Friday, 28 December 2018

Trip of a lifetime – Australia here we come

(Part 1)

First leg of our trip, England to Brisbane


Australia has been calling for years.  My little sister Silke moved to Brisbane many years ago and my husband’s brother moved to Perth over 20 years ago.  Believe it or not I had not been to Australia until the call of a family wedding drew me to finally decide that the time had come.


We booked our flights through Thomas Cook in February 2018 for our trip end November early December.  We knew that Emirates was planning on flying from Stanstead Airport in Essex’s later in the year and that suited us as we live in Hertfordshire and it was on the border and it meant that we did not have to contend with facing the infamous M25 to get to Heathrow.  We also decided to go into the Thomas Cook shop in Welwyn Garden City as our flight requirements where not straight forward.  We needed to first go to Brisbane for a week and then head to Perth for the wedding on the 8th of December and then fly back to the England from Perth.  Thomas Cook were excellent in sorting this out for us and we got three tickets for £2637.63, £879.21 per head. 


Those who know me know that I am not the smallest of woman and the fear of the long flight and having to have the embarrassment of asking for a extender safety belt filled me with absolute dread (may be why I had put the visit to Australia off for so long).  On the 30th of May 2018 I was watching a programme on BBC one called “The Big Crash Diet Experiment”.  Something in me just clicked and there and then I decided to follow the diet used in the experiment and confined myself to eating only 800 calories a day (not easy for a foodie fanatic).  By the date of our flight I had lost over six stone (40kg) and guess what?  I did not need the extender safety belt, albeit with just millimetres to spare.


This year David and I decided that we would invest in Priority Pass membership as we have been doing a great deal of short trips to Europe the last couple of years and we wanted to make the experience of traveling a pleasure and relaxing from the start.  This is well worth the investment if you travel one or more times a year (No they are not sponsoring me, this is my honest opinion).  This gives you access to VIP lounges at airports around the world.  Even if you can’t afford to travel in first class you can still start your holiday off in first class style.



The first leg of our flight took around six hours to Dubai and we were in transit for around three hours.  You know you are going to have a lively flight when you are seated among the Bishop Stortford Veterans Rugby team, but I must say they were very well behaved and it made the flight more entertaining.  The VIP lounge  Marhaba Lounge in Dubai is lovely and relaxing and the food on offer was great.


The travel angels where looking out for us on the thirteen hour flight to Brisbane.  We were flying on an A380 that was only half full.  David got a whole row of four seats to himself and Danielle and I each had three.  We travelled like kings and queens and slept for most of the flight.  The staff on Emirates were excellent and the food was also very tasty for airline food.  We arrived in the early morning on the 29th of November having left England on the 27th, lost a whole day somewhere (still looking for it).  Feeling and looking a little worse for wear, so quickly had to pop into the ladies for a quick freshening up and change of clothes before seeing my little sister for the first time in over twelve years.


Read my next post for the reunion updates and our time in Brisbane.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Gin, Mothers ruin no more

Gin, Mothers ruin no more


New converts on the block.  The last time I drank gin was in the Kruger National Park about ten years ago, with a glowing campfire and listing to the lions roar in the distance.  To me gin was just gin, nothing to really write home about.  You had it with tonic water and a slice of lemon, so what!   Well that idea is out the back door, on Wednesday 13 May, our eyes were opened to a whole new world of gins.


David and I went along to The Clachan in Kingly Street London for an evening of gin tasting by various distilleries.  The Clachan is part of the Nicholson’s pubs group.  Nicholson’s pubs are revelling in all things gin this summer as they look back to their origins as Victorian gin den and celebrate what makes Britain great.

