When it comes to tourism in Belgium, Brussels gets a bad rap.

Go to Bruges, they say, for the picturesque canals and mediaeval centre.
Go to Antwerp, they say, for world class art and hipster fashion.
Go to Ghent, they say, for more of the same plus cycling too.
Go to Ypres, they say, for WW1 history.

But Brussels? Brussels is often dismissed as little more than a hub for politicians and lobbyists.

Of course, there’s much more to Brussels than politics! Yes, Brussels is the home of the European Union, NATO and the United Nation’s European office…

…but it is also the capital of a country of two halves – the Dutch-speaking Flemish region of Flanders and French-speaking Wallonia in the South. Multicultural Brussels, the third region of the country, is bilingual though French is now more prevalent than Dutch. These days English is widely spoken as well as many other languages, indeed it’s said that as much as half the population speak neither French nor Dutch as their native tongue.

As a Londoner, one of the things I find most appealing about Brussels is this sense of multiculturalism. Although the issue of language is still a hot potato for many Belgians, especially when it comes to education and cultural identity, Brussels is a city that is very open to the world.  Indeed, we chat to Pierre from the local tourist board who tells us that the people of Brussels refer to themselves as zinneke (bastard dogs), wearing their mongrel heritage with pride. Pierre is himself the perfect example – his mother is gipsy, his father Walloon and Flemish, his wife Brazilian and his sisters are married to a German, a Frenchman and a Czech, respectively!

Brussels is a vibrant city with a historic heart and a modern outlook. And the Eurostar service takes you from London St Pancras to Brussels Midi-Zuid in less than two and a half hours!

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When it comes to sightseeing, you still can’t beat a good old-fashioned guide book, or the website equivalent. I won’t try to recreate that here but suggest that as well as the popular Gothic and baroque buildings of the Grand Place and surrounding narrow cobbled streets, the shiny Atomium housing a variety of exhibitions and the incomprehensibly mobbed corner where the Mannekin Pis resides you might want to look up Jeanneke Pis and Zinneke Pis – the squatting female and doggie equivalents of Mannekin, the Belgian Comic Strip Centre (and the Comic Strip walk that takes you past comics painted on the walls of a number of buildings), an amazing array of grand buildings such as the Cathedral of St Michael and St Gudula, the Bourse (stock exchange), the Royal Palace, the Basilique du Sacré Coeur and the architecture of art nouveau architect Victor Horta. Lovers of literature, art, history and even cars, will also appreciate several excellent museums in Brussels.

Instead, I’m going to share my tips for some great places to eat, drink, shop and sleep.

 

Chocolates and Patisserie

Brussels is awash with shops selling chocolate, but much of what’s on sale is cheap, bulk-manufactured products that are hardly worth wasting suitcase space for. Here are the ones that are worth seeking out.

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Laurent Gerbaud is one of Belgium’s rising chocolatiers and is fighting an uphill battle to move Belgians on from the idea of “Belgian chocolate” to an understanding of the actual origins and varieties available.

Like several chocolatiers I’ve met, Laurent was a chef first; he came to chocolate via chocolate sculpture with an artist friend, and that lead, eventually, to his current career. As a child, he developed an interest in China, perhaps because of several friendships he had with Chinese and Taiwanese families. He worked in Chinese restaurants, took courses in Chinese and, after a university degree in history, finally moved to China for a couple of years. There, he discovered that the Chinese don’t have as sweet a tooth as Europeans and he lost his taste for high sugar sweets. When he came back to Belgium, he had the obvious thought of bringing his experiences in China into his chocolate making but realised he wasn’t inspired by fusion flavours. Instead, he focused on quality ingredients, including some sourced from Asia.

Today, the Chinese influences is perhaps most evident in his logo which is an artistic interpretation of the Chinese hanzi characters for “chocolate” and his name.

Laurent is keen to make chocolate that people love to eat; he says “one of my purposes is to make junk food – you eat one and you want another because it’s really good”. Judging by the chocolates we tasted, he’s nailed it – I could have eaten a whole box of the chocolates made with dried figs from Turkey and candied oranges from Italy. His shop on Rue Ravenstein is also a boutique tea room, with plans to extend the service to offer a savoury menu too.

Tip: Of course, you can visit his shop just to buy some of his excellent chocolate, but for a more personal experience, book a chocolate tasting or chocolate making workshop.

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Pierre Marcolini is one of the few Belgian chocolatiers to make chocolate from bar to bean, before then using it to make a range of chocolates. His chocolate shop at 2 Rue de Minimes is certainly full of temptation but what I recommend above the chocolate is a visit to the address around the corner at 39 Grote Zavel, where his spectacular patisserie is sold. I found the macarons surprisingly disappointing but a glossy strawberry patisserie was a winner.

Other famous chocolate brands in Brussels include Wittamer (a long standing bakery and chocolate business) and Frederic Blondeel (a chef turned chocolatier who also makes chocolate from bean to bar).

 

Speculoos Biscuits

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Speculoos, hailing from Belgium and The Netherlands, are spiced shortcrust biscuits that were originally associated with the feast of Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas) in early December. Made from flour, brown sugar and butter with a spice mix that usually includes cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, cardamom and white pepper, these days they are popular and available all year round.

Maison Dandoy, established in 1829, makes a range of sweet bakery products but is best known for its traditional speculoos and gingerbread biscuits. These days, it has a handful of shops in Brussels, but its worth making a trip to its oldest remaining store at 31 Rue au Beurre, to admire the beautiful wooden biscuit moulds lining the shelves. The Tea Room on Rue Charles Buls (also known as Karel Bulsstraat) is larger, offering the opportunity to enjoy a wide range of biscuits, pastries and drinks inside. There are an additional four shops in Brussels, plus one in nearby Waterloo.

Having tried several supermarket brands of speculoos biscuit, I was surprised to discover that it’s not just a case of fancy shops and branding – the Maison Dandoy speculoos biscuits are definitely superior!

We also tried Dandoy’s pain à la Grecque, a crunchy bread-cum-biscuit coated with pearled sugar crystals. I was more fascinated by the origins of the name than the biscuit itself – over two centuries ago, the monks of a local Augustine abbey used to support the city’s destitute by giving them bread. The abbey was located near a place known as Wolvengracht (Wolves Ditch); the gracht pronounced grecht in local dialect. Over time, pain a la grecht morphed into pain à la Grecque, confusing generations of shoppers with its erroneous suggestion of a Greek origin.

Tip: If you’re as huge a fan of speculoos biscuits as we are, make a quick visit to a supermarket to pick up a couple of extra large packs of mass-produced biscuits as well. There’s a mini supermarket in Brussels Midi Station.

