Amber Valley Info

Amber Valley Info, The Search Engine for Amber Valley in Derbyshire. The borough of Amber Valley includes the four towns of Alfreton, Belper, Heanor & Ripley along with a number of villages including Somercotes, Riddings, Swanwick & Codnor. Whether you are searching for a plumber, electrician, hair salon or local shop then Amber Valley Info is the place for you.





 













 

The Sticky Beak Blog


Fresh Basil, Belper (June 2014)

Saturday 14/06/2014 15:14:01 | View This Entry

Sometimes a birdie just gets side-tracked doesn’t she? I started out with very good, organised intentions -  I honestly did. The mission was simple; pick up the boy wonders birthday cake from those clever peeps at Strutt Street Bakery and go back to the nest. Sounds easy enough, and it would have been had it not been a lovely day that inspired the thought of eating Olives outside. Naughty weather, bad weather, and curses to my ever – alert appetite! And naughty Fresh Basil for being so conveniently located to indulge my Olive craving. I hopped inside (having made the man bird carry his own cake) to grab said Olives, only for my tummy to growl and hint that it was time for lunch. Well, it would’ve been rude not to look at the lunch menu whilst inside wouldn’t it? So we hopped upstairs to peruse the menu, and it was chock-full of yummy offerings that soon had us both chirruping with delight. We decided to have a couple of lattes, a Goats Cheese and Mediterranean Vegetable Panini and a Bacon and Brie (minus the Branston pickle) Panini.

It didn’t take long for our lovely, smart, polite waitress to bring us our fayre. And beautifully presented it was too. Fresh warm Ciabatta bread filled with exceptionally tasty ingredients, with Coleslaw, Tomato, Cucumber and Dressed Mixed Salad Leaves artfully arranged on rectangular plates. My Goats Cheese was beautifully mellow and had a subtle tang to it, and the Mediterranean Vegetables were really flavoursome. The Boy wonder was murmuring appreciatively over his bounteous Bacon; it had a delightful smokiness to it and was in plentiful supply too. The Brie was oozing over it temptingly, making it look really superb, and he confirmed that it tasted every bit as good as it looked. Hot Wings a-hoy!!

As you know dear blog readers I like nice surroundings to savour my morsels in, so I would just like to mention the Interior at Fresh Basil. We sat on the Upper Mezzanine level inside the premises which gave us a great view of the deli counter downstairs and also out onto the seating outside the shop front. The upper level has a lovely spacious feel to it and the decor makes it a very relaxed place to eat, drink and catch up with friends. The main colours are very neutral creams and greens, with exposed brickwork in evidence, and then the red tub chairs and cushions add a dash of vibrancy to the palate. The overall look is pulled together very well so that you feel extremely comfortable whilst you’re there and the pace is such as to encourage a slower, warmer experience for their clientele.

The man and I thoroughly enjoyed our first experience of eating in at Fresh Basil, it certainly won’t be our last of that I am confident. So I can unreservedly recommend that you go and try out the menu at Fresh Basil, and why not treat yourself to the many delights on offer at their deli counter too whilst you’re there?

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Croots Farm Shop Cafe (May 2014)

Wednesday 28/05/2014 10:42:58 | View This Entry

I do so love a Bank Holiday Weekend, don’t you? It started off fairly relaxed, mainly thanks to the weather not being kind enough to let me do what I wanted in the garden, so by the time Monday came around the Boy Wonder and myself were more than ready to stretch our wings and have a little flutter further afield.

We started off at Tansley Car Boot and Market, where I managed to bag a couple of Bargains and treat the Man and myself to a gourmet Crepe  -  I had the Brie and Cranberry option, he had The Breakfast Crepe. They were both incredibly more-ish, light and fluffy and crammed full of yumminess. Personally I love how the rich creaminess of good Brie is pierced by the sharpness of Cranberry, and the addition of fresh herbs just finished it off beautifully. Meanwhile, the murmurs of delight escaping from The Boys beak confirmed he was enjoying his Crepe every bit as much as I was enjoying mine. In fact, so taken was he with his morsel that he told me how it was made ; the Crepe Chef ( or culinary artiste being more accurate, he felt ) spread the batter onto the crepe plate to cook  ,prior to cracking an egg open on it and adding fresh parsley . Then it was folded in half and the Ham and Emmental cheese added, before folding the Crepe again and placing it into its little holder.

After our little sojourn we headed back to the nest to drop our acquisitions off and have a quick discussion of plans for the afternoon. We decided to pay Croots Farm Shop and Cafe in Duffield a visit, as it is somewhere we have been meaning to try for a while. As you arrive a long driveway takes you past the fields that at the moment contain flocks of Sheep, and several lovely Shire Horses (some with Foals, some without). We made our way through the farm shop to the cafe area, which is full of rural charm. It is light, bright and airy with delightful views over the surrounding fields and village and decorated with Horse Brasses and Harnesses, as well as several beautiful paintings of Shire Horses at work and rest.

Our choices for lunch from the menu were the same, so it was The Croots Burger and Tea x 2.The burgers are homemade, and weigh in at 6oz each pre-cooked .When they arrived, they smelled so good I couldn’t wait to tuck in; I had to cut mine in half, as it was so big ! The burger had a really dense satisfying texture to it, and had 3 crunchy onion rings atop it. The side salad was lovely and colourful with slices of Yellow Pepper punctuating the green mixed Lettuce leaves and orange grated Carrot. It was all fresh and crunchy, rather than being limp and lifeless. I must mention the Steak Chips that also come with the burger; I don’t think it would be inaccurate to describe them as pillows of delectability because they were just beyond extraordinary. The potato itself was a very tasty variety that obviously lends itself well to being made into a chip, but they were of a generous size, and soft and comforting on the tongue. The Smokehouse Chutney that also comes on the plate tastes amazing with the chips, far better than ordinary Ketchup. For an additional 99p you can add Bacon, Applewood Smoked Cheese or Cheddar Cheese to your burger.  The Croots Burger is a proper belly filler , so much so that we skipped dinner that evening and  had a late supper of items that we bought at the farm shop.

We bought some fresh bread, some Stilton Cheese with Garlic and Mushroom and The Boy Wonder decided that he wanted some of Croots Farms Homemade Chicken Liver Pate. It all made for a very tasty supper, dear Blog reader, and if ever you find yourselves at a loose end you could do worse than pay Croots Farm a visit.

But that wasn’t the end of our little Bank Holiday jaunt, oh no, we decided to pay Blueys Steakhouse and Bar in Alfreton a visit on our way back to the nest. Being the good little Wife Bird that I am I told the Man that he could have a couple of pints and I would drive back to the Nest seeing as he had done the driving round all day.

So we hopped onto a couple of bar stools, being welcomed with the usual cheery smiles from the staff that customers are assured of at Blueys.  “Pint of Peroni for the Hubster and a pint of Aspalls Cider for me please”....... “No, no!”  said Leonie (Mrs Bluey)” There’s something far nicer for you to try”. Nicer than my wonderful Aspalls, surely not? Never mind curiosity and the cat, it was definitely a case of the nosey Bird! Now, a lot of you will be familiar with the Swedish Premium deliciousness that is Rekorderlig Cider, especially the yummy Strawberry and Lime version ( which goes down a treat on a hot day with lots of ice in ),but there is a brand new variety out in only a very few outlets in the country. This little beaut is the “Wild Berry“ confection, and Oh My Word,  it is liquid heaven -  and to think that we in the Amber Valley have it in one of our Bars is somewhat of a coup to say the least. There are, as I mentioned above, only a handful of places countrywide to have this particular beverage so I think it safe to say that Blueys is the probably the only place in The Amber Valley or maybe even Derbyshire, to have it. About time us Amber Vallians were recognised for having such great taste I feel, what do you say reader?

An hour or so passed in a flash; after all time flies when you’re having fun, and the time had come to bid farewell to the team at Blueys and make our way back to the nest.

Settled back Chez Sticky, the kettle was popped on, brew made and supper prepared - it had been a good day. Got to love the British Bank Holiday J

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Undal, Ripley (May 2014)

Friday 23/05/2014 20:24:36 | View This Entry

Well, Sticky Beakers, I have once again been sampling some local Indian cuisine, courtesy of Undal Restaurant in Ripley. When the Boy Wonder suggests an opportunity for me to have a night off from cooking for my little flock I’m hardly going to refuse am I now?

