Food cooking and eating – stories and ideas from a passionate foodie

Archive for August, 2015

The Royal Oak, Marlow.

It all starts so brilliantly, strangely, positively. We parked at the Royal Oak at Freith road, Marlow. I saw one of the chef team in the window. I waved, for no real reason.  And he waved back. And said “hope you have a nice meal’.  It bodes well, and we were not disappointed.  In fact, I kept telling the new serving person, Georgia, who was on day seven of her career, “don’t keep saying is it OK…it isn’t.  It is far better than that”. (I also said to her I couldn’t believe she was at the end of week one. She knew the place. She knew the style. She knew the need. Excellent!)

We’d been to the Royal Oak many times over the years. For my 50th. For Janies leaving do from work. And for lots of other celebratory level to simple lunch type meals. And forgotten for a year. You can’t fix the past. But it does mean we will go back soon, after this amazing meal.

I’d told them it was our 31st wedding anniversary but yto provide gratis bubbles was a lovely surprise. It does make you feel good.

Then Jay helped us with some recommendations. Douro Portuguese red. To go with our meaty small plates. I had local pigeon, seared small pieces, tasty and earthy. And looking Michelin. (They don’t want or need that…there’s enough in Marlow already but gee-whiz, it does make everyone try harder.)  Jane’s shredded and finely fried off duck breast was described by Jane to Maitre D Jay as ‘very ducky’. There was no better description. Wild and gorgeous.  It was tasty moist and crisp – quite a delightful conflagration. There were more…

Jane went for a second small plate.  Prawns with linguine. And a tiny amount of late added chilli flakes. A bit of heat, without taking the fishiness away from the quite special prawns.

I did a big plate.  Ooooh.  Astonishing English koftkas. With the usual minty yoghurt.  OK – herbs from their garden. But to add the homemade hummus under the koftkas. And the field mushroom stuffed with too many things for me to count – just makes you silent and reverential in the eating.

Why did we have the triple cooked chips too? Because we did, and didn’t really need them. But the few we managed were a fine addition.

And then. Sweets. Sorry. Mad mad mad. Madly lovely. Chocolate brûlée. This was just out of this world – slippy, shiny, a full on chocolate hit, with no compromise. And second pud?  Carrot cake. But with just a clinically good amalgam of goats milk ice cream with Greek honey. Sweet and sour. Happens in every world cuisine  and it suits.

Lovely crema on the coffee. Stunning mid level Armagnac.  What a splendid celebration. Thanks team. We will be back.

Holiday Eating

Do you go on holiday to sunbathe? Read? Enhance your cultural horizons? Write? Or to eat differently?

OK – we do all of these. But there tends to be a bias in every day towards the food bit!

So, some short pieces about all and everything we ate in Norfolk recently.

On the way, we dropped into a pub from the old Good Pub Guide. We were still in Cambridgeshire. (You do forget how far the north of Norfolk is from South Bucks!) Just a snack, then? Yes, the Red Lion at Hinxton does both major and snacky stuff. Fun 16th century pub, in a marvellous village. We had a prawn and avocado sandwich. With a simple side of chips, and a beer or cider doesn’t tell the whole story. This is all about ingredients. Bread – white – doughy, toothsome and very strongly scented. Yes, it just makes you want the rest of what’s inside it. Overpacked, so most bites let out a prawn or piece of avocado. The chips? Newish spuds. Skins on. Vinegar and salt. Heaven.

We had snack level, because we were having a M&S Chinese meal at the self-catering cottage. I do love their crispy duck, with the hoi-sin sauce and pancakes and the spring onions and cucumber all there for you.

Sunday? Sunday lunch! Can’t do that with equipment you don’t know in the cottage? OK…we could have done, but not with exciting pubs nearby…

We enjoyed finding our most local-ish pub. It was The Walpole Arms at Itteringham.  Gastro level – it is the 15 quid type of lunch not £ 7:95.  That’s fine. Our Sirloin of beef had a lot of fat running through it, which is where the taste is of course. Served rare, and played in the modern style. The loin of pork seemed even better in its way.  Both meats are from local suppliers.  But this is both barley and pig country. So I guess the pork had grown up locally too. Proper serviettes here too. Always makes the whole experience more special to me.  Daft I know… I did enjoy their choice of 5 house reds and whites. Also served in 50 cc carafes. Great idea…and the same price per cc, so you don’t get the bottle just to save a bit! (I am mean with some things…). Good food, well presented and fun place with a superb garden.

Monday was a bit of a retro day…we made some sandwiches and took a banana and a bag of crisps. Only because we were going on a train ride and a cruise on the Broads. That’s what holidays are for. Spending a good part of the day just doing it…going and coming back and just loving the doing…At night, we had salads and bits. Easy, fast, and hot buttered new spuds helped entice us.

And even more retro on day 3. Norwich. Jeff Koons exhibition. Fab. Chips? Found a Wetherspoons next to Norwich Castle. Look, it is what it is. £3.99 for ham egg and chips. Two eggs, ok ham, good small portion of chips. There is a reason the places are rammed.

A Jeff Koons sculpture - great fun!

A Jeff Koons sculpture – great fun!

The Pigs at Edgefield? Well, we did lunch then big evening meal here – and guess what? They specalise in all thinks porky!  Oh, and a lot more besides…e.g. Iffits – Norfolk Tapas equivalent! Whitebait, Smoked Prawns or locally shot pigeon just some of the examples from the menu.  Take a look here – great fun, and very friendly….

We never knew how full of piggeries north Norfolk was until driving around a bit…there seems to be a large pig field on every other farm.  So food miles will be sensibly low!

And then we discovered the place we went to twice – including ‘the last night’ (which is always a rather strange holiday tradition?)  The Saracens Head at Wolterton near Erpingham. (NR11 7LZ).  (Click on name for their web site).  Why did we go there twice?   Their proud claim is local, fresh and seasonal.  I had half a lobster (10 miles) for about 12 quid.  Madness.  Lovely, so subtle and just feeling very real.  Wild sea trout? Scrummy with pea risotto and a lemon and white wine sauce.  I chose that for the risotto – always a good indicator of how much chef likes her or his food!  Here’s a link to their menu.  This was my favourite description on the menu though:

Roast Loin of Wolterton Lamb, redcurrant sauce, wilted spinach and fondant potato.

Wolterton Park | 200 Yds

How sweet is that?  Oh, and it was, quite quite gorgeous…


Allergies – Guest Spot from Ruth Holroyd

Am interviewing Ruth on Monday 24th at 11 on Marlow FM 97.5 FM or on line – join us!

Can Men Cook?

I have a friend I met through a writing group called Ruth Holroyd.  Ruth told us fascinating stories about her own allergies – and as a cook, I often freak out with panic when a guest tells me they ‘have an allergy’.  So I set some questions for Ruth to try to give me (and you) a greater insight.  Here is how the interview went:

Here's Ruth - contact details at end of article Here’s Ruth – contact details at end of article

Hi Ruth – most of us know someone who has allergies – hay fever, some asthmas and the like.  We also know of extreme reactions – like to bee stings and nut allergies, which are not just ‘reactions’ – they can be fatal.  I assume there are lots in between?

There are four main categories. 1) Anaphylaxis which is the really scary swelling of the throat which can be fatal.  2) Allergies can also affect breathing…

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