Hot potato. Hot potato

There is nothing more disappointing in life than a soggy, flaccid potato. Yes I just used the word flaccid. Whether it be chip or roastie, parmentier or croquette.

We want our potatoes crispy and we want them now.

I, as usual, put out the question out to the great unwashed about how to make potatoes crispy and some of the answers were surprising. Everyone immediately went into a discussion of roasties rather than anything else so for the rest of this blog we’re talking about how to make roast potatoes crispy.

Mother would have been appalled at the answer as no-one said lard and in the Lawlor household our Christmas roasties are done in lard, after which we all lie on the sofa wanting to die for the next fourteen hours.

There were a couple of themes throughout the discussion, firstly, let them dry.

A true crispy potatoes take time, and love, but mainly time. They need to be lovingly parboiled (someone tried to tell me it was part-boiled the other day. WRONG) then left to steam dry before being tossed in some form of fat. This drying technique is something Delia has always told me to do, but, shockingly I have always ignored due to normally being so impatient to get on with making the roast, but as per usual St Delia is correct. Let them steam dry.

Then, the main debate is and I guess always has been, what fat do we roast the roasties in? Is it oil? If so, WHICH KIND? Is it goose fat, beet fat, duck fat, some other gout inducing fat? Or is it controversially as one friend suggested, butter. The guy who sharpens Sheffield’s best knives swears by duck fat, Jay Rayner whom I trust in all things uses vegetable oil (which I was mildly surprised by) my chef friend gave me a scientific breakdown including how long to peel them before you want to cook them but was torn between goose fat and duck fat.  


I was entranced by the idea of roasting my potatoes in butter, I will find an excuse to use butter in anything, and I mean, anything. I love butter, anyone who’s been in the same room as me for more than 3 seconds will know I love butter, on in everything, in everything and so when someone put forward the fact that she does hers in butter I jumped at the chance. Let me tell you they were glorious. Housemate was horrified that I’d managed to find yet another way to use butter. They were wonderfully coloured, wonderfully crispy BUT they didn’t taste like the roast potatoes of days gone by.

I also take issue with goose fat, whilst they taste amazing they also feel greasy. When I use goose fat everything gets covered in a thin layer of fat that won’t go away; the tray, the oven, the sides, the cat. Lard is similar but I also feel like my vital organs are covered in that layer of fat. To me either roasting them in the juices of meat or good old olive oil is the way to go.

The definitive top three roastie tips seemed to be:

  • Let them be dry: If I took away one thing from my questioning was that the potatoes must be dry when they go in the oven. As said above this is something I’ve not done before but I WILL be doing from now on

  • To oil or not to oil: The fat almost seems to be irrelevant, the thing to learn is make it hot, really hot. Super hot. Smoking hot. The cool potato hitting the hot fat is what seems to matter

  • Fluff it up, fluff it up: I read an article the other day that said it doesn’t matter whether you give your spuds a good shake or not. The public disagree. Pretty much every person polled said that you should tap, shake, fluff our spuds before they are put into roast

 

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How do you measure a year?

 

“Five-hundred, twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes. How do you measure – measure a year?

In daylights (365)? In sunsets (same)? In midnight’s (see before)? In cups of coffee (too many to count)?”

The opening lyrics to one of my favourite songs struck me as an apt opening on my reflection of the year this blog has now been alive. Rent puts it perfectly, how do you measure a year? Should I measure it in successes? That actually, when I write them down are bigger than I ever thought they could be, or is it more accurate to work in failures? Which were also many and some, may argue, more spectacular. There were times I cried too much over silly things, rushed into even sillier decisions and there was an unfortunate incident with a window. Please don’t ask.

Whilst, I like to think, I am a positive person, it is actually very easy to get wrapped up in the loss’s we suffer every day; I’ve drifted apart from friends whom I thought I would always be close, I’ve not been to the gym anywhere near as often as I wrote in my aims for the year and even though I promised myself I’d be more sensible in 2016/17 still made some spectacularly stupid choices. I’ve loved, lost, celebrated and mourned all throughout this year, however, one thing that has always kept me focused was this blog. It sounds ridiculous because I probably don’t post on it anywhere near as often as I should, or, more importantly, so much as I’d like. Loving food and writing about food has defined my year and defined me. I have thrown myself off of heights that used to scare me…….literally, I jumped out of a plane, which, incidentally was funded by a foodie adventure. I’ve reviewed places I used to revere and have cooked things harder than I thought I could achieve. I whipped my first real meringue, hosted my own supper club for 35 very loved one’s, made a dessert worthy of MasterChef Australia and for the first time focused in on what I’d like to do with my life. Be around food.

