Time for some seafood

Staying overnight in Cambridge, well over in Madingley, which is just outside the city. I was wondering where I could get something to eat. In Madingley there is a really nice looking gastropub, but was out of my budget, so I looked into the heart of Cambridge. Yes the Midsummer House was a possibility, if I had loads of spare money and no budget, but I didn’t, so no that wasn’t a possibility…

I had downloaded a Zizzi voucher, quick and easy I thought. Checking where it was, I saw on the map the Loch Fyne. I have been curious about the place for a while now, there are branches in Bath and Bristol, but I have never been, mainly as it was usually quite pricey from memory. I thought I would look at the menu and see what I could be missing. Accessing the website I saw that they had a January offer, 50% off mains. Looking over the menu, I saw lots of things I liked the look of, so that was the place.

The restaurant is on Trumpington Street quite close to the impressive Fitzwilliam Museum. It’s an older building and inside there are lots of wooden beams and low ceilings.

I initially thought, well it’s January, cold and a Tuesday, it wouldn’t be very busy, boy was I wrong. The place was packed. I was left waiting for a while, and then asked to sit in the foyer style area, until a table was free. I waited some more. At this point I nearly left.

In the end I went with Loch Fyne Seafood Mixed Grill. The dish as described consists of Scottish salmon, Scottish king scallop, golden shell Hebridean mussels, squid, sea bass fillet, samphire, wilted spinach, lobster butter, and a side of sautéed new potatoes.

I knew the place was busy, so didn’t worry too much about the speed of service, but in the end it was quite quick. The plate looked delicious. There was a huge prawn in the dish, which was nice, as that wasn’t on the dish description.

As I tried the salmon, I realised that the king scallop was missing. Considering how busy it was, I didn’t think I would be able to get the attention of the waiting staff, but I was lucky. He was very apologetic and took the dish and returned shortly with the added scallop, well two scallops.

The dish was well cooked, I enjoyed the salmon and the bass as well as the scallops. The squid was nice, as were the mussels. I couldn’t really taste the lobster butter, but there was a richness there I enjoyed. It comes with a side of sautéed potatoes, which were smooth, buttery and rather tasty.

I was surprised by how busy the place was, but I did quite like the environment. The service wasn’t perfect, but I put that down to the number of people in the place.

Kingfin Calamari

Over the summer I have been finding myself in Bristol on a Friday so I have had the chance to eat at the Finzel Reach market. There is a wide choice of stalls with a varied choice of food. You can have Thai, Pizza, Vegan, Mac ’n Cheese, Dumplings to name a few of the many choices.

Though I do like to try out new things I have found myself over recent visits going to SheSellsSushi and having their delicious Bento Box of beef donburi and a chicken flapper hirata bun.

On my most recent visit there was a new stall I hadn’t seen before, Kingfin who sell fish wraps and chips. As well as their fish wraps, which sounded rather tasty, what really caught my eye was their special, which was Calamari. Everything was cooked to order which was nice to see.

Kingfin Calamari

The squid rings were coated in a flour mix and then deep fried. They were served with aioli, some salad and rosemary fries. This was quite a substantial meal and I had initially thought I might be just a snack and I might need more food, but I was glad to be proved wrong.

Kingfin Calamari

There was quite a decent portion of squid. It was quite tasty, you could certainly taste the difference with the fact they cooked the squid from fresh, rather than heating up or second cooking pre-cooked squid. The fries on the other hand were pre-cooked and then fried again, but this didn’t matter that much. I would have liked more salad. Overall though I really enjoyed the food and would certainly have it again.

Time for a Thai blast from the past

When I was working in Oxford, five years ago, one of my favourite places for lunch was Sais’s Thai in the wonderful covered market. Back in 2014 I wrote about one of my lunches there. Since I left Oxford, I’ve not really had the chance to go back, or certainly no time for lunch. So it was with a little trepidation and anticipation that with time for lunch I found myself venturing into the covered market to see, if firstly Sais’s Thai was still there and if there was room for me for lunch.

Sais’s Thai

It was still there and though just before midday, it was quite crowded, but there was room for me. I could see it was still a popular place.

