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

 

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.

SushiMania-N12-London-Restaurant - KaveyEats (c)KavitaFavelle-125424
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)!

Collage-SushiMania-N12-London-Restaurant - KaveyEats (c)KavitaFavelle
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

 

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.

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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.

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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.

Hauwei G7 - KaveyEats (c)KavitaFavelle-41 Hauwei G7 - KaveyEats (c)KavitaFavelle-48
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):

IMG_20150503_194234 IMG_20150503_141646 IMG_20150502_132250 IMG_20150502_131956 IMG_20150502_092030
IMG_20150501_210539 IMG_20150501_144335 IMG_20150501_135718 IMG_20150427_130339 IMG_20150425_111804
IMG_20150424_201734 IMG_20150423_145903 IMG_20150423_125706 IMG_20150419_201134 IMG_20150419_200029
IMG_20150419_194334 IMG_20150419_144036 IMG_20150418_220209 IMG_20150418_215705 IMG_20150418_174305
IMG_20150418_133028 IMG_20150416_080708 IMG_20150414_184322 IMG_20150412_131644 IMG_20150411_151708
IMG_20150408_160848 IMG_20150406_190831 IMG_20150404_221009 IMG_20150403_130801 IMG_20150402_173133

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.

glazebrook-1 glazebrook-2

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.

 

Sous-vide is a wonderful cooking technique, but it’s not an ideal option for anyone tight on either budget or space. Our ‘prosumer’ water bath (the SousVide Supreme) is the size of a small microwave and has a list price on the wrong side of £370. Even disregarding the price angle, kitchens are already groaning under the weight of numerous popular appliances; the need to find space for a bulky water bath next to the toaster, the food processer, the stand mixer, the blender, the microwave, the deep fat fryer, the rice cooker, the juicer and the slow cooker rules out a traditional sous vide machine even for many who can afford it.

Hang on a minute… the slow cooker… the slow cooker is half-way to a water bath already; it’s a large container that can heat liquid (such as water!) for hours at a time.

Wouldn’t it be great to have a small device that could convert an existing slow cooker to a sous vide water bath by way of accurately controlling the temperature of the water inside? Well of course, that’s where Codlo steps in.

Codlo 1 Codlo-Steaks-sidebyside-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-7497
Official product image; my Codlo in our Kitchen (don’t look at the un-grouted tiles!)

Codlo is one of those ideas that’s really obvious once someone else has had it, not to mention done all the hard graft in getting it to work. This clever device turns your slow cooker – or rice cooker, or tea urn, or anything else that holds and heats water – into your very own sous vide water bath. Essentially Codlo is a small plug-in gadget with a temperature probe which allows it to turn the power of the attached appliance on and off and on in order to achieve and maintain your target temperature. That’s the theory but how does it work out in practice?

Codlo with Slow Cooker adj
Codlo and glass slow cooker (image provided by Codlo, mine was completely out of focus!)

The short answer is, remarkably well.

In the name of science, we cooked two identical steaks (here’s my guide to cooking steaks sous vide) – one in our SousVide Supreme and the other in our venerable old Breville slow cooker attached to the Codlo. After cooking one steak in each bath, we fried them together in the same pan for exactly the same amount of time before tucking in to a delicious dinner, each of us eating half of each steak. We genuinely couldn’t perceive any difference in the end result; texture and level of cooking were identical.

Codlo-Steaks-sidebyside-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-7495 Codlo-Steaks-sidebyside-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-7501
Codlo-Steaks-sidebyside-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-7503 Codlo-Steaks-sidebyside-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-7506

That’s not to say that the Codlo-controlled Breville performs identically to the SousVide Supreme. Firstly, it takes a little longer to come up to temperature – but that’s understandable, as our slow cooker is a 290W model and we ran it on Low (we will try the High setting next time) whereas the SousVide Supreme is rated at a much higher 550W. Given that sous-vide cooking is usually a long process, adding an extra 15 minutes at the start isn’t a big deal for us. Of course, this difference also depends on what appliance you plug the Codlo into – a more powerful appliance will likely reach temperature just as quickly as the SousVide Supreme.

