Wensleydale

We’ve just returned from a rather delicious 2 day break in the wonderful part of North Yorkshire that has long held a special place for us. It’s many years since we’ve actually stayed over, so this visit was well overdue. On the recommendation of pretty much all the Troffers, we decided to stay at the Blue Lion in East Witton and what a treat it was.

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Since I’m writing this on Hallowen, I thought I’d use one of my atmospheric early evening shots – it makes the place look sinister and intimidating which of course it wasn’t – it was welcoming, comfortable and pretty much the perfect place to spend a couple of days recharging batteries after a pretty intense few months. The Blue Lion is completely unpretentious with bare wood, open fires, stone flagged floors and ambient lighting so dark that you feel like you never want to leave it’s cosy, almost dickensian, old style atmosphere.

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On arrival in North Yorkshire we opted for a spot of lunch at the Wensleydale Heifer whilst our room was prepared. Site of the inaugural Globe TRoffers lunch a few years ago, we knew the food was good so settled by the fire for a pint of the local bitter (brewed on the premises) and guiltily ordered their famous fish and chips. Never one to shirk a challenge, I went ‘giant’ with my portion and did wonder if I’d made the right choice when the waiter ominously told me ‘not to fill up on the bread’. The biggest battered piece of fish shortly arrived along with all the accoutriments – it was a sight to see. I later found out that if I’d finished this lot, I would have got a certificate (probably a death one) and the chance to win fish and chips for life!

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It took me the rest of the day to recover from that spectacular haddock and if you’re in the area and hungry, don’t even think about it, just go.

On to The Blue Lion, dinner then. The earlier empty bar and restaurant was full to bursting on a Wednesday evening and this hotel is certainly a destination for couple and large groups with a buzzy atmosphere. Although there was a mix of people, there was a lot of London accents in the room and it’s obvious that the place has built a big reputation with the Southern foodies as one of the ‘go to’ restaurants in the Dales (Angela Hartnett’s recent visit and review can’t have done any harm).

We ate in the bar which looked a better option than the quieter restaurant, although on the first night it was probably a bit too busy and you got the impression they were only just keeping on top of it. After a bit of mix up with our table we sat down and service was super fast to say how busy it was. There is certainly a super skilled kitchen downstairs with a serious chef in charge. Starters of deep fried soft shell crab and mains on pork belly and grouse were all absolutely top drawer. I’d describe the style as high quality restaurant gastro pub without any pretense with a solid and good value wine list.

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Apologies for the picture quality – the iphone was definitely struggling with the almost non existent light conditions – which were condusive to romantic dining but not photography. The grouse was wonderful.

Breakfast was excellent (although points deducted for overcooking my fried eggs, yolks solid), if a little soon after yesterday’s belly bursting exploits. We opted for a 7 mile walk from Aysgarth Falls to Castle Bolton and back again. This turned out to be a beautiful amble through some of the most unspoilt parts of the dales in brilliant weather. Here’s the view of Bishopdale and Penn Hill from the castle ramparts.

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The last night at the Blue Lion was less busy than the previous evening (although we did eat later) and we had a better table. The menu is chalked bistro stylee on the walls around the room, which can cause a problem when you sit in a room where there is no chalkboard. Menus are available on paper on request. Same menu, plenty to choose from and Julie decided against a starter and went straight for chicken main. I couldn’t resist the scallops (and neither could J as it turned out…) and the fillet steak for main was a delight. Desserts and cheese were ordered and we started to feel like we’d not even walked 7 miles.

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A small criticism would be that the cheeses that arrived were straight out of the fridge and lacked depth of flavour. Just a small point.

I think that if what you’re looking for is a small hotel with modern accommodation and excellent food, The Blue Lion is right up there. It’s quirky and idiosyncratic too: it does things it’s own way and it’s all the more endearing for it.

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Sunday afternoon at the Priestleys

A wet and windy late autumn afternoon was spent pleasurably at the Priestleys watching football, touring the building site and enjoying some great food and company.

I chose to drink my bitter out of a pewter mug that was a 21st birthday gift for Tony, which meant I was drinking out of an antique pint pot circa 1542. Get on to Time Team – now!

On top of all this – all of the Troffers were in attendance, which in itself is an event!

Pat and Tony’s home made fish pie and broccoli & stilton pie were real winter warmers along with swede & carrot mash and cabbage. Real comfort food and just what we all needed.

