Here you will find food ideas from restaurants, recipe ideas, festivals and daily restaurant deals worth buying

,

The Curtain Hotel Review – Shoreditch, London

The last few times I’ve been to London, I always seem to be drawn to Shoreditch although I’ve never actually stayed the night there.

We were invited to an event with Sainsburys as part of their Taste Maker project recently, which happened to be taking place in Shoreditch. So we thought we would make a weekend of it and spend the evening at one of the areas endless supply of uber trendy hotels.

After a bit of searching, we came across The Curtain. The other half always insists on a pool when staying anywhere but London being so bloody expensive per square meter, not many hotels offer them. The Curtain however had a cool little rooftop pool. Now that’s something you don’t get everyday in London, so we snapped it straight up.

 

 

The hotel also had its own nightclub, rooftop bar and terrace, private members club, gym and fried chicken restaurant too – you really didn’t have to leave the 4 walls. We wondered why there was a huge queue down the street the day of checkout too. Turns out Little Mix were performing in the onsite club that afternoon.

The Rooms

Me in bed at The Curtain Hotel Shoreditch - London

 

I usually end up booking hotels through comparison sites, as you can usually get a better deal but the Curtain website had a few offers on, that seemed to trump anything else I could find. Ok so the suite’s were a little out of our budget but we ended up upgrading from the basic room to a City Room with breakfast and a bottle of bubbly in the room for around £250.

The rooms are not massive by any stretch of the imagination, but this is London after all. It certainly wasn’t the smallest room either and I thought the space was just right for what we needed for a single night. The bed was pretty big to be fair and so comfortable.

I loved the decor of the room – gold, dark green with little touches such as the Marshall radio, minibar trolley with some pretty decent selections of spirits in half bottles from East London Liquor Company Gin to Lagauvlin 16 year old whisky. Ok so you had to pay for them, but they beat the standard mini bottles of Gordon’s gin and Bells Whisky and probably worked out a lot cheaper if you were planning on sinking a few in the room.

We had our bottle of champagne chilling on ice ready for us too, which was a nice touch. I’d heard that in the evening a trolley comes around making martini’s for guests but we were in and out in the evening so missed it.

We each had robes and slippers in the room, which were handy for travelling between the room and the rooftop pool or just chucking on after falling asleep in the very spacious steam shower in the room. The toiletries smelt lush too.

The Rooftop Pool

You wouldn’t get any Olympic athletes practicing their lengths in the rooftop pool as it wasn’t the biggest but I just like being in the water and not bothered about breaking much of a sweat after a night on the beer anyway. It was March with a bitterly wind but we were adamant we were going to use the pool before breakfast.

The hotel is nowhere near the height of the Shard so you don’t get breathtaking views on your morning swim in 5C but at 6 stories, you do get to peer over a number of neighboroughing buildings. There’s quite a lot of development going on in Shoreditch, especially the couple of building’s near the hotel so it could get quite entombed in the near future, but I enjoyed our brief trip into the water.

 

 

One thing that was quite annoying was you had to go through the terrace bar, which also hosted breakfast, to get into the outside pool area in our swimwear and gowns. It’s a shame there wasn’t a side entrance just before coming into the breakfast area.

In the evening the terrace room turns into a bar, serving up cocktails till just after 10pm. I actually remember walking past the building last December not knowing it was a hotel. There seemed to be a party going on, with little white garden lights glowing in the winter chill. Unfortunately we didn’t get back from the event till late, so we didn’t end up making it onto the terrace bar for a drink.

We took our towels from our room to the pool but there’s no need, as you can pick one up from the counter up there but I’d take your bath robe. especially if it’s in March like us.

The Breakfast

Breakfast wasn’t offered to all guests as standard but we had it in our package. The Curtain also allowed non patrons of the hotel to dine for breakfast too, with a choice of continental, full English or other standard numbers with avo and eggs.

The complimentary breakfast included both continental and a hot food choice. I opted for the full English as standard, then hit the continental hard to line the stomach for a day on the beers as it happened to be the final weekend of the 6 Nations. You know, that one where we (Wales) won the grand slam…again.

 

 

The breakfast was excellent, I’ll give them that. A choice of cheese, freshly baked breads and pastries and the cured meats were epic. None of that laser cut 90% water ham, this was thick cut proper charcuterie. Probably the best i’ve had at a hotel breakfast. There was plenty of fresh fruits, a selection of yogurts, milks for all tolerances to go with your cereals too.

The full English was a very good example of a cooked breakfast too. Thick cut bacon, tasty sausages, runny eggs and the black pudding was cooked just how it should be.

I obviously had a Bloody Mary to sip on with my breakfast.

 

Me having a breakfast cocktail at The Curtain Shoreditch - London

 

The Verdict

I loved our stay at The Curtain and would definitely go back. The room was lush and the steam shower was epic.

First class breakfast and great to be able to do a few breast strokes pre-breakfast to make room for more of the buffet items.

The gym looked pretty well stocked and I’m gutted we didn’t have time to check out the rooftop terrace at night. The Bloody Mary I had up there for breakfast we pretty good though.

Contact Details

The Curtain Hotel
45 Curtain Road
Shoreditch
London
EC2A 3PT

www.thecurtain.com

Steak, King Prawn, Puy Lentils and Salsa Verde Recipe

Salsa Verde Recipe Ingredients

  • 3 small cornichons chopped
  • 3 anchovy fillets rinsed
  • 1 big bunch of parsley chopped finely (None of those mini bags from the supermarket. Get a bunch from your local market)
  • Leaves from 2 sprigs of mint chopped finely
  • 1 garlic clove grated
  • 1/4 of a banana shallot chopped finely
  • 1/4 roasted red pepper from a jar chopped finely
  • zest and juice of half a lemon
  • 3 teaspoons sherry vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • A good glug of olive oil. You can add more later if needs be
  • Ground black pepper to taste

Instructions

You can either add everything to a food processor and blitz or I used a hand blender to make the mix slightly smooth. Don’t go too mental as you don’t want it too runny and still have a bit of texture.

This can be done a day ahead as it keeps well for a few days in the fridge. I used some leftovers with fried runny eggs on toast for breakfast the following day, which were lush!

