The Top 3 Wines In Bordeaux & Where To Find Them

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Bordeaux is world famous for its production of fine wine. The city is awash with bars and restaurants serving the finest vintages – there is even a museum dedicated to the history of wine named Cité du Vin.

La Cité du Vin bordeaux

Across the hospitality scene in Bordeaux there are fantastic wines to sample. In this article, I will reveal three of the best glasses that we tried across the city – and where to find them. You may think that sampling quality wines will hit you hard in the pocket but that is simply not the case.

Bordeaux offers some of the best prices on the best wines. It’s easy to turn up to a cafe, bar or restaurant and enjoy a glass of quality wine for a couple of euros. Pairing the wine with a cheese or charcuterie plate, or as a partner to a great meal, is the perfect way to pass the time in this beautiful city.

La Cité du Vin bordeaux

So, without further delay, here are the top 3 wines to try in Bordeaux…

#3 AOC Bordeaux – Château Rauzan Despagne – Le Bar a vin

Le Bar a Vin is situated just off the Place de la Comédie and features an ‘Ecole du vin’ – a school of wine. The building is beautiful, almost like a library meets a hotel. A bar sits in the centre and comfortable, relaxed seating creating a casual atmosphere with the smell of wine ever present in the air.

le bar a vin, bordeaux

The service is also very friendly and English is spoken should you need it. There is a simple menu featuring small plates of cheese,charcuterie and pate all at a fair price. We opted for two glasses of white and two glasses of red to conduct our ‘mini tasting’ along with a terrine of foie gras.

Foie Gras Le Bar a Vin, Bordeaux

Incredibly, the cheapest white wine that we chose was the AOC Bordeaux – Château Rauzan Despagne at just €2 per glass. This fruity, acidic and slightly dry wine went superbly with the foie gras to cut that richness of the terrine. A quite unbelievable discovery for the price.

Le Bar a Vin, Bordeaux

You can read a more detailed review of Le Bar a Vin here

#2 Château La Lande – Restaurant Melodie

Reservations are a must at Restaurant Melodie. This place is a tiny hole-in-the-wall kind of restaurant that features a menu of three courses for just €20. On our visit, many people who turned up on the off chance of securing a table were politely sent on their way.

Restaurant Melodie, Bordeaux

The wine list at the restaurant is quite a concise one. We opted to step out of Bordeaux’s plethora of vintages and head in the direction of nearby Medoc. A glass of Château La Lande looked most tempting at €6.

Red Wine, Restaurant Melodie, Bordeaux

From the first gulp you can really detect the intense red fruit flavours that this smooth number possesses. Just enough tannin on the finish makes this a very good partner to food. In particular the fantastic ‘Parmentier de Canard’ – a confit duck shepherd’s pie.

You can read a more detailed review of Restaurant Melodie here

#1 Saint Emilion Grand Cru 2012 – Château Tour Grand Faurie – O P’tit Bahut

O P’tit Bahut is a wine bar tucked away in the backstreets of Bordeaux. In similar style to Restaurant Melodie, this is a tight affair with only a few tables and high stools. Reservations are of course highly recommended.

p'tit bahut bordeaux

We loved the offerings from this place, it has to be the most simple and enjoyable place to work. The menu is effectively assorted platters such as The Basque platter featuring chorizo, Basque cheeses and cold cuts plus salad. We chose the Basque and Savoyarde platters, both of which were sublime.

cheese board p'tit bahut bordeaux

The best part, however, was the wine. A Saint Emilion Grand Cru 2012 – Château Tour Grand Faurie which was hands down the best wine that we were fortunate enough to discover here in Bordeaux. At a price of just €6.50 per glass.

p'tit bahut bordeaux

Rich and fruity with a smooth finish, you could really tell the quality of this wine. Normally strong red wine has a tendency to knock you on your backside after a glass or two but this was the exception.

red wine p'tit bahut bordeaux

Made from 90% merlot grapes and 10% cabernet, this was a winning formula. A perfect match to our delicious boards – you simply can’t miss an experience at O P’tit Bahut when in Bordeaux.

You can read a more detailed review on O P’tit Bahut here

O P’tit Bahut, Bordeaux

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Bordeaux’s backstreets provide some of the best offerings when it comes to simple cuisine and quality wine. O P’tit Bahut was being talked about before our trip so we decided to mark it down for a visit, little did we know what awaited us.

p'tit bahut bordeaux

P’tit is a good adjective for this place. I’m not sure I could swing a ‘chat’ in here, it really is a tiny room. However, as the saying goes “most good things come in small packages” and that was indeed true of the staff, they were lovely as most others had been during our time in the city.

menu p'tit bahut bordeaux

Perched on our high bar stools at the raised tables, the staff went through the menu. It must be an absolute doddle to work here. The menu comprised boards of good quality cheese, ham, charcuterie and salads. The only thing you really have to think about is the size as they come in small or large.

p'tit bahut bordeaux

The boards were themed according to regions. One that caught our eye straightaway was the Basque board featuring cuts of Spanish ham, chorizo and cheeses from the Basque country. I liked the look of the Savoyarde board featuring cheeses such as Beaufort and Reblochon.

menu p'tit bahut bordeaux

A small board will set you back around €17 with the larger ones in the region of €30. I dread to think what size a large board is but our two small boards were very generous. The cheeses and charcuterie were beautifully arranged around a large salad, perfect for a chilled out meal with our wine choices.

drinks menu p'tit bahut bordeaux

Speaking of wine, we had gone for two different glasses. A Bordeaux Supérieur 2015 La Piecelle – J Trocard at €4.50 and a glass of Saint Emilion Grand Cru 2012 – Château Tour Grand Faurie at €6.50. Both from the red category.

red wine p'tit bahut bordeaux

The Bordeaux Supérieur was a decent wine but the Saint Emilion was out of this world. This was easily the best wine that I had tasted during the trip. Smooth and fruity with very low tannin, this was my personal favourite and I would highly recommend anyone to try it.

red wine p'tit bahut bordeaux

It’s easy to forget how heavy cheese can be but we were soldiering on through the boards. Reblochon is superb melted in tartiflette but equally as good just as it is. The Beaufort reminded me a lot of Gruyere as did another cheese named Tomme de Savoie from The Alps.