Also worth noting is that the temperature in the Codlo-controlled Breville takes a little time to settle; it (deliberately) sails past the target by a couple of degrees, drops below it when the food is added and gradually heats back up again. However, once it’s settled at the target temperature – around 10-15 minutes on our slow cooker’s Low setting – it’s rock steady, varying less than the SousVide Supreme. And the food seems to be none the worse for wear because of that initial temperature variance. The makers of Codlo advise us that the device adapts to each individual cooker it is attached to so these times will likely vary depending on the appliance you use.

codlo book 2

In addition to the Codlo controller, there is also an accompanying cookery book – Codlo Sous-Vide Guide & Recipes – full of information on the sous vide cooking technique, on temperatures and times for different types of foods and lots of tempting recipes. This would be useful not just to Codlo users but to anyone starting out in sous vide cooking and I’m hoping to share a recipe or two from the book soon.

Codlo does everything it promises, turning inexpensive equipment we already owned into a functional sous vide water bath, with results that equal our bulky and pricy prosumer alternative.

Kavey Eats received a Codlo for review purposes. RRP is £119.

 

You can take the girl out of Luton…

Smack in the middle of the eighties – which I still hold to be the best decade, musically and fashion-wise (though I admit to harbouring some bias on this) – I did a German Language Exchange Trip through my secondary school. Luton and Hamburg were an odd pairing; the kids of that rather attractive northern German river port city must surely have been a tad disappointed when they discovered that the attractions of Luton amounted to little more than a biscuit-shaped pincushion in the local museum and a pink flamingos fountain in the Arndale shopping centre.

The (frankly marvellous) pink flamingos have long since gone, which is a huge shame as they were one of Luton’s best (if not only) attractions.

pinkflamingoesofluton

Worried I might be imagining the biscuit-shaped pincushion (though my little sister remembers it too), I made a call to the museum last week and was delighted to hear back from one of their specialist curators that they do indeed have a biscuit-shaped pincushion in their collection (though it’s not currently on display). It dates from around 1870 and was produced as an advertising product by Huntley, Albert & Palmers. I should add at this point that the museum did, of course, have a great deal more on display than the biscuit-shaped pincushion, including no-doubt-excellent exhibits about the local hat- and lace-making industries for which Luton was, once upon a time, quite famous. It’s just that, as a teenager, little of this captured my attention; I’d probably appreciate it much more today!

And, by the way, did you know that the expression ‘mad as a hatter’ originated in Luton?

Anyway, back to Germany…

I’d actually already dropped German from my curriculum by the time the trip came around. We signed up for the exchange in our second year but travelled in our third by which time, having mastered only ‘ich liebe dich’ and ‘du bist eine dumme ganz’, I decided to focus on French, which I found immeasurably easier. I added one more phrase to my German knowledge some years later, by the way; even today I still like to point at random plants and declare ‘das is kein gummebaum’ (that is not a rubber plant) – a very useful phrase, I’m sure you’ll agree?

Luckily, the majority of people I met in Germany spoke superb English, so I got along just fine.

My host family showed me around Hamburg, of course. It’s an attractive city and the views from the revolving restaurant up in the Heinrich-Hertz-Turm comms tower were beautiful. I also spent a few days visiting German Schleswig – a school trip within a school trip – with my exchange partner’s class.

One of the days I remember most fondly was a family outing to nearby Lübeck, just an hour’s drive away or 45 minutes by train.

Situated on the River Trave, Lübeck is the second-largest city in Schleswig-Holstein, and a major port in the area. For several centuries it was the leading city of the Hanseatic League, a commercial confederation of merchant guilds and market downs that dominated trade in Northern Europe, stretching along the coast from the Baltic to the North Sea. The Old Town, on an island enclosed by the Trave, is famous for its extensive brick gothic architecture and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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Images of Lubeck from Shutterstock.com

Niederegger Marzipan

It was not just the beauty of Lübeck that won my heart, oh no! Lübeck is also famous for its marzipan. And I really, really love marzipan!

A local legend suggests that marzipan was first made in the city in response to either a military siege or a local famine. The story goes that the town ran out of all foodstuffs except stored almonds and sugar, and these were combined to make loaves of marzipan “bread”.

In reality, marzipan is believed to have been invented far earlier, most likely in Persia though historians are undecided between a Persian and an Iberian origin.

Niederegger have been making marzipan in Lübeck for over two centuries, and relate the story from the perspective of founder Johann Georg Niederegger.

