kaveyeats

 

Rex and Mariano has been making quite an impression since it launched earlier this year. From the same group as famous steak restaurant Goodman and enormously successful proto-chain Burger & Lobster, the new fish and seafood restaurant is named for two key suppliers involved in the venture – Rex Goldsmith aka The Chelsea Fishmonger and Mariano, the semi-anonymous father of a Goodman employee, responsible for importing red prawns and other seafood from Sicily.

Key to the concept is serving seafood at accessible prices, certainly far lower than is the norm in Central London.

In a quiet pedestrian street that runs between Dean and Wardour, Rex and Mariano is already a Soho favourite, despite it’s tucked-away location.

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One innovation I thought I’d hate in fact worked very well; orders are placed directly by customers by way of an iPad, though a traditional printed menu is provided on arrival as well. The interface has been well designed – swipe sideways to page through the menu sections, touch a plus button to select an item, enter a quantity and tick to add to your order. An easy-to-find banner button allows you to call for assistance at any time, whether you have questions about the menu or simply need more cutlery. At any time, you can view your total bill thus far and you can review your current order before placing. It’s best to order a few dishes at a time, since most arrive very quickly indeed.

We had to laugh when, mere moments after discussing our greediness, we placed a second order only to be interrupted with a message that our order was “getting quite large” and we might like to send some through now and order more “in a bit”. We took heed and ensured each round was limited to three or four dishes.

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Most of the menu is, as you’d imagine, fish and seafood. But I am a sucker for good burrata not to mention good tomatoes. The burrata, smoked tomato, focaccia (£6) was superbly creamy, with just the right level of smoking to fresh, ripe tomatoes and the focaccia served simply to provide a crisp toast underneath.

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The raw fish page is split into Ceviche, Tartare and Carpaccio, each of which feature tuna and sea bass. Salmon and lobster also make an appearance. Our salmon carpaccio, olive oil, lemon, tomato and basil (£7.50) is fresh, simple and benefits from a light touch with the dressing.

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Lobster ceviche with coriander, fennel, yuzu, orange (£12) is very generous for the price. Large and juicy chunks of lobster meat and thin slices of crunchy fennel are deliciously dressed with coriander leaves and a yuzu orange dressing – both MiMi and I are big fans.

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Oh the red prawns from Sicily! Red prawns raw/ cooked, lemon, olive oil, salt (£10) – doesn’t that make you salivate? We might have ordered this dish twice. OK, fine, we did. And to be honest, we could probably have eaten a third plate quite happily had we not agreed to restrain ourselves just a tiny bit! Also available cooked, we opted for the raw option both times and were blown away by the sweet, sweet flavour – lovely against the slightly grassy olive oil.

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Clams, white wine, parsley, chilli (£7) were simply cooked and decent. If I’m not sounding excited, don’t take it as an indication that they were anything less than delicious – they just had a lot of strong competition! Perhaps a bowl of soft fresh bread to sop up the juices might be welcome with these.

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Sicilian Large Stripe Prawns, lemon, red chilli, parsley, olive oil (£14) were another favourite. Expensive for four prawns yes, though each one was pretty large. The tails were perfectly cooked to retain their juiciness and sucking out the heads of these beauties was an absolute must! We ordered this dish twice too and although the prawns were larger second time around, there was a dearth of the delicious sauce that drenched the first plate and added such excellent flavour.

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Fritto Misto, old bay, lemon aioli (£9) – oddly listed under the Grill section of the menu – was very good, as good as I’ve had in London. It suffered in comparison against the revelatory raw and cooked prawn dishes and that lobster ceviche but that’s probably a little unfair. Ours had plenty of squid rings and tentacles (I love the tentacles best), whitebait and white fish but only one solitary prawn on the entire plate.

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We probably shouldn’t have bothered with either the fried courgettes with aioli (£5) or the triple cooked chips (£4) though again, both were very good. Our focus was firmly on the fishy goodness and the vegetables didn’t get much of a look in.

For dessert we skipped the proffered lemon sorbet or chocolate mousse and went back to the raw red prawns and cooked red stripe prawns – a fitting end to a delicious meal.

The homemade Limoncello offered by the manager (after a minor mix up over leftovers) was a fitting finale, and vastly better than cheap commercial versions.

Service was friendly throughout; although the iPad ordering system reduces staff and customer interaction to an extent, staff are attentive and readily available should you need them. A nice touch is that service is added at only 5% – presumably staff can service a lot more tables when focusing on bringing out dishes and clearing away empties.

I mentioned at the start that Rex and Mariano offers seafood at accessible prices and that’s certainly true. That’s not to say this is a cheap restaurant, especially if you’re as greedy for great seafood as MiMi and I, but the quality of ingredients is superb and the prices for what you get are very reasonable. Our bill, with one soft drink each, was just shy of £50 each, though we could have knocked ten off that and still been satiated.

Thank you to MiMi Aye for additional images.

Rex & Mariano on Urbanspoon
Square Meal

 

When the sun comes out, it’s time to look to the freezer for sweet, delicious, frozen treats.

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Images from Shutterstock.com

For this extended Bloggers Scream For Ice Cream, I’m looking for refreshing sorbets and granitas!

Get blitzing, freezing and blogging!

All bloggers are welcome – food, lifestyle, parenting or health and from anywhere around the world – if you share recipes with your readers, we’d love to have you join in!

How To Take Part In BSFIC

  • Create and blog a suitable recipe between May 1st and June 28th 2015.
  • In your post, mention and link to this Bloggers Scream For Ice Cream post.
  • Include the Bloggers Scream For Ice Cream badge (below).
  • Email me (by June 28th) with your first name or nickname (as you prefer) and the link to your post.
  • Please include in your email an image for my roundup, sized to no larger than 600 pixels on the longest side and without decorative borders applied.