 

Cuberdons

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I first fell for cuberdons over two decades ago, and if anything, I love them even more today. A purply-dark red colour and conical in shape, the cuberdon is a raspberry-flavoured gummy sweet, firm on the outside with an oozing interior. In Dutch, it’s known as a neus (nose), in French it’s called a chapeau-de-curé or chapeau-de-prêtre (priest’s hat).

You can find cuberdons in quite a few sweet shops in Brussels, several of which sell multiple colours and flavours, a relatively recent phenomenon. But we’ve found that the best prices for regular raspberry cuberdons is from the Cric-Crac sweet shop inside Brussels Midi station, which sells by weight.

Tip: These sweets are best eaten within a couple of weeks of purchase, as the liquid centre can crystallise and harden if left for too long.

 

Waffles

Belgian Waffles fall into two types.

Firm, rich and chewy Gaufre de Liège (Liège Waffle) are made from an adapted brioche-dough and work well both hot and cold. These are usually oval in shape and have a slightly crunchy exterior from the crystallised sugar that has caramelised against the waffle iron. They’re great for eating on the hoof as they’re traditionally eaten plain (though you can buy them with toppings too if you prefer).

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Rectangular Brussels Waffles are made with a leavened batter, resulting in a much lighter and airier texture and are definitely at their best enjoyed hot, fresh from the waffle iron. Traditionally, Brussels waffles are served with a dusting of icing sugar but these days you can choose from a wide selection of toppings including ice cream, chocolate sauce and fruits. But I suggest you ignore all of those and ask for your waffle with a generous dollop of speculoos paste. With a texture much like smooth peanut butter, this sweet spread is the same flavour as the famous biscuit and melts wonderfully into the indentations of a freshly-cooked hot waffle.

Tip: You’ll find waffles on sale all over Brussels, often from hole-in-the wall vendors, but if you want to sit down and eat, try Maison Dandoy’s Tearoom.

 

Beer & Bars

Belgium is world famous for its beers and rightly so, with a rich tradition that goes back many, many centuries. The range of beers produced by Belgian breweries is impressive, including pale, golden, amber, red and dark ales, dubbels and tripels, Flemish sour brown, Champagne beers (which receive a second fermentation using the method now most strongly associated with Champagne), wheat beers and lambics (spontaneously fermented with wild yeasts that are native to the brewery, as opposed to the addition of cultivated yeasts).

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Both Pete and I absolutely love what owner Jean Hummler is offering at his two bars, Moeder Lambic and Moeder Lambic Fontainas, located at 68 rue de Savoie and 8 place Fontainas, respectively. He started the first bar less than five years ago, after a career working for industrial food businesses in France.

He starts off by telling us why he wanted to do something different; “most places are not very selective, they sell coca cola and junk food” and their beer selection is not very inspiring either. He is committed to selling only quality produce and that applies to the beers, the food and even the soft drinks. He has two key criteria, the way a product is made and how it tastes. “Making money and brewing great beer are often not the same job”, he laughs. He looks for products that are made by hand, adding that he doesn’t want “industrial anything”. For a beer to be selected it must be made with craft and it must pass the taste test – it must taste good! Right now, he has approximately 150 beers on the menu of which 46 are on tap. These include beers from around the world, including a number from the UK.

The same principles apply to his sourcing of cheeses and charcuterie (which form the main thrust of the simple menu) and the non-beer drinks menu (which includes some delicious farmhouse apple juice, for those less interested in the beers).

The cheese selection (€12.5) is utterly wonderful; all are raw milk cheeses and range from soft and mild to fantastically pungent, each one a genuine delight. In the centre of the serving board is a bowl of pottekees – a blend of fresh white cheese, onion, pepper and lambic beer. Just as excellent is the meat selection (€12.5) which includes garlic sausage, French sausage, paté made with geuze beer, hâte levée – pork cooked slowly in bouillon with garlic and spices, Tierenteyn mustard, Belgian pickles (which are a lot like piccalilli). Both plates are served with a basket of bread and a superb raw milk butter.

As he introduces each item on the plates, his enthusiasm for the producers and their products is self-evident; “The idea is to offer another selection, another quality, another explanation that most people don’t know exists”.

Two other key policies for Hummler are ensuring that all his staff know and love the product range, and establishing strong relationships with each supplier – and one (of many) ways he furthers both is the Moeder Fucker series of beers brewed by Le Paradis microbrewery not far from Nancy, in France. For each beer he sends two of his staff to the brewery to help make it; they decide which style of beer to make and work with the brewery team to create their vision. During our visit, Moeder Fucker IV was on tap.

As we talked, Pete tried five beers, guided by Hummler through the staggering range available. He drank Taras Boulba by local Brasserie de la Senne (Belgium), Moeder Fucker IV by Le Paradis (France), Mozaic Black by Mont Saleve (France), Cuvée De Ranke by Ranke (Belgium) and Fièvre de Cacao by Thiriez (France).

In the end, Hummler is a man after my own heart. “We all have to decide. Each citizen has to decide what they want to do with their life. I decided for myself that I wanted to eat very good food. I eat less and less meat, maybe once a week but what I eat is very good, like the chicken that is aged 120 days on a small farm. Taste is very important to me.

Tip: Ask staff for guidance in selecting beers for your own beer flight.

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Small and traditional pub La Fleur en Papier Doré was the perfect place to meet local friends for an evening drink. At 55 Rue des Alexiens, it was very close to our bed and breakfast, and also easy to reach by local bus. The menu shares a little of the history of the bar, housed in a small maisonette that dates from the mid 18th century. In the past it housed a convent, which moved to a new home in the middle of the 20th century. As a pub, it became the favoured meeting place of the Surrealist cultural movement with regulars including René Magritte; a few decades later it was a focus point for the Cobra (avant-garde) movement, creators of experimental art and philosophy. Mementos of both remain on the well-worn walls of the cosy pub, protected (along with the façade, the ground floor rooms and some of the furniture) by the local government which has decreed them of historical value.

Stop for a few beers (and some charcuterie) or for a simple meal.

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The Cantillon Brewery welcomes visitors for brewery tours (7 Euros including a beer) or to buy beer. You can buy to drink in or takeaway; lovers of lambic will particularly enjoy a visit. The address at 56 Rue Gheude is only a short walk from the central tourist district.

 

Lunch Stops

My first recommendation for a light lunch is the cheese plate and charcuterie selection at Moeder Lambic, above. Super quality, and each provides a generous portion for the price.

