National Chip Week

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I know British food doesn’t have that much to commend it a lot of the time. I once read somewhere that English food is all beige, and other than the odd bright burst here and there, I’m inclined to agree. Roast dinner, beige. Fish and Chips, beige. Fry up, beige-ish. Sandwiches, predominantly beige. Toad in the hole, beige. You get the picture.

However, for me the occasional Fish and Chip supper is a real treat. It’s something that always gives me a holiday feeling and brings back memories of the coast: chilly wind, salty sea air and trying to eat lunch or dinner quickly without a mouthful of wind-beaten hair in the process. I’ve got many a happy memory of eating fish and chips straight from the paper on a British seaside. So when some bunting in our local chippy (a 2014 regional winner in the Fish and Chip awards, none the less) on our last visit alerted me to the fact that 16th to 22nd February is National Chip Week, I thought it might be a good time to recall my favourite Fish and Chip moments:

  • Battered Scallops from Rick Stein’s Fish and Chip shops (in Padstow or Falmouth)- at first I thought it might be a waste of a good scallop, but in reality- perfection.
  • Speciality battered catch of the day from what I really think might be my favourite discovery of our 2014 Cornwall trip- Smugglers in The Lizard. Delicious there and then in the centre of town, but get in the car and drive down to Lizard Point of an evening when the sun is about to set, walk down to the coast path and find yourself a bench. A hot, vinegary supper and a fantastic view at the most southerly point of the British mainland.
  • Walking up to town and back for childhood Fish and Chips which was best when we got to bring home a bag of frozen ‘fish for cats’ too. (Can you still get that, does anyone know? I think our cats would love us to eternity and back if so!)
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Favourite Amsterdam Coffee Spots

Technically, these are what we would call ‘coffee shop’s but in Amsterdam, that’s a whole different thing! These are some of the ‘chains’ that we regularly visit on our trips, but I have to say that the Dutch generally do very good coffee (better than here!) and I don’t think I’ve ever been disappointed.

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Tramshed

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If you’ve been following #BEDN on this blog, you’ll know that I spent the first weekend of the month staying with friends in London- some of my favourite folk.  You may have seen here that we spent most of our weekend eating, and who doesn’t enjoy a weekend of good company and good food? For our Sunday lunch, we headed to Mark Hix’s Tramshed in Shoreditch. The menu’s basic concept is Chicken or Steak, and not a lot else in between. If you’re veggie, it’s probably not the place for you!

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Pitfield, Winchester

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This Sunday afternoon, we pottered into town for a wander and a coffee. It’s been so long since we’ve had such a relaxing day at the weekend and it was much needed. I picked up some tiny baubles from Next (I know, Christmas is a long way away but I missed the ones I wanted last year as they’d sold out by the time I went in!) as well as a new candle for when the current one I’ve been burning runs out.

We tried somewhere new for coffee this time- a pop up shop/cafe that’s taken up residence in a shop that’s been empty for ages. The place in question? Pitfield. It’s been opened up by the same people who run a local restaurant (rather on the pricy side), the Chesil Rectory and recently took over my parents’ local pub too. I actually came here for lunch with my Mum a few weeks ago- we both had salads and those come highly recommended. I had chicory, pear, stilton and walnut which was amazing.

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It’s very ‘middle-class trendy’ if that makes sense? All very expensive ornaments and homewares and the cafe was a treat rather than everyday. As lovely as my coffee was (no bitterness whatsoever, I do love Illy), I don’t think I’d willingly part with £2.75 for a relatively small cup of latte again. That seems pretty extortionate, don’t you think? The homemade sausage roll was pretty good, but service wasn’t great given that they completely forgot this part of our order, so by the time they arrived we’d all but finished our drinks.

The coffees did come in these beautiful cups from Ittala though, the mug size is now on my wishlist, but for £16.50 that’s likely where it’ll stay!

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Being a pop up shop, they’ve gone for very temporary decor, and all the shelves are made out of scaffolding, which I actually really like. Although a lot of what they sell does really tie in with the sort of things I like, they are so expensive. Lidless Dundee Marmalade jars for around £20 is pretty steep when you know you can get them for a couple of pounds at a flea market or antiques fair. Anywhere that has an owl shelf is in my good books, though:

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Again, pretty overpriced in my books, they do have beautiful Christmas decorations. I particularly like the miniature silver glass ones in the bowl below, which have colourful material strips to hang them with- an idea I’m tempted to take forward with my own bauble collection and collection of fabric scraps.

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All in all, I’m in two minds- lovely coffee (but expensive) and beautiful homewares (but overpriced). It is the sort of shop that will fit well with a certain type of Winchester ‘set’, but I don’t think it’s one for me. I will admire their wares from afar.

Open until the end of January 2014, Pitfield Winchester can be found in The Brooks Centre, off Middle Brook Street.

