Sunny Sardinia

I’m not long back from a week in Sunny Sardinia, where in all honesty, eating, sunbathing and sleeping where my main activities. I’m not even joking. Although our hotel did have some wonderful free yoga classes, which I managed to find time in my packed schedule for a visit to.

20170828_122004

20170829_144422-EFFECTS

While hotels in the region (and often Italy generally) aren’t always mega luxurious, this doesn’t really matter when it’s this beautiful…

20170828_113222

20170828_121131

Stunning views were everywhere in Sardinia and even a terrible photographer like me took some lovely shots capturing the island’s beauty. The beaches in particular were perfect and with temperatures in the 30s, we were very glad of the sea breeze and the cooling waves.

20170828_121218-EFFECTS

Sleep came easily in a canopied bed that made me feel like a princess! Obviously, it’s a mosquito net to keep those nasty little bugs out (of which Sardinia has plenty!) – but it does look rather pretty doesn’t it?

20170827_182624

Seafood, pizza and pasta made up much of our diet on this trip, well it would be rude not to wouldn’t it? I had a few salads for good measure, but when in Italy, this is what it’s all about…

Tiramisu…had to be done!

A special thanks to Colin & Olatz for this treat of some local bubbles on our first night!

There’s nothing like a late August/early September holiday to make you really feel the difference in seasons on your return. Now we’re back in England, the tan’s fading and the weather’s turning. It’s easy to give into the blues but secretly I’m rather looking forward to winter (and Christmas!!!)…bring it on! 

Advertisements

Crete Revisited

I’ve recently returned from a sunny week in Crete, my second ever visit to the island and it was as welcoming and beautiful as ever. The post-holiday blues are hitting hard as I write this, can’t I go back for a few more days?!

img_20160926_213946

Beautiful views of Crete from Spinalonga

We stayed at the fabulous Blue Palace Resort & Spa, a large hotel that somehow still felt intimate and friendly. Built on a hillside, it had its own funicular to take you down to the beach, where the water was just beautiful.

Foodie highlights were not short supply, the hotel had numerous restaurants, my favourite was the Blue Door, which sat right on the waterfront and offered a feast of traditional Cretan and Greek dishes. I enjoyed feta, halloumi,vine leaves and plenty of tzatziki. In addition to some lovely local wines, the cocktails from the hotel bar were heaven too…

The hotel even had its own Shisha menu and an expert to recommend different blends. It had to be done!

img-20161002-wa0000

Total relaxation

The nearby towns of Plaka and Elounda were full of fantastic food too. Plaka is a very short walk away and we enjoyed a delicious meal at Thalassa, tucking into a traditional Moussaka and some fresh fish. Venturing a little further afield into Elounda we enjoyed the food at restaurants including Kanali, Olondi and Lotus Eaters. Here’s just a selection of the delicious dishes we tucked into during our stay…

Sometimes on holiday, you can’t beat a lazy day with a good book and a spot of sunbathing on the balcony, on one such day we did just that and ordered room service. It certainly was lunch with a view!

dav

A lovely lunch on the balcony

The views from the hotel were simply stunning, our room looked right out on to the uninhabited island of Spinalonga. The island is full of history, going back to Byzantine and Venetian times and more recently in the 1900s as a place for people with leprosy to live.

dav

Beautiful views of Spinalonga from our room

We took a boat across to Spinalonga to explore. It’s always quite busy with tourists taking in the sights and history of the island – but we went a little off the beaten track, taking an unconventional (and rocky!) route, which turned out to be well worth it. We found a few quiet, peaceful spots to stop and admire the views and consider the history around us.

All in all it was a fabulously relaxing week, full of food and wine, absolute heaven! I highly recommend Crete for a holiday,  I’m sure this won’t be my last visit. Thanks to the lovely staff at the Blue Palace who helped make our week a really memorable one and to Winchester’s Independent Holiday Shop who organised everything for us.

Post holiday diet starts next week!

xXx

Something special is coming to the Spinnaker Tower

I’m very pleased to be sharing some exciting Hampshire foodie news on FoodTeaLife today. A pop-up restaurant is coming soon to the Emirates Spinnaker Tower and it really is set to be something special.