Puy lentils with red wine ingredients

  • 1 tin of ready cooked green lentils
  • 1/2 carrot chopped finely
  • 3/4 banana shallot chopped finely
  • 1/2 celery stick chopped finely
  • 1 stock cube with 50ml hot water
  • 1 clove garlic grated
  • leaves from 2 cavolo nero stalks chopped into ribbons
  • glug of red wine or vermouth
  • Black pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Gently fry the carrot for a few minutes in olive oil on it’s own. Add the shallot and celery and cook for another couple of minutes.
  2. Add the garlic and cavolo nero and cook for another couple of minutes.
  3. Add the lentils,stock, water and wine/vermouth and stir.
  4. Cook on medium heat so that the veg and lentils take in some of the flavour, soften and the liquid reduces for about 10 minutes.

Serve with a medium / rare steak sliced in slithers and / or a large king prawn and a few dollops of the salsa verde

,

Admiral St David New Cocktail Menu Review – Voco St Davids Hotel, Cardiff Bay

I recently got chosen to name a cocktail on the new Admiral St David bar and restaurant at Voco St David’s in Cardiff Bay. I was given the ingredients and had to choose the name on Facebook, with their favourite being selected and being put on the menu. I also got to sample the new menu with 3 friends

I’ve stayed at St David’s Hotel a few times, but not for about 4 years and not since it was taken over by the IHG luxury offering Voco Hotels, so I was keen to check out the menu there.

We were treated to 3 drinks each, 12 in total so we opted to dive straight in and tick as many off the new summer launched cocktail menu.

 

 

 

The Drinks

I obviously had to try the newly named cocktail by myself first, The Amalfi Verde featuring Bombay Saphire gin, Gallianno, lemon, egg white, basil and olive oil.

The drink was perfectly balanced to be fair  and I love the savoury notes from the drink. My mother was so impressed after a sip of mine, that she ordered the same twice.

 

The menu featured a range of base spirits for those not too keen on gin such as whisky, rum, tequila or even non alcoholic versions for those wanting something tasty without the punch of alcohol.

 

 

On the day I also sampled a gool ole Bloody Mary with a subtle kick of spice and a Negroni Fiammeggianti with the addition of Fire Eater cinnamon liquer.

I’d usually go for short and punchy drinks out of choice at a bar and these were more on the lengthened drinks kind of route, but seeing that it was 1pm in the afternoon in the sweltering sun, this was probably for the best. It was nice and refreshing sat on the outside terrace sipping cocktails, overlooking the bay with a gentle breeze, giving my scalp a much needed cool down.

If i’d gone short and punchy at that time of day, sat in the sun I’d probably have ended up over the side of the balcony and into the barrage.

The Food

We only had the drinks included in our complimentary package but having a peek at the bar menu, sticking just to drinks was never going to happen.

I love the Asian influences on the menu and right at the top of my list was the loaded fries with Laksa sauce, crispy onions and cheese and two bowls for the table, so I didn’t have to share.

Alongside this I ordered some prawn toast and some calamari.

 

Cocktails and food at Voco St David - Cardiff Bay

 

The loaded fries were just as good as they sounded. A generous portion of perfectly cooked chips. Yes there is such a thing. One thing I hate is soft anemic chips! A coating of melted cheddar and a lush fragrant Laksa sauce, topped off with tangy, fresh crispy onions. Drool worthy stuff right there and the poshest of dirty fries I’ve eaten and I’ll definitely be back for some more of these, that’s for sure.

I wasn’t too impressed with the portion of calamari but what was there was decent enough. Light, soft in the middle and light crisp on the outside and not cloying with grease, like they sometimes are.

The prawn toast was delish too. Thick cut, crispy bread with a lip smacking kick of prawny goodness. This came with a side of dips to dunk in too.

I tried ordering some pork belly bao’s but they were all out of the pork and had already ordered calamari so didn’t want to go veggie.

The Verdict

We were all very impressed with our visit to the Admiral St Davids. Ok so nobody is going to stick their nose up to free cocktails, but they were very sinkable and there weren’t any I didn’t enjoy.

A bit sweeter and lengthened more than I would normally go for but it’s not the place to sit and get pissed, it was just nice to sit outside in the sun on an early afternoon and hydrate with some refreshing alcohol based tipples.

We didn’t try anything on the main menu for food, but the small dishes we did sample were very good. The loaded fries were probably my favourite dirty fries I’ve eaten. I’ve never seen my mum polish off a plate of chips so quickly either.

I’ve never really thought of going to St David’s just for drinks but on the day we went, with not even a cloud in the sky, I don’t think you could beat the spot for a drink down the bay. Amazing views, decent drinks, delicious nibbles and away from the crowds of stags and penis straw drinking hens.

I never realised I like civilised, but I could get used to it. I’d definitely put St Davids at the top of my list for afternoon or early evening drinks the next time I’m down the bay.

Nikka Whisky and Tonka Bean Smoked Salted Caramel Recipe

I wanted to jazz up my usual salted caramel recipe for pancake day and thought there’s no better way than to add some whisky from my favourite Japanese whisky distillery.

My brother bought me a new bottle of Nikka from the barrel so I decided to use up what was left in my other bottle, along with some added tonka beans I had lying around in the cupboard.

Nikka Whisky and Tonka Bean Smoked Salted Caramel Ingredients

  • 50ml Nikka From the Barrel Whisky
  • 100ml tonka bean infused double cream
  • 200g granulated sugar
  • 100ml of water
  • 100g unsalted butter (I used salted as that’s all I had in the fridge but I’d use unsalted and add the amount of smoked salt you need to taste)
  • Pinch of smoked salt. I used Maldron or you could use Halen Mon.

 

Nikka Whisky and tonka bean smoked salted caramel recipe

 

Instructions

  1. To make the tonka bean infused cream, take two tonka beans, snap them and drop into the cream.
  2. Cover the cream and let to infuse overnight. I found snapping them rather than grating the tonka bean, made it easier to remove the tonka bean after infusion.
  3. Add the sugar to a saucepan with a splash of water.
  4. Warm the cream up gently so that it doesn’t fizz violently when added to the caramelised sugar.
  5. Heat the sugar up until it starts to smell like caramel and starts to turn golden in colour.
  6. Take the sugar off the heat when it gets to the desired caramelisation but don’t let it go too dark as it will burn and taste bitter. It will carry on cooking after you take it off too so act quickly.
  7. Add the warmed cream to the sugar and the butter then whisk to combine. Be careful as it does splutter when you add the liquids to the sugar.
  8. When the butter and cream are added, pour the whisky in. If you put the whisky in too early it will just burn off.
  9. Add as much smoked salt to the caramel as you prefer and mix to combine.
  10. Pour the caramel into a container that allows you to spoon out easily.
  11. Use straight away once it’s cooled a little or put in the fridge.