Our marzipan was invented far away, where almonds and sugar are grown. Rhazes, a Persian doctor who lived from 850 to 923, wrote a book in which he praised the curative qualities of almond and sugar paste. When the crusaders returned from the Orient, they brought with them a host of spices and Oriental secrets. In 13th century Venice, Naples and Sicily, spices and confectionery were generally traded  in tiny boxes. The enchanting word “Mataban” (box) gradually came to be used for the contents of the box:  Mazapane (Italian), Massepain (French) and Marzipan (German). Did you know that even back in the 13th century, the renowned philosopher and theologian Thomas Aquinas reflected upon the indulgence of eating Marzipan? In his doctrinal teaching, he reassures enquiring and anxious clerics: “Marzipan does not break the fast.” In his stories, the great novelist Boccaccio clearly describes the correlation between passion and marzipan. In those days, marzipan was topped with gold leaf to crown the sweet temptation. Great Hanseatic merchant boats brought spices and other prized ingredients to the North. Initially, however, only apothecaries were allowed to trade sugar and spices. Not until confectionary became a trade in its own right were so-called ‘canditors’ allowed to produce marzipan. The first Europeans to indulge in marzipan were kings and rich people. It has been reported that Queen Elizabeth I of England, who lived from 1533 to 1603, was addicted to all things sweet.  The saying ‘regal enjoyment’ was coined. Later, at the French ‘Sun King’ Louis XIV’s sumptuous feasts, huge tables laden with marzipan were the order of the day. Marzipan reproductions of all sorts of fruits, poultry and game were created – anything you desired could be made. In the first half of  the general population were now able to sample the almond delicacy to their heart’s content in coffee houses. Now that sugar could be extracted from sugar beet, the costly luxury became slightly more affordable. Marzipan was also particularly popular and prized in Lübeck. I would now like to tell you something about my life: as a young man, I left my home town of Ulm to become apprenticed to a confectioner, Maret, in Lübeck. In 1806 I was able to open up my own shop. I supplied my wares to kings and tsars. From then on, my reputation grew thanks to excellent quality. My recipe for marzipan – as many almonds as possible, as little sugar as necessary – is secret, and has been passed on from generation to generation since my death. That way, Niederegger Marzipan remains what it has always been: a delicious speciality made from the very best almonds. New York, Paris, Berlin, Tokyo, a sweetmeat goes on tour … Niederegger stands for “marzipan of world renown”.

The quality of Niederegger marzipan is certainly renowned, as is that of slightly younger Lübeck marzipan manufacturer Carstens (founded in 1845, 39 years after Niederegger).

At its core, marzipan consists of nothing more than ground almonds mixed with either sugar or honey. These days, a wide range of marzipan is available; many commercial versions contain a comparatively low volume of almonds; instead they contain more sugar with the flavour boosted by almond oils and extracts or even cheaper synthetic almond flavourings. They are often sickly sweet.

Niederegger marzipan is the very good stuff. With a high ratio of almonds to sugar, the flavour is subtle and natural and the sweetness is not overwhelming.

Germany grades marzipan according to the following ratios:

  • Marzipanrohmasse (raw marzipan) contains 65% ground almonds and 35% sugar. When you see a label of 100:0 or 100%, it means 100% raw marzipan with no additional sugar added, not that there is no sugar at all.
  • Niederegger Marzipan is raw marzipan, made to the 65:35 almond to sugar ration and labelled as 100:0 (100% raw marzipan).
  • Lübecker Edelmarzipan (Lübeck fine marzipan) is described as 90:10. That means it’s 90% raw marzipan mixed with an extra 10% sugar. Don’t forget, that 90% is not 90% almonds but a mix of almonds and sugar. More sugar is added to that raw marzipan paste. That means the ratio of almond to sugar falls to around 58:42 (58% almonds, 42% sugar).
    Lübeck marzipan has a PDO (protected designation of origin) and the label can only be used for marzipan manufactured in the region to the 90:10 ratio.
  • Gütemarzipan (quality marzipan) must be 80:20. It’s made of 80% raw marzipan and 20% sugar. Almond makes up 62% of the total and sugar the other 28%.
  • Edelmarzipan (fine marzipan) is described as 70:30. It’s made of 70% raw marzipan and 30% sugar. The almond now makes up only 45% of the total and sugar the other 55%.
  • Gewöhnliches marzipan  (ordinary or consumer marzipan) is described as 50:50, so is half raw marzipan and half sugar. That means only a third of the total content is almond and two thirds is sugar.
  • There are also other designations such as Königsberger marzipan, which is no longer associated with place of manufacture but describes a style of marzipan that usually contains almonds, sugar, egg white and lemon juice and has a distinctive golden brown colour.

