Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Restaurant Review: Horvath, Berlin


It makes a nice change, in these days of insta-everything, to head out for a fancy dinner with no real idea of what you're likely to be fed. Such were the conditions of the meal that provided the crescendo to our recent trip to Berlin.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

A (very) late postcard from Campania, pt II: Positano and Naples

Positano
I was determined that we would get seaborne at some point of our stay on the Amalfi coast, but with just a couple of days before heading back to Naples it looked like this plan might be scuppered. It seems that the weather really doesn't have to be that bad at all to get the ferries that scurry between the various harbours along the coastline to down tools. What breeze that there was abated enough on our last full day in Ravello to encourage us to get the bus down to Amalfi town, and take a boat trip to Positano.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Restaurant Review: La Caravella, Amalfi



Nothing prepares the appetite for a fine lunch quite like being in the presence of the the bones of a bona-fide saint. Actually I've got no idea if this is true, but it didn't seem to do us any harm. After having staggered down the endless steps from Ravello to Amalfi we had spare time ahead of our appointment at La Caravella, which we killed with a brief mooch round the Cathedral.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

A (very) late postcard from Campania, pt I: Vietri and Ravello

Balcony #1
It feels a bit odd to be writing about a trip we were on nearly three months ago, but what the hell, here goes. In any case it beats banging on about not drinking for a month, or whatever, and a blast of sunshine in these dark months is surely not unwelcome. It sort of felt like like a lucid dream then, so I doubt if the intervening time will prevent me from recalling anything very important, especially as the thing that would be most worth getting across anyhow isn't anything factual, but just the feel of the place. Kasia and I had just under a couple of weeks in Campania, or, to be more precise, the Amalfi Coast and Naples. Be in no doubt, this is a sensationally beautiful and completely beguiling part of the world and we loved it, eating and drinking our heads off along the way. Here's some of what happened.

Monday, 30 November 2015

Restaurant Review: Ottolenghi, Islington

One of the main criteria I tend to employ when trying to decide on a venue for a meal is the extent to which I'd be able to prepare any of what's on the menu in my own kitchen. This dictum applies equally to both high end and proletarian fare. I am as equally disinclined to spend days on end reducing veal stock as I am to stink out my house by installing a deep fat fryer; thus, both classical French cooking and fish and chips are high up the list of things I want to eat out. With cooking as with all else, there is a noble humility in recognising that sometimes other people just have the tech, the time and the know-how which you lack, and you should pay for it. This is capitalism, and it tends to work quite well. This is also the reason I've resisted Kasia's enthusiasm to eat at Ottolenghi on one of our all-too-rare sorties south to London, until now.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

End of season allotment scorecard

This was the scene at the allotment on Sunday, when our attendance managed to neatly and happily bisect a couple of squally rain showers. For shame: I haven't written anything veg-related on here since July, and in truth our attendance of the plot in real life over the last couple of months has been scarcely any more regular. The fact that we aren't now faced with an unmanageable forest of weeds is, as I have said since we took over this site in February, a function of its modest size. And yet, despite the limited ground space, and our infrequent trips to the site, we've still managed a very satisfying harvest.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Restaurant Review: Rossopomodoro, Eldon Square, Newcastle upon Tyne


I'm not much in the business of accepting free food for reviews, mostly as I'm not much in the business of being offered it. However, when, towards the fag-end of a dreamlike holiday in Naples and the Amalfi Coast I got an email asking us to try out the Neapolitan stylings of Rossopomodoro it all seemed a bit too apposite to refuse. What better way of softening the post-holiday blues than a meal that recalled the flavours of Campania? What indeed!

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Restaurant Review: The Wood Oven, Wylam


My friends James and Rosie live out in the relative outback that is Ovingham these days. This is fine by me, as a trip out there is rather more diverting than the short hike across Newcastle's West End which used to seperate our dwellings. During the meal we recently shared at The Wood Oven in Wylam, and the day that preceded it, I could see the attraction of the move they've made.

Friday, 31 July 2015

Mid-harvest catch up


It has been all quiet from me on the blog front for a while - Hiya! - but you'll no doubt be relieved to know that things on the allotment have been trucking along in spite of their not being electronically documented. Plenty of rain along with some sporadic blasts of heat and light have seen things growing at full throttle. Kasia's mum lent a much appreciated hand which rid large sections of the plot of all weeds. We've been off work this week and although some serious downpours have kept us away most days, we squeezed in a few hours worth of graft yesterday in some lovely weather.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

It's all going so bloody well...

