Category Archives: Hotels

It’s Our Birthdays (cont)

For the last part of our birthdays celebrations we headed off to Ulverston, we set off about 09:30 and arrived at 11:00, so not too early a start; after parking the car near the B&B we set off to explore, one of the things we like to do when visiting a new place is find the local Tourist Information Office, unfortunately Ulverston have had theirs closeIMG_2509.JPGd down, but luckily the Laurel and Hardy museum was trying to fill the gap and had a good range of leaflets in their foyer.  After picking up what was probably far too many leaflets we went for a wander round the town calling in at the indoor market, we went to Gillam’s
, they specialise in tea of which they have over 50 types, all of which are loose leaf.  Inside the place was warm and cosy with a real fire in the upstairs room where we sat. Alison had a liquorice tea while I the house chai, to eat I had the Cumbrian Rarebit which was so cheesy it came in a dish and Alison had the creamy mushrooms on toast,
recommended by none other than Dave Myers of Hairy Bikers fame and very tasty they were too, as was the rarebit.  After lunch we went to the Laurel and Hardy Museum, well it would be rude not too after all we were in the birthplace of Stan Laurel.  The museum is in the main auditorium of the Roxy Cinema, as it was a cold Friday in February the place was quite, there was only one other couple in and there didn’t seem to be anybody “official” there.  The museum is a little run down but there is lots of information and memorabilia and there is a mini cinema which shows Laurel and Hardy films on img_2511a loop, unfortunately it was so cold you couldn’t really sit and watch for too long.  On the way out we found the attendant and paid our entrance fee (he had been sorting out some of the exhibits).  From


there it was off to Cumbrian Crystal to watch the glass blowers, it was a quiet day with not a great deal happening but it was lovely and warm.
As the B&B would still not be open for another hour or so we decided to check out the gin parlor at in Virginia House where we had a couple of nice gins while we were there we also booked our evening meal.

We booked into the Rock House B&B and were show to our room which was big room with a very high ceiling there was an on-suite, tea and coffee facilities and proper coat hangers!  After a cup of tea and a wash and brush up it was of the Virginia House for our evening meal.  When we arrived we were show into the bar were we ordered cocktails, a Forager’s Fizz (Sloe Gin, Raspberries and Prosecco) for Alison and a Autumn Angel (Gin, Frangelico, Autumn Spices and Egg White) for me. When our table was ready we were shown into the dinning room had given the menus, after much deliberation we decided to go for The Cumbrian Way Tasting Menu, with matching wine flight, this consisted of an Amuse Bouche (a Cassoulet) and home baked bread, this was followed by Duck with scratchings, beans & shallots, the accompanying wine Chateau Corbin, Montagne St Emilion, Bordeaux (France), next Mackerel two ways tartare, ceviche, pan fried; yoghurt, peanuts, the wine, Chapel Down Bacchus (England); Pheasant “Pot au Feu”; wild mushrooms, tarragon, cabbage, bacon, roasted potatoes, thyme broth, Turi Carmenere (Chile), Goats Cheese with candied walnuts, hazelnut & juniper, wine Rioja, Vega Crianza , (Spain), Plum & Figgy Pudding steamed pudding, macerated fruits, ice cream, Tokaji 5 Puttonyos, Tokaji (Hungary), finally Chocolate Orange meringue, zest, orange, Brown Brothers Orange Muscat (Australia), each dish was served with a description as were the wines, we did quite well with the wines as nearly every time we got them it was near the end of the bottle so me had more!

In the end I had to take one for the team and help Alison out with the wine; both the food and the wines were excellent and I would recommend eating at Virginia house if you are in Ulverston.

The next day after breakfast at the B&B, we set of on a walk, it was a 12 circular walk we had picked up at the museum the day before, with it being circular you could start at any point and we decided to start in the center of Ulverston, the walk then took us up and out the back and afforded us views over the town, then into woodlands and up to the Sir John Barrow Monument the highest point of the walk, from there it was down to the Ulverston Canal which claims to be claimed to be the deepest, widest and straightest canal in the UK (there is some debate on all these points!),  From the end of the canal the walk takes you along the coast passing The Bay Horse where we stopped for something warming, which confused the staff completely!   Now the Bay Horse looks like a upmarket establishment, posh carpets and chairs so may be a pair of wind swept hikers dressed in boots and cagools may not be there usual clientele, but when we asked for two coffees with spiced rum in they were flummoxed, after explaining things in words of one syllable a couple of the bar staff came back with a bottle of Lambs Navy Rum and said that was all they had, oh and there was only one measure ,no more rum in the place; so I had that and Alison had brandy!

From there we carried on the cost before turning inland and making our walk back to Ulverton over fields.  It was a good walk that had a little bit of everything, hill, woods coasts, even a bit of industrial landscape.  After arriving back we went to Fourpence Cafe for a snack, its an interesting quirky place run by a quirky couple, but the food and drink were good and homemade and they also have homemade produce for sale, including a lemon drink which is very good with gin.  From there it was back to the guest house for a bit, before going out for our evening meal.

