Category Archives: Reviews

Restaurant Review – Den Dijver, Bruges

Hello hello.  Long time no post.  You know how it is: work, sleep, wedding plan…

Except that the wedding has now happened!  Yes, A Man and I got married on 20 July 2013 and I am therefore now A Wife!  The day was fabulous, but that’s not what I’m here to talk about.

We went on honeymoon for 3 nights to Bruges, in Belgium.  We openly confess that the idea to go to Bruges essentially stemmed from this film.

Usually, when A Man and I go on holiday, it’s very much a budget affair.  We go camping, we cook for ourselves, we take advantage of free entertainment etc etc.  The plan for the honeymoon was simple: go for a short time, so that we could really have a blow out and spend a ridiculous amount of money in a couple of days.  Drink beer, eat chocolate, go out for meals.

The parents of Best Man P gave us a Lonely Planet guide to Bruges as a wedding present, which was absolutely brilliant.  One of the restaurants it recommended was Den Dijver, where they pair each course with a complementary beer.  The menu is more expensive than we’d ever normally spend on a meal out but that didn’t matter.  We decided that it sounded like a great experience, so we got all dressed up and went over on Wednesday night.

It was closed.  We were grumpy.  We went to a different restaurant.

We tried again on Thursday night.  Unfortunately, we didn’t have our posh clothes to wear but never mind.  We went along to the restaurant and were shown through to the garden.  We were offered an aperitif of either a 7% local beer, or the house special of cherry beer with cava, similar to kir royale, which we both chose and which was really delicious.

Tables under the wines, and A Man with our aperitifs.

Tables under the vines, and A Man with our aperitifs.

A little while later we were surprised with an amuse bouche of marinated salmon with soft goat’s cheese, which was really yummy.

A salmon amuse bouche in a little globe.

A salmon amuse bouche in a little globe.

We chose to have the three course meal, with the accompanying beer suggestions.  As the guide book says, you can instead choose to have wines but that would rather be missing the point.  My first course was Carpaccio “Rossini” with goose liver.  It was perfectly seasoned, and the liver was amazingly buttery.  A Man had Artichoke with a mustard dressing which he thoroughly enjoyed.  There was also some amazing bread which was still hot when it arrived at the table, and which had an incredible crunchy crust.  The bread was dark with a really deep flavour.  My beer was a delicious Grimbergen Blonde, whilst A Man had Paljas Blond.

A Man and I couldn't quite remember how much of the artichoke you're meant to eat, but it was delicious (and he made sure he mopped up every last drop of the sauce with some bread!).  The carpaccio came with a lovely salad, which included flowers.  You can see the bread behind the beers, and there's also a photo of the condiments - the butter sits in a hollowed out piece of slate.

A Man and I couldn’t quite remember how much of the artichoke you’re meant to eat, but it was delicious (and he made sure he mopped up every last drop of the sauce with some bread!). The carpaccio came with a lovely salad, which included flowers. You can see the bread behind the beers, and there’s also a photo of the condiments – the butter sits in a hollowed out piece of slate.

After our starters came the main courses.  A Man had chosen Duck Breast with Peaches, Almonds and Belgian Chicory.  The duck was delicious and the accompaniments worked beautifully with it.  It was paired with Trappist Achel.  I chose Dory in Salt Crust with Southern Vegetables, Pesto and Tapenade.  The fish flaked gorgeously, and the pesto was perfect with it.  My main course was paired with Tripel Karmeliat.  A Man had in fact tried both beers the previous day and both were declared to be excellent, so we were really pleased to know that we would enjoy them.

A Man indicates how manically excited he is about his duck.

A Man indicates how manically excited he is about his duck.

Unfortunately, at this point the camera died 😦  Stupidly we hadn’t considered the fact that we had been taking pictures and videos for 3 days, and that sometimes batteries need to be recharged, so we only managed to get one more poor quality photograph of our meal before it gave up the ghost.

