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Lifestyle | On being a bad vegetarian and National Vegetarian Week

IMG_2880There’s probably a lot of people out there who don’t know that these days I eat mostly vegetarian. I don’t shout it from the rooftops like some vegetarians and I don’t take a fuss if meat is put in front of me by an unsuspecting host. I will fully admit now – because I know someone I’ve had burgers with is sure to comment – I am not the world’s best vegetarian. But since this week is National Vegetarian Week, I thought it was a good time to talk about why I have chosen to eat mainly vegetarian and how travel has affected my choice of diet. While many people will focus on how cruel it is to hurt animals and to kill them in order to feed our ever growing obsession with steak – that’s not my reason for choosing to live this way. I don’t dispute it being a good reason, but for me there are just many other important reasons for doing this.

Why am I vegetarian?

It all started when I first went travelling, before I left I was a big meat-eater who loved a steak, but once I discovered the delights of South-East Asian cuisine and their remarkable vegetarian selection, I was sold. A few experiences with some questionable meat and I soon decided to stick purely with the amazingly fresh veggies and tofu – what a discovery! No longer was it the soggy, tasteless meat replacement, but instead a meal all in itself – never have I had tofu as well seasoned, as flavoursome and exciting as I did when I was in Thailand. It really set my tastebuds on fire and made me realise I didn’t really even miss meat when I had such amazing veggie options on offer. The rest of my five months in Asia, I pretty much lived off a diet of veggies, rice, noodles and fruit – and to this day I have never felt healthier, happier or stronger.IMG_2273When I reached Australia I ended up travelling around so much and then working jobs with crazy hours so I never bothered to buy meat to cook in case it just went off and was a waste. Instead I would raid the amazing range of tofu and fresh veggies for healthy meals or salads. I’ve seen a real transformation in my diet over the last three years and it has been a natural transition as I’ve realised what really makes my body feel good and healthy, I don’t need meat to feel strong – I can get my protein elsewhere and I actually prefer the tastes and textures to eating flesh. I feel better for not eating meat – I actually notice the difference immediately after eating a meal with meat and eating a vegetarian meal – meat makes me feel sluggish, bloated and overly full.

But what’s a bad vegetarian?

I will admit that I’m not always religious with my vegetarianism – I do have slip ups and when you’re travelling it’s not always easy to eat as healthily or as strictly as it would be at home. In Melbourne I ate so healthily because I was able to prepare all my own meals but when you’re travelling all the time or have rubbish hostel kitchens to work with it can be more difficult. Check out my top tips for staying fit and healthy when you travel here. Plus there is the fact that I don’t actually dislike meat – I still enjoy the taste and smell of it and if my mates decide to have a barbecue or someone wants to go for a burger or a steak – if I crave it I’ll eat it. So yes, I’m a bad vegetarian and some may even consider me not a vegetarian at all, but I don’t really care. The fact is, I’ve gone from eating meat every day to often not even once a month.FullSizeRender 2

Why should you try this?

It might sound like this is just something I have done purely for my own health reasons, but actually since making this change I’ve done a lot of reading and watched a lot of documentaries about vegetarianism and the environment. I’ve steered clear of the usual “don’t hurt the baby animals” ones and instead looked more at the effect a carnivore diet has on the environment as a whole. If you haven’t watched Cowspiracy (it’s on Netflix) then you should definitely check it out – it is the documentary that has stayed with me the most. This one focuses on the effect farming cows for food has on the environment and particularly on climate change – the facts and figures it offers pretty much shows that farming meat has had much larger effect on global warming than pollution and use of fossil fuels which I find both fascinating and scary. This fact is just brushed under the carpet because of the sheer amount of money the industry makes for the economy and the governments.IMG_2058I’m not proposing any huge move to change the world, but I do think that we as individuals can do small things both to help ourselves and the planet. I personally feel that not eating meat has made me feel much healthier and better in myself, and I also like knowing that I am helping the environment at the same time. I don’t feel guilty if I slip-up and have a bacon sandwich but I do know I won’t do it all the time. Since it’s National Vegetarian Week, I challenge you all to just try it for one week. If you can’t stand the thought of full vegetarianism, why not just cut back on eating meat every day and just have it twice a week? Even that would make a huge difference – not only to your health and the environment, but also to your bank balance. Give it a try, it’s just a week and it could change your life.

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London | A RustiKo Italian feast in Soho