For tea we went to the Stan Laurel Inn which is a short walk outside the center, this is an independent pub run and owned by the landlord and landlady, straight way when entering it felt warm and friendly, they had a good selection of beers including some local ones.  First I tried on from the Ulverston Brewing  Company and after this I went for on of there beer flights, which I asked the landlord to choose for me.  To eat I had Stan’s Special Chicken (butterflied supreme, marinated in oregano, sauteed in a creamy wine and garlic sauce oozing with peppers, onions, olives and garlic sausage), Alison had Chicken Forestiere (Strips of chicken, bacon and mushrooms, sauteed in a creamy wholegrain mustard sauce)  for dessert we shared three scoops of English Lakes Ice Cream.  As I say it was a very nice local pub, with friendly staff.

I the morning after breakfast and checking out we made our way to Furness Abby for a bit of history and after walking round the ruins we did a short walk to Bow Bridge both of these are ancient monument looked after by English Heritage.

Then a short trip to Dalton-in-Furness, which on a cold Sunday in February was pretty much shut!

Key West, Life 

The next day I took the hire car for petrol,the original idea had been to get a small SUV but due to there not being one available we ended up with a huge 8 seater beast, a Ford Explorer! IMG_0843.jpgBack to getting the petrol, in the USA it turns out that the green pump is diesel and the black unleaded and you pay for your petrol before you put it in, so you have to know how much you want!  After the fun filling up it was off down U.S. Route 1 to the Florida Keys and our destination at Key West. Once out of Miami and onto U.S. Route 1, it was a very straight forward drive one road all the way, with some great views of the Atlantic on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other.

In Key West we were staying at The Artist House on Fleming, upon arrival we were greeted by Cindy who checked us in, gave us some local info and showed us to our room, this was a large room on the ground floor at the front.  Out front there was a porch with some outdoor sofas and a swing seat, out the back a lovely shaded seating area with a dip pool and waterfall.

We asked Cindy to recommend somewhere for a quick lunch and she suggested Bien, a short walk away this is a Caribbean-Latino takeaway with some seats outside, Alison had a Pork Steak sandwich (shear slices of marinated pork flash and piled high) and I had a Smokin Thighs sandwich (marinated, skinless, boneless, chicken thighs grilled & basted with Bien marinade) it was excellent, very tasty indeed. We then went back to the B&B to unpack and then we joined in with the free happy hour and had our drinks sat on the porch swing.

After getting changed it was off to Malory Square for the sunset celerbration, this takes place every evening and is one of the things Key West is famous for.  Malory Square was buzzing, full of people, jugglers, singers, stalls selling all sorts food, jewellery and nik nacs and even a wedding!  After some people watching we decided to get a drink, we found a stall doing cocktails and ordered a couple of mojitos, the mint and lime was already in the plastic cup so I was not expecting too much, but it was the best mojito I have ever had!  We then went to find somewhere to watch the sunset and enjoy the mojitos, at the moment the sun went down there was applause!  But then everybody left, so we had the place to ourselves to watch the colours and the stars come out whilst enjoying our mojitos.

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We then went back through Malory Square, where we stopped for some guacamole, that was made fresh as we watched and very nice it was too, then it was off down Duval Street, stopping of at Caroline’s Other Side, which had been recommended by Cindy, for a cocktail!  This is a bar in the historic Porter Mansion on the other side from The Porch, Alison had a Proper Dark & Stormy (Cruzan Blackstrap Rum, ginger beer, lime juice sugar fire) and I had a Hemingway Daiquiri (Papa’s Pilar 3yr blonde rum, grapefruit and lime juices, sugar, Luxardo Maraschino liqueur), the decor is beer hall on the Porch side and quirky on Caroline’s Other Side.

After this we carried on down Duval Street saw some interesting sights and made our way home.

Day two started with breakfast at the B&B and very nice it was too, it was a buffet continental and there was lots of choice plenty of hot coffee and even champagne so you could make yourself a Buck Fizz!  IMG_0865After breakfast we made our way to closest stop for the trolly tour, as we got there we could see one just leaving!  So we had a look at he boats in the harbor, a few little shops and Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe which sells much more than Key Lime Pie, in fact if you ever go you will be amazed at what they get Key Lime into!  We boarded the trolly bus when it came and after a quick change at the next stop we were off with our driver Zack, who is a Key West native and member of one of their oldest families.  It was fun and informative with lots of local knowledge.

After the tour we were a little bit thirsty so thought we would nip into the Rum Barrel for a quick drink!  As the name suggests, the Rum Barrel specialises in rum and has more than 150 rums, we had a Marooned (Cruzan Coconut, Cruzan Vanilla, Creme de Coconut, pineapple, orange juice and Cruzan Black Strap) a Island Barrel (Cruzan Coconut, Cruzan Pineapple, Cruzan Mango, pineapple, cranberry and orange juices with a splash of grenadine) and a sipping rum from Guatemala, Zacapa Centenario 23 Year, which was very nice.IMG_1656  While we where there talking to the barman he told us about the six bar challenge, a cocktail in six separate bars and and the end you win a t-shirt!  There’s no time limit he told us, well that’s fine we said but this is our last day here, even with only one day to complete, we knew we were up to the challenge!  From the Rum Barrel we went across the road to look at Key West’s first legal rum distillery, where you can taste the rums and have a walk around the distillery, the rums are great on of my favourites was Key West Devil’s Rum, which is flavoured with cinnamon.