The rich history of Nicholson’s pubs and gin are irrevocably intertwined, with the original pub founder, William Nicholson, starting the company by running the family gin distillery in London and choosing the finest pubs to serve it in.  Nicholson’s colourful history even spreads across London in the literal sense, with the origins of the MCC members’ flamboyant colours of scarlet and gold paying homage to Nicholson’s: in 1866, William Nicholson saved he future of Lord’s cricket ground by purchasing the freehold of the ground and shortly afterwards the MCC colours changed to match those of Nicholson’s gin, possibly the first corporate deal in sporting history.

Now let’s get down to talking about the gins.  We started off with both mine and David’s favourite Adnams Copper House.  I would never have thought that you could drink gin neat, but I could definitely drink this delightful gin neat.  Adnams Copper House Gin is an aromatic gin infused with six botanicals creating classic notes of juniper alongside sweet orange and hibiscus.  Voted the World’s Best Gin at the International Wine & Spirits Competition 2013.  Their aromatic gin is bursting with juniper, fresh lemon and orange notes as well as warming hints of anise.  Adnams from grain to glass, their Copper House Gin is distilled from East Anglian malted barley at their artisan distillery in Southwold, where they also brew a very fine beer. Their copper pot still are handmade and create a wonderfully flavoursome spirit. This smooth, rich spirit is then redistilled with six carefully chosen botanicals to impart their distinctive aromas and flavours. Their master brewer Belinda Jennings was a delight to listen too, and you could truly feel her passion.
Belinda Jennings, Adnams

We then moved onto Bombay Sapphire, this is not one for drinking neat.  The aromatic and complex taste is described as a fresh juniper flavour with an elegant light spicy finish, making it an ideal spirit for use in all classic gin cocktails. With if floral nose and exotic palate it performs particularly will in elegant, delicate drinks like the martini and aviation cocktails and classic mixed drinks such as gin and tonic.  The new trend seems to be drinking gin in balloon glassware to give an enhanced drinking experience as the tapered rim captures the aromas of the botanicals.  Bombay Sapphire have ten botanicals.  I have yet to give the balloon glass a try.

Thirdly we tried Williams GB Extra Dry Gin.  To create their gin, they claim that they first had to create the World’s best Vodka, using potatoes from their family farm in Herefordshire.  Williams GB Extra Dry Gin is unlike most other gins where a neutral grain spirit is simply redistilled. Juniper buds and berries are used to ensure the gin is as dry as possible, also infused with wild botanicals including cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, almond, coriander, cardamom, cloves, liquorice and lemon to give the spirit a distinct and robust flavour.



The final gin for the evening was Opihr Oriental Spiced Gin, pronounced (O-peer). This was our second favourite, delightful with a curry.  It is a unique style of London Dry Gin created by the master Gin Distiller at the world’s oldest gin distillers, using exotic botanicals, herbs and spices. The heritage of Opihr Spiced Gin is firmly rooted in the Ancient Spice Route. Their botanicals epitomise the exotic intensity of the Orient, with spicy cubeb berries from Indonesia, black pepper from India and coriander from Morocco.



Olivia Williams the author of “Gin Glorious Gin” also gave a brief history of Gin and I delighted to say we were sent home with a copy of her book.  I am currently immersed in it and will write a review as soon as possible.



So yes Gin and I, are now friends and I will ditch the wine next time we go out and start experimenting with new gins.








Friday, 15 May 2015

Thai Express, intu Lakeside

A small part of Thailand in the heart of Lakeside Shopping Centre

Thai Express




I had the pleasure of being invited to partake in intu Lakesides Big Treat event.  It is the first time that I have actually had a good look at the variety of food outlets in their food court on the third floor.  My goodness you are really spoilt for choice.  I had to pull David away from the Pie and Mash outlet, being the Eastender that he is.  It might be his heritage to eat jellied eels, there is no way I could stomach the thought of it.  Thai Express was on my radar, at least this is one cuisine that we both agree on.  Thai food is probably up there as one of favourites.

I have never eaten Thai food prepared like this before.  Thai Express has a new take on traditional Thai Cuisine.  And according to their website; “The global leading brand for fast casual Thai dining.”