You are welcome to submit your post to as many blogger challenge events as you like.

I’ll post a round up showcasing and linking to all the entries, a few days after the closing date.

Your posts will also be shared via my Pinterest and Stumble accounts.

If you tweet about your post using the hashtag #BSFIC, I’ll retweet any I see.

You are also welcome to share links to your posts on my Kavey Eats Facebook page.

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For more ideas, check out my my Pinterest ice cream board and past BSFIC Entries board.

 

Today we’re kicking off a celebration of National Vegetarian Week by giving away a truly fantastic prize – Froothie’s wonderful Optimum 9200 power blender, a boon for any cook’s kitchen.

Regular readers will already know how much I love my Optimum 9400, the predecessor model to the 9200. I’ve used it for all manner of recipes from energising breakfast smoothies to super silky custard bases that make the most delicious ice creams to fast, fresh and piping hot soups made from vegetables picked straight from the garden and allotment. And there is so much, much, much more on my list!

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Jungle Juice Sorbet

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Quick Courgette & Blue Cheese Soup

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White Chocolate Ice Cream

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Banana, Matcha & Prune Smoothie

You might also enjoy my rich, dense and dark power blender chocolate ice cream (perfect for fudgy ice lollies) or my butternut squash soup with bacon brittle (and a pumpkin seed alternative for vegetarians).

Optimum 9200 Next Gen Blender Giveaway

The Optimum 9200 next generation blender is a commercial-grade super blender designed for longevity, versatility and brawn. Stronger, faster and more powerful than a Vitamix, the Optimum 9200 is perfect for making amazing soups and smoothies, super silky dips, nut butters, ice cream and more. This is the best blender you’ll ever use and the last blender you’ll ever need. Once you try it, you’ll wish you’d had it all your life. A few features you’re going to love:

  • Crushes ice in seconds
  • Easy to use, with three speeds, three timer settings and a pulse button
  • 6 blade assembly creates a vortex that will suck your ingredients down and make blending a breeze
  • Super easy to clean and maintain by simply blending water in the jug at high speed

The Optimum 9200 retails for £429 but will be on sale for £349 during National Vegetarian Week. Visit Froothie’s website for details and don’t forget to enter “Special Ambassador Offer” on checkout for an additional 2 year warranty free of charge. Please use my affiliate link (here and in my sidebar) to support Kavey Eats.

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Entry to the giveaway is via Rafflecopter and we’ve provided lots of ways to gain extra entries and increase your chances of winning!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Fellow Froothie Ambassadors are also giving away Optimum blenders and juicers – visit these sites to enter each giveaway.

You can also ncrease your chances by entering the Optimum 9200 giveaway on Facebook.

Kavey Eats received an Optimum 9400 blender from Froothie last year. I affiliate with and recommend only brands and products I truly believe in.

 

I ought to write more about local restaurants, since we visit our favourites far more often than any in central London… and certainly more often than those in “upped and comed” areas of East London that are hip and happening but a pain in the arse to get to!

Sushimania is the latest new face in North Finchley; the fifth in a chain that also has outlets in Edgware, Golders Green, Brighton and Reading.

We’ve visited three weekends in a row.

We are very taken by the excellent cooking and half-price lunch deal, but consistently disappointed by lacklustre service.

Luckily, there’s not a huge amount of interaction required as an order slip and pen are provided and each item in the menu has a number to write into the boxes provided. I’ve only once resorted to taking my slip to the counter (table service is provided, if you can attract a member of staff). On subsequent visits we’ve taken to sitting right by the counter so that we can attract attention more readily. Staff do bring the dishes out in timely, if sometimes utterly disinterested, fashion. Occasionally they will stand in confusion holding a freshly cooked dish, unable to work out that clearing empty dishes first will allow them the space to serve new ones.

The half price menu applies to virtually the entire a la carte list  with the exception only of the sushi set platters; this brings the prices down to a pretty reasonable level –that said, I’d never visit in the evening as the full prices are steep. If you go, go for lunch!

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horenso no goma-ae and nasu dengaku

Appetisers is probably my favourite section of the menu. It includes Agedashi Tofu (£4.20 → £2.10), Horenso No Goma-Ae (spinach with roasted sesame dressing, £3.00 → £1.50), Chicken Gyoza (£4.60 → £2.30), Nasu Dengaku (aubergine with miso glaze, £5.00 → £2.50) and Tori Karaage (fried chicken, £4.20 → £2.10).

All of these have been consistently excellent every time we’ve visited.

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tuna tataki

Oddly, the next short and sweet section is called Starters. We certainly enjoyed the Tuna Tataki (£8.80 → £4.40), though I think it’s a little pricy compared to other dishes.

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tempura moriawase

Thus far we’ve skipped straight past the Salads section and on to Tempura. Both the Tempura Moriawase (2 king prawns, 2 fish and 4 vegetables, £8.80 → £4.40) and the Yasai Tempura (7 pieces of vegetables, £5.80 → £2.90) have been excellent – the batter is very light and crisp and the seafood and vegetables always perfectly cooked within.

Kushiyaki is another tasty selection with Yakitori (£3.60 → £1.80) and Gyu (£4.60 → £2.30) both basted in a tasty marinade.

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tempura phoenix roll futomaki

Sushi is divided into Nigiri (oblongs of rice with topping laid over) and Gunkan (battleship shaped nori wrapped sushi, often used for roe toppings), Hosomaki (small rolls with nori on the outside), Uramaki (medium sized rolls, usually with two or more fillings), Futomaki (larger rolls, usually with nori on the outside), Temaki and Sashimi.