Next we went to another bar on the challenge circuit, Island Dog Bar, where we had a Key Lime Colada (Don Q coconut rum, pina colada mix, fresh pineapple, a key lime floater, rimmed with Graham cracker crumble) and a Rum Runner (Meyers dark rum, Don Q light rum, blackberry brandy, banana liquor, pineapple juice.  We also decided it might be a good idea to eat, 

so we had Island Tenders (fried chicken, shoestring fries and a honey mustard dipping sauce) and Island Dogs Cobb Salad (Grilled pineapple, avocado, red onion, cucumber, bacon, queso fresco, egg and croutons served on a bed of baby spinach with a citrus vinaigrette).  We eat and drank sat on the front porch watching the people from the cruise ships wandering about.  From here it was some sight seeing on our way to Charlie Mac’s where we had two Charlie’s Lemon Mint T (Deep Eddy lemon Vodka mixed with sweet iced tea and mint sprigs).  

This time we sat inside and watched the chickens wandering about thought the open sides (there are lots of chickens wondering around Key West).  

The it was off the Green Parrotwhich in near the end and therefore the beginning of US Route 1, where we had two of their signature drink, the Root Beer Barrel (a shot of root beer schnapps nestled inside a glass of ice cold lager). 

The Green Parrot is the bar most used by locals and has a great atmosphere and is the one recommenced by Zack our guide on the trolly as the bar to see the real Key West in.

We then went back to the B&B for a wash and brush up, oh and happy hour and time on the porch swing!

The evening started off with a pleasant walk to the next bar Turtle Kraals where we sat on the roof drinking Key Lime Margaritas (Margaritaville coconut tequila, local key lime juice, triple sec and a dash of Kele Key Line liqueur, eating pretzel balls with honey mustard dip and watching the sun go down over the boats.

Then it was off to the last bar the Half Shell Raw Bar where we had a couple of Texas Teas (Tito’s American Handmade premium vodka, ice tea and lemonade) and also get our t-shirts, you may see us wearing them at sometime!  I can say that a bar crawl is a very good way to see Key West.  From there it was a walk round the harbor and coast back to front street where we has a celebratory cocktail at the Rooftop Cafe, Alison had Jimmy’s  Boat Drink (Cruzan banana, mango pineapple rums with a splash of orange juice and pineapple juice) and I had a Perfect Gentleman (Gentleman Jack with a dash of sweet and dry vermouth on the rocks) we watched to quite streets for a bit before heading up Duval Street calling in a few shops and heading back to the B&B.  In the morning it was up for breakfast, a farewell walk round calling in a shop selling local salt, honey and crafts and going back to the distillery to get some of the Key West Devil’s Rum, before getting back in the beast and heading back to along the Ocean Highway to Miami.

Miami Vice

We have not posted for a bit, mainly because we have been busy with shows, but we are now on our holidays in Miami.

We flew out from Manchester, where Alison had booked us into the Escape Lounge in Terminal 1, I must say this was slightly disappointing, it was a bit grubby, there were no windows so you could have been in an anonymous room anywhere, a view of the airport would have been nice.  There was tea and coffee from a self service machine and Carlsberg larger in the fridges, orange and apple juice and you could get a G & T etc from the bar, but if you wanted a Buck Fuzz or Prosecco it was extra, if you wanted full in English, it was extra!  There were  sausage butties, so I ordered one, it was one and a half sausages on a barm! Alison got some fruit and yogurt from the buffet which was nice and there were some small Danish pastries, but these ran out quite quickly and took some time to be filled up.

As usual at the airport it was a lot of hurry up and wait.  The flight itself was fine if a little bumpy in places aIMG_1594nd even in economy there was enough leg room for me!  The food was by James Martin and for airplane food it was ok, the main meal was BBQ chicken with a macaroni cheese, there was a chocolate millionaire mouse and cheese and biscuits. We were met at the airport by our friends Julie and Antonio who whisked us back the their place and it wasn’t long before we were eating and having a few drinks by the pool.

We spent most of the morning and early afternoon of the next day lazing by the pool, although I did help out by doing a bit of yard work!   In the afternoon Julie took us to Coral Gables, where we had a walk with some great views of Miami,

on the way back we called at Pinecrest Wayside Market for some lovely shakes.

After getting changed we went to the Sonesta Coconut Grove for cocktails and views over Miami, Alison and Julie both had mojitos, Antonio a G&T and I had a rum punch.IMG_1601.jpgFrom there it was off next door to the Peacock Garden Cafe for a meal. The girls both had grilled organic chicken breast stuffed with goats cheese, roasted garlic and tomatoes and fresh basil served with roasted veg, which they both said was very nice, we boys had angel hair pasta, with diced tomato, roasted garlic, fresh basil and goat cheese, mine with added grilled organic chicken breast and Antonio’s with spicy shrimp, unfortunately Antonio’s pasta was cold so he had  to send it back, but when it came back it was fine, for desert Alison and I shared a chocolate brownie.

To drink it was Bud light for Antonio, pinot grigio for Alison and Julie and I had a Key West Sunset Ale from the Florida Beer Company, which was an ok amber beer, but nothing special.  From there it a was back home to bed.

