Tag Archives: food bloggers

London | Affordable luxe dining at Island Grill

island-grill-copyI’m so excited to share one of the best dining experiences I’ve had in a while with you guys. You all know by now that I love to eat out and that food is one of my favourite things about travelling whether in the UK or abroad – I love to try out new restaurants and cuisines. So I was excited to head to Island Grill a few weeks ago to review their take on sustainable and affordable luxury cuisine. Right in the heart of London at the iconic mid-century Lancaster London, this amazing little restaurant overlooks Hyde Park and offers a very European menu that changes with every season as part of their dedication to sustainability. I’m passionate about the environment and have actually cut a lot of meat from my diet in the last year after realising quite how unsustainable it is, so this angle was something I was very interested in. Head Chef Adam Woolven has actually won the Sustainable Restaurant Association’s top Three Star rating with his tireless efforts to create an eco-friendly yet luxurious dining experience.island-grill-barAs we arrived at the restaurant, you can’t help but be wowed by the sleek interiors and the vast floor-to-ceiling windows running along the outside walls overlooking Hyde Park. The seating is arranged so that diners can either enjoy almost private dining alongside the huge windows or they can enjoy a view of the open-plan kitchen where they can see the chefs hard at work, adding another dimension to their gastronomic experience. The staff were so welcoming and friendly, eager to talk to us about the menus and to suggest wines that would go with the food. This made a huge difference, if you’ve read my review from Cottons, you’ll know how disappointing the service was and how much it affected my view of the restaurant. I couldn’t fault the service at Island Grill, it was attentive and they were keen to chat with us and answer any questions, but they also gave us time to just enjoy the food and our evening – the perfect balance.imageWe kicked off the meal with the Pan-Fried Scallops and Crispy Gressingham Duck Salad, both absolutely delicious starters packed full of flavour and the freshest ingredients. The duck was rich and and perfectly complemented by the Asian dressing, pak choi, the orange and the cashews. While the scallops were easily the best ones I have had, normally I find them very overcooked and rubbery but these were just right. It was served with a mixture of vegetables in very different forms from pickled and crisped to pureed. The head chef’s passion for the finest ingredients is clear from the delicious meals available on the menu. While enjoying our starters we shared a bottle of wine recommended by the waitress, and I couldn’t recommend talking to the staff about drinks choices enough. This is a restaurant where the staff really know their wines and cocktails, and they are more than happy to help you choose something special from the fully stocked bar.imageFor our mains, it seemed crazy not to indulge in a steak at what is primarily a grill restaurant. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve completely cut back on the amount of meat I eat over the last year and when I travel I am almost entirely vegetarian now, but I do still eat and enjoy meat. I prefer to save it for when I eat out as a treat now and I feel much healthier and happier as a result. So after not having had much meat for quite a while, I was looking forward to a good-quality steak. And boy oh boy did Island Grill deliver. We both had the 8oz Fillet of Beef and I can officially say it was the best quality and best cooked steak I have had in years, possibly ever. The meat was so unbelievably tender and tasty, and I chose to have mine served with garlic mash and mushroom sauce. It was heaven on a plate. We were both speechless and it was definitely the first time a steak has had that effect. After our mains we were pretty full and didn’t have room for dessert, but accommodating as ever, the staff didn’t want us to miss out and boxed up some of their Passion Fruit and White Chocolate Cheesecake for us to take home. I ended up saving mine until the next day but I can assure you it was as mouth-watering as it sounds.imageApologies for the lack of good photos of the food, it was a bit dark in the restaurant so my own images haven’t come out as clearly as I hoped. Regardless, if you’re heading to London, or you’re already living there, I can’t recommend Island Grill enough. The service is faultless, the location is fantastic and the food is just out of this world. Plus, as a bonus, it’s extremely affordable! It’s not often you can find food that is this good quality for such a reasonable price, making it perfect for a mid-week treat or even a date night. Find out more and book a table at Island Grill.

Have you been to Island Grill? How was your meal? Where else can you recommend for a good quality steak?

