Thursday, 30 August 2012

Vineataly, Leeds

I should start by pointing out that Vineataly, the Italian wine and food bar down at Granary Wharf, is a place that's really geared up for smaller groups, people paying a visit in twos and threes for a spot of lunch or post-work wine and nibbles, as opposed to a twenty strong party having a sit down meal in the middle of the afternoon.

That's what we did to celebrate my sister's 30th birthday, and although I wasn't sure at first if we'd chosen the right place things turned out pretty well in the end. The casual atmosphere and mix and match menu (sandwiches, snacks, pasta, salads, a few meaty grills) suited us just fine as people came and went and not everyone ordered at the same time.

Most importantly (to me at least) the food was good. I had the slow roasted porchetta which was beautifully tender, fragrant with herbs and had a fair bit of crackling. It was served simply with roast potatoes, gravy and salad. Everyone else seemed satisfied with their meals, I didn't try any of them but the bread used for the panini looked like quality stuff.

Desserts were also worth having. I tried a bit of a lovely, obviously made in-house tiramisu (that was slightly oddly served in a foil takeaway container) and had a decent affogato myself.

Strangely enough for an establishment priding themselves on serving fine wine, I really wasn't a fan of their own-branded red. It was certainly wasn't undrinkable but just seemed a bit rough for an eighteen quid bottle. I did like the white though, a smooth, fruity Trebbiano.

Having criticised the wine (though I'm sure others on the list are fantastic) I'll compliment them on giving proper consideration to beer. There are only a few beers to choose from, but they're interesting and a break from the norm. It's very refreshing to see an Italian place offering something other than Peroni.

I could happily spend some more time at Vineataly, the upstairs room is a pleasant place to be, with wine case lined walls, a view out over the regenerated canal and the steady rumble of trains overhead. Food prices are fair, the porchetta is the most expensive item on the menu at £13.50, pasta dishes are mostly under nine quid and sandwiches under five. Service was slow at first but soon got going, and we certainly kept the staff busy with multiple orders for both drinks and food.


Granary Wharf

Vineataly on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Lokanta, Broomhill, Sheffield

You'll have to excuse me if this post is a little half-arsed, unnecessarily irritable, or just badly written. Please feel free to blame Blogger and the ancient browser on my work laptop, somehow the pair of them have conspired to lose the several hundred words of (allegedly) carefully crafted, thoughtful prose I've just finished writing about Lokanta.

So I'll have to start again. Lokanta, in Broomhill, is a rather smart Turkish restaurant. We ate there by accident, the persistent rain driving us in off the streets before we'd reached our originally intended destination.

Everything on a meze taster plate was proficient if uninspiring. We happily ate the lot but the only memorable thing about it was the excellent freshly baked bread we scooped it up with. One basket was never going to be enough and a second batch was readily provided (as it should be in any proper Turkish place).

Shish kebabs for mains, one lamb and one chicken. Both were made from high quality meat, accurately cooked with a good char from the heat of the grill and succulent insides, still pink for the lamb. A tomatoey chilli sauce, grilled pepper and buttery rice were successful foils for the meat, but the grilled tomato and potatoes weren't really worth the effort.

At just short of £50 for two courses and a single drink each (a large beer and a glass of passable white from the all-Turkish wine list) the bill seemed a little steep. The food was enjoyable but they're definitely charging a premium for the pleasant environment and slick service. That said there's nothing wrong with upgrading the kebab experience once in a while; - we did have a lovely evening.


478-480 Glossop Road
S10 2QA

Sunday, 26 August 2012

The Boathouse, Kilsyth, Scotland

If you opened a restaurant would you focus on a particular cuisine or style of cooking, then design your menus around that? If you intended to serve classic, well known dishes, would you take the time to research and understand those dishes? You might want to experiment with them, sometimes a novel take on a favourite can be a good thing, but hopefully you'd want to retain the essence of what made it a classic in the first place. A shepherd's pie isn't a shepherd's pie without the interplay between rich, gravy bound meat and smooth, buttery potato.

