Category Archives: Eating out with kids

Real Street Food at the South Bank

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How time flies. Its weeks since the kid and I were sampling the delights of the Real Street Food festival in London. I really really wanted to go especially as I get precious little opportunity for this kind of thing in Wales. It was only on a whim, at the last-minute, on Easter Monday that I managed to shoe horn a trip in to our busy schedule. I saw ‘our’ busy schedule but I actually mean my sons. Unluckily for me the market visit wasn’t  the main attraction of the day, nope it was the other excursion to see Potted Potter at The Garrick theatre that took precedence. The market trip became a whirlwind one; we only stopped at the stalls where there was food the kid wanted to taste and I ended up hurrying along in his uncompromising and short attention spanned wake.

Still, I enjoyed my brief trip but it did make me a little bit sad that on my return to Wales I would no longer have such luxuries as road side dosa’s to tempt me. We simply don’t have that kind of thing here and those that are lucky enough to set up in business are so widely dispersed that you often don’t know they are there. Sadly they are not to be found in the centre of town only in areas where they can side step council policy (i.e. whereaver kind and forward thinking people grant permission for street food vendors to park vans on their land).

This does boil down to local council policy and what appears to be a general reluctance to grant licenses to street traders, unless the stall is part of an organised ‘market’. Even where there is an organised market it isn’t filled with local street food traders, instead the council seems to ship in cheap and cheerful noodle stalls and churro stands with a uniform look and unappetising looking food. The French sausage stall at the last market was genuinely from France. I tried to hold a conversation with the owner, in very broken French and English; we didn’t get very far and I was left wondering where our own local traders were? Back in London we had a lovely time. Torn between a dosa from the Dosa Deli or something from The French Revolution creperie (the chestnut mushroom, spinach and garlic caught my eye) but I dithered too long; the kid moved fast. He started eyeing up these giant sausages, but finally opted for a cheese burger and fries from Bleecker St. Burger. When asked if he wanted it medium i.e. a bit pink, he frowned and said no I want it cooked properly. He devoured it along with the fries which were crisp and delicious.2007-06-10 23.55.40

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I eventually settled for a cevapcici from Balkan street food vendors Karantania simply because it was the closest stall to where the kid was sitting and he didn’t want me to disappear from his sight. It was a little big for me so I was unable to finish it all, but the meat had a great flavour.

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After all of this I longed for a Sipsmith gin and tonic from the Wondering wine company but instead settled for a spiced cider from to warm me up. Don’t be fooled by the sunshine, the weather was positively Baltic! Slowly we ambled off across the river towards the theatre, warmth and the kids highlight of the day.

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Since my return to Wales I have tried in vain to make contact with the local council. I phoned and was told to email. I emailed and have as yet received no response. I’d like to have a conversation about licenses and open a discussion about how we can get more local street food vendors in business, but at the moment this is looking unlikely. In the meantime I have also given assistance to another local entrepreneur with interesting ideas and information to enable him to put together a plan for his own street food business. I’ve yet to have a response from the council but….watch this space.

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Filed under British food, Eating out with kids, festival food, Food festival, local produce, street food

A trip around West Cork

I’d hoped for something of a gastro tour of Ireland but clearly with a family of four (including a picky teenager and an easily bored nine-year old) and a tight budget it was not the cheapest or easiest option. But really that didn’t matter because we had a never-ending expanse of coastline to explore and plenty to do without actively seeking out foodie experiences and boring the kids to death, we called it ‘stealth foodie-ism’. Armed with some tips from Niamh (eat like a girl) and a few of her twitter followers, plus local knowledge from the in-laws we were able to eat very well and very cheaply.

My in-laws live just outside Clonakilty which is about half an hours drive from Cork city. They’d organised a place for us to stay (two minutes along the lane from them) and filled our fridge with local produce. Clonakilty black and white pudding, local bacon and sausages, eggs from the farm up the road, salad, ham, bread and organic milk. All local, all fantastic. We topped this up with local strawberries and raspberries, Glenilen Farm cream, Gubbeen cheeses and tapas tubs of olives, tapenade and stuffed sweet peppers from the award-winning Scally’s supervalu in Clonakilty. Packed lunches, fruit, plenty of juice and water were the mainstay of our holiday, with a couple of dinners at the in-laws helping keep our costs down.

