The House of Jerky – Home-made Jerky

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Lately, the world has come to a virtual standstill. Honest, decent people have either lost their jobs or had their employment put on hold. With more time on one’s hands, why not make Jerky? That’s what chef Mark Harbour decided to do.

Mark and myself didn’t meet through food. We met through comedy. That’s right, both Mark and I stand up in pubs on various evenings and try to make people laugh. As amateur comedians the world seemed a lot brighter then to how it is now. 

Thankfully, Mark didn’t let the temporary halt to his profession get in the way of producing decent food. Mark now has a business through Facebook selling home-made beef jerky. This jerky comes with a bit of a kick. 

Delivery of the goods was swift and seamless. Even in these tough times, getting a fresh product from A to B in good time is impressive. A top tip once the jerky arrives is place it in the fridge, not that it will remain there for long! Alternatively, freeze it for up to a year.

First up for the taste test was the Red Devil jerky. The name suggested that it may pack a punch – and it did. This isn’t a jerky that will have you scrambling around for the nearest water source. There’s a spiciness sure but also strong beef flavour plus a hint of sweetness. 

Jamaican Jerk is a spice normally found on barbecued chicken. How is it on beef? Insanely good is the answer. The spicing again is just right to give a tingle of caribbean heat with all the traditional flavours of jerk seasoning. 

Usually with beef jerky bought from a supermarket, the packet consists of a miserly few crumbs of beef. Thankfully this stuff is proper strands of quality dried beef. Way more bang for your buck.

Why not treat yourself during lockdown and spice up your life. I thoroughly enjoyed Mark’s products and to support a local producer is important now more than ever. Head on over to Mark’s Facebook page to place an order and continue to #supportlocal. 

Find Mark’s House of Jerky products at : https://www.facebook.com/JerkyTown/

Petronas Towers Tour – Kuala Lumpur

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The iconic image of Kuala Lumpur often comes with two towers at the very centre of it. The Petronas Towers construction began in 1994 and by 1998 they were the tallest buildings in the world. The towers held that record until 2004 but remain the tallest pair of twin towers in the world. We were about to climb them. 

petronas tower tickets

If you fancy scaling the towers for a tour, get here early. Tours sell out pretty quickly as the tickets are on a first-come-first-served basis with allotted times. Once entering the main foyer, search out the lower level concourse or follow the signs for ‘box office’ which leads you directly to the ticket desk. The counters open from 9am. 

petronas towers tour

The staff on the desk were incredibly jolly and spoke really good English. This is a popular tourist attraction so perhaps it should come as no surprise that they are used to many different nationalities. Once the tickets were purchased for RM80 each (around £14.82) we headed to the security area for bag screening. 

KL Tower Skydeck

Each group of tourists gets a tag in a certain colour. Our tags indicated that we were the red group. Our group consisted of around 20 people which made it easier to get around. First up was a lift ride up to the Sky Bridge which connects the two towers. We were informed that we would have 10 minutes here to take photos and enjoy the view. 

petronas towers tour

To be honest, the Sky Bridge wasn’t all that exciting. Sure, the view was alright but it felt very much like a group outing up to now. Before we knew it, it was back in the lift to head up to the Observation Deck on the 83rd floor. 

In a similar style to the KL Tower, there are zoom binoculars free of charge to get a closer look at life going on below. There are also model constructions of the towers and the surrounding area. We had 15 minutes at the top to look around and take in the view. 

petronas view

Once finished, we were back in the lift again and taken down to the gift shop. This felt like the stage at which we had the most time – a tactical ploy perhaps? Many of our group simply joined the queue for the return elevator ride down to the exit. That said it all really.

petronas towers tour

So what is the experience like overall? For us, I think we would have liked more freedom. The group approach just feels like a conveyor belt of money-making from the Petronas Towers. It isn’t even an exclusive look at the towers as many groups joined us at each stage anyway. The views were spectacular but that aside, the KL Tower experience is much better. 

Opening Times: Daily 0900-2100

Nearest Metro Station: KLCC

Coronavirus Isolation Recipes: Cacio e Pepe

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Three ingredients, that’s it. No really, that is all that this wonderful pasta recipe requires. Cacio e Pepe may be a bit of a fancy name but the dish couldn’t be simpler. Pasta, cheese and black pepper. 

In times when money is tighter than ever for all of us, it’s dishes like this that are much needed. Cheap, tasty and can feed a large number of people. Ideally spaghetti is used or tagliatelle but any pasta you have in the cupboard will do just fine. 

