Well, if Larry Lamb says so! Eating the Yorkshire Dales (and slightly beyond) – part 2

Yes, we made it after part 1! Although we weren’t out of danger just yet – there was still plenty of cheese in the fridge. The second half (ok, two-thirds, if your being pedantic) of our Yorkshire Dales food-filled adventure would see us… well, not in the Yorkshire Dales for 40% of it (too much math?). But I would take Larry Lamb’s advice on board to eat one of the 100-ish best-ever (those posters are legit, right!) pork pies – and dine in the only fancy place not about to ban breathing.

 

Settle down! (days 4-6)

Ok, I’ll be the first to admit, I waffled on a little in part 1, which means I had to split the article a day earlier than originally planned – it also means I’ve now aborted the day by day account to avoid having to write-up a part 3.

(So, quickly summing in an effort to curb the word count) The next 3 days saw us:

  • Overdose on the remaining cheese and crackers – I refused to enter any more farm shops.
  • Drive to Ingleton to visit the White Scar Cave – only to find it was closed for the day due to heavy rain (it was sunny). In fact, it seemed the whole village had closed for the day – there was no way we were using up calories on the waterfall walk if we couldn’t consume cake at the end!
  • Visit the idyllic villages of Long Preston, Gargrave, Clapham and Hellifield to take photographs of yet more stone-built houses and bridges, just about avoid falling into any rivers and, yes, finally, consume cake (see below).
  • Skip the rather naff-sounding canal boat trip in Skipton (Dave Spikey was apparently offering guided boat tours, despite being on a stand-up tour…in another part of the country) due to the unpredictable weather (we’ve lost what little trust we had left in the BBC), but enjoy our time struggling to follow the printed A4 guide in the town’s castle.
  • Pub crawl between Giggleswick and Settle, where Mrs. B.B. tricked me into a 3-hour countryside walk – and to pay for her £8 G&Ts all day.

(Scroll to the bottom if you want to see photographic evidence.)

We’ll cover our meal at The Traddock Hotel in Austwick in another blog – we paid enough to warrant an individual piece, even if it was a mixed affair – but other noshing highlights included:

The Goat Gap Café

Situated next to the A65 between Ingleton and Clapham, we’d passed The Goat Gap Café by Newby several times on various excursions, but the impression was a of a cold, characterless café serving up insipid coffee and overpriced, stale cakes (we’re so bloody judgemental).

In fact, had the townsfolk not deserted Ingleton, we would never have entered. But in our desperation for lunch (it had gone 1:30pm – can you imagine?!), we had no choice but to overlook our preconceptions.

What we found was a very welcoming establishment, serving up fresh, home-made scran and one of the best lattes I’ve ever had – perhaps a little hyperbolic, but I was expecting UHT milk pots and not such a creamy delight.

And despite its location next to a busy main road, all you could see through the large road-facing windows was the beautiful countryside.

I went for the special – smoked salmon and cream cheese toastie:

goat-gap-cafe-newby-smoked-

The griddled bread was beautifully crisp – absorbing enough oil to add moisture without feeling greasy.

You can’t really go wrong with cream cheese and smoked salmon – but you can definitely improve on it when the cheese is warm and rich, and you are extra generous with the smoked salmon. I was also taken by the rocket salad – with clever, and restrained used of pesto, and plenty of nutty, almost earthy tasting giant couscous thrown in for good measure.

Mrs. B.B. opted for chargrilled vegetables with red pepper and chilli hummus and sourdough:

goat-gap-cafe-chargrilled-v

The veg. was generously drenched in olive oil and once piled upon the sweet hummus smothered sourdough proved a messy but delightful combination.

The Dalesman

Despite having a 3-course meal just hours away, we couldn’t resist a jam sponge pudding and custard at The Dalesman in Gargrave.

dalesman-gargrave-jam-spong

Transported back to the 1940s (well, it was a long time ago), this tea shop has dedicated vintage décor throughout – right down to the ringing sales till and pull-chain toilet – and a sweet selection from the good ol’ days on display.

dalesman-sweet-shop

(I’m obviously too young but appreciated the attention to detail and the wicked waitress who listed all the favourite desserts of my youth – later than Mrs. B.B.’s youth, but then she would argue I’m still living mine.)

“The tea pot was a beast and it tasted like a proper brew!”

The sponge was light and airy, the jam wasn’t too sweet, and whilst the custard was no doubt of the instant variety, I’ll forgive them – just because the tea pot was a beast and it tasted like a proper brew!

Settle Italian Restaurant

One of our most enjoyable meals of the stay came at the Settle Italian Restaurant – not necessarily because of the food itself (although, the things you can achieve with butter and cream continue to astound me), but because of the restaurant owner.

“The more mischief the better in my books.”

I appreciate his brash nature and constant teasing won’t be to everyone’s liking – based on what I observe on Twitter some days, we’ve all become a bit precious haven’t we? – but the more mischief the better in my books.

the-italian-restaurant-sett
If anything summed up the owner’s personality, it was this sign in the toilet!

From digging us out over our changed reservation date to alluding to the fact Mrs. B.B. may have had a gin problem – no opportunity for a few giggles was missed.

The fact he was managing the restaurant by himself – welcoming and seating guests, taking orders, cooking, taking payment, etc. made his stand-up performance even more impressive.

And the food itself?

Mushrooms cooked in a generous bowl of garlic, butter and cream may be simple, but it certainly delivers. There were no mistakes.

italian-restaurant-creamy-m

Mrs. B.B.’s bruschetta was barely visible for the tomatoes:

bruschetta-tomatoes-starter

…and there had been no holding back with the garlic rub – nobody was going to feast on our necks on the walk back to Langcliffe in the pitch black (good job Mrs. B.B. is sensible and brought a torch). Again, not much cooking to speak of, but the ingredients were top quality, it was fresh – and it was packed with flavour.

The pizzas may have lacked the wow factor you get from the likes of da MARA, but the base had a home-cooked charm – retaining its crispiness despite the copious amounts of topping (Mrs. B.B. must have had her 5-a-day for the week). Although why you’d leave the stones in the olives I have no idea (it added a little danger, I suppose).

pizza-main-settle-italian-m
Fortunately, I did not save the anchovy quarter until last!
mrs-bb-vegetarian-pizza-mai
Mrs. B.B. definitely got her 5-a-day!

Unfortunately, we were so bamboozled with the post-meal chatter that we forgot to leave a tip pay for our stand-up ticket.

Stanforth Butchers

I was unaware that Skipton is home to the world’s most decorated pork pie makers. Every bakery has picked up an award or a championship for their particular pie – or, as in Stanforth Butchers’ case, you’ve had thumbs up from this guy:

larry-lamb-stanforth-pie

Who?

You know…

He was in Eastenders the last time I could sit through an episode – and that was good enough for me!

“Larry’s clearly got good taste in the ol’ pork and pastry combination.”

In fairness, Larry’s clearly got good taste in the ol’ pork and pastry combination – my pork and apple may have been lacking in pork filling and was probably more suited to custard than the advertised gravy, but it was delicious. A thin, crisp pastry, and plenty of moisture despite a lack of visible gelatine.

pork-pie-apple-stanforth
Risking it all for a nice background.

Mrs. B.B. went for the savoury black pudding and pork option, which was equally as impressive – although I saw something I never thought I would. She left some pastry! Defeated by the density of the meat filling.

 

To be fair, we haven’t been strictly honest with you

Our final couple of days weren’t actually in the Yorkshire Dales (and if we are being geographically correct, we’d already ventured out a few times) – an inability to find a cottage (admittedly, we left booking until the very last-minute) in or around Settle for the whole week forced us further south to the world’s first fair trade village, Haworth, for the final couple of days.

Ultimately, it served as a bed for two nights – Mrs. B.B. receiving the news that her grandma was in hospital, which sent us two hours north to spend our final day proper at Darlington Memorial Hospital.

From what I did see, the cobbled Main Street of Haworth is charming, but we’d definitely left the idyllic Yorkshire Dales behind.

To lift morale, we decided to book somewhere super fancy scarily pricey for the final night, which saw us presented with this:

beef-wellington-restaurant-
Mrs. B.B. was so excited, she couldn’t keep the camera steady!

…at Restaurant 92 in Harrogate – I’ll fess up, it was the third choice after The Devonshire Arms and The Box Tree, but they had banned jeans and were requesting dinner jackets, so we were going to struggle to sneak in with our muddy walking boots.

Restaurant 92 cost enough (and crucially, it blew our minds enough) to warrant its own review, but before I head off to cook tonight’s dinner of turkey steaks and lettuce (I haven’t got any money left to replace my unseemly jeans), let’s talk meat.

The Hawthorn

I’ll be honest, I was a little reluctant to enter The Hawthorn in Haworth.

The picturesque little restaurant we found on TripAdvisor was in fact a pub, blasting out a KT Tunstall-lite singer-songwriter (I’m guessing whoever it was has topped the charts since I gave up on the radio ten years ago) for the whole street to endure – fortunately, the stereo was upstairs, and it was louder outside than in.

hawthorn-haworth-restaurant

The fact it was completely empty at 7:30pm, there was a limited ‘Thursday Menu’, and the bar staff were staring at us with seeming desperation did set off a few alarm bells. However, I figured it would probably save me on the word count and so we entered.

“It didn’t get off to the best of starts – the waitress accidentally placing her fingers in my beer.”

Had this blog been around a year longer, I’d have honoured it with its own article, but with another three already in the pipeline from Yorkshire, I’m conscious my South Wales coverage is looking a bit thin on the ground (not good when you are Wales’ finest food blog… with beard in the title).

It didn’t get off to the best of starts – the waitress accidentally placing her fingers in my beer. She replaced it straight away, but it did mean I had to drink more than a pint of the foul-tasting Nettle Thrasher, which was more of a sour than a copper bitter.

I started with the Yorkshire smoked salmon on sourdough toast:

salmon-starter-hawthorn-haw

The whole dish was lifted by the lemon dressing – very fresh, even if the look and the fragrance was slightly off-putting.

The gin-pickled cucumber reminded me of gherkin, and I couldn’t get enough of the cream fraiche & horseradish (to the point I was scraping the remnants out of the pot with my knife).

Mrs. B.B. went for the chestnut mushrooms on toasted sourdough:

chestnut-mushrooms-sourdoug

The sourdough was a bit burnt but this only added to the flavour, especially once the creamy thyme sauce had started to soak into it. The sauce itself was mellow and complimented the perfectly cooked mushrooms.