imageGoing out for dinner has always been one of my favourite things to do. It doesn’t matter whether it’s street food in Bangkok, a luxury three-course meal in a fine-dining restaurant or a stuff-yourself-silly night at the local steakhouse. I’m always open to trying new foodie experiences and I’d always much rather that than a night of partying, money much better spent if you ask me! Especially when it comes to supporting independent and local businesses, I’m not really one for chain restaurants and would always much rather eat at restaurant that isn’t mass-producing its food. Give me fresh, local produce and a creative means of cooking any day. It’s not just the food – although that is a huge part of why I love it – it’s also the social experience of trying new foods with friends or loved ones, of sitting around a table and eating together. I’m a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to meals, growing up it was always the one time of day my family all sat down together with no TV or other distractions to eat and catch up on what we had all been up to. When you’re living such busy and different lives, I think it’s important to really take this time together. As a backpacker, getting to know people always seems to be done over dinner and a few beers, eating together is once again the thing that brings us all together of an evening.imageLondon is a city full of chain restaurants and well known brands, but for me, this just doesn’t do it when I have a weekend away. I’d much rather peruse the food markets and explore quirky little restaurants with a lot more personality for a bit of a unique experience. I was invited along to review RustiKo Soho, a new independent Italian restaurant in the heart of Old Compton Street, just a stone’s throw from some of the best theatres in London. As we walked up to the restaurant, we were excited by the cosy look of the place, the quirky, candle-lit interior, and a funky blues playlist we could hear muffled behind the windows. I was promised “the vintage Soho experience” from an evening there and I can’t say I was disappointed, we were made to feel so welcome from the second we stepped in the door. The size and the decor gave it such a friendly vibe, more like you had hired out the whole venue for your friends than the formality of a restaurant. Every bar stool was already taken by those enjoying the fantastic range of prosecco, classic and twisted cocktails, as we were escorted to our table. I loved the rustic vibes of the restaurant, it was just my kind of place and I could only imagine the other levels would deliver more of the same.imageOne glance at the menu showed me we were in for a treat as we struggled to choose our favourite dishes, there was so much choice and so many of my favourite dishes. Despite having limited numbers of dishes on the menus, every single dish on there sounded fabulous and there was definitely something for everyone. The waiters were incredibly helpful with suggesting wines to go with the dishes and offering recommendations for combinations of dishes. In the end, we started with the garlic chilli shrimp and polenta chips to start, with some garlic pizza bread. It was the first time I had tried polenta chips but they were delicious, and the garlic pizza bread was a huge hit with that super melty, delicious cheese. My favourite had to be the delicious garlic chilli shrimp – one of my favourite dishes to have as a starter – I was so impressed by the flavours and spice, it was perfect and I’ll definitely be ordering that again.imageFor our second course, we spent ages choosing our dishes, but in the end we couldn’t resist the lobster linguine and the gnocchi. Now gnocchi is a dish that I’ve had a lot of disappointment over in the past, I’ve had the sad looking potatoey lumps slapped on a plate several times and decided it wasn’t for me. But finally, we tried a gnocchi that was tasty and had the perfect texture, the dumplings were cooked in a tasty mozzarella, sun-dried tomato and basil sauce that was perfect for my vegetarian sister. The absolute highlight was my lobster linguine, a dish that I have loved for many years, I couldn’t resist seeing the chef’s take on it. This time it was half a lobster cooked with cherry tomatoes, spring onions and a brandy sauce, even now as I write this my mouth is watering at the memory. It was a deliciously rich dish full of flavours, but the chef had combined them so perfectly that they didn’t overtake the delicate taste of the lobster. It’s a fine balance and there’s nothing worse than a seafood dish that overpowers seafood with strong flavours, the brandy was a perfect accompaniment. I was so impressed with the quality of the food, and the portion size, we were left stuffed and couldn’t even manage dessert!imageWatching the other patrons, I couldn’t resist peeking at their food and was excited at the sight of the juicy steaks, the light pasta dishes and the small plates (piattini) that were perfect for sharing. The couple next to us were loving their meal and really recommended the dishes, particularly the rib-eye. Showing the diversity of Soho, the restaurant was filled with a real range of people, it really showed how it was perfect for all occasions whether it was a family meal, a romantic dinner for two, or cocktails with the girls. Even better, after dinner, we were taken downstairs to explore the newest addition to the restaurant, the newly-opened basement bar, The Shed. With a real vintage Soho feel, the bar is a perfect place to relax with a drink after dinner, or to spend an evening with good friends. Just a small bar, it has a really exclusive feel as you walk down the spiral staircase to see cute wooden seating, bookshelves and quirky little decorations. I loved the swing music soundtrack and it went perfectly with the amazing look of the bar. There were already a couple of groups down there enjoying a few drinks and I noticed, that although the place felt busy and bustling, it was never so loud that we struggled to hear each other. RustiKo had managed to find a perfect balance between atmosphere and the foodie experience, and the result was just lovely. It really was the rustic Italian experience nestled in the streets of Soho, and I can’t recommend this hidden gem enough. Book your table now.image

Have you been to RustiKo – how was your experience? Can you recommend any other independent restaurants? What’s your favourite Italian dish?

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Falling back in love with lamb at The Orange Tree

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Scorched king scallops and crispy ham hock

There’s been a lot of big posts on the blog of late and I think it’s time to take it back to one of my biggest loves – FOOD! Anyone who knows me will say how much I like my food – people are often shocked by the amount I can put away. But what is more important to me than quantity, is quality. I would always rather have something cooked from scratch, something with all natural ingredients, preferably local, and something delicious than a plateful of greasy crap. I know everyone says that, but I actually mean it. Of course we all have our days when only a takeaway will do, but after being raised in a house where everything is cooked from scratch I find I seem have have significantly less of these cravings than my friends. So for someone who is more than a bit of a foodie, this restaurant review was a long time coming!

I’m lucky enough to live just a short distance from the North-Norfolk coast, one of the most beautiful locations in the country, which is packed with gorgeous seaside towns, quaint old-fashioned pubs, and plenty of amazing gastro pubs. Working at the paper, we are always hearing about awards given to local pubs and restaurants for their fare and one name that comes up time and time again, is The Orange Tree at Thornham. We have wanted to go there for years and have heard so many amazing reviews and recommendations, but it is one of those things that has always been forgotten and put off to another date. Randomly, boyfriend decided to surprise me with dinner at this lovely little restaurant last weekend and I just couldn’t resist sharing our amazing meal with you.

Barbecue teriyaki and sesame pork fillet with satay

Barbecue teriyaki and sesame pork fillet with satay

We started with a refreshing glass of Pinot Grigio which happily washed down our amazing starters. I had scorched king scallops, crispy ham hock with aloo gobi, black curry salt, mango sour, white chocolate and cauliflower purée (first picture). This dish was an incredible mix of flavours and I think you’ll agree the presentation was stunning. I loved the combination of the curry salt and the ham hock, and the purée was very tasty. Mark had barbecue teriyaki and sesame pork fillet with satay, kohlrabi & apple rèmoulade, nuts and seeds (second picture) which was a really delicious dish – even I enjoyed a taste and I’m not usually a big pork lover, but the satay was fantastic. Both were the sort of dishes you really want everyone to experience, but you know it would be heartbreaking to share.