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Another great option is recently opened Peck 47 (amusingly named for its address at 47 Rue Marche Aux Poulets). This all day cafe offers a short menu of home made sandwiches, salads, soups, cakes, fresh juices, smoothies and a small selection of local beers. For just €8, my poached eggs on sourdough with smoked salmon and homemade relish was far more generous than I expected and all the items were of excellent quality. The eggs were perfectly poached, the salad nicely dressed and the home made relish very good indeed. Pete’s sandwich – roast chicken, rocket, lemon and basil mayo and slow roasted tomatoes – also impressed, for €5.

Tip: A particularly nice touch is that the free tap water is stored in the drinks fridge in large bottles stuffed with mint. Ask for some!

 

A Traditional Dinner

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I have to say from the off – don’t go to Restobieres if you’re looking for great service. The three staff on duty ranged from friendly but incompetent through utterly disinterested to downright sullen. That usually stops me from recommending a place but Restobieres is a good option if you’re keen to try traditional Belgian dishes alongside a range of Belgian beers.

Herve Cheese Croquets (€10) were a tasty comfort food, served hot and freshly fried. Homemade paté with Rochefort and foie gras  (€12) was a generous slab; light on the foie gras but tasty nonetheless. My calf’s liver with shallots and Chouffe  (€20) was decent; I really liked the beer and shallot sauce. Pete had satisfactory steak and chips with another good sauce and a generous well-dressed salad. The star of the mains was our friend’s bloempanch blood pudding (€12) which was both tasty and generously portioned for the price.

The only duff note (with the exception of the service) was a scoop of speculoos biscuit ice cream (€4) which we decided could only possibly have been made by a chef who’d never tasted speculoos (and not bothered to look up a recipe for the spices usually used). The texture was unpleasantly gritty too.

Located at 9 rue des Renards, not far from the Jeu de Balle flea market.

 

Brussel’s Modern Dining Scene

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I already explained how much we liked the multicultural vibe in Brussels. This goes equally for the food scene, which has some great restaurants to explore. One such place launched just a few weeks before our visit; located along very trendy Rue de Flandre in the Sainte Catherine district, Gramm is a restaurant offering bold, inventive and modern food. It’s headed up by Chef Erwan Kenzo Nakata, who grew up in Brittany to a French father and Japanese mother, thus explaining some of the eclectic Japanese touches to otherwise modern French cooking.

The evening offering is a fixed tasting menu, 6 courses for €38. Although the courses are individually quite small, we felt very satisfied at the end of our meal, having enjoyed the array of tastes, textures and colours in Nakata’s self-assured dishes.

While I felt the food was good value, I was less impressed with the drinks pricing, for wines, beers and soft drinks (which were served in shockingly tiny glasses) so if you’re on a fixed budget, keep an eye on your drinks orders to avoid a shock at the end of the evening. Also, do set aside plenty of time. Service is very warm and friendly but the wait between courses, even in a nearly empty restaurant, is a little longer than ideal.

Tip: Don’t be shy about asking for more of the excellent bread and butter, by the way, it’s great for mopping up some of the juices and sauces!

 

The Marolles Flea Market

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Usually, I’m not much of a shopper but offer me the chance to browse a car boot sale or flea market and I’m instantly excited, so I was very keen to return to the famous Marolles Flea Market held daily in the Place du Jeu de Balle. On sale is a charming mix of cheap tat and more expensive “antiques”; it’s definitely a case of one man’s rubbish being another man’s treasure. With my love of retro kitchenware, I was in heaven as there’s plenty of it here, at very bargainous prices. It’s actually a miracle I came away with only a couple of ornate old teaspoons and two Nestle branded cups and saucers in amber glass – there was, I think, a complete set of six in the box but most were too chicken-shit-and-feather covered to assess very well, so I just bought the two cleanest ones for a whopping €1!

The market runs every day of the year. Official start times state that it starts at 6 am and finishes at 2pm on weekdays, 3pm on weekends.

Tip: Take lots of small change with you and of course, be prepared to haggle!

Brussels has many more markets to visit including markets for art, food, flowers and vintage clothes.

 

An Elegant Pillow

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X2B Brussels is a family run luxury bed and breakfast in the heart of Brussels, just a few minutes walk from the Grand Place. The three guest bedrooms are each on a different floor – we booked the first floor double and were delighted to discover a vast room with soaringly high ceilings, simple and elegant furnishings and a very generous en-suite bathroom. Do note that none of the rooms have step-free access and, as you’d expect in a private home, there is no lift. Guests are welcomed either by owner Xavier or his mother Monique, who sit down with guests on arrival to share tips for visiting Brussels, personalised to their guests’ interests. Breakfast is excellent: a basket of fresh bread and pastries with an enormous selection of jams and spreads, cheese and cold hams, yoghurt, eggs however you’d like them, rounded off by coffee and freshly squeezed orange juice. The hot freshly made raisin bread pain perdu is a lovely touch. Free wifi is also a boon, for those of us who like to stay connected. From £160 a night including breakfast.

Tip: make sure you jot down the house number as well as the street name; there’s no obvious sign on the outside so we walked up and down the same stretch of road several times, eventually identifying the B&B only by peering at the tiny labels for individual doorbells.

 

Getting Around

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In terms of getting around, the key sites in Brussels are within a fairly small area and its certainly possible to walk. But you can also make use of the metro and tram network, as well as local buses. The Brussels Card gives unlimited use of public transport, free entry into some attractions, discounted entry into many more and discounts in shops and restaurants too. You will also be given a free city map. Available for 24, 48 or 72 hours for 24€, 36€ or 43€.

 

With thanks to Eurostar for the complimentary return tickets between London and Brussels and thanks to the Brussels Tourist Board for their assistance in planning some of our sightseeing highlights and their insight into historic and modern Brussels.

 

Some of you know that my Pete is a keen home brewer. He often writes about his efforts over on Pete Drinks.

On Wednesday, he spent the day at The Bull, a wonderful pub in Highgate with its own brewery on site. With their brewer Jenna and assistant brewer Jack on hand to help, Pete made his own recipe coffee porter, getting properly stuck in at all steps – weighing the ingredients, cleaning and heating the mashtun, adding the ingredients, sparging, transferring to the kettle, boiling the wort, adding hops, boiling, adding the coffee, transferring to the fermenter, adjusting the gravity and pitching the yeast.

He said it was reassuringly like the process he follows at home, just on a larger scale with (slightly) fancier equipment! Read his post on the experience, here.

If you’re London based, please come along to The Bull on the evening of November 12th, when Pete’s Coffee Porter will be launched. You can view the Facebook invitation here.

(Don’t worry if you can’t make it on the night, the beer will remain on tap for a few weeks until it runs out).

