Me and Jay Rayner Fostered!.. A Night at Salt Dining

Salt Pic 1

Firstly let me point out that Jay Rayner and I have never met. I’m sure he is a lovely guy, a 1st class restaurant reviewer, and an all round good egg. I have it on good authority that Mr. Rayner is a friendly chap, but why am i discussing Jay Rayner you ask?.. After all we are very much opposite ends of the spectrum. Mr. Rayner writes for various national magazines and newspapers, the bonus being he gets paid for it. I myself have 32 extremely valued followers to my blog. Jay has lavish flowing locks, lavish facial hair and his own radio show. I have short hair, it takes me a month to grow anything remotely resembling a beard, and I at best listen to the radio some days. I could go on, areas we live in, career paths, hobbies, the list is endless. We do however have 1 thing in common. We have both been fostered!

The title admittedly is slightly misleading. As I said at the start we have never met. The title is nothing really to do with our parental upbringing. Neither have the pair of us had tearaways lob a can of Australian lager at our heads either, well I haven’t anyway…. No no no, what we do have in common is our love of a certain  little restaurant tucked away in the heart of Shakespeare country owned by Paul Foster. A picturesque and idyllic place in the very heart of our green and pleasant land. Well, maybe a tad to the left.

It was a crowdfunding website that first got me noticing the Paul Foster project. I recognised the name but couldn’t place it and so after a bit of research, (yeah yeah okay i googled him), it turned out I had seen him on Great British Menu. He was using this particular media platform, KickStarter, to raise money (for reward) with the intention to raise enough capital open up his own restaurant. Starting up any new business is tough going and I had no doubt that a restaurant venture in these increasingly difficult times would be no different. I chipped in a minimal amount and my “reward” was an invitation for 2 to the opening night on March 17th last year. It was a very nice evening where we had canapés and drinks.

There was certainly enough insight to warrant a 2nd trip. Not been to this neck of the woods?…Stratford-Upon-Avon is a beautiful town in its own right. Lots to see and do, the town has a nice feel to it and there are plenty of quirky shops alongside your mainstream. It has some nice bars and is a great base for exploring the surrounding areas. If I remember correctly Mr. Foster had originally been set to plant roots in another town in central England but for one reason or another it didn’t come to fruition. Having been based in SUA for a year now I wonder if that was a blessing in disguise, fate, call it what you will.

Her indoors and myself took our 2nd trip to Salt around the time of her birthday. We had a fantastic evening and I discovered a dish that I’d never had before. I’m not saying it was a revolutionary idea, just a 1st time for me. A baked onion. It sounds so simple when you say it out loud but knock me down with a 10lb sledgehammer if it wasn’t one of the most enjoyable dishes I’ve ever eaten. I’m an onion fiend!… I mean it was an onion, but it wasn’t if that makes sense. I’m doing it an injustice there. It was a “Confit Roscoff Onion, Beef Juices, Beef Cracker”. It was divine.


Mr. Foster also took time out to chat with us. We discussed a variety of things including the merits of a radish. Personally for me they are like wasps, absolutely useless, a pointless vegetable. I wait for the time that someone can prove me wrong on this front.

Given that the meal was so good I decided to book us a table for a bit later in the year. GB and I met on November 17th 1990. Officially, though we still debate it at some length to this day, the fact is we got together on the 18th. Amazing what a fox in a box joke can do… and what better way to celebrate! we booked a table for 17th November, the day before we officially met 27 years ago, (my opinion). We booked a hotel around the corner, overpriced and with a leaky roof but hey ho, onwards and upwards. For the record I have recommended a hotel in the area at the bottom of the blog. It doesn’t have a leaky roof, is cheaper, and the take on customer service is far better.

We arrived at around 19.30 after a couple of cheeky snifters at The Garrick. A nice cosy pub along the street. Walking in to Salt we were greeted by a friendly team member and shown to a table in the main restaurant next to a lovely fire. There are some tables out at the front by the bar, both areas are warm, almost humble, and inviting but you cannot see the master at work sitting at the front. We chose the tasting menu with drinks pairing. I’ve had a few of these at various places but am hard pushed to think of somewhere that offers better value for money that Salt when it comes to this.

So lets talk about front of house. Professionalism, check, knowledge of produce, check, attitude towards customers… hmm, they weren’t great… I’M JOKING!.. I’m just pulling your leg. They were marvellous. Extremely helpful towards her indoors who was on crutches at the time. Real friendly team who couldn’t do enough for us. More importantly they even introduced a Chardonnay to GB that she actually enjoyed, and my nearest and dearest doesn’t do Chardonnay at the worst of times.


It was over 3 months ago now that we went. I could pretend to remember the names of the team that looked after us, they did tag our menu after all, but for someone who will tell all and sundry he has a fantastic memory I forget. Charlie (ly?) and Tom (thank you mr. Foster) are awesome, as are the rest of the team that you don’t always necessarily hear about.  I do recall the exceptional level of service we received and they are great ambassadors for the restaurant. Full kudos to you guys/girls. I’d take my hat off to you if I wore one.


So to the food, some might say FINALLY!… 7 courses (not inc the extra cheese course that we shared and the add ons that were unexpected but appreciated and delicious)…. Now I need to talk to you all, come closer my pretties, about bread. This isn’t just any bread. This bread with Salt. I don’t think I am exaggerating when I say you could eat these bad little boys all night.They are like a burnt just baked mini loaf. Mother of god though they are bloody tasty and light. Whack some of the Salted butter on it and well, it’s a little bit of loaf shaped heaven. Worth visiting for on their own.

Pink Fir Potatoes, Roasted Yeast, Lardo. First course and already her indoors and myself were split. She loved it, that’ll be the Irish blood in her showing an affinity to the humble potty toe. I’m joking, it just wasn’t my highlight. It was a very pleasant starter and the purpose of food is to be interesting, thought provoking and tasty right?.. If this was the promise of what was to come then happy blinking’ days. GB had this down as her 2nd favourite overall by the end.