So off we flew, and before long we were being welcomed into the inviting interior of the restaurant. The tables are beautifully set out with the most stylish cutlery I’ve seen, and the napkins are arranged in a simple design that compliments the tableau. As the restaurant isn’t licensed we took along our own wine, but they do serve a wide selection of soft drinks; and if you forget to take your own alcohol don’t panic as there is a shop next door that sells it. A waiter seated us at our table and then placed the napkins on our laps for us, which is always a nice touch and bodes well for the standards in the establishment you’re at.

Anyhow, back to the most important subject - food. In no time at all a plate of poppadoms and accompanying pickle tray were being placed before us and we tucked in with some gusto. The poppadoms were lovely and light, not greasy and cloying which (as regular readers of this blog will know) is one thing I absolutely hate.

As we happily munched away on the poppadoms we looked at all the tempting dishes on offer, and there is a vast array of starters to choose from, some of which are quite unusual such as the Cilantro Chimichuri Scallops (shallow fried scallops on a bed of cilantro sauce) and Nargis Kebab (A Whole Egg wrapped in Spiced Mince Meat, then topped with an Omelette). We chose Chicken Chatt, Chicken Shaslic and Crunchy Tikka for our starters and eagerly awaited their arrival; especially my ever-hungry chick who I think has hollow feathers! We didn’t have long to wait before the starters were wheeled in on a wooden trolley and served at the side of each person to avoid any reaching over other bodies -  again, a nice touch I thought. The starters were carefully presented with a varied side salad to garnish, and all were piping hot and beautifully seasoned. So far, so good and we were looking forward to a great gastro experience.

At this point I’m just going to write about the decor of the restaurant as they are several features worth a mention. In the far corner on the left hand side of the door as you go in, there is a gorgeous rectangular shaped chandelier above one of the tables that, had i got room in my handbag, I could have easily taken home ! There are several pieces of statement art adorning the walls of different colours which attract the eye and become a great talking point. The best decor facet though, in my chick’s opinion, is the rectangular colour changing light feature which subtly enhances the main space of the restaurant. It somehow manages to add to the space, without being a garish or obtrusive influence on the ambience of the venue. The table linen was spotless and the warm orange/amber colour of the napkins accentuated the warmth of the interior.

For our main courses we decided on the Prawn Wrap (which may also be chosen as a starter), the North Indian Garlic Chilli Chicken and the Goan Green Murg (chicken) Curry. The decision took us all a fair few minutes to come to, as once again, the selection of dishes to choose from is extensive. To accompany the dishes we  chose a Plain Pilau Rice, a Lemon Chilli Rice and a Garlic Naan Bread, and additionally we chose the Danya Naan (stuffed with Coriander ). After a brief wait our dishes were once again served from the trolley, and what a sight they were! Piping hot, the curries were served in stylish black dishes and salad garnished the plates very becomingly. The rices were in separate dishes, and the Naan Breads were already quartered so we didn’t have to tear pieces off ourselves.

The Man Birds Garlic Chilli Chicken was exactly as it stated, you could taste both main spices but not in an over-powering way, which is not to detract from the spiciness of the dish, rather to say that this is not the dish to have if you can’t cope with hotter curries. My own Goan Curry was also of the spicier persuasion, and was very well balanced with regard to its Spinach and Mint components. Both of our curries were crammed full with chunks of Chicken, so the meal is satisfying for heartier appetites. My Chicks Prawn wrap had a milder Bhuna sauce with it, but the milder nature of the heat of the curry does not detract from its tastiness in any way, shape or form. I tried a little morsel and it was a lovely rich tasting sauce. I have never seen a wrap on an Indian menu before, it is something you would normally expect in a Mexican restaurant, but it looked really tempting on the plate. The rices were both fluffy and the Lemon Chilli version was delicious. Our Naan Breads were both scrummy too, the taste of the coriander one was very refreshing to the palate, and I think I preferred this one personally. If you want to have Prawn or Combination dishes there is just a small £2 surcharge to the £9.95 price for the 4 course banquet (available Sunday, Monday and Tuesday).

The finale in the four course banquet is coffee, but as you may have guessed reader, for my flock it didn’t end there! The Boy and Chick-a-dee both wanted Vanilla Ice Cream to finish, and there were 3 scoops presented on a rectangular dish which somehow managed to make this ordinary dessert look special.

So, in short, dear blogger we had a great evening. The staff were all very polite, very smart and super-friendly. The food was sublime, superbly cooked and lovingly presented. The Restaurant itself feels very relaxed and inviting, somewhere you want to stay and enjoy. So I think it safe to say that Undal has earned its “Hot Wings“!

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The Lotus Lounge, Alfreton (April 2014)

Monday 05/05/2014 16:50:50 | View This Entry

The Fledgling had flown the nest for the night leaving the Man Bird and myself somewhat at a loose end. So we had a quick flick through the local restaurants and came upon The Lotus Lounge Chinese Restaurant in Alfreton. They do an all-you-can-eat buffet for £ 16.95 on Friday and Saturday nights (different pricing options mid-week), which we had been meaning to try out for absolutely ages. So Boy Wonder gave them a buzz to book a table, and we flew down a short while later. The menu itself is very generous in food choices, and if there are 2 of you dining you get to choose 3 starters at a time to share. Then, if you finish those and want some more starters you can choose another 3 dishes, and so on. I like this idea as not only does it stop a lot of food being needlessly wasted, but it also means that the dishes are hotter when you eat them, as there aren’t lots of dishes just sat on the table. Initially we chose Crispy Aromatic Duck, Vegetable Spring Rolls and Yuk Sung (shredded meat served in lettuce leaves), and they were all very tasty. It didn’t take us long to demolish those morsels, so we then chose Satay Chicken Skewers and I had Chicken and Mushroom Soup whilst the Man had The Hot and Sour Soup. The Satay sauce was really tasty, not overly peanutty like some places you go, and with a bit more heat to it than usual too which was lovely. The soups were very nice too, but the Hot and Sour soup really was Hot and Sour, not a slightly different version of sweet and sour sauce that most restaurants serve.

We decided to leave the starter selections behind at that point, so that we could try out several of the main course options. We chose Chicken Sambal Thai Style and Deep Fried Mongolian Aromatic Lamb first, with some Fried Rice with Green Pepper and Spring Onion to accompany them. Both dishes were subtly spiced and not greasy in the slightest, apart from the natural juices you expect from Lamb meat anyway. The rice was lovely and fluffy, although it was a somewhat larger portion than we were expecting! Nice to be able to say about restaurant portions, normally you tend to find yourself asking for more rice. Again, we cleared our plates and ordered another couple of main dishes, this time we plumped for Crispy fried Chilli Beef and Aubergine in Black Bean sauce. Now as you know, the Boy Wonder does like his Crispy Fried Chilli Beef and tends to order it at any Chinese restaurant we go to. Each establishment has their own way of doing it, from the thickness of the beef strips, to the seasoning on their batter which gives you a good comparison choice. Apparently the dish served at The Lotus Lounge measures up very well being non greasy, crispy batter, nice size of beef strip and a sticky glaze too. I thought it was nice too, although I’m not an expert on this particular dish!

There were also dessert options included in this buffet price, so I opted for Lychees and He went for Banana Fritter in syrup. I was tempted by the Pineapple Fritter, but decided to go for the lighter option as I was feeling a bit stuffed at this point. Again, the portion size was nice for my Lychees and the batter was light and crispy on the fritter.

Throughout the evening tables had steadily been filled up and as we rose to leave we noticed that every single one had been taken. The nice thing was that it had never felt or sounded crowded as it got busier, the ambience had been maintained beautifully. The staff were all smart and polite too, nothing was too much trouble for them. It was our first visit to this Restaurant, and I’m more than happy to recommend that you go there too; you will have a lovely evening with quality food at more than reasonable prices. Children were present on a couple of the tables and were happy in their demeanour, so I think it safe to say that families are more than catered for.

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Blueys Steakhouse Breakfast (April 2014)

Thursday 01/05/2014 20:25:21 | View This Entry

“Breakfast at Blueys “, now that’s the title of a film if ever I heard one.......

Well what to do when your little chick abandons the nest to go party with a friends flock? Go out for breakfast of course, and that’s exactly what the Boy Wonder and I did. Having been out the night before for an impromptu meal a deux, we couldn’t really be bothered to be early birds catching worms so what better idea than to let our friends at Blueys do it for us.