p'tit bahut bordeaux
p'tit bahut bordeaux

The salad also, that comes with every board, was really well done. It’s simple food but when it’s done right and with quality ingredients you can’t fail to get it right. Full up on cheese and wine, we politely declined dessert and settled the bill.

cheese board p'tit bahut bordeaux

It may be a small place but O P’tit Bahut made a big impression on us. The way of just setting quality cheeses and meats onto a board and knowing that they are a straight knockout to anyone’s taste buds has to be a pleasure. The wine also was from the very top drawer and rounded off the experience perfectly.

menu p'tit bahut bordeaux

Opening Times: Monday 1200-1400, 1800-2200

  Wednesday 1800-2330

  Thursday 1200-1400, 1830-2230

  Friday 1200-1400, 1830-0000

  Saturday 1200-1430, 1830-0000

Sunday 1200-1400, 1800-0000

Nearest Tram: Porte de Bourgogne (Line C)

Bun Mii Cafe, Nottingham

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Nottingham is becoming our go-to city when it comes to Vietnamese cuisine. Having tested out Cafe Coco Tang previously and having our minds blown, we headed for a small cafe on George Street named Bun Mii.

Bun Mii Vietnamese cafe Nottingham

Located down a small side street in the shadow of The Victoria Centre, Bun Mii Cafe stops you in dead in your tracks with the enticing aromas coming from within. On a beautiful sunny day, this was exactly the kind of food that we were craving.

Bun Mii Vietnamese cafe Nottingham

We arrived just after opening time at 11am. A good move given that the cafe only seats around 20-30 people. There are a handful of bar stool seats in the window area with a main seating area in the back featuring a whole range of furniture and tables.

Bun Mii Vietnamese cafe Nottingham

The decor really makes you feel that you could well be in Vietnam. The sunroof with the bars across, the rough walls and the oriental artwork take you right out of Nottingham. Each table also has condiments such as hoisin sauce, sriracha sauce and garlic vinegar. Fish sauce is also available on request.

Bun Mii Vietnamese cafe Nottingham

Bun Mii Cafe’s menu is short and sweet. You can choose from Pho, Bun Thit Nuong, Banh Mi and Spring Rolls for food options. Drinks come in the form of coffees, teas, a selection of soft drinks and water.

coffee Bun Mii Vietnamese cafe Nottingham

The reviews had hinted at this cafe’s authenticity when it comes to the real food that you find in Vietnam. Therefore, I had to go for the Pho. There is a choice of beef, chicken or tofu – I opted for beef.

We also went ahead and ordered a portion of Bun Thit Nuong – a dish of BBQ pork, rice noodles and pickled vegetables. The dish is also available with the option of chicken or tofu instead of pork. It’s also worth noting that the cafe only accept payment by cash.

Bun Thit Nuong Bun Mii Vietnamese cafe Nottingham

Rumours circulating claimed that the Banh Mi here was one of the best outside of Saigon. This was swiftly added to the order along with a cold Vietnamese Coffee and a bottle of water. The grand total? £22 exactly.

Bun Mii Vietnamese cafe Nottingham

The service was both swift and friendly with a relaxed vibe around the cafe. I would advise getting here early as within 10 minutes of our arrival, most of the seats were taken. With the smells coming from the kitchen it was easy to see why.

Bun Mii Vietnamese cafe Nottingham

Vietnamese Coffee is something that has been on my list to try for a while now. Unlike regular coffee, this is a strong, bitter brew. Often served with sweet condensed milk to balance out the flavour. Having the cold version of this with plenty of ice was just the job on a hot day. Delicious and refreshing.

coffee Bun Mii Vietnamese cafe Nottingham

First to arrive was the Bun Thit Nuong, closely followed by a steaming bowl of Pho. The rice noodles were beautifully coated in a combination of fish sauce, chilli and garlic. The grilled pork on top was smokey, sticky and juicy. A symphony of flavour all brought together by the fragrant herbs.

Bun Thit Nuong Bun Mii Vietnamese cafe Nottingham

The Pho in appearance was a lot clearer than the broth at Pho, Leicester. Herbs were already added into the soup with paper thin slices of beef interlocking with the rice stick noodles. The aroma coming off this bowl had me salivating.

Pho Bun Mii Vietnamese cafe Nottingham

With the soup, you are presented with a small plate and a wedge of lemon. The acidity from the lemon along with the garlic vinegar really wake the Pho up and bring the flavours alive. Adding a pool of hoisin and sriracha to the small plate is also a good idea.

Pho Bun Mii Vietnamese cafe Nottingham

Not quite at samurai level with my chopstick skills yet, the rice stick noodles were a slippery adversary. Eventually, I found a system that worked using the chopsticks to place the noodles onto a spoon, then adding a smear of the hoisin and sriracha. This produced a taste sensation. I highly recommend this method.

Pho Bun Mii Vietnamese cafe Nottingham

This bowl of Pho was never ending, just when you thought that all the noodles have disappeared, more seemed to surface. A timely interruption was the arrival of the most famous sandwich in Vietnam – The Banh Mi.

banh mi

Hot and fresh in a crusty baguette, Banh Mi is a sandwich comprised of, in this case, BBQ pork, pickled cucumber and carrot, liver pate, mayonnaise, coriander and chilli sauce. I have a ticket to go to Saigon at the end of the year, even if I didn’t, i’d buy one anyway just to have this sandwich around the clock.

banh mi

A combination of flavours that just ticks every single flavour profile can be found in this baguette. Sweet BBQ pork, creamy pate and mayonnaise, tingly chilli sauce and sour pickles –  it’s just the best. Many have claimed that this is the most authentic version amongst the local competition, I’d have to agree based on this evidence.

Bun Mii Vietnamese cafe Nottingham

The cafe attracts a good crowd. Any establishment serving Vietnamese cuisine that attracts a crowd of Asian diners has to be doing something right. In similarity to Cafe Coco Tang, it is a place where you can chill out, unwind and experience a real taste of the real Vietnam.