Now, I never normally order steak when I’m out – it’s such a simple dish, I’m adamant it’s the one thing I can cook at least as good at home (and boy do you pay a premium for it). However, with only three mains on offer, I figured I’d give the dry-aged flat iron steak a go:

steak-main-hawthorn-haworth

In all honesty, I can’t recall ever tasting a steak this good before. Cooked medium rare, it just melted in the mouth – a little chew, no gristle. A different league to Miller & Carter, put it that way.

Although it came with a peppercorn sauce, the herby butter was enough (I could do without the watercress…on any meal I ever have).

“The gently melting goats cheese was a sight to behold.”

The creamy, dare I say, dreamy (I’ve embarrassed myself now, I know), black pepper sauce did not go to waste – the perfect accompaniment to dip the crisp, salty dripping fries (well, they were chips – a bit of a false advertising, but no complaints).

Mrs. B.B.’s spelt risotto with goats’ cheese was a hearty and comforting bowl, perfect for a damp chilly evening.

spelt-risotto-main-haworth

She found the spelt far superior to the standard rice risotto, which had a satisfying chewy texture. The gently melting goats cheese was a sight to behold – the amount of which was well judged to not over-power the flavour of the risotto.

 

Heartbeat, why do you skip…?!

So that’s probably the final noshing tour of 2018. Not because of the damage to my arteries, but I’ve used up all my leave.

Yorkshire may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of exciting ‘food scenes’ or bucket list restaurants, but our experience was of a place where people love food, have access to high-quality ingredients (and combine them sensibly) and take great care with their cooking. They also don’t mess about with the portion sizes! Remember this (if you don’t, check out part 1):

sausage-yorkshire-pudding-country-harvest
Just in case you’d forgotten!

And whilst consuming food did consume us for much of the week, we found the Yorkshire Dales itself to be quite magical – despite the weather. The perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of every day life, with idyllic villages and lush green countryside – a step back in time to an age when Nick Berry took his smile for a ride around Aidensfield (and I didn’t have to worry about offending someone on Twitter).

My mission now turns to finding a South Wales restaurant that offers the same wow factor as Grassington House and Restaurant 92 (you’ll understand why when I eventually clear my review backlog) – well, once I’m back in my jeans! 

Follow us on Instagram and Twitter if you want to see us try and pad out our lifestyle until we can afford another adventure.

And if you’ve got nothing better to do, here are some more pics:

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A cracker (well, mostly cheese) of an adventure: Eating in the Yorkshire Dales – Part 1

Born in Scotland but raised all over the land (RAF family), Mrs. B.B. has always had a special place in her heart for Yorkshire. I always wondered why (Heartbeat was a downer growing up, but then that’s probably because it was shown on a Sunday evening and I was dreading school the next day). I also used to question her obsession with cheese and why I had to eat for at least three people on the rare occasions she cooked.

It’s all become clear…

 

Day 0.25 (not in Yorkshire, so it doesn’t deserve a proper heading)

The trip started a night early – splitting the journey up to save us a single six-hour drive and give us “time for cheese” on day one proper (the Wensleydale Creamery tour).

Leaving 50 minutes later than planned didn’t win me too much favour with Mrs. B.B. (the usual excuse: work) – however, it did mean we missed the expected traffic queues between Birmingham and Manchester. Unfortunately, there’s no missing the 26 (sic) stretches of average speed checks that have been in place since 1996 (sic).

Talking Heads soundtracked the first couple of hours – a last-minute Spotify playlist prompted by a failed still-in-progress attempt to convince the board (yeah, I’ve got a ‘real’ job!) to produce a corporate video in the style of a musical. Not the reason we were 50 minutes late… ahem!

However, frustrations with the Bluetooth connection meant we had to resort to the only station not playing adverts: Heart Extra. Playing club classics including Mojo’s ‘Lady’, Hadaway’s ‘What is love?’ – and Usher?! (the title was instantly erased from memory for self-preservation purposes.) At least the car was bouncing for a good 20 minutes before the usual saccharine dross took over.

We arrived at our £7 Travelodge on the outskirts of Stoke – in silence – just before 10pm.

Disclaimer: A night at a Travelodge may only be worth £7 but this is not their standard price – I had a £25 voucher (nobody hates me that much…hmm… It was ‘compensation’ for a previous nightmare stay on a work trip). I would combine this with the £17 I’d forgotten was sitting in my PayPal following a World Cup sweepstakes win (well, second place).

 

Picture perfect, photo average (day 1)

First meal of the culinary tour!

Breakfast from the (picture the diner from any low-budget US horror movie) Subway next door:

subway-cheese-stoke-travelodge
The views improve, I promise… and I’m trusted to open a window further than a couple of inches.

‘Poached egg’ is an insult to chickens. It was a pretty flavourless eat despite the cheese (you know, that cheese, that’s not really cheese, but may come in handy if you get a puncture), but the bread was fresh, it was fuel for the next three hours, I didn’t feel greasy – and, crucially, I didn’t have to resort to McDonald’s.

The rain was brutal at this point. The lack of visibility slowing progress – our nerves not helped by other drivers showing a complete lack of common sense (no head lights, let alone fog lights – and plenty of last-minute lane changes).

No photos = no food in Sedbergh

Finally, off the motorway, away from any obvious danger (although some of the rams looked pretty mean) to the small market town of Sedbergh – cue the first 100 photographs…

Uh?

Aargh!

The camera’s broke!

My phone camera is f……………….

(Just a few highlights from my 5-minute tantrum.)

We had a quick look around, took a few photos (on my phone):

sedbergh-street-rain-people

…that I’ll skip through when we look back on the trip in a few months’ time, but focus had now shifted to finding a decent replacement camera in the area.

I was too emotional to visit the Mad Hatters Tea Room at No.6 Finkle Street as planned.

Stone Close Tea Room and B&B

Fortunately, I’d calmed down in time for lunch – our meal at Stone Close in Dent would provide crucial reserves ahead of an exhausting day.

Stone Close is a 16th century inn. An open fire and wood beams add to the building’s and waitress’ charm, and help to provide a cosy, welcoming ambiance – a much-needed haven given the relentless downpour.

The six tables (room for maybe 20-24 people) no doubt suffice on most days – but not when a group of 16 want to escape the elements!

Fortunately, we arrived ten minutes beforehand, so weren’t one of the poor souls turned away to fend for themselves – and Mrs. B.B. didn’t miss out on her first proper cup of Yorkshire tea.

And when I say a proper cup, I mean proper:

stone-cold-tea-cup-dent
Ok, confession time: I had a coffee, but hopefully this picture gives you some perspective… it was a good sized cafetiere.

I somehow managed to resist one of their homemade cakes – the raspberry and almond cake was particularly tempting – and went for one of the day’s savoury specials instead:

chicken-goujons-stone-cold-dent

The piri-piri sauce certainly put Nando’s in its place – and nearly put me in A&E. Fortunately, my lips numbed and throat calmed enough to enjoy the highly spiced, tender chicken goujons.

Mrs. B.B. had the same salad accompaniment (very fresh) but went for the vegetable tart. A huge puffy pastry doorstop filled with mushrooms, courgette, red pepper and topped with cheese.

vegetable-tart-pastry-dent

The pastry was well cooked – finding that magical middle ground where it wasn’t overcooked or dry, but wasn’t soggy or greasy either. The dominant flavour was pesto, but the veg still had just the right amount of bite, and Mrs. B.B. was more than happy.

A quick look around – a few more dodgy phone camera photos of cobbled roads and a grand-looking church in the centre of the village (a centre piece for all villages in the Dales, it seems) – before we took to the narrow, single track lanes (otherwise known as Mrs. B.B.’s shortcut) to Ingleton. A walker’s mad person’s (it was torrential!) paradise. And then onto the slightly less taxing main roads (for a start, I didn’t have to keep hopping out of the car to open and shut the cattle gates) to Giggleswick, then Settle, and then home: Langcliffe.

Cut off from the world in Langcliffe… well, camera retailers

Now this looks perfect:

langcliffe-stone-terrace-cottage
No neighbours = rock’n’roll (well, more Talking Heads).

A stone-built terrace house that had been refurbished within the last couple of months with all mod-cons… oh, the towels haven’t been folded… they are bit damp… they are dirty!

A subsequent knock on the door revealed a rather embarrassed young lady holding a change of bed linen and fresh towels (she’d also forgotten to collect the high chair from our house for another property that was being rented).

Very apologetic – we did feel for her… until we noticed the grease on the cutlery and the crumbs all over the kitchen surface.

But wait, we still haven’t found a camera – and the Wi-Fi here is… is it Wi-Fi?!

We eventually found a couple of cameras… that would do – we didn’t have the time nor the patience at that point to analyse the specs too closely or compare alternatives.

But where’s the nearest Jessops? Currys? Argos?!

After a five-minute walk around the village revealed a phone signal, we managed to determine that there was potentially a camera that would meet our needs in Harrogate (no guarantees).

With 10-minutes left before the store was due to close (yep, we took the wrong exit en route – more than once), we had our new camera – but we wouldn’t get to use it for that evening’s meal (it needed to charge).

Little House Restaurant – with our phone cameras (apologies)

Although located on the main street, we nearly missed Little House Restaurant – the lack of street lights in Settle and prominent signage meaning we walked back and forth the restaurant a good few times before Mrs. B.B. took the initiative and started peering through windows (the tales she told!).

Inside, the restaurant only had a few tables for service that evening. The décor was quite classic in style, but it had a sense of cool, ably assisted by the stereo’s jazz singer.

Mrs. B.B. had a shock when her starter arrived (I have told her to read the menu):

sorbet-grapefruit-little-house-settle

Fruit sorbet with sour grapefruit and orange. Described by Mrs. B.B. as a zingy taste sensation, it could have just as easily sat in the dessert section (the whole thing was covered in icing sugar and complemented by elderflower syrup), but it wasn’t too sweet and made for a refreshing starting point.

I played it safe with the crab, saffron & wensleydale tart:

crab-tart-little-house-settle

Well, I say safe, I’m not actually a fan of crab or saffron, but, apparently, I am now – well, if they are both cooked with a generous amount of Wensleydale cheese. And hats off to the pastry chef – thin and crisp.

For mains, Mrs. B.B. went for the baked spinach and three-cheese pancakes:

spinach-cheese-pancakes-settle
It looked more appetising in real-life, I promise!

It was a good size portion, but the pancakes were thin and not too heavy. The melted cheese (apparently, there were three, but you couldn’t tell) was mild, so didn’t overpower the dish.