The first thing that I always look for at any place I eat, is the hygiene rating; they have a five.  The manager served us and was extremely helpful, as this way of eating was all new to us.  We had no idea where to even start, so we asked her to suggest a variety of items for us to try.  The food is prepared in front of you and you can have you can have it as spicy as you like. Their food is tailored to your taste and prepared fresh when you order. They provide variety, quality and authenticity in a very modern looking outlet.

Ok now about the food, that is the whole reason why we went.  One downside was that the food hall was packed and at first it looked like we would not find a table, Danielle made a mad dash as someone vacated their table, did not realise she could move that fast.  We are not normally ones for large crowds, but once we started to eat, it was if no one else was near us.  We started off with one of the best soups we have ever eaten, family consensus on that.  In fact we all agreed that it was the best part of the whole meal.  Tom Yum Mini Tofu Soup @ £4.30.  There is no way that we would have said before that we liked tofu, in this soup it was delightful.  It consists of chicken broth spicy sweet and sour lemongrass broth with rice noodles, bean sprouts, onion, carrot, green onion, coriander and tomato and tofu.



We then moved onto trying the other three main dishes, it was a case of taste pass the plate on.  Until we had all had a taste and finally settled down to finish the one we each liked. Pad Thai Chicken @ £6.50, Danielle’s favourite.  Thin rice noodles stir-fried with sweet and sour sauce, eggs, bean sprouts, green onion, tofu and salted radish.  Must say it did not look as good as it tasted, it was very moreish.




Stir Fry Peanut Chicken @ £6.50, my favourite.  Fresh crispy vegetable with a choice of various flavours served on steamed rice. Each flavour have different vegetables.  We had the peanut flavour.  This was originally David’s choice but I really love peanuts and he funnily liked the Green Curry, even though he is not a big fan of coconut milk.


The third main was Green Curry Chicken @ £6.50.  A silky, creamy and spicy dish made with coconut milk, served on steamed rice, pepper, onion, eggplant and Thai basil.  Yummy is all I can say.



We also had a very refreshing Mango Salad @ £3.20. Mango, iceberg lettuce, coriander, shallot, red pepper and mint, served with sweet and sour fish sauce. Along with a few prawn crackers.  The whole meal with three 500ml Pepsi’s came to £32.97.  For what we had to eat I reckon reasonable value for money.  They have another two outlets, one in London and one in Guildford.  So if you ever find one on your travels we recommend you stop and have a bite to eat.







Saturday, 22 November 2014

Morphy Richards Sauté and Soup Maker

Morphy Richards Sauté and Soup Maker



I have finally given into temptation and bought myself a soup maker.  After doing my research I opted for the Morphy Richards Sauté and Soup Maker.  You need to do your research when it comes to prices, they vary from supplier to supplier, £99 directly from the manufacturers website, £69 at Curry's etc.  The cheapest I managed to find it was £59 from Amazon.  You can also get the non sauté one for £20 cheaaper.


It really is as easy as they claim. Since receiving mine on Tuesday we have had soup everyday.  One thing though they claim your soup will be ready in 21 minutes, not the case if you are using root vegetables.  I had to run it for another 21 minutes to ensure that the vegetables were cooked and the soup had a creamy consistency.

Today I decided to make roasted peppers and garlic soup.  I cut up the peppers and roasted them in the oven along with tons of garlic still in their skins.  Chopped in some celery, chicken stock cube, squirt of tomato and basil puree and finally a couple of twists of the pepper grinder.  



Once the pepper and garlic were roasted I simply added them to the soup maker (ensure you peel the garlic before adding) along with the rest of my ingredients. Add water to the max mark.


Put the lid on and select the mode you want to use.  As there were no root vegetables this soup only took the 21 minutes.


And in under half an hour you have the yummiest nourishing homemade soup.  If you buy yourself any gift this Christmas, make sure it is a soup maker.  I have never eaten so many vegetables, it can only be good for my health.


