Hidden Gems Part One

There are lots of restaurants that you might call hidden gems nestled around Hampshire, some you drive past and always wonder about going in, some you’ve heard about and never been to, maybe you went once years ago and haven’t been back…whether they’re in a rural location or simply a tucked away part of town, it’s time to start thinking about our local hidden gems!

These restaurants usually have longevity, outlasting some of the more prominently positioned establishments – relying on reputations built over the years and loyal customers. I’m hoping to publish a series of posts celebrating some great local hidden gems (suggestions welcome!)…I’ll start with one of my favourites, Keats in Ampfield.

Keats is a wonderfully traditional Italian restaurant located between Wincheser and Romsey, so it probably falls into the ‘driven past it and always wondered…’ category of hidden gems – but it is most certainly worth a visit. Run by the same very friendly team for something like 20 plus years, I cannot praise this place enough, I’ve genuinely never had a bad meal there. The freshness of the food is always excellent, the fish and seafood in particular – the staff are only to happy to tell you what they’ve got in fresh that day and recommend a good wine to go with it too.

Bear in mind when I say Italian, I don’t mean Zizzi, Prezzo or Pizza Express. Keats is all about traditional Italian classic dishes done well. The specialities would certainly have to be the fish, but also the chateaubriand for two – a firm favourite of my boyfriend and his brother, who enjoy it every time. The desserts are excellent too, my favourite is the crepe suzettes, which are always prepared in front of you in the traditional way.

I’m hoping to update this post with some foodie photos when I next pay a visit to Keats, but for now I hope this short entry has served to whet your appetite for some good old fashioned Italian food…

Visit http://www.keatsrestaurant.co.uk for a flavour of the place and book a table if you haven’t been!

 

La Dolce Vita…Lakeside!

There has been a little lapse in FoodTeaLife entries of late and it’s because of a wonderful holiday to Italy – the beautiful area of Lake Garda to be precise. We soaked up the sunshine, took in the stunning views, swam in the crystal clear lake, ambled through the medieval streets and generally enjoyed all of the nation’s famous foodie delights. From gelato, to pizza, pasta, tiramisu, grappa and limoncello – we indulged in all of Italy’s classics! The region’s local wines had to be sampled too – all of which proved to be delightful and left us wondering why you never find these wonderful wines back home?

Probably the best summary I can give of the trip is a visual one…so feast your eyes….

The 16th century castle at the entrance to the medieval town

The castle even has its own moat filled with lake water

A proper olden days castle with battlements and it’s own moat, does it get much more fairytale-esque? Well I think it does, take a look at these photos of the castle at it’s most magical…

The castle in the dead of night…mysterious and mythical

Waiting for Rapunzel to appear…

Not only was the castle lovely to gaze upon from the outside, but once inside it provided some breathtaking views of the lake and the old town of Sermione…

There were spectacular views to take in everywhere you looked from the old fashioned streets to the lake itself….

Looking out over the lake

Sirmione is made up of quaint little streets like this one

And now of course on to the foodie highlights of the trip…

A classic Italian stone baked Margarita pizza

Spaghetti with clams – delicious!

Another pasta classic…carbonara

Grilled shellfish with garlic

Soup of mussels and clams

On to the desserts…

Duo of desserts – the one on the left is a miniature tiramisu!

A table tree of petit fours!

And to wash it all down with…

Limoncello for the ladies

Grappa for the gentlemen

And an interesting local cocktail…I can’t be a 100% sure of its ingredients, but I believe Campari and Presseco are two major components!

Colourful cocktail

All in all a most fabulous foodie adventure and very relaxing trip – a huge thank you to my second family for a wonderful time xxx

Exciting News for South Coast Seafood lovers!

A while back I said I’d have some exciting local foodie news to share…well here it is, brace yourself seafood lovers this is really cool!

Love fish? Then read on…

If like me you love the sound of fresh locally caught fish and seafood, but aren’t quite sure how or where to get it…well get ready because that’s about to change  thanks to South East Seafood! Working in partnership with the south coast’s fishing community, South East Seafood has launched Local Catch, a revolutionary new smart phone app and website designed to connect you direct to your local fisherman’s catch of the day.

