Relaxing Coffee

basement in Java U

There is a real nice cafe, Java U, on Praed Street, it’s a place I either visit just after I arrive at Paddington or whilst waiting for a train from Paddington.

Java U on Praed Street close to Paddington

There is always a lovely warm welcome and the coffee is excellent.

FLat White from Java U

There isn’t a huge amount of room inside on the main floor, but there is a basement which has a lot more space.

The last time I was in London was at the beginning of March, so I’ve not been since then. I am looking forward to the time I can go back and have a nice coffee.

Pizza at The Old Leadworks

Having spent the afternoon in Bristol last November, we had  choice, did we go home and cook, or did we go out and eat first in Bristol. We did venture first to Bella Italia, but it was fully booked. To be honest I wasn’t sure if it was as there was plenty of free tables. However I wasn’t willing to argue with the staff. We didn’t want to spend ages walking around to find somewhere to eat. The challenge was that we needed to find somewhere which had a good choice of gluten free items as well.

I recalled that over by at-Bristol or now as it was called We The Curious in the old Leadworks was a branch of Prezzo. So we decided that we would try there, if unsuccessful we would go home. So we headed towards Prezzo on the Harbourside.

Back in 2000 I actually worked at at-Bristol and my desk was in the offices on the first floor in the old Leadworks. At that time the restaurant was a Firehouse Rotisserie, which sold chicken. I did think about going there a few times, but never did. It was too expensive for lunch and it was somewhere we ever went in the evening either. I am not sure when it became a Prezzo, but it was now a Prezzo.

We were given a lovely warm friendly welcome. I looked over the menu, and wasn’t quite sure what I wanted. In the end I went with the Fiorentina Pizza, a classic pizza with spinach, olives, mozzarella and egg.

I have had this pizza a few times before and enjoyed it each time. This time it was just as nice.

There was a lot of pizza but I did manage to finish it.

It was a lovely relaxing meal and we all really enjoyed our food.

Christmas time at the Mud Dock Cafe

December is often the time for office Christmas meals. With the number of staff in our office, the main Christmas meal we have is often dictated by the availability of the venue and to be perfectly honest I have not been too impressed with the food at the last few I have been to. The fact you also need to order your choices weeks in advance is also a little annoying. What I fancy eating in November, may not be what I actually want on the day. Then again do you really go to an office Christmas meal for the food?

Having missed the main office Christmas dinner (intentionally) last December, I was looking forward to our team Christmas meal which was taking place the week after. There was only going to be a few of us so it wasn’t going to be that massive crazy kind of event. The plan was to have a meal at the Mud Dock Cafe in Bristol.

We had a meeting before heading off to the venue. What I did like about this meal was that we could choose from the menu. As I looked over the menu we were impressed with the salad that a neighbouring table was eating. However we couldn’t work out what it was and didn’t appear to be on the menu. I then cheekily asked the neighbouring table what they had ordered, they were very happy about the query and told us it was the Caesar Salad from the specials board up on the wall!

One of my colleagues was impressed enough that he ordered the salad for his meal.

It looked really impressvive and delicious. Though I was tempted by the salad, in the end I went with the Festive menu. For my starter I had the ballotine confit of turkey leg, cranberry compote and dressed leaves.

This was rather tasty, though as with these kinds of dishes, I could have done with more bread.

I wasn’t sure what kind of main course I wanted, but when I read truffled mushroom I went with the homemade chestnut and parmesan gnocchi in a truffled mushroom and spinach cream.

This, though rather hot (as in temperature) was a rich comforting plate of food. It was tasty and I really enjoyed it.

I was persuaded to have a desert, so I went with the selection of West Country cheeses.

A rather delightful selection and beautifully presented board of cheese.

Overall it was one of the better Christmas meals I have had. It was nice to have a choice and choose on the day, rather than days or weeks in advance.

This year I don’t think we will be having any kind of festive office meal but if and when we can do that kind of thing, I hope to return to the Mud Dock Cafe.

A nautical theme

Before the pandemic I would travel a fair bit for work and stay overnight in cities across the UK. In August last year I had a meeting in Liverpool and was staying at The Liner Hotel. 

This hotel has a real nautical theme to it, complete with portholes in reception as well as extensive use of blue and white in the rooms.

Having arrived quite late into Liverpool I decided I really should get something to eat. I initially thought about eating at the hotel, then thought I would find somewhere cheaper in the heart of the city. As I looked around the place I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted and walked round for a bit. I didn’t really know what I wanted so never actually could decide what I wanted. In the end, as it was getting late I went back to the hotel and decided to have a late dinner there.

The welcome was warm and friendly. The place wasn’t very busy (well it was quite late) and I looked over the menu. I started off with some halloumi and felafel kebabs.

These were very nice and well presented.

