Last week Steve and I enjoyed a 3-day winter break in Whitstable which is a quaint fishing and harbour town on the North coast of Kent. It’s located 5 miles north of Canterbury and 2 miles west of Herne Bay, and very popular with visitors, especially from London. Harbour Street has many independent shops and there is a wide selection of pubs, cafes and restaurants in the town which has the working harbour as it’s focal point. This was our first visit and a post-Christmas gift to me from Steve as he knew I have been wanting to stay in Whitstable for years and had never got around to it.
The Official Brewery of the world-famous Whitstable Oyster Company. We enjoyed sampling several of the beers!
The Royal Native Oyster Stores in Kent is a seafood restaurant offering some of the very best oysters, fish and crustacea. The restaurant is located on the beach and offers stunning views of the company’s oyster grounds.
We found this gem of a pub and restaurant serving real ales, fine wines, delicious seasonal produce and live music. Just a stone’s throw from the sea in Whitstable.
The Hotel Continental is in a prime location as it’s the only beach front hotel in Whitstable.
We stayed in one of these 150-year old converted Fisherman’s Huts, which were formerly fishermen stores and are now run by the Hotel Continental. They provided the perfect setting for something of a unique overnight accommodation experience that is quirky and fun. The huts are situated just metres from the beach in the centre of Whitstable offering magnificent sea views of the Thames estuary. Breakfast was served at the Hotel Continental which is about 10 minutes walk away from the huts and included in the price.
The Hotel Continental is in a prime location as it’s the only beachfront hotel in Whitstable.
After a bracing walk we enjoyed a pint of local beer and fish finger sandwiches with salad and chips at The Old Neptune
Some of the interesting images we found in Harbour Street, Whitstable by local enigmatic graffiti artist Catman, a Banksy-style street painter – who apparently keeps his identity firmly under wraps!
So what did I make of our winter break in Whitstable? It certainly has a unique appeal and I can’t really compare it to anywhere else, although I felt that there are similarities with Aldeburgh and Wells-next-the-sea. Our stay in the fisherman’s hut, a meal in one of the best fish restaurants and a pint of a local brew in one of the seafront pubs sums up the charm of quintessential Whitstable: a combination of the classic rugged, cosy seaside town aesthetic and a touch of the modern bohemian! Well worth a visit, a short stay or as a base for a holiday.
We will certainly return whenthe weather is warmer!
Last night Steve and I enjoyed an excellent meal at The Tiffin Truck bar and restaurant which only opened very recently and serves Indian Market food. It’s the sister restaurant of Navadhanya which is one of our favourites so we arrived with high expectations and we weren’t disappointed. The welcome, the presentation of the food and the service were all of the same exceptional standard. It’s centrally located on Regent Street in Cambridge on the site which was formerly Anatolia, a Turkish restaurant.
Two of the bright and colourful images which decorate the walls at The Tiffin Truck. I admired all the graphics!
We loved the Naan bread which was drizzled with Truffle oil
My starter of Mini Masala Dosa was beautifully presented
Red Pumpkin Curry was another tasty side dish we sampled
This side dish of Crispy Kale Chaat was most unusual and tasted delicious
Vegetable Fried Rice and Paneer Butter Masala were two of the many dishes we enjoyed
We were too full for a dessert so we sampled a Kata Mita Margarita and a Bengal Tiger cocktail
At The Tiffin Truck you can eat in, take away or book a delivery
One of the bright and colourful images which decorate the walls at The Tiffin Truck. I loved the graphics!
This is a bar and restaurant where you can enjoy Indian market food dishes alongside Indian craft beers and cocktails, and it’s a splendid new addition to the dining scene in Cambridge.
If you like Indian food you will enjoy something completely different at The Tiffin Truck which has the authentic atmosphere of an Indian bazaar for lunch or dinner, to eat in or take away. Their menus have been inspired by famous Indian street food favourites and home-style tiffin lunches enjoyed by workers across India.
According to their website ‘Tiffin dates back to the days of the Raj where British afternoon tea was replaced with the local Indian practice of taking a light meal at that hour. Every weekday in Mumbai, where the tiffin tradition began, you can still see hundreds of tiffin wallahs racing around the streets with their bicycles piled high with stainless steel tiered boxes, delivering hot lunches to workers.’
