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Everything posted by MacD

  1. You're welcome - glad you enjoyed it. And yes, Egullet seems to have a died a very sudden death over the last few years - it's a shame as it's one of the few places that isn't all about London. I wonder where the original poster settled on - I think one of the reasons forums like this fade away is the lack of feedback after someone has asked for (and received) recommendations.
  2. Italian Club Fish in Liverpool does have lobster on its menu - I really like the place, but it's not smart or fine dining in any sense - more of a buzzy Milan cafe atmosphere. The food is generally very good, but I've not tried their lobster. The best place for lobster is the West coast of Scotland, but that is a bit outside your 150 mile range. You could look at places on the NE coast of England though - perhaps the Magpie Cafe in Whitby? But this is even less 'fine dining' - very much a cafe and you need to queue to get in - but if you don't need to eat on a Friday or Saturday, then you should be fine to get a table quickly.
  3. I think the potential problem with medium rare burgers is that the raw meat inside gets warm, which allows bacteria to breed. For some reason this is more dodgey for mince than it is for a whole steak - probably because there is more of a chance that the mince will have picked up bacteria while being minced. With raw beef, there is obviously no danger of it being half cooked/warmed up.
  4. Saracens at Hadnall, Shropshire Quite a find in an area without many options. We were originally going to try the Inn at Grinshall in ...erm ... Grinshill, which gets a good write up in the Hardens Guide, but they weren't serving food (and it was a Saturday lunch time). I think there might have been a wedding on or something - I certainly don't think the red carpet outside was on our behalf. Anyway, we decided to continue our drive South on the A49 and take pot luck at the first pub that looked half decent. We stopped at the Saracen, which is right on the main road in the village of Hadnall. We nearly didn't go in because, looking at their menus outside, it looked like they only did full-on three course meals or tasting menus, and we only wanted a snack, as we were having a big meal that evening. But we went in and asked if they did small dishes or snacks, and they produced their "Express Menu", which is served at lunch times. It reads very like a brunch-type menu, but it looked interesting,so we gave it a go. I had the Saracens Salmon Bagel - perfectly cooked scrambled duck egg with smoked salmon on half a bagel, with a little thin creamy sauce - rich and satisfying, it hit the spot. My partner had the Eggs Benedict, which was also great - duck egg again, with a lovely hollandaise and bacon too. This isn't much to judge a place by, but we were very impressed. Even though we were only having a snack, we were nicely surprised by the amuse bouches they brought to the table before our meals - they brought me a beignet with apple and something else I can't remember, which was delicious, and for my husband (who has recently discovered a wheat intolerance) a spoonful of crab and mayonaise, which was also spot on. They also had gluten-free bread to replace the muffin his dish was supposed to come with. The lads serving were lovely and trying hard to provide restaurant service rather than pub-type service. I'm not bothered about having formal service - I prefer things to be informal - but they are clearly aiming at a fine dining type experience for customers while still being friendly and approachable. The chef is Jason Hodnett - I didn't know his name, but he's had something to do with Masterchef in the past. They have apparently had a bit of a makeover in the kitchen and it looks like they have high aspirations. We ate in the bar - which is small, but perfectly formed, but the only part of the building which still feels like a pub. The rest is very much a restaurant - there is a garden/conservatory dining room at the back, and a lovely light and elegant but simple room at the front. We will definitely stop here if we are driving down this side of the country from Liverpool - and it's also probably near enough for a lunch before a long walk if we fancy a day out in the countryside. I've got a feeling after writing this that I'll get loads of replies from people saying that it's been well known as a destination restaurant for years. Oh well - maybe we haven't "discovered" it for other people, but we've discovered it for ourselves!
  5. Me too, Spanish coffee has never been great, still too much UHT milk being used Strangely, while I hate UHT milk in normal circumstances, I really enjoy the coffee you can get in some Spanish and French cafes which are made with UHT - and are often served in a glass/glass cup. It feels sort of comforting.
  6. Spot on - I guess they are going to be targeting people like my aged Mother who likes her coffee, really, really milky, but probably finds the like of Starbucks and Costa a bit too intimidating. Incidentally I never go to Starbucks or Costa - I find their coffee really disappointing - is it just me? No - I'm the same. Aside from the fact that I hate what Starbucks and their ilk represent, if I have been dragged into one by someone, I never know what to order - I generally like white coffee, but if I have a caffe latte or a cappuccino I end up feeling really sick for some time afterwards. I think it's the amount of milk and the fact that it's heated up, which makes it taste sweeter. I now just ask for coffee with cold milk - so you get to put in the amount you want.