As always there was a cheery smile and “g’day” as we walked through the doors, and we plonked ourselves at the nearest table to peruse the breakfast menu (breakfast is only served on Saturdays between 9am and noon by the way). The man and I both decided on the Bushman’s Breakfast; he had fried egg whilst I had scrambled, I chose chopped tomatoes and he wanted beans, and I had fried bread to his toast. We also ordered two mugs of tea. So Jess took our order through and made us our cuppas. I was pleased to see what I call a proper brew placed in front of me -  a fried brekkie needs a fulsome cuppa to go with it, not a wishy-washy “ teabag wafted at the cup” affair that you sometimes get. It wasn’t long before our breakfasts arrived, lovely big plates of yumminess that were just what us hungry birds needed. The sausages were proper meaty affairs, not piddly thin things that are gone in one beakful and the bacon was lovely and thick, the real McCoy rather than that horrible stuff that’s pumped full of water and disappears before your eyes when you grill it. The scrambled eggs are a bit different to what you normally get because they’re done on the griddle, so they’re a bit finer in texture to what most places offer. Still super-tasty though, as was my fried bread when i put my chopped tomatoes on top - which I know it sounds weird, but this bird swoops to the flapping of her own wings as well you know. And the breakfasts were both lovely and hot too, nothing worse than a lukewarm fry-up in my opinion.

So another “hot wings” mark for Blueys, we’d certainly go back for Breakfast. Next time I might dress up and be Audrey Hep”bird”!! There’s 3 different size options for the breakfasts too, so something for every appetite and you can add extras bit and bobs too if you want to. Or if a full breakfast is too much for your crops, try one of their breakfast cobs instead. (And remember Blueys will do you a breakfast anytime the reastaurant is open so if you pop in for lunch but still fancy breakfast - No Worries!)

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The Loaf, Crich (April 2014)

Tuesday 29/04/2014 07:17:46 | View This Entry

As you know dear reader, my little flock likes to try out different venues every now and then, and we have been meaning to try out Pizza Night at The Loaf in Crich for absolutely ages. We often get bread from there as they do a cracking range of different breads and accompaniments ( jams, pickles, relishes etc ), and we finally got our act together and booked a table for Pizza night -  held every Wednesday, with 2 sittings available : 6pm and 8pm. The Tribal Elders decided to come with us as well, so it was a proper family meal out like they do on the continent. When in Rome, as they say.... and ok we were in Crich, but I’m setting the scene here so a bit of poetic license is allowed surely?

Anyhow, I’m glad we did book a table as every single seat in the place was taken. So we sat and had a look at the menu, and honestly all of us said that there were at least 3 pizzas we could easily choose.

For starters we had Garlic Pizza bread and a Garlic Pizza Bread with Cheese to share between the 5 of us, and I nearly had the olives too but thought that would a bit greedy! The pizza breads were gorgeous - thin, very crispy, and very very tasty.

 

After much deliberation we made our choices: Chickadee had the vegetarian pizza, Man Bird had the Chorizo, My Daddy Bird had the Capricciosa, Mummy Bird had the Calzone and I plumped for the Fiorentina. When they arrived we all chirruped with excitement - they looked delicious. We all agreed that they were piping hot and the base was thin and crispy, just what you get in Italy apparently (The Elders went to Rome for one of their wedding anniversaries, and had Pizza there). The Calzone was chockablok full of meat and cheesy tastiness, and the Olives and Artichokes on Daddy Birds pizza were beautifully fresh and tasty, so he said between beakfuls. The Boy Wonder was pecking away at his Chorizo pizza so heartily that he just gave “2 wings up” when asked his opinion. Chick was equally positive about her pizza, and there was certainly plenty of topping to munch away at for her. My own Fiorentina pizza was without doubt the best pizza I have ever tasted - the base was thin, crispy, and not soggy at all and there was plenty of fresh Spinach in evidence on top. The Grand Pedano cheese could be tasted but wasn’t overpowering the other flavours, and the egg in the centre of the pizza was cooked to perfection (the white was thoroughly done, and the yolk was soft.

Now you might think that that was enough gourmet goings-on for one evening but no, The Loaf had a final trick up its sleeve – dessert. The Elders couldn’t eat another morsel so it fell to the younger flock members to maintain our gourmand reputation; which we did handsomely may I say. I had a slice of homemade Ginger and Orange Cheesecake, Chick wanted Vanilla Ice-cream ( 2 scoops) and The Main Man had the Hazelnut and Salted Caramel Tart, and oh my goodness gracious, great balls of fire I thought I’d died and gone to the Great Birdcage in the Sky – the desserts were so so good. The balance of the Ginger and Orange was perfection itself, as was the Salted Caramel and Hazelnut. I cannot tell you how tempted I was to ask for a portion to bring home to the nest to have for supper, only my social graces stopped me from revealing the extent of my gluttony!

 

You may be wondering why I haven’t mentioned drinks as I normally do, and that is because The Loaf do not have a license for alcohol, so we brought our own. They only charge 75p per person to consume alcohol on the premises, which I thought to be more than reasonable. A full range of juices and waters is on offer though, handy for younger flock members and those that are the designated driver for the night. And talking of younger flock members, if you have small children or babies there are high chairs at The Loaf available for you to use.

Prices are very reasonable with starters from £2.50 - about £4, pizzas £6.99 - just under a tenner and desserts round the £3.50 mark if memory serves correct. The staff are very well turned out, extremely helpful and pleasant and the premises have a lovely feel to them. This bird can definitely put her “wings up “for The Loaf and recommend you pay this venue a visit - but remember to book, it was jam packed when we went.

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The Greyhound Inn, Belper (April 2014)

Thursday 10/04/2014 13:48:15 | View This Entry

Well Bloggers, sometimes lady luck just shines on you, and when she does you say “thank you very much” and get on with the job in hand. The Greyhound were doing a Facebook competition to win a free curry for its Curry Night that it holds every Thursday, so the Boy Wonder entered -  and only blooming won one ! Well, you may not know but On Curry Night there is an offer to get 2 curries for only £9.95, so we decided to go for a family treat; the chick and I would have our curries for a tenner and the Boy Wonder would get his free of charge. So off we flew to The Greyhound, settled ourselves in with a lager, glass of wine and grapefruit juice and perused the Menu.

The Curry Menu is quite impressive with several Asian curries on offer as well as a Thai Red Curry, and a Thai Green Curry. I decided fairly quickly on the Thai Green Chicken Curry, the Chick had Chicken Korma and The Man Bird had a Beef Madras. Now this was quite a departure from the norm for him, as he always says that beef is tough in a curry, but seeing as the food had been so good on a previous visit he decided to “risk it for a biscuit“ in his words. The poppadoms arrived first, and they were proper dinner plate sized affairs rather than the saucer sized things you get at another well known chain that also has its curry night on Thursday. They were lovely and crispy, not greasy, and there was a good size dollop of mango chutney in a dish to dip them in. As usual it didn’t take us long to demolish them, so then we awaited the curries themselves. It may have been an “offer night”, but I can say that every care and attention to detail had been taken as if it were an a la carte dish. The Curries were presented on a paprika garnished square plate, with the curries being in separate little bowls to contain them. Then there was also a timbale of rice and Naan bread that had been sliced in half on the plate.

Little Chicks Korma was beautifully flavoured, not over cloyingly creamy, and just a hint of coconut and almond, and my baby tucked in to her meal with great fervour. My Thai Green Curry had a lovely Chilli and Garlic kick to it, and the Lemongrass gave it a bright zing on my taste buds, so I was exceptionally happy with my meal. So far so good, how would the Beef Madras measure up? The look on Man Birds face said it all - the beef was not tough or chewy in the least. I sampled a piece of beef myself, and can confirm that it was melt in the mouth, and the Madras sauce was really well balanced ,  although not for Curry Virgins !

We were having such a pleasant evening we decided that this time we were going to sample the dessert menu, as last time we were completely stuffed after having starter and mains. The vast majority of the desserts are home-made, with only a couple of them being bought in, which is increasingly rare these days. I chose The Bread and Butter Pudding (homemade), The Boy Wonder had Creme Brulee (homemade) and my Chick had Sticky Toffee Pudding (surprisingly bought in).

It didn’t take long for the desserts to arrive, and soon we were tucking in to sweet delights. My Bread and Butter pudding was lovely and custardy, full of juicy sultanas and raisins and delicately spiced, completely different to the bland, soggy impersonations that you experience elsewhere. The Man Birds Creme Brulee was also a winner, the sugar crust gave a lovely sound as it cracked and the sugar had been beautifully caramelised rather than burnt, which makes the crust bitter tasting. The Creme had a lovely vanilla flavour to it, not overpowering, just enough to compliment the sugar crust. No need to ask whether the Sticky Toffee Pudding was tasty - it had been demolished in double-quick time, and was declared to be very Toffee – y and very sticky!