We’ve ordered from all of these sections… so far we’ve tried Salmon Nigiri (2 pc, £3.20 → £1.60), Seabass Nigiri (2 pc, £3.80 → £1.90), Squid Nigiri Mackerel Nigiri (2 pc, £3.20 → £1.60), Egg Omelette Nigiri (2 pc, £3.00 → £1.50), Salmon Roe Gunkan (2 pc, £3.80 → £1.90), Spicy Tuna & Cucumber Uramaki (6 pc, £ 4.20 → £2.20), Crispy Duck & Cucumber Uramaki (6 pc, £ 4.00 → £2.00), Tempura Phoenix Roll Futomaki (salmon, tuna and cucumber futomaki that’s deep fried in tempura batter, 4 pc, £7.20 → £3.60), Spicy Tuna & Cucumber Temaki (1 pc, £4.00→ £2.00) and Salmon Sashimi (3 pc, £3.60 → £1.80)!

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various sushi, agedashi tofu, chicken gyoza, tori karaage, chicken teriyaki and garlic fried rice

We’ve not ordered a great deal from sections beyond. From Side Orders we liked the Garlic Fried Rice (£3.20 → £1.60) – this is also where you’ll find miso soup, stir-fried vegetables and mixed pickles.

From A La Carte we have tried only Chicken Teriyaki (£9.80 → £4.90) – great flavour and served with a lovely vegetable stir-fry but the chicken breast was a little dry for my liking.

Future visits beckon – I’m keen to try Sweet Black Cod (£14.80 → £7.40), Tonkatsu pork (£7.80 → £3.90), various soba and udon noodle dishes and ramen and rice bowls.

Perhaps service will improve. I certainly hope so as it’s the only black mark against an otherwise deliciously strong offering and a welcome addition to the area.

Sushimania on Urbanspoon

 

Outside of Reykjavik, Iceland is sparsely populated with individual farmsteads and small communities dotted across a rural landscape. Farming and fishing are still key industries but the last decade has seen huge growth in software, biotechnology, finance and service industries and a significant increase in tourism.

Sauðárkrókur – Hólar – Akureyri

After an inland detour to visit Hólar, we took the coastal route around to Akureyri (and on to Myvatn) via a stop at the Bruggsmiðjan Brewery.

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Having set off early in the morning, we approached Hólar – nestled within the Hjaltadalur valley – in the golden morning sun. First to come into view was the tall tower of Hólar Church, with the red and white block of Hólar University College behind it.

The church and college were beautiful but what had drawn us to Hólar was the Nýibær turf house, next to the college building. Built in 1860, it is a typical medium-sized turf house in the North-Icelandic style, distinguished by forward-facing gables along the front and rear buildings arranged at right angles.

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The coastal roads offered stunning views, though occasionally a little hair-raising for those of us that are scared of heights!

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Our visit to the Bruggsmiðjan Brewery was organised in advance, but they do their best to welcome drop-in visitors too.

The brewery is only a decade old, established in 2005 by local couple Agnes Anna and Olafur Trostur, who were keen to forge a new business in the local area. Both their sons are now working in the business, and one of them related the brewery’s story and showed us round, offering tastings of several of the beers currently in production. We were joined by a few others who arrived during our visit.

Agnes and Olafur had never brewed beer before, but were inspired by a TV news report they happened to watch, talking about the rising popularity of small breweries in Denmark. Just one week later, they visited Denmark to visit a few small breweries and came home determined to achieve something similar in Iceland.

We were surprised to learn that beer had been prohibited in Iceland until 1989! In 1908 Icelanders voted in a ban on all alcoholic drinks, which went into effect in 1915. However, the ban was partially lifted in 1921 when Spain refused to allow the import of Icelandic fish unless Iceland legalised the import into Iceland of Spanish wine. In 1935, spirits were also legalised after another national referendum. However, the temperance lobby successfully argued to retain the prohibition on beer (which covered any beer stronger than 2.25%). Icelanders regularly raised bills calling for the legalisation of beer. They finally gained more momentum after a new rule was imposed by a teetotaller Minister of Justice in 1985, banning pubs from adding legal spirits to non-alcoholic beer to create an imitation strong beer. Parliament finally voted to end beer prohibition and the ban was lifted on 1 March 1989, a date still celebrated as “Beer Day”.

Bruggsmiðjan’s Kaldi brand includes pale and dark Czech-style beers, summer and winter seasonal beers plus limited editions such as a beer featuring local herbs as flavouring. All the beers are made with natural fresh water from the immediate area and the core range are available in bars and shops all round Iceland.

 

See my other Iceland postcards.

 

I’m conscious that it’s now several months since our summer visit to Iceland and that I stalled after sharing just two ‘postcards’. I’ve been processing more of the images from the trip and decided to resume the series; better late than never!

We didn’t have time on this trip to include the Western Fjords that jut up and out of the island’s North West corner. Instead we loosely followed the main ring road in a clockwise loop. After a little city break in Reykjavik our first port of call was Stykkishólmur, for the Viking Sushi Boat Excursion. From there we continued Westwards, choosing the most scenic roads wherever possible.

Stykkishólmur – Grundarfjörður – Sauðárkrókur

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I loved this artwork on a seafood processing factory in Sauðárkrókur.

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Grundarfjörður was the least attractive stop of our itinerary, indeed it was really just a handy overnight between Stykkishólmur and Sauðárkrókur. I can’t recommend it.

In Sauðárkrókur we stayed at Hótel Tindastóll which claims to be Iceland’s oldest hotel, dating from 1884. It’s also one if Iceland’s oldest timber houses and has been sympathetically renovated. We stayed in one of the large rooms in the original building, which are quite charming if a little gloomy on the lighting front.

There’s not much to see in Sauðárkrókur but we enjoyed a short walk around the harbour area and into town. There are a couple of nice restaurants, a decent cafe bakery and a good bar in which to end an evening.

