Growing and foraging food I find so very satisfying. I don’t have a garden (yet) but I have always dreamt of having a vegetable patch for that very reason; I want the enjoyment of creating my food and getting it from somewhere that isn’t a clinical supermarket.
When you’re known to not only like your food, but to write about it, there comes an expectation from everyone you know that you must have eaten absolutely everywhere. I always feel a pang of guilt as someone looks at me with disbelief that I’ve never eaten those fish and chips in Newcastle, or that donut from Devon.
If ever there was a perfect marriage of foods, it was sweet, sticky meats stuffed into a squishy bread-based vessel. This meal is a little time consuming and technical, so one to save for when you have some more time. The pay off is a delicious street food style feast that’s perfect for a night in with your significant other or friends! Spoiler: Q’s braised pork is to die for.
It’s not exactly my usual ‘brand’, is it? You’ll usually find me adventuring somewhere more rustic or low key. Nevertheless I’ve found myself in Marbella more than once; among big crowds and loud outfits to celebrate friends who are getting married.
Disclosure: Mazda kindly provided me with their new MX-5 for the weekend. As always all thoughts and words are my own.
If you’re a regular reader then you’ll know that I’m an Autumn girl at heart. And yes I admit it, I have started to get excited about the conkers growing on the trees.
But good Lord if it isn’t absolutely criminal not to enjoy every drop of this glorious sunshine that we have been blessed with this year! Truth be told I’m never usually that into Summer because I don’t know where I stand with the weather, and I find myself standing in front of my wardrobe with painful indecision about what to wear. But not this year: every day is guaranteed heat; no umming and aahing about layers. I hear the last time we had a Summer like this was 1976, so chances are I won’t see another until I’m old and grey. Basically, carpe diem the hell out of that Sun you guys.
Disclosure: my meal was complimentary. As always all thoughts and words are my own.
Two bloggers walk into a pub…
I could start this post with a romanticised description of what a wonderful hot and balmy evening it was as I headed to The Anchor for dinner, but the novelty has run it’s course now hasn’t it? Every evening it hot and balmy.
I know The Anchor well, they’re a part of the Unique Hospitality family who I’m very fond of. But this visit was a little different and I was escorted past the main restaurant and up the old and narrow staircase to their beautiful private dining room. I was there to experience a Mediterranean themed supper club created by new Head Chef (and recent winner of Milton Keynes’ chef of the year award) Shane Clarke.
The room was beautifully decorated and looked like a Summer wonderland.
And speaking of two bloggers, Sophie Etc was dining as well!
We both poured ourselves glasses of water and looked longingly at the delicious pitchers of Sangria nestled between cuttings of herbs. *Sigh* that driver life…
Do you remember the Summer Supper Club I attended at 185 Watling Street not too long ago? This evening was along the same theme: one off, intimate evenings in a private dining space with a menu specially created for attendees of the club to enjoy. Shane, fully embracing that hot and balmy weather, presented us with a Mediterranean themed evening.
To begin we enjoyed a trio of tapas style starters:
- Serrano ham croquettes, with Romesco sauce and fried almonds
- Barbecued garlic and lemon Gambas
- Morcilla sausage meatballs, with Piquillo peppers and parsley
Each dish was suitably different from the other. The meatballs had a real kick with the Piquillo peppers and the sauce was fruity and tart almost like a sweet and sour sauce. The prawns were rustic and subtle in flavour (I would perhaps have enjoy a bit more garlic but at the same time Sophie and I had to talk to each other for the rest of the evening) and the croquettes (oh the croquettes!) were super rich and oozy and indulgent with a fantastic crispy shell. More of those please!
It was around this time that other guests at the table noticed the large cameras that accompanied Sophie and I. I sheepishly explained that we were bloggers, and not wishing to stereotype but I did so because the other guests were a generation or two above us and I pensively awaited the wave of questions… which did indeed follow. We explained what a blogger was, what a blog is, what we write about, why we do it, who reads our posts… and why anyone would read our posts (yes they didn’t hold back on the questions!) and how it differs from a magazine or a journalist or a critic.
At first I felt under the microscope and the introvert in me wanted very much to not be the centre of attention. But, as the questions and answers went on the other diners began to understand what we did, and it wasn’t long before we were asked for tips on Instagram and how to use it. As the main course arrived other guests were getting involved and picking up their phones to take photos themselves!
And ultimately, I think this is the exact spirit of these Supper clubs: you sit around a table with strangers and over the course of the evening you get to know new people, learn new things and enjoy a different social experience than you otherwise would in your standard Restaurant setting on your own, isolated table.
Our main courses were a duo served in little bowls on wooden boards:
- Baked eggs in chilli sauce with crispy tortilla, black bean salsa and guacamole
- Squid, octopus and cuttlefish Paella topped with chorizo Aioli and Saffron yogurt.
It took a lot of restraint not to sneak that pretty little white bowl into my handbag. Although we did all agree it would have been spectacular to bring the Paella to the table a giant pan as you would in Spain! I really like the idea of family style for Supper club.
It also took a lot of restraint not to guzzle back the entire jug of chocolate sauce that accompanied dessert…
A giant cinnamon churro and blood orange creme catalana arrived to round off our meal. Everyone at the table went crazy for the churro which was warm and fluffy inside with a thick crust of sugar. Absolutely delicious, this and the croquettes were my favourite elements of the evening by far.
The portions were seemingly considered for a hot Summers eve, and yet I still came away incredibly full. I (of all people!) am not used to having a small appetite but the heat was intense. I walked back to my car smiling, as what began as polite hellos to fellow diners at the beginning of the meal ended with big waves goodbye and choruses of “See you on Instagram!”
