Sunday, 27 December 2009

Pizza East - London

I managed to visit a whole load of restaurants I've had my eye on, in the run-up to Christmas. One of these being Pizza East, the newly opened (October) Pizzeria in Shoreditch. It's located in a former tea warehouse on the corner of Bethnal Green Road and Shoreditch High Street, and has the same owners as trendy members club Shoreditch House, next door.

I arrive on a freezing cold Friday evening, its trying to snow and I'm with a group of friends who are celebrating a slew of December Birthdays (Including mine and the GF's).

Entering through the main doors, we are initially bemused to be greeted by what appears to be a pair of black clad nightclub bouncers, we make our way past them and through the door to Pizza East proper.

Jaw Dropping.
The interior is extremely large, moodily lit and dark, and completely stunning....its a fantastic space....benches, wooden floorboards, bare concrete walls... a large central bar and wood-burning pizza ovens to one side...which are surrounded by a whole kitchen crew.....speedily feeding pizzas in, one of them is making the dough for a base and is spinning the elastic dough around his hand - its amazing to watch. The place is buzzing, packed to the gills with trendy East London punters.
We are greeted in a friendly manner and quickly and efficiently shown to our table - which appears to be made out of solid lump of rivet clad weathered steel, like a slab of battleship. We take our first look at the menu.

I'd done as much research as I could beforehand, (One of my aces being an acquaintance on Twitter who actually works at Pizza East and has tried most of the menu - Thanks Libby!!) and I'd heard elsewhere that the soft polenta with Chicken Livers with salsa rossa calabrese was a thing of beauty. I had to have this.... For my main, I chose a San Danielle ham, buffalo riccota, hazlenut pesto and chard Pizza.

Such is the turnover of punters, that I was told upon booking that we'd only have the table for two hours max...happily the staff were extremely friendly and efficient, and despite the place being packed - our food came out from the kitchens quickly.

My chicken liver dish came up in a metal bowl, and certainly looked the part. Creamy yellow wet polenta piled with crispy chicken livers and salsa. I dug in greedily, and it was delicious...to be honest, I'm not normally much of a liver person - but one of the happy consequences of writing this blog is that I happily wade into dishes that even just a year ago I'd have probably avoided. This dish was seriously good, extremely rustic...and tasty. The crispiness of the fried livers contrasting nicely against the well seasoned polenta..and the salsa rossa adding a nice tangyness. Lovely Stuff.

Around the table various other dishes were going down seemingly just as well, in particular some rather nice lamb meatballs in tomato sauce and a nice plate of aubergine, orange, balsamic and chili.


Onto the Pizzas.
They come up looking nicely bubbled and charred from the wood burning ovens, the toppings are fresh, vibrant and generous....so far so good.
The pizza is delicious, but the star of the show is the base....it's beautiful....elastic and extremely tasty....I suspect I could eat on of the pizza bases on its own. I'm very impressed, and my friends around the table are equally generous with their praise for the food. It is superb.

Luckily for me, the GF can't manage the last third of her pizza, so I lend a helping mouth and eat her leftovers happily....I also seem to remember eating the leftovers of one of my mates pizzas as well....the memory is a tiny bit hazy due no doubt to generous alcohol consumption.


Onto desserts - and I'd been told by my Pizza East contact that 'the' dessert to order was salted chocolate caramel tart.
Well - she was bang on the money, it was delicious in an almost soft Dime Bar flavour type of way. I loved it.
Stuffed, and settling up - it was a nice surprise to see how little the bill actually came to, especially in this part of town. Starters and desserts coming in at around the £5 mark, and Pizzas being around £11.

My friends and I had a great meal, helped in part by the lovely and rather atmospheric interior, the buzzing vibe and the friendly staff. The food was superb....and as mentioned, it was extremely inexpensive. Pizza East is well worth a visit, I really enjoyed eating there and will be visiting again soon.


Pizza East.

Tea Building
56 Shoreditch High Street
London
E1 6JJ

Telephone: 0207 729 1888
http://www.pizzaeast.com/

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Great Queen Street - London

Great Queen Street is somewhere I've wanted to visit for a while. I love a good gastropub, mainly due to the lack of formality and absence of pretentious gastronomic flourish. Just serious food, cooked well in a bustling atmosphere. When it comes to eating out, I guess I'm a bit of a peasant, and If I'm honest - I enjoy the rough and ready atmosphere of a good gastropub over a formal restaurant any day. But obviously there are exceptions (Pierre Koffmann I'm looking at you).

Great Queen Street and it's sister restaurant The Anchor and Hope are widely considered to be two of the best examples of gastropubs in London - and I couldn't wait for a chance to finally eat at one of them.

Last week the chance finally came. The occasion? The GF's birthday, I would be taking her there for dinner to celebrate.
But, one of those dilemma's that only foodbloggers (or foodies) seem to encounter reared its ugly head.

I'd asked among my fellow bloggers on Twitter, what in their opinion was a dish worth ordering. Instantly the answer was spat back at me with almost obscene haste by @Tehbus and @scandilicous "The Rib of Beef".

Fantastic.

More people proceeded to chip in with photos of the dish and personal recollections of its awesomeness... I was sold.....deal done, I would order the rib of beef, it was going to be so right....but wait a minute, whats this?....it's £48 and it's for two people.

Hmmmm tricky.
Not only was I taking the the GF to a restaurant that I'd picked because I wanted to go there 'on her birthday'! I was then going to have to talk her into ordering a dish that I wanted to eat.

Lesser men may have balked at the challenge this presented. But smiling fondly at the memory at the look on her face as she enjoyed unwrapping her birthday presents of the Rambo trilogy on DVD and the Dewalt Hammer Drill, I knew I could pull this off.

In the event, it proved less troublesome than I'd envisaged to talk her round to my way of thinking....I only had to throw one childish tantrum, laying on the floor screaming, kicking and flailing arms. (I expected to have to do this at least three times - result). She agreed. The rib of beef for two it was to be.

So, arriving early on a miserable, freezing cold rainy evening after work - we made our way into the moodily but rather atmospherically lit Great Queen Street and proceeded downstairs to the bar for a quick drink.



Its nice to see that some of the wines are available by the Carafe, and also nice to see wine tumblers (a point of contention amongst some) personally, I love drinking wine out of a tumbler - it's rough and ready and reminds me of the trattorias in Rome where the only real choice is 'red' or 'white'. We ordered a nice easy drinking Sancerre by the carafe and waited for our our table. I have to say, the bar downstairs, when it had started to fill up really is a amiable place to while away sometime. The chairs are comfortable, the dark walls and dim lighting are easy on the eye and relaxing.