What you will need….

A good handful of Spaghetti per person

2-3 large handfuls of Pecorino cheese per person (Parmesan or Grana Padano work well too)

1 tsp black peppercorns per person (You can use ground black pepper also)

How to make it…..

Place the peppercorns into a dry pan and turn up the heat to medium-high. I saw Bradley Cooper in the film ‘Burnt’ lean over Sienna Miller’s shoulder and say that this gives a better flavour. She didn’t seem to agree at the time but I think he had a point. 

Once the peppercorns are lovingly toasted and just releasing that peppery scent, place them into a pestle and mortar. Grind until you are happy with the level of coarseness. Set this aside while the pasta cooks. 

Fill a saucepan with boiling water and add a generous pinch of salt. Add in the pasta and cook for around 8 minutes, or according to packet instructions. While the pasta is cooking away, grate the cheese on a fine grater and set aside. 

Drain the pasta but retain the water. This is key to making the sauce. In the pan used to toast the peppercorns (or in a separate pan if you’re using readily ground pepper) turn the heat to low and add the pasta. 

Quickly sprinkle in the cheese (leave a little bit back for finishing the dish) and black pepper. Toss the pasta in the cheese and pepper and add a couple of spoons full of the pasta water. Keep tossing the pasta until you get a glossy sauce that coats the strands.

The Taste?

Well there it is, the easiest pasta dish known to man. Also, this is one of the tastiest. The dish originated in Rome, a place where the people are thought to be ‘lazy’. This is the perfect lazy day meal. 

The cheese and pepper amalgamate with the pasta water to create a creamy and spicy sauce that goes perfectly with the pasta. You really could use any pasta for this and get a decent result. 

As with any recipe, the better quality the ingredients, the better the end result. Use what you have and enjoy making this delicious taste of Italy time and again. 

Floyd on France: Gigot de Lotte

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While sitting in isolation, the brain doth tick. My cookery books are out and old series of classic shows are playing continuously on the laptop. One of the very best is ‘Floyd on France’ starring Keith Floyd touring the various acclaimed food regions of France. 

floyd on france

Through this show I discovered the wonderful Maison des Tetes in Colmar. The classic French cuisine is still abundant there just as Floyd left it. An episode viewed earlier in the week featured a trip to Brittany. Incidentally, all the episodes in the series are available on BBC Iplayer and through YouTube. 

In Brittany, Keith visited a restaurant in St Malo. The restaurant featured numerous seafood specialities (being so close to a port of course) and Floyd knocked up a dish of his own. Monkfish tail roasted with bacon, onions and white wine. “Gigot de Lotte”. 

This dish caught my eye as it was so unusual. The tail was stuffed and tied in such a way to make it appear like a leg of lamb, hence the term ‘Gigot’. Leicester Market was going to be my replacement for St Malo as the fish selection there is superb most days.

Sure enough, I found a large monkfish tail for £12. This would easily feed 4 people or two extremely hungry people such as us. The tail was left completely intact as I would be roasting it on the bone. 

Butchering the monkfish wasn’t too tricky. A sharp knife is an absolute must, as with any butchery. I found a wonderful instructional video here on how to do it. Simply glide the knife under the skin to gradually remove it and then take off all the silver skin that you can. 

Keith Floyd, in his book, states that the bone should be completely removed. I thought that i’d be clever and make two incisions either side of the bone but not all the way through. Effectively, this would create two pockets. Into the pockets I could then stuff both the garlic and parsley. I kept the trimmings for a fish stock. 

Monkfish roasted on the bone is meant to be delicious, hence the reason I kept the bone in. All that was left to do was to secure the tail with string. I tied around six knots and by the time I was finished the tail looked spookily like a leg of lamb, as promised. 

I dotted around some pre-cooked slices of onion in the buttered roasting dish. Then a liberal sprinkling of bacon lardons goes around the whole lot (or lotte, rather). Into the oven it goes for around 20 minutes – I was looking for an internal temperature of 63C. 

Once the fish is cooked, something strange appears. The meat at the narrow end of the tail pulls back from the bone, revealing the bone itself. This creates the illusion that you have just baked a whole leg of lamb. Incredible really. 

I removed the fish, bacon and onions and kept them warm on the side. Placing the roasting tin over a high heat and adding wine deglazes the pan. All the good flavour from the roasting process now ends up in the sauce. 