Key lime pie and Julie’s pumpkin cup cakes did for dessert along with the inevitable Troffer cheese plate. Tony dug out his crazy pipe glasses for port and it was game on.  Suffice it to say it was hard to leave the table and head back to Leeds…

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River Cottage Everyday

At the weekend we cooked a great dish from Hugh’s new book, River Cottage Everyday. As autumn is gradually making way for winter and the clocks were going back, we felt the need to coddle ourselves with warming, satisfying food.

Breast of lamb with lemon, apricot and thyme really is a stunning dish. Lamb breast is probably the cheapest cut of meat I’ve bought and the stuffing was easy to pull together from store cupboard supplies. All in all the dish probably cost no more than £5 and there was lots left over for snacks and sandwiches.

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The lamb breast came from Bentleys and it was well trimmed and taken off the bone. Stuffing was applied liberally then the breast is rolled and tied ( butcher string specialists should look away now) and roasted along with some choice vegetables including fennel and onion. Dead easy with great results for little cost. What more could you want?

A week in Cornwall ongoing.

Saturday evening we all thought we were full after the St Kew experience but Tony had room for fish n chips from Aggies takeaway. Really tasty.

Continuing the breakfast quest from a distance. Sunday morningish at Schooners. Full english for Pat & Tony (fat B***tds) Tess asked for 2 eggs on toast with beans and brown bread (she only got one egg)! Dawn enjoyed her beans on toast. Tony’s sausage was good! but the bacon was like leather. View however to die for and reasonable value for money.

Same day, lunch at Perranporth. Only Dawn hungry so roast lamb was the order of the day at The Watering Hole. Full Sunday lamb roast at £7.95. She smiled and told him that she had three friends so her plate was piled high, but she didn’t share! Gurdev, buy a new bed, she’s coming back heavier.

Went to Falmouth on MondayFish and chips for lunch at the Harbour Lights recommended by Ernie… corr….!!!Haddock and chips good but Tony wasn’t that keen on his Hake.Dawn had cod and plaice goujons a pickled onion and garden peas, she’s been pickled ever since !

Monday night at the Tap House St Agnes (to use the wifi) but the battery was dead so couldn’t use it, it took us two bottles of rose to work that one out. They graciously accepted that their nachos were underwhelming so very average but they didn’t charge,so we had another bottle of wine to make up. The jelly beans on the bar are also good and free..Dawn went green with her mixed salad all grown locally and a bowl of olives.

Caraways is a yummy cafe in Wadebridge, we usually call in when we are cycling the Camel trail but on this trip we were in search of brochures for log burning fires(Pat & Tony’s new house). Brochures in hand we were in need of a coffee and cake break….Coffee was lovely but the homemade cakes were delicious, carrot cake for Pat and Tess, lemon drizzle for Tony and warm upside down apple cake served with ice cream for me…Mmmm…

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After watching the Hairy Bikers in Cornwall I researched Viners Restaurant in Carvynick, Summercourt…Kevin Viner was Cornwall’s first chef to earn a Michelin Star and has since won many accolades. Good enough for me so excitedly we set out for lunch…Viners Restaurant is a lovely building and courtyard set in a holiday complex in the countyside….quiet surroundings as half term had not started..

In the bar area we were greeted by a young man who informed us that they did not open at lunch unless someone had made a reservation, so we made a reservation for the following evening 19:30 prompt and decided to travel to Padstow for lunch.

On arrival 19:30 prompt we waited in the bar area, eventually we were greeted by a young lady who tried to whisk us to our table. Pat suggested a drink at the bar but the young lady suggested a drink at the table, so we were escorted upstairs, shown our table, given menu’s and left! 10 mins later we were asked if we would like to order our food, we pointed out that we were still waiting to order drinks!! Drinks ordered, we viewed the menu and Tess and I opted for the Viners special offer menu £13.95 for 2 courses. Soup and Pate’ to start followed by shin of beef with veg, Pat and Tony ordered from the A la Carte menu, mussels for Tony and twice baked cheese souffle for starters with Lamb and fish as mains. As Tess stated you can’t go wrong with tomato and basil soup, my pate was good, Tony enjoyed his mussels but the best was Pats souffle which arrived resembling something like the leaning tower of  Pisa, although she did say it was very tasty! Mains, Pat’s fish was nicely filleted and Tony lamb looked great and was served with no less than 8 different types of veg, wow? but the total let down was the shin of beef which looked like a pile of hot steaming, lets leave it there shall we…Our Viners experience was a let down and we will not visit next summer when we go back to Cornwall.img_16261                                                         

 

 

 

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Sat afternoon, a long journey and St Agnes fish and chips for tea, Tony’s tea to be exact, but we all had some ….sorry Tony, the chips were soft and fluffy and the fresh fish was in lovely crispy batter…superb!

