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Restaurant Review – An 8-Course Tasting Menu at The Muddy Duck

 Yes, that’s right…8 courses!

When Ian and I saw our local pub was doing a seasonal tasting menu, we signed up immediately as their food is wonderful. I was expecting 4 or 5 courses (which is still pretty extravagant) so imagine my delight when I saw we had 8 dishes lined up for us. Luckily, I had a very light lunch so was ready for a feast!

We started with cocktails by the fire to warm up then moved into the dining room for our first peek at the menu. It all sounded so tasty and completely autumnal. We were also persuaded to have the accompanying wine flight which turned the whole evening rather boozy!

To start, we had a tray of Wiltshire pork canapés. You may have seen my Friday Instagram pictures of the amazing strips of pork crackling we usually get. This platter had some mini sticks (served in the oh so trendy Mason jar), pork belly tempura sticks, three-meat pork pies and a pork fritter all served with a different dipping sauce. I love a pork pie and this black pudding, minced pork and pork terrine combination was delicious. This starter was served with a glass of crisp sparkling cider which was a perfect complement to the porky-ness and a nice twist on starting a meal with a glass of bubbly.

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Next we had what was named on the menu as an Amuse-Bouche but which was actually quite a hearty dish! We had a bowl of woody mushroom velouté with a crispy fried mushroom on top and an enormous Parmesan crisp with a generous drizzle of truffle oil. This was really rich and decadent and if I was being really picky then I may say a smaller bowl would have been better (when I think about how full I was by the end of the night!)

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Then we had a crisp glass of white to be enjoyed with our next course: a free range hens egg, sticky wings, sweetcorn and spring onion. This was a beautifully flavoured creamy chicken base with a scattering of crunchy sweetcorn. I love BBQ chicken wings and the meat just fell of the bone. For me, the best part about this dish was the perfectly cooked egg which had a lovely runny yolk that mixed with the chicken sauce perfectly. There were lots of elements to this plate, including a crunchy cheese crisp, and they worked together wonderfully.

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Another glass of white wine arrived in time for course number 4, our fish course, which looked ever so pretty. We had steamed wild sea bass, celeriac and pickled autumn vegetables. I liked the combination of the vinegary and crunchy veg with the delicate fish although the skin wasn’t crispy so I ended up giving mine to Ian.

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We moved on to a big hearty red wine next which went perfectly with our grouse, Jerusalem artichoke, pumpkins and blackberries. A really beautiful autumnal dish, this was one of my favourites of the night. I had never had grouse before but it had a lovely rich gamey flavour which the sweet blackberries complemented perfectly. There were several sauces and purees on the plate which meant every mouthful tasted different and the wine really brought out all the flavours of the dish.

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Moving onto the sweeter things now, we had a lovely refreshing palate cleanser in the form of a beetroot and champagne granita. This looked great and was just sweet enough too.

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I liked having a cheese course next – I don’t think it always needs to come at the end of a meal. We enjoyed honey truffle roasted figs, crottin de chavignon goats cheese and hazelnuts with a lovely sweet dessert wine. This was a lovely ripe cheese which worked well with the sweetened figs and the crunch of the hazelnuts.

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Pudding time now and my favourite new wine of the evening: this dessert wine was bursting with berry flavours and serving it chilled meant it wasn’t overly sweet either. We had a huge lemon and raspberry meringue for pudding. The lemon curd was amazing but I was slightly disappointed the meringue didn’t have the lovely chewy inside I love – it was more of a crumbly, crunchy texture throughout.

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By now I was getting quite full and feeling the effects of such a generous amount of wine. We had coffee and petit fours to finish the meal. I loved the homemade marshmallow pieces but the chocolate truffles were a tad too bitter for me and I was just so stuffed I really didn’t fancy anything else to eat!

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We were offered a nightcap of warmed brandy too which just about finished me off! I’m not a huge brandy connoisseur so this was probably wasted on me but it was quite nice to be left with that warm, fuzzy feeling inside when we were walking home in the cold.

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Overall, this was an incredible night out, if slightly indulgent for a Tuesday evening! The atmosphere was really relaxed, cosy and welcoming and the explanations of the food and wine flight were not all pretentious or intimidating which I know some tasting menus can be.

I think The Muddy Duck are going to be offering another tasting menu soon and I cannot recommend it enough for a wonderful evening of seasonal, local food.

(The tasting menu was £45 per person and the wine flight was £18 per person)

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Restaurant Review – The Milking Parlour, Bradford on Avon

We had a real treat for our date night this week. My lovely friends Hannah and Ben bought me a five-course tasting menu at this new restaurant and it was absolutely amazing!

