Well I have no idea of which of my reviews Waitrose @GoodFoodGuideUK has been reading although I have my suspicions. However I am thrilled to be included in the list of reviewers, yay, the most professional I have ever been! Next on my list are places with rooms, but only if they are good, same rules apply as to the food. Radio interviews are had if I can fit you in which I am more than happy to do.
Better picture of @JCchef1 and Phil from @TwococksBrewery as front page
A lot of people now love fame, everyone wants their 15 minutes and if they cant have it then they want to know someone who has. Whilst I wasn’t a Donny Osmond or Bay City Rollers fan when I was young (now you know how old I am) my hero was James Taylor. I saw him every time he toured in the UK, named my first son James and have even surged at one of his concerts. This was a full auditorium and I was determined to get to the front at some point so at what my friend and I considered to be the right moment we rushed to the front. Then we looked around to see that all the other middle aged members of the audience were looking at us with some bemusement. We were the only surgers. We then had to do the walk of shame back…
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Do I love Brebis? Yes I do. Do I pay for my food there? Often and always when I take people that I have recommended it to. Which is a lot but not as much as I would like to. Aaah @Brebis_Sam, home from home.
Indeed I love Brebis so much I have persuaded them to support West Berkshire Mencap @westberksmencap by holding a dinner for us on 16th September. Half the places have gone already but please feel free to book up if you want to have a great dinner whilst supporting WBMencap. I have also ‘persuaded’ the Chef, Sam Mansfield, to offer his services for a meal for 10 cooked in your home (you provide the booze and transport costs as an auction prize for our Race Day at Newbury race course on 4 Match 2016. His bruises are going down now and thanks for volunteering.
Sam and James are brothers who have been running Brebis for 2 years in Newbury, often using home reared meat from Malherbe, James farm, and home grown vegetables. They have a delightful sous chef, Harry, who seems to cope despite the craziness of the kitchen. Sam and James are passionate about their food and it shows. My favourite chefs are also my favourite interviewees, Daniel Galmiche, Raymond Blanc, John Campbell (blog coming very soon), Jean Christophe Novelli (one of my first) and Sam. These chefs love what they do, they know why they are doing what they are doing, they have the most amazing palates and in all honesty require very few questions. Turn them on with the first question and away they go. It is like turning on a Duracell Bunny and the excitement and passion pours out of them like chocolate from a perfectly cooked chocolate fondant.
I am only telling you about some of these dishes because if you want to know more then come to the @WestBerksMencap fundraiser on September 16th! Half sold already and going to be an amazing night. Please share and RT etc
You are looking at parmesan crisps and truffle and lots of goodness, Sam is a wizard at putting things together
Very popular sweetbreads, praised to the heavens by the people that chose them
Hake, their fish is cooked so well, never had a faulty fish here (or anything else to be honest)
Pork, fondant potatoes, amazing topping of citrus strips, definitely a winner
The star of the show, Tonys pigs trotter done as a favour for him, it took 3 days to prepare and Tony was extremely pleased with it, I saw little chanterelles and the trotter had a great flavour but I cant remember what else was on it.
These pictures are an amalgamation of the last two times I went. I paid each time and the fact that they are good enough to support West Berkshire Mencap has no influence on my review.
How clever of l’ortolan to have an open day AND arrange for the weather to be glorious. The setting itself is stunning, a beautiful house built over 150 years ago in a gorgeous setting. The layout is very Country House but comfortable and welcoming as well. I seriously considered snaffling a couple of the cushions in my handbag (those who have seen my handbag wont see this as an empty threat, however that would have squished any canapés I may have already snaffled).
There is a new chef now at l’ortolan who I haven’t yet reviewed or interviewed but I am sure will be superb. His name is Tom Clark and he has worked at the award winning restaurant for quite a while.
On my l’ortolan bucket list are the ladies lunches, the chefs table and the courses, details of all are on the website. Champagne lunches start at under £40! There is also something called a social lunch which must make use of one of the amazing private function rooms upstairs which are beautiful and would make a great party room or use by corporates if they love and appreciate their staff. I would certainly turn up to work he next day if I got a lunch at l’ortolan. Wise management policy.
Home made chocolates, hard to resist
Cheese from Turners Fine Foods, definitely worth a review, l’ortolans cheese board (huge trolley) is incredible – I have done a blog on http://www.leilaslocallarder.com that features the cheese course heavily.