We hardly ate out at all apart from a couple of trips to the chippy (freshly caught and cooked fish is far superior to the stuff bought at home) and a late lunch at a gorgeous pub on the harbour at Crookhaven. This followed a dramatic, bracing and windswept walk along the cliffs at Mizen Head, the most westerly point in Ireland making the most of the afternoon sun after a drizzly start to the day. Kids generally hate walking but this included just enough adrenaline pumping scenery and plenty of interesting lighthouse facts (Fastnet lighthouse is just visible to the south) to keep them happy.

We finished the afternoon with a pint of Murphy’s, some ham ‘sangwiches’ and Tayto crisps (for the kids) and a gloriously rich and creamy bowl of seafood chowder for me at O’Sullivan’s bar.

We also took a trip to Kinsale. Another undoubtedly pretty harbour town but I found it rather twee in a very touristy kind of way. It wasn’t our cup of tea. It was very anglicised, full of coach parties and the ‘sailing set’ (not that I have anything against those that sail. We had our own afternoon on the sea later in the week) but because of the clientele everything just that bit more expensive. I prefer places off the beaten track where I can live like a local and tucked well away from the very touristy haunts, as do the rest of the family.

We had a quick look at fishy fishy, a well-known, award-winning seafood restaurant which was recommended by Niamh, but with four of us it would have proved too costly (plus the teen hates fish). Instead the kids opted for an enormous ice cream from a really lovely ice cream parlour and we headed out-of-town to James Fort for another bracing cliff walk. Far more enjoyable for a nine-year old boy and much more spectacular than a fish dinner in an expensive cafe.

As the weather improved over the week we gravitated towards the sea and beaches more. There were plenty to choose from and we were spoilt for choice. With dramatic rocky coastlines at Dunworly to blue flag beaches at Inchydoney and the Warren at Rosscarbery. The Warren proved a little windy on our first trip, although that didn’t stop our nine-year old stripping off and running for the sea.

On another day we took my father in law’s boat out to sea. It hadn’t been out for a year so it was an opportunity to give it a run and do a bit of fishing. We didn’t catch anything, but sailing with seals was a fantastic experience for the kids. On an earlier trip to Ireland we took a charter trip out from Union Hall (there are plenty of boats going out, but check and book in advance. Easiest to go down to the pier and ask the harbour master or one of the fishermen) to do some sea fishing and look for seals, dolphins and whales. It was a little early for Whales but we saw plenty of seals, who tend to chase the fish into the harbour on the tide. That was a bigger boat. This time our boat was much smaller and the seals swam really close to us.

Friday was our one dedicated foodie day as we headed to the farmers market in Clonakilty. Gubbeen cheese nestled beside home-made cakes, chorizo, preserves and great coffee. Dips, basil hummus, chorizo and mozzarella, plus a bit of salad made a great supper (we’d taken some wraps with us which came in handy). The sunshine, buskers and a throng of people gave it a real festival atmosphere as we sat eating local organic lamb burgers. Later that evening we headed back into the town for the Random Acts of Kindness Festival where our kid got to show off his giant bubbling skills as part of a ‘bubble flash mob’ followed by live music and an absolutely hilarious Ceilih at the famous De Barras folk club. Money raised was for the Clonakilty Flood Relief Campaign.

We spent our last day in scorching sunshine. We followed up a huge lunch with the in-laws at the West Cork hotel (the food wasn’t that much to rave about but again the produce was all local and the meat and fish was delicious) with a trip to Lough Hyne. We sat in the sun looking over the small deserted harbour watching people dive off their boats into a clear warm sea longing for a yacht of our own.

Loch Hyne

Once we’d thoroughly depressed ourselves with our longing for a boat and lack of resources to do anything about it we headed for the beach at Inchydoney.  Here we whiled away an hour or two swimming in gloriously warm sea before taking a last trip to Rosscarbery pier and a bit of fishing (the fish had been elusive so far so this was our last hope).

As high tide approached fishermen lined the sea wall on one side and a gaggle of kids threw themselves off the pier into the sea on the other.

The teen somersaulting into the sea…crazy girl that she is!

Diving into the sea at Rosscarbery pier

Fishing off the sea wall…I didn’t get a pic of the seal

Once again the fish were elusive, this time scared away by the diving kids on one side and seals chasing every fish on the other. It’s not that the fish weren’t there, plenty bit, but it was impossible to land them with Mr. seal lying in wait to grab them off the hook as we reeled them in. In fact the fishing went on longer than anticipated as it became a real battle of wills. Man against seal. Every fish was a fight to the death. Those feckin seals became public enemy number one. We eventually left at 9.30pm tired, hungry and with two tiny pollack, the landing of which received huge cheers all along the pier!