For a small deposit, you can collect your takeaway in one of their stylish steel tiffin boxes. The food is very good value and we paid £36 for eight dishes without drinks. Highly recommended and we shall definitely be making a return visit!
For the third blog post in my series on roof terrace bars to be found in Cambridge, we headed for dArry’s Liquor Loft and Restaurant this week. I’ve been intending to seek out this popular venue since the loft space and roof terrace opened at dArry’s last year. I had also realised that it’s been over two years since we had last eaten at dArry’s restaurant so I was pleased to find that on Tuesdays they still have Steak Night. Regulars readers of my blog will know that my partner Steve loves a steak, but I invariably choose a fish or veggie main course.
My main course of asparagus and sun-dried tomato risotto with Parmesan shavings
I enjoyed sharing Steve’s starter of Padron Peppers pan flashed with sea salt, which were delicious
Steve’s main course of Rump Steak with Mushrooms & balsamic roasted tomatoes, salad and hand cut chips
At dArry’s restaurant the service was friendly, professional and prompt and prices were very reasonable. The menu could be described as modern British with a Mediterranean feel and we paid £25 a head for 3 courses without drinks and service. The addition of the Liquor Loft and roof terrace to dArry’s sheltered courtyard area offers even more opportunity for al fresco dining in the summer months. Bookings are only taken for large parties but they can usually seat walk-ins. dArry’s is an attractive cocktail bar and eatery with distinctive design features which also offers a wide range of events from live music to wine tasting. So lots of reasons to make a return visit and I’m more than happy to recommend it!
Last night Steve and I decided to revisit an old favourite eatery of mine De Luca Cucina and Bar which is an independent modern Italian restaurant in Cambridge. It was a warm and sunny summers evening so we hoped to dine on the roof terrace, and although it’s not possible to reserve a table there we weren’t disappointed.
De Luca Cucina and Bar is located on Regent Street in Cambridge
To start I opted for a selection of rustic Italian breads served with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and Kalamata and boscaiola olives marinated in virgin olive oil with mushrooms, sweet peppers, garlic and herbs, which we shared.
Steve’s colourful starter of Deep fried crispy squid served with sweet chilli and ginger relish, rocket and lemon
For my main course I chose the pasta ‘special’ dish of rigatoni with parma ham in a creamy white wine sauce with gorgonzola, dressed with rocket
For my dessert I chose Affogato al caffe, – hot espresso and Amaretto poured over homemade vanilla ice cream. Steve sampled an Expre coffee liqueur as a nightcap.
For affordable prices and good quality freshly-cooked food which is well presented with friendly and courteous staff De Luca is highly recommended. (We paid £28 per person for 3 courses from the a la carte menu without drinks or service.) It doesn’t surprise me that De Luca Cucina and Bar was a finalist in the Cambridge News Food and Drink Awards last year and I wish it more success in 2017.
In addition to their delicious food, De Luca has a Top Floor Cocktail Lounge which becomes Cambridge’s only Piano Bar on Friday and Saturday evenings. Cocktail-making classes are also available and having tried one of these sessions myself I can guarantee it’s great fun if you fancy a boozy night out!
Yesterday I sampled the Brunch menu at Novi bar and kitchen with two friends. I’ve been meaning to eat and drink there since it came on the scene in 2015 and never quite got around to it! To coincide with Novi’s 2nd anniversary last month I heard that it had opened a Living Room terrace which I was very keen to see. It was good to note many gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian options on the menu and although fairly expensive the food, drinks and service didn’t disappoint.
Novi is centrally located on Regent Street in Cambridge
The achingly hip interior of Novi is light, airy and spacious
We sampled a couple of Novi’s famous cocktails, Breakfast Martini – juniper green organic gin, cointreau, marmalade, and fresh lemon juice, and Frank & Earnest – kraken spiced rum, cold brew coffee, almond milk, homemade gingerbread syrup, fresh cardamom, and molasses bitters
From the extensive Brunch menu which is served from 9am to 4pm daily, two of us chose healthy and nutritious veggie salads. My other friend ordered a large plate from the Daytime menu of Sirloin steak sandwich, silverskin onions, salad, gherkins, and creamed horseradish on sourdough, with a side of polenta chips.
