Posts Tagged ‘lunch’

Walking Up High in Wales

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

I have said this before, but I love the fact that I can get in a car, drive west-ish for about an hour and find myself in Wales. I can cross a border and be in another country where the people speak a different language, have funny accents and are generally more relaxed than the English. I take any opportunity to pop over the Welsh border and so when Sir Pubert Gladstone’s birthday arrived I decided to organise a Magical Mystery Birthday Tour of Secrets and Surprises. This involved Sir Pubert, his car, my excellent GPS navigation skills and Thomas Telford’s magnificent Pontcysyllte Aqueduct (if you can pronounce that, you win ten points and a thumbs up from me.). The day before the mystery tour, I frantically searched Google maps for an interesting ‘thing’ for us to visit. It had to be worth driving to, preferably free, and within a short drive of a good pub with a ploughman’s lunch. As soon as I discovered Tom’s water bridge, read that it is the highest aqueduct in Britain and that people who are scared of heights (aka Sir Pubert) may not enjoy it, I decided I had found a winner. Everyone needs a challenge on their birthday.

Thankfully the weather was on our side with sunshine, blue skies and a few big fluffy clouds. I don’t think walking across a raised water source in the rain and wind would have been very pleasant. The aqueduct was very impressive – a long raised canal crossing over a river valley. Built between 1785 and 1805, it is remarkable that it continues to function today. I do wonder why it seemed like a good idea to suspend a canal 126 feet in the air, but it has made for a very impressive structure.

It's a canal. In the air. Amazing.

It’s a canal. In the air. Amazing.

Amazing views from the aqueduct

Amazing views from the aqueduct

A fantastic structure.

A fantastic structure.

After we had crossed the aqueduct we headed to Llangollen, a beautiful little town that is clearly a popular spot for visitors on a Saturday afternoon. After spending 30 minutes trying to find parking, we made it to The Corn Mill – a lovely river side pub where we managed to score an outdoor table in the sunshine.

Riverside views at The Corn Mill

Riverside views at The Corn Mill

Sir Pubert had been wanting a ploughman’s platter for sometime so my pub search had involved scouring menus in search of a plate with cheese and bread. Sadly it wasn’t the greatest ploughman’s as it could have done with five times more cheese so we are now on the hunt for the WORLD’S GREATEST PLOUGHMAN’S. If you know where it is, please let me know. 

Ploughman's platter

Ploughman’s platter

A wander back through the town, supposedly Welsh ice-cream and then into the car and home again in time for me to catch a train to Sheffield. I went from Manchester to Wales to Manchester to Sheffield in 8 hours. I saw plenty of green rolling hills and sheep that day and it was the best Magical Mystery Birthday Tour of Secrets and Surprises that I have ever been on. Ever.

 

This Rino Sure Can Cook

Saturday, January 26th, 2013

It has been a while since I last told you about an amazing eating experience so I am now going to rectify this. Today was a celebratory day for my friend Jen who collected her ten year residency card for France. I did consider stealing it but it would require a significant amount of plastic surgery for me to look like the photo on Jen’s card as she is little and cute and I’m not.

Anyway, instead of stealing her identity, I met her for lunch so that we could cross another restaurant off my “Must Eat Here Before I Leave Paris” list. We went to a small resto in the 11eme called Rino. For lunch they offer a set three course menu that is based on what the chefs found at the market that morning. There is no choice apart from the main dish where we could choose between guinea fowl or fish. A few years ago this lack of choice would have been an issue for me but I now love being served something I wouldn’t normally choose to eat. Most of the time it is surprisingly good.

This definitely occurred with the entrée. When the waitress took our orders I was only going to have the main and dessert but it was obligatory to have the entrée for some unknown reason. This was a bit weird and instantly increased the cost of my meal but I was pleased in the end. We were served small lamb meatballs with eel (yes, eel) and a watercress sauce. It was superb! I have never eaten eel before mostly because it is a slippery fish-like-creature that doesn’t look very appetising but it turns out it is super yum.