Pollack

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Filed under Eating out with kids, family budget cooking, Food in Ireland, local produce, seasonal food, Travelling with kids, Uncategorized

Perry Higgins and the Lazy Dollar

On my way back from dropping the teen at school for her last GCSE exam I took the opportunity (during a moment of calm between weddings) to indulge myself with a visit to my favourite spot for a bit of vintage browsing.

Perry Higgins in Penmaenmawr is rather a hidden gem along the North Wales coast. Lots of people travelling along the A55 expressway would easily miss it as they zoom through from central England on route to Holyhead Port and the Irish ferries. It’s a shame as its well worth a detour. Although maybe not, because I like having it almost to myself!

My main reason for dropping in was for the pleasure of uncovering countless curiosities and treasures, but it wasn’t my only reason. There was a foodie related motive to my trip and that was to look for more vintage serving bowls. Really large ones for lots of people! With three floors to browse I was in there a while.

The top and ground floors are full of beautiful artifacts, furniture, costume and kitchen ware. I easily found what I was looking for before I’d even descended to the basement which is a treasure trove of bargains, bric a brac and chairs! There are absolutely loads of cheap chairs (prefect for starting a supper club!!…This is where I bought a few of mine and at £20 for four…I haggled…I couldn’t really argue, even though they needed a sand and varnish). If you happen to come across the owner…well you can’t miss him, he’s eccentric, bordering on grumpy, especially if you have younger inquisitive children in tow..but he’s often open to a spot of bartering and he is helpful if he thinks you have a genuine interest or are a genuine buyer 🙂

As well as the items I eventually purchased I came across this

I totally fell in love with it but couldn’t justify the £37 the shop was asking. What? I hear you say, only £37 for a beautiful vintage, intact picnic hamper. Well I kicked myself the following week on a return visit when the owner told me it had sold that very morning. I was devastated. I wanted to cry.

The last little gem that makes this place a MUST visit is the cafe which adjoins the shop.

No where else in North Wales will you find as authentic an American diner. Perfect in every detail. The jukebox, the pictures on the wall, the decor. I stayed around for a coffee and pancakes (I’d yet to have breakfast) which were sadly rather disappointing. This is the one problem with the Lazy Dollar; the food doesn’t live up to the setting. Even though their cooking facilities are limited (they have no proper kitchen on site and only the means to keep food warm or cold) they could invest in some better ingredients from local suppliers. There’s no need to use Carte’D Or ice cream in their Knickerbocker glory when they could use Mon ar Lwy or Fortes or Llanfes Dairy, need I go on?

On a return visit with the kid and his 1950’s loving mate (trust me I’ve never met a nine-year old that knows more about the 1950’s than Yani…this is a boy who got a sequined Elvis all in one for Christmas!!), my boy struggled to eat his ice cream because it was too ‘artificial’! Yani on the other hand thought he’d gone to 1950’s heaven and loved every second of his after school treat.

Now that I’ve discovered the lazy dollar my mind has gone into overdrive. So many possibilities; so much potential!

….watch this space there are plans afoot.

Perry Higgins and The Lazy Dollar are open 7 days a week. The Lazy Dollar serves teas. coffees, ice cream and sundaes.

Mon-Sat: 11 til 4.30pm

Sun: 11 til 3.30pm

You will find them both on the main street; Bangor Road which runs through Penmaenmawr.

 

 

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Looking for an alternative to the Jubilee? Try Kaya Festival in sunny North Wales

If you are looking for something different and eager to avoid the plethora of union flags and street parties, look no further, Kaya festival is where you want to be. Set against a backdrop of beaches, mountains and lush greenery on the Vaynol Estate in North Wales, it’s about as far from the Jubilee hype as you could hope for.

That is certainly where I will be next weekend as we set up shop to sell our hot and cold food. Kaya is a brand new festival that fuses African & Caribbean music from around the world, with acts and talent from closer to home. It is a festival that really is drawing inspiration from every part of the local community and that includes food and drink provision!

