‘Titanic’ for dinner, anyone?

A trip to Belfast shouldn’t induce any kind of sinking feeling, even when you are greeted with a sign that could easily be directing you to some dismal place at the bottom of the Atlantic

Road sign

There is a distinct landmark offered by the twin cranes, Samson and Goliath, of Harland and Wolff providing a beacon to draw you towards the location where the Titanic was built (even when gazing out of the hotel window).

However, these are a relatively modern monument to past industrial glory (circa 1969). Back in the day, the Titanic was built in a backdrop of harsher times, and the following pictures contrast a vision of the early 20th century with the present day exact location of its construction (actually marked out in detail on the ground)…

In a world where everything that is rooted to the spot can now be classified as a museum, to something or another, the Titanic has been commemorated by a particularly spectacular building, where every dimension and use of materials symbolises something about the original short-lived icon…

Museum building [1]

Museum building [3]

But, what about that dinner? Well, you could try the Bistro in the museum itself. My time was limited so I sampled the wares of the sleekly designed Premier Inn hotel. After all, some of us are visiting Belfast for work purposes you know (with a wonderful welcome from the Belfast Home Treatment Team)!

Premier Inn

Here, a Sirloin Steak can be adequately complemented by a glass of a Malbec Reserva. Just remember, when your waitress asks if you would like water with it, the reply is ‘NO ICE’!

Premier Inn steak

Until we speak again, you surely didn’t expect a carnivorous cat to ask for a vegetarian steak, did you!? For the record, unlike on that horrendous day in April 1912, only one animal suffered in the making of this blog post.

Cat not home

So, there I was at BB King’s place. What else do you do for your 60th? He wasn’t there, but that was my fault, I didn’t tell him I was coming! However, some cool blues cats were present…

Thirst needed to be quenched, so do what the locals do… An ‘Urban South Holy Roller IPA’ might do the trick… 

But fabulous blues also seem to drive an  appetite. It looks like a hot beef ‘po boy’ is also called for…

So who needed the appetite interruption act? It seems that some cats just get preferential treatment, eating or not. 

Maybe I’m just being an over sensitive old git! Clearly some bluesmen have different priorities (if you catch my drift).

Anyway, the whole point of this ramble is just to remind my follower that a visit to Newawrlings is going to provide fabulous experiences, if you are ok about expecting unusual stuff!

Until we speak again, worry more about yourself. I’m just taking in ‘The Big Easy. 

Culinario gatti

Calling all you culinary cats… Giovanni’s has been established on The Hayes in the centre of Cardiff since 1983; but in 2013 a second branch opened on Park Place, conveniently opposite the New Theatre. But, don’t expect any Godfather III operatic grandstanding here… for a start, you may be greeted by a less than appetising facade of scaffolding, as painting is in progress.

Front [1]

It is worth getting past your penchant for deciding the quality of a restaurant based on the external appearance (particularly as this will change sometime soon). After all, you should be in food critic, not architectural critic mode, if your aim is to satisfy gastronomic urges. I know, I’m a hypocrite, as I am often critical of sloppy architecture, including that of modern restaurants.

On a recent post rugby match visit, there were plenty of persone che mangiano di ristoranti, with everyone engrossed in the menu under the expert tutelage of the resident maestro…

Giovanni's [1]

It is worth lingering over the menu, as this is no run-of-the-mill Italian chain. We are talking a family-run restaurant with plenty of amore put into the whole experience as well as the culinary produce. For the visiting young one it was Scallops Al Limone for a starter, which received glowing praise from someone who knows his scallops. I opted for the Gamberoni all Marchesa (roasted king prawns in garlic, white wine and parsley)…

Giovanni's [2]

Yes, I know it should be white wine with any seafood; but my inner Lecter couldn’t resist a nice Chianti! As for main courses, the visiting ‘Son of Cool’ went for the traditional option of a good home cooked Lasagne Emiliana Fatta in Casa, and yours truly was in the mood for a main that would live up to the red wine accompaniment. So, what better than a Penne Spezzatino (fillet steak in garlic, wine and tomato sauce)…

Giovanni's [3]

Some of you might be licking your lips with anticipation of what quintessential Italian desserts are about to be laid out before you. Well, tough… this is early evening, and space needs to be left for a few beers elsewhere (you can only have so much of a good Italian thing before reverting to what the British do better!). But, before I leave you, and in the continuing spirit of hydration, I did indulge in a double espresso and Sambucca on the side. There are some liquids that only the Italians really know how to make!

