Why the slice of orange?

I was staying in York and was thinking about where to eat. I had seen La Terrazzina when out walking on previous evenings and I had been intrigued by the menu.

They describe themselves as

Welcome to La Terrazzina, the best Italian, Mediterranean & Asian restaurant in York! Our restaurant offers a unique and exciting dining experience that combines the flavors and aromas of Italian, Mediterranean, and Asian cuisine.

This was intriguing.

So I walked from my hotel down to the restaurant and I went to read the menu outside, at which point one of the waiting staff came outside and invited me in. This is something that I had seen in Portugal, Spain, and other places where I had been on holiday, not something I have seen very often in the UK. As I was pretty much made up in my mind that I was going to eat there, I went in and sat down.

One of the reasons I liked the idea of eating here was they had rack of lamb on the menu, so I was pretty much happy to order that.

I was given some bread and butter, which I had to return as the butter had mould on it. Well it looked like mould. It was replaced with some fresh bread and butter.

My lamb arrived.

This wasn’t though a rack of lamb, these were grilled lamb cutlets.  The lamb came with vegetables and potatoes, gravy, and a slice of orange. Not sure what the orange was about. I’ve had orange with duck, but never with lamb! The vegetables were al dente, and it was a good sized portion.

The lamb was cooked, slightly overdone for me. I think I would have preferred a “proper” rack of lamb that had been browned in a pan and then finished off by being roasted in the oven. Then carved into cutlets. The other option would have been to describe the dish as lamb cutlets.

Overall it was a nice dish.

Service was attentive and polite. The place doesn’t have an alcohol licence, but there is a Sainsburys Local next door, so you can pop there for wine or beer.

Still not sure about the orange slice.

Quick Cortado

cup of coffee

Sometimes I feel a flat white can be a bit rich for me, I do like having a Cortado. Reminds me of the flat white coffee I had in Auckland back when I visited there in 2009.

As it is a smaller coffee , this makes it a great choice when making a quick break on a journey. I had this Cortado at the Costa at Ferrybridge Services. It was actually quite good. I have in the past had some poor coffee experiences at motorway services, so it was nice to have a decent coffee, while I took a break.

Retro Ice Cream

Seeing this vintage ice cream poster reminded me of the ice creams I would have back then.

Retro Ice Cream poster

My overriding memory was having the rectangular cornet. Probably because it was 5p and was one of the cheapest ice creams from the van or the fridge. I do recall thinking how nice it would be to have a round cornet with a scoop of ice cream. Of course today that is the norm.

The other thing I don’t see today very often is the choc ice.

Which of these are Italian?

So I got a marketing email from Bella Italia. Now my experience of Bella Italia is that this is a chain restaurant serving Italian food, in the main pizza and pasta.

So I was a little surprised to see these options promoted on their new menu.

Nachos, well not quite, but pretty much nachos and salsa.

BBQ ribs with fries, no attempt here to even Italianise the dish!

Hickory or Buffalo chicken wings, with pecorino cheese.

I kind of understand that they want to widen the appeal of the menu, but I personally don’t think this is the way. They already have burgers on the menu, so these add to the non-Italian choices available.

I guess they did some marketing, and people were saying (or complaining) about the limited menu choices for those that don’t like pizza or pasta. Though if I was going out to eat and I didn’t want pizza or pasta, I wouldn’t go to Bella Italia.

I also think there are lots of Italian dishes which aren’t pizza or pasta which could be on the menu. For example there is only one fish dish on the menu, there are lots of Italian fish dishes out there. I guess, knowing how these chains operate that cooking Italian dishes fresh to order isn’t how the kitchen process works. 

I was just a little surprised to see American dishes such as wings and ribs on the new menu.

An unplanned fish finger sandwich

I never planned to visit The Red Lion in Alvechurch in northeast Worcestershire. It was one of those unplanned journeys that arose due to a range of circumstances.

My original plan had been quite simple. I was on my way back from York and was travelling south on the motorway network. I had planned to stop at the Hopwood services on the M42, have an online call, grab something to eat, and charge my electric car, before heading home.

However due to earlier traffic issues on the A1(M) and some other reasons I was running later than planned. As a result I ended up at Tamworth Services. Alas the charger was in use. So I couldn’t charge my car while I had my online call. After finishing my meeting the charger was still in use so I headed back down on the M42. 

I knew the Hopwood Services were about twenty miles further down the M42, so would stop there to charge and grab some lunch. I stopped off at Hopwood services and was frustrated to see their charger was also in use. I had planned to charge the car and grab some lunch. 

Needing a charge I used the built-in sat nav to give me directions to the nearest charger. This was just over two miles away, there was a charger at The Red Lion in Alvechurch. So off I drove to the pub. The charger was available, so after connecting the car and setting it to charge I went into the pub. This was a lovely pub, with lots of wooden beams, comfy chairs.