Stomping back upstairs, less steady than when we went down - we take our seats at the table. The dining room is now packed to the rafters, buzzing with chat, laughter and noise.
We look through the menu.... this is a dangerous time. The GF might see something else that will ruin the whole rib of beef arrangement. I realise that I need to crush any dissent quickly and ruthlessly. The pheasant pie for two is mentioned, and is received with a withering look from me that would blister paint...It works.
Rib is ordered, and we're informed it's a 40 min wait for this dish and that it comes rare.

We decide to forgo starters as I've been informed the Rib of Beef is allegedly a monster main, and we want to leave room. We while away the time chatting, drinking more Sancerre from tumblers and ogling the dishes being served at nearby tables - A whole Sea bass catches the eye - as does the pheasant pie which looks delicious.



Soon enough, our main arrives. Rib of Beef with Bearnaise sauce and chips, we also order some steamed greens as a nod to some vague notion of healthiness, but really - its all about the meat.
It looks beautiful, presented with the actual rib, and thick charred but pink rare slices of beef, there's a bowl containing enough Bearnaise to drown a child in and of course another bowl full of chips.

Beautiful.

The next 30 mins or so are a perfect orgy of meat consumption, gnawing and chewing, the rib is fantastic. I love Bearnaise and I've never eaten so much in my life.... I can understand now why we were advised not to order starters, this is a serious meat-fest....the GF gives up, she cant eat the last slice on her plate. I'm made of sterner stuff, smearing the last of the Bearnaise onto a chip....and finishing off the slice of beef on the GF's plate.
But it's a struggle.
I'm stuffed silly - after just one dish, but it was incredible. I Loved it.




Despite both of us being fit to bursting, we decide to order a dessert to share. (unheard of - believe me, I always manage a dessert). Steamed quince and almond pudding, which arrives quickly, is perfectly nice, light, tasty and well made.

Finishing up with coffee's, I settle up, leaving to plunge back out into the cold and damp December evening. Looking at the pub from the outside, it strikes me how nondescript it is....in the dark, you could easily walk past and not notice it. Which is a shame, because I can honestly say it was one of the best meals I've had for ages, the food was lovely- but it's more than that. The whole place has such a bustling atmosphere alive with people eating fantastic food. It's seriously good and seriously atmospheric, its hard to put my finger on it exactly - but something is very right at Great Queen Street. I'll be returning the first chance I get.

Great Queen Street

32 Great Queen St.
Holborn
WC2B 5AA

Telephone: 0207 242 0622

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Hawksmoor - The best burger in London?

Last week I finally had the chance to tick something off my foodie 'to-do list' that I'd been meaning to try for quite some time, The Hawksmoor burger.

There are a couple of issues associated with actually getting to eat the thing. It's only available at lunchtimes, and only during the week. This throws up all kinds of problems for me to actually sample it. I work nowhere near Commercial Street, and with the added embuggerance of its absence from the menu at weekends...well, let's just say I've waited and watched from the sidelines, biding my time for an opportunity to finally get in there.

But hey it's just a burger right? why all the plotting and gnashing of teeth waiting for an opportunity to try it?

The reply to that would be:- It's not 'just a burger' it is reputedly the best burger in London.
OK, Granted the competition is a bit thin on the ground, we just don't seem to 'get' burgers in the UK, but this one stands head and shoulders above nearly all others.
let me paint you a picture....

Imagine a pyramid with perhaps your microwaved 24 hour garage Rustlers fare lining the bottom, up we go through the dodgy suburban dog meat burger vans where your just as likely to receive a side order of food poisoning as chips, past the defrosted and dry offerings of countless pub menus....whizzing past your McDonalds and Burger Kings, past the so called 'gourmet offerings' of the more upmarket chains.....rocketing skywards, past the other more serious contenders such as Hache - we finally burst through the clouds (for this is truly a mungus pyramid of meat)....and there sparkling like a jewel at the top, master of all it surveys is the Hawksmoor Burger....glistening in an almost mythical way.....angelic music plays....a sense of peace falls throughout the land.

So, not much expectation there then.

Finally, last Friday my chance came, with a day off Christmas shopping I frantically booked a table for lunch at Hawksmoor.

First a bit about the burger, it's made from 100% Longhorn. The notes on the menu state that it
"Includes long neglected cuts like Clod and Stickling and small nuggets of bone marrow".
Personally, I have no idea what these cuts are.....but I like the traditional sounding names and mourn their strangeness to me.... I now long to approach a butchers counter and say "Give me half a pound of Clod.....and, while your at it - I'll have some Stickling as well".

The burger is offered with Ogleshield cheese, or Stichelton Blue Cheese. It's all topped with a hand made demi-brioche bun. (I wont get into the whole bun debate here, others have covered it more
comprehensively than perhaps anyone would have thought possible). But brioche seems to be widely considered as the best choice for a bun.

Finally, this comes with triple cooked chips, and Bearnaise for dipping. Woof. (or perhaps, as a salve to the waistline, a salad...hiss).

So, seated in a packed and buzzing lunchtime Hawksmoor, my burger ordered (Medium rare)...I sip my Brooklyn cocktail (Typical me, I ordered a "Brooklyn" meaning the Beer, which they used to serve but seemingly no longer. I was surprised to be presented with a "Brooklyn" cocktail instead....feeling this was perhaps my own fault for being presumptuous, and never backwards going forwards when it comes to alcohol, I drank it anyway. It wasn't bad).



Finally, my burger is brought out and it certainly looks the part, thick and juicy....with just the cheekiest hint of melted cheese oozing from under the bun.
I take a bite, and it's incredibly good, the meat is extremely moist and tastes incredible.....like good meat should, full of flavour...combined with the cheese, the thinly sliced red onion and pickles, the sweet soft bun......I'm literally dazed.
I dunk a beautifully cooked chip in my Bearnaise and sigh happily, misty-eyed.....then proceed to eat everything on the plate, and I mean the lot..it's so good. Meanwhile I keep a weather eye on the GF's efforts to finish her burger. She always leaves a little bit, and she doesn't disappoint this time....I fall on her leftovers immediately like a starving animal.
It's superb.

Now, this is the thing.
It's just a burger, albeit an incredibly good one, but there's no point being snobby about it.