I opted for the chump of ‘lune valley’ lamb – mainly because you don’t often see ‘chump’ on the menu.

lamb-chump-dinner-settle

It was quite rare – I think a few more minutes would have helped with the chew – and I would have preferred if the fat had been rendered down and crisped up. However, it’s a very flavoursome cut.

I liked the almost sautéed potatoes, the green beans were cooked nicely (still some bite left in them), but whilst the peach and red pepper salsa was delicious, it didn’t real feel part of the dish.

Mrs. B.B. hit the jackpot on dessert:

yorkshire-parkin-treacle-sauce-settle

Yorkshire parkin, hot treacle sauce and jersey ice cream. It was a hefty looking portion, but the parkin was surprisingly light. The treacle sauce was rich with a deep flavour, and the ice cream played an important role in balancing the whole dish.

I wasn’t quite as lucky with my Portuguese tarts:

nata-portuguese-tarts-custard-settle
Wasn’t expecting the icing sugar!

Although they looked the business, there was a lack of custard filling and the pastry needed to be crisp – maybe I’ve been spoilt by Nata & Co. I did enjoy the strawberries and cream on their own, but it didn’t come together as a complete dish.

So, there were faults, but we couldn’t complain too much – it was simple cooking, but it was comforting. And the waiter’s recommendation for the Mason’s dry gin with a wedge of lime was spot on.

Crucially, it had a lovely relaxed vibe, which is just what we needed after a hectic start to the holiday.

 

Pigging out (day 2)

Day two and I’d managed a lie in – until 8:45am! Well, kind of. It did take me two hours to dry off after the heating came on via timer at 4:30am?!

I frustrated Mrs. B.B.’s plans further with my lethargy.  I could only get away with that until about 11am, but it gave us the opportunity to charge everything and rework the itinerary considering BBC Weather’s ever-changing forecast (it would turn out to be a completely different day to their last update).

A quick tour of the village revealed this beautifully kept church:

church-langcliffe-village-yorkshire

And a jealous side to Mrs. B.B. (sorry, we won’t have the money to move here any time soon.)

I needed a distraction. Farm shop!

Country Harvest

We arrived at the Country Harvest just in time to get a seat for lunch (the queue was at least 20 people deep by the time we left).

The menu was mighty, but nothing compared to the servings:

ploughmans-yorkshire-settle-country-harvest

And…

Wait for…

it…

(or them…)

sausage-yorkshire-pudding-country-harvest
Sorry, I should have warned you!

Surely they should come with a health warning?! Don’t get me wrong, the ginger infused sausages were spot on. Lean, meaty and moist – with spring onions cleverly forming part of the seasoning. But I reckon it was the equivalent to eating 6-8 regular sized sausages… had I been brave enough to finish them!

The Yorkshire pudding was ‘a proper Yorkshire pudding’ – nice crunch, absorbing the flavours from the deep meaty onion gravy, but holding its own. The veg did its job without being anything special.

Mrs. B.B. went for the Three Peaks platter – sold by the home-made pork pie and selection of deli cheeses. Although the ham, fruity coleslaw and sweet apple chutney perfectly matched the Wensleydale and Stilton, the pork pie was a disappointment. The pastry was thick, the meat filling heavy and, on the whole, it was too dry.

There was no chance we were going to fit in a dessert – I figured it would arrive as a whole tray with a litre of custard – but I did pick up a blueberry and vanilla scone from the shop (along with several Yorkshire gins, Yorkshire brewed beers, Grandma Wild’s biscuits, pate, lemon curd…)  to scoff down later as my pre-dinner warm up.

Quite sweet, but wonderfully moreish – nice crispy outer and crumbly without being dry. It was a cracker of a scone in texture – but ate more like a cake. It went well with the St Andrew’s Cheddar cheese we picked up at The Courtyard Dairy.

blueberry-scone-mature-ceddar-cheese

The Courtyard Dairy

We were in no fit state to tackle the waterfalls walk or the White Scar Cave in Ingleton – and the weather had turned on us again, so we headed for cover to the first place Mrs. B.B. could find…

It just so happened to be this place:

courtyard-dairy-yorkshire-settle-cheese

They don’t let you visit The Courtyard Dairy and leave without sampling at least 10 cheeses – and buying at least three of them. This was Mrs. B.B. territory, with her top-3 (because I forced her to pick three for this blog) being:

  1. Leeds Blue. Made by Italian cheese-maker Mario Olianas in Adel near Leeds using pasteurised sheeps’ milk. Creamy and not too intense.
  2. St Andrew’s Scottish Cheddar. Produced from raw cows’ milk. This was an intensely powerful, distinctive cheddar.
  3. Boe Pepe St James. Raw sheeps’ milk cheese made by Martin Gott in Cumbria. A mellow, creamy almost soft cheese.

We also got a little more education than we bargained for with an adjoining museum giving you the opportunity to try and lift a mouldy 10kg cheese:

mouldy-cheese-courtyard-dairy-yorkshire

…learn about cheese-making in the 1930s, and take photographs of various contraptions you are too impatient (to get back to the cheese counter) to read about but look interesting enough.

We wisely chose to avoid the café – although to be fair, at that point, I’d have struggled to make it up the stairs – but foolishly chose to visit the award-winning wine shop (Buon Vino) next door, where Mrs. B.B. picked up another gin (Mason’s Tea Edition) and I started to calculate the cost of a house extension to store all of Mrs. B.B.’s alcohol.

Quick – the sun’s out!!!

Our quick stop at Booths supermarket to grab some milk and necessities (otherwise known as tonic) turned into a fairly intense walk around Settle. Not because it’s necessarily that big, but because I was layered up and cocooned in a sweat-inducing rain jacket – and now the not-forecast sun was punishing me! But we couldn’t miss the opportunity to take a couple of pictures:

settle-flowerpot-festival-2018
Very disappointed to miss 2018’s Settle Flowerpot Festival – but some of the decorations were still up (see more at the end).

We visited the town’s train station (just after the steam train had passed through!), invaded the personal space of a few residents all in the name of a cute cottage picture, and mapped out our planned pub crawl for Wednesday.

It lived up to all my expectations of a market town – but the through road is tiresome, with little let up from the loud bikes and lorries passing through. I’m glad we chose to hideaway nearby in Langcliffe, which is where I recharged myself (and our various gadgets) and ironed a shirt so I could ‘go posh’ at the Grassington House Hotel.

I won’t spoil the surprise (there’s a dedicated review in the works), but it would be fair to say I left feeling a little tingly – although that soon turned into complete panic on a hairy 45-minute drive back through the unlit lanes (apparently drivers in these parts only drive 20 miles under the limit during daylight hours).

 

Cheesed on (day 3)

After heavy consumption on day two, Mrs. B.B. was keen to get us moving… as far as the Wensleydale Creamery –  a visit we had to abort on day one.

Up bright and early, we spent much of the day driving around narrow, windy, country lanes – and somehow managing to time our stops during short breaks in the rain for a few brisk walks.

Our first venture took us to Malham Cove. It’s quite an impressive sight to see such an imposing waterless waterfall (it brought to mind the Wall from Game of Thrones, but then I’m a few years behind and the mind does play tricks on you when you get to my age).

malham-cave-yorkshire
Fair enough, it’s not quite the same.

It’s also quite a sight to see a waterfall with water – and we managed that at Aysgarth (via Kettlewell).

aynsgarth-waterfall-yorkshire

But nothing is quite as impressive a sight as seeing Mrs. B.B. consume cheese.

Wensleydale Creamery

With a coach load of pensioners making it nigh on impossible to move through the gift shop, and at least 30 people queuing for the cheese shop, Mrs. B.B. was starting to panic.

Although she controlled her nerves better than I did when the lady in the café coughed all over the scones.

The interactive Wensleydale Cheese Experience gave us the chance to see… the back of people’s heads, and hear a cheesemaking demonstration in progress… And the factory’s Viewing Gallery allowed us to watch the cheese… machinery being hosed down and the floors getting a good clean. Oh, well. We got a picture of Wallace & Gromit:

wallace-gromit-wensleydale-creamery

And once we got inside the cheese shop, Mrs. B.B. was able to consume about 200g of cheese from the samples alone (and purchase another 400g to go with her previous day’s haul, along with overpriced chutney and biscuits).

We had a quick walk around a tired looking town centre, before the drive back to Settle via the Ribblehead viaduct – and Booths for a lime (you know what’s coming!).

The Yorkshire cheese-off, sponsored by gin

We had originally planned to visit The Game Cock Inn, Austwick this evening (a Twitter recommendation), but with a mountain of cheese to get through – and a few bottles of gin to sample – we decided to take it easy that evening… by consuming a dangerous level of cheese and gin.

Winner of the very official – and definitely not decided by me because I’m writing the blog – cheese-off between Wensleydale Creamery and The Courtyard Dairy was…

The Wensleydale with cranberry and sloe gin:

wensleydale-cranberry-sloe-gin-cheese

Mrs. B.B. wasn’t as much of a fan of the Wild Ram London dry gin from the Yorkshire Dales Distillery, but I was really taken by the distinct berry notes – other notables from the local distilleries included the tea flavoured edition of Mason’s (not convinced I’ll be chucking a PG tips in as a garnish any time soon though) and the award-winning Whittaker’s Gin.

Well, who knew recalling eating cheese would be nearly as exhausting as the act itself? I need a break! In part 2, we venture beyond the boundaries of the Dales, take orders off a bloke that was once in Eastenders, and fail to eat at a Michelin-starred restaurant (scruffy buggers).

Follow us on Instagram and Twitter if you want to see us try and pad out our lifestyle until we can afford another adventure.

And if you’ve got nothing better to do, here are some more pics:

 

Who can you trust? Transparency in food and travel blogging

Eating out, traveling, leaving the house – it isn’t cheap. Wow… [Mr. H. pauses for a few seconds to look at his latest bank statement…] It really isn’t cheap. Um…it’s understandable people turn to the Internet to glean insights from fellow diners’ or travellers’ experiences… TripAdvisor?! Good or bad, there’s not exactly a stringent verification process. Local media? Well, they’ve got bills to pay… Mainstream media? There’s a character to be built if they are going to judge the next MasterChef… Bloggers? Surely, they’ll just say it how it is…

I’ve been following Cardiff’s and Bristol’s food and travel blogging communities for far longer than this blog has been in existence (and I’ve been getting blocked by people on Twitter). I’d toyed with the idea of starting my own – usually after reading the latest menu description or sycophantic review of an establishment I knew was bang average at best.