To finish the sauce, I added double cream and butter for optimum richness. The smell in the kitchen now was heavenly, when fish is cooked this fresh it’s an absolute pleasure to the senses. Time now to plate up. 

The meat slid from the bone with the gentle push of a fork. I had hit the temperature dead on and rested the fish for a good ten minutes. I don’t really do enough monkfish cookery so to get this result was a pleasant surprise. 

I had also cooked some roasted potatoes with garlic to go on the side. With the fish slathered in sauce, bacon and onions along with a glass of wine in hand, I tasted. Wow! What a plate of food this is.

Keith Floyd’s recipes very seldom disappoint me. The dish has everything. Succulent monkfish which is superb on the bone. Bacon, onions, wine and cream are meant to be together and will always taste superb. Butter just makes it that much better.

All in all, a triumph. A relatively simple dish as well that won’t take too long to prepare. I love classic French cookery and this is a wonderful example of it. Keith’s book continues to be one of my go-to choices when I need a simple French classic to make me smile.

Coronavirus Isolation Recipes: Easy Apple and Blackberry Pie

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This is embarrassingly easy. I should be ashamed for putting this on these pages, really I should. Well actually, no I shouldn’t because these are times when we need easy recipes. Budget friendly and simple to make – well, they don’t come much easier than this. 

I used to love a good apple pie as a kid. I still do now. The addition of freshly picked blackberries always jazzed it up a bit. Here, I have a dessert created by foraged ingredients in the supermarket – after the hordes of panic-buying locusts had raided the shelves. 

The dish comprises a prepared pastry case filled with apple filling and blackberries. That’s it. See, I told you they had raided the shelves! The cool thing about this recipe is you can stick any fruit filling you like in there. Tinned rhubarb will be great with some custard, cherries are amazing with chocolate. Get creative and experiment. 

So here is my simple pie recipe served with a rather naughty salted caramel sauce. You can always use some ice cream or custard. Whichever way you like to eat your pie, you go right ahead! 

What you will need….

1 Pre-cooked Tart Shell, around 20cm

395g Tin of Apple Pie Filling

1 Punnet of Blackberries (raspberries will also work nicely)

Caramel Sauce

100g Caster Sugar (granulated works well too)

50g Butter

150ml Double Cream

1 tsp Salt 

(Serves 4-6)

How to make it…..

Preheat the oven to 180C. Leave the tart shell in the foil tin and place onto a baking tray. Pour in the apple filling and spread evenly to fill the tart shell. Dot the blackberries into the apple filling in a decorative and carefree manner. Do as many or as little as you like. 

Place the pie into the oven to bake for 20 minutes, or until the pastry is golden and the blackberries have softened to the touch. Leave to cool slightly while you make the caramel sauce, if using. 

Pour the sugar into a non-stick pan and set over a high heat. Keep an eye on the sugar as you’re looking for it to melt to an amber colour. Once the colour is achieved, add in the butter. It may spit at you a bit but shake the pan to swirl the butter into the sugar caramel.

Now it may look like the mixture has split at this point. Keep the pan on the heat and the butter will foam up with the caramel. Give it a stir to combine and then add in the cream. Continue to stir until you have a thick, glossy sauce. Add the salt to taste. 

Divide the pie up into portions and serve with a good helping of the salted caramel sauce. Oh my days! 

The Taste?

This took me right back to being a kid again. My parents worked crazy hours for the NHS so I can fully relate to how hard it is coming home and cooking something to please your children. Luckily, this does the job. 

The combination of apple and blackberry is an instant classic. Stress-free to prepare and will feed a family of 4-6 easily for dessert, there may even be some left over – or perhaps that’s just me being optimistic! 

Salted caramel is loved by many people, me included! This sauce is epic. Rich and sweet, it has the lot. Perfect on apples and just about everything else! I had some left over and simply placed it into a container and kept it in the fridge. It should last for a few days but knowing me it won’t! 

If you’re looking for an easy recipe to feed the family something sweet then I hope that you will try this. Together we can help save time, money and fight the Coronavirus crisis.

Coronavirus Isolation Recipes: Chilli Paneer

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Diwali is a huge event in my home city of Leicester. Some of the largest celebrations outside of India take place in the streets around the Belgrave Gate and Melton Road areas. One of my favourite street foods during this time is Chilli Paneer.

