Where was your best eating of 2013?

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It’s getting to that time of year, when it begins to feel like time for Blue Peter reviews of the year. It made me think of the places I’ve eaten over this year, some new, some old favourites, some never to be returned to. Skipping this last lot, then these are five that I would definitely think might get a return visit in 2014:

 

Burger & Lobster

 

Burger & Lobster – this is probably the trendiest place that I’ve eaten at this year, and I’m not particularly big on trendy. I did have a great evening here though, even after the long wait (to be honest, we went round to Sofra for a mezze plate of starters and a glass of wine first). The lobster roll was one of the best I’ve had, and the cocktails were pretty darn good too. I would expect the queues would drop off at some point and so make a return visit a good prospect.

 

The Ethicurean

 

The Ethicurean – this one is most definitely on my return list. I only went for breakfast, but we had a most fabulous time, and lingered a long time over great scrambled eggs and coffee. Being offered warm caramel apple cake straight out the oven to taste was a delight too.

 

RSC Lunch

 

The Rooftop Restaurant at the RSC – I had two great lunches here, and a few cocktails, and was impressed on all counts. As I know from my work with Cast, a theatre restaurant needs to turn out great food speedily when people are heading to a show, and full marks to the RSC for that. Great choices, great service, great setting and fabulous views. And no, that wasn’t just David Tennant.

 

Langar Hall

 

Langar Hall – this was the perfect place for an English summer’s evening, for a perfect birthday for Strictly Northern. The food was great for a summer’s evening, particularly my lobster ravioli, and there was quite a lot of Pimms drunk on the lawn. Couldn’t get more divine than to be in that environment with friends on one of the most perfect nights of the summer.

 

Picture Cafe

 

The Picture Cafe – this is a great place and a great local business to support. I am pleased to see that it is regularly significantly more busy than the Costa that was allowed to open across the road from it. Great for breakfast, for lunch, for just stopping in for great cakes. And it’s in Bingham, voted as Best Place to Live in Britain. Having a place like this might just have swung it for them.

I am looking forward to many new adventures in 2014, particularly as I know I have trips to NYC and Edinburgh to look forward to. But it’s always lovely to have some places to return to, that feel like old friends that you’re always pleased to see again. Where would be on your list?

Langar Hall shot by Rutty,

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The Saturday Session – Recipes to dine out on

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Wondering at wonderful food at St Pancras

 

By a happy clash of events, I seem to have done a lot of eating out this week, which is no bad thing. So this is a quick review of the recipes of the week, and the venues that served them up.

First up, Monday lunch was at The Betjeman Arms at St Pancras. Now, this is about as far from the average railway station pub as it’s possible to get: no sticky carpet, no crowd of guys who look like they missed the last train home about five years ago and definitely no curling at the edges sandwiches with a limp lettuce garnish.

Knowing I was facing into a three course dinner, I went for something light, and went with the smoked haddock and spinach gratin. Great tasting fish, properly smoked and not dyed, and a good dose of cheese, but not heavy and greasy. It was served with two slices of toast, decent bread dotted through with caraway seeds. A perfect light lunch or supper dish, this would take so little to knock up, it’s practically fast food.

A quick dash back North, and it was off to Langar Hall for dinner. I had American friends staying there, who were just charmed by it, as I thought they would be. Langar is the perfect example of an eccentric English country house hotel, but with charming service and a fabulous menu. That said, a tough menu for those from LA who don’t perhaps have the same connection to the land and food production. The lamb was off, as they do look very pretty when you drive up the approach to the use. And the game, well, not even coming close to being considered!

No such issue from me, I had roast pheasant and really enjoyed it. Whilst it can often be quite rich, the portion was just right and the accompanying red cabbage was perfect. However, the promised bread sauce, such a traditional accompaniment, failed to materialise. The poached pear for dessert was great, as was the tiny creme brulee and liquorice ice cream. Each flavour was exquisite and clean, it was just a pity they didn’t all work together. But I’ll forgive them that. Langar is a perfect small country hotel getaway, I highly recommend it.

A day of very light eating followed, in preparation for dinner at the Red Lion Inn. From what Olive magazine this month called the dream team comes an incredibly well priced Early Doors menu, with 2 course at £12 and I think the 3 courses is about £16. The pub hot smoked salmon is a great choice even for those who don’t think they like smoked salmon, and the blade of beef always seems really popular with the menfolk, and very on trend.

Of course, for those fabulous friends in from LA, it would only be right to order off menu! Given this was Kim’s first visit to a village pub, we thought it best for her to try something traditional, and she had the joy that is the Red Lion’s fish and chips. I love their fish and chips: perfect batter, homemade tartare sauce and what it says are mushy peas but are more like a crushed pea, which is just fine by me. Kim, on the other hand, is the only person I’ve ever met who doesn’t like peas. Don’t hate her, she’s adorable in every other way.

And I’d hate you to think Mini Gourmet Girl missed out. She is a connoisseur of the Red Lion’s children’s menu, but it’s the one place in the world where she is pretty unadventurous. But when the sausage, mash and onion gravy is that good, is it really problem? She has been known to send the sticky toffee pudding back though, the week they decided to experiment with mint in the recipe for her. Just the once!

So, for me, that’s a huge amount of eating out in one week, and there’s more to come over the weekend. No sign at all of a pop up restaurant, but only some very decent, British, seasonal food. And that’s a recipe for some good eating!

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