This was without a doubt one of the best things I've eaten all year. Full stop. It was stunningly good. I was in an almost rapturous daze eating it, in between bites of triple cooked chips and Bearnaise, it was beautiful. My only regret is that a return visit is so awkward to fit into my schedule. But have no doubt, a return visit is inevitable. Now that I know it exists....I have to have it again.

As for the question, is it the best burger in London?
I hear the offering at Maze Grill is another contender, but not having tried it, it's impossible to comment. But I will say the Hawksmoor burger is easily the best burger I've eaten in London, and perhaps anywhere. And if there's better out there in the world (and there no doubt is), I cannot even begin to fathom how good they could be after sampling this.

The Hawksmoor Burger is £15

Hawksmoor
157 Commercial Street
London
E1 6BJ

Telephone: 0207 247 7392


http://www.thehawksmoor.co.uk

Saturday, 5 December 2009

November - a month in my kitchen.

Despite cooking at home pretty much every night without fail, regular readers of my blog may wonder if that aspect of my life has withered and died....looking back over the last month or so, it's all been restaurant reviews and eating out... not a mention of what I've been dishing up in the kitchen.
So, to correct this oversight - here's a roundup....

At the beginning of the month I received the new Gordon Ramsay book
'World Kitchen' to review, and frankly despite the recipes being competent, I found the book wholly un-inspiring... This no doubt has a lot to do with the whole Ramsay empire being so pervasive nowadays, it's impossible to get away from it. But, unlike his earlier books where you really got a feel for his cooking, the perfection in the kitchen and the passion about the ingredients... this just feels like a case of...

"Your contracted to churn out three books a year....we were thinking 'world food' - you haven't done that yet, knock us a quick book out"

In fact I believe his recently ex-right hand man Mark Sargeant does the real work on the books nowadays, and Gordo just rubberstamps the finished product.
There's just no spark, no passion.

But this is the thing, all of the recipes are good. Great in fact, and the results were fairly impressive. In actual fact, it's a handy book to own. But it'll never be a favourite.
Obviously, in order to test the book out fully, I had to cook a few things from it....


First up from the Italian section of the book, we have 'Grilled Mushrooms on griddled polenta with pecorino'

I made this for a Saturday lunch, mainly because I had an open leftover bag of Polenta I wanted to use up. The Mushrooms are Chanterelles. Straightforward, fairly quick, as easy as it gets and even if I do say so myself - it looks pretty good on a plate.


The next thing I cooked, from the Spanish section....Meatballs in Tomato Sauce. (or Albondigas). Tapas style.
Now this recipe was a complete winner. I loved it, the manchego in the mix, gave it a nice subtle piquancy and the simple tomato sauce they were cooked in was lovely. I served these up with some rice. I'll be making these again....
Here's the recipe, so you can judge for yourself:-

Meatballs in Tomato Sauce.
Serves 4-5

You'll Need:-

For the meatballs:-
500g good quality minced beef
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
50g White Breadcrumbs
25g Manchego (or Cheddar), grated
2 TBS chopped flat leaf parsley, plus extra to garnish.
Sea Salt and Black Pepper
1 Large Egg, lightly beaten
2 TBS Olive Oil

For the Tomato Sauce:-
2 TBS Olive Oil
1 Onion peeled and finely chopped
1 Garlic Clove, peeled and finely chopped
120ML dry white wine
2x400g tins chopped tomatoes
100ML water
1-2 TSP Caster Sugar

To make the meatballs , mix the minced beef, onion, garlic, breadcrumbs, cheese and chopped parsley together in a large bowl until evenly combined. Season well with salt and pepper and add the beaten egg to bind, mixing with your hands. Break off a small piece of the mixture, shape into a ball and fry in an oiled pan until cooked, then taste for seasoning. Adjust the seasoning of the uncooked mixture as necessary.

With damp hands, shape the mixture into about 16 meatballs, trying not to press them too tightly. Place on a large plate, cover with clingfilm and chill for at least 30 mins to allow them to firm up. Meanwhile, make the tomato sauce. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan, add the onion and garlic and fry gently until lightly golden.

Increase the heat slightly and pour in the wine. Let bubble until reduced by half, then stir in the chopped tomatoes, water and sugar. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer for 10-15 mins until the tomatoes are soft, then remove the pan from the heat.

To cook the meatballs. heat the olive oil in a large, wide pan. Add the chilled meatballs and fry for 5 minutes, turning frequently, until browned all over. Pour the tomato sauce over them and simmer for a further 10-15 mins until the meatballs are cooked through. Divide the meatballs and tomato sauce between warm bowls and sprinkle with chopped parsley to serve.


The next thing to get a road test, also from the Spanish section was Paella with Chicken and Chorizo. No hint of seafood in this one, so not what most people would think of as a paella I guess - but then the blurb mentions that there are in fact hundreds of different paella recipes throughout Spain (hey, educational).

I was glad to see the recipe suggested boneless, skinless chicken thighs instead of the more commonly suggested breast. Thighs are miles cheaper than breast, and taste so much better. The Paella was OK....It was very filling, but a little bland perhaps...I don't think I'd cook it again.

The final dish I cooked in November from 'World Kitchen' was from the Greek section 'White bean and vegetable soup' or Fasoulada as it's more commonly known in Greece.
I loved this - cheap, simple....quick (apart from soaking the haricot beans overnight). But this was thick and tasty, real winter fare....and with some feta crumbled over the top. Wow.
This is something else I'll be making again for sure. Loved it.

Mid November saw me hosting two dinner parties on consecutive weekends. Small one for the GF's parents, and another the following week for some friends.

For the GF's parents, I went a bit Ottolenghi.... one of the main reasons for this was I had a big piece of Turkey in the freezer waiting to be used up, and I'd previously made the 'marinated turkey breast with cumin, coriander and white wine'....this would be the main, and I paired it with 'crushed new potatoes with horseradish and sorrel'. (To be honest, with hindsight - all looks a bit 'dry'....there was a sauce made from the marinade, but still).
The starter was Puy Lentils with sour cherries, bacon and Gorgonzola...this being another dish I'd cooked previously and really liked.

For dessert I made my legendary
chocolate fondants - topped with shop bought clotted cream ice-cream.....just to ensure there wasn't an intact tooth left in the house.

It all went well, cooking for four is straightforward and fairly easy work. Everyone seemed to like what I'd cooked....the chocolate fondants went down particularly well, but then they always do. Not sure about the presentation on these... but by then I was very....very...drunk.
All in all, not bad.

