Thursday, 24 April 2014
Easter snuck up on me this year. As dense as it might sound I didn't realise we had a four day weekend coming up until five days before. Once I realised we had a long weekend coming up I couldn't wait limping through the last couple of days at work.
Becks and I decided to escape to the Oxfordshire countryside on the Friday evening to enjoy a bit of time outside of London. Not long after we arrived it was straight down to the local pub The Bear for dinner. It was my first visit since the new landlords took over at the beginning of the month and the food has moved up a notch, without the prices going in the same direction, which was good to see.
On the Saturday we visited The Didcot Railway Centre which we've been threatening to do for a while but hadn't made it to before now.
I can't have visited in over twenty years and don't remember anything from my previous visits so it was like a completely new attraction. We started our visit with a ride on a stream train - selecting the First Class carriage of course - from the entrance to the far end of the site.
Rather than walking back we caught a train on the other line which operates to carry visits around the site. The second line had a Steam Railmotor running, which has the engine located inside one of the carriages, rather then being a separate unit pulling the carriages. I hadn't seen anything like it before.
The whole site had the feeling of somewhere which is run for the benefit of the members who like to play with steam trains, rather than set up as a tourist attraction. We were able to wonder around, more or less where we liked, but there was virtually no information on what we were looking or signs to help us navigate around. But when we found our way into the second shed it was train gold with four / five tracks of gleaming steam trains rising above us. Becks seemed very enthusiastic about the whole experience, which surprised me given the almost non existence of trains of NZ. But then perhaps that was the reason?
Friday, 18 April 2014
|Spinach, Parmesan & soft egg pizzette|
Joel and I arrived early so we had a chance to order a beer and catch up. Seeing the food head to nearby tables was piquing my appetite and we decided to order a couple of the small plates to keep us going. Rob arrived just as the food hit the table which made us look like we'd time things perfectly, rather than being caught in the act of eating.
|Potato & Parmesan crocchette|
The chick pea, spinach & ricotta meatballs (£6) were surprisingly tasty and I didn't regret ordering the vegetarian option at all. I suspect it was the ricotta which made them taste so good. The prawn & artichoke linguine, bottarga (£8) was a generous serving for the price with sweet prawns.
|Salmon tartare, horseraddish & carta di musica|
Overall it was definitely a good evening. Just a shame I forgot my tape measure so I couldn't measure the height of the bar........
|Chick pea, spinach & ricotta|
|Castelfranco, red onion & pine nuts|
|Prawn & artichoke linguine, bottarga|
|Duck, blood orange & fennel salad|
All my eats are added to my map.
3 Cowcross Street
London EC1M 6DR
3 Cowcross Street
London EC1M 6DR
|The leading pack read by Haille|
Playing with the live tracking on the London Marathon website, we were able to anticipate when the leaders might arrive and check to see if friends had yet crossed the starting line. We had around a fifteen minute wait until the leaders passed, led by the legend Haille Gebrselassie who was pace making.
They passed in such a blur I wasn't quite sure whether Mo Farah was with the lead group, but thirty seconds later we got our answer as Mo passed with the second pace maker. I was a bit surprised not to see him with the leaders, but it was the sensible choice to run his own race.
We then had a short wait for me runners from my club and other friends to come past us. I did my to give all of them a big shout as I always get a boost when someone calls my name during a marathon.
|The third pack featuring John from Kent AC|
The last runner we saw before heading off for a coffee was my uni friend Ed. He was looking relaxed and in good form when he passed us. I wasn't quite quick enough with the camera so the only shot I have of him is from the back. However, it does show off my Camelbak rather nicely that I lent to him!
Sunday, 6 April 2014
The highlight of the year was probably the mind blowing leopard hunt that I saw in Zambia. The rest of my African adventure in Malawi was pretty special too.
As you'd expect on the blog there was a lot of eating. I was spotted on the Guardian running blog, and set a new personal best in the Abingdon Marathon. Not bad for a stomach ulcer affected race. In fact it was my hardest running year to date. I probably averaged over fifty miles a week for a continuous six months up to Christmas.
It has felt very special to have Becks at my side over the past twleve months. We had a delightful week in Paris and got to share my favourite meal of the year.
Top ten posts of the year:
The Blogger stats and Google Analytics vary wildly, which is odd, as they are both powered by Google. Below are the top ten posts according to Analytics (as that is what I have used in previous years).
1. Reading the Economist for free on the Kindle - hopefully the Economist's lawyers will never read this one and come knocking on my door.
2. Best kebab in Istanbul - a couple of awesome kebabs from my visit to Istanbul.
3. Garmin Forerunner 100 unboxing - tech reviews can be a real hit. Just a shame I don't know what I'm doing!
4. Habberfield: Ricotta cheesecake taste off - two very good cheesecakes get the recognition they deserve.
5. Camelbak Hydrobak review - runners of the world have come to read the post.
6. Top Eats - people clearly love to search for restaurant recommendations. Bit of a shame I haven't added anywhere to it recently!