Diwali, Leicester 2018

What exactly is Chilli Paneer? Bite-sized cubes of fried Indian cottage cheese are slathered in a spicy sauce and usually garnished with onions. This, I can tell you, is vegetarian food at its finest. I never realised just how easy it is to make my own paneer and found myself amazed that I had never attempted it.

Diwali, Leicester 2018

This is a budget friendly dish, in keeping with the theme of helping everybody save money and have some amazing food along the way. Together, we can help each other through this tough period of dealing with the effects of Coronavirus. 

What you will need….

4 Pints Whole Milk

4 tbsp Lemon Juice

1 tsp Cumin Seeds (or you can substitute with ground cumin)

1 Red Chilli, finely sliced

4 Garlic Cloves, peeled and finely sliced

1 tbsp Tomato Puree

1 tsp Sugar 

2 Spring onions, finely chopped to garnish (optional)

Oil, for frying (rapeseed, vegetable, groundnut and sunflower will all be fine)

(Serves 4)

How to make it…..

Begin making the paneer at least 6 hours prior to serving. Ideally this can be made the night before and simply served the next day. Bring the milk to the boil in a large saucepan or cooking pot. Stir the milk as it heats up to avoid any burning on the base of the pan. 

Once the milk begins to bubble, add the lemon juice and reduce the heat to low. Stir the lemon juice around the pan and you will notice lumps forming as the mixture splits. Remove the pan from the heat. 

Line a sieve with a clean cloth (I used a plain dish cloth) such as muslin or cheesecloth if you have it. Set the sieve over a bowl and drain the contents of the pan through the cloth-lined sieve. The curds will gather in the cloth and the whey will collect in the bowl underneath.

Rinse the curds by pouring a jug of cold water over them and allow to drip through. Discard the whey that has collected in the base of the bowl and continue to allow the cheese to drain. Take care when handling the cheese as it may still be hot.  

Gather the cloth together to totally encase the cheese and squeeze any excess water out of it. With the cheese fully wrapped, place a weight on top of it while still sitting in the sieve. I used a pestle and mortar to do this. Leave to press until the cheese has cooled completely, around an hour. 

Discard any whey that has come out of the cheese once cooled. Place the cheese into an airtight container with a weight on top such as a bag of rice. Close the lid and refrigerate for at least 5 hours. 

Once the paneer is firm to the touch and fully set, remove the cloth and dice the cheese into cubes. Bring a large non-stick frying pan to a high heat and add 2 tbsp of oil. Once the oil is hot, add in the paneer in batches. 

Fry until golden on one side then turn each piece so that they get golden all over. Remove onto a plate once fried. To cook the sauce, add the garlic and chilli into the pan and cook over a medium heat for 2-3 minutes or until softened. 

Lightly grind up the cumin seeds in a pestle and mortar and add to the pan. Add the tomato puree and sugar with a pinch of salt and pepper then pour in 100ml of water to create a sauce. Add the paneer back to the pan and cook for 5 minutes. 

Garnish with the spring onion and serve. You can always add a little more water if the sauce appears too thick or too dry, entirely your choice. I love a bit of sauce so I went for the addition of a little more water. 

The Taste?

Homemade paneer is incredible. A world away from anything that you will get in a packet. The cheese is almost creamy, like ricotta in some ways. Firm in the outer texture but soft in the middle. As I mentioned previously, it’s so easy to make. 

The sauce is heaven. Sweet and spicy, so simple to make and will quite often contain ingredients lurking in your store cupboard. The combination of the fresh paneer and the sauce makes for an amazing vegetarian dish.

I served this with some naan bread that I made in my Ooni oven. You could easily serve this with some rice or alternative Indian bread. Even adding butter, cream or yogurt to the sauce can turn this into a creamy makhani style dish. 

Have a go and enjoy!

Coronavirus Isolation Recipes: Taiwanese Beef Noodles

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My last holiday finished up in Taipei, Taiwan. It was in this city that I fell in love with the national dish. Beef Noodles. Near enough every restaurant sells this dish across the city and many tourists flock to Taipei to sample a bowl. 

The soup consists of an intensely beefy broth with slices of tender beef sitting on a bed of egg noodles. The noodles in Taipei were the thicker kind but to be honest any decent egg noodles will do.

Now, at the time of writing, the world is currently in the grip of the dreaded Coronavirus. Budgets are being stretched with people losing jobs on a daily basis. Therefore, I have tailored this recipe to make it as easily affordable as possible. 