Course 2 was a first for me. It wasn’t the first course it was the second course, but my first time trying oysters. Some love them, some hate them, oysters are right up there with Brexit and marmite in the love/hate conundrum. You are simply for or against and there is no middle ground. There’s a first part paragraph you don’t hear very often. If they were cooked like this every time, (crispy and served with apple, kohlrabi, parsley sauce), I think I’d find safely find myself ticking the remain box. It was a triumph and the parsley sauce suited it perfectly. Definitely a winner we both agreed. No argument necessary although I don’t think you’ll see me knocking back oysters straight from the shells anytime soon.

We moved on easily and in good time to course 3. Carrot cooked in chicken fat, with chicken skin, and pickled carrot. Now remember what I said earlier in this review about the onion dish? (feels like about 6 months ago I hear you say… I know, sorry.. hehe), well this carrot bowl was pretty much its equal. To take something as humble as the carrot and elevate it to fine dining is hats off, socks off, and pants off to you chef. A winner of any “make something from a carrot competition” unless someone produces a carrot clifton suspension bridge. Stunning cooking. Would I swap it for my onion dish? maybe, but never the twain shall meet one hopes. My 3rd favourite dish.

This leads me nicely into my second favourite. Crispy Pork Belly, Chanterelles, Mushroom & Truffle puree. I’m not even sure how to describe this. I wish Jay Rayner was here. Is this a straightforward combination?..Maybe it is, maybe not, but the texture, seasoning, and flavours. Wow! (hope Jay doesn’t nick that one). They packed a punch. Not just any punch though, a full bloodied Mike Tyson punch to the tastebuds. The dish was a knockout (boom boom). We disagreed,again, on this one. I had it in the higher stratosphere of 9’s. GB had it down as her least favourite but horses for courses, each to their own.

Salt pic 2

The ‘main’ course was Saddle of Roe Deer, burnt cream, confit shallot. BABY ONIONS COOKED THE SAME WAY!.. Okay so it might seem a bit obvious I was quite excited by this prospect. It didn’t disappoint. Never had deer, so another first, although I did buy 8 venison legs for 50 quid once, is that two deer?. Moving on, the dish was cooked exquisitely. It was a masterclass of marrying flavours and to top it off it had confit baby onions. Shallots of them.. sorry two bad jokes in 1 paragraph is maybe too much.This is genuinely a chef nearing perfection. Cheery at its finest. Course that surely couldn’t be topped. I would happily have walked away there and then. Plate of food doesn’t get any better, unless it has a side of Roscoff confit onion. Oh hold on, it did! 10 to of 10. A fist pump and a high five. Her indoors was slightly more modest. Again we were at odds. Wifey was debating that the fir potties was the best course. Luckily I’m writing this so I can honestly say she was wrong.

I’m no cheese buff so I will briefly say there was great variety and GB loved them all. She did have a favourite but I fail to recall its name. Apologies for that. The slithers I did have  were very tasty, definitely had the cheddar and i believe I tried the blue, but that was just an excuse for a cheeky glass of port.

For me this is where it got weird. GB chose this next dish as her favourite. Read it, think about it, then try to get your head around it. Poached blueberries, yep, normal, BROWN BREAD ICE CREAM, not so normal, frozen sorrel granita, again off the beaten track. Now in my head brown bread and ice cream should never go in the same sentence. I found this course challenging. Food as I touched on earlier is supposed to be thought provoking and experimental. There can be no debate that for me this was both. Personally it wasn’t my cup of tea. Can’t criticise the finished article and like I say GB loved it. It was just odd. I did finish it though so maybe it wasn’t as odd as I thought. Wifey continued to wax lyrical about it for the next week or so. She is more savoury than sweet though so maybe that was it.. she definitely enjoyed that one. Maybe it needed a sprinkle of radish?…

Our last course was Valrhona chocolate cream, pumpkin custard, pumpkin seeds. A lovely way to finish the meal. The only issue we had was that I was salivating over the main course and her indoors was rabbiting on about brown bread ice cream. It never really stood a chance. It wasn’t as memorable as some of the other courses but there was nothing wrong with it at all. It just got lost in a wave of brown bread and roe deer hysteria.

In essence what I’m saying is that ‘Salt’ is or should be the next big thing. It is without doubt the finest restaurant we have been to in a fair while. No question it is fine dining. It is also relaxed and casual. The good thing is that Salt doesn’t stop at doing what it says on the tin. It does SO much more than that. Salt is unobtrusive, and unpretentious. Like your favourite old snug t-shirt that you have worn for years its a treasure to behold, with the added bonus of serving immaculate food. What a fantastic advert for Stratford-Upon-Avon. If you find yourself heading that way in the near future, don’t take my word for it, book it, try it yourself. Even if you AREN’T going that way, book it, try it, make a weekend of it. It is brown bread ice cream and baby onion worth it.

If you are staying overnight I would recommend the Stratford Limes Hotel. Five mins outside of town run by a lovely couple. Nice rooms at a fair price and an excellent breakfast.

So there you have it. My take on Salt in Stratford-Upon-Avon. If you are reading this at any stage Mr. Rayner and feel the urge to offer some free journalistic tips to yours truly, I would be more than happy to meet up and listen. In fact I know the perfect place!

salt pic.5

Finally a use for the humble radish: Filling in gaps when you run out of pics! 

P.s. humble apologies for the length of the review. This is my most confident form of communicae and so quite often I have far too much to say. Something this good needs to be spoken about though right!

P.p.s I’m still lost at the point of a radish.



Lie steer ( Liebster ) Award ( non – predictive in brackets )

Ok. Let me see how much of this I can remember.

Numero Uno. Thank you DarkDelilah for nominating me for a Liebster. What a lovely lady you are. Why why why DarkDelilah is my question. Just kidding. From what I understand the award is given to those of us relatively new to blogging and/or if you have a small following. It helps get you out there and also lets people have that extra trickle of info about you and your peers. It’s also a way of introducing other bods blogs to your followers, so everyone’s a winner!..

