Back in December 2019 I was staying at the Taplow House Hotel in Maidenhead. I had chose the hotel in the main as it was cheaper than some London hotels, also parking was available.
I had not eaten at the hotel the evening, as It was late when I arrived at the hotel. I had left leaving for the hotel much later than I had planned. So I had eaten at home and when I arrived, it was basically make myself a cup of tea, read and then get some sleep. I had a really nice classic room.
I had to be in central London in the morning, so I wanted an early start. I got myself washed and dressed and went down to breakfast. However they weren’t quite ready, so I had to wait outside, as it took the staff ages to open the dining room for breakfast.
Once in I was ready to place my breakfast order, but this didn’t happen very fast and then a little longer for it to arrive at my table. So I was a little rushed, but having said all that it was a really nice breakfast.
The bacon was nice and thick, the sausage was meaty and tasty. The fried bread was done right, but my poached egg was overcooked. I also enjoyed the mushrooms, tomatoes and black pudding.
However I didn’t really enjoy the breakfast as much as I would like, as I was rushing. I much prefer a more relaxing breakfast.
I left the hotel about 30 minutes later than I wanted to, so I hit traffic on my way into London. It took me slightly longer as a result to get to the Westfield Centre, park and then catch the tube to central London for the event where I was presenting at an event. In the end I was just on time! I missed the start of the event, but was on time to present my piece and listen to some others as well.
There was a time when I would travel for work, stay overnight and then go out and get something to eat.
Well I am not doing that now and don’t expect to be doing it for a while either. I have though still a few places to write about and review that I didn’t do so at the time. This is one such review.
Back in January when I could and did travel I was staying overnight in Leeds. I needed a place to eat. I rarely eat at the restaurants in the hotels, usually either they are very expensive and out of budget, or as was the case in Leeds, the hotel I was staying didn’t really have a proper restaurant, serving a few bar snack type meals only. The other thing I do find with hotel restaurants is that it can be a bit hit and miss when it comes to the quality of the food.
Around the corner from the hotel there was quite a choice of restaurants, this is so much easier these days with Google or Apple Maps which show the restaurant close to you.
I was checking the menus of a few nearby places, when I saw on their website, that Reds True Barbecue in Headingley had a 51% discount offer in January, if you pre-booked. So I decided I would go there to eat, the menu looked great as well. It was simple to book online and I walked down to the restaurant.
The outside looked very American to me, though I’ve never been to America and have thus never eaten at a proper American barbecue joint, and so have no frame of reference to what a real barbecue place is like. However if I was to say what I thought an American barbecue joint was like based on the films and TV programme I felt it looked like what I thought an American barbecue joint should look like.
Having walked through the door I was given a warm and friendly welcome. The place was crowded, considering it was a Tuesday night. Being in Headingley the clientele were quite young and I am guessing a fair few were students. Probably taking advantage of the 51% offer. I liked the look of the place, slightly industrial, wooden tables and American signs.
Though I had seen the menu online, I still took my time to have a good look over the menu choices. There were a range of starters, barbecue platters and to quote the menu, “things in bread” which had a range of burgers.
Having travelled up to Leeds during the day and missing lunch, I was quite hungry. I went with the barbecued three meats with two sides deal.
I chose the smoked brisket, the short rib and the sausage. For my sides I went with fries and onion rings. Though I was tempted by the chicken wings and the pork belly. To drink with the meal I ordered a bottle of Corona.
The food arrived pretty quickly and I was impressed with the look of the food and the portion size.
The sausages were really nice, meaty and spicy. The short rib was delicious and very tender. The brisket was nice, but I felt it was a little dry. I enjoyed both the sides, though I think on reflection I probably should have had some slaw alongside.
My meal should have cost £25, but with the 51% discount on food, in the end it was just £14.54 which was really good value.
Though I don’t expect to be going to Leeds anytime soon, I hope that I can because I think I would like to have a return visit to Reds for some more excellent barbecued food.
So there I was at an event in London and needing to book a hotel for the night. Going through the booking system we use at work, there was a cheap hotel almost next door to the venue, well that made a lot of sense, so I booked it.
Well it was a very tired hotel, it was dated and in the end quite noisy as well. I did though have breakfast included.
The breakfast was limited in choice, but it wasn’t half bad.
Well the coffee was plain awful, I wish I had tea, those knowing me, will realise that’s saying something. It should be said I rarely find outstanding coffee when I have breakfast in a hotel, but this was on another level entirely.