Friday, 21 November 2014

Christmas has arrived in Hertford

Christmas has arrived in Hertford  

The Snug in Hertford, a hidden gem



I have driven past The Snug every day after work and never gone in.  Well that won’t be the case again.  Danielle and I received an invite to sample their Christmas menu on Thursday evening, the 20th of November.  We dragged David with us, as we did not fancy having to make him a meal before we hit the town.  We arrived to a warm welcome and were immediately made to feel at ease by the Manager Kyle, who is a lovely friendly guy and a brilliant host.   The evening started well with a lovely glass or two of Prosecco, you can’t go wrong with that. 

The purpose of the evening was to sample their new Christmas menu, and Wow did we do that.  We started with their festive platters which were piled with delicious nibbles which make a great addition to their cocktails. The platters include: Potato skins with turkey, cheese and caramelised onion topping; chicken wings tossed in a Bourbon and cherry glaze; mini sausages in a honey and mustard glaze; fig and Wensleydale & cranberry skewers; miniature prawn cocktail; bacon and Brie quesadillas and chutney and Brie bruschetta.  Our table cleared the platters in minutes and we all agreed they were delicious.




The nibbles were followed by their new Christmas burger. A first of its kind as a homemade 7oz British Beef Burger is topped with turkey, Cheddar cheese, smoked back bacon, bourbon & cherry sauce and pickles, served with a side of pulled pork in BBQ sauce and skinny fries.  It is sure to satisfy even the heartiest of appetites. They also have Rib-Eye steaks on offer too, along with creamy penne pasta and a Vegetable Medley.




Thank goodness after all the gorgeous food, we had a reprise and a chance to sample and make their new Christmas cocktails.  The Snug Bar has created two festive cocktails which combine the best premium spirits with recognisable Christmas flavours. Danielle was behind the bar in a flash to try her hand at cocktail making, she still needs a bit of practice with the making of them but needs no help when it comes to the drinking of them.  



If you want to try your hand at making them here are the recipes for their two festive cocktails:

THE CANDY CANE COCKTAIL



Ingredients:

20ml Raspberry Vodka
10ml White Cacao
5ml Minttu (or Crème de Menthe)
10ml Grenadine
50ml Cranberry Juice

Instructions:

Shake all ingredients together and strain into a Martini glass. Garnish with a candy cane straw

MINCE PIE MARTINI



Ingredients:

10ml Brandy
10ml Apple Schnapps
10ml Cassis
10ml Goldschlager
50ml Apple Juice

Instructions:

Shake all ingredients and double strain into a Martini. Top with foamed milk and sprinkle with cinnamon or nutmeg. Garnish with a cinnamon stick and serve with a mince pie!

One of the guests suggested they heated this one up and I must say it was a brilliant suggestion.  It had that warm Christmassy feel and taste about it.

Cocktail making and drinking over it was time to sample their desserts.  These had a divided opinion around our table, we all had our favourites, and mine was the eggnog cheesecake, a creamily decadent dessert to top any Christmas do.  David and Danielle loved the Terry’s Chocolate Orange Sundae, a combination of Vanilla Ice Cream, chocolate sauce, layered with crushed chocolate orange pieces and topped with whipped cream.



The Snugs Christmas nibbles menu costs £10 per person, a fair price for what you get.
If you are looking for a warm and a truly snug venue for your Christmas functions or just looking for a place to entertain friends, I can highly recommend you give The Snug in Hertford a try.











Saturday, 30 August 2014

Review: Granny Smith's Tea Shop - Foxholes Farm

(HERTFORD, HERTFORDSHIRE)

Star Rating: Food : 4 Stars Service : 3 Stars






Date of visit: 27 August 2014


Longtime overdue in Hertford, Foxholes Farm Shop have recently expanded their shop to include a delightful tea shop; Granny Smith's Tea Shop.  I have been shopping at Foxholes ever since arriving in the UK six years ago and have always loved their wonderful produce.  I was blissfully unaware that the tea room had opened until my friend Lynn and I decided it was time for a catch up lunch with our other dear friend Caroline.  We all met when we were serving on the PTA at Sele School and have formed a brilliant friendship.  Lynn suggested we go to Granny Smith's as she had been there recently and had thoroughly enjoyed it.