Or would you create a menu loosely based around every food fad and trend that's popped up over the last couple of years? Would you stick a load of renowned dishes on the menu, irrespective of whether you had any idea what made them so renowned in the first place? Sounds good, bung it on the list, they'll lap it up.

At the Boathouse you can start with cullen skink, haggis or Stornoway black pudding, but also tempura, buffalo wings or pork taquitos. There's also a list of tapas, and a specials menu where there are no starters or mains, only small and large plates.

For your main course you can choose Cajun, or Mexican, or Scottish, or American, or Indian, or French, or Italian. There's barbecue and burgers and pasta and curry. Intriguing. Could they possibly turn out such a hotchpotch of food successfully? In a word, no.

Buffalo wings for starters. Buffalo wing sauce, as two minutes research on the internet will tell you, has two ingredients. A vinegar based hot chilli sauce (Frank's being the favoured brand) and butter. At the Boathouse they forgot the butter, which is pretty slack given that it's one of only two ingredients.

Buffalo wings done right are highly addictive. Messy, crisp-skinned, hot, tangy, rich, buttery and utterly bloody delicious. If you coat your wings in something pappy, bready and tasteless, then fry them until they're not very crisp, then cover them in vinegary hot sauce but no butter, they are not utterly delicious. Far from it.

Things would improve with Toulouse sausage, chorizo and bean cassoulet wouldn't they? I was slightly concerned at the presence of chorizo, but why not I suppose. A mix and match approach to the meat content is normal with a cassoulet isn't it? It'll still be a big hearty pot of slow cooked meats and white beans.

No it won't. It'll be a watery tomato stew with a few kidney beans and chunks of cheap chorizo in it, with a sausage on top. I could have a fair guess at the cooking process and ingredients for this: chop an onion and some garlic, fry for a bit, chuck in a tin of tomatoes and a stock cube. Chuck in some bits of chorizo, some sliced mushrooms and peppers and some kidney beans. Cook for twenty minutes or so.

It wasn't unpleasant, it just was boring, half arsed and not a cassoulet. Still, at least I got some greasy toast and manky rocket as a garnish.

I had room for pudding, so thought I'd see whether the creme brulee was a creme brulee. Happily it was, and the addition of a few raspberries was a good touch. It didn't really need the accompanying ice cream but that was nice too.

Maybe I was unlucky, perhaps other things on the menu are better. Maybe their pulled pork and tandoori and tempura are the business. Sadly I doubt it very much. I just don't get places like this, various pub chains are the worst offenders, but the Boathouse is one of a group of just two.

It's probably very successful, people seem to like the cover all bases approach, there's 'plenty of choice' and 'something for everyone'.  But what's the point in having so many choices if they're not done properly or just plain rubbish?

Service was fine throughout and three courses with a glass of passable red was about £27. The hotel rooms are pleasant and good value.


Auchinstarry Marina
G65 9SG

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Murgatroyd's, Yeadon, Leeds

I now know why Harry Ramsden's went bust. It's a cut throat business fish and chips, especially in the highly competitive 'chip shops with restaurants and plenty of parking situated on busy road junctions in small towns north-west of Leeds' market. Ramsden's, no longer top of their game, didn't stand a chance against the upstart down the road in Yeadon.

I visited Murgatroyd's completely by accident, plans for a Bradford kebab en route from Halifax to an airport pick-up being scuppered by Ramadan. The roti house owners and chapli kebab purveyors having closed their doors to partake in iftar, the first post-sundown meal of the day. I'll know better next time.

Still, what a satisfying accident. The finest fish and chips I've eaten in a long time, the flash affected photo really doesn't do it justice. A broad, fat size twelve slipper of haddock was dreamy, flakey flesh resplendent in light, crisp batter.

And what chips. I'm always banging on about the ideal chippy chip and how it should combine crunchy edges with hints of greasiness and a creamy interior. Not autumn leaf dry and rustly like frites, not mealy like the godforsaken pub chunky chip. These were almost the ideal chippy chip. Not quite perfect but damn close to it.