As well as selling good home cooked food I will be hosting cookery demonstrations along with Andrew the chef from Cottons Caribbean restaurant in London. The demos will take place on SUNDAY where we will showcase Caribbean cooking alongside dishes made with local Welsh produce. I will be taking my favourite ingredients from our local producers and using them in quick, easy to prepare dishes. Andrew will be talking us through how to cook good old Caribbean favourites such as jerk chicken

On the stall we will be selling freshly made summery dishes, salads, baps and wraps made with local cheeses, chorizo and lamb merguez sausage and cold drinks from the Anglesey Apple company.

As you can imagine its all systems go!!….orders are placed, a new team of young cooks has been trained and were all raring to go. All we need now is a healthy dose of sunshine plus some friendly faces to come and say hello, buy their lunch and watch us cook!

Thanks everyone and see you there

Denise xx

Tickets for Kaya are still available here

Weekend camping tickets cost £75  (£55 for students and unemployed) and day tickets cost £45 (£40 concessions).

Trains run directly from London Euston to Bangor and take about three and half hours, or four hours with one change at Crewe. Check out the trainline  or National Express for times and tickets.

Vaynol Estate…the location of Kaya

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A trip to Brixton Market

Its been a long time since I visited Brixton. Once upon a time, while I was a student in London, it was a regular haunt. My then boyfriend Gary was president of the student Union at Brixton College and he lived not much further up the road, so I often went over to visit and just as often went clubbing at ‘The Fridge’. Oh how I loved being a twenty-something in the 80’s! Back then the eclectic and vibrant market and Electric Avenue were a real revelation to me. I grew up in the suburbs and although we had several shops that sold Indian food, Brixton market with all its Caribbean delights were new, exciting and ready for exploration. The colourful exoticism of the market halls enticed me and kept me enthralled. My Jamaican boyfriend introduced me to patties and bun, curry goat and rice and peas and of course jerk chicken. I still love them to this day.

The recent history of Brixton market is one of degeneration, sell-offs and reprieves, followed by gentrification and trendy food establishments. When the council sold the market off in 2007, locals came together to save it from redevelopment. The Friends of Brixton Market (a voluntary not for profit group) was established by local resident Alex Holland in 2008. Made up of local residents, shoppers and people who just love the Market the aim was to see the market survive, thrive, improve and keep its character, while remaining affordable and culturally diverse.

The first four of these aims have definitely been achieved. The market is pretty much as I remember from my student days. The same riot of sound and colour greeted me and my teen and she was immediately captivated, just as I was twenty odd years ago. She loved it. The noise, diversity, characters and stalls!

The only thing that was noticeably different were the tiny cafe’s tucked in snugly alongside the breadfruit and akee, butchers, wig shops, fish, pattie stalls.

Hip cocktail bars such as Seven (fab mojito’s), kitchen shops selling local produce and shabby chic household goods (Brixton Cornercopia) share space with cafe’s such as Rosie’s deli, purveyor of great cakes.

Our lunch destination was French & Grace; a restaurant owned by Ellie and Rosie of salad club with whom I worked at Harvest last year. Seating only about twelve people inside (plus a few outside), it is small but perfectly formed. Informal and friendly it was like sitting down to dinner in my house. Cutlery brought to the table in a mug and food served on tin plates and dishes gave it an informal, picnic like quality.  It reminded me of their festival stall, but with a fixed counter, doors and windows.

It was great to catch up and see how full-time restaurant life suited them, plus the chance to eat their fab Mediterranean inspired street food (the lamb was delicious as was the toffee and ginger pudding with salted caramel sauce) and just sit and chill for a while as we watched the world go by before we headed back into central London for a trip to Tate Modern.

My return visit this Easter (the first time in about 15 years!) filled me with renewed hope for the future of Brixton market. It has survived with its charm intact and mercifully it still resembles the one I remember. The influx of creatives hasn’t taken away from the great stalls, great food and multicultural nature of the place.  The one thing I’m not sure about yet is whether it will meet those last two aims; to stay affordable and accessible to the local community. With the influx of trendy cafe’s and middle class chic comes the tourists looking for something new, the media types with plenty of disposable income. Brixton market was always the heart and soul of black Britain and I’d hate to see it become just another expensive fashionable foodie destination.

When it comes to prices though I’m probably not the best judge. I live in Wales where things are half the price of London and it always horrifies me how expensive food and drink is in the city. Still £7.50 for a cocktail; £8.00 for a wrap?….Call me a country bumpkin but I think this is quite expensive (back home no one would pay more than £3.50 for a wrap!)

