UK


You know that feeling when you desperately need to get out of the big city? Yeah, that was us a few weeks ago and we organised a trip out to Lymington by the sea (it’s just on the edge of the New Forest) for the last long weekend. It was more about the fresh air (ok, and the full English breakfasts at our B&B) than the food but we still managed to eat well without really trying.

Upon arrival at Lymington (we took trains, changing at Brockenhurst), I dragged us both first to The Buttery for lunch where we split an order of scampi and chips and then the finest Bakewell tart we’d ever had.

Scampi and Chips

Bakewell Tart

The Buttery
19-20 High St
Lymington, Hampshire
SO41 9AD

Here was the reason we went to Lymington – wide open spaces, forest trails, long walks by the sea…

To the Sea

…that lead to pubs by marinas (this was The Mayflower) where they served things like a Cumberland sausage sizzler with perfect chips and delicious Caesar salads topped with salmon fishcakes.

Cumberland Sausage Sizzler

Chips

Salmon Fishcakes Caesar Salad

The Mayflower
King’s Saltern Road
Lymington, Hampshire
SO41 3QD

On the Sunday, after a morning stomping about the Buckland Rings, we headed for The Walhampton Arms for a massive Sunday carvery lunch … well, hehe, for me as Blai went for a lighter roast trout option.

Carvery Lunch

Grilled Trout

Carvery for me ask the way! To go with my choice of roast beef there were at least four types of vegetable, stuffing balls, sausages, roast potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, and plenty of gravy. And homemade horseradish sauce!

The Walhampton Arms
Walhampton Hill
Lymington, Hampshire
SO41 5RE

Soon afterwards, we happened upon a pick-your-own strawberry farm. Can you believe that Goodall’s Strawberries has been growing strong (ha!) for over 100 years?

PYO Strawberry Stand

Strawberry Plants

I think we did pretty well! We gorged on those big sweet strawberries for two days.

Our Strawberries

If you’re planning on going to Goodall’s for strawberries, hustle on down as their season ends in early July, I believe.

Goodall’s Strawberries
South Baddesley Rd
Lymington, Hampshire
SO41 5SH

But on our last day, we returned once again to our favourite place in Lymington, The Buttery. One round of generously filled fresh crab and shrimp sandwiches and a slice of delectable coffee sponge and we were sorted for lunch.

Crab and Shrimp Sandwiches

Coffee Sponge

We also brought home a whole boxful of their goodies – their lemon drizzle is highly recommended.

All in all, it’s a pretty pleasant place to spend a long weekend. Oh, I almost forgot! Get some locally made New Forest Ice Cream. That top scoop was Millionaires Shortbread…shortbread, caramel and chocolate swirled through!

New Forest Ice Cream

It was a much needed trip and thank goodness the weather was good! We didn’t have time for it this trip (we were too busy exploring all the local public footpaths) but crabbing seems to be the thing to do at the old quay.

Untitled

All my photos from this trip can be seen in this Flickr photoset.

We’re obviously very dedicated to the Christmas market. Last weekend saw my friend and I take a train to Birmingham to check out their Frankfurt Christmas Market. We arrived at about 1pm and left by a 7pm train (times are approximate!). It was quite easy to find – it’s all located at the centre of the city, just outside the Bullring. We encountered stall upon stall upon stall of German food, drink, and Christmas gifts and decorations.

Giant Christmas Pyramid

The eating started as soon as we saw a stand selling freshly fried potato pancakes. We opted for a dollop of oniony sour cream on the side and munch away we did. I was surprised by the addition of some kind of grain to the potato base but it added a good crunch to the fried fritter.

Potato Pancake

As soon as the last bite went down, we queued for bratwursts – one white and one red, both to share. I love both – the milder white and the punchier smoked red.

Bratwursts

Gluhwein for Roxanne and hot chocolate for me. And yes, we kept our mugs as souvenirs (you pay a deposit for it).

Hot Chocolate

There was room for a shared pretzel…

Pretzels

…and two kinds of fried doughnuts too. The quarkbällchen was made with quark, the German fresh cheese, and a paper cone of schmalzkuchen was freshly fried and dusted with lots of powdered sugar.

Quarkbällchen

Frying

They all went down much too easily.

Schmalzkuchen with Powdered Sugar

Schokokuss (chocolate kisses) were purchased to take home. While everyone was queuing to buy packs of 10 or 12, I’m glad I showed restraint and only purchased a couple (they’re filled with marshmallow inside…soft, sticky, intensely sweet marshmallow).

Schokokuss

It was with a little difficulty that we put down our final savoury bites for the day – they had to be frankfurters! That photo below shows mine – I swear there’s a frankfurter underneath all those pickles and crispy fried onions.

