Archive for the 'Eating Out' Category

The Albert, Kingston Hill

The Albert had a freshen up some time ago now, although I couldn’t tell you when. Before I noticed the signs of renovation, pale pastel paint on the Victorian brickwork, I’d always assumed it was average after work pub for hospital staff that was a bit dire.
The Albert
Still, the fresh look to the place was niggling me to visit, and having been in hospital for a few weeks I was keen to eat out. So, with a stern ‘no drinking’ from the ward sister, I took an evening stroll with my parents to try it out.

It looks light and spacious on the inside, comfy armchairs in a high ceilinged room to the left of the bar reminded me of colonial rooms from movies. The dining area to the right of the bar vintage looking tables and chairs which all looked the part.
Armchairs
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As a Young’s pub, I was fully prepared to see three of their standard ales on tap, I hadn’t expected to see three guest ales, one of which from Surrey Hills Brewery. Not that I could have any, more’s the pity, but a Fentiman’s Ginger Beer went down well.

The menu could do with a little clarity. Would “Smoked mackerel, lemon & dill pâté, horseradish” be a fillet of mackerel with lemon & dill pate and a horseradish condiment on the side? Or would it be a pâté made from the first three ingredients? It turned out to be a pâté made from all the ingredients which was a little too heavy on the horseradish. My mum was disappointed to get a single slice of indecisively toasted bread, not quite toast, not quite bread. It’s as if it was supposed to be bread that’s been left near the heat lamps, was her opinion.

My Dad went for the pie of the day which was chicken & mushroom, with a big puff pastry top. Side vegetables of beans, broccoli and mash were all finely cooked, and he couldn’t find a fault with it.

My wife had the carrot & butternut squash soup, which was nice enough but nothing special. tasting very much like a carrot & coriander soup from the Covent Garden soup range. Personally, I think the flavours of those two vegetables are too similar to include both in a soup.

I chose the fish & chips, the latter in a mini fryer basket which seems popular way of serving them. I find it quite charming. It was served with sides of mushy peas and tartare sauce. Alas, the batter was not quite crisp enough, neither were the chips.
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We had two deserts, a raspberry creme brûlée and trifle. I thoroughly enjoyed the trifle, they used a nice combination of fresh fruits and flavoured jellies to great effect. Mum wasn’t happy with the brûlée, it lacked the crunchy caramel surface and was watery underneath.
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I thought that for a fairly quiet Friday evening, with three to four tables two staff should be able to handle it, but service was slow. I saw three burgers sitting under heat lamps for a hood 6-10 minutes before we’d ordered our meals which didn’t fill me with confidence. That and soft drinks being forgotten during our meal, even though the order was written down is rather disappointing.

Overall, I’d certainly consider popping in for a drink with friends. For food though, the quality is below average for the cost. The kitchen should definitely take some tips from the excellent White Cross which is on the river in Richmond. Another Young’s pub, I was impressed with their fantastic salt & chilli squid and crisp, delightful fish & chips.

2/5
The Albert
57 Kingston Hill
Norbiton
Surrey
KT2 7PX

Tel: 020 8546 7669
thealbert@youngs.co.uk

A Fallow Deer emerges

The fallow deer (Dama dama) is commonly seen in The Royal Parks in their preferred habit of mixed woodland and open grassland.

We were alerted to an unusual fallow deer emerging on Teddington High Street earlier this month via Twitter.

Did it step out gingerly?
Blinking with big brown doe eyes?
Nope.
This particular Fallow Deer emerged with a big yelp of Tally Ho and Pip! Pip! Pip!

Fresh flowers

The Cake Board

After a fun build up on Twitter, and pressing our noses against the glass late the night before, we were eager to pop along for the opening day, to show some support for local business and get breakfast in.

Mother Deer has put a lot of thought into this delightful, but small vintage tea room. I’m so chuffed to see my favourite suppliers being used here too. Meat is supplied by A.G. Miller butchers on Waldegrave Road, the breads come from Rubens Bakehouse in Twickenham and vegetables from John Woods in Teddington (who does good vegetable boxes by the way).

So, ding! Ding! Breakfast, round one. I tucked into a venison sausage sandwich with red onion jam. It’s not a hotdog! Hotdogs are served in torpedo rolls with enough ketchup and mustard to make a fine old mess on your clothes. They are my guilty cinema pleasure. A venison sausage sandwich is altogether more refined, and this was substantial. My fellow diners were through with their breakfasts and cake by the time I’d finished it. Abi had what she described as the nicest scrambled eggs on toasted sourdough in recent memory, she adored every bite.