Giovanni's [4]

We both left full of culinario contentezza, as we transitioned from Italian delicato to the bustle of a Saturday night in a British pub. Until we speak again, may all of your cornetto’s be less than vanilla. And Bella says ciao.

Farewell

Surfing the turf

So there I was, in this crazy cats kind of world, suddenly finding myself back in Llanelli. Now, for those of you who haven’t been, you might just be wondering why go in the first place? And, for those who have been to this run down post-industrial area of south-west Wales, the source of wonderment is… why go back a second time? Well, we can’t always choose where the work is going to take us, is the plain simple answer to that conundrum.

However, once drawn into its web of intrigue, don’t expect things to be as they usually are! For a start there are the Castle Buildings as a prime place to stay… but it’s not the traditional Welsh castle that you might have been led to expect?

Vista Hotel

The hotel occupying this so-called castle site is the Vista Hotel… but I suggest you revise your expectations of vista’s before you arrive!

Church from hotel window

However, there is one thing that should cause most unsuspecting cats to pause (or is that paws?) before they pounce… it’s always interesting when your meal looks you in the eye and says ‘Your move!’

Surf and Turf [2]

The thing is… where to get the energy to launch an escape beyond the orbit of Llanelli’s gravitational pull? Rest assured, cats wishing to get out of the bag can take on an early morning full (Welsh/English) breakfast…

All Day Breakfast

Though be warned… the food in this place might just be enough to tempt you stay… at least until the next meal, if for no other exciting reason!

Until we speak again, Juno will display the level of industriousness now associated with the former powerhouses of Welsh industry…

Armadillo pose

 

 

Home of the Black Cats

Black Cat House

Sunderland is a city with a claim to be first to return their count at just about any national vote. Indeed the shock Brexit vote of 23rd June 2016 can be claimed to have started here. A recent visit gave some insights into why they are quick with the count… as a tour of the city centre suggests there is little else to do than stay in doors and count votes! What the Luftwaffe started in the 1940’s the city planners completed in the 1960’s and 70’s.

The local people are informally known as ‘mackems’, one explanation emerging from their former shipbuilding tradition, whereby it is the Sunderland shipyards that ‘mackem’ (or make them); and the rival Newcastle shipyards that finish them off… ‘tackem’ (or take them). My recent visit to the city was perhaps summed up by a representation of this very name, but closed to business…

Machem Pizza

Even their strangely named football ground, the Stadium of Light was shrouded in darkness (though it wasn’t a match night).

Stadium of Light

However, all is not doom and gloom. If you have a spare couple of hours, that should be just about enough time, then get your Google maps out. A stop off at the Hilton Garden Inn, next door to the Stadium of Light offers a great steak and glass of Rioja.

Hilton Garden Inn [2]

Then take a stroll over the old iron bridge into the city centre…

Bridge [3]

Navigate your way passed the colourful Magistrates Court (Tip: don’t end up inside as a result of thinking you can vandalise or litter the place as a means of visually improving the city’s demeanour!)…

Somewhere within the tribute to grim concrete lies a couple of interesting pubs with good ale selections. If the local CAMRA reps are to be believed, then The Ship Isis is the best pub in the area. Test that claim for yourself, but I would certainly recommend a visit if you like a pint of Allendale Mosaic &/or Camerons Strong-arm in restored Victorian surroundings…

But if you want to experience the real deal, there is always the likes of an Anarchy Blonde Star waiting at the Dun Cow, next door to the Empire Theatre…

Dun Cow and empire Theatre

As I write it seems the local football team are hurtling towards relegation out of the Premier League. I can only muse that if the disgruntled of one Stadium of Light decided to smash up the town to vent their anger, it would take Sherlock Holmes like attention to detail to spot the difference.