The restaurant itself was lovely and really cosy, with just enough tables to make it feel busy, but not so it was too loud. It was fully booked when we arrived, so we were glad we had booked a table, and they put us on a lovely one in the corner, right by the window. I was surprised to see a few families in there as I wouldn’t have thought of it as the typical place for those with young children to head, but then we realised you could also order off the bar menu, which offered a more casual meal.

Our lamb and pork mains

Our lamb and pork mains

Our mouths were watering as we watched other peoples’ mains being brought out, with a salmon special also catching my eye. But shortly after, our waitress headed over with two stunning dishes both trailing rich aromas of barbecue pork and Moroccan spice in their wake. I found it pretty difficult to conceal my excitement, which was a pretty big thing for me. An incident with some rotten lamb last Christmas – cheers Tesco – has meant I haven’t happily eaten the meat since, but after a meal at The Orange Tree, I am firmly back in love with lamb.

My dish is pictured at the top – at least most of it is, I struggled to fit the cous cous in the frame! I ordered rump of salt marsh lamb with aubergine kofta, spiced vegetable tagine and rose water Israeli cous cous and all I can say really is WOW. This dish was a perfect combination of Moroccan flavours, the stunning blend of spices in the tagine set the kofta and cous cous off a treat. I reached the end of the dish and wished I could have eaten it all over again! Mark’s dish was duo of Blythburgh slow roasted pork belly with seared bbq loin, smoked potato pie, wild mushrooms, 62° poached egg, caramelised onion purée and truffle jus. This fantastic combination of the smoky pork and potato flavours, mushroom and the truffle jus created a light but flavoursome dish – and again, I was impressed at how much I liked it for someone who is not much of a pork lover. We both cleared our plates – absolutely stuffed but refusing to waste even a morsel.

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Pear, caramel and chocolate brownie

It seemed rude not to take them up on a dessert, but already full, we decided to share the pear, caramel and chocolate brownie with caramel bavarois, textures of pear, caramelized puff pastry, chocolate sauce and mascapone sorbet. A very rich dish, we were glad to have shared one as it provided just the right amount of sweetness to round off the meal. I adored the use of pear and caramel with the brownie, and I love sorbet, so it was a perfect dish for me. Mark really enjoyed the brownie, but left me the pear to enjoy as he wasn’t a big fan of the texture – but I was pretty happy about that! It was an amazing meal and the staff were really welcoming and friendly, it had the aura of a country pub with the dining experience of a five-star restaurant.This family-owned business describes itself as “a stylish, contemporary dining pub that serves award-winning food, from top quality local produce in a laid back, ‘unstuffy’ environment.” And I have to agree, if you like an informal and cosy setting combined with a fine dining experience, look no further than The Orange Tree. You won’t regret it. Don’t believe me? Take note of all the amazing awards they have won:

  • Dining Pub of the Year, The Good Pub Guide 2013, 2014 and again for 2015.
  • Finalist In The Chef Of The Year Awards, 2012 EDP
  • Winner Of The Great British Seafood Pub Chef Of The Year Award.
  • One Of The Top 20 Dining Pubs In The UK, Eat Out Magazine.

Check out the website, and pop in next time you’re passing. You can even stay there and make a weekend of it!

Have you been to The Orange Tree – what did you think? Can you recommend any other fine dining pubs you think I’d like?

Ab Lucy sign off

Wedding bells, counting my blessings and dancing all night

weddingThe long weekend in Ireland got off to a fantastic start with gorgeous sunshine blazing across blue skies, giving us the perfect opportunity to explore the island and to see its beauty. After lots of hugs, chat, a few drinks and some delicious food at the Gold Club, we all made sure to have an early night so we were all refreshed and ready for the wedding the next day. Me and the boyfriend, his mum and step-dad in particular had been up for a really long time by this point after catching our flight from Stansted first thing that morning and having to set out at around 4am. We were very glad to crawl into bed and dream of lucky four-leaved clovers and all the Guinness that was to follow.

We awoke early and refreshed the next morning, me and Mark were contemplating heading out for some fresh air but the weather was playing chicken with us. Just as predicted, the skies were cloudy, dark and threatened with rain, but with patches of blue sky dotted about, we were optimistic that they day wouldn’t be too bad – as long as the wind didn’t play silly buggers with my hair anyway… Finally after a lot of debating, and a short shower of rain, we headed out and were glad we did as the sun came out for a short while as I took Mark on the scenic route walk from the day before – check out the previous post for pics – which he loved. We even spotted a load more deer along the way – again they were totally unbothered by us and just carried on about their day.deerSuddenly realising the time, we quickly headed back to the lodges where the rest of the family had been preparing breakfast and sat down for a delicious fry up, which we were glad of later. I hate how normally when attending a wedding you often are in such a rush you don’t get to eat properly in the morning when it is such a long time to wait until the wedding meal. After being left starving hungry at a few weddings and then annoyingly drunker than I plan because of my empty stomach later on, I now make sure I get the chance to eat a proper meal in the mornings – not everyone had as much sense though and there were a few rumbly tummies! We all got ready and it was lovely to have the time and space to not have to rush, I was so excited to get the chance to finally wear my amazing ASOS dress that I bought a month or so ago, I’ve been dying to wear it ever since!