They serve a Traditional English High Tea, comprising of a choice of 10 fine Teapig Teas, finger sandwiches and home made cakes. They also have a delicious cream tea with a freshly Baked Scone, Devon Clotted Cream and Strawberry Jam.  When you have eaten your full you can have a gentile meander around their farm to meet all of their baby animals, they also have a children’s play area.  The tea shop is not very big, but you don't feel cramped when seated.  It is self service, the lovely lady behind the counter was very friendly and helpful.

Now let's get down to the food, they have a great selection on their menu.  Lynn had a Ploughman’s @7.95 served with crusty bread, Foxholes Butter, Salad Garnish, Ploughman’s Pickle, Pickled onion & Apple and Foxholes Saddleback ham.  Lynn did not want the bread so they gladly substituted this with added salad.  This is one of the first ploughman's that I have seen in a long time that actually looked like it had some substance. Normally you find them adding so much lettuce and hardly any nice goodies.  Not this one, Lynn had this the last time she was here and loved it. 




Caroline went for their Homemade Quiche of the Day @6.95 an individual tartlet, made with their hens eggs, served with a dressed mixed Salad.  As you can see from the picture well worth the price, and the salad was not just a plate of lettuce.  Next time I go, this will be my choice.




Me being the usual piggy that I am, I wanted some meat so went for their Chilli Con Carne @ £6.95 on their specials menu, served with a mixed salad and sour dough bread.  Yummy is the only word that I can use to describe it.  The mince was so sweet and the bread delightful.




Overall Experience

Delightful and a definite must, I will be dragging David their very soon.  Yes it is small but who cares.  They are holding a supper club on the 18th of September at a cost of £39 pp for a five course meal, so give them a try.

http://www.foxholesfarm.com

London Road, Hertford, SG13 7NT

Tel: 01992 552900

                                                                                 


Rating Guide


5 Stars - Perfect
4.5 Stars - Exceptional
4 Stars - Excellent
3.5 Stars - Very good
3 Stars - Good
2.5 Stars - Average
2 Stars - Bad
1.5 Stars - Very bad
1 Star - Dire

Monday, 25 August 2014

Review: The Cock & Dragon

(COCKFOSTERS, BARNET)

Star Rating: Food : 4 Stars Service : 4 Stars





Date of visit: 19 August 2014


The Cock and Dragon, in Cockfosters, is dated back to 1798 and is ideally located near the Tube Station and is opposite Trent Park. Inside the pub is very relaxed with a separate traditional bar area and contemporary Thai styled restaurant where they serve authentic Thai cuisine. The bar is stocked with British Cask Ales and fine wines from around the world. 

David and I decided to make use of our Tastecard before it expires next month.  This gave us 50% off our food bill for two people.  I was in the mood for Thai so we searched their website and found this little gem, that I would not normally have found on my own.  When you walk in you think you are in the wrong place as it looks like a normal pub.  But a surprise awaits you round the side, behind the bar.  You walk through the doors and a whole new world opens up to you. The decor is stunning and the service on arrival was very welcoming.



I ordered a bottle of their house white, as you all know a meal for me is not complete without a bottle of chilled white wine.  David went for green tea as he was as usual our designated driver.  I unfortunately did not take photo's as at that stage I had no intention of reviewing the place as it had been a while since my last review and needed something inspirational to kick me into action again.  This place did the kicking, but only after finishing my meal did it dawn on me to write a review.

To start with we ordered their Tiger Platter @ £10.50Pork ribs, chicken satay, beef satay and duck spring rolls. Served with sweet chilli and satay sauces. All I can say is finger licking good.  I did not want to share this, but alas I had to be social.