You can add the caramel to pancakes like it did, drizzle over ice cream, add to your breakfast oats, top with toasted crumpets with nutella, use for millionaire bars, pour over waffles or just take a spoon and enjoy.

,

Nobu Hotel Shoreditch Review

Being obsessed with Japan and dreaming of a trip there in the near future, we thought we would have a taste of Japan on home turf for our trip to London last weekend. We decided to book a night at Nobu Hotel in Shoreditch.

If you’re not familiar with Nobu, they started life as a Japanese restaurant in Hollywood in 1994 and it’s joint venture between Robert De Nero and Japanese Chef Nobuyuki “Nobu” Matsuhisa. The Shoreditch Nobu Hotel was the first hotel in Europe from the successful chain of restaurants. They already have two restaurants in London, so the hotel was the next obvious choice.

We actually passed the hotel, the last time we were up in Shoreditch staying at the Curtain and said we would love to go back and check out the Nobu Hotel.

The Hotel

The facade strikes a very impressive pose, with it’s fusion of modern architecture but based on the traditional Japanese detailing. The front of the building, with it’s glass and minimalist black facade is transformed into an industrial feel at the side of the hotel, with exposed concrete and overhanging steel beams showing a building of two halves. It’s got a Samurai feel going on for sure.

 

Nobu Hotel Shoreditch Bar

 

The interior again gives a nod to traditional Japanese living, with the wooden structures and panelling especially in the underbelly of the venue, where the restaurant and bar are situated. There’s modern touches of gold and contemporary lighting throughout, to marry the two traditions together.

 

Hanamai Garden Terrace - Nobu Shoreditch Hotel

A Hanamai inspired terrace garden, used to showcase the bar and drinks along with the choice of having a Japanese inspired afternoon tea. The terrace also hosts collaborations with the hotel and more recently Suntory Whisky, with a Japanese twist on some classic cocktails using Japan’s oldest whisky distillery.

The rooms are what sold us, with the stripped back look, bare concrete ceilings, sliding panels, black panelling and a fluttering of gold, to add a touch of colour. I’ve got a little bored of traditional styling, which some of the more established higher end hotels seem to favour.

There was no swimming pool at the hotel, much to Llio’s satisfaction. They did have a fully equipped gym, steam room and spa treatments should you feel the need to break a sweat or have last night’s alcohol squeezed out of you. We didn’t get a chance to check these out due to our tight timescales.

The Rooms

We went for a superior room with breakfast and with my works discount, managed to get 10% off bringing the price down to around £240. Check in isn’t normally till 3pm and we arrived at the hotel at 12.30 to see if we could drop our bags.

 

Bedroom at Nobu Shoreditch Hotel

 

Luckily for us they had a room free already. Not our designated room but an accessible room. We could have waited for ours to be ready or just take this and dump our bags, to get on with some exploring. Accessible rooms tend to have a bit more space so we decided to take it. The only difference they said was we got a wet room with a few handles dotted around to help those with wheelchairs.

Instead of the standard key cards, you get a plastic key to open just like with the card by tapping the sensor on the door, but you insert into the pad in the room to give you your lights and power.

 

 

 

Nothing was on display letting you properly get into your zen mode and relax All the mod cons such as the huge tv were hidden behind golden doors, which also contained a well stocked mini bar with champagne, some really good Japanese drinks such as Hitachino. The prices were extortionate though, even for london at £9 for a bottle of beer!

There was a drawer filled with a few handy pick me up’s and toiletries should you have forgotten them but again, with a hefty margin added on top. You got your standard shower gels, shampoo, slippers and sewing kit, Japanese tea’s for free though.

I emailed the hotel prior to arriving, to say it was my partners birthday, so we were heading to London to celebrate (Well it’s 2 weeks away, but she’s away working and this will probably the last chance we get so not entirely a white lie). and they left a card, some chocolates and a happy birthday written in chocolate on a plate, which I thought was a lovely touch. The staff were all so lush too, making sure to say happy birthday and couldn’t do enough at reception.

The beds were so comfy, with big soft pillows that seemed to swallow you up. The only thing we could complain about with the room was the air conditioning, which even on the lowest temperature of 18C and the highest setting of the fan, it was way too warm. I worked out that the mirror in the bathroom was boiling hot to stop it steaming up and I don’t know if it was that warming the whole place up.

There were ample amounts of plugs and the addition of usb plugs next to the beds was very handy.

Food

We didn’t dine at the restaurant for lunch or dinner, but I’ve heard the brunch they do on Saturday’s are legendary. For around £45 you get to eat as much sushi and Japanese patisseries including macarons as you like.

 

Restaurant at Nobu Shoreditch Hotel

 

This is high end Japanese cooking and sushi. Nobu have 30 restaurants around the world in some very affluent places such as Mayfair in London so it’s not your bog standard Yo!

 

Breakfast menu at Nobu Hotel Shoreditch

 

Our package included breakfast, although I was surprised when it only included the continental and not the standard fry up option too. For non breakfast bookings or if you just wanted to eat there without staying, the continental is priced at £18 and includes:

  • Choice of tea or coffee
  • Cured meats and cheese
  • Pickles
  • Slices of smoked salmon
  • Scrambled eggs
  • Pastries
  • Cereals
  • Selection of fresh breads
  • Jams and marmalades
  • Yogurt
  • Roasted tomatoes
  • Mushrooms
  • Juices
  • Fresh fruit

 

Buffet breakfast at Nobu Hotel Shoreditch

 

To be fair, you could have filled up on what was on offer, but reading the a la carte menu and their Japanese twist on the Full English, I just couldn’t pass up the offer.