  7. The language of the American Northwest is Italian?! News to me In Italy, if you request 'latte' in a coffe shop, they'd probably look at you like you had rocks in your head, but they just might decide to give you what you requested: a glass or cup of milk. I suspect Debenhams of smugly inverted snobbery as a marketing gimmick, not any real concern for clarity. But then again, if the end result is clarity, who cares? Hear hear - it might be a marketing gimmick, but I'm glad they've done it. And the use of the word "latte" to describe coffee with milk has annoyed me for years. I know it's only an abbreviation, but I'd love to just give people a glass of milk )
  8. My favourite probably has to be Jay Rayner - but I don't often read other Sunday papers, so can't really make fair comparisons. I like his balance between food comment and other stuff - and he strikes me as a messy eater who ends up with food all down his shirt, which is what I'm like. The critics who really annoy me are the ones which use up 3/4 of their column space talking about something unrelated to the food - and often not even related to the restaurant. I think Matthew Fort comes across as a bit pompous, and when Matthew Norman used to write the Guardian column, he drove me mad with his really long, over complicated sentences, with more parentheses than you could poke a sharp stick at. I sometimes needed to reread a sentence four times before I could work out what he was saying. Almost like he was trying to be too clever, but lost the flow of the piece by doing it.
  9. It's strange - I guess all of us have different views of what is good service. I certainly dislike anything too stiff, formal and humourless - it just makes me feel tense. But it surprises me when you say that the staff were lovely and relaxed - we were there just under a year ago, and the last thing I could say was that they were relaxed - it took us about two hours to get them to take the rods out of their backs. It felt a bit like it wasn't a very happy work place. Having said that, when they did finally relax and smile, they were lovely.
  10. It may be a bit far - 16 miles or so according to google maps - but the Lunesdale Arms is good. I've not been there for a few years, but the same person is running it. http://www.thelunesdale.co.uk/
  11. Just back from lunch at the Lord Clyde, thanks to your recommendation, John. It was just as well that we had planned to eat here 2/3 of the way through a 6 or 7 mile walk - we needed the exercise - both to work up a suitably large appetite and to walk off our indulgences. We had the NW platter, which was amazing - all of it was very good, but highlights were the strangely light black pudding fritters and the potted shrimps - the best I've had. I love cheese in small quantities, so the cheese croquettes were slightly too much for me - but they were incredible - usually you expect to have lots of mashed potato and little else - but these were pretty much all cheese, and beautifully done. I had the Shin of beef with the pea risotto, which was very, very good - but I couldn't manage it all - it really is a very rich dish, especially the beef. And the combination of pea risotto and beef did work very well. I loved it, but would probably choose something lighter next time (and there will be a next time) it was just too much for me. My husband had the fish, chips and mushy peas, which was great. Thanks for the recommendation - it's a great find. Great food and a nice laid back atmosphere - we will be back for more, but will probably need to walk further next time to earn it!
  12. Meltons and Meltons Too. Meltons is a long-standing highlight in a city with not very many good options. I haven't eaten there for years, but I believe it is still rated highly. Meltons Too is a more relaxed wine bar-type place. I think it gets mixed reviews, but when we went a year or two back, for a pre-wedding family get together, I was really impressed with all the dishes and with the way they coped with having a large group in their back room. We had our own menu too, with three choices for each course. Others on here may have more recent experiences of these places and others.
  13. Good to see a list that isn't just made up of top fine-dining places. I've been to a few michelin starred places in my time, but nowhere near as many as people on this board. I have enjoyed all of those meals, but I'm now coming to the conclusion that the overall experience at these places is not as enjoyable as others, where the atmosphere is more relaxed and the people are more approachable and friendly. Others on here have mentioned that they are no longer enjoying long tasting menus, and this may be part of the problem - too many small amounts of very "techy" and accompished dishes, which end up blinding us to what it is we have enjoyed. It sounds awful, but I went to L'Enclume for the first time at the end of last year, and, while the food was amazing, I'm not sure that it would get into my top ten list. The staff were so stiff and the atmosphere so formal that we felt stiffled. We did manage to crack the staff by the end of the night and enjoy ourselves, but it took some work to do this! I have to say that a lunch we had in a cafe in the hills in Spain, which consisted of fried chorizo in honey, salad, a decent paella, dessert and rough house wine (60 Euros for four people), was far more memorable and will stay with me longer than the experience at L'Enclume and some other fine-dining places. I like a sense of occasion, but I don't think this should replace enjoyment and "human" interaction with the staff. I'm glad you included La Cerisaie - I've only been once and loved it. We only had the money for one decent meal in Paris and I did lots of research - I was very pleased that we found it, as it so rarely gets mentioned on reveiw websites like this.
