Ultimate Grill

When staying away I sometimes go out to eat and sometimes eat in the hotel. If it is a place like Drayton Court where the bar and restaurant are quite busy, then the place has atmosphere, making it a nice place to eat. Sometimes though the hotel restaurant can be empty, cold, and uninviting. This was certainly the case when staying at the Link Hotel in Loughborough. The restaurant was empty. I was charging my car, so looked locally for a place to eat, next door was a Harvester. Now I have never been to a Harvester before, so this was going to be an interesting experience.

Compared to the hotel this restaurant was bustling and busy. They however found me a table and I sat down and looked over the menu.

I wasn’t sure what to have, but looked over the different dishes. I was feeling quite hungry, so I decided to be greedy and went with the Ultimate Mixed Grill.

This was a quarter portion of rotisserie chicken, 8oz rump steak, a half rack of BBQ-glazed ribs, 7oz gammon, two pork sausages, two fried free-range eggs and two black pudding slices, chips, garden peas, tomato and onion rings.

I will be honest this was one big plate of food, and I thought I had made a mistake in ordering it.

I did make a visit to the salad bar, for my free salad bowl. I didn’t get a huge salad, as I knew I was getting a lot of food with the grill. There was a lot in there and I quite liked what I ate. Most of it was nice. The chicken was a little dry, but I have found that  rotisserie chicken can be quite dry anyhow. The gammon was nice, as was the steak. The BBQ-glazed ribs were very tender and the meat fell off the bones. Wasn’t that enamoured with the sausages, and though I like black pudding, I felt that it wasn’t needed on the plate. I liked the addition of the chips and onion rings, the chips were cooked, and I enjoyed the three crispy battered onion rings.

In the end I did eat a lot, but I didn’t finish the plate. It was an interesting experience, and I did like the food, but I am not sure I would order that dish again, it was way too much food.

Would I visit a Harvester again, not sure. If I didn’t have anywhere else to go, and the only other choice was an empty hotel restaurant, then I think I would go back to the Harvester.

Sasi’s Thai

When in Oxford, I usually visit the Covered Market and have a delicious plate of Thai food from Sasi’s Thai. 

My first experience of Sasi’s Thai was back in 2013 when I started working in Oxford and would go out for lunch. It was one of the many food outlets in the market and always served excellent delicious food. Even after I changed jobs, and stopped working in Oxford, if I was back in Oxford (or even passing through) I would stop for lunch and seek out Sasi’s Thai for some spicy food.

This was the case back in March 2023, when after a meeting elsewhere in Oxfordshire, I was on my way to another location, so stopped off in Oxford for lunch. I made my way to Sasi’s Thai and though it was busy, I joined the queue. I had the two choices with rice, and had the Crispy Pork with Basil  and the Chicken and Cashew Nuts. 

The crispy pork was nice and tasty.

The chicken and cashew nuts was also tasty. I did feel the chicken could have done with some more cashew nuts.

These are two dishes I would regularly have at Sasi’s Thai. Both dishes were delicious, quite spicy. The food was just as good as I remembered. 

Chicken Flatbread

I have always enjoyed the Kurdish wraps from Matina in the St Nicholas market in Bristol. The star of the show is the freshly baked flat bread, but the salads and pickles that you get in that bread are also really tasty.

I tried my own version of the wrap. Not an identical copy, one that was inspired by the Matin wrap. They were delicious, so I decided to do something similar again. Instead of lamb, this time I did chargrilled chicken.


I made some red cabbage slaw, this was thinly sliced red cabbage dressed with white wine vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. This I made about thirty minutes in advance.

I also did some pickled red onion. In a pan I heated some vinegar, added salt, sugar and pepper and then added some sliced red onion. I kept it on the heat for a minute or so, then took it off the heat.

I took some Middle Eastern laffa bread from Waitrose, these are handstretched flatbreads from The Levantine Table range.

I spread some chilli jam, hummus, tzatziki, on the flatbread. I then added the chargrilled chicken, which I had seasoned and cooked on my griddle. I then added some shredded romaine lettuce heart, sliced cucumber, and coriander.

Really good result.

She Sells Sushi, and a really nice bento box

demolished hotel

Bristol had a great street food scene. There are markets every day of the week, most days there are at least two. Across in Whapping Wharf there are cargo containers with some great food places.

I was working in Bristol one Friday and at lunchtime I went out for a walk.  I went to the Finzel Reach street food market, saw what was there, and then walked up to the St Nicholas market. I walked back to the Finzel Reach street food market and bought a bento box from She Sells Sushi. I had my usual beef donburi and the crispy chicken hirata bun. I had to wait a while, as there was a bit of queue, which isn’t too surprising, as the food is excellent from She Sells Sushi.

I sometimes think I should have something different. I have had the crispy tofu katsu curry before, which is tasty, but I prefer the beef donburi. 