Frankfurter

Overall, a most successful eating day!

At Night

Other edibles to look out for are the 1/2 metre long bratwursts, the cheese skewers that are battered and fried, hot chocolate spoons, roast pork shanks, huge roasting hams, cream cakes, and a huge variety of Haribo.

It’s a long journey on a slow train on a Sunday and is probably more manageable on a weekday or Saturday. If you’re utterly in love with Christmas markets, then it’s possibly worth the travel but otherwise I’d recommend visiting if you’re in the region!

All my photos from the day can be found in this Flickr photoset.

It must be pretty obvious now that the best stuff to eat in Leicester is South Asian food. There was a lot of immigration to the city in the last century and the majority of the immigrants were of South Asian origin and thus, there are now a lot of Asian restaurants from which to pick. Many of these are situated along Belgrave Road. My brother took us to one much further down Belgrave Road, where it changes to Melton Road. Here was a stand-alone building housing Feast India, a very popular buffet restaurant.

Feast India

I had no idea what to expect of Feast India but it wasn’t this! The place was big with lots of different counters (each given a cheesy name) and it was absolutely packed with diners made up of families and friends and work groups. Behind each of the counters was a man (or a small army of men) preparing fresh food. There was such variety but you still may not see what I got to try that night – my brother told me that a lot of the curries are under rotation.

Let’s have a look around at the food on offer! A tuk tuk greets you at the entrance. Apart from looking the part, it served double duty as a salad counter.

Tuk Tuk Salad Counter

In the middle was a big open kitchen with counters all around it – ‘Masala 360°‘, they called it. Here was a large selection of veggie and meat curries, freshly made flatbreads, rice and biryanis and fried starters. At one corner one could find all Indian-Chinese dishes – chicken and sweetcorn soup, chilli paneer, salt and pepper squid and more.

Masala 360

The Southern Indian foods and pizza stands are next to each other. The latter (‘Pizza Hatti‘) was offered slices of freshly made pizza with Indian toppings; while this was popular with children, I avoided it. I stuck to the ‘Balu’s Southern Bhavan‘ side of things with the dosa man making fresh dosas to order. From what I gathered, plain dosas, masala dosas and cheese dosas were definitely available. You could also order an uttapam or help yourself to idlis.

The Dosa Man

A variety of street snacks could be found at the ‘Bombay Chaat Waat‘. People were crowding around the man who prepared the pani puri, dipping stuffed puri bites in spiced water before depositing them onto your plate; they were all popping them right there and then.

Bombay Chaat Waat

At the ‘Great Kebab Factory‘, fresh kebabs and chicken and paneer tikkas were being grilled right under our noses.

The Great Kebab Factory

There was quite a selection of desserts too. These little cups caught my eye, all filled with jellies and yogurts and kheers. In addition, there was a selection of eggless cakes, some traditional Indian sweets and a whole ice cream display freezer full of kulfis and sorbets.

Desserts

I attempted to sample as much as possible that night. To see what everything on my plates was, please do click through on the photos to see where I’ve labelled everything on Flickr.

First, A Masala Dosa

My First Plate

My Second Plate

My Third Plate

My Dessert Plate

My Last Plate

I didn’t manage to try everything but I was utterly stuffed! The masala dosa was excellent, all thin and crispy, as were the sambhar and chutneys. The pani puri were also very good and I joined the group around the chaat man to munch on freshly prepared ones; leave them too long and they’ll be soggy. Biryanis and freshly made naans were fantastic. The vegetables and vegetable curries were all excellent and so too were most of the meat ones (the lamb curries could have been cooked to further tenderness though). The fish dishes, in particular, were brilliant – there was an excellent southern Indian fish curry and brilliant lime fish pakoras.

Skip the aloo tikki, which was hard to the point of inedible; I also found the kebabs a bit dry but perhaps I chose pieces that were too small as they were all going fast.

Desserts were fine though from my sampling of ice cream, go with the kulfi rather than the sorbet. The Indian sweets were all lovely – gulab jamun and a thick yogurt dessert were excellent.

The cost for dinner is currently £14.95 per person (£11.50 for Sunday lunch and less also for children). I’m definitely a fan! With the variety and quality on offer, it’s closer to the high-end buffets you find in Asia rather than here in the UK and gosh darn it, it’s fun. It’s a great place for large groups too but do book in advance.