On this occasion I chose curry sauce as a lubricant, so I can't comment on the wonder of the peas or otherwise. The curry was good though, and not too salty as is sometimes the case.

Just over six quid with a can of pop if I recall correctly, and best eaten outside in the dark at the picnic tables provided. Lovely stuff. Who needs Harry Ramsden's?


Harrogate Road
LS19 7BN

Monday, 20 August 2012

Summer vegetable frittata

Meals made from leftovers are often the best. Every ingredient in tonight's tea except for the eggs was originally bought for Sunday dinner, a slow roasted shoulder of lamb lightened up a bit with some seasonal vegetables.

The lamb was a great success, but then I knew it would be. The amount of fat on a shoulder makes it a very forgiving cut. Bung it in a pot with rosemary, garlic and onions, then stick it in the oven for anything from two and a half to four hours; - precise timing is hardly crucial.

What came as a surprise was how much I enjoyed tonight's frittata. All of the previous night's vegetables, lightly bound with eggs, seasoned with parmesan and pepper, and livened up a bit with lemon zest and parsley. We ate it cut it into thick wedges while still warm with just a green salad and tomatoes. A light, bright meal for a muggy August day.

Serves two to three as a main meal with salad, but would also be good cold cut into slices for a picnic. Next year I'll make it earlier in summer with the newest beans and asparagus.

What you'll need:

6 eggs
4 spring onions
very small clove garlic
small handful shelled broad beans
small handful freshly shelled peas (or frozen will do)
half a courgette
half an ear of sweetcorn
1 tbsp freshly grated parmesan
zest of 1 lemon
handful flat leaf parsley
salt and black pepper
light olive oil

What to do:

1. Finely chop the spring onions and garlic. Chop the courgette into small dice. Cut the sweetcorn off the ear. Set the oven to 170 deg C.

2. Heat up a little olive oil in a pan, then saute the vegetables until al dente. Put the spring onions in first, then the courgette, garlic, beans, sweetcorn and finally the peas. Don't let them brown.

3. While the veggies are cooking lightly beat the eggs, then season generously with black pepper and just a little salt. Throw in the parmesan and lemon zest, then finely chop the parsley and add that too.

4. Line an 8 inch loaf tin with baking parchment, then add the just cooked vegetables. Pour over the egg mixture then put in the oven.

5. Bake until the eggs are just set and it's lightly browned on top. Mine took around 25 minutes. Check for doneness with a skewer, it should come out clean without any wet egg mixture on it (like with a cake).

6. When it's done leave to cool for ten minutes before removing from the tin and slicing to serve.


Saturday, 18 August 2012

Bacon Sandwich Quest: July

Oops, this month I almost forgot completely. You wouldn't have missed much, as it turns out I only bought one bacon sandwich in July, and it was a bit crap.

I've just been racking my brains for the last ten minutes trying to recall where on earth I bought it from, and then it came to me: a mucky sandwich van in a lay-by on the A57. Don't you yearn for a glamorous life like mine?

I can't really recommend this one, the roll was small and so were the rashers. A very meagre effort for £2.40. The bacon was also completely devoid of fat, like those Matteson's turkey rashers or somesuch abomination. There's no fun in fat free bacon now is there?

At this stage in proceedings August isn't shaping up any better. I might eat nothing but bacon sarnies for a week to improve matters as this is getting tedious. Sorry.

Here's the leaderboard.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

I Am Pho, Manchester

It's banh mi time! You'll find I am Pho, or Vietnamese Pho, or whatever it's called (this isn't really clear), on George Street in Chinatown. It's a basement café, next door but one to the 'Long Legs full strip lapdancing club' whatever on earth that might be.

It appears to be everything a good Vietnamese caff should be. Basic but clean, a fine selection of condiments on the wipe clean tables and a short menu of lovely sounding stuff, pride of place going to the pho. But I wasn't here for the pho this time, I was after a banh mi, the splendiferous Vietnamese sandwich.