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London | A bittersweet trip to the Caribbean with Cottons

imageI’ve had people ask me before whether I really like things as much as I say in reviews, whether I’m just sugar-coating because I got to eat or stay somewhere for free. I can’t help but laugh when I hear this, because anyone who knows me well will agree that’s it’s almost impossible for me to hide how I feel about things, and lying just isn’t in vocabulary. I’m always honest and have just been lucky that so far I’ve never really had a bad experience when I’ve reviewed products or places, but that doesn’t mean I would hide it from my readers if I did. I actually had my first disappointing experience at a restaurant review a few weeks ago and wanted to make sure I shared this with you, because my blog is about life – the good, the bad and the ugly. No sugar-coating and no editing out the bad bits, just honesty about my experiences so that perhaps they can help you to plan yours.imageYou guys will already know I went on a little weekend jaunt to London a few weeks ago when I stayed at the gorgeous Mandeville Hotel – find my review here – well I actually went to London because I had a series of restaurant reviews booked in. Lucky me, I love food and I love visiting new restaurants so this is a serious perk of running this blog, and I wanted to make sure I squeezed them all in quick before I head back to Australia. The first restaurant review of the weekend was actually the one I was looking forward to the most, and sadly it was the most disappointing. Cottons Rhum Shack and Restaurant in Notting Hill was where we were headed and I was looking forward to a night of Caribbean cuisine and rum cocktails. It was a cute little restaurant with all the colour and character a Caribbean restaurant should have and the Rhum Bar looked like a fabulous place to sip on a cocktail. So what was the problem?imageWell, from the second we walked in the door, we just didn’t feel very welcome. The service sucked, big time. The staff barely looked up when we came in and just seemed like they couldn’t be bothered to chat to us or welcome us as we went to our table. It took about 15 minutes before anyone even came over to ask if we actually wanted any drinks or if we understood the menu, I could understand if they were busy but this was a quiet Sunday night. For me, the service really makes a restaurant – whether it’s a fine dining or a budget chain, the level of attentiveness can turn an average dinner into a really lovely evening. As someone who has worked in hospitality across pubs, restaurants and bars, I know full well how much it sucks to work the Sunday shift when perhaps you’re tired or hungover from the night before, but that doesn’t mean you offer lower quality service. It’s always so important to remember that each customer who comes in is paying for top quality service and food and I just didn’t feel like that was a factor in our meal.imageWe indulged in rum cocktails – I went for the Wild Tiki which was spiced rum flavoured with Maraschino liqueur, passion fruit, pineapple, kafir and lemongrass. It was delicious, like a slightly more exotic Pornstar Martini. While my friend went for the Reggae Rum Punch – going for Wray and Nephews rum mixed with fruit juices – always pretty tasty. The cocktails were a real highlight of the night because I’m pretty picky about the quality, I hate when you get a cocktail and it is just watered down juice. Then our dinner arrived, I’d ordered the Spiced Coconut Seafood Casserole which was packed full of clams, squid, crab and red mullet, annatto potatoes and was served with scotch bonnet rouille. It was fantastic, the coconut flavour was absolutely delicious and I loved the mix of seafood as I’m a big fish fan. But my friend was left rather disappointed by the Montego bay Jerk Pork and Ribs – he actually ordered off the Caribbean Classics menu so we expected that to a lot better but there was a real lack of meat served. As someone who has worked in a Caribbean restaurant and who loves the food, he was pretty disappointed with his meal.imageIn the end it was a pretty bittersweet evening, while the cocktails and my dinner were good, my friend’s meal and the service on offer left a lot to be desired. I personally wouldn’t eat there again, if I fancy Caribbean food in future I would probably try to track down a different restaurant. It’s a shame because the restaurant was in a great location in Notting Hill and had most of the ingredients to be a success but it just didn’t quite make it. Here’s hoping the staff were just having an off-night, but having someone walk off as I started to place a drinks order wasn’t a good sign. I’d be curious to know if anyone else has eaten at one of the Cotton’s Restaurants and whether you enjoyed your experience – please leave a comment below and tell me about it.

