Category Archives: Little Lady Eats UK

Rockfish, Dartmouth

With so much talk of smog, I craved fresh, sea air. So, my friends and I left our poor, polluted capital and drove four and a half hours to Devon – a place where the words ‘this certainly blows the cobwebs away!’ are said far to regularly.

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Saturday was spent driving along the coast, stopping in between showers for walks along the beach, ice cream and lunch in oh so pretty Dartmouth.

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Rockfish looks out onto the harbour, sporting a very turquoise exterior that’s in keeping with its seaside location. Inside, the sea theme continues, with white washed walls, thick ropes and an open kitchen.

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We ordered fish, followed by fish, starting with two pints of Norwegian prawns (£9.50) and a plate of calamari (£7.50). It was nothing I hadn’t had before, but tasted all the more delicious when paired with the Rockfish slogan ‘Tomorrow’s fish are still in the sea’. Watch out Nemo.

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Mains were a mix of Haddock & Chips (£12.95), Plaice with Salad (£11.95) and my lovely South Devon Crab Roll (£9.95). Aside from the stack of chips, I’d managed to choose the healthiest option – two brioche baps cradling fresh, undressed crab meat with salady bits. It was lovely, but I should have picked deep fried, golden haddock, which – from the bite I tried – tasted superb.

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We decided to wander outside for dessert – a 99p Devon Ice Cream with the obligatory flake – so ended our meal at Rockfish with coffees (some Irish).

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I hope to return to Rockfish one day. The setting couldn’t be prettier and the food is exactly what you crave after breathing in so much pure, smogless air. So Rockfish, I’m giving you a healthy LLE Rating of 7.5/10.

Rockfish, 8 South Embankment, Dartmouth TQ6 9BH

The Hand & Flowers, Marlow

When Tom Kerridge opened The Hand & Flowers, he put pretty Marlow on the map. It’s a gastropub with two Michelin stars. A gastropub that’s been on my restaurant bucket list for well over a year.

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We booked at Christmas and went three weeks ago – something the hungry punters at the bar should have done. Our square, wooden table was at the back of the charming restaurant, complete with exposed beams, white-washed walls and wild flowers.

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We chose from the Michelin priced menu, whilst munching on complimentary white bait and bread. The homemade sourdough and soda was delightful and the lightly battered fish was dunked and devoured in an instance. We were off to a great start.

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Pumpkin soup from the very reasonable set menu (two courses for £15, three for £19.50) was velvety, nutty and made all the more special with aromatic truffle.

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Crab Ravioli (£11.50) had a wonderful flavour, but the best part sat on top – sweet, chargrilled calcot onion smothered in smokey butter. Delicious.

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Mains were Cornish Monkfish smeared in a peanut crumble and served with roasted cauliflower (£29.50) and a Half Beer Roast Chicken with Glazed Celariac and more of that tasty truffle (£28).

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The chicken was succulent and, much to my surprise, blew the monkfish out of the water. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the fish – who knew it went so well with peanut?

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Across the table sat pork belly from the set menu. The verdict was clear from the mmms, ahhhs and ‘this is the best crackling I’ve ever had!’ statements. Another hit.

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We couldn’t refuse a couple of sides (all £4.50 each), so chose Curly Kale with Crispy Ham Hock (a meal in itself) and the Hand & Flowers Chips – a staple for any good gastro.

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Dessert was a must. Sweet Malt Gateaux with Malted Milk Ice Cream (£9.50) wasn’t my usual choice, but Lent made chocolate off limits. It was presented beautifully, but for me, didn’t have as memorable a flavour as the other courses.

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Tom Kerridge – aka Mr Gastropub – deserves a handshake and a bunch of flowers. This bloomin’ marvellous pub gets a LLE Rating of 9/10 and a strong recommendation to anyone visiting or lucky enough to live in Marlow.

The Hand & Flowers, 126 West Street, Marlow SL7 2PB

The Bull Inn, Stanford Dingley

The Bull Inn is a great country pub. It has a great pub name, serves great pub food and has great pub owners. This greatness made us book it for dinner the day after Boxing Day – aka the day before the Grandparents flew back to Jersey.

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We had pre-booked a large round table in the corner of the room, but before we headed towards it, sat at the bar for a festive mulled wine. The menu was packed with 14 starters, nine mains and six sides. From this, I chose – with difficulty – Pan Fried Scallops with Pea Puree & Black Pudding to start (£10), followed by Whole Roast Cornish Sole for main (£20).

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Before I get onto the scallops, I’d like to mention the bread – something I rarely do unless it’s exceedingly good…or particularly bad. Sadly for The Bull, this bread was bad. I couldn’t even spread the butter without it disintegrating into a million crumbs. It was stale, end of story.

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The scallops were large and nicely cooked, but the whole dish had received a far too generous helping of salt, which the black pudding had absorbed on a grand scale. A real shame as it was so close to perfect.

The mains fared much better. I loved my Sole, which was massive and came with a surprise coating of generous pieces of crab meat and lobster. It came with a large portion of delicious, triple cooked chunky chips and the chef’s salad. I devoured the chips, ignored the salad and instead, tucked into Mum’s Seasonal Veg, which weirdly turned out to be a lovely bowl of steamed spinach (£3).