Eventually, I gave up on having a life and roped the missus in for some ‘quality time’. However, you don’t have to go quite as far yourself.

Here are a few things to look out for when trying to decipher who’s a blogger worth your time (and trust), who’s blagging it, and who just wants to feel loved…

 

It was free – but you can trust me… honest, guv’ner!

I don’t think food bloggers are that naive to think they are going to make a living out of their blog (if they did, I’m sure they’d have forked out a tenner for a domain by now – or at least turned it into a travel blog!), but if they can save themselves a few quid on a meal – ka-ching!

glasses-food-group-freebie-transparency

I wouldn’t go as far as to say everyone who accepts free dinners can’t be trusted – I don’t have the lawyers – but it certainly raises questions about the validity of their reviews.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve come across opening or closing statements along the lines of, “this meal was provided complimentary… we were under no obligation to review… or say anything positive…”

It just so happens that it was the Tastiest. Meal. Ever!

And pretty much everything they’ve ever eaten, anywhere has been wonderful – and, believe me, I’ve trawled back through more tedious articles than is healthy looking for a hint of dissent.

“It’s not an accurate reflection of a regular service.”

They are a food blogger, which suggests they at least think they know a thing or two about cuisine and dining out – I don’t doubt many are knowledgeable and impressive wordsmiths. If anything, you’d think they were being more critical than the average diner. But they’ve ‘lucked out’ every time?

Ok, maybe they just don’t publish the negative ones. You’d have to be insensitive to take a free meal from an independent and then highlight its flaws in return.

Maybe it’s a fear of reprisal – even at a subconscious level, if you’re motivated by free meals, then your instinct will be to keep ‘em sweet.

And let’s not forget, even if they are being “transparent,” this is a ‘guest night’, it’s not an accurate reflection of a regular service.

Let’s be fair a meal out doesn’t cost that much (surely their time and effort is worth more – mine definitely is) – and if you want to help build a healthy food scene, you’d pay your way, right? So what’s the motivation?

But I’ve changed my ways (worth a h-tag interruption)

Ah, maybe this was one of them.

I find it amusing when a blogger goes to great lengths (or keeps banging on about it on Twitter) to highlight that they no longer accept guest invites…

It’s effectively an admission that accepting freebies hitherto had influenced their content – in fact, they’ll state that was the case.

If nothing else, it reeks of arrogance – “Now I’ve got nearly 8000 Twitter followers…” [even they realised how ridiculous it looked and stopped following other people at 4000] “I can write what I want…”

If they are now claiming 100% honest critiques, then what were they providing before?

Never mind, they’ve now established themselves as an a-list blogger, so “whatever.”

 

Show me the money

Sponsored posts and #presstrips are more prevalent in those food/travel hybrids (ahem, not like mine… of course). You’ll have seen them on Instagram: “Oh, wow – McDonald’s do table service now, so helpful I didn’t have to stand up for a few minutes…” – cue comments from 10 individuals who clearly have no interest in the ‘advert’, but are keen to take any opportunity to boost their Instagram followers in the hope they’ll get a free night away.

Again, you won’t see a negative word about anyone or anything on these websites or social media profiles (unless there’s a social media outcry they can take advantage of) – lots of nice visuals; happy, smiley thoughts, but it’s all very calculated and depressing…

“I don’t doubt their commitment to pitching and ensuring a good ROI for the PR company.”

Unquestionably, the motivation is self-gain vs. reader education.

To be fair, it’s not like their intentions are cleverly disguised – I’m more surprised by how many participate in the charade (PR companies must have a lot of surplus budget to get rid of).

Many admit that they are obliged to deliver a return on the company’s investment – arguing that they couldn’t afford it otherwise, and they put a lot of time and effort into it. They’ll admit it’s their job.

I don’t doubt their commitment to pitching and ensuring a good ROI for the PR company (these are impressive marketeers) – but I don’t see the value to the reader.

Sure, like one of their pics (they tend to be quite sensitive – I was blocked instantly on Twitter by The Rare Welsh Bit for innocently replying to the hyperbole from one #presstrip) but move along.

It’s not for you.

 

But people love me!

Wow – 6000 followers…

And they only follow… oh, 5500 accounts.

But their latest post got… 1 like.

Ahem!

You don’t need me to spell it out for you.

Some bloggers have highlighted the problem of purchasing fake followers, but there are other questionable tactics being adopted to elevate numbers.

If you’re wondering why they’d bother following that many accounts, when they are unlikely to ever see them in their news feed, then you clearly haven’t been paying attention – scroll back up!

 

Do you want to join our gang?

I don’t want to say it’s a bit cliquey, but…a friend did when I first started this blog.

You don’t have to dig deep (@cdfblogs – hint, hint) on social media to know who’s in ‘the circle’ and which restaurants you’ll never read a bad word against (if you do investigate, you may find that they work in PR… for some of those very restaurants… okay…).

If it’s a travel blog, it tends to be more obviously premeditated and fake.

heart-pancake-transparency

For out’n’out food bloggers, I’d argue it’s less calculated – they love food and food people, feel a sense of community and support, and celebrity selfies? Well, apparently, that’s a joy.

They may even fear the repercussions, of being ostracized by ‘the community’ – even in the short-time I’ve been running this blog (before I even published this particular blog), there have clear attempts to undermine me (some sly, some just funny as…). But that’s for another blog…

Whatever the reason, once someone becomes allied to individuals or venues, through fear, friendships or financial incentives, there’s a conflict of interest – an inevitable compromise.

Update: After/despite posting this article, I was contacted by a restaurant who wanted to discuss ways we could “mutually support” each other – apparently it’s an agreement they have in place with other bloggers (you can’t make this stuff up!).

 

But look at what we were given…you miserable git!

I appreciate you may just want to look at nice pictures and read nice things from someone’s VIP meal or night away…

No, I don’t – I think you’re daft. You’re going to learn more from the comments on a company’s Facebook page.

It’s advertising – plain and simple.

But it’s not just the lack of value on offer to the reader that I have an issue with. When it comes to the food scene specifically, I’d argue it’s damaging for the chefs and the restaurants that are offering great food and dining experiences. Diners feel disappointed when they get the ‘reality’ of an endorsement, and the good restaurants lose custom to the bad.

As I said in my previous random burp on the perils of food blogging, I’m keen to ensure every review that appears on this website is completely independent. I hope people find that refreshing, but I know some may find it a challenge – highlighting faults in an independent restaurant isn’t easy. Either way, I’ll have at least paid for my meal (I won’t have a choice with articles like these). 

Follow us on Instagram if you like Mrs. B.B.’s sexy (food!) photos – and Twitter if you’re not the sensitive type!

Barnaby Sykes Pie Maker - Festival Food at Green Man.

Who ate all the pies at Green Man 2018?

With The War on Drugs and King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard (come on – who cares what they sound like with a name like that?) headlining on the main stage, and Brød headlining on the pastry stage (I’ve made that up), there was only one choice for this year’s weekend of long-term health damage: Green Man. 

You wouldn’t know, but, in another life, I was winging it as a music hack – with a failing bank balance but an infallible musical opinion (some would call me arrogant… I married her).

Whilst a move into digital marketing was necessary to ensure we would still be able to eat (life suddenly became very expensive post-2010), freelancing has allowed me to keep a finger in the pie.

With this blog, I also get to eat pie – and sometimes to combine that figurative pie with the actual pie (yeah, I’m confused as well)…

 

A proper base…

Green Man has been on the bucket list for as long as I can remember – primarily because it’s 45-minutes’ drive away, which means I’m only 45-minutes’ drive away from getting into bed when it’s over.

But there’s always been a bigger pull on our limited funds to a Latitude (Portishead), a Hop Farm (Prince) or a, umm, Cornbury (All Saints?!). Although it would mean missing our annual slip and slide around a muddy field to the Levellers (Beautiful Days), this year – this year! – they had The War on Drugs.

Travel to the site was as easy as we could have hoped for – well sign-posted and bizarrely quiet through the narrow country lanes, despite being absolutely rammed at the box office (we arrived around 11am on the Thursday). The queue wouldn’t let up for the two hours we trekked back and forth between the car park and our pitch (it was more painful on the Monday morning).

“The portaloos weren’t the horror scenes we’ve come to expect.”

The festival site itself is quite compact. At times, we found it quite overwhelming – hoards of people moving between stages, bars, food stalls and portaloos causing bottlenecks (and putting our £9 double G&Ts at risk!). But, actually, as we moved closer to the Mountain Stage, and became braver in the Far Out tent, the crowds were fairly sparse – camping chairs plugging the gaps and providing some ‘Some mothers do av em’-style amusement in the dark.

Health and Safety? Although it did feel busy, the festival itself is very laid-back. No bag searches (to be fair, you are encouraged not to sneak alcohol in given it also hosts its very own beer festival!); a lack of signage (we accidently pitched up in quiet camping – the chap who decided to pack up at 5am, and the couple who decided to pump up their mattress at 2am clearly missed that as well); and, to be honest, I didn’t notice any security or authority figures during the four days we were there.

audience-main-stage-green-man
Ominous-looking clouds – thankfully, the forecast rain stayed away!

I guess they can trust this crowd. There was a good mix – I’d say predominantly teens, retirees and younger families, but outwardly middle class. Put it this way, the portaloos weren’t the horror scenes we’ve come to expect. Still, not quite your “we require a Waitrose onsite” Cornbury types.

 

A packed filling

The War on Drugs were the main attraction, but I had my doubts. How would the beautifully textured but ambient sounds of the band’s last two albums transfer to a closing night’s headline slot.

I had nothing to worry about. Despite three nights of sleep deprivation and four days of beer bloating, I was a man possessed throughout an exhilarating performance. Given the rich, multi-layered soundscape on the band’s recent albums, it was easy to miss Adam Granduciel’s impressive fretwork – now I know just what a dazzling guitarist he is.

“They may only have one trick – but that is to mesmerise you. Job done.”

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard have an eclectic back-catalogue (crossing the boundaries of genre on each of the five albums they released in 2017 alone), but they stuck to a psychedelic rock formula for most of their set – in fact, I think they stuck to one song for 90 minutes! Not necessarily a bad thing when you’ve got that groove!

king-lizard-wizard-green-man
King Lizard and the Lizard Wizard

Talking psychedelia – nobody does it better than The Black Angels, and they delivered: big drums and hypnotic riffs! They may only have one trick – but that is to mesmerise you. Job done.

