Who needs New York when one resides in Newbury?

To be honest, one has been feeling a tad glum of late.  Things have not been going too well for me work wise, however I’m all about positive thinking and looking at the bright side of life.  I’m also into reading positive quotes and  poetry of which I can identify with and generally doing everything I can to keep my pecker up.  I’ve taken to writing a journal, and am having a bit of therapy to get any negativity out of my mind and must say this really helps.  Whilst maintaining a positive stance, I decided to seek the positives in the home town that I reside in,  as all too often we can become consumed with gloom.  I hope that this will be useful for any one visiting or just a general reminder to my neighbours!

Here we go then, in no particular order.

1- The Racecourse.  I’m no expert on racecourses, but I believe it to be a decent course.  I certainly have a jolly good time whenever I go.  I tend to go racing maybe three or four times a year.  I’ve got a good mate who invites me to her box, and I get very merry on the endless champers.  I love a day at the races, never win anything but it’s a good craic.

2-The Corn Exchange. I love this little theatre, I prefer going to the cinema here too, it’s much more intimate, and you can take a glass of vino in with you.  I’ve been to many a production here, and the Pantomimes are hysterical at Christmas.

3-Highclere Castle.  It’s stunning and full of Downtown Abbey charm.  Events happen here all the time.  Its wonderful for the odd tour, also it’s a fabulous Wedding venue.

4-The Vineyard Hotel.  I of course have to mention this place.  The hubster runs it, one of the most special places to dine, with the most amazing wine list.  The bedrooms are luxurious, service is sublime.  If they don’t get a michelin star this year, then I’ll be well miffed. The afternoon tea is awesome too.

5-The Woodspeen. Another lovely place to eat.  Michelin starred, but very relaxed whilst being high end at the same time.  One of the best steaks I’ve eaten demolished by moi recently.  Really like this place, plus there is a cookery school too.

6-The Walks.  There are plenty of local country walks, from The Chase at Woolten hill, to Snelsmore Common, to The Ridgeway. Great for the canine babies.

7-Golf.  We seem to have an abundance of Golf courses.  Donnington Valley is one of the best, but seriously there are loads to suit all budgets.

8-Spas. Again The Vineyard hotel and Donnington Valley both have lovely Spas where one can chill and luxuriate one.

9-Shopping.  Well, this is a tricky one, as our Town centre is a bit of a patchwork.  There are a few nice shops and chain restaurants, but also a few dire ones.  It’s probably best if you’re going to venture into Town to park at The Parkway end.  We have the usual favourites plus some goodish coffee shops.  Waterstones has been revamped and worth a little pop into for a coffee and a flick through some pages.

  • 10-Must say I’m struggling now! But Angelica’s Terrace in Camp Hopson, Newbury’s main department store is worth a little jaunt to.  It’s recently been refurbished and sells coffee, teas, Proscecco and Artisan products amongst other things. The furnishings are very glam, it’s quite lovely and you can sit Al fresco on the terrace and look across lovely Newbury!

Langlands Brasserie, Langlands Bay.  

I just feel that I need to share this glorious place.  We stumbled upon this gorgeous fishy led Brasserie last October when we visited offspring number one at Swansea university.  My thoughtful hubby booked this place for Sunday lunch and I couldn’t wait to go back.  Booking is necessary as it’s really busy and easy to see why.  We opted yesterday for the really reasonably priced Sunday Lunch.  The weather was not too stunning, but that didn’t stop the enjoyment of being inside the buzzy gorgeousness that Langlands Brasserie is.  I opted for juicy plump Mussels as I always do when they’re in offer, braised to perfection in a creamy, white wine and Thyme jus.  Then I savoured the Roast Beef, which was cooked to perfection and served with all the trimmings.  The vino was a mega gluggable Merlot which warmed the cockles on a nippy day.  No space sadly for pud but went on a hilly and glorious walk instead.  This place is so adorable, it’s vibrant, lively and the staff look like they’re having fun.  We’ll be back really soon.

Sunday leftover Roast chicken and Chestnut mushroom Risotto.