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Located within the grounds of The Old Manor Hotel just outside Bradford on Avon, this beautiful farmhouse restaurant is welcoming and cosy inside and decorated with quirky wooden whisky signs and a good amount of exposed brick and wooden beams. I’m at that stage now where I kind of know when I walk in somewhere if I’ll really love it and this is definitely my kind of place.

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It was lovely to find out how local and seasonal the tasting menu was. The chef uses as much as possible from the kitchen garden and there is even a smokery, beehives and rare breed pigs on site!

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Anyway…onto the food!

After ordering a nice bottle of red, our first starter was brought out. The waitresses really know their stuff and talked us through each part of the menu as it was served.  To being with we had Chinese pulled pork belly topped with a fat, juicy scallop, some micro herbs and a pipette full of a shitake mushroom sauce. I know some may find the pipette a bit poncey but I thought it was a really fun way of serving this dish.

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Ian and I both loved this first course and it definitely set the standard very high for the rest of the meal. I love scallops and its sweetness went perfectly with the pork and sauce.

Next, we had a pickled beetroot and whipped goats cheese salad served with nuts and leaves. I love this classic combination but for me this dish really won on its textures. Rather than the usual crumbly goats cheese, this was light and whipped, almost like a cream, which tasty very indulgent. I also loved the crunch from the nuts – I plan on trying to recreate this salad at home.

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A fish course next with hay-smoked salmon (smoked on site) and a posh coleslaw-style remoulade made with apple and celeriac and an apple vinaigrette. Again, I loved this dish! The salmon was rich and smoky without the chemical taste you sometimes get with supermarket smoked fish.

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Our main course was beef cheeks which had been slow-cooked all day. I’m a fan of pig cheeks but hadn’t tried beef before. It’s another one of those cheap cuts that are terribly fashionable now and taste wonderful with a generous cooking time. The meat just fell apart and was served with a beefy sauce, crunchy green beans and a woody mushroom puree. Although I thought the portions throughout the evening were perfect for me, at this point Ian did say he was still not feeling very full so maybe some sort of potato would have gone well with this dish.

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Finally, my highlight of the meal – the pudding! We had ‘Monkey Bread’ for dessert, a kind of banana bread cake and proper bread hybrid. There was an almost crusty outer layer with a rich, chocolatey, gooey inside. It was served with a big scoop of clotted cream and a toffee popcorn caramel sauce – absolutely divine!

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Whilst the service was really friendly and informative throughout the evening, it did take ages for the waitress to sort our bill out. normally I wouldn’t mind this but we ate quite late and it was a school night so I was itching to get home into my pjs!

Overall, this was a really amazing dining experience. The location, dining room and food were all great and I love knowing you have found a real local gem too! Thank you to my very generous friends for such a great present xxx

 

Restaurant Review – Grillstock, Bath

Another restaurant review from the archives today as Ian and I actually went for dinner at Grillstock over the summer but it made a good impression on me and stuck in my mind.

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First of all I should warn you that there is an obscene amount of meat in this post – we actually ended up taking a few doggy bags home with us that provided lunch for the next two days!

Located in The Vaults in Bath, we had the option of squeezing in to an inside table (next to a screaming toddler!) or enjoying the sunshine and eating al fresco…no contest really!

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We had a couple of beers whilst we perused the menu (both ones we have tried in the States) and tried to narrow down our choices. I know the Deep South American BBQ-style cuisine is ridiculously trendy at the moment but my Dad has been making ribs, pulled pork and chicken wings in this style for years so I personally am overjoyed this food is having its moment in the spotlight.

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Unable to choose between ribs, burger and hot dogs, we went for the ‘Grand Champion’…pretty much a bit of everything from the menu on a sharing tray. It’s fair to say we were slightly overwhelmed when the tray arrived. Ian also picked this exact moment to get more drinks so I was sat alone at a table with this enormous portion of food looking like an absolute pig! Haha

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This feast contained pulled pork, beef brisket, ribs, BBQ chicken, a hot dog, link sausages, burnt bits, BBQ beans, brisket chili, cornbread, pickles, coleslaw and a mountain of chili fries…phew!

I set to work on the ribs (my favourite) whilst Ian polished off the hot dog (our favourites) then we tried a little bit of everything. My highlights were the ribs, chicken and the little pots of BBQ beans and chilli although I have to admit that after a while the flavours did slightly merge into one. The pulled pork was a little dry although we did get a selection of sauces on our table.

