Tag Archives: monkfish

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

Kaspar’s Seafood Bar & Grill, The Savoy

Kaspar is not just any cat. He’s is two foot high, shiny black cat that’s been The Savoy’s Fourteenth Guest since 1926.

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He’s reassured superstitious diners at a tables of 13 for almost 100 years. I won’t go into why – a simple ‘Google’ will fill the gaps – but I shall say that his job’s so important, The Savoy named its river restaurant after him following the multi-million pound restoration of 2010.

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The restaurant is Art Deco fabulousness, just like Kaspar. Overlooking the Thames, it’s bustling, vibrant and relaxed – a stark contrast to the prim and proper Thames Foyer next door.

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Covered in mirrors, turquoise chairs, a chequerboard marble floor and brass railings, everything circles the central seafood bar, which has stunning stalagmites of glass hanging precariously above busy waiters serving Champagne, oysters and other oceanic delights.

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I’ve been to Kaspar’s twice – once for breakfast and the other time at lunch. The breakfast menu is enormous, covering off the classics, the continental, Kaspar’s more unusual Breakfast Favourites and a Japanese and Chinese selection if you fancy something exotic.

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I was drawn to Cornish Crab on an English Muffin with a Fried Egg (£17), but settled with a less adventurous, but absolute favourite, Salmon Royal (also £17). Oozing poached eggs fell on thick cut salmon and lightly toasted muffins, covered in a golden, lemony sauce. On the side, an endless supply of orange juice, fresh strawberry & raspberry tea and rye bread smothered in fruity jam filled my stomach. I was in breakfast heaven.

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Lunchtime was all about the fish, starting with a cured platter from the central bar (£22). Beetroot Cured Halibut, Peppered Monkfish and Star Anise Cured Salmon all had enormous flavour, needing nothing more than a vessel of toast and a squeeze of lemon.

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Dover Sole came ‘from the grill’, covered in a brown caper butter sauce (£35). The simple white meat was succulent and rich, accompanied by well executed sides of Sautéed Spinach and Chilli Garlic Fried Sprouting Broccoli (£4 each).

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If I’m as lucky as Kaspar, I’ll get to dine at his restaurant for a third time – perhaps in the evening when the Thames is aglow with our city’s lights. Until then, I’ll give him a pat on the head and a very well deserved LLE Rating of 8/10.

Kaspar’s Seafood Bar & Grill, The Savoy, The Strand, London WC2R 0EU

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Paramount, Soho

Paramount has had a hard time of late. First Duck & Waffle opened in the Heron Tower, stealing its crown as London’s highest restaurant. Then, The Shard poked its pointy nose in with Oblix – the new dinner destination for hungry tourists. Oh dear Paramount, what’s a 149-meter restaurant to do?

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Luckily for Paramount, it can rest assured that it still has an incredible view of the Capital, serves tastier food than the poorly reviewed Oblix and – unlike its towering rivals – can usually be booked at a moments notice. Read more…

Paramount, Centre Point, 101-103 New Oxford Street, WC1A 1DD

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

Seven Nights in Sicily

If I learned anything in Sicily, it’s that Brits eat cake at the wrong time of the day. In the land of The Godfather, I had cake for breakfast…every morning. The benefit? It gave my body the chance to burn off my sweet fix during the day. Well, it would have done if I hadn’t eaten gelato every evening.

We went to Sicily for the sun, scenery, beaches and food. Louisa – the lovely lady we rented Villa Britannia from –  really helped us with this, particularly when it came to finding the best, most traditional restaurants in Taormina.

On night one, we were tired. I will kindly say we accidentally booked flights into the wrong side of the island – The Boyfriend knows the truth (don’t you). Nearly four hours on a plane, the same amount of time on a bus and a short taxi ride took us to Villa Britannia and Louisa, who quickly booked us dinner at L’Arco dei Cappuccini.

We were given a glass of Prosecco when we got to the restaurant, which was followed by wine, antipasti, primi and secondi. Nothing disappointed me, not the melt in the mouth fish carpaccio, the Tagliatelle con Vongole or the pan fried monkfish. Yes, the Sicilians eat a lot. But we soon grew accustomed to this.

We had pizza on the second night. The Boyfriend predicted it wouldn’t be great and, annoyingly for both of us, he was right. But luckily, the atmosphere at Granduca made up for it. As did the gelato afterwards.

By Wednesday, we craved something homemade. Louisa came to the rescue, letting us cook our take on Spaghetti (Tagliatelle) Carbonara at ‘home’.

We were out on the town again on Thursday. By that, I mean dinner at the beautiful Cucina Tipica Siciliana, followed by yet more gelato. Here, the best course was the Antipasti of deep fried courgette flowers stuffed with tuna. I’d only ever eaten the flowers stuffed with cheese, so fish came as a welcome change.

We were now over half way through our week in Sicily, so conversations were dominated by hypothetical questions like ‘if you were to live / buy a holiday home somewhere, where would it be?’ Ah, those wishful thoughts that make you feel a tiny bit better at the end of your holiday.

We visited Taverna Al Paladino on night five and the combination of friendly waiters and well priced food and wine gave us every reason to go back on the sixth night. It was here that we had Sicilian speciality Pasta alla Norma, which was simply delicious. Oh, and we also had mussels, tuna carpaccio, another serving of Spaghetti Con Vongole and bread, glorious bread.

We spent our final night at Hotel Principe di Villafranca in Palermo, a little gem we booked through Secret Escapes. The two words that sum up this hotel for me are ‘air conditioning’. For the first time in a week, we went from 40 degrees heat to a temperature that made me wish I’d brought a jumper. Food wise, we decided to eat in the hotel’s small restaurant. It wasn’t amazing, but I enjoyed the aubergine stack we had for starter and still managed to stuff enough food in my mouth to fall into a deep sleep before our early start the next day.

An entire week has past since Sicily and the thought of sitting in these restaurants feels like a dream. At least the UK heatwave, team GB’s medals and watching Bolt fly have softened the blow of work and a pretty hefty credit card bill.