There were disappointments – missing Joan the Policewoman hurt most (damn you, schedulers!).

John Grant was a little more dimensional live than on record; Dirty Projectors overegged it as much I thought they would – but left out most of their fun songs; Whyte Horses managed to go from catchy indie pop to irritatingly repetitious within the space of three songs; and Snail Mail – wow, way to kill the vibes, man!

But Green Man is all about the positive energy.

Wye Oak delivered a perfect blend of rock and dance indie, with Jenn Wasner’s inimitable vocals drawing a big crowd and one of the warmest receptions of the weekend – although it didn’t quite match the love for Cardiff’s own Boy Azooga (they would be huge if this was the ‘90s).

Belgium’s J Bernardt had the look of someone who had been kicked out of the dance tent at 4am. He amused us with his posing and exaggerated dance moves – but he had the vocal chops to get away with it. Baxter Dury entertained (primarily the children) with various foul-mouthed tirades (otherwise known as his back catalogue). And the virtuoso Bluesy guitar noodling and shrieking vocals from King Tuff made an impression – or at least his hat did:

king-tuff-snarl-green-man

No real household names – I suspect much of this year’s attendees were regulars and it’s the festival itself that serves as the big draw – but you couldn’t fault the quality of the artists on show.

But damn those schedulers!

 

A wonderful, shiny glaze

As much as we enjoyed the music, it was the quality of the food that made this a standout festival – and not just the pies (I only had two, but I needed a title!).

We didn’t eat one dud meal over the course of four days – I estimate that over the course of 22 meals (11 each! – come on now!), we must have visited 16 different food stalls. That’s not including braving the hornet’s nest for a Brød pastry every morning, nor repeat visits for chocolate brownie.

Here’s a countdown of the top-5:

Bearded Taco

Neither of us were willing to miss out on Bearded Taco.

I went for the Bahn Mi-guel:

bearded-tacos-bahn-mi-guel

The pickled carrot, daikon and cucumber really cut through the fat of the Vietnamese BBQ pork. A surprisingly clean eat with the fresh coriander and chilies providing plenty of kick.

I was concerned these small, delicate looking tacos wouldn’t suffice two beers in, but they were deceptively satisfying.

Mrs. B.B.’s Let’s Avo Cwtch tacos were arguably even more eye-catching:

lets-avo-cwtch-bearded-tacos

I’d never tried tempura battered avocado before – and Mrs. B.B. did well to keep her lunch once I had.

Again, wonderfully fresh, with a lemon ‘slaw offsetting the grease from the light and crisp tempura – although we couldn’t really pick out the gin and tonic (we’d have to fork out a small fortune for that at the bar!).

Le Bao

I was flying solo at Le Bao (or is it Boas, or Boas Steaming?):

le-baos-pork-green-man

The braised pork belly was simply divine. I’d go as far as to claim it’s the best cooked pork I’ve ever had (and I’ve spent out a fair few quid in many a restaurant) – absorbing all the hoisin flavour, they really packed a punch.

It was obviously quite fatty, but, as with Bearded Taco, the addition of pickles, coriander and chili ensured it was a fresh eat. The powdered peanuts adding a complimentary crunch to the heavenly moistness.

I was concerned the buns may be quite dense, but they were deceptively light and airy. Still, I knew I had been well-fed at the end.

Pieminister

My first experience of a Pieminister actually came at a music festival. And whilst I’ve eaten at their Cardiff restaurant on quite a few occasions, it’s never really lived up to expectations.

This one did.

I went for the festival ‘special’, Hurrikane Pie:

pieminster-beef-green-man

There was a definite cheese flavour running through the pastry – which wasn’t advertised, but I really liked it. A good thick, crisp pastry, with a flaky top (although it had been submerged in peas and gravy), and it was packed to the rafters with tender beef steak and roasted peppers.

Given the strongly minty peas and rich gravy, you couldn’t really make out the ale or red wine, but there was a definite heat coming through from the smoke paprika. It was delicious, and a level up from a Barnaby Sykes Pie Maker who I visited the day prior (in fairness, their pies are pretty decent as well).

Even Mrs. B.B. couldn’t resist – opting for the Moo and Blue pie. You couldn’t miss the stilton, which really complimented the succulent beef and generous filling.

Welsh Venison Centre Beacons Farm Shop

Faggots and peas from the Beacons Farm Shop – it had to be done:

beacons-farm-shop-faggots-peas

Slightly depressed by the couple who had no idea what a faggot was, but these were the ‘posh version’ – and huge (there was enough meat here for four burgers). Not quite as smooth or moist in texture as I’ve become accustomed, there was a nice peppery heat running through and a deep venison flavour, which really elevated the dish.

And there were proper mushy peas!

Chock Shop

We couldn’t go without talking about these beauties from the Chock Shop:

chock-shop-brownie-display

We returned on three separate occasions, which tells you a lot. These pics will you more:

chock-shop-black-forest

chock-shop-white-chocolate

Each brownie had a crunchy thin topping and a moist centre (we like a bit of gooey) – it was pretty sexy, with the warm chocolate sauce and cream just adding to the filth.

We were both particularly taken by their crunchy peanut butter offering (sorry, we couldn’t wait long enough to take a picture by that point), topped with a sneaky slither of Snicker, but I just wish there was time – and room in my belly – to try them all.

 

I’ve run out of workable pie references

It’s fair to say, I’m not a big fan of jeans right now – and pies are off the menu.

There were so many great places serving food over the festival that I haven’t mentioned, but I can only recommend you head along to an event if you see any of the following in attendance: Smoking Buns (the fries were stunning); The Chai Shop Organic (lovely mellow vegetable korma); Café Dish (fresh-tasting butternut squash and goats cheese tart); Manna (Singapore red curry tofu noodles with a serious chilli kick); Dosa (chilli cheese dosa wrap with masala paneer and a cracker of an onion bhaji); Flavors of Africa (fried plantain to die for); Made of Dough (lovely thin, crispy pizza dough); and Wrappers Delight (thick but light flatbreads packed with falafel, halloumi, hummus and salad).

I haven’t even mentioned the wonderful ales from Wales’ finest independent breweries that also contributed to my weight gain.

But now it’s time for a few weeks of salad 

Follow us on Instagram and Twitter to see more pictures from Green Man and to keep up-to-date on our other adventures.

Seren Diemwnt beef main - tower of meat.

The perils of writing an honest food blog: What I’ve learned

Writing a South Wales food blog – and letting my personality loose on social media – was always likely to ruffle a few feathers. Without the desperation for sponsorship revenue, event invites or selfies with the latest chef to appear on Great British Menu, I’ve been liberated to write honest accounts of my dining experiences. But there’s been more than the wrath of an angry restaurateur to deal with…

Note: this blog was last updated on 30/10/2018.

12 August 2018. The date I published my first properly negative review after a disappointing dining experience at Seren Diemwnt – two days later, I shared this post on Twitter:

seren-diemwnt-twitter-joke-post

(Gulp)

Returning from five days of intermittent digital connection (otherwise known as trying to manage my phone’s battery at Green Man 2018) to find my character had been under siege, I realised something: I had a new blog!

From giving up all of my free time to defending myself against false accusations, this is what I’ve learned from food/restaurant blogging (in a very short space of time):

 

It can feel like a second job

(That doesn’t pay.)

I’ve been a music critic for the best part of 15 years. I ran a movie website for nearly four years. I work in digital marketing. I KNOW (what was I thinking?!) how time consuming even the simplest task becomes.

“Creating and publishing our reviews provides the light relief.”

Still, I wasn’t prepared for this amount of commitment – from the initial planning to managing the ‘banter’ on social media, it’s consumed both my own life and Mrs. B.B.’s.

In fact, creating and publishing our reviews has often provided the light relief – and I can assure you, they are significant undertakings.

We’re trying to be as descriptive and professional as possible, so there’s the note-taking and photography throughout the meal; the post meal discussion; draft writing; numerous reviews and edits; photography transfer and edits; website upload; the final proof-read and edits; the fixes when WordPress randomly adds in or removes paragraphs or moves photographs up and down the page… Aargh!!!!

Kicking off with a couple of lengthy travel pieces and trying to keep up the momentum with a couple of blogs a week added up to: we’re knackered!

I’m just glad I abandoned the original intention of developing the website from scratch (yes, I’m also I was learning to code) – even if this WordPress template is a little sensitive INFURIATING!

 

I’ve got a life

I’m as surprised as anyone!

We started with good intentions – to build an extensive library of honest reviews covering the vast majority of restaurants in South Wales. They were going to be insightful, witty…

Hmm, maybe there’s a reason the most prolific writers also produce the least inspired content.

What’s worth sacrificing to dedicate my time and effort to a local food blog?

I could just follow the majority: type out what was on the menu, add ‘it was nice’ or ‘it was good’ (they can’t go lower than that if they want to stay in the PR’s good books!) a few times, and illustrate it with a few filtered photographs.

“I’m not planning to say (under no obligation, of course) how brilliant every meal is.”

But this blog isn’t a vehicle for me to get #invitation meals (my time is worth far more than any Michelin-starred restaurant, so getting a freebie from Park House Restaurant adds little motivation), so I’m not planning to churn out any old review just to ensure I’ve said (under no obligation, of course) how fantastic my meal was.

I also don’t need it for my CV – I’ve been a full-time hack and, without a shadow of a doubt, I have no desire to return to being one.

So if a meal was just ‘nice’, ‘good’, probably not really worth the price but it was ok, then what’s the point? What’s the value to the reader (TripAdvisor will tell you whether a restaurant exists in your chosen location)? More importantly, why I should spend what little spare time I have promoting that restaurant? I’ve paid for my meal after all.

If a meal/experience is particularly special, then I’ll blog about it – I’ll want to champion the restaurant and encourage as many diners as possible to visit.

If it’s awful or nowhere near its lofty reputation (or what the blaggers would have you believe), then I’ll blog about – hopefully, I can save someone a few quid.

If it’s ok, nice, good… well, we’ve got Twitter and Instagram (there’s no way I’m getting Mrs. B.B. off that now!).

Just don’t expect me to keep a regular or consistent schedule.

 

Writing about food can be pretty boring

At the end of the day, it’s just a meal someone has cooked.

Unless a meal is inspired or shocking, it’s a pretty tedious task to have to write about it afterwards.

There are more important things going on in the world, and I have plenty of uncultured opinions on them. When I do find the time, expect a few of them to find their way into ‘Random Burps’.