Dinner party two saw me cooking for six. Slightly more challenging, and I wanted to enjoy it rather than be stuck out in the kitchen all night as sometimes happens....
For some reason (probably drunkenly), I'd said I would cook Thai Green Curry.... perfect for an informal dinner party. For the life of me, I couldn't think what to serve as a starter with this... in the end, I jumped continents and decided to crack open the Ottolenghi book once again and cook 'turkey and sweetcorn meatballs with roasted pepper sauce'. The reasoning behind this being I wanted sharing platters where everyone could just dig in....and my addled brain was struggling to come up with a better suggestion.

Just to really mix things up, I also made a Satay dip to go with the meatballs (The dip recipe being pinched from 'World Kitchen' and being surprisingly involved (Hello shelling monkey nuts to get 100g of unsalted peanuts...took bloody ages).

For the dessert I fatefully decided to crack open Ramsay's 'A Chef for all seasons' and cook the Orange and Lemon tart recipe....I was thinking, nice...light citrusy to finish off the meal. So far so good. But, it was an untested recipe for me.....and this was to later prove decisive.

The turkey meatball starter I made just before they arrived, pre-made the two dips....all good. The Thai Green Curry recipe is Nigel Slater's from 'Real Food' I've made it umpteen times before and it always turns out well. I'd made the green curry paste during the day and would start cooking the actual curry just before the guests arrived. I was going to serve this with some lime leaf rice.

But the orange and lemon tart....I knew it was going to be trouble, the pastry case I made was a thing of beauty.....so thin and perfect, the best I've knocked out ever. But the low cooking temperature and the mention of 'just lightly set' in the recipe was setting off alarm bells in my head. But too late now, I ploughed on....

At this point I decided to have a drink....I hadn't eaten all day, and after just two beers (2!!) I was steaming....my guests hadn't arrived and I had loads to do. Throwing caution to the wind with an ill judged 'what doesn't kill me, makes me stronger' attitude, I carried on drinking.

The turkey meatball and dips starter went down well, and was eaten in no time.
I stagger out to the kitchen to check on the status of the supposedly setting tart. It's liquid.


I cook the green curry and rice, and stagger back in....utterly munted now. Everyone helps themselves, they're making appreciative noises.....the whole lot gets eaten in what seems like minutes- every last scrap, even all of the rice. In the back of my mind I'm thinking about the tart.

I go outside to check....it's still a pond.
Balls.

I return to the dining room to inform my guests 'I may be some time' and then proceed outside into the chill November air to hopefully freeze to death, a suitable penance I feel for the impending doom that is my dessert.
That would have been the noble thing to do, but what I actually say, no doubt in a rather slurred fashion "the tart may be some time....hasn't quite set" (Nervous laugh).
A barrage of drunken encouragement of 'I'm sure it's OK'.... 'Serve it anyway'.... I look away worried.

We decide to play some spectacularly stupid board game whilst we wait.
An hour later - I'm very drunk. The tart still hasn't set. I seethe and curse both the tart and Gordon Ramsay rather vocally...
I can't wait any longer, and egged on by my friends decide to serve it anyway....the GF is looking very drunk and everyone is so pissed I don't think they care anymore.
I caramelise the top with a blowtorch (almost drunkenly burning my eyebrows off in the process) I hope this crisp layer might offer some structural stability, It looks fantastic, but there's an ominous wobble there.

Taking the plunge, I cut into it......it's going to be ok.....no....no it's not.....
The banks have burst....."bring me some sandbags and a stirrup pump for crissake!!!"....
A flood of orange and lemon filling rolls across my worktop like a citrus Tsunami. It's unstoppable and goes everywhere.
I am utterly appalled.... so much work. It's a complete mess. I think I spy an upturned boat and an uprooted palm tree near the knife block.

Cursing liberally, but making the best of a bad job, I ladle my tart onto plates and proceed to serve it anyway.
My guests....well, they make all the right noises....it tastes fantastic, don't worry, it's lovely.
I sit at the other end of the table shell shocked and traumatised... I've seen too much and am now old beyond my years.
At this point, the dinner party breaks up completely as my GF...indulging perhaps a little too much in the free flowing booze disappears suddenly to be violently sick. My guests, sensing perhaps this would be a good time to scarper make their excuses and leave.
A perfect end to a perfect night.

The morning after see's me nursing a hangover that's so gigantic, It should be christened in the same manner Hurricanes are named.... Hangover Dave perhaps.
I'm looking at the remains of my tart and take solace from the fact that the crust is so thin and perfect. I have a little taste. And It's gorgeous.
Shit.
Not wanting to end this post on abject failure, I'll mention something that did go right this month. Gypsy Eggs or Huevos a la Flamenca. This recipe features in both
The Eagle cookbook and Gastropub classics by Trish Hilferty, and it's cracking.

Basically fried chorizo and Serrano ham, removed from pan - then chopped onion, garlic and paprika cooked in the fat. Add a tin of tomatoes, frozen peas, chopped potatoes (I added some frozen sweetcorn as well) and 100ml of water and cook covered for 10-15mins.
Add the ham and chorizo back, crack a couple of eggs in and bake in a 200C oven for 5 mins or so until the eggs are just set.
The great thing is, the quantities don't really matter - you can chop and change this recipe however you like just throw in whatever you think goes best, which is always the mark of a great recipe - perfect for using up leftovers.

Many thanks to Quadrille for my review copy of Gordon Ramsay's World Kitchen.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

The Fitzwalter Arms - Goodnestone. Kent

Saturday afternoon, it's a beautiful autumn day. Crisp. The slight chill of the approaching winter is in the air but not yet cold enough to be anything other than invigorating.
The car is winding through the beautiful Kent countryside. I'm now well off the beaten track.... seemingly in the middle of nowhere. The comfort of two laned tarmac clad roads has long since been replaced by a single lane 'track' threading it's way through fields and woods which every now and again give just the briefest blurred glimpse of one stunning ancient home after another as we speed our way along at some speed. I'm late. I have a table booked for lunch at quarter to two, and I've miscalculated how far away it is. A pretty village crossroads just comes into view through the trees.

"In 100 yards, turn Left" announces the unflappable voice of the Sat-Nav. I carry out the instruction and my destination, The Fitzwalter Arms becomes apparent at the end of a sleepy village road.

