If you ask our five year old who Heston is – he’ll tell you all about him. Little Chef knows that he makes bacon and egg ice-cream and he made a giant lunchbox full of fantastical treats at Legoland. He may even tell you that Mr Blumenthal is his favourite chef –if daddy isn’t within earshot! Since our holiday to England in August, Little Chef lights up every time he sees Heston on TV and tells anyone who’ll listen he’s eaten at Heston’s restaurant – where he got to taste some “Heston Magic”… Chef and I first heard of Heston Blumenthal in about 2004, when we lived in the UK. It was before he got really popular – but he was making big waves in the culinary world with molecular gastronomy. It had been on our bucket list to eat at the Fat Duck, in Bray, but with Little Chef in tow that wasn’t really going to work – so we opted to go for Heston’s more family friendly gastro pub next door, The Hinds Head. We were also dining with my lovely cousin H and her family. The Michelin starred Hinds Head is a historical 15th century pub. Think low beams and wood everywhere! It felt like a proper village local. You can even pop in for a pint and bar snack – Scotch egg anyone? We weren’t really sure what to expect, but we were surprised at just how welcome and at ease the staff made us feel. We’ve dined at many Michelin starred restaurants and most of them you get quite stuffy and sometimes even snooty silver service from the wait staff. The waitresses and waiters at the Hinds Head were very professional – but in a warm way. One waitress in particular kept up a hilarious banter with the kids, which was just lovely and made us all relax. She whisked the boys away for a few moments to let them poke their heads around the kitchen door and see the chef’s cooking their dinner. We thought that was a wonderful idea, sitting in a lovely restaurant sometimes it’s easy to forget there are many people busily cooking to create a wonderful meal for you! The boys were also kept entertained with pencils and an activity sheet that turned into a chef’s hat! You’ll notice from the food pictures that the dishes look very simple. It can be a bit misleading, especially when you’d probably expect something with all the bells and whistles on coming from one of Heston’s kitchens. It is a much different style to the Fat Duck. The produce used is still of an exceptional quality. The classic British food at the Hinds Head is done exceedingly well. For “starter” Chef loved the fresh raw highland estate venison, with a carro and horseradish puree and shallot dressing (£10.50) I chose the Smoked Guinea Fowl and Foie Gras Terrine (£9.95). The silky terrine was absolutely mouth-watering and complimented with a side of apple chutney. Loved it! Cousin H had beetroot and goat curd with cider poached pear and pumpkin seeds (£8.75). The plating of this dish was beautiful and she really enjoyed it. Chef, ever the carnivore, chose the Hereford prime rib eye, (£33.95) for his main. It was the most expensive item on the menu, but Chef absolutely raved about the very tasty piece of meat – worth every penny. He drizzled the bone marrow sauce over it and soaked up all the meaty-ness with a side of French fries. There’s not much in life I love more than a slow cooked egg! When our waitress brought out my empty plate she said ”there’s your dinner” with a wink. Shortly afterwards, my wild mushroom macaroni (£17.95) followed, the extra plate was to spoon my macaroni onto. The hen’s egg was deliciously runny and I really relished the earthy and cheesy flavours. Delish! Banana and custard quaking Pudding (£7.95). We’re avid Heston watchers and we know he loves his historical food. Chef jumped at the chance to try the quaking pudding and he wasn’t disappointed! It was the perfect end to my brilliant meal – I had a Cherry Bakewell with yoghurt Ice cream (£7.95). The Bakewell was spot on. The yogurt ice-cream was quite different and worked really well with the nutty flavours. Little Chef had a bowl of ice cream and the waitress sprinkled some “Heston’s Magic” over it – which is actually chocolate popping candy! His little face was priceless! It was an incredibly special experience to dine as a family at the Hinds Head and one that we’ll never forget. We even got our menu signed by the talented kitchen team. The food was superb, in an understated British way – we thought it was really well priced too. The service was absolutely wonderful – easily the best we’ve ever had, by a Berkshire country mile. We all certainly experienced a bit of Heston Magic and hopefully it wasn’t the last time! Outstanding.
For British ex-pats in Perth, the Great British Chippy in Currambine is like an oasis in a sea of frozen chips.