So once again, I find myself urging you to go to The Greyhound at Belper for its Thursday night Curry Night if you haven’t already done so. And don’t forget to keep a beady eye on their Facebook page for future competitions and giveaways - I shall certainly be entering every one that I see!

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The Oriental Palace, Ambergate (March 2014)

Sunday 06/04/2014 09:19:45 | View This Entry

Well Sticky Beak bloggers, my little flock has been out and about again. The hubster and I were invited to the prelaunch opening of the Oriental Palace in Ambergate at the beginning of March, and were suitably impressed by the quality of the food that we decided to return with the Tribal elders in tow.

We had two options: the fixed price banquet, or a la carte. After a bit of deliberation (and much munching on the complimentary prawn crackers) we decided to go with the Banquet option, which is priced at £12.90 per person Sunday-Thursday and £14.90 per person Friday and Saturday. To accompany the food we ordered a bottle of Pinot Grigio, and the Male Birds had a pint of Asahi lager each, with the Chick having her usual Apple Juice. It was pleasing to note that the wine list is extensive, and includes Champagne too for those special occasions. 

We all opted for the Chicken and Sweetcorn Soup, although I was tempted to go for the Peking Hot and Sour soup. The soup came out piping hot, and was delicious. Sometimes I find that the soup in Chinese restaurants can be a bit glutinous in consistency, but this one was just a bit thinner, so it was perfect in my opinion.

After the soup came The Assorted Dim Sum Platter which had Katsu Yaki (Spicy Pork Skewers), Crispy Mini Spring Rolls, Spare Ribs and Sesame Prawn Toast. As you can imagine, this veritable feast of starters didn’t last long with my hungry flock, although the Katsu Yaki was just a little too spicy for my Daddy Bird. The Crispy Spring Rolls were exactly that - crispy. Not greasy at all, this is a bug-bear of mine as you know, and fully filled with vegetables. The ribs were moist and meaty, and I have to say the Prawn toast was perhaps the thickest, Prawniest prawn toast I’ve ever had! Yumtastic so far......

There is then an option within the banquet to have Aromatic Crispy Duck (for a minimum of 2 people at an extra cost of just £3 per head). And guess what reader? Yes, that’s right we all opted for this extra, even my baby chick. Well, a huge mountain of shredded duck was placed in front of us all, accompanied by Spring Onion and Cucumber slices, a dish of Hoisin Sauce and a basket of Pancakes to wrap everything in (you are invited to ask for more pancakes if needed).The Duck was lovely and moist with just a little bit of crispiness on the outside - perfect. So we all tucked in with great gusto, and were mightily satisfied with this course.

For the Main Courses there is an extensive range of dishes to choose from with Chicken, Duck, Beef, King Prawn, Mixed Meat and Vegetarian options available, in total 46 dishes to decide from.2 people can choose 3 dishes from this range,3 people 4 dishes and 4+ people can choose 6 dishes, which are all served with either Fried or Boiled Rice or Chips. Our chosen selection was Duck In Plum Sauce x2 ( for my Daddy bird and myself ),Mixed Meat Chow Mein for my Mummy Bird, Crispy Shredded Chilli Beef for the Man Bird and King Prawn with Mixed Vegetables for my Little Chickadee. We also had Chicken in a Lemon Honey Sauce.  Every single dish we had chosen was delicious; my chick had plenty of King Prawns on her plate, the Crispy Shredded Chilli Beef was superb - you could actually see and taste the beef in it, unlike the usual takeaway affair of it being so thinly sliced you never taste the meat. The Chow Mein was chockablock full of meat, and the noodles were thinner than you usually get which Mummy Bird thought enhanced the dish. The noodles weren’t at all oily and the sauce was very flavoursome. The Duck in Plum Sauce was beautiful, the sauce wasn’t too sweet and the tender duck meat married superbly with it. However, the Oriental Palace pulled the rabbit out of the hat with the Chicken in Lemon Honey Sauce. Rather than being the normal sweet, over –honeyed, no-taste -of -lemon -at –all affairs, this was a total treat for your taste buds. The tang of lemon was expertly balanced with the sweetness of the honey to create a dish that cocooned the chicken so sublimely that you just went “aaaah” when you tasted it.

At this point, ordinarily, you would expect that you would be full and skip the dessert menu but this little flock dear reader is made of pedigree, gold medal winning gourmets. We pride ourselves on our stamina when it comes to gastronomic matters, and so the dessert menu was pored over. The tribal elders did bow out at this stage, but the young whipper-snappers took up the baton. My chick had a chocolate pot and the boy wonder and I shared a Charlene Caramel. Ooh, ooh, ooh, the desserts were exceedingly scrummy, and different from the expected assortment you find in most restaurants. To finish we had coffees and my Mummy Bird had a Jasmine Tea which was beautifully served in Traditional style. Both the tea and coffee is refilled free of charge, which I think is just something a little different from other restaurants too.

Throughout the evening, our waitress Sam couldn’t do enough for us and Ailee (one of the owners) came to check that our meal was up to standard.

If you haven’t been to The Oriental Palace before, I can quite honestly recommend that you go. The food is beautifully presented, well cooked, and the Restaurant itself has a lovely atmosphere. You won’t be disappointed.

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The Greyhound Inn, Belper (March 2014)

Monday 24/03/2014 19:47:25 | View This Entry

Well Sticky Beakers, you are not going to believe what I am about to tell you.......... it is with great surprise that I must concede defeat at the hands of food. Let me elaborate. Our little nest has been meaning to make the trip to The Greyhound in Belper for a while now, but due to various factors money has not been available for a good night out. However, last night we finally made it. The Tribal Elders also came with us, so it was a lovely flock night out.

We perused the regular menu, the specials menu and the daily specials board on the wall behind us, and I must admit it took a good while for us all to make our choices. We all said that we could easily have chosen at least half a dozen different dishes. Our choices for our starters were 2 x Beer Battered Cornish Brie, Breaded Spicy Crispy Prawns, Salmon and Crab Fishcake, and Creamy Garlic Mushrooms. All the starters came out together and were beautifully presented on Square White plates with side garnishes. Everyone commented on the fact that they were lovely and hot, not lukewarm. The batter on the Brie was incredibly light, very Tempura-esque in taste and consistency. The Fishcake was a thick, meaty affair with plenty of taste and texture, and fish in abundance ( not just filled with potato and little else ). My Daddy bird loves Garlic Mushrooms, and has them most of the time as a starter where they are offered on the menu, but he pronounced the ones at The Greyhound to be the best he has ever had. Apparently the garlic sauce was lovely and thick and creamy, with just the right amount of garlic, and he was happy to use the bread roll to get every last drop of sauce out! My little chick said that her Crispy Prawns were exactly that, or as she actually said “just as they were described on the tin“, (to quote a famous advert renowned for it’s no nonsense approach).

For our main courses we settled on 2 x The Cod Father, Leek and Potato Bake, Steak and Chicken Combo ( with Fire Cracker Sauce ), and Shin of Beef with Port Sauce, Mustard Mash and Horseradish Dumpling. We also ordered side portions of Salad and Onion Rings.

As with our starters, the food all came out together and was piping hot. Each dish was beautifully presented, as you will see from the photographs, and to say that the portions would satisfy even the hungriest person is an understatement of epic proportions.

The Shin of Beef was incredibly tender and was super-tasty; the meat just melted on your tongue, and the accompanying mustard mash was equally tasty. There was just the right amount of mustard tang to be tasted without being over-powering and it was made with wholegrain mustard which made it more pleasing to the eye. The Horseradish dumpling was lovely and light, more of a scone in texture I would say, and was again beautifully seasoned so that you could just taste the horseradish without too much heat. A selection of vegetables including Cabbage, Green Beans, Carrots and Mashed Swede also accompanied this dish. At this point I would just like to say that I swear on my feathers that I had a magic portion of meat because I was chowing through it at a steady rate of knots but it didn’t seem to be diminishing in the slightest! Even my daddy remarked on this fact. It took me a fair while to concede defeat to this most marvellous meaty confection, but I had to admit that I just couldn’t finish my meal.