 

See my other Iceland postcards.

May 092015
 

I had so much fun with last month’s In My Kitchen – a romp through a busy month by way of Instagram – that I thought I’d rinse and repeat!

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My little baby nephew was born and I couldn’t wait to meet him. The first time he was 10 days old, and the second, he was a month old that day. Isn’t he gorgeous?

 

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For a while we had glorious sunshine. For a while…

 

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Allotment leeks in a delicious blue cheese and leek risotto.

 

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Deliciously sweet oranges and some apple and guava juice, both bought from Waitrose during my lunch break. Pain au chocolat from a local bakery and wagyu burgers from Aldi, not the highest quality wagyu but decent beef burgers for the price.

 

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We enjoyed a really lovely stay at Glazebrook House Hotel in Devon.

 

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And we attended an excellent Italian cookery class at Manna from Devon – we covered so much during the day – making pasta from scratch, some of which became tagliatelle and the rest ravioli, carpaccio of beef, bruschetta with red peppers and broccoli, lemon polenta cake, a crab risotto, a fish stew. Everything was delicious and the location itself is just beautiful.

 

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Driving in Devon is always a joy, especially when the sun is shining and the views of the coast are so beautiful!

 

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During our weekend in the Dartmouth area, we popped into local seafood restaurant Rockfish for a super fresh and delicious fish dinner. Check out the giant onion rings!

 

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After visiting London’s Piada Bar in Soho, I was given a packet of three piada flatbreads. We made some very quick and very tasty flatbread pizzas with them using ready-made pizza sauce, pre-grated mozzarella and a variety of charcuterie languishing in the fridge. So, so good!

 

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Our friends at The Bull in Highgate invited Pete and I to attend their Northern Line beer and food matching event. We enjoyed the evening immensely, and there were some very interesting matches too. Do keep an eye out on their Events page for future dinners.

 

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We took friends to the lovely Warda Lebanese restaurant in Southgate. I still think this is the best Lebanese food outside Lebanon!

 

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Two visits to Korean restaurants in New Malden for a sit down meal, the first Yami (top row) which did a fantastic modum namal including yellowbeansprouts as well as regular beansprouts, and their marinated short rib was excellen and Palace (bottom row) which was a little disappointing on the bbq front but did a decent tteokbokki (rice cake, fish cake, chilli dish).

 

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Pete pulled the last of our leeks from the allotment and combined them with a few leftover rashers of bacon, some wild garlic from the back garden and a little cream for a very tasty pasta sauce. Weirdly, this seems to be the most popular instagram I’ve shared thus far, no idea why!

 

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I loved visiting Wing Yip when I was a kid and it’s no less exciting now, several decades later. I took a Friday off to make a long weekend longer, and we took advantage to enjoy a dim sum lunch at Wing Yip’s Wing Thai restaurant, without the weekend crowds. A quick stop in the cafe bakery next door afterwards for a custard tart, a jin doy and some banana cake.

 

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We enjoyed a delicious ‘Chinese Spagbol’ recipe from Lizzie Mabbott’s ChinaTown Kitchen, a great recipe that we’ll make again and we have lots more bookmarked to try soon.

 

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We visited new local Japanese restaurant, Sushi Mania. Service is poor and when we visited, the place was overrun by really loud families, but the food we tried was all very good. At lunch time the a la carte is half price – that’s what I’d recommend; the full prices are too steep.

 

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We used to go to this local pizzeria a lot under previous management, but hadn’t been since it changed hands. Pizzas are just as good as ever, though a touch more pricy than the competition. Tasty, though!

 

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A few weeks of glorious sunshine have mostly been swept away by overcast skies and hard showers. This rose leaf in our front garden glistened after one such downpour.

 

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Our first dish from Diana Henry’s A Bird In The Hand was this very delicious and simple chicken, butternut squash and cream bake. Definitely one to make again!

 

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Two of my favourite fruits –  Asian mangoes and pears, the mangoes from a local grocery store and the Nashi pears from Wing Yip.

 

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Bank holiday Monday lunch at our local (Bohemia), roast dinner, shared with friends. Lovely end to a long weekend.

 

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Friends shared some of the Japanese kit kat stash with me, which they brought back with them from their recent trip. Wasabi and citrus gold blend were as good as I remember from my 2012 Japanese kit kat tasting. Strawberry cheesecake was vastly better, the balance of flavour completely different and far more pleasant. I’d never had the chilli variety before, so that was great fun to try – at first it seemed mild and then the chilli heat came through!

 

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With half a butternut squash leftover from the Diana Henry recipe, I found a gnocchi recipe online, which Pete made for a weeknight dinner. Served with mini fresh mozarella balls, grated parmesan-a-like and deep fried sage leaves (from the rampant bush in the back garden).

 

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We’ve been munching far too many sugary sweets since the start of our three month Scoff subscription. You can win a three month subscription of your own, here.

 

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I’ve been at  my new contract in New Malden for 5-6 weeks now and loving the lunch options in the vicinity of my office. My favourite is Ohaio – a hole-in-the-wall place at the entrance to the rail station, which sells a wide range of Korean, Japanese and Thai dishes, made hot and all fantastic value. Most lunch deals are £4.50 or £4.90 and include the main plus miso soup and some mini spring rolls.

 

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We took some friends to our local Korean, Yijo, for another delicious feast. Above you can see Japchae, Kimchi mandu (dumplings), tteokbokki (a dish of chewy rice cake worms and fish cake slices in a hot sauce), a beef, tofu and vegetable hot pot and some meat on the table barbeque, a proper charcoal one. The portion of meat for the price has dropped significantly but everything else is still tasty and great value.