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This platter was £35 and considering how great they were about bagging up the leftovers for us, I think this was pretty good value for money. Suffice to say, we were stuffed when we left and you could definitely share this between 3, or maybe 4 if you aren’t as greedy as me! x

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Restaurant Review – Thai Barn, Bradford on Avon

I have to admit that this restaurant was not our first choice when we went out for dinner last week but upon finding the pub down the road heaving, we wandered along to Thai Barn for a bite to eat and it turns out that we were very glad we did!

The restaurant itself is really beautiful, housed in an old building with exposed beams, stone walls and a large fireplace. We were sat up on the mezzanine level and I was surprised how busy it was for a drizzly Thursday night.

While perusing the extensive menu, we were brought prawn crackers to enjoy with our beers before ordering the mixed starter platter to share.

I was really impressed when this was brought over to us, complete with four different dipping sauces. We had chicken and sesame seed toasts, pork and spring onion steamed buns, spicy Thai fish cakes, satay chicken skewers and deep fried chicken legs. I couldn’t find fault with any of these starters but the little steamed pork buns were my favourite!

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For our mains, I had my favourite, Pad Thai with king prawns, whilst Ian opted for roast duck, stir fried in a spicy red curry sauce with vegetables and egg rice.

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The portions were really generous (we ended up taking a doggy bag home with us which I enjoyed for my lunch the next day!) and served to share.

My Pad Thai was great with loads of juicy prawns and a crunch from the crushed peanuts.

Ian’s duck was beautifully cooked and had just the right amount of chili heat.

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Having lived in Bath where there is abundance of good Thai restaurants, I was really pleased to find this little gem so close to us. I noticed they also do takeaway too which will make a nice option for a lazy Sunday night instead of our usual Indian food.

 

Restaurant Review – Mat Follas at The Casterbridge, Dorchester

Ummmm….where’s the sun gone?! Please tell me this rain/ hail/ wind is merely temporary and full sunshine service will be resumed shortly!!!

I have spent today sheltering indoors whilst upcycling some furniture; a new chair for our bedroom and a table for the hallway. I like giving old furniture a new lease of life this way but don’t usually have the time to spend a few days sanding and painting.

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Today I wanted to share a restaurant we visited whilst camping in Dorset recently. For my birthday two years ago, Ian treated me to lunch at The Wild Garlic in Beaminster, a charming restaurant owned by Masterchef winner Mat Follas. I was desperate to go back again when we were in the area but learned that Mat is now cooking at The Casterbridge Hotel in nearby Dorchester so we headed there instead!

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We started with cocktails in the lounge (a little bit formal for my liking) and I had ‘Mat’s Fizz’, a champagne cocktail with elderflower and lavender. This was very sweet but delicious with the lavender giving it a lovely purple colour.

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Seeing as this meal was to celebrate our first wedding anniversary, we decided to push the boat out and opt for the 6 course tasting menu…because why not?!

To start, we had a cup of spiced roast tomato soup, served cold like a gazpacho. This had the aniseed-like taste of fennel and packed a punch with the chili. You could ask for this to be served hot but I liked the contrast between the heat of the chili and the chilled soup.

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Next up was one of my favourite things, scallops. These were small but cooked perfectly and served with black pudding, pickles and a creamy sauce.

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More fish followed with this beautiful piece of plaice (which Mat told us was fresh off the boat that morning) in a brown butter and samphire sauce served with clams and new potatoes. This was a really simple dish that just allowed the natural flavour and sweetness of the fish shine through. I would definitely order this again if I returned.

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We had a beetroot and carrot amuse-bouche next which was refreshing followed by triple cooked pork belly. Just typing that makes me hungry! This pork belly had been slow cooked for 18 hours and was falling apart when you cut into it. It was presented beautifully and served with roasted heirloom vegetables, a sweet potato puree and a big chunk of crackling.

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We finished up with two puddings, the first of which both Ian and I hated but the second of which more than made up for it!

The dish was simply called ‘Elderflower and Gooseberries’ and was in fact a delicious elderflower jelly topped with the most sour and acidic tasting gooseberry cream. I can see that the sweetness of the elderflower was meant to complement the tartness of the gooseberries but the cream was just way too sour for my tastes. This was the only negative of the meal for me but the guy on the table behind us was raving about this dish so different strokes for different folks and all that!

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I finished up with ‘Chocolate and Pear’, a lemon-poached pear and the most decadent and gooey chocolate brownie which was topped with peanut powder. I was pretty full at this point but could not resist practically licking the plate clean!

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Ian was all pudding-ed out at this point so he had the cheeseboard to finish up which had a great selection of local cheeses and crackers.

