November, 2013


22
Nov 13

The Magdalen Chapter

2MC

At nearly 18 months old, The Magdalen Chapter hotel has quickly established itself as the place to go in Exeter. Formerly the West England Eye Hospital, the hotel how occupies the large red brick building situated just five minutes by foot from the heart of the city centre. The building has been sympathetically renovated, retaining many original features whilst adding plenty of twenty-first century comforts.

The Magdalen Chapter is owned by Chapter Hotels, who have a sister hotel in Cheltenham. Down in Exeter, there are 59 bedrooms, a library, a bar, a spa, pool and gym, and of course, the dining room. We arrived at around 9pm on a Friday night and found the hotel buzzing. The bar was lively, with the evening in full swing, and plenty of people coming into the hotel to drink and dine.

We stayed in a feature room – one of the largest rooms in the hotel. We were shown up to our room by Richard, one of the duty managers who was very welcoming. Once we’d been shown around the room, we were handed an iPad which would be ours for the duration of the stay, and can be used to play music and find out most things you need to know about the hotel.

Our room was large with two bathrooms – one with a bath and the other with a shower, which were particularly luxurious and equipped with REN products, which are made locally in Devon.  Technology is a feature of the rooms, as we were able to listen to the TV and music in the shower room. We also had a control panel through which we could play our own music. Our room had a complimentary mini bar, containing some beer (which we swapped for wine, being wheat free), soft drinks and chocolate, and we had a Nespresso coffee machine, too.

The Magdalen Chapter restaurant sits at the back of the hotel in a large conservatory overlooking the gardens. Head chef Ben Bulger, formerly Head Chef at Riverford Field Kitchen, is guided by TV chef and restaurateur Simon Hopkinson, who acts as a consultant at Chapter Hotels. Their focus is on cooking locally sourced, seasonal British food.

Whilst we stayed, we enjoyed an evening meal and breakfast.  We did find breakfast a bit chaotic whilst we were staying, but the food was very good indeed. The choices available for breakfast offer a wide selection of interesting and tasty hot dishes. The food was very good indeed – great quality ingredients cooked really well. The service did let down the experience though – unfortunately when we visited, it was rather un-coordinated and a waitress took our menus away from us within five minutes of us having sat down, without taking our order. We had to then get up and retrieve our menus from the table on the side of the dining room. We also had to intercept our breakfast items from being served to other tables twice.

Our dinner experience was a lot better – the food was absolutely delicious and the service was charming. Technology weaves its way into the dining room here too, as diners are presented with an iPad wine list. It may sound gimmicky, but it was quite a straightforward way of choosing wine – by the glass, by price and so on.

I finished our stay with a 30 minute massage at the in-house spa with Jade, one of the therapists. It was absolutely lovely and Jade was a delight, running me through the range of REN products in great detail.

All in all, we had a very pleasant visit to the Magdalen Chapter. The communal rooms are lovely spaces in which to relax and the restaurant and spa are excellent. It is worth noting that there is very little parking – the car park was full and double-parked for the duration of our stay, and if you can’t get in, parking is around £7 a day in a nearby car park. We would recommend it as a comfortable and relaxing place to stay.


19
Nov 13

L’Eto

L'Eto

L’Eto on the King’s Road in London is a smart, chic cafe open all day long for breakfast, lunch and dinner, both to take away and eat in.

As you walk in you are greeted with enormous platters of delicious looking salads in front of you alongside delicately decorated cakes and gorgeous chocolate truffles piled onto silver platters. It all looks very inviting and is available to takeaway throughout the day. Not only would it make an excellent lunch, they do a brisk trade in takeaway quiches and meats for supper, too.

I decided to sit in and try the restaurant menu. To start, I tried a Crab and Avocado salad with soy and lime dressing, made with generous chunks of avocado, crab, black sesame seeds, fresh coriander leaves and finely chopped red chilli. It was vibrant and fresh tasting but substantial for a starter.

For the main course, I tried the Steak marinated in garlic and rosemary. The flavour of the steak was superb. It was juicy and tender, and full of flavour. With this, I tried a side of spring greens, which was a mixture of Tenderstem broccoli with kale, cooked al dente and topped with toasted flakes almonds. It was a really substantial side and would be enough for two people to share.