This post represents Day 12- ‘Your hometown’ of Blog Every Day in November #BEDN with Rosalilium

King John Inn, Tollard Royal

Way back in August, along with my family and some Australian family friends, we went out for a big pub lunch followed by a walk in the drizzle over in Dorset. The pub (The King John Inn in Tollard Royal) was their suggestion, so I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect (although a glance at the website game me clues that it was a pretty well-to-do kinda place).

This isn’t a part of Dorset that I know at all, but the beautiful rolling hills we passed on the way there made me keen to go back and explore.

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We settled down outside in the sunshine until our meals were ready. Being a Sunday, virtually everyone went for the roast beef. Whilst a nice enough meal, no-one seemed quite sure it was worth the rather high price point (I think it was £20+). I opted for lobster ravioli, which was delicious but not a very filling portion given that the price was also on the high side.

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But, it was the puddings I really had to share as I’ve never seen anything like it! Several of the others opted for Italian sponge, lemon curd, limoncello and ice cream:

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Whilst the rest of us went for apple doughnuts with toffee sauce and warm mulled cider:

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Oh, and this is a little bit of a weird one, but the ladies toilets had amazing wallpaper in!

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All in all, a nice pub in a lovely location (even when it does start to rain!) but considering the pricey roast, I’d settle for a long walk followed by a warm drink and one of the puddings to warm up with afterwards.

Do you know this bit of Dorset at all?

Whitstable Brewery

I just feel the need to share the epic seafood pizza that I had in Whitstable- beautiful.

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The venue itself was a little too warehouse type airy for a breezy coastal evening and I was really wishing I had packed an extra layer. But with pizza like this, a sea view and loc turnstones walking past the window, I can cope without!

Whitstable Fish Market

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It really surprised me when we were in Wales, that there were so few fishmongers and fish markets considering we were on the coast. I was massively looking forward to lots of fresh fish, but no, nothing at all. Not so in Whitstable, I’ve never seen anything like it!

Are you a fish person or not?

Y Bwtri Blasus, Aberdyfi

I don’t know about you, but I get a bit obsessive about TripAdvisor before I go away anywhere. Although some reviews really do have to be taken with a pinch of salt, on the whole it is a really reliable way of getting to know the hotels and restaurants in the place you’re headed.

No sooner had we booked our week away than I was looking up where we could go. I do like food, in case you hadn’t noticed. Other than the fancy restaurant Sea Breeze (which we never made it to), the place that stood out to me was Y  Bwtri Blasus Deli Caffi. And do you know what? It was packed every time we walked past. When it was still full to bursting on our last day, we hung about outside for a while hoping someone would leave. Ten minutes passed, and I was ready to abandon ship and head home, but Chris insisted we hang on just a little while longer. 

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Twenty minutes later, we finally got a table. By this point we’d been staring at the menu in the window so long we knew our orders by heart. We both opted for the Welsh Rarebit, and it was incredible. Not a dish I think I’ve tried before, but I will certainly try again.

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So there you have it, if you’re in Aberdyfi you may struggle to get through the door, but once you do it is well worth the wait.

The shop also has a great range of deli products and I managed to track down a jar of Lotus spread (literally the biscuits in paste form, amazing) that I’ve been looking out for which was an added bonus.

Ultracomida

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Sorry- you’re probably all very sick of our Welsh holiday by now.

Although we mostly ate in, we stumbled across a little gem in Aberystwyth one lunchtime- the deli Ultracomida. The deli had a wide range of products, mostly Spanish with French and Welsh thrown in for good measure, and with a tapas bar tucked away at the back of the shop.

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Having had a mouthwatering look round, we decided that a stop for lunch was in order. In typical Spanish style we perched up at the counter. There were so many delicious options it was really difficult to narrow it down to one choice, but in the end I opted for a sandwich and Chris a panini. Both were really yummy, but Chris definitely made the right choice. Afterwards, we pretty much had to waddle back to the car the portions were so generous!

 

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Before our food arrived, we were treated to some really fresh, crusty bread served with the most delicious olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I’ve never thought of an olive oil as being so amazing before, but this one really was. We were very tempted to bring a bottle home, but it was incredibly pricy and would probably have sat gathering dust on the worktop.

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Whilst perusing the menu, we noticed that they also opened in the evenings so decided to book for later in the week. We had a range of different tapas dishes, the most expensive of which was a chicken thigh in a pepper an tomato sauce for £3.50. Most of the basic dishes were £1.50-£2.50, including some really good, slightly smoky Patatas Bravas. I’ll have to try and recreate those at home.

After such a great meal, it was impossible to leave empty-handed. We picked up some Spanish cider, a couple of bottles of wine and some cheeses. The cheese I chose was an amazing Ewe’s milk cheese wrapped in rosemary called Romero. Mmm.

As well as the shop in Aberystwyth, they also have another deli in Narberth and much of the wares are available to order from their website. If you’re in the area, I highly recommend a lunch or dinner stop. Oh, and the house Rose was pretty lovely too.