Until we speak again, I am sure that Juno would advise no more than a couple of hours needed to sample all that Sunderland has to offer, and then quietly make your escape!

Plotting an escape

 

Look through any window

It may be a famous old Hollies track, but the instruction also offers a taste of nostalgia. Here is a bygone age, when Brains were truly great beers to challenge the best around…

look-through-any-window

But this scene in a Cardiff Coffee#1 shop just got me reflecting back on a recent trip to Llanelli in west Wales. This was once a boom town built on heavy industries with a specialist focus on tinplate, but now it’s a faded shadow of itself. Perhaps it might still look like a big place to someone steeped in the rural ways of life, but to the average urban dweller Llanelli leaves you asking “what’s the fuss?” If you look closely enough you might find something resembling a modern welcome…

thomas-arms-hotel

But then again, as the first image implies, Brains used to be something once, but what’s the fuss? Better to settle for a smooth New Zealand Pinot Noir when the beer offering is the range of modern day corporate Brains!

fire-and-wine

Come to think of it log fires were something once, but now they have succumbed to a strange elevated form of designer chic as a centrepiece of a room…

fireplace

Then again, pork chops were something once, but what’s the fuss? Now they have to be Harissa spiced with a side of creamy slaw!

harissa-pork-chops

It’s good to know that a hearty cooked breakfast still is something, even if beans now have to come in a gravy pot!

Full Welsh breakfast.jpg

If you find yourself in the time warp, aka Llanelli, The Thomas Arms should provide that comfortable reality check that the 21st century is soon to make an appearance. Meanwhile, looking through any window provides me with a nostalgic remembrance that it was a favourite pastime of Juno

sunshine-at-14-3

Until we speak again, remember that nostalgia is a thing of the past. Spare yourself a moment or two, and look through any window

 

Trump’s first nightmare

Take a picture of this… it’s a quiet afternoon the night after the celebrations, and ‘the Donald’ is looking for something to eat. His innate tendency to seek a confrontation draws him towards the promise of a grilling at ‘Mesopotamia‘.

mesopotamia

Not one to let any reference to the cradle of civilisation cloud his own vision of personal greatness, he accepts the perceived challenge and grumbles his way through an astonishing menu. A mesmerising presence of Iraq is peppered with Lebanese references, and an unexpected Mexican insurgency…

menu

As thoughts drift towards the need for building walls, he realises that the incumbent occupation has already created a tasteful arrangement of bricks, tiles and wood without the need to create any semblance of a barrier.

restaurant-1

The food is fit for any self-elevating despot. Starters of Vine Leaves and Halloumi Salad were preceded by complimentary bowls of a tasty broth, and accompanied by Ayran (a yogurt based refreshing drink). Who needs alcohol when the world is already laid out before you?!

starter-of-vine-leaves-and-halloumi-salad-and-ayran-drinks

While ‘the Donald’ reels in amazement at the strange collaboration of Iraq & Mexico the taste buds are further assuaged by a Mixed Kebab and Okra combination…

mains-of-mixed-kebab-and-okra

The overall mirage is completed by what appears to be a cocktail crescendo. But this is the peak of non-alcoholic consumption… so it is the taste of a full flavoured Virgin Mojito that satisfies the feast.

virgin-mojitos

To any self-respecting, world-appreciating, liberal-minded individuals, this is an experience to open the mind and satisfy the soul. If you are ever strolling along the infamously diverse City Road in Cardiff you are advised to pay a visit. ‘The Donald’s’ of the world need not apply; they deserve little more than a wall building around them, within which they can indulge their own nightmarish visions of the world. Bella would have been first to supervise and contain the nightmare from encroaching on the ordinary people.

x-ray-eyes

Until we speak again, may your culinary excursions be mind expanding.