Venison sausage sarnie
Orla ponders the great menu choice
When my brother and family arrived we shuffled onto the larger table and turned our attention to the cake board and an extended lunch with more tea. We never felt under pressure to move on, the staff were attentive and just delightful to help as when we first arrived.

Cake highlights
Rhubarb Bakewell tart with a side of rhubarb compote, a welcome sharp tang to balance the tart.

Rhubarb Bakewell
Tart
The concentration and effort needed to hoist the biggest slice of Victoria sponge I’ve ever seen to a side plate was our afternoons entertainment.

The Salted peanut millionaires shortbread looked too chunky and sweet for my tastes, but sharing a forkful from James it wasn’t as overbearingly sickly as I was expecting. One for next time for me I think.

Salted Peanut Millionaires Shortbread

Cooked food stops being served at 5pm Tues – Sat and 4.30pm on a Sunday but you can still order cake. Which is very important.

My mother in law arrives tomorrow and I know where I’ll be taking her for breakfast on Thursday.

The Fallow Deer
75 High Street,
Teddington,
TW11 8HG

The Angler’s Sunday Roast

On the drive down to Brighton as a young lad there was a pub that had a hoary oak fibreglass tree. One with a face and a slide as the tongue, and maybe a swing somewhere. I was always desperate to stop there. That tree, a pack of salt & vinegar crisps and half a Coke was heaven. You don’t find many pubs like that in urban areas for obvious space reasons.

Maybe it was a boot?
Now, Teddington certainly isn’t limited for pubs or places to eat, there’s a widespread amount of pubs and scores of cafes too. Even with children in tow, a hungry parent will certainly be able to find a place to sit and refuel.

The Angler’s in Teddington though, is more spacious than most in the area, and it’s the outdoor play area that got us 30 somethings all nostalgic a few weeks ago.

It was fully booked inside when I arrived at 12-ish, so it would be worth booking ahead if the weather looks iffy. As it was, it was a nice day so our group of 8 found a large table in the spacious garden with ease.

I was there to sample the Sunday roast, but between us we settled for the fish and chips and the burger too. Orders are placed and paid for at the bar and brought to your table number, so make a mental note of your number before queuing up.

It’s an impressive roast to behold. A large crisp Yorkshire Pudding sits atop large slices of roast beef and a some roast potatoes. It’s served with a good array of vegetables all decently cooked. My only complaint would be a shortage of gravy, but I should really have asked for some more.

I nibbled some of the fish for good measure. I’d definitely be up for that on another occasion. The batter was golden, crisp and delicious.

We had a really nice, relaxing time dining al fresco. sipping drinks and watching the children enjoy themselves in the play area. Overall, the opinion of our crowd is that the food is good, but there are better burgers and roasts to be had elsewhere if food is your focus. If you have children too, then I’d say The Angler’s is a commendable place to stop for a bite.

around the table

playground or lunch excitement?

Roast Beef with trimmings

The Anglers
3 Broom Road
Teddington
Middlesex
TW11 9NR
Tel: 020 8977 7475

Hospital food

I suppose it’s not the kind of thing that any food lover wants to have happen, but severe ulcerative colitis seems to just happen according to the gastroenterologist. He says maybe there’s a genetic component to it, but it’s not terribly well understood.

Thankfully my employer provides medical cover, so for a week of steroid infusions to reduce the inflammation along with a blood transfusion, I’m treated to a 7th floor room overlooking Kingston and the Surrey hills of Reigate in the far distance. There are certainly worse places to be.

I was despondent at the prospect of hospital food for a week just when late spring is turfing out a stream of delicious raw ingredients. I suspect hospital food is always going to have a poor reputation as cost cuts bite the NHS. Being chatty and curious though, I’ve been interested in finding out how the kitchens work in hospital. Does the food all come from the same place, and is it the same that is served in the restaurants, private ward food and the regular ward food?

NHS Ward menu

NHS ward lunch menu

As you’d expect, the NHS ward hot food is pre-made frozen fare, with cold salads and sandwiches. The menu is far more varied than I thought though. Soups and sandwiches for lunch, pies, bakes and gratins for dinner. Deserts are largely sponges & custards, cold yoghurts or whips. ‘Celebrity chefs dishes’ show up in blue, but no chef has put their name to them. I gather that you have to choose your food the day before, which kind of removes the have what you fancy, but is probably necessary to keep the costs down. I’ve heard mixed reviews of the food. The fish days tend to stink the wards out & veggie sausages aren’t very good, but the cheese & potato pies and lasagnes are well liked. So it’s not all bad.