I’ve managed to involve food in all areas of my being, I’ve hosted friends and family, catered for work events, cooked for charity and baked recipes I knew would fail just so that I could be real in my writing. I started this originally as a channel to discuss my love of food but it’s become so much more. It’s become something that has given me confidence in really low times and brought me back down to earth when I was probably becoming too lofty, and, whilst it sounds about as sickening as eating three sticky toffee puddings in a row it’s also very true.

I could wax lyrical about how much this blog has meant to me, but I should probably focus on the food and write about my foodie highs and lows this year:

Lows

Start with the bad news eh?

  • Everyone’s obsession with coconut: Especially in 2016, coconut was freaking everywhere. In puddings, savouries, in oils and butters. Frankly, I want it no-where so if we could move onto another ‘health food’ craze that would be grand
  • Chia Seeds: See above
  • Being deemed a snob: I’ve loved writing about food but it does now seem to have given me a label of ‘food snob’. I think the term you’re looking for is; ‘has taste’18871429_10154779643851849_1716247826_n
  • Brexit: Well that just ruined everything didn’t it
  • Cheese Soufflé: Imagine going to your dream restaurant, you’ve thought about this day for years, you practically wet yourself you’re that excited. You sit down, someone is literally employed to pull your chair out for you. The first course is the restaurants signature dish. They’ve served it since the dark ages of when Michelin first existed, it’s renowned across the world as a delicacy and…………. you HATE it. Not just don’t like it, but literally can’t stand it, think it tastes, looks, smells hideous. You begin to question your palate, who you are, what you think you know and why on earth you’re being allowed in a restaurant with not only 1 or 2 but 3 Michelin stars. You’ve loved the chef since you can remember and yet you hate his signature dish? Is there anything more disappointing? It’s ok though because the rest of the menu makes up for it. Panic over.  

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  • Eating at my first Michelin starred restaurant: I was actually nervous walking in,what if they realised I “didn’t belong”, made even worse by hating the first course and jumping out my skin when someone was there to push my chair in. I had to be banned by my Mother from taking photos but it was bloody amazing. Sadly since 18834751_10154779650491849_1794121632_nwe went it’s come out he doesn’t pay his staff minimum wage. Shame on you.
  • The Wick at both ends: This was probably my first real invited review and again I was so nervous, I loved every second of it, took some of the best photos I’ve ever taken and felt so privileged. The food was pretty decent too
  • Running my own supper club: Spurred on by friends, loved ones and unlucky boyfriend of the time I was encouraged into running a supper club for 35. It was extremely stressful but wonderful and an experience I’ll never forget and can’t wait to repeat
  • The first time somebody asked my advice on a recipe: “Oh you know about these things” Hoping that no-one realises I learn most of my stuff from MasterChef Australia

Thank you to everyone who’s helped me. Those that I see every day and those that I don’t. Thank you for putting up with me and I can’t wait for my next foodie adventure.

Mixing it up: The Wick At Both Ends

Small plates are so in right now. They’re so in and cool that after eating some small plates last week I hit peak relevance on Monday night at 6 pm and the rest of a week was a write off after that.
I have to admit I am completely guilty of jumping on the bandwagon of teeny tiny plates of food, I’m not sure if it’s because it makes me feel as if I can eat four times as many because they’re small (that makes sense…right?) or because I’m a habitual food sharer and get ratty if people don’t want to give me some of whatever they’re eating. Sharing is caring people.

Myself and the perpetually patient housemates were lucky enough to be invited to the Wick At Both Ends to try out their latest new menu and we ate them out of house and home. Shockingly.