I started reading Double D because like me she has a rough time dealing with day to day life. Frankly the majority of the time she has a far more positive spin on it than I do. Double D also explains herself a lot clearer than I do. I think sometimes I ramble. She is extremely honest and tells it as it is. The other thing about it, which maybe a tad sadistic, the saddest stories for all of us can sometimes have the darkest humour. It’s well worth a butchers if you get 5 minutes. Please, check it out.

If the Internet is supposed to be cheerful why doesn’t it start https:)) …. Just a thought!

Ok, so the general guidelines ( some may say rules ) to being awarded a Liebster are as follows:

  1. Thank the blogger that nominated you ( it’s the least you can do after all )
  2. Display the award on your page/post , it’ll be on my post somewhere
  3. Answer the questions set by the blogger who nominated you
  4. Choose 11 bloggers you would like to nominate ( ideally with less than 200 followers )
  5. Create a new set of questions for your nominated bloggers.. ( I assume it can be any number )

Note to self don’t forget to stick Award on post.

Now to the questions DarkDelilah set me:

1. Tell me something I don’t already know about you

I’ve had 2 heart operations which incurred 108 stitches, and saw me under Great Ormond Street hospital for my 1st 16yrs. Not sure whether that’s new info though. I drive a Ford Fiesta. Due to a side effect of my ops, as a child I used to have to dunk my toast in my tea/coffee before eating it. It became a mealtime favourite.

2. What do you consider being your biggest achievement so far?

I’m sure my good lady being the positive one would say there are lots but for me I haven’t achieved anything yet. Maybe being alive. According to the doctors there was a good chance I wasn’t going to make it to 18.. But here I am. I’m 42 so that showed them. I know a lot of people would say well you should be thankful and grasp every moment on that basis but they haven’t worn my shoes, and if they were anything other than a size 8 it could be really uncomfortable.

3. If I could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

Dont get me wrong, I was only there for a day but there was something about St.Kitts & Nevis that really got to me. I hate the cold, so obviously that was a winner to start with and the people are so friendly. The feel of the place was just right. Overlooking the ocean would be perfect. Alternatively Southern Ireland, Donegal. You couldn’t meet nicer people. The weather is dire but the life is simple. I think ideally anywhere awash with ocean/river/lake views where the pace is slow and peaceful would do me. Not necessarily in the middle of nowhere but far enough away from the madding crowd, and with a decent pub. I might even make it to 50!

4. What made you start blogging?

In my own head there are very few things that I’m good at other than beating myself up. One thing I consider myself to be reasonably okay with is words. I’m far more confident with a pen than in real life situations. One bod I consider a best pal has been blogging for donkeys. He encouraged me. I enjoy writing so I thought I’d have a swing at it, and here I am. whether I’m good at it or not for the time being for me is irrelevant. It’s a release and helps me.

5. Who would you say is your greatest influence or idol ?

Biggest influence – not that I saw it but my father who passed away in 2010. My brother who introduced me to Arsenal. My first love and addiction. My sister and my cousin. They introduced me to Madness ( the band, not the state of mind ). Idols – Suggs from Madness, Paul Weller. David Rocastle and Dennis Bergkamp, 2 supremely talented and humble footballers. I’ve been fortunate to watch them grace a football pitch and will always be thankful of that. Sorry I know the question stated idol. Oh and Sid James.

6. What is your favourite movie and why?

My missus would say it’s castaway. Whenever I’m bored Castaway seems to be on. Shawshank Redemption would be up there. Blues Brothers. Stripes, I love Bill Murray. Kingpin?.. No, my favourite film has to be ‘Young Frankenstein’ with Gene Wilder and Marty Feldman. No matter how many times I watch it, and believe me I’ve watched it a lot I end up on the floor in tears. “I-I-I ain’t got no-bo-oo-dee,  and no body cares for me”

7. What cheers you up when you are having a bad day?

Sometimes nothing. Mostly though, my wife, how she puts up with it I’ve no idea. My cat Madge ( as seen below ), my writing, and my friends. footage of Arsenal beating Sperz. If all else fails, stick on Young Frankenstein. If that does nothing. Leave me alone.

8. Why did you choose the name of your blog?

its virtually an anagram of my name, if you remove 7 letters then add 8 new ones. I couldn’t come up with something original and my nickname given to me by a friend is Rollo so it was supposed to be therolloblog but I mistyped it.

9. What 3 words do you think best describe yourself?

Ugly, tired, boring….. On a better day, ugly, funny, considerate

10. What do I like to do in my spare time?

Mainly eat out, go to football, watch bands. I used to read a bit, and go to the pub, socially interact a lot but most of these activities have stopped more recently as I’ve not been at work since a car accident last year. Ooh and write my blog.

11. Which do you prefer, tea or coffee?

Solely to drink neither. I prefer fruit teas such as Lemon or blueberry and apple. If I had to choose though, probably coffee. I could dip my toast in it!

I hope this has enlightened you all. Now what did I have to do next?.. Ahh, the peeps I nominate for a Liebster Award are the following: this could be

Think that’s right. Now 9 people so 9 questions

What’s your favourite city?

Ultimate holiday destination ( whether you have been there or not )?

If you were a herb or spice which would it be and why?

Who would play you in a film about yourself?

If you could go back to any era what era would it be?

If you could change 1 thing about yourself what would it be?

You can rescue 3 things from a burning house, what are they? Not inc people

The last film you watched/last cd you bought or downloaded?

Neil Armstrong setting foot on the moon…True or a lie? Explain briefly

many thanks again to DarkDelilah xx




No Glitch At The Flitch Part 2 (A Story of 2 Halves)


Starters, or pre starters to be exact were the Ham Hock & Lincolnshire Poacher Croquettes. They were spot on. Crispy Shells and soft and gooey inside. The cheese really came through. Perfect little quartet. I wish I’d had a bash on the quails eggs though. Maybe next time.