It's exactly quarter to two, perfect. I park and take in my surroundings. Goodnestone is the kind of sleepy hamlet you imagine belonging to an England long past. The pub, obviously the heart of the village is situated next to a lovely old church, ancient tombstones lean this way and that at impossible angles, a pheasant struts urgently and pecks in the grass amongst the graves.

The beautiful pungent and distinct smell of woodsmoke fills the air and there is complete silence, Incredible silence in fact, broken only by gentle birdsong. I'm charmed. Goodnestone feels like life hasn't changed here for hundreds of years, and I love it.

The Fitzwalter Arms has a bit of a reputation. The Chef David Hart has previously worked at the renowned Sportsman in Whitstable, and it's sister restaurant The Granville as well as The Square in London. The pub is also mentioned in Diane Henry's rather useful book 'The Gastropub cookbook, another helping'. I am looking forward to lunch immensely.

Entering, past the pile of muddy Wellington boots in the porch, and through the heavy wooden door into the bar, where a solitary regular is whiling away the hours; propping it up. An ancient clock ticks heavily, and a real fire lazily pops and crackles in the fireplace. It all feels rather cosy.

We are greeted cheerily and shown through into a bright but fairly unadorned and simple dining room, with windows overlooking the graveyard next door. There is a large table of happy diners in evidence polishing off their lunch. From the county attire, the cheerful yet slightly plummy accents and the heap of assorted shooting paraphernalia... cartridge belts, jackets, shotgun cases lazily heaped in a corner, it is obvious the local hunt is in for a pre-shoot lunch.
A chalkboard with today's lunch menu is posted on the wall. A jug of tap water is proffered without having to be asked for, and a plate of bread is brought over. It's gorgeous and obviously homemade, soft but with a yeasty crust it's very good. I ask the passing landlady to confirm it is indeed made on-site. Apparently yes, twice a day and it's "Seriously moreish".

I order the Cep risotto to start, whilst the GF declines a starter (sigh) and continues to munch on the fantastic bread.
It's not long before my plate arrives, It looks great, steaming, it smells rich and mushroomy. I dig a fork in, slowly lifting and it's oozing rich and creamy, exactly as a great risotto should - it tastes fantastic studded with beautiful meaty ceps, and I start to demolish it in short order. The GF asks for a taste....she agrees it's very good and then tries to have another taste. moving back in with her fork which prompts me to leap to action.

"Woah there,...Get away, what are you doing?.... You didn't want a starter...No....you can't have any".

Rejected but resigned she draws back to her side of the table.
Harsh perhaps, but a line has to be drawn somewhere, you want a starter? order your own. But I did let her mop up a bit with her bread - I'm kind of soft like that.

Welcome at this point, our mains arrived to distract us from the mutual, silently mouthed obscenities, threats and associated hand signals backed up with reproachful stares and hard looks.
I've ordered Rabbit Saddle wrapped in bacon with roasting juices, it comes to the table looking very nice indeed, simple, no frills. It's served with roast potatoes and cabbage. My choice of rabbit had pleased the GF no end. She is apparently still quite unrecovered from a heart-rending attachment to a long dead childhood pet named "Bubbles". Taking this information in blankly, I take a bite of the rabbit....it's beautiful, meaty, subtly gamey.....I subdue a sudden urge to belch whilst simultaneously barking the word "Bubbles". The thought makes me giggle to myself. The GF asks what I'm laughing at, I tell her... and get a frosty look in return.
Meanwhile, the GF is eating her dish of Poached organic salmon fillet with potted shrimp butter. She's enjoying it, and despite the tension raised by the spectre of Bubbles, she offers me a taste. Again, as with my rabbit dish; it's simply but beautifully cooked, flaky almost buttery - I detect a hint of nutmeg.

I'm polishing off my main, it's all I can do to scrape the last of the delicious roasting juices up. Stuffed silly but happy and content. Studying the desserts chalked on the board. I'm thinking about the Earl Grey creme caramel with prunes in Armagnac. For some reason I have a thing about Earl Grey flavoured desserts and find myself drawn to them. But, on this occasion I decide to enlist the help of the landlady and ask for her opinion, as she's 'no doubt tried them all - what does she recommend?'

The 'Warm chocolate mousse, almonds and praline ice-cream' is apparently massively popular and as such is a constant on the board. I take that recommendation and place my order. The GF goes for the cheeseboard.
The chocolate mousse arrives in a large scaldingly hot bowl, its scattered with almonds and the ice cream sits in the middle melting in a creamy puddle. I have a taste and its gorgeous, the light warm mousse mingling with the rich praline ice-cream and almonds, the sides are a baked gooey sticky chocolate crust. It's a lovely dessert, the best I've eaten in a gastropub for some time. I can see now why it's never taken off the menu.
Meanwhile. the GF is digging into the cheeseboard, it looks a little uninspiring, but its a nice selection. The GF comments it could do with some kind of chutney or quince paste. The portions are pretty generous and I lend a hand.....there's easily enough for two to share.

Coffee's are ordered, and a large cafetiere is placed on the table, along with some rather nice nougat to nibble. The pot is huge, and the coffee is pretty good. We easily get two cups each out of it. It's £2 each. (The Bell take note).

Lunch finished, we pay and make our way outside, its starting to get dark and the pub lights come on - it looks cheery and very picturesque. Off in the distance I hear the feint pop and echos of shotguns - the local hunt finishing their shoot. I'm quite jealous of the village's inhabitants having such a fantastic venue in their midst, the pub is charming, entirely un-mucked about with....there's nothing fancy or showy, and the food is the same, unpretentious, beautifully cooked and seriously tasty. It's very hard to fault. It's one of the best lunches I've had for quite a while.

Our lunch for two, with two glasses of wine, coffees and tip came to £65 which is, by anyone's standards a complete bargain.

The Fitzwalter Arms
The Street
Goodnestone
Kent.
CT3 1PJ

Telephone:01304 480303

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Towards a Fluid State - (or how I survived a liquid brunch)

A couple of Saturdays previous saw me invited to a 'brunch' in Hackney's Broadway Market. The event in question was a preview for press and bloggers of 'Towards a Fluid State", which is a forthcoming festival to be held on the 5th December at a warehouse in Dalston.