Private Ward menu

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On the private ward, menus are brought for a leisurely consideration at breakfast, with the crunch of decision time coming as the plates are cleared. The food for 22 rooms is prepared from scratch in the same kitchens as the NHS and restaurant food and is brought up to the ward kitchen and served to each room.

The food has been pretty impressive. The chef here excels in hot fruit crumbles. She also likes ramekins with gratins and pies. Best ramekin dishes so far have been salmon and potato gratin and beef moussaka.

beef moussakabr />
chocolate pudding

blackberry and apple crumble

Basil & lemon chickpeas with smoked mackerel is one of the nicest dishes I’ve eaten recently. I want the recipe! The chick peas were roughly mashed with basil and lemon into a thick sauce which worked beautifully with the mackerel and the side of fennel gratin and creamy mash. So good that I didn’t get a chance to photograph it.

Some dishes have been flops. The beef and salsa burger would have made Hamburger Me throw a fit. The haloumi and tomato pitta was a baffling few slices of tomato and haloumi grilled on the surface of a pitta. But these are the exceptions rather than the rule.

So in my opinion, if your employer offers a private healthcare benefit, it’s worth taking the tax hit to get the extra quality healthcare and food.

VOC

Twitter really is a marvellous thing. My visit to VOC was off the back of a tweet by fellow food lover @chocoralie. Without Twitter I’d have not been able to get a table reservation sorted at lunchtime today for a party of 15 the same evening.

It’s right next to the huge Spanish bar called Camino which i notice also had a Time Out Critic’s Choice. By comparison, VOC is much smaller but by heck it’s cosy. The corked bottles of infusing cordials and spirits adorn aged looking woodwork and old armchairs are betrayed by softly lit oil burners. They really are trying to do things the old fashioned way check out the blocks of ice. I was too busy planning my next drinks to tell if they were just for show.

They do a small range of the Greenwich Meantime brewery, the porters and ales of which are included in some of their punches. My friends hit these, but I had to have a hit of their Bergamot Grog. Unlike most cocktails I’ve had where I only notice the main flavours, this mix of Pampero Especial barrel-aged rum was delicately flavoured with earl grey tea, fresh galangal & hints of tobacco leaf. A drink that gave my taste buds something to think about. It seemed like quite a short drink, although it was my first drink of the night so it could just be my quaffing.

Veux Carre was next up, suggested by the mixologist, reminded me of an Old Fashioned, a drink I tried after Don Draper seemed to drink them in every Mad Men episode. This was more pleasing still, Hennessy VS with Old Overholt Rye, sweet vermouth and Benedictine all stirred over ice and garnished with orange oil. I’ll be making one as soon as I restock the home bar.

I got chatting with the barmen, whilst he was mixing up my final drink, the Porter Cup. I was curious to know what was in the hammered copper gin pot (if that’s what it was), which sat above two burning tea lights. He seemed only too pleased to show me, and that’s what I love, people that are enthusiastic about what they do, if you’ve been to Gelupo you’ll know what I mean. hopping onto a small step he ladled a taster of Dogs Nose into a glass tankard. Dog’s Nose is a warm punch of Tanqueray Rangpur gently warmed with fresh horseradish, pressed apple, Meantime porter, fresh citrus, spices and sweetened with vanilla sugar and honey. Now the mention of horseradish made me a little nervous, I expected to be hit over the head with the burn but it came in like a pleasant after thought. It’s a delicious drink, and surprised my friends who all wrinkled their noses at the thought of it. I could imagine sinking plenty of them on a cool damp night. I can’t wait to take Mrs Fly to this spot.

We parted company, and hungrily at 22:20 I darted for the tube bound for Embankment and a food venue being raved about by the London food blogosphere. Sadly at 22:50 the metal trailer of Pitt Cue Co was locked up tighter than my chocolate stash at home. the smoky smell of BBQ was the only hint of what I have to come back for.

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Seasonal swag

After a marvellous night at The Southampton Armsin Kentish Town, the only specialist pub selling independently produced ciders and ales in London, a typical overcast bank holiday weekend dawned in the UK today. The upshot of which is that the produce at the farmer’s market hadn’t nabbed before me.