Hello Mr Eel

Hello Mr Eel

My fish was perfectly cooked and was served with grilled cauliflower and endives, with an olive tapenade and some sort of white sauce. We couldn’t identify the sauce but it was good. Both Jen and I are slightly addicted to cauliflower at the moment so we were both overwhelmingly excited to see it on our plates and it was very well done. The olive tapenade went really well with the smoky grilled veg. The endive was a bit bitter which was disappointing but the rest of the dish made up for it.

It looks so pretty

It looks so pretty

Dessert was also something I would never normally choose – a baba au rhum with mandarin sorbet and whipped yoghurt. WOW. The yoghurt was sweet, the sorbet tangy and the baba doughy and oozing rum. The three elements worked so well together and made for a surprisingly light and refreshing dessert.

Baba au rhum

Baba au rhum

It was a fantastic lunch and I would definitely go back again. The only down side was that Jen and I were seated next to a wall that was covered with a padded board to reduce the noise in the restaurant. It messed with both of our ears and we felt lopped sided for most of the meal. But who needs to be balanced when eating such good food?

One of the Greatest Eating Experiences of My Life

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

I love eating, I do it a lot. Sometimes I really enjoy what I am eating, other times not so much. Sometimes it is somewhere in the middle. For me, an eating experience is more than just the food – it is the people who serve it to me, where the food comes from, and the location that I eat it in. All of these factors, if put together correctly, can create a life changing experience. And I, Jessica Davies, had one of these experiences in Manchester (of all places).

To me, Manchester is industrial revolution, cotton mills, and football. Sure, I know it is a growing city and the idea of there being good places to eat there doesn’t surprise me, but if someone had told me I would be overwhelmingly satisfied with an eating experience in Manchester I would have laughed and told them lying is a sin. But that mysterious person was right.

Ben and I went to visit our forth cousin (I don’t actually know what relation she is to me but she is my great grandfather’s sister’s granddaughter) who lives just outside of Manchester and she took us for a tour of the city. As it was a wet and soggy day, we tried to stay inside as much as possible and after visiting the John Rylands library, Lesley wanted to show us a new bar/restaurant that has opened up next door. To enter you go through a glass pyramid thing, down some steps and there you are. The restaurant is called Australasia and so I felt it appropriate that Ben and I go and visit it.

We weren’t feeling particularly hungry, however my appetite instantly sprang to life as soon as I saw the restaurant. Something inside me said, “EAT HERE!” and so the decision was made. The restaurant is a long rectangular shape that has been very well set up with tables in different sections to allow for large groups as well as quieter areas for small tables. It is light in colour and has lots of organic, wooden surfaces and lots of little details to look at.

Australasia

So pretty

The waitstaff were very friendly although half the time I had no idea what our main waitress was saying. Manchester accents are impossible. We were advised to choose lots of small dishes to share and so we did – choosing six dishes to share between the three of us. The food was what I guess is called “Asian fusion” with a very interesting mix of flavours from Japanese, Australian, British, Thai and Indonesian cuisines. And it was AMAZING.

Australasia menu

I felt at home

The food was beyond delicious – spicy, flavoursome and with some very interesting combinations of flavours and textures, I have never eaten anything like it before. All of the dishes had something interesting to say – the fishcakes with lemon grass were spicy and aromatic; the thinly sliced seared beef was tender, rich and juicy; and the pork balls were perfectly accompanied by a spicy salad that really had a kick to it.

Australasia fish

I even liked the seafood. Amazing.

Australasia Collingwood Dinkies

Collingwood Dinkies – little pies filled with different delicious flavours

Australasia tempura

Vegetable tempura – Pyramid style

Each time more food came out our mouths dropped at the presentation and then dropped even further when we came to eat it. Delicate yet strong, all of the food made me want to applaud the chefs each time it was placed on our table.

As we were eating the mains, I watched other dishes come out of the kitchen and declared that despite having eaten a rather large (and delicious) piece of chocolate cake for morning tea, I was going to need to eat a dessert. Thankfully, Ben is a fellow foodie and he had noticed the amazing concoctions that were arriving on other tables and he ordered dessert too. Lesley soon joined us as soon as ours arrived.