I had no idea what to expect really, apart from knowing that alcohol would feature heavily. The brunch being run by the founders of 'Tasting Sessions' Angela Newell and Hayley Sudbury, who have held some much talked about events in the past featuring interesting booze, and who's ethos is all about, and I quote "bringing interesting people together over fine drink and food. The events are highly interactive and showcase life and culture across art, design, fashion, music and architecture"

Now I don't know about you, but that sounds like just the sort of thing a sophisticated and hip young groovecat like me should be attending....So, a bright Saturday November morning saw me fresh faced and alert making my way to a cafe in the bustling Broadway Market, and from there being immediately guided down some stairs at the back to a dimly lit basement bar area.

Taking a proffered test tube (as you do) bearing the legend 'Join the movement' and which, when examined, was full of a clear liquid (I subsequently found out it was 80% proof alcohol) I took a exploratory sip....potent, but not unpleasant and tasting strongly of mustard - very strange. At this point I was handed a Bloody Mary and I (rightly) suspected my liver was about to undergo a bit of a workout.

Meanwhile gazing around I realised the space was now filled with bloggers, media, press and some very hip and trendy looking types. Naturally, I was in my element.

What followed next was quite frankly a bizarre experience.
It's hard now to put things in order, or even to adequately describe what exactly I ate or drank. There are two reasons for this.

1) Much alcohol was consumed, and as you can imagine - the brain cells were being killed off at an alarming rate as I became more befuddled.

2) Despite written lists of all the food and drink consumed being handed out at the beginning of the brunch, Angella Newell then proceeded to eat hers and encouraged the by then, rather merry mob of onlookers to do the same. All record of what exactly I partook in is gone forever.
In any case, I'll do my best to record what I can remember, and my impressions. After some pretty good Bloody Mary's, there was barely a pause before we were handed flutes of vintage champagne. We were then offered canapes to taste along with the champagne. These worked pretty well and appeared to consist of caviar on some kind of savoury base, but it turned out the whole thing was made from vegetables cleverly hocus-pocus'ed to throw us.

This was then followed with Whisky - two types, one I seem to remember being rated (by those who know) as one of the best available - matched cheese was offered along with the whisky!
Next - Sake was passed around in traditional square wooden drinking vessels handed out by two men dressed as Geisha's. A representative from the sake producer then gave a small talk on it's properties before we were encouraged to get stuck in. It was extremely unusual, soft, subtle - to me it tasted strangely reminiscent of porcini mushrooms....which is not actually as awful as it sounds. It certainly wasn't unpleasant.

By this point, I was to put it bluntly - munted. I'd started drinking a mixture of very unusual and expensive spirits at 11am and basically hadn't stopped for the past couple of hours. I was musing on just how this was affecting me as a stream of people came running into the room dressed in black cloaks and strange black V shaped hats and proceeded to pass out balloons and pins to the assembled throng, before disappearing again.
We were then encouraged to use the pins to burst our balloons in unison after a countdown, and then breathe in instantly. The smell that hit us was of Brandy, which linked to the next drink experience, a rather expensive blend of Courvoisier cognac which was accompanied by some really rather nice jelly produced by infamous "jellymongers" Bompass and Parr which also had a subtle brandy kick.

Next, events taking a rather strange turn, as I'd only seen him as a contestant on Raymond Blanc's TV series - 'The Restaurant' a couple of nights previously "JJ" in his regular guise as a mixologist, introduced a cocktail which due to some kind of molecular jiggery-pokery was full of tiny capsules, each containing the flavour of a number of different cocktails. The idea being that each sip you took would provide a different taste each time. I'm not entirely sure it worked as stated, each sip tasted the same to me. But, by this point I wasn't in tip-top condition.

Finally we were informed that if any of us were Cognac lovers - we should speak to the rather glamourous looking Courvoisier representative who had something 'a bit special'. This turned out to be a bottle of L'essence Cognac, blended from eaux de vie from years significant to Courvoisier's history - including some from the Napoleonic era this came in it's own black lacquered cabinet box, complete with internal light (but sadly no blast of dramatic heavenly singing when the doors are opened). The cognac comes in a Baccarat crystal decanter which apparently took forty five artisans to produce, the Courvoisier rep put on special gloves to handle it! The taste? incredible stuff - smooth, subtle - everything your cheap ass fire breathing cognac isn't. But the price of this elegance and sophistication? getting on for £2000 a bottle. I drunkenly put myself down for a dozen.

So, I staggered upstairs and out, squinting into the bright afternoon sunlight. Utterly hammered but pleased I'd been invited to such a bizarre, interesting and surprising event.

Just to gild the lily as it were - I joined some of my fellow food blogger's at the handily located pub down the road, and proceeded to carry on drinking into the afternoon.....

Not surprisingly perhaps, 6pm found me sprawled on my train home from London, no doubt snoring and dribbling....normal behaviour for me on any given night perhaps - but not for a late Saturday afternoon when I was supposed to be taking my parents for dinner at 'The Bell' (See previous post!)

Tickets for the 'full' 'Towards a fluid state' warehouse experience on December 5th are now on sale, starting at £16-50, and can be purchased here:-

If all that wasn't enough excitement for one post, here's a video taken at the brunch, and if you look carefully towards the end, you may see my drunken yet surprisingly boyish good looks briefly staring back at you. Enjoy!

video

One final important note. Please, always drink responsibly....It leaves more for the irresponsible people like me.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

The Bell - Horndon-on-the-Hill - Essex

As I've mentioned before, my corner of Essex seems to be somewhat lacking in decent gastropubs, I long for something akin to The Sportsman at Whistable in Kent to open. It would totally clear up... there is practically zero competition in the area. (Although saying that, which foodie worth their salt doesn't long for 'a Sportsmen' to open in their area?). But all is not lost. There is at least one respected and well thought of pub restaurant no more than a 25 minute drive away from home. 'The Bell' located in the tiny and ancient hamlet of Horndon-on-the-Hill.

I've eaten here before, a few times in fact... back in the dark ages before this blog existed (Before Blog or 'BB' as I like to call it). When incredibly, I didn't feel the need to heft a large camera to every meal, startling and blinding fellow diners, momentarily frozen as if in a nightclub as the Nikon flash erupts.

I'd liked it then, but what really drew my attention back to it now was that I recently discovered it features in Diana Henry's respected 'The gastro pub cookbook' (A book, which I should point out was recommended to me by Browners of the excellent Blog 'Around Britain with a Paunch' - Thanks Jonathan!)
Diana Henry gives it a good write up, it's apparently had the same owners for 30 years, the meat comes from the butchers next door, the herbs from the back garden. I knew I had to re-visit and write about the experience on this blog.