7. Project Sourdough: Air bubbles, the elusive texture - I haven't posted about my bread making much recently, but still enjoy to bake.
8. Galtaji Rajasthan - A non mover at number two in the charts. Indian women in their brightly coloured sarees at Galtaji gets a lot of hits.
9. Kenwood KMix Unboxing - unboxing the mixer for my bread making. Shipped all the way from Germany to Sydney and now back to London.
10. Cooking: Coconut and lime slice - people obviously love recipes containing coconut and lime.
Thanks if you have stopped by during the year.
Tuesday, 1 April 2014
We started off with a couple of milkshakes. I chose the banana shake and Becks the chocolate version (both £2.75). Becks declared them the milkshakes were the best she'd had in a long time.
|Banana and chocolate milkshakes|
Becks ordered the Buck Rarebit (£4.50), a Welsh Rarebit with a poached egg on top. A good mature cheddar and just enough Worcester sauce made it a pretty damn good cheese on toast. The poached egg was a little over cooked for me, but Becks declared it just to her liking.
325 Brockley Road
Thursday, 27 March 2014
|Pig mixed grill|
|Langoustine two ways|
We were seated in the back dining room of the busy restaurant and settled in to look at the menus. The three of us were horrendously indecisive and we sent the waiters / waitresses away a couple of times before we were ready to order. I went for the strategy of ordering dishes that no one else was trying.
From specials board I ordered the langoustine two ways. The bisque had a deep and wonderful flavour, while the potato, claw meat and homemade mayonnaise looked the picture, but I didn't taste much langoustine in the mix which was a shame.
I almost didn't order the guinea fowl, homemade black pudding and dauphinoise as I was feeling peckish and mistakenly thought the guinea fowl was a small bird. Luckily it didn't put me off ordering the dish and I discovered the fowl was easily the same size as a duck leg.
The homemade black pudding was excellent, subtler and not as iron rich as some of the commercial black puddings I've eaten before.
Will ordered the pig mixed grill (top photo). Neither Becks nor I got a look in and Will declared it one of the best plates of food he'd ever eaten. High praise.
Dinner at The Red Lion surpassed all of our expectations. I was particularly impressed with the consistency of the dishes. At under £40 per head including (not many) drinks and service it was excellent value too.
The Red Lion
Tuesday, 25 March 2014
On the Friday afternoon we visited Basildon Park. I didn't think I'd ever been before, but when I saw the back of the house I remember a summer concert / jazz event type thing I'd been to over a decade before with my school friend Will and his family.
We started off with a walk through the grounds which took us about an hour. It thankfully wasn't too muddy on the tracks we took as I'd only taken one pair of shoes with me for the weekend and they were completely unsuitable for mud.
After our walk we had a quick rest in the deck chairs arranged on the lawn to soak up some of the afternoon sunshine and then it was into the house. We whipped through pretty quickly as it was approaching closing time and we wanted to see some of the formal gardens as well.
The house had been used to film the Downton Christmas special (I've still never seen an episode) and there were a few photos from the filming around the house. I also, oddly, remember the carpets. The NY have had special carpets made which replicate both the design of the original rugs in the house and the floorboards. Walking on carpeted floor board was a little wierd.
The tour of the house finished in the 1950s kitchen which was formica cool. An NT volunteer in the kitchen was baking biscuits and we wall tasted one as we left the house.
We again started in the gardens, admiring the winter garden before checking out the walled garden. I'm not usually one for plants, but the red twig dogwood was rather nice. I can't believe I've just written about a plant, middle age beckons.....
|Walled garden at Mottisfont|
After visiting the house we had a quick walk along the river, a visit to the shop and then it was time to head home. Becks and I both managed to fall asleep in the back of the car on the way home.
We were basking in our third day of sunshine which had brought out the crowds. Seeing a packed café we decided to start our visit with a walk round the grounds. The woods were pleasantly quiet compared to the crowds on the lawn.
When we got back to the house we made a bee line to the café for a late lunch. The recently renovated café had been caught on the hop by all the crowds and was running out of food. The service was dreadfully slow. I know a lot of the staff are volunteers, but they need to sort their systems at the tills out!
After lunch it was into the house. Having been inhabited by elderly residents relatively recently it was stuck in a rather charming time warp, decorated with the possessions of the Brunner family. Like Basildon Park there was a volunteer in the kitchen baking biscuits. Sadly this batch had a slightly odd flavour.
|Becks in the garden|
We finished our afternoon reading the Sunday papers in the garden with the warm sun slowly going down behind the house.
|Water feature in the walled garden|