The “Nobu Style” Full English was priced at £14 and consisted of:

  • Ginger Pig back and streaky bacon,
  • Japanese Kurobuta sausage
  • Shitake
  • Onion confit
  • Cherry tomato
  • Two eggs of your choice,
  • Crispy black pudding

 

Nobu Style Full English Breakfast - Nobu Hotel Shoreditch

 

I wasn’t even that hungry to be honest, but when in holiday mode I was not going to miss out on a twist to the standard full English and am I glad i did. This was probably top of favourite fried breakfasts of all time.

It was great to have two types of bacon, as everyone knows I’m a bacon whore and they were from Ginger Pigs who have a butchers in Hackney, so keeping it local. Everything on the plate just packed an umami punch from the shitake, the onion confit adding a lick of savouriness to the rest of the dish and just swamping up the oozing juices from all the meaty items on the plate. It would have made an epic stock to any noodle dish too.

I don’t know what the hell they did to the tomatoes but they were insane. I don’t know how something so small could pack so much flavour. They must have poached them in soy or miso to get the hot, juicy, sweet yet salty flavour bomb. How could I forget the fried, crispy balls of black pudding too. I doused the perfectly fried eggs in some shichimi togarashi for a lick kick of heat too.

There were a few other Japanese inspired breakfast items too such as

Matsuhisa Benedict with crispy tofu, spinach, dorset crab, shiso bearnaise, salmon egg for £13

or

Scrambled Egg Donburi with salmon, steamed rice, nori, sesame, soy, salmon eggs, soy salt for £14

The Verdict

I did enjoy the hotel and I would recommend it. The breakfast was out of this world, even if I had to pay again for a fried option.

The hotel looked amazing and so striking from the outside with the industrial meats Japanese Palace look. Some areas were needing a bit of tlc though, as Llio kept pointing out such as the gold had worn away in the sink leaving a white undercoat, cracked glass mirrors in the lift and a few other things but not massively noticeable.

The staff were lovely, especially on reception. Very friendly and helpful.

We both agreed that we enjoyed it but still preferred the curtain. Might have been the pool or the fact that you had continental and full English or it could have been a multitude of the little things that added up. Saying that I would recommend a night there if you’re looking in the area.

It’s about 5 minutes walk from Old Street Station and around 30 minutes from Paddington by tube. We were pressed for time heading back on Saturday and opted for a taxi, so we didn’t have to lug our bags to the underground, carry them up the steps and change over platforms. It cost us £19 using Uber to get to Paddington. Bare in mind Saturday evening around 7pm is manic on the roads so give yourself plenty of time in the taxi, if you pick that option.

,

Halen Mon Salt launch of book, gin and Tide restaurant

We recently got an invite to Wales most famous salt brand Halen Mon for the launch of not one but three new ventures at the Coastal HQ along Anglesey’s treasured Menai Straights.

Normally I would have questioned a 10 hour round trip for a launch event but this was no normal launch party. Having used up my latest pot of black garlic ketchup on everything apart from my cup of tea, I knew Halen Mon had something special planned last Saturday.

Their famous salt is used by Michelin Star chefs around the world and even has a former president as an avid fan, with Barack Obama favouring the Welsh sea salt in his chocolate.

The Halen Mon range has exploded over the past few years featuring a hint of their white gold in the majority of products along with seaweed, spices and good old fashioned smoke.

Do Sea Salt book

The latest launch though is covering a few different areas and not just condiments. There is a book “Do Sea Salt” written by Jess and her parent’s, the founders of Halen Mon Alison and David. It’s lovely little book, featuring salt in all it’s greatness from history, why we use it, how to use it and some great suggestions on elevating humble recipes by utilising this great natural product.

I haven’t had a chance to sit down yet and get stuck into it properly but from a quick scan of the book, I’ll definitely be trying some of the ideas and I love learning about the history of anything food and drink related. There’s also a mention about creating your own sea salt, something I’d only mentioned on our last trip up to Anglesey back in April .

I said I wanted to get gas cooker and heat some water from the Menai Straights, to try and make our own Anglesey Sea salt before we got the invite to Halen Mon HQ, so this book will make sure I don’t waste hours of my life watching the water bubble away over a camping stove.

Jin Mor Gin

Well this was a surprise for me, as I only found out a couple of day’s before the event that they were also launching a gin on the night. Well I found out when they presented the first bottle off the still to Prince William and Kate on instagram, two days before.

 

The gin is a collaboration with the increasingly popular North Wales Distillery Aber Falls. Aber Falls, was setup initially as a the first Whisky Distillery in North Wales for over 100 years but as whisky takes 3 years and 1 day legally be called whisky, they sought out other forms of revenue in the mean time. They initially launched three gin’s to much success and have expanded their range more recently with an entry level vodka and gin along with a more premium offering.

Jin Mor Gin - Halen Mon Gin

Jin Mor launch night

The Halen Mon gin, will go by the name of Jin Mor and has the addition of their Halen Mon to the mix of botanicals. I was told that this was not just to add a salinity to the drink but because of the process that happens when you add salt to anything. It draws out moisture and oils from most things thuse drawing more of the flavour from the botanicals.

On taste, I was expecting it to have a saline kick to it but far from it. The gin was smooth, pleasant and delicious. I didn’t get to try it neat on the evening but did have more than my fair share mixed with a bit of tonic and it was exceedingly morish.

We had a goody bag to take home with a little bottle of the juniper spirit, so I will be taste testing it neat on the weekend for research purposes.

Apart from the salt there was nothing too out of the ordinary on the botanical list with the obvious juniper, coriander seed, angelica root and licorice although I didn’t see the full list.

I was half expecting a bit of the seaweed that they forage a just a stones throw away from the salt harvesting site that is used in some of their other products to make an appearance but that might be reserved for further down the line.

I’m sure the Halen Mon gin would make a very good martini or red snapper at the new cafe would be a good choice, using some of the other range of products such as the bloody mary ketchup for flavour, seaweed for umami kick, chilli for heat and a smoked salt and cracked black pepper rim. I might suggest this one to them and more than happy to work on testing to get the perfect mix 🙂

Tide Cafe

Last but not least is the new fresh food offering from Halen Mon called Tide. Not content with supplying kitchens and restaurants across the land with their excellent pantry staples, they are going one step further and opening a food outlet next to the Halen Mon visitor Centre.

