Archive for the ‘pubs & bars’ Category

Sorry for not being in touch lately – been hanging out and about in Nice.  Here’s my photo to prove it!


After a long, hot and frustrating trudge west along the Promenade des Anglais checking out various beachside establishments we descended on the Blue Beach Bar & Restaurant and were more than pleasantly surprised by the warm welcome.  Although our waiter resembled Peter Stringfellow‘s simple cousin he was adequately dressed (thank God) and brought us our reasonably priced, reasonably tasty food and wine in reasonable time: amazing, and in stark contrast to Lido Plage.  For me, the filets de rouget (red mullet) au thym:


et pour lui, les tagliatelles au basilic (do you really need a translation?), toothsome albeit tepid, which was actually ok on such a warm afternoon:


plus, of course, the de rigeur bottle of Côtes de Provence rosé.  All at not-so-shocking-after-all prices, at least for the Côte d’Azur….

… and that old devil Nicolas Sarkozy lurking in the underground area only added to the charm of the afternoon.

sarkozyBlue Beach bar & restaurant, 31 Promenade des Anglais, Nice 06000 – opposite the Negresco



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Don’t get me wrong here folks, I have huge admiration for Michelin-starred chef/restaurateur/TV presenter/cookbook author Richard Corrigan, with his salt-of-the-earth bonhomie, clear-eyed yet unjaundiced worldview and his solid, down-home cooking style.  But I did a double-take when I saw his latest publication, The Clatter of Forks and Spoons placed next to Big Flavours & Rough Edges: Recipes from the Eagle – wouldn’t you?

It’s a terrific image so I don’t begrudge it at all – that’s my charity-shop-chic silver plate cutlery! – and Corrie’s text is so environmentally and politically astute, I can even find the recycling of a cover idea eco-fabulously forgiveable.  It’s almost a shame he couldn’t have borrowed the title too, but the rattle of battered flatware on a hard surface is even more gorgeously evocative of his writing.  Not a plain celebrity chef collection of restaurant recipe formulae, this book follows the current fashion, being a collation of discursive thoughts and memories, favourite dishes and discoveries: recipes sharing equal space with long tracts of text and a smattering of mood-evoking photographs; similar to Georgio Locatelli’s Made in Italy, for example.  To which I say hooray, by the way – who ever learnt anything about food or cooking from a mere recipe book?

On the other hand, I was going to recommend David Eyre’s excellent-in-parts Eagle gastro-pub-grub book – for its informative recipes but not its crummy index – until I realised it’s out of print and £95 – bloody hell! – so I’ll just be wiping the spills and splashes from my precious copy a little more assiduously in the future.  I will however, soon be sharing its best recipe: root vegetable & greens soup.  Prosaic-sounding, I know, but absolutely ambrosial, and to which I return time and time again: a soup apart.
Big Flavours & Rough Edges: Recipes from the Eagle
The Clatter of Forks and Spoons

And if you’re not into reading or cooking, sample Richard Corrigan’s hospitality at Bentley’s Oyster Bar 11-15 Swallow Street, London W1 (just off Piccadilly) – bliss – or scroll down and watch this captivating video of him talking about this book

His new place sounds pretty nice, too: Corrigan’s Mayfair 28 Upper Grosvenor Street London W1

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our room with a view

our view from the room the morning after the storm

As part of my position I am required to attend top-secret conferences scattered around the countryside: this one in Lancaster, which is about as far as you can go without running into the Lake District.  The journey should have taken five hours but it took nine, of which four were spent in such mind-numbingly boring stop-start M6 motorway traffic that we only have the knowledge of time having passed: either that or we were abducted by aliens, but I don’t recall any little green men probing my anus.  We finally reached the Sun hotel in the heart of downtown old town Lancaster at 9 pm, its integral bar abuzz with Friday night revellers: once T had macheted his way through the crowd to the reception area at the back we were led up several carpeted flights of stairs to Executive Room 32.  After the long drive flat screen satellite TV, wine glasses and corkscrew were almost all we needed and after a quick trip down to the bar to pick up a bottle of Rioja we settled happily into our comfortable, cosy eyrie under the eaves.