For the wedding ceremony, we went to a little church just outside Waterford where Uncle Richard (boyfriend’s great uncle) conducted the service, he travelled all the way from South Africa to be part of Siobhan and Nathan’s special day. With lots of readings from family and friends, a special musical interlude by Mark’s uncle Joe on the fiddle, and blessings for Siobhan’s late parents – particularly an emotional one for her mother Kathleen who sadly died just a few months ago. It was such a beautiful, family wedding and really epitomised why I love attending weddings in their family – they all go to so much trouble. Nathan’s side of the family were all from New Zealand and many had travelled over for the occasion, which really made it even more special. Uncle Richard gave a beautiful sermon, and although I am not Roman Catholic, I really can appreciate the more philosophical side of his part in the service. He’s one of these people who can turn something so simple into a really profound statement that will leave you thinking about it much later on. Just because it is not my religion does not mean I don’t get involved, and the family always take me up for communion, where Uncle Richard gives me a blessing – which, I’m not gonna lie, makes me feel slightly invincible and pretty darn holy.wedding 2One of the cutest parts of the ceremony had to be the gorgeous flower girl, Alana, who is Mark’s little cousin, and she made a beautiful flower girl with her curls and sweet little dress. She actually took the whole thing so seriously when walking down the aisle that she forgot to smile! Following her down the aisle in the safe grip of a family member, Niall, the little terror, was making all kinds of crazy faces at the family and friends trying to snap pictures as they made their way into the church. Cue a lot of laughs and sniggers at him as we all tried to keep a straight face. Later in the service he had to be plied with sweets to stay quiet and proceeded to run around the church, even putting his hand up to interrupt the priest – it was hilarious and everyone had a good laugh. Bless him – definitely more spirited than when Mark and I went to stay with his parents and spent a week looking after and playing with him, but a good giggle.

One of my favourite parts of the ceremony had to be the beautiful wedding poem, The One, being read by a friend of the family. I love the words of this poem, and although I have no idea who it is by, it always touches my heart.

When the one whose hand you’re holding
is the one who holds your heart,
When the one whose eyes you gaze into
gives your hopes and dreams their start,
When the one you think of first and last
is the one who holds you tight,
And the things you plan together
make the world seem just right,
When the one whom you believe in
puts their faith and trust in you,
You’ve found the one and only love
you’ll share your whole life through.

wedding 3After the service, we all headed back to Waterford Castle, where we were greeted with a glass of Prosecco, a roaring fire and a pair of musicians. Shortly after, when all of the guests had arrived, we were served delicious canapés and had time to chat amongst ourselves – a great opportunity to catch up with old friends and family members we hadn’t seen since the last family wedding. The time flew by and before we knew it the family were having wedding photos, unfortunately by this time the heavens had opened and these had to be taken inside to avoid soaking the happy couple. Absolute chaos of trying to get the kids to all face the same way and smile, trying to get all the Broderick sisters lined up together and trying to keep everyone together long enough for a photo to be taken! Thank goodness they managed to get some lovely pics and we all headed in for dinner.

We had been put on a table adjoining the main room, and we were so glad because it was so much cooler in there – people were coming out to cool down after the food was served and the wine was poured. Several glasses of wine later, some delicious mojito sorbet, Irish beef, and a dessert platter later, the speeches were in full flow. They kicked off with some lovely words from Mark’s uncle, Michael, in place of Siobhan’s father who died several years ago, who spoke of Shiv’s life, achievements, with a few embarrassing moments in there for good measure. It always brings a tear to my eye to hear families talking so lovingly and so proudly of each other – it’s beautiful and sad at the same time that often these things are left unsaid until weddings or funerals. The best man gave a cracking speech that had us all laughing our heads off and finished with a toast to the bride and groom. After coffee and chocolates, we all headed to the reception room where the bride and groom were ready to cut the cake and share their first dance.usThe rest of the evening passed in a blur of more wine, wedding cake, energetic dancing, a great band, good catch-ups with family and friends, making new friends, a spectacular performance of the Haka by the best man, a lot of laughs, some sausage sandwiches and a rainy walk back to the lodges. It was an amazing wedding and I feel so lucky to have been able to attend a wedding in a real castle – a perfect day for the bride and groom, and for all those of us lucky enough to join them. The weather may not have been great, but spending the day inside meant we weren’t too bothered – it just made it extra cosy by the fire.

Do you love weddings as much as I do? What makes them so special for you? Have you ever been to an Irish wedding?

Ab Lucy sign off

Pinocchios Restaurant proved too good to be a nose-grower

pinocchios-restaurant-sliderI know, I know guys, I’ve got to stop talking about food. I don’t know about you lot but I’m making myself hungry! This is a review of a fantastic restaurant I discovered when I went to Norwich a few weeks ago with the boyfriend. We have a bit of a obsession with discovering new places to eat and although we find some pretty delicious places, we always try to stop ourselves from revisiting places when there are so many more we have yet to try. I did a bit of research into local restaurants ahead of our trip, to make sure we had a couple of restaurants up our sleeve if we had time to try somewhere new and amazingly we managed to fit two restaurants into one weekend! These ones were so good, I just couldn’t resist sharing them with you, so here is my review of the first.

We started off on the Saturday night be heading to Pinocchios Restaurant on St Benedicts Street. This Mediterranean brasserie is in the heart of the city and is easy to find, with convenient free parking right outside. Best of all, it is an independent restaurant, which I always try and stick to just to support local retailers rather than bigger chains. Of course, this isn’t always possible, but I think it is something we should all aim to do. From the outside, the restaurant is warm, inviting and really cute – it has the old-fashioned charm of a Lady-and-the-Tramp-style Italian but with a more diverse menu that incorporates some delicious dishes. The restaurant is very spacious so perfect for a romantic dinner for two or a large group for a birthday, there were several different groups in there when we were eating with plenty of room for all of us. The staff were attentive and looked after us well, bringing us pepper and drinks as we needed them, but leaving us alone to enjoy our food. The restaurant also had a lovely upstairs area with more seating.photo_5We were in the mood for some comfort food and this was the perfect place to enjoy delicious and tasty dishes reminiscent of a home-cooked Italian, but with some slightly different and more exotic flavours. To start, we shared squid in tempura batter with aioli and salad, and a peach and Italian cheese bruschetta  with balsamic and salad. Both were gorgeous dishes and complemented each other well, they made a great combination and really allowed us to try a mix of flavours. The aioli was delicious and really added something new to the squid dish which I had tried previously in other restaurants, it was great to see them putting a different spin on the dish. The bruschetta was delicious, it wasn’t something I would have usually ordered, but I fancied trying something unusual and I loved the combination of balsamic and peach, they worked really well together.