 

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Pussy Galoaf, our sourdough starter (and daughter of Priscilla) is going strong. For loaf 10, Pete upped the ratio of starter to give more sourdough flavour and baked the loaf in a silicon loaf tin inside a large lidded casserole dish. It was good!

 

This is my entry into the wonderful Celia’s In My Kitchen event.

 

As a child of the seventies, I have strong memories of walking to the local newsagents with my pocket money and choosing sweets.

Oh, the excitement!

Tiny white chocolate teddy bears were a particular bargain at 2 for half a penny, but I also had a penchant for drumstick lollipops, fruit salad chews, pineapple and cola cubes, strawberry and lemon bonbons, sherbet pips, pear drops, sherbet dip dabs, gobstoppers, foam shrimps and bananas, tubes of love hearts, refreshers and parma voilets, candy necklaces and bracelets, plastic-bound whistles and lipsticks and those white cigarettes with the ends painted red…

Today, there is quite a demand for the retro sweets of my childhood and many that were once discontinued are available once again.

Scoff Club is the latest in a long line of food subscription services – sign up and a box of sweets will be posted out to you once a month. Choose from 2 tubs (approx. 500 grams), 3 tubs (approx. 750 grams) or 4 tubs (approx. 1 kilo) priced at £9.99, £11.99 and £13.99 per month respectively, delivery included.

Scoff Box - KaveyEats (c)KavitaFavelle-120703
One of our 3 tub Scoff Boxes

As is the norm with such subscriptions, you don’t get a choice on what your box will contain. For many, that element of surprise is very much part of the fun, and it’s also ideal if you are buying a subscription as a gift for someone else. I found it a little frustrating as one of our boxes had half a tub of liquorice sweets in it, which both of us hate. That said, we have enjoyed the majority of the contents.

The good news is that Scoff have recently introduced a preference centre so you can let them know whether you hate, like or love Jelly & Gums, Sour/Fizzy, Chocolate, Hard/Boiled, Chewy, Sherbet and Lollies. Unfortunately for us, there’s no category for liquorice and given that I’d mark Chewy as Love, I have no way of banning liquorice from my box.

The overall range across my trial of the 3 tub box has been decent, though I have found individual boxes a little lacking on variety – each tub holds only one or two types of sweets in it, plus there are a few extra loose items in the box. The box shown above was a little disappointing, whereas the box with lots of different chews was much better!

Because of the tub format, the boxes are too large to fit through the letterbox so you’ll need to retrieve them from your local Royal Mail depot if you’re not usually home during the day. I’d vastly prefer flatter boxes that could easily fit through the letterbox, which should certainly be possible for the volumes we’re talking about about here.

I’d also like the option of specifying from the start how long my subscription will run – one month, three months, six months and a year. As it stands, it’s an open-ended subscription and you have to remember to cancel when you’ve reached the duration/ budget you had in mind.

That said, this is a fun addition to the subscription trend and a nice gift idea for those with a sweet tooth.

GIVEAWAY

It’s my pleasure to join  with Scoff Box in giving away a three month subscription for the 3 tub Scoff Box to one lucky reader of Kavey Eats! The prize includes free delivery within the UK.

HOW TO ENTER

You can enter the giveaway in 2 ways – entering both ways increases your chances of winning:

Entry 1 – Blog Comment
Leave a comment sharing a memory of buying or eating sweets when you were a child.

Entry 2 – Twitter
Follow @Kavey on Twitter. Existing followers are, of course, welcome to enter! Then tweet the exact sentence (shown in italics) below.
I’d love to win a @ScoffBox subscription from Kavey Eats! http://bit.ly/KaveyEatsScoffBox #KaveyEatsScoffBox
(Do not add my twitter handle or any other twitter handle at the beginning of the tweet or your entry will be considered invalid. Please don’t leave a blog comment about your tweet either; I track twitter entries using the competition hash tag.)

RULES & DETAILS

  • The deadline for entries is midnight GMT Friday 5th June 2015.
  • The winner will be selected from all valid entries (across blog, twitter and instagram) using a random number generator.
  • Entry instructions form part of the terms and conditions.
  • Where prizes are to be provided by a third party, Kavey Eats accepts no responsibility for the acts or defaults of that third party.
  • The prize is a three month Scoff Box subscription to the three tub box and includes delivery within the UK.
  • The prize cannot be redeemed for a cash value.
  • The prize is offered and provided by Scoff Box.
  • One blog entry per person only. One Twitter entry per person only. You may enter all three ways but you do not have to do so for each individual entry to be valid.
  • For Twitter entries, winners must be following @Kavey at the time of notification. Blog comment entries must provide a valid email address for contacting the winner.
  • The winners will be notified by email or Twitter so please make sure you check your accounts for the notification message.
  • If no response is received from a winner within 10 days of notification, the prize will be forfeit and a new winner will be picked and contacted.

DISCOUNT CODE

New subscribers are offered 50% off their first box. Enter discount code SCOFF50 on ordering.

 

Kavey Eats received sample products from Scoff Box.

May 042015
 

Since my first smartphone, I’ve been a loyal Android girl. Having worked extensively with Apple macs in a professional capacity I was never as bowled over by their alleged coolness as many of my contemporaries, nor willing to pay the premium. I started with an HTC Wildfire which didn’t disappoint; I quickly became used to checking and responding to emails and social media, navigating via Google Maps and accessing the full extent of the web.

In 2012 I was given a Nokia Lumia 800 to review but quickly discovered that despite loving the physical design I absolutely hated the Windows platform. With a vengeance. I switched back to my HTC before the Lumia and I came to blows. When I eventually looked to upgrade the Wildfire I stayed loyal to the brand – that proved to be a mistake; the entry level HTC Desire was three years newer and yet slower, with poorer battery life, than the Wildfire it was intended to replace.