  14. I have to say that Jay is probably my favourite - I say "probably" only because I like his writing style and he is the only one I read regularly because that's the Sunday paper I buy. I used to hate Matthew Norman's reviews in the Guardian because he uses painfully long and complicated sentences, over using parentheses and side tracking at every opportunity - I had to read each sentence three or four times just to understand what he was on about ... The food writers in the Liverpool Echo are toe-curlingly bad - using every cliche and non-word possible (eg. "flavoursome", "got the thumbs up from me", "washed down with", "fell off the bone"). And also every review starts with a little story/surprise, which they return to at the end - you can easily spot that they have been on a two-day "how to write a review" training course. Is this common with local newspapers?
  15. I'm off to L'Enclume for the first time for my 50th birthday later this month, and am really looking forward to it (although not so much after reading your review, Chef Hermes ... I hope I enjoy it more than you did). Anyway, just a couple of questions for those in the know - how often do they change the menu (ie. will the menu currently on their site be the one we get?), and do they offer a wine matching option yet? There is little or nothing on the site about the wines they have.
  16. You will be very near a great Burmese cafe called Mandalay on Edgware Road. They do fantastic food at really reasonable prices. It is very informal, so they may well do takeaway, but they don't mention delivery. It could be near enough for one of you to go and pick it up after phoning through an order. http://www.mandalayway.com If you do decide to try it - order their pickled style lamb - amazing (and I would love the recipe...). Google the restaurant name to get recommendations for what to order and read the stuff on their website about Burmese food.
  17. Thanks for this review - I have been once and thought the food was pretty damn good, but there were quite a few dodgey reviews when it first opened, and I had started to doubt my impression of it being actually a very good meal, although a little pricey.
  18. A friend recommended the Jumble Room in Grasmere, and it looks lovely. http://www.thejumbleroom.co.uk/The_Jumble_Room.html
  19. I'm confused - in February, Sped said the Hilbark had closed down - is it still open? Also, has anyone been to the Collingwood?
  20. I've just remembered that a colleague of mine used to eat at the Auberge in Southport every week and really rated it. I only went once, and thought it was pretty good - very straightforward French place, but ten years ago it was worth going to - not sure what it's like now (or if it even exists).
  21. If you're willing to travel to Liverpool, it's worth searching this forum for recommendations. There aren't many threads, but one with my recommendations is:
  22. I've been to Mr Underhills and it was excellent and good value because it was a no-choice menu - not sure if that's still what they do, and can't comment on whether standards are still high, as it was many years ago that we went. Reviews seem to have been consistently positive over the years. Not sure of the distance from Coventry - it might be a bit more than 50 miles, but is it worth trying the accommodation attached the the Olive Branch in Clipsham?
  23. The Berkeley Arms, Wymondham, Leicestershire We went here for Sunday lunch a week ago, and it was one of the best pub meals I have had in a while. It's a lovely place, not far from Rutland Water - and quite handy for the A1. It's nicely furnished, with an open fire and areas for drinkers who don't want to eat. I thought it might be a good bet, as I had read that the new (ish) owners used to work at Hambleton Hall just down the road, which always gets great reviews and has a Michelin Star. All four starters were good - a decent prawn cocktail (I don't care what they say, I love it); a pork, chicken liver and pistachio pate; mushrooms and poached egg on toast and a goats cheese dish, which I can't remember the details of, but the bit I tasted was very good. Two of us had the roast beef - cooked beautifully to a pinky red; one had the roast pork, which was perfectly cooked - not always easy with loin, and one had a delicious salmon dish, served with a tomato tarte tatin, and some other things I can't remember. The roasties were great - the best I've had outside of my own kitchen - and cooked with goose fat I think. The gravy served with the beef was pretty good, but it was slightly sweet tasting, which I wasn't sure about. And they serve it with a mean homemade horseradish. Portions (particularly of the meat dishes) were huge, so we were too full for pudding, but the list was tempting - including three of my favourites: creme brulee, bread and butter pudding and pannacotta with rhubarb. The other menus read well - mostly British dishes, with a few French and mediterranean influences, and they try to source as much as they can locally. They know what they are doing in the kitchen - the food is simply done, but with a few interesting twists, and the ingredients are good quality. Prices were reasonable for this standard of cooking - £18 for two courses and £21 for three. Lunch deals during the week are a fair bit cheaper, and there is an a la carte and a bar menu too. A two course lunch for four people, with a bottle of red, glass of white, a soft drink and two pints of bitter came to £120, including tip.
  24. Chilli Chilli is on Nelson St in China Town - is that the one you pass? I'm asking just because it's not somewhere I'd pass on the way to any station ) And their Sichuan menu is quite short, so if/when you go, it's worth asking if they do any dishes you can't see on it, as they have a separate menu for Chinese people.
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