one well-stocked bar

Terrific idea for breakfasts: five items from a selection of eight included with room price, or choose from the individual breakfast menu: Eggs Benedict, Kippers, etc.  You could stay a week and have something different every day, enjoying the morning tranquility of the bar with self-serve juice, cereal (if you must) and coffee laid out opposite an array of newspapers, a basket of toast and preserves plus the full Monty brought to your table by friendly-enough but blissfully not too-so staff.  Very very pleasant: even Katie Melua on the tannoy couldn’t upset me.  I just wish we hadn’t had to be anywhere afterwards.

smoked bacon, herb sausages, white pudding, poached egg, grilled tomatoes

smoked bacon, herb sausages, white pudding, poached egg, grilled tomatoes

Sorely tempted by the Eggs Benedict I found myself seduced twice over by the 5/8 selection: gosh do I love a bit of white pudding.

smoked bacon, fried duck egg, pork sausages, grilled mushrooms & flageolet beans in tomato sauce
bacon, fried duck egg, sausages, mushrooms & flageolet beans in tomato sauce

After a leisurely breakfast like that there’s no need for lunch and barely room for dinner even, so the £70 a night room price looked increasingly bargainly.  What with the weather – remember the recent hullabaloo over 10 million fell runners swamped by storms?  same area, same weekend – exploring Lancaster was pretty much off the menu, so after the conference we snuggled in once more.  Champagne by the glass at £6 (£6.50 for rosé) set the mood for a laid-back evening, although I could have done without the strawberry floater: it was decent champagne, so why make me stick my fingers in it?  T’s stomach empties faster than mine so he ordered a Lancashire hotpot from the bar menu (they stop serving at 7 pm – not entirely convenient for folk with continental habits) which I gather was well tasty, although not good-looking enough to snap.

We loved staying at this hotel – beer aficionados would love it even more – and recommend it heartily.  Visit their website to get a feel for the place; it more than lives up to its own marketing.
virtual tour

the Sun Hotel & Bar, Lancaster

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Sunday afternoon in Tunbridge Wells – where to go for a lunchtime drink that’s both within walking distance of the town centre, yet comfortably removed from its urban hum and traffic drum?  Btw, that’s a stroll in nice shoes, not a heavy-booted hike up hill and down dale.

Dim memories of a bar set into a cave on the Common, somewhere over there… off we plodded, Dorothy and her cowardly lion.  Amid the winding paths, rolling lawns and bracken forests we were relieved to find the Mount Edgcumbe Hotel snuggled at the end of a short gravel drive.  Although it must have changed hands a-plenty over the years and the complimentary bar snacks of yore seem to have vanished, to my delight its gingerbread granny’s house-in-the-forest enchantment lives on.

Popular rather than heaving is just my kind of place, and an outdoor table in the sunshine the Maraschino in my Manhattan: not that I ordered one mind – it’s not that kind of a place.  No; my tipple was a glass of Chenin Blanc, a varietal I order with a ripple of anticipation but tend to drink with a shudder of disappointment.  I don’t want to give up on CB by the glass – Lord knows it’s more interesting than PG – but this South African’s spiteful skinniness reminded me of an encounter in M&S last Thursday (this is not just a checkout girl, this is a nasty bitch looking for a scrap):  more for masochists than oenophiles.  Ok, I exaggerate; the wine wasn’t that bad, even if the checkout girl was.  By contrast T lucked out by puckering up to a pleasingly passion-fruity Chilean Sauvignon Blanc.  I can’t be too judmental of the Mount Edgcumbe’s wine list anyway because here beer is the star – Harvey’s Best Sussex Bitter AND Peroni on tap, no less – but beer just ain’t my thing.

Ah well, although I wasn’t quite enjoying my wine the bowl of bar menu Nachos (homemade salsa with a nose-wrinkling drop-kick of cumin – isn’t salsa supposed to be refreshing?) helped wash it down and I passed the beautiful autumn afternoon enjoying my view of both the Common’s sandstone outcroppings and at closer range, the undulating human landscape …


Mount Edgcumbe Hotel

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