Half and Half

One memory I have of my time at the University of York in the 1980s was going out to eat at Pizza Hut one time and sharing a pizza with a friend and having a half and half. One half had one topping, the other half had a different topping. This was something I had never done before. I am not saying I’ve done it much since then either. Why the memory, well I recently had a half and half pizza at Zizzi in Bristol. This one though I ate all to myself.

I don’t generally go out for lunch in Bristol when I am working there. Usually I will take a packed lunch, sometimes I have a substantial lunch, as I know I am in busy in the evening and will only be getting a sandwich or a snack.

Went to Zizzi for lunch as I had a gift voucher to use. I did fancy a pizza so I went with the half and half. I chose the Rustica Half & Half Sticky Pig.

This was a slow-cooked pulled pork and mozzarella pizza with Roquito hot honey. One half, a rich red base topped with spicy ‘nduja, finished with crispy prosciutto and riserva cheese. The other, a white base, with smoky scamorza cheese, crumbled meatballs, crackling & Roquito pearls.

The halves weren’t exactly equal, so I am glad I wasn’t sharing. The rich red base was bigger than the white base. I would have preferred to have it the other way around, or at least equal halves.

The red side was very tasty, quite spicy with the ‘nduja. I keep meaning to buy some ‘nduja and cook with it. Not sure what I would cook with it, but when I have it in food I have out, I quite like it.

The white side was equally tasty. I enjoyed the smoky scamorza cheese and crumbled meatballs. I did wonder if the crackling would be too hard, but it wasn’t, it was nice and crispy rather than crunchy. I am not a great fan of the Roquito pearls, but they added colour and some spice to the pizza.

I enjoyed my pizza. It was a nice place to have lunch, not too busy, but not so empty as to be desolate. Service was friendly and efficient.

Time for a steak

HDR photo of a pub

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 liked how it had an Nespresso machine and a fridge. Drayton Court had a Nespresso machine, but no fridge, whilst the Fox and Goose had a fridge, but didn’t have a coffee machine. I was pleased with my choice.

I went downstairs to the bar to eat, there was a similar menu available to the other Fullers’ hotels. I had enjoyed my meal the previous evening.  This time, 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. So, I had the sirloin steak for my dinner.

This was a large sirloin steak with the bone in, rocket salad, grilled field mushroom, tomato, and on a separate plate a portion of chips. There was also a small jug of béarnaise sauce.

steak and chips

The steak was just okay, I kind of hoped it would be better, but it was just okay. The chips and other accompaniments were nice. I wasn’t a fan of the béarnaise sauce, I stuck with my mayonnaise for my chips.

I have had some excellent food at the different Fullers’ hotels I have stayed at. This meal was, well just okay.

Mushroom Tagliatelle

I was in Norwich for a workshop and staying at The Georgian Townhouse on Unthank Road close to the city centre. It is a really nice hotel, part of small chain of boutique hotels with three hotels in Norfolk, one in Mumbles, Wales, and one in London. The rooms are a real nice mix of modern and old. 

I went down to the restaurant, which has all the character of a lovely old pub, I had eaten a nice plate of food the day before, so was looking forward to my second visit to the restaurant. 

I had enjoyed my starter, the pan-fried scallop and crispy pork belly, which was delicious.

For my main I went with the garlic roasted Portobello mushroom tagliatelle with a creamy plant based mushroom and truffle sauce, pumpkin seed pangratatta. I had been tempted by the Pumpkin ravioli, sage butter, roasted pumpkins, sautéed wild mushroom, crispy shallot & pumpkin seeds, however I didn’t want to have pasta for my starter and my main course. I did think about asking if they would do it as a main, but I didn’t want to make a fuss.

Whilst writing this I checked and I saw on the menu of one of the other hotels in the chain, they do offer the pumpkin ravioli as a main option as well as a starter. Maybe I need to stay there next time!

Though I went with the Portobello mushroom tagliatelle, I was a little concerned, as in Leamington Spa I once had a mushroom pasta dish which I wasn’t enamoured with, actually disliked it entirely, sent it back in the end. So, I wasn’t 100% sure that this was going to be the best choice for my dinner. However I do like mushroom pasta, and I think the Leamington Spa experience was just a one off bad experience. I had a little trepidation as I awaited my dish. Having had an excellent starter though, I did have quite high expectations. The pasta dish arrived, and it looked delicious.

bowl of pasta

The pasta was cooked well, and the mushrooms were tasty. I did think the sauce needed a more powerful punch of truffle in there, but it was nice. I liked the pumpkin seed pangratatta which gave some nice crunch to the dish. I enjoyed the dish.

