Monday, 24 May 2010

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Picnic in the beer gardens!!

Today is so amazingly hot already and after spending Saturday doing DIY at home, the lure of being outside has finally won! The plan is to head off to the beer gardens with a picnic, some books and the sun lotion!! The beer gardens are in the centre of Cheltenham and are a brilliant place to hang out with friends and enjoy a drink in the sun! Friends are joining us later in the day and my little brother is coming along too, however he will be studying (or trying too) ;-)) for his English Literature exam next week! I am so glad my studying days are behind me (for the moment)!!

We are going to really indulge with the picnic!! So far I have splurged on lots of Marks & Spencer nibbles - they are doing a great deal at the moment of 3 little dishes for £5- and we are going to pick up some fresh bread and cheese from the Cheese Works on Regent Street on the way to the gardens. Yeah! So much to look forward too and getting to spend time with people I love! What better way is there to while away a gorgeously hot Sunday afternoon?!?!

T :-)))

Friday, 21 May 2010

The Vine, Cheltenham

Place: The Vine, Cheltenham
Booking Tel: 01242 220 170
Website: n/a
Price per person for a 2 course meal (the Vine do not serve desserts) and 1/2 a bottle of wine: £25 incl. tip.
Good for: Meeting with friends / students
Dress code: Casual

Pros: Great atmosphere / quick food service / well stocked bar.

Cons: Inconsistent food quality / can get really busy at the weekend / no dessert menu.

 Rating: 3.4 out of 5

 Read on for full review...

Last Sunday I spent a very enjoyable few hours with the Cheltenham gang at the Vine for some vino and Thai food. Chris and I were not intending to stay too long, however after a particularly trying week for all of us (in one way or another), the red wine flowed whilst we enjoyed each others company and before we knew it 10 o'clock had come and gone... whoops! Not recommended on a school night!! The Vine is a traditional style pub that serves Thai food and as we were there quite early we were some of the first diners of the night. I like the way that food is ordered in the Vine, you fill in cute little food slips and hand them into bar. They remind me of the food slips used in Dim Sum restaurants, of which I have visited many, many good ones with some very special friends... :-))

To start we had a selection of vegetable tempura, duck and pancakes and a mushroom tom yum soup. The tempura was okay, however the batter could have been a little lighter and less oily, the duck and pancakes were fine and as expected, however the mushroom tom yum soup really fell short of our expectations. I was quite disappointed as I love Thai soups, however this one tasted predominately of fish sauce and nothing else. The mushrooms were normal white mushrooms chopped into quarters and floating on the top of the water consistency soup. I passed it around the table for everyone to try (to make sure that it was not just me) and everyone unanimously decided the soup was not amazing...

For the main course we had fried rice with tiger prawns, lamb massaman curry and king prawns with tamarind sauce (except they had run out of king prawns, so used tiger prawns instead). The food came out soon after the starters, and after my slightly disastrous soup (!) I was pleased not to have to wait too long for my next course. The rice was well seasoned and nicely flavoured and there was a good ratio of prawns to rice!! The dish was a tad greasy, however overall was enjoyable and a very generous portion. In fact the dish could easily be shared between two people with a side portion of the malay bread. The lamb massaman curry had people divided. One of the group felt that the sauce was nicely flavoured, however thought that the meat did not taste like it had had enough time to infuse with the flavours. Others in the group enjoyed the whole dish, particularly the sauce. Overall this one seemed to go down quite well. The tiger prawns with tamarind sauce was probably the nicest dish out of the bunch and was cleared away fairly swiftly!!

After the main course we all felt the need for something sweet. The Vine does not offer desserts, so we decided to descend on Bella Pasta for sweet goodness (!) and yes you guessed  it another bottle of wine... NB. I did feel absolutely awful at work on the Monday and have definitely learnt a lesson (lets just hope I take it on board)!! Anyway, Bella Pasta is another story and not one for now ;-))

Overall our experience at the Vine was enjoyable, however this was mainly due to the company, the setting and the wine. The food was reasonable, but could have been better - this is the main area that pulled my rating down. We passed our comments back to the waiting staff (in particular letting them know about the soup) and were told that they have two chefs, who both have slightly different styles. Potentially if we had visited when the other chef was on, this review may have come out slightly differently... For the moment though, I do not think we will be hurrying back to the Vine, especially when there are so many other places in Cheltenham to try!