The market arcades are open:

Monday – Wednesday from 8am – 6pm
Thursday – Saturday from 8am – 10pm
Sundays from 10am – 5pm

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There’s nothing like Sunday brunch to put a smile on your face

You know how sometimes you get those weeks where everything seems to go wrong…or the simplest jobs become difficult and complicated? Well that’s the way it has been for me last week. It started with a broken wrist (the other half) which meant we were down one driver in the house….and trust me that is dire when you live in a rural area and everything is at least five miles away….this was closely followed by several outbreaks of cold/flu, a locked pin number which left me stranded with a trolley load of shopping and needing to visit the local branch (yep, five miles away) to retrieve cash, plus various other events sent to try me which for the sake of discretion I will not divulge here in public!!

Close to tearing my hair out I also wasn’t sure if our very first Sunday brunch would go ahead. I was on the verge of cancelling when I received several late bookings so changed my mind….and I have to say I’m very glad I did.

Despite the hubby’s broken wrist, self-inflicted hangover and general reticence about getting out of bed to help, we couldn’t have asked for a nicer group of breakfast guests and we relished the rare opportunity to sit down and join them. Before they arrived I was a nervous wreck…by the time they left I was happy, smiling and relaxed. I knew brunch was a good idea. I think a decent brunch can cure anything!!

We didn’t really get going until 12.30. I’d been vague about the time and everyone drifted in as and when they managed to find us, but on this occasion it wasn’t a problem. Those that arrived earlier read papers and drank tea whilst we awaited the arrival of the rest.

The menu was as follows…

  • American drop pancakes with either smoked dry cure bacon and maple syrup or blackcurrant compote and Rachel’s dairy vanilla yogurt
  • Potato and scallion pancakes with smoked salmon (from Llandudno smokery), sour cream and dill
  • Red onion and smoked Welsh cheese frittata, slow roast tomatoes with rosemary and home-baked beans with chorizo
  • Home made blaas (from Niamh Shields book Comfort and Spice) and my own toasted spelt and black sesame bread
  • Home made jams and marmalade

As I got down to cooking pancakes the guests relaxed and started chatting and very soon the sound of laughter and conversation flooded the kitchen, a sure sign everyone had relaxed. Even our three-year old guest Orla had fun; rummaging through the box of toys we provided, tucking into pancakes, sausages and fresh-baked bread and she looked at home sitting round the table with everyone else.

Pancakes consumed we moved on to our second course. The tea and coffee pots replenished we all sat down and had a long leisurely chat. It was perfect. Even the other half enjoyed himself despite his ailments! No one could quite belive it when we looked at the clock and it said twenty to three!

It was such a sociable gathering I forgot to take pictures of the food (except the bread)…totally forgot.

Hosting Sunday brunch seems to impact more on family life. With hubby working full-time sometimes he needs a break at the weekend just to flop, so brunch might not happen weekend …but I think it was far too enjoyable to say never again!

Keep an eye out for ad hoc brunch events…the next one will be in the spring. As everyone left Orla smiled and said thank you for the lovely food….oh and here’s what the grown up guests said about it as well 🙂

Denise, thank you so very much for your hospitality today. I can’t tell you how much we enjoyed everything about our brunch, it really was brilliant and we would all love to come again sometime (Steve)

Absolutely delicious brunch enjoyed today, huge thankyou to Dee, family and the other guests. A dull wet Sunday transformed into a very enjoyable food experience (Mark)

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Filed under baking, Eating out with kids, home cooking, living room restaurant, local produce, North Wales restaurants, secret supper, Uncategorized, underground restaurant

Lazy Sunday brunch

I love a long drawn out Sunday brunch…whether it aids recovery after a Saturday night out, or sets me up for a day of healthy hill walking there’s nothing better to prepare me for the day ahead.

For me the perfect brunch includes lots of different elements; a bit of sweet, savoury, salty, spicy some carbs for energy (and maybe just a bit of oil to settle the stomach…I swear by a fry up to cure a hangover)..

This weekend will see the first in an ad hoc series of Sunday brunches at which we will be giving you the opportunity to sample some of the sausages from the new range I have created with Johnny 6 the butchers (G Williams & son in Bangor) as well as trying other lovely brunch dishes…dont worry vegetarians, it’s not just a sausage fest…there will be plenty of vegetarian alternatives!