 

It costs a few quid!

We’ve always spent far too much on food – it’s one of the reasons we wanted to document it. But it’s gone up a level now… Mrs. B.B. has discovered Instagram!

When she’s away, the packed lunches are abandoned in favour of an expensive Instagrammable opportunity:

instagram-penylan-pantry-salad-box

There are other costs, such as the hosting and domain names, as well as lost earnings to factor in – I could be using whatever time I spend here to freelance, and someone would filter my hate mail…

 

I will upset people

I’ll leave Mrs. B.B. out of this one – she’s much nicer than me.

Probably the biggest motivation for this blog was to create something completely independent – uncompromised by event invites, chef fandom or a desire to supplement my income with McDonald’s endorsements (as soon as a review opens with, “the food was complimentary” or “we dined as guests,” it’s completely irrelevant – a ‘show off’ at best).

“As soon as a review opens with, ‘the food was complimentary’ or ‘we dined as guests,’ it’s completely irrelevant.”

Because the existent of this blog means so very little to me in the grand scheme of things, I can say what I want. I can say if a meal at Tommy Heaney’s is shite, if that’s the case; I can highlight the dodgy tactics adopted to elevate a blogger’s status; I can call out a dishonest review…

I’m aware it’s not the way to win friends or social media followers (well, to be fair, if I had the time, I could just sit at my laptop and follow 100 accounts a day and get 4000 followers by Christmas… Err, you really thought those numbers were an indicator of quality?!).

If I want to accurately capture the negative feelings and emotions of paying a small fortune for something subpar, then some may view this as “harsh” or “scathing” (there appears to be more leeway if it’s a chain – as long as you spend a few weeks prior bemoaning the fact you won’t get any PR invites!).

I haven’t received death threats (yet), but…

 

People will get very ANGRY!

Some restaurants are going to feel the need to defend themselves.

I completely understand that these are people’s livelihoods and passions run high. It’s a tough industry: long days, financial pressures, etc. I would be more than a little sensitive in their shoes – and we all saw what happened when Bully’s took umbrage with a no-show (I hope my next meal there is as good as the first and not like the second!).

As a music critic, I’ve been threatened with physical violence on more than one occasion. As a food blogger, there’ll just be plenty of untruths flying around on Twitter to undermine my credibility and make me look like a bad worse person – but more on that in a later blog!

 

We look like massive losers

Mrs. B.B. can come back for this one as she’s the chief culprit here. Mrs. B.B. manages Instagram – hence it’s more positive in tone and you get to look at lovely pictures like these:

instagram-seren-diemwnt-dessert-praise

(Even if the other five courses were poor…)

The time we spend photographing each dish, from every possible angle, is ridiculous – but when you’ve got our phone cameras, you need at least 10 shots to guarantee one usable image.

Other diners must wonder what on earth is going on!

Ah, no – everyone wants a sexy shot to show off Instagram these days, so nobody’s noticed. Phew!

 

Social media – I’m on shaky ground

Social media – and Twitter specifically – is an extension of my personality.

That part of me that likes a bit of a wind up and doesn’t take itself too seriously. Not everyone will ‘get it’ (the wife still doesn’t and it’s been nine years) – the social media manager at Wales Online certainly didn’t seem to appreciate my ribbing.

Sometimes my comments will be inappropriate, sometimes they’ll rub people up the wrong way, sometimes people are just too sensitive, sometimes they’ll have an agenda to be too sensitive (more on that below)… But I’d rather have a few hundred followers who appreciate it’s genuine vs. following a few thousand people who follow me back in the hope our elevated numbers will earn us a guest invite to the next pop-up…

 

Watch your back!

Seren Diemwnt’s reaction… Well, I’d have preferred they spent more time mocking the size of my…

…Twitter following!

seren-diemwnt-twitter-size-diss

vs. posting a number of untruths… But at least it was understandable – and expected.

The behaviour of a couple of Cardiff-based food bloggers was an eye-opener.

Keen to capitalise on the momentum generated from the initial Tweet (liking and posting comments in kind – in fact, some of the comments made me feel for the restaurant, and I had to eat their food!), they suddenly switched allegiances. Stirring the pot and ratifying the false statements posted online by the restaurant.

One even unfollowed me (shame, I’m sure she had been keen to hear what I had to say… alongside those other 5500 accounts she follows?!). And after joining in with the initial criticisms, went as far as to endorse the restaurant… based on a pop-up night… with a completely different chef…

Err…

 

Some bloggers take things way too seriously

I thought musicians had egos. A blogger with 5000 followers – now that’s something to behold. I’m just glad their influence only extends as far as their fellow blaggers – and a few foodies in Cathays!

Let’s be honest, when I first published this blog, I knew why these bloggers allies had behaved in such an underhand manner. But I was happy to play along and speculate as to their motivations.

Since then, A Rare Welsh Bit contacted this blog to confirm that her actions were the result of a light-hearted comment I made on an Instagram post she was paid to place by McDonald’s (or to quote, “the negative comments you left on my Instagram post a few weeks back may have had something to do with it”).

Wow.

Really?!

Wow.

Now, a better person than me (well, someone who is worried about losing out on PR invites) would just laugh it off.

Don’t get me wrong, I have found it very amusing.

But it does baffle me that the person who is now running Cardiff Blogs (a channel/group that is supposed to create an inclusive community for all bloggers to support their endeavours) not only sought to damage the credibility of a new blogger because they didn’t toe the line, but then censored them.

Why? Because I was drawing attention to something that she wanted to keep a secret?

Am I that much of a threat? (Even with my measly 400 followers?!)

It’s not just one account – and it’s not just me.

I do enjoy the comedic value provided by a passive (or just downright) aggressive Twitter comment or private message, but I also find it sad that some bloggers are that insecure – come on, just pay for your food!

It has created more questions about cliques and transparency in the food and travel blogging communities.

Ultimately, I’ll do what I want, when I want. The rest of the time, I’ll be noshing on average grub!

Follow us on Instagram if you like Mrs. B.B.’s sexy (food!) photos – and Twitter if you’re not the sensitive type!

Next: Who can you trust?

Close up of gnocchi

Creating brand new memories at the Cefn Mably Arms

With Mr. B.B. in Cardiff ‘suffering’ through a Five Guys (no choice: it was a work social), I took the other man in my life to Cefn Mably Arms for pie. Have they kept up the standards since his last visit in… 1993?!

One of the unexpected perks of volunteering with Contact the Elderly is the fact I’ve become good friends with a fellow foodie – even more excuse for noshing adventures!

My nonagenarian friend, Mr. A., loves his “proper pub grub” (as he puts it) and recalled how he used to enjoy frequenting the Cefn Mably Arms in Michaelston-y-Fedw (just outside Cardiff).

A quick check on Trip Advisor revealed the establishment was still in business, so I quickly arranged a dinner date…

Would it live up to its historical reputation?

Or was I about to ruin a dear old friend’s fond memories?

 

A welcome start

Having successfully managed to negotiate the lanes between Caerphilly and Michaelston-y-Fedw, we arrived at a very busy car park. Fearing I was about to dash Mr. A.’s hopes by failing to book a table, we were relieved to find the pub was quiet – mainly a few locals propping up the bar.

From the outside, it had that unmistakable country pub vibe – with a tidy and inviting beer garden (if the sun ever shines again, maybe we’ll get a taxi over).

cefn-mably-arms-front-view

Inside, the pub is split into two: bar to the left and restaurant to the right.

The décor has been well thought out – a simple mix of modern and traditional. It felt very cosy, in fact – reassuringly, it’s not trying to be something it’s not. Clearly, popular with the locals, but we didn’t feel unwelcome.

 

Don’t gnocchi it without trying

We were quickly seated.

There was only one other table occupied at the time (6:30pm). Over the course of our meal, it did become busier – but the tables are generously spread out, so it still felt quite intimate.

cefn-mably-restaurant-bar-view

In the evening, both a ‘pub classics’ and restaurant menu are on offer.

Mr. A. suffers with macular degeneration, which severely affects his eyesight. So, I had a thorough review of both menus as I read out the options.

The bar classics had everything you would expect / demand, with fish and chips, pie, gammon steak, burger, scampi, pub curry… Although, I was a bit disappointed to see just two vegetarian options – penne arrabiata and a vegetarian burger.

The restaurant menu was a bit more ‘adventurous’… well, as adventurous as lamb shank.

Mr. A. went for the steak and ale (Butcombe real ale) pie with chips and peas. I chose beetroot and goats cheese gnocchi with pesto and spinach fricassee (from the restaurant menu).

We skipped starters – Mr. A. is an unashamed ‘puddings man’, and he wanted to make sure he had room left after his pie!

Mains

I was bit surprised when my main arrived – a humungous bowl of…pink potatoes?! Not what I’d expect from gnocchi – even if it looked fabulous!

“Truth be told, it was quite exciting!”

I was a bit nervous.

plate-pink-goat-cheese-gnocchi

They were a tad dense. However, they were cleverly filled with light, fluffy goats’ cheese.

Truth be told, it was quite exciting!

inside-pink-goat-cheese-gnocchi

The creamy and satisfyingly shiny pesto sauce was full of flavour, but, despite packing a real punch, it didn’t overpower the goats’ cheese. A clever combination. With a fresh rocket salad it was a real winner of a dish.

However, given the denseness and the portion size, I was struggling from about a third of the way in – and fretting that I would miss out on a pudding!

I didn’t finish it.

Mr. A. was very pleased with his pie – even if it did lack a base and sides.

steak-ale-pie-chips-peas

The pot was densely packed with quality, tender meat. It was topped with a light, flaky puff pastry – and the ale flavour real came through in a deep gravy.

The chips were also nice and crispy – I couldn’t resist stealing a few! – if nothing special.

It was so good in fact that Mr. A. cleared the lot – even if it meant the pudding was at risk!

Desserts – or Terrible-su

It’s seems odd to complain when there are seven desserts to choose from – three specials (sorbet, tiramisu, white chocolate cheesecake) and four on the main menu (Eton mess, Belgian waffle with berry compote and white chocolate ice cream, vanilla crème brule, cheese board). However, Mr. A. was disappointed not to find anything with custard.

Maybe these are the summer choices – hmmm, an excuse to come back again?

They were out of Eton mess, so I went with my second choice: tiramisu.

plate-tiramisu-sauce-strawberry-sugar

I can’t fault the presentation – it’s one of the best-looking tiramisus I’ve ever had.

