Disappointing main course

I was attending a team away day at Ashorne Hill Conference Centre and it was time for dinner. As part of my job I will often attend events and conferences. Sometimes these will be in hotels and other times they are in dedicated conference centres. I usually have lunch, which usually defaults to some kind of buffet lunch. For some events and conferences I stay over and that means having dinner.

So there I was attending an “away day” at the Ashorne Hill Conference Centre near to Leamington Spa. It was a lunchtime to lunchtime event, so there was dinner in the evening. For my starter I went with the smoked salmon on a crumpet, with a poached egg and topped with hollandaise sauce and a chive crumb, which was rather nice.

My main course, though was rather disappointing. I had gone with the mushroom pasta carbonara.

pasta

Though this was a vegetarian dish, I could quite easily see the mushrooms replacing the pancetta or the guanciale. What I didn’t expect was the pasta, that pasta that was used was pasta shells or conchiglie.

Usually with carbonara, spaghetti is the most common pasta, but fettuccine, rigatoni, linguine, or bucatini are also used.

The garlic bread appeared to be made from naan bread!

The dish just didn’t work for me, it didn’t taste right and I didn’t like it (and I usually like pasta).

In the end I returned the dish and had it replaced it with some pork belly, which was much better.

Wild Mushrooms

I was staying up in Manchester. I was staying at the Macdonald Manchester Hotel. I had stayed at the hotel before in 2015, though back then I didn’t have dinner in the hotel. This time I was eating in the hotel.

After enjoying my Barnsley Chop, this time I went with the Wild Mushroom dish.

This was described on the menu as assorted wild mushrooms, asparagus, white truffle oil, port wine cream, mini fondants, puff pastry and tenderstem broccoli.

This dish had huge potential to be an outstanding plate of food, alas it wasn’t.

Well, firstly, I couldn’t find any mini fondants. the puff pastry was a little flat and I did struggle to find the wild mushrooms in the dish. Having said that I did enjoy the asparagus and the tenderstem broccoli. The sauce was nice, but I did struggle to taste the truffle.

Overall I did quite enjoy the dish, but this a mediocre plate of food and I wish it could have been better.

Barnsley Chop

I was staying up in Manchester. I was staying at the Macdonald Manchester Hotel. I had stayed at the hotel before in 2015, though back then I didn’t have dinner in the hotel. This time having arrived late into Manchester, I decided to eat in the hotel restaurant.

It was a Monday evening, so I didn’t expect the place to be that busy. There were quite a few people eating in the bar, so I did think that there might be some people eating in the restaurant. When I arrived the restaurant was empty, but it was late, and I was hungry.

The restaurant is called The Scottish Steakhouse and if you go to the hotel website it says:

True to our Scottish heritage, the beef we serve comes from fully accredited Scottish farms and supplied to us by Scotbeef, suppliers to the highest quality retailers in the country. The beef is then traditionally aged for a minimum of 21 days on the bone and hand cut by highly skilled butchers using time-honoured techniques, delivering the perfect Scottish dining experience. 

However the menu actually says:

All our steaks are from the North West England! Straight from Dukesmoor Farm who have a range of superior and traditionally reared British cattle.

So, which is correct? Well who knows, I suspect the menu is now right.

Looking over the menu, I decided that I would have something from the grill. I do quite like a nice lamb chop, so went with the Barnsley Chop, which the menu said was served with grilled mushrooms and roast cherry vine tomatoes.

I did ask if the dish came with chips, I was told it came with fries, but did I want chips, I said I was happy with fries. I thought they might be extra. Well when I got the bill they were an extra, I didn’t mind as I wanted some fries, but didn’t appreciate the confusion.

My meal arrived promptly and looked very nice.

Overall it was a nice plate of food. The chips was nice, as were the mushrooms and tomatoes. The lamb was cooked well, was tender and tasty. I think the lamb could have been better seasoned, but that was a minor comment.

Thought the initial service left a lot to be desired, the service after the meal was friendly and excellent.