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Foodie experiences this week - The Vine, Cheltenham & The Bathurst Arms, North Cerney a quick update..!

This week has been really hectic so far, however I have managed to squeeze in a couple of foodie experiences!! Sunday night was spent at the Vine in Cheltenham for dinner, which is a great venue good for meeting up with friends. I'm not completely convinced on the food though and more details will follow in my full review. Then last night after guides, I went for a very yummy country pub dinner with my dad at the Bathurst Arms in North Cerney, Cirencester. The Bathurst Arms in particular is definitely worth a visit, they have a new head chef and the menu is now uber stylish with great dishes such as pan roasted pork with spring onion mash and crispy pigs ear and slow roasted lamb shank with wild garlic mash and caramelised onion gravy. Wild garlic is one of my favourite country smells (it oddly lifts my spirits is a very healing way)!! and it was great to see this kind of local wild ingredient used in the dishes. I also spotted a wild garlic and potato soup on the starter menu, which sounded scrummy and is definitely on my hit list for a future visit. Additionally the Bathurst Arms has one of the most impressive wine cellars I have seen in the area, which for me is a real delight! I love, love, love having a great selection of wines to choose from and also the benefit of staff who know what they are going on about to help you choose! I will write up full reviews of these places very soon, however I just wanted to give you a heads up before then!

T :-))

Monday, 17 May 2010


As the summer is finally nearly upon us and with that the promise of long warm nights sat around a campfire, it is time to think about all of the yummy food that comes with that, in particular s'mores! While some of you will be drooling at the mouth at the mere mention of a s'more, others will probably be wondering on earth I am going on about! Well... a s'more is a campfire treat that is popular in the US and Canada, however has now crossed the pond and is proving just as popular in the UK. In the US s'mores are traditionally made by sandwiching a roasted marshmallow between two crackers, one of which is covered with a layer of chocolate. The idea is that once the marshmallow has started to brown on the outside, the inside will be all gooey and runny and when placed in between the crackers will melt with the chocolate into a scrummy, sweet, sticky mess! Additionally, I have just discovered that for a bit of variation one of the crackers could be spread with peanut butter (oh good god pure heaven)!!

There is some debate about the best way to make a smore, my personal favourite (to date) is sandwiching a melted marshmallow between two milk chocolate digestive biscuits... mmm... yummy, yummy, yummy!!! However having just found out about the peanut butter idea I think I am going to have a new favourite just as soon as I can test it out!!! Also, why have I not thought of this before?!?!? Peanut butter, marshmallow and chocolate are an obvious match made in heaven!!

Anyway this is a highly recommended and a particularly fun and social treat to make. I have yet to meet a single person who does not enjoy these! So happy s'moreing and let me know what you think if you try them out and also if you come up with any new variations!

T :-))

Friday, 14 May 2010

Dominos - any pizza any size £9.99 delivered (Gloucester)

Just had this offer through from Dominos - any pizza any size £9.99 delivered (Gloucester). Offer expires Sunday 16th May 2010. Call 01452 527222 or order online. T&C apply.


Thursday, 13 May 2010

Angora Meze Bar, Cheltenham

Place: Angora Meze Bar, Cheltenham
Booking Tel: 01242 230 642
Price per person for a 3 course meal and 1/2 a bottle of wine: £25 incl. tip.
Good for: Meeting with friends / students
Dress code: Casual

Pro's: Good alternative to places like La Tasca when looking for small dishes to share with friends over a bottle of wine / very reasonably priced (currently running a £15 per person for two or more, set 3 course menu offer, excl. drinks - see website for details).