However, it was a tough old thing. Although you could taste the alcohol (I assume it had been soaked…in 1993?), the sponge was stale. And the mascarpone was pretty much solid, lacking any creaminess.

Mr. A. played it safe with the vanilla and strawberry ice cream – in fairness, they were more than happy to accommodate this request, despite not featuring on the menu.

glass-strawberry-vanilla-ice-cream

I don’t know if the Cefn Mably Arms make its own ice cream, but it was something special – super creamy with chunks of real strawberry.

 

Overall, relief

Mr. A. left a very happy man. For him, the Cefn Mably Arms today is as good as it’s ever been – if not better.

(Phew! I hadn’t sullied any memories.)

It wasn’t perfect, however. The gnocchi were enjoyable enough to start with, but the dish did become a chore. And the tiramisu was an absolute disaster.

Still, I was won over – and the resident dog (Alfie) played a part in that (so cute!).

It’s a welcoming establishment, with polite and attentive service, and fair prices for the decent pub fare on offer. I’m sure if I make use of the beer garden before my next meal, they’ll pick up an extra burp!

Follow us on Instagram and Twitter to see more pictures from this meal and to keep up-to-date on our other adventures.

Holy cow(s?)! Mrs. B.B. has ordered a meat dish at Seren Diemwnt

An overlooked gem in Llandaff, or digital pretence? We braved the elements on a cold, wet Saturday evening to find out why Cardiff’s food bloggers are on mute when it comes to Seren Diemwnt – and Mrs. B.B. braved the beef main! (I didn’t want to spoil the surprise for you with the main image.)

With the expense of Green Man – and four days of festival food stalls – on the horizon, I had resigned myself to, at best, a home-made stir fry this Saturday night.

But as Mrs. B.B. rightly pointed out (why didn’t I do this years ago?!), “now that the blog’s live, we have a duty to spend large and stuff our faces at least once a week.”

We did agree – with four days of continuous boozing also on the horizon – that perhaps we should be sensible and go alcohol-free. As a result, we had the car, and opened up our horizons from the limitations of the Rhymney to Penarth line.

Err, we went to Llandaff.

 

A seren (or star) in the making?

Trying our best to find a restaurant which hadn’t been championed to death (it will be a while before we make it to Tommy Heaney’s new gaff) by Cardiff’s foodies, we eventually came across the website for Seren Diemwnt.

How did we not know about this place?

Why isn’t every South Wales food blogger waxing lyrical?

It certainly looked the business, with references to Michelin and #madeforinsta food photos – plus a menu promising 4-bone rack of lamb!

I was sold.

 

Did we visit the wrong website?

No – I checked as soon as we returned that evening, but anyway…

It’s been far too long since we visited High Street, Llandaff, but considering it is home to both Porro and our favourite Chinese (Summer Palace Restaurant), we’ve come to expect a certain standard – professional-looking website or not.

Our expectations were tempered somewhat when we arrived to see this sign out front:

seren-diemwnt-cafe-outside

…it was hardly indicative of haute cuisine.

Inside, the room was open, but the décor was unassuming and unnoteworthy – although Mrs. B.B. was a fan of the light bulbs:

seren-diemwnt-ceiling-lightbulbs-llandaf
A sense a trip to Ikea coming on…

It had a café feel, so we weren’t surprised when our table included flyers promoting the breakfast and lunch time takeaway deals.

seren-diemwnt-inside-diners-reaction
A fellow diner sums it up!

Bizarrely, given the restaurant was largely empty when we arrived (and we wouldn’t see more than four tables dining at any one point), they had made up our table in the centre of the room, but right next to the ‘bar area’ (or the cafe’s till) – this is also where the three people on service spent much of their evening darting back and forth.

With the door also ajar wide open when we arrived (it was lashing it down outside and more than a little chilly), Mrs. B.B. asked to be moved without hesitation – although that did lead to some confusion as our waiter for the evening struggled to communicate where we could sit as an alternative (at least we didn’t end up on the very uncomfortable looking high chairs at the back).

“All three failed to tell us about the evening’s specials.”

He didn’t seem all that comfortable when we asked to order the non-alcoholic wine either – although, perhaps, that’s understandable. It wasn’t that bad!

Service switched between himself and two female waitresses – the younger of whom was very polite but mainly nervous.

At least one of the trio appeared like she had experience of interacting with the public. In fact, she was quite charming – for that reason alone I feel a little guilty for what I’m about to write.

But all three failed to tell us about the evening’s specials – we overheard them informing another table after our starters had arrived.

 

Please look away if you are easily offended

Six starters and nine mains: surely enough choice for most people – although no sign of the rack of lamb (it was a totally different menu to what I’d viewed online), and it was slightly random (crispy duck with hoisin sauce, Indian spiced chickpea potato cake, soup of the day, cheese souffle… you get the idea).

The price point was reasonable (mains from £10.50 to £16.50 – add a few quid on top for a steak…who goes out to a restaurant for steak?!), but it all felt like it was being done on the cheap.

“It was a waste of a duck’s life.”

There were no nice subtle touches to elevate the experience (surely a couple of rolls and wedge of butter wouldn’t have set them back too much?!), our cutlery was wrapped in paper napkins, the table water tasted…well, put it this way, we drank all the non-alcohol wine!

Starters

Crispy duck is one of my all-time favourite guilty pleasures.

Any joy had been removed from this version. Crispy? I’d say incinerated.

It was a waste of a duck’s life – just adding grease and saltiness to an otherwise fresh-tasting salad.

The hoisin sauce provided some necessary sweetness, but it wasn’t anything special.

duck-hoisin-seren-diemwnt-starter

The pic does it way more justice than it deserves – and it was tiny. Gone in a few mouthfuls.

Mrs. B.B. faired a little better with her cheese and leek souffle, shallot and tomato salad.

cheese-souffle-seren-diemwnt-starter

Not really what you’d hope for from a souffle – dense and airless, it held its shape enough to have been extracted from the typical ramekin we expected to see.

It was more like an omelette in texture, but it tasted nice enough, with a strong cheese flavour – although the unadvertised mustard dressing was overpowering.

Mains

Despite the luxury of TWO vegetarian options to choose from – Mrs. B.B. went for the meatiest thing on the menu. And when I say meatiest, I mean obscene:

beef-brisket-seren-diemwnt-myview
Apologies for the nightmares!

Not what I used to visualise when I thought of beef brisket – unfortunately, it is now.

It just looked wrong.

And whilst it was moist enough, it didn’t taste all that dissimilar to tinned stewing steak.

There was far too much of it in relation to the other elements on the plate. And if you are serving up this many cows on one plate, you really need to provide a jug of thick gravy vs. a barely there red wine jus.

“The best thing about this dish was a wedge of red onion.”

The butternut spiced puree was served cold. The crispy carrot and parsnip looked nice visually when the plate arrived but became lost in the eating. The potato fondant was soft and buttery but outshone by a wedge of red onion that was packed with flavour.

I repeat: the best thing about this dish was a wedge of red onion.

My pheasant breast rolled in poppy seed, lemon and chili sounded so promising. But I’d be embarrassed if I’d cooked this myself – if I’d cooked it FOR myself.

pheasant-main-seren-diemwnt

It didn’t look that great – although you can see they are trying. With three tiny potatoes, three beetroot crisps, two (maybe the chef plated too close to the edge so I lost one) roasted tomatoes dotted around the plate – and a splash of chocolate jus – it had the first round of MasterChef: The Professionals written all over it.

Based on the cooking, the chef would struggle on the amateur version.

“I was tearing it apart with my knife and fork.”

The pheasant was overcooked to the point I was tearing it apart with my knife and fork – it took a fair bit of effort I can tell you! The beetroot crisps were like pieces of card. And the buttered potatoes were undercooked and lacked any buttery flavour.

The best part of it was the chocolate jus – nice and bitter – but there was so little of it. A crying (I was on the verge) shame when the meal was so dry.

I didn’t mind the seared red cabbage, but I couldn’t taste the sherry pearls or the lemon on the pheasant – the poppy seed dominated.

For such a simple dish, you really need to nail every single element – the fact there was gristle and cartilage still attached to the pheasant summed up the lack of skill and attention to detail.

There wasn’t much to leave, but there was enough to raise questions.

The plates were nervously taken away – the younger waitress seemed flustered when we spoke to her. We smiled.

Desserts

Given the measly portions to that point, there was room in my tummy for Seren Diemwnt to make it up to me with a knockout dessert. Mrs. B.B. had less room in hers (did you see her main?!), but she isn’t one to be left out – plus there was an unexplained half-hour delay, which helped.

Disclaimer: under normal circumstances, we would have left the restaurant at this point – and I would have expected a refund for the main I received (at least). Given this was to form part of a review, I was keen to complete the ‘experience’ without influence.

Her summer pudding was a simple delight. Very light, not too sweet – with a hint of tartness from the berry fruits. It was the first dish to deliver:

summer-pudding-seren-diemwnt

Unfortunately, it was the only one…

My lemon & white chocolate mousse wasn’t a mousse at all. It wasn’t light or airy – it had a texture more akin to a posset (I’m being kind). And it was a deceptively large portion.

white-mousse-seren-diemwnt-dessert

The cinnamon meringue added some nice texture if nothing more, but the real star was the tart candied lemon peel, adding more than just crunch and decoration.

I would have liked more of the raspberry sauce to tame the sweetness of the faux mousse. It wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever tasted, but finally the ordeal was over…

 

Time to spread the word?

To be honest, I left feeling a bit confused. On reflection, I felt cheated – what they are promoting vs. the reality is miles apart. And for north of £60?!

From the waiting staff to the food served, it was pretty amateur, which suggests this was more than a ‘bad night’.

So…now we know why nobody is talking about this place.

Maybe more people should be.

Follow us on Instagram and Twitter to see more pictures from this meal and to keep up-to-date on our other adventures.

Close-up of burger and chicken wings at Kongs Cardiff

Practicing Burger Theory at Kongs in Cardiff

My first Burger Theory meal was a disappointment. Would crossing over the bridge and setting it among the most impossible arcade games of my youth make any difference? It was time to get wet…

I’ve resisted jumping on the ‘gourmet burger’ bandwagon.

I’ll admit, I’ve frequented The Grazing Shed more often than any sensible person would advise (to be fair, most of these visits have been enforced on work socials), and it’s always served a purpose (a quick fill so we don’t lose too much drinking time) – but, let’s be honest, it is cheap meat sold at a ridiculously over inflated price.

But, hey, who wants to support McDonald’s?!