Feast India
411 Melton Road
Leicester LE4 7PA

Feast India on Urbanspoon

I was up in Leicester last week to see my brother graduate and as he’s now moving down to London, I knew that this would be my last visit up to Leicester for a while. My brother had arranged to take us to all his favourite spots before he left and when I was given a choice of popular Indian restaurant off Belgrave Road (he recommends Blue Peter) or a cheap, little, out-of-the-way place where mainly Indian factory workers have their lunch. Well obviously I’d choose the latter and it turned out to be Rahat.

Rahat is more like a takeaway shop with space for eating – don’t expect luxury here. The tables and chairs are simple, there are jugs of tap water available and there’s a Bollywood film blasting away behind the counter. My brother gave me the lowdown – the menu is just a guide of sorts and not everything will be available. We interrogated the smiling man behind the counter on what they had in their kitchen. Chicken karahi, lamb karahi, chicken with spinach, lamb with spinach.

“Do you have dry meat?”, I asked. He replied, “Yes!” “Do you have keema?”, asked my brother. He replied, “No!” Another man came from the back and muttered a few things to him. He suddenly brightened and went, “We also have fish masala and king prawns!”

We made our order and in addition to naans, we asked for some pilao rice. The kind man’s face dropped – there was no pilao rice that day. We shrugged and said ok but he called us back soon after, the smile having returned to his face. “We can give you the rice from the akhni pilao. Normally this has lamb on top but we’ll just give you the rice!”. Great!

We retired to the table by the window where my father had installed himself and waited to eat. It didn’t take long before the man came along with lots of dishes to pepper our table.

A complimentary salad plate was first placed before us and I started tasting the yogurt based dressing on the side (what is that sauce called?). Despite its innocent looks and to my surprise, it was very very hot and spicy!

A Very Spicy Yoghurt and Salad

Dry Meat was less dry than I was expecting but still very moreish with lots of tender lamb.

Dry Meat

The Fish Masala was my favourite of the curries and I certainly ate more than my fair share of this. The light but highly spiced curry went well with the delicate white fish fillets.

Fish Masala

Karahi Chicken was pretty fiery and delicious but was a little let down by the use of chunks of chicken breast. It would have been ace with dark meat. I really enjoyed the different spice combinations used in the curries – it was clear that each had been cooked from scratch and they all didn’t start from the same curry base.

Chicken Karahi

The rice from the Akhni Pilao (we had two plates!) was still studded with lots of lamb and was richly flavoured and spiced. It was probably better eaten by itself than with the rest of the curries.

Akhni Pilao

Naans were fresh and hot and soft and crispy and perfect for mopping up the curries.

Naans

But that wasn’t all! The smiling man came along to our table with a gift – a “Special Salad” that he’d sprinkled with a spice mix – I think it must’ve been a chaat masala or something similar.

"Special Salad"

He then returned with another gift from the kitchen – a dish of the King Prawn Masala he’d mentioned before. The prawns were fantastic and in another highly spiced but slightly gelatinous sauce.

King Prawn Masala

It was a ridiculous amount of food and of course we didn’t finish it all. We were stuffed and it had all been excellent. I started guessing how much the total would be; my brother started with £18, I went with £22 and my father went in between with £20.

Dinner at Rahat in Leicester

(Yes, that’s an Instagram photo – you can find me there as sulineats).

So, the grand total (with two cans of soda)? A mind blowing £16. It turned out that the kind man behind the counter had judged portion sizes for us and had given us small portions rather than the medium (~£4-5) and large (~£7-8) portion sizes listed on the menu. How kind – they’re all truly friendly there! Anything more would have been too much for the three of us.

My brother tells me the naan wraps there are great for a quick lunch or they’ll serve you rice or naan and a curry for a song. It’s quite the little gem.

Rahat
1 Suffolk Street/437 St Saviours Road (it’s on the corner)
Leicester LE5 4JA/4HH

When asked where we could meet outside of London for a meal, I suggested The Sportsman at Seasalter, Kent, a pub/restaurant I’ve been wanting to visit for ages, to my friend. The date was duly set and the restaurant booked (though not far ahead enough to order their famous tasting menu) and off we went recently for a lunch by the sea. I was very lucky that my friends had a vehicle to take us there – it’s only about an hour’s drive out of London. Otherwise, it would have been a train to Whitstable and then a taxi to the restaurant…or should I say pub? There’s nothing on its exterior that would give any indication of the delicious food they serve inside. It really looked like any other pub along the narrow, winding road – well, perhaps apart from the number of cars parked outside.

The Sportsman

Inside it does still look like most pubs, albeit a pub with quite a bit of seating for dining. We were welcomed at the bar by the very kind Phil Harris, one of two brothers who own the place (his brother Steve was in the kitchen along with head chef Dan Flavell). As a bit of a geek myself, it was fascinating to learn that Phil’s hobby is building computers that play chess as evinced by one of the trompe l’oeil paintings in the conservatory and the large rook piece used to hold open the front door to let the breeze in.