Tide Cafe - Halen Mon, Ynys Mon

The food will be cooked in a fully kitted trailer next to the centre, offering alfresco dining and refreshments to visitors of the centre or just people wanting good coffee and fresh, local and delicious food.

We were treated to a number of tasters and appetisers whilst our fellow guests arrived to the sea front location. Halen Mon couldn’t have picked a better day, the sun was shining with hardly a cloud in the sky.

The Canapes consisted of freshly picked oysters from just in front of where we were stood with both pickled apple and some that had been shown the fire over a log burner, some 5 metres away with lashings of garlic and butter.

Crisp breads beautifully decorated with flowers with peppers and an amalgamation of pureed stuff, that both looked enticing and tasted scrumptious.

Then there were mini tacos with healthy slabs of golden pork, fresh apple and micro herbs for a kiss of savouriness. These just how i like tacos, stuffed, overloaded and more than my mouth can handle. There was no portion control either, to my delight, so I had a couple of each to pair with the gin.

The Meal

I could have easily have sat and filled up on the tasters, but we were there to sample something more substantial inside. I liked that everyone’s name card was somewhere random (or was it) so they made more of an effort to speak to others. I was sat 3 away from Llio but with everyone’s love of food and just enjoying life, we all had loads to talk about. There was someone who made his own chutneys that will be featuring on the menu to my right and a tea master that now works trading in spices on my left.

Hugh Fearnley at Tide launch - Halen Mon, Anglesey

Before the meal commenced we had a brief introduction by none other than Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, whom the new Tide chef Sam worked for, at his time at Riverside Cottage.

We were given a choice of wine as we sat down, with me opting for red, as I can’t take to all white especially if it’s too dry. There was never going to be a Blossom Hill being brought out that’s for sure and I wasn’t disappointed with the offering that did come out, a Valenciso Reserva 2009 Rioja. Not sure if this is true, but someone on the table mentioned it was the house wine at the fabled El Bulli in Spain. Well you can’t get much better than that for recognition.

Salad starter at Tide, Halen Mon

The first dish was very informal and more of a sharing experience, which was a nice change. We had some amazing sourdough, which is always a fav of mine baked by a friend of the family who was also sat amongst us, dining for the evening too.

This was alongside some asparagus cooked in loads of butter and garlic, new season kale that was so delicate compared to kale I’m used to without the large oversized stems and tossed in orange and raisins alongside a help yourself bowl of olive tapenade. I was a good boy and only ate two pieces of bread, even with the remaining slices plonked next to me. I’m getting better!

Welsh Lamb main at Tide Restaurant launch, Halen Mon

Onto the main course of Welsh lamb, served a luscious pink with a croqueta of slow cooked lamb inside too. Some fresh salad leaves, locally picked new potatoes with loads of butter and some extra greens. It tasted fresh, looked rustic and just as I would expect out of the River Cottage cookbook.

I enjoy vegetables, they just taste bland and dull when I cook them. Everything had it’s own bit of tender loving, yet not overpowering or overshadowing anything else on the plate. Seasoned to perfection, even though I thought there would be white ceramic tubs of Halen Mon within reach for everyone, we really didn’t need it.

We were sat / stood outside in the sunshine for the tasting of the gin and the canapes and it would have been lush to dine outside but it’s not quite summer in the evenings and the temperature tends to drop considerably, especially being right next to the water’s edge.

Roasted rhubarb crumble and custard at Tide, Halen Mon

With the logs being put on the burners outside, which was now churning out a decent heat, we were able to grab a chair, a glass of dessert wine and have a shmooze, whilst the dessert of stewed rhubarb, custard and crumble was handed out to very happy campers.

 

Thinking we were all done, after quite the feasting, a couple of wooden boards were handed out with gargantuan wedges of Welsh cheeses and a knife to do your worst. It was dark out there, but I think I would definitely have been caught shimmering out of the circle, cheese in tow to the nearest bush or rock, to polish it all off myself.

The Verdict

What an amazing evening we had, from start to finish. Everyone was so lovely not just the Halen Mon team but everyone we sat next to and had a chat with.

The food was outstanding. Everything was sources as local as possible, seasoned perfectly and you could taste the love shown to it. I will definitely be calling in to have tour around the salt production site and finishing with a bite to eat at Tide, the next time I’m up and on the island.

Halen Mon launch night

We bought our first Halen Mon ceramic salt cellar about 2 years ago at Waitrose in Menai Bridge and it takes pride of place in the kitchen and always in arms reach when we sit down for food.

We’ve also topped it up and bought a few other nicies from the range on Discover Delicious too including seaweed and salt mini pot, Bloody Mary Ketchup and my fav their Black Garlic Ketchup.

The gin was a lot better than I thought it was going to be. Not that I thought it would be bad but I couldn’t fault the end product. You can buy it from their website at around £33 or the other half was back up in Anglesey last week with work and popped in and bought one in the shop next to Tide for the same price. We will definitely be showcasing it at a future Cardiff Gin Club event.

The book “Do Sea Salt” can also be bought from their website and in the visitor centre shop.

Contact Details

Address: The Anglesey Sea Salt Company Ltd
Brynsiencyn,
Isle of Anglesey
LL61 6TQ

Website: https://www.halenmon.com

Human Food Nutrition Bar Review

I recently got sent a sample box of bars from Human Food to review. I’d not heard of them previously but was keen to see what they did after learning they hailed from the seaside town of Tenby in West Wales.

I’ve tried my fair share of energy / protein / meal replacement bars over the years but I’ve never been drawn to any i’ve tried to be honest as I find them all a bit synthetic, especially the protein based ones.

Human Food started out as a pipe dream on Kickstarter and ended up being the highest grossing food product in the UK and the highest Vegan food product in the world at £80k of investment. After hearing that, I thought they must be onto something great.

So what is Human Food?

Human Food contains no artificial flavours or sweeteners, no added sugar, and no synthetic nutrients. It contains only organic whole-foods and whole-food extracts which have always been part of the human diet. Also, Human Food has been made specifically to support a plant-based diet, making it easy to live in a healthy, sustainable and humane way.

Human Food nutrition bar subscription

Human Food is a combination of 20 organic whole foods and whole food extracts, selected and balanced for optimal taste and bio-availability. Each bar contains essential nutrients that can be difficult to obtain from a plant-based diet, plus whole daily amounts of functional ingredients.