These are a quick and delicious recipe, super easy to make and can be stored in the freezer to grab and go when you please. And when I say quick to make, I mean 5 minutes quick.
Disclosure: Our meal was complimentary. As always all thoughts and words are my own.
Balancing a day job with a blogger double life sometimes means rushing to change in the work toilets at lightning speed and scurrying out to the car all dolled up in the hope that no one will see. Some events are too exciting to miss and this was a big one: an evening with Raymond Blanc at Brasserie Blanc in Beaconsfield!
First of all, Beaconsfield is beautiful, and the setting for their own Brasserie Blanc is just as pretty. Our Brasserie in Milton Keynes is perfectly good looking, but the old-meets-new setting here was wonderful. You better believe I did the usual of imagining it was my house.
Each seat for the event was adorned with beautiful gift bags from local businesses. It took every ounce of adulting in me to not rummage around until we got home! We arrived early, which was lucky for photos as it wasn’t long before the entire room was absolutely packed.
First up on the menu was ‘Tomato Essence’ which like all fine dining menus was characteristically vague. I only knew what this was because I’ve watched Raymond make this signature dish on his programmes. I remember marvelling at the long and painstaking filtering process of the tomatoes to extract a perfectly clear water tinged with orange. What a faff I admit to thinking, and I was very excited to actually taste whether it was worth the effort.
Oh good grief. How? How is this little glass of tomato infused water so damn delicious? It’s beautiful; it feels so pure and cleansing as you drink it. There’s incredible layers to the flavours as well where it begins as sweet then moves to savoury, before finishing with a delicate spicy hum. Really, really intriguing and I think my favourite thing from the entire menu.
Our starter was a colourful, almost artistic presentation of glazed mackerel fillet with apple compote, coleslaw & seaweed salad. This was a very oily, quite bitter dish with and interesting mixture of flavours. The charred mackerel skin was pretty as a picture to look at.
One champagne, one amuse bouche and one starter in and I was leaning back and forth in my chair to spot the man I was desperate to see. I messaged Sophie on a nearby table with #WheresRay.
On first glance of our main it looked rather safe. But of course, it was a beautiful execution of simplicity, made to shine with such fresh ingredients. Roast supreme of guinea fowl with a confit leg bon bon, citrus sauce and the most wonderful tasting greens that I have eaten in a long time. Actual Summer on a plate, and that bon bon was divine!
Dessert again appeared very simple. Charentais melon, raspberries, strawberries, sorbet and coulis & champagne jus.
And yes, it was a simple dessert. But bloody hell if it wasn’t the nicest, plumpest fruit I have had in forever. Biggest raspberries I’ve ever eaten! I loved the crisp sugar work delicately crowning the bowl. And I feel the bowl should also be mentioned: smooth and oversized it felt almost nostalgic of eating dessert as a child. Joyful. Don’t let anyone ever tell you the crockery doesn’t matter.
He suddenly appeared to the left of us and began to work his way around the tables. I couldn’t contain my excitement as he got closer to us and I was beaming in my chair until he arrived to say hello.
I’m sure at this stage I was supposed to bear in mind my blog content, ask to move to better lighting and insist that the photo was taken on my camera. But it didn’t feel right and instead we captured a really honest moment: not blogger at work, but two fans meeting someone they truly admire. Look at those smiles!
And speaking of admiring Raymond Blanc, I came away from this evening doing so even more. He is the most genuine and lovely man. He took time to speak to everyone and it wasn’t just lip service: he really cared. He even wrote little notes down about the guests so he could remember and add personal thanks during his Q&A session.
At 68 years old he shows no signs of slowing down and he darted about with his mic eccentrically recalling stories and answering questions.
Among the light hearted questions about when he planned to make another TV show and how was the garden at Le Manoir doing in the heat wave, came more serious questions followed by inspiring answers.
I died a little inside when someone asked Raymond what he thought of Brexit. Particularly when statistically speaking there were most definitely a number of Brexiteers. After recounting a stories about his many travels and his life in the United Kingdom, his response in closing was:
“We can be enriched by other people’s cultures. For me Brexit was a real killer.”
Oh Ray <3
Raymond was also asked what he would tell his younger self if he could go back in time. This inspired an extremely passionate speech on sustainability. The importance of buying locally and eating seasonally, along with accepting that we all cannot continue to live the way that we have been. He spoke with great enthusiasm about how seasonal produce is not only cheaper, but tastes so much better. For me, this speech summed up the food we had just eaten, in how wonderfully fresh the fruit and vegetables had been to make simple Summer dishes absolutely outstanding.
What a brilliant evening! Q and I drove to Beaconsfield in hope of meeting a chef we have admired for a very long time. I expected to come away with a celebrity photo and a belly full of great food. What I hadn’t planned for, was leaving with a head full of inspiration.
Disclosure: This was a paid post in partnership with Snapfish. As always all thoughts and words are my own.
There are girls who unpack their luggage a soon as they get back from holiday and get the washing on right away. And then there’s me.
There are girls who plan their birthday out with military precision to get bookings where they desperately want to go. And then there’s me.
There are girls who print their wedding photos the moment they are received. And you can see where I’m going with this can’t you?
Disclosure: Our meal was complimentary. As always all thoughts and words are my own.
In Milton Keynes I think there’s something symbolic about a chain being replaced by an independent.
And not just anywhere: right in the heart of one of MK’s busiest spots for eating and drinking. Now sitting proudly on the square, sandwiched by chain restaurants either side and more opposite, Craft & Cleaver have landed.