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

No Kurds were harmed

Under the cover of darkness St Mary Street had clearly succumbed to a Turkish incursion…

Outside view at night

Lezzet Turkish Kitchen is an interesting addition to Cardiff’s independent restaurants, for those of us who don’t feel the need to prop up the plethora of eat-by-numbers restaurant chains that litter the high streets of our towns and cities.

Oven

The familiar starter of Stuffed vine leaves came with an interesting mildly spiced twist…

Stuffed Vine Leaves

But it was the Seafood Kebab including swordfish, salmon and king prawns that melted away any possible resistance…

Seafood Kebab

Until we speak again, Turkey rightfully gets universal condemnation for its recent assault on Syria-based Kurdish forces; but the actions of megalomaniac dictators should bear no reflection on the many friendly and gastronomically creative Turkish people. But, in the interests of balance, I should really visit a restaurant offering Kurdish cuisine sometime soon.

Gone Fishing!

Whatever your level of budget or taste you can bet New Orleans is going to come up with something that will add to your lifetime gastronomic mind map. My relationship to fish is generally one of appreciating their grace and beauty rather than their taste; but there is a small range of the critters that had just better watch out when I am around!

When the company is right for a spot of the fine dining I recently found that there is no better place in the French Quarter than GW Fins (aptly named for a seafood joint).

Okay, maybe I did cheat a bit with a Crispy Belly Pork & Watermelon appetiser; but you would to if you had the chance! In any case, my companions were diving straight into the pond after the Fried Snapper Belly (complete with fin)…

Fried Snapper Belly and Crispy Pork Belly

However, it didn’t take me long to cross swords with the finest tasting Blackened Swordfish with Fried Shrimp, whilst viewing my companions Spearfished Cobia across the table.

Spearfished Cobia and Swordfish dishes

And, just for variety, there was also an example of the house speciality Scalibut

Scalibut

Until we speak again, feel free to suggest further gastronomic challenges you would like me to take on your behalf… there is no end to the level of personal sacrifice I am prepared top make on your behalf. In the meantime check out GW Fins menu and wine list for salivation (definitely not salvation) purposes…

 

 

Deja Vu

Coming back to New Orleans again is one thing, but the irresistible pull of brunch at the Palace Cafe on Canal Street comes down to one thing. It’s not the neatly tailored waiting staff, or even the delicate combination of dark wood panelling, white linen tablecloths and shiny floor coverings. It’s not the coffee; far better can be found with a little bit of intrepid searching.

No, it simply comes down to their signature dish… a savoury take on a sweet idea, topped off with a creole muniere sauce of just enough spice. Yes, for my regular reader, I’m once again introducing you to the Crabmeat Cheesecake that is every bit as good to the taste as it is stunning on the eye…

Until we speak again, this cat is simply going to continue suffering in order to bring you these magic morsels!

Going French in the Quarter

Liberte, Equalite, Fraternite… who cares when you are on vacation looking for a fine brunch without a heart attack inducing smothering of eggs and cheese? Well ladies, at least here you get your own entrance…

Croissant D’Or Patisserie on Ursulines is a must for anyone in the French Quarter of New Orleans looking for a small piece of France… American style (i.e. by not needing to go to France!… or even anywhere outside of America!).

The Brioche French Toast is to die for… well, perhaps not something so dramatic… so add the fruit bowl if you need a life support…

Until we speak again, there are better ways to go, apparently; but in Nou Awlings, who cares, as long as you’re indulging in what life has to offer…

Dumfries Surprise

Ever found yourself somewhere you never expected to be… only to wonder why it hasn’t appeared on your radar before? No! Well take a picture of Dumfries in the borderlands of Scotland. Better still, take a visit. It will only take a day or so of your time, as it is hardly a metropolis. But it will hold a few surprises.

A day in the life of Dumfries can only start with a wholesome B&B freshly cooked full Scottish breakfast, featuring a haggis cameo and the quintessential lorne sausage

Having partaken of the traditional sustenance it is time to explore red sandstone in all its native forms. The architecture definitely speaks of bygone important days, and was built to withstand anything the Scottish weather could hurl it’s way…

Scratch the surface and you may find that not everything is distinctly local. Having wandered around the tightly packed streets it is unlikely that the ballast of breakfast is wearing off; but let’s say for arguments sake that a dream of globalisation is intruding on your sandstone meandering. Americana Scottish-style awaits you on, of all places, English Street

If a Blueberry Delight pancake stack doesn’t remind your arteries of the concept of mortality nothing will! Suitably fortified the Cavens Arms is the best place locally for liquid refreshment. A good selection of the falling over juice (Orkney IPA and Jarl Blonde Ale were the main culprits) interrupted any photographic evidence.

Ask any self-respecting Scottish local and they will surely remind you of the hunger-inducing powers of imbibing the intoxicating liquids. Crumb will be there on of all places, Irish Street, to satisfy many cravings… Teriyaki Salmon, Beef Chilli or Southern Fried Chicken as particularly favoured samples…

Until we speak again, particularly sated cats recommend more than a day if you want to discover a Dumfries Surprise.

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