My starter was a Veloute of Pea, with Ravioli of Pork Belly. You could easily slice through the pasta ( or pastor as John Torode would call it ). The Pea Veloute had reL conviction to it, a strong sense of necessity and great consistency. I won’t hold back on this one, it was better than the Super Bowl. Actually, scrap that, I hate American football. I don’t normally do food pictures, but, I wish I had because it tasted better than it looked.. And it looked like Beyoncé , naked on a triangle tower of Ferrero Rocher. For equality purposes, it may have looked like Brad Pitt perched naked on a tub of Toffee flavoured Ben & Jerry ice – cream.

Okay, I saw this picture on Twitter and on reflection I have to concede that no matter good my explanation was, nothing summed it up like the clarity and quality of this photo. Massive cahoonas to @joevans16 for your foresight, photography skills, permission and input into this piece.

CHECK THAT OUT! ( courtesy of ajoevans16 )

This was Jo’s brief summary of the Flitch of Bacon:

“The refurb is excellent. Staff attentive, interactive, and informative about the food. It was evident they enjoyed working there. The food was yummy at a reasonable price, delivered with flawless execution” 

Well said that lady!… Below is the Pan Roasted Stone bass again courtesy of my new official photographer @joevans16 .. Thank you Jo.

For her starter, GB had the Salt Baked Beetroots, with a Golden Beetroot Marmalade, Shortbread and Goats Cheese. I cannot stand Beetroot. GB though loves every ingredient mentioned witching that dish and as a combination they went together like a line in that last song in Grease the musical. You know the one .. ( the “we go together like Rama lama lamma ka dinga da dinga dong” ).. Yes, the one no-one knows what they are singing!… I didn’t taste it but her little boat race lit up as she was eating like fireworks at new year. The empty plate was testament to the food.

Mains, it was a Sunday. I had the Pork, purchased so locally it could have walked over to the plate. Served with a chestnut stuffing, Apple Sauce and extra roasties for moi. There was also a carrot swede and carrot ( I think ) fusion with cinnamon inspiration. You also had your compulsory Broccoli and I believe Mange Tout but don’t hold me to that. 3 things on this plate hit me like a 10lb sledgehammer. The Stuffing was just ridiculous. I could have eaten a bowl of that on its own. It had a flavour of Black Pudding almost. Better still it wasn’t a stodgy stuffing. Your knife ran through it. Then you had the gravy!… Oh dear the gravy. Sorry that should be Oh dear lord the gravy. The gravy had flavour deeper than the River Roding ( keep it local ). Next time I visit the Fitch of B a on I am having a pint of Pork gravy!

The gravy had to be going some to outshine the Tenderness of the Pork. It was level pegging it the meat was as succulent as it could be. Slightly pink it packed more punch than a Mike Tyson uppercut, although that is not an experiment I’d be willing to put to the test. The Flitch doesn’t do half measures on your food either. There was a lot of meat on the plate. Interestingly, not enough to deter one from having a dessert.

The treacle went for Beef, it was serve pink and was almost flawless. The only reason I say almost was the missing Horseradish sauce GB loves her Horseradish Sauce and so we sent out a search party. Ok what I mean is we asked one of the many staff. Within an instant a disaster was averted. Horseradish upon us it was all systems go. I tried a slither of Beef. It was melt in your mouth stuff. The red wine gravy complemented it perfectly. I’m not a fan of Cauliflower Cheese but I have it on good authority from my beloved that it delivered on both flavour and texture. Creamy but with a little bite.
So we arrive at dessert. Apple Tart Tatin (for 2) served with a very tasty vanilla ice cream on top. It was sticky, can it be too sticky? My teeth told me to be careful of fillings. It was very sweet, but it was lovely. The apple and the ice cream on the same spoon were simply meant to be. GB thought dessert was lovely but that there was too much of it possibly. She did have the bigger half ( apparently ). I beg to differ, and I could have eaten it again.

Overall several things stand out about the FOB. The first being value for money. The Flitch certainly don’t scrimp on portion size in an attempt to save/make money. The produce is mostly gathered within the Essex and Suffolk borders, or within close proximity (Sussex, Hampshire), so provenance is not in question. The meat is so local you could throw a stone from the pub window and possibly hit a pheasant. Please note I am not suggesting that as a  viable or sporting option!

Of course it would be remiss of me to not mention the staff. The service we were given was second to none. Studious in their approach, I could only elucidate this better by saying it was almost as if they were walking to a floor plan. All provided service with a smile, and while we were served by maybe 5 different members of staff, each of them I’m sure were equipped to answer any questions we had relating to the food, wine or history of the FOB. As Jo put it, it was evident the staff were happy to be there. Teal gave us a brief history as to why the pub is so called and about the Flitch trials. Alan recommended a glass of one of the finest Riojas I’ve ever had the pleasure to drink. For the record it was a Marques de Reinosa Rioja 2013. Then there was Jordan who spoke excitedly about the ambition and dynamic that the owners are trying to create.

I’ve not even mentioned the chefs. Danny Gill take a bow squire!

This was one of the best meals I’ve had in ages. I rate Tredwells as the best Sunday Roast in Londinium. Essex now has a roast to match it. Simply put there cannot be a better Sunday dinner in this neck of the woods, or even this side of Epping Forest. The Flitch delivered on all fronts and passed its own trial of Little Dunmow. If the food continues to be this good going forward then Mr. Clifford should be one happy restaurant owner, and his tracky bottoms and hoody look will be forgiven.

My missus has a habit of bumping into well known chefs. Sunday was no different. She was spot on with her words to you though Mr.Clifford, they are doing you proud in there!

You REALLY need to visit people. You’ve no idea what you are missing!

No Glitch At The Flitch (A Story of 2 Halves)

 They say you learn something new everyday. Well I have to confess that, yesterday, (all my troubles seemed so far away ), sorry, couldn’t resist. I have to confess ( but only once ) that on this particular Sunday in February  I was overwashed by new information. I felt like I should be laying down after taking onboard so much new material. Of course when one is sitting in a restaurant this isn’t always the done thing, and so I remained upright but ever so slightly in awe of those lucky enough to live in the hamlet that is Little Dunmow, on the Essex Riviera. All will be revealed, I will be like a dreamboy doing the full monty, revealing all, but without the muscles, confidence and egotistical persona!