I was reluctant to blow the big bucks when I’d only just upgraded but was seriously considering it… when along came an offer to review the brand new Samsung Galaxy S4. I totally clicked with my S4 phone and have been using it happily for two years now.

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Out of the box; after a few weeks

My latest review item is a Huawei Ascend G7, launched in the UK late in April.

The Ascend G7 is an Android smartphone with large screen size, smart, slim, metal casing, 4G capable and an attractive midrange price point – currently around £200.

If, like me, you hadn’t heard of Huawei, here’s the cheat sheet: Huawei is a global Chinese company specialising in telecomms networking and equipment; one of the largest manufacturers in the world. You may well have encountered their products before, as a large part of their business is making white-label products for other brands. Now they are promoting their own brand mobile handsets across Europe.

I’ve now been using the G7 for a few weeks. There are a few aspects I really like, but quite a bit that I find frustrating – I haven’t yet made a decision on whether I’ll be stick with the G7 or switch back to my S4.

 

MY THOUGHTS ON THE HUAWEI ASCEND G7

Physical phone

The slim form metal case is attractive, there’s no denying this is a good looking phone.

But bigger isn’t always better – I’ve come to realise that the size is just that little bit too large for my hands; the extra 7 mm width means I can’t comfortably use the G7 one-handed without quickly feeling muscle strain. That’s a personal issue, of course, and not a criticism of the G7 and it will suit those who are looking for a larger screen.

 

Image & Sound Quality

Sound quality seems pretty similar on the S4 an the G7, certainly I’ve not found myself thinking the G7 is better or worse than the S4. In fact, I just played the same music video on both phones and I’d say the sound is definitely comparable.

Officially, the resolution of the S4 is much higher (441 ppi against the G7’s 267 ppi) but I think the G7 does a fantastic job of harnessing those pixels – everything looks good and sharp, with nice colour definition and,to my surprise, I haven’t felt a step down from the S4.

However the (impressively large) screen shows every fingerprint and smear in a way that my Galaxy S4’s screen doesn’t. The smears are really intrusive in bright light, and I’m constantly rubbing the phone against my trouser leg trying to clear up that display.

Likewise, I struggle to see the screen in bright light, making outdoor photography and general phone use rather tricky when the sun is shining.

Hauwei G7 - KaveyEats (c)KavitaFavelle-164306

 

Phone Manager & Battery Life

Hands down my favourite feature of the G7 is this clever app management (and security) software which allows me to easily and quickly close apps and clear trash files, thereby hugely extending battery life. I can choose myself which apps will never be closed by the Phone Manager and can manually override on an individual basis.

There are a number of power save settings available, which will likely come in useful for those occasional times when I am not able to plug the phone in for a charge overnight.

Apparently there is also a harassment filter which can be used to block nuisance calls or messages from specified numbers and even a Do Not Disturb mode which blocks all calls save those from your personal Allowed list.

And by the way, battery life is phenomenal – I’ve never come close to draining the phone, even on a really heavy-use day.

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Before running the optimisation and after

 

Missing Apps Tray

In their infinite wisdom (I hope you can hear the sarcasm in my words, even in the written format?) Huawei have done away with the Apps Tray which means that every single app you install, plus all the ones they’ve preloaded the phone with (including quite a few useless ones), are crowded into your five home screen pages.

Having an Apps Tray (a standard part of the Android platform) means that all apps are automatically listed in alphabetical order, which makes it very easy to find those I only need to access very rarely. I can therefore create shortcuts on my home screen pages only for those apps I use on a regular basis, creating a layout that is customised to my needs.

On the G7, every time I install a new app it randomly inserts itself into one of the few free spaces in one of my home screen pages, and I have to waste several minutes moving several other app shortcuts around (rather fiddly) in order to position the new app in alphabetical order. This is utterly nuts and a really stupid decision on Huawei’s part, no doubt an attempt to emulate the iPhone platform.

Hauwei G7 - KaveyEats (c)KavitaFavelle-26
My customised home screen centre page

 

App Names & Icons

Speaking of icons and shortcuts, I’ve quickly discarded Huawei’s own Calendar and SMS Messaging apps – they just aren’t very good – and unfortunately, when I install my preferred Google Calendar and the standard Android SMS, the G7 doesn’t pull through the relevant icons, using instead the same ones as it’s own label versions. Very confusing. I’ve had to hide the Huawei versions away in a dumping ground apps folder in order to keep them out of the way. (Yes, still missing the Apps Tray, here).

 

Camera

The camera really failed to impress for the first couple of weeks. I couldn’t understand why my images were so frequently out of focus until I eventually realised that it seemed to be back-focusing. Since social media is a key reason I use a smartphone, a camera that didn’t work for me was an immediate deal breaker.

Thank goodness, Pete suggested trying some other camera apps to assess whether it was the camera hardware itself at fault or just a poorly-written camera app.

I’m currently using the Google Camera app, which is much much better and gives me handy exposure compensation controls, which I appreciate. Certainly I’m not having any trouble with focus / sharp images anymore. Unfortunately, this app plays an annoying shutter click sound even when my phone is in silent mode and there’s no setting I can find to override that. That said, it has at least proved to me that the camera hardware itself is fine, which is a huge relief.

I’m keen to find a better solution and am considering Camera FV-5, but the free trial version restricts me to very low res images which are hard to assess properly. If you have any experience of Camera FV-5 or other good Android phone apps, please leave me a comment – I’d be hugely grateful for your suggestions!

For number crunchers, the G7 has a 13 MP main camera with f2.0 aperture and LED flash. The front (selfie) camera is 5 MP. (Virtually the same as my trusty S4, the only difference is a f2.2 aperture).

