A Few Days Away In Harrogate

We’ve just spent the last three days on a mini-break in Harrogate. It’s a long time since I last spent any time there, I used to work in a shop there while I was at university in Ripon. 

When in Harrogate, York, Northallerton or Ilkley there is one place that all the tourists flock to, Betty’s! Famous for its Cream Teas, and Fat Rascals I could never be bothered to queue with the tourists when I lived in York. I had Eggs Benedict in Northallerton but never gone the whole hog and had afternoon tea. 

So since we were being tourists we joined the queue on a soggy afternoon in Harrogate to see what all the fuss is about. We were seated very quickly in the downstairs tearoom which was heaving! We ordered Betty’s Traditional Afternoon Tea. Our waitress was fantastic, checking that we were ok wait all the sandwich fillings and asking whether we wanted lemon or milk with our tea!


Our cake stand was delivered and consisted of sandwiches filled with Smoked Salmon, Yorkshire Ham, Roast Chicken Breast and Egg Mayonnaise & Cress, a Sultana Scone with Strawberry Preserve & Clotted Cream and a miniature cake selection of Lemon Macaroon, Gateau L’Opera and a Fresh Fruit Tart and, obviously, a pot of Tea Room Blend Tea. Our waitress asked if we would like any chutneys to accompany our sandwiches, I went for the Tomato Chutney. 

Everything was delicious, the chutney really enhanced the chicken sandwich, the berries on the fruit tart were so fresh and full of flavour. We even entered into the age old debate of jam or cream first, I’m definitely in the cream first camp!

So was it worth £18.95 each? Definitely, the food, the service, the ambience was well worth the price tag! Would I do it again? Certainly! I might even treat myself to a glass of champagne to accompany it next time!

Aldea Holmfirth

Since we’ve moved I decided to take The Gin whisperer sightseeing around the famous TV locations in West Yorkshire. I’ve got a long way to go until I’ve exhausted the locations from Happy Valley, the street I grew up on was even mentioned in series one, so we decided to go to Holmfirth. Not only is it filled with great restaurants, we could also have a sneaky peek at Sid’s Cafe.

It was a busy Friday night but we managed to get a table in Aldea, a Mediterranean kitchen and bar, the bar is down in the basement and the kitchen is on the ground floor. It was very busy with a good mix of customers. We asked the waitress how much we should order, we had seen plates passing but didn’t really know. She suggested 4-5 plates to start off with, we could always order more later if we liked. So we chose the Manchego Cheese Croquettes with Red Pepper & Harrissa, Gambas Pil Pil & Guindillas, Spiced Lamb Koftas with Riata & Pomegranates and Rosemary Infused Chips. 


The Koftas and Croquettes were delicious, the Koftas were really moist and went really well with the pomegranate and the Croquettes were really tasty. Whilst the Gambas Pil Pil looked amazing it was a little disappointing, the flavour hadn’t managed to seep in through the shell of the prawns so the only way you could really get any of the delicious spicy flavour was to dip the prawns back into the sauce once you had deshelled them. The rosemary chips were also really good. 

We also had room for dessert, I had the Tiramisu Torte and The Ginwhisperer went for the Aldea Chocolate Pot on the waitresses recommendation. She was right, whilst bother were good the Chocolate Pot was definitely the better of the two. 

Service was ok, they were very busy so maybe it’s better when they aren’t so rushed. It’s a bit of a trek but if we are in the area we will be back!

Catch of the day, week, year……

I spent a long time convincing The Ginwhisperer to visit Catch West Vale. We’ve recently moved the Northamptonshire/Warwickshire/Oxfordshire border to West Yorkshire, his first time in our beautiful county, and the first time I’ve lived here since I left for university 19 years ago. Much has changed since I left, even out local Chinese has had a makeover.

So his problem with Catch was that it’s just a fish and chip place. I, on the otherhand, knew better. Having followed them on Instagram before we moved, I knew that as well as amazing fish and chips they offered some stunning looking starters and mains as well as daily specials. 

I finally managed to drag him through the door at around 2.30pm in the middle of the week, I was surprised the restaurant was open but it turns out they are open from 12pm until 9pm every day. Since then we’ve been back at least four times, we’ve only lived here 6 weeks! 

