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!
This week Steve and I enjoyed a superb meal at Trinity which opened its doors four months ago and quickly established itself as the number one place to eat in Cambridge. We have tried to visit this restaurant on four previous occasions but something always prevented us going so I had booked a table in advance and kept my fingers crossed! When the day came Steve was unavoidably delayed so I had to phone Trinity and say we would be about one hour late, but they were very accommodating and held the table for us. On arrival, it was busy with a great atmosphere and the service was prompt, friendly and efficient. I particularly liked the fact that chilled water was placed on the table without having to ask. We loved the decor too!
We started our evening with a glass of fizz and complimentary bread and oil whilst we perused the a la carte menu which although small did have a good selection of seafood dishes, and Steve was looking forward to sampling the oysters.
I chose the lentil and goats’ curd salad, with salt baked beetroot for my starter – very pleasing to the eye and the tastebuds!
My dessert of Amaretti and lemon cheesecake, orange jelly, honeycomb, with lemon mascarpone was rich and tangy
Trinity is an elegant and stylish restaurant which serves tasty food in fine dining style where the surroundings are relaxed and informal. It’s a lot bigger than it appears from the outside and there is a downstairs seating area too. Following in the footsteps of sister restaurant Varsity on St Andrew’s Street, Trinity has the same emphasis on great flavours and knowledgeable service with a finely tuned Modern British menu celebrating carefully sourced fish and meat. The food is exceptionally well-presented with evidence of some real cheffy artistry at work, and it was delivered to table very promptly. (Impressive on a busy night and a sure sign of a well-run kitchen.) We were served by Ashley who was professional, warm and enthusiastic and a real asset to the restaurant.
Trinity is not the place for an inexpensive meal out but it’s ideal for a special occasion or celebration and excellent value for food which tasted as good as it looked. We paid £38 per head for three courses without drinks or service. Highly recommended and we’ll certainly be going back!
This is a working farm which has successfully diversified and is collectively known as Wyken Vineyards. The Leaping Hare comprises a classy interiors shop, cafe and restaurant, and there is a vineyard and lovely gardens which are open to the public and all are part of the private estate of Wyken Hall.
Wyken Vineyards is located approx 11 miles from Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk and it had been highly recommended by a friend as a splendid destination for a day out in the countryside.
Wyken Farmers’ Marketwhich islocated in the old stables blockwas open from 9-1 when I visited last Saturday with a companion. After a look around the stalls, we found the Leaping Hare restaurant for a spot of lunch. As an aside I have to say that the name of this restaurant appeals to me almost as much as ‘The Giggling Squid’ Thai restaurant in Bury St Edmunds. (Unusual names must be a Suffolk thing!)
It was one of those typically changeable English summer days when there was a heavy rain shower one minute followed by bursts of bright sunshine the next, so we were wearing macs and sunglasses!
We started lunch with ice-cold sparkling orange and cranberry drinks
We both chose the Eggs Benedict dish for our lunch
My companion chose a slice of light and moist carrot cake instaed of a dessert.
Still thirsty and enjoying a leisurely-paced lunch we orderd a pot of tea each from a selection and it was loose-leaf!
Wyken Vineyards restaurant,The Leaping Hare, is located in the 400-year-old barn. A Bib Gourmand in the Michelin Guide and now in its 15th year in The Good Food Guide, the restaurant tries to source their ingredients from a five-mile radius, so the beef, lamb, game and eggs are local (and when possible from the Wyken farm and estate) with fruit, herbs and vegetables from the kitchen garden.
Curious sign on the entrance door into the restaurant!
Wyken Cafe, which serves breakfasts and lunches daily, is also located in the barn and offers a lighter menu choice with the same quality of food and service as the elegant restaurant. Prices were on the high side but the food was exceptionally tasty. We paid £20 a head for our lunch which included two soft drinks each, cake/dessert and service.
There was also a Summer Exhibition in the Leaping Hare Cafe Gallery of limited edition prints of watercolours by Eric Ravillious.
The Leaping Hare restaurant is located in the 400 year old barn
Wyken Shop – The Leaping Hare Country Store
This very attractive and stylish shop apparently sells wool throws and blankets from Scotland and Ireland, braided rugs from North Carolina, French grape-picking baskets, Panama hats from Ecuador, and much, much more. The Leaping Hare Country Store also included the book room which houses a selection of books from small specialist publishers. I particularly liked the designer pottery, the chic and classic clothes and accessories, and their range of unusual cards and gift wrap. This veritable cornucopia of beautiful and useful household items and consumables was an ideal place to buy presents. I came home with a bottle of Good Dog Ale brewed by Wyken Vineyards for Steve!
The Wyken Farmers’ Market
At The Wyken Farmers’ Market, there was an impressive selection of stalls from local producers including farmers, bakers, and a distillery. I noticed fish, artisan cheese and fine tea stalls, and an abundance of organic fruit, veg, plants, flowers and herbs for sale. The Market is open from 9 am to 1 pm every Saturday.
Wyken is a 1200-acre working farm which includes a flock of Shetland sheep, a small herd of Red Poll cattle and in 1988 they established a 7-acre vineyard with some 12,000 vines. It has produced award-winning wines, including the English Wine of the Year, and in 2009 their ‘Wyken Bacchus’ won the East Anglian Wine of the Year,
On average they produce some 12,000 bottles a year, and these are all sold through their Shop and Restaurant. From the Leaping Hare, you can take a walk to the vineyard over Home Meadow and through the beautiful ancient woodland of the estate.