Bun Mii Vietnamese cafe Nottingham

Opening Times: Monday – Saturday 1100-1800 (closed Tuesday), Sunday 1100-1700

Website: https://www.facebook.com/bunmiicafe/

Nearest Train Station: Nottingham

Kushi-Ya, Nottingham

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Down a small alleyway just off Angel Row in the heart of Nottingham sits a small part of Tokyo. Kushi-Ya is a restaurant like no other that we have come across in The Midlands. A place serving Japanese Tapas to great acclaim.

kushi-ya nottingham

Walking down the tight Cannon Court, you could easily be in a back alley in Tokyo. The string lights overhead, the unremarkable entrance and simple setting get the whole Japanese experience off to the perfect start.

kushi-ya nottingham
kushi-ya nottingham

Once inside the door, everything becomes even more authentic. Smart, clean wooden panelling and minimalist wall decorations all with a nod to the land of the rising sun. The dining room is then just a quick climb up a flight of stairs.

kushi-ya nottingham

The dining room wouldn’t look out of place in London. A smart, spotless open kitchen overlooks the whole room. A bar area directly next to the kitchen has a few seats positioned towards the front. The typical set up that you would expect to find at many yakitori bars running along Memory Lane in Shinjuku.

kushi-ya nottingham

Unlike Memory Lane, this place has ample seating. The spacing between tables allows for uninterrupted conversation and a pleasant, quiet atmosphere during our visit. Staff provided us with menus, one of which was an ‘Early Bird’ special, served between 6-7pm.

menu kushi-ya nottingham

Our order from the a la carte virtually mirrored the set menu so the staff were kind enough to offer us the set menu option, saving a few pounds in the process. The set menu comes with a formula of one snack course, two skewers, sticky rice and a pint of Asahi beer.

kushi-ya nottingham

One feature of the menu that was a little off putting was the supplement charges. If you want curry sauce on your sticky rice, it’s an extra £1.50. For ordering the beef skewers it was an extra supplement of £2.

kushi-ya nottingham

Still, we couldn’t resist adding to our order and took a glance at the specials marked up on a chalkboard. Iberico pork is one of the best meats anywhere in the world, it simply must be ordered at any opportunity. In this case it was wrapped in a Gyoza – at £2 per Gyoza.

With four gyozas ordered, we sat back and watched the restaurant fill up. The chefs got busy behind the stoves in the open kitchen and the food arrived shortly after. Incidentally Kushi-Ya translates to a grill on which skewered meat is cooked. Hence the wide range of creative options on sticks.

beer kushi-ya nottingham

The tray of food on arrival looked both immaculate and inviting. The options on the table were simply chopsticks and napkins. As basic as it comes and a demonstration of confidence from the chef. Our experience at Kushi-ya began with the first taste of our snacks.

skewers kushi-ya nottingham

A beautifully presented Sweet Potato Korokke with Wasabi Cream was first up. A ‘Korokke’ is a croquette, in this case Sweet Potato, breaded in panko crumbs and deep fried. The crispy exterior of the croquette was flawless as was the filling. The Wasabi Cream needed a pinch of salt just to balance it. Overall, a decent start at Kushi-ya.

skewers kushi-ya nottingham

I had heard good words said about the Nori and Sesame Crisps so I went for them. Nori seaweed is often found encasing sushi rice. Having thin sheets fried to a crisp with sesame seeds was going to be very different.

food kushi-ya nottingham

The hype is fully justified with these crisps. The crunch and subtle flavour of the sea with the hit of toasted sesame is something unexpectedly brilliant as a combination. All appears very simple and innocent on the plate but they really need to start selling these by the bag. Highly addictive and most enjoyable.

skewers kushi-ya nottingham

Our skewer choices were Beef with Black Garlic and Mustard alongside Tiger Prawns with Peanut, Tamarind and Chilli. The beef was cooked beautifully rare, retaining a juicy texture with the smokey notes from the grill. A sauce of black garlic and mustard zig-zagged across the tender pieces of steak.

A top tip on how to get the best from the skewers is to slide off the pieces of beef, prawn or whichever food item that you decide to go for, onto the sticky rice. It’s almost like making your own dish.

rice kushi-ya nottingham

The prawns were of high quality. You could tell how fresh they were by the clean burst of the sea once your teeth sank into one. The sauce on these skewers was a superb accompaniment. The rule of  ‘anything with tamarind in it is good’ was proven correct once again.

kushi-ya nottingham

Iberico Pork Gyoza times four slid in between our two trays. Gyoza, in my experience, tend to be either greasy or heavy. These Gyoza were a refreshing change with the pork still pink inside and insanely juicy. This is cooking with a huge demonstration of skill and knowledge attached to it.

kushi-ya nottingham

It’s hard to put into words the flavour of Iberico Pork. Think of how the best pork chop would taste smothered in the best quality butter and you’re in the right area. The richness of this prized meat from Spain is on another level entirely.

Looks can be deceiving and we were beginning to get rather full after finishing our trays. A look at the dessert menu brought us to the conclusion that a Dark Sugar Parfait with Sesame Crisp would be ideal to split between us.

menu kushi-ya nottingham

Our Parfait arrived looking simple yet majestic. A round circle of sugary sweet cream topped with a Sesame Crisp and a small avalanche of honey running down the side was simplicity personified.

The richness of the dessert is all based around that smooth Parfait. A sweet, smooth cream but not overly so. The Sesame Crisp on top provided that perfect nutty flavour that just works magically with the honey. This was less of a sharing scenario, more of a battle with spoons.

open kitchen

If I had to aim one criticism Kushi-Ya’s way, it would be to include how the meat is cooked on the menu. In Japan, many places will undercook meat and fish. Some even serve chicken sashimi! To inform the customer as to how the meat is likely to arrive provides peace of mind. For us, it wasn’t an issue but some have commented on previous reviews.

bill kushi-ya nottingham

I have to end this review by heaping praise on Kushi-Ya. An authentic Japanese experience is not easy to find. Had we not been blessed with the services of Google Maps, we may never have found this place. I am very glad that we did.