A single filling banh mi costs a very reasonable £2.99, and it's 50p more for each extra filling. The best thing to do is just order one with every type of pork in it. That'll be roast pork, Vietnamese pork sausage (a bit like luncheon meat, but in a good way) and pork liver paté. You might think that sounds like a lot of pork, and you'd be right.

It was stuffed to the rafters with pork. Livery pork and slightly chewy pork and tender roast pork. The standard accompaniments were all present and correct with the notable exception of chilli: coriander, cucumber and lightly pickled cucumber and daikon. It really did miss that kick of heat from the chilli though, being just slightly unbalanced towards the rich and meaty side of things. Of course you could argue that's entirely my fault for ordering triple pork, and had I eaten in rather than taken away the problem would easily have been rectified.

The only slight downer was the bread; a fresh and perfectly acceptable regular baguette, but not the lighter, crisper rice flour baguette like they use in Vietnam itself. Lighter bread and a chilli hit and this would have been an outstandingly good sandwich.

The folks in there were absolutely lovely too, they fetched me a cup of tea to sip while I waited. A great new addition, I'll be back to try the pho.


44 George Street
M1 4HF

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Little Hanoi, Sheffield

Vietnamese food has well and truly arrived in the north, and not before time. This is one London food trend that's been slow to catch on outside the capital, but one that I wish really would (unlike certain others, like burger joints with sweary menus and queuing for example).

There's lots to love about Vietnamese food, it always seems healthy with the nourishing broths and generous use of herbs but never fails to satisfy with a good dose of meat, carbs and spice. Although the cuisine has plenty more to offer it's to the two most well known meals that I return time and again. Pho, the beef noodle soup of wonders, and Banh mi, one of the finest sandwich creations known to man (a Banh mi can involve no less than three different types of pork so must be amazing).

Manchester and Sheffield had single Vietnamese food outposts until recently, and there's the odd place in smaller towns (Ilkley for one), but we haven't had anything like competition until now. Both Sheffield and Manchester have had new openings recently, with Little Hanoi in the former and Hanoi Quan and I am Pho across the Pennines, about which more tomorrow. I took a trip to Little Hanoi to sample the pho.

The classic rare beef pho at Little Hanoi was very good, the finest I've eaten outside London (where I like Café East at Surrey Quays best), the all important stock offering up deep, savoury satisfaction. The beef, thin slices of flank, was marvellous, tinged pink and delicate in texture but strong on flavour. Springy noodles completed the package.

There's room for improvement on the herbs front though, this was a better effort than Pho 68 over the road but single sprigs of coriander and mint is still a bit lacking. More of both and some of the Vietnamese specific ones (sawtooth herb in particular) and they'll really be on to a winner.

The rare beef pho will set you back £6.80 and everything on the menu is under eight quid. I drank an iced coffee but they are licensed if you fancy a few beers. Service was friendly and the food came fast. It's worth noting that although my pho was great, others haven't been so lucky. Clare from Feast and Glory tweeted a photo of the same dish that didn't look a patch on mine, so they may be a little inconsistent. Go, and hopefully you'll get them on a good day.


216-218 London Road
S2 4LW


Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Thai Aroy Dee, Leeds (revisited)

Since I first discovered Thai Aroy Dee last November I must have eaten there seven or eight times. It's never been anything less than brilliant, and a recent visit was possibly the best yet. The salads, stir fries and one plate meals are so good I've yet to even try one of their curries.

Some of the better dishes were previously only listed on the Thai language menu, but happily the whole lot has now been translated. Order anything from the sections of the menu titled 'Special' anything and you'll not go far wrong.

Here's a photo post of some of the fantastic dishes I've eaten there in recent months. My original reviews can be found here and here.

Pad Prik Kraduk Moo - Pork ribs stir fried in red curry paste with Thai basil, lime leaves, chillies and fresh green peppercorns. This isn't on the menu but call and order it in advance and they'll prepare it for you. Thanks to Jools for this one!