For mains, I had a gorgeous carbonara – not usually a dish I would order, in fact it was the first time I had ever eaten it out, but I was just in the mood for a creamy pasta with plenty of flavour. It more than lived up to my expectations and I ate every scrap of the bowl. The portions were of a healthy size, much better than when you go to a restaurant and have three pieces of ravioli brought out to you. But most importantly, the sauce was delicious, it really combined the cream with the bacon well and with a light dusting of pepper it was pretty perfect. Mark had a parpadelle pasta with lamb in a tomato sauce. His was absolutely delicious, the lamb added a hearty flavour while the tomato kept it fresh and light, he loved the dish and I enjoyed a taste as well.

We had a lovely meal, accompanied by some gorgeous wine and sadly couldn’t manage desserts. But I would really recommend this restaurant to anybody, whether you are after a romantic candlelit meal for two, a group meal or a big party, their menu has something for everyone and their service is faultless. I really enjoyed my evening with them and was even more impressed by the prices, if you are on a bit of a budget, this is a great restaurant for you. I genuinely cannot understand why anyone would rather go to the Pizza Express that is further up the street than dine in an independent, great priced and fantastic little restaurant like Pinocchios!

Have you eaten at Pinocchios – what was your meal like? Have you any other Norwich restaurant recommendations?

Ab Lucy sign off

Flavour combinations that dreams are made of at Marriott’s Warehouse

The South Quay, King's Lynn. Marriotts Warehouse.

Lynn News photo

My apologies for the delay, but as you guys have probably seen of late, I have blog posts coming out of my ears! I seem to have all these amazing posts running around my head, barely the time to write them and certainly not enough time to post them. I would post every day on my blog if I had the time to maintain this, but sadly working four jobs does detract from the amount of time I can spend on this. So sometimes there are a few posts that I put on hold, just so I can make sure I do them justice when it comes to writing them up to share with you guys. A few weeks ago, I had a fantastic girl date with one of my best friends and in our usual style, we decided to go all out and treat ourselves. Although we speak pretty much every day, it had been a while since we had the opportunity to really catch up after we had been working lots and away at festivals – we’re both pretty busy bees! But that’s the great thing about our friendship, although we are both always busy as anything, neither one of us ever takes it personally when the other can’t make it along to something. We always know that when we do finally get a chance to catch up, that we will more than make-up for it.

We headed to one of the newer restaurants in King’s Lynn, Marriotts Warehouse, for dinner – a real treat we had both been excitedly awaiting as neither of us had tried it out yet. I had actually been there previously for a Christmas meal with friends, and the food was incredible, but it was a completely different menu to usual, so I considered myself a newbie to the restaurant. As you guys will know by now, I’m a bit of a foodie and I love going out to eat, but in King’s Lynn we are sometimes a bit lacking in different types of restaurants – we have loads of Indian, Chinese and Italian restaurants, but very little else and it was great to go to a real bistro-style restaurant. After all of the local restaurants I have been to, I have yet to find another that serves the same type of food as Marriott’s.photo_1 (2)The restaurant itself is in a fabulous place along the quayside, the old warehouse building overlooks the water and at sunset provides a stunning view. The outside seating area has seen various new additions of more benches, seats and plants which, although a little busy, was a lovely place to sit out in the sunshine with a glass of wine, as Vikki was doing when I arrived. Inside, the building is softly lit and has a cosy feel, with lots of wood panelling, beams and a huge wooden bar. The restaurant has a great atmosphere because although there are plenty of places to sit, it is not over-filled with tables so it is never too loud and voices don’t echo, even when it is busy. They have plenty of staff, perhaps too many considering the volume of tables, but they give a very personal service and are on hand to cater to your every need.The food itself is outstanding. I don’t really know how to describe it beyond that. The flavour combinations are fabulous and in some cases very unusual, they use local produce and it is all presented beautifully.

We shared the Marriott’s Sharing Platter to start, which had a delicious combination of feta stuffed peppers, potato and chorizo salad, jerk chicken skewers, minted yoghurt dip and spicy jerk sauce, goat’s cheese, mushroom and sun-dried tomato bruschetta, chicken liver pate with malted bread. Wow, it may have sounded over-ambitious, but we finished everything and it even shut us up for a few minutes because everything was so tasty. It was the perfect accompaniment to a glass of Pinot Grigio and a great conversation. I always love the sharing platters when out with friends because it is such a lovely tradition to share a meal and I love the mezze-style of eating lots of little bits of bigger dishes – as you can imagine I absolutely love tapas!photo_2 (1)For mains, we actually both went for the same dish because it sounded so tasty! We had the pan-fried duck breast served with chocolate and chilli sauce, potato rosti, braised red cabbage and caramelised oranges, and we ordered some onion rings on the side. I chose the duck because I have never really had duck out in a restaurant and I was dying to try it, my main experiences of duck are having it in pancakes as part of a Chinese. The richness of the meat really appealed to me as a big lover of venison, and I loved the idea of chocolate and chilli sauce with red cabbage. It was absolutely delicious and I struggled to keep chatting because it was so damn tasty. I loved the combination of the flavours, particularly because I would never think to have a chocolate and chilli sauce with meat, or to combine it with oranges – but it really worked and it is making my mouth water even now to remember the dish.

The whole meal was fantastic and I can’t recommend this restaurant enough, the whole venture was a brilliant idea and I’m so pleased it is paying off for the guys behind it all. Particularly after they suffered so much with flooding and even a fire earlier this year. I have heard nothing but good things about Marriotts and I always think that is the mark of a good restaurant, not what you read on websites by people who have had a free meal and rate it, but people like me who just love the food and genuinely want others to share the experience, and those who can’t stop raving about a place. Marriotts is easily one of my favourite restaurants in Lynn and I will definitely be going back again to try more on the menu!

