Dinner at 125mph

Though I have eaten on trains before, on a recent journey from London to Edinburgh was the first time I have been served a proper chef cooked dinner on a train. 

Most of my train travel is with GWR in and around Bristol and into London. Catering on those trains is either non-existent, or through a trolley service. 

Back in the day when GWR was First Great Western, and they used the classic HST trains to London, I do remember that you could get a cooked breakfast from the buffet car, but that was back in 2007.

LNER essentially use the same Hitachi trains that GWR use but do make more use of the onboard kitchens. Some services provide hot food, but on the odd service you get the chef, who will cook you a meal.

When I was travelling the chef cooked meal was gammon, mash and savoy cabbage with a cider sauce.

This was gammon steak from Taste Tradition served with chive mashed potatoes, savoy cabbage and a creamy cider sauce. 

When you consider this was prepared at 125mph and served on a train, it was a nice meal. The gammon was gammon, but it was tender and not too salty. I liked the mash and the cabbage. The cider sauce was okay, but to be honest I couldn’t taste much cider.

This certainly isn’t a meal I would order in a pub or a restaurant, but as the only real option on a late (but fast) train to Edinburgh from London, it was nice to have a proper plate of food instead of a sandwich and a packet of crisps.

I was going to have dessert, the vanilla sponge with raspberry jam centre served with custard. However, they ran out before I could have some, so I never got to try that.

Time for Korean Fried Cauliflower

We went out at lunchtime, myself and a colleague had planned on going to the vegan pasta place by Queens Square, however I had forgotten that the Redcliffe Bridge was closed as they repaired it. So it would have been a a somewhat long detour to get there. Instead, we headed to St Nicholas Market and after looking at what was available, he and I went with the Korean Fried Cauliflower from Daily Noodles by Larkin Cen.

market stall

I had mine with rice and Green Thai sauce, he had his with noodles and katsu sauce.

We took our food back to the office to eat it.

The cauliflower was nice and the batter was crispy. The sauced had soaked through into the rice. It would have been nice to have the sauce on the side, so the cauliflower could be dipped into it. Even so, it was a nice dish of food.

Daily Noodles use to be called Woky Ko and I have had chicken from them before. I did say back then:

The chicken was nice and crispy, the sauce was quite tasty. I did enjoy the dish, but I don’t think it would be something I would have again.

String Fries

We had peeled too many potatoes for dinner, well we had peeled enough, then at the last minute one member of the household, who shall remain nameless, let us know they weren’t going to be in for dinner!

I had an idea on what to do with the spare potatoes.

A year or so ago, I bought a spiralizer from ProCook. I have used it lot when making salads, it works well with carrots and cucumber.

I decided I would spiralize the potatoes. The spiralizer worked a treat and I had a load of spiralized potatoes, well strings of potato.

I let them dry for a while before deep frying them in sunflower oil. I realised I was a bit short on oil, so I had to toss and turn them quite often. 

I drained them on kitchen towel, before adding some sea salt.

They were a really nice garnish, adding a crunchy and saltiness.

I have had skinny fries before, from GBK, but what I cooked wasn’t skinny fries, more deep fried strings of potato.

Get a spiralizer from Amazon.

Minibar Economics

I was in Norwich for a workshop and staying at The Georgian Townhouse on Unthank Road close to the city centre. This is a really nice hotel, my room had a Nespresso machine and a small Smeg fridge.

There was also a minibar with soft drinks, beers, wines, and snacks. The minibar was also quite expensive, so I didn’t have anything from there. I appreciate that the minbar could be a nice little earner for the hotel, but I wonder how inelastic the demand is for stuff from the minibar. 

As an economist, inelastic demand means simplistically that if you raise the price of an item, then though the demand for that item falls, the result is that you in fact get an increase in revenue.

With an elastic demand, when you raise the price, demand falls by a greater proportion, as a result you get a fall in revenue.