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For my already full stomach, pudding could only be ice cream – two scoops of Rum & Raisin and one of Mint Choc Chip. Each scoop was creamy and refreshingly cold. Just as ice cream should be.

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Despite its greatness, The Bull Inn made a few, avoidable mistakes when we visited on that dark December night. Please don’t let that put you off though, I’ve been before and always enjoyed it, so give it a well deserved LLE Rating of 7/10.

The Bull Inn, Stanford Dingley, Nr. Reading, Berkshire, RG7 6LS

The Crab at Chieveley, Nr. Newbury

This little gem in the middle of the Berkshire countryside was always going to be a hit with me. Why? Well it has the word ‘crab’ in its title.

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The restaurant is housed in a large, picturesque cottage you’d want to call ‘home’. The interior is typically rural, but a ceiling covered in nets and shells gives a touch of the seaside.

The menu is dominated by seafood, making my choice particularly difficult – how do you choose between Stuffed Baby Squid, Butter Poached Lobster and Pan Seared King Scallops to start? I ended up going with the waiter’s suggestion and eagerly awaited my scallops (£8.95).

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Each white, glistening scallop was just cooked through, exactly as it should be. They shared their plate with a couple of flavour enhancing clams, some crunchy, pickled baby carrots and a few shoots of samphire. It almost looked too good to eat. Almost…

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For main, the Monkfish Wellington won me over with its accompanying spinach puree, cubes of Kohl Rabi and a coating of smoked monkfish liver jus (£22). I was impressed by the tenderness of the meat as a golden pastry case can be drying. It was certainly one of the tastiest fish dishes I’d enjoyed in a long time.

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Next to me, Dad was hoping for a man-sized portion of Scallops (£21.95), but alas, the waiter produced one of The Crab’s few meat dishes – English Lamb Rack with a Dijon & Herb Crumb and Baked Moussaka (£23.50). He couldn’t deny its flavour or presentation, but the mistake left a bad taste in his mouth.

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Pudding was too tempting to refuse, so we shared an Assiette of Desserts between two (£14). Each long white plate displayed everything from creamy panacotta and a hunk of homemade honeycomb, to a ‘texture of chocolate’, lemon tart and poached baby pear. It was no more expensive than ordering a pudding each, so I’d heartily recommend this dream dessert.

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There’s so much more seafood to be had at The Crab at Chieveley, so I’ll definitely be back. My only criticisms are Dad’s main course mistake and the waiter’s slowness when filling up our wine (if you’re going to position it far from the table, keep an eye on everyone’s glasses!). And so, I’m giving The Crab a LLE Rating of 8/10.

The Crab at Cheiveley, Wantage Road, Newbury, RG20 8UE 

The Sportsman’s Arms, Nr. Harrogate

Giles Coren’s latest review reads like a well argued essay. He succinctly addresses the question: are London restaurants the best in the country? For him, the answer is an overwhelming ‘yes’.  For me, the answer is a well-balanced yes and no.

Yes, London has – and is spewing out – some of the best restaurants I’ve ever been to. No, I’ve eaten at heaps of non-London restaurants that are excellent in their own special ways, even if they lack big city pizazz.

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The Sportsman’s Arms in Pateley Bridge is a case in point. Even though its main dining room looks like it’s been decorated by grandma (mine has great taste, so that needn’t be a bad thing), it’s a charming restaurant with a menu stuffed full of local game and fresh fish.

I went in March when the weather was the same as today – bloody freezing. The Sportsman’s Arms made us forget the White Witch’s curse over our green and pleasant land, filling us with a delicious three course meal and plenty of wine.

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My choices had a distinctly fishy theme. To start, I went for Seared Shetland Isle Scallops on an onion and fennel confit, grilled pancetta and roquette pesto (£11.50), and for main, it was Roast Whitby Monkfish placed on top of beetroot risotto with more grilled pancetta and horseradish sauce (£19.50).

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The chef clearly knows how to treat his fish  – both the scallops and monkfish were expertly cooked, creating dishes fit for a little lady.  He also knows how well white fish goes with salty pancetta. A delicious combination that’s making my mouth water as I type.

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Before my non-fishy pudding, I managed to fit in a mouthful of nearby Roasted Loin of Venison on parsnip colcannon and tapanade (£19.50). I’ve had a lot of venison this year, so know how I like it – pink, tender and juicy. This venison certainly floated my boat and, on another visit, I think I’d choose deer over fish.

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Dessert was shared – Hannah’s Sticky Ginger Pudding, served with vanilla ice cream and toffee sauce (£6.50). I don’t know who Hannah is, but the woman deserves a pudding making medal. From the first taste, I wished it was all for me. The sponge was light, warmed by the ginger, and the oh so sweet toffee sauce calmed by creamy vanilla ice-cream. Mmm, mmmmmm.

I’ll finish by saying two things. One – Giles, why not pay The Sportsman’s Arms a visit, you might be pleasantly surprised. Two – this restaurant gets a LLE Rating of 8 / 10.