For anyone looking for high quality marzipan, you can buy Niederegger here in the UK – I’ve seen different products from their range on sale in John Lewis, Waitrose and Tesco and of course, you can buy online (from the same stores plus Chocolatesdirect.co.uk, Ocado and Amazon, to name a few).

Probably the most common Niederegger product  is marzipan coated in dark-chocolate, which is always wrapped in red foil. Blue foil denotes a milk chocolate coating and other colours of foil indicate flavoured marzipans such as apple, caramel, espresso, orange and pistachio – the latter being one of my personal favourites. There is also a liqueur range available.

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GIVEAWAY

It’s my pleasure to join  with Niederegger in giving away two hampers worth £25 each to readers of Kavey Eats!

Each hamper contains:-

  • 1 x Milk chocolate marzipan bar
  • 1 x Dark chocolate marzipan bar
  • 1 x 125g Marzipan loaf
  • 1 x 200g 16 Piece mini loaves assortment
  • 1 x 100g 8 Piece mini loaves classic
  • 1 x 40g Marzipan stick
  • 6 x Mini Loaves
  • 1 x Gift hamper box
  • 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 language lessons at school, when you were a kid.

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 marzipan hamper from @niederegger_uk and Kavey Eats! http://bit.ly/KaveyEatsMarzipan #KaveyEatsMarzipan
(Do not add my twitter handle or any other twitter handle at the beginning of the tweet and 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 1st May 2015.
  • The 2 winners 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.
  • Each prize is a hamper of Niederegger produts, as detailed above and includes delivery within the UK.
  • The prizes cannot be redeemed for a cash value.
  • The prizes are offered and provided by Niederegger .
  • 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.

Kavey Eats received sample products from Niederegger.

 

Dutch cheese Gouda has a bit of an image problem in the UK, often dismissed as a somewhat boring cheese. This is no doubt because our opinions are based on the young mass-produced Gouda which has most commonly been available here in the UK in recent decades.

But, like many cheese, the best Gouda is absolutely terrific!

Kaashandel Peters aka the goudacheeseshop.com is a family business based in Harderwijk, about 40 miles East of Amsterdam. They specialise in selling high quality Dutch cheeses to both consumers and catering customers and since the launch of their web shop in 2009, have also been able to sell cheese to customers across Europe. The cheeses are cut into segments and vacuum-packed, making them suitable to store for at least 6 weeks, which means delivery to the UK is perfectly feasible.

Gouda-KaashandelPeters-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-7488

The Best Three is a selection of Kaashandel Peters’ top three Gouda cheeses, 500 grams of each and sells for €23.50 (plus shipping).

The three cheeses from left to right in both images above are Boeren Belegen – Stolwijker Kaas (farmhouse 6-month matured gouda from the Stolwijker region), Belegen Goudse Kaas (gouda matured for 16-18 weeks) and Oude Peter Goudse Kaas – Extra Kwaliteit (high quality gouda matured for 14 months)

Gouda-KaashandelPeters-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-7494

REVIEW

Boeren Belegen – Stolwijker Kaas

  • The Dutch term Boerenkaas translates as Farmer’s cheese and is a protected designation that can only be produced by Dutch farms to a traditional recipe. This cheese is made from fresh rather than pasteurised milk and is matured for about six months.
  • This was not disimilar in flavour to the Belegen Goudse Kaas (below) and had the same rich and creamy texture, but the flavour had a wonderful nuttiness too, and was significantly stronger. This reminded me of a good quality mature cheddar.

Belegen Goudse Kaas

  • This gouda has been matured for 16-18 weeks, less than the other two cheeses, but more than the youngest gouda available.
  • As you would expect, we found this the mildest of the three, a less complex flavour but still rich, creamy and with good flavour. It had a hint of sweetness and a little grassiness too.