Another interesting salad of Feta cheese, pomegranate, toasted walnuts, and mixed leaves with a pomegranate dressing
After our brunch we went upstairs to explore the new roof terrace. This al fresco seating area has already become a popular spot so we were lucky to find an empty table where we enjoyed huge slices of cookies and cream cake with iced coffees.
The recently opened roof terrace at Novi is sheltered and stylish with lots of wood and plants creating a very attractive outdoor space
Sitting in the sun relaxing with our drinks on the terrace we all agreed it was a perfect way to spend a summer Saturday afternoon. Highly recommended. Novi we will definitely be returning!
On Good Friday Steve and I met up with friends for lunch at The Punt Yard, which was a new place to all of us, but I had high expectations as I’d heard good things about it. This retro-styled bar and kitchen opened last November and is another splendid addition to the portfolio of The City Pub Company, who own the Cambridge Brew House and the Old Bicycle Shop amongst others. It has a distinctive, fun and funky 50’s style, and an eclectic menu of yummy artisan pizzas, ‘posh’ kebabs, superfood salads, crafty cans and quirky cocktails.
New riverside venue The Punt Yard is a perfectly located eatery on picturesque Quayside in Cambridge.
Drinks are all about the cans at The Punt Yard, and with some stacked into a high tower on the bar, they made an unusual but appropriate feature and were something of a talking point.
At The Punt Yard their artisan Sourdough Pizzas are ordered by the yard. For smaller appetites quarter, half, and three-quarter yard sizes are available – that is if you can’t go the full yard! Ideal for sharing, with a big choice of unusual toppings.
We enjoyed a selection of drinks including zingy house cocktails, Amstel on draft, Ginger Beer and table water served in a retro milk bottle.
We loved the interior decor and the staff were fun, helpful and very friendly!
The bill was presented in an old-school style medicine bottle and the total cost of our meal with drinks came to a very reasonable £98 for the four of us. The Punt Yard benefits from not being one of a chain and it has a really cool vibe and a great atmosphere. There are lots of veggie and vegan options, and it’s a family friendly, fun place to eat. We will definitely be making a return visit, and it’s an ideal place for both locals and tourists. Highly recommended. Enjoy!
This week Steve and I visited The Petersfield, as we were curious to try this new pub and restaurant which opened last month in the building which was formerly home to the well-loved Backstreet Bistro, in Sturton Street. We had heard quite a buzz about the place, and were advised to book by friends who had been disappointed not to get a table last weekend. The Petersfield is another addition to the ever-growing City Pub Company group, who own the Cambridge Brew House and The Old Bicycle Shop amongst other popular locals so I had expected a stylish refit, and I wasn’t disappointed.
Service was brisk and attentive and despite being very busy there wasn’t a long wait for food. The atmosphere was lively and fairly loud, but although it’s new this pub should continue to do well in this location at the heart of the neighbourhood.
The Petersfield has a contemporary retro look with a large L-shaped bar and lots of dining tables. The décor features a rich use of colours withplush furnishings and good lighting, so this impressive refurbishment looks like no expense has been spared with a lot of thought being put into the detail.
The Petersfield features an impressive range of local real ales and offers a fairly ambitious menu of British food of the gourmet pub grub variety at restaurant prices.
My general impression was that the food I had was only average and slightly over-priced. We paid £44.25 for our meal without drinks, but it’s an attractive pub and a welcome addition to the area.
Last week I had a lovely day out in London with a friend to celebrate her birthday. We started our day with a visit to The Switch House, – the new extension to the Tate Modern gallery in Southwark which opened to the public in June 2016.
Having skipped lunch we were looking forward to enjoying a full Afternoon Tea at our next destination The Wolseley, a café-restaurant in the grand European tradition located on Piccadilly, London.