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I hope you can join us!

signed,
Mrs Proud Wife

 

I’ve never cooked beef short ribs before. I’m not sure if I’ve even eaten them before but I think I may have. Certainly I’ve seen much talk about them being a great value cut that benefits from long slow cooking such as a braise.

My beef short ribs came from The Ginger Pig, and I asked them to cut them in half, through the bone for me so that when I cut between the bones, I was left with smaller, more manageable pieces.

Trying to narrow down recipes, I found many appealing ones on the web including Barbecued Beef Ribs & Molasses Bourbon Sauce, Coffee-Marinated Bison Short Ribs (which I figured would translate well to beef ribs), Cherry Balsamic Short Ribs, Stout-Braised Short Ribs and Red Wine-Braised Short Ribs. I even contemplated adjusting this recipe for Dr Pepper Pork Ribs, but figured best to use a recipe intended for my cut of meat, at least the first time.

The recipe that called to me most strongly was this Braised Hoisin Beer Short Ribs by Dave Lieberman, posted on the Food Network.

Although the total cooking time is nearly 4 hours, the prep is fairly quick and easy and the ingredients list is short and simple. The original recipe calls for rice wine vinegar but as it’s only a small amount, I substituted cider vinegar which I already had in stock.

The recipe worked well, and we enjoyed it. The meat was tender and falling off the bone and the sauce was nicely balanced,. Although the beer didn’t really come through, it probably did its job of tempering the hoisin. But I’m not yet sold on beef short ribs. I think many of the recipes I’ve found could be made with ox cheeks, which I adore and are the same price per kilo or cheaper.

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Braised Hoisin & Beer Beef Short Ribs

Adapted from Food Network

Serves 4-6

Ingredients
1.5 kilos beef short ribs, cut into approximately 10 pieces
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil
10 to 12 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1-inch piece ginger, peeled and finely chopped
340 ml mild beer
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
240 ml hoisin sauce

Method

  • Season the ribs generously with salt and pepper.
  • Heat the oil in a large heavy casserole dish with a lid. Brown the ribs on all sides, in batches if necessary. Remove the ribs. If you have more than a couple of tablespoons of oil and rendered fat, pour away any excess before continuing.

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  • Lower the heat to medium and fry the garlic and ginger for 2-3 minutes.

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  • Return the ribs to the dish. Pour the beer and vinegar over them.

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  • Once the liquid has reached a simmer, cover and reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 2.5 hours.
  • Preheat the oven to 150 degrees C.

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  • Pour the hoisin sauce over the ribs, transfer the dish to the oven and cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes.
  • Remove the ribs from the sauce. Strain excess fat from the sauce, if necessary, and serve the sauce over the ribs.

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  • Serve with mashed potatoes and green vegetables.

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Do you have any favourite recipes for beef short ribs to share?

 

I’ve been chatting with Harviestoun Brewery recently… as you do when you’re married to a beer, whisky and coffee blogger

Harviestoun celebrate their 30th anniversary this year. Pete’s already a fan of their beers and they’ve featured on Pete Drinks three times already. Their Wild Hop Gold was one of the Sainsbury’s Great British Beer Hunt selections… and what beer and whisky lover wouldn’t appreciate their Ola Dubh beers, dark porters aged in whisky casks?

We’re both rather excited by their latest project – a collaboration with artisan chocolatiers The Chocolate Tree. After a recent beer and chocolate pairing session, in which the favourite match was Harviestoun’s Ola Dubh 18 and a 75% Madagascar, Harvieston commissioned The Chocolate Tree to create some limited edition beer chocolates using that same combination.

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Only 40 boxes were made, each one containing 6 foil-wrapped eggs weighing about 50 grams. Each egg is actually two chocolates, consisting of a Criollo and Trinitario cacao shell around a soft centre made from the Madagascar mixed with Ola Dubh 18 beer. The signature fruitiness of Madagascar chocolate comes through beautifully, and the subtle taste of beer adds another layer of flavour. Oh and the boxes are wrapped in a beautiful brown ribbon too – I confess I’m a sucker for ribbon!

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The eggs won’t be available to buy but you have lots of opportunities to win!

 

COMPETITION

Harviestoun have offered a box of their limited edition Ola Dubh 18 chocolate and beer Easter eggs to one lucky Kavey Eats reader. The prize includes free delivery within the UK.

 

HOW TO ENTER

You can enter the competition in 3 ways:

Entry 1 – Blog Comment
Leave a comment below, telling me about your favourite food and beer pairings.

Entry 2 – Facebook

Like the Kavey Eats Facebook and leave a (separate) comment on this blog post with your Facebook user name.

Entry 3 – Twitter
Follow @Kavey and @HarviestounBrew on Twitter. Existing followers are, of course, welcome to enter!
Then tweet the (exact) sentence below.
I’d love to win Ola Dubh 18 Easter Eggs from Kavey Eats and @HarviestounBrew! http://goo.gl/UnQ9P #KaveyEatsOlaDubh
(Please do not add the @Kavey twitter handle into the tweet; I track entries using the hashtag. And you don’t need to leave a blog comment about your tweet either, thanks!)

 

RULES & DETAILS

  • You must be over 18 to enter this competition.
  • The deadline for entries is midnight GMT Saturday 23rd March 2013.
  • The winners will be selected from all valid entries using a random number generator.
  • Entry instructions form part of the terms and conditions.
  • The prize is a box of Ola Dubh 18 Chocolate Easter Eggs and includes free delivery within the UK.
  • The prize cannot be redeemed for a cash value.
  • The prize is offered and provided by Harviestoun Brewery.
  • Where prizes are to be provided by a third party, Kavey Eats accepts no responsibility for the acts or defaults of that third party.
  • One blog entry per person only. One Twitter entry per person only. One Facebook entry per person only. You do not have to enter all three ways for your entries to be valid.
  • For Twitter entries, winners must be following @Kavey and @HarviestounBrew at the time of notification. For Facebook entries, winners must Like the Kavey Eats Facebook page at time of notification.
  • Blog comment entries must provide a valid email address for contacting the winner.
  • The winners will be notified by email, Twitter or Facebook. If no response is received within 7 days of notification, the prize will be forfeit and a new winner will be picked and contacted.

 

OTHER WAYS TO WIN

If you’re not lucky in my competition, there are other ways to get your hands on one of these beautiful boxes:

  • Pete Drinks is also giving away a box on his blog.
  • Harviestoun are running a competition on their own website, here.
  • Harviestoun are also running a twitter competition. All tweets featuring the hashtag #OlaDubhEasterEggs between now and Monday 25th March will be automatically entered.

There’s no competition on their Facebook page, but why not go ahead and Like it anyway for news about their latest products and projects?