For dessert, A Man had originally chosen strawberries with mascarpone, mint and pistachio but they had run out of strawberries, so he changed his order to Cherries with Cherry Beer Sorbet.  I opted for Sabayon with Geuze.  A Man’s cherries arrived with a bottle of Lindeman’s Kriek, the cherry beer with which the sorbet was made.  The cherry beer is sweet and not something you would want to drink regularly, but perfect to round off the meal.  Mine came with a bottle of Oude Gueuze Tilquin.  The waitress explained to me that no sugar is added to the beer, which makes it very sharp but refreshing.  She was certainly right!  It reminded me of true dry scrumpy cider, and it was lovely with the sabayon.  A Man’s cherries were warm and juicy, and the melting sorbet was delicious.  The sabayon was light, and perfectly balanced between the sweet foamy top and the sharp gueuze used beneath (and of course, drunk alongside!)

My sabayon and gueze before the camera died, and a couple of photos of the drinks shamelessly stolen from the internet.

My sabayon and gueuze before the camera died, and a couple of photos of the drinks shamelessly stolen from the internet.

We were then offered coffee.  A Man decided against it, but I said that I would like one.  Like the aperitif, this was accompanied by a surprise bonus second dessert!  This was a chocolate mousse with sharp raspberry coulis, together with a couple of little biscuits and was just perfect to round off the meal.  The coffee wasn’t bad either.

We would thoroughly recommend Den Dijver to anyone going to Bruges, as the service was great, the setting was beautiful and the food was incredible.  It was great to have the experience of having our beers matched to our courses, and whilst it was more expensive than we would normally pay for a meal out, at €140 for both of our meals and drinks, it wasn’t extortionate and we definitely plan to go back next time we’re in Bruges (oh yes, there will be a next time!).  Only next time we’ll make sure we check when the place is open, and ensure that we save our posh clothes for then.

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Café review – Scoffs Café, Chippenham

Hello

Yesterday, A Man and I gave notice of marriage in Chippenham (yay!) and it took less time than we thought it would, so we got to go to a café before he had to go back to work (double yay!).  He recommended Scoffs, which is fairly close to his office.

I (and clearly also A Man) would absolutely recommend this café.  The staff were really friendly, the atmosphere was relaxed and it was reasonably priced.  I also love their ethos – supporting local producers, and providing great quality home cooking and baking – qualities I really respect in an independently run café or restaurant.

After A Man went back to work, I stayed for my lunch and was served with a truly enormous jacket potato with chilli, cheese and salad.  I had asked for coleslaw but hadn’t expected it to be a) home made and b) bloody delicious.  The chilli itself was well spiced without being too hot and contained loads of different veggies as well as the mince.  The portion size was incredibly generous and very reasonably priced – I happily popped my change in the tip jar.

I must have been in the café for around an hour and a half in total, and never felt pressurised to leave.  Even after I’d finished my mega-lunch, I sat reading for some time before I left.

If I’m ever in Chippenham over lunchtime (or even just fancy a coffee and a cake) I will definitely be considering Scoffs.  Yet another great example of why you should support local, independent cafés, coffee shops and restaurants!

Restaurant Review – The Pulpit Inn, Portland Bill

Greetings

On Saturday, A Man and I had a date to celebrate our anniversary.  We went to Weymouth for the day and ended up at Portland Bill in the evening, having planned to eat at the Pulpit Inn just as we did 6 years ago when we got engaged.  I remembered the pub being friendly and the food being fantastic and reasonably priced, and was a little concerned that I was viewing the evening through rose-tinted specs.  However, I was absolutely not disappointed.

Being right on the coast, the Pulpit serves a variety of super-fresh fish and seafood and I took full advantage of this by choosing a half lobster, cooked with garlic.  It arrived looking beautiful in its shell with a nicely varied mixed salad and new potatoes.  I must admit I couldn’t finish my salad as I was so full up (but needless to say, I absolutely demolished that lobster)!

A Man chose duck breast with mixed veg and new potatoes.  The duck breast was large and absolutely perfectly cooked – beautifully pink in the middle with crispy crunchy skin.  A Man declared it to have been the best duck breast he’d ever eaten.  Yum yum yum yum yum!