So, when I had the post-beers burger munchies recently, I needed some advice – where’s the best place to go for a burger in Roath? (I asked Twitter).

Well… a week later… when I was less committed to the idea… I took people’s advice on board and went for a burger… in the city centre – Kongs if you didn’t read the title! (disclaimer: the bigger motivation at this point was the opportunity to play Double Dragon and Street Fighter II again).

 

The four-beer rule

Now if I was going to make a fair critique and comparison of Kongs burgers, I needed to consume at least four beers beforehand.

I’m a professional after all.

Hopping off the bus near the Welsh Government building, we cut across to Pen & Wig.

There was a big push on Wye Valley Brewery (not sure if this has always been the case or even if it’s a permanent residency now, but they even had people stood at tables with merchandise), so I quickly scanned the little preview bottles and picked the darkest looking option:

the-hopfather-pen-wig-aug2018

The Hopfather is probably false advertising – perhaps, the Hopson? Just an easy going red, which went down way too quickly.

“No halves, so she went rock’n’roll with two-thirds.”

A few steps across the back lane and we were into the recently opened Twenty Nine Park Place – ooh, very smart.

I will return for food in the very near future, but there was only time for a swift pint – and Mrs. B.B. indecision was eating into that! (No Corona, you see.) She eventually settled on the Cherry Dark Case (no halves, so she went rock’n’roll with two-thirds), which wasn’t too overpowering, but I think I’d struggle with even a third. Quite bitter.

I opted for Mitchells & Butlers Brew XI, which is a light copper bear. Crisp and easy to drink but nothing to distinguish it.

brew-xi-twenty-nine-park-place

Realising I still had all my CAMRA vouchers to use up for this quarter, we had to make the obligatory stop in Wetherspoons – Central Bar.

Mrs. B.B. was ordering, so I thought I’d have fun by making her ask for Slobberchops.

She refused.

I ordered a Slobberchops:

slobberchops-wetherspoons-kongs-meal

Another mild, easy to consume in twenty minutes, amber coloured, malty beer – although a bit more character and a few fruity notes.

We lost a bit of time here winding our friends up on WhatsApp, so headed straight for Kongs and ka-ching! Gamma Ray.

I was in hipster territory now – full ‘80s industrial future imagined décor – so had to give in to the light side and a very hoppy, fruity concoction from Beavertown Brewery.

gamma-ray-kongs-burger-king
Don’t be shy! (it’s the one on the left)

This American Pale ale was whacking my taste buds like a sledge hammer after the ‘old man’ bitters – with strong hits of mango and grapefruit.

I was ready…

 

Garlic burger – the non-veggie option

I didn’t have high hopes.

We visited Burger Theory in Bristol last year and it was poor – I can’t remember what I ordered, but I was underwhelmed. In fairness, I do also remember having the best fries and garlic dip ever – apparently, they like garlic…

The whole menu sounded mouth-watering – the KFC would have been a sure bet had I not clocked the jerk chicken wings as an essential side dish. After a little deliberation, I went for Bacon Jamin… Beef patty, ale and bacon jam, Swiss cheese, Dijon, crispy fried gherkins and, of course, garlic mayo!

When it arrived, it certainly looked the part:

kong-cardiff-bacon-burger-king

I could see this was going to be a challenge to even get a hold of. I cut it in half to reveal it had been served medium-rare.

“I wasn’t going to enquire about whether or not they’d received permission from the Food Standards Agency.”

Now I’m not against pink burgers – I’ve eaten burgers in the past which were basically raw (I shouldn’t have – I’d had more than 4 pints!) and survived – but I think this should at least be communicated when you order (at best, you should have the choice).

I’d had a few, so I wasn’t going to enquire about whether or not they’d received permission from the Food Standards Agency. I set about making a right mess of things.

Somebody was clearly a bit over enthusiastic with the garlic mayo, which ensured it was moist – but also ensured it was the dominant flavour.

Not the end of the world – it was delicious. But you couldn’t really pick out the Dijon or, crucially (given its name), the ale and bacon jam. It did elevate the battered and extremely crispy gherkin though – providing a good contrast in taste and texture.

close-up-kongs-burger-gerkhin
Go on, have a close-up!

The bun was just basic sesame seed, but I was happy with that – nothing worse than a big posh dense brioche bun. And it tasted pretty darn good once it had absorbed all of the juices.

And you could tell the meat was good quality – the shorter cooking time ensuring it wasn’t excluded from the moistening party.

I forgot to order chips, and Mrs. B.B. stole half my chicken wings (nicely cooked with crispy skin but not enough punch from the scotch bonnet sauce), so I didn’t finish in pain – which meant I was ready to kick some serious butt on Street Fighter II and Double Dragon!

arcade-machines-kongs-cardiff-082018
There were other arcade machines as well – I’m sure they were just as impossible.

Either age has caught up with me, the beer had, or they’ve got these machines on the hardest setting possible, but that was a very costly 10 minutes!

Before, I forget…

Mrs B.B. went for the Dirty Hippie Burger – a bit of a risk given she normally complains about how dry and dull veggie burgers are (although she keeps coming back for more?! A bit like our m…).

However, this had a “heavenly crunch”. An impressive (for) tofu and quinoa burger, topped with melted cheddar, halloumi, pink pickled onions and a gallon of dirty burger sauce, which meant Mrs. B.B. had to resort to cutlery (excused as she’s a ‘lady’).

kongs-halloumi-burger-close-up

It would have held its own even without the copious toppings. But no complaints when it’s halloumi!

 

So, is it King Kongs?

Well, I couldn’t tell you – I think I should visit a few others first.

What I can say is it wasn’t perfect – they were both a bit sloppy, they drowned some of the key ingredients, and they need to improve their communication on how their burgers are served.

However, boy were they tasty. And I was safe from vampires for 24 hours.

Follow us on Instagram and Twitter to see more pictures from this meal and to keep up-to-date on our other adventures.

I believe I can fly: Traditional afternoon tea at the Park Plaza

Not your typical traditional setting perhaps for afternoon tea, but the trendy interior and jovial crowd of the Park Plaza’s Laguna restaurant was a good setting to get high (on sugar)…

The Laguna Kitchen and Bar at the Park Plaza Hotel is a large open room with full windows along one side – which is where I’d have preferred to be seated (we were on the opposite side, which meant glum lighting and constant traffic – both a challenge to my photography skills!).

park-plaza-laguna-afternoon-tea

We arrived just before 3pm – and it was busy, with large tables mixing traditional, gentleman’s and Hendrick’s (curse being the designated driver) afternoon tea. On our table, I’d gone traditional and Mr. H. had opted for the gentlemen’s afternoon tea (read his review here).

A good selection of teas (including jasmine green, orange and lemon rooibos, and hibiscus berry) – however, I played it safe with breakfast tea. Mr. H. went even safer with decaf breakfast tea. Both were loose-leaved, and the waitress’s recommendation to brew for 3 minutes was spot on. Mr. H. usually ends up with warm milk and a hint of a tea, but we were both very satisfied on pouring.

park-plaza-laguna-tea-served

My afternoon tea was served on a three-tiered plate. I was impressed with the presentation, and who wouldn’t be?!

park-plaza-three-tier-tea

 

Would you like moisture or flavour with that?

The bottom tier comprised a selection of finger sandwiches (smoked salmon and cream cheese; cucumber and crème fraiche; egg mayo and cress; and roasted ham).

tea-sandwiches-ham-egg-salmon

However, the sandwiches were a total let down – the bread wasn’t the freshest, but it was the ratio to filling that was the main culprit. Triple thick (that could be a thing, right?) slices of bread, with measly fillings – it was a struggle to even taste the egg mayo. Fortunately, Mr. H. needed some bread to mop up his bloody mary sauce, so the chore was cut short.

A worrying start – surely, it’s not that hard to make a sarnie? Even I can manage to do that!

 

How about a bag of sugar?

With some trepidation, I moved on to tier two: a sultana scone with clotted cream and jam, and a welsh cake.

Phew!

The scone was nothing special, but thanks to an ample serving of butter, and high-quality strawberry jam and clotted cream (not too sickly), this was pure joy. I do like a bit of warmth with my scone, but in fairness, I only had myself to blame for its cooling (well, the room lighting didn’t help) with my initial photography preoccupation.

fruit-scone-cream-jam-butter

The welsh cake was a nice touch (being in Wales and all that), but it was a bit dry – and I think somebody dropped the whole bag of sugar on it.

 

Just give me more tea!

Now I had to decide where to start on the pretty collection of dainty cakes on tier three (that I’d been rushing to get to from the very beginning).

On reflection (now I’m writing this!), I probably should have taken up the waiter’s offer to describe them – but I didn’t want to spoil the surprise at the time (or waste any time for that matter!).

top-tier-jelly-cake-selection

I started with the mini-cupcake. This was a coconut sponge (a little too dense perhaps) with a cream icing that simply overpowered the coconut flavour. The two-bite portion was just enough!

The raspberry macaron was a delight. Normally, I find macaron’s dry and uninteresting, but this one was perfectly gooey, falling apart after the initial crunch with an intense raspberry filling.

We were on a run. The thin pistachio sponge finger was gone in an instant, but the light sponge and marzipan flavoured cream were a heavenly combination.

tae-cakes-sponge-chocolate-macaron

At this point, my blood sugars had rocketed. I was sweating, light-headed and thirsty – drinking more and more tea to try and keep my anxiety at bay and cleanse my palate.

I stopped for a breather.

And to ask for another pot of tea – promptly delivered at no extra cost!

“I saved the best looking for last.”

Once I’d composed myself, it was time to eat the beautiful looking jelly, which served as a bit of a cleanser – even though it was probably just on there for decoration.

glass-jelly-cream-chocolate-spoon

All that was left was the chocolate tart – I saved the best looking for last. In fairness, it had more to it than an eye-catching sheen, with the light, mousse-like chocolate containing an intense orange tang. Wow.

 

The ‘high’lights

The ultimate sugar-fest. I can tell you it took me a good few hours to come down again.

But whilst I found it all a bit too much, that’s not really a reflection of a high-quality dessert offering.

However, there were issues – the welsh cake, scone (saved by the jam and clotted cream) and cupcake were all on the dry side, and the sandwiches were an abomination.

It’s such a shame as it looked so impressive, the tea and the service were spot on – and that top tier had some special little creations.

It wouldn’t take that much to make this brilliant – when I come back down to earth, maybe I’ll give it another go. – Mrs. B.B.

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