I am incapable of looking past the word “fondant” on a dessert menu and chose an espresso fondant served with hazelnut ice cream. A fairly simple description on the menu turned into one of the greatest desserts in human history being placed on the table in front of me.

Australasia fondant

WOW.

The fondant was cooked to utter perfection with a round, decorated piece of chocolate placed on top of the warmed pudding. As I cut into it, the chocolate melted and the fondant exploded into a gooey, oozing lava mountain.

Australasia fondant with goo

EXPLODE!

It was rich without being sickly and had a great combination of chocolate and espresso. The hazelnut ice cream was creamy and delicious and the plate was also decorated with three blobs of salted butter caramel (the ultimate accompaniment to chocolate) and clotted cream that was dotted with vanilla beans and decorated with mini meringues.

I want to marry who ever invented this dessert (sorry, Tom) because essentially they have placed every single thing that makes me happy on a plate, made it look pretty and then let me eat it.

Ben’s dessert was just as spectacular – a chocolate mousse cake served with cooked cherries. There was this amazing soft cherry foam that floated off the top of the cake. It was then served with a ball of miso ice cream which had originally put me off the dessert (plus I’m not a huge fruit with chocolate person) but turned out to be pure GENIUS. The miso added a wonderful hint of salt to the sweet chocolate and was really very delicious. Truly wonderful.

Chocolate pavé Australasia

Cherry froth!

We spent two hours eating lunch and by the time we eventually wandered up the stairs and back into the real world, the sun had started shining and it had turned into a beautiful day. Before we left, I paid a visit to the bathrooms to discover ‘dunny’ style toilets (upmarket dunnies, of course). It made me proud to be an Aussie, it did. Not really, but I am glad the best restaurant in the world (at least in my current little world) is a representation of my home country. The Poms can beat us in cricket but we cook the best food.

Good Old Country Feeling

Sunday, February 5th, 2012

My recent trip to Greenbushes included a stop in Balingup for a spot of lunch. My parents usually go to a French bakery, however they decided we would try the Balingup Bronze Cafe for a change of scenery – plus some unexpected cool weather meant we wanted to be able to sit inside.

A casual cafe, we were greeted by a very friendly and relaxed guy who instantly reminded me that I was no longer in Paris and that people working in hospitality can, in fact, smile. How strange. We ordered our food at the counter and then took our own water and cutlery and found a table. The restaurant lacked any nice external views and we were stuck sitting in an echoey room that wasn’t particularly relaxing.

The food made up for the lack of ambiance – home made and generous portions, it was simple yet tasty. The main feature of this cafe is that all food is gluten free, which was both a good and a bad thing for the quality of the food. The food was tasty, full of vegetables and the flavours were well developed, however the need for the food to be gluten free caused a few problems. I had a vegie burger which was a patty filled with chick peas, coriander and peanuts. While the flavour was good, it was crumbly and the texture wasn’t very enjoyable – a few too many lumps and it was floury from the crushed chickpeas. The patty was served on top of what was described as ‘toast’. Now I have had many gluten free breads – some good, some bad – and this was definitely a bad. It fell apart and had no flavour apart from a strange stale sensation. Considering the restaurant promotes itself as gluten free, you would think they would offer a good bread option.

Balingup vegie burger

Hearty food

Otherwise the food was great, with some fantastic potatoes and a decent salad. It was well priced and served by a guy who clearly loves the food he serves.
Balingup Bronze Cafe on Urbanspoon

Handmade

Sunday, January 15th, 2012

On Friday Tom and I met our friend Phillipa for lunch, shopping and exhibition visiting in the 12 arrondissement of Paris. This area is growing and becoming more and more fashionable with the super cool BoBos of Paris. We had decided to go to a vietnamese restaurant, Hanoi, and joined a long line of cool people in order to eat rather delicious bún bò. By the time we were seated and eating we were starving, but the wait was worth it – it’s nice to have some relatively ‘real’ vietnamese food for once.