It's Saturday evening, and we crunch our way on the gravel, across the darkened car park located at the back of the attractive, jolly and brightly lit Bell. It's a 15th century coaching inn with a colourful history. Supposedly an area out back was once used to burning heretics at the stake. (A perfect place to site a Barbecue in the summer I'd say). From the street you enter through the arch that originally allowed coaches bound for London into the Inn and through a side door up some steps into the bar.

Upon entering you are immediately struck by just how Dickensian and cosy it is. Heavy dark oak beams project upwards, a roaring fire in an ancient fireplace, beamed floors sloping away at crazy angles....regulars from the village crowded around the bar, it has a nice atmosphere. We move through to another dark panelled bar area with snug bench type seats (Which can't be booked - first come, first served for these). We're greeted and led to our table in a dining room just beyond the bar. (Tip - when booking, specify downstairs if you can, its a much more atmospheric area than the upstairs dining room).

Couple of things I need to point out before we talk about the food, my dining companions were the GF and my parents. And, I had an early evening utterly steaming hangover after attending the 'Towards a Fluid State' bloggers brunch that morning in Hackney. (More about this in a future post).


I began badly by choosing 'crispy confit pigeon with artichoke veloute and deep fried shallot rings' I was intrigued to see what this would be like, and I'm afraid to report that despite it arriving nicely presented, it was pretty bad. The Artichoke veloute was tasty enough but I wasn't entirely sure how I was supposed to eat it? It didn't come with a small spoon....so neck it in one, shooter style? dip the pigeon in? pour it over like a sauce? I tried all three, and nothing seemed to work. The confit pigeon wasn't quite how I imagined, tiny bone dry flakes of pigeon heaped on a lettuce leaf, itself balanced on a pile of puy lentils. It was chewy, I was cack-handed, it was a nightmare to eat. intermittent bomb bursts of lentil and pigeon skittered this way and that across the table as I tried to shovel it into my mouth. I suspect I got more around the plate than I actually ate.

My fellow diners had more luck with their starters. My Dad's Loch Fyne smoked salmon parcel with crayfish, orange and fennel salad looked lovely, was a generous portion and tasted great.
My Mum's 'Crispy chicken ravioli with wilted rocket and parmesan cream' was also very good - the parmesan cream advertised more of a foam....to be honest, I wish I'd ordered this instead.

The GF's 'Baked squid, stuffed with crab, grilled razor clam, chorizo, herb crust and pane tiger prawns' looked good.....I say 'looked' because I didn't get a taste, by the time I'd finished chasing dessicated pigeon and lentils all over the table - she'd eaten it all.

Starters cleared away, it was onto the Mains and here things looked up for me dramatically. Both myself and my Dad went for 'Roast prior hall suckling pig with cinnamon roast apple and swede puree'. This arrived again, very nicely presented and in huge portions. Pork, cinnamon and apple is hard to beat as a combination and it was gorgeous. A rich, nicely cooked thick slab of suckling pig. It made up for my car-crash of a starter nicely.

The GF was pretty happy with her choice of 'Roast guinea fowl breast with saute wild mushrooms, mushroom veloute and baby gem' It was I must admit, beautifully presented. I had a sneaky taste and it was very good, with a nice subtle depth of gamey flavour.

My mother, to my horror (and no doubt the kitchens as well), ordered her main 'well-done' 'Roast chump of lamb with celeriac puree, diced celeriac and pancetta lardons'. Which was a bit of a shame. Despite being horribly overdone at her behest, was nicely presented and tasted pretty good. (Mum if you read this, sorry.....but your a gastronomic Philistine).

So, top marks for the mains all round. Beautiful stuff.

Now, the desserts I'm not going to dwell on too much. Frankly compared to the great starters (my awful dish excluded) and the Excellent mains, they were just OK, workmanlike and solid....but just not upto the same great standard as the previous courses. It seemed to me that desserts were the real achilles heel of the kitchen. I'd have much preferred to see some British gastro-pub classics on the menu, with perhaps a bit of a modern twist. The offerings were all a bit too poncified and fussy but didn't really deliver.

For the record, I ordered a 'Lemon parfait baked Alaska with chocolate sauce'. it was ok.
Other desserts ordered were 'trio of autumn fruit brulee with their own sorbets' and a 'rasberry cheesecake with pistachio ice-cream' all were "Ok" but weren't really memorable in any way.

Just to bang home the final nail into the coffin that was the dessert course. We ordered coffee's to finish and they weren't very good at all. Grim actually. Grey, dead and tasteless. Much improvement needed there I think.

Overall - despite the somewhat crippled crawl to the finishing post and the subsequent 'coup de grace' to the back of the head delivered by the coffee. We had a fantastic meal. The Bell is a beautifully charming and historic pub. The Starters and Mains were spot on with some extremely ambitious and interesting cooking, granted, it didn't always work (Exhibit A m'lud....the confit pigeon). But the huge portions offered mean you'll never leave hungry. The service was fast, efficient and smiling. If The Bell could return to basics a bit with the dessert menu, which just isn't on a par with the rest of the cooking; and sort out the dismal coffee. I feel it could only improve it's good reputation.
The meal for 4 with wine and service came to £180

The Bell

High Road
Horndon-on-the-Hill
Essex
SS17 8LD
Telephone: 01375 642463

Saturday, 14 November 2009

The Half Moon - Warninglid, West Sussex

We are lost. The night is black as pitch, we seem to be moving down a country lane that winds through a forest. I say 'moving' but 'careering' perhaps would be a better choice of word. The tight packed indistinct blur of tree's just visible through the twilight veil of mist enclosing us. We are really shifting, we hit a bump in the road and I feel myself momentarily lifted from my precarious perch, lighter than air, before slumping back again heavily at a crazy angle. I frantically tighten my grip, and swallow down the acid taste of bile rising in my throat, fighting the wave of nausea that's threatening to overcome me.

I look around in the darkness, just able to pick out the features of my fellow passengers in the feeble glow offered by the sat-nav up front. They don't acknowledge me. They're all grim faced, eyes fixed forward, fighting their own solitary battles against the sickness, enduring this ride from hell. We drunkenly swerve around a tight bend, I can feel the G-force pressing me hard against the side of this, my tomb. I seriously might throw up, it passes... but only just.