 

Kavey Eats received a sample product from Harvieston Brewery

Oct 262012
 

Aaaah. August! When the sun was shining and the sky was blue… it seems so long ago now…

On the last day of the month, Pete and I were invited to visit a Hop Garden in Kent, and learn more about how hops are grown, harvested and processed before being used to make beer. Our hosts, Shepherd Neame are based in Faversham, and are committed to using British hops as much as possible. They took us for a tour Mockbeggar Farm in nearby Teynham, where owner Tony Redsell showed us around.

You can read more about the visit on Pete Drinks.

For my part, I’d simply like to share some photographs from the day. (Click on individual images to view at larger size).

Out in the fields:

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Stripping hops from the bines:

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Drying the hops:

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Packaging the hops:

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Chatting to owner Tony Redsell and Shepherd Neame’s Head Brewer, Richard Frost:

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Kavey Eats visited Mockbeggar Farm as a guest of Shepherd Neame.

 

This post was originally published as a guest post on Pete Drinks.

We eat first with our eyes, so it’s no surprise that I’ve pinned more food images to my Pinterest boards than any others. One of the recipes that caught my eye was this Guinness & Cheddar Meatloaf from The Galley Gourmet blog. Admittedly, it was the sight of bacon-wrapped meat that drew my eye, but I also liked the sound of the beef, lamb and cheddar meat loaf and the beer and honey glaze.

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We made a few small changes to ingredients, and halved the recipe to serve 4 (or two with generous leftovers). There was some leftover glaze, as indicated in the original recipe, which we poured over the leftovers before reheating.

Bacon-Wrapped Meatloaf with a Stout & Honey Glaze

Glaze ingredients:
150 ml stout beer of your choice
50 grams light brown sugar
50 grams (2-3 tablespoons) honey
Meatloaf Ingredients:
1 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, finely diced
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
90 ml stout beer
1 slice white bread, roughly torn
60 ml whole milk
225 grams ground beef
225 grams pound ground lamb
1 large egg
100 grams strong cheddar cheese, grated
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 heaped teaspoon umami paste (or 10 grams dried porcini mushrooms, reconstituted and finely chopped)
0.5 teaspoon salt
0.5 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
200 grams good quality streaky bacon, approximately 12 rashers

  • First make the glaze by bringing the stout, honey and sugar to a boil, in a small pan, then cooking on a medium heat until the the liquid thickens and reduces to half of the original volume. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

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  • Preheat the oven to 180° C (fan).
  • Heat the vegetable oil in a frying pan and sauté the onion until just softened and beginning to take on colour.
  • Add the garlic and fry for another minute.
  • Add the stout and simmer briskly until the excess liquid has been absorbed or evaporated.
  • Set onion mixture aside in a bowl to cool down.

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  • If using porcini mushrooms, add boiling water to reconstitute, soak for 10 minutes, drain and finely chop.
  • In a bowl, soak the bread in the milk, tossing lightly until soggy but not falling apart.

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  • In a large bowl, combine all meatloaf ingredients except for the bacon. Mix by hand until thoroughly combined. (You can use a food processor for this step if you prefer).

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  • Line a rimmed baking tray with aluminium foil, transfer the meat mixture onto the foil and shape into a rounded loaf.
  • Drape the meatloaf with slightly overlapping strips of bacon, tucking the ends under the loaf. Carefully cover the ends of the loaf with additional rashers.

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  • Brush the top of the meatloaf with a few coats of the glaze.

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  • Bake for 45-50 minutes, basting with the juices, or extra marinade, 2 or 3 times during cooking.
  • Allow to rest for 5-10 minutes before cutting and serving.

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We both loved this recipe, and will definitely be making it again. Hope you enjoy it too!

 

Last month, Pete and I attended the European Beer Bloggers Conference 2012, held in Leeds. (I know I only occasionally post about beer, but of course, Pete Drinks writes about beer every week).

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image courtesy of The Ormskirk Baron

Nearly 100 beer bloggers plus representatives from breweries and other related industries came together for a weekend of beer drinking and discussing, organised by Zephyr Adventures.

Highlights included the two evening dinners organised by main sponsors MolsonCoors UK and Pilsner Urquell, the former served with a terrific selection of Sharp’s Connoisseurs Choice range and the latter hosted in the magnificent Anthony’s Piazza restaurant, within the stunning Corn Exchange building. (The whole sides of salmon were absolutely beautiful, both visually and to eat).

The agenda featured some excellent sessions including an unusually good technology one on blog platforms and website design by Leonard Austin, the night of international beers (for which kind European attendees brought stocks of a range of fascinating beers including a couple from Sweden that Pete will blog in coming weeks), a fascinating talk on taking blogging to the next level by Mark Dredge, Marverine Cole, and Zak Avery and a talk on the current state of the hops industry, by Paul Corbett, MD of Charles Faram.

The Live Blogging session was great fun. Ten beers in 50 minutes, giving each brewery just 5 short minutes at each table in which to serve their beer and tell us a little about it. I opted for micro-blogging via twitter and even that was tough in the time frame!

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Spiegelau Beer Classics Connoisseur Set

But my favourite session of the conference was a Comparative Beer and Glass Tasting with Spiegelau lead by Jon Gamble.

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images courtesy of The Ormskirk Baron

When we entered the room, each place had been set with a box containing Spiegelau’s Beer Classics Connoisseur Set and a selection of four beers.

Like many of the conference attendees, Pete and I were a little sceptical about how much difference the glasses would really make. Yes, it’s not uncommon to use different sizes and shapes of glass for drinking different wines, but this is beer we’re talking about!

As well as the four specialist glasses we were also provided with a regular pint glass – the kind you find in most pubs across the UK. In comparison with the Spiegelau glasses, the first thing we noticed was the thickness of the regular pint glass, including, of course, the rim.

We learned that the thick lip of the glass doesn’t deliver the beer to the right regions on the tongue for the very best beer tasting experience. In addition, the aromas of many beers dissipate quickly because of the shape of the glass. And the thicker glass makes it harder to admire the appearance of the beer within, especially when using the even thicker tankard-style beer mugs. Also, the thicker the glass, the longer it takes for the glass to adjust to the same temperature as the beer.

The Spiegelau glasses, by contrast, are thin and delicate, right up to the rim and the lip is narrow, allowing the beer to slip very smoothly into the mouth. This is said to improve mouthfeel of the beer. Being so smooth inside also helps beers keep their carbonation and head for longer.

For each of the four beers we were invited to try them in the fat pint glass and in a couple of the specialist glasses. The difference that the shapes of the glasses made not only to the aroma but, even more surprisingly, to the taste of the beers was a huge surprise.