I ordered the Kaeng Daeng @ £7.95, Bangkok's famous Thai red curry with lime leaf, coconut milk, peppers and pineapple.  Kau Khai @ 2.95, Thai fragrant coconut rice.  This was probably one of the nicest's red curries I have ever eaten.  Well worth you giving it a try.

David ordered The Weeping Tiger @ £11.95Grilled sirloin steak marinated in oyster sauce, soy sauce and sesame oil served with a spicy Thai dressing with a side order of been sprouts that was not on their menu but they gladly made for him as he does not like rice or noodles.  He said that it was delightful and would definitely try it again.


Overall Experience

Well you already know that I loved the place as it has inspired me to blog again. I will be going back and would highly recommend you give it a try. The whole meal for the two of us with my bottle of wine cost just over £42.  This is where the Tastecard starts to pay for itself and I think that I will be renuning my membership next month, thanks to my sister-in-law Janet who gave it to me as a Birthday present last year.

http://www.thaipubs.co.uk/location/cock-dragon

Chalk Lane, Cockfosters, Barnet, EN4 9HU

Tel: 020 8449 7160


Cock and Dragon on Urbanspoon

      

Rating Guide


5 Stars - Perfect
4.5 Stars - Exceptional
4 Stars - Excellent
3.5 Stars - Very good
3 Stars - Good
2.5 Stars - Average
2 Stars - Bad
1.5 Stars - Very bad
1 Star - Dire

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Review: The Green Spice (Roydon Hamlet)

THE GREEN SPICE
(ROYDON HAMLET, ESSEX)


Date of visit: 27 July 2013


One of the best Indian Restaurants I have ever been to.  The décor is modern and clean, the cloakrooms are the best I have have used in a local restaurant.  The service is excellent and very professional and yet not pretentious.  You are made to feel welcome from the moment you walk through the door.  This is the second time that I have eaten here and it did not disappoint, it was exactly as I remembered.   

We started with the usual papadum's and sauces .  The sauces where of the best I have ever had, there was an amazing green one, not sure what was in it.  The mango chutney had actual pieces in it and was delicious.  For eight of them with the sauces it cost £6.00





For my mains I ordered Chicken Dansak @ £8.50 prepared with lentils, lemon juice and aromatic spice and served with pilau rice.  It was scrumptious, is the only way to describe it.  It had and sweet and sour taste with a slight burn (I did ask for it to be mild to medium).  The chicken dish is on the right.



Dee one of our dining party had the Prawn Dansak @ £9.50 prepared the same way as the chicken dish, but instead of pilau rice she asked for mushroom rice, which they gladly exchanged.  If she could have licked the bowl she would have.  It was very moresome. To the left of the picture above.

Paul ordered the Chicken Madras @ £5.50 Fairy hot dish cooked in garlic, lemon juice and spice.  From my side of the table it went down a treat.

David was daring (NOT), he ordered his usual with a slight twist, Mix Shaslick @ £7.95 chicken and lamb, cooked with tomatoes, green peppers and onions.  Cooked in a special clay tandoori.  As his sides he ordered Aloo Gobi @ £3.50, cauliflower with potato and a Chapathi @ £1.50.  These were inspired by Rick Stein's India






Overall Experience

Would I recommend The Green Spice?  YES.  If you are in the vicinity you have to give them a try.  The total bill with a bottle of wine, couple of beers, coffees etc came to £96.70 for four of us.  Well worth every penny.  


Tylers Road, Roydon Hamlet, CM19 5LJ

Tel: 01279 792666


Green Spice on Urbanspoon


Rating Guide


5 Stars - Perfect
4.5 Stars - Exceptional
4 Stars - Excellent
3.5 Stars - Very good
3 Stars - Good
2.5 Stars - Average
2 Stars - Bad
1.5 Stars - Very bad
1 Star - Dire