Finallly this is what was left of the canapés, I would like to say i had eaten the lot but I arrived late from having my arm xrayed. However if the tray had been full when I got there it would still have looked like that after I had been at it. Canapés. My favourite food.
Hopefully I will be having a go at one of the cookery courses, interviewing Tom but would also love to interview the owner, Peter Newman, who seems to have a fascinating tale to tell.
A lot of people now love fame, everyone wants their 15 minutes and if they cant have it then they want to know someone who has. Whilst I wasn’t a Donny Osmond or Bay City Rollers fan when I was young (now you know how old I am) my hero was James Taylor. I saw him every time he toured in the UK, named my first son James and have even surged at one of his concerts. This was a full auditorium and I was determined to get to the front at some point so at what my friend and I considered to be the right moment we rushed to the front. Then we looked around to see that all the other middle aged members of the audience were looking at us with some bemusement. We were the only surgers. We then had to do the walk of shame back to our seats, heads down so no one could see the intense embarrassment in a theatre full of non surging accountants, solicitors and social workers that appear to make up the majority of JT fans. There is a point to this story.
I was meant to interview Chef John Campbell many months ago but first my car broke down. Then I broke one wrist, then I broke my thumb. I was starting to wonder if God was warning me off but I hitched up my big girl knickers and gave it one more go. Actually I am amazed he was prepared to still let me interview him but he is a thoroughly good egg. That, dear readers, was a huge shock. He is a chef of renown, I will be honest, I was a tad scared of interviewing him and took my lovely friend, Phil Palmer from Two Cocks Brewery, along as moral support and general good company. Well I didn’t need the moral support because Mr Campbell was in fact very nice although Phil’s company was great! My terror had been totally unnecessary. Apart from James Taylor my heroes are Chefs and meeting John was just great for me. I would have surged for him and in fact did ask if I could live at the bottom of his garden but that made him look rather worried!
As with a number of other amazing chefs he was just brilliant, totally passionate and incredibly knowledgeable about food. He does cookery classes and I am determined to get myself along to try them. The teaching kitchen is state of the art and there are always extremely talented chefs on hand to help including Chef John Campbell himself. Swoon. I did that terrible thing where I asked about the best time to feed my sour dough (this is like meeting a doctor and asking him to look at the boil on your whatever). He was utterly gracious and answered me but in such detail that I wish I had taped that bit. I understood many of the words separately but the sentences were way above my head.
The food we ate was astonishingly flavoursome, pure and clean and addictive. I must go back. As always I am not going to tell you everything about the food we ate because you need to go there to eat it mwahahahaha, just be assured that I would be very surprised if you didn’t love it. Also I am not sure that we could be friends.
Phil Palmer from Two Cocks Brewery, a funghi (sorry)
Who does the most amazing bread, home made butter and home made hummus to snack on? Well the Woodspeen obviously followed by the most delicious amuse bouche of gazpacho which tasted simply wonderful but I am sure there was no simplicity about it
Braised lamb neck fillet, smoked wet garlic potato, plot peas and pickled beetroot
Ok I have to tell you about this dish, it is a cauliflower cheese risotto with broad beans, pickled onions and ham hock and was delicious
And this one which was home smoked salmon but in a chunk served with asparagus and poached egg, all perfect
Smoked ham and chicken terrine, kohlrabi, apple and yuzu, brioche
Oh my the scrumminess of chargrilled chicken, mushroom and asparagus tart fine and summer truffle. A plate licker
Also I have to mention these amazing caramelly chocolatey fudgey delicious petit four infused with Two Cocks malt
Ooh look, the ideal Christmas present that should be on sale by then, a home sous vide! Also you can get a set lunch for £18 for two courses.
Chef John Campbell gets extra points for offering to help West Berkshire Mencap, he is involved with his local community and wants to continue so I am not missing this opportunity. Daniel Galmiche came to see WBM which was very thougthful and I am arranging a tour for John and Phil. Whoop whoop.
When I first heard about Blandy’s Bistro in Kintbury I wondered about it. It is based in what used to be a luxurious spa hotel and is now a much more luxurious restaurant based in Inglewood with superb apartments built around it. There is also a spa there and the great thing is that currently not too many people know that it is there. This means that you can go and have a splendid taster menu on a Friday or Saturday night or eat at Blandy’s Bistro between 9am and 9pm every day except Sunday where they finish earlier. However it is definitely worth going on a Sunday for the lunch.