Breakfast Time in Wimbledon

I was staying in Wimbledon at the Hotel du Vin and staying overnight I had breakfast a couple of times.

Unlike a lot of hotel chains, there wasn’t a full buffet breakfast. You helped yourself to toast, croissant, fruit, and so on. However for hot food though you ordered off the menu. It was a similar story with hot drinks.

I did like the fact that I could order a “proper” coffee of my choice with my breakfast, so I went with a double espresso. This was much nicer than the filtered coffee you usually have at hotel breakfasts.

There was a fair few choices on the menu, Eggs Benedict, Avocado on Toast, Grilled Kipper. In the end though I went with the Classic Full Cooked Breakfast. This was Cumberland sausage, sweet cured bacon, black pudding, grilled tomato, mushroom and eggs (cooked to your liking). I went with poached eggs.

Having taken my order the breakfast was cooked to order. The kitchen was in the Orangery at the hotel, so I could (if I was closer) see my breakfast being cooked. My breakfast then arrived on the table.

Classic Full Cooked Breakfast

I have to say I was a little disappointed. The bacon didn’t look that appetising. However it was nice and fresh, and did taste delicious. I enjoyed the tomato and mushroom, the sausage and black pudding were good, and the eggs were cooked well.

On the second day I was there, I went with the same classic breakfast and this was much better.

Classic Full Cooked Breakfast

The bacon this time looked a lot nicer, but otherwise it was much the same as the day before (consistency is a good thing).

Overall, despite my initial (minor) disappointment, this was a nice breakfast. The continental selection was good, nice choice of jams  and butter. Excellent coffee as well.

yasai yaki soba

Staying in London I headed to Wagamama in Ealing. I went with the yasai yaki soba, a dish I have had a fair few times previously at Wagamama.

This is a teppanyaki dish of soba noodles with mushroom and vegetables, egg, peppers, beansprouts, white and spring onions,  garnished with fried shallots, pickled ginger and sesame seeds.

I did enjoy the dish, I always think it could do with more mushroom, but it is a tasty dish.

Wood Fired Italian Ham, Portobello Mushroom & Mascarpone Pizza

Wood Fired Italian Ham, Portobello Mushroom & Mascarpone Pizza

Rushing about meant I didn’t have time to cook anything special for dinner. So I popped a shop pizza in the oven. I had a Specially Selected Wood Fired Italian Ham, Portobello Mushroom & Mascarpone Pizza from Aldi. It had a great doughy base, good proportion of toppings and some nice flavours. I have had this pizza before and I would have it again.

Should note I did add some extra salami slices and olives to the pizza.

Steak and Chips again and again

Staying at the Drayton Court Hotel I went for dinner and I really wasn’t sure what to have. There is a good choice on the menu, but I was in that kind of mood when, I was hungry, but I didn’t really know what I wanted. I looked over the menu, trying to make a choice, in the end though I went for the steak and chips. They had changed the menu from the ribeye to a sirloin. I have noticed that they make changes to the menu quite often, so much so that I noticed the menu on the board outside the hotel is out of date.

This was described on the menu as Owton’s dry-aged 12oz sirloin steak on the bone, with triple-cooked chips, baked mushroom, grilled tomato and a peppercorn sauce.

I have had the sirloin before, which I enjoyed, but wasn’t overly impressed with. That time it came with a watercress & pickled shallot salad.

My usual experience with the Drayton is that they are quite fast at service, but this time, it took it’s time. So much so that I nearly went to ask where my food was. Well I wasn’t in a hurry, so it wasn’t to much of an issue.

When my food finally arrived, it did look very good.

However there was no baked mushroom and there was the addition of a watercress salad. To be honest though I did quite like the idea of the mushroom, as it had taken to long to arrive, I decided not to question this or return the plate, I was hungry as well.

The steak was well cooked and was lovely and tender. It was much better than when I had it previously. Overall I enjoyed the meal.

Keralan Coconut Curry

This was a Keralan Coconut Vegetable Curry that I cooked. I cheated a little by using a curry kit from The Spice Tailor.