The breakfast itself was all hot (and you can’t always say that about the breakfast buffet at some hotels), the eggs were cooked perfectly to my liking, I liked the tomato and the sausages. I wasn’t too enamoured with the bacon, but it was okay. As for beans, I don’t really like beans, so won’t comment on that.
I enjoyed the toast and there was a good choice of jams.
Overall the hotel was somewhere I wouldn’t want to stay again. The breakfast though, wasn’t too bad for a hotel breakfast.
I don’t go to The Real Greek for a while and then I go not just once, but go again real quick.
I had actually intended to have pizza from Bella Vista down by Bristol Bridge, but they were really busy and there was going to be a long wait. I had enjoyed my recent visit so decided to go for their lunch deal again.
As before there was a warm welcome from the staff and this time I chose to sit inside. The Lunch Menu is a fixed price at £8.50, where you can choose between a Greek Trio or a Greek Plate or a Souvlaki Wrap & Side. This time I went with the trio of dishes.
I had the warm flatbread with houmous and taramasalata. A nice starter, though I should have asked for it to all come at once rather than separately. If I had chosen one of the other ramekins available, such as tzatziki, I would like to have that along with the main.
The middle of the trio was Loukaniko beef and pork sausage. A traditional Greek beef and pork sausage, chargrilled and sprinkled with oregano.
I’ve had similar dishes before and really enjoyed them, this was a tasty dish, strong flavours and a really meaty experience. It was served with smoked chilli relish, which I didn’t really like, I found it somewhat harsh and overpowering.
The final choice was the Aegean Slaw, thinly shredded cabbage, carrot, red and green peppers, with an olive oil dressing. I was slightly annoyed that the Loukaniko sausage was already accompanied by a reasonable portion of the Aegean Slaw, so I got extra slaw. If I had know this I might have chosen a different final choice. This was nice, fresh and crunchy.
The service was excellent, and it was a pleasant lunchtime experience with some great food, great value and nice environment.
I occasionally have to stay away as part of my job, and I find it surprising that I have become something of a breakfast snob when it comes to hotel breakfasts. I know that it is nice to have someone else make you breakfast.
This is a unique hotel experience and nothing like the bland chains that I usually find myself in. The quirky decor and furniture makes fort a very different hotel experience.
Last time the breakfast was very quirky in its presentation.
This time I was expecting something different, as I had noticed that the dinner menu was radically different to what I had seen on my last visit. Last time I had a really nice pork done three ways. Looking back through the blog I realised I hadn’t blogged about that dish or the breakfast.
That pork dish was very clever and delicious, but as you can see it had quite a quirky presentation. I think I remember seeing a similar sounding lamb dish back then, so was looking forward to having that this time on my return visit. However looking over the menu it was apparent that they had changed chef and were going for “safe” options such as steak and chips, steak and ale pie, fish and chips, etc…
The new menu didn’t inspire me so was expecting a more “traditional” breakfast. However this time the breakfast was similar, it was served on a plate, though the beans were still in a miniature saucepan.
The mushroom was full of flavour and well cooked, not broiled for ages as you find at a breakfast buffet. Likewise as it was cooked to order the bacon was very tasty and not dried out, the eggs were also similarly freshly cooked and still had runny yolks. I liked the beef tomato that came with the breakfast. The sausage was meaty and tasty. The breakfast came with some nice toasted bloomer bread and a cafetière of freshly brewed coffee.
These were high quality ingredients and were cooked well and tasted delicious.
I have been to a few German markets in my time, but have to admit I rarely buy anything from them, usually it’s time, sometimes it’s price and other times what on earth are they selling!
Most German markets I have been too have had some beautiful Christmas decorations and bits, but there are also lots of food stalls.
On the odd occasion, though I make a purchase, this time I went with what was described as a French Hot Dog. They looked really quite nice cooking on the griddle.
The blackboard was chalked with £4 each or £6 for a double. What you actually got was a split sausage for £4 and the £6 was for a whole sausage.
It was served in a split section of baguette, along with grated cheese and french mustard mayonnaise.
So what was it like? Well to be honest it was a bit of a nightmare for street food. The sausage was fine, but the skin was really tough, making it very difficult to bite through. I also thought the sausage was rather too salty. The cheese was nice, strong flavoured, but the mustard was a little harsh. Overall a bit of a disappointment, and I thought for £4 was somewhat overpriced.
I recently had lunch at a small Turkish place and decided to go with the penne pasta in a chilli sauce with spicy sausage.
It was very nice and quite tasty.