Gert is the head chef there and is imaginative and adventurous. He is originally from South Africa and has introduced what we in Great Britain would call barbecues but which Gert would call a Braai. On Bank Holiday Monday at the end of August he will be doing one of his famous barbecues (we are in the UK so we use the word barbecue) which I really want to try.
This picture does not do Gert justice but it is probably just as well as he is not only taken he is about to get spliced so back off ladies. He has worked in a variety of places including The Vineyard and it shows in the quality of his food. The prices are very attractive with the Ladies Lunches costing only £20.
This was my crispy chicken drumstick with parma ham, asparagus and dressing with a scattering of pea shoots.
My main course was cod and chips, really well cooked and flaky cod, a very crisp batter resting on crushed peas with a pea puree escaping from the end. Crisp Jenga chips and a grilled half lemon along with home made tartare sauce.
Ha! this dish nearly caused a dust up when James (also known as Russell) ordered it then had doubts about whether he was going to have plate envy. It was fantastic, a spring onion risotto, chestnut mushrooms and pulled ham hock with the perfect texture, not mushy and not too hard with flavours that went really well together.
This was another guests afternoon tea which looked fine but you should see the amazing cream tea that is offered on tiered plates with sandwiches and an assortment of cakes. It looks divine and word is spreading that this is the place to go for a good cream tea, accompanied by a nice bit of fizz if you are feeling racy.
I popped in again to interview Gert for Kennet Radio and he produced these wonderful canapes for me, black pudding balls and smoked salmon cones with a mixture of pear or apple in them which went down VERY well.
What you may not know is that there are also a couple of hotel apartments available so that you could enjoy your tasting menu then stay the night. When I have tried them out I will let you know what they are like but if they are anything like the rest of the venue they will be glorious. Even better there are several around the country and I intend to try them all out!
This is James (also known as Russell) Hussey who manages a fantastic site called The EDGE http://www.eatdrinkgreatevents.com/
We are starting to work together quite a bit although he always looks a bit nervous near me, he takes great photos and I love his site
My delightful PA Carole drove me to the Yew Tree at Highclere a couple of weeks ago (I need driving as I have a broken wrist but it doesn’t stop me eating). First impressions were friendly staff, water with cucumber in it without being asked (always a bonus but double bonus with the cucumber). Lovely country pub decoration, all perfect for a good quality pub out in the wilds. Not too wild though as fairly easy to get to from Newbury. Particularly with a chauffeur.
As regular blog readers will know my opinion of Marco Pierre White is pretty low, I had a miserable time at his restaurant on the Oriana and made quite a fuss about it. He didn’t get back to me and his group didn’t get back to me. Big mistake, I can hold a grudge for longer than a herd of elephants and will continue to be very cross until they sort this. ANYWAY, now that he has nothing to do with this restaurant with rooms it has improved enormously with a lot of other improvements in the pipeline. Sadly the weather wasn’t on our side when we visited but we braved the damp to see all the work going on in the garden. This would be such a great place to come on a hot summers day, particularly on a Thursday when they have fish and fin day, fresh sushi and other fish. One of my choices for dinner was the most wonderful Fruit de Mer for £20! Amazing value and utterly delicious. Lobster, crab, crayfish, prawns, langoustine and rock oysters. Totally wonderful and it came with skinny chips and a very good aioli. My starter was a very beautiful English asparagus, poached egg and hollandaise sauce. The egg was perfectly poached, the sauce was so tasty and the whole was a great starter.
Bless her Carole didn’t have a starter and had what I thought might be a rather boring main, honey and sesame baked feta cheese, toasted bloomer with an olive and red onion salad with tomatoes (or was it olives) removed on request. This is not the sort of dish I would choose but it was delicious (yes of course I ate hers as well as mine, I am training my wonderful new PA). The nibbles were wonderful,some fantastic cheese straws and bread and the olives that I always order were spot on.
The garden will be beautiful in the sunshine and I cant wait to visit when the fish bar is open. The staff are friendly, they recently raised £8k for charity (I hope West Berkshire Mencap can get on their list) and they are a fixed and delicious part of the local community yet well worth a drive just for the food.