It began in the Molton Brown store over at Freeport Designer Village in Braintree. Mid to late afternoon. GB, (that’s her indoors ), has just discovered, that what we thought was a discontinued line many moons ago, is actually alive, well and still available. Not only is it sitting there, staring at us with those deep blue, buy me eyes, but it’s also nearly 30% cheaper than your normal Molton Brown shower gels. 

I feel it my duty to disclose to you,  that when approximately 2 years ago, my good lady was told in store that “Wild Indigo” body wash was no longer available, it was the 1st time I had seen a woman reduced to tears by a shower related product ( no sniggering at the back ). To this day the Fairy Liquid ‘Strawberry Fresh’ incident remains a closely guarded secret. Spread the word about the blog though and who knows what might happen!… Only joking, what happens in Leamington Spa, stays in Leamington Spa.

So, after a brief shopping excursion which included a near death experience with a lady on her ‘handling a pushchair’ exam, GB and I are sitting in the Flitch of Bacon in Little Dunmow. I am exaggerating the pushchair story ever so slightly. I did however learn ( new bit of knowledge no.2 ) that it’s possible for a person to control a pushchair ( badly ) and a mobile phone without even looking up. That is of course providing they use your leg as a “Not Beyond This Point” sign.

 I didn’t mind swiftly moving as this oblivious young lady just reversed back without a brief check. I gave her a glance on my 2nd move, as if to say “hello?” As she basically proceeded to twist the kid laden chair towards my legs again. The third time though got my goat as even when I moved to 1 side, the chair crashed into my skinny and unarmed leg. Still no response as she continued straight past me, phone in hand, no doubt checking her Facebook page for updates on TOWIE. I should add that this woman unequivocally failed her pushchair exam!.. How? She only had 2 minors, but her lack of control made it a serious!

Now, this is shaping up as a long blog, I apologise, I can go on a bit. In fact I’m going to split this blog into 2 halves. It’s a lobster bisque but I have to take a chance, it’s simply not compact enough. I take back what I said about blogs being easy!

This next bit of new knowledge though is as fascinating as it is important. While sitting, waiting for our mains, wifey and I were discussing the name of the place. With the dog and bone banished from the table, we were left in wonderment, as checking Google was not an option. In the end it was a young lady, Teal that enlightened us. The Flitch Trials of Little Dunmow can be traced back to the start of the 12th century. 

Flitch Trials 
Nominated couples ( you apply, you aren’t just picked at random ), are cross – examined by a selected jury to try and prove that for the past year and a day, the couple in question have not regretted being married. It’s fair to say that not too many passed the test. On such occasion that a winner(s) was found ( possibly telling the odd porky ), their reward was a flitch of bacon. A flitch of bacon is the whole side of a hog. Salted and cured. So now you know!… I have to be honest, I thought that was pretty amazing knowing that stuff like that still goes on. It takes place every 4 years, like the Olympics but without the drugs cheats. It just so happens that it’s that time again. July this year!.. I was going to enter myself and GB. She said no, and I said why not?.. It ended in a heated debate.. That’s us out! 
Now I remember why I started this blog. We went out for some food. I got the thumbs up from GB to choose where we went and luckily the FOB had a table available. I like Daniel Clifford. He comes across as a humble fellow with exceptional cooking skills. I was hoping that transferred to his new project. Well, hopefully you are still with me to find out what it was like in part 2 of this most lofty of blogs.

You walk into a light and inviting environment. Newly renovated, the bar area has a lovely old log burner. The decor is mainly white/stone and a beautiful dark green with nice light furniture. A couple of 2 seater sofas and big old wing back chair are located in the corner or you can sit at the bar, dependent on available stalls. A small quarter moon serves 4 real ales including Hopheads DarkStar. A lovely beer anytime of the year. For lager lovers Estrella is on tap. GB went straight for the wine. A New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Very light and crisp, but not that I’m in the know when it comes to wine, it could have been a tad colder for me personally. Saying that 4 glasses later something tells me it wasn’t that bad.

As you walk round past the bar and into the main restaurant area the same colour scheme continues with some burgundy thrown in for good measure. At the back and to the left is a very loud and somewhat out of place butterfly patterned wallpaper. There are some nice spotted old skool banquettes and while there isn’t much room to manoeuvre the staff are fleet of foot and balanced enough to negotiate the twists and turns without leaving you waiting. I should say at this point it’s very possible that if in the near future you take my advice and visit The Flitch of Bacon the decor may have changed yet again as the owners seek an excellent environment in which all can enjoy the exquisite food on offer.

We got a short tour of the  outside space. There are three huge smokers, and I’m not talking about 7ft tall guys puffing on a packet of bensons. Fully ready for the summer, they look the business. Also, out of the side door are 3 individual kennels for those that wish to park the dog up for a bit while indulging in a wee pint and a cheeky bit of lunch or(and?) dinner. I guess though the piece de resistance is the old green Citroen H van fully restored and stocked up with fridges, washing basin and a serving hatch. Be a shame to get it dirty such was its spotlessly clean look. It does need to be seen to be believed. 

I nearly forgot. We didn’t see them,but above the pub is 3 rooms to rest your weary head after you’ve eaten and drunk yourself merry at the trials!… If they are remotely like the downstairs area you should be in for a treat.

Part one is done… Part two will be with you in a jiffy..safer to read that way!




Rowleys, Restaurant with the cure

I think it’s fair to say that these days in London, and this is just my humble opinion, if you want a top notch steak in 2016, ( I nearly said 15 there, how quickly time passes us by ), most would look no further than a Hawksmoor or Goodman Restaurant. I’m not suggesting that there aren’t others pulling on their shirt tails, just that at this moment in time, these two names stand out as the daddies for carnivorous consumers. No point in lying, I’ve never been to either. I’ve gone to book in the past but quite often, the funds aren’t there or it’s simply the case that there isn’t the space in the diary. If you go with what you read in your foodie mags/blogs and vlogs you may find it hard to come across a better option. 