The menu was as interesting and tempting as I remembered, and I was particularly pleased to see two of my favourite dishes were available that day. So I went with the two dishes and rice. You queue up at the counter, expect to be shouted at a little, and you place your order, which is then plated in front of you. There are some extras, and you can also get a range of drinks. There are also bottles of chilled water (probably tap water) and glasses to have if you don’t want to buy a drink. It’s then a matter of finding a free place to sit, prepare to share your table with others.

The crispy belly pork takes deep fried pork and combines with a range of stir fried vegetables in quite a spicy sauce and Thai Basil. This is quite a hot and spicy dish, but was just as good as I remembered it.

Crispy Pork Belly

I really like this dish, so much so that I often try and recreate it at home. The combination of crispy flavoured pork, a variety of vegetables and a nice spicy sauce is delicious.

I was also pleased to see that they had a squid dish, this was a special and it was stir fried squid with vegetables in a spicy sauce.

Spicy Squid

I was really impressed with the squid, it was so tender, almost melt in the mouth. Squid in a lot of places is overcooked, so is tough and rubbery, this squid though was really soft and tasty. Full of flavour as well.

I really enjoyed my lunch, it was a real blast from the pasta and it was nice to see they had maintained their quality and range of dishes. It was a little more expensive than I remember, but okay I can live with that.

Time for a Coffee: Top Ten Blog Posts 2018

This year I have written 35 blog posts.

Tenth post was over ten years old, Chorizo Frito al Vino which was my thoughts on cooking Chorizo sausage in wine.

Chorizo

Ninth place was also about Chorizo, this was about Sainsbury’s Cooking Chorizo. Having used cooking chorizo from Tesco, Marks and Spencers and Sainsbury, I much prefer using the chorizo from Tesco or Marks and Spencers.

The eighth most popular post on the blog was about the Pret A Manger Italian Chicken Salad I had in 2013. I have had it quite few times since.

The number seven post was Beef and Mushroom Stew with Dumplings. The post had a lot of thoughts about mushrooms.

The sixth most popular post was not about just any pork medallions, but Marks and Spencers Pork Medallions.

My fifth post was about retro chocolate. How many of these can you remember? Which were your favourites?

Retro Chocolate

Reminiscing about Newquay Steam Beer was the fourth most read post on the blog.

Climbing two places, the third most popular post was Basil & pine nut margherite, a simple pasta recipe.

Second most popular blog, having been top for two years was Sirloin for Beef Wellington? This was a response to the high ranking of another post about using sirloin steak in a Beef Wellington rather than fillet steak due to the way people were (at the time) searching Google.

In at number one Chilli Squid from Wagamama, maintaining it’s top position as the most popular post on the blog.. This post was one of the many on the blog about squid, however it is now quite old being from 2011.

So popularity appears to be dependent on older posts being found via Google searches.

I wasn’t sure what I was in the mood for…

Sometimes having too much choice can be a bad thing. I was up in Sheffield for an event and aiming for a quick meal I popped to the dining quarter of Meadowhall within there are a range of eating options.

The lower level is mainly fast food chains, but I was intrigued by Yangtze, a Chinese takeaway, but the queue was quite long and I really fancied taking my time being waited upon. On the upper level I did like the idea of the Spanish Tapas place, but felt it was quite expensive for what was on offer. There was also Las Iguanas which I don’t think I’ve been to, but looked tempting.

In the end I decided to go with Wagamama. I wanted to try out the Tama Squid, crispy fried squid balls, drizzled with okonomiyaki sauce and mayonnaise. finished with aonori and bonito flakes. I thought to myself I wouldn’t also mind trying Wagamama’s hirata steam buns to see if they are as good as the ones from She Sells Sushi. For the main course I thought Yakisoba would be a good choice.

As I queued for Wagamama, which seemed to be taking a long time, I thought about it, well of the three dishes I wanted, I could get the same three , well three similar, dishes at YO! Sushi as part of their blue plate Monday offer. So reflecting, I turned away and headed off to YO! Sushi.

As I arrived I could see how busy YO! Sushi was, but was given a warm welcome and they found me a seat very quickly (which was simplified because I was on my own).

The thing about YO! Sushi is you can look at the menu or just take things from the conveyor belt.

