This week Steve and I enjoyed a 7-course menu at the newly refurbished Navadhanya, Indian Fine Dining on Newmarket Rd, Cambridge. This specially designed menu was only available for Valentine’s Day on 14th February and the restaurant was full of couples enjoying an exotic and romantic dinner accompanied by a choice of Valentine’s Day Special Cocktails. On arrival, all the female guests were presented with a red rose which I thought was a nice gesture!
A final flourish – strawberry dipped in dark chocolate to share!
7th course – Strawberry mousse stuffed jamun with mirror glaze
7th course – Strawberry mousse stuffed jamun with mirror glaze
4th course – Rose apple sorbet, which was served in a chilled bowl
It was a pleasure for us to return to dine at Navadhanya with it’s friendly and courteous service and the food is always of exceptional quality, so very deservedly it’s now listed in the 2018 Michelin Guide. Head chef Kamaladasan with his trademark style creates authentic dishes with a unique twist and he excels at artistic presentation. If you like Indian food this restaurant is perfect for a special occasion and comes highly recommended.
Last month my daughter and I enjoyed a fabulous six-day spa break at Champneys Tring, a health resort and well-being retreat which is set in 170 acres of idyllic Hertfordshire countryside. The once Rothschild family-owned estate complete with a Downton style driveway impressed from the moment we arrived. Outside the front entrance is a dramatic, modern fountain.
Inside, the decor is modern, cool and elegant with an instantly calming sense of light and space.
Britain’s original health spa was established by eccentric naturopath Stanley Lief in 1925 at Tring and it’s the flagship property of the Champneys Group.
A frosty start to a sunny morning at Champneys, Tring. This was the splendid view from the patio of our Ground Floor Garden Room.
We exchanged the routine of work and the stresses and strains of everyday life for a week of healthy eating, exercise classes and treatments in the tranquil bubble of the spa.
The Champneys Plate illustrates what a balanced diet actually looks like, showing how
much should be eaten from each of the three main food groups, with an equal proportion of 33 percent. The Champneys food philosophy relies on the principle of balance, moderation and variety and therefore, all Champney’s cuisine is high in fibre, low in fat and uses complex carbohydrates. For guests who are looking to lose weight, Champneys also has a Light Diet Menu and Plate offering 25 percent complex carbohydrates, 25 percent protein and 50 percent fruit/vegetables.
One of my choices for a typical nutritious breakfast! Champneys soaked muesli with soya milk and added nuts. Half a banana, Orange juice, and for a treat – a mini blueberry muffin.
Examples of the desserts which were available every day at the lunchtime buffet
We usually started our lunch with a bowl of delicious soup every day
At all the Champneys resorts the dress code is relaxed during the daytime and most guests wear their signature white towelling robes for breakfast and lunch, although for dinner smart casual wear is requested in the evening. At lunchtime, there is soup, a choice of hot dishes and a selection of colourful superfood salads. Desserts were of the healthy variety and came in small portions including an apple crumble, coconut rice pudding and fruit mousses, with the additional choice of fresh fruit or yoghurts.
The spacious dining room is split-level with upholstered dining chairs and white linen tables, and the large French windows let in lots of light. We helped ourselves from the extensive self-service buffet for breakfast and lunch, and for dinner which is table service in the restaurant, there was a three-course meal with a wide range of healthy eating or light diet choices of starters, mains and desserts.
Dinner is a rather grand affair and on our first evening, a pianist was playing in the restaurant. I particularly enjoyed some excellent fish dishes which were accompanied by flavoursome sauces that certainly didn’t taste low cal but were the epitome of healthy, nutritious cuisine. Game and poultry are on offer and even some red meat dishes. Champneys take food intolerances seriously with plenty of gluten-free and lactose-free choices. There is no bar at Champneys Tring but they do offer wine or Prosecco with meals. We were very good and just drank copious amounts of water and soft drinks for the duration of our stay.
Incidentally, all meals are included in the price of the Champneys spa stay packages which make it excellent value. Guests could spend a whole week here and not pay anything extra unless you want to add treatments or drinks.
Everything you could wish for in a spa is on offer at Champneys Tring: a 25-metre pool, a well-equipped gym, two activity studios with a wide range of classes and a host of thermal experiences.We spent a lot of time in the water during our week at Tring, as we attended Aquafit classes twice every day, and enjoyed using the Thalassotherapy pool and jacuzzi frequently too. One day when the temperatures were barely above freezing we even braved the large outdoor whirlpool for a very short while! A separate area houses the largewarm saltwater thalassotherapypool which has glass windows overlooking the grounds and a wall of slate with a soothing waterfall running down it. The water is enriched with minerals like magnesium, zinc, potassium and iron to nourish the skin and aid the detoxification process whilst the pool’s hydrotherapy jets stimulate and tone. It was my daughters’ favourite place at the spa!