January – Afternoon Tea at The Wolseley
In a classy and relaxed atmosphere we enjoyed The Wolseley’s full traditional Afternoon Tea, which had a lovely selection of finger sandwiches and small cakes, with freshly baked warm fruit scones, clotted cream and strawberry jam, and a choice of loose-leaf teas. At £28.50 per person I considered this to be excellent value, as we were offered more sandwiches and a second pot of tea at no extra charge. Although this place is always busy the service is remarkably good because they have lots of staff. The ambiance is buzzing and it was a super place for people-watching! It’s good to know that their scones and pastries are made on the premises, with an ever-changing selection of cakes, which typically might include a Battenberg or Sachertorte. Everything was perfection, from the white linen napkins, the marble-topped tables, the silver cutlery and tableware, to the bespoke china. We felt that this Afternoon Tea provided a quality experience and it’s the perfect venue for a special occasion. Highly recommended if you are looking for somewhere to eat in London, but booking is advisable.
The sandwiches were freshly-made and especially tasty with fillings of Chicken and tarragon, Smoked Salmon, Celery and Tomato, Cream cheese and cucumber, and Egg and Watercress.
A full Afternoon Tea is served from 3.00pm (3.30pm at weekends).
First opened as a prestigious car showroom in 1921 for Wolseley Motors Limited, the venue became The Wolseley in 2003 and soon became the famous institution it is today.
January – Afternoon Tea at The Wolseley
The Bar at The Gilbert Scott offers flavour, ingredients and theatre and provides the ultimate cocktail experience in show-stopping 19th century surroundings. Guests are welcome for drinks on a drop-in basis, and although I thought it was expensive, it was well worth it for a special occasion.
Tate Modern is a modern art gallery located in the Bankside area of the London Borough of Southwark. It’s Britain’s national gallery of international modern art and forms part of the Tate group. Based in the former Bankside Power Station, the Tate holds the national collection of British art from 1900 to the present day and international modern and contemporary art. Tate Modern is one of the largest museums of modern and contemporary art in the world, and the new Switch House extension provides one of the best panoramic views over London free of charge, so it’s well worth a visit. As with the UK’s other national galleries and museums, there is no admission charge for access to the collection displays, which take up the majority of the gallery space.
Part 2 of our German road trip along the Middle Rhine area, including Koblenz and Cologne, and a mini-cruise on a boat which was part of the flotilla bound for the spectacular Rhine in Flames Festival at Oberwesel, (more firework pics follow later in this post.)
We continued our journey to Koblenz, one of Germany’s oldest and most beautiful cities, situated on both banks of the Rhine at its confluence with the Moselle.
One of our stops was at Rüdesheim on The Rhine, a romantic and picturesque winemaking town in the Rhine Gorge and thereby part of the UNESCO World Heritage site. We found it very busy in September and extremely popular with tourists.
I enjoyed another iced coffee and Steve had a *Rüdesheimer Kaffee, which he liked so much he brought home both the special cup and a bottle of Asbach brandy!
*Rüdesheimer Kaffee is an alcoholic coffee drink from Rudesheim am Rhein in Germany invented in 1957 by television chef, Hans Karl Adam. A delicious and popular drink in coffee houses, it’s made by adding Asbach Brandy and sugar cubes to a cup specially designed for this beverage. The brandy is flambéed and stirred for a minute until the sugar dissolves. Strong coffee is added, followed by a topping of thickly whipped cream sweetened with vanilla sugar, and finally chocolate flakes are sprinkled on top.
We couldn’t resist another spectacular cable-car ride to the world-famous Niederwald Denkmal monument topped by the iconic central statue of Germania, from which there is one of the most scenic views over The Rhine Valley.
On another day our travels took us to Beilstein, which must surely be one of the Moselle Valley’s most picturesque old towns, nestled on a beautiful stretch of the river.
Every nook, cranny and corner of Beilstein was visually charming, with it’s magical fairy-tale style architecture.
In the middle of our holiday came the highlight of our trip when we embarked on a mini-cruise from Koblenz to Oberwesel bound for The Rhine in Flames event.This firework extravaganza was really special, although it’s almost impossible to capture in photographs the magical atmosphere of being there and seeing the images live ….
As dusk fell we became aware that we were one amongst dozens of boats which were all headed for Oberwesel where the Rhine in Flames display took place.