Opening Times: Tuesday-Saturday 1200-1430 (Saturday 1530), 1800-2200

Website: https://kushi-ya.co.uk

Nearest Train Station: Nottingham

The Maharaja’s Retreat, Nottingham

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The Calcutta Club is a restaurant in Nottingham that has been on our radar for a while now. Due to the insane popularity of this restaurant, the owners have had to open a new place. The brand new Maharaja’s Retreat sits just a few doors down on Maid Marian Way.

The Maharaja's Retreat Nottingham

This is Indian food with a difference. With the emphasis that this is food “fit for a king”, you can expect dishes that are traditionally bold on flavour and served with a sense of style. Our experiences of Indian food have largely been confined to both Leicester and Birmingham, so a visit to Nottingham was long overdue.

The Maharaja's Retreat Nottingham

After a nightmare journey up the M1 with vehicles on fire and major delays, we were very fortunate to reach the restaurant just ten minutes over our agreed time. The staff were lovely about it and very welcoming.

The Maharaja's Retreat Nottingham

Many Indian restaurants fall victim to the curse of trying to fit as many tables and chairs into the room as possible. Here, it is a spacious affair. The room allows you to breathe and enjoy a relaxed setting without intrusion from other tables. The decor is modern but still retains that vibe of India.

Menu The Maharaja's Retreat Nottingham

The Maharaja’s Retreat has only been open for a couple of weeks but the staff are really on the ball with regards to service. The blend of professional and informal is a perfect balance and allows for a relaxing experience.

Menu The Maharaja's Retreat Nottingham

Choosing from the menu was probably the most difficult challenge that we faced all evening. Each and every dish sounded well worthy of trying. We managed to settle on two different types of kebab to begin with. A Gilafi Seekh Kebab and a Reshmi Kebab.

chaat The Maharaja's Retreat Nottingham

Before the starters, we were kindly tempted into a pre-starter of chaat. A dish that I had recognised as being very popular in Mumbai. It is a composition of chickpeas, tomatoes, coriander, yogurt, mint, tamarind and crispy pieces of fried dough. The explosion of flavours when it hits the mouth is incredible. So clean and fresh, absolutely worth ordering.

chaat The Maharaja's Retreat Nottingham

The chaat had been superbly presented and really set the tone for the following dishes. Our kebabs arrived looking neat, tidy and delicious. This truly is fine dining Indian style. The Seekh Kebab is a dish that I always look upon with envy in Indian restaurants as inevitably another table has ordered it. Usually sizzling away on a large platter.

Seekh Kebab The Maharaja's Retreat Nottingham

This time, there was no getting away from it. I had to have it. Three neat pieces of lamb leg meat that had been kissed by the heat of the tandoor oven. A neat slick of coriander yogurt on the side with salad greens. A smart looking plate of food.

Taste-wise it was superb. Not a hint of grease as the lamb carried the smokey hit of the oven. The refreshing coriander yogurt on the side provided a cooling element to the slight kick from the spices. Undoubtedly, this is Indian food taken to the next level.

The Reshmi Kebab came with a similar presentation, only on this occasion it was chicken replacing the lamb. The chicken had been marinated in cream cheese, garlic, ginger, black pepper and coriander. The pieces were all juicy and full of flavour – perfect again with the coriander yogurt.

Reshmi Kebab The Maharaja's Retreat  Nottingham

A range of gins, spirits, beers and wines are all available at a fair price. Soft drinks also like J20 and Coca Cola are also available to order along with mineral water for the table. In similar vogue to the starters, choosing a main course was a real challenge.

The Maharaja's Retreat Nottingham

In the end, we settled on Paneer Tikka Ratan – a dish of paneer cheese marinated in a blend of spices, onions, peppers and tomatoes. The paneer is then given the treatment in the tandoor and served with a dressed salad and a dal makhani.

The Maharaja's Retreat Nottingham

The paneer came in large cubes with outer caramelisation from the intense heat of the tandoor. The dal makhani is traditionally made from beans, butter and cream and went superbly well with the marinated paneer.

rice

When you see a menu item marked “truly amazing” then it’s pretty much the law that you have to order it. In this case, it was a dish called Gosht Zaika, a lamb shoulder slowly cooked with whole spices, plum tomatoes and ginger.

The curry came in a neat portion and decoratively garnished with chilli and coriander. The flavours were mellow in terms of spice but fully allowing the flavours of the lamb to come through. This dish was sensational with the fragrant pilau rice.

curry

Texturally, the lamb was spot on. Slow braising gives that fall apart texture when pressed lightly with a fork. A true testament to Indian cuisine is when the spicing creates the correct amount of heat versus intensity of flavour. The Maharaja’s Retreat had this balance down to a fine art.

The Maharaja's Retreat Nottingham

 Incredibly, it wasn’t the main dishes that we were astounded by. The quality of the naan bread has to be the best that we have ever come across. Light as a feather – one garlic, one peshawar. The almond paste within the peshawar naan with little hits of coconut were heavenly. Perfect if you like to add a sweet element to your food.

naan bread The Maharaja's Retreat Nottingham

Speaking of sweet, it came as a surprise that not only do The Maharaja’s Retreat have a dessert menu, but also a trained pastry chef. The selection is both tempting and concise and we had to go for a refreshing mango sorbet along with Gulab Jamun.

dessert menu The Maharaja's Retreat Nottingham

I had no idea what Gulab Jamun was. As it turns out, Gulab Jamun are doughnuts made from milk solids and flour traditionally served at festivals. The doughnuts are deep fried and served doused in a sweet syrup – delicious!

Gulab Jamun

I quickly arrived at the conclusion that I loved the Gulab Jamun…a lot. The texture is almost like semolina or polenta in a way but the sweetness and hits of cardamom and saffron take it to another level. The accompanying mango sorbet, in place of pistachio kulfi, was heavenly.

Across the table, another mango sorbet was going down extremely well. The quality of the ice creams and sorbets are as fit for a king along with the savoury items . The overall attention to detail on the food is first class.

Mango Sorbet with Passion fruit

The ending came courtesy of a cake stand with a selection of chocolates to choose from. Chocolate-dipped strawberries also make an appearance on the stand. It’s a lovely touch to coincide with the arrival of the bill.

chocolate strawberry

We can’t really speak highly enough of The Maharaja’s Retreat. The philosophy is that the food, experience and setting are all fit for a king. It’s hard to disagree with that. The staff are superb, the setting is classy yet relaxed and the food is to die for. It doesn’t really get a lot better than that.