Seafood Yum Wun Sen - glass noodle salad with mixed seafood, lemon juice, chillies, shallots, coriander.

Som Tam and Gai Yang - pounded papaya salad with grilled chicken. Beware this is spicy!

Yen Ta Fo - seafood stock soup with fish balls, noodles and tofu. Strange but delicious.

Khao Kluk Ga Pi - Shrimp paste fried rice with all the trimmings (which include caramelised pork, mango, peanuts, shallots, chilli, chopped bean and crispy shrimp). This is vying with Pad Prik Kraduk Moo for my overall favourite.

Gung Chae Nam Pla - raw prawn salad. Basically just prawns doused in fish sauce and lime juice, then covered in chillies and garlic. Surprisingly delicious. Seems to have disappeared from the recent menu though...

Kai Dao - crispy fried eggs. Not on the menu. Ask for them, then mash them up in plain steamed rice. Bloody brilliant. Crispy, yolky loveliness.

Tod Gratiem Prit Thai - Garlic and pepper stir-fried chicken

This is consistently a 9/10 place. Please go.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

The Wig and Pen, Sheffield

It came as a surprise to see the Wig and Pen on a deals website. When it comes to dining out these sites rarely have much to offer, the advertised discounts being for restaurants of dubious quality, corporate chains or those on their last legs, trying in desperation to lure people in.

The Wig and Pen is neither of those things. As far as I can tell it’s successful, popular and serves very good food. The plan must be this: entice people in, feed them very well and they’ll return, happy to pay full price. Our deal, a glass of prosecco, starter and main from the a la carte menu was just £29 for two people, outstandingly good value for cooking of the quality and execution here.

It’s a nice restaurant too, formerly a regular pub by the look of it. The tables are solid and bare, those by the window have a lovely view over Paradise Square with its attractive Georgian terraces that I didn’t even know existed until that evening.

Both of my courses were good, but AS really got lucky. Hers were excellent. Two mouthfuls of her heirloom tomato salad with basil sorbet made me grin from ear to ear. Rejoice: tomatoes and basil with depth of flavour. For want of a better word it was just so tomatoey, tomatoey in a way you usually have to travel two hours south on a plane to find. If all the tomatoes I eat in Spain next month taste like these I’ll be happy.

My salt cured salmon was a far subtler proposition. Everything was delicate and mild, the salmon so lightly cured as to almost seem raw. Little cubes of chorizo in the dressing didn’t overwhelm, but just added a little saltiness and depth.

Bavette steak was a fine piece of meat, impressively tender for the cut and served with an oxtail dauphinoise. A nice idea but I couldn't really taste the oxtail. The sauce was also a little too sticky and over-reduced and there was a bit of a broccoli overload. Look it at all sat there like lurid bonsai. I did like the bone marrow fritter though. A greaseless crumb stuffed with beefy buttery goodness. Yum.

Guinea fowl with peas, roast onions, mash and a cep sauce wasn’t mine, which made me very jealous. It looked and tasted beautiful, the couple of mouthfuls I ate bringing crisp skin, moist flesh, sweet, soft onions and an intensely savoury, earthy sauce. That all sounds a little wintry but the peas brightened the whole thing and the overall impression was of a perfect summer roast. In the interests of balance, what with me being in raptures over something I hardly ate any of, AS who actually ate it thought the meat was a little dry in parts but that it was otherwise lovely.

We shared a dessert, a plate of tropical fruits with weird stuff done to them. Mango, coconut and passion fruit rendered in rectangles of marshmallow, parfait and jelly. I’m usually unsure about this sort of thing, a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to pudding, but I liked this. It was soft, cooling and fragrant, reminding me a little of the salmon starter in these respects, not in the taste but in texture and experience. Both were summer dishes through and through, showing the thought that’s gone into the menu.

Service was excellent throughout the meal, friendly and with none of that second class customer effect you sometimes get when you’re on a deal. A la carte prices are a lot more than we paid but about what you’d expect for food of this standard, starters around £7 and mains in the teens. I’ll definitely return, deal or no deal.