To finish, I managed around half a piece of the 73% chocolate cake. It’s described as chocolate fudge cake, but I’d say it is more of a deep and dense flourless chocolate cake. It was very rich and intensely flavoured and was a great way to finish a meal with coffee.

L’Eto is a lovely place to stop for a drink and food at any time of the day, and is highly recommended for its fresh, delicious food served in generous portions.  Lunch will set you back around £10-15 if you eat in, £7-10 for takeaway and dinner varies from £15-40 per head.


17
Nov 13

Autumn veg box recipes

Food shopping can be a bit of a minefield at times, particularly when choosing products you will enjoy, whilst balancing cost, environmental and ethical issues.

Personally speaking, food shopping will always be a toss up between these factors. Cost is a major factor, but I am definitely part of a growing number of people wanting to eat local, seasonal Organic food. Part of the difficulty with that for most people is actually sourcing ingredients – I certainly struggle to find a good farm shop, and don’t always have loads of time to dedicate to food shopping. So, with that in mind, I was keen to try a veg box from Abel & Cole, as they offer a wide range of groceries as well as fruit and vegetables.

My delivery arrived at my door within my allotted time frame, and included fresh vegetables, meat, wine, olive oil, fruit, vegetables and chilies. All the meat and vegetables was from within a 150-mile radius from my home, and was all Organic and very, very fresh. The wild venison from Hampshire Game was superb. Like for like prices are extremely competitive. The quality of the produce is outstanding, and it is a very convenient way to shop. All boxes come with a selection of seasonal recipes for you to try, but here are some  of my seasonal recipes for you to try – all made with ingredients from my veg box.

 1Venison

Venision steaks with Sage, Rosemary and garlic

Serves 2

Ingredients

2 Venison minute steaks (appx. 250-300g)

4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

1 spring rosemary

6 sage leaves

8 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Method 

Place all the ingredients into a large, shallow dish and mix well to combine. Leave to marinate for at least an hour – the longer you can leave it the better the flavour.

When you’re ready to cook the steak, preheat a pan (preferably a grill pan) under a hot heat. Add the steaks and cook for 2-4 minutes on each side. Cook the herbs and garlic with the meat, too.

Once the meat is cooked to your liking, allow to rest for 10 minutes on a hot plate to become more tender.

Serve with some freshly steamed green beans and baked squash

 1Squash

Baked onion squash with garlic and sage

Serves 2 

Ingredients

An onion squash

3 cloves garlic

6 sage leaves

A generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

Method

Preheat the oven to 180C

Cut the top off of the squash and remove the seeds and stringy flesh from the inside. Place onto a large baking tray and put the garlic and sage inside the squash. Drizzle with olive oil and bake for 20-30 minutes until the flesh is lightly browned and tender. Serve immediately. 


14
Nov 13

Meluha, Bristol

1Meluha

 Meluha opened in Bristol earlier this year, and is the second restaurant from Chef Stephen Gomes and Jay Miah. Moksh was opened in Cardiff Bay in 2007, offering a more modern interpretation of Indian food. Stephen’s cooking style is a twist on the classics – traditional flavours and spices, but presented in a more modern way.

Cooking is in Stephen’s blood. He is, in fact, the third generation of chefs in his family, and has cooked all over the world in many top restaurants. The influence of his extensive travels can be found in his award-winning cooking. Stephen has been voted Best UK Indian Chef several times, including most recently, 2012-3.

Meluha is situated on Park Street in Bristol. It is a light, slick and modern restaurant with a few nods to Asia in the decor. We sat in the window, which was a great spot from which to watch the world go by on a Saturday night in Bristol.

The menu offers plenty of choice – from the more adventurous dishes, including a five course tasting menu, which seemed to be the popular choice on our visit, to plenty of choice for customers wanting a more traditional curry. We started our meal with a delicious glass of Malbec. The wine list offers plenty of choice, both of bottles and wines by the glass, which we chose. It is very fairly priced, too. To accompany our wine, we had to have some poppadoms with Meluha’s chutney tray, which included a delicious mint yoghurt, mango chutney, tamarind sauce and sweet chilli sauce packed with kaffir lime leaves. All accompaniments were superb the tamarind and sweet chilli sauces were particularly good, making a pleasant change from some of the more predictable offerings at many Indian restaurants.