Suddenly out of the darkness ahead I see the glimmer of lights, habitation and hope. Momentarily dazzled by this glimpse of apparent salvation and almost punch drunk from nausea I'm thrown forward as we come to a crashing halt, braking hard and skidding on the gravel. I'm thrown back again hard with a final jolt. The internal light comes on, illuminating the carnage in the back and adding to my disorientation. The taxi driver turns unruffled, smiling and says in broken English "Twenty five pounds please" we pay thankfully... desperately, practically tumbling out of the cab into the cold autumn night. We say nothing at first, survivors shock perhaps. Our tormentor abandons us in a spectacular display of revving engine and wheel-spinning, tearing off into the gloom at breakneck pace, two crimson dots rapidly sinking into the inky cloak offered by the forest at night, which seemingly surrounds us completely.

It's Halloween night, and we stand at a crossroads in the small village of Warninglid, the brightly lit and attractive Half Moon pub stands before us, practically a beacon in the gloom. I can hear muffled laughter, the clinking of glasses, an occasional guffaw. At this moment, It's the best sound I've ever heard and all four of us stumble crazily towards it, like survivors from a shipwreck.

The heavy oak door closing behind us, we step from the night chill into the cosy glow of a really rather nice, good-looking, very old but obviously renovated pub. A fire glows in the grate, It's buzzing and very busy with diners, belying it's seemingly remote location. We catch glimpses of another attractive bar area as we are greeted and shown to our table in a newer and loftier dimensioned dining room beyond the bar. I step carefully around a very interesting feature in the floor, an extremely old well, glazed over with glass and lit. I can see water at the bottom. It's obviously fine to walk across it, but I have an irrational, almost primal fear that the glass will crack and I'll plunge down and drown.

There are four of us dining tonight. The long suffering Girlfriend or "GF" as she is known. We are accompanied by friends Ron and his wife Lyndsey.

The menu is interesting offering a mix of good hearty British gastro-pub classics such as Beef suet pudding, calves liver and beer battered cod punctuated with the odd 'off-piste' dish such as lamb tagine. We pick at some rather nice olives and study the menu. So far, so good.

Myself and Ron order starters, our respective partners holding off for now. These arrive quickly. My 'celeriac and white onion soup with bread' is a rather large portion, it's good and hearty but fairly unspectacular.
Ron has chosen a much better dish, 'king prawn scallops, pea cream and black pudding' it looks fantastic, the massive scallops surrounded by a lurid green sauce. I try some, and it's very good, the scallops meaty and perfectly cooked and working well with the rich black pudding and the more subtle flavour of the pea cream.

On to the mains, and my first choice of 'Steamed beef suet pudding' has unfortunately been popular this evening and sold out. I order 'Confit belly pork, mustard sauce, dauphinoise potato, green beans' instead. The GF and friends order variously 'Lamb tagine, lime cous-cous and mint creme fraiche', Beer battered cod and chips with tartar sauce' and 'Calves liver, smoked bacon, bubble & squeak, savoy cabbage and Madeira jus'.
We don't wait too long for this to arrive, and it all looks fantastic. My piece of Pork Belly is absolutely massive, with perfectly crisp puffed up skin it hasn't been messed about, simply cooked with the mustard sauce and offered dauphinoise potatoes and green beans it's exactly what you want from a decent gastro-pub really... Classic, uncomplicated and filling. I'm happy.

In fact, all of the portions are whopping. The beer battered cod on Lyndsey's plate is huge, with a mound of very nicely cooked chips, again as with my Pork Belly dish, competent assured cooking, nothing fancy -but solid.

On the other hand, a quick sneaky fork full of Ron's Calves liver dish confirmed that it tastes as good as it looks, liver cooked just so, complimented well by the other ingredients and the rich Madeira jus. It's probably the best dish ordered.

The weakest is the GF's Lamb Tagine, it's very nice but tastes a bit too 'safe' lacking any real punchiness or stand out qualities.

Sitting back and composing ourselves after the seriously huge portions consumed, we have to wave away the waitress proffering dessert menus, asking that she try again in ten minutes or so.

At last, recovered... but only just; on the waitresses recommendation I order a 'Citrus trio - lemon cheesecake, mojito sorbet, orange sponge pudding'. Ron and Lyndsey decide to share a classic sticky toffee pudding with ice cream. The GF goes for the more savoury delights of cheese and biscuits.
My dessert arrives, and I'm impressed. It's basically three, almost full size desserts. My dining companions are aghast and seriously doubt my capacity to eat it all. Happy to prove them, I adopt a workmanlike attitude and dig in. The Mojito sorbet is v.nice and refreshing sitting in its brandy snap basket, out of the three desserts on the plate its probably the best. The cheesecake is also good, well made, but doesn't stand out. The orange sponge pudding is the weakest, needing much more of an orange hit to impress.

Lyndsey and Ron are happy with their sticky toffee pudding, I try a bit and it's very good. Excellent in fact, I love this classic dessert and have eaten them all over the place. This one is a very good example, rich and sweet.

The GF's cheese and biscuits contains a fairly generous selection of British cheeses, and the owner did pop over to describe what they were in detail, but by this point being half cut on the incredibly reasonable wine, for the life of me can't remember what they were, apart from one which was the very moreish Blacksticks Blue.

At this point, before coffee's, myself and Ron decided that a glass each of LBV Port would round off the meal nicely. I mention this, as when the bill finally arrived I couldn't believe how good value the whole meal was. Drinks when we arrived, two bottles of Wine, Port, desserts, coffee's....£77 per couple....including tip!! Seriously good value the food was very good, extremely competently cooked with glimpses of brilliance. As I mentioned before, it's exactly what I'd look for in a decent gastro-pub. If your ever in the Gatwick area. I recommend the Half Moon strongly. Visit.

A strange end to the evening unfolded. The village of Warninglid, being a little remote from the nearest habitation offered by Crawley and Gatwick, and being a Saturday night meant we had to wait 30 minutes for a taxi to arrive from civilisation. Whilst waiting, we wandered outside. It was well into the witching hour, and as the last guests left, the pubs door locked behind us and the lights that had welcomed us so warmly earlier flickered off, extinguished. All was now still, dark and quiet, the sound of the wind rushing through the surrounding tree's the few houses in the village dark. Kind of creepy, especially as it was Halloween. Headlights suddenly approached in the distance down the forested road and our taxi emerged. Offering silent thanks that it wasn't the total lunatic from earlier, and getting the impression that at the very least this driver was in the possession of a driving license, we drove off into the night and home.


The Half Moon

The Street.
Warninglid
West Sussex
RH17 5TR
Telephone: 01444 461227

http://www.thehalfmoonwarninglid.co.uk