If you’d like to join us for the perfect start to your Sunday the menu is as follows……

 

American style pancakes with bacon and maple syrup or blueberries

or

Potato pancakes with smoked salmon and sour cream

followed by:

Home made baked beans with chorizo (or without if you are vegetarian)

Rosemary roasted tomatoes

Smoky cheese frittata

plus

Fresh squeezed fruit juices

toast and jam if you are still hungry

Pots of organic fair trade coffee or tea

the Sunday papers, a log fire, a big table and a comfy sofa

Donation will be £10 a head…yep thats all we are asking…and if you need a hair of the dog you have to bring your own!! Brunch will be served between 11 and 2 and bookings are essential….its kid friendly so don’t be afraid to ask and we will provide toys.

either email on moelfabansecretsupperclub@live.co.uk I will respond immediately so if you don’t hear back try phoning on 07775 828769

or send a message through Facebook or twitter

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Cennin: review

After a flat-out week of Christmas markets, jam and chutney making and three back to back supper clubs I thought it was time someone else cooked for me, so as a pre-Christmas treat while my parents were visiting I booked a table at Cennin.

Cennin (meaning leeks in Welsh) opened about four months ago. Owned by Brian and Ffiona Thomas of MooBaaOink local produce deli in Beaumaris with award-winning head chef Aled Williams in charge. Aled won the Welsh heats of The Great British Menu and was the youngest finalist in 2010, he won the acclaim of Gordon Ramsey back in 2006 and seems to have worked everywhere from the Bathers Pavillion in Sydney to Heston Blumenthals Fat Duck at Bray.

Back home in Wales Beaumaris seems to be turning into the gastro centre of the North..I’ve long been a fan of the loft restaurant and brasserie at Ye Olde Bulls Head and The White Lion prides itself on its use of local produce (although i’ve not eaten there recently so can’t comment on the quality) so I wondered whether they had met their match with Aled moving into town.

Back in October I met Aled in passing at Conwy Feast and watched his demo, praise was high amongst the other chefs for this new venture so I’ve been really keen to visit. It was coincidental that on the day we were due to go I discovered MooBaaOink had won the Daily Post food hero 2011.

Cennin is small and personal. It seats less than thirty and booking is essential at the weekend, although on the day we visited it was less busy. It is a simple unpretentious place, comfortably decorated with local art adorning the walls. Of course as it was Christmas we were also treated to a Christmas tree and tasteful decorations.

We were offered three different menu’s to chose from; the a la carte, December special and a seperate vegetarian (with a really nice selection of dishes). We did struggle a bit because we wanted things off the three different menu’s; Rosie wanted a vegetarian starter but a main off the December menu, the parents didn’t want dessert so went for a la carte, it was all so confusing but eventually we managed to work out the best solution, I had a starter from the December menu so madam could have her chicken and Aidan could have a pudding!! In fact I decided to opt for a vegetarian main. I remember when I was a full-time vegetarian I was always hugely disappointed with the selection that supposedly good restaurants had on offer (mostly uninspired and tasteless) so I thought I’d try one out here.

Rosie opted for a tomato and fennel risotto with pesto to start and she actually ate it all! That is reference enough in itself.

Aidan (the nine-year old) chose sweetcorn soup with Anglesey ham hock and basil oil as did my Dad. The soup was deliciously rich and creamy and totally won us over although the sweetcorn somewhat overwhelmed the ham hock and basil oil.

Mum chose scotch egg of Llandudno smoked haddock, king prawn and Anglesey quail egg with braised leeks, watercress salad and sauce vierge which was her favourite dish of the meal. A unusual and unexpected combination that worked well with the leeks and sauce vierge. Balanced to perfection.

I chose the Ballotine of Anglesey ham hock with Welsh honey mustard and celeriac remoulade. I’m a massive fan of celeriac remoulade and this didn’t disappoint, a perfectly combination of creaminess and acidity . The ham hock was cooked to perfection, delicate, light and melt in the mouth but it was perhaps a little overwhelmed by the remoulade and I hardly tasted the honey mustard (I’m a woman who likes to be hit in the taste buds!!).

For main course Rosie chose the roast breast of chicken with pan-fried chestnut gnocchi, sautéed sprout leaves, wilted spinach and thyme leaves which once again she ate (mostly..the chestnut gnocchi was less popular with her), a sure sign that it was good.

Mum chose the pan-fried fillet of Menai sea bass with peperonata, roasted polenta, aubergine puree and marjoram sauce. Of all the dishes on the night I felt this was the least successful, everything was cooked beautifully but polenta is hard to pull off and is not to everyone’s taste and I know mum wasn’t that keen. She also felt that there was a bit too much peperonata for her taste, although I know she loved the fish.