To start, we tried a Maya ‘Magic’ starter called ‘With a Little Twist’, which involved three pieces of chicken cooked in different ways: chocolate and orange chicken tikka, Moksh jerk chicken tikka and lemongrass and pepper chicken tikka. The starter arrived beautifully presented with the three different types of chicken on one plate. The flavours of each piece were absolutely delectable and the chicken was superbly tender. The portion was perfectly sized, too – a generous quantity of chicken, but not too much to spoil your appetite.

Moving on to the main course, we shared the Lamb Shank Roganjosh, a Kashmiri curry, made with whole lamb shanks cooked in a rich onion and fresh tomato puree sauce with cardamom and whole spices. The sauce was deep in flavour and the meat was meltingly tender with the shank served whole. It was topped with really tiny baby plum tomatoes, which added a lovely extra layer of texture. We thought it was superb.

We also tried the Ratinagiri Mango Lamb, a lamb curry made with mangoes, coconut milk and black pepper, and loved this too. The meat was generous and tender with a wonderfully flavoursome thick, smooth, tangy sauce.

Rices at Meluha were lovely and a little different.  The Pilau rice with caramelised onions was delicious – very savoury in flavour and complemented the curry very well. We also tried the Green tea rice, which was a basmati rice flavoured with green tea leaves. The rice was dark green in colour and had a wonderfully subtle green tea flavour. It worked particularly well with the sweeter Ratinagiri curry.

Not content with rice alone, we tried the garlic butter naan and garlic butter gluten free naan. There are a wide variety of interesting naan flavours, including Chilli chocolate and honey and rosemary and chicken tikka, which sound delicious. What is even better is that all breads can be made gluten free at Meluha, without even pre-ordering. In fact, as all dishes are made fresh from the menu, pretty much all dishes can be made gluten free. It was a particularly lovely experience being told you can have any dish or bread you like from the menu made gluten free – something we’ve not experienced at an Indian restaurant before.

To finish, we tried a trio of desserts put together for us by the chef. All were excellent. Our meal at Meluha was superb. The food was divine and the service just lovely from everyone who served us. It was, without question, the best curry we’ve ever had.


12
Nov 13

A trip to Marbella

Finca Los Arcos

Finca Los Arcos

Marbella on the Spanish Costa del Sol has been a famous celebrity haunt for years. The international jet-set have been visiting Marbella since the end of the Second World War, and it seems to be more popular than ever as a holiday destination.

I recently paid a visit to Marbella to see what it’s all about. You can see why it’s such a popular destination both for holidays and minibreaks, as it is just so easy to get to. Flights are cheap and readily available on a regular schedule, making it very possible to pop down for a weekend, which is what we did.

Marbella is just a 20-30 minute taxi ride from Malaga airport. The town itself is interesting, well preserved and worth a visit. The main attraction has to be the beaches and the world famous beach clubs in Marbella.

Our beach club of choice was Nikki Beach, and it was fabulous. Glamorous and exclusive yet really relaxed and fun – it is the perfect way to spend a hot and sunny day in Marbella. Booking a beach bed out for the day is the way to do it here. You will be served by the very good-looking staff, all eager to help you adjust your towel and serve you delicious cocktails. Yes, it’s not cheap, but the cocktails are delectable and the food is fabulous – their salads are all superb – so good that the 20 Euro price tag seems reasonable.

What really made the trip special was our villa. We decided to escape the hustle and bustle and stay up in the hills at Finca Los Arcos near Alhaurín el Grande. It is an easy drive down into Marbella and not expensive in a taxi, which is what we did. Finca Los Arcos is a magical and seriously unique place to stay. It can be found at the very top of a steep, winding track. As you pass the olive groves and pomegranate orchards on the way up to the villa, it keeps itself hidden – only to reveal itself as you reach the very top of the track to find it’s large gates in front of you. The villa is, in fact situated on the very top of a plateau in the hills, with 360-degree views of the mountains all around you. The villa sleeps 14 in its large en-suite bedrooms and has a large sitting room and covered terrace – but we spent practically every waking moment there outside on its enormous lower terrace sunbathing enjoying the swimming pool. There is also an outdoor bar complete with music, making it the perfect setting for a party in the evening.

There is plenty of choice in Marbella when it comes to restaurants, bars and clubs. Marbella is definitely a place to be seen and people watch. In fact, it is most likely you will visit and spot several famous faces. Did it live up to expectations? Yes. I’m already planning my next trip back!

Featuring WPMU Bloglist Widget by YD WordPress Developer