Tag Archives: english

Coffee Break: The Mock Turtle

Contrary to the name The Mock Turtle has nothing to do with turtles but everything to do with the best tea and scones that Brighton has to offer.

Every time we come to Brighton we always have an afternoon tea session at The Mock Turtle. It is always heaving with people inside and out and for good reason too. With scones the size of my head, cream and jam as sweet as nectar (in my head I think nectar is really sweet) and tea as heavenly as something you can only get in heaven, The Mock Turtle is the place for high tea whether you are a tea person or not.

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This high tea experience is not pretentious at all which is the general connotation people get whenever it is mentioned. It is a very cool and chilled out experience and to be fair everything in Brighton has that similar laid back feel to it.

The interior is rather quant with lots of ‘old skool’ fine china on the walls, the ones with the blue paint work that you see on antiques road show. As you enter there is a table with handmade cakes on cake stands, displayed in a similar fashion to a church fair. The clientele is so eclectic; teenagers, the elderly, young professions, children and mature adults all smiling and enjoying a cup of tea with a scone.

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The scones are the biggest we have ever seen and you can choose from a range of different one from plain to fruit filled. We always go for a platter of plain scones, clotted cream, strawberry jam and english breakfast tea. The scones are so filling that we can never muster dinner after it (but we do as we try and find a good gastro pub to dine in on the way back into London).

It’s an incredible experience this high tea business and I don’t think we will ever not pay a visit to The Mock Turtle when we are in Brighton. Make sure you get your fill of scones the next time you visit Brighton, maybe we will bump into you there.

The Mock Turtle Tea Room
4 Pool Valley, Brighton, East Sussex BN1 1NJ

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Stoke Park

Stoke Park is Europe’s leading 5 AA star hotel, spa and golf course and I found myself there a few times for different occasions. What I have always loved about UK’s hospitality standard is that when they say 5 star, they mean 5 star. Stoke Park’s service is impeccable, you feel at home and it’s one place where i have truly been able to forget about the world I have left behind in London.

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Stoke Park is an oasis of parkland, lakes and gardens, located just an hour away from London. I couldn’t get enough of the beautiful landscape! I was lucky to see it both in full bloom of summer and in stunning autumn palette.

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My most memorable time here was for Father’s Day 2014. My father is a brilliant golfer who is travelling all corners of the world with the game. Stoke Park was on his list of courses to play, so when I heard he was visiting London, I knew exactly the place where we could go for a treat.

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Golf break included one night stay at the hotel, a game of golf, breakfast, lunch and dinner.

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Between steam room and swimming pool we took a quick lunch at San Marco, Italian brasserie with tables situated on a leafy terrace. Weather was perfect – sunny with a soft breeze. I ordered a crisp tuna salad. Portion was very generous, but uber fresh and so delicious, I wiped my place clean, despite wanting a very small lunch. Atmosphere at San Marco is lovely, I love that guests were encouraged to have lunch and drinks in their spa robes.

IMG_6330 I loved the decor of the rooms, unlike the rest of the resort, this room was an eclectic take on classic British. Who can resist a little leopard print?!

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As my father left for a game of golf, the rest of my day was filled with more steam room, swimming and sunbathing sessions.

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For dinner we booked a table at Stoke Park’s 3 AA Rosettes Humphry’s restaurant. It was the perfect setting for a special occasion. Restaurant offers panoramic views of the estate and the lake. l can only imagine how stunning weddings here must be!

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We opted for ‘a little bit of everything’ kind of dinner.

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Honey Goat’s Cheese with Beetroot Textures, and Celery Leaves

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Roasted Duck Breast with Apple and Celeriac Rosti, Caramelised Apples and Calvados Jus

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Pan-roasted Sea Bass with Petit Ratatouille Stuffed Courgette Flower, Chorizo and Broad Bean ‘Ragout’, Martini Velouté

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Dorset Crab and Avocado Tian with Cucumber Jelly, Soft Boiled Quails Egg and Pink Grapefruit Salsa

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Bitter Chocolate Box filled with Caramel and Chocolate Mousse, Spiced Cointreau Gel, Clementine Sorbet, Hazelnut Tuile and Caramel Sauce.