Schooners

Our last evening was booked at Schooners which is situated at the bottom of the cove at Trevaunance overlooking the sea, a position to die for.

It turned out to be the best eating experience of the week. Its so long ago now that I can’t remember all the detail but Tony and Dawn had paella and boy did they enjoy it. It had everything, chicken clams, prawns, mussells etc. The only slight complaint was that the prawns could have been bigger.
Pat had a fillet steak. It was cooked to perfection and melted in the mouth and Tess had fillets of Gurnard served on a bed of spinach. All the food was beautifully presented and tasted fantastic.

Desserts were also excellent but can’t remember why!

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D,T,P & T.

You can’t go to Cornwall without having an Hedgehog ice cream at the cafe in Chapel Porth. Dawn and i set off walking from Travauenance Cove whilst Pat and Tony took a car to Chapel Porth and walked to meet us on the tops. Beautiful views just to put you in the mood for a sandwich and an Hedgehog ice cream. This is vanilla ice dipped in cornish clotted cream and then rolled in nuts what can I say, fantastic. The sandwiches were very good too.

The St Kew Inn. 17th Oct 2009

Departed from our usual entry to Cornwall via Rock and on Dawn’s recommendation went to the St Kew Inn for lunch. Great journey down in glorious sunshine, arrived at about 12.15p.m.Village looked impressive so our expectations were raised. We were not disappointed. Drinks outside to start with; Ale from the barrel for Tony , chilled Rattler for Tess, Guinness for Dawn and Pat.img_1593_1
Then to the restaurant for food. Only us in there to start but others followed.Main Courses included mussels with fries and crusty bread (not as good as Tony‘s, sauce( a bit lightweight.) Warm salad of ham hock with puy lentils and waxy potatoes (delicious), ham, two eggs and fries for Tess, and local ham with cheddar and apple chutney sandwich for Pat.
The desserts didn’t disappoint. Bread and butter pudding, plum and almond sponge with almond cream(light and tasty) and cheese platter for Tony. There was so much Tess had to share it with him. We will return, probably next July on our way down again. As an aside there was a massive umbrella in the gardens and we mean massive. We must return to see it up!
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Valley Walk

While some of our number are enjoying the week in Cornwall at the moment, we decided that a big walk around the valley (taking in a couple of pubs along the way). Julie, Gurdev, Chester and I enjoyed a cobweb destroying walk around the hidden secret that is the countryside of outer West Leeds. It’s very easy to walk for a good few hours without really coming across much in the way of city and it’s one of the great things about living where we do.

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First stop was The Greyhound at Tong. I can report that the beer was excellent with a couple of pints of landlord going down very smoothly (and quickly). G announced that his was the best pint of Tetley’s he’s had for some time (sign of the times). Next stop was the Bankhouse where Theakston’s was sampled before heading back home.

Walking along Roker Lane, we came across a small holding by the roadside and got talking to its owner, Lizzie. She keeps chickens and ducks and her passion for this was clearly evident. She was doing it for the sheer love of it and against all the odds (vandals, locals complaining) was doing what she loved. Fair play to her and she sent us on our way with three eggs (she didn’t have many bless her, it was a very kind kind gesture). These were cooked this morning and I can confirm that real free range eggs are a class above what we buy in the supermarket.

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The Ringside Cafe

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Resuming our quest to find the best breakfast in Leeds we headed to the Ringside Cafe, on the outskirts of Leeds – Whitehall Road to be precise. Recommended by Jenny and Rob (his dad swears blind by the place), G and I set out on foot on a gloriously autumnal Saturday morning.

The Cafe is clearly well patronised by the local industries nearby and does a roaring trade with big lads all tucking into great piles of the breakfast goodies on offer. G and I opted for the ‘Big Breakfast’ and I can confirm that the trades description people will not come knocking on their door anytime soon. It was HUGE. And for £3.95 it was extremely good value.

The breakfast featured: two rounds of hot buttered toast, a pot of tea, two sausages, two eggs, two rashers of bacon, beans, tomatoes, spam (fabulous blast from past) and a choice of black pudding or mushrooms. Good job we were walking back home afterwards – I can tell you it was a real working man’s breakfast.

Service was quick and friendly too. All in all we came to the conclusion that whilst the Ringside didn’t have the style or elan of a HN (nor should it have to be honest), it was simple, honest food, of a good standard and plenty of it to boot.

8/10.

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