The bars come in 3 different flavours, but all containing the same base ingredients. The flavours are:

  • Red Bar – Organic Goji Berries
  • Yellow Bar – Organic Turmeric
  • Green Bar – Organic Spirulina

human food protein bar ingredients

The base ingredients come in the form of:

Organic Hulled Hemp Seeds (10g), Organic Dried Banana, Organic Dates, Organic Apple Juice Concen- trate, Organic Hemp Protein, Organic Sunflower Seeds, Organic Pumpkin Seeds, Organic Figs, Organic Dried Apricots, Organic Cacao Powder (3g), Algae Extract, Organic Puffed Quinoa, Organic Mulberries, Organic Maca (500mg), Organic Quinoa Sprout Extract, Curry Leaf Extract, Organic Siberian Ginseng (200mg), Organic Mushroom Extract, Organic Black Pepper.

I was sent a mixed box of containing one of each flavour and a leaflet included in the packet gave some serving suggestions such as straight from the packet, blended in a smoothie or chopped and added to a breakfast of fruits, nuts and yogurt (which is one of my go to breakfasts too).

The bars contain only natural ingredients and Human Food have stated the bars have taken 4 years and over 200 iterations to get the mix just right. They contain 100% of the daily recommended intake (RI) of vitamin B12 and at least 50% of the RI of: Iron, Zinc, Vit D, calcium and Omega 3, as well as over 11 grams of protein, which I’m guessing is slightly better than a your regular bacon and egg McMuffin on the commute to work in the morning.

How do they taste?

I wasn’t sure which one to go for first, but ended up trying the tumeric bar, which comes in the yellow wrapper. I’d only ever put tumeric in a curry or tumeric roasted cauliflower, with both being savoury dishes I was intrigued at how it would work with the nuts and dried fruit ingredients.

Come to think of it, I’m not actually sure what tumeric on it’s own tastes like but whatever it is, it wasn’t overpowering in this bar. Tumeric is well known for it’s natural inflammatory boosting properties so it sounds like a good ingredient to get more of into your diet.

Complete daily nutrition bar review - Human Food

I was positively surprised with the tumeric bar, as I really didn’t know how it would fair without being in a savoury dish or food stuff. I use dried figs quite a lot in my overnight oats and breakfast yogurts so it had the same squidgy texture, with added crisp and crunch from the nuts.

Next up I thought I’d try adding it to one of my go to breakfasts, which is yogurt, where I normally add some fresh berries, dried figs, nuts, chia and oats as this sounded like a complete replacement when I didn’t have time to prep my breakfast.

Red Human Food vegan nutrition bar review

Instead of prepping the night before, I dolloped a few spoonfuls of greek yogurt from my fridge in work, tore up the berry bar into small chunks and dived in. I thought it made a good substitute for my normal fresh and dried mish mash of yogurt toppers, especially when pressed for time.

I think I’d still like to add a few more fresh berries to the yogurt, but this would make an excellent addition to get some missing nutrients added to my breakfast staple. They are handy as you can keep them in your drawer in work, along with a big tub of yogurt to save you when you haven’t had time to prep breakfast or mid afternoon snack.

I’ve still not tried the Organic Spirulina yet, as I’ve looked up Spirulina and it’s supposed to taste a bit earthy. I don’t think i’ll be trying it raw on it’s own, as I think it will probably be best suited to being blended in a smoothie with something a bit sweeter to balance it out. I’ll let you know how I get on when I give that one a go.

The Verdict

I did enjoy the Tumeric and the Goji berry bars. I felt like I was eating something really good for me without having to  force it down, unlike some health based food bars or shakes. It was dense, filling and kept me going for a good few hours. It would be perfect for a long mountain trek, where you need some energy without the added garbage most energy / protein bars cram into them.

I’d definitely introduce the Goji Berry bar into my morning yogurt mix for a satisfying blend of natural ingredients, after a heavy lifting session the night before as they contain a respectable amount of protein at 11g per bar too, along with the greek yogurt you’re looking at close to 20g.

The bars come in a variety of subscriptions priced at £3.30 per bar, from a taster box priced at £9.90, a two week trial at £33 for 10 bars or one off orders between 10 and 500 bars.

For further info on Human Food go to https://humanfood.coop

, ,

Gerald of Wales Gin Train from Cardiff to Anglesey with Arriva Trains Business Class

We were asked by Arriva Trains who still run the service from Cardiff to Holyhead on Anglesey to join them on the Gerald of Wales, their premium carriage service to celebrate the launch of the Welsh gin being served on the service from Eccentric Gin.

The Gerald of Wales offers the only first class train service from Cardiff to North Wales offering guests a cooked breakfast or 3 course evening meal, depending on the route and time they travel. With one trip leaving Holyhead at around 6am and the return journey leaving Cardiff Central at 5.15pm Monday to Friday.

Being a regular traveller to Ynys Mon with the other halfs family living there, we either drive or catch a flight, so the thought of sitting in a luxury carriage with a 3 course meal and unwinding with some of the best Welsh Gin sounded very tempting.

As there train wasn’t returning on the Friday evening or running on the weekend, we did half a trip to Shrewsbury with enough time to sample the food menu and taste our way through the growing selection of Eccentric’s catalogue of gins.

The Food

The morning journey from Holyhead serves a hot Welsh breakfast with the usual cooked breakfast items but we had a choice of three courses for the return journey from Cardiff.

 

Starter on Business Class Arriva Trains Wales

 

I opted for the pate to start. A healthy wedge of seasoned offaly loveliness wa offered, a few bits of foliage for display and a nice portion of chutney to cut through the richness of the pate.

 

Main Course Business Class Arriva Trains

 

For mains I went for fish in breadcrumb crust, potatoes, vegetables and herby sauce. The fish was alright actually, tender and flakey. New potatoes…well they do what they say on the tin. The veggies reminded me of the frozen bags you chuck in to boil for a few minutes, which I’m generally not overly fussed on but I will eat them if I’m hungry. The sauce was ok, but felt a bit plastic and not made from scratch. It was needed in the dish though for a bit of moisture for the potatoes and veggies.

 

Welsh gin and cheese - Garald of Wales - Arriva Trains

 

Cheese and gin, now that’s a winning combo if there ever was one. A selection of Welsh cheese with variety of crisp eating vessels to choose from.