This meal was fabulous from start to finish. Each course flowed perfectly into the next and flavors were both delicate and surprising. Service was impeccable and we have thoroughly enjoyed our evening. I would highly recommend visiting Humphry’s if you find yourself in Stoke Park.IMG_6370

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I loved Stoke Park so much I got massive blues on my taxi ride home. Little did I know it would only be less than 4 months and I’d be back! Yes!

Stoke Park
Park Road, Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire, SL2 4PG
http://www.stokepark.com

Coffee Break: Newens The Original Maids of Honor

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Elena and I love to have days off together as we love to chill and do the most patriotic things such as driving down to the tinniest villages in hope to find the best gastro pubs, visiting Royal gardens in the hopes to find a tea shop or two and this Friday afternoon was much of the same. We love Kew Gardens and when ever we visit we always see this quaint looking bakery outside, after a made session of googling we discovered that it was in fact an old tea room.

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Newens The Original Maid of Honor (what a mouthful) is a traditional tea room full of nick knacks, beams and lots of cladding. To our surprise it wasn’t full of tourists as we had assumed but locals who clearly come here on a regular basis which really added to the charm of this place.

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Excited to be having high tea we were even more shocked that we were paying a mere £14.99 per person for an array of sandwiches, scones and cake with a pot of earl grey tea. We got to pick the cakes we wanted from the large selection they had to offer. We were intrigued to see that this was also a fully functioning bakery from which deliveries were being made throughout the day in their 1930’s van.

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The tea was delightful and well it was earl grey so no frills. We started with the bottom tier of our stand with the sandwiches. The sandwiches were pre-made and refrigerated which was a tad disappointing as the bread had developed a crunch and the butter within them was a tad cold and hard. They were very cute to look at, bite sized, crusts removed and an assortment of classic fillings such as: salmon, cheese, ham and cucumber. Not the biggest fan of sandwiches but when in Rome and all.

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The second tier was right up our street. Scones! We had plain scones with sugar dusting and fruit scones served will clotted cream and jam. We have tried a lot of scones in or time and have always known them to be slightly firm however, these scones were super soft and melted in your mouth. Delicious.

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Once we got to the last tier of cakes we were stuffed but ploughed on and dived into our chocolate tart which was dense and moist and the uber fluffy coffee cream bun.

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The experience of a high tea here isn’t at all trendy or the ‘kitch’ thing to do as you may assume with the current trend of high tea at the Ritz or some other posh hotel. To have high tea at Newens is a chance to live life in the foot steps of those who have the privilege of living in Kew, a chance to listen to the old stories of the customers sharing anecdotes of their years and a chance to take a breath and chill and reflect on your day away from our cosmopolitan lifestyle. So much so we ended up spending 4-5 hours sat there just having a good old natter.

Newens The Original Maid of Honor will be our regular stop whenever we come to Kew Garden because of the sense of belonging and relaxation it gives us which goes hand in hand with a stroll around Kew.

Newens The Original Maid of Honor
288 Kew Road, Richmond, Surrey TW9 3DU
http://www.theoriginalmaidsofhonour.co.uk

Pub Grub: The Thatch

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There was a little white house, with crocked beams and a crocked thatched roof. In that little white house was a quaint pub and an amazing restaurant called The Thatch. Story time over now let’s talk about this fantastic Oxfordshire find.

According to the polls, The Thatch is on the top ten list of gastro pubs to visit in Oxfordshire. So, when Elena and I had our weekend excursion to Blenheim Palace we had to make a dinner stop since we where in the area to check if the poll were correct and if it was worthy of all these awards.