The beef was tender and had an intense flavour. I liked the pickle and the crispy fried onions. The rice was sticky and worked well with the beef.

I did think about having the Takoyaki , but in the end I defaulted to the excellent crispy chicken hirata bun.

I had two strips of crispy, well more crunchy, chicken. These were in a charcoal hirata bao bun with some mixed leaves. 

This was a delicious bento box. They also do an XL version of the box in which you can have three choices. I did have this once, I had the beef donburi, the katsu tofu puffs, and a chicken hirata Bun. It was rather filling, I decided that I probably wouldn’t have the XL size again. Well I might, but I don’t think I would have the donburi and the katsu with something else. I would probably have the donburi with a hirata bun and the Takoyaki. Lots of variety, but not so filling as having two rice heavy dishes.

Time for some Tapas at the Brunello

We were out and about in Weston last April. Feeling peckish, we decided to head to the Brunello Lounge for a bite to eat. I did the tapas deal for three tapas dishes. They have a nice range of tapas dishes, I think they would work well if you spending an evening in the Lounge drinking (and chatting). They also work well for a light lunch.

I went with the hummus, crispy squid, and some chicken wings. The hummus was my favourite of the three little plates of food.

plate of hummus

This was a nicely presented dish, the garnishes enhancing the hummus. I liked the flavours and there was enough flatbread to go with it.

The crispy squid was a little overcooked for my liking. 

crispy squid with a wedge of lemon

The coating was a little too crispy, more like crunchy.

I liked the chicken wings, but I wanted more of them.

chicken wings

Overall I enjoyed the three dishes, it was a nice snack for lunch.

They didn’t have what I wanted

I have enjoyed the meals I have had at the Fullers’ hotels I have stayed at, Drayton Court, and the Fox and Goose. I was recently back in London and I chose to stay at The Queen’s Head in Kingston, which is another Fullers’ hotel. Smaller, and more like a pub with rooms, I found it a lovely place to stay. The staff were warm, friendly and welcoming. I liked the bar area, which felt nostalgic, but still smart and tidy. I liked the wooden furniture and fittings. The room I had was nice, it certainly had character. It had very tall ceilings and all the furniture you would expect in a hotel room and then some.

I went downstairs to the bar to eat, there was a similar menu available to the other Fullers’ hotels. I had eaten a delicious tiny pork cheek starter. 

For my main course, well on the online menu they had roasted fillet of Owton’s beef with braised ox cheek coated in herb crumb, black garlic, brown butter celeriac purée, spinach and beef dripping emulsified sauce; so, I was going to have that.  However, on the menu at the bar they didn’t have that, instead for the beef choices, they had a sirloin steak and a cote de boeuf. 

Instead I chose the chicken ballotine , with tarragon, bacon, and mushroom stuffing. Alongside was an onion puree, cheddar potato cake and a jug of Marmite sauce.

This looked really great.

Though this was a good sized portion of ballotine , I had expected a bigger proportion of chicken to stuffing. However even so it was very nice. I really liked the cheddar potato cake, this was crisp on the outside, and soft and cheesy on the inside. I thought the onion puree needed a but more punch.  I liked the addition of the roasted carrots as well. I was a little concerned about the Marmite sauce, but it was rather nice.

This was a really nice plate of food and I really enjoyed it.

Time for some wings

I was looking through some photographs of food, and realised that in April when I was up in Leeds I had a few meals which I hadn’t blogged about.

Sometimes I write up the dining experiences I have on the same day, in the same week, or quite soon after that. Now and then I have food and then never get around to writing a blog post about it.

In April I was at a conference and was staying in the heart of Leeds. The previous night I had visited Rosa’s Thai and was looking for something different.

I had back in 2020 an excellent experience at Reds in Leeds, though that was further out than I wanted to walk, I wondered if there was a similar place in the heart of Leeds. I was pleased to see that there was a branch of Reds. I looked at the menu online and saw they had some deals. You had to book though. After booking I headed out to the branch.

I arrived and took my place at the table and looked over the menu. I went with the Wednesday Wings deal. I believe it may have changed since I was there in April, but this was ten wings for £3.  I was told I needed to have pre-booked. I had, so I said I had, so I was  allowed to have it. I had a drink and waited for my food.

I was expecting whole wings, mine weren’t whole wings.

The wings were nothing special, and for the main part of my meal I was a little disappointed. As they were small, there was very little meat on them. Flavour wise they were okay.

Alongside I had some sides of burnt ends, mac and cheese and onion rings.

The onion rings were supplemented with some fries.

The mac and cheese was nice, whilst the burnt ends were very tasty.

I had quite high expectations about this meal, but the reality of what I had meant that I was a little disappointed, even though the food itself was just okay.

The Coach House Pub Chicken

The Coach House is a pub in Locking Village close to Weston-super-Mare. I have been a few times for drinks, but this was the first time I had food there.

It’s lovely traditional pub, with a good range of beers, and as this is Somerset, a good range of ciders as well. 