I was too full up to have a dessert (and was quite pleased I hadn’t had a starter) but did have a coffee.  My one complaint would be that my coffee came with those little cartons of UHT milk rather than a small jug of fresh milk, but it’s quite a small criticism in the grand scheme of things.  Our two main meals, two pints of Coke, two white wine and sodas and a cup of coffee came to around £45; money very well spent as far as I’m concerned.  I would fully recommend the Pulpit and intend to return there, hopefully fairly soon!

Restaurant Review – The Cellar Door, Edinburgh

Greetings!

I’ve been away for several days (one longer than intended, due to travel issues!)  and have therefore not been cooking.  However, during C’s hen party, we did spend an afternoon at The Cellar Door making chocolate.

We turned up and were immediately ushered downstairs. We were invited to choose a 2 course lunch from the menu, after which we would make our chocolates.  They would be chilled, and lunch would be served after that.  All sounded good so far.

First, the chocolate making.  We were each presented with separate blocks of milk and dark chocolate ganache, and the table was covered in plates and bowls with melted milk, white and dark chocolate, cocoa, nuts, sprinkles, marshmallows, fudge and other treats.  We had to mould the ganache with our hands and fill and cover it as we wished.  It was great fun (though incredibly messy!) and a prize went to C’s bridesmaid I for making the best choccies (apparently they were some of the best they had ever seen on the course – what a teacher’s pet!).  Unfortunately mine suffered significant melting on the journey home, but they nevertheless tasted yummy.

Messy messy chocolatey table. You should have seen our hands…

For lunch I ordered breaded haggis with chutney and salad to start, followed by grilled hake with lemon and herb crushed potatoes.  It had been a toss-up between the fish and a skirt steak sandwich, but I tried a little of the latter from R’s plate.  I was seriously seriously impressed.  The plates were presented beautifully, but there had been no scrimping on the quantity of food.  My haggis was light rather than greasy (which I had feared slightly) and went fantastically with the chutney.  I had never eaten it like that before, and it was delicious.  I would have been really happy with the steak sandwich, as the beef was cooked to rare perfection, was seasoned wonderfully and was served with a delicious-looking homemade coleslaw.  My hake was moist and tender, the potatoes slightly buttery and perfectly herby.

I just had to take a photo of my lunch because it looked so lovely.

I would 100% recommend The Cellar Door.  The staff were friendly and attentive, but not pushy.  The chocolate-making was good fun and perfect for the occasion, but if you don’t fancy it they do cook meals anyway 😉  The thing I found most amazing was the quality of the lunch.  Ordinarily, a 2-course weekday lunch like we had costs only £7.95 per person.  I had to check that price about 15 times because it was some of the best restaurant food I’ve had in a long time, and certainly the best I’ve ever eaten at that price!  I will definitely be revisiting The Cellar Door if I am in Edinburgh again.  My only slight criticism was that the area our table was in could have done with a little more lighting – perhaps a nice standard lamp in the corner.  But all in all it is only a minor thing which by no means affected how impressed I was with the place.

Love love

Gemma xx

I’ve been just so busy! Café review – Under the Stars, Bristol

Hello people!

I will be back blogging soon, but I’ve been doing lots and lots of stuff requiring me not to cook dinner recently 🙂  For one thing, my freezer is full of leftovers, so I’ve not really been doing a great deal of cooking even when I’ve been at home.  For another, we went on Wednesday for dinner at our wedding venue with both sets of parents (excitement!!) and A Man and I also stayed the night there.  It was a lovely evening and I’m really starting to visualise the wedding now.  Unfortunately, I had about 2 hours’ sleep.  It was fairly relaxing insomnia though; I could hear the brook across the way and the owls hooting (which eventually turned into the dawn chorus…).  The venue is up in the hills, and I’m so glad we picked somewhere that feels so out of the way despite being pretty close to the nearest town so it’s nice and easy to get to.  I also went bridesmaids’ dress shopping with one of my bridesmaids.  It was a fab day and we actually made some headway with dress styles and stuff, so yay!