I was lucky enough to be invited to preview the pop-up experience high above the ground and sample the some of the dishes. I was pleased to learn that locally sourced produce takes centre stage on the fabulous seven course menu from award-winning chef Stephanie Moon. There was fresh fish and seafood from Johnson’s Enterprises and trout from Chalkstream Foods as well as meat from Southsea butchers, Buckwells. Even the desserts featured local suppliers including ice creams and sorbets from the fabulous Minghella’s on the Isle of Wight and delicious Fordingbridge Fudge too.

stephmoon1

Talented Chef Stephanie Moon at the Emirates Spinnaker Tower (image courtesy of Stefan Venter and Emirates Spinnaker Tower) 

Chef Stephanie Moon had very high praise for Hampshire’s local suppliers too. Describing the seabass from Johnson’s Enterprises, she spoke with passion about its freshness and how it just shone!

It was lovely having the chance to chat to Stephanie, who hails from Yorkshire and represented the North East in the BBC’s Great British Menu. I couldn’t resist asking her for her thoughts on the hotly debated issue that is #foodporn (taking photos of your food in restaurants). She gave a perfect answer saying, “I’m honoured if someone wants to take a photograph of my food but I’m equally as honoured if they just want to dive in and get stuck into eating it”.

stephmoon

Chef Stephanie Moon praising Hampshire’s produce

Stephanie has an impressive career to date including The Dorchester and 5 star hotel Park Hyatt in Sydney, so it was real privilege and pleasure to sample her food. You can see her full menu for the pop-up venture here – but I thought I’d share some of my favourites from the night below too…

Canapé: Cauliflower, summer truffle oil and sweetcorn “eggs” with brioche soldiers

Spinnaker 2

This was just one the delightful canapés on offer – I loved dipping the little brioche soldier!

Starter: Seared scallop, Isle of Wight crab, Solent seabass, butter lettuce, tomato, fresh peas, borage, wood sorrel 

Spinnaker 1

Everything about this was just perfect – the presentation, the flavours – it was exquisite! 

Main course: Hampshire South Downs lamb cutlet, sticky braised lamb, bon bon

Carrot anise puree, fèves, courgette, potato terrine 

– This I dived straight into and didn’t photograph, luckily  I was sent this beautiful photo of the dish…

MAINCOURSE

Image courtesy of Stefan Venter and Emirates Spinnaker Tower

To finish: Fordingbridge sea salted caramel fudge, Lavender fields chocolate fancies, Fresh cherry crackle, Pimms’ lollipops with sherbet dib dab – these all came after the main dessert like little petit fours and were simply irresistible!

finish

Who could say no to these delights? Beautiful image courtesy of Stefan Venter and Emirates Spinnaker Tower

Although I’ve picked out some personal highlights – I can honestly say that every dish was delicious and cooked to perfection. I felt the menu was just the right blend of creative and comforting. The dishes had the wow factor and were beautifully presented, whilst still being simple enough to let the quality and fantastic flavours of the local produce shine through.

Being high above the ground, close to the top of the 170 metre Spinnaker Tower was pretty spectacular too. Arriving at 6.30 meant we got to see the sun going down and watch as night fell all around and lights started to twinkle below. I’m certain it will make a magical occasion – perfect for a special celebration. I have no hesitation in recommending it.

viewspinnake

Views from the Spinnaker Tower as the sun went down 

Sky Dining with Stephanie Moon will be hosted on Friday evenings from Friday 22 July to Friday 12 August 2016. You can find out more and book your table here. 

 

10 Amazing Dishes To Try In Winchester

11372477_939119992776553_2131033518_n

I’ve certainly been lucky enough to eat some absolutely amazing meals in Winchester. We have some brilliant restaurants serving exciting, original food made with wonderful ingredients…but enough about how much I love Winchester! If I had to pick my top dishes to enjoy in this great city, this list is where I’d start.

