Menorca 20-25th Aug 09.

We were kindly invited to spend a few days with our dear friends Peter and Kathy Walsh at their lovely apartment(amazing views across the yacht filled harbour) at Cala Moli/Na Macaret in Menorca. img_14751

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They organised the weather as well, every day was gorgeous and started with a visit to a tiny cafe bar caled Es Raco(The Corner) for the kind of coffee you only get in the Med and home made pastries/bread.  The village is small and inhabited mostly by Spaniards with beach bar/restaurant and two further restaurants overlooking a small beach. We had a couple of meals at one of the establishments called Biosphere, the main meals were adequate but the home made pizza’s were great.

Gastronomically we were advised by the Walsh’s that a visit to nearby Fornells was a must so we decided on a lunch visit. Fornells is Menorca’s sailing capital and is where the smart rich set base themselves, we were certainly impressed by the huge yacht with it’s own helicopter under a UK flag! We were recommended El Pescador which as you would imagine specialised in seafood but the menu was very extensive and had lots of meat/vegetarian dishes. The wine list was very good and also very good value.

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 We had starters of sardines, prawn cocktail and squid. The sardines and squid were excellent but the prawn cocktail was average. Mains included battered cod, hake, sea salt baked sea bass and grilled tuna ALL were superb.

We viewed lots of Spanish opting for paella’s, lobster stew and mixed shellfish platters which looked fantastic so we promised ourselves a visit next time!! A definite recommend.

G&D

Two old favourites…18th and 19th Aug 09

Harvey Nichols lunch never fails to impress, tuna carpaccio with tabasco tomato, spicy lamb kebabs with twice fried chips and fresh peas with pancetta and creme fraiche…yummy.. all accompanied by a gin and tonic and a lovely bottle of Chablis prem cru.

Traditional eve before holiday dinner was had at Diva Italiana in Pudsey, the grilled king prawns with a courgette and broccoli souffle was amazing, parma ham with melon was fab but the rib of beef to share was incredible….shared Tuscan trifle to finish was  good but not as good as their Tiramisu….a bottle of Gavi selected by Antonio was a treat and the efficient friendly service by Angelica(Gels) makes this our favourite place…in Leeds.

G and D.

The River Cafe

Sunday afternoon in London (prior to BSP, yay) was spend in the sublime surroundings of River Cafe. Old boys Jamie and Hugh and fabulous, well used cookbooks have meant I was desperate to visit this restaurant come what may.

A good 30 minutes by tube, the River Cafe is well worth the trek out to Hammersmith and a pleasant (on a sunny day) walk along the river path. A bizarre walking experience begins through dodgy council estates and leads you to the sophisticated warehouse set up at the side of Lord Roger’s archiect’s practice.

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On the day we were there, outside tables were at a premium but in truth it was too hot to sit outside so we opted to stay indoors. Many of the outside diners came indoors because of the heat. JD had ‘issues’ with the clientele and felt they were upper class pretentious gits (she did have a point) and struggled to get past this. Like it or not, River Cafe is one of those places where it’s good to be ‘seen’ at.

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As it turned out, the staff were superb with some fabulous touches. They were very down to earth and really delivered on the service front – and of course, the food did not disappoint. It was one of the busiest restaurants we’ve ever dined in and there were absolutely no issues whatsoever with timing/service/quality. Outstanding.

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Chilli squid with rocket and lemon…wowser.

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Julie’s prosciutto and melon tasted like I had been imported from Valencia.

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We shared the secondi platter of spaghetti — amazing flavours. It’s not often that I could have ordered every dish on the menu – here it would have been dead easy.

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First grouse of the season roasted in the huge wood burning oven – although it comes in at a wallet busting £46 (just for a main course), I predictably have to say it was worth every penny and just the act of eating it made me feel like a member of the landed gentry if only for an hour.

Cheeses were especially good too – a selection of artisan sheep’s cheese pecorinos were in order and after indulging here, we actually couldn’t face a dessert (not even panna cotta) most unlike JD. Instead we opted for some coffee and a waddle back to the tube station with a spring in our step.

Pros – outstanding place for Sunday lunch, buzzing atmosphere, great service, amazing Italian food. Cons – schlep out from central London, pretentious crowd, not cheap (but good value if that makes sense).

Oh – and we saw Lulu and the guy who was one of the original judges on Pop Idol! Plus I thought I saw Naomi Campbell, which I accept was probably just wishful thinking.

Harrod’s Oyster Bar

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The oldest and the best.

A fabulous selection of local and imported oysters were on offer in the tourist honeypot of Harrod’s Food Hall. I would recommend a visit if you’re in the vicinity as there’s not many places in London (or elsewhere) that offer the old fashioned oyster experience.

Ironically the US does it a lot better than we do currently, embracing the fresh seafood bar concept with gusto. The Harrod’s experience is not at all touristy and is aimed at the seafood aficionado that knows the difference between natives and atlantic.

We loved it and enjoyed a dozen oysters and a bottle of chablis – the perfect lunch, some would say.

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The Covent Garden Hotel

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Our hotel for the London weekend was The Covent Garden Hotel. Unlike many counterparts named after locations that are situated miles away from them, this hotel is right in the heart of Covent Garden. Part of the small boutique chain Firmdale Hotels, the Covent Garden is superb from start to finish.