While I perused the menu I took a plate of avocado maki.

I then ordered some hot dishes, which took a little time to arrive, but I was expecting that so didn’t mind.

The maki were nice and fresh and was a great start to my meal.

Whilst the ordered dishes arrived I took another dish from the belt, the Beef Tataki Sashimi, which is pepper-seared rare beef and a tangy coriander pesto.

Beef Tataki Sashimi

I’ve wanted to try this dish for a while and it matched my expectations. The beef was nice and tender and I did like the tangy coriander pesto which enhanced both the beef and the grated mooli on the dish.

The next dish was the Vegetable Yakisoba, described as yakisoba noodles in a tangy sauce served with crunchy, fresh vegetables.

Vegetable Yakisoba

I wasn’t impressed with this dish, the tangy sauce wasn’t to my taste and I didn’t like the texture of the noodles so much. I think I should have gone with a rice dish instead. I did wonder if the Wagamama version would be better?

I really like the Spicy Pepper Squid from YO! Sushi.

Spicy Pepper Squid

The spicy marinated squid, fried until crisp was garnished with red chilli and spring onions. I really like the texture and taste of this dish and it did not fail to impress.

When I was placing my order, the server recommended the Cod Nanbanzuke, which though not on the blue plate menu was part of the blue plate deal. The menu describes it as “Japan’s answer to sweet and sour! Crispy fried cod bites in a sweet and sour sauce.”

Cod Nanbanzuke

Though I did think it could have been a little more crispier than it was, I really did enjoy this dish. The cod was tasty and the sweet and sour sauce didn’t overpower the taste of the fish. This was quite a big portion as well.

A little later the final of my four hot dishes I had ordered arrived, a portion of Takoyaki.

Takoyaki

The menu says that this is Osaka’s number one street food! Lightly battered dough balls with octopus, topped with mayo, bonito and lots more.

I thought this was a really nice concept, but wasn’t too hot on the execution of it. It was too much dough and to little octopus.

My final dish was fish. Salmon Sashimi Our freshest cuts of thick-sliced Scottish salmon, with mooli and lemon.

I hadn’t planned to take this dish, but seeing the chef preparing them and thought if there’s any left on the conveyor belt then I will have one. It was a nice clean refreshing dish to finish the meal off with.

Overall I had a really nice meal and the blue plate offer made a difference to the value for money.




Goan Seafood Curry

Goan Seafood Curry

I’ve only been to Giraffe a few times over the years. It has an interesting eclectic menu. As with any chain, sometimes the specials make for an interesting choice.

I had the Goan Seafood Curry a couple of years ago, sadly no longer on the menu as it was a summer special at Giraffe.

The Goan Seafood Curry, was made with king prawns, squid, sweet potato, roasted red pepper, snap peas, coriander, chilli and lime and served with brown rice.

I really enjoyed this curry and on a more recent visit to Giraffe was disappointed that it wasn’t on the menu.

Great Greek Food

I am quite surprised by the turnover of restaurants in Cabot Circus. The branch of Cafe Rouge closed and was replaced by a Five Guys burger place. La Tasca, the Spanish tapas bar was shut down and the location became a Wagamama.

The Chimmi-Changa restaurant which I remembering visiting once, has recently closed and has been replaced with a new Greek place, The Real Greek. I did quite like the Chimmi-Changa concept, but having eaten there once, and rarely if ever having lunchtime specials, it wasn’t a place I ever went to again. If other people were thinking like me, not surprised it closed.

Obviously the whole place has been refurbished and has more of a New England feel to the place then a Greek taverna. There is a lot of blue coloured wood. It’s calm and welcoming.

The Real Greek

The Real Greek has a great lunchtime menu, and if I visit again I will probably choose from that and it looks like great value. Looking over the main menu, they have a range of hot and cold meze dishes. I had two dishes, the grilled kalamari and the lamb cutlets. I had considered going with one of the lunchtime specials, but really wanted to eat squid and lamb, as they are two of my favourite foods and also are considered Greek specialities. They weren’t on the lunch menu, but the meze dishes are still good value for money.