Have you been to Marriott’s Warehouse? What was your favourite dish?

Ab Lucy sign off

A taste of the Norfolk Food and Drink Festival

photo_2This weekend, I had a rare treat of getting to spend an entire day by myself indulging in two of my favourite pastimes, food and shopping. The boyfriend and I headed to Norwich, where he had an Open Day booked in at the university and I was looking forward to spending a day roaming around the city by myself. It was actually, amazingly, the first time I had headed into the city by myself, simply because I am always with friends, family or with Mark. It’s quite funny really, when you consider what an independent person I am, how little time I actually get to spend alone because I am constantly working or busy with various groups of people. So when I do actually get the chance, I relish every second and really make the most of it.

I had a fantastic day on Saturday, there are a few things that happened that I can’t reveal just yet, but some exciting news is on the way. But there is plenty I can tell you about! Lucky me, as a big food-lover and festival-girl, there is nothing much better than combining two of my great loves at a food festival, and it just so happened that the Norfolk Food and Drink Festival is ongoing at the moment. As part of the celebrations, there have been lots of fantastic events organised across the county and Norwich shopping centre, Chapelfield, just had to get in on the action. The venue was hosting The Great Taste Event on both Saturday and Sunday, with a host of entertainment, cookery demonstrations, freebies and much more taking place throughout the mall. This weekend of foodie fun saw masses of people heading to the shopping centre to enjoy free tastings and samples, cookery challenges, fun workshops, live entertainment and lots of great offers over the weekend.photo_1I spent a brilliant few hours working my way around each station, catching live cooking demonstrations from the head chefs at Wagamamas and Yo Sushi, and getting to taste their creations, while picking up a free recipe book, cards and a wooden spoon. I also took part in a mocktail making workshop where I whisked up a “Norfolk Muddle” a delightful blend of tonic water, strawberries, lime and lavender sugar. I picked up free tasters from Cafe Nero, Wagamamas, Yo Sushi, Hotel Chocolat, KFC, Thorntons, Carluccios, ASK Italian, Ed’s Easy Diner and many more. I also caught a very funny cooking skit called Liver Cottage, which saw two rather entertaining characters cooking up a pie and setting their kitchen on fire. It was amazing to see so much going on around the centre and there were loads of people getting involved and enjoying the demonstrations.photo_2I was also lucky enough to pop over to The Forum and find the regular Farmers’ Market ongoing with lots of fabulous local produce on sale and available to try. I love these markets because you really get a chance to enjoy local produce, and with such great stuff on our doorsteps, I don’t understand why people would feel the need to look elsewhere. They had a fantastic cured meats stall, a stall piled high with cakes and fresh loaves, local creamy cheeses with hints of lavender and apricot, a fantastic collection of jerk seasoning, sauces and marinades created by a guy from London, and a stall with lots of tasty chutneys including a lovely samphire one and a spicy parsnip one. For someone, like myself, who considers themselves a bit of a foodie, it was a perfect weekend full of tips and tricks from top chefs, great foodspiration for future meals and, of course, lots of lovely free tasters.photo_4It’s great to have such fantastic foodie events taking place right on your doorstep, and after missing the main event for the Norfolk Food and Drink Festival at Holkham Hall back in August, I was glad to have the chance to check out a smaller version. I’m a big lover of food festivals, not just for the freebies, but more for the chance to try lots of different and often unusual flavour combinations, while learning from the very best. It really helps with inspiration for cooking dishes of my own and I think it is great the way they encourage people to try different foods and flavours that they might not usually be exposed to.

Are you a big food festival lover – what is it that makes food festivals great? Did you go to the Norfolk Food and Drink Festival – what did you think?

Ab Lucy sign off

 

Taking the plunge with a fantastic seafood dinner

tumblr_nb45dx3s5z1qllwgco1_500After all these festivals and all the partying over the summer, it was nice to finally get a bit of romance, a bit of candlelight and a bottle of wine with the boyfriend. We decided to treat ourselves after having a bit of a craving for some serious seafood, and had been saying for ages we wanted to try out Loch Fyne after having seen them in both Norwich and Cambridge. Boyfriend had actually had the chance to try out the Cambridge branch of the restaurant previously with some friends and was still raving about it, so we were certain we were in for a good meal. Even better because it wasn’t planned, we were halfway to Norwich when we decided we would book a table and head out as soon as we arrived – spur of the moment is always good for food I find – less expectation and more reaction to what is really in front of you.tumblr_nb3d6oO15S1qllwgco1_500We arrived at the restaurant and I was immediately overwhelmed by how lovely it looked, bathed in gentle light, which poured out on to the dark street outside, it looked so welcoming and not too busy. We were seated straight away by the friendly and helpful staff, who made sure to pop over straight away with the specials, any recommendations and to tell us what dishes they were out of. I always love when waiting staff give recommendations of their own, it shows they love the food they serve and they actually know what they are talking about – very important when it comes to flavour combinations in a specialist restaurant such as a seafood and grill. Although they were out of a few dishes, I was happy to know that those that appealed to me the most were still in stock. The cheerful and friendly waiter came over and took our wine order – some of the tastiest wine I have ever had out and it really went well with the fish dishes, really light and refreshing with the citrus-flavours.tumblr_nbcd8k5J4j1qllwgco1_500For starters, we ordered the Tempura Battered Squid with chilli jam and the Scottish Smoked Salmon Ashet. The squid was absolutely delicious, really meaty hunks covered in the light and crispy batter, easily the best I have had so far, and it went fantastically with the chilli jam, which although very thick and sweet, had a real undertone of spice to it that complemented the fish perfectly. The salmon dish was made up a selection of finest Loch Fyne classic smoked salmon, Bradan Rost and sashimi-style Kinglas fillet, served with granary bread. Wow – this dish was incredible and a huge thanks to the waitress who brought it over and suggested we eat it in a certain order so we would get the most from the flavours. We started with the smoked salmon, then had the fillet and finished with the Braden Rost – such an incredible combination of flavours and for two people who both love salmon, this was a perfect choice.tumblr_nbcec0obfl1qllwgco1_500Moving on to the main meals, we went for similar dishes, but with a slightly different twist. Boyfriend chose the Lobster Spaghetti which came served in a tomato, herb, brandy & cream sauce – this was such a tasty dish. We both love lobster and the brandy cream sauce was a great accompaniment that really added a depth of flavour – boyfriend felt the dish could have done with a little kick of spice to it, but we thought that was more personal preference rather than anything missing from the dish. It was delicious and not a single scrap was left at the end of the meal. Likewise for my choice of Seafood Tagliatelle, which came with Scottish scallops, clams, squid, king prawns and samphire, pan-fried with garlic and shallots, in a white wine & cream sauce. Phew, what a list of ingredients! I chose this because I fancied something with a white wine sauce and I couldn’t resist the combination of mussels, prawns, squid and scallops. I was a lot less keen on the clams – not to my taste – but it was nice to finally have scallops that had been cooked well, every time I’ve ever had them they’ve been overcooked and tasteless. It was a delicious meal and I loved the sauce it came with. We had also ordered a wild rocket parmesan salad with balsamic dressing on the side, which went perfectly with both dishes.seafoodIt was a gorgeous meal and we had a wonderful evening. The staff were fantastic and attended to our every need, the restaurant itself was relaxing and romantic – perfect after a long day at work – and the food was amazing. I will definitely be going back and I strongly suggest you get along to one of the restaurants if you have a love of seafood or grills. Check out the menus and find your closest restaurant at the website.