Wyken Hall Gardens
These beautiful formal gardens surrounding the Elizabethan manor house are crammed with topiary, herbs, roses, and fruit trees and you may see meandering peacocks, guinea fowl and chickens too!
The gardens are open from 27th March until the end of September, from 2 – 6 pm daily (except Saturday unfortunately, but all the more reason for a return visit!)
Wyken Road Stanton Bury St Edmunds Suffolk IP31 2DW
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!
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!
Last week I had lunch at the award-winning Packhorse Inn with two friends to celebrate a birthday. It was a glorious summer day and our meal at this five star AA restaurant and hotel owned by the Chestnut Group didn’t disappoint. Moulton is an idyllic village located to the north east of Newmarket, and just beyond “The Gallops” where they exercise the racehorses.
The Packhorse Inn is located on Bridge Street, in the picturesque village of Moulton near Newmarket, the home of horse-racing
Starter of Quail
Salmon and dill fishcakes, fish cream, fennel salad
Starter – Blow-torched mackerell
My rissotto main course was a hearty portion!
Scampi with fries
Another main course – Sea trout with globe artichokes
We all enjoyed our splendid three-course meal from the a la carte menu which was beautifully presented. The bill came to £40 per person including drinks which I thought was on the pricey side, but then this was a birthday celebration lunch so it was well worth pushing the boat out!
Last Sunday my daughter and I enjoyed an excellent Afternoon Tea in The Waterfront restaurant at Wyboston Lakes Hotel and SPA, near St. Neots in Bedfordshire. To celebrate my daughters birthday we were booked into the hotel for the *Sunday Runaway spa package, (details below). Set in 350 acres, this modern 4 star hotel and spa, with a golf course and leisure centre is 2.8 miles from the market town of St. Neots.
The Waterfront restaurant at Wyboston Lakes is in a lovely location
We were delighted to receive a glass of bubbly on the house as it was a special occasion
*SUNDAY RUNAWAY Y Spa stay
This Sunday night break includes dinner, bed and breakfast, and a full day’s use of thermal spa facilities on Monday which includes a two-course buffet lunch and a choice of one of the following treatments.
Afternoon Tea was served on pretty bespoke china with linen napkins
Unusually The Tamburlaine Afternoon Tea was served on a floor-standing three tiered stand
The finger sandwiches were freshly made with delicious fillings of egg, smoked salmon, ham and cheese and cucumber
The large freshly baked raisin and plain scones were served warm, and there were two of each
The top tier held a selection of gorgeous miniature cakes and sweet and tangy Mango Panna Cotta mini desserts
The scones were light and fluffy and served with strawberry jam and fresh cream
This brand new four-star hotel is the first UK property from the Irish O’Callaghan group, who own four stylish hotels in Dublin. The Tamburlaine is ideally located on Station Road close to the rail station at the heart of the extensive regeneration of this business and residential area, which has now changed out of all recognition. The 155-room hotel had only been open for three weeks when I visited yesterday, and work is still ongoing inside and out. The staff are very friendly and enthusiastic and they gave us a guided tour after our tea. I noticed that the restaurant has an impressive fine dining menu which I intend to sample sometime.
By the way, the hotel’s name Tamburlaine references a 16th-century play by Christopher Marlowe, who attended Corpus Christi College in the city.
My friend and I were celebrating her birthday and taking Afternoon Tea amid the genteel grandeur of the Colonial-style Garden Room made an excellent start to her celebrations. With ornate Victorian wallpaper and gorgeous silk velvet sofas, this is an exceptionally light and splendid room with a unique style.
The Tamburlaine traditional Afternoon Tea cost £21.50 per person and is priced on the high side for Cambridge, so not the best value for money but the surroundings more than compensate with a strong sense of occasion. One minor quibble though – I was surprised that a selection of loose-leaf tea blends wasn’t available, although we could have unlimited tea or coffee to accompany the food. Highly recommended.
Tamburlaine 27-29 Station Road Cambridge CB1 2FB Tel: 01223 792888
Under new ownership, this stylish independent has had an elegant makeover and we’d heard that both the food and service were excellent. Since it’s re-opening last year Varsity has become very popular and it frequently features in any ‘Top Five’ list of the best Cambridge restaurants. Steve and I have been waiting for a suitably special occasion to dine there, so this week we booked a table for our anniversary dinner and we weren’t disappointed, – in fact unusually I found nothing to grumble about!
For his main course Steve enjoyed a 8oz rib-eye steak with chestnut mushroom ragu, hasselback potato, and mushroom ketchup with a side of tenderstem broccoli, with chilli and sesame. He particularly relished the potato drizzled with truffle butter for added oomph!
For my main course I chose Roasted chicken supreme, wild mushroom and leek truffle tagliatelle, with port sauce. This chicken dish was incredibly rich and tasty, and unfortunately I had no room for a dessert.
Steve chose to end his meal with the Cheese Board which came with a selection of his favourite crackers, with homemade chutney, fruit, celery, and a glass of port.
The staff are friendly and attentive, the ambience is intimate, and although the restaurant was almost full I observed that it wasn’t noisy or loud. Prices are a little on the high side, but I would recommend dining at Varsity for a special occasion lunch or dinner, and I noticed that people on adjacent tables were celebrating a birthday and an anniversary too. You will enjoy imaginative, Modern British comfort food at it’s very best served in generous portions. We paid £86 for our meal with drinks.
Great news for local foodies – Varsity opened a new sister restaurant called Trinity on 8th April, and I can’t wait to try it!
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.