A delicately balanced, mellow coconut curry from Kerala. Its gentle spicing and layers of flavours makes this a go-to for those who love milder Indian flavours.

I have been using this curry kit for some time now.

I prepared the vegetables, for this curry I used onions, peppers, carrot, sweet potato, tenderstem broccoli, baby sweetcorn, sliced mushrooms and asparagus.

I add oil to a large frying pan and then add the spices from the curry kit. I used a new wok I had got for my birthday. I then added the prepared vegetables. This is cooked until softened. I then add the sauce mix from the curry kit and stir it into the vegetables. I cook it for five more minutes before stirring the curry a final time.

I served it with plain white rice.

Time for something that was not as good as it could be

In my first visit to Manchester since September 2019 I was needing a place to eat dinner. I did consider going to Reds the barbecue place, but in the end decided that the last time I had eaten at Reds, in Leeds, it wasn’t the best meal I had had. Back then the brisket was a little dry. The menu had changed, so I couldn’t order the mixed platter with the short rib as I had done in Leeds. I then decided I quite liked the idea of tacos, but Chilango who did some nice tacos back in October 2016, tacos were no longer on their menu. They did burrito and boxes, but I fancied tacos.

In the end I went to Wagamama. It was quite busy, but they found me a seat. I looked over the menu and thought about what I wanted.

I wanted to have the shu’s ‘shiok’ chicken, turmeric, garlic and ginger marinated chicken, roasted and served on a bed of coconut and lemongrass dressed rice. pickled slaw and radish. chilli. coriander. caramelised lime. However they had run out of the turmeric, garlic and ginger sauce. This also meant they couldn’t do some of the other dishes as well.

In the end I ordered the teriyaki chicken donburi, this was chicken in teriyaki sauce with sticky white rice, shredded carrots, pea shoots and onions. garnished with sesame seeds and served with a side of kimchee.

It did look really nice. The chicken alas was overcooked and a little dry. It could have done with a  little more sauce in my opinion. I enjoyed the rice.

Alongside I had the vegan mixed mushroom hirata buns. These are two small, fluffy asian buns stuffed with mixed mushrooms and panko aubergine, served with coriander and mayonnaise.

These were nice and full of flavour. I also had a green tea which alas wasn’t hot.

Overall it was okay, certainly not as good as I have had at other branches.

I then went back to the hotel where I had a (hot) green tea.

Back to Côte Brasserie

I have been to Côte in Ealing a couple of times, on a recent visit I really quite enjoyed the cassoulet I had. I was needing dinner and decided that I would visit Côte for food. It was quite busy, which I found out later was down to the pre-theatre crowd. However A table was found for me and I sat down and looked over the menu. I was tempted by the cassoulet, which I’ve had before, or trying out the Breton fish stew.

As it was a weekday there was a prix fixe (fixed price) menu, so I went with that having two courses, a starter and a main. 

If I am eating out I generally prefer a starter over a desert. There was a limit choice of four starters, though tempted by the wild mushroom soup, I went with the Pork Terrine with spiced apple chutney and pain de campagne.

It was a nice terrine and the accompanying chutney was a good contrast. I think a stronger flavour would have worked for the terrine, but it had a nice texture. My pain de campagne was well toasted, slightly burnt on the edges. I would have preferred a more lightly toasted bread with my terrine.

There were five choices for the mains. I did think about ordering the Toulouse Sausages with puy lentils and sautéed kale with a Dijonnaise dressing for my main. However I went with the Poulet Grille. This is a chargrilled chicken breast with a creamy wild mushroom and thyme sauce served with gratin potato. 

The presentation of the dish was rather messy I thought. The gratin potato was nice and creamy, but there was no golden crust. I think I was expecting more of a defined structure of potato. The wild mushroom sauce was nice, but lacked flavour, partly down to the excess cream from the gratin potato which diluted the sauce. The chicken was slightly overcooked, but I enjoyed the flavour.

I did enjoy the food and it was tasty. Service was warm, friendly and efficient.