There is quite an extensive menu, with grills, burgers, salads, and traditional pub meals. They also have a wide variety of pie specials. I was quite tempted by the pies. In the end though I had the Chicken Forestiere. This was a flame grilled chicken breast, topped with smoked streaky bacon, and a garlic, mushroom, brandy, and Dijon mustard sauce. It was served with chips, homemade onion rings, and a dressed salad.

plate of food

The dish was what I expected, this was a nice looking plate of what I would call pub food. The chicken was nice, slightly overdone, so a little dry, but the sauce was nice.  I liked the chips and salad. The home-made onion rings were a delight, lovely crisp batter and tasty onion.

I do think that this dish might have been better if it had been served with potatoes and vegetables, rather than chips and salad. Another option was maybe I should have gone with another protein option.

Service was order and pay at the bar, and then sit down and wait for the food to arrive. The staff were all friendly and welcoming.

I did enjoy the plate of food, it was tasty and good value for money.

Back to Oxford for some Thai

Ten years away from Oxford, a trip back meant revisiting ghosts of lunches past. Some haunts had faded, but Sasi’s Thai in the Covered Market, my old lunchtime sanctuary, still beckoned. Forget greasy fry-ups; Sasi’s was a riot of Thai aromas, its glass counter a technicolour tapestry of curries and stir-fries. Ordering was a ritual: point, pay, collect your plate, then thread through the labyrinth of tightly packed tables, sometimes sharing space and smiles with strangers. The vibe, I fancied, echoed the bustling street food havens of Thailand.

The food itself? I wouldn’t claim expertise, never having braved Bangkok’s back alleys. But popularity spoke volumes. My taste buds still vividly recall the fiery dance of chicken and cashew nuts basking in a spicy sauce, crispy pork belly crackling with sweet glaze, and the elusive squid, a fleeting guest on the menu. Each bite was a punch of spice and flavour, a passport to a faraway land, all within the bustling heart of Oxford.

In December I was back in Oxford, and I remembered the great meal I had eaten at Sasi’s Thai in the Oxford Covered Market back in April. So, it wasn’t too much of a surprise when needing lunch in Oxford I headed to the market and joined the queue. Yes, the place was busy, but there was space to eat.

I ordered the two dishes with rice, and had the chicken and cashew nuts, and the spicy crispy pork.

Thai food on rice

These were tasty dishes, the pork was nice and crispy, the chicken was great. Alas there was a shortage of cashew nuts in the dish, sometimes think I should bring my own cashew nuts with me. The sauce was spicy but still intense with flavour. I really enjoyed both dishes. On the way out I noticed that they had added their squid dish to the counter, now I was seriously tempted to go back and have a second lunch!

An Oxfordian blast from the past

When I am in Oxford for visits and meetings, I do like to take the time to revisit old haunts from my days working there ten years ago. Of course, some places have closed or changed hands. One place I would visit regularly for lunch back in the day was Sasi’s Thai in the Oxford Covered Market. One of the ways in which you could describe it, was imagine a market cafe, however this one served excellent Thai food rather than a full English breakfast! There is a counter with all the available dishes to see. You place your order, it is served up on a plate, and then you pay. Within there are numerous tightly packed tables and chairs. They even have a few chairs outside as well. Sometimes you will need to share your table, but as well as sharing the space you are also sharing the experience. I always had this impression that the informality and feel of the place was what it could have been like eating in a similar eating establishment in Thailand. They served this delicious Thai food. I have no idea how authentic the food was, as I have never been to Thailand. However it was extremely popular. I remember having some delicious meals there, but most times I would choose the chicken cashew, crispy pork belly, or when it was on the menu, the squid. It was always quite spicy, but alway tasty.

I was looking through some photographs of food, and realised that in April when I was travelling around, there were some meals which I hadn’t blogged about. Sometimes I write up the dining experiences I have on the same day, in the same week, or quite soon after that. Now and then I have food and then never get around to writing a blog post about it. In April I had been quite busy travelling across the UK to attend meetings and conferences.

I had been at a meeting and had time for lunch and I was quite close to Oxford, so I headed to Sasi’s Thai in the Oxford Covered Market for some great food. I was lucky in that though it was busy, there wasn’t a huge queue and they had spare tables.

I ordered the two dishes with rice, and had the chicken and cashew nuts, and the squid.

Thai food on rice

These were nice and generous portions. The chicken was nice and tasty, and the squid was tender and full of flavour. There was plenty of onions and peppers in the servings as well. You could taste the vegetables, chicken, and squid through the spicy sauce, and the rice was a nice accompaniment.  My only note of criticism was that the dish was really lacking cashew nuts, I think I had two. These though were delicious fresh dishes; you can often see them replenish their counter with pots being brought down from the upstairs kitchen. Sasi’s Thai is one of those places where though full after eating, you always feel tempted to go for a second round and try two other dishes. I did resist temptation.