They’re new menu is catchily called Wick ‘n’ Mix, it’s stuffed full of dishes and price depends on how many you want. We obviously went for seven small dishes (the most they offer in a group deal) for £22 and then because we were scared this wasn’t enough we added another three for £12….and chips….just in case.

We went for:

Venison shepherd’s pie

Why not start with one of the best eh? Rich and meaty this was a dish of pure delight. Topped with perfectly creamy mash this was a stand out dish for us, pretty much faultless

Potted ham with burnt apple and sourdoughwick10

Potted things are always a funny one aren’t they? A bit like a fancy pate really. This one was one a pretty good potted thing, it matched well with the burnt apple puree and was a light and slightly more refreshing option than our others

wick2Tempura cauliflower

The best dish. By a mile. Perfectly crispy and tasty there’s not a right lot else to say about this, except next time I’m going to order four, for me. In fact, please deliver me some, right now. Please.


Red pepper hummus with wick4focaccia

Roll your eyes if you’d like, hummus is just hummus I hear you cry. No, no, dear friend. Hummus can be terribly bland or terribly good, this one was terribly good for example. Ever so slightly spicy the texture was en pointe, kudos, and I could have eaten a loaf of the foccacia.

wick3Garlic prawns

I love getting my hands dirty when it comes to food so serving prawns whole like this is always a winner.

 

 

Pork belly with wild rice and almonds

I forgot about this dish. Sorry, I was too busy drooling over the cauliflower

Celeriac with horseradishwick5

I’m not going to lie I feel slightly betrayed by this dish. When deciding upon our marathon amounts of food I defended celeriac. I pushed for it to be included in our gargantuan line up. Waxed lyrical about how tender and tasty it could be given the chance. However, this celeriac wasn’t great. The horseradish we were promised wasn’t apparent in the sauce and it was under cooked. Needless to say I got questioned on why we didn’t just order more cauliflower

Duck nuggets with rhubarb ketchupwick9

Probably one of my most favourite phrases to say. Go on. Say it out loud. Duuuuuck Nuuugget. Also one of my most favourite things to eat it would appear. Who knew deep friend duck tastes so good.

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Another slight let down here on the mussel front. The housemates LOVE mussels, go nuts for them and these were slightly underwhelming, it’s fine I just wafted the duck nuggets under their noses

Curried monkfish with sweetcorn

Now, I’m probably not the best person to comment on this as I loathe sweetcorn, but the actual monkfish itself was amazing, meaty and slightly spicy, can I have a plate of just the monkfish?

 

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Whilst there were definitely a few slips in the dishes, I’m still a little bitter about the celeriac, overall the food was pretty damn good. They managed to bring out all ten plates of food to us at the same time, all hot and very obviously just cooked so I’m impressed. If I was that chef I probably would have been cursing us. It’s also worth mentioning that our waitress was so lovely it looked like the management had stolen her right out of a Disney film.
To conclude; please make the shepherds pie into a massive sharing dish rather than a small plate, it’s too good to just have a couple of spoonfuls and next time I’ll just have to order more duck nuggets and did I mention the cauliflower?

Gin, marvelous gin

When I came to Uni at the tender age of 19 I remember walking into my first proper city club. I goggled in awe at the sticky floor, the hoards of drunk lust filled teenagers and most importantly the fact that I could legitimately buy a Vodka mixer for 60p. 60 people. Now, this “Vodka” in question was undoubtedly paint stripper and I’m pretty sure has massively reduced my levels of intelligence but it seemed like the epitome of a good night out at such a young age. Having grown up in a tiny town that had only one also tiny club this was a whole new world for me.

Now, luckily, for both me and my liver, my tastes have become more refined. I haven’t been inside the hallowed halls of that fateful club in around four years and have done my time of sitting outside on the curb waiting for taxis with my box of cheesy chips and gravy.
These days I grace much more reputable establishments and stick to a diet of dry white wine, prosecco and of course gin. I love gin. I’m not ashamed to say it. I used to only associate gin with an elderly relative of mine but as I’ve grown so has my love for “Mother’s ruin”. Luckily I live with two other women who share a love of gin as well (something I don’t think our mothers are actually too happy about), so when I was invited to a gin and food pairing I nearly cried with joy and rang said two wonderful women and demanded they come with me.
The other amazing aspect of this supper club was that it was created and executed by a MasterChef contestant. Anyone who’s been in a room for longer than a millisecond will know that I have an overwhelming and completely unhealthy obsession with MasterChef. Both Australian and British, so I nearly fell off my chair when the lovely Chris Hale from this years MasterChef sent me an invite.