We were heading close to our final destination on the journey so we had to rush through the cheese board but what I did have certainly hit the spot.

The Gin

I was no stranger to Eccentric Gin, having attended a tasting event in Cardiff around the same time as setting up Cardiff Gin Club for research purposes and have been a fan ever since.

We also included some of their gin during our live tasting with BBC radio, showcasing the best of Welsh Gins.

 

Welsh gin on Arriva Trains business class - Cardiff to Anglesey

 

The gin menu on board the Arriva Gerarld of Wales has a couple of the Eccentric gins on it such as Cardiff gin, their most popular dry gin on the market.The ever enthusiastic Rob from Eccentric, was more than happy to let us taste our way through their classic range such as Madame Genever, Young Tom, made from redistilled 8% IPA beer and Limbek, made from gin rested in Burgundy barrels giving it a lovely amber hue.

We also got to try some new trial gin’s Rob was working on such as Rhubarb and Violet gin. The bottles came with new branding and stood out with their bright natural colouring compared to their other classic range. I did like the two new ones but I preferred some of their older ones like the Limbek.

The Verdict

This wasn’t fine dinning by any means, but everything we ate was cooked and prepared on a moving train, in what must have been a dinky little kitchen. I struggle to eat a sandwich without tipping it all over me on a train, so hats off to the guys in the kitchen for knocking out what we had to eat, in such a short space of time.

I enjoyed the food and ate all of it, although I had to rush to finish off the cheese board because we got off in Shrewsbury and didn’t do the whole route to Holyhead.

I loved the gins and it was great to catch up with Rob from Eccentric who we’ve spoken to and helped support at our Cardiff Gin Club events from the start and he’s been great in giving us some samples to offer out to people at our talks at Tafwyl in Cardiff Castle, St Fagans Food Festival and The National Eisteddfod in Cardiff Bay last year.

If you are travelling to Anglesey and don’t want the stress of driving through the heart of Wales countryside for nearly 5 hours after work, i’d highly recommend booking a trip on the Gerald of Wales. You can sit back, enjoy some decent food and sip on some fantastic gin with an epic scenic display through Wales.

One thing I would point out though if you’ve never been to Anglesey and plan on visiting a few places whilst your there, organise a hire car for the island in advance.

Everything seems to be very far from each other and I’ve spent most of my weekends there in the car, driving from place to place. There are trains on the island obviously as you will be riding on one but they don’t connect up on the island very well. I’ve not used the local bus service to comment on the service or reliability.

,

The Dead Canary Gin Dinner Review in Cardiff

We were recently invited to the first in a series of gin dinners at Deaths and Entrances, the new bar within The Dead Canary and run by the same team.

The new bar opened a few months back and I loved the new flavour driven cocktail menu on the launch weekend.

The gin dinner was in collaboration with Quintessential Brands, whose gins were being paired up against the three courses of food we were being served that evening.

We toasted the night in with a welcome classic of Thom(as) Collins, to get the flavour receptors in full working order. The brand ambassador then give us a bit of history behind a Manchester gin that just so happened to be my very first purchase of gin some 3 years ago. Thomas Dakin, was the gin in question and comes in a not so standard rectangular bottle, with a large red sticker and branding on the front.

It was the bottle that caught my attention and back then there were only a handful of gin’s on the shelf not a whole section dedicated to the juniper laced spirits, if you can call some of them that these days.

The Food

The first course went straight in with the big guns as a paired gin in the form of Berkley Square, the most expensive gin of the evening. The bottle just oozed premium, with it’s lions head and knocker along with thick walled square bottle.

Berkeley Square Gin bottle

The food dish consisted of honey baked feta with lavender and a thyme and rye crisp. What a first course! I love feta and the lick of honey combined with a gentle heat in the oven, gave it a ever so slight caramelisation. It also turned it heavenly smooth in the mouth and contrasted with the crisp and bread. I could have eaten more than my fair share, lets just put it that way.

The kitchen soon served our second plate of food that was paired with the Thomas Dakin gin in a cucumber and dill sour. A mackerel dish with cucumber and horseradish snow, a granita type iced affair with subtle horseradish. One of the ingredients in this centuries old recipe for gin was red coal, which was often taken as a snuff like powder to awaken the senses back in the 18th century.

Mackerel starter at The Dead Canary Gin Dinner

We now call this horseradish, so it was intriguing to find out about how gin progressed outside of London during the time of the first gin craze and also matching the botanicals within the food too. I thought it was a very creative dish and i’d never tried a savoury granita, especially not with horseradish and certainly not as a starter.

The brand ambassador also spoilt us with some of the last remaining chocolates truffles they had made for them from a Manchester chocolatier that has stopped trading at the moment, which made them extra special as they can’t be bought again. Gin and chocolate, what’s not to love especially when the truffles were made to compliment the botanicals in question.

Thomas Dakin gin chocolates

Onto the mains, which consisted of pork tenderloin with carrot, dill and camomile broth, served with a ginger collins using the floral, Bloom gin. The cocktail made a lovely refreshing addition. A Collins, sometimes known as a Tom Collins at a basic level contains gin, lemon juice and soda. This is usually jazzed up with some additional syrups and carbonated liquid to lengthen it.

Pork and ginger collins at The Dead Canary Gin Dinner

Our final course took a flight towards India, to hold up against the spice of the final gin Opihr. The dish consisted of a mango kulfi, pistachio and grated coconut. Paired with a favourite classic of mine, the negroni. Not for the faint hearted and this cocktail does seperate the men from the boys or women from the girls, with it’s use of the bitter orange Italian aperitif Campari.

Mango Kulfi dessert at The Dead Canary Gin Dinner in Cardiff

The classic ratio of 1 part gin, 1 part sweet vermouth and one part campari is sometimes tweaked, to also include barrel aging or infusions of vermouth with the likes of coffee or cacao. This is always served with a twist or slice of orange for a natural sweetness against the bitter Campari.

A negroni is a hard drink to pair up against but the creamy kulfi and the sweet fruit of the mango leant itself to the spicy cocktail. My empty plate and glass bore witness to this.

The Verdict

I really enjoyed the evening and I’ve been to quite a few of The Dead Canary events now over the years from gin blending, afternoon tea-ki.