I get so excited over the provenance of my meals. Today, asparagus picked at 4am! 1kg of ungraded for £6! This is my drug. I asked how long until the end of the season, “next Wednesday”, she said. Eeeeep! Get your skates on folks, or it’s gone until next year. Unless you’re happy to get it flown in from Peru, up to you of course.

Broad beans at last, and 4 bundles of rhubarb for jam. It’s going to be a busy and filling weekend. Enjoy!

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The Bird, Leeds

After your average days 50km mountain bike race in gale force winds and hail. After losing your car keys and trading up borrowing your mother-in-laws car, you’re going to fancy a curry. The Bird came up in the TopTable results, had good reviews so we dropped in.

Don’t be put off by the casino, the restaurant is on the first floor and is tucked away in the corner so you won’t notice the wheels and dealers. I’ll spare you the introduction to Michelin-starred Vineet Bhatia, you can read all about him on the menu.

Our new motto when eating out is to look at the dessert menu first. If its not attached to the menu, ask for it. Enjoy the bewildered look on the face of your waiter/waitress. It helps us plan our attack on the menu, and we hate to be too stuffed for pudding. Definitely do it here, because even with the nice touch of half portions, it’s a close run thing. It certainly helped us sidestep the inevitable ‘oh god, we’ve ordered too much’ scenario that happens every night in thousands of restaurants around the country. Which was to their benefit as we were able to squeeze in desserts.

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I wouldn’t normally choose to have a samosa. Like those disturbing images of maltreated bears in confinement, I see them suffocated in plastic, cowering in the fridge section of late night shops harbouring goodness-knows what bugs; I’m never certain that they’re sensible to eat. The Achari Pea and Potato Samosas at The Bird beat my expectation of a tired pastry that’s sat around too long, only to be perked up with a blast in an oven or fryer. Three small samosas arranged on a banana leaf with a dark black dip were presented. Filled to bursting, fresh tasting with a gentle but progressive spicy heat that grew and grew, these were more-ish, and excellent after dunking in the date tasting dip – a welcome accompaniment.

The traditional Handi Lamb and potato curry was, for me, as good as a curry could be. So many lamb dishes are tough and chewy, which is a huge turn off for me in a curry. This however was full of meltingly tender lamb that you could squash into the sauce with a fork, a pleasantly spicy stew that was thick enough to be mopped up with the naan.

Oh the Rosemary & Olive Oil Naan. Alongside the other bread staples like a garlic & coriander and Keema naans was this piece of leavened beauty. Sprinkled with freshly chopped rosemary it went superbly with the lamb dish.

Malai Kofta in an onion korma sauce looked interesting, with long lumps of ‘kofta’. It was a good effort, but it seemed to be made almost entirely from plantain. Not the most flavoursome of fruit, I had expected a kind of mixed vegetable croquet of some sort. I think it’s fantastic that The Bird are coming up with interesting dishes for vegetarians so they have something other than mixed vegetable curry.

The Punjabi Chickpea Masala was slightly heavy on the onion/garlic paste, but the ginger and sour amchoor notes were perfect. I’m still searching for the chana masala recipe that’s better than the one served by The Tiffin Tin in Tufnell Park.

Pulao rice was simple, slightly buttery, but not overly so.

So the desserts. No laminated pudding photo sheets, none of that cash ‘n’ carry pre-made stuff here.

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We were told that the fresh Rose Petal and Vanilla Bean Kulfi was their most popular dessert. We can see why. It was beautifully presented, the kulfi was fragrant and slightly chewy. The three baby gulab jamun were a great foil and didn’t assault the dish with too much sweetness. I normally hate rose flavoured sweets and desserts. They always remind me of my Gran’s plastic air fresheners from the 1980s. Ugh. This, though I would come back for.

I’d been tempted by the Orange and Ginger pudding with cardamom custard and cinnamon ice cream, but I feared a strike from the scythe of the Grim Sleeper. Not when I had 3 hours drive home to finish.

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So the Chocomosa with Madras Coffee Ice Cream it was. Fearing huge samosas, the two tidy packages that arrived looked the part. Unfortunately the pastry was too hard to eat with a fork and shattered. Much easier to use your fingers and dip in the coffee ice cream which was perfectly acceptable. The samosa filling seemed to be a chocolate paste with finely chopped hazelnuts and almonds.

Service was efficient, chatty and charming. The whole experience was a great finish to our weekend.

The naysayers may complain that this isn’t Michelin-starred dining. Strictly speaking, maybe it’s not, but it’s sophisticated and affordable Indian cuisine. What’s not to like?

Dinner for two with soft drinks came to £36.


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