Opening Times: Tuesday – Thursday & Sunday 1700-2200, Friday & Saturday 1700-2230

Website: https://www.maharajas-retreat.co.uk

Nearest Train Station: Nottingham

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Celebrating 100 Years of Hilton

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One of the most recognisable hotel chains worldwide is officially 100 years old this week. To mark the celebrations, each and every Hilton hotel is holding a party for guests and invited members of the community. We had an opportunity to head to Hilton, Nottingham on Milton Street to enjoy the festivities.

Nottingham Hilton

With four stars to its name, the Nottingham Hilton is a stylish and smart hotel perched on the outer edge of the Intu Victoria Centre. An ideal location right in the city centre for anyone visiting the city to get the very best out of it.

Bric restaurant Nottingham Hilton

The celebrations were to be held in The Bric restaurant. A smart dining room with comfortable seating, a well stocked bar and a microphone set up for a singer to provide the entertainment. The events team that were hosting the event were both friendly and polite with a real excitement for the event.

Nottingham Hilton
nottingham Hilton

One of the most famous drinks anywhere in the world was actually created at a Hilton hotel in Puerto Rico. The Pina Colada. A blend of Malibu, coconut cream and pineapple juice served with a wedge of pineapple. The cocktail wasn’t as sweet as I had remembered previous ones to be but still very good.

Pina Colado Nottingham Hilton

A range of different dishes were brought out from the kitchen to form the buffet. Everything was hot, fresh and well presented. The pulled pork sliders, fish and chip cones and crispy prawns with sweet chilli sauce all stood out. As did the red velvet prawns. Everyone had a great meal.

Nottingham Hilton
Nottingham Hilton
Nottingham Hilton

Cakes were also brought out on a beautiful tiered stand. In the style of afternoon tea. In fact, the Hilton have launched a new Bottomless Brunch featuring unlimited prosecco and two courses for just £25. Incredible value.

Nottingham Hilton

The cakes were delicious and many took the opportunity to photograph the food. Bloggers do tend to give themselves away by angling for that perfect shot. It was really nice to meet some fellow East Midlands-based bloggers on the night.

Nottingham Hilton

David, the general manager of the hotel, came to speak to us. We learned a great deal about how the hotel chain had began in Texas with just one property and now has expanded to over 5,500 worldwide hotels. Quite a story!

Nottingham Hilton

With everyone in good spirits, the evening went without a hitch. It was the perfect way to celebrate 100 years of this top hotel chain. The food and drinks were a hit and the company also pleasant throughout the evening. Happy birthday Hilton.

Website: www.hilton.com/Nottingham

Nearest Train Station: Nottingham

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The Dun Cow, Dunchurch

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Just outside the town of Rugby sits the village of Dunchurch. A pretty place with a newly refurbished and popular pub – The Dun Cow.

The Dun Cow, Dunchurch, Vintage Inns

Walking into The Dun Cow on a busy Bank Holiday Monday was a pleasant experience as both the bar and dining areas were nicely busy. The decor is modern, clean and creates a relaxed atmosphere.

The Dun Cow, Dunchurch, Vintage Inns

The staff kindly showed us into one of the dining rooms. I say “one of the dining rooms” as the room is split into small, intimate eating areas. This is something unique that I haven’t seen before in pubs. It’s a lovely idea as it creates a nice peaceful atmosphere.

The Dun Cow, Dunchurch, Vintage Inns
Menu

Trying to decide what to have from the menu is a task in itself. There are so many good dishes to choose from. Typical pub classics are there such as fish and chips, pies and gammon steaks. For something a little more special there are dishes such as rack of lamb or a selection of steaks to choose from.

The Dun Cow, Dunchurch, Vintage Inns
Menu

We managed to settle on a wagyu burger with fries and onion rings along with a fillet steak ‘rossini’. Other diners in the room had opted for the fish and chips, served with mushy peas and tartare sauce. These came in very generous portions.

Drinks Menu, The Dun Cow, Dunchurch, Vintage Inns
Drinks Menu

The food menu wasn’t the only menu that caught our eye. The selection of gins on the drinks menu is one of the best that we have come across. Getting into gin, thanks in large part to Around The World In 80 Gins, we have a much more adventurous streak when it comes to trying new gins.

Chase bramley apple and rhubarb gin with elderflower tonic
Chase bramley apple and rhubarb gin with elderflower tonic

I can highly recommend Chase bramley apple and rhubarb gin with elderflower tonic. As the weather gets hotter and the fruit gets better, this is a dream combination. A nod also goes to the Tarquins pink rhubarb and raspberry with ginger ale, another winning partnership.

Tarquins pink rhubarb and raspberry with ginger ale
Tarquins pink rhubarb and raspberry with ginger ale

Onto the food – and there was plenty of it! The fillet steak had been requested medium-rare and it was exactly that, spot on and full of flavour. Rossini refers to a classic style of serving beef fillet often with a slice of sauteed foie gras. The pub version pairs the fillet with croutons of duck liver parfait.

Fillet Rossini The Dun Cow, Dunchurch, Vintage Inns
Fillet Rossini

It’s a combination that really works. With a delicious red wine jus, pearl onions, huge asparagus spears and some superb dauphinoise potatoes, the dish was complete. The star of the plate had to be that fillet but everything was cooked very well indeed.

The Dun Cow, Dunchurch, Vintage Inns

Across the table, the wagyu burger was undergoing a swift demolition. The onion rings and fries were crispy and not a bit greasy. The burger had such a rich flavour which you instantly associate with wagyu. A burger well worth splashing out on.

Wagyu burger The Dun Cow, Dunchurch, Vintage Inns
Wagyu Burger

The service throughout the evening was friendly, relaxed and professional. Even with the busy bank holiday crowd, the food arrived in perfect time and the service came with a smile. With main courses fully enjoyed, we had the dilemma on what to choose for dessert.