Some think that Risottos are scary and problematic.  For me, I’ve always been able to knock out a good one.  Maybe it’s my knack, I feel I can inject passion into risottos and pastas, so potentially my calling.  On Monday, I endured as many do a pretty arduous day at work.  Things are not particularly great work wise at the moment.  Think it’s Brexit waves that are causing unease in my particular case.  I arrived home however in a good mood, this is due to the fact that I have now taken up swimming every morning before work in the intention that I will be less stressed and moody.  This has been working well until I pulled up in front of my house.  I glanced up at my bedroom window, the light was on so knew the husband was home and probably watching TV.  I don’t have a problem with the husband watching his favourite shows.  I do have a rule though that whoever is first home should make a little effort on the aesthetics of the domestic dwelling.  I sadly wasn’t feeling the domestic vibe, as the way the curtains and blinds were arranged was a dead give away of what was to come.  I looked at Jenny’s house next door, spotless curtain arrangement as always, and walked slowly to my front door.  It didn’t get any better.  The washing up was still there from the previous evening, plus extra.  The dog had displayed his affection in the liquid form despite the french doors being open so he may come and go as he pleases to the garden.  I decided a little vino would be appropriate at this point, the husband popped his head into the kitchen and asked why I was drinking.  I noticed he had a funny hat and glasses on and wondered if I’d missed something or was this a vague attempt to cheer me up or was this now his new look.

I told him to leave me alone to get back control of the kitchen and my inner peace, tidied up whilst mumbling and cracked on with supper.

  • I grabbed a large pan, glugged a generous amount of olive oil into it, chopped a large onion finely, two garlic cloves and fried gently for 2 minutes.  I added 3 teacups of Arborio rice and coated it so it reached the translucent stage.  I then added in half a punnet of chestnut mushrooms, a glass of dry white wine and a pint of chicken stock.  The next 18 minutes of your life is crucial to your Risotto’s success.  I like a wet risotto with a bit of Al dentiness, so took to my stirring a nurturing. This is the stress reliever bit, and does wonders for me.  After 13 ish minutes I added my chopped leftover chicken ( around a breast and a half), stirred for a further 3 minutes, then finished with some chopped Tarragon, a good knob of butter, lashings of Parmesan and some black pepper.  I was ready to be nice, so called the hubby from wherever he had scurried off to….

Swansea weekend.

Swansea has never featured on my bucket list of places to explore. My daughter however had Swansea as her first choice for Uni so this weekend we paid our first extended visit.  Firstly on collecting a starving child we checked in to the Marriott.  Probably not my choice next time to stay there as quite tired, coupled with a large Wedding party who seemed to have monopolised the place.  Kudos to their stamina though, dancing from 5pm until Lordy knows when!  We dropped our belongings off and had a wander.  Location fabulous, as you leave the back of the hotel, stunning beaches to wander for ever on.  We were recommended two great eateries by Michelle on guest relations, the first,  we had dinner at Bouchon de Rossi which was just a ten minute stroll away from the Hotel.  I loved the ambience and the menu and chose Langoustine Thermidor and a Fillet au poivre. Both my dishes were cooked to perfection, tasty and hit the spot.  Service was a little intimidating and not as fluffy as I would have liked however Wine was lovely – a sublime example of a buttery and elegant Viognier.  I slept not too badly considering the Wedding guests were still knocking around at 4.30am, then I guess the empty booze bottles had to be emptied somewhere, sadly for us it happened way too early on a Sunday morning and directly under our bedroom.  Untederred, we had breakfast before wandering off to the Mumbles for a bracing walk.  Wow, what a spectacular place, absolutely stunning coastline and sandy beaches coupled with fish and chip air, rows of beach huts where families were taking in one of the last sunny days before Winter.  We opted for lunch at Langlands Brasserie.  What a tremendously busy and fabulous place.  Now sitting firmly as one of my favourite dining spots.  The Sunday Lunch menu was extremely well executed and priced, service was really excellent considering the volume of people to serve.  My Moules, Bouillabaisse washed down with a good ol Gavi were just the ticket.  I cannot wait to return to pick up the daughter for Christmas, just need to find a good local Boutique Guesthouse to frequent for the next four years sporadically.   The Langland Cove B&B looks promising……..

Eleven Reasons to dine at Eleven Madison Park.