Oude Peter Goudse Kaas – Extra Kwaliteit

  • This is a particularly high quality gouda that has been matured for 14 months.
  • Unsurprisingly, this was the strongest of the three cheeses with a pronounced (and gorgeous) nutty flavour, some crystaline salt texture but still a lot of creaminess in the mouth. A truly superb cheese and one that I’d happily choose for a special occasion cheese board.

Gouda-KaashandelPeters-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-7483

GIVEAWAY

It’s my pleasure to join  with Kaashandel Peters in giving away three sets of the above three cheeses to readers of Kavey Eats! Delivery to any address within the EU is included.

HOW TO ENTER

You can enter the giveaway in 2 ways – entering both ways gives you double the chance of winning:

Entry 1 – Blog Comment
Leave a comment telling me about your favourite hard cheese – what’s it called and where is it from?

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 three gorgeous Gouda cheeses from @goudsekaasshop and Kavey Eats! http://bit.ly/KaveyEatsGouda #KaveyEatsGouda
(Do not add my twitter handle into the tweet; I track twitter entries using the competition hash tag. And please don’t leave a blog comment about your tweet either, thanks!)

RULES & DETAILS

  • The deadline for entries is midnight GMT Friday 24th April 2015.
  • The 3 winners will be selected from all valid entries (across blog and twitter) 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 Kaashandel Peters’ The Best Three selection, including the three cheeses listed. Delivery to any address within the EU is included.
  • The prizes cannot be redeemed for a cash value.
  • The prizes are offered and provided by Kaashandel Peters.
  • One blog entry per person only. One Twitter entry per person only. You may enter both 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 via Twitter so please make sure you check your accounts for the notification message. If no response is received from a winner within 7 days of notification, the prize will be forfeit and a new winner will be picked and contacted.

Kavey Eats received samples cheeses from Kaashandel Peters and was reimbursed for my time. All opinions my own, as always.

The winners for this competition are Jackie ONeill and Philip Wright (blog entries) and @anglesey42 (twitter entry).

 

One for the Star Wars fans, this – an X-Wing Knife Block – created by bluw to celebrate the release of the seventh film later this year.

Starwars Knife Block (c)KavitaFavelle-8106 Starwars Knife Block (c)KavitaFavelle-8111
Starwars Knife Block (c)KavitaFavelle-8108 Starwars Knife Block (c)KavitaFavelle-8114

The officially licensed set contains an X-Wing shaped knife block with five stainless steel knives – a bread knife, a carving knife, a utility knife, a paring knife and a cook’s knife. Each knife has a protection sheath that it slots into.

The block is frustratingly flimsy – you have to hold it with one hand to pull a knife from it with the other and the knives are very lightweight too; it’ll be interesting to see how long they last. This is much more of a novelty gift than a serious kitchen set, I’d say. However, I can’t help but smile at the idea, regardless. Prices vary considerably from £48.99 to £79.99 so it’s worth shopping around, if you want to buy one.

Kavey Eats received a product sample from bluw.

 

In the last few years I’ve discovered that I have a taste for sake. I’ve learned the basics about how it’s made and the different types available, but haven’t sampled enough to get a handle on my preferences. There’s a very distinctive taste that most sakes have in common, despite their many differences and it’s a taste I like very much. But having one or two sakes in isolation once every few months serves only to let me choose my favourite between the two – such tastings are too few and far between for me to build up a coherent library of taste memories in my head, and thereby gain more confidence on choosing well in the future. One of the outstanding items on my Food & Drink To Do list is to immerse myself more fully in the world of sake and work out which styles, regions and even producers I love the most.

The Chisou restaurant group have been running a Sake Club for about a year now, a regular evening of tutored tastings with matched Japanese snacks provided. I’ve been meaning to attend since they launched, but have singularly failed.

What finally spurred me to action was actually a deviation from the norm – a special umeshu tasting.

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The tastings are held in a private room – in Chisou Knightsbridge this was the upstairs dining room – properly separated from regular diners. We shared a table with a couple who were also first timers to the Sake Club, Gareth and Nirvana, and had a lot of fun talking about food and drink, life in London and visiting Japan.

Chisou’s Marketing Manager Mark McCafferty hosted the evening and started by giving us an introduction to umeshu, though a printed crib sheet was also provided for each guest. He introduced each of the six drinks, and the snacks that were served with them, sharing tasting tips and notes throughout.

