Last week, at home, I had some of the best bread I’d ever eaten. It was a soft, brown loaf and tasted marvellous. Was it the ingredients, I wondered – organic wholemeal stoneground flour. Or was it the fact that I’d made the whole thing myself, under the expert guidance of the River Cottage cookery school? Either way, it taught me two things: one, that there is something really special about eating something which you’ve created from scratch, and two, there’s no way I’m ever buying a shop-made loaf again.
My one-day cookery course at the River Cottage was full of revelations. I like cooking, but I’m not a fan of lengthy, complicated recipes: more than five ingredients makes me think it’s not worth the hassle. However the dishes we made at the River Cottage were straightforward and easy to remember; as well as the bread we made Chinese fish parcels, faggots with onion gravy and fruit galettes, while feasting on extra nibbles such as beetroot and walnut hummus and crunchy salted caramel chunks.
However this wasn’t just a cooking-by-numbers exercise but cooking completely from scratch, so we learned how to descale and fillet freshly-caught pollock, we lovingly stirred and kneaded and rolled our bread while being taught all about yeast and sourdough, and we even formed an orderly queue to mince our plates of pig’s heart, liver and lungs to shape into the perfect faggots. All the time our good-natured chef Andy was fielding questions from our class of 20, some of whom were passionate foodies, others who were first-time chefs or, like me, keen to branch away from the same old recipes. Continue reading It’s a day of tasty foodie firsts at the River Cottage cookery school→
It is hard not to start off a review of Noble Rot restaurant – as practically every other reviewer has done – with a nostalgic look back at days gone by, spent in the various pubs and wine bars of Lamb’s Conduit Street.
It seems that every journalist used to work or live just round the corner (I did both). In spite of being stuck in the no-man’s land between Holborn and King’s Cross, Lamb’s Conduit Street still retains a quirky feel – with cafes, independent book shops, the Lamb pub still there after roughly a gazillion years – and a trip back there does feel like going back in time.
Just a few weeks earlier I’d been at The Kensington hotel in central London to drink cocktails at the launch of its new bar, the K Bar. Now I was back at the luxury hotel to spend the night and to see if the cocktails I’d sampled before were as good as I remembered.
The hotel, part of the family-owned Doyle Collection, has 126 guest rooms and 24 suites, as well as a gym and restaurant, and is just minutes from South Kensington.
I’d been given a suite for the night which was very pleasant, comprising a lounge with a vast, squashy sofa, a small but smart bathroom and a opulent bedroom with a four-poster bed. Having been in the area for lunch, I arrived at 2pm, a good hour earlier than expected, but the friendly receptionist was unfazed and allowed me to check in.
It was my fourth visit to Las Vegas, but the first time I’d seen it raining on the famous Strip. Unsurprisingly, Vegas, being in the Mojave desert, isn’t used to rain. Neither were the holidaymakers, picking their way in their flipflops and sandals through the huge puddles which instantly formed on the sidewalks.
Some had come prepared for rain (they were probably British) and so we were treated to the rare sight of umbrellas hoisted next to the famous Bellagio hotel. Some people had sensibly brought rain jackets, while the majority of people had just shorts, t-shirts and massive plastic drinking bottles of alcohol to keep them warm. Hikers to the nearby Red Rock Canyon reported seeing waterfalls in places which had never seen water before.
Thankfully Vegas is not the kind of place to be daunted by unseasonal weather. The vast majority of people who go to gamble in its many casinos are usually unaware of whether it is day or night outside, so a quick downpour would have certainly passed them by. As for the rest of us, there were more than enough things to keep us occupied. The Vegas Uncork’d food festival was going on for a start – I’d been there last year. But here is a selection of the places I visited during my latest week in Sin City:
One of the plushest hotels on the Strip and certainly the nicest in my opinion. My vast bedroom had a perfect view of the famous fountains which danced day and night – I never tired of watching them.
Downstairs there’s the casino where free cocktails are liberally provided to gamblers, and there’s a huge pool complex too with five vast if sedate pools – if it’s pumping music and pool parties you’re after, you need to relocate. It’s all very smart throughout the Bellagio, with lush carpets, wide corridors, soothing piped music and even the world’s largest chocolate fountain and while it isn’t for those on a budget, it’s certainly worth it if you fancy feeling like a millionaire for your stay.
If you were to try and describe a classically British pub, then you’d probably come up with something like The Bull Inn, Sonning, in Berkshire.
It’s got roaring fires and low beams, it is more than 600 years old, does great food and drink and is at the heart of the village.
Writer Jerome K Jerome wrote of the pub in his book Three Men in a Boat, saying: ‘If you stop at Sonning, put up at the ‘Bull’, behind the church. It is a veritable picture of an old country inn, with green, square courtyard in front, where, on seats beneath the trees, the old men group of an evening to drink their ale and gossip over village politics; with low, quaint rooms and latticed windows, and awkward stairs and winding passages.’
It has barely changed in the hundred or so years since those words were written, although the green, square courtyard in front is now more concrete than green. However there are still tables outside giving a nice view of the church next door (which owns the pub). There’s also a handy hatch to the bar from outside through which you can order drinks, and nice touches such as blankets in case the weather is also classically British.
And now The Bull Inn even has the approval of Hollywood superstar George Clooney, who presumably can drink anywhere he likes but chooses to pop into The Bull whenever he’s back at his English home, which is just across the river. His very own brand of tequila, Casamigos, which George set up with his chum Randy Gerber (aka Mr Cindy Crawford) is sold here and Mr Clooney has not only brought chums such as Bill Murray and Matt Damon here but has praised The Bull on various US talkshows, calling it ‘a great pub.’ Continue reading The Bull Inn at Sonning – possibly the perfect British pub→