The thing is, if these are the modern day daddies, what was there before? Who was the uncle or the granddaddy from which these guys got their inspiration? …The answer to this is unknown to me, mainly because I’m a bit lapse on the research front but I’m doing this for free so give a man a break. I will though take a little shot at naming a couple of them. The beefeater and Harvester chain, ( come on!.. Free salad )..I’m just yanking your chain as our cousins across the pond might say. 

For a start there is Langans in Stratton Street. A great restaurant with a quality menu, and a great, and colourful history. It’s also home of my first foodie faux pas. I was a kid, just a whipper when taking my now wife out for a posh meal. As the waiter offered me veg, I, trying to be cool, put my hand up stopping him. “No thanks, no broccoli for me”… His reply without batting an eyelid “very well sir, but it’s actually courgette”.. Of course I love courgette, but I had made my bed, and I had to lye in it, with only carrots and green beans for company. I also went there for my 30th birthday. No real tales to tell about that, not in print anyway, suffice to say it was an unforgettable birthday. 

Then we have Rowleys restaurant in Jermyn Street, ST James’s.. If Langans is your uncle that turns up at your party and is a little loud, Rowleys is the rich grandad that sits in the corner minding his own business, not needing to talk of his abundant riches. On the night I met her indoors, (GB as she is known thanks to a nickname given to her by 2 of our closest friends ), she had actually been for a night out at Rowleys with her local darts team. GB was then being dropped off at an 18th birthday party in Forest Gate, which is virtually the same in stature and society circles. In the past we had spoken about the place (Rowleys, not Forest Gate) and I’m sure we have eaten there once before but until we went there recently, after our visit to the “Crime Exhibition” at the Museum Of London, I’d never realised what a splendid building it was.

So it was fortunas edwardo, and with some consideration on GBs part that on this, our 14th wedding anniversary, we found ourselves sitting at a table near the rear of the restaurant. To our left was a beautiful white spiral staircase, to our right, table after table of satisfied diners. What a fantastic setting for a celebratory meal. A magnificent dining room steeped in history. This building for a long period was home to the now famous Walls Meat business, ( think of the advert where the dog says “sausages” ). I had agreed to let GB take care of arrangements for the special day, and she hadn’t let us down. 

You have to hope in the circumstances it won’t be grandeur over grub. I’m pleased to say it wasn’t. GB had the beetroot salad. I went for the old faithful, soup, more precisely Pumpkin Soup. I like my soup. Happy to say Rowleys version didn’t let me down. The loop the loop was hot, but not scolding hot like it can be sometimes. You know the type I mean, you end up blowing on it for half an hour trying to cool the bugger down. I suppose, it was above lukewarm but below lip burning temperature. The beetroot salad looked good enough to eat, and that’s precisely what ensued. No complaints on the starters.

On our way to Rowleys, GB and I both confessed to a lack of hunger. How things change!

When you visit Rowleys there are some quality choices food wise. For us two though it was an easy decision. Chateaubriand all the way squire! … With a side of spinach and as many fries as one can handle you simply cannot go wrong with this option. I think the spinach was my way of trying to incorporate “healthy” into the mains, but I probably had too many chips to do that justice. The wife had lots of chips as well. Sadly quite a few of them ended up sprayed across the floor in one of those duck your head down moments we all have now and again. You know, the one when your knife slips and thrashes the contents of your plate to surburbia and back. Luckily these potato laden rude boys were like the coca – cola in Pizza Hut, unlimited!

I’m still thinking about that beef as I’m writing this…and It was over 2 weeks ago!

Served up on a small tripod shaped warming plate ( I don’t know how else to describe it ), the beef just fell apart. I might be dribbling. With a ( very ) small token gesture of salad, and a little spinach it was heavenly. I’m not stating its new age cooking beyond the realms of a mere mortal, but what it is, most definitely is straight forward British cooking at a bloody ( medium rare ) good standard!… It was food I could eat every day, or at least I could if ….

  • I lived and worked nearby
  • Had a pocketful of wonga ( that’s money, not a tiny version of a loan company )
  • Was able to survive on just high grade steak and chips 24/7

I’m sure there are other reasons but for now, those are enough. Rowleys provided us with a Chateaubriand. 2 years ago a favourite eatery of ours served us up a truffle covered Mac’n’Cheese with our Beef. It was all lovely but the M’a’C was wasted and unnecessary. It was one of the new kids on the block, and is a place for indulgence. Rowleys served up enough food, well cooked delicious food. The correct amount for 2 people

 This is where I go back to the granddaddy analogy. If Mac’n’Cheese place was the kid coming of age, then Rowleys is the understated glamorous old girl in the wing-backed Chesterfield armchair whispering stories of days gone by. Not needing the attention, but receiving it nonetheless, her stories are there for all to see. People are fascinated by her, and rightly so. She still looks elegant but with a playful glint in her eye. Give the lady a sherry, she will sip it, restful and calm. Crack open the tequila and the quiet dame will not look out of place partying all night. That’s for me sums up Rowleys very nicely.

Rowleys Restaurant
Desserts. Straight forward. GB had the sorbet. Gingerbread I believe was one flavour and the other was possibly pistachio, but its debatable. We have confirmation on the gingerbread front. It was hard to forget, it was that tasty.while I went for the blood orange posset with jelly and shortbread. The sorbet was exquisite and the posset was very nice. The jelly didn’t win me over but overall It was a nice finish to the meal.  Ooh and a quick high five for the shortbread. Awesome. 

