Train cancelled, but…

It’s that frequently annoying situation. Your train arrives in the station on time, only to find your connection is cancelled with a two hour wait for the next service.

When in Salisbury next, I suggest you hope for such a situation! 5 minutes walk brings you to the fabulous Lebanese restaurant of Baroushka

This is a place where a leisurely approach to lunch is required; maybe even absolutely demanded…

A starter of grilled halloumi with a rocket salad accompaniment was the perfect balance of baked exterior with a delicately soft cheese interior. Looking like perfectly toasted slices of bread this provided a light appetizer…

The main course of pear glazed duck breast on a bed of cous cous with an orange salad provided a delightful range of contrasting tastes and textures. Even the designs of plate and table cloth add to the overall welcome sensual assault, to remind you that relaxation need not be a mindless exercise…

A Turkish Coffee came with a range of ethnic paraphernalia, including a cube of Turkish Delight

The Spiced Ginger Beer was a further addition to the assault on the taste buds. Is this placed licensed? You bet, with an extensive range of beers, wines and cocktails. But this is lunch, right… and some of us have yet to navigate the dysfunctions of the privatised rail system with a clear head!

Until we speak again, apologies to any readers stranded by rail cancellations elsewhere… you really are in the wrong place.

Mile End Road

For me, this is a 1980’s stroll down reminiscence lane. For you, this is a tale of two sides of the road.

Go south and you are in a twilight zone of mid and high rise blocks liberally interspersed with unsavoury looking fast food joints. A place where obesity and Brexit may hook up for a sleazy night out!

This is where the old saying bears some truth… “What the Luftwaffe started the town planners finished!”

However, cross the road to the north side and you can stroll the Georgian terraces that surround Tredegar Square, a short distance from Victoria Park… undoubtedly a place where the metropolitan liberal elite hang out. So, if you find yourself in Mile End with a spare 24 hours on your hands, don’t be afraid, just find north on your compass.

Start with a fueling stop at The Greedy Cow, where a Kangaroo Burger hops off the menu to assault your gastronomic whims.

Yes, you heard right first time, it is pinned down for a reason…

Then you simply meander through the conservation area to find a range of traditional watering holes to quench that marsupial thirst. The Lord Tredegar is a great old Victorian boozer serving up a fine pint of Hophead pale ale…

Then there is the Morgan Arms, requiring a careful navigation to avoid the resident Greene King family! A one time great traditional brewery that has joined many others in spoiling the name of good beer with its capitalist quest to take over the world of ‘falling down lotion’…

And if the dawn of a new day still finds you in fighting fettle why not avoid the traditional Youngs beers and opt for a Proper Job IPA in The Coborn? Just don’t let on to a certain regular reader that it comes from Cornwall…oops!

Need something less alcoholic? Who needs those coffee chains when you can pop in to an authentic independent Italian coffee house?

Until we speak again, this has been a nostalgic gastronomic trip down memory lane. As for the present day… if you are looking to get Brexit done, it has all gone south.

Christmas in Peckham

How do you avoid the repetition of a traditional Christmas meal? Well, we’ve previously done Cardiff in July, Blackheath in June, central London in January… but here we were, planning on having our annual Christmas meal in December of all places! Trouble is, most restaurants seem to want to ditch what they are known for, and produce their version of what everyone is doing.

I have to admit, on this occasion I was doing the travelling, so it seemed only right to delegate the venue choice to the dude living locally. “Peckham…”, he suggested. Well, the first thing to come to mind was the song lyric “Is there life in Peckham?” Turns out, there really is, and amongst other contenders, it is alive and well at…

Artusi sign

On inspecting the online menu possibilities, it seemed like we were attending the first night of a somewhat far more adventurous Christmas menu than I had seen before. But, despite getting up my resolve to go for it, redemption came in the form of having to book it in advance. We hadn’t, so we were left to their very own tradition of setting out their Italian inspired menu of the day on a blackboard near the restaurant entrance…

Chalkboard menu

A Salt Beef starter arrived with just the right blend of soft melt-in-the-mouth tender brisket and tart pickled cucumber…

Salt Beef starter

The main dish of Rigatoni Sausage Ragu came in the form of small pasta tubes with smaller pieces of sausage in a delicate balance. Why get stuffed, when you can just enjoy a satisfying blend of complementary flavours? Though it is very clear to me that had Juno been present that Sea Bream across the table would not last the time it takes for a blog post snap…

Canelloni Sausage Ragu

Until we speak again, it seems there is life in Peckham, and it comes in a very satisfyingly un-Christmas package. Artusi is for any time, not just for Christmas!