Use whatever beef you can get hold of or afford. I saw a lovely cut of brisket on the bone at my local market, Leicester. Just £3 for the meat gave me two meals out of it plus a bone for stock. 

Cheaper cuts of beef like chuck, shank or brisket are ideal for this dish. Even beef left over from a Sunday roast will work well, just add any slices of precooked beef a couple of minutes before serving. 

There are additions you can make to the broth such as star anise, tomatoes or shaoxing wine. These are only if you have them. Don’t worry if you are without these, the recipe below will taste just as good! 

What you will need….

4-5 Slices of Beef Brisket per person (or any good stewing beef)

5cm Ginger, peeled and thinly sliced

2 Garlic Cloves, peeled and thinly sliced

1 Red Chilli, finely chopped (can substitute with 1tsp chilli flakes)

Beef or Pork Bones, as many as you can get hold of (or use 2 beef stock cubes)

2 tbsp Dark Soy Sauce 

1 tbsp Sugar (I used brown but use whatever you have)

2 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar (substitute red wine vinegar or lime juice)

2 Spring Onions, finely sliced (optional)

Noodles, to serve

Oil, for cooking

(Serves 4) 

How to make it…..

Begin by adding around a tablespoon of oil (neutral oil like vegetable oil or groundnut are ideal but use what you have) into a large saucepan or wok over a medium-high heat. Add in the chopped ginger, chilli and garlic and gently fry for 4-5 minutes or until slightly softened. 

Turn the heat to low-medium and add in the bones (if using stock, sprinkle in the stock cubes). Add in two pints of water along with the soy sauce, sugar and vinegar. Add the beef into the liquid and simmer the soup gently for around 20 minutes. 

Place the noodles into a pan of boiling water and cook according to packet instructions. Drain the noodles and divide into bowls. Ladle the soup over the noodles and fish out the beef slices to place on top. Garnish with some spring onion slices, if using, and enjoy.

The Taste?

Even though a few traditional ingredients had been sacrificed to make the dish, this was extremely tasty. 

To make a simple soup in 25 minutes that tastes this good and is kind to both your health and wallet is immensely satisfying. I can’t travel at the moment but this took me all the way back to Taipei. 

The ingredients listed can also be used in so many other dishes, saving you even more money and time spent shopping. Stay tuned for more recipes and stay safe.

Coronavirus Isolation Recipes: Swedish Meatballs

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Britain and most of the world is in the vice like grip of the Coronavirus. People across the world are in isolation with access only for essential trips to places like the supermarket. The mood around the globe with the seemingly never ending cancellations is understandably glum. This led me to an idea. 

Across the next few days, weeks and maybe even months. I would like to bring to these pages some simple recipes. These recipes are designed to be as easy as possible on both execution and your finances. Also, they are a lot of fun. 

With many people opting to bulk buy at our supermarkets (believe me, I know! My day job happens to be in a supermarket) I will share with you some tips on how to shop, where to shop and how to get value for money. 

I started off by heading to my local market. Leicester Market is a gem for anything and everything. Buying beef mince from the butchers gave me the idea for some Swedish Meatballs. Consolation for anyone having withdrawal symptoms from the closure of IKEA restaurants. 

What you will need….

500g Beef Mince (Pork will also work nicely)

1 Onion, chopped as finely as you can

1 Garlic Clove, chopped as finely as you can

1 tsp Allspice (Paprika, Ground Cloves or Nutmeg are also a good substitute)

150ml Double Cream

1 tbsp Mustard (preferably Dijon)

1 tbsp Soy Sauce (optional) 

Lingonberry Jam, to serve (optional)

Oil, for frying

(Serves 4) 

How to make it…..

Place the beef mince, allspice, garlic and half of the chopped onion into a bowl. Season with salt and pepper then get your hands in there and mix everything together until combined. Shape the mixture into small balls, just slightly smaller than a ping pong ball.

Add a tablespoon of oil into a non-stick frying pan (I used olive oil but any cooking oil will be fine). Set the heat to medium high and once the pan is hot, add the meatballs in. Fry for 3-4 minutes and then turn the meatballs over. Continue until brown all over then remove onto a plate. 

Drain off any excess grease then take the remaining chopped half onion and add into the pan. Gently fry the onion until softened, around 5-7 minutes and then drop the heat to medium-low. Add in the mustard, cream and soy sauce (if using) and stir to combine. Tip the meatballs back in and cover the pan with a lid (or in my case, an upturned plate!). 