Afterwards we wandered around some shops – this area is full of small designer stores and the sales have started in Paris so even Tom was getting into the swing of things, buying some new pants. Remarkable. Our travels led us to the Ateliers de Paris gallery – a gallery space that supports local and emerging artists. This was my Fun Times Count Down item #5.

The current exhibition was a small showcase of fashion made by students from France, Belgium and Quebec. There were only a few items on display and as with most student exhibitions, the quality varied. However there was one stand out piece that was extremely impressive. Made by a student in Montreal, it was a circular web made out of a white twine and safety pins, which had been painted at certain points in order to create a colourful pattern. It was intricate, fragile and stood out as a quality piece of work that was well designed and crafted. You can see the piece in the image below – the first photograph on the wall.

Ateliers Exposition

Very interesting work

It was nice to see a small selection of handmade products made by emerging designers. It is great to see that there is are opportunities for students to showcase their work in a city like Paris.

I Want to Vomit

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

I thought I had experienced the worst possible restaurant meal of my life when I had “Mont St Michel” inspired fish at a tourist restaurant on the aforementioned island. However, it turns out I was wrong, and the worst meal that I would have in my life would, in fact, be today.

Allow me to explain. It is Tuesday which means we have a lady come and change the sheets and towels and do a quick once over with the vacuum. Yes, we are spoilt rich kids. This means we have to leave the apartment when she arrives because 1. there isn’t enough room for all of us and 2. I hate the fact that someone cleans my apartment (although I do enjoy not having to deal with washing my own sheets.) So today she came at lunch time so Tom and I decided to go out for lunch. We went with our friend, Sonia, and headed to a local brasserie that Tom had eaten at before and that he assured me was AWESOME.

Tom had tried to get me to go to this brasserie on numerous previous occasions but my warning lights for “IT’S A BRASSERIE! DO NOT EAT THERE!” had flashed and I had suggested we go somewhere else. Unfortunately the cold weather had gotten to my brain today and I said we could go to this brasserie just as long as Tom swore it was really that good. Yes. Ok, fine.

When we told Sonia (a local Frenchie) that we were going to a brasserie she had a worried look on her face but came along with us like a good sport. From the outside it didn’t look too bad – there were people in there eating and the food looked relatively edible. And so we sat down. There was a set menu of entree/main or main/dessert with a glass of wine or a coffee for 11.50Euros. We ordered and, not really thinking clearly, I ordered ‘La tête de veau’ focussing more on the ‘veau’ (veal) than the ‘tête’. I mainly selected this because the other options were duck (too fatty), or fish with caper sauce (too caper-y.) As we waited for the food, Sonia commented that she had never dared order ‘La tête de veau’, to which I asked why. Because it is the head. Right. Of course it is seeing as ‘tête’ means head and I know that. I’ve known that for years but I presumed it was like many cuts of meat in French – it isn’t what it sounds like. You can also order ‘nuts of veal’ and ‘mouse of lamb’ and they aren’t what you think they are.

Tête de veau

Tête de veau

My dish arrived and I was a little bit concerned by the fact that the entire thing appeared to be fat. Fat with some sort of grey skin attached. Writing this is proving difficult because the more I remember, the more I wish to regurgitate it. I tried to eat as much as I could but it was all fat. As a person who cuts ALL fat off meat before eating it, this wasn’t the wisest choice. The veal was then covered in a ‘sauce’ that was hard boiled egg and onion with some sort of mayonnaise. It was so strong. Thankfully there were two boiled potatoes on the plate so my lunch was reduced to two boiled potatoes.

Tête de veau

The left overs – that's fat. Fat fat fat.

It’s ok, I thought. I’m having dessert. Sonia and I had both ordered the apricot tart and I declared to Tom that apricot tart can never be done wrong. WELL! Apparently it can! To make an apricot tart inedible, all you have to do is cook it for far too long so that the base burns and the insides curdle. It was seriously disgusting.

We then had to wait for our coffees to arrive because they were part of the deal. Sonia gave hers to Tom and I just didn’t drink mine. The only upside was the Valrhona chocolate on the side of the coffee. So for my 11.50 Euros I had two boiled potatoes and a little piece of Valrhona chocolate. And Tom got a lot of dirty looks from two unimpressed girls. Poor Tom.