Artusi entrance

The best kind of Phoenix

How do you describe the feeling on seeing one of your favourite restaurants has been closed? No, I’m not talking of the demise of a Gregg’s or a Wetherspoons; that would be a celebration! It was summer of 2018 and the Bayside Brasserie was making way for a new Everyman Cinema in Cardiff Bay.

Now, I am a very frequent user of ‘the pictures’ (as one of my reader’s will no doubt confirm by messaging shortly), so something different from the usual over representation of the run-of-the-mill multiplexes is more than welcome. But why take away my favourite eatery down the bay?

Fast forward to the summer of 2019, and my faith in a higher influence is happily restored…

Yes, it’s back… and every bit as good. With a balmy summer evening permitting use of an outside table, the view across the glass of a Patagonian Malbec set up the appetite…

Starters of Chilli and Lime Squid and a most mouth-watering Belly Pork helped to settle any anxieties that a re-opening 50 yards away from the original would be a let-down.

Then came the true memory-refresher… I can definitely confirm the Bayside Brasserie still serves up one of Cardiff’s finest Filet Steaks

Until we speak again, let this be a lesson that nightmares can occasionally turn into dreams… now whatever has become of our political leadership, and not just the class of clowns presently screwing up the UK?

Breakfast on Bold Street

When in Liverpool the choice of first meal of the day can be quite an enticing decision. Maybe that’s why Bold Street was invented? Why not try Bakchish for the ‘full’ Arabic?

Then, for the more home spun safety merchant, but nonetheless tasty option, Leaf services up a great Eggs Asparagus, with added Halloumi, Bacon and Black Pudding. The Lemongrass & Ginger Roibos tea is also a refreshing accoutrements…

Until we speak again, ‘bed only’ hotel accommodation is strongly recommended when in Liverpool. Why not be Bold and save on the hotel breakfast costs.

When Scotland met Ireland

Haggis Bon Bons turned out to be a sublime way of ending a working day in sunny Stranraer. What could possibly complement them? Step up to the plate Dublin, and serve up a pint of your finest Guinness

Until we speak again, if you ever find yourself in the Independent Republic of Stranraer, sample an international combination of Scotland and Ireland’s finest (as sampled at the Craignelder Hotel).

Wales by the Med

It’s springtime in Wales… blowing a gale and shivering! The deceptive kind of inviting day where any sensible cat would ignore the sun and blue sky and stay indoors. But where did sensibility get any of us anyway? Thoughts drift towards lazy balmy Mediterranean days of summer; but why wait… when The Mumbles can bring a piece of the Mediterranean closer to home!

Outside

Don’t be deceived by the empty tables, as this was a lucky early visit; and before we had finished the meal all tables downstairs were taken as were most upstairs. This may be a place worth booking to avoid disappointment!

Inside

Cheese may be what cats use to trap mice, but grilled Halloumi is always going to be a trap for me. But the real surprise was the cubed liver starter, far more tasty than any throw back to the dreaded school meals of shoe leather and cold onion fame. ..

Haloumi and Liver starters

Then came the main event… with so many different tasty kebabs to choose from the Turkish residents of The Mumbles certainly came up with a stunning twist on the Patlikan Kebab… Skewered Lamb, aubergines and tomato came vigorously sizzling across the restaurant to the table; and the addition of the spoon was an essential implement for what could easily have been mistaken for a supreme stew…

Patlikan Kebab

Until we speak again, enjoy your days in the Mediterranean, but if the cost of flights and hotels appear prohibitive, well, just pop over to The Mediterranean (Mumbles style) where the welcome will be just as warm.

Dandelion in the breeze

Cats purring on a sunny Sunday afternoon on the Gower peninsula

What could possibly add to the tranquility of a brisk Welsh coastal breeze? How about a Dandelion? Well that wasn’t the answer that immediately came to mind…

Such an unassuming frontage hides unique delights… a place where Wales meets America, as local laverbread and samphire can be served up alongside pancakes with maple syrup!

Until we speak again, cats just love pigs… particularly when they come dressed as bacon!

[Note to certain readers: vegetarians are also served… and not just on plates!]

An eerily fabulous Sunday

If it’s something on the dark side that you are looking for, then try Plymouth in Cardiff! On a cool winter’s afternoon. What? Or, why, even?

Moon through trees

Take in a stroll around St. Fagan’s National Museum, but then, just up the hill a delight awaits the weary unsuspecting traveller… the Plymouth Arms

Glass pub name

Well, at least it saves you the gruesome prospect of having to plumb the sordid depths of Devon. With fire blazing, there is just one thing on our minds (no, that’s for later!)… a traditional Sunday Roast, with a hearty glass of something smooth and richly dark all the way from California, in the guise of Dark Horse Cabernet Sauvignon.