How was your Cotton’s experience? Can you recommend any other Caribbean restaurants in the UK?

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Tea & cake at the Blogosphere Magazine Summer Party

imageAs a travel blogger, I’ve spent a heck of a lot of time out of the country since I started blogging which is fantastic but can be a bit lonely when it comes to having real life blogger pals. The internet is a saviour in this case and means I’m found some pretty amazing friends from every niche, but it’s always nice to actually meet in person. I actually first started my blog after being inspired by some pretty incredible bloggers who had turned a hobby into a full time job when I attended a bloggers party as a journalist. I was encouraged to start a blog of my own and thus Absolutely Lucy was born, three years later and I was invited to the Blogosphere Magazine summer party – an incredible event organised by the only industry magazine currently running.imageimageAppealing to all of our good taste as bloggers, the team at Blogosphere organized an amazing event full of tea, cake and some beautiful jewellery, plus plenty of opportunity to meet some pretty inspiring ladies and have a lot of laughs. It was so lovely to spend time with bloggers who have also followed their passion to write about travel, food, beauty, fashion, parenting and all kinds of cheeky topics. To be surrounded by vibrant, real, exciting women who have something to say for themselves and understand the commitment we have all made, the time we spend curating something beautiful for the internet. It’s easy for people to brush over the time and effort that is put into blogging, so it’s lovely when you meet others who do what you do and understand the pressures we put ourselves under for the love of blogging.

13906611_493439657512282_3644149689230291666_nFor the two hour train to London in 26 degree heat, an event has to be pretty good and this one was great – serious props to Albertine Brandon for organising such a beautiful event. We chatted away the afternoon with delicious teas from The London Tea Company and some incredible gluten-free cakes from Pearl and Groove – the raspberry and white chocolate was to die for! It was great to finally meet Albertine, Elaine and editor-in-chief Alice Audley after so long admiring their work, I’m looking forward to more events in future. And I found some great new blogger friends in Oh It’s Sare, Han Meets World, Taylor Mae Makeup, Honestly Aine and many more. Plus it was good to meet the girls behind brands including World Duty Free, The London Tea Company and Jewellery Box. A day spent talking everything from travel and Pokemon to vlogging and photography is never a day wasted in my book.13900331_493043824218532_4781742066757099605_nIt was a pretty busy weekend, even before I had set off to London for the Blogosphere party I had spent a full day reliving my travels at the Cambridge Thai Festival – a day full of Muay Thai, ladyboy shows, traditional dance performances and some delicious food. I went along with one of my blogging friends, Vikki of FrickingVikki, and had a fantastic day in the sunshine. Luckily we managed to skip all the queues to get in, for food and drinks, as we saw some people waiting for quite a while to get tickets, but for £3 entry, the whole event was a total bargain. A full programme of entertainment for two days over the weekend had something for everyone and certainly kept us entertained on Saturday afternoon. Browsing the stalls, there was also a beautiful Buddhist stand where you could meet the monks and chat to some lovely ladies about blessings. Further round we even found a cheeky photobooth where you could get dressed up and take pics in Thai traditional dress – this was a lot of fun! It was a great event and if you get the chance to attend one in future, I’d take it with both hands. It’s always worth checking out what amazing free/cheap local events are taking place right under your nose – next weekend I’ll be checking out a free day of folk music in my home town! Here’s some pics from the day.13903245_10153677941922617_7130469003252046109_n13934997_10153677941857617_170774601652952582_nimageimageimageimage13872850_10153677941782617_7331660002625806475_n

Did you go to the Blogosphere Summer Party – what was your highlight? Have you found some great, free local events?