I’ve not explored the G7’s camera software features much as I so quickly gave up on using Huawei’s camera app but the app boasts HDR, panorama settings (on both front and rear cameras) and a facial-enhancement feature called Beauty Mode. An intriguing All-Focus mode allows you to take a photo and then select the focus later, blurring the foreground or background appropriately to create shallow depth of field after the fact – weird but it does work, should you want it!

 

File & Image Folders

Samsung’s Gallery feature was irritating as hell but once I worked out how to turn it off, I was happy with image organisation and could easily create folders and move / copy images between them.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be possible to create folders and sort content within the G7 File Manager, and that applies to image files too. Irritating!

 

Notifications, Shortcuts & Settings

Both Push Notifications and Shortcuts to key settings are accessed by swiping down the top menu. Unfortunately, the Huawei skin hasn’t made this user friendly.

On my S4, the first swipe down immediately lists notifications, and then a tap on either of the two icons provided will take me to either Shortcuts or to full Settings. On the G7, swiping down gives me access to either Notifications or Shortcuts, seldom the one I want at the time, and I have to switch between them.

Furthermore, the Shortcuts list is truncated and there doesn’t seem to be any way to tell it to always display in full; given that you can’t customise which settings are shown in the list, and that all the ones listed fit easily on screen, this seems a pointless extra step.

The main Settings panel has also been reskinned for no good reason, making everything that little bit trickier to find, but not offering a single advantage over the Android standard.

Although I’m open to innovations that provide a benefit, I’m really not a fan of change for change’s sake.

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Shortcuts shown as they first come up, and expanded

 

Performance

I remember from my brief switch to the HTC Desire (before I got my S4) the frustration of slow performance when I was used to fast.

Although the tech review sites have highlighted laggy performance in their G7 reviews, I can’t say this is something I’ve noticed at all and I’m very happy with the phone’s performance.

 

Other Niggles

I nearly always set my phone to Vibration mode (zero volume, buzzing for incoming calls and notifications) and it’s easy enough to select that option. Unfortunately, time and time and time again (several times a day) I discover that the G7 has switched into completely Silent mode, without vibration. This is driving me crazy, so if anyone has an answer to how it keeps happening, or better still, a way to stop it, I’m listening!

And speaking of Vibration mode, the vibration is really weak. Perhaps that contributes to the excellent battery life but I’d sure like a way to pump it up a little. (Hey, get your mind out of the gutter, yes you!)

Like most of Huawei’s in-house software, the Phone Dialler must surely also have been written by people who just don’t use phones very much! I can work out how to call a number from my Contacts and I can see how to type a number in myself. What I can’t readily do is paste in a phone number that I’ve copied from an email or tweet – the only way I’ve found is to start typing a number in to the Diallier, paste my copied number in and then go back and delete the number I typed in to bring the field up in the first place.

 

In conclusion

Although my review isn’t altogether positive, the Phone Manager / battery life are such strong additions to the Pros column that they do go a long way to balancing the Cons. And if Huawei gave up their insistence on replacing perfectly good default functionality with crappy in-house versions, most of the Cons could be crossed off the list.

Let me end with a few photos taken on the G7 (and posted to instagram):

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Kavey Eats was provided a Huawei Ascend G7 for review purposes.

 

If you were to write a wish list for the perfect, modern country house hotel, what might you include?

For me I’d be looking for a beautiful rural setting with plenty of varied attractions in the vicinity, easy to get to but still with that feeling of getting away from it all, sumptuous and spacious bedrooms with modern comfort and lots of personality, glamorous bathrooms with deep bathtubs and walk-in showers, appealing public spaces with comfy seating, an inviting bar and a delicious restaurant, all with modern decor throughout that is playful, quirky and fun to discover. Generosity of hospitality and genuine warmth in the welcome would also feature highly.

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Glazebrook House Hotel sits at the southern edge of Dartmoor National Park and is a very easy drive from London – less than four hours on the day we visited.

And it scores pretty damn highly against my wish list.

Collage Glazebrook outside (c) Kavita and Pete Favelle

After decades as a traditional, fairly uninspiring but perfectly decent hotel, it was purchased and completely remodelled by Pieter and Fran Hamman. They commissioned interior designer Timothy Oulton to create a stunning and eclectic luxury boutique hotel with just eight rooms, a bar and restaurant plus conference room and attractive gardens. The new Glazebrook opened last May and, as it comes towards the end of it’s first year in business, we were invited to visit on a glorious spring weekend.

Owner Pieter tells us that the Georgian house was built in 1865, the same year that Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll) wrote Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Accordingly, there’s a subtle Alice in Wonderland theme in play, though it’s not overdone or pushed to kitsch; the room names draw from the story and just behind reception there’s an unusual display of magnifying glasses hung on a wall over correspondingly-shaped holes through which little passages from the book can be seen – magnified, of course!

At the heart of the styling is Timothy Oulton’s range of furniture – beds, headboards, sofas, tables, storage trunks, wardrobes – a modern take on traditional styles with lots of leather and shiny metal. In the main part, the decor owes more to the sensibilities of an eBay and car boot sale addict, with displays of everything from road signs to bowler hats, trumpets to drum kits, old cine cameras to dolls houses, china plates to tarnished silver serving platters – all of it vintage, assiduously sourced by Oulton’s team and turned into artful knick-knacks. As a life-long collector, I absolutely love it!

Collage Glazebrook interiors (c) Kavita and Pete Favelle

The lobby is a rather fabulous space with grand chandeliers, a huge British flag draped behind the reception desk – large and silver with matching silver bulldog atop it, a taxidermy flamingo, an emu skeleton and many more fascinating details, plus some very comfortable sofas to sink into. From this central space you can take the grand staircase to the first floor, where seven of eight rooms are located, and there are also doors to the restaurant, the bar and a whisky and wine room.