At The Sportsman, unlike many pubs, almost all the meat and produce is sourced locally and their menu changes daily based on what is available. It’s certainly quite the place to visit if you enjoy your food as the many reviews it’s got signifies. If you’re curious to see them, I’ve uploaded the a la carte and dessert menus for that day onto Flickr.

Soon after we sat down, homemade bread and butter were brought out, along with some delicious, plump, green olives. The focaccia style bread was studded with caramelised onions and the brown sourdough had the most amazing crust but our favourite was the dark brown soda bread that had a sweet maltiness from the addition of molasses. Absolutely gorgeous stuff and I’m still thinking about it. We tried our best not to fill up on that bread.

Bread, Butter and Olives

To start, I had to try their Slip Sole Grilled in Seaweed Butter, a dish I’d heard lots about. It was exactly what it was and its preparation highlighted the freshness of the fish and well, the deliciousness of the butter. So good, so tender, so I want more please.

Slip Sole Grilled in Seaweed Butter

My friend tried their Chilled Beetroot Soup which looked absolutely beautiful and tasted absolutely stunning. Again, simple but very well executed. (If all beetroot preparations tasted like this, I might be more of a fan.)

Chilled Beetroot Soup

I sought Phil’s opinion on what I should have for my main course and he suggested the Roast Belly of Monkshill Farm Pork with Crackling and Apple Sauce. Yes, oh yes, I do like me some pork belly and this was amazing. The top of the tender belly had the finest piece of crackling I’d ever had in a restaurant. Again, this was seemingly so simple but Phil then told us that they confit their pork belly in goose fat…. so yeah, not so simple really! And the apple sauce too: I was scraping that little potful clean. (Apologies, we started tucking into our main courses before I remembered to take a photo!)

Roast Belly of Monkshill Farm Pork with Crackling and Apple Sauce

It was the Crispy Duck, Smoked Chilli Salsa and Sour Cream for my friend. He thoroughly enjoyed it! I had a bit of a taste and it was indeed delicious with the most fabulous looking roast potatoes.

Crispy Duck, Smoked Chilli Salsa and Sour Cream

Again with Phil’s recommendation, we split a Jasmine Tea Junket, Raspberries and Flapjack Crumbs for dessert. I knew a junket was set milk and actually, of all the desserts listed, this was the only one I didn’t get particularly excited about when reading its description. But still, gotta try everything once, right? I’m glad I did; this junket was a wibbly wobbly treat. It wasn’t too sweet nor too milky and was infused with a lovely jasmine tea flavour. The flapjack crumbs on top gave it a lovely textural contrast and the raspberries added a sweet and sour hit. It was a beautiful dessert.

Jasmine Tea Junket, Raspberries and Flapjack Crumbs

After the fabulous lunch, we did explore the immediate surrounding area (lots of grassy marshland) and found it to be perfect for a post-lunch walk (well, apart from the fact that we had to go a little further on down the road to gain access to the beach).

Row

Beach

I’ve got to get back there with Blai one day and we definitely need to try their tasting menu. And from what Phil’s told me, I have to aim for autumn when the pears are in season (Well, he didn’t lead me astray that day!).

The Sportsman
Faversham Road
Seasalter
Whitstable
Kent CT5 4BP

Sportsman on Urbanspoon

I always find that I need to get out of London come Easter time (after a particularly busy few months at work) and always try to book a little minibreak out of the city. Luckily, Blai could take a few days off and so it was that at about noon last Thursday, we arrived in Hastings. I was so looking forward to seeing the sea and what 1066 Country could offer.

First, we had to feed ourselves! I had made a lunch booking at Maggie’s, an award winning fish and chip restaurant located on the Stade, Hasting’s shingle beach from which Europe’s largest beach launched fishing fleet launches each day. The restaurant wasn’t easy to find; we got directions at one of the small museums nearby on Rock-a-Nore Road. To get there, find the Stade end of the miniature railway and you’ll see a sign for Maggie’s on the first floor of a nearby building. It’s not really visible from the Rock-a-Nore Road.

We chose to split two different fishes: a single cod and chips (£6.60) and a haddock and chips (£6.30), which turned out to have two pieces of fish.

Cod and Chips

Haddock and Chips

These were excellent. Seriously, these were quite possibly the best fish and chips I’ve had to date. As you’d expect from a restaurant located on a major fishing beach, the fish was of supreme freshness and quality. And it was beautifully fried with the batter perfectly crisp and the fish perfectly tender and flaky. And the chips weren’t relegated to being the stuff on the side; these chips could also have taken centre stage. Ragged and crisp on the outside, fluffy and soft on the inside, these were just perfect chips.