Throw in a cheeky Irish coffee and we were dandy. The two of us had split a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc between us, a Mount Franklin Marlborough. I have to say while you can argue it didn’t suit the food it still hit the spot for us. We concluded the evening with a glass of what you would class as a house white from Francais. No problems with that. I had trouble finishing what was a large glass but luckily GB was at hand to help me out. That’s why I married her!

An amazing night in a legend of a restaurant. Rowleys we salute you!

in case you were wondering about the title of piece. Rowleys opened in 1976, the same year that Robert Smith formed well known band The Cure. Just for trivial purposes I looked it up, and Mr. Smith is the only original member left in said band, but like Rowleys, in an ever changing world he is still a constant that works. 

This piece is dedicated to my uncle who was a top man. He would have loved the no nonsense approach of Rowleys. Short on height but not in heart, you will be missed UJ. X


Honest Burgers.. It Would Be a Crime Not To Visit!

Believe it or not, I have something in common with the following people. Micky Dolenz ( he of Monkees fame ), Paul McCartney ( he of marrying a one legged loon fame ), Sheena Easton ( 1980s pop star whose most popular song was a cover of a Dolly Parton hit, 9-5 ), and lastly, Kerry Katona ( the one off of the Iceland adverts who constantly claims bankruptcy and has had more chances than a monopoly board game! )… So what is it?

Well, we all got married in 2002. In the 14 years that have passed since, Katona has gone on to claim a hat – trick of hubbies ( poor souls ), and McCartney has split from mad Mills and is I believe due to take the plunge again very soon. He must be running out of money!… Myself and GB, that’s her indoors for those unaware, will celebrate 14 years of wedded bliss on Monday ( she may beg to differ on the bliss part ). We have been together for 25 years, and before you think or say it, I know, people get less for life. You know what though, I wouldn’t change a thing. Of course we have our moments but who doesn’t ?… I guess the difference between us and the likes of Katona is that every time we have a moment it doesn’t end in divorce!

Our last “disagreement” was on Thursday. I don’t imagine we are the only people to have a heated conversation over the topic. Since Thursday we have had no gas. National Grid have disconnected our gas supply. I won’t go into the reasons as to why short of saying this. it’s not a financial thing. National Grid have arranged with no residential consultation to change the mains gas pipe in our street. Ours is proving more difficult than others to replace, and irrespective of it being the coldest week of the year they have decided to cut our supply regardless. Luckily we have a log burner so warmth isn’t an issue. Hot water and a shower however, that’s another story. 

The beaten track I lead you off of. Back to the correct pathway… It’s our wedding anniversary , have I mentioned that yet? This year GB had organised our celebratory plans. Saturday afternoon involved a visit to the “Crime Museum Uncovered” exhibition at the Museum of London. Tickets were just short of 20 quid each inc the booking fee. I will give you my honest opinion. Our booking/appointment time for entry was 15:30. It was overly crowded meaning you struggled to get a real decent look at anything. An hour later, it was less busy and therefore worth considering if you were thinking of paying it a visit. It’s not necessarily what I expected but I did enjoy it. We both did. With a dodgy back following a small op I wasn’t looking forward to a lot of walking. Luckily it wasn’t in a huge space and was well thought out. Plus there was seating for those of us needing to take the weight off our plates now and again.

The exhibition details the start of the Metropolitan Police and how it has evolved since. Without giving too much away I would say this. The last area before the exit makes you think about what is around you and the importance of it. Personally I wasn’t really appreciative of what surrounded us until this point. There are some real interesting and eerie artefacts in there. Personally I loved the “Great Train Robbery” piece. The more up to date stuff on terrorism sends a shiver up the spine. We never knew for instance the Hyde Park bombing in 1982 was on GB’s birthday. Overall the burning question is, is it worth the wonga? … Hand on heart, I would say pay your money and make your own decision. I wouldn’t visit again, BUT I’m very happy I’ve been. It was an educational experience.

We had arrived in Liverpool Street with plenty of time to spare. The museum was a 10 minute walk away and we were both Hank Marvin. Having not eaten properly the previous evening due to an impromptu visit from neighbours, and with no cooking facilities thanks to National Grid, breakfast had passed us by. On a few occasions that I’ve been around this area I’ve often passed by the Honest Burgers restaurant in Widegate Street on my way to Spitafields. More importantly I’ve wanted to try it. With an hour to kill and both of us being hungrier than a carnivore at a vegan convention, I threw my hat in the ring suggesting a visit. It took less than a minute to get there and within 6-7 minutes we were seated on a large communal table in front of the kitchen area with four more stragglers. 

It was a busy old place but the service was swift and attentive. GB had a Diet Coke ( served with a straw in the can ), while I had a pint of the Beavertown Pale Ale, purely for research purposes of course. I’m no connoseuir of real ale but I think HB have a winner on their hands. It certainly wasn’t a struggle to drink. Then the main purpose for us being there, the food. GB ordered a Tribute ( no onion ) and a side of Apple, beetroot, red cabbage coleslaw. I went for the Tribute-to-Bacon Special ( see picture for details of what’s in it, although I had no pickles or lettuce ).


Both meals came with Rosemary Chips, and all jokes aside they were chips fit for a Las Vegas poker table. Completely knockout. The Beef & Bacon Gravy.. It’s so nice it should be illegal. I’ve not even touched on the burger yet! Well the burger itself was pink inside, perfectly cooked. The flavour was full on. I would go as far to say it’s THE best burger I’ve eaten, and I’ve had a few. The bacon ketchup was delicious and I don’t even like ketchup. The brioche bun was light and fluffy with a slight crunch.

 I nearly forgot the onion rings. I loved the onion rings. Both GB and me would have given it 10 out of 10 if it wasn’t for waiting for a table and then hanging around to pay the bill. So we are going for 9.6 out of 10. It was as close as it could get. The staff were friendly, and I like the fact that the lady who took our order wrote nothing down, but the food came out exactly as requested. You really need to get to Honest Burgers, no porkies!…. There was one downside to all this. We had a restaurant booked for 19.30 and were both absolutely stuffed. What a place though.
Next up… What we did in the evening, the celebrations continue!… Happy reading!