Of course many menus change seasonally and there are always daily specials in certain restaurants – so I can’t promise you’ll definitely be able to find all of these dishes but I know some are still very much menu mainstays. So here’s my top ten in no particular order…

(also sorry, I was too busy enjoying each dish to take photos of all of them!)

1)  Kyoto Kitchen – Winchester Roll

11372477_939119992776553_2131033518_n

This is apparently the world’s first sushi roll made with wasabi leaf rather than seaweed and uses locally grown wasabi from Europe’s only wasabi farm, right here in Winchester! So it’s a dish with a great story that’s gained it plenty of attention. It’s also absolutely delicious! The wasabi leaf is perfect addition to this fresh, light and delicate sushi roll.

2) Bugle Inn (Twyford) – Beetroot Cured Salmon

This comes a homemade with smoked mackerel, horseradish & crab pate, crispy whitebait, shallot & beetroot salad, sauce tartar, Parmesan toasts and an aioli dip. It’s just a perfect platter for anyone who loves fish, simply delicious with lots of different things to pick and try. I can’t get enough of it! I should add that many of the Bugle’s other dishes are equally as fabulous, the food is always great.

3) Rimjhim Winchester – Modu Murg

I don’t really do hugely spicy curries so this dish from Rimjhim is just heavenly. If you’re someone who would normally have korma, you must try the modu murg. It’s a creamy coconut and honey chicken dish and comes with crispy parsnip strips on top. Even if you prefer something hotter, I highly recommend trying this dish – everyone I know who likes a spicy curry also enjoys this dish.

4) Bangkok Brasserie – Colin Firth’s Thai Mango Chicken (Gaeng Kari Mamuang) 

While we’re on the subject of curries, this Thai delight from Bangkok Brasserie needs a mention. It’s a a traditional mild yellow curry with added mango that was apparently created especially created for actor and Winchester man Colin Firth. Well, Colin’s got great taste is all I can say. It’s a truly delicious dish, the sauce will have you wanting to dip everything in it. What’s more it’s a sponsored dish with 85p from each dish sold going to charity – so you feel even better about ordering it!

5) Gandhi – Gandhi Special

I promise this is the last curry dish on the list! I don’t think the top ten would be complete without a mention for the flavoursome yet deliciously mild Gandhi Special. This dish is chicken cooked with almond, coconut, sultana and cashew nuts in a special sauce with spices and yoghurt and it comes served with an omelette. It’s a must try if you haven’t had it!

6) Pi Woodfired – Smoked bacon, goats cheese, caramelised onion & asparagus

A relatively new restaurant for Winchester but undeniably good! I haven’t had a chance to work my way through the menu yet but I have to say the bacon and goats cheese pizza was divine. All their dishes look fantastic and I can’t wait to try more!

7) Fish Tale Bar & Grill – Lobster Burger (or the Lobster Surf and Turf)

The lobsimag0903ter burger is amazing, what an invention! It features a brioche bun and tempura lobster, it’s a real feast. I love the varied menu at Fish Tale and try to order something different each time I go but the burger is incredibly tempting I must admit. The surf and turf gets a mention too as my dining companion loves this dish and very often goes for it.

8) Sakura Japanese Restaurant – Teppanyaki Lobster

Sticking with the subject of lobster, here’s another great way to enjoy it, fresh from the teppanyaki grill and cooked in a delicious sauce. You can sit around the grill and watch (and take part) in the cooking fun and theatrics or sit quietly at a separate table – either way it’s a lovely dish.

9) Rick Stein Winchester – Fish and Shellfish Soup with Rouille and Parmesan 

FotorCreated

This is a heavenly dish (which I have reviewed previously) – it’s a taste of Mediterranean summer holidays and I love adding the cheese and garlicky rouille to the soup. I love the whole menu (and the cocktails!) at Rick Stein’s but this starter is probably my absolute favourite.

10) The Avenue Restaurant at Lainston House – Coconut Parfait

11325728_783576581749977_730110068_n

Aha, a delcious dessert makes it’s way on the list. I’m sure desserts of Winchester could be a whole other post – but this one is so good it deserves a mention in the overall top ten I think! I do love coconut, so this is a real winner with me – it comes with a chocolate mousse, caramel, banana and passion fruit – full of flavour! I’m hungry just thinking about it!

