Sunday, 30 March 2014

Restaurant Review: David Kennedy at Vallum

A table with a view
I think we've now attended the full set of David Kennedy's north-eastern restaurants. From the rather fayne daining of the original Black Door to the more informal DK Food Social and its now-defunct sister outpost in Morpeth, the River Cafe on the fish quay, an excellent al fresco-ish lunch and now the main restaurant at Vallum Farm, the one word that has united all these eateries past and present is probably "reliable". Hopefully that doesn't sound like damnation by way of faint praise as we've had some stonking meals at Kennedy's places. Always good local ingredients, generally cooked very well indeed for a reasonable price. A meal at any of Kennedy's restaurants is one to be looked forward to safe in the knowledge that one's hard-earned dollar will not be spent in vain.

Friday, 28 March 2014

Spuds Away!

And we're up and running. A remarkably fine Sunday gave us the chance to commit our first potatoes to the soil last weekend. We dug over one of the patches that we've inherited from our former plot-mate Toni, having been given the all-clear to take over her side the the allotment. A smattering of horse manure was worked in, the usual trenches dug and in they went. We only planted our first earlies, which were Rocket and some other unknown variety (someone managed to throw out the label...), with second earlies and main croppers to go in this weekend if I get round to it. I'll be digging solo, as Kasia is out of town.

Monday, 24 March 2014

A Tonne of Stuff Going On

That's going to take a while to shift...
Since deciding where the raised beds were going to go, and actually putting them there a couple of weeks ago they have lain empty. The whole idea of getting them is that we might be able to grow some stuff that just hasn't worked for us previously - carrots for example - due to our heavy clay soil. So rather than fill them with that same soil, we took delivery of around a tonne of the council's "soil improver" , into which we mixed a smattering of rotted down horse manure. That should hopefully provide a decent growing medium.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Restaurant Review: Za Za Bazaar, Newcastle upon Tyne

Ah, the all you-can-eat-buffet. Something about the sheer egregiousness of the concept appeals to me on a quite deep level. In a world of scarcity and want, what could be more offensive than the idea of, for a moderate outlay of dollar, unlimited food? Well, a few things probably, but you get the idea. I still haven't completely worked out my grand unifying theory of the unlimited buffet, but I reckon I'm on safe ground in suggesting that something about the idea speaks directly to our inner child, whom, let there be no doubt, is a right greedy bastard. So much for the idea of the thing. What about the actual food? Usually pretty grim, carb-tastic or deep fried to a untasteful shade of beige, there is generally a powerful disconnect between the genius of the concept (Have as much of it as you want!) and the reality (I don't much want any of it) that kicks in strongly somewhere around the second plate. All that said, I have had at least one pretty great AYCE meal, and as with so many things, that one good experience is enough to convince, or at least tempt one to try again.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Restaurant Review: Kenny Atkinson, House of Tides; Newcastle upon Tyne

Beef Fillet, Asparagus, Morels, Wild Garlic, Nasturtiums
It's a pretty colossal understatement to say I'd been looking forward to this meal for some time. Partly because I reckoned on there being a good chance of eating some thoroughly top-flight stuff, but also to get the answers to a bunch of intriguing questions that had been floating rhetorically around since it was announced that Kenny Atkinson would be opening up on the quayside. What style would the food be? How had they squared the various circles that come with putting a restaurant in a grade 1 listed building that was meant for other things? And, having (somewhat bravely, I thought) gone tasting menu-only from the off, would there be any problem getting the requisite number of geordies to sit down to a not-inexpensive feast on a regular basis? Read on...
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