Dad opted for the grilled fillet of halibut with sun-dried tomato and olive crusted Anglesey potatoes, wilted red chard and verjus sauce which he loved and I went for the vege option of field mushroom, spinach and pine nut filo galette with cumin roasted new potatoes…and I have to congratulate Aled because he impressed me with such a strong vegetarian main course. It really was a lovely combination of woody earthy mushroom, crispy filo pastry and a lovely rich sauce.

Aidan went for a burger and chips…oh well!

The food was fantastic, the service friendly and efficient I couldn’t fault it. My usual bug bear…portion size, was not an issue and actually we were so full even I turned down dessert (although I did ‘help’ Aidan out with his). Aidan just HAD to have a chocolate fondant with white chocolate bubbles and mint choc chip ice cream. I have to say it was the bubbles that enticed him but these were the least impressive part of the desert (I’ve never been one for froths, foams and bubbles!!). The fondant on the other hand was sublime as was the ice cream. We almost fought over it and I wished I’d ordered my own.

I have to say I loved Cennin. Everything was beautifully presented, but it wasn’t just art on a plate, it did actually fulfill the role that a meal out is supposed to; it filled me up. I knew I’d eaten well. Okay it might be a bit on the pricey side for most people in North Wales but perhaps that’s also the result of us not being used to having top quality, high-end restaurants around here. His attention to detail, use of high quality local produce and commitment to local suppliers justifies the price tag and although it would stop me from eating here regularly, it certainly wouldn’t stop me from coming back….in fact wild horses won’t keep me from Cennin and I can’t wait until my next visit.

At the end of the evening it was a pleasure to meet and chat to Aled and it was easy to see how much he loves what he does……oh and the little matter of the Daily Post food hero award? Well no competition really…they deserve every bit of their success.

Cennin is open Tuesday til Sunday 6.30pm til 9.30pm

For further information and to make a booking call 01248 811230

13 Castle Street
Beaumaris
Anglesey
LL58 8AP

info@restaurantcennin.com

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Signatures Restaurant, Conwy: Review

I’m ashamed to say I’d never heard of Signatures before Conwy Feast. When the idea of cooking a supper club with Jimmy was first mentioned I quickly went off to do my research.  I discovered that Jimmy Williams, the executive chef at Signatures has some fine credentials.  Gold medal winning chef; part of the Welsh culinary team. I was quite daunted at the prospect of meeting him and kicking myself that I hadn’t been paying  more attention to what is a slowly improving local culinary scene, especially when I regularly bemoan our lack of decent eating establishments.

Of course once I’d met and worked with Jimmy I realised how welcoming and talented he is and so I had to go and see Signatures and taste his food for myself. It would have been rude not to. So we booked for the family and made it our post festival treat, well-earned and totally justified. Just to add, before you claim my review is biased, most people will know that I’m not one to shy away from speaking my mind and so I promise complete honesty.

I was rather confused when I first visited the restaurant, to find it situated in an upmarket caravan/holiday park. I thought it was  a strange place to find a quality restaurant and wondered whether customers had trouble finding it stuck as it is outside the main town. I guess from what I have heard that it gets great business from those staying at the park and since its reputation is growing, word of mouth is enough to bring in the rest.

I have to say on my first visit I was a bit overwhelmed by the decor. It’s not at all what I’d expected, especially for North Wales and it did look as if a fashionable city restaurant had just been plonked down in the middle of the park. It’s not a rustic, casual drop in kind of place, in fact it’s quite glitzy with just a hint of eighties bling, but still with undeniable style. Now I am pretty comfortable taking my unruly kids to restaurants, even quite posh ones, but im not sure everyone would be. Although it is certainly less formal than a high-end fine dining establishment, it was still formal enough for me to wish my son hadn’t fallen in the harbour during the afternoon…his slightly muddy appearance and vague aroma of sea life made me want to hide him in the corner!

To be honest though no-one batted an eyelid so before anyone looked more closely at him we settled ourselves in the lounge where the attentive waiter wasted no time in taking drinks orders. Since we were a little early there was plenty of time to sit and relax after a hectic day and take a leisurely look over the menu.  The waiter also gave us a children’s menu with its ubiquitous pizza, sausage and chicken or fish goujons. I’m not keen on children’s menu’s. I’d rather restaurants offered kids smaller, maybe less fancy portions of the adult dishes. I’ve always believed in getting them started in appreciating proper food early and although I know not everyone has such food loving kids, I’m still not sure a restaurant such as this should indulge the pizza generation…but thats just my opinion!

