Let the quest begin!

The purpose of this blog isn't simply to post a list of negative threads. It's more an effort in highlighting the very best places to eat, drink and be merry. All experiences are my own, or with my family. There is no connection between myself or any of the establishments other than as a paying punter. If you take exception to any post, please feel free to offer your own comments. This is meant to be a fair an honest opinion of where we've eaten.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Chesters Grove Garden Centre

I usually visit Chesters Grove - Garden Centre in Chester Moor, (on the road to Chester le Street) for my bedding plants, shrubs and fruit bushes. However, I was recently drawn into the coffee shop by the mouth-watering smell of mince and dumplings bubbling on the hot plate. I have a very soft spot for this dish, hence my tight rule of only allowing such indulgence once a year, and that my birthday. This was a day for change, I laughed in the face of numerous calories, I tweaked the nose of indigestion and ran riot with a Desperate Dan size portion, which from behind, showed only the top of my head. As I jammed each forkful into the widening aperture between jaws and lips, I heeded not the eyes of onlookers. I was in a zone you see, a mince and dumpling zone, a dark bisto place all of its own, a dangerous place for any interruption. I see nothing but the rich well-seasoned mince, the crusty dumplings with their light fluffy filling, and the gravy, oh the gravy, dark as the deepest pool, and velvety thick.

When I finished, it was almost like being awaked from a dream. The satisfaction was in the eating. I have been back three times since this post. Beware the dependency that this dish can cause. A habit-forming slavery to mince and dumplings.

FOOD 10 SERVICE 10 VALUE 10 REFER 10 TOTAL: 40 Tops the Good Food Quest table!

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Broom Mill Farm Shop

My wife and I visited Broom Mill Farm Shop near West Auckland, County Durham. We popped in to pick up vegetables for the week and were tempted by the Shepherds Pie and home made chips on the tea room's menu. Always the sceptic, I agreed to give it a try, secretly ready to find fault, but there was none to find. These were genuine home made chips, perfectly cooked, not to mushy firm with good texture. The Shepherds Pie was good too, not sure if it saw a microwave on the way to our table, (and the there was some strange liquid mascarrading as gravy) but still well made with good meat. I believe this stop off was worthy of a blog.


Friday, 2 April 2010

Cafe Rouge Durham City, 21 Silver Street Durham, County Durham DH1 3RB

This blog was never intended to be a vent for negative feedback.
From the outset, I decided only the best would feature! Eating places where both my family and I enjoyed a meal, a snack, even a coffee! Remember, this is my opinion, others may have fared better or worse at any establishment featured in this blog. However, I did feel the need to pots this!
After spending a night in Durham for my wife’s birthday, we took in the LAU concert at the Gala after having a meal at Oldfields Restaurant,
The next morning, we were looking for breakfast!
Looks right, sounds right, tastes hmm!
I needed to start this post in such a manner, as my direction wouldn’t be positive regarding Café Rouge in Durham City. Perhaps I choose to visit at the wrong time. (11.00am breakfast) might be a challenge for a chef with a midweek hangover, that’s the excuse I made for him/her when I viewed the four tiny, shrivelled blackened mushrooms on my plate!
Was there something wrong with his eyesight, did he think I wouldn’t notice before pushing them to one side in disappointment- shock even!
If I was to start at the end, I have to say the service was very polite and friendly. The nice young lady who served us, did her very best to encourage a positive response to her question, ‘was everything okay?’ ‘Yes’, I replied. ‘It was okay’.
‘Only okay?’ she asked
‘I’m afraid so’ I confirmed.

So what went wrong after such a promising start? Well, the breakfast menu read well. An auspicious combination of continental mixed with traditional British heart stoppers. I choose the latter while my wife opted for the stuffed pancakes with mushrooms.

Mine first: Here’s how to make a very bad breakfast.
Choose very poor quality sausage that tastes like? well I’m not sure!
I gave my wife the sausage (she gave it back).
Cheap eggs that have no colour or flavour, and made me feel queasy for the rest of the day. Bacon that again had no taste - looked anaemic, (not bacon, as we know it). Toast, even that wasn’t right, something close to a slice from stale Baggett. Mushrooms, well you already know! Not cheap at £7.00
My wife never ate her pancake, but gave me her egg, (I gave it back - she immediately shoveled it back on to my plate -I dropped it from height back again!)
The bill including two coffees £15.00

Oh, I’m sorry. Here’s my take. Put Oldfield’s food in Café Rouge in Durham and you’ll have a winner. Visa-versa, put Café Rouge’s staff in Oldfields’ and the same applies.
My problem with Café Rouge is the quality of the food on the plate.
It looked and tasted cheap. I’m not sure where they source their food, but it’s not the same place as Oldfields. Perhaps on an evening things get better, they must because you can't get much worse!