44 Campo Lane
S1 2EG

Wig and Pen By the Milestone on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Costello's Bakery, Headingley, Leeds

Someone on Twitter suggested Costello's to me as somewhere I might find a good cake. I didn't find a good cake there, but I did find a very good lunch deal so thank you very much whoever you are.

It was a little incongruous sat eating this on a warm sun dappled afternoon, it's probably more one for the dismal winter months, but who am I to turn down pie, mash, gravy and a drink for £3.50? I got the choice of ordinary or special mash, special being ordinary with added leeks and bacon. Entirely predictably I chose the special.

I enjoyed the pie, a sturdy affair of short pastry and tender, stewed beef. The mash and gravy weren't half bad either and there was bloody loads of it. Give it three months until there's a nip in the air then get yourself down there. In the meantime the sandwiches looked good too.


61 Otley Road

Monday, 6 August 2012

Kebab week: Tikkas

And finally, to round off kebab week (belatedly, I should have called it kebab fortnight) I bring you tikkas. Apparently the word tikka means simply bits or pieces, so anything will do really. Get some meat, or perhaps even some cheese, marinade it, skewer it and grill it. The essence of a kebab, Indian style.

My recipe isn't agressively spiced as I like something fairly gentle with chicken. It's fragrant rather than fiery, with the flavour of ginger and garam masala to the fore. Chicken thighs are best for this as they're moister and tastier, although they can sometimes go a bit rubbery when you grill them the marinading should take care of that. As an alternative a bit of liver would also work well.

I served these with chapattis, home made raita and a spiced carrot and fennel salad.

This is enough to serve 2 people

For the chicken

400g (about 4) chicken thighs, each one cut into 3 or 4 pieces
large thumb ginger
3-4 cloves garlic
juice large lemon
1 tsp salt
100 ml thick natural yoghurt
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp hot curry powder

 For the carrot and fennel salad

1 head of fennel
2 carrots
1 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
sunflower oil and salt

1. Throw the chicken pieces into a bowl with the lemon juice and salt. Grate or crush the garlic and ginger and add them to the bowl. Give it a good mix then cover and put in the fridge to marinade for at least an hour, or up to 4.

2. After at least an hour throw in the other marinade ingredients with the chicken (the yoghurt, garam masala, curry powder and turmeric). Give it a good mix up then cover and put back in the fridge to marinade for at least an hour, but overnight will be just fine.

3. Remove the chicken from the fridge at least an hour before you want to cook it, and thread the pieces onto skewers.

4. Make the carrot and fennel salad by thinly slicing the fennel and grating the carrot into a bowl, then heat a tablespoon of oil in a pan and throw in the cumin seeds and mustard seeds. Leave them in the pan until they start to crackle and smell fragrant, then take them off the heat before they burn. Leave to cool for a couple of minutes then stir them through the carrot and fennel and a grind of salt to taste.

5. Heat up the grill and grill your kebabs until they're tender inside and a bit charred on the edges. It will probably take around 7 or 8 minutes in total.

6. Serve immediately with warmed chapattis or naan, the carrot and fennel salad and some home made of shop bought raita.

That's it for kebab week. As well as tikkas I've made koftas, falafel and satay. All delicious in their own way but my favourite has to be the kofta, you just can't beat lamb when it comes to kebabs. Over and out, I'm off for a doner...

Friday, 3 August 2012

The Cavendish Rooms, Chatsworth, Derbyshire

Canny business people, the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. The Chatsworth empire must have an economy larger than some smaller nations. What with entry fees for the house, gardens, farmyard and car park; the restaurants, cafés, garden centre, farm shop, gift shop and homewares emporium you're not sort of ways to spend a few quid.

All this could seem grasping, but I think they get away with it. The place is just so spectacular. The colossal baroque pile of a house, the extensive and intricate gardens, and the lovely natural setting: grassy valley, meandering river and wooded hills. There aren't many finer settings for a Sunday stroll followed by afternoon tea.