We donned our glad rags and had a wonderful evening, there were four wonderful courses and more gin than I care to talk about. We left giddy and very, very tipsy.
The evening started with:

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Canapes

gin7As every good evening should it started with canapes and yes of course, gin. We were greeted with a play on a Tom Collins, which was sharp, sour and wonderfully moreish. There was thyme and a very silly paper straw (which, honestly, does anyone really use these!?) and it was completely delicious. gin8
The canapes were a black pepper tuille and potted chicken which was everything you want
a chicken mayo sandwich to be and I ate about twelve of them. Then there was a crispy bruschetta topped with tomato, mozzarella and basil, another favourite of mine, again too many were consumed and finally a fig, polenta and goats cheese bite. Which, if I’m completely honest, I didn’t eat one of due to my utter loathing of goats cheese. Sorry Chris.

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Starter

The starter was delicious. Completely, utterly delicious. There wasn’t enough of it. Why are starters always so small, WE WANT MORE STARTER!!!! It was a cured salmon with a slick of tarragon mayo, something horseraishy and gin and tonic jelly (which should be a thing that there is more of in the world). The salmon was melt in the mouth amazing and the various different kinds of mayo were the perfect accompaniment. I didn’t eat the edible flower, they are as useful as a paper straw to me. More salmon please.

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Main

Now usually, I have a slight problem with eating cute animals (go ahead, tut at me, for if I eat meat I shouldn’t mind eating cute things. Well I do) but Chris Hale could make me change my mind and have me out hunting for Bambi’s mum myself. The main was a Venison Bourguignon with pomme puree, pickled blackberries and celeriac crisps. More Chris. We demand more. More pomme puree goodness, more venison (yes I’m crying for more) and definitely more celeriac thingies. This course came with a mahoosive shot of Sloe Gin, which is actually my least favourite kind of gin but paired perfectly with the Bourguignon. More Chris. More.

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Dessert

Now by this stage in the evening we were incredibly giggly and had far, far, far too much gin. Dessert was essentially a very large gin and tonic which whilst needed some crunch or maybe some cake to soak up even a tiny bit of the gin we’d drank it was a very tasty Gin and Tonic sorbet!
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Overall the evening was a complete success, Chris was a wonderful chef and host and I think I proposed twice to the bar manager who kept plying us with Gin. We love you.
So thank you to Pop Up North for a great evening and I can’t wait to see more from you guys!

Fear X Loathing: A burger redemption

I am not one for food trends. Definitely not. Silly phrases and normally poorly thought through concepts. Chia seeds, bad. Ice cream stuffed macaroons, bad. Glooping Sriracha on anything that stays still long enough, bad, bad, bad.

With this disdain of having to be ‘on trend’ in mind I must admit I went into Fear X Loathing on West Street with a hint of trepidation. Fear X Loathing specialises in burgers and huge stacked burgers at that. They all rather oddly have the name Juicy in the title and I have to admit I’m not a massive burger fan. It also has the slight added disadvantage of being away from the Division Street Massive and their independent counterparts.

However. I can accept when I am wrong and this is one of those occasions, I have been wrong about burgers. The incredibly friendly staff were quick to recommend me a burger that whilst sounded like my worst mutant trendy nightmare was actually completely delicious.
They also persuaded me into halloumi bites and as I am a complete cheese fiend (as if fearxloathing4anyone didn’t know that yet) I snaffled them before you could say “what does cheese say to itself when it looks in the mirror”. Deep fried halloumi is always, always going to be a huge success in my book and this was particularly good. They have a range of in house made sauces that come in varying degrees of blow your brains out spicy. The chilli mayo one is so good that I could have licked the pot that they gave me. Crispy, slightly spicy, the halloumi was a win.