Confessions of an Addict

Saturday, November 5th, 2011

I admit it. I have an addiction. A nemesis. A weakness. It is plaguing me as I write this, calling me to come and play. But no! I shall resist for now as I have already tasted its sweet, sweet pleasure today. I am making public my new addiction as I feel it is the only way I will overcome its temptations. Prepare yourself… Here it is.

Speculoos spread

A biscuit in a jar!

Speculoos spread. It’s not my fault! My inner half-dutchness requires me to consume mixed spice at least three times a week, and now that I have found it in a delicious, easy-to-spread form I am overwhelmed with desire! It is buttery, sweet, salty and full of speculaas spices – cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves… My blood will not circulate without them.

Personally, I blame a certain Canadian ex-neighbour who left me his Speculoos spread when he moved back to Montreal. Up until that point I had taken deep breaths and moved away from the Spreadable Products isle in the supermarket. But suddenly – BAM! There it was in my kitchen, all delicious and stuff. I already have to give myself pep talks on how I don’t need to eat Nutella all day every day, and now I have a second fatty deliciousness to deal with. It would be ok if the the numbers on the nutritional value table were slightly smaller. I worked out that if I were to eat a quarter of the jar then I would eat as many calories as I burn on my early morning runs. I figure that as long as I eat that quarter of a jar over a 50 minute period (the average time of my morning runs) then it’s fine. Nice and even.

Speculoos spread

Yikes.

Eating Oysters From a Car Bonnet

Monday, October 31st, 2011

On my list of things I like eating, oysters come close to the bottom with absolutely no desire whatsoever to eat the sloppy, gloopy, ocean-filled things. But when our new neighbour, Julie, invited Tom and me for lunch at Le Baron Rouge in the 12th arrondissement, her description of what we would be eating appealed even to me – let’s stand around eating oysters and drinking wine off car bonnets. Yes please.

Le Baron Rouge is a wine bar where masses of Parisians (and a whole lot of Poms) flock every Saturday and Sunday to drink wine and eat oysters and charcuterie plates. The wine bar itself is tiny – a typical French bar with lots of wood, blackboard menus and effervescent staff. By the time we arrived it was getting close to 2pm, so the place was packed with people carrying wine glasses, laughing, spotting friends on the other side of the room, and generally feeling very pleased to be alive. The lack of space meant that patrons had spilled out onto the footpath and road outside and had created mock tables using the lids of bins and the roofs and bonnets of cars. Luckily the bar is located in a quiet streets so traffic wasn’t a problem.

Baron Rouge

The place to be.

We pushed our way in, with Julie and her friend heading to the bar to buy wine and charcuterie, while Tom and I joined the queue for oysters. We were worried we would miss out, but basket after basket of fresh oysters continued to arrive as people ordered mounds of the disgusting things. The speed and agility demonstrated by the oyster shuckers was amazing – they had a very simple oyster shucking ‘machine’ – basically a blade on a handle connected to a wooden block. The oyster was placed on the block, the blade inserted, lifted et voila! A freshly shucked oyster.

Baron Rouge oyster shuckers

Quick hands required to shuck oysters for so many people

We bought two dozen oysters and headed to where Julie and two friends had secured our own car bonnet (a little white Opel). It was here that we consumed two bottles of wine, two dozen oysters and two plates of charcuterie and pâté. Amazing. Want to know how much it cost? This is the best part – for all of that, between five people, it was less than 15 Euros a head. HA HA HA!!! Take that, Australians! You may have sunshine and beaches, but we have fine wine and oysters.

Wine, charcuterie, oysters from the Baron Rouge

What better way to spend a Sunday afternoon?

This wonderful experience is going to be repeated. It was one of those moments that you wonder how on earth you got there and when you are going to wake up. Thank you, Paris.