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A feast fit for a king at Namaaste Kitchen

IMG_6289I’m sure you guys have gathered by now that I LOVE my food – I’m more likely to get excited about a pasta dish or some Mexican spice than I am about a pair of perfectly fitting jeans or some new perfume. I love to try foods from all different countries, and I love that about travelling – it opens you up to trying certain cuisines you might not previously have had on your radar. This isn’t just true of those adventuring across the Moroccan desert or holidaying on the Italian coast – how about all those times you go away for the weekend and eat at a new restaurant? Sometimes it’s great just to venture out of your home-town and to try a new restaurant in a brand new city. I know whenever I go away, whether to Brighton, Oxford, Norwich or London, I always make it my business to try different and new restaurants that either open me up to a different culture’s food, or I like to try brand new dishes I haven’t come across before. For me, it’s all about pushing boundaries and testing your taste-buds with new flavours and making life, and your palate, just that little bit more exciting. So, as you can imagine, I was very excited to be invited to review an already critically-acclaimed Camden restaurant – conveniently when I already happened to be visiting London.IMG_6285IMG_6286On Saturday, the boyfriend and I went along to Namaaste Kitchen, a grill and modern Indian restaurant in the heart of Camden Town owned by chef Sabbir Karim, winner of The Best Chef Of The Year 2012. As I’m sure you’ll agree, after reading a bit about the restaurant on their website, I had high expectations and was keen to try their authentic Indian and Pakistani grills. As a half-Tamil girl, who has been raised by a Mauritian father on a diet of authentic curries, biriyanis and plenty of spice, I’d argue my expectations were a lot higher than those of the average curry-lover. After growing up eating the real thing, not just these over coloured and over oily sauces they sell in the supermarkets, I am a hard woman to please when it comes to a good curry. But I was excited when I saw the chic little restaurant tucked away on one of the main streets just a couple of minutes’ walk from Camden Town tube station. We were given a warm welcome by the staff, who took us to our table and settled us with some drinks. Now wine in restaurants is a big deal-breaker for me, it’s so hard to choose from a list on a menu and often the ones listed can be a bit of a let-down. These were anything but, Mark tried the Sauvignon Blanc while I tasted the Pinot Grigio and both were delicious and smooth, perfect accompaniments for the food.IMG_6287IMG_6288We were brought those well-loved Indian hors d’oeuvres, poppadoms with a selection of sauces and dips – something so simple, but very effective if served with the right combination of flavours. I was impressed to see something slightly different to the standard offerings of most Indians – these had a trio of a spicy tomato chutney, a fresh green chilli and coriander dip and a mango chutney. All three were delicious and complemented each other well – I also loved the table-wear the restaurant served the food on. All of the plates and dishes were really nice and I loved the slate the starter was served on. Speaking of starters, we tucked into the rather tasty dishes – Mark had the Jungle Style Char Grill Lamb Kebab (Hunters favourite grilled lamb escalopes served with fresh mint sauce) which was a fabulous dish that started out fresh and left your taste-buds tingling with the chilli after-taste of the mint sauce. I ordered the Tandoori Aatish-e-Jingha on Grilled Pineapple (Jumbo prawns marinated in English mustard, carom, yoghurt and special spices) and oh my goodness it was good. So spicy and warming with the zingyness of the mustard and prawns, but the sweetness of the pineapple – which is one of my favourite fruits and not one I have tried alongside savoury dishes before. Both dishes were really delicious and were presented beautifully on the slates.IMG_6290Between dishes, I have to say there were one or two things I wasn’t so keen on – the music selection in the restaurant was pretty dire with some kind of Crazy Frog Christmas song being played not once, not twice, but THREE times during our meal. Something a bit more chilled would be much better for the ambiance. But it certainly didn’t detract from the food or our enjoyment of the meal. I was slightly disappointed to see that the hand-dryer didn’t work in the ladies loo, things like this either need fixing straight away or there should be towels left for those dining. But, these were just very small issues within an absolutely delicious meal in a great little restaurant. The meal continued as our mains came out, and again we tried different dishes to get a taste for the menu. This time, I ordered the Tandoori Rubiyan Duck with Roasted Tiger Prawn (Glazed with pomegranate and star anise, served with tossed garlic baby spinach salad) which was beyond anything I expected. I love eating duck in Indian dishes because it is always so meaty compared to Chinese or Asian dishes, in which I can often find it fatty. The meat was beautifully cooked and the tandoori spices really melded well with the richness of the meat, combined with the freshness of the salad it really was a delight for the taste-buds. I ordered some Basmati rice to accompany it and we shared a Peshawari naan as well – both perfectly cooked and the naan brought a lovely sweetness to the meal that wasn’t overpowering at all.IMG_6291Mark’s dish came out and I think I saw a little flicker of fear cross his face, mixed with serious determination as his eyes fell on his Dumpukht Biryani (Famous recipe from Delhi, finest basmati rice cooked on Dum – sealed with a pastry lid – with Welsh lamb, served with raita). It was by no means a small dish, and even the waiter said it was not a dish that was supposed to be finished, but he gave a valiant effort. I know from experience that every single time my dad has every cooked biryani we have spent the next week eating it, or it has filled the freezer – you just can’t cook a small one! The flavours again were amazing and the lamb was so tender it almost melted in your mouth, and the rice was so tasty. While I polished mine off, Mark’s was very much the kind of dish you are desperate to finish because it is so delicious, but your body just physically can’t do it. In the end he had to give in, but he gave it a damn good go and we finished the meal with smiles on our faces and full bellies. Sadly we were too stuffed for a dessert, but they had a great selection which was far more extensive than those I have previously found on the menu at Indian restaurants.IMG_6292Overall – pretty bloody impressed. This is more than just your average Indian restaurant, this one packs a good punch full of flavour and spice. You get all those authentic flavours that are sometimes lost in Indian restaurants in favour of the greasier, over-spiced and tomato-heavy dishes, but with a modern twist that looks pretty spectacular and really colourful on your plate. This is a great place to go on date or with a small group of friends, being a small restaurant it could get pretty loud with a big group – although you would be very well looked after by the attentive team. I would love to go back and check out the food being cooked live in front of the diners, which unfortunately wasn’t on until the evening. I think this would be great entertainment, and how much fresher can you get? I would really recommend you check this place out next time you’re in London and fancy a meal with a bit of a kick.