Simmer the meatballs for 10 minutes by which time they should be fully cooked. Shake the pan every so often to ensure that the sauce doesn’t catch on the base. I served my meatballs with lingonberry jam (bought from IKEA of course) and a baked potato. 

You can serve this with whatever you like. Rice, salad or some steamed greens would work perfectly. Potatoes, baked or mashed, are my favourite with this recipe. The lingonberry jam is tricky to find outside of IKEA so a good substitute is cranberry sauce.

The Taste?


Beef mince from a butcher tastes a heck of a lot better than the supermarket stuff. The meatballs have a lovely fragrant spice to them which pairs really well with the mustard cream sauce.

Lingonberry jam is a traditional accompaniment to this dish in Sweden and it goes brilliantly well in this recipe. As mentioned, cranberry sauce would be a decent substitute or perhaps redcurrant jelly. 

For a recipe costing me less than £5 to make, I was delighted. I really hope that you enjoy making this dish, it could well become a firm favourite in your household.

KL Tower Skydeck

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Having our base at the Hotel Stripes a mere 15 minute walk from the Petronas Towers was a lifesaver in a city as big as Kuala Lumpur. In a few days time we would be scaling the heights of the Petronas Towers, but today we were going for the KL Tower.

KL Tower Skydeck

The KL Tower is just a few streets down from the famous twin towers. A slightly uphill walk off the main Jalan Sultan Ismail, we arrived at a bus stop. When we asked the security guard about how to navigate the hill, he informed us that a free bus collects you from the bottom. 

KL Tower Skydeck

What turned up wasn’t exactly a bus as we know it. More of a minivan. Nevermind, this is Malaysia, a place that constantly surprises. The ‘bus’ had fantastic air conditioning and comfy seats so absolutely no complaints there. After a hair-raising ride up the hill, we thankfully exited in one piece. 

KL Tower Skydeck

Just at the entrance to the tower, there is also an entrance to a zoo and aquarium guarded by two large parrots. As we headed to the ticket desk there is also the option to use the self-service machines. Two tickets to the observation deck with the Skydeck included cost us RM99 (around £18.34).

KL Tower Skydeck sky box

One real bug-bear about the KL Tower experience is the amount of photographs they want you to pose for. In total, we had three lots of photos taken. One set before getting in the lift, one set at the top and one final set in the Sky Box. If you’re not willing to pay the extortionate amount charged for them then it seems like a waste of time. 

KL Tower Skydeck sky box

From the negatives, there are huge positives. The view across the city is stunning to say the least. If you are feeling brave and wish to hang over the edge in a glass case you can try the Sky Box experience. You are assigned a number and once the number is called you go into one of the two boxes.

KL Tower Skydeck view

With shoes removed, the only thing separating us from a hefty drop was a base of glass. If you suffer with vertigo then maybe this isn’t for you. We thoroughly enjoyed the experience and even though professional photos are taken, the photographer is happy to take them on your phone or camera also. 

chris and ali durning

If you have a spare RM130 (around £24) you can purchase your photos at the end but this left a bad taste in our mouths. We didn’t buy them as it’s very cheeky to charge more than the entrance fee for a few photographs. One feature of the observation deck that is very interesting is the ultra-zoom binoculars allowing you to see life happening below. 

kl tower

As we endured another eventful free ride down to the base of the hill, we reflected on our experience at the KL Tower. The Sky Box was a unique and fascinating experience and the staff in general were all very friendly. The view across the city is breathtaking and absolutely worth experiencing when in Kuala Lumpur. 

KL Tower Skydeck

Opening Times: Daily 0900-2200

Nearest Metro Station: Bukit Nanas

NineB, Leicester

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Leicester city centre is now the proud owner of a new hotel. Novotel have constructed a brand new £40m hotel right across the street from Leicester’s Highcross shopping centre. Within the hotel, a new restaurant has opened its doors by the name of NineB. 

Stepping away somewhat from the generic style of hotel restaurant, NineB have decided to lend support to local artisan producers. Brockelby’s pies are on the menu also behind the bar ale’s and craft beers from the Langton Brewery are can be found. There is coffee on the menu too from nearby St Martins. 

Walking into the hotel restaurant, it’s apparent that the money invested has been spent well. A stylish bar, comfortable waiting area and friendly staff give a strong first impression. The long table in the bar area lends itself to social gatherings and encourages a warm atmosphere. 