The Dun Cow, Dunchurch, Vintage Inns

Eventually, we settled on two comforting classics. Eton mess and apple pie with custard and vanilla ice cream. The eton mess followed the theme of generosity when it came to the portion size. A mass of strawberries, meringue and cream, spot on.

Eton mess, The Dun Cow, Dunchurch, Vintage Inns
Eton Mess

A homemade apple pie is something that I very seldom have. When it’s done as well as it is here at The Dun Cow, it’s an absolute pleasure. Sweet pastry, soft apples, quality ice cream and a jug of custard. The perfect way to end any meal.

Apple Pie, The Dun Cow, Dunchurch, Vintage Inns
Apple Pie

The experience at The Dun Cow was a hugely satisfying one. A modern, smart setting in which to enjoy a drink and some quality pub food. We will no doubt be dropping by whenever we are in the Rugby area.

Website: https://www.vintageinn.co.uk/restaurants/midlands/theduncowdunchurch

Nearest Train Station: Rugby

AD – Gifted

Comedy Night at Queen Victoria Arts Club, Leicester

4

Sitting proudly in the shadow of The Curve Theatre in the city centre of Leicester is the Queen Victoria Arts Club. A classy venue for a pre-theatre meal or, as the case was on my visit, a night of comedy in the basement.

Housed in a beautiful building directly opposite both The Curve and The Athena venues, Queen Victoria Arts club opened in October 2018. The restaurant at the venue features a Modern British style of cooking with vegan options and pre-theatre menus available also.

Tonight, the restaurant would be put to one side. As comedy in the basement area was the order of the evening. A local Leicestershire business named ‘SomeBrightSpark’, specialising in design and live events, were hosting a corporate function for their staff – including a free bar and food.

Having resisted the urge to drop my CV into the company (I mean, seriously, how well are these guys treated?!) I took my seat next to some familiar faces. The MC for the evening was local Leicester comedian Jay Neale, a friend of the company owner hosting the event.

Jay also had brought along a couple of aspiring comedians from his comedy workshop – a six week course on getting started in stand up. With three acts to learn from – plus Jay himself. These guys are in good hands.

The basement itself was the perfect place to host a comedy performance. The low ceiling, bar within close proximity and comfortable seating made for a relaxed setting. With Prosecco flowing and food being eagerly devoured in small bowls, it was time for the gig to get underway.

Jay kicked off proceedings with good-natured banter with the audience. Having a rapport and a good session of banter with the crowd, Jay got the gig off to a great start – even surviving one audience member calling him ‘a dick’. All in good humour.


Another face amongst the familiar was that of comedian Stevie Gray. We seem to have a habit of bumping into each other within The Midlands comedy circuit and Stevie’s act continues to be a keen subject on these pages.

In the lead up to Stevie’s Edinburgh shows, this was a good opportunity to see the fine tuning of his already consistent act. The high energy that Gray brings to the stage was much needed as the room was still settling into the gig. With full attention on the stage, Stevie had a great night and did well to keep hold of the audience.

Following each performance there was always an interval of 15 minutes to allow those in the audience to return to the bar, go to the toilet or pop outside for a smoke. In my case, it was to get a decent mobile phone signal as sadly the basement didn’t support the EE network.

Next up on the bill was comedian Lovdev Barpaga. A casual looking figure in his Puma jumper and clutching a bottle of beer, Barpaga strongly reflected a man in the corner of a pub reeling off gags.

The set that Lovdev delivered was well thought out, clever and ultimately hilarious. The set comprised of gags focused around the Indian version of ‘Guess Who?’ and various other one liners. It was a superb performance.

By now, the room was lively and feeling the effects of the free bar. Everyone was in good spirits and having a blast. The headline act then made his entrance – a comedian from St Albans named Chris Norton Walker.

A giant of a man with an equally giant task in front of him, Chris set to work trying to control the front row. A hilarious exchange between Norton Walker and a lady slightly the worse for wear had the crowd in stitches.

Chris eventually turned away in order to allow the lady to stagger to the toilet. Next came probably the most unique moment that I have ever experienced while watching stand up comedy….ever.

Norton Walker came up with the idea that the whole room should leave their seats, gather in a little alcove out of sight while the lights were switched off and he would continue to fire off gags into the dark. It was absolutely brilliant.

After a good while, the lady returned and we could come out of hiding. Chris continued with his set, turning a 20 minute slot into the best part of an hour. The one liners, in similar fashion to Lovdev’s, were all brilliant. It was the ideal ending to what had been a top evening.

The experience at Queen Victoria Arts Club comes highly recommended. A classy restaurant and bar is the ideal place for a lunch date or pre-theatre meal. The basement offers the perfect space for a conference, private party or comedy night. It really left the impression on me that this is one of Leicester’s best kept secrets.

One of the more fascinating aspects of the evening was learning from Stevie, Jay and the fellow comics about the industry and tapping into the mindset of a stand up comedian. I have huge respect for anyone who stands in front of a crowd, microphone in hand, attempting to entertain and amuse.

Fancy giving comedy a go? Check out Jay Neale’s Comedy Workshop here

Website: https://www.queenvicleicester.com

Opening Times: Monday – Saturday 1130-0000, Sunday 1130-1600

Nearest Train Station: Leicester

Where To Find The Best Hidden Gems of India

2

India holds some of the world’s most sought after gems and jewellery, but how can you find them? This is where author and professional photographer Kim Rix comes in. Kim’s guide book to Buying Gemstones and Jewellery in India unlocks all the answers.

A gemologist qualified by the GIA (Gemological Institute of America), Kim’s knowledge is second to none when it comes to, quite literally, unearthing hidden gems. Kim’s latest book focuses on how to identify the real deal from a fake, how to avoid scams and provides the names and addresses of reputable dealers throughout India.

The book is divided up into sections with clear headings denoting what each section specifically refers to. I am a complete novice to the world of purchasing gems and jewellery abroad so for me, as the reader, this was most helpful.

The contents not only feature where to find both gemstones and jewellery but also how to care for them. When spending what can be a small fortune on something precious, it’s a nice touch to have further information on how to preserve and maintain it.

India’s history of gemstone and particularly diamond trading was fascinating to read about. It came as a real surprise that one single city – Surat, on India’s west coast – is responsible for 90% of the world’s diamond cutting and polishing.