Have you tried out Namaaste Kitchen – what did you think? What are your favourite Indian dishes to eat out and have you got a favourite one to cook?

Ab Lucy sign off

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

Benji’s gives us bloggers food for thought at Jarrolds’ launch

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Gorgeous canapés on offer

Food – for some it is merely part of surviving, of living from one moment to the next, and fuelling all your endeavours along the way. For others, it is a constant quest for new mouth-watering flavours and alluring aromas to tempt the palate and excite the senses. As a bit of a foodie, I’m always searching for a new lip-smacking experience and as you can imagine, I was in my element when the team at Jarrolds department store, in Norwich, invited me along to join them for their food blogging event to mark the opening of their new bistro restaurant, Benji’s. Offering a whole new dining experience that is a step above that of the other three restaurants and coffee shop within the store, the restaurant has a fabulous menu designed to entice even the fussiest of eaters. The restaurant has such a sophisticated feel and the fine decorative touches really make it feel warm and welcoming, as well as exclusive and a real treat.

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The starter platters really did have something for everyone!

Upon arrival, we were welcomed with champagne and canapés – a warm greeting if ever there was one – with the intricately designed snacks artfully arranged on platters decorated with flowers. Each platter showcased the fantastic array of flavours evident throughout the menu, with some delicious battered smoky barbecue chicken served with a fiery sweet chilli sauce, plus a wonderful goats cheese and beetroot stack (cheese provided by local Fielding Cottage), and finally some crab towers that were packed with flavour. All of these delectable delights left us wowed by the combination of flavours that perfectly complemented the other tastes. Shortly after the introductions, we were treated to a cooking demonstration by the head chef, who has years of experience working in top London hotels and Michelin-starred restaurants. He swiftly whipped up a treat for the nose and the eyes with pan-fried sea bass on a bed of artichokes, samphire and salsa verde, with seasonal vegetables. It smelt absolutely divine, and looked so simple to prepare, although I’m sure mine would not look half as presentable as his. Reflecting the constant changes to the menu, this dish will only be available for a couple more weeks as samphire goes out of season. Using only local produce and producers, the restaurant’s menu is dependent on what is available within Norfolk.