Starters clockwise from top left: Fish & Shellfish Soup, King Prawn Pakoras, Grilled Crevettes, Smoked Salmon, Seared Tuna with Pickled Vegetables, Tempura Battered Sea Bass & Baba Ghanoush

The starters are amazing. I’ve had something different every visit. My personal favourite was Tempura Battered Sea Bass with Baba Ghanoush and Samphire. I hardly ever chose Sea Bass, I don’t like fish with its fur on, but this was delicious. And the Pickled Samphire was amazing. The Ginwhisperer adores the Fish & Shellfish Soup, so much so he’s had it pretty much every time, as has my dad! It’s nearly a meal in itself. Packed with whatever was fresh on the market that morning, sometimes mussels, sometimes clams, always very tasty and served with a giant Parmesan Crouton and Aioli.


When it comes to main courses, only once have I strayed from the Award-Winning Fish & Chips, which are tremendous! The batter is crispy and thin and the fish is served with proper chip shop chips. A few weeks ago I had the Seafood Thermidor which was also delicious. Lots of juicy fish and seafood in a creamy Thermidor sauce topped with parsley and chive crumb. The Ginwhisperer’s favourite is the Scampi. But at Catch it is no ordinary Scampi, this is Tempura Battered King Prawn Scampi served with their special Crayfish Tartar Sauce. Amazing! 

Not only is the food good, there’s a really good wine list with Gin cocktails and even a special cocktail list at the weekend. And the staff are super friendly and welcoming too. 

Well worth a visit, we’ll be back again soon!

An exciting new opening

In the two years we have lived in Northamptonshire, the Fox & Hounds in the village next to ours has been taken over three times. 

It was bought by the villagers in Charwelton after it closed down and turned it into a community pub. The first landlords they picked chose to open an Italian restaurant called La Volpe (fox in Italian). We only visited once on a bank holiday. It was empty so we found it easy to get a table.  The Gin Whisperer went for the seafood risotto while I went for Gorgonzola gnocchi. There was plenty of seafood in the risotto but I would’t have fancied it with a tomato sauce. I think the sauce for my gnocchi was just pure melted Gorgonzola! They tried everything from takeaway pizzas to installing TV screens for the rugby but nothing worked. Needless to say we didn’t return and the place swiftly closed down and was repossessed!

Next the pub was taken over by the owners of another local gastropub, The Kings Head at Napton. We visited The Kings Head frequently so we’re delighted that they were opening two miles from our house. The menu and wine list was pretty similar to their other venture, only closer! It was also busy and the food was pretty much always nice, well except once when I had some bizarre vegetable pâtés which were grim. The service was a bit hit and miss though, better service during the week than on a weekend. The landlords wanted to buy the place but unfortunately the villagers turned them down so after just twelve months the pub was empty again. 

Back in March, The Fox & Hounds (High Street, Charwelton, Northamptonshire, NN11 3YY) opened again. Since then we have visited twice, once for Sunday lunch with friends and today on our own. Firstly, I love a pub where the menu has the date on the top, it shows that they aren’t lazy! The new landlords have a seriously impressive bar, stocked with plenty of whiskey, rum and more importantly, over 40 gins, all the gins are served with the right garnish and tonics. You would not believe now difficult some places find it to get this simple thing right! The landlord is nearly as much of a gin lover as Gin Whisperer. There’s no Gordon’s to be found behind this bar here either, the house gin is Larios.

The food is outstanding! The Sunday lunch was probably the best I’ve every had. I started off with the Homemade Corned Beef and Sweet Potato Hash, Fried Egg and Cheese Gratin followed by the Roast Dry Aged Rib of Beef and Black Forest Baked Alaska. The Corned Beef was amazing! Cubes of corned beef and sweet potato topped with a fried egg and covered in cheese sauce. What is not to love. Absolutely delicious, in fact it’s probably the first time I’ve had corned beef that wasn’t made by Fray Bentos! The roast beef was fantastic, it absolutely melted in the mouth. And there was so much of it! It was served with a huge Yorkshire pudding, plenty of roast potatoes and seasonal greens, swede & carrot purée and cauliflower & broccoli cheese to share. It was a feast and everything was so tasty. Our friend had the Roast Loin of Pork which was a huge chop served with all the same trimmings. The Baked Alaska I had for dessert was also very good, chocolate ice cream, I assume this was homemade as everything else was, on top of a cherry and chocolate sponge and covered in meringue. 

The service was friendly and unrushed and we couldn’t wait to return.