Generally the elasticity of a product is dependent on the availability or closeness of substitutes. So in a hotel room you can either have something from the minibar or not have something. You could pop down to the bar, or even out to a shop, but that requires effort. There is the fact that there is probably a point in time when you want something from the minibar, and you really want it, so much so you need it. Then you are probably more willing to pay extra. Then there is the urgency, if you want something, but are willing to wait, or you know you are going to want it later, then the time you have will make it easier to find and source substitutes. So buying something on the way to the hotel, rather than waiting until you are at the hotel.

So as the demand for drinks and snacks in a hotel room, is very likely to be inelastic for most people staying in a hotel room, then it makes economic sense to price accordingly.

I think I would probably buy stuff from the minibar if it was more realistically priced. As it was, most times I buy snacks and stuff from the supermarket before I travel, or pop to a local shop. In city centres now there is also a wealth of small branches of the major supermarkets with longer opening hours, again providing more accessible alternatives.

One other factor that probably needs to be taken into account is the growth of online delivery services such as Uber Eats or Deliveroo that allow you to buy groceries and have them delivered, I wonder if that has an impact. I certainly have seen people have food delivered to their hotel from Uber Eats or Deliveroo. 

Maybe it is time for hotels to think about their minibar and minibar pricing. Though I should also point out that in many hotels I now stay in, they don’t even have a minibar anymore.

Time for a Coffee: Top Ten Blog Posts 2023

plate of food

In 2023 I wrote and published 187 blog posts. Less than in 2022 when I wrote 236 blog posts. In 2021 I wrote 107 blog posts,  in 2020 it was 120. In 2019 it was 58 blog posts, 2018 just 36.

The post at number ten was What should I have? when I visited Bills on Baker Street in London.

The top post from 2020, in 2023 was my ninth most popular post, and it was my review of some Lidl Sol Mar Cod Croquettes

The post at eight was a review of the Sosu Amoy Donburi Meal Kit.

Having been the most popular blog post for both 2018 and 2017, second in 2019, the post in seventh place was a post asking the question could you use 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. 

The post at number six was a review of Lidl Coffee Ice Cream. They are not huge tubs, but what you get is a tasty creamy coffee ice cream, with a little chocolate in there as well.

The fifth most popular post was about ALdi’s Beef Short Ribs. 

The post at number four was about the tama squid I had at Wagamama. 

The third most popular blog post was on how the branch of German Doner Kebab still not open in Weston-super-Mare.

The post at number two was about the time I had the Pollo Cacciatore at Bella Italia.

The most popular blog post in 2023 was a review of the Greek Tzoumagias-Style Sausages that Lidl sold.

I don’t do sandwiches

EasyJet Airbus

When it comes to lunch, I generally don’t do sandwiches. I understand why people like eating sandwiches. I actually do like eating sandwiches, when I say I don’t do sandwiches, what I really mean is that I am not a fan of retail sandwich packs.

I was waiting for my delayed flight to Glasgow recently, and it was at an odd time. I had planned to have lunch in Glasgow, but my flight was delayed by ninety minutes. So rather than wait, I decided I would have lunch at Bristol Airport. The last time I flew with EasyJet they had run out of food, so only had snacks and drinks available.

My first choice would have been some Tacos from Tortilla, but I knew I would have to get to the gate at some point. So, in the end I went to Boots. They had some sandwiches reduced, so I got those.

Eating them at the gate I was reminded how much I don’t enjoy retail packs of sandwiches. Not sure if this was because they were chilled. They lacked flavour and in some way lacked texture as well. The bread wasn’t really bread, it was soft and cotton wool like. I ate them, but didn’t enjoy them.

Next time I will need to remember this and have something else or go without.

No fresh food on the plane

My flight to Amsterdam was delayed, I had originally planned to have a late lunch in Amsterdam, but as I was going to be there later, I decided I would have a sandwich on the plane. Alas the plane had been to Paris earlier that day and all the passengers had eaten all the fresh food. So when they came round with the refreshment trolley, there was no fresh food available, so no sandwiches or anything. Yes I could have had crisps or chocolate, but I didn’t want crisps and chocolate. I also didn’t go with coffee either. I decided to wait.

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.

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.