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Myself with Leah of Roots & Toots (left) and Gabriella of La Scarpetta (right)

After the demonstration, we headed downstairs for a look around the deli and home-ware department, both of which had us all drooling over treats – both of the food and kitchen-ware variety! We moved between the shelves, checking out everything from chocolate pasta to parsnip and chilli chutneys, lusting over everything from Emma Bridgewater mugs and egg cups, to Artisan mixers. We were lucky enough to have a demonstration of one of the Sage by Heston Blumenthal smoothie makers, which was so easy to use and made the tastiest ginger, apple, orange and kale smoothies – a perfect palate cleanser before we headed back upstairs for our dinner. On the walk back upstairs, I finally got to indulge in that dream of having a department store closed just for you and yes, I did feel exactly like Topshop’s Chloe Green, it was great to wander around the shoe department without any shoppers in my way!

The amazing seafood starter platters

The amazing seafood starter platters

There are not enough words in the English language to do justice to describing the amazing spread that awaited us back in the restaurant, with multiple platters lined up and packed with the most incredible selection of seafood, meats, vegetarian and even floral treats! I can’t list everything that was there, but you’ll be able to see from the photos the delicious piles of scallops, smoked salmon and mackerel, prawns on the fish platters. On the vegetarian plate, there were various raw vegetables, plus roasted aubergine and peppers, hummus and an onion chutney, with pitta and even edible flowers! Over on the meats platter, there were piles of chicken with peanut and barbecue sauces, mini sausages with a tomato sauce, terrine which went beautifully with an apple sauce and much more. It’s making my mouth water again just thinking about it – and I haven’t even added the photos yet! The food was accompanied by a great range of wines and soft drinks, for those of us who were driving, plus plenty of foodie chat about our favourite restaurants and dishes – thanks for the recommendations guys!

And some of the treats on the meat platters

And some of the treats on the meat platters

Shortly after, the main came out and although we already knew what it was, we once again marvelled at the beauty of the colours on the plate, before tucking in excitedly. It was an amazing dish, so tasty and I would really recommend trying it before it disappears off the menu! I’m a big lover of seafood dishes anyway, but this was a particular treat and I loved the sea bass – one of my favourite fish – with the salsa verde, it really enhanced the flavour, as did the delicious artichokes. It was so lovely to sit round with other bloggers who love food and local produce as much as I do, and how better to finish the evening than with a selection of the very finest local cheeses and chocolates?

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The main event – pan fried sea bass

We had a fantastic talk by Sam Steggles of Fielding Cottage, a family business based in Honingham who create their very own goats cheese, meat and skin care products. We tried two types of delicious cheeses, the Norfolk Mardler and the Wensum White, and I have to say the creamier Wensum White was my favourite, with a texture rather reminiscent of Brie – one of my absolute favourite cheeses. This was followed by one of the creators behind Dolce Momento, a company with a passion for the tastes of Brazil who develop an exciting and varied range of gourmet brigadeiros, cakes and treats. The chocolates were gorgeous in appearance and you really could see why them were such a hit at weddings with such stunning presentation. And the tastes were truly out of this world, with an amazing chilli and cinnamon one, plus delicious milk and dark chocolate treats – all sweeter and gooier than the average ganache thanks to condensed milk, good taste and a lot of love. A perfect end to an amazing evening.

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Thanks guys! Looking forward to the next event!

A huge thanks to the team at Jarrolds for inviting me along, I had the most amazing night and loved meeting all the other bloggers. I look forward to more events in the future, but in the meantime, you guys should all get yourselves to Norwich and check out this amazing hidden gem – have fun working your way through the menu and enjoy the fact that you are eating local and supporting local businesses. They’re much more important than eating out at yet another boring, soulless chain restaurant!

Have you eaten out at Jarrolds – what did you think? Will you be checking out the new menu at Benji’s?

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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?

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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?

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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?

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