In practice the English summer intervened, a hefty shower putting paid to the stroll and replacing it with a wander round the pricey homewares, Duchess endorsed jams and so forth before we sat down for a not so well earned feast.

Afternoon tea is served in the Cavendish rooms, under a sort of cloister that runs around the stable block. It's not the most scenic part of Chatsworth, but it's hardly shabby with its imposing stone walls and smartly attired waitresses.

If you go for the works, the champagne afternoon tea, you get a starter before the tiered stand of goodies arrives. I had the advertised crayfish cocktail and they were happy to substitute this with a goat's cheese tart for seafood allergic AS. Both were perfectly nice but crayfish are just a poor man's prawn really aren't they? I liked the champagne but it would have been far more enjoyable if they'd remembered to refrigerate it.

On to the main event, the much anticipated arrival of the stand. Places serving afternoon tea on ordinary plates are really missing a trick as the ceremony is all part of the fun. It's just not the same without the high-rise buffet on stilts.

The sandwiches were in the 'could try a bit harder' category. Serviceable but not containing any fillings of particularly great quality. One or two of them should have found the bin rather than the plate too, being curly edged and a bit stale. Having said that they can't have been that bad as we still had a few more when offered. More tea is also offered whenever you need it. We drank Earl Grey and one pot was plenty.

Happily more effort had gone into the sweets. The scones were light and fresh, strawberry cream meringues cracked on biting to reveal soft, chewy innards and the brownies oozed rich, high cocoa chocolate. Although they were good they really ought to ditch the brownies for something a little more English. Surely a refined Victoria sponge would be more fitting with the surrounds than some gooey American upstart?

Best of all was the lemon posset. For some reason I had in mind that a posset was more like a fool or mousse, lightly whipped in texture. This was more like a lemon crème brûlée, dense and smooth, but cut through with bright bursts of zest. Delicious. Why the hell have I never eaten this pudding before?

Like Chatsworth itself, I think they just about got away with it. Lukewarm champagne and average sandwiches were countered by lovely pudding-y things and polite, generous service. It's not cheap (£16.50-£22.50 for afternoon tea) but you'll almost certainly have a good time.


Chatsworth House
DE45 1PP

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Ernie Beckett's, Cleethorpes

Have you ever been to Cleethorpes? Do you like a traditional British seaside resort?

If the answer to those questions is no and yes respectively, then you really should go. It's bloody brilliant. Every single stereotypical aspect of a slightly seedy, slightly downtrodden holiday town is there, in one coastal strip of wonderfulness. I really do mean that as a compliment. These places are unique in the world, and our coastline would be much the poorer if every seaside town looked like Padstow or Whitstable.

There's Mr Whippy, waffles with squirty cream and donuts five for a pound. Stale carpeted arcades housing tuppenny slots, grab a grotty teddy machines, vintage driving games and bingo. Crazy golf, a ferris wheel and a rickety rollercoaster. A sandy beach and a murky, distant, estuarine sea. Candy floss, sticks of rock and sugar dummies. Car parks, a railway terminus and vacant lots of waste ground in ought-to-be-prime locations. Sandcastles, grannies in deckchairs and a pier. Just the one stall selling tired looking crabs, cockles and seafood sticks, and fish and chip shops, loads of them.

Of course we had to have fish and chips, there was no debate. A few of the chippies had the unmistakeable lingering stench of stale fat, but many more looked and smelled appetising. Ernie Beckett's was pretty much a random selection.

The fish, a fat bobby-dazzler of a haddock, was very good. Flaky, tender, crisp batter. On this occasion I was even willing to forgive the fact that it hadn't been skinned.

The chips were better still. The photo doesn't really do them justice, but they were perfect. Lovely crunchy edges, meltingly soft centre. Pleasingly beefy from the dripping they were fried in. Excellent. The mushy peas were a bit too thick though.

We ate on the beach, the sun came out and we didn't get harassed by seagulls. What more could you want? Around a fiver for fish, chips, peas and a can of pop.


21 Market Street
DN35 8LY

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