The next day, after picking up the hire car (from here on in known as The Beast), was spent on South Beach enjoying the sun, I even went in the sea!  In the evening we all went to Dolores but you Can Call Me Lolita, where the concept is you choose your main from a price selection and the starter is included. Julie had the Huevos Rotos (fried potatoes and onions and top with lightly sautéed chorizo poached eggs) with Smoked Mozzarella and Pesto, Alison and Antonio the Caes-Art Salad “Shaken, not Stirred” this came in a big Mason Jar the waitress added the dressing at the table and shook the jar!  I had the Asian Vegetable Spring Rolls with sweet chilli dipping sauce, they were all nice and tasty.

For mains Alison and I had the Angus Grilled Churrasco, chimi-churri and chorizo infuzed yucca mash, Julie had Lobster Stuffed Peppers and Antonio Yellow Fin in batter.  The food was ok apart from the fact that mine and Alison’s steaks were over cooked. We then went to The Rusty Pelican on Key Biscayne, for G&Ts and a Dark and Stomy and a great view of the Miami skyline across the water.  IMG_1626From there it was home to bed, as the next day we were off to Key West.

A Bit Of Culture

Alison had booked tickets for Husbands and Sons by D H Lawrence at the Royal Exchange, so I thought lets do one of our stay overs and did secret hotels on Late Rooms and managed to get the Arora Hotel, where we have stayed before.  I went to work in the morning and Alison came in to Manchester in the afternoon to meet me.  Before checking in to the hotel we went to The Alchemist on New York Street for cocktails.  With it being a Friday afternoon is was quite busy but we were lucky as a couple of seats became free as we got there.  Alison had Bubble Bath (Bombay Dry Gin, Chambord, Aperol, Apple Juice and a Dash of Sugar Syrup and a little bit of magic!) IMG 1399and I had a Ball Breaker (Bombay Dry Gin, Lemon and Sugar, topped with a Blackcurrant Orb!) as you can see from the picture Alison’s was foaming and when I burst the orb on mine blackcurrant liqueur came out!  From there it was off to the hotel, as I have said we have stayed at the Arora before, this time we were on the second floor in a room with two double beds.


After unpacking it was off to Stevenson Square, I had thought to call into Dusk till Pawn as we have not been there yet, but it was closed, it was 3pm and it doesn’t open till 4pm, so it was off to the Rosylee, where we were booked in for 3:30pm, we were going to have a drink at the bar first but there were no seats, so we went straight through to the restaurant.  We ordered drinks (kiwi and lime, Old Moot cider for Alison and a Birra Moretti for me) and some nibbles, honey & mustard glazed chipolatas and red pepper houmous with croutes.  After looking at the menu we ordered the 8oz ribeye steak for myself and chicken supreme, stuffed with Blacksticks Blue for Alison, with these we ordered the hand cut chips and the Inka roast veg.  My steak was good and cooked medium rare like I asked, Alison said her chicken was good but it did take her some time to find the cheese stuffing!  The chips were fine, but the roast veg was more steamed than roast.  For desert we had chocolate brownie and I had the sticky toffee pudding, both came with ice cream, again both good.  While the food was good the service left a bit to be desired, it was slow and a little haphazard, when we arrived there was only the barman about and he showed us to our table, as this was by the door leading to the toilets we asked to seat somewhere else, which he did, but there were hardly any empty cleared tables, the one he showed us to had to be wiped and reset, I would say that about have the tables in the place had not been cleared. Now this was not totally the fault of the staff as it seemed that there was only two of them on.  After leaving we walked, in the rain, to the Royal Exchange where Alison had got tickets to Husbands & Sons by D H Lawrence,

IMG_0683it was very good, as usual the set was clever and innovative and the cast excellent, you did not notice it was a three hour play.  After leaving the theatre and on the way back to the hotel we decided to call into the King Street Tavren the restaurant and bar that is part of the King Street Townhouse hotel.  We had a G & T and a Rum & coke, not the cheapest place to go for a drink but nice surroundings, off the restaurant and bar area is a lounge area and a mezzanine lounge which are both very nicely set out and was very good, as usual the set was clever and innovative and the cast excellent, you did not notice it was a three hour play.

We had a G & T and a Rum & coke, not the cheapest place to go for a drink but nice surroundings, off the restaurant and bar area is a lounge area and a mezzanine lounge which are both very nicely set out and comfortable.  Then it was back to The Arora and to bed.

The next morning we decided to go to Moose, where we have been before, for breakfast, but as usual there was a queue and as it was raining we decided not to queue thought we would try the Infamous Diner instead, this bill itself as Manchester’s first independent all-American diner.  Well the place certainly looks the part with it’s red booths, American licence plate wall and metal tiled ceiling.  To drink we had a Classic Mojito for Alison and a Harbour Master’s Lemonade (for Evan Williams bourbon, triple sec, sweet and sour mix) for me, we also had a glass of orange juice each, it was breakfast time!  IMG_1409To eat we both had the Bacon French Toast (Brioche loaf, crispy bacon, sugar cinnamon and maple Syrup) and while it was nice they were stingy with the maple Syrup!  And while it looked the part and even the staff were dressed like you would expect, there was just something missing with the atmosphere.  From there it was off the Marks & Sparks for a bit of shopping before going home.