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Wheat beer glass

Our first beer was a Camden Brewery wheat beer. The recommended glass was the tallest in the set, the Wheat Beer glass. Designed with the classic shape of a Bavarian wheat beer glass, the wide opening at the top enhances the aromas in traditional wheat beers, spiced beers and sour fruit lambics. We were instructed to pour slowly and gently to start and finish with a direct pour to create a thick and creamy foam head.

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Pilsner glass

Our second beer was Krombacher Pilsner. The Tall Pilsner glass is again a classic shape designed to suit German and Bohemian-style pilsners. The shape accentuates the hoppy aromas and bitterness of these dry beers, whilst also showing off the pretty pale golden colour and carbonation.

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Lager glass

Next up was Ilkley Brewery’s Lotus IPA for which we were recommended the served in our Lager glass. Created to bring out the subtleties of pale lagers, it’s also a good choice for ales and stouts. The shape, slightly wider at the mouth than the foot, also brings balance to the hoppy nose of the powerful IPAs that are so popular at the moment.

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Tulip glass

Last, we tried Ilkley Brewery’s Stout Mary in the Beer Tulip. The shape of the glass is particularly good at preserving aromas in the glass whether that’s hops or malt, or perhaps the hints of vanilla and bourbon from a bourbon cask-aged beer. We were told that the aromas are best enjoyed when the glass is filled only half way up. This glass was recommended for pilsner, Belgian style ales and powerful stouts.

We were not alone in being really pleasantly surprised at just how much difference the glasses made to the beer drinking experience and were thrilled when Spiegelau told the audience that the boxed sets were ours to take home with us.

 

WIN!

Win a Spiegelau Beer Classics Connoisseur Set containing one each of the wheat beer glass, the pilsner glass, the lager glass and the tulip glass. Delivery to any UK mainland address is also included.

 

HOW TO ENTER

You can enter the competition in 2 ways.

Entry 1 – Blog Comment
Leave a comment below, answering the following question:
What beer would you recommend we try next in the Spiegelau Classic Connoisseur Tulip Beer Glass?

Entry 2 – Twitter
First follow both @SpiegelauUK and @KaveyF accounts. Existing followers are, of course, welcome to enter!
Then tweet the (exact) sentence below:
I’d love to win a set of @SpiegelauUK beer glasses from Kavey Eats! http://goo.gl/4ygm5 #KaveyEatsSpiegelau

 

RULES & DETAILS

  • The deadline for entries is midnight GMT Friday 29th June 2012.
  • The winners will be selected from all valid entries using a random number generator.
  • The prize is a Spiegelau Beer Classics Connoisseur Set containing one each of the wheat beer glass, the pilsner glass, the lager glass and the tulip glass and includes delivery to a UK mainland address only.
  • The prize cannot be redeemed for cash.
  • The prize is offered directly by RSN.UK Ltd (trading as Riedel, Spiegelau and Nachtmann).
  • One blog entry per person only. One twitter entry per person only. You do not have to enter both ways for your entries to be valid.
  • For twitter entries, winners must be following both @SpiegelauUK and @KaveyF at the time of notification, as this will be sent by Direct Message.
  • Blog comment entries must provide an email address for contacting the winner.
  • The winners will be notified by email or twitter. If no response is received within 7 days of notification, the prize will be forfeit and a new winner will be picked and contacted.

This competition is now closed. Winner = Sharon McGuinness (entry via blog).

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Lastly, a big wave to a few beer friends, new and old. We met lots of wonderful people at #EBBC12 but our weekend was made particularly enjoyable by the time we spent with Chris Routledge, Chris Wildman (Paganum), Jonas Andersson (Pilsner Nu), Marverine Cole (Beer Beauty), Pete Alexander (Tandleman), Steve Lamond (Beers I’ve Known) and The Ormskirk Baron. Check our their sites for some great beer writing.

 

Boef Bourgignon aka Boeuf à la Bourguignonne is a classic French dish originating, as its name indicates, from the Burgundy region, as do a number of other dishes incorporating red wine, such as coq au vin and oeufs en Meurette. I’ve been meaning to try the latter ever since our last trip; I’ll try and blog that one soon.

So back to the beef: this hearty stew is characterised by a slow braise of beef in red wine, which renders the meat tender and succulent, and the addition of bacon, pearl onions and button mushrooms. Most recipes use stewing steak and combine beef stock with red wine for the braising liquid.

I decided to use beef cheeks (also known as ox cheeks), as I love the way these break down with slow cooking. I used shallots instead of pearl onions. And I substituted some dark ale for the beef stock, just because. These variations on the traditional version turned out extremely well!

This is a very easy dish, though you’ll need some time at the start, to prep all the ingredients and separately brown the beef pieces, mushrooms and shallots.

The amounts are flexible, to make it easier to do your shopping. These minor variations really won’t make a difference to the final result! Even if you’re cooking for one or two, I recommend making this recipe in the quantities below and freezing the extra portions for another time.

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Kavey’s Beef Cheeks Bourguignon

Serves 6

Ingredients
1-1.2 kilos beef cheeks (also known as ox cheeks), trimmed and cut into 2-3 inch pieces
2-3 tablespoons seasoned flour
Vegetable oil for cooking
200 grams bacon in cubes or short strips
200-300 grams button mushrooms, cut in half if large
300-400 grams shallots
2 medium-large onions, diced
1 bottle full-bodied red wine
250 ml dark ale
1 sprig fresh thyme or teaspoon dried
2-3 bay leaves

Method

  • Dredge each piece of beef in seasoned flour.
  • In a large lidded casserole dish – big enough for all the meat, onions, mushrooms, wine and liquid – heat a little cooking oil and fry the floured beef pieces until the surfaces are crusty and brown with caramelisation. Do this in batches so the meat doesn’t steam. Set aside the browned beef.
  • Add more cooking oil if necessary to brown the mushrooms in the same pan, then set aside.
  • Now do the same for the shallots, and set them aside with the mushrooms.
  • Again, add more oil to the empty pan, if necessary, and fry the bacon and onions until the onions soften and the bacon takes on a little colour.
  • To the bacon and onions, add back the beef pieces plus the bay leaves, thyme, red wine and dark ale.
  • Leave to simmer for 3 hours, with the lid on.
  • Add the mushrooms and shallots back to the dish and cook for another 30-45 minutes, uncovered, on a gentle simmer. The time depends on the size of your shallots, as you want to ensure they are cooked through and soft. Leaving the lid off will also allow the sauce to reduce a little further.

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    Serve with buttery mash potatoes, or plain steamed potatoes if you want to be more traditional.

 

 

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Today’s collection comes from Hopdaemon, a small brewery based in Kent. They’ve been on my ‘list’ for some time, but somehow I’d never managed to track them down before. Here we have all three of their beers that appear in bottle form – there are a couple of extras that are only available on tap.