The 2 portions of The Cod Father left my Mummy and Daddy Birds both Speechless (which only very rarely happens). Both fish portions were absolutely HUGE!! Over an inch thick and coated in such a crisp, light, golden batter it made your beak chatter with excitement just looking at them. Each fillet was nestled on a bed of homemade chips and a separate dish of mushy peas sat beside them on the plate. The Cod was firm, juicy and very tasty and the chips were moreish and not at all greasy according to the elders, so they were very happy birdies.

The Boy Wonder had ordered the Chicken and Steak Combo, and was pleased to report that the chicken was lovely and moist, and the steak was cooked beautifully medium and had a wonderful taste. The Firecracker sauce was in his words “kicking, but not over-powering - although it does have a bit of fieriness to it, so it’s perhaps not for the faintest of hearts “. He also sampled the Home made Onion Rings, which again were rather large in nature and fried in a lovely light batter. My little chick also tried an onion ring and remarked on how yummy they were.

My chick had opted for The Leek and Potato Bake on this particular occasion, not because she is vegetarian but just because that is what she fancied that night. Being only young in age she doesn’t have a worldly sophisticated palate, but she knows how ingredients taste and when something is cooked well. She tucked into the bake with a serious amount of gusto, and didn’t come up for air for a good few seconds, so it was fair to say that it was getting a  “ thumbs up “ from her taste buds. After a couple of minutes, when asked her opinion, she said that it was very nice, the vegetables weren’t soggy and that the cheesy sauce was just right - oh and that it got 2 thumbs up.

The side salad was beautifully presented and came with a light dressing on that didn’t drown the salad. However, we didn’t manage to finish this either, because we were all so stuffed to bursting point.

Needless to say we declined to look at the dessert menu which again, like my parents speechlessness, only happens in a blue moon. But it also gives us a reason to go back again in the near future (which we had decided to do anyway).

The staff were all smartly dressed and so incredibly polite; they couldn’t do enough for us. There was music in the background as you would expect in a pub environment, but it was at a level that provided pleasant background sounds rather than being an assault on your ear drums. A lot of thought has been given to the eating area decor too; it was very clean and understated with patterned paper on just a couple of feature walls.

Belper, you have got yourselves a local treasure here, please support it and be proud of it. The rest of Derbyshire, if you haven’t been here before, what on earth is keeping you?? I really, really can’t recommend this venue highly enough - it was everything you could want, and more.
 

 

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The Oriental Pearl, Clay Cross (Feb 2013)

Tuesday 11/03/2014 08:46:39 | View This Entry

As you know dear reader we are a tight-knit little flock that enjoy eating and socialising at any opportunity, so when my little chick got a fantastic school report it was the perfect reason to go out. We asked the tribal elders (my parents) if they would like to join us, and they flew at the chance. As it was to celebrate chick-a-dee’s success she was given the choice of where to go and suggested The Oriental Pearl Chinese restaurant in Clay Cross, so we made the booking and off we went. Now it isn’t the first time we’ve ever been to this particular restaurant, but fair to say it has been a long time.

There is plenty of parking at the rear of the restaurant, always a bonus when your going out for a bite to eat. The fish tank still has prominence in the restaurant, but the second thing I noticed is a fantastic mural on the restaurant wall. It depicts your typical oriental garden scene, with swans, lilies, lotus blossom and bridges all featured, but it literally takes up the whole length of the restaurant wall. Combined with the lanterns it really does give a traditional authentic feel to the Oriental Pearl, and Chris, the owner, is rightly proud of this.

We ordered drinks and settled into our seats to peruse the menu and nibble on the prawn crackers that Lily brought to the table. After much deliberation my little chick and mummy bird decided that they would have the Oriental Pearl Mixed Hors d’Oeuvres for their starters. The man and I both plumped for the Smoked Chicken with Chilli, Garlic and Spring Onions, whilst my daddy bird had the Crispy Cantonese Spring Rolls. Well, the platter of Hors d’Oeuvres was piled high with goodies to say the least: Peking Spare Ribs, Sesame Prawns on Toast, Vegetarian Spring Rolls, Crispy Won Tons and Crispy Seaweed, and it all looked delicious. Then our Smoked Chicken came; lovely little cubes of Chicken garnished with flakes of roast garlic and chilli, and spring onion. My dad looked over and remarked how tasty it looked, so I said he could try a piece (he doesn’t like a lot of spice as you know, but said that it was just nicely spiced). Then my dad’s spring rolls arrived, again garnished beautifully. We all tucked in to our food with much gusto, and the consensus was that none of the pastry was greasy, the prawn toasts were lovely and full of prawn meat, the ribs were meaty and juicy, and the chicken was just the correct depth of spiciness.

I should point out that the Oriental Pearl is one of those rare establishments that have Chopsticks on the table as standard, but gladly provide knives and forks on request if you don’t like chopsticks or feel particularly confident with them. Indeed having knives and forks as back-up means you can try chopsticks out for the first time, or just renew your skills with them for a while. We used the Chopsticks with varying degrees of success, which provided us with some in family entertainment and added to the relaxed happy occasion that it was intended to be.

Then we ordered a soup course because we’re a flock of gannets! Hubster had the Peking Hot and Sour soup (he requested no prawns in his), my dad had the Chicken and Noodle soup whilst the chick and I both opted for Chicken and Mushroom soup. Mother bird was the only one who showed any self restraint at this point. Soups demolished, it was soon on to the Main courses. The tribal elders had the Oriental Pearl Special Chow Mein, the boy wonder plumped for the Sizzling Fillet of Beef with Black Pepper, chicklet had King Prawns with Bamboo Shoots and Water Chestnuts and I decided upon the Scallops with Ginger and Spring Onion. You could hear the sizzling beef before you could see it, and when it arrived at the table there was a mouth-watering aroma filling the air. The Chow Mein bowls were heaped up like mini mountains, ditto the chicks King Prawns. I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of scallops in my dish, they’re not the cheapest items and many restaurants can be a bit mean on the quantity they give you. Another pit-fall many restaurants fall into is that they overcook the scallops so they become a bit chewy and rubbery. Thankfully the team at Oriental Pearl have got cooking them down to a fine art, and they were juicy and tender and full of flavour - just how they should be. So I was a very happy birdie, and I wasn’t alone in my joy because all you could hear from our table were satisfied little murmurs of foodie contentment. The fillet of beef was moist and tender complimented by a warming pepper heat that wasn’t overpowering; again some restaurants just go overboard with the pepper and drown out all the other flavours. Chick gave her King prawns 2 thumbs up, so she was a very happy camper, and the folks were mightily delighted with their Chow Mein - it was packed full of different meats and vegetables and was very satisfying. We ordered enough rice for 3 people and it came piled up in a large bowl; in all honesty it could probably have fed 6 people easily.

Our little crops were full to bursting and there was a brief moment where we thought we might have to skip dessert. But it was only a brief moment, and we thankfully found the stamina to manage a sweet course, so ice creams and Caramel Fantastica’s were ordered.

It was gratifying to see that we weren’t the only group eating in the restaurant, especially on a midweek day, and the telephone was busy ringing with takeaway orders throughout the evening too.

We ordered off the a la carte menu, but there is also a choice of 5 set menus you can eat from as well as various buffet options for midweek.

For a warm welcome, good service and great food you’d be hard pushed to find anywhere better in the locale. Top marks to Chris and his team, we won’t leave it so long to return this time.
 

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Rachael's Secret Tea Room (Jan 2013)

Friday 14/02/2014 07:13:49 | View This Entry

As you know readers, I’m the sort of bird that doesn’t mind flying off the straight line Crows flight path every now and then ;  so when the Hubster suggested a “pop-up” tea room as part of my birthday revelries I jumped off my perch quick-smart.

Rachael’s Secret Tea Room is held in the dining room of Rachael’s house in Belper - and that is as specific as I can be about its location, or it wouldn’t be secret would it?

The Afternoon Teas are held on Fridays and Saturdays, although occasionally Rachael can do Sundays by prior arrangement. Up to 8 people may be accommodated per date, and when the boy wonder and I went there were another 4 ladies there too, who we had never met before. For those of you who may be a  bit reticent about to spend a few hours in the company of strangers I can only say “ go for it “. The conversation was non-stop and there were a lot of laughs too.

Rachael has a menu of Teas to choose from (Herbal Infusions, Breakfast, Earl Grey, Assam and Darjeeling) with a brief description of each, or there is Coffee and Decaffeinated Coffee to choose from too. All the teas are loose leaf and come in China pots, with china cup and saucer and tea strainer at each setting.