Moving on, the main event was…..are you ready for this…….a bacon frazzle burger. Yes. Yes, you read that right dear reader. A chicken patty topped with spinach and sun dried tomato and garlic sauce and yes most importantly bacon frazzles. As in the 90’s retro crisps that taste sod all to do with bacon and a lot to do with E numbers. Who cares though because they taste freaking amazing on a burger. The herb Crème fraîche was gorgeously creamy and it came with sweet potato fries. Fit. They were crispy, crunchy and yet creamy on the inside. The whole thing was absolutely massive so definitely worth the £12.50 price tag. Stop tutting it’s not that much.fearxloathing3

Even better Fear X Loathing do some cracking cocktails. On a high after my frazzletastic lunch I promised I’d be back that evening with Lovely Boy in tow and drink my own weight in cocktails.

Now. Reader. Forgive me. I can’t exactly remember what these cocktails were called due to the number consumed, however, I know I had a zingy lovely gin number which definitely fearxloathing1added to my one glass of wine glow. Lovely Boy had a chilli cocktail (pictured) which was perfectly balanced and had just the right kick you were looking for to keep you awake for a long Friday night.

We both really enjoyed it and it’s always great to have a bartender who knows what he’s talking about. Plus I had the always added advantage of making Lovely Boy jealous due to my frazzlmazing burger.

Must think of some frazzle puns……..

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Fear X Loathing
101 West St, Sheffield S1 4EQ

The Beer Engine. An ode to hummus

We all have that one friend. That one friend who has it together. They have a great job, fantastic house and generally seem quite good at adulting.

I meet my successful adulting friend probably once a month, he laughs at my silly twenty ish year old problems such as: what am I going to do with my life, he despairs when I inform him that my latest date was covered in tattoos and lives in his warehouse and comforts me big brother style when inevitably said romance falls to pieces around my ears. Where as I mercilessly tease him about his latest no carb diet, roll my eyes and lecture him about the environment as he talks about his corporate job and constantly inform him that he is overly middle class and refer to him simply as public school boy.

As he had a rather significant birthday recently (I won’t disclose which as he had the biggest strop about it all in the first place) I decided that I’d return the favour he’d done for me many times and take him out for dinner. He informed me that he was on a no carb diet (cue much gaffawing from me) and so I picked tapas. Who doesn’t love tapas!? Tiny bits of everything and normally many things involving cheese. My tapas place of choice was The Beer Engine. My local from work the Beer Engine is a light an airy pub serving up a great range of craft beer and a weekly changing menu of tapas

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We obviously tried one of everything going, which involved:

Hummus with toasted pitta

Right. Confession time, I’m terrible and I mean TERRIBLE at making hummus. Also at spelling it but that’s beside the point. This may genuinely have been some of the best hummus I’ve ever had, served sprinkled with nigella seeds which added a smokeyness and gorgeous warm pitta I don’t think I stopped eating it. My favourite thing by a mile.

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Spanish sharing plate: mixed olives, marinated anchovies, manchego cheese and membrillo, cured meats

Still got no idea what membrillo is. Don’t care either. Olives – yum, cheese – yum, cured meats – yum but the standout on this plate was the anchovies. They were incredible, especially when

mixed with the hummus and pitta bread

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Sausage, new potato, fennel, watercress and fried egg

I hate fennel. HATE IT. I’m not convinced that there is actually any fennel in this dish as it was delicious and everything is improved with a fried egg. Went fantastically with a dollop of hummus.Beerengine3

South by South West salad: Salad, sweetcorn, beans, cherry tomatoes, spring onion and feta

Slightly confused as to the origins of this salad however can imagine it fitting in super well at a BBQ. Have I mentioned the hummus yet?

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Pork ribs in a mango and tequila sauce

Public school boy attempted to convince me that mango is a carb. Shut up. Whilst I’m not overly keen on ribs the sauce was incredible. Sweet, sticky, smoky and slightly spicy it’s everything that you want from a BBQ sauce without being overly thick and gelatinous. Still not hummus though.

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Macaroni Cheese Balls

Deep fried Mac ‘n Cheese, that’s all that needs to be said about that. Probably the only thing I didn’t cover in hummus.Beerengine6

Calamari with lime and coriander mayonnaise

I would like a vat of that sauce, and the hummus, the batter was light and fluffy as all good batter is, calamari doesn’t go fantastically with hummus though

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Chef’s potato salad

Not hummus but still really good. Slightly spicy which I appreciated and topped with coriander which is always a win in my book

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So overall the food is good with great value for money as the portions are definitely not tapas size, they’re like…..actual people size.