Although umeshu is usually described in English as plum wine, the ume fruit is not actually a plum; although nicknames include both Chinese Plum and Japanese Apricot, it’s a distinct species within the Prunus genus (which also includes plums and apricots); if a comparison is still needed, the ume is a stone fruit that is closer to the apricot than to the plum.

Why did Chisou decide to hold an umeshu night as part of their Sake Club series? Because umeshu is traditionally made using surplus sake or shōchū – a distilled spirit made from a variety of different carbohydrates – or to use up batches which have not turned out quite as planned. That said, as it’s popularity has increased, many breweries make umeshu as part of their standard product range, and some use high grade sake or shōchū and top quality ume fruit to do so.

The method is very straightforward and will be familiar to those who’ve made sloe gin or other fruit-based spirits – strawberry vodka, anyone? Whole ume fruit are steeped in alcohol – the longer the period, the more the fruit breaks down and its flavour leaches into the alcohol. Some umeshu is left to mature for years, allowing the almond-flavour of the stone to become more pronounced.

In many cases, additional sugar is added to the umeshu, to create a sweeter liqueur. Many households make their own umeshu when the ume fruit is in season, as it’s a very simple drink to make.

The whole fruits are often left in the umeshu – both in home made and commercial versions – and served alongside the drink. Take care, as the stone is still inside!

The welcome drink, as everyone settled in and we waited for a few late arrivals, was a Kir-style cocktail of prosecco and Hannari Kyo umeshu. With this we enjoyed orange-salted edamame beans and wasabi peas.

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Next, an Ozeki umeshu on the rocks served with a generous plate of pork scratchings with individual bowls of an umami-explosion shiitake mayonnaise. In Japan, the highest quality of fruit is often very expensive, and Mark explained that this particular brewery use top quality ume for their umeshu. For Pete, this was “reminiscent of a sherry” and Nirvana liked the “aftertaste of almond”. I loved this umeshu, one of my favourites of the evening.

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Third was a cloudy version – Morikawa umeshumade with a ginjo sake (using highly polished rice), so quite unusual. For me, this tasted stronger than the previous one, but in fact it was a slightly lower ABV – I think this may simply have been because more bitterness was evident in the taste. Mark suggested we should “warm it up like a mulled wine, to make the most of it’s spiciness”. Gareth particularly enjoyed the “mouthfeel” of this umeshu. Pete thought it would an amazing match with a cheese – a perfect replacement for port.

With this came a small skewer of smoked duck with apple cider, miso and fresh ginger, served theatrically beneath a smoke-filled dome. I could have eaten an entire plate of these, instead of just one!

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I was surprised how much I liked the fourth option, as I couldn’t imagine the combination on first reading the menu. The Tomio Uji Gyokuro umeshu combines traditional shade-grown green tea with umeshu to add a rich umami note to the finished product. Oxidisation means the drink is amber rather than green, but the meaty and medicinal notes are evidence of the presence of green tea.

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Next was a cocktail combining Hannari Kyo umeshu with Yamagata Masamune sake, lime juice and angostura bitters. I found this a too bitter and dry for my tastes, so asked if I could taste the Hannari Kyo umeshu on its own, as we’d only tried it with mixers thus far. It’s a lovely umeshu but couldn’t compete with the Ozeki umeshu or the Tomio Uji Gyokuro umeshu for me.

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Last, we were served a cup of good quality vanilla ice cream with warm Morikawa umeshu to pour over the top, affogato-style. As you’d imagine, the sweet and sour notes of the fruit liqueur really work well with cold vanilla ice cream, making it what Nirvana called “a very grown up ice cream”. As Mark commented, “warm it up and it really comes alive”.

Pete and I decided to stay on and order a few dishes from the food menu to soak up the alcohol before heading home, umeshu-happy.

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agedashi tofu, gyoza, pork with kimchi, chicken karaage

After such a great evening, we are keen to attend more Sake Club events. Umeshu night was very well priced at £40 per person and was a great learning experience, a fun social evening and very delicious. If you book Sake Club, do take care that you go the right location. The club is alternately held at different branches of the restaurant and it’s not uncommon for regulars to go to the wrong one, resulting in a mad dash across town.

Kavey Eats attended the Umeshu tasting as guests of Chisou Knightsbridge. The additional dishes pictured at the end were on our own tab.

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