So there you have it, some of my favourite meals in Winchester. There are many more I could have mentioned and many other restaurants serving amazing dishes – but ten felt like a good place to stop. Have you tried any of these dishes? I would absolutely love to hear some recommendations from any FoodTeaLife readers for dishes I should try. Leave a comment or tweet me @franini_daze with your suggestions!

xXx

Belated Review of Rick Stein Winchester

Well, it’s been so long since my first visit to Rick Stein’s new restaurant in Winchester that I’ve actually been back a second time to enjoy it. In case there’s any of you still wondering about whether or not to book a table I’m finally getting around blogging about my recent visits.

Myself and the OH are big fish and seafood fans so, it’s fair to say we were excited about this new restaurant. My first thoughts were how different it looked from Jamie Oliver’s Union Jack’s that had previously occupied the site and even more radically different from the days when it was a Pizza Hut! It is hard to believe it’s the same space, it’s such a cool, calm and welcoming layout. There is comfy seating by the doors if you need to wait for a table, or if like me you like to sit and have a drink before your meal. I found this a lovely area to sit and sip a bellini, they had other classic cocktails on the list too (which I’m sure I’ll try on my next visit!).

The menu is simple but exciting I found, I could have easily enjoyed anything from it but on my first visit a settled on a classic fish soup served with rouille and parmesan. I just love these kinds of fish soups that you get on a Mediterranean holiday and this one didn’t disappoint. There’s something very satisfying about customising your soup by adding lots of cheese and garlicky rouille! A word of warning, it was very filling by the time I’d had bread too. I could have easily eaten it as a main course!

Crisp Garlic Bread Croutons, Rouille and Parmesan

Crisp Garlic Bread Croutons, Rouille and Parmesan

IMAG1110

Delicious rich fish and shellfish soup

I opted for the filled of hake for my main served with spring onion mash and soy butter sauce. It certainly was a sizeable fillet of fish (or maybe it just seemed that way after polishing off my soup and extra bread!), everything on the plate was light and delicately flavoured. It was just delicious and a clean plate was left behind.

Fillet of Hake with spring onion mash and soy butter sauce

Fillet of Hake with spring onion mash and soy butter sauce

I thoroughly enjoyed the meal, as did my dining companion, I was incredibly full though (my own greedy fault!). So I remembered this on my next visit and opted for a lighter prawn and crab cocktail to start with, which was lovely, although I did look longingly at other diners enjoying the soup!

On my second visit they had a special main course of a Lobster Thermidor, which I couldn’t resist (it’s lobster and there’s cheese after all!!). This was a good size and not too huge – just right for me.

The special - Lobster Thermidor

The special – Lobster Thermidor

My dining companion on the other hand did not go for something so small…

Fruits de Mer

Fruits de Mer

A rather large seafood platter, featuring a huge crab! It was thoroughly enjoyed and I did help out a little of course – so yes the whole thing was demolished.

I must also mention the sides, they were so good and probably partly why I filled up so much on my first visit! In particular the roast pumpkin with chilli oil was just gorgeous – I could eat a whole plate of it.

So there you have it, my experience at Rick Stein Winchester. After visiting a few times, you can’t accuse me of not being thorough with my reviews! I really enjoyed the food, the wine, cocktails and the atmosphere so would recommend it to anyone who likes fish and seafood. There are couple of non-fishy and veggie courses for those you who don’t do fish but really the fish is the main attraction here.

Have you been? Let me know what you thought if so.

xXx

New Restaurant Review: Fish Tale Winchester

Winchester has a great new restaurant that I’ve been fortunate enough to visit a few times recently. Situated where the Terracotta/Charles House used to be at the bottom of town (I like to refer to this as the hip end of town), is Fish Tale Bar and Grill.

As the name suggests it’s all about fish and seafood, so it’s right up myself and the boy’s culinary street. Prawns, fish and seafood are all firm favourites of ours, so we couldn’t wait to try it out.