The menu describes the lamb as grilled lamb cutlets, served with lentils and minted Greek yoghurt.

grilled lamb cutlets, served with lentils and minted Greek yoghurt

Though advertised as a meze dish this was quite a substantial plate of food. As well as three grilled tender lamb cutlets, they were arranged on a bed of tasty lentils. The flavour was great and really tasty.

The Real Greek describe the grilled kalamari as “Our own unique version, using the freshest squid and a sticky Greek honey and paprika marinade.”

The Real Greek describe the grilled kalamari as “Our own unique version, using the freshest squid and a sticky Greek honey and paprika marinade.”

I think you can tell a lot about a restaurant on how they cook squid. The dish looked interesting and not quite how I imagined. The squid was tender and tasty, the marinade wasn’t overpowering and enhanced the dish.

Overall I really enjoyed the food, it was fresh, tasty and looked great. The service was really good, friendly and welcoming without being overpowering.

Time for a Coffee: Top Ten Blog Posts 2017

This year I have written 37 blog posts. In 2016 I wrote 28 posts.

In the Birdcage

The tenth most popular post on the blog was about the Pret A Manger Italian Chicken Salad I had in 2013. I have had it quite few times since.

Ninth place, was a reminder from 2013, that if I ever go to Frankie and Benny’s again, don’t order the pasta! I have never had pasta again at F&Bs.

The post as number eight was about Sainsbury’s Cooking Chorizo, Having used cooking chorizo from Tesco, Marks and Spencers and Sainsbury, I much prefer using the chorizo from Tesco or Marks and Spencers.

The number seven post was from ten years ago, Pasta in Tomato Sauce. A recipe for a very quick and easy dish with a lovely piquant tomato sauce.

Pasta in Tomato Sauce

Sixth post was about the Wagamama Pork Ribs I had in 2011.

Post number five for last twelve months was Basil & pine nut margherite, a simple pasta recip.

Reminiscing about Newquay Steam Beer was the fourth most read post on the blog.

The third most popular post was not about just any pork medallions, but Marks and Spencers’ Pork Medallions.

Second most popular blog, having been top for two years was Sirloin for Beef Wellington? This was a response to the high ranking of another post about using sirloin steak in a Beef Wellington rather than fillet steak due to the way people were (at the time) searching Google.

In at number one is Chilli Squid from Wagamama, climbing one place. This popular post was one of the many on the blog about squid, however it is now quite old being from 2011 and the visit was the same one that I had the ribs.

So popularity appears to be dependent on older posts being found via Google searches. Hopefully 2018 will see more posts and more people seeing those posts.

Crispy Squid

Crispy Squid

The South Kitchen run a regular crispy squid stall, though the menu had the odd special dish, the usual offer is either salt and pepper crispy squid or sweet chilli crispy squid. Both dishes are served with pickled vegetables, new potatoes and chorizo.

Each serving is freshly cooked to order in front of you. The squid and the potatoes are taken and cooked in the deep fat fryer, before being tossed in the appropriate seasoning then dressed with the picked vegetables and garnished with sesame seeds.

The squid is tender, the batter is crisp with a real crunch. The potatoes add substance to the dish and the vegetables enhance it. Overall a great dish of food.

For me this is what street food is a really about. This is proper fresh food, it isn’t been hanging around under a hot plate, drying out! It’s not something that has been cooked in advance and then heated up in a microwave.

One “problem” with enjoying street food like this, is when you go to another eatery, which doesn’t cook the food this way, then you really don’t enjoy the experience.

Moorish Calamari

Over in St Nick’s Market in Bristol are many stalls including a really nice looking Moorish place. As well as serving food to take away, they also have a few tables and seats for table service. I’ve always meant to give them a try, but either didn’t fancy the food that day, or there was no space!

The other week they had a specials board out and on there along with a grilled halloumi special was a Calamari Salad. Regular readers of the blog will know I have a fondness for calamari or squid and see it as a benchmark about a restaurant or place.

Sitting down I ordered the calamari and the service was excellent, the order was taken quickly and the food arrived just as quickly.

Moorish Calamari

The dish comprised freshly cooked squid rings in batter with a selection of salads, dips and potatoes.

The calamari was delicious, the batter had a nice light crunch and the squid was very tender.

The salads and dips were greta, very fresh and full of flavour.

I enjoyed the dish.