Time for scallops

Sometimes when staying away, I see a dish on a menu, and I think, oh that sounds nice, I want to try that. Regardless of what other starters are there, I find myself deciding to have that dish. This was certainly the experience I had when visiting Norfolk recently. I was in Norwich for a workshop and staying at The Georgian Townhouse on Unthank Road close to the city centre. I have no idea if I had been to Norwich before, I thought I had, possibly on a school trip, but if I had it was over forty years ago. I really don’t think I have been there. I did live in East Anglia in the 1970s and 1980s but moved to the South West in the early 1990s. 

The Georgian Townhouse is a really nice hotel, part of small chain of boutique hotels with three hotels in Norfolk, one in Mumbles, Wales, and one in London. The rooms are a real nice mix of modern and old. 

I went down to the restaurant, which has all the character of a lovely old pub, I had eaten a nice plate of food the day before, so was looking forward to my second visit to the restaurant.

I looked over the menu, for my starter I decided I would have the pan-fried scallop, crispy pork belly, sweetcorn salsa, burnt apple puree & samphire.  I was very tempted by the Pumpkin ravioli, sage butter, roasted pumpkins, sauteed wild mushroom, crispy shallot & pumpkin seeds, however I didn’t want to have pasta for my starter and my main course. I did think about asking if they would do it as a main, but I didn’t want to make a fuss.

The pan-fried scallop and crispy pork belly starter sounded an interesting dish. I wouldn’t expect to have this combination of ingredients in a dish, and I certainly wouldn’t expect to see this kind of dish on the menu of this kind of hotel. However I have had scallops and bacon before, so the combination of pork and scallop isn’t unknown. I’ve not had samphire before so was looking forward to that as well.

The dish arrived and it looked very pretty.

There were two good looking scallops, two pieces of pork belly, the plate was dressed with the sweetcorn salsa and the samphire. Under the scallops and the pork was the burnt apple puree.

The scallops were cooked perfectly, just the right amount of caramelisation, but still fresh and not overcooked. The pork belly was tender, but had some crisp edges. The salsa was nice, and the samphire added contrast to the dish, whilst the burnt apple puree complemented the pork beautifully.

This was delicious, I really enjoyed eating it, and I certainly finished and cleared the plate.

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.

Time for some Thai in Leeds

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 hotel I was staying at, did have a restaurant, and it looked really nice, but it was way too expensive and out of my budget. I knew I would need to eat at a place away from the restaurant.

On my first night I had a chance to explore the area, wasn’t quite sure what I wanted but happened to chance upon Rosa’s Thai in the Trinity Leeds Shopping Centre. 

I had eaten at a branch of Rosa’s Thai in Liverpool’s Albert Dock the month before and that had been really nice, however I also had a disappointing experience in Ealing earlier in the month. However I think that disappointing experience was more down to me ordering a dish, thinking it was one thing, when in reality it was something very different. So despite that experience, and running out of time, I decided I would have a meal at Rosa’s Thai, as I do like Thai food. 

The Leeds restaurant doesn’t have the same warm welcoming feel as the branches in Ealing and Liverpool. In Liverpool, being part of a historical building gave that restaurant a certain charm. Ealing was part of the high street. Rosa’s Thai in Leeds was in a shopping centre and lacked the ambiance and atmosphere. However I was there for the food, and it was okay, different, but not totally clinical.

They do change the menu now and then, but it is pretty similar over time.

For my starter I had the fresh summer rolls, these were soft sheets of rice paper stuffed with mixed veg, tangy-sweet tamarind sauce & fragrant herbs, served with traditional spicy fragrant chilli sauce & crushed peanuts.

They looked really nice when they arrived.

I had not had these before, so was a little surprised they were cold. I am not sure why I was surprised, but there you are. I thought they were just okay. Not sure I would order them again.

For my main I had the pork belly Pad metmamuang, a classic stir-fry with Rosa’s soy sauce, cashew nuts, spring onion & mushrooms.

This was a much better dish, and I really enjoyed it. Very tasty and alongside I had some Jasmine rice. Though I enjoyed it, I think the crispy pork dish I have had at Sais’s Thai in Oxford is better.