Roast sirloin of beef

Crunchy vegetables perfectly complementing the juicy roast beef and thick piping hot gravy…….. only one thing for it… another glass of the American falling over juice (though a few other varieties look tempting)…

Wine list

Until we speak again, Juno would surely have summoned up her English origins and ask us to suspend the surprise that something briefly so wonderful derives its name from English dockyards… or perhaps not!

Outside view

 

Feast of New Orleans

Is it really 20 years since Jeff Bridges uttered the memorable words in his role as Jeff LebowskiThe Dude Abides! Well, I don’t know about you, but when in New Orleans your taste buds will be on a collision course for which that phrase is definitely the most apt response.

Lets start with a stroll along Dauphine Street calling into EAT for a dish to truly baffle the likes of Juno and BellaBlackened Catfish… a lightly crusty outer skin with soft meaty fish. Just add cups of gumbo, rice, and generous portions of gherkin and tomato to provide an introduction to the coming days of what is likely to be a culinary explosion.

Meanwhile, at Joey K’s over on Magazine Street I stumble across a NOLA staple of Red Beans and Rice. A slice of Andouille Sausage brings out some spicy flavour. Not exactly the best accompaniment to a full on Californian Cabernet Sauvignon, so my recommendation is to sample the free water with the food, and then gently sip the wine.

For an introduction to the definitive ‘Taste of the BayouThe Creole House on Canal Street offers a trio of cups to tantalise the taste buds, as the gastronomic Louisiana trilogy of Gumbo, Crawfish Etouffee and Jambalaya are presented for inspection. If you know what you want, dive in, but if you are unsure this option helps you decide what next to dive in to…

Strolling further along Canal Street why not try the Palace Cafe for a hint of Shrimp & Grits with a Creole Muniere, or maybe Turtle Soup followed by their signature dish of Crabmeat Cheesecake. The creole munière is a gravy with just the right level of spice to give an amazing dish extra oomph. As for the cheesecake… you have probably never tried anything like this before, and will then probably want to spend whatever it costs on returning to NOLA to check out what you just tasted! As for the poor turtles, well, you just have to when the opportunity arises… don’t you?

But, not everything here is about visiting restaurants. In between the dining establishments that provide great drinks there are, you guessed it, the drinking establishments providing amazing food. Try Vacherie on Toulouse Street, and while sitting at the bar sipping a range of local beers why not wrestle some Alligator Bites, Collard Greens, Bacon & Brussels Sprouts, oh, and a House Salad for balance…

And New Orleans may just have a welcome and forthright message for any youngsters dreaming of eating their usual fayre… take a hike Colonel Sanders! For the real taste of Fried Chicken check out the Treme based institution of Dooky Chase, particularly with a side order of Candied Yams (and that’s a Shrimp Creole that my friend is choosing, in case your concentration was drifting across the table!)…

Talking of Treme based institutions, a Shrimp Po-Boy slides down well, even with Tabasco Sauce, at Li’l Dizzy’s on Esplanade Avenue, but as a Brit I note that not even NOLA can hold a candle to our chips (that’s proper chips, not the fries nonsense inherited from somewhere in the basement of French cuisine)…

By now you are probably wondering how your health is coping with all of this gastronomic fabulousness. So, if it’s something a little lighter your looking for, but, being America no less enormous… try a salad or two, or more! Starting with the sumptuously named Satsuma Cafe on Maple Street the recommendation would be a boiled egg and avocado surrounded by the funky leaves of a Kale Salad washed down with a Beet Lemonade

Or, drop in to Luke on St Charles Avenue for Fried Oyster Salad accompanied by something distinctively fabulous that they do with Crispy Brussels Sprouts

Then again, if it’s music you like with your salad, try BB Kings on Decatur Street. The Spinach Salad with Blackened Chicken is a terrific accompaniment for the Blues, man!

BB King's Club Spinach Salad with Blackened Chicken

Did you say fine dining? Bayona on Dauphine Street provides a more delicate option than the soulful sounds of a blues club; but, starting with a Fig Salad or Quail Salad, the need for a deeper wallet will be more than compensated for on the tantalised taste buds…

Ultimately, thinking about all of this food, Envie is a place you may well be contemplating at this stage. Well it exists on Decatur Street and provides just the right accompaniment to a start of the day large cappuccino and OJ in the form of an Asparagus and Prosciutto Omelette with a side Biscuit (US rather than UK style of biscuit, that is)…

Until we speak again, not all institutions are necessarily good! NOLA is just waiting to ensnare you with a distinctive plate of their trademark Beignet. An avalanche of sugar covering a doughy case to a gloopy mess; think doughnuts ramped up to warp factor 10, this is something Juno and Bella would definitely turn noses up at and simply walk away… you may be well advised to do likewise, but when in New Orleans sometimes you simply have too dive in and hope!

Alka-Seltzer anyone!?