Have you been to Loch Fynne before? What dishes would you recommend? Or can you suggest any other seafood restaurants that I should give a try?

Ab Lucy sign off

Controversial favourites for the BBQ this summer

photo_4 (5)This week is turning into a bit of a foodie week up on Absolutely Lucy – I hadn’t planned it but I’ve just been eating such yummy foods this week that I simply couldn’t resist sharing them with you. Last Friday, if you remember as well as I do, was a beautiful summers day. For some it was too hot, but never one to moan about the sunshine, I loved it the more tropical it got. The summer vibes had got to everyone and none of us could wait to finish and get out in the sunshine for a nice cold glass of wine to enjoy those last summer rays. It was so hot I actually felt like I was on holiday, and with my parents away, I thought it was about time to crack out the barbecue and to whip up a tasty meal. I have to wait until my parents go away because they have a habit of murdering and seriously overcooking anything on the barbecue until there is no taste or moisture left. I can’t deal with it, so I just make the most of it when they go away.

photo_1 (9)This barbecue was a bit of a last minute idea, so me and the boyfriend did a rush shop in three parts to collect all the supplies – and luckily I had thought ahead and got some gorgeous fish fillets out of the freezer so they would defrost ready. We had the charcoal on standby and Mark had even taken the time to clean the barbecue before I got home, and had a deckchair and a beer waiting for me when I got back. Talk about well-trained!

photo_2 (9)I’m very particular about my barbecues and although  I have tried most meats and sides on there, I know what I like and I may be about to say something a little controversial. I don’t think a barbecue should be all about meat, in fact, I think meat is a little overplayed! Phew, glad I got that off my chest. I can’t help but find that barbecued fish holds so much more flavour and that so often the burgers and sausages are so boring with a squeeze of ketchup.

I’m not saying that I don’t like burgers, steaks or sausages on the barbecue, I definitely enjoy them at times and feel they have their place. But if I were to choose to have them, I would go for slightly different variations such as buying the finest burgers or sausages with different flavourings in the meat – jalapeño, caramelised red onion or herbs. These make such a huge difference to the meal and you can so easily make your own at home. Fancy a steak? Why not skip the beef and barbecue sauce and try something slightly different like lamb steaks with a mint yoghurt or venison with a berry glaze? It just brings a different flavour to the table and your guests will thank you for it.photo_5 (3)So what do I love on the barbecue? Well the answer is easy – lots of flavour and plenty of fish! I love trying different fish on the barbecue and in my opinion that is the best way to cook fish, by grilling it and giving it that smoky flavour. It works great wrapped in tin foil on the barbecue with spices, lemon, mustard or some other marinade. In this case we made salmon kebabs with a barbecue glaze, which were absolutely delicious, and we used another fish I have only recently discovered – Hoki fillets with fresh lemon and herbs – also amazing! This was accompanied by peppers stuffed with Moroccan spiced cous cous and chorizo, rocket and mini mint lamb kebabs. We needed a little something to tie the dish together, and with the rocket we didn’t need any more salad, so I made a tasty salsa. Find the recipe below:

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  • To make one bowl of salsa, dice a third of a cucumber, one tomato and half an onion, then mix in a bowl.
  • Add a few chopped jalapeños – as many of few as you want depending on spice levels. I like my food with a kick and I added about five or six finely chopped.
  • Finally chop up chorizo as small as possible, again add as much as you have or want in the dish.
  • Then trickle over one or two capfuls of balsamic vinegar and mix up. It is a taste sensation – enjoy!

What are your favourite foods to cook on the barbecue? Have you got any recipes you would recommend?