We stopped in again today after a walk. The main restaurant was completely full so we were offered a table in the bar area which we were more than happy to accept. 

A new Prix Fixe Manu has been introduced with 3 courses for £16 or 2 courses for £13, but we decided to choose from the normal menu which was as extensive as ever. I had the Sweetcorn & Coconut Soup followed by Corn-Fed Chicken Supreme with Wild Mushroon and Truffle Risotto while the Gin Whisperer went for Prawn & Squid Pil Pil with Chorizo, Aioli and Tomato Focaccia followed by Whole Torbay Sole, Samphire, Purple Potatoes, Prawns & Garlic Butter. Our orders didn’t go through to the kitchen properly so rather than make us wait for our starters the landlord brought us an amuse bouche of Foie Gras & Ham Hock with a Sauternes Jelly. When it arrived soup was fantastic, so rich and creamy. I’ve been ill so I couldn’t finish it all. The chicken was perfect and the risotto was delicious and cheesy with a hint of truffle, again I couldn’t finish it as I have brought the rest home for later! The Gin Whisperer demolished his Pil Pil and then moved on to the Sole which looked delicious, even though food with a face scares me, and was topped with 3 fat juicy prawns. Again he cleared his plate and even had room for Rhubarb Creme Brûlée with Rhubarb from the garden of the pub! 

Again the service was good, even though the place was full the standards did not slip which was very good to see. I’ve heard some locals complain that it is too expensive but it is only slightly more expensive than when the last landlords had it and the food quality and service is far more superior in my opinion.

We will definitely be back again when I can finish a full meal!

What a place!

On Saturday night we had the pleasure of dining at Tattu (Gartside St, 3 Hardman Sq, Spinningfields, Manchester). I’ve wanted to visit since it opened and it was recommended by a friend who had been there to celebrate their engagement. 

We were quickly whisked upstairs to the dining area and seated on a table for two. The decor in Tattu is beautiful, tables, chairs and napkins are all black, in the centre of the room is a gigantic cherry blossom tree. Giant anchors hang from the ceiling down into the bar area and the ceiling is crisscrossed with rope. 

Our server, Casper, was amazing. As it was our first visit he talked us through the menu and advised us on the size of the dishes available. There’s dim sum, small dishes and large dishes. The small dishes are starter size. Dim Sum can also be eaten instead of a starter. 

 

Tattu Manchester
 
The cocktails were out of this world. I went for Memoirs of a Geisha and the Gin Whisperer went for Skull Candy. My cocktail looked like a bubbling witches brew, the Skull Candy was served in a glass skull, smoking from the top. They both tasted absolutely amazing. 

We decided to save the Dim Sum for another time and went for Chilli Salt Baby Squid and Duck and Watermelon Salad. The squid was the best I have ever tasted, absolutely wonderful and the Duck salad was an absolute delight. The combination of flavours and textures with the cashew nuts, spring onions, mint, sesame seeds and coriander were just wonderful. Probably one of the best starters I’ve ever had. 

Chilli Salt Baby Squid and Duck & Watermelon Salad

Next up were the main dishes. I chose the Char Siu Pork and the Gin Whisperer went for the Black Angus Fillet, rare. 

Clockwise from left: Char Siu Pork, Black Angus Fillet, Green Beans & XO Sauce, Beansprout Noodles

When Casper deliver our mains he gave us additional information about the dishes, whilst the Char Siu sauce is very good the Caramel Soy sauce with the fillet was ‘liquid gold’ and I should try it with my pork too. My pork topped with orange and lemon marmalade and served on a bed of Choi Sum with the sauce, served warm, on the side. Absolutely delicious. The Black Fillet was cooked to perfection, topped with Shitake and served on a bed of asparagus with the ‘liquid gold’ on the side. Casper wasn’t joking about the sauce, it was amazing! Sides were good too.

Finally came the desserts, yes, after both those delicious courses we still had room for dessert. We would have been crazy not to make room! Casper suggested I go for the Cherry Blossom and who was I to choose anything else? And the Gin Whisperer went for the Chocolate Satay. There wasn’t much of a description of how the desserts might be served. The Cherry Blossom simply said  ‘Chocolate, Miso and Cherry’. The Chocolate Satay simply said ‘Chocolate, Peanut and Coconut’. This is how they arrived…….