I have to say, looking at the bottles side by side I’d have trouble telling that they were from the same brewery; also the label style somehow manages to re-enforce my assumption, from the ‘Hopdaemon’ name and even the Kiwi founder, that these are going to be big, floral, hoppy beasts and about the last thing expected were some very traditionally styled Kentish ales.

Just goes to show how wrong first impressions can be!

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Scrimshander is a copper coloured IPA at 4.5%. It has a fine bubbled lingering head which leads into a nice body with a well controlled fizz, and there’s not much nose to it – just a hint of caramel. On the tongue there’s sweet, fairly light malt, with deep hoppy bitterness that lingers long into the finish. It’s quite a classic Kentish bitter, and I like it, but it’s somehow not what I was expecting.

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Green Daemon Helles is a slightly stronger golden beer, at 5.0%. A straw colour, with a similarly lingering head on it. There’s more to smell on this, with some distinct floral grapefruit notes. It has another good dose of bitterness, although less pronounced than with the Scrimshander. A light body, gently sweet on the tongue, and very drinkable with pale fruit flavours throughout – delicious!

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Lastly we come to Leviathan, a strong ale at 6.0%. A deep red brown in the glass, with a slightly thinner head than it’s stable mates. On the nose there’s dark fruit, treacly, like dates. Surprisingly for it’s strength and sweetness, it doesn’t have a massively big body but it’s wonderfully sweet, sticky and rich, with some bitterness to the end that balances out that sweetness nicely. It’s a great tasting dark beer, with syrupy dried fruit – very nice.

Overall, it’s a great collection of traditional, very tasty Kentish beer – not what I was expecting, but very nice nonetheless. I shall certainly keep an eye out for their cask-only offerings.

 

When invited by Bath Tourism Plus to spend a day in Bath, taking our advice on what to visit from twitter, Pete and I jumped at the chance. We started asking for suggestions in the run up to our visit and by the day itself, the advice was flowing in at a great rate.

Both twitter friends and complete strangers came to our aid and between them, gave us lots of great ideas on how to spend our day.

The Pump Room Restaurant
The Roman Baths
Minerva Chocolate
Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution
The Star Inn
The Raven
Bath Ales’ The Salamander Pub
Paxton & Whitfield
Sally Lunn’s Buns
Thermae Bath Spa
Other Attractions
Next Time

The Pump Room Restaurant

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We started our day with breakfast in the Pump Room restaurant at the Roman Baths. Shown into a vast and elegant room with a trio playing live classical music on the stage.

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Starving after an early start, I went for the enormous Beau Nash Brunch (£12.95) which resulted in two enormous and very good eggs benedict, a pot of tea, a small glass of fresh orange juice and then, when I could barely eat another mouthful, toast and jam.

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Pete, being far more restrained, opted for the Tompian Treat (£6.25) and enjoyed two hot-buttered crumpets with blackcurrant jam, a pot of coffee and an apple juice.

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The food was excellent and seemed reasonably priced, especially given the grandiose setting and live music. However, service, was slow and it proved extremely difficult to attract attention despite the high number of staff working in the dining room.

The Roman Baths

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Of course, after our indulgent breakfast, we couldn’t miss a tour of the Roman Baths themselves. Wanting to cram as much into our day as possible, we opted to skip the headset audio tours and do a short sweet walkaround.

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Most visitors took advantage of the audio guides, which lead to an oddly quiet crowd meandering slightly myopically around the attraction but the lack of annoyingly voluble and high volume chatter was actually a relief. That said, on our weekday visit in late August, it was frustratingly crowded.

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There’s a huge amount of information to please history buffs and if I could go back and spend a few hours there, without the company of the madding crowds, I would love to take it all in properly.

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This under floor heating system took me immediately back to (happy days) studying history at school.

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This golden head of the goddess Minerva was found in the old temple ruins. We’ll come back to her head later.

Adult entry is £12. £7.80 per child. Or buy a family ticket (for up to two adults and four children) for £34.

Minerva Chocolate

After our visit to the Roman Baths, Pete and I went in different directions. I was invited to a special chocolate workshop with Philippe Wall, chocolatier and founder of Minerva Chocolate.

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I confess, I seem to have a bit of a thing for French men at the moment; I can’t help myself. Especially ones that humour me and let me rabbit away in French to them. Yes, yes, Philippe is Belgian but he’s a French-talking Belgian which, as he put it himself, is totally the same thing as a Northern Frenchman anyway!

It didn’t take long for me to fall utterly for Philippe’s charms. I challenge you to find a more jovial, affable chap in all of Bath!

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I only just resisted sticking my mouth under the tap of hot, melted chocolate. But was quickly distracted by a cup of rich, delicious hot chocolate.

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Philippe gave me and Tim (this year’s Masterchef winner) a short workshop on working with chocolate.

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First we tempered some of the melted chocolate and then we made chocolate buttons, dipped whole English black cherries, finished off some pralines and Tim poured a tonne of chocolate into a strange Buddha mould.

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Philippe has many custom moulds including some in the shape of Minerva’s head, the Roman goddess for which his shop is named.

I’m hoping to return to Bath and do a full length chocolate workshop with Philippe when I do.

Do visit Minerva Chocolate for a drink and tasty snack (takeaway or eat in), to buy some great chocolates or to attend a workshop with Philippe.

Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution

Initially planning to visit the Herschel Museum of Astronomy but finding it closed until later in the day, Pete turned to twitter and was quickly pointed towards the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution.

He enjoyed a quick tour of ‘Earth + Fire = Vessel’, an exhibition of pottery and artefacts from throughout human history.

Entry was free and the institution has a wide range of exhibitions, talks and events on offer.

The Star Inn

Pete’s next stop was The Star Inn, a small traditional pub which is the brewery tap of Abbey Ales, who describe themselves as Bath’s only brewery. Of course, Bath Ales may disagree! However, Abbey Ales are the only brewery still physically located within Bath itself.

The Raven

Next on Pete’s list was a visit to The Raven for another quick pint. It’s a small, attractive pub serving decent real ale including a few beers brewed especially for them by Blindman’s Brewery. Likewise, they are well known for delicious pies, made for them by Pieminister.

Bath Ales’ The Salamander Pub

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Bath Ales’ Moussa, taken later that evening

We’re no strangers to Bath Ales, and have a great twitter friendship with their social media guru so it was great to finally meet Moussa for a Bath Ales lunch at The Salamander, where we also reunited after our solo explorations.

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It’s a lovely pub, just the place to stop and rest weary bones, grab a pint or two and indulge in some simple but very tasty food.