The finger sandwiches were served first: Brie and Red Grape, Egg and Watercress (or watercress-less in Hubsters case), and Ham and Real Ale Chutney. They were all quickly demolished by our group, to much “ooh-ing and aah-ing “. The sandwiches were artfully arranged on a tiered stand and the side plates were all china too, and not all matching either, which I thought added to the “Olde Worlde “ atmosphere, rather than being “ matchy matchy “ prim and proper.

After the finger sandwiches, came the Red Pepper and Goats Cheese Muffins and the Tomato and Pesto Tartlets. Let me tell you reader, when I had sampled these I could’ve kissed Rachael and asked her to marry me! Had I not been present in the room I think Hubster would’ve got down on bended knee and made his own bid for this talented Chef!

The finale was a selection of scrumptious sweet treats including Heart shaped Shortbread, Chocolate and Orange Brownies, Macaroons and Fruit Scones served with dishes of cream and Strawberry and Damson Jams.

Each course was a marvel to behold presentation wise and an absolute delight to savour. Throughout the afternoon Rachael was the perfect Hostess, seamlessly managing to to serve us with fresh pots of Tea and Coffee and then retiring to another room so people could converse privately. There was a very relaxed, slow paced ambience to the afternoon, so that the focus was on fine food and conviviality.

As a rather touching gesture, Rachael presented us all with a little gift of Mini Lemon and Blueberry Muffins -  and I couldn’t resist buying my little chick a bag of Rocky Road Squares that were available to  purchase ( which she pronounced to be totally yummy )

If you have any special dietary requirements all you need to do is contact Rachael and she will do her utmost to accommodate you. I cannot rate Rachael’s Secret Tea Room highly enough, it is a totally unique experience – different entirely to afternoon teas in mainstream high street establishments (though I do love Strutt Street Bakery’s afternoon teas too!!)

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The Devonshire, Belper (Jan 2013)

Sunday 09/02/2014 20:22:33 | View This Entry

It’s a tough life being the birthday bird, especially when the boy wonder says he’s taking you out somewhere new to eat! Cue The Devonshire on Bridge Street in Belper... now I know that it is a pub, but it also has a nifty little restaurant insitu. I’d never been in there before my birthday, but it has a really cosy atmosphere. There were already a couple of couples in there when we arrived, which for a mid-week night is always a good sign.

We were shown to a table adjacent to the fire, and given the menus and specials board. With a rather nice glass of red wine in my hand I studied the very extensive fayre on offer, and I was sorely tempted by the Tex-Mex menu I must say. However, I eventually settled on Smoked Mackerel with Avocado to start and the Salmon, Courgette and Tarragon Tagliatelle for my main. The boy wonder had Homemade Chicken Liver Pate to start and Sirloin Steak for his Main. My little chick had the Chicken Strips with Sweet and Sour Sauce to start with, followed by Creamy Chicken and Mushroom Risotto for her Main course.

The starters were all beautifully presented. I pinched a little morsel of the hubsters Pate, and it was blooming delicious I must say ! My smoked Mackerel was lovely too, not at all dry - as you now, dry fish is one of my pet-hates, and the accompanying mayonnaise was beautifully seasoned with just enough Garlic. Judging by the speed that the Chicken strips were devoured, I think it safe to say that they passed the taste-o-meter test!

After a short interlude our main courses were presented to us, again 10/10 for presentation. Hubsters Steak was cooked precisely as he had ordered; the vegetables weren’t cooked until mushy - they still had the perfect amount of crunch left in them. My tagliatelle was cooked perfectly al dente, coated in a glossy, beautifully thick white sauce that contained thick tempting slices of Courgette and then topped with lovely satisfying chunks of fresh succulent Salmon.  Little chickadee was tucking into her risotto with amazing gusto and said it was very tasty indeed, and when I sampled a little bit I was not in the least disappointed. It was beautifully seasoned, creamy and the risotto rice still had that substance to it that leaves you satisfied, and there was plenty of chicken pieces and mushroom in evidence.

Seeing as it was a birthday meal it would’ve been rude not to sample the delights of the dessert menu I thought. My fledgling decided to have the Chocolate Fudge Cake served warm with Vanilla Ice Cream and the main man and I had the White Chocolate Cheesecake served with Cream. The desserts duly arrived and........... OMG! I thought I had died and gone to birdy heaven - totally taste-tastic. Definitely a score 0f 20/10!!!

Throughout the night our waitresses were always very polite and both were extremely smart in their appearance. If you’ve never thought about going to the Devonshire before I can completely recommend it, the menu is very well thought out with something for everyone and a cosy atmosphere as well. Top Marks

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The Brown Bear Cafe, Ripley (Jan 2013)

Monday 13/01/2014 21:07:06 | View This Entry

The fledgling was having her hair cut at a salon in Ripley, and it was a jolly cold day for us older adult birds, let me tell you. So the boy wonder suggested we go and have breakfast ...Well I was up for filling my beak with delicious tit-bits

Someone had suggested The Brown Bear Cafe as we picked up some candles in Scented Willow (amazing shop, just for the record), so off we flew. If you’ve never been before, the cafe is actually located on the top floor of Hurst’s Chemists in Ripley centre. We got upstairs to find a really light, airy, calm little oasis. The tables are cleverly arranged so that even when all the tables are occupied you aren’t hemmed in by anyone, and have both maroon and cream checked oilcloth covers, or plain cream covers which creates a lovely cottage–y vibe.

We were welcomed with a lovely smile and invited to find a table and a waitress would be with us shortly, so we found a table on the raised platform near the window so that I could people watch. We had a quick glance at the menu, and then our waitress came over to take our drinks order. All the staff in the cafe are very smartly turned out; clean uniforms, fresh smelling and wearing light day make up. There is a selection of papers and magazines to read as well, so you really are invited to take your time and savour the experience in the Cafe.

When our waitress brought our pot of tea over, we ordered our food - I went for Eggs Benedict and hubster had The Brown Bear Traditional Breakfast. Everything is cooked fresh to order and they try to use local produce where possible, as well as selling locally made items to take home. The tea they use makes a really tasteful brew, not wishy-washy at all -  just what you need to refresh your thirst. My eggs arrived, and they were superbly presented; fresh toasted muffins topped with fat, bouncy eggs and thick rashers of back bacon then covered with a lovely thick, glossy hollandaise sauce ( just the right amount, and not watery ). It was honestly the tastiest eggs Benedict I’ve ever had, you could just taste the quality of the ingredients. The man’s breakfast was equally impressive; chunky bacon, thick meaty sausages, 2 eggs, mushrooms, black pudding, beans and oatcake (although you could have toast if you prefer, and tomatoes instead of beans). From the murmurs of appreciation and the lack of conversation for a few minutes I think it safe to say he thoroughly enjoyed his offerings from The Brown Bear Cafe.

Honestly, we savoured every mouthful.

It was really nice to see families being welcomed too; all too often young children are just tolerated in cafes. There was a wide cross section of society in the Cafe from pensioners to female friends having a catch up, as well as families shopping in town and just having a lazy breakfast all together. I should just mention too that the toilet facilities were spotless.

Keep up the good work team “ Brown Bear “, you’re in the premier league among cafes, and your tag line sums you up perfectly – “ Honest Food, Done Well”.

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Moja, Leabrooks (Nov 2013)

Thursday 19/12/2013 18:30:28 | View This Entry

Please excuse me everyone for I am currently bouncing around the nest like a demented Sparrow with excitement. I have found the Holy Grail!!! That’s right, a takeaway that actually produces tasty fayre..... Let me enlighten you.....
 

In Leabrooks (just out of the technical Somercotes boundary), there is a fairly small, unassuming building that calls itself “MOJA”, selling Indian food to takeaway. Now I love Indian cuisine, but experience has always taught me that takeout establishments, as opposed to Restaurants that also offer takeaway options, normally churn out quite oily, fiery concoctions that do not do any justice whatsoever to this type of food. So when the chief bird decided to try Moja, I was fairly sceptical - to the point I had defrosted something as a standby meal.
 