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When you look at the exterior there is one word which springs to mind and that is ‘cute’. When you open the door and walk in and realise that you can touch the ceiling (Elena and I are between 5ft 2-4 inches) another familiar word springs to mind ‘awwwww’. The pub/restaurant has lots of little cosy areas to drink and dine. It even has its own pretty beer garden. The bar itself is small but well stocked. We were very surprised to see a wide selection of non alcoholic cocktails which is unusual for a country pub but being a designated driver it is most welcomed.

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The menu is what you would expect from a good country pub with roasts, fish of the days and a wide selection of veggie options. The waiters are lovely and have the most odd yet helpful manner of presenting the specials. They bring a large blackboard with all the specials written on it and prop it up on a chair next to your table. Once they have been through it with you they leave it for you to go over. A simple yet nice touch. We observed others to make sure it wasn’t just us and well everyone got the same treatment. The waiter also told us that if we were to select the roast specials there would be an endless supply of veggies and gravy as they really want the customers to feel like it’s home style cooking and you can eat as much as you like. It did make us question why all gastro pubs didn’t have this philosophy as that’s what going to the pub should be like, a cosy, homely feel.

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To start with we ordered Tender Beef Croquettes in Spinach to share. Each croquette was backed with herb infused potatoes and the most tender pieces of beef which we used to mop up the beef jus at the bottom of the dish.

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For mains we ordered from the main menu free range chicken breast with spring cabbage, chorizo and sweet potato croquettes. From the specials we ordered the pan fried salmon with mashed potato and broccoli.

The chicken breast was tender and just flaked apart, good sign of quality meat and expert cooking. The croquette were crunchy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, the sweetness of the potatoes really came through which is always a worry when you fry sweet potatoes.

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The pan fried salmon was the favoured dish. The meat had a blackened seal around the pink centre which gave a crackling noise when you broke into it. You cook taste the fish was fresh as the meat just melted in your mouth. The mash was nice and smooth and I couldn’t help but wipe the butter sauce at the bottom of the plate clean with the mash. The broccoli had a nice bite to them and were a vibrant green which lifted the whole look of the dish. Delicious.

The Thatch use seasonal vegetables meaning that they will always be packed with flavour and there is minimal carbon foot print. Go green food! Whoop whoop!

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The quantity of food was perfect meaning that we could also have some dessert. We ordered the creme brûlée and the chocolate tart. I always get annoyed how little creme brûlée you get when you order it or buy it but this time there was no complaint as The Thatch gives you a nice healthy portion to which I couldn’t finish. It had a thick glaze on top which gave me great joy in cracking. The chocolate tart was again a nice healthy portion and to our delight deeply filling, intense, dense yet decedent.

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The Thatch really encapsulates why we love old English pubs so much. The friendly atmosphere, the history within the decor, the amazing attention to detail when it comes to food and the satisfied smiles we leave with having a good meal and all round time at the pub.

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Definitely worth a visit it you are in Oxfordshire.

The Thatch
29-30 High Street, Thame OX9 2AA
http://www.thethatchthame.co.uk/

 

The Albion

Islington is full of modern pubs with quirky features. But on a cold Christmas evening 5 friends were in search of old school mulled wine and traditional pub grub and came across the beauty known as The Albion. The Albion is a treasure with fire places, Victorian ceiling beams and beer garden. Little did we know it was an award winning pub.

Ever since the holiday season started it felt like Elena has not stopped on about how much she wants mulled wine and this was certainly a places that delivered. Each glass came with a segment of orange with cloves. It was one of the best mulled wines I have had this season with a perfect blend of citrus and spices. We easily went through four glasses each and still had room for more. At £4 a glass, well we just couldn’t resist. We happily sat there sipping by the fire for hours.

We snacked on triple cooked chips which are very hard to find these days, cheese boards and butter cured bacon.