N x

Sofitel – Gatwick Airport

  Firstly, let me share with you a tale of two star – crossed lovers. They met while in search of inner peace on a Himalayan trail. After the female offered a helping hand to a wounded male Trekker who had badly injured his ankle. Both sat gazing out across the landscape and with almost no words said realised they had found “The One”. 

Of course, you and I both know ( yep, I’m being assumptious on the basis of using the word both, but hey let’s live a little ), that unless you are Kate Winslet in Titanic, it very rarely happens that Prince Charming, or in Kate’s case Leonardo Di Cappucino is waiting to hoist you up onto the masthead of a ship while Celine Dion sings in the background. I guess in some ways it also proves important that by the same margin, any relationship you embark upon tends to last more than the 2 hours and 30 minutes Winny and the Caps did. Ideally your other half doesn’t die in the cold of the Atlantic while you watch from a broken bit of 4 by 2  either.

It’s more than fair to say that GB and I did not meet in any sort of Winny and Cap way. We did meet over a crowded kitchen sink at a friends 18th birthday party. Romantic I hear you say!…. Not really, I thought she looked like a waitress who had come straight from a 12hr shift, and GB was similarly observant in that I was morbidly obese. It turned out, neither was true. GB just had a bad dress sense and I was wearing a coat 5 times to big for me! In theory I guess that means I too had a bad dress sense. Our first thing in common.

After a disinterested glancing “Alright” we both went about our business and spoke no other words on that cold winters eve. Two weeks later however, after a few phone calls and some rather frank verbal exchanges we met up for a date. I had relieved myself of the coat in question, coincidentally shedding about 5 stone at the same time, and GB arrived looking amazing wearing an at the time, very trendy, double denim look.  Bear in mind, back then, there was no “Plenty O Fish” , “Grindr” , “Blendr”, or any other kitchen utensil based dating website. It was all done old school sty-lee. 

What’s the point of all this you ask? Well fast forward 25 years and here we are. Still together and I think it’s fair to say relatively happy. We have a cat Madge, a little house on the Essex Riviera and more than that, we still know how to make each other laugh, smile, and when we argue, how to wind each other right up!… We don’t argue often though, as ninety per cent of the time I can’t get a word in edgeways.

To celebrate our milestone, some would argue millstone, GB booked us a short stay in Tenerife. 5 nights, all inclusive. Happy days. We wouldn’t celebrate normally as such, but we both decided 25 years was worth at least acknowledging. To cut out the aggravation of rushing on the day,  (early flight), it was a joint decision to crash at the airport the night before. By crash, I mean invest in a room, and not to drive up to Gatwick at high speed looking for potential whiplash victims. 

This way we could get the car parking included  with the room, therefore killing two thoras for the price of a popular Mexican forename. ( two Thora Hirds, that’s birds – popular Mexican forename, that’s Juan). 2 for the price of 1.  Maybe I should have just typed that first off!
Arriving was fine. Nice chap at the doorway downstairs took the bags and I nipped off to park the car. Car park attached to hotel and hotel has a walkway into the North Terminal, so easy in, easy out. GB had a quick smoke and then we took the escalator up to the reception. It’s a big area, but a bit blocky. Not the greatest description I grant you, but then it was quite non – descript. Very beige. A little disappointing.  A very helpful young lady on the desk (Zainab), got us checked in, straight forward and simple enough.

 We fluffy Bob – tailed up to the room only to find we’d been given a twin.  Maybe after 25 years it was par for the course. I mean I can take a hint!.. A brief conversation ensued with reservations and we found ourselves back in the foyer. Room swapped, panic over. Our new room was located and with a swipe of a key card we were in. The room itself lacked personality but was nice enough. The bed was huge (thumbs up), and the bathroom was pleasantly roomy. I’m not sure I could have swung a cat in there but

A. Madge wasn’t with us to test the theory

B. Even if she was I don’t think she’d have appreciated being thrown around like a car on a waltzer at the fair. 

C. I would never do that. First rule of staying in a hotel, always take someone else’s cat.

The shower was nice and powerful and the toiletries tasteful. The room in essence was a little like the lobby. Luxurious enough but just a bit bland. 

There are 3 restaurants to choose from. A bistro, the food was nice but it has to be said expensive. A Chinese eatery, which looked very tasty but again wasn’t cheap, and a cafe’ serving anything from pizza to curry. It looked OK in fairness. There is however a 4th option. Less than 30 seconds walk away is Lenny Henry’s choice of kipping station. A Premier Inn. Serving half decent food and drink at half the price, it’s a no – brainer. We had Mushrooms(GB) and tomato soup(moi) to start, the Tommy soup was lovely. 

Mains were Gammon steak for me and some form of Rugby World Cup inspired burger for the good lady. Sadly she did have to send it back as it was overdone (burnt), meaning I’d finished by the time GB got her dinner. Not ideal, but hey ho. The food was adequate, GBs burger looked much better second time around, was tasty and price wise there was no comparison with our hotel. We were not the only couple to think this was the case judging by the exodus from our hotel and into the PI.

We made our way back to the room and both fell asleep. The beds are tremendous. I woke up at around 8pm and made my way down to the first floor cocktail bar. A lovely area. £7.95 for a Gin & Tonic though isn’t the cheapest. It did go down rather well though, and while watching the ROI v Bosnia qualifier I managed to sink another 3 or 4. What?? They didn’t sell beer up there. A bit later GB showed up and we had closers in the lobby bar. Table service was a nice touch, before hitting the hay. 

Check out was extremely easy, and on our return we were in the car within a minute or two of getting the cases. It worked exceptionally well. Overall it’s certainly not on a par with the Sofitel in Heathrow. I will say though that all the staff I spoke to were very polite and helpful. I love the colour brown but it’s just too brown. I’m no interior designer but if someone has been paid lots of money for that, then I’m still in with a chance of making it. I guess the burning question is would I stay there again, and I would, providing the Premier Inn wasn’t fully booked.