 However, when he came back with the order, I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised. The Poppadoms were fresh and obviously made at the premises, as opposed to being cash and carry pre-packed ones and the pickle tray was varied and the lime pickle wasn’t swimming in oil, which usually happens. The other starters we ordered were Prawn Puri and Garlic Chicken Tikka. The puri bread wasn’t soggy at all, and the tikka was beautifully spiced, not just the usual blast of over-powering garlic. And there were plenty of Prawns and Chicken meat in both dishes, which brings me nicely to my next point  about the main dishes... when I say the takeout trays could not have held another morsel, I really, really mean it. We ordered Prawn Korma, Rangpur Chicken and King Prawn Karahi for our mains, with 2 portions of Pilau rice and a garlic naan and a plain naan (which came with the Rangpur chicken I think). The food was piping hot, absolutely crammed chockablock with the meats they were meant to have in them, and no layer of oil floating on the top. As you can probably tell, I absolutely hate food swimming in grease, it just isn’t necessary when food is cooked properly and to be honest it looks blooming horrible when you see it in a takeout tray doesn’t it ? The dishes were spiced properly so that you got the different flavours rather than just having your feathers stripped off by overwhelming chilli heat. The rice was nice and fluffy, not all clagged together and the breads were fresh and soft too.
 

If you haven’t tried this particular takeaway place before, I can heartily recommend it. It isn’t stupidly priced, and it is easy to park in the co-op car park on Leabrooks Corner if you don’t want to just pull up on the main road. They also do delivery within the locale if you can’t be faffed to venture out yourself.

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Strutt Street Bakery, Belper (Oct 2013)

Saturday 05/10/2013 16:04:02 | View This Entry

“If at first you don’t succeed, try try again“ the saying goes. Or in our house “if at first he doesn’t listen, keep nagging until he does!“. So I kept on and on until the boy wonder booked us in at Strutt Street Bakery in Belper for their chocolate afternoon tea. And I’m very glad I did keep persevering, because it was just out-of-this-world, totes-amaze-balls !!

We originally booked in for 4pm but Katy (one of the owners) recommended that we book for 3pm as it was something that couldn’t be rushed and they shut at 5 pm on Saturdays, so we heeded her advice and booked in at 3pm. We were shown to the “snug“ upstairs, which is a beautiful little room with cosy sofas and a separate table and chair, and gorgeous foodie prints on the wall. I should also point out that Katy had recommended we didn’t have lunch ,  which somewhat panicked my hungry bird of a man. However, I am glad that we heeded her advice again.

First up were the sandwiches, beautifully presented on slate platters ; I had the standard selection of egg mayonnaise, ham and mustard, cream cheese and cucumber and salmon and cream cheese. His majesty is a picky little bird so he had the egg mayonnaise and ham sandwiches, but Katy and her team kindly gave him chicken sandwiches instead of the cream cheese ones. We ordered separately for our little chick, and she had egg mayonnaise sandwiches. Well, you could’ve heard a pin drop for the next 10 minutes or so in the snug -  the only sounds coming from our beaks were murmurs of appreciation and satisfaction at the tastiness of the fayre in front of us. The bread was deliciously fresh and soft, and the toppings were top notch too -  no corners cut in this establishment.

 

Tea or Coffee comes as the standard accompaniment at the afternoon tea, but as it was a lovely warm Autumn afternoon we also had fresh juices; orange for his-nibs and orange and mango for my chick and I.

Katy came and cleared our sandwich platters away, and checked to see if we were enjoying our experience so far -  which we definitely were.

Reader. I cannot possibly do descriptive justice to the utterly decadent mini-banquet that was placed before us next -  it really did look breath-taking. And it was all completely more-ish I can assure you! A substantially sized slate platter was placed before us that held chocolate mousses, chocolate and orange truffle bombes, mini chocolate muffins, individual banoffi pies, mini strawberry shortcakes and  chocolate and raspberry tarts. But that is only half the treats on offer -  there were also fresh chocolate scones and fresh fruit scones to be had, with dishes of butter, fresh cream, praline spread and fruit jam. Honestly, it is no exaggeration to say that I thought  I had died and gone to foodie heaven. The presentation was spot-on and everything was so fresh and delicious it was obvious that Katy and Matt, and their staff are totally enthused about their product, and rightly so.
 

 


I have to say that you really can’t prepare yourself for just how incredibly filling this afternoon tea experience is, we were absolutely full to bursting; one more crumb and our crops would’ve burst! There is a hall of fame for those that manage to finish the tea, and we did get our names added to it – just. But it had taken us the full 2 hours to eat this!  However, the great thing is that whatever you don’t manage to finish , you can have wrapped up to enjoy at home.

I had wanted to do this since February, and we only got round to doing it at the end of September. I have to say that I am so very glad that I kept on and on to be taken  to Strutt Street Bakery as it was well worth it. It is essential that you book for the afternoon tea, and if you do, I can guarantee that you won’t be disappointed.

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I Should Cocoa, Belper (Sep 2013)

Monday 23/09/2013 19:55:31 | View This Entry

Not the most exciting start to this bird’s week -  nest maintenance to do in Belper -  but it was necessary, so had to be done. The boy wonder noticed my feathers had drooped somewhat, and suggested a little rest at “ I Should Cocoa “. Well, that perked my tail feathers up no end as I’m sure you can imagine.

If you have never had the pleasure to go inside this quaint little establishment, then you are missing out on a total gem let me tell you. The slabs of rocky road were definitely destined to have a place in my greedy  tum ( and it does come in a gluten free option for those of you with dietary intolerances ), but I was undecided on what beverage to have. Normally I am a latte kind of bird, but the lure of 70% cocoa dark hot chocolate was simply too strong to resist. With this being my first experience of this drink I decided to just have it as it comes, but his-nibs was a shade braver and had a shot of chilli essential oil in his chocolate.

Well there we perched slowly relaxing to gentle sounds of 1940’s inspired music and decor, and our server was equally relaxed as she hummed along to the music with a genuinely happy smile on her face. The rocky road was absolutely yummy beyond belief, with just the right amount of chewy loveliness to balance the crunchy biscuit. And the hot chocolates did not disappoint either; mine was lovely, rich and smooth, and the hubsters was equally satisfying, with the chilli oil being of the highest quality so that it was warming and smooth on the palate, not just hot with that aftertaste you normally get.

In addition they also have a lovely display of gifts that you can purchase, and some nostalgic posters and signs to give any home that retro-chic vibe. The toilets were totally spotless, and there were baby changing facilities too for those that require them.

As if that wasn’t enough, they also have a loyalty card that you get stamped each time you visit -  not that I will need an excuse to visit again ! So if you find yourself in Belper at any time , you could do far worse than catch your breath and unwind in I Should Cocoa.

Find Out More About I Should Cocoa
 

 

Kathmandu Gurkha Restaurant (Sep 2013)

Sunday 08/09/2013 20:44:06 | View This Entry

Never let it be said that my flock aren’t a sociable ( and food-orientated !! ) bunch. When Mummy and Daddy bird had some friends over to stay they decided to take them out to dinner and invited us to join them at Kathmandu Gurkha Restaurant at Clay Cross.

 A very smartly dressed waiter was waiting to open the door and greeted us all most cordially, so top marks for initial impressions. The restaurant itself was well laid out and spotlessly clean, so I was looking forward to seeing how their cuisine measured up.

Our little group ordered a mixture of starters ranging from the usual bhajis and samosas to the nepalese dumplings ( momo ), and they were all beautifully presented and piping hot – one of my bug-bears is lukewarm food; nothing worse in my opinion and thankfully not an issue here. So far so good.....  we then ordered our mains, which again ranged from fairly common curries for the less adventurous in our group ( 3 korma’s, 2 dansak ), to the house specialities ( 1 chicken khukura khursani and 1 king prawn malai curry ). The speciality dishes come with rice and naan breads, so we ordered a couple of extra rice dishes and naan breads for the other members of our party . It wasn’t long before our food arrived ,again beautifully served and thoroughly hot. At this point I think it is worth mentioning the presentation of the special dishes -  they came on square plates with the curry and timbale of rice, complete with salad garnish and the baby naan bread . It was clear that the chef and staff took a lot of pride in what they did at every stage.

I should also mention that there is an extensive wine list, not crazily long but certainly enough to afford all the choice you could want.The male members of our flock had a Gurkha beer, which comes in  large bottles, and they said  it really complimented the food they had. The waiter poured the wine and beer into glasses for us initially, and then intermittently ( and very discreetly ) ensured that no glass was empty, which I thought was very professional.

The dessert menu is pretty much the same as you find in other Indian/Asian restaurants up and down the country, so nothing too taxing here.The boy wonder plumped for the caramel fantastica, no surprises there -  if I had a pound for every time he has that, I would be an very rich birdie !!