Photography is Kim’s profession and the book really does benefit from this. The images captured of daily life in India, food and of course the stones and diamonds are of the highest quality.

As is customary wherever a premium product is being sold, there are always likely to be fakes close by. Kim explains, in detail, how to spot a fake using various different methods. Even advising on how to barter with the dealers and what signs to look out for to signify a ‘bad deal’.

With jewellery and gems proving ever popular throughout the world of social media, this book has come along at just the right time. Other books in Kim’s series from other countries can be found on the link at the base of this page.

For a traveller keen on discovering more about the worlds hidden gems, this book is a must-have. Especially when visiting markets in search of precious stones. Reading this will ensure that you get what you pay for and that it will be exactly as it appears.

 AD – Gifted in return of an honest review.

Kim Rix ‘Gemstone Detective’ series can be found here

Kim Rix on Twitter @kimrix

Mitch’s Kitchen

2

Vegan food continues to rise in popularity. The strength in the ‘vegan’ hashtag on both Twitter and Instagram is very much in the ascent. A man very much within this movement is looking to provide ready meal options for those choosing the vegan way of life, a man named Mitch and his kitchen.

Mitch's Kitchen

Mitch’s Kitchen offers meals by delivery to your door completely free of palm oil, gluten, nuts and pesticides all 100% vegan. Mitch kindly sent us a few meals to try via delivery from the ever dependable DPD. A convenient service that gives you a delivery slot and a way of tracking your parcel.

Mitch's Kitchen

With us being non-vegan this was unchartered territory. Our experience of ready meals had been the usual curries, pasta’s and suchlike – all of which contained meat or dairy. When the frozen meals arrived, the packaging was all recyclable. A real demonstration of care shown by Mitch’s Kitchen towards the environment.

Mitch's Kitchen

Coconut Kathal Masala

A North Indian curry is always something tasty in my experience. The inclusion of jackfruit and potatoes in a sauce containing aromatic spices was very tasty. For my taste it needed a little seasoning to bring the flavours alive but that was easily solved by adding a pinch of salt.

Coconut Kathal Masala Mitch's kitchen

Eating a curry without meat is something that we’re quite used to. Bombay potatoes and Saag Aloo are two examples of excellent non-meat Indian dishes. The full on vegan version was very good indeed with the red rice a perfect partner.

Chocolate Chilli

The chilli had a rich flavoured sauce with the inclusion of smoky tomato and dark chocolate but really there were a crazy amount of beans. Not being a particular fan of beans this was tricky to eat but if kidney and borlotti are your thing then you will love this.

chocolate chilli Mitch's kitchen

Again, a pinch of salt really helps bring out the flavours. The sweetcorn and coriander wholegrain rice was a really good accompaniment with great flavour.

Gardener’s Pie

This was one of our favourites. A take on a cottage pie with lentils replacing traditional beef mince. In the mix for the filling were also chestnut mushrooms to give a faux meaty element. The sauce on this was was a lovely blend of tomato and red wine.

Gardners Pie Mitchs Kitchen

Smooth mash, made light with soy milk, on top of the pie worked perfectly in tandem with the filling.The pie did take more in the region of 50 minutes to bake rather than the specified 35-40.

Sunkissed Pasta

Pasta can be a victim of the ready meal curse. A fair time in the oven cooking can turn an al-dente strand into mush, sadly that’s how this one ended up.

sunkissed pasta Mitch's Kitchen

There were some good flavours coming from the sun-blush tomato sauce but the texture was a real issue. With artichoke hearts, spaghetti and kale plus brown rice spaghetti all being baked together there is a tendency for them to go a little slimy.

Buckwheat Jambalaya

A nod to the south with this cajun number – an assortment of peppers, ‘chorizo’, saffron and spices all in a buckwheat bowl.

Buckwheat Jambalaya Mitchs Kitchen

Again, the beans were ever-present in the form of butter beans and kidney beans. I worked my way around them and found the flavour lacking in this one compared to others. The slice of lemon on the side had pretty much dried out in the oven.

Moroccan Tagine

I was really excited about this one, a blend of aubergine, courgette, butternut squash and toasted chickpeas. The sauce and garnishes comprised of red lentils, apricots, goji berries, diced mint and tri-colour quinoa rice.

Moroccan Tagine mitch's kitchen

Flavour-wise the dish delivered on the depth of spices found traditionally in good Moroccan cooking. The texture of the slimy aubergine and courgette wasn’t my favourite but the chickpeas and lentils along with the rice really stood out.

Each meal at 450g costs £6.75 with a double portion coming in at £9.98. The service and care that has gone into the packaging and preparation of the meals has got to be admired. For two meat eaters trying these products for the first time, we were pleasantly surprised.

You can order your meals from Mitch’s Kitchen using the link https://mitchskitchen.co.uk/collections/our-meals

AD – Gifted – We were sent six meals in exchange for an honest review.

Cinco de Mayo Healthy Loaded Nachos

14

Cinco de Mayo is fast approaching and very soon mounds of green goodness will be consumed along with the festivities. By green goodness, I am of course referring to guacamole. An essential accompaniment when it comes to loaded nachos.

healthy loaded nachos

Notoriously unhealthy, loaded nachos are not exactly the first thing that come to mind on a healthy diet plan, right? Well, taking inspiration from the superb Joe Wicks, aka The Body Coach, I devised a recipe that is both healthy and delicious.

Tortilla chips, made from scratch, are layered with mozzarella cheese, fajita spiced chicken, pico de gallo, guacamole and sour cream – all the ingredients are readily available from Waitrose.

To serve two people, you will need…..

4 Mini Tortilla Wraps

2 Chicken Breasts, free range ideally

1 Packet of Fajita seasoning

30g Mozzarella, grated

Smoked Paprika, to dust

2 Large Vine Tomatoes, diced

1 Onion, diced finely

Handful of Coriander, plus extra to garnish

1 Chilli, de-seeded and chopped

1 Lime

2 tbsp Sour Cream

2 tbsp Guacamole

Olive Oil, to drizzle

1. Preheat the oven to 170C.

2. Stack the tortillas up on top of each other and cut into triangles, similar to how you would slice a cake. You should end up with 32 triangles.