I found a menu on a table and looked it over. They had quite an extensive choice. There was lots of things I was tempted by.  The seared fillets of sea bass with a pea & crispy bacon velouté, steamed broccoli and spring onion mash sounded delicious. I also liked the sound of the Duo of Lamb, tender lamb rump served medium and a hearty shepherd’s pie, with Tenderstem® broccoli and a red wine & rosemary jus. 

However I didn’t want to spend a fortune, I wasn’t that hungry, and I only really wanted something light. In the end I went with the Fish Finger Bap. Beer-battered fish goujons and tartare sauce on a rustic roll. I also ordered a ginger beer.

I had excellent service at the bar and after paying I sat down.

It wasn’t long and my plate of food arrived.

This was an excellent looking plate of food. The roll was warm and fresh. The beer-battered fish goujons were crisp on the outside, the fish was succulent and tasty. I also enjoyed the fries that came with the sandwich. I would say that the pea shoots which came as a garnish, didn’t look exactly fresh, they were a little tired and yellow. Kind of glad I didn’t for for the salad instead of fries. Despite the pea shots, I really enjoyed the food, it was tasty and delicious. 

Having charged the car, it was then back on my drive home. I often stop at the Hopwood services for a break when travelling, I think in future I will make the relative short detour to Alvechurch and visit The Red Lion again.

Skinny Flat White


Taking advantage of a special offer, I had a very nice skinny flat white from the Caffe Nero at the top of Union Street in Bristol.

The service was excellent, and I really enjoyed the coffee.

Swordfish in Portugal

This year we went on holiday to Albufeira in Portugal. We were staying at the Cerro Mar Garden apartments. Though we had booked self-catering, we visited the hotel restaurant a couple of times whilst on holiday.

On our first visit I looked over the quite extensive menu. I decided to go with a fish dish and chose the swordfish.

It took a while to arrive, but we weren’t in a hurry.

This was a lovely presented plate of food. The three pieces of swordfish on the dish was served on a bed of cooked vegetables and potatoes.

The swordfish was cooked perfectly was delicious. I liked the cooked vegetables as well, which were fresh and tasty.

Overall I really liked the dish.

Why no oven chips?

French fries
Image by Matthias Böckel from Pixabay

I wrote about my impressions of self-catering at Cerro Mar in Portugal in a previous blog post. 

I do like to shop at local supermarkets and buy local produce or ingredients to cook with. As self-catering can be quite limited, I do sometimes on holiday buy convenience food to cook.

One of things I did find different in Portugal was the lack of oven chips available in the local supermarkets. They did sell frozen chips, but these were for deep fat frying.

I don’t know if this is a cultural thing, having bought oven chips in France and Spain on previous holidays.

I did buy the chips, but cooked them in the oven with some oil. They were okay.

Self Catering in Cerro Mar

hotel complex

I have in previous years written about my self-catering experiences when going on holiday abroad.

Coping with self-catering in Calpe

Self-catering at La Croix Du Vieux Pont

This year we went on holiday to Albufeira in Portugal. We were staying at the Cerro Mar Garden apartments.

The self-catering kitchen in the apartment was large, spacious and well equipped.


As well as a full size oven, four ring hob, there was a large fridge freezer, a dishwasher and a washing machine. There were lots of pans, utensils and kitchen tools. The kitchen knife was nice and sharp as well. There was a good chopping board too.

What was missing though, were some baking trays for the oven. This restricted how we could use the oven. There was also no sieve or colander. We did pasta and rice, but it was a bit of a challenge in getting them drained.

There was a kettle, a toaster, and a coffee machine. Our coffee machine was leaking, but this was quickly replaced by the hotel. It was a filter machine, I would have preferred a Nespresso capsule machine or similar.

In the past on self-catering holidays it has been challenging to cut fresh bread, this time the local supermarkets had a self service bread slicing machine you could use, so I used that to slice the bread.

One of the pans had a uneven base which meant it didn’t work on the induction hob, took me a couple of goes to realise that, as I don’t normally use induction hobs.

I appreciated the big fridge we had, and the freezer section. On self-catering holidays in caravans (mobile homes) the fridge can be quite small.

Overall it was a great apartment, and the kitchen worked out really well.

Homemade Mexico City Nachos

Having really enjoyed the Mexico City Nachos from Wahaca, I have now been making this dish quite often myself.

Homemade Mexico City Nachos

I used some tinned black beans, I also had some other mixed beans and sweetcorn. To this I added some tortilla chips, and then dressed the dish with guacamole, sour cream, grated cheese, a tomato salsa, Mexican cheese dip, and some homemade pickled red onion. I added some freshly chopped coriander as a garnish.

It was a really nice and fresh dish, and was a good but slightly different version of the dish I had in London.