Aidan did in fact spurn the children’s menu opting for his favourite roast beef dinner. In fact my father, step-mother and I also went for the beef, I think we were in need of a really good dinner! Sean opted for Welsh lamb shoulder and Roisin in her own bizarre style asked for chicken breast with yorkshire pudding and no gravy. For starter she chose soup of the day which was vegetable as did my step-mum, Sean chose warm smoked salmon with sautéed potatoes and a watercress and orange salad and Dad and I went for Chicken liver pate with toasted brioche and fruit chutney. So while our food was prepared we continued to chill out with our drinks. There was no pressure to hurry and it was a lovely relaxed environment.

Chicken liver pate with fruity chutney and toasted brioche...beautifully presented on a piece of Welsh slate

Ro's vegetable soup

Sean's salmon with sautéed potatoes and watercress and orange salad

Our waitress eventually escorted us to our table where we were presented with a bowl of fresh warm bread, something else they make at the restaurant. Shortly afterwards our starters arrived. The soup was tasty and flavoursome, although not wildly exciting, the salmon was a lovely combination of flavours, but Sean refused to let me photograph it. He hates me reviewing and wont be part of it! The pate was delicious. Mild, delicate and creamy it contrasted well with the sweetness of the really lovely fruity chutney and buttery brioche.

With four of us having roast beef, Sean refusing to let me take a picture of his lamb and Roisin proceeding to fill her yorkshire pudding with chopped chicken breast, potato and broccoli there was little to do but get on with eating. Aidan had already been to the counter of the open plan kitchen, chatted to the chefs, checked out what they were doing and demanded the biggest yorkshire pudding they had with extra gravy. I don’t think all kids would get away with that!

beef with all the trimmings and the most enormous yorkshire puddings!!

The meal was perfect. Roisin said it was the best chicken breast she had EVER had and Aidan said the yorkshire puddings were better than mine (although I think this assertion was based on size alone!). Sean loved the lamb (that’s all he would say) and the beef was tender, cooked medium as requested and the potatoes were golden and crispy. My main bug bear when I eat out is usually restaurant portion sizes, but there were no such complaints here. We were all heartily full, but not over full. We only realised afterwards that we could have had more vegetables if only we’d asked, so that’s our fault really.

Of course we saved some room for pudding. Four of our party opted for the trio of home-made ice cream and sorbet (combinations of raspberry sorbet, vanilla ice cream, chocolate ice cream, milk sorbet). The fruitier sorbet was lovely, really tangy and full of flavour, but the milk sorbet was a bit nondescript for me, I like big flavours and this was rather too subtle. The vanilla wasn’t as popular as the rest either. We agreed it needed a stronger hit of vanilla and tasted more like frozen cream than ice cream. Dad chose the Irish cream coffee brulee with vanilla shortbread and milk sorbet, which sounded like rather a rich combination, but he said it was lovely and I opted for the pannacotta with mixed berry compote. I can’t remember what the sorbet was, raspberry I think, but I do remember it was delicious! personally I would have liked a bigger pannacotta but then I’m a greedy girl and pannacotta is one of my favourites.

pannacotta with mixed berry compote and raspberry sorbet

Dad's Irish cream coffee Brulee with vanilla shortbread and milk sorbet

trio of ice cream and sorbet: chocolate, raspberry and strawberry. All made on the premises.

At £19.95 for three courses I would say this is very good value. The standard of the food was exceptional, it was beautifully cooked and presented and the service was excellent. Some people don’t like an open plan kitchen but I think it makes for a more friendly environment. You can see who is cooking your food and that gives a greater appreciation of the attention they give to detail at Signatures.

I can honestly say they impressed me. The food wasn’t as fussed about with as I’d anticipated (mainly based on Jimmy’s OCD need for tiny perfect portions for his Conwy Feast menu) and the portions satisfied even the biggest appetite. Based on this experience I will definitely be making a return visit. Next time though I think it will be minus the kids and on a grown up evening out.

Signatures Restaurant : Aberconwy Resort & Spa : Aberconwy Park : Conwy : LL32 8GA

Telephone 01492 583513

Email bookings@signaturesrestaurant.co.uk

opening times courtesy of Signatures website

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Filed under British food, eating out, Eating out with kids, North Wales restaurants, Uncategorized