As it was my birthday on the 5th of Feb and Alison’s on the 9th of Feb, we decided to have a weekend away in Shrewsbury.  On the way there we visited Attingham Park, a National Trust property.  As it was winter the hall was shut to visitors, but they were doing guided tours so we went on one of those and very interesting it was too.  We also saw things not normally seen, then we had a cup off coffee and a snack in the cafe, followed by a pleasant walk round the grounds.  We then made our way to Shrewsbury, we were booked in at the Lion & Pheasant , we were staying in one of their “cosy double” rooms, it was on the top floor corner with a view over the Severn towards the Abbey on one side and the street on the other.


The room consisted of a vestibule with a built-in wardrobe off which were the bathroom and the bedroom, it was a very cosy room (see what I did there!) with a lovely cast iron bed with a good comfortable mattress, flat screen TV, tea, coffee and home made biscuits.  The bathroom was a nice size with a powerful hot shower.  The only complaint is the usual, not enough hangers in the wardrobe!  After checking in and unpacking we went down to the bar for little drink, Alison had a G & T made with Aviator gin, the bar has over 40 different gins, and I had a pint of Ludlow Gold.  We then went for a walk round Shrewsbury before returning to the room to get changed for tea.

We had booked into the Hayward which is the restaurant of the Lion hotel, when I booked I was told they were busy but they could squeeze us in at 8:15, more of which later.  Before eating we went to The Libertine Cocktail Bar a quirky place, where Alison ordered a Let’s Talk About Passion (gin, passIMG_1359ion fruit, raspberries, lime and pineapple) and I a Libertine Love and Tea (damson gin, hibiscus, lime and cranberry), Alison said her’s was nice but I was not so keen on the one I had, nothing wrong with it just not to my taste preference.  The place had quirky decor, bird cages hanging from the ceiling, hats as lampshades and even a vaulting horse as a table.  We met one of the local “characters” while we were in there, who had maybe had one or two too many, he talked at us for a good 10 minutes telling us about his troubles with the law, how it had started when he nicked a policeman’s bike when he was 12.  At least that’s what we think he said we could only understand one word in 20, after he left one of the barmen come over to apologise and give us a bit of background, at least that’s what we think he was doing, we only got one word in 10, it must be a Shrewsbury thing!

From there we went to the Hayward, remember we had been told that they had said they were busy but could squeeze us in.  Well we walked into the restaurant and there must have been at least 6 people in there!  The room was empty with half the tables not set and a couple not cleared.  We sat down had a look at the menu and ordered.  Alison went for the sun blushed tomato, chickpea and rocket salad with percorino crisps to start followed by rump of lamb, crushed minted potatoes, carrot and cumin puree with a pan jus.

I had potted wild Shropshire rabbit with pickled mushrooms, followed by roasted chicken breast, confit drumstick, beetroot jam, fondant potato and a butter sauce.  The food was good tasty and well cooked, but the service was a little iffy, bread was served cold and late, just as we got the starters, the wine pouring was a little haphazard.  When we walked past on Saturday night the whole restaurant was in use and lookedIMG_1371 busy so maybe it was us!  IMG_1373We then made our way back to the Lion and Pheasant
where we went into the bar for a nightcap,  an Oscar Bow Tie (25 year old Martell Cognac, prosecco finished with a blackberry bow tie) and a Spring Garden Daiquiri (white rum, elderflower, apple juice and lime)  we took these in the Inglenook Bar next to the fire, and very nice they were too, to finish the evening off we had a couple of Espresso Martinis, for a change!

After a comfortable nights sleep we got up for breakfast which at the weekend is served till 10:30, I had the full English and Alison had eggs royale, they were both very good all locally sourced ingredients well cooked and tasty.  We then went out for a walk round Shrewsbury in the pouring rain!  First off to the Abbey, then into town as it was pouring down we thought we would try out the Old Market Hall cafe bar and cinema, a little 80 seat independent cinema in the 16th century market house, getting a ticket was a little fraught but we got the last two seats for The Danish Girl, unfortunately all the two seater sofa seats had gone.  126When we came out it was still raining so we went to an independent coffee shop called Ginger & Co for a coffee and cake, the place was heaving but we managed to find two seats at a shelf table, we had ginger crunch and banana caramel cakes and very nice they were too.

From there it was more wandering and nipping in and out of shops and the obligatory walk up Grope Lane!  IMG_1376In Our wanderings we came upon St Nicolas a cafe – bar – spa, in on old church!  StNicholas-103The spa is down is on the ground floor and the cafe, bar in an upstairs area created over what would have been the chancel.  There Alison had a prosecco and I had an Hawaiian Redneck (dark rum, Southern Comfort, pineapple and grenadine), I then had a Peroni and Alison another prosecco.  The place was great and unusual being in a church.  The staff all looked very young about 12 or maybe that was just to us, however I did need to give instruction in opening and pouring sparking wine!  After our drinks we went back to the Lion and Pheasant to watch the Ireland, Wales game in the six nations before getting ready to go for our evening meal.