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The tasting menu was just under £50 per person which I can justify as it was a treat and the quality of the food was fantastic. The location is not as nice as The Wild Garlic but I get the impression that this hotel venue is only temporary. I did have a slight fangirl moment when Mat came out to talk us through some of the dishes and he was so keen to discuss the food and where it was sourced from.

Overall, this was a very decadent evening with a wonderful selection of food and I recommend this place if you find yourself along the south coast.

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Restaurant Review – The Boathouse, Bradford on Avon

We are going camping! Yes, I will be gone for a few days as my lovely husband has surprised me with a little holiday. It is my birthday tomorrow then our 1st wedding anniversary the next day so we are packing up the tent for a few days by the sea to eat, drink and be merry! It is hard to believe that one year ago today we were flying over to Las Vegas ready to start our American adventure but we still have such amazing memories of that holiday.

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Unfortunately I have been left with the task of packing today. I don’t know how people manage to just throw the tent and some clothes in the back of the car – I pack with military precision for every eventuality and to ensure we are super comfortable in our tent…I am definitely a fan of ‘glamping’ as opposed to roughing it!

However, in the spirit of complete procrastination, I wanted to share a little restaurant review with you today. The Boathouse is a lovely little pub which sits on the canal on the outskirts of Bradford on Avon. It used to be the Beef and Barge, which didn’t have a particularly great reputation, but is now under new ownership and has undergone a rather wonderful transformation.

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We ate here last week when we fancied eating al fresco and there are great outside spaces to choose from including a lovely beer garden or benches overlooking the marina and barges.

I decided to start with the crispy fried hen’s egg (surely that’s just an egg?!), smoked ham and mushy peas. Quite a strange combination on paper but it worked well together. The egg was perfectly cooked and runny inside and the ham added a lovely smoky flavour. I wasn’t overly keen on the mushy peas but as a dish it was tasty.

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Ian had the bread-crumbed belly of pork served with a scallop and salad. Again, this was a lovely combination and both the pork and scallop were perfectly cooked.

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Both of our main courses had quite an American feel to them but there was a really varied menu – we just so happened to choose BBQ-style items! I had baby spatchcock chicken roasted with cayenne, honey and garlic and served with chunky chips, corn on the cob and a BBQ sauce. The chicken was delicious and so juicy. The rub on the outside had just the right amount of spice and I struggled to finish it! The BBQ sauce was the only let down – it was so sharp and just didn’t work with the rest of the meal.

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Luckily, Ian let me dip my chips in his sauce! He ordered pulled pork shoulder in a cider gravy served with crackling, a potato cake, apple sauce and greens. This was a really nice dish and the portion size was just right. The cider sauce kept the pulled pork really juicy and the crackling was a nice extra texture.

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We were too full for puddings (even though they sounded amazing!) so just enjoyed the last of the evening sunshine (and my handsome hubby!)

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This pub was a great find and if the weather stays like this then we will definitely be back soon!

See you in a few days! xxx

Love Food Festival, Dyrham Park

I love food festivals…lots of free tasters, people who are passionate about good food and we always come away with a bagful of tasty ingredients.

Love Food Festival is a local food festival held at various venues around Bath and Bristol and always has a great selection of stalls. Although we don’t have children, these are really family-friendly events and there is lots of emphasis on learning where your food is from.

As the sun was shining again today, we jumped in the car and headed over to Dyrham Park with the aim of buying some things we could BBQ this afternoon.

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There were loads of great options for lunch…

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A smoothie stall where you hopped on a bike and pedalled to blend your own drink!

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Herbs-a-plenty

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Cakes

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Jams and chutneys

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And luckily for us, some amazing meat!

We came away with a pretty good haul of Toulouse sausages, some jam, shortbread, quiche and two types of ribs.

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I have to give one company a special mention. Rib Street, based in Bristol, offer beef and pork ribs in amazing BBQ sauces then slow cook them and vacuum pack them ready to sell meaning you get all that amazing tenderness and flavour from slow-cooking with only about 10 minutes cooking time on the BBQ!

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Ian managed to do a deal with the stall holder and we came away with two large packs of pork and beef ribs for about £15.

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This afternoon, we fired up the BBQ for its first outing of the year and enjoyed a lovely long lunch in the sun.  We cooked the sausages and ribs we bought and had them with a couple of salads and fruity beers.

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I knew I would enjoy the pork ribs but we both fell in love with the beef ones! They were so juicy and tender and just fell off the bone once on our plates. I imagine making a pulled beef sandwich with one of these ribs with coleslaw would be amazing!

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After a gorgeous weekend, spent mostly outside in the garden, it is back to reality now as we get ready for another week at work. Lucky for me, this is my last week at work until half term so I’m hoping it flies by! x