The Sportsmans Arms, Wath-in-Nidderdale, Pateley Bridge, Nr. Harrogate, North Yorkshire, HG3 5PP

Five things to do in Margate

Margate is a typical English seaside town – bustling in summer, quiet in winter. Margate is also one of the world’s top ten must-see destinations. Don’t believe me? Ask The Guardian.

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For that reason, we decided to spend last weekend in Margate to ‘get away from it all’. ‘It all’ being three, torturous, post Christmas days back at work.

So if you’re planning a beach holiday during these chilly months, my round-up below might make you choose Margate over Mauritius. The sensible option in these tough economic times.

1. Eat dinner at The Ambrette

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The Ambrette shouldn’t be judged by its cover. Its country pub exterior, no frills interior and ridiculously reasonable pricing paves the way for beautiful Michelin rated Indian food. Basically, it’s the Cinnamon Kitchen without the fuss.

For £40 a head we ate like kings, enjoying dishes that ranged from scallops, soft shell crab, sea-bream kedgeree and chocolate samosas, to complimentary spicy potato balls, orange granita with popping candy and an aromatic mushroom soup. That, and two bottles of very palatable house white.

The food was inventive and interesting. Each mouthful started with one flavour and ended with another – something that is only accomplished by a very clever chef.

2. Visit the Turner Contemporary Gallery 

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Overlooking the sea, this gallery is part of a major regeneration project for Margate, inspired by JMW Turner. Its mirrored exterior reflects the colours of the day, appearing particularly dramatic in winter. Inside it’s full of clean, white rooms, filled with artwork that for us, was selected and painted by American figurative artist Alex Katz.

Painting of woman in red blouse against green hillside

3. Grab a sandwich at The Greedy Cow

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Pastrami sandwiches, pulled pork buns, soups and cakes make up this cafe in the heart of the Old Town (the pretty part of Margate). The friendly staff, quick service and fresh food make The Greedy Cow a perfect place for a quick lunch.

4. Drink tea with The Mad Hatter

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The Mad Hatter tea rooms are like an eccentric version of my grandparents house. The wallpaper, ceilings and carpets are highly patterned, there are black and white photographs all over the walls and trinkets sit on top of every piece of furniture.

The Mad Hatter himself greets every customer, suited and booted in a top hat, braces and well fitted flared trousers. He also makes the delicious cakes, which for us was a light, moist, jam and cream packed Victoria Sponge.

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5. Visit the Shell Lady

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Ann Carrington’s Shell Lady sits at the end of The Harbour Arm (a 19th century stone pier) overlooking the sea. It’s worth saying hello to her whilst you walk along the stretch of sandy beach. After all, she is the only shell lady to endure the winter – the other twelve, delicate figures prefer to wait until the warm summer months.

The Pot Kiln, Yattendon

I’m not fanatical about the royals, but what girl doesn’t dream of being a princess. Well, on my birthday, I got to play Kate as we walked my slightly less glamorous one-eyed dog to The Pot Kiln (sorry Archie), just a hop, skip and a jump away from the Middleton’s family residence.

Anyway, you’re not here to read about my dog walking, so on to the food. Ever since I sunk my teeth into one of their delicious venison scotch eggs at the end of last year, I’ve wanted to go back to The Pot Kiln for dinner.

With a menu that might give vegetarians sleepless nights and vegans nightmares, almost everything hinges on meat either shot on the neighbouring estates, or caught off the coast of Cornwall. As a fish lover, I ordered the Oak Smoked Mackerel Croquettes to start and Roast Cornish Bream with Mussels, Watercress and Sea Spinach for main.

Both courses reaffirmed my love of good gastropub grub – the croquettes were crisp, sweet and perfectly teamed with the sauce gribiche (a cold egg sauce with pickles and capers) and my main was bursting with fishy flavour from the bream, mussels and salinity of the sea spinach.

As for the die hard meat eaters, my parents shared a Haunch of Deer from the specials menu, and what a haunch it was – there was enough tender, juicy meat and roasted, garlicky vegetables to feed four hungry men, which pleased my dad as the majority was taken home in a doggy bag ready to be devoured the next day.

Personally, if I’d gone with meat for my main, I would have sided with The Boyfriend, who went for Hereford Beef Cheeks with crispy shallots and celeriac mash. Fortunately for me, the boyfriend was feeling a little under the weather, so I was allowed to demolish half the divine dish that quite literally melted in the mouth.

For pudding, we all shared a chocolate mousse topped with honeycomb and raspberries…

…and rhubarb and ginger fool, with a rich compote at the bottom and oaty, ginger biscuits on the side. They didn’t last long, so must have tasted pretty good – sadly the happy haze of gluttony had overwhelmed me and my memory by that stage.

I will give The Pot Kiln a LLE Rating of 9/10. It’s by far the best and most satisfying pub food I’ve tasted, whether snacking on a Scotch egg at the bar, or feasting on half a deer in the restaurant. Food this good does come at a price though – around £35 a head without wine – but it’s worth it and you’d be hard pushed to find the same quality in London without paying more.

The Pot Kiln, Frilsham, nr Yattendon RG18 0XX