The surrounding 170 acres of gardens and woodland make Champneys Tring a peaceful and quiet place to relax and provides the opportunity for a countryside stroll. However, we only ventured out once for a short walk around the beautiful grounds on a cold and frosty morning when the sun was shining.
The Marine and Wellness Spa is a new feature exclusive to the Tring resort with its own Reception area so we were keen to see what was on offer there. We booked in for a guided wellness “journey”, a combination of treatments designed to de-stress, detox, slim or rejuvenate. The full treatment lasts for two-and-a-half hours and costs £125, but we chose the shorter version which was £75 and included a foot spa, a salt scrub, an algae wrap and a session in the salt and oxygen inhalation chamber.
My daughter and I have been guests at many different health resorts and spas over the years but Champneys Tring is the very best we have ever experienced for location, treatments, classes, food, facilities, and customer service. If you are looking to rejuvenate your mind, body and soul and beat the winter blues this place has it all and is highly recommended.
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!
It’s been a couple of months since my last blog post for various reasons but recently my jaded palette was revived when I sampled the excellent and tantalisingly alternative Christmas Menu at The Olive Grove Greek restaurant in Cambridge.
The Olive Grove is located on Regent Street in Cambridge
The restaurant has a lovely light interior
The Christmas Menu at The Olive Grove has a wide range of interesting options for starters, mains and dessert which shows the versatility of Greek food to its full advantage. It features locally sourced seasonal produce with an authentic Greek twist and offers an exciting alternative to traditional Christmas fare. There is something for everyone with a choice of vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free and lactose-free dishes clearly defined on the menu. It’s worth noting that all food is freshly cooked to order at The Olive Grove and special diets can be catered for.
To accompany the meal this Mega Spileo Cuvee Vinatge 2016 Greek fine wine is highly recommended
My companion and I enjoyed sampling eight dishes from the Christmas menu which all tasted delicious and were beautifully presented. Our starters included the Stilton Gougere drizzled with Spicy Cranberry Marmalade, – which was a new take on a seasonal favourite. Scallops on a bed of Celeriac Cream, with Green Apple, Wild Cherry Compote and Vanilla Mayonaisse, and Fish Croquettes, withTomato sauce, Baby Rocket and White Truffle Oil. We both considered the Stilton dish to be our preferred choice, although for me the perfectly cooked Scallops came a close second.
We sampled three main courses including the Pan-seared Duck Breast on a bed of Celeriac Mousseline with a Vinsanto Santorini and Dry Fig Jus. The Lamb Selection of Lamb Cutlets and Short Saddle Lamb, with Parsnip Puree, Baked Heritage Carrots and Mavrodaphne Jus. The Pork Fillet Tournedo and Slow-Cooked Caramelised Pork Belly,withSaute Spinach, Baked Heritage Carrots and Mavrodaphne Jus. Of the three dishes, I thought that the cooking of the Short Saddle Lamb was outstanding, as it was so moist and tender.
Although my dining companion and I aren’t big meat-eaters we really enjoyed the Duck, Lamb and Pork which we wouldn’t usually choose, and we loved the way the selection of vegetables were prepared and served as an integral part of each dish. I also liked the sound of the Prosecco Saffron Salmon and the Stuffed Butternut Squash which were the alternative choices on the menu for main courses. We were almost too full to sample the desserts but we managed to do justice to the extremely rich and decadent Lemon Cream, Chocolate Ganache, Almond and Biscuit Crumble, and the Mastiha Panna Cotta marinated in Fresh Forest Fruit and Blackcurrant Sorbet which were a delightful way to complete our meal.
If you are looking for a restaurant in Cambridge for your Christmas gathering with a cuisine that offers something different The Olive Grove can cater for small and large groups and comes highly recommended. I have enjoyed eating there several times over the last few years and it never disappoints on food, service and ambience. You will be guaranteed a meal to remember with a taste of the Mediterranean and that famous Greek hospitality!
Prices for the Christmas menu is £33 for 3 courses for dinner or £29 for lunch, booked in advance. email: firstname.lastname@example.org
This month Steve and I had a wonderful holiday on the spectacularly beautiful island of Madeira. We were based in an apartment in a central location directly overlooking the harbour in the capital city of Funchal where the weather was always hot and sunny. It was the first time we had visited the island so we hired a Fiat 500 convertible to explore places of interest, although we found that it was easy to get everywhere by bus.
