Blandys Bistro a great secret venue in Kintbury

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.

https://hungerfordfoodfestival.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/gert-piennar-demo.jpg?w=624This 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.

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This was my crispy chicken drumstick with parma ham, asparagus and dressing with a scattering of pea shoots.

IMG_3497My 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.

IMG_3499Ha! 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.

IMG_3500This 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.

2015-07-28 14.16.02        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.

                   2015-07-28 14.28.37This is scampi which is overflowing and again fresh and crunchy.  Blandy’s would be a great place to visit after going to the swimming pool or spa where you have worked off your calories.

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!

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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

Yew Tree – Highclere – completely turned around now MPW has gone – hah!

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.

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IMG_3252     A slightly dark picture of me in seafood nirvana

IMG_3254      A very large happy golden retriever

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Daniel Galmiche and canapés, both hoovered up by Leila

Occasionally I try to get along to Ladies Lunches and promote West Berkshire Mencap (well that and eat good food, you will notice that my choice of venue depends on the quality of the food).  One of my favourite places to eat, as you all know, is The Vineyard, hotel of great wine and Daniel Galmiche.  The Ladies Lunch was great value at £60, more canapés than anyone else, ahem, and of course Daniel.  He joined the swooning ladies for the whole event and had a small team of staff administering smelling salts to those that succumbed as he walked around chatting.   I have anther reason for thinking that Daniel is an all round good egg,  I asked, in my capacity as CEO of West Berkshire Mencap, whether he would consider opening our new training kitchen.  He agreed wholeheartedly and with huge generosity and has accepted our invitation to attend our Garden Party with his wife.  The catering has been donated by @janestaunton1 and beer has been donated by @TwoCocksBrewery so all round my tweeting friends have come up trumps.   2015-07-20 11.16.39

Carole, my PA, and I arrived in the same colours!

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Canapés YES canapés, delicious and plentiful

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Oh my such delicious arancini, can’t tell you how many I ate or you may think I was a touch piggy

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Sweet onion veloute, pickled red onion and truffle – divine

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 Line Caught Turbot, Tomato, Shallots, Aioli, a perfect combination of flavours

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 The guests at our table, all delightful, full of interesting conversation and great fun, no surprise there are so many regulars

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                                        Poached peach, nectarine dougnut, peach cassis sorbet

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 Petit fours. always good at The Vineyard

  2015-07-20 14.41.51                    Daniel attempting to look at me sternly

2015-07-20 14.42.33Giving up on the stern and just laughing

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Ha ha ha ha GOT HIM and he cant get away because I have a broken wrist, he gives in with good humour Thank you to The Vineyard, Daniel and the gracious and welcoming staff and we look forward to letting you know abut the new training kitchen opening and seeing Daniel later today at the Garden Party

Newbury Racecourse the perfect partner with West Berkshire Mencap

Warning, blatant advertisement for West Berkshire Mencap Race Day Friday 4th March 2016

The cooking at Newbury Racecourse is just wonderful and is a major draw to West Berkshire Mencap’s annual Race Day.  It is high quality dining that our guests enjoy (along with the wine) to make a day that many organisations and individuals put into their diary every year.  It is normally held on the first Friday in March, next year it will be March 4th and is a day of fun, laughter, meeting up with colleagues and friends and the occasional celebrity.  The chef has been with Newbury Racecourse for many years and loves experimenting and encouraging his chefs to experiment and this shows with the brilliant food that they produce.  Without a doubt I want to try the amazing menu that is being created for The Hennessey and we are lucky enough to benefit from the skill coming out of the kitchen.  West Berkshire Mencap and the Newbury Racecourse are a superb combination.

The next Race Day is slightly different in that we are holding it in the Racegoers Restaurant.  This gives guests the chance to enjoy an amazing view of every race although of course the Race Sponsors will be watching their race from the Royal Box.  We also have some more tables available so this year we may not sell out as well as having more space for sponsors to display their products.

This year we are holding a special event on the 25th August for our sponsors and potential sponsors.  We get every race sponsored plus there are several other opportunities to sponsor items such as the wine, the ibid silent auction etc.  These lovely people will get a free evening at the races with great food and really good quality wine which has been sponsored by Rickety Bridge.

I am not going to tell you what these dishes are, you need to come along and find out and to do that you need to sponsor West Berkshire Mencap, spaces are extremely limited so there are less than a dozen places left.  Feel free to get in touch if you would like to support West Berkshire Mencap by sponsoring a race or one of the other opportunities that we have.  Huge apologies if you don’t get a place but we may do something similar next year and put you at the top of the list.

IMG_3479Unusual and delicious

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Hot and tasty

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Oh this tasted SO good

IMG_3482This was brilliant and I could have had the sauce as a veloute on its own

   IMG_3483Perfectly set and totally yummy

So there you have it.  There will be many opportunities to support West Berkshire Mencap and attending the Race Day is such a fun way to do it.  The funds raised will enable vulnerable people, from tiny babies onwards, to live the best lives possible and your generosity helps to make this happen.  By buying a place, a table, sponsoring a race or donating an auction prize you will be helping the people that West Berkshire Mencap support.  Brilliantly you can do so by having fun and great food at Newbury Racecourse.  Win/win.