(On reflection, that was a bit tough! I'm sure there's far worse!)

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Oldfields Restaurant, Durham City

Never be put off by a name. Oldfields Restaurant or ‘Noted Eating Places’ seems to have borrowed a few good ideas from other people to offer a presentable restaurant in Durham City. There’s another restaurant in the chain somewhere in Newcastle, but we only review where we’ve eaten, so enough said. The sustainable locally sourced produce is an accepted must these days; Oldfields like to remind you at every corner all their ingredients are traceable. I commend them for this, but feel I’ve seen it delivered in an identical way somewhere else. That said, we visited the restaurant on a ‘happy hour’ special thingy - two courses for £10 and I have to admit I was impressed, no, I was very impressed!

My wife and I had the same starter- black pudding with poached egg (sadly, the egg wasn’t runny). It was all-okay and we washed it down with half a local brew that was good to see on the beer menu.

The main course followed in the way of bangers and mash for me with Yorkshire pudding and shin for her! There were two side extras £1.50
of mashed turnip/carrot and buttered greens. The turnip was great! the buttered greens, part hot and cold as only a microwave can do! In case this post is beginning to sound negative, I’m going to jump in with a great big positive word ‘FABULOUS’, okay, I’ll say it again FABULOUS! The bangers and mash in their onion gravy were delicious. We’re talking top quality sausage! We tried each other’s and I have to admit the shin was INCREDIBLE, tender soft, tasty (not over seasoned) just good meat well cooked. I love shin me!
By the time we’d finished, the restaurant was very busy. The 2 for £10 offer is a magnet, but include top quality food and the price seems ridiculously small. We really enjoyed it; I would happily have paid £10 for the main course alone, perhaps even more! The staff were young and nervous, but I suppose we all have to start somewhere! I suggest you start at Oldfields!


Monday, 1 March 2010

The Gingerbread Mam-Middleton in Teesdale Farmers' Market

Looking for a Sunday afternoon filler, we decided to visit the (indoor) Farmers' Market in Middleton in Teesdale. on Sunday the 28th February. It was a freezing cold day so we were relieved when we finally found the entrance to the market. I have to say I was slightly surprised by the number of stalls. There was a great cheese seller from 'Winter Tarn', a fantastic baker under the name of 'The Moody Baker' a great chutney and pickle man (the jar reads 'Turks Head Products, Great Musgrave) plus lots of others too! However, it was the 'Gingerbread Mam' who took our eye! Her home made Ginger Parkin and Ginger Wine soon found its way into our 'Green Bag'. She also had ginger muffins, gingerbread men (and women), ginger snaps, hokey pokey, but boy that parkin and wine tasted so good. In fact, it's less than 24 hours since we visited and its all gone! Great market- great traders- in the great North East

Monday, 22 February 2010

Royal Fisheries, 48 Baxtergate, Whitby, North Yorkshire

It’s a fact. Whitby is famous for its fish and chips, or should that be number of chippies? Most famous is the steep stepped ‘Magpie’ that attracts a long queue even on the very coldest of days. Yes, the Magpie is very, very good, but you need to be into your 'doily mood' to feel comfortable with the décor. I know!…it’s the food not the furnishings that should be top of the agenda, but you can’t ignore the obvious and if I’m not comfortable, then I’m not going to be totally in tune with what’s on the plate.

So where do we go from the Magpie? Try a walk down to ‘Trenchers’ and you’ll find a very different experience. Much more family friendly and with a menu that’s built to suit every taste. But here it is. The Magpie and Trenchers are way beyond most family budgets. Yes, they’re both good but far too expensive! Gosh it’s only fish and chips after all!

In my opinion, the best place to enjoy your fish supper (or dinner) is the Royal Fisheries! You’ll find this family run restaurant on Baxtergate. Google it! Just a short walk from the swing bridge. My family and I visit the Royal Fisheries on just about every visit to Whitby. Great fish and chips and at SENSIBLE PRICES! Come down off your vertigo menu Magpie and Trenchers. This is how it should be. Our family of four had Haddock and Chips twice, with two children’s portions of fish and chips, all with mushy peas and soft drinks for under £23.00. That was at the table, inside the restaurant, served by friendly polite staff. Nothing pretentious (thinking Magpie chequered plates) no in-and-out jostling (thinking TrencheRs).

From the exterior you might be fooled into thinking the Royal Fisheries is coach trippers' paradise, such are the garish graphics that adorned the facia. Get past this small obstacle and I promise you won’t be disappointed. The best fish and chips in Whitby, in both my wife’s opinion and that of our children too! Count me in too!