Earlier, when we came out of Ginger & Co we noticed a yellow, slightly tired looking doorway, this was the entrance to the Renaissance restaurant, reading their menu board we noticed that on a Friday and Saturday they do a six course surprise taster menu, sounds interesting we thought, so whilst in St Nicolas I phoned up to enquire.  I was told there was space at 8 o’clock, so I booked, on the phone I was asked if there was anything we didn’t eat, or dietary requirements or allergies.  When we arrived we went upstairs where we were met, had our coats taken and shown into the small bar, here we ordered a couple of G & Ts and had a look at the wine list, we were again asked about dietary retirements and if we had any food allergies.  We were then shown into one of two Regency dining rooms (the layout of the restaurant looks as thought it hasn’t changed since the Regency) and shown to our table and some lovely warm herb and salt bread was brought.  The first course was brought and the waitress described it, this happened for each subsequent course, apart from the sorbets where there was a little quiz.  The first course was a shot glass of sweet potato soup with a nutmeg foam, a parmesan and leek tart and a quail egg on a mushroom mousse with truffle, next came steamed bass, goujon of bass, with a pepper cream sauce on a small amount of puree potato.

Then we had the sorbets, there were two each of two flavors and we were asked to try and work out what they were, we got them wrong, there was an apple and pink peppercorn and an orange and cranberry, after this it was confi tof duck, duck breast, cooked pink with a damson sauce, parsnip mash and cabbage with chestnuts.  Then we had treacle tart with an orange and rosemary custard, a chocolate pot with amaretti biscuit ice cream and a lemon and ginger posset, the final course was a selection of three cheeses with biscuits, thin slices of celery, grapes and a date, we were also offered port which Alison refused but I accepted!  Quite a lot to eat but because of the small size you did not get over full.  The Renaissance is owned and run by Julie and Stephen, she does the front of house with the help of one waitress, while Stephen does the cooking with the help of one kitchen porter.  The decor is a little dated, the bar not overly well stocked, but the food was excellent and the service good, so I would definitely recommend it if you are ever in the area.

For breakfast the next day Alison had scrambled egg with smoked salmon and I had eggs bennedict, as I said earlier the breakfast was very good and both the scrambled and poached eggs were cooked to perfection.  We then packed and checked out, the hotel let us leave our car in their car park whist we went for a walk along the river and back through the town where we stopped at the Bear Steps Coffee house for a drink and some cake, we shared a piece of lemon and blueberry cake, IMG_3768The Bear Steps coffee house is quite small and low inside but there is lots of outside seating, the seats under the veranda also have heaters, it’s a nice place to sit and watch the world go by for a bit.  After finishing our coffee and cake it was back to the car and home.

New Year and Beyond

A little bit late with this post, but in my defense I have been ill and it is panto season so have been busy as well!  For New Year Alison and I went away with IMG_1309three friends Diane, Ross and Jenny.  We went to the Gower and stayed at Parc-Le-Breos a Victorian hunting lodge set in the grounds of a Norman deer park no less.  Our friends arrived on the Wednesday and we on the Thursday evening, as Alison was working.  Upon arrival we were shown to our room which was above the entrance hall, it had everything you needed although the wardrobe was a little small and there were only three coat hangers and using the door key was an acquired skill!

IMG_1299The place was very nicely decorated for Christmas with a huge tree.  There was the main dining room which had a roaring wood burner, a conservatory which would be lovely in the summer but a little cold in the winter, a large sitting room with leather couches and chairs and wood burner (not lit), a games room with table tennis and pool and a guest kitchen with brewing facilities, fridge and microwave, it also had a couple of leather arm chairs to make a nice little reading nook.

For New Years Eve there was a buffet for an extra £18 pounds, it was very basic and to be honest not that well cooked, they did supply red and white wine and orange and apple juice. After the buffet we had a table tennis and pool tournament, modesty prevents me from telling who won!

The breakfasts however were very good. As I was not feeling too good I did not have the full Welsh, but those that did said it was very good.  I had scrabbled egg which was good and the continental consisted of croissant, cheeses and cooked meats which again those that had it said was good.

After breakfast we went for a hearty walk recommended on the hotel website, which finished at the Gower Inn, where it would have been rude not to go in for a drink!  The beer drinkers amongst us tried the beer from the Gower Brewery, Gower Gold, which is a golden hoppy ale, followed by a Gower Rumour, a stronger ruby red ale, this was my favourite but they were both good.  Whilst we were there we booked for our evening meal, before going back to the hotel for a rest and wash and brush up.  We arrived at the Gower Inn for our evening meal and it was very quiet, in fact there were only another 4 people in, a change from the afternoon when it was packed.  To eat Alison had, the Creamy Fisherman’s Pie, I had the Classic Burger, Ross Chicken Jalfrezi, Diane British Beef, Rioja & Chorizo Slow-Cooked Pie, with mash and Jenny had sirloin steak, bearnaise sauce with mash, all were very good.  From there it was back to the hotel for a few drinks and a few more drinks and a game of charades.

After breakfast the next day our friends left for home whilst we went to BwlNew Innch in the Brecon Beacons to visit my daughter and ex in-laws.  Whilst there we went to the local pub, the New Inn which is an excellent local pub with good beer, good food and friendly locals. It is also a backpacker hostel.  The food was excellent and all home made. There is a changing specials board from which Alison had the sweet potato and goats cheese lasagne and I had the Welsh Black beef pie.  As I say the food was excellent and I would definitely recommend this pub if you are ever in the area.  The next day after a slight delay because I had locked my keys in the car we set off home!

After the panto on Sunday we tried a new restaurant in Sale, Borrello.  It is on the site of what used to be Mimi, it has been complimage21etely refurbished and the decor is very nice.