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I can drive! I can interview, I can blog – hurrah

The doctor has signed me back to driving, my thumb is not completely opposable so I have gone back an evolutionary step and am currently comparable to the dog.  However I can start making my way through my backlog of interviews, reviews and now my hotel stays.  If you don’t hear from me soon then please contact me on 07770405366 or leilaferguson@yahoo.co.uk to arrange a time.  Interviews are for Kennet Radio and take about 20 minutes so you can tell me why you do what you do, your ethos, changes of menu and future plans.  Reviews of food are always offered to be paid for and the review/blog post is not influenced on whether it has been comped or not (just enables me to do more).  Invitations or requests to attend openings or launches will also be true to my opinion.

Thank you so much for your patience, I STILL haven’t heard from Marco Pierre White or his group so I will continue my irritation at his rubbish standard of food on P&O Oriana as my long term hobby.

Coming up soon, Crab and Boar in Chieveley and The Yew Tree in Highclere.  My Mac will be back on Monday so it will be all systems go.  Whoop I am back 😀🎉🎈

Brebis West Berkshre Mencap Dinner Fundraiser

This is amazing!  We are already selling tickets for our Brebis fund raising dinner on Wednesday 16th September and we haven’t even started advertising it yet.  Indeed we are still finalising the flyer.  However I think you clever people have worked out that there are a limited number of tables at Brebis, the food is outstanding and it is only £50 for an amazing meal including wine.  Call Newbury 01635 41464 if you also want to get ahead of the others, otherwise there will be flyers etc coming out soon.

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Le Manoir courses with cheeky Adam, the tutor with sass

There were so many course to choose from and if you look on the website you will see a range of new ones including BBQs, cooking with children, macaroons, the choice is amazing.  I would die and go to heaven if I could do the canape course bearing in mind my two favourite food groups were champagne and canapés.  Now I have given up drinking to raise money for West Berkshire Mencap but can still eat my bodyweight in canapés.

  All info can be found here http://www.belmond.com/le-manoir-aux-quat-saisons-oxfordshire/cookery_courses

Below are some of the highlights and at the end I will give you just a few of the wonderful tips but not all because to get them you need to do the course.  I was lucky enough to win the course from @Country and Town Magazine, a wonderful and inspirational read.

IMG_3210This is the poor lady paired up with a one handed blogger that just wanted to take photos.  Luckily she was a great cook.

IMG_3223this was the braised squid with chorizo.  There are two ways to cook squid, flash fry or slow braise which I had never done before.  There were about a dozen ingredients plus some herbs and spices but the whole thing was really easy to do. Tip from Adam, don’t bother de pipping tomatoes when you are cooking at home, he doesn’t!  In fact I cant be sure he skinned them either, this is my sort of cooking!  I am not saying I don’t love my family and friends but they can eat tomato pips or pay to go to a restaurant of great quality, taking me obviously.

      IMG_3217 If only my good was set out for me like this EVERY time I cooked, it makes life so much easier and the quality of the food is really good

IMG_3222        Ballotine of poached salmon; dill cucumber, cauliflower florets and horseradish sauce (except we used wasabi)

Again such a simple dish to make and looked so classy, al of these dishes are given options to make little changes off the dish or garnish according to what you have in the cupboard or fancy.  You also get advice on what you can prep in advance so that if you are having a dinner party you can be the cool serene hostess instead of the sweaty panicking scary hostess.

IMG_3220 Just an example of the beautiful products around the kitchen

IMG_3211so proud of my chefs jacket which I get to keep by the way

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There are well placed screens around the kitchen so that you can catch all the detail.  There Adam has rolled a small bit of pastry into cling film and is pressing the edges of the tart into the sides

IMG_3197How perfect is that, I haven’t done pastry for years

IMG_3202My long suffering friend was allowed to make a peach tart instead of a cherry tart

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Ok because of my broken wrist Adam had to roll my pastry but I am sure I could have done it :-)

IMG_3193Coincidentally a great demo of all Raymond Blancs wonderful books, most of which I have

IMG_3175Half time biscuits, guess how many were left at the end of the break :-)

IMG_3189         Salt baked leg of lamb with salsa

This was delicious and quirky.  There is something primeval about blowtorching the lamb then covering it in a saltcrust which keeps the moisture in.  The salsa verde was a huge punch of flavour that gave the tender lamb balls, culinarily speaking.

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       IMG_3186 IMG_3185 IMG_3184    Another pic of me with my chefs jacket, did I say how much I loved it.

IMG_3224I so wish I had room for this ham hock terrine with soused vegetables but I will definitely be making it.  Adam says a ham hock is less that £3 and if you pressure cook it (another Adam tip, pressure cooking improves favour and you can buy a pressure cooker from Raymond Blancs products)  There are gelatine options but I would go for pigs head or trotters.  The soused vegetables were fresh and sharp and perfect.

Ok now you get some tips for free

Blanch basil before making it into pesto

drain bitterness from parsley by blanching it

Stock – half roasted and half not roasted chicken wings and use for everything, stock is a carrer for most sauces

Think outside the box

taste taste taste taste taste taste

Adam was brilliant, entertaining, matter of fact and inspiring, well worth doing his course.

And try these courses – they are amazing and if someone wants to sponsor me to do the canapé one I will come and do canapés for them