I am one lucky lady, my husband surprised me with an evening at what can only be described as the most amazing place I’ve ever been to.  I’m in New York for the weekend, and we’re ramming in as many gastronomic delights as possible without spontaneous combustion. Rather than write for days, which I could about this place, and bore you rigid, here’s Eleven reasons why one should dine here if you possibly can……

  • 1- White Gift box on table on arrival….. I loved the fact that thus eaterie is so minimalistic, the whole vibe leaves you wanting more.  On arrival, we had a little box containing what looked like little cookies.  They were little cookies – savoury cheddary ones, which got me off to a good start.
  • 2- Champagne Trolley…. We ordered two glasses of champers, husband hoping that two House ones would be brought to us.  He didn’t say it, but I knew it.  What a delight to have a little trolley wheeled to us with a selection from the House to a Krug half bottle.  I selected the House, as it was going to be a long night, and did not want a tiff at the first hurdle.  Good wifey points.
  • 3-The Menu itself, no faffing around with endless bits of paper, all thinking removed from the process.  You’re here on our territory you play by our rules.  I like that I’ve realised.  We asked the wonderful Sommelier to choose matching wines, husband of course gave him a sensible budget per glass and by Jove the chap nailed it and delivered. We were asked what ingredients we didn’t like, and they set to work. Amazing.
  • 4- Minimal explanation.  This is a very clever move.  Food does the talking, and when I mean talking, it was mind blowing. Never have I witnessed such flavours.  The other great thing though, staff are so well informed.  I picked up the crockery for inspection, a chap appeared to tell me the story about the owner being good mates long ago with the crockery creator, and now the crockery is sur la table.  Cute story.
  • 5-Kitchen tour- AMAZING kitchen, one does not feel like a spare part once taken in, instead positioned behind a little table whilst a lovely lady makes granita that one can savour whilst admiring the serene environment. Calm chefs laughing and collaboratively working.  A joy to watch.6-The food itself, was just to die for.  I adored everything from the beautiful snacks presented in Bento boxes, I embraced the take on Eggs Benedict, presented in a Caviar tin with Caviar neatly quenelled on top.  All courses were in fact perfectly executed.  Even the whetting of the appetite cup of Chicken broth, right before the Beef course…….Divine!

  • 7-That crockery again!  Simple, rustic and added to the “we’re not trying too hard feel.”
  • 8-The Staff!  Each and everyone of them a joyous experience to watch going about their business.  All perfectly groomed, enjoying their work life.  Genuinely you could feel and see it.9-People watching.  I love observing others.  What a mixed clientel! I was genuinely in awe of the lady opposite me, and how many of those Martinis she managed to quaff.  My type of girl.

  • 10-The little quiz!  We were presented with 4 bars of chocolate and had to guess and mark on a piece of paper, which animals milk was used in each bar by taste.  I got them all right…. Not that difficult, but was told I’m very clever.  Liked that a lot! ( no prize other than a bitter aftertaste from the sheep’s milk choccie).
  • 11-The menu in a tin to take home.  Just Incase one forgot what one had eaten, a very neatly presented menu folded into a cute tin. Great idea and perfect presentation.  Easily portable.
  • I hugely enjoyed my culinary experience.  Only one small critical point is that I cannot stand seeing staff all lined up when you enter a restaurant.  One has to walk past like eleven people all in a line.  Disperse and look busy!  Quite intimidating.

The Long awaited Jolie-Pitt Rosé. Miraval 2014. Provence.

Not many words ce soir.  I’m in the South of France and not in the South of Newbury.  Don’t get me wrong I love my hometown, however tonight I’m transported to the glitz, glam, Je ne sais quoi of Cannes with this elegant (like its producers) gorgeous Rosé.  Santé X

Delicious Vinos- Château Ksara Clos st Alphonse. Bekka Valley 2012.

I’m a true ambassador for the Middle East.  I would so love to see more wines being produced one day from the regions where I guess it could be embraced.  One thing is for sure, the terroirs and climates are wholly suitable. Naturally of course priorities in the region do not manifest in growing grapes. Lebanon however for me have just been getting better and better over the years and this year in particular there seems to be more awareness and penetration.  I was delighted to stumble on this particular wine in Marks and Spencer and snapped up a bottle at a very reasonable £10.  The 2012 Clos St Alphonse is a wonderful example of a well rounded and really beautiful wine.  All three grape varieties really shine through in equal measures, the silkiness of the Syrah, the warmth of the Cabernet Sauvignon and clay undertones of the Cabernet Franc. These grapes one can imagine being the best of friends as they gel wonderfully together. In all honesty this is going to be my midweek quaff from now on as it hits all my delighting criteria and très reasonable.  Mabrook!