We had a garlic bread tomato which was good and large enough for two to share, for the main Alison had Penne al Salmone, penne pasta, salmon, cherry tomatoes, pink pepper corns and vodka, I had Tagliolini al tatufo, tagliolini pasta, smoked pancetta, cream and truffle, both were very tasty. For dessert I had Tartufo with flaming sambuca and Alison ordered the creme brulee, but this was off so she went for an espresso martini instead.  Mine was boozy and tasty, but it did take the waiter some time to light it Alison’s martini was a little small and not very well mixed but tasted ok.  It is a good restaurant with good food although the service was a little iffy and they need to work on their cocktail skills, that said we will be going back.

Busy, busy, busy!

We started the weekend early, on Thursday actually! We had tickets for the Caro Emerald gig at the Opera House and Alison had booked us into The Arora on Portland Street.  I arrived first and booked us in, the reception staff were very friendly and efficient and the lobby looked nice with its modern Christmas tree.  Our room was on the fifth floor overlooking St. Peters Square, a view of the library, town hall new annex and clock and if you leaned a bit The Midland and Beetham Tower.  Unfortunately this will disappear once No 2 St Peter’s Square is built. The room was nice with everything you would need including a fridge, which we used for a favourite hangover cure, Ironbrew!

The Arora has a basement bar and grill called 24 and on the way in Alison had seen a sign offering two for £10 on cocktails so we thought it would be rude not to go for our first cocktail of the day, the bar was quite when we got there, it was 17:00 on a Thursday!  The bar is decorated in a modern style lots of shiny metal and blue lights, after perusing the cocktail menu Alison decided on a Porn Star Martini (Passion vodka, passionfruit liqueur, passionfruit puree and a shot of champagne on the side) and I had a Rum and Raspberry Twist (Sailor Jerry Rum, Chambord Black Raspberry liquor, passion fruit syrup, raspberry and pineapple.) IMG_1242 They were both good, we also got some free nibbles in the form of a pot of salted popcorn.  We liked the place and would definitely go back, there is a bar food menu which looks good and we had a quick look at the restaurant and it’s menu and it’s on our list of places to try!  From there we went to Albert’s Schloss, which was heaving, there was a networking thing on!  Because there were no seats and Alison was wearing her high boots we decide to give it a miss and went next door to Revolution de Cuba for something to eat.  But we will definitely go back and try it again, when wearing lower shoes.  Revs de Cuba was busy too and looked like the Christmas party season had started, but we got a table straight away.  Service was a little slow, which normally wouldn’t have been a problem, but as we had gig tickets we needed to be in and out quite quickly.  Alison had a Classic Mojito (Bacardi Carta Blanca rum, mint, lime, sugar and soda) and I one of the Christmas cocktails, a Roast Chestnut Old Fashioned (Santa Teresa 1796 rum, chestnut syrup and a hint of orange). IMG_1243To eat Alison had a Cuba Libra Pulled Pork Burrito which came with tortilla chips and black beans and I had a Lime and Soy Chicken Chimichanga which came with house rice, black beans, guacamole and sour cream, both where nice, although maybe not quite hot enough.  We didn’t have a desert opting instead for another cocktail each, a IMG_1244Quenching Torontino (Appleton Estate VX rum with cranberry, apple, almond and lime, topped with Red Bull) which I though was a little heavy on the Red Bull as that’s all I could taste, Alison had on off the Christmas cocktail list, a Trinket (Teresa Claro rum, cranberry, elderflower and ginger).  Then off to the Opera House for the gig which we enjoyed very much.  From there we went to Artisan and went to the upstairs bar I went for a Hobo & Co beer, a Bohemian style larger and Alison had a strawberry and lime Rekorderlig, from there we wended our merry way back to the hotel.

On Friday morning we decided to go the Christmas markets for breakfast and the hotel kindly let us leave our bags so we didn’t have to carry them round.   But when we got to Albert Square the market was shut due to a security alert, so I suggested Moose where they do a lovely breakfast, but they were packed, with a half hour wait, so we then tried Alchemist but they don’t do breakfast on a Friday!  However they did recommend Federal in the Northern Quarter, which was busy but they found us a table quickly. IMG_1247 Alison went for the heathy option, Tropical Granola Sundae, with summer berry compote, vanilla yoghurt; poppy seeds, honey & mint and I had the Smashed Avocado on sourdough toast with poached eggs, streaky bacon & rocket, we had coffee and prosecco to drink!  Then a wander round the markets tasting the free samples.  From there it was off home to get ready for the evening.