When you step inside it’s got a lovely contemporary feel and looks nothing like the former Chinese restaurant that it once was. We found the cheerful staff to be super-attentive to which was really nice. Anyway, I’m sure you’re more interested in the food, so here goes.

We both felt something like light to begin with and there were some good choices to accommodate this, I opted for lobster consommé and my dining companion chose smoked salmon with asparagus and hollandaise sauce.

Delicious smoked salmon starter

Delicious smoked salmon starter

The lovely lobster consomme with some garlic toast and a tastylobster dumpling

The lovely lobster consommé with some garlic toast and a tasty lobster dumpling

For our main courses we didn’t choose quite such light options…

A sizeable surf and turf for Tom

A sizeable surf and turf for him

Sensational lobster burger for me!

And a sensational lobster burger for me!

We thoroughly enjoyed our main courses, I especially loved the lobster burger which came in a soft bun with bacon and crème fraiche. We both absolutely devoured our meals, so much so that there wasn’t any room for dessert!

I’ve been back since and enjoyed the pan fried salmon and the lobster thermidor, both very tasty. I plan to try something different each time I go until I’ve tried the whole menu!

There were some nice wines and fizz to choose from too, including one of my favourites Laurent Perrier Rose. And on my last visit we tried a Rose wine from a vineyard in Devon. Plenty to choose from to accompany all the great fishy dishes on the menu.

All in all, I give Fish Tale a firm thumbs up. It’s casual and relaxed yet has a refined edge to it, a pleasant place to spend an evening. The food’s good and there are a few choices for veggies and those who don’t do fish too.

Give it a try and perhaps I’ll see you in there next time!

Ultimate Relaxation in Mallorca

I’m pleased to report that the FoodTealife holiday diet (consisting of doing as many fast days a week as you can!) was all worthwhile. I’m recently back from magical Mallorca and feeling rejuvenated (or I was at least).

We stayed in beautiful Port de Soller, right on the cliffs over looking the ocean. The views were sensational…

Our room right on the cliff tops

Our room right on the cliff tops!

View from the shower!

View from the shower!

Certainly a room with a view

Ocean views

And then there’s the relaxation factor…endless swimming, the comfy beds, the lazy days, late breakfasts and long lunches…heaven!

Got to love an infinity pool!

Got to love an infinity pool with a view

I made sure to enjoy some traditional dishes too, including of course paella, sangria and a local vegetable dish called tumbet (a little like a Spanish ratatouille). There was plenty of fresh fish to try including scorpion fish which I’d never had before but thoroughly enjoyed. I would describe it as meaty but light, somewhere between swordfish and monkfish you might say. Let’s not forget about the seafood either…

Sumptuous seafood packed soup at Kingfisher in Port de Soller

Sumptuous seafood-packed soup at Kingfisher in Port de Soller

One thing the locals prided themselves on was their oranges, with the area being known as ‘orange valley’. And there certainly was a delicious and plentiful supply of sweet, fresh orange juice brought out at every breakfast.

Gin was the other big hit out there – with one bar having a gin menu over two pages long! It was popular everywhere and I took a real liking to a fragrant local variety which came with rosemary and juniper berries…and a huge fish bowl of a glass! I’m a fairly recent convert to gin I have to say, but if all gin tasted like it did out there I would definitely have started drinking it long ago…

Enjoying a small gin

Enjoying a small gin

A whole two pages of gin varieties at Cava in Port de Soller

A whole two pages of gin varieties at Cava in Port de Soller

...post gin

…post gin

A big shout out to the hotel and the cheery staff at the Jumeirah Port Soller Hotel who helped make our stay so relaxing.

So relaxed I went full on boho... (shameless balcony selfie)

So relaxed I went full on boho… (shameless balcony selfie)

And an even bigger thank you to my extended family for the great times, good company and  just such a wonderful weekend of absolutely blissful ultimate relaxation. What a heavenly week xXx

Holiday gang

Holiday crew!

Previous Older Entries