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In the photos above, is Mark Dredge, one of the UK’s top beer bloggers. He organised our lunch time meet.

The Salamander has a great location and a very warm welcome.

Paxton & Whitfield

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I can’t imagine there’s a single reader of Kavey Eats who hasn’t picked up by now that I adore cheese. So it’s no surprise we popped in to Paxton & Whitfield on John Street.

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(Sorry for the variable photos, some were taken on my phone).

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Martin, the Bath store manager, talked us through a number of cheeses and we tasted a few, my favourite of which was the truffled Brie. Unlike most versions of this that I’ve tried, which have a vague smell but no real truffle flavour – even though you can clearly see a smear of black truffle across the centre – the Paxton & Whitfield version was heady in it’s truffly aroma and then, to my delight, kicked in with a very clear truffle taste. So heady that I was unable to leave without buying a generous slice to take home!

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It’s always great to buy cheese from genuine turophiles, like Martin, who can educate you about the cheeses on offer and help you work out the right ones for you.

Sally Lunn’s Buns

Sally Lunn’s is not the only provider of Bath buns in Bath. But it’s probably the best known.

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According to the ever handy wikipedia, a traditional Bath bun is “a rich, sweet yeast dough shaped round that has a lump of sugar baked in the bottom and more crushed sugar sprinkled on top after baking. Variations in ingredients include candied fruit peel, currants or larger raisins or sultanas.”

The cafe’s website relates their version of the history of the Bath bun: Sally Lunn was a Huguenot refugee (better known as Solange Luyon) who came to Bath in 1680 via Bristol, after escaping persecution in France. Finding work with a local baker, she introduced the light and delicate bun to the town. The bun quickly became popular and its fame spread far and wide. Apparently, the original and secret recipe is passed on with the deeds to the house and still made there by hand. Strong insistence is made that their true Bath bun differs greatly to the London copycat version which is also called a Bath bun.

On the other hand, I have found reference to the claim that the Bath bun descended from the 18th century Bath cake, devised by one William Oliver, a doctor treating visitors who came to Bath for the famous spa waters.

Whatever the truth of its history, we were determined to sample the famous buns and chose to do so at the most famous purveyor.

The buns are available with a range of toppings including butter and strawberry or blackcurrant jam, cinnamon butter, traditional thick cut orange marmalade, rich raspberry topping, lemon curd, coffee and walnut butter, chocolate butter, ginger butter or brandy butter, most of which are homemade.

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The menu also offers a wide range of savoury and sweet snacks including sandwiches, soups, rarebits, pates, a small range of full hot meals and sweet cakes, pies and tarts.

Pete chose half a Sally Lunn Bath bun with homemade lemon curd and I went for the homemade coffee and walnut butter on mine.

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When the buns arrived, we were a bit aghast – they looked huge and we’d not long had a generous lunch. But they were much lighter than we expected and we polished them off pretty quickly.

They’re simple buns, and those expecting a truly novel experience or a bun utterly distinct from all they’ve tried before, may be disappointed. But we were glad we stopped here. They may be simple but they’re awfully good and we appreciated the homemade toppings.

We will be hunting down recommended recipes to recreate the Bath bun here in North West London!

As an added attraction, the kitchen museum at the same site shows the actual kitchen used by Sally Lunn back in the 1600s. Entry is 30 pence.

Thermae Bath Spa

Although I am a huge fan of spas, I probably wouldn’t have taken time out of our day in Bath to go to the Thermae Bath Spa had we not been given complimentary 2 hour entry. And that would have been a huge, huge mistake as I truly loved the experience!

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Located just a short stroll from the Roman Baths, the Thermae Bath Spa has been built to give modern-day visitors the opportunity to take the famous Bath spa waters in a modern-day setting.

The main building is called the New Royal Spa and comprises a large indoor mineral pool called Minerva, which has a ‘lazy river’ current that moves floating swimmers slowly around the pool, a series of steam rooms, each with differently scented steam and a roof top thermal pool with magical views over neighbouring rooftops and Bath Abbey.

There is also a small separate facility just opposite, which offers a small open-air thermal bath with its own changing facilities. This is known as New Cross and is ideal for small group bookings. Entry for New Cross is not included with entry to the New Royal Spa facilities but we were taken across to have a quick peak before starting our own spa session.

Of course, spa treatments are also available, including regular, hot stone and hydro massages, body wraps, facials and so on.

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Image courtesy of LuxeGuru, another bathtwitrip participant

During our visit we enjoyed the Minerva thermal pool, the steam rooms and the roof top thermal bath.

The steam rooms were wonderful but the enormous waterfall shower in the centre of the room was underwhelming and the individual foot baths around the edges of the room were difficult to access, tight and more than half were broken.

It was the roof top pool that stole my heart; bobbing in warm waters and admiring the magical view out over the historical city of Bath is an experience I will not quickly forget.

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Images from Thermae Bath Spa website – New Cross, New Royal Spa rooftop thermal bath, Minerva pool and steam rooms

There were only a couple of frustrations: The cleverly designed lockers were operated by electrical keys integrated into unusually poorly designed wrist bracelets which constantly came loose. It was also frustrating that showers and toilets were on a different floor to the changing rooms.

To my surprise, prices for entry are very affordable with New Royal Spa charging £25 for 2 hours, £35 for 4 hours and £55 for a full day providing access to the indoor and outdoor pools and steam rooms as well as a cafe restaurant. Entry to the more limited facilities of New Cross costs just £15 per person for 1.5 hours or £150 for private group hire for the same period, for up to 12 people.

For a really different perspective on Bath, I wholeheartedly recommend the Thermae Bath Spa and will definitely be visiting again next time I am in town.

Other Attractions

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We were very pleased to be able to take in the Wild Planet Exhibition by London’s Natural History Museum. Featuring 80 spectacular images from Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition, we lingered over the wildlife and landscapes whilst enjoying live classical music and singing from buskers in the open square in front of the Abbey and Roman Baths.

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Image from store website

It’s down to will power that we managed to visit the wonderful Kitchen cookshop on Quiet Street without making any purchases, though had the bank balance been healthier, we absolutely would have done. It’s a paradise for cooks and I could easily lose hours inside.

Next Time

Although we packed as much into our day as we could, in the end we had time to visit only a fraction of our twitter recommendations which included favourite cafes, delis, bakeries, restaurants and more. It looks like another trip to Bath is in our future!

We’re also hoping to do a course at the charming Richard Bertinet’s cookery school soon.

If you have your own Bath favourites, please do share them in the comments.

With many thanks to Bath Tourism Plus for their invitation to participate in this hugely enjoyable day.

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