A Winter break in Whitstable, Kent: January 2018

IMG_1024.jpgLast 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.

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Whitstable Harbour

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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.

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The Hotel Continental is in a prime location as it’s the only beachfront hotel in Whitstable.
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Dating from the early 19th century ‘The Old Neptune’ Whitstable, or ‘The Neppy’ as it’s affectionately known locally is one of only a handful of pubs to be found on the beaches of Britain.
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After a bracing walk, we enjoyed a pint of local beer and fish finger sandwiches with salad and chips at The Old Neptune. 

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The Royal Native Oyster Stores in Whitstable is a seafood restaurant offering some of the very best oysters, fish and crustacea. The restaurant housed in a whitewashed former oyster store is located on the beach and offers stunning views of the company’s oyster grounds.
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The classic rustic interior of The Royal Native Oyster Stores restaurant where we enjoyed a splendid meal on the first night of our stay. 
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We found this gem of a pub and restaurant offering real ales, fine wines, delicious seasonal produce and live music, just a stone’s throw from the sea in Whitstable.
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The Pearson’s Arms has a lovely bar area and a rather fine restaurant upstairs where we enjoyed dining on our second night, from a menu which showcased the best of fresh, local produce.
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Steve relished eating both native and rock oysters in Whitstable.
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The Official Brewery of the world-famous Whitstable Oyster Company. We enjoyed sampling several of the beers!

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.

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We will certainly return when the weather is warmer!

 

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Seafood in Madeira: September 2017

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.

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)

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One of the fishing boats in the harbour at Câmara de Lobos, a suburb of Funchal
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Sardines in Funchal
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Mussels, Seabass and Squid dishes in Funchal
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Skewered Garoupa fish and Limpets in Praia de Machico. Grilled Limpets are very much in favour with the locals as a starter

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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! 
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Prawns and squid in Funchal
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A popular traditional dish of Black Scabbard fish with banana. (This is a typical gastronomic speciality in Madeira and something of an acquired taste!)
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Mackerel two-ways in Funchal (fine dining style)IMG_20170905_1524387.jpg
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The harbour view from our apartment in Funchal which was conveniently located opposite the German Beerhouse!
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Trout in Porto Moniz

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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.

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The traditional fishing village of Câmara de Lobos was beautifully decorated with aquatic images
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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

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Taberna Popular (Bar) for a taste of Funchal nightlife with cheap drinks, courteous service and free popcorn!
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House Jazz for great live music, a warm welcome and home-cooked Portuguese cuisine

House Jazz Restaurante:  Rua dos Aranhas 16, Funchal 9000-044, 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

 

Trinity restaurant for fine dining quality food: Cambridge August 2017

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Trinity is located on Trinity Street in Cambridge at the heart of the historic centre

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!IMG_20170810_2257519 (2)

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.

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I chose the lentil and goats’ curd salad, with salt baked beetroot for my starter – very pleasing to the eye and the tastebuds!

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For his starter Steve chose raw oysters, served on ice with lemon, tabasco and pickled shallots
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For my main I chose pan-fried sea trout, crab bisque, and seared green cabbage, with dill oil
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Steve’s very attractive main course of pork tenderloin with cauliflower and mustard puree, pomme anna, pickled cauliflower, radish and frisse salad, and nasturtium oil and flowers
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We shared a side dish of savoy cabbage and smoked pancetta
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My dessert of Amaretti and lemon cheesecake, orange jelly, and honeycomb with lemon mascarpone was rich and tangy
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Steve chose the English cheese board which featured good-sized portions of Cambridge Blue, Norfolk Dapple and Suffolk Gold

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!

Trinity

15 Trinity Street

Cambridge

CB2 1TB

Tel: 01223 322130

info@trinitycambridge.co.uk

http://www.trinitycambridge.co.uk

Tastes and vistas – Northern Portugal discovered: May 2017

It’s been a while now since my last blog post (Easter) and I’ve been waiting for something really special to share with you. Steve and I recently enjoyed a lovely holiday in Costa Verde, Northern Portugal and I found plenty to write about. It was our first visit and we explored an area resplendent with colour, sunshine, seafood, striking architecture, and much more. We stayed at Casa da Galé – a villa in the picturesque coastal village of Moledo do Minho. 1161_6 (2)We were within walking distance of one of the area’s most scenic sandy beaches. It was very quiet being low season, and although the weather was good the unspoilt beach was often deserted.

Our holiday home Casa da Galé was a charming stone cottage with a pool, which was set on several levels amidst spacious grounds of lawns and fruit trees.

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Moledo do Minho is a five-kilometre beach located at the mouth of the River Minho, which forms the north frontier between Portugal and Spain. Popular with surfers and kite-flyers!

We visited some picturesque cities like magnificent Porto with its stunning architecture and enjoyed several delicious meals in restaurants where locally caught seafood was always on the menu. We found eating out to be generally inexpensive and soft drinks were usually priced at one euro. Beer was also cheap and we drank copious amounts of Super Bock Portuguese lager!

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We thought Porto was absolutely stunning!

Just two of the lovely restaurants where we enjoyed traditional Portuguese cuisine. We found it a challenge at most places to understand exactly what we were ordering because we didn’t speak the language, but although the food and drink were sometimes not as expected it was always delicious!

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It would be a travesty not to mention Portuguese custard tarts, which are my favourite sweet treat. In fact, I made sure that I ate at least one every day!

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The vast and colourful weekly market held in Barcelos sold everything from livestock to furniture, so we came home with a few interesting souvenirs.

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We also enjoyed sampling the local Douro wines and Port!

We explored Northern Portugal in a Fiat 500 convertible hire car, and I’ll have to put together another blog post of Steve’s wonderful photographs to really do the holiday justice.