 

Top: Cherry Blossom Bottom: Chocolate Satay
 
Only one word can describe the presentation: Wow! The Cherry Blossom was two balls of chocolate mousse, cherry meringues, cherry sorbet, chocolate soil, candy floss, dark chocolate flakes, tiny gel pearls filled with cherry and finished off with edible flowers and micro-herbs. The Chocolate Satay consisted of, from what I can remember, chocolate cake, peanut ice cream, chocolate soil, dried red pepper skin, coconut pearls and a macaron, again finished with micro-herbs and edible flowers. Having mentioned that it was our wedding anniversary the desserts were served with a giant sparkler and a nice little speech from Casper wishing us a happy anniversary. And yes, the desserts did taste just as good as they looked.

Tattu has the potential to be a totally over the top, pretentious restaurant which is style over substance but it has managed to be completely the opposite. From the warm welcome at reception, sumptuous booths in the bar area available to book with no minimum spend, the friendly and professional service, the atmosphere, the decor, the food. Everything about this restaurant is perfection. I have never enjoyed a meal more, in fact I would go as far as to say this is the best meal I’ve ever had. 

We paid just under £200 for 3 courses, 2 cocktails, a bottle of wine and 4 glasses of champagne. Definitely worth visiting again and again and again. 

Bills Breakfast Leamington Spa

Last weekend we had a weekend away with friends in Royal Leamington Spa. 

We started off on Friday evening with a gin party at Leamington Wine Company, had a very unremarkable breakfast at Carluccios, late lunch and copious amounts of cocktails at Turtle Bay and then returned for more cocktails after realising there wasn’t really anywhere else nice to go for a drink on a Saturday night! 

Next morning, a little worse for ware, we were all looking forward to a Bills breakfast. Normally for breakfast I go for something savory, in fact for all meals. I’d much rather have cheese than chocolate! But this day I fancied a change and went for French toast with banana and peanut butter. 

  
I have no idea how they got the toast so light and fluffy. The toast also had nuts in to add a little texture. I’m not a raw banana fan but with the peanut butter and icing sugar it was perfect! And it beat me, I couldn’t manage to polish it all off. 

Next time I might go for this though 

Minus the beans though. Smashed avocado on toast with poached egg and chilli flakes. An Instagram classics if ever I’ve seen one! 

Solita Didsbury

This weekend I took my search for the perfect burger to Didsbury. We had agreed to meet friends before the football and they suggested Solita (1 Ogden Street, Manchester, M20 6RD) instead of having to fight through the hoards on Deansgate on derby day. 

We didn’t have a problem getting a table as we were quite early for a Sunday, especially for somewhere not offering a traditional roast but the place soon filled up and there were plenty of people enjoying the sun on the tables outside. 

A warm welcome as we entered and were seated in a booth at the back of the restaurant, menus were already laid out at each place setting. 

There was so much choice on the menu. Not just burgers but also steaks, Chicago style hotdogs, salads, grilled seafood, chicken wings. If the waitress hadn’t come over to take our order I would probably still be deciding what to have everything sounded so delicious. 

I went for a Smokehouse burger, upgraded my fries to sweet potato and added some Mac & Cheese on the side. I also ordered a pint of Big Wave which I’ve never had before. 

  
The food came pretty swiftly and was delicious. The burger patties are made in house daily from chuck steak and were amazing. Mine was topped with smoked brisket chilli, Lancashire cheese, pickles and BBQ sauce. Whilst the presentation wasn’t up to much, it’s difficult when the burger had that much sauce, the food itself exceeded my expectations. The brisket chilli was excellent, not too hot and went perfectly with the cheese and pickles. And I love BBQ sauce. The burger was a nightmare to pick up, I ate half with my hands but had to admit defeat and ate the rest with a knife and fork! Nice to see a sesame seed bun too, I love a brioche roll but I just don’t think it would have worked as well. 

The sweet potato fries were good but I don’t know if they warrant an extra £2 on top of the price of normal fries and the Mac & Cheese was good too although a few too many bread crumbs for the Gin Whisperers liking. 

He went for the Perfect Storm burger, a panko breadcrumbed fish fillet with American cheese, homemade tartare sauce, tomato and lettuce. The only thing he left was the lettuce!  

And Big Wave was a revelation, I’ll definitely have another pint if I see it being served again. 

Our only disappointment was that we couldn’t stay longer. Definitely worth another visit! 

Altogether just over £78 for 3 burgers, two hotdogs, sides, 3 beers and 2 soft drinks. Good value for the quality of the food.