Local Catch – the brand new app for local seafood fans

The launch of Local Catch means anyone on the south coast (that’s Winchester folks too!) can register to receive alerts about their local catch of the day direct to their smart phone, tablet or computer. Whether it’s crab, lobster, bream or bass, the south coast’s fishermen and the fishmongers, restaurants and cafes they supply will all be uploading details of their freshest catches, along with their exact location every day. All you have to do is pop along to your local fishmonger, or meet your local fishermen directly and you’ll be guaranteed fresh local fish and seafood, the day it’s caught.

A Hamble fisherman uploads his catch of the day

To ensure you really make the most of your fish, Local Catch gives you access to a whole range of recipes, inspiration and ideas, as well as cooking tips and videos on the preparation of various fish and seafood dishes. So whether you’re making bouillabaisse, bisque, crab cakes or chowder you can be sure your fish supper will be the freshest around!

Lobster Linguine, just one of the great recipes you’ll find on the Local Catch app

In addition to guaranteeing you fresh fish that’s 100% local, the launch of Local Catch also means a fairer price for the fishermen of the south coast – it’s really a win win, lovely fresh fish and a better detail for the local fishing community. All in all it’s fantastic news for seafood lovers around the Hampshire/West Sussex areas…I’m personally encouraging all my South Coast friends to download Local Catch – let’s get behind it and start to revolutionise the way we get our fish!

A Hayling Island Fisherman uploads his catch of the day

It’s not just local residents who can benefit from the app either,  local chefs can get involved too. The South Coast’s chefs, restaurants, pubs, cafes, delis and fishmongers can all use Local Catch too – they simply need to register in the same way as members of the public would, but once they’ve purchased from their local fishermen they are then able to send out an alert that lets people in the local area know they’ve got fresh, locally caught seafood on the menu.

Fresh fish on the menu – always a winner with me!

Local Catch is really simple to use and free to download now for Android devices (iPhone version coming soon!). It’s  just as easy to use Local Catch on your computer too. Simply log on to www.localcatch.co.uk to sign up and find out the catch of the day.

What are you waiting for fellow Hampshire folks? Get downloading!

Birthday Celebrations

This has been my birthday weekend (yes I ususally like to dedicate a few days to the celebration of my birth!)…I have to say it’s been lovely, I have some amazing friends and family who made it very special.

Happy Birthday to me!

For a family outing we paid visit to the Jane Austen house museum in Chawton, which was wonderful. I’ve lived not far from Jane Austen’s home for a long time but never actually stepped inside it. I’m sure many people have been to the house, so will know how well preserved it is and how magical it is to see and touch possesions that belonged to Jane herself, but it took me somewhat by surprise. I didn’t realise how moving an experience the visit would be, it felt strange to be moving through rooms that she would have once wandered though and I couldn’t get over being in the presence of her actual little writing table! I have so much respect for Jane Austen, she’s cleverer than many people give her credit for. Her books are not just silly romance and marriage – they really expose the difficult situation that women of her time faced!

Beautiful day for a trip to Jane Austen’s house

I’m in Jane’s bedroom! Imagine the dreams and thoughts this room has seen…

We finished our visit off with some much needed refreshment at Cassandra’s Cup, the tea room opposite. I enjoyed  lovely pot of lapsang and my favourite, a prawn marie rose sandwich. All in all a lovely day out!

Probably the best place to open a tea room in England!

In the evening I was treated to dinner at the Black Rat, which was fabulous. The food simply could not have been better, from start to finish the whole experience was a delight. Beautiful food and wine followed by a bit of bubbly in one of the cosy upstairs rooms – splendid!

Spot on!

All the over indulgence did lead to me falling asleep before any post midnight pressie opening could take place, but I was up bright and early the next day to rectify that! I got a whole host of lovely things from those I love…

My beautiful birthday hoard!

From the beautiful birthday cake baked by my wonderful sister…

Looks good, tastes good!

Through to the  amazing selection of birthday cards currently decorating my lounge…

Like bunting for the window sill…

A big loving thank you goes out to everyone who made my birthday special!

LOVE YOU ALL xXxXx