Restaurant Interlude, Leonardslee Gardens, Horsham

Nick leaves the protective embrace of the M25 to find fine and fun dining alive and well far from the madding crowd.

Reading the London-centric restaurant reviews in the big papers you’d think there was nothing much going on outside Zone Five.

Apart from, of course, on those occasions when the writers have been on holiday, at their second homes or visiting relations, and so have reviewed any half decent local place so as to get their travel costs back on expenses.

You might also think fine dining/tasting menus had all but disappeared in favour of things bunged in a fire or pickled in a jar.

Londoners, well at least the younger ones at least, can be a bit snotty about tasting menus. I think it’s a subliminal fear of cutlery and napkins, as well the potential horror of eating just as a couple with no sharing plates or long tables to distract you, only the ‘phone. Continue reading

Doing Breakfast At Market Halls Victoria

Looking for somewhere to grab a breakfast in Victoria, Market Halls now has plenty to tempt you. I got out of bed and got in.

The last time I went to the building that is now Market Halls Victoria, it must have been around 2004 it was the club Pacha.It was a place to be seen back then, a classy club so close to the bus stands at Victoria that the smell of diesel fumes vied with the Paco Rabanne.

Well look at it now, it’s a fancy food hall and part of the Market Halls group. Daylight, which never dared intrude at Pacha, floods onto the first floor from a massive glass roof. Up there are more food outlets not open until lunch. Continue reading

From little acorns – how the finest jamon is created

While we are all still on a plant based diet kick right now, there is still room for meat that is ethically and responsibly sourced, traditionally made and totally delicious.

Away in the distance, under the hundreds of Spanish oak trees, large dark shapes are moving. An occasional grunt or squeal drifts our way and Antonio Hernández of the Dehasa ‘Los Pinos’ answers back with strange noises.

The black Iberian pigs prick up their ears, or they would if their ears weren’t so charmingly floppy, and a mob begins to move toward us. Continue reading

Catching Up With Hastings Fish

Nick heads down to Hastings to do a bit of fishing for Xmas recipes and discover more about fish

Hastings sea front

Storm be a brewing

The wind and rain are lashing the Stade on Hastings’ seafront by the Old Town, with people being almost bowled over as they move between the ancient black net sheds and the spanking new Jerwood art gallery on the beach.

I have my head firmly down and my coat wrapped tight around me, my glasses are so covered in moisture that when I do look up it’s like being in a blurred psychedelic light show. Where am I? I ask in desperation, to no one in particular.

A passer by takes pity and directs me to my destination, the Classroom on the Coast on the Stade. Pushing open the heavy door and sliding inside I’m suddenly out of the elements and I feel as happy as a fisherman who’s managed to get below deck in a Force 10.

Which is apt as there is an old fisherman waiting inside; John ‘Tush’ Hamilton is one of the last of the Hastings fish ‘hawkers’. Continue reading

Going out for a beer, or several, in Slovenia

There’s a burgeoning beer scene in Slovenia and some wonderful scenery too. Nick sees if something can successfully be organised in a brewery.

 

The men in the ‘pub’ of the Union Brewery in Ljubljana are in fine voice tonight. As a woman cranks rousing tunes out of an accordion that’s almost as big as she is, they roar out the choruses whilst waving mugs of beer to the beat.

It’s all sung in Slovenian of course, so I have no idea what the words mean, but I’m happy to raise my own glass and cheer loudly at the end of each song. The conviviality meter has gone off the scale here in this packed bar/restaurant.

Also off the scale is the platter of meat in front of me featuring slabs of pork, tangles of spicy sausages, juicy spare ribs and more all piled onto sauerkraut and baked potatoes. Continue reading

Wine cathedrals and wondrous wheeled adventures

Up in the Terra Alta in Northern Spain, they have an almost religious reverence for white Grenache and a building to prove it. I cycle the Greenway to discover more

Sunset over the mountains

‘I’m not much of a cyclist,’ I tell the man fitting me out with my bike and helmet. To be honest, and I keep this to myself, the last time I rode a bike it had gears labelled Sturmey Archer and my short trousers had name labels.

‘That’s okay,’ he replies, ‘it’s all downhill from here.’ ‘Story of my life’, I think, as I try to get onto the saddle in a dignified manner. I fail and the bike shoots backwards and I make contact with the crossbar in a painful way.

The old railway station

We’re at the Horta de Sant Joan train station in the Terra Alta Tarragona province  in Catalonia, or Catalunya if you wish to be politically more (or less) correct.

It’s a small and very pretty town on a hill, inhabited for many, many centuries, and also a place where Picasso used to hang out.

There was once a single-track railway line that ran up to here created by republican prisoners of the war in 1942. Continue reading

Iron Bloom Shoreditch Review

There’s no shortage of bars to look cool in down Shoreditch way, but Iron Bloom has some pretty good food to match its eclectic cocktail selection, finds Mr Hip Harman

mcith_ironroominterior.jpg

What’s with the odd name then? Well apparently,, this place used to be an ‘iron factory’, although I am not sure if that means it used to make irons, or made iron. If you see what I mean.

The brickwork is exposed, as is still de rigeur these days, although there seems to be no filament lamps thankfully, a lighting solution that’s now so clichéd you can even buy it outside London.

The power sockets over the tables are industrial chic, but we notice with delight that they have USB sockets to charge the phone to take the pics to post on Instagram to pleasure one’s followers. Continue reading