Manish, the general manager, showed us to our booth for the evening. We love the privacy and peace that a booth gives, this one was like a giant, padded waltzer. Manish presented our menus and even offered to make an elderflower mocktail in the absence of any currently on the menu. A lovely gesture for those who are driving.

One slight gripe was that no water was offered. Even the empty glasses didn’t seem to give the game away. Still, we had a mocktail and a cocktail each. The mocktail was a light, fizzy and refreshing glass of elderflower cordial and lemonade. The ruby red ‘Sweet Victorious’ cocktail tasted a little on the weak side in terms of alcohol. 

The menu reads fairly concisely and features both quality dishes and crowd pleasers. The scallops with crushed pea puree and crispy pancetta was my choice of starter (£11.50). Ali decided on the black pudding scotch egg with tomato chutney (£6.50). 

Scallops are not something I see on many local menus these days. It’s always a pleasure though when they are cooked this well. An exterior so crispy it could have been made by Walkers. A sweet, soft centre with fresh seafood flavour. These were exceptional. 

A perfect match with the crispy pancetta and peas, which didn’t resemble a puree, but were tasty and fresh nonetheless. The scotch egg, rather disappointingly, didn’t have a runny centre. Flavour-wise, the crunchy black pudding around the outside performed a winning duet with the sweet tomato chutney.

One of my theories, having been doing this review business for a while now, is that a restaurant can tell you a lot from a simple plate of steak and chips. I opted for a 21-day matured sirloin with peppercorn sauce and chips for the main course (£21).

Ali headed in the direction of poultry and landed a harissa-spiced chicken breast with mint and cucumber yogurt (£18). On arrival, the dishes appeared neat and tidy but the chicken dish was perhaps a little too neat as the sauce was yet to arrive, it did eventually. 

The steak was requested medium rare, sadly this was overcooked. Eating the steak more medium-well still provided flavour but the steak did contain a lot of fat. Unusual for sirloin and more commonly found with ribeye. The garnishes included watercress and cherry tomatoes on the vine. The chips were crunchy but the peppercorn sauce had the taste of something bought in. 

Harissa provided a lovely spicy touch to the really juicy chicken breast. Chips once again accompanied the main and were equally as good as with the steak. The sauce, much like the peppercorn had me wondering if this was made fresh or ordered in. Either way, it went well with the chicken. 

The atmosphere up to now had been pleasant. A large group over in the corner chatted away quite merrily but the design of the dining room allowed that to happen without intrusion. With sweet thoughts on our mind, the dessert menus were presented.

Selecting a pudding from the cleverly designed list of crowd pleasers was a tricky choice. In the end we settled on the cherry bakewell cheesecake and a chocolate brownie with salted caramel ice cream. Both at £6. 

Both desserts appeared inviting and straight away I got stuck into the cheesecake. Absolutely as it should be, the cheesecake was rich and packed full of cherry and almond flavour. Accompanying the dish, a cherry ice cream on the side was equally good but the cherries on the side could have done with a bit of poaching liqueur for added flavour.

The brownie was an intense affair. A block of gooey chocolate, rich to the extent of almost becoming overly bitter. A really nicely balanced dessert when paired with a decent scoop of ice cream. In this case, salted caramel. One of our favourites. 

As the experience at NineB drew to a close, we reflected on the meal. Overall the food had many highlights and yes, there will always be teething problems in a brand new restaurant. In the main, the service is friendly and professional and the atmosphere is relaxed. The future looks very good for NineB going forward. 

 

Nearest Train Station: Leicester 

Banh Mi Chao – The best breakfast in HCMC!

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Good Morning Vietnam! The sun arises on another day in Saigon and we are on the hunt for breakfast. Fortunately, we don’t have to look far. On a side street virtually opposite our hotel at Alagon D’Antique in District 1, sits a small yet bustling street food stall. Banh Mi Chao. 

Banh Mi Chao, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

This is a stall that you could confuse with selling the famed filled baguette under the name ‘Banh Mi’ but actually all Banh Mi means is ‘bread’. This baguette comes with a Vietnamese take on the fried breakfast. No menu is present as the stall only specialises in this one dish. 

baguette Banh Mi Chao, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

As motorbikes screech in and the riders park themselves on a 30cm high stool, the place begins to fill rapidly. We manage a seat inside on a standard low stool with a table just a few centimeters taller. On the table, we have soy sauce, mayonnaise, chilli sauce, pepper and a plate of pickled vegetables. 