Harbour view from our apartment in Funchal
Views of Porto Moniz
Two views of Praia de Machico
We enjoyed fresh seafood dishes every day at different restaurants at various locations on the island which varied widely in price and quality. To accompany every meal we enjoyed the traditional signature eat Bolo de Caco (garlic bread)
One of the fishing boats in the harbour at Câmara de Lobos, a suburb of Funchal
Sardines in Funchal
Mussels, Seabass and Squid dishes in Funchal
Two views of Praia de Machico. One of the most popular holiday resorts in Madeira, Machico has a wide partially sandy beach, with calm, warm waters that are perfect for swimming. Swaying palms and rugged hills in the distance make for a picturesque backdrop. The busy promenade extending around the beach is a great place for people-watching too!
Prawns and squid in Funchal
A popular traditional dish of Black Scabbard fish with banana. (This is a typical gastronomic speciality in Madeira and something of an acquired taste!)
Mackerel two-ways in Funchal (fine dining style)
The harbour view from our apartment in Funchal which was conveniently located opposite the German Beerhouse!
Trout in Porto Moniz
Two views of Porto Moniz. The natural bathing pools surrounded by bizarre lava rocks and filled by the tide with crystal clear water are undoubtedly the main attraction of this most Northwestern point of the island.
The traditional fishing village of Câmara de Lobos was beautifully decorated with aquatic images
The view overlooking the picturesque harbour at Câmara de Lobos
Câmara de Lobos is a traditional fishing village on the south-central coast of Madeira, which was beautifully decorated giving it a festive atmosphere. We found it to be one of the most attractive places on the island and well worth a visit.
Eating out in Madeira is fairly expensive and we paid 25 Euros a head on average for a two-course main meal with drinks. I am more than happy to recommend the following places in Funchal for al fresco dining with good food and service which were great value as well.
The Marina Terrace Restaurant for fresh fish and great seafood, good service and value with excellent views over the harbour.
Restaurante Marina Terrace: MARINA DO FUNCHAL, Funchal 9000-055, Madeira, Portugal
Taberna Popular : Rua dos Fontes 18, Funchal 9000-053, Madeira, Portugal
Restaurant Armazém do Sal for fine dining inspired by traditional Portuguese cuisine located in a 200-year-old building that once served as a salt warehouse.
Restaurante Armazém do Sal:Rua dos Alfândega 135, Funchal 9000-051, Madeira, Portugal
The Golden Gate Grand Cafe is the height of opulence in style with an extensive menu of Italian and Portuguese cuisine. Expensive but worth it for the location and silver service.
Golden Gate Grand Cafe: Avenida Zarco 2A, Funchal 9000-060, Madeira, Portugal
To celebrate National Afternoon Tea Week I sampled a traditional Afternoon Tea yesterday with two friends at SIX, the restaurant at The Varsity Hotel in Cambridge.
SIX is located on the top floor beneath The Roof Top Garden of The Varsity Hotel and Spa with its own terraces for al fresco dining and breathtaking 360° panoramic views across the Cambridge skyline.
We were spoilt with sweet treats at SIX which included a three chocolate mousse mini-dessert, a blueberry and custard tartlet, an orange and chocolate macaron and an indulgent dark chocolate truffle. I was delighted that we were able to order fresh pots of tea at no additional cost too.
Chocolate mousse at SIX, Cambridge
SIX is located on the sixth floor of this boutique hotel with floor to ceiling windows ensuring spectacular views of the historic Cambridge skyline. This is certainly a magnificent location for enjoying Afternoon Tea in Cambridge, and the food and service are of a high standard so it ticks all the boxes.
The traditional Afternoon Tea at SIX remains faithful to the classic combination of finger sandwiches, followed by warm scones served accompanied by clotted cream and Jam and a selection of sweet treats. I was particularly impressed with the extensive loose-leaf tea menu which featured many interesting and unusual blends from Ceylon, China, and India.
Vegetarian and gluten free Afternoon Tea options are available and booking is essential as all the food is freshly-made daily.
Afternoon Tea at SIX is available Monday to Friday: 2 pm – 4.30 pm at £19.50 per person or on Saturday and Sunday: 2.30 pm – 4.30 pm at £24.50 per person.
Afternoon Tea Week is an annual celebration of one of this nation’s favourite traditions. Whether it’s enjoyed in a 5-star hotel, or as a home baked treat, we British love the combination of savoury and sweet treats, accompanied by some of the 165 million cups of tea we drink each day in the UK!
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!