Please give me the hummus recipe?????

The Wick at Both Ends

So it’s like midnight. I’ve had far too many cocktails to be writing anything except a note to my sober self about how much water I should drink to stave off the mild headache I’m probably going to have tomorrow morning.

However, I don’t feel like I can wait, it was too good, I have to talk about the ridiculously amazing meal I just had at The Wick at Both Ends. Yes, you read that right The Wick at Both Ends. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve always been a fan of the Wick, except for their truly terrible Lemon Drizzles that have lead to some of my more spectacular accidents in Sheffield. I’ve crawled in on Sunday afternoons with impressive hangovers and demanded one of their roasts, however, whilst always lovely, was never something to write home about.

This, this, however is something to not only write home about but send a blooming postcard to everyone I know about.

The concept has been completely flipped on it’s head. Gone are the mildly overpriced main dishes with no real theme. In it’s place is a short and stunning menu of small plates, bar bites and a couple of desserts. Plus there was a cheese board. You all know how I feel about cheese.

Housemates arrived and we proceeded to rather ruefully order one of pretty much everything. Pretty sure we ate more than anyone else there. Which equated to:

Snacks:

  • Green olives with dried chilli – Olives. Yum.
  • Pickled Jalapenos, smoked cheese – Now, I’m a fan of spice. This was too much and they were probably the biggest let down. Cheese. Yum though.
  • Honey mustard popcorn – Genuinely forgot this existed by the end of the meal was too excited eating everything else ever

Bar bites:

  • Cured meat board with quince jelly – Cue housemate choking at a mildly spicy piece of ham

Small plates:

  • Torched Mackerel, Burnt Apple, Dill, Watercress – Just torched enough so the skin was crispy, not burnt, perfect combo
  • Blade of Beef, Enoki Mushroom, Onion, Dashi  – Fancy jug of sauce to cook to mushrooms which caused us much delight, the beef fell to pieces as all good beef should wick 3
  • Pork Collar, Almond, Anchovy, Sage, New Potatoes – Might have actually been my highlight, and I don’t normally eat pork but the combo of salty tasty pork with fishy anchovy was beyond incredible (the cocktails are adding to my descriptive powers I see)
  • Cod, Chicken Skin, Cauliflower, Hazelnut – No, NO I was wrong. I take it back THIS was my favourite. I could have eaten twelve of them, chicken skin that made that satisfying crack with soft, perfectly cooked flaky cod. Cue drool all over my keyboard
  • Sea Trout, Camomile Butter, Sorrel, Leeks – Soft sea trout, maybe a slightly small portion but definitely perfectly formed
  • Chicken, Grilled Corn, Fava Beans, Roast Onion Sauce – The only let down of the small plates. Chicken was dry and uninspiring but to be fair if I’d eaten this without any of the other amazing dishes I probably wouldn’t have complained
  • Hake, Chorizo, Black Olive, Jersey Royals, Olive Oil – Refreshingly Mediterranean, perfect amount of tasty olive oil to make you feel like an indulgence, hake perfectly cooked. Tiny pieces of fish, not easy to cook well
  • Lamb Belly, Cucumber, Yoghurt, Harissa, Black Pepper – Don’t even like lamb. Didn’t even care. Supremely tasty lamb.

 

Sweets:

  • Chocolate Mousse, Meringue, Honeycomb – I hate sweet things so I didn’t bother with this but the home made honeycomb was super tasty. What crunchies everywhere dream of tasting like when they grow up
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  • Buttermilk Panna Cota, Cardamom, Strawberries – Again not a sweet person
    but the panna cotta had the perfect sexy wobble everyone bangs on about, housemates hooverd it up. Blink and you missed itwick1

Other:

  • Cheeseboard – We had two. That’s all that needs to be said about that

Sometimes I do wonder if I eat too much food. Anyway I’m slipping further and further into a food coma. I would highly recommend checking out both the new food and amazing new cocktail menu

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