Banh Mi Chao, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

The ladies at the stall are so friendly and work a speed that manifests itself into a blur. Within a couple of minutes, our food is in front of us. The steel bowl consists of a fried egg, a spoon of pate, sausages (similar to frankfurters), coriander and a slice of salted pork. 

Banh Mi Chao, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

With a crusty, fresh baguette in hand, the idea is to dunk your bread into the egg and pate mixture. This produces an incredible flavour combination. I was really impressed by the fresh flavour of the pickled vegetables – white radish and carrot. Everything together almost tasted like a Banh Mi. 

Banh Mi Chao, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

A splash of soy sauce really helps add a salty flavour and chilli sauce is there if you like it a bit more spicy. The dish was rich enough so no need for mayonnaise on this occasion. For just 35,000 Dong per portion (around £1.17) this was money well spent. 

Banh Mi Chao, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

Breakfast options are plentiful in Saigon with vendors up and down each street specialising in various different dishes. For us, we were delighted to have found Banh Mi Chao. This is a local favourite and it’s not hard to see why. 

Banh Mi Chao, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

Opening Times: Daily 0400-1130

Nasi Lemak Wanjo , Kuala Lumpur

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Many visitors to Kuala Lumpur head straight for the ever popular Jalan Alor. In our opinion, any street that has hustlers pushing menus in your face to try and entice you in, isn’t worth it. So, we headed away from Jalan Alor to the neighbourhood of Kampung Baru. 

personas towers, Kuala Lumpur

This is an area that won’t win any prizes for presentation or, indeed, sanitation. Saying that though, there are numerous stalls and small restaurants all along the Jalan Raja Musa Muda. One of these stalls is Nasi Lemak Wanjo, a popular breakfast restaurant.

Nasi Lemak Wanjo , Kuala Lumpur

Nasi Lemak is of course the national dish of Malaysia. A selection of meat, curry, cucumber garnish and spicy sambal sauce, all surrounding a mound of coconut rice. At Wanjo, you can expect a ‘canteen’ style of service. This basically means that all the dishes are laid out and you choose what you like and pay at the end. 

Nasi Lemak Wanjo , Kuala Lumpur

When we walked into Wanjo we found a fleet of vespa motorcycles and poorly parked cars around the front. Thankfully the line, which is usually out of the door, was only 5-6 people deep. The restaurant is air conditioned by fans which is a blessing in itself when you have to contend with the sticky climate of Kuala Lumpur. 

Nasi Lemak Wanjo , Kuala Lumpur

There are two different food collection points. One to the right which is for eating in. The other to the left is for taking away. As we found in Kuala Lumpur, not everyone speaks English but there is usually someone around that does. A kind member of the staff guided us through the dishes to help with our choice.

Nasi Lemak Wanjo , Kuala Lumpur

I was really up for trying the beef rendang. Something that many people reference with a dreamy look in their eyes when speaking about time spent in Malaysia. A plate is handed over prepared with rice, sambal sauce and cucumber – the rest is up to you. The rendang’s here don’t just extend to beef, there is also chicken, squid and spleen to pick from. 

Nasi Lemak Wanjo , Kuala Lumpur

Sticking with beef, I then went for a piece of fried chicken to complete my plate. The cashier rounded the total off at 24 RM (around £4.45). Not bad for two plates but surprisingly expensive for Kuala Lumpur according to some. Table space during rush hour can be at a premium so be prepared to share. 

Nasi Lemak Wanjo , Kuala Lumpur

I mixed together the sambal, rendang and rice together and had my first taste of Nasi Lemak. Oh my goodness. The sauce was sweet and just the right side of spicy to avoid a frantic grab for the water. The rice was fragrant from the combination of pandan leaves and coconut milk. The rendang was sensational. 

Nasi Lemak Wanjo , Kuala Lumpur

The beef required scissors to cut into when being served but the texture was surprisingly tender. The coconut milk based sauce was just brilliant. One slight let down was that the chicken was going slightly dry on the breast. The wing however was juicy. A lemongrass, garlic and ginger flavour made the skin borderline addictive.

Nasi Lemak Wanjo , Kuala Lumpur

As far as breakfasts go, this one will live long in the memory. Many people might see the dodgy-paved streets and petrol fumed roads of Kampung Baru and think twice about eating there. I can honestly vouch for the fantastic food found in this part of town. 

Opening Times: Daily 0630-0100 

Nearest Metro Station: Kampung Baru