Sunday, August 25, 2013

A summer round-up

I've been too lazy/busy (delete as appropriate) over this summer to blog about everything liked I used to. This is probably a good thing in many respects, fewer boring posts about nothing much of interest being the outcome, although it does mean that I've tended to focus only on the positive, lacking the enthusiasm to write about the mediocre or downright bad experiences.

To redress the balance a bit, here's a round up of some recent eating and drinking. Some of it good, most of it not very. A theme if there is one: why put something on the menu if you don't know what it is or can't be bothered making it properly.

Stay tuned for the next thrilling instalment, in which I dine at Noma, go on a pintxo crawl around the backstreets of assorted small Basque towns, cook barbecue in Kentucky, hang out in Dalston's latest dens of vice/burgers, and buy a sausage roll from Gregg's in Stockport on the way home. Only some of this is true.

Baked, Derby

A bakery with café in Derby city centre. The bread is certainly worth another look....


..but the coffee was just ok. The flat white wasn't a flat white.


Soup, half a sandwich and slaw for about six quid. Half a sandwich isn't an unreasonable idea, but it seems a bit stingy to stick to it rigidly when it's cut from a very small loaf. a lovely nutty wholemeal loaf by the way, but nothing to write home about otherwise.

6/10

http://www.baked-derby.com/


The Swan, West Malling, Kent

Hi friends from work, this one's for you! The Swan was the dinner venue for our team meeting at the end of June. As with the previous dinner back in April we chose from the early bird set menu, but unlike on that occasion it was evident throughout that we'd gone for the budget option.


An asparagus starter was notable only for having hardly any asparagus in it. Three spears or thereabouts. Of the mains neither cooked to grey burgers nor a dry pork dish impressed much.


And Eton Mess for pudding was fine but had blueberries in it. Why put the only non-native berry in a dish that's supposed to show off the best of the English summer?

On a more positive note they have Curious Brew lager on draft, which is a wonderful beer. Beautifully clean, crisp and balanced. A glance at the website suggests the people in charge of the Swan and the people brewing Curious are one and the same; their core business being the Chapel Down Winery that arguably produces Britain's finest wines.

Maybe we were just unlucky at the Swan, the undoubted booze pedigree of the business might suggest they know a thing or two about food as well.

5/10

http://www.loveswan.co.uk/westmalling/bar/index.html


Smythson's Deli, Nottingham

A load of old rubbish.


The espresso in the coffee was good, potent yet smooth. Shame the milk was a mess. And it wasn't a flat white either (it was supposed to be, I'm not laying into a latte for not being a flat white).


A poor excuse for a sandwich. One word sums it up: meagre. I can't be arsed elaborating.

3/10

https://www.facebook.com/smythsons


Queen's Park Gelateria and Café, Chesterfield

This place is run by Frederick's, the dominant force in the ice cream world around these parts. Their vans are all over the place, which is no bad thing as their ice cream is good stuff.


They run the park caff in Chesterfield, which is also no bad thing. Instead of the tea and cakes set up you might expect in a park it's more of a pizza and ice cream and beer arrangement.


Pizza and ice cream and beer in the park? Don't mind if I do. A shared ham, pepperoni and mushroom (good chewy crust, surprisingly good pepperoni) and a double scoop pistachio sugar cone makes a very fine lunch. Pizzas 6-7 quid, ice creams 2-3.

7/10

http://www.fredericksicecreams.co.uk/page/queens-park-cafe-and-gelataria/


Harvest Moon Espresso Bar, Chester

A coffee that meets its description! About bloody time.


The flat white here was properly made and properly proportioned, so I'll excuse them serving it in a glass (maybe they've been to Manchester, they do that there).


I'm not really sure what to say about the food though. I can't work out what they were thinking. A not really a Reuben sandwich was still quite nice in spite of not really being a Reuben. The bread was top notch and it was as stacked as you could reasonably expect for the modest price tag.

Why smearing the inside of very good bread with cheap sunflower spread seemed like a good plan is beyond me, and why serving it with stale tortilla chips and a completely undressed salad of lollo rosso, bits of cucumber and carrot and some damp cous cous seemed like a good plan is even further beyond me.

6/10



Cool River Cafe, Matlock

A recent opening in Matlock, could this be the local coffee shop of my dreams?


In a word, no. A moist, walnut-packed wodge of carrot cake with a pleasingly cheesy icing was spot on, but the coffee was crap, the advertised flat white turning out to be an oversized bucket of weak latte. 

They're still finding their feet so I'll give this one another try. The savouries looked on a par with the cakes, but the coffee needs some serious work.

6/10 (8 for the cake, 4 for the coffee)