We had mushy peas (£1.20) on the side, which were pretty good.

Mushy Peas

Bookings are essential, even for weekdays! The restaurant was booked fully that Thursday and people were turned away. They open very early in the morning and close after lunch.

Fully Booked

After lunch, we wandered around Hastings Old Town and somehow ended up at the top of the East Hill. From the hill, we watched as the last of the fishing boats came back to the beach. We explored the Stade after and loved looking at the boats, nets and other fishing paraphernalia. It’s no surprise the fish sold in Hastings is so fresh – more of the fishmongers are located about 100 m away from where the boats get pulled up on the shore.

Fishing Boat

Somehow, we also managed to spend one and a half hours walking along the beach and examining the shingle. I love holidays, however short they are.

For dinner, we returned to Rock-a Nore Road to Webbe’s Rock-a-Nore. While I had read good reviews of this restaurant online, the meal was a bit of a let-down. The seafood was all extremely fresh, as I’ve now come to expect from anything along Rock-a-Nore, and was all well cooked too. However, the flavours were very muted; everything was underseasoned. For example, our razor clams with garlic and herb butter didn’t taste of the potent bulb. The squid fritters pictured below were the best of the bunch with a tasty, light and crisp batter; the chillli jam on the side did suffer again from a lack of punch.

Squid Fritters with Chilli Jam

Luckily, desserts were very good; Blai had a dark chocolate and marshmallow mousse and I chose a pear and blackcurrant crumble.

Dark Chocolate and Marshmallow Mousse

Pear and Blackcurrant Crumble

Even after the improvement in the food, we couldn’t get over a feeling of not being wanted there. We had been greeted with a sneer when we entered the restaurant and service was generally missing throughout our meal. Ah well, we were on holiday and didn’t let it get to us and went back to our B&B with light hearts. And how could you not have that holiday feeling when you wake up to this view?

Low Tide

The next morning, we visited the ruins of Hastings Castle on the West Hill …

… before heading back again to Rock-a-Nore road (I love that road!) to a stand that we’d spied the day before.

Tush & Pat's

A Fishermen's Roll

This really made up for the disappointment we’d had over dinner the night before. For £2.50, you get two fillets of dab, dusted in flour and fried in olive oil, slapped into a bun. It’s simple and yet satisfying. We had one each for lunch and then split another one after a more extended walk through Hastings Country Park which we accessed via the East Hill Lift. (We came across lots of wild garlic!)

Going Down

After another stroll through the old town and then an ice cream on the beach, it was time to go home. I wasn’t going to leave empty handed though. Back to Rock-a-Nore Road (Hastings is very walkable!) to visit the Rock-a-Nore Fisheries; I’d heard that they do their own smoking on site. The hot smoked salmon immediately caught my eye and I bought a piece each of the regular, black pepper and hot chilli to take home.

Hot Smoked Salmon

We had a very simple supper when we got home: the salmon, bread and pickles. The salmon was gorgeous – all soft and moist inside – and so much better than any packaged hot smoked fish we’d ever bought at a supermarket. A great way to end our short holiday … but I’m missing all that fresh fish!

All our photos from Hastings can be found in this Flickr photoset.

Maggie’s
Rock-a-Nore Road,
Hastings, East Sussex
TN34 3DW

Webbe’s Rock-a-Nore
1 Rock-a-Nore Road
Hastings, East Sussex
TN34 3DW

Tush & Pat’s Fishermen’s Rolls
located at the base of the East Hill Lift.
Rock-a-Nore Road
Hastings, East Sussex

Rock-a-Nore Fisheries
Rock-a-Nore Road
Hastings, East Sussex

People of Leicester! You have an absolute gem of a Chinese restaurant on your high street! Taste of China has only just recently opened (three weeks when we went….three weeks ago).

It’s really sort of a Hong Kong style cafe. Check out my luncheon meat and two fried eggs with instant noodles in soup. It was exactly what I needed for that Sunday lunch. Their menu even gives you the option to choose from a variety of toppings and pairing those with one of a selection of noodles.

Two Fried Eggs and Luncheon Meat on Instant Noodles Soup

And this was my brother’s fish fillets with scrambled egg on rice. Yes, it was as comforting as it looks – white fish fillets in a thick, eggy sauce. Add lashings of chili oil and you’re sorted for lunch.

Fish Fillets and Scrambled Egg on Rice

They even have bubble tea! Go go go!

Taste of China
25 High Street
Leicester

Taste of China on Urbanspoon

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