Prominent buildings in Oberwesel were floodlit which added to the spectacle from our vantage point in a boat on the river. The display lasted a full 30 minutes and was accompanied by classical music. We both agreed it was the most impressive firework display we had seen anywhere, and The Rhine in Flames more than lived up to our expectations.
From Koblenz we moved onto the elegant city of Cologne for a few days before returning home…..
Cologne Cathedral is Germany’s most visited landmark, attracting an average of 20,000 people a day. Currently it’s the tallest twin-spired church at 157 metres, which dominates the skyline. Cologne is the fourth-largest city in Germany, with more than ten million inhabitants. Steve and I had visited Cologne before for the Christmas markets, and liked it so much we had been keen to return in warmer weather.
We found a busy ‘holiday’ atmosphere along the Rhine embankment with lots of river excursions, stunning old town houses, hotels/restaurants galore and a vibrant nightlife.
A final beer and a final nightcap at the end of a memorable road trip! We will be returning to Germany in December to explore the Christmas markets of Hamburg.
Regular readers will know that it’s very rare for me to write a negative review about anywhere, but our date night last week started with a disappointment and ended with a delight from two very contrasting places in Cambridge. Steve and I tried The River Bar Steakhouse and Grill for dinner because he fancied a steak, and this restaurant had been recommended. Unfortunately it failed to live up to our expectations for several reasons, although the location is excellent as it overlooks Quayside and Magdalene College. The River Bar is one the restaurants of The Cambridge Varsity Hotel located in Thompson’s Lane. Stylish and contemporary it promised much, but the food and delivery could have been better.
The combination of flavours worked well in the frittata, but the problem was the egg continued to cook in the hot pan, so it became rubbery in texture.
Unfortunately the food looked better than it tasted, and we weren’t keen on the presentation. All the hot dishes on the menu were served in cast iron frying pans which didn’t work well with my egg-based dish. What’s wrong with plates!
This place is expensive and not good value for money in our opinion, as we paid £70 for three dishes and three drinks. From a high end restaurant we expect at least table linen, and complimentary bread. I asked for a jug of tap water and although our glasses were filled by waiting staff they were very reluctant to leave the water with me. The service was swift and overly attentive, so we felt rushed in and out. I understand that The River Bar focuses on wine and cocktails, but we were surprised that only bottled beer was available. (A small bottle cost an over-priced £4.90!) It is a hotel bar so we can’t be the only ones who would have expected to see at least one draught beer. Needless to say that overall we didn’t enjoy this dining experience, and wouldn’t recommend it as a destination restaurant.
However it was only 9pm and the night was still young when we left the restaurant, so determined to salvage the evening we intended to move onto a pub for more drinks. Walking around the corner from Quayside into Bridge Street we were attracted to the brightly lit Bridge Street Wine Bar, part of the Cambridge Wine Merchant group, which looked very inviting with the red glow of it’s tea-lights.
Cambridge Wine Merchants Bridge Street Wine Bar
We were greeted warmly on arrival and shown to a table where we found a lovely ambiance, knowledgeable staff and an interesting and eclectic drinks menu. I drank a local cider, Side-R Strawberryfrom Glebe Farm, Steve chose a glass of Les Sablières Cotes Du Rhone, and we tried a couple of the more obscure gins. I enjoyed a glass of Mason’s Yorkshire Tea Gin, and Steve sampled Ferdinand’s Saar Dry Gin from Germany, which he liked so much he ended up buying a bottle to take home!
The atmosphere is relaxed and friendly and along with our drinks we shared a cheese plate (White Lady and Suffolk Blue from a selection) with red onion chutney and crackers. It’s table service and the staff are very happy to help with drink recommendations and answer any questions.
It was the perfect way to end the evening and we will definitely return to the Bridge Street Wine Bar for a drink next time we are in the area. It doesn’t surprise me that Cambridge Wine Merchants have been voted the UK’s no.1 Independent Drinks Retailer no less than three times, and they have other shops in Cambridge on Cherry Hinton Road, Mill Road and Kings Parade. It’s worth checking out their website for ‘tasting’ events too.