If you have been to the Great British Chippy, the chances are that you encountered it’s teething problems first hand. The first authentic pommie chip shop in WA has been open about a year now. Their frying range was brought over from “Chumly Warners”, Queensland’s answer to “Harry Ramsden’s”. The second hand range didn’t prove to be very efficient, which lead to enormous queues.
GBC was shut for a month long refurbishment in July – incredible since it hadn’t yet been open a year. A brand new range has now been imported and installed from the UK. The shop’s new layout gives better organization too. You can sit on benches whilst waiting for your order. There’s also a small dining area – in case you don’t want to wait till you get home to eat. We ate in, whilst the cod and chips were still piping hot.
The verdict from the new range… the fish and chips are great! The thick, flaky cod was moist and coated in a crisp golden batter. The delicious chips are perfectly imperfect – all different shapes and sizes. Our sides of chip shop curry sauce and mushy peas were spot on too. I’d love to try the scampi – a fave of mine. We’ll be back for sure. I may even try a deep fried Mars Bar – for “research” of course! My recommendation is that you take advantage of the new seating at GBC and eat in. Nothing can compare to fish fresh out of the fryer.
With our English holiday and copious amounts of fish and chip suppers still fresh in our minds – this is certainly authentic British fare at GBC and even better than some of the chippy’s we visited in England.
Chef and I had craved pommie fish and chips for the best part of a decade. We certainly made the most of being in the UK recently, with many trips down to the local chippy. Because, quite frankly, there’s nowt like a bit of North Sea Cod.
For the most part the fish and chips in England were just as we remembered.
The best of the lot was a recommendation from my very own Dad. He considers himself somewhat of a chippy connoisseur and during his trip back home to Yorkshire in 2013 he made many lunchtime trips to Tony’s – widely regarded to be Sheffield’s best fish n chips. Chef and I made a special trip to Tony’s, in Mosborough and the traditional fish and chips were excellent. There was a queue out the door, but they food was well worth waiting for. The fish and chips there been cooked to a “secret” recipe for over 100 years.
At the very beginning of our 5 week trip, we decided that since we had very limited time and a to-do list as long as your arm, we had to make every day count. We crammed as much as we could into a five day road and air trip over four countries. Visiting many interesting and delicious places along the way – including servos with Krispy Kreme machines – dangerous!
We started from our base in Sheffield, England, We drove our hire car (the “Chelsea Tractor” Land Rover) up the A1 and west through the Yorkshire Dales to our first stop. The Yorkshire Dales are stunning – lots of hills and valleys covered with farmland – made famous round the world by TV series such as James Herriot, Heartbeat and even Postman Pat!
Chef was super excited, as just two days before, the Tour de France had passed through the dales. It was a real thrill for him to be driving the route of Stage One. The bunting was still out in the villages and there was a festive atmosphere in the market towns. We even spotted a huge bike on the side of a mountain!
A few hours later we came to the first destination – The Lake District. This is a very popular holiday spot in England’s North West, as it’s filled with beautiful scenery, lots of culture and so many things to do. To Chef’s delight, I’d booked our two night stay in a country pub. It was in the village of Hawkshead. Somewhere I’d holidayed as a child many times. All roads in and out are very narrow, so there were some very hairy moments when we met busses and trucks coming the other way, nearly ending up in a hedge full of brambles.
Beatrix Potter, the author of Peter Rabbit and many other beloved children’s tales, lived in the Lake District. The National Trust has preserved her house, Hilltop Farm, which we visited. Before entering the house, to the delight of our son, we saw bunnies hopping in a meadow. He was calling “Peter” out to them, to see which one looked – so cute! One of the guides in the house took Little Chef to one side and read him parts of the book “The Tale of Samuel Whiskers”. It quickly transformed what was just a dark old house to a very magical place to him. She showed Little Chef the chimney place where Tom Kitten got stuck and the rat hole where Samuel Whiskers lived. His eyes were wide with wonder – oh to be five years old again!!
We also visited Wray Castle, Windermere, The World of Beatrix Potter and Grizedale Forrest – where we went on a Gruffalo hunt.