Collage Glazebrook Mad Hatter Room (c) Kavita and Pete Favelle

I can’t wait to see our room and I’m not disappointed. Mad Hatter features a king size bed with large leather headboard above which are three vintage dolls houses suspended on the wall – lying on the bed, it’s a little discombobulating at first to look up into their interiors, but you quickly forget about the oddness. A huge marble desk sits below a flatscreen TV mounted on the wall within a frame of blue and white plates. Old hats and hat forms are mounted on another wall. Glass domes show off a tumble of tiny green glass bottles and tea cups and saucers with an illustrated page from Alice in Wonderland. The bathroom is huge, with a deep white tub, double marble sinks and a walk-in shower and gorgeous black and white Q*bert-esque tile floor.

A nice touch is that the wardrobe contains a fridge containing a nice selection of beer, wine and soft drinks plus tea and coffee making facilities and a basket of chocolate, sweets and snacks. All of these are complimentary, we are told when being shown to our room; such a welcome change from price-gauging mini bar charges. Later, sitting in the bath with a sparkling glass of Luscombe Damascene rose and a packet of fruit pastilles, this is even more appreciated – I’d much rather the room rate be an extra £10 or £20 a night with such extras rolled in than having to negotiate ludicrously marked up charges for wi-fi, bottled drinks, coffee and an occasional bar of chocolate.

The bed is supremely comfortable but both of us hate this style of feather pillow – the kind that squishes completely flat where your head lies, to create two enormous cushions trapping your head and providing no support at all. The only other gripe is the shower; you can flip the water between a detachable, wall-mounted shower and the overhead monsoon head but the wall-mounted one is barely high enough for me (and I’m only 5 foot 6 inches) and Pete can really only use the monsoon head, which is mounted just a few inches above his head.

But these are minor niggles and we love our room.

Collage Glazebrook other rooms (c) Kavita and Pete Favelle

The other rooms are just as beautiful. White Rabbit, with it’s giant sheepskin bedframe and playing cards is often sold as the bridal suite and has a white tub and walk-in shower like ours. Chesire Cat is the third luxury double (along with White Rabbit and our room) and I’m very taken by the purple colour scheme. The room is huge and has a pretty chaise longue but note that the bathroom doesn’t include a tub and both windows look out onto slate tile roofs and trees, quite a restricted if appealingly private view. Jabberwocky is a superior double, a little smaller than the luxury doubles and with shower only once again. Tweedle Deez is another superior room and the only twin, with two stunning metal four poster beds and a shower-only bathroom. Gryphon is the hotel’s only single room, the bedframe made with recycled metal from a Spitfire plane, so we’re told. Caterpillar, a standard double, is the smallest room in the house, although still with the lovely design touches of all the other rooms. Last is Bread and Butterflies, a wheelchair accessible room on the ground floor.

Collage Glazebrook dining room dinner (c) Kavita and Pete Favelle

The in-house restaurant is very popular with locals so do make sure to book a table when you make your room reservation, if you want to be sure of a eating in.

Benefitting from enormous floor-to-ceiling windows, the room has plenty of light during the day and lots of light from chandeliers and candle sconces during the evening. Walls are decorated with collections of vintage china and silver serving platters, with wooden flooring and comfortable leather chairs.

Cooking is solid, based on good quality ingredients, though some dishes wow more than others. Winners are the Ticklemore goat’s cheese fritters and gingerbread whipped mousse starter – light, crisp, delicately flavoured – and a phenomenal whole lemon sole with samphire, lemon butter and jersey royal potatoes – the fish is so perfectly cooked and the lemon butter dressing just right.

The chicken liver parfait with tomato chutney and brioche is decent but let down by a slimy chicken thigh terrine which tastes of very little and contributes nothing to the plate. My west country pork belly, seared loin, cream potato, apple and cauliflower is a strong combination but the loin is very dry and the pork belly could do with even longer cooking to make the fat more soft and melting. It’s decent but not excellent.

The main let down of the meal is a chocolate torte with espresso jelly and tia maria cream – the espresso jelly layer, tia maria cream and tempered chocolate triangle on top are all fine but the main torte is very grainy, like seized chocolate and the texture is too off-putting for me. I am kindly offered a switch and enjoy a scoop of thunder and lightning ice cream served with an excellent light and crisp chocolate chip cookie.

The cheese selection is a really good choice featuring west country cheeses Yarg, Cornish Blue, Sharpham Cremet, Sweet Charlotte Cheddar and Quirk’s Mature Cheddar, served with quince jelly, grapes and a nice plate of crackers; the Sharpham Cremet goats cheese is utterly fantastic, a perfectly ripe, incredibly creamy goat’s cheese in the Brie style.

Collage Glazebrook dining room breakfast (c) Kavita and Pete Favelle

Breakfast is served in the same lovely dining room, this time with wooden tables unadorned with white linen and pots of fresh herbs as centre pieces. Juices, fresh fruit and patisseries are excellent as is Pete’s cheese and ham omelette. My full breakfast is alright – the single tiny sausage is a little overcooked, the black pudding and bacon are OK. There is little to make my heart leap – close but no cigar. I would rate both dinner and breakfast as enjoyable meals, but with some room for improvement.

Current room rates are £159 for the single, £179 for the standard double, £189-£199 for the superior twin and doubles and £239 for the three luxury doubles – that’s for bed and breakfast, with bar drinks and dinner charged a la carte. We think that’s a real steal for a relaxing afternoon, evening and morning in this lovely property.

Pete and I fell pretty hard for Glazebrook and I know we’ll definitely be back. We talked about family celebrations we might hold here, to share the delights of Glazebrook with our nearest and dearest, but I suspect we’ll err on the side of selfishness and keep it as a romantic retreat to savour on our own.

Kavey Eats were guests of Glazebrook House Hotel.

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