3. Place the tortilla chips in a bowl and drizzle over around a tablespoon of olive oil. Add a good shake of smoked paprika and season with salt. Toss the tortilla chips in the bowl to coat them with the seasoning.

4. Lay the chips in a single layer on a large non-stick baking tray. Bake for 10 minutes or until slightly golden and crisp.

5. For the pico de gallo, place the diced tomato and onion in a bowl. Add a good squeeze of lime juice and a pinch of salt. Add in the chilli and stir. Leave the flavours to intensify for 5-10 minutes.

6. Turn the oven up to 190C.

7. Place the chicken breasts between two sheets of baking parchment or cling film. Bash the chicken with the flat side of a meat mallet or rolling pin until halved in thickness. Set a non-stick frying pan over a high heat and add a drizzle of olive oil.

8. Liberally dust the chicken breasts with the fajita seasoning and lay them into the pan. Cook for 5-10 minutes per side or until completely cooked through with no pink remaining. Dice into cubes.

9. Layer the tortilla chips up in a baking dish along with the chicken pieces and top with the mozzarella. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes or until the cheese has melted.

10. Load the nachos with the pico de gallo, guacamole and sour cream. Add a sprinkle of chopped coriander to garnish. Dig in and enjoy!

Healthy food has a real association with being boring. This not only tastes great but feels like that one naughty treat. There really is very little between this and an unhealthy version of the same dish.

Cinco de Mayo Nachos
Cinco de Mayo Nachos
Cinco de Mayo Nachos
Cinco de Mayo Nachos
Cinco de Mayo Nachos
Cinco de Mayo Nachos

Celebrate Cinco de Mayo in style, just because you are being good shouldn’t stop you from getting your Mexican fix – vamos!

AD – Gifted Guacamole and gift card to purchase ingredients.

Restaurant Melodie, Bordeaux

2

“Bonjour, je voudrais un table pour….” let me just stop you there. This is Restaurant Melodie, the chances of a walk in spot at this hole in the wall in Bordeaux are virtually nil. Therefore, reservations are an absolute must. We secured ours online and headed to this much talked about restaurant.

Restaurant Melodie, Bordeaux

The reason for the popularity could be due to the pricing of the menu. For just €20 you can enjoy three courses at Melodie and for a handful of euros more, a glass of fine wine. The restaurant well located within a stones throw of the famous Place de la Bourse.

Restaurant Melodie, Bordeaux

Tucked away down a sidestreet, you could easily walk past Restaurant Melodie if you weren’t looking for it. The restaurant is no wider than a corridor with seating all the way down the sides. It’s a cosy place run by very friendly people who speak superb English.

Restaurant Melodie, Bordeaux

Naturally, there’s always one British person that lets the nation down. A smug young man decided to announce his intention to place his order in French rather loudly. The waiter, no doubt disgruntled with having to tend to a full restaurant, patiently waited.

Menu, Restaurant Melodie, Bordeaux

The waiter then played an absolute blinder. The young lad ordered ‘LUH STEAK SIVOO PLAY’ and the waiter replied ‘and how would you like that cooked?’ leaving the man dumbstruck and frantically flicking through his mental phrase book ultimately admitting defeat. Brilliance.

wine menu Restaurant Melodie, Bordeaux

We saved the waiter a lot of hassle by ordering our three courses at the same time. There are three choices per course, all of which sounded delicious. For the starter, I had to go with foie gras terrine with Ali opting for Saint-Nectaire cheese with bacon.

Restaurant Melodie, Bordeaux

The foie gras was buttery and indulgent but the cheese did make me a little jealous. Saint-Nectaire cheese is almost like Camembert, very good when melted with baguette slices on the side to dunk.

Foie gras Restaurant Melodie, Bordeaux

Our wine choice was a very good one indeed. We went for two glasses of Château La Lande from Medoc at €6 each. A beautifully smooth red and superb with my main course – a Parmentier de Canard.

Red Wine, Restaurant Melodie, Bordeaux

I wouldn’t really associate the French with Shepherd’s Pie but this is exactly what it was. A sublime combination of slow cooked confit duck topped with smooth, rich mash with a parmesan tuile for company on the top. Delicious!

Restaurant Melodie, Bordeaux

Across the table there was even more duck. This time a breast of duck with sauce bordelaise. I had really wanted to try the steak version this complete with the famous bordelaise sauce – a sauce made from shallots, red wine and herbs.

Duck Restaurant Melodie, Bordeaux

This sauce was incredible and a perfect partner for the duck. Even better, a top tip is to add a bit of the sauce onto the parmentier so it becomes like Shepherd’s Pie and gravy – yum! The loudmouth across the room even stole that tip as he saw me pouring the sauce over my main.

Restaurant Melodie, Bordeaux

As always in France, desserts are always something to look forward to. I bravely ordered Tarte Tatin, I say bravely because my last experience of Tarte Tatin at La Maison des Tetes in Colmar was less than satisfactory.

Restaurant Melodie, Bordeaux

Thank goodness the folks here at Melodie know how to make a quality apple tart. Caramelised puff pastry and sweet apples with a side of cream, you just can’t beat it. This was one of the best versions from my journeys throughout France.

Restaurant Melodie, Bordeaux

Jealousy once again reared its ugly head as a salted caramel creme brulee landed across the table. The double layer of caramelised sugar provided an audible crack when whacked with a spoon. The set custard underneath was to die for. Smooth and full of flavour, this is the dessert to order.

sea salted creme brûlée Restaurant Melodie, Bordeaux

Full of food and extremely satisfied, we settled the bill and disappeared into the night. I don’t think that there is a better restaurant for value versus quality anywhere in Bordeaux. The reservation process is simple, the staff are wonderful and the food is straightforward delicious. Restaurant Melodie is a solid option when in Bordeaux.

Restaurant Melodie, Bordeaux

Opening Times: Monday & Tuesday – 1900-2230

  Wednesday & Thursday – 1200-1430, 1900-2230

        Friday – Sunday 1200-1430, 1900-2300

Nearest Tram: Porte de Bourgogne (Line C)

Website: www.restaurant-melodie.fr