Con's: Very quiet / the wine list could be a little more extensive / a little out of the way (opposite JJ's on Albion Street).

Rating: 3.6 out of 5

Read on for full review...

Sunday nights are generally spent with the Cheltenham gang, recovering from a hectic weekend over a couple of bottles of wine and some restorative nosh! Last Sunday four of us met at the Angora Meze Bar in Cheltenham, which is a family run Turkish restaurant. Admittedly we were the only diners during the 2 hours we were there, however the food was surprisingly good quality, full of flavour and very reasonably priced. The staff were extremely attentive and the chef even helped to bring the dishes to the table, whilst constantly checking to make sure that everything was okay.

To start we went for a selection of hot and cold meze, which included Ezme (a chopped tomato, parsley and walnut dish with spices), fasulye pilake (white beans in tomato sauce) and grilled sebze (aubergine and courgette brushed with olive oil and served with garlic yogurt). The meze were served with plenty of pitta bread and washed down with a bottle of the house red. All of the dishes were as described on the menu. The Ezme was a little unusual, as the chopped walnuts gave the dish a strange texture, however everyone enjoyed the starters and there was nothing left when the waiter came to clear the plates away (always a good sign)!

We all selected a different main course. I originally enquired about the fish of the day, however the chef advised that there was no fresh fish available due to it being a Sunday and their deliveries being in the week (nice to know that they only like to serve fresh fish). Instead I went for the Iskender Kebab which was described as thinly sliced lamb, served over tomato sauce on pitta bread with a portion of yogurt. When the dish came out the lamb was actually more like rolls of minced lamb, similar to how they would be if they were cooked on a skewer. Despite not being what I had expected, the lamb was well spiced and the tomato sauce made a great accompaniment to the lamb. A generous dollop of yogurt on the side, the soft doughy pitta underneath and an extra bonus in a small portion of rice (which was not stated in the menu description) made this dish really well balanced and filling. Overall highly recommended. The rest of the group went for a lamb shish kebab, a chicken shish kebab and a turkish pizza of ground lamb and chopped vegetables. The pizza was easily enough for two to share, as is came sliced into four pieces that hung over the edges of the plate. The base was very thin, however the pizza was still filling and as a group we did not manage to finish what our friend could not manage to eat! The shish kebabs were well cooked and the meat was tender. Overall the main courses were like the starters, full of flavour and well prepared and washed down with another bottle of the house red ;-) !!

Despite being rather full from the starters and main courses, we decided it would be a crying shame not to complete the experience and sample the home made baklava dessert! We were not disappointed, it was well worth trying and made a great finish to an enjoyable meal.

Overall the meal was good and the staff were friendly and attentive. The only areas that pulled down my rating were the wine list (which was limited to one type of each colour) and the setting being a little lacking in atmosphere, due to the restaurant being so empty (however this may be different if you went in after 9pm). I will definitely be revisiting soon, so my husband can sample the yummy kebabs!

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

My first post!

Quite a few people have been telling me that I should stop talking and start writing about anything and everything! I have decided to whittle that down to all things foody and to get things started I have posted an 2 for 1 offer for Pizza Express from (see next post).

At the moment my planned future blogs include...

  • My favourite sweet recipes (good for all kids of all ages ;-))) and including my secret (!) recipe for peanut butter fudge!
  • Campfire cooking ideas (for the nearly upon us festival season and also for my upcoming brother/sister family camping weekend, where for one weekend a year I subject my younger siblings to a weekend with very basic facilities - poor Soph)!!!
  • Reviews of the best (or worst) eating places that Cheltenham has to offer. My first review will be on the recently visited Turkish restaurant, the Angora Meze Bar on Albion Street...
I'll post again soon (and feel free to hassle me if I take too long)!
NB. All comments / ideas / feedback are welcome!!

T :-))))))

2 for 1 on main courses at Pizza Express

Click on the link below to access the voucher - expires on Sunday 23rd May 2010.