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Tickling our taste buds with incredible Norfolk delights at the Foodie Fete

photo_1 (8)Love food as much as I do? Well you’re in for a treat with this post – this one is all about the amazing little food festival me and boyfriend went along to on Sunday. Not far from my home along the Norfolk coast, the Foodie Fete took place at Titchwell Manor hotel, not far from Brancaster on the North Norfolk coast. It’s a beautiful place andwas my first time at the hotel, despite living only a short distance away, but I was keen to check it out and to have the opportunity to indulge in some amazing food and cookery demonstrations by top local and even award-winning chefs in the sunshine. This year was only the second time the event had been held, but last year’s was such a success that it was back bigger and better than before with highlights including butchery and shellfish demonstrations, lots of food and wine stalls all stocked by local producers and plenty of entertainment throughout the afternoon. There’s plenty of pics for this one so you guys can see for yourself what a lovely afternoon it was.
photo_4 (7)photo_5 (4)One thing I loved about the event was that it felt like you were stepping back in time with all the vintage-inspired stalls where anyone could try apple bobbing or sandcastle building for great prizes including magnums of champagne and meals at the gorgeous hotel. The apple bobbing was brilliant and of course Mark had to have a go, particularly when he had spent five minutes studying the technique of the other competitors. He was hoping to beat one guy who had set the bar at collecting three apples from the bowl in just under five seconds, but as Mark found out, it was harder and soggier than he anticipated. He still did really well and only took a couple more seconds, but later in the afternoon, another guy came along and set a new record of just under three seconds! We insisted on doping checks and reckoned he must be a professional apple bobber. We had to try our hand at sandcastle building – with the beach hut I became quite a pro all those years ago and I was pleased to see my skills hadn’t left me. We were hoping to win some champagne, but sadly it was not meant to be and we didn’t even make second place! Although we did make ours in less than five minutes just before the winners were chosen, while everyone else got closer to 20 minutes!photo_1 (11) photo_3 (9) There was even a lovely little family who were running the cutest and quaintest little lemonade stand with the help of the two young daughters – the stall had returned after selling out last year and after tasting the gorgeous, citrus drink, I could understand why it was so popular. It was delicious and sold out once again! There were also some lovely wine bars, a bar selling amazing Pimms, lots of lovely food stalls and plenty more entertainment for the kids including a whole inventors room where they could take part in craft activities, trade marbles or get their faces painted. In one corner of the garden there was also live music, starting with a harpist as we arrived and later an acoustic duo who were brilliant. But of course, we didn’t come to a food festival for the entertainment, we came for the food and a huge part of that was the demonstrations by some amazing local chefs.photo_2 (11)One of these demonstrations, which might not be for the squeamish but had me fascinated, was the live butchery of a fallow deer from the nearby Houghton estate. The carcass had been head shot two days before and hung, before being brought to the festival to be filleted and carved before our very eyes. Julian Stoyel gave the demonstration, which was fascinating and taught us so much about the different types of deer available in the local area, plus about the different flavours and which might better suit each palate. Being a keen venison eater himself, he could tell us all about the different cuts of meat and how best to cook them and what accompaniments would best work with them. It was a brilliant talk and so interesting to see how the meat is skinned and treated. I’m a very firm believer that if you eat meat, you should know where it comes from and not be afraid of the process it goes through. As he was chopping up the meat, he was passing it to a team of amazing chefs who were whipping up all manner of exquisite delights using fresh, local produce in amazing ways. The venison was used in both a mini pie form and as sliced steaks with different sides that created a real taste sensation.photo_2 (8)Later, we caught a talk by a quail-breeding company who provides both the meat and the eggs locally. They brought along some live quails for people to see, gave a talk on how they started the company and how they rear the birds. The food products were also cooked up into a series of inventive dishes that used the flavours in different ways. While venison I absolutely adore, I love the gamey and rich flavours, and the juicy texture of the meat particularly with creamy potatoes, red wine jus and red cabbage. Quail suited me a lot less, I didn’t really enjoy the texture of the meat, which I found a bit greasy like when I tried pigeon once before. I saw other recipes for Moroccan spiced quail and a Spanish-inspired quail meal that I would definitely try. Timing in with the shellfish demonstration I mention next – as you can see in the picture above – I tried my first oyster! After wanting to try for a long time, all I can say is that my face looked a lot less happy about it after I put the thing in my mouth. Definitely not my cup of tea!

The third demonstration was also brilliant and saw a chap take centre stage with two lobsters for the shellfish session. He talked all about his company and experiences as a lobster, salmon and various other sea creatures, fisherman and about the way his creatures should be prepared and eaten. During his talk, we were all fascinated by the two creatures on the floor in front of us and lots of questions were fired at the chap. The team of chefs cooked up two amazing lobster dishes and another hot smoked salmon plate – all were amazing.The final demonstration was by a rare breeds pig farmer who creates his own black pudding – which was only the second time I have tried the stuff and it’s safe to say I am a convert! Before I have been less than impressed by the stuff (the dried stuff) which can be tasteless and brittle. This stuff was juicy, full of flavour and really robust as a product. I was shocked how much I enjoyed it and it was great to hear more about the company and how the product is created.photo_5 (5)My final picture is a collection of some of the top foods we ate during the day – I’ll admit there were a lot more dishes than this and I couldn’t fit them all in, but these are just a taste of the delicious food on offer. The top two items are the venison dishes, left is the pie with creamy mash, gravy and cress, and on the right is Moroccan spiced venison steak with carrots, a minty yoghurt sauce and leaves – both to die for! The bottom left dish is a home-cured smoked salmon dish with beetroot, while the bottom right is one of the amazing lobster dishes with tomatoes and tomato  curd. Then in the middle is one of the black pudding dishes – this one is a dried black pudding crumble with a buttery onion and caramelised red onion sauce. This one was fabulous! We also tried a mini-burger dish, more smoked salmon, another lobster dish and chocolate brownie. All of the food was amazing and such a varied mix of flavours meant my taste buds were dancing by the end.

It was a fantastic afternoon and such a brilliant event, so relaxed and well organised. I was so impressed and will definitely be going back. It was perfect for all ages and particularly for families with all tastes to suit.  If you get a chance to check out Titchwell Manor – make sure you do. The chefs who were preparing the amazing dishes are seriously talented!

What food festivals/events would you recommend? Are any of these dishes taking your fancy?

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