We had lunch at a place called Under the Stars in Bristol.  It’s a floating café/bar on a boat in the harbourside.  We had a relaxed lunch of some excellent tapas with homemade bread (we arrived for an early lunch and it wasn’t quite ready, so was very fresh!)and yummy teas and a fairly good vegetarian/pescetarian selection.  I thought it was very well priced – £25 for 6 dishes, a bread basket and drinks.  I’m so glad we chose to eat there as it was something a bit different and gave us a chance to have a good old catch-up.  And we just kept on eating, even though we were full – a testament to how nice the food was.  We had patatas bravas, baba ganoush, stuffed peppers, greek salad, gambas ajillo and risotto ball stuffed with mozzarella as well as the bread basket.  If you have a Taste card and book in advance, you can get 50% off the food prices, so it’s even better value.  A perfect location for ladies who lunch 🙂

No food post tonight – we’re having leftover paella from the freezer.

Love love

Gemma xx

Restaurant Review – The Mason’s Arms, Warminster

Decided that, as I like to write about food I might as well write about other people’s cooking too.  We went to the Mason’s Arms (http://www.masonsarmspub.com/page1.htm) to treat my brother to a meal for his 21st birthday and it did not disappoint.  We moved into Warminster 2 1/2 months ago, and have been going to the pub around once a fortnight for its excellent meat raffle.  We ate there the first time we went in, having chosen it for no particular reason and were really chuffed to have another excuse to eat there.  To be honest, it’s all about the steak!  We were lucky enough a couple of weeks ago to win a free Black Rock in the aforementioned raffle – a nice little bonus considering we’d already planned to eat there yesterday.

The way they serve steak at the Mason’s Arms is a spectacle.  Your meat comes on a “Black Rock” – essentially a superheated lump of granite, designed to cook your steak to its desired done-ness at the table.  Instead of the broad-and-flat steak to which people are accustomed at ordinary pubs, you get what looks like a miniature roasting joint, to prevent it overcooking whilst you eat.

A Man and I both love super-rare beef, and to be honest this is the best way to eat it and ensure that it’s still hot when you do.  The rock stays unbelievably hot throughout your meal, allowing you to take your time over your food instead of wolfing it down (not that my brother seemed to understand that premise…) and to make sure that it’s cooked to perfection.  I particularly enjoyed the last few mouthfuls of my 8 oz ribeye, which had gone beautifully crispy on the bottom, but was still virtually untouched in the middle.  Perfect!

Of course, if you prefer the sacrilege of a well-done steak, it’s perfect for you too – just cut it up into tiny pieces as soon as it arrives and it’ll soon be just as cremated as you like 🙂

The steak is served up with fantastic chips, onion, mushroom and tomato.  Top tip – don’t copy A Man and place half a tomato on the Black Rock and straight into your mouth.  Tomatoes retain heat like a bitch.  Also (as we were discussing last night) don’t lick your plate.  That instant cooking you’ve seen of your steak?  Yeah, that’ll happen to your tongue too…

Quick shout-out for CJ Robbins (http://www.cjrobbins.co.uk/) too – the local butcher which supplies the Mason’s with their meat.  Fab local butcher’s which provides great meat.  We’ve won their breakfast pack in the raffle (free range eggs, delicious sausages and thick thick bacon) and I’ve bought some bits from there too – always had great service and great products.

In terms of drinks, there’s lots of traditional ales, some great “rough” ciders (I’m a particular fan of Bristol Port – a dark, almost orange cider which has a faint hint of vinegar about it.  Probably not selling it to you very well!) and we bought a rather nice bottle of Rioja last night.  Staff are lovely and the patrons are pretty friendly too (if somewhat older than we are 🙂 ).  The ladies’ loo contains all sorts of extra little bits like hand cream, hair spray and a hairdryer provided by Helen, which is a nice touch.  All in all, a pub which I anticipate spending a fair amount of time at as long as we’re living here.

Love love

Gemma xx