melted on the tongue.  Due to the use of Pancetta/bacon again this did have a very strong salt flavour which unless paired with the potato would have been overpowering.  This was a great dish with everything cooked excellent and I truly find it hard to find fault with any element, the only thing that comes to mind is the dish which it was served in made for cutting the meat quite difficult and a slightly shallower bowl would have been more convenient, however this is really trying to find fault.

Also vegetables and more starch was served in a side dish if the potato on the plate was not enough!.  The vegetables were great with good flavour and although I didnt sample the new potato’s and sweet potato was told by my other diners were great.

Dessert – Chocolate Two Ways, Chocolate Pyramid filled with a dark chocolate mousse, with Homemade chocolate ice cream.

When this dish was served this is one of the most dramatic use of sugar art ive seen and when the waitress was walking to the table, it instantly caught everyone eyes with small whispers are aspiration at this stunning looking dish.  When placed in front of me I was stunned with just not knowing where to start with everything looking pristine on the plate, the sugar art globe which was made from 2 half’s I quickly dismantled and sampled, it had a lovely toffee apple taste which will bring back your child hood memories.  The ice cream which lay below was sitting on a small base of shortbread/biscuit and had a great texture with small lumps of biscuit spread throughout, this had a great flavour, however the chocolate didn’t come through as strong as I had thought but when looking at the pyramid placed next to it I think I can understand the reason for a subtle flavour.  The pyramid which at first glance I thought was just a moose with alot of gelatin used to allow such a wonderful mould, I was soon impressed to find this was a true solid chocolate pyramid which upon cracking revealed a thick chocolate moose.  The pyramid it self had a very strong flavour due to the dark chocolate used and complimented great with the ice cream and sugar.  The moose it self I think was a mix of Milk and Dark as the flavour had a great sweetness to it and lacked the bitter tastes normally found in high percentage dark chocolate.  Overall this is the most striking dish visually ive sampled of late and was a great end to the meal.

Coffee and Petit Fours were then served which were the form of -

1No. Lemon Tart

2No. Chocolate Truffles

1No. Caramel Tart

Now unfortunately due to being 3 diners I could not sample the lemon tart due to diner A quickly taking that, diner B being quite full settled for the chocolate truffle and allowed me to sample the remainder and the caramel tart.  The chocolate was great with a crisp external and deep chocolate truffle ganache inside.  The caramel was also good with a good base of pastry and small biscuit shards placed on top.  I would like to see 3 of each petit four’s served as this would allow all diners the chance to sample them, and this is normally what I would expect.

The bill was then provided which came to £102.00 with no automatic service charge added.  I think for an A La Carte menu selection complete with drinks, 3 courses for 3 and coffee is great value for the standard on offer

Overall – 9/10

This was a great meal with some excellent service, brilliant food and set in a great location for a good price.  I was pleasantly surprised with this as I was not expecting such high class food from such an unheard of place.  It is difficult to find any major faults at all, with only small niggles remaining such as the lack of time to sample the bread and the serving of only 4 petit fours between 3 people not allowing us all to sample.  These are such minor things though and don’t detract at all from the overall experience.

I would recommend this place for anyone who wishes to spend a lovely evening with their partner in a romantic environment and also for any celebration.  If you can try and sneak out a loaf of bread when you go as I wish I did!!! (Yes I did think the bread was that good!!).

Hopefully I will be returning for one of their 5 course dinner nights shortly.

Rosemarino – Clifton – Bristol – Restaurant Review

This is a small restaurant located off from the busy “Triangle” situated on the corner of “York Street”.  This is a recently opened Italian theme establishment and on my day of visit had only been open for less than 48 hours.  The restaurant is open for breakfast until dinner and serves all meal times between including brunch and the owners are trying to push an Italian habit of drinks/coffee and a snack/cakes between 5-6pm after finishing work (Just because us English already dont eat enough!!).

The restaurant inside is very nicely decorated to a modern feel, with bright colours throughout and is very bright upstairs due to the large windows.  Downstairs there is a mix of industrial styles with 1 entire wall being unfinished concrete with a few frames hung on the wall with chalk wrote specials wrote directly on the wall.  The floor again is bright with beach wood paneling used and light pale blue colours throughout.  The tables are very cleanly decorated with no table clothes used, exposing the light beach wood, with small and neat folded napkins placed and individual flowers placed in the centre in small metal buckets.

We were eating for Lunch at this time and at 1:30pm the restaurant was already packed with only 1 spare table.  Upon being seated our drinks order were quickly taken and we were handed menu’s which are printed on A4 paper, which as this restaurant is pushing local/seasonal produce im assuming this makes for changing the menu’s daily/seasonally much easier.  The menu consists of traditional Italian favorites such as lasagna and a large Antipasti selection, also there are various sandwiches/bruschetta with different toppings they also offer the ability to customise this selection with any extra toppings.

I decided to go with a small Lasagna Al Forno, after eyeing the Tiramisu or Bread and Butter pudding for dessert.  After placing the order the food took approx 20-25mins to be served, however this was at an extremely busy time so normally I would expect the wait to be abit shorter, also you need to expect a small wait due to fresh food prepared etc.

Lasagna Al Forno – This was served in a lovely rustic looking style and looked lovely to the eye, with the fresh salad adding great colour to the dish.  The lasagna it self was obviously home made as the flavour was brilliant, with good hints of garlic and cheese throughout.  Between the sheets of perfectly cooked pasta their consisted large pieces of meat which is normally what is missing from lasagna I find.  There was also the white cheese sauce which was not overpowering to the dish and was not provided in a large quantity allowing the tomato and meat flavours to come through, the cheese on top added a nice crunch also.  The salad was excellent with the crisp salad leaves, and strips of carrot added good crunch to the dish, there was a dressing also which had a strong taste of garlic and was an excellent marriage to the salad.  The bread provided was your standard baguette style, but was good and fresh. This was a very good dish with good flavours and for £3.95 I couldn’t believe the value.  My only minor complaint being is that I think it could have been served slightly hotter, it was hot but normally I would like to see it still very hot and cheese slightly bubbling.

Chocolate Panetone bread & butter pudding with vanilla ice cream – Being a big fan of traditional English puddings I was interested to see how the Panetone would work in this pudding.  My first bite was of the crisp outer edge and immediately I was surprised by the sweetness the Panteone bread provided and also the abundance of fruit within the bread, this was all sorts of dry fruit and rind. The pudding was excellently cooked with the outer edges being firmer and having a slight crust, but the middle being extremely gooey and the custard being only just set.  This was served just warm which was excellent as it allowed the ice cream just to slightly melt, the ice cream again was beautiful being packed full of vanilla seeds and had a strong flavour and was a lovely accompaniment.  Normally I would have liked to have custard with this pudding but with the use of the Panetone bread this was not required and the pudding was sweet enough.

Value – The value was incredible with the total meal came to £10 with tip, and I really cant complain at this cost.  The lasagne was a particular great value dish at only £3.95 I would return for this everyday if I could.

Service – The service was excellent with the different waiters being extremely polite and good with taking orders etc.  The waiter who took over our table towards the end of our lunch however needs a particular mention, he was extremely chatty and had a great attitude towards the customer and provided great light humour to the service.

Overall – 9/10

This is an excellent small up and coming establishment, and if they can keep standards at what they are at the moment I can see this place going from strength to strength.  They offer excellent fresh food and from my experience very good service with a laugh/chat provided as well.

Cant wait to return to try their dinner menu.