The track up to our bit
The pessimist in me is waiting for something to go badly wrong with the plot; an outbreak of blight, bindweed or some other grim pestilence to befall us. But nothing has yet. In fact, since we've taken on this former pigeon loft, everything we've put into the ground has done perfectly well. Considering this was basically a rubbish dump only a few short months ago, I'm impressed. Impressed, surprised and delighted.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Green amongst the brown


With Kasia away for the weekend, I spent a thoroughly enjoyable Saturday afternoon by myself at the plot. The weather was mostly gorgeous, with just the odd shower punctuating the azure ether, which helped, but I also realised a couple of things about this plot which just make it a more pleasant thing to garden than where we've been previously.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Laid the beds

The path to our patch
We crossed an allotment Rubicon in the glorious weather of bank holiday Monday , as we finally got the structure of the plot all laid out. Some recently purchased timbers were cut into raised beds meaning we can really start to think about what is going to fill them.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

First shoots and a new greenhouse


Let's have a bit of a catch up from the allotment shall we? Yeah! It's just over a month ago since I wrote that we'd gotten our spuds and onions in to the first two beds we'd managed to (mostly) rid of stones and detritus and transplanted some fruit bushes. Since then, despite time to spend at the plot being at an absolute premium (we've got a lot of weddings on this year), things have moved on a bit.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Restaurant review: Sunday lunch at The Rat, Anick

Image: The Rat Inn (weather wasn't as clever the day we went mind...)
Sigh. Back to work today after a cracking bank holiday. No doubt many of us spent a chunk of it nursing a food-coma, the result of some serious roasted-meat-and-other-things feast, so I thought it would be apposite to record some electro-chatter on the subject of that fine British institution the Sunday lunch, before describing a recently enjoyed example of the form for your consideration.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Some progress of our own

Interested onlookers
It's a pleasure to report some significant progress on the allotment that happened while we were actually there. We took the last couple of days off work in honour of my completing another lap of the sun, and spent sizeable chunks of both putting in a bit of old fashioned graft on the plot. With so much work having been done for us so far, it seemed only fair.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Restaurant Review: The Raby Hunt, Summerhouse


When revisiting a restaurant, it's a pleasure to find the things you enjoyed the first time just as good as they were. It's even better to find that they've been joined by other plates of searingly good quality. When we ate at The Raby Hunt for the first time a little over a year ago we were fairly bowled over by some stellar-level cooking from James Close and his small team. Things have moved on since then. There are a couple more staff both in the kitchen and out front, and, when visiting for a birthday lunch at the weekend just gone there was a palpable sense of assurance about everything going on under their roof. The following words are in danger of sounding like the worst kind of fawning, hagiographic brown-nosing, but there's no getting away from the fact that pretty much everything we ate at The Raby Hunt was - spoiler alert! - flat out brilliant.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Restaurant Review: Sunday Lunch @ Vallum Restaurant, Vallum Farm


Another Sunday, another lunch. There are other things to do on a Sunday of course, but in these relatively godless times, lunch is a better and more rewarding thing to do than most. Aldous Huxley said something about how a lunch can turn a pessimistic determinist into an optimistic believer in the will's freedom. Quite right, but I wonder if he specifically had beef and Yorkshire pud in mind? We did, at the terminus of a fun weekend when we had friends up from darn sarf.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Here's one somebody else made earlier


We've been absentee allotmenteers this last week and a bit, as visitors from near and far claimed our attention. And yet significant progress has still been made, as if by magic. A path has been laid, a water gathering system set up, a gate installed and beds laid out. If you've followed any of what we've been up to with the new plot in Benwell since we took it on in January, you'll know it came with the added bonus of some unbelievably helpful neighbours who have catapulted its progress on way beyond what we'd have been able to achieve ourselves.

Friday, 13 March 2015

Restaurant Review: Irvins Brasserie, North Shields


This was supposed to be a review of The Staith House's Sunday lunch, but a couple of messages left on their answerphone and a tweet brought no response, and by the time we finally managed to make contact with them they were fully booked. I've heard the food is great there; I'll maybe find out some other time. Happily, this riverside section of North Shields is up to its bollocks in restaurants these days, and a call to Irvins secured us a table there. We went for a quick and entirely tokenistic walk along toward Collingwood Monument amid the freezing gusts of a hoarily northern kind of afternoon - you have to do some sort of walk before a Sunday lunch, don't you? - before scuttling back to Irvin's to eat.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Restaurant Review: Bierrex Smoke and Tap House, Newcastle upon Tyne


This write-up completes a personal trilogy of Newcastle's current line-up of American-style barbecue-focussed outfits. First there was Hop and Cleaver, then Bierrex opened its doors in September, followed, more recently, by Longhorns on Mosley Street. From zero to treble-smoked inside of just a few short months; aside from snidey observations about trendy bandwagons, this seems to me to be A Good Thing. People are surely likely to find something to enjoy within at least one of these joints, and it all adds to the variety and gaiety of Newcastle's fodder scene. But would Bierrex complete the triumverate triumphantly or atrociously? Would it be Last Crusade or Matrix Revolutions?
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