So all in all, a very pleasurable place to eat. Definitely one to go and visit if you haven’t done so already :)

Crich Tramway Tea Rooms (August 2013)

Sunday 08/09/2013 20:29:41 | View This Entry

We decided to take our little fledgling and one of her friends to The Tramway Museum at Crich for a day out during the summer holidays. We have been there before and our ticket was still valid ( they are valid for a whole year from date of initial purchase ), so we were looking forward to a nice family day out and the weather was just forecast to be nice too – perfect.


First stop, predictably, was the traditional sweet shop to stock up on some of my ( and the hubsters) childhood favorite goodies. With pockets suitably stuffed full of paper bags of sweets we made our way down to wait for the first tram of the day -  which was one of the open top trams :

It wasn't long before us adult birds were surplus to requirements; so after being abandoned we made our way to the tea-rooms for a pot of tea and scones. The tea-rooms have a very quaint feel to them, with oil cloth covered wooden tables and chairs and old pictures on the walls. The staff were very friendly and helpful, nothing seemed to be too much trouble for them.

The scones themselves were of a lovely generous size, nice and light ( not stale at all ) and came with a couple of pats of butter and a small jar of jam each. Our pots of tea gave us just over 2 cups each, and a quality brand of tea was obviously used as it didn't take 30 mins for it to brew ( which it very often does at other places, much to my annoyance ). I know it’s a small detail that the tea should brew in a short space of time, but when you’you've got a delicious scone in front of you you really don’t want it to be spoiled by an insipid cuppa do you?

Due to having such a pleasant experience for our mid-morning pit stop, we decided to have lunch with the younger birdies in the tea rooms. Thankfully we went fairly promptly at noon, which was just as well because within a very short space of time the tea room was teeming with other people. Children could have their own special “ meal-deals “, ideal for smaller children or there was an extensive range of options including sandwiches, soup, and jacket potatoes with various fillings. Also on offer were various hot meals, such as chilli con carne, meat pies and fish and chips, as well as daily specials.Hubster and myself had paninis, and the fledglings had jacket potatoes. The food was well presented with a little salad garnish and was lovely and hot.

I was more than happy to eat in the tea-rooms, and to say it is “ only “ a cafe-type establishment at a local attraction, it absolutely excels at what it does. Some high-street cafe’s could do worse than take a leaf out of the tea-rooms’ book. If you ever find yourself at The Tramway Museum, pop in to this little gem and you won’t be disappointed.

Nirvana Indian Cuisine (August 2013)

Monday 12/08/2013 20:36:26 | View This Entry

Crikey, it’s a hard life being such a sociable little bird!!! Hubster flies into the nest with a chirpy “oooh, there’s a buffet night being introduced at Nirvana Indian Restaurant in Heanor next Sunday evening. Shall we go? “ Well, an invitation like that can’t go begging can it ? Being the close-knit flock that we are, my mummy and daddy bird were invited along too.

So after a quick hop, flap and fly we arrived at Nirvana and were very cordially greeted by Faz and his staff and shown to our table. I have to say that the decor is absolutely gorgeous with feature aubergine walls, flamboyant wallpaper that accentuated pillars and beautiful chandeliers all combining to create an upmarket dining area. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the full benefit of the lighting effects as it was still fairly light outside .All the tables were beautifully set with purple napkins edged in gold and pristine white cloths with gleaming cutlery in a fan design upon them.

Top marks for style and appearance so far, the evening was starting off in full- flight mode. Could the food possibly be as good? Faz escorted my little flock over to the buffet area and described all the entrees, main dishes and sides in fine detail (including the level of spicing as my Daddy had said that he doesn’t especially like fiery curries). Once we had had the “tour” we sat back at our tables (and the seats are sublimely comfortable) and tucked into the poppodoms and pickle trays that Faz had brought to us. The poppodoms weren’t the usual flat discs that are the norm, rather they were curled up into a more tubular style, which actually makes them more “sauce friendly” believe it or not. When we had finished those we went up to the buffet table to sample the 3 starters on offer, and a member of the staff appeared from nowhere to whisk the covers off the tureens, so we didn’t even have to do that ourselves. Murmurs of satisfaction were coming a–plenty from our table, even from my Daddy bird (who can be somewhat picky with his food).

At this point in the proceedings mummy bird and my little chick had to pay a visit to the ladies powder room, so we had a little break from filling our crops. Upon their return Mummy bird remarked that she had never been in such immaculate facilities; they were, in her words “spotless”. The chick was impressed by “the fragrant smoke” in the corridor, which we eventually found out was incense.

We then all hopped back to the buffet table for the main course dishes. They  ranged from mild to fairly hot Madras level in spicing, so there was something to accommodate all taste buds, and that good old favourite “ Chicken Tikka Masala “ was even included. The boy wonder and myself sampled all 5 curries on offer, the other 3 flock members had 3 or 4 of them. My Daddy bird was so impressed by the standard of the cuisine that I persuaded him to try the lamb from the spiciest curry on offer that evening. Whilst the sauce was too hot for his personal taste buds, he did say that the lamb was beautifully tender and perfectly cooked -  a compliment indeed. My husband even sampled the Mushroom Pilau Rice (normally he will avoid mushrooms like the plague) and declared it to be very tasty, and my chick said that the ordinary Pilau Rice was lovely and fluffy.

Faz explained that they would be offering different curries each Sunday on their buffet table, enabling returning customers to experience more of Nirvana’s extensive range of dishes.

By now the restaurant was full to bursting, only 2 tables remained unoccupied, yet Faz and his team remained utterly calm and attentive to all the tables at all times. It takes a certain skill to be unobtrusive yet attentive, and it has to be said that the Nirvana staff are on top of their game.

After a brief interlude our group ordered four desserts and four coffees, bringing the evening to a very enjoyable conclusion.

Whilst we were there, the restaurant was presented with a prestigious dining award for their cuisine by the local MP, Nigel Mills. In my opinion, this award was hugely deserved and very much justified. This was my flock’s first visit to Nirvana, and it most certainly will not be our last. If you want to go to a top-notch Indian restaurant, this should be your first port of call - you won’t be disappointed.
 

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A few photos of Nirvana

 

 

 
 
 

The Hilcote Country Club (August 2013)

Monday 12/08/2013 19:48:14 | View This Entry

Well there I was, twiddling my feathers and feeling slightly despondent after our nest guests had left. The quandary of what to have for Sunday lunch was looming large, and I couldn’t really be bothered to do much if truth be told. Luckily the boy wonder is a mind reader and he suggested going to The Hilcote Country Club for their Sunday Carvery. He duly got on the telephone a la Busby (those of a certain age will remember this little birdie - those younger than 30 - Google it!!) and made a reservation for 2 pm. The sittings are timed at 30 minute intervals from Midday until 2.30pm, to maintain a steady flow of patrons.

Since the last time I had been there the reception area has had a new lick of paint, which has brightened the place up no end. The bar/reception area was still busy with guests that were from the 1.30pm lunch sitting, such is the popularity of the Carvery, but we were attended to very quickly by a friendly barmaid. Drinks were purchased to have whilst we waited for our seating to be shown to us in due course, and the man paid for our Carveries at the same time (£6.45 for adults, £5.45 for O.A.Ps and £3.95 for children under 12).

In no time at all we were shown to our table by one of the waitresses, who again were very friendly. All the meats on display (Turkey, Beef, Pork, Lamb and Gammon) looked delicious and when the manbird said he couldn’t decide which to have he was informed that he could choose 2. At this point I just want to say that the warm plates are placed on a little tray for you to carry without fear of hurting your fingers - handy if you have younger members in your flock. A Yorkshire pud, stuffing ball and parsnip are added to your plate at this juncture if you want them, and then...... there is a huge counter filled with every sort of vegetable you could wish for. Heaven for hungry birds!!!!

Condiments and sauces are on a separate little table at the end of the hot counter for you to help yourself to.

I should also mention the dining area itself because it really is lovely. There are exposed beams and discreet lighting that create a relaxed atmosphere in which to eat; just the ticket for a lazy, laid-back Sunday afternoon. I also liked the grand piano in one corner of the room too, imagining myself to be in the faded grandeur of a country hotel (well, no harm dreaming of being whisked away for a weekend retreat - hint, hint hubster).

Myself and the man had full crops at this point but my little chick is having a growth spurt and despite having demolished a plate of food that was Mount Everest-esque in proportion, she still had room for dessert. Luckily there was a varied assortment of hot and cold options to choose from, all very reasonably priced at £2.50 (which you just pay your waitress directly for at the table).

In short, we had a wonderful Sunday Lunch at The Hilcote Country Club, and can thoroughly recommend it to all, whether just a couple or families of any size and age range.
 

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