No Gnashing at Nanashi

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

A few months ago, Tom and I walked past a cafe that caught my eye and stuck in my brain as a “What is this cafe and should I go there?” kind of place. Completely coincidentally, a few days later I was reading a restaurant review on a Paris blog and realised that they were discussing the place we had walked past and its sister cafe in the Marais. The reviews were good. My mind was set – I would try it one day.

Yesterday was that day, as Tom and I met up with our friend Pip for our regular lunch and shopping outing. Nanashi is an organic Japanese fusion restaurant, describing itself as “Le Bento Parisien”. It is definitely a mix of French and Japanese food using the best of both cuisines and focuses on using wholesome, organic ingredients. I have sampled food from other Japanese  restaurants in Paris and all I will say is that it isn’t Japanese. There were cheese sticks involved and you can only buy meat-on-a-stick or sushi. The French are missing out.

Nanashi restaurant

I love restaurants with chalk board menus

The restaurant is modern and simple and the French aspect of the restaurant is easily seen in the grumpy waitstaff taking your orders (when they feel like it.) The menu is limited and you have a choice of three bento boxes – vegetarian, meat or fish. Tom and I both chose the fish bento (a salmon cake) and Pip took the meat (veal.) The first good sign was the delicious sourdough bread they gave us, upholding the necessities of free bread in a French restaurant. Sometimes it is a relief to not be served baguette.

Nanashi bread

Good bread

Our bento boxes arrived and they were amazing – my salmon cake was full of fresh salmon, potatoes and spices and then coated in a crunchy crust. The bentos came with a delicious quinoa and lentil mix, as well as three different types of salad. It was a meal that made you feel alive and full of goodness. I know some people will look at this and think it is toffee-nosed food for health-freaks but it was absolutely scrumptious and filling.

Nanashi Bento

My salmon bento

I had read about the desserts at Nanashi and wanted to try them so was relieved when my fellow lunchers wanted dessert as well. We each chose something different – Pip had a carrot cake, Tom chose the chocolate and ginger fondant, while I took a risk and chose the matcha (green tea) cheesecake. I am so glad I did.

Nanashi cake

Blurry photo but amazing cake

It was soft and rich and the bitterness of the green tea wasn’t overpowering but softened the sweetness of the cake. I don’t normally choose cheesecake as I find them too excessive but I am currently drooling and dreaming about the day I can go back and eat some more. With regularly changing menus I will definitely be revisiting this restaurant. Plus I have to go and try the original Nanashi which is only a few streets away from my apartment!

A Fun Day in Paris

Sunday, July 24th, 2011

On Friday Tom and I met up with our friend, Pip, for an afternoon of lunch and cultural enlightenment. We went to a market in the Marais district called Marche des Enfants Rouges that has stalls selling food from various parts of the world – Moroccan, Italian, French, African. We chose Japanese as none of us had had decent Japanese food since arriving in Paris. We all had the same Bento box with fried chicken. Not bad but it was still a French version of Japanese food. And it wasn’t cheap.

Japanese

Bento Box au poulet

After lunch we decided to hear towards a contemporary art gallery in the Tuilleries but on the way we changed plans when we stumbled across the Musee de la Chasse et de la Nature – a bizarre, creepy and hilarious museum about hunting and nature. But mostly about hunting. There were so many stuffed dead animals in that place – I have never seen anything like it. In one section you walked into a tiny room that had the heads and feathers of three owls spread across the ceiling. We spent most of the time with our eyes popping out of our heads and trying to stifle our laughter.

A highlight of the exhibition was a large room filled with hunting weapons and on the walls were the heads of every possible animal you could possibly imagine. One of those heads was a wild boar with a motorised mouth and eyes that growled and I think spoke French to you when you walked in the room. His eyes rolled around in his head at the same time. It was fantastically awful.

Animal heads

You can see the talking pig in the bottom right of this photo

We left the museum feeling somewhat unsure about what we had just seen – it was an interesting insight into the importance of hunting in the past but it was also just plain creepy. We needed a drink. So we went to La Caféotheque so that Tom could have a hot chocolate, Pip a coffee, and I had a cup of tea. The perfect ending to a fun day in Paris.

Cafeotheque

My new favourite place in Paris