Back at our pub, the Queens Head, we had some fabulous food. The 17th century inn is regarded as the best in the village by many of the locals (there are 4 pubs in Hawkshead). We had some excellent breakfasts and dinners at the gastro pub. The dining room had a cosy feel – with low ceilings and wooden beams, it was brimming with character.
The pick of the bunch was a slow-cooked lakeland pork belly dish, with creamed mash, roasted root, pickle jus (£15.95) that Chef really enjoyed and Little Chef loved the local specialty of sticky toffee pudding (£6.50). Our room and en suite were lovely too and we thoroughly enjoyed staying at the Queens Head.
We drove up to Scotland the next morning and after a couple hours, we found ourselves at the venue of the Commonwealth Game’s opening ceremony – Celtic Park. We then took a trip through the cosmopolitan city of Glasgow and to the gorgeous old Central Train station.
We took a short train ride to the lovely holiday town of Largs – on the west coast. We were there to catch up with Chef’s Aunty C and Uncle W. We were made very welcome and had a lovely time with Aunty and Uncle. They treated Little Chef to fairground rides and numerous ice creams! We even met a giant Viking called Magnus – Largs has a rich Viking history.
We all had a lovely dinner together at the appropriately named “Scotts” – at the Largs harbour. We sat in a booth in the stylish restaurant. Scotts overlooks the Firth of Clyde and as Chef noticed – some VERY expensive boats! Our pick of the dishes were an entrée of pan friend king scallops and pork belly was a well-cooked dish (£7.45). It came with pomegranates and cauliflower puree.
For main, I REALLY should have tried the Scottish delicacy of “Haggis with Neeps and Tatties” (Turnips and potatoes), but I totally chickened out. I regretted it a bit, but after eating out for four days solid, all I really wanted was something light, healthy and fresh. The Asian sirloin salad with a hot and sour dressing (£12.95) fitted the bill nicely.
On the penultimate day we flew from Glasgow to Belfast. The fight took a whole 25 minutes! Once in Belfast we picked up our slick Audi hire car and Chef drove us west through the Northern Irish country side.
The roads were some of the bumpiest we’d encountered so far, we felt like we were on an hour long rollercoaster! Soon enough we crossed the border into the Republic of Ireland. We stayed in a lovely town, full of little shops and bars. Chef isn’t usually a Guinness drinker, but he agrees that it somehow tastes much different in Ireland, so he had a couple of pints of the black stuff.
After a nights rest, in our County Donegal Hotel, we drove back to Belfast. This time taking a route through Derry/Londonderry and along the magnificent Northern Irish coastline. We stopped at the world heritage site, the Giants Causeway along the way. The unique volcanic rock formation was every bit as stunning as we thought it would be.
We also stopped at a few filming locations for our favourite TV show – Game of Thrones (which I’ll cover in a future post). We carried on through small fishing villages, pausing for a traditional Irish Stew (lamb/mutton, with potatoes, carrot and onion) and champ (mash with spring onion) lunch.
Eventually we ended up back in Belfast. I loved the stunning building that houses the titanic museum. In stark contrast to this, we also found ourselves in East Belfast – which I found very interesting, not having any Irish heritage of my own. The ends of the terrace houses were covered in murals, depicting images from the past conflict in Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland is a country of many facets – through it was a flying visit, we thoroughly enjoyed it.
Just shy of a decade away from the UK (9 years and 10 months), we arrived at Birmingham International Airport, for a holiday in England. Driving to my cousins Derbyshire home, I marvelled at the fact it was almost 9pm and still broad daylight!! I love long summer nights in the UK and we will be able to get so much more out of our holiday with more daylight hours. Driving though the Midlands, I also couldn’t believe how brilliantly green and lush everything was.
I view myself as a bit of a Pom. I was born in Perth, Western Australia – but with English parents we would yo-yo back and forth to Blighty a few times through my childhood. I have lived in Yorkshire four times in my life – a few years here and there adding up to about 10 years.
When Chef and I had been seeing each other for a couple of years, we did an 18 month working holiday over in England too. Chef loved it and I loved showing him my family and friends from my “other life”.
I have a pommie to-do list as long as my arm. Places to visit, food to eat… My Mum has warned me that I will return to Perth 10kgs heavier after too many fish and chip suppers!! Join us on our trip around the UK, we’re visiting many places for lots of fun and food!