We were invited to this event this time around but I’ve paid for all the other’s I’ve been to there and there’s been a few. They recently did another gin dinner and I’ve seen whisky dinners too, for those of you who prefer the amber coloured barrel aged liquor.

I’ve seen a few more advertised events on my hit list to sign up to at The Dead Canary like the return of the Afternoon Tea-ki event in collaboration with Pennyroyal, which is back for Cardiff Cocktail Week.This features tiki cocktails and caribbean inspired plates of food to match them.

Ember by John Cook Review at Milk & Sugar – Yr Hen Lyfrgell

I was sat in a pub in pub in the Pembrokeshire Countryside a few weeks back, sipping on a pint of local ale whilst catching up on some socials. We’d been busy walking around Cardigan all day, then me foolishly braving the March Welsh sea by taking a plunge.

I noticed that Milk & Sugar in Cardiff were running a competition for two a table for two at their upcoming collaboration with local chef favourite John Cook, formerly of Arbenig in Pontcanna. Long story short, we managed to win the competition so were joining dinners on the launch night at the Yr Hen Lyfrgell on the Hayes. It was quite funny as we had seen John’s other side project Dirt being advertised at Crwst in Cardigan that same day.

Sadly I was late to the party with Arbenig, with chef Tommy Heaney taking over the venue before I had chance to sample his food, although John seems to have his fingers in many pie’s at the moment and I have managed to try his other incarnation with Dusty Knuckles Phil called Horn to Hide at Sticky fingers.

Anyone who’s anyone has probably set foot in Yr Hen Lyfrgell (The Old Library for you non Welsh Speakers) so I won’t bore you with the details other than saying it’s a lovely big venue for lunch for the whole family or to grab some excellent coffee for a chat on their long tables with friends.

The Food

The new residency from John and his wife Ceri is called Ember and the concept is 4 courses of locally sourced, quality food from a fixed price menu. There’s a one meat option menu (£40) and vegetarian (£30) option menu. Everyone eats the same, so there’s not quarrel’s over whose having the lamb because you wanted to try two different things on the menu. In my case it also saves me hours of changing my mind for two weeks prior to attending a restaurant.

 

Ember by John Cook menu in Cardiff

We asked beforehand if we could bring the (future) mother in law along but pay the difference and the guys were great and fitted in another space on the table. No half hour deliberating over the menu, it was three meat options and a bottle of the highly recommended Argentinian Malbec. That would have been my first choice anyway and at around just £20, I thought it was an absolute bargain for a bottle.

 

Argentinian Malbec red wine at The Old Library Cardiff

First up on the menu was a sausage broth, with creamed white beans, focaccia and olive oil. The sausage was soft and crumbed into the rich and flavoursome broth. A lovely crunch to the oily focaccia that I dipped and ladled full of the gravy, before mopping any remnants from my plate. A hearty dish that you could easily have dived head first into, in front of a roaring fire, with half a loaf to help make a dent in it. Luckily John has a bit more understanding of portion control than me, that allowed me to power through to the next three courses.

 

Sausage broth dish at Ember by John Cook in Cardiff

Next up was a plate of charcuterie with fermented onion and malt vinegar. I do love a healthy mound of cured meats, with pickles and red wine at the best of times and the addition of some toasted almonds, to add a touch of smokiness and crunch was kindly welcomed. I did enjoy the dish although for me and the general consensus of the table was, we would have liked maybe a bit of local cheese to break up the meat, even if it meant having a bit less of the cured pork, for a bit of variation.

 

Charcuterie at Ember by John Cook Cardiff

Onto the main event and I’d seen some teasers on Instagram of the beef ageing, at Cardiff Butcher. The course read: 55-day beef sirloin with celeriac, carrot and marmite and it came out brilliantly pink, on the custom made ceramic plates from a local potter. I had to dissuade the other half from collecting the full set in her handbag, before they came to take away each course, as they really added to the rustic charm of each plate.

 

55 day aged beef from Cardiff Butcher at Ember

The beef was so tender, with slight caramelisation on the crust that paired superbly with the rich coffee and marmite jus, oh and the bold red beauty in my glass from the Patagonia’s. The smooth, silky highly addictive celeriac got me secretly begging that someone left some of theirs, as I’d used my finger to painstakingly mop every last drop flavour from my plate. Unbeknown to me at the time, but the butcher and his wife were sat in front of us. I would have patted him on the back for that beef at the time if I’d known.

Last but not least was a truffled chocolate with bay leaf caramel, hazelnut and cultured cream. This reminded me of a deconstructed snickers and the ill-fated Cardiff Burger and lobster snickers dessert, but on steroids and with a lot more love. Basically 4 of my favourite things on a plate, what’s not to love? Apart from my obsession for adding whisky to anything with chocolate or caramel, but I’ll let them off, as not everybody is an alcoholic and adds alcohol to every course.

 

Truffled chocolate and caramel dessert at Ember Cardiff

Rich, chocolatey, nutty and a faint vegetal addition to the delicious caramel. Again, I was trying to subliminally convince both my fellow dinners that they had a gastric band and they’d eaten quite enough at this point and I was going to take one for the team and resentfully finish off all three plates. This didn’t work, so I just ordered more wine.

 

Empty plate at Ember restaurant Cardiff

The Verdict

I was gutted about not booking into Arbenig before it closed, so I was super chuffed I got the chance to sample some of John’s food and for free, after winning the twitter comp. The Ember residency takes place each week over the weekend, for the next couple of months at least and after speaking to John and Ceri, they are looking at introducing a new menu each month. This is excellent news as there really is a lack of decent restaurants in town and once you’ve been to one, it’s a while before the menu changes.

I’d be more than tempted, in fact I’d be more surprised if I didn’t come back in May, to see what’s new on the menu. £40 each for 4 courses and bloody lovely bottle of Malbec for £20, that’s more than a bargain in my eyes. I’d like to say a big thanks to Milk & Sugar and Ember for treating us to a table for two and a bottle of wine as part of their twitter comp. I’ll be seeing you again soon!

For booking a table at an upcoming Ember evening at Milk & Sugar’s Yr Hen Lyfrgell head to Wriggle who are now running the bookings. If you want a discount on your first purchase then remember to use the code AUHPSS when you register on wriggle and click referral.