We were booked in to the Hale Kitchen for 20:00 and decided to try No 3 Cocktail bar in Altrincham first, this has only been open for six weeks, very nice inside with a ground floor bar and a first floor bar up a spiral staircase.  IMG_1250A Garden Party (Portobello Rd Gin, Falernum, lime, apple, basil and cucumber) for Alison and a Baller (Jim Beam, Southern Comfort, Lemon, apricot jam, mint) for me. From there a quick walk into Hale, luckily missing the rain, to the Hale Kitchen to eat,  Alison had a voucher and as a consequence I think we were sat on the “naughty” table by the back door and stairs!  That said the service was good if a little too attentive. I had, wood pigeon breast, with  braised red cabbage, crispy celeriac and a balsamic red wine jus as my starter and it was cooked just how I like it, still pink in the centre.  Deep fried goats cheese with caramelised red onion, crispy leek and baby leaves for Alison, the mains were  salmon fillet with sautéed new potatoes, asparagus & caper beurre blanc for Alison and slow braised pork belly egg noodles, oriental vegetables, soy sauce for me.  For desert Alsion had orange posset with star anise and ginger syrup, cinnamon shortbread, fresh berries and I had Chocolate délice with raspberry chantilly cream all of which was very nice.   When we got there the restaurant was buzzing and very busy but with an hour it had virtually emptied, when we let at 9:45 there was only two other couples in.  We then headedback into Altrincham to have a night cap at Riddles, which is near the market and has a 1930’s speakeasy feel.  Alison had an espresso martini, which said was not one of the best she has had and I had a rum Sazerac (an absinthe-lined glass with sugar, bitters and El Ron Prohibido) which was very good.  Then it was a taxi home and bed.

And for those that care we spent Saturday night in!


Hello World

Ok this is our first post, so where to start? Well a couple of weeks ago we were in Exeter and stayed at St Olaves Hotel and tried out a number of places to eat and drink.

First the hotel. It was in the centre of Exeter and had off street parking, which is a definite plus. It was relatively easy to find, we had a satnav! Upon arrival, we had to go looking for someone to check us in, we were an hour early, we found someone in the bar, they checked us in and took us to the room, which was on the top floor. The room was quite large with a ski bed and built in wardrobe, in which strangely was the brew stuff! We did notice that the curtain was missing hooks and hanging down, we reported this and it was fixed. We also found that the TV wasn’t working and this could not be fixed, we did however get a £15 per night refund for this.

The breakfast on the first morning was eggs Royale for Alison and a full english with poached egg for me. None of the poached eggs were runny, so basically a peeled hard boiled egg. The second day was pancakes for Alison and full english with fried egg for me, the service was very slow, I think we may have been forgotten and when the breakfast did come my egg was not cooked properly, even the white was runny! So in conclusion, the hotel was ok, but we would probably not stay there again.

When we arrived at St Olaves, we noticed that next door there was a tapas bar called Forn, it turns out that this is owned and run by the wife of the man who booked us in and that she is from Spain, so we thought that we would give it a whirl. We had a drink each, rose wine for Alison and an Estrella for me. We had Pan de Cristal, served with fresh, grated Tomato, Olive Oil & Sea Salt, Chorizos, baked chorizos with roasted red peppers and Higaditos de Pollo Encebollados chicken livers with onions, garlic & parsley on toasted sourdough, the food and the service were good, the waitress was a Spanish girl and she didn’t laugh too much when I tried to order the dishes in Spanish! It was quite as there were only about four other people in.

Later in the evening we want to Starz, which is under the Iron Bridge, this means something if you know Exeter. Starz is on two floors, upstairs is an American style dinner, we didn’t try this, but it was busy. Downstairs was a cocktail bar, which we did try! The decor was 70’s with a few booths and 70’s furniture in the rest of the bar, there was 70’s film posters and album cover on the wall. They were doing a two for one on certain , IMG_1216-225x300you were supposed to both have the same, but because it was quite and we were rocking the cool older couple thing we managed to get two different ones can’t remember what they were but they were good, we than had another two which again were good. We both liked the place but it was quiet, although we were there quite early 20:00 to 21:00. We then went to Bill’s where we have been before, Alison had Bill’s fish pie and I had duck pie, we shared the treacle tart with honeycomb ice cream and caramel sauce and a bottle of the house red. All of which was very good.

Day two, after visiting relatives and friends, we went to Oddfellows on North Road, a nice looking gastro pub, I had a beer and Alison a prosecco, it was a nice looking place and the menu looked good, it was a completely open kitchen and we could watch the brigade preping for dinner. We then moved on to Circa 1924, where we had cocktails. I had a Navigation (Plymouth Navy Strength, Maraschino, Violet Liquour, Citric Acid, Navy Bitters, Sugar Syrup & Egg White),IMG_1217-300x169 Alison had a Muay Thai (Chairmans Reserve Rum, Doorly’s 3 Year White Rum, Triple Sec, Thai Syrup & Pineapple Juice) and booked for a meal that evening.

After going back to the hotel to wash and change we went back to Oddfellows and went up stairs to the SpeakEasy Cocktail Lounge, the bar was busy but we found a table and a waitress came anIMG_1218-300x225d took our order, Alison had a Smokey Joe, (Evan Williams, Angostura Bitters, maple syrup, & bourbon infused with oak smoke), this came in its own bottle I can’t remember what I had! The cocktails were very good and the ambiance was good too. The look was a bit of a 30’s front room feel. Would recommend the Speakeasy Cocktail Lounge.

We then went back to Circa 1924, we were shown upstairs and after looking at the menu we ordered Chateaubriand which came with béarnaise sauce and triple cooked chips, added a side of asian slaw, we had a bottle of red wine to drink. For dessert we shared a Lemon & Cream Cheese Tart served upside down & topped with gingerbread crumble. We then went back down stairs for more cocktails before finishing the evening with an espresso martini each. IMG_1219-300x169Even though the bar and restaurant were very busy the service food and drinks were very good, we thought the staff were very friendly.