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The menu was a modern take of traditional pub grub which we love. I ordered a corn fed chicken beast with kale, bread pudding and raisin jus which was very reasonably priced at £12.50. The chicken was crispy and buttery on the outside and the meat was tender. The kale was delicious, not over cooked with the right amount of crunch, it was seasoned to perfection.

Elena ordered the venison which was rare and she loved it. Game meat is defiantly something I want to try on our next pub visit.

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We went all out and had our childhood favourite desserts of sticky toffee pudding and chocolate tarts and I must admit that we had no room to eat but the food was so delicious that we had to try it while we were there, you know the feeling. Memories of my childhood flooded back with every mouthful of that treacle sponge and honey comb ice cream.

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We will definitely be back during the summer to see what magic the The Albion to our summers evening.

Star Rating: *****

The Albion
10 Thornhill Road, London N1 1HW
the-albion.co.uk

Hoxley & Porter

Since I’ve moved to Islington I have made a promise to myself to never visit a restaurant on Upper Street twice until I have tried them all. Well that was silly! Restaurants open and close here as if it was a game of whac-a-mole!

Earlier we have reviewed United Ramen that’s perfect for eat and go noodle. Since then we have had a new addition to the restaurant line up – Hoxley & Porter.

Want to escape rivers of pedestrians on Upper street? Hoxley & Porter is the perfect place. Upper street is no short on themed eateries and bars, but this one stands out with its colonial Britain vibe.

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Vintage wallpaper and lights with lovely leather bound menus – all best things extracted to give you a feeling of upper class carriage dining. If you have ever taken a ride on a luxury train it will certainly hit the right note. If you have never been, then head to the back where a long party table dubbed a dining carriage.

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For a very reasonable price, set menu 2 courses for £12.95 – food was exceptional! We’ve ordered honey glazed goat cheese on toast for start, tomato and crayfish linguini and roasted pumpkin and sage risotto as mains.

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I have to say, I am rather picky when it comes to pasta, especially seafood pasta, having been spoiled by the best in Italy. Holley & Porter this dish was superb. For that alone I will be back!

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Star Rating: ****

Hoxley & Porter
153 Upper Street,
Islington, London,
N1 1R

http://www.hoxleyandporter.co.uk

Bill’s

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Two visits in the space of seven days, it’s either because we have a gluttony for punishment or Bill’s is actually pretty awesome. Let’s go for the latter.

Bill’s has a very cosy barn house feel to it, with its rustic wooden seating, dried spices and herbs hanging from the ceiling, their own brand preserves cascading the walls and the ambient lighting.

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Diners at Bill’s have an added twist to their visit. You can actually sit and order your weeks shopping from Bill’s whilst you savour the delights of their menu.

This morning on the rare occasions that Elena and I are awake before 12noon on a weekend we decided to head down to Bill’s for a spot of breakfast. We were in a ‘no disappointment’ mood so new we could go to Bill’s and have a good meal with minimal fuss.

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I had the Eggs Royale and Elena had the scrambled egg with bacon. Both were served with the most delightful sour dough bread which is a break away from these dishes being served from a traditional English muffin but it works. The Eggs Royale on any breakfast menu is my fan favourite but this version/adaption has to be one of my fan favourites. The homemade hollandaise is so rich, creamy and tangy. I often get annoyed with restaurants about the quantity they serve of it but here I asked for a little more and they gave me a jug of it without any fuss. Look, I like my food hot and wet, so yes I asked for more.

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They have a range of drinks at Bill’s but my fan favourite will always be the Elderflower cordial served hot. Never had I tried it hot until I was encouraged to do so by a waiter here many years ago and I haven’t looked back.

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Bill’s may be a chain but boy is it a chain of happiness. The food can only be described as fusion food so you will find something for even the fussiest eater and to suit everyone’s budget. An average spend here for us would be £15 which is a rare thing these days.

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Star Rating: ****1/2

Bill’s
9 White Lion St, London N1 9PD
http://bills-website.co.uk/