I don’t think the pasta was freshly cooked, it tasted in some respects like fresh pasta, but knowing the place I was in, I wonder if they used frozen pasta? The chilli was done well, nice and spicy but still subtle and not overpowering.
So there I was needing a place to go to lunch. I did actually fancy La Tasca, however they weren’t doing anything like their Tapas for a Tenner deal though they were doing quite a few deals if there were two of you (eat for £12). However I was on my own so that wasn’t going to happen.
I looked round, but didn’t fancy Spud-u-like or Burger King so with time running out, but with a little hesitation I decided to go to Café Rouge.
Now my past experiences with Café Rouge have not been always favourable.
Overall I was disappointed with the food and the service, I know Café Rouge is a chain, but in this case the Cardiff branch was a real disappointment.
When I was at one of the Bristol branches I was also not impressed:
They do a very good merguez sausage and it is always very well done, well cooked and nice and spicy. The lentils were quite good too.
However the dish was let down by something as simple as rocket leaves. They were not fresh, old and somewhat manky! A disappointment using not just old rocket leaves, but ones that looked as if they were verging on going off.
Now it’s not always bad news, otherwise I would certainly not have gone again this time. I had a wonderful meal in Brighton a few years ago and I think that’s the reason I keep going back.
So what went wrong this time?
This time the food was up to scratch and I’ll start with that. What I did notice was that the merguez sausage was no longer on the menu, which is a personal favourite.
I went for the fixed price menu, which is very reasonable at £8.50 for two courses, even though the choice is limited to three items for started and mains.
For my starter I went with the Salade de Toulouse – A warm salad of smoked Toulouse sausages sautéed with new potatoes and caramelised onions on a bed of mixed leaves.
This was quite nice, the sausage though was no merguez sausage and I expected a little more flavour from it. The onions and potatoes were cooked just right and the salad was fresh and crisp. I enjoyed it and used some bread to soak up the dressing.
The other two choices were Champignons a la Creme – Chestnut mushrooms cooked in garlic & cream served with French bread and
Salade Niçoise – Classic Niçoise salad with tuna, anchovies, egg, olives, potatoes, French beans and tomatoes with mixed leaves.
For my main course I went with the Poulet et Dauphinoise – Roasted chicken leg with dauphinoise potatoes and thyme jus.
This was also very nice, the chicken was cooked fine, the dauphinoise potatoes had flavour and good texture. The thyme jus was very nice.
The other two choices for the mains were Filet de Colin – Pan fried fillet of hake served on a bed of Ratatouille and Omelette aux Fines Herbes – Fresh herb omelette served with French fries or mixed salad. The fish had run out so it was a choice between chicken and omelette in the end.
So the food was good, what went wrong, why are you not going again?
Well this time the service is what was awful.
When I walked in, the place was quite full, and the waitress did say there would be a 30 minute wait for food, I was fine with that. It just seemed to taken them an inordinately long time to take my order. The first course arrived within 20 minutes which was nice. But then I had a 30 minute wait for the main course! By this time the place was much much emptier. What annoyed me though was that other tables were getting served before me even though they had come in later. In other words I had been forgotten… this was also evidenced by the waitress asking if I had had my main course (with my empty starter plate in front of me).
I normally do tip, however on this occasion I felt that I hadn’t had any service let alone good service.
So next time I think about going to Café Rouge, remind me of this time, oh and that time too….
It was a splendid affair, and though there was an element of self-service, what was nice was the staff took your cooked breakfast order and brought it to the table.
Beautifully served, it consisted of an excellent meaty sausage, some very nice grilled bacon, a small bowl of baked beans, grilled (and skinned) tomato, mushroom, bubble and squeak, black pudding and egg. You had a choice of eggs (chicken or duck) and cooked to your liking, I had a poached duck’s egg. It was also garnished with lettuce, not sure about the lettuce.
So when I was lucky enough to stay at the Ambassadors Hotel in Bloomsbury again recently, I was really looking forward to coming down for breakfast.
I wasn’t expecting to get an identical experience, but it was pretty close.
The eggs were cooked well, the sausage was nice, as was the bacon. I liked the grilled mushrooms. The tomato wasn’t as good as before and there was a solitary small hash brown.
Luckily no lettuce, just some parsley.
There was quite a choice of other cooked items as well, such as boiled eggs and kippers.
Along with the cooked breakfast, there was also a (self-service) selection of toast, bread products such as croissant and panettone, fruit, yoghurt, juice, cold meats, cheese and smoked fish.
Excellent service and great food. A good start to the day.