It was a nice meal, and so much better than the meal I had eaten in Ealing.

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!

Roast Venison at The Georgian Townhouse

I was in Norwich for a workshop and staying at The Georgian Townhouse on Unthank Road close to the city centre.

I have no idea if I had been to Norwich before, I thought I had, possibly on a school trip, but if I had it was over forty years ago. I really don’t think I have been there. I did live in East Anglia in the 1970s and 1980s but moved to the South West in the early 1990s. I visited lots of places in East Anglia, and in Norfolk. I knew I had been to Hunstanton, Thetford, Dersingham, and Kings Lynn. But I am not sure if I had been to Norwich. If I had then it would have been once.

The Georgian Townhouse is a really nice hotel, part of small chain of boutique hotels with three hotels in Norfolk, one in Mumbles, Wales, and one in London. The rooms are a real nice mix of modern and old. 

I went down to the restaurant, which has all the character of a lovely old pub, and was given a nice warm welcome. I looked over the menu, well I had in fact already checked out the menu when I booked the hotel. 

I decided to have the roast venison loin, with sticky red cabbage, horseradish puree, fondant potato, rosemary jus, spiced seed granola.  It wasn’t too long before the food arrived.

This was a very dark red plate of food, and I think it needed something else to give it a bit more variety of colour on the plate.

I couldn’t find the horseradish puree, and the spiced seed granola had been replaced by some roasted mixed nuts. The fondant potato was okay, not quite what I thought it should be though. The venison was slightly pink, tender, and had a nice flavour. I also enjoyed the sticky red cabbage which had a nice intense flavour, and wasn’t too sweet. It was a nice contrast to the venison. The nuts added some interesting texture to the dish.

I really do think though the dish needed some more vegetables, to add texture and colour. I was reminded writing this, of the venison dish I had at the Hazelwood Castle Hotel near to York.

The venison was lovely and tender, and full of flavour. I enjoyed the vegetables, though I think I would have enjoyed having some more jus with the meal.

I think even some kale or green beans would have made the dish much better at The Georgian Townhouse.

I did enjoy the food, and I am being a little picky, but this wasn’t a cheap meal, and I think some slight changes and additions would have made this a much better dish.

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.

A really disappointing Thai meal

I was looking through some photographs of food, and realised that in April when I was up in London 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 had been quite busy travelling across the UK to attend meetings and conferences. Having said that, I think the reason I didn’t write this meal up, was that I had quite high expectations about the meal and was then somewhat disappointed with what I actually had. So, why was I disappointed with the meal, lets read on.

I had eaten at a branch of Rosa’s Thai in Liverpool’s Albert Dock the month before and that had been really nice, so finding a branch in Ealing I decided I would have dinner there. It had a similar look and feel to the branch in Liverpool, even though it was not in a docks area.

I had a look over the menu and there was quite a bit of choice, but I wanted to have something different from what I had eaten in Liverpool. 

For my starter I went the salt and pepper squid. 

plate of crispy squid

This was pieces of squid deep fried in crispy batter, served with a dipping sauce and quite a large amount of fresh chilli. It was rather nice and tasty.

For my main I had the Crab Fried Rice. I was asked if I wanted anything with the rice, I had assumed though at £13.50 and where it was in the menu this was a main, not a side dish. It was described as fried rice (or khao pad), a simple, wonderful Thai staple. Jasmine rice, stir-fried with eggs, onions, ginger, spring onions and crab meat. It sounded really nice. However what I was served was this.

plate of fried rice

I challenge you to spot the crab in the dish! I was really disappointed with the rice dish. There was almost no crab in the dish, and certainly I couldn’t taste the crab. I did think about complaining, but to be honest I wasn’t sure what I would be complaining about, I had ordered a dish, and it arrived as described. I had also been asked to clarify that this is what I wanted when I ordered it. I think, though the dish was disappointing, there wasn’t an actual problem with the dish. I also thought about ordering another main dish to have with the rice, but this would have racked up the cost of the meal. In the end I would have to chalk this one up to experience and I would most certainly not order this again.

Whilst writing this, I saw that it was still on the menu, it’s more expensive at £16, but now comes topped with crispy fried soft shell crab. Still, even then, I wouldn’t order it again.  I wonder if other people had had the dish, but had complained, which is why they changed it.