For my main course I went with a favourite of mine lamb rump.

This was served with cabbage and some very nice, but brightly coloured, beetroot gnocchi. It was a little salty for my taste, but was cooked well and an interesting dish to look at and taste.

I ran out of time for pudding, but I was quite full as well. I did in fact really quite enjoy my meal.

Well that was interesting…

Back in November 2019 I had a meal, which was, well probably the best way to describe it was, it was interesting…

It use to be the case that when I was up in Glasgow and had a late flight home I would go and wait at the airport and be generally disappointed with the standard of the catering available. I order some food and then start wondering why I am eating there, as it is too often over-priced and not very good.

Why I use to do that I am not sure, probably, thought it was a good idea and I could get some work done! The last time this happened to me in Glasgow I decided that rather than do my usual, I would try and find something to eat in the centre of Glasgow. As a result I had a fantastic meal at Babs. I had gone with the Lamb Shish Babs., described as severed chunks of sumac-rubbed lamb grilled over coals. Served on a flatbread on a bed of a sweet pepper and carrot puree and tzatziki; topped with grilled peppers and house pickles. The meal was delicious.

So back in November 2019 I had woken up in Edinburgh, attended an event, before heading off to Glasgow for a meeting. After the meeting I had an office I could use to get some work done. As is usual I had a late flight back to Bristol so I decided I would go out and eat in the heart of Glasgow before heading to the airport.

Going over Google Maps to find somewhere to eat, I was initially tempted to return to Babs, but decided that I wanted to try somewhere new. One place that did catch my eye was Viva Brazi, Brazilian barbecue place.

Slow roasted meats expertly carved at table with a selection of buffet-style sides and salads.

Down at Cabot Circus in Bristol we have Casa Brazil and the concept has appealed to me, so I thought okay let’s go for this today.

It was earlier than most people would eat, it was before five, however I was given a warm welcome and was shown to a table where the entire process was explained to me how the system worked. As I had sat down at the table I went with the lunchtime menu, which though has less meats was cheaper than the dinner option.

There was a buffet of cold and hot dishes which you could go up and help yourself too. I enjoyed the salads that they had.

Every so often a waiter would arrive with a skewer of barbecued meat and would carve off slices.

I did enjoy many of the meats and I enjoyed the side dishes. However I didn’t think it was anything special. Some of the barbecued meats weren’t so much overdone, more that was the part of the cut I received. I quite like my meat medium or rare, but I seemed to get the well done cuts being carved off.

Overall it was an interesting experience, and it satisfied my curiosity about this kind place. Would I go again? Probably not.

Well, they could have been better!

I quite like scallops, so there I was in Sainsbury’s picking up some salmon for our supper when I saw Taste the Difference, Scallop Gratin. Described as Patagonian scallops in a white wine and Parmesan sauce topped with a Cheddar breadcrumb.

I was intrigued and tempted, so they got added to the trolley.

Cooked in a hot oven for twenty minutes they looked great when they came out of the oven.

I thought the sauce was delicious, and the scallops were nice too. However I wasn’t blown away by the dish. I think it needed more substance, actually it probably just needed more scallops, or more gratin. I kind of wished I had some bread to mop up the sauce, but alas I hadn’t bought any. 

Would I buy this dish again, probably not.

Time for some paella

I do like a good paella, though I have been told a fair few times that what I cook and call paella, isn’t paella.

That I get, I am not trying to cook an authentic Spanish version of paella, but one that we like and find tasty. I have been cooking this dish for a fair few years, but got told once by a Spanish person that what I was cooking wasn’t authentic paella, which is correct, so I normally describe this as a Spanish inspired rice dish.

To make this paella I took my large paella pan added a splash of olive oil.  I then  added some pancetta, diced onion and sliced red pepper. This is then cooked off slightly before I added some mushrooms. Once the onions are softened I add the paella rice and stir it into the onions and peppers. I added a paella mix from Waitrose, but you could, of course, use your own spices, herbs and saffron. I then added some stock.

This is then left to cook, without stirring, definitely without stirring.

In a separate pan I cook the sliced cooking chorizo and add this to the paella when it is nearly cooked. I do a similar thing with the butterflied prawns.

I then finish off with finely chopped parsley and some lemon.

Delicious.

Better late than never…

Back in December 2019 I was staying at the Taplow House Hotel in Maidenhead. I had chose the hotel in the main as it was cheaper than some London hotels, also parking was available. 

I had not eaten at the hotel the evening, as It was late when I arrived at the hotel. I had left leaving for the hotel much later than I had planned. So I had eaten at home and when I arrived, it was basically make myself a cup of tea, read and then get some sleep. I had a really nice classic room.

I had to be in central London in the morning, so I wanted an early start. I got myself washed and dressed and went down to breakfast. However they weren’t quite ready, so I had to wait outside, as it took the staff ages to open the dining room for breakfast. 