With uber cool modern/classic eclectic interiors, subdued lighting and amazing service, we really can’t praise it highly enough. The breakfasts were top of the range too (you know me and the breakfasts). Definitely not a bargain, but it delivers a quality London experience that is right up there with the very best the capital has to offer.

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The first floor lounge is a beautiful place to take tea.

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The on-street tables are the perfect place to watch the world go by with a glass of something cold.

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Standard breakfast was supplemented by daily specials – this was fried eggs and spicy tomatoes on sour dough – along with juice and smoothies of the day.

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Murano

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Last weekend we travelled to London for a series of gastronomic and entertainment experiences, the first of which was Angela Hartnett’s restaurant Murano in Mayfair. You  might remember Angela from the early series of Hell’s Kitchen when Gordon Ramsay fronted the kitchen up.

She’s worked with the inimitable Ramsay for many years – in fact he gave her her first job after she wrote to him begging for a job straight out of college – and now she has her own restaurant albeit part of the Ramsay group and oddly not having her name over the door. There are some that say she should cut loose from our Gordon, but that’s another story.

Anyway, Julie and I headed there for a Friday evening meal which lived up to our expectations and then some. The michelin starred cheffery was definitely in evidence and the place had real class. According to Giles Coren, the restaurant is styled like ‘an Adu Dabi hai salon’ which is highly amusing as it does have this weird 1970’s London vibe which is not unpleasant in a kind of retro riche kind of way. It’s only small and the staff were really on the case – we arrived early only to be presented with a green apple bellini (amazing) whilst our table was prepared.

that really did set the bar for a memorable evening. We opted for the tasting menu and let the sommelier (Patrick) select a couple of appropriate wines. At £75 per head, the tasting menu was worth every penny I can assure you (in the zone cost-wise to Anthony’s posh dining in Leeds, by the way). I won’t bore you with all the details, but the highlights were:

San Marzano tomatoes, Burrata Campagna – “tastes just like Italy” J said

Braised halibit, grapefruit and mint salad – zingy combination of flavours that shouldn’t work but did

Gressingham duck breast – to die for (and a duck did)

Pistachio Soufle, warm chocolate sauce – sensational taste and real table theatre. “Wow!”

Special mention has to go to the artisan cheese fromagerie. I’ve never seen a cheese table like it. I had a selection for an additional £8 that blew my cheese mind:

Cathare from Languedoc, St Felicien from Rhone, Cardo from Somerset, Camembert au Calvados from Normandie, Epoisses from Bourgoogne and the sensational Perazola Azul from Spain. OMG as they say. we shared this before desert and the recommended Rioja complemented them beautifully.

The service was impeccable all evening and even though we were the last people in the dining room (at 1pm) they weren’t trying to rush us off. A truly spectacular dining experience and one that I highly, highly recommend. It’s definitely a special occasion place and fellow diners were doing just that and the smiles on their faces told me everything. Save up and go.

Anthony Gormley’s “Another Way”, Sefton Sands and Southport 11th August 2009

We have been trying to go see the 100 statues created by Anthony Gormley entitled “Another way” and placed on Setfton Sands near Liverpool for at least a couple of years and as the England cricket team seriously underperformed we had the Tuesday(last day of the Headingley Ashes Test) free. As Tess, Tony and Pat had taken the day off as well we made it a team outing, Chester taking up the rear. D as always was on the ball and checked the tides so we decided that as it was high tide at 2pm we needed to get there by 12 from Pat and Tony’s house that meant just an hour and quarter travelling time. We arrived as the furthest out to sea of the statues were just getting covered by the sea with lots still on full display. The experience of walking along the beach and touching/standing next to the statues was a tactile interactive experience that was both interesting and kind of thought provoking. The statues are all different in that some are slightly underground, some are covered in barnacles others are smooth etc but all are looking out to sea. With the backdrop of the Liverpool skyline on one side of the Mersey and Birkenhead on the other plus huge ships going in and out of the estuary avoiding the huge array of wind turbines there is lots to keep the statues staring. A most excellent and unusual commission that should be viewed by all. Chester was running from one statue to another as well as running into the sea but we have to say the water did not look clean and don’t ask Tess or G about the mud flats(or flaps as Tess called them!)! once the tide came in most of the statues disappeared……………

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After 2 hours on the beach we were all hungry and surprisingly Tony, Tess and Pat had never been to Southport so we made the 30 min drive up the coast. The last time D and I were in Southport we had a pretty nice lunch at Casa Italia on Lord Street so we parked up and whilst we walked towards the restaurant, amazingly we bumped into Tonys friend Mick who Tony had mentioned about in the car earlier. Mick just hapened to be out with his 91 year old  father also on a visit to Southport on the same day………..small world!

It was nice that we got a table on the large pavement area outside the restarant so Chester could join us. The girls shared a pizza garlic bread as a starter and Tony and I had sardines all very good. Mains included pizza, canneloni, seafood linguini(cray fish for G and clams for Tony) all very tasty. The girs had an apple/raspberry crumble t finish which was lovely. A quick wander around Southport to let the lunch go down before the drive home. A really good day!

G&D