Once in I was ready to place my breakfast order, but this didn’t happen very fast and then a little longer for it to arrive at my table. So I was a little rushed, but having said all that it was a really nice breakfast.

The bacon was nice and thick, the sausage was meaty and tasty. The fried bread was done right, but my poached egg was overcooked. I also enjoyed the mushrooms, tomatoes and black pudding.

However I didn’t really enjoy the breakfast as much as I would like, as I was rushing. I much prefer a more relaxing breakfast.

I left the hotel about 30 minutes later than I wanted to, so I hit traffic on my way into London. It took me slightly longer as a result to get to the Westfield Centre, park and then catch the tube to central London for the event where I was presenting at an event. In the end I was just on time! I missed the start of the event, but was on time to present my piece and listen to some others as well.

Wahaca revisited

Now as we enter a second lockdown I have been reflecting on some meals I had out over the last few years which never made it to the blog. Sometimes I just run out of time to write up a review and sometimes I forget to write up the meal.

Back in December 2019 I was heading South of the river in London for an event where I was delivering a presentation. With time for lunch I headed off to Wahaca on the Southbank. This was the branch where I had first eaten food from Wahaca back in August 2016. Then I had really enjoyed the fresh delicious food and thought at the time that I would really like to go again. Since then I have been quite a few times, however I hadn’t been to the Southbank restaurant for a fair few years.

The restaurant on the South Bank, is built from eight recycled shipping containers arranged across two overhanging levels. These brightly coloured containers make for an interesting eating environment. The team were friendly and welcoming.

I went with three dishes from the street food menu.

The Ancho Chicken Tacos was two larger corn tortillas, grilled and filled with grilled chicken and avocado, with ancho rub, guacamole & green tomatillo salsa.

These were very nice, I enjoyed the spiciness of the accompaniments and the fresh tender chicken..

On previous visits I have gone with the steak tacos, though this time I went with the slow cooked beef brisket tacos.

The beef was beautifully tender and I liked the accompanying pickles on top.

My third dish was the delicious crispy cauliflower bites, crispy buttermilk-battered florets, with roast serrano allioli.

I’ve had these before and these were really nice. The florets were larger than other times I’ve had this dish, but this didn’t make a difference, it was a delicious plate of food.

Overall I really enjoyed my meal and thought all the dishes were delicious.

Time for Thai Mussels and Beer

Now as we enter a second lockdown I have been reflecting on some meals I had out over the last few years which never made it to the blog. Sometimes I just run out of time to write up a review and sometimes I forget to write up the meal.

I had the meal reviewed here in June in 2019 at Belgo in London. I had spent a week off on holiday in Sussex and the week after I was back to work with three days in London. It was at the same time a certain American President was also visiting London during these same three days! I had written up the delicious pasta meal that I had during the same trip.

During my three days I was staying in a hotel that I actually wasn’t expecting to stay in, so I hadn’t had the time to do much research about places to eat nearby and I really didn’t want to end up at the hotel restaurant, as they can be terrible food and over-priced. After checking into the hotel I had a look around the area to see where I could get some food. I had been tempted by the Union Tavern gastropub, but it was rather busy. Around the corner was a branch of Belgo. I had always liked the concept of Belgo, but there wasn’t one in Bristol so I had never managed to get to a branch. I had thought about visiting the one in Kingsway when I was looking for lunch when I was working in our London office, but it was a little too far away (and too expensive) for lunch. So the opportunity of visiting the Islington branch was appealing.

I quite liked the interior, modern and somewhat abstract. Part of me thought that a more nostalgic Belgian environment might have worked. I was given a warm welcome from the waiting staff and was shown to my table.

There was quite a wide choice on the menu, but my main reason for going to Belgo was the mussels.

To drink, I went with a Beer Flight. This is three small 1/3 pints of different beers. A lovely idea if you have no idea on which beer to choose. I really enjoyed the different beers, each quite unique, all refreshing.

For my starter I went with the Calamari, crispy squid with aioli.

This was not as good as I was hoping, but even so it was okay.

For my main course I went with Green Thai Mussels. These were mussels cooked in a Thai Green sauce with coconut cream, fresh ginger, lemongrass, Kaffir lime, chilli and coriander. I did think about going with the traditional or mariniére bowls, but thought that was the way I would always order, so lets go with something different.

I really enjoyed the mussels, the Thai sauce was nice, spicy but not overpowering.

The service was excellent and I did not feel rushed or ignored.

Since I visited we’ve had the covid-19 pandemic. In July 2020 on the back of the pandemic and the parent chain, Causal Dining Group went into administration and it was announced that Belgo would permanently close three of its four sites. It looks like I will need to find a different place to have some mussels.