Well, that was nice, a sweet memory!

I don’t know about you, but I quite like those quirky independent cafes and coffee places.

In Newcastle for a meeting, we went for lunch in one of these, it did have a slightly bizarre name, Sweet Memories at Study Café. Various tables and chairs with bright coloured walls, interesting artwork across the walls provides the quirky environment which you don’t find in the high street chains (even when they try to do that like Coffee#1).

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It also has a slightly bizarre attitude to the menu, with a load of lovely vegetarian and vegan options, along with a range of breakfast dishes that include bacon and sausages! You can see the vegan scones and cakes in the window, I do wonder if they might annoy vegans and vegetarians who might not want to eat at a place that serves bacon. Likewise those who are not vegetarian might not consider the place, because they may think it serves just vegan food from the window displays. Having said all that, it was quite busy!

Looking over the menu, I was quite tempted by the eggs Florentine, but it did feel a little bit too close to breakfast and I had had eggs for breakfast. So I went with the mushrooms and halloumi in pitta bread served with salad.

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I really enjoyed the mushrooms which were cooked well and full of flavour. Likewise the halloumi was nicely cooked and just how I like it. Alas the pitta bread was cold and stale, it could have been so much better if it had been warmed or even toasted. The salad was tasty and refreshing drizzled with a balsamic glaze.

If I don’t write to empty my mind, I go mad!

I have been to a few of these new “gastro” burger places and have enjoyed most of them. In Newcastle overnight for a meeting the next day, myself and a colleague from work were looking for a place for a bite to eat. We chose Byron.

We were given a warm welcome from the staff and given a really nice table by the window. It’s quite a large place and for a Tuesday night I thought it was quite busy. It’s a relatively smart décor combined with a warm atmosphere made it quite a pleasant place to be on a cold wintery evening.

Looking over the menu, I decided that I didn’t really fancy beef or chicken, so went with one of the vegetarian options.

This was a grilled Portobello mushroom, with goat’s cheese, roasted red pepper, baby spinach, tomato, red onion and aioli. Served in a squishy bun.

I had it alongside some fries and the house salad.

The burger was nice and full of flavour. The combination of ingredients worked well and it was very tasty.

The fries were crisp, hot and fresh, maybe a little too much salt, I prefer my fries without salt.

The salad was a nice simple salad, alas it was overdressed, I would have preferred it with the dressing on the side.

Overall a really nice meal, great service and nice environment. It was quite a limited menu, it’s just burgers, but if you are looking for a burger then why not have a look.

Spicy!

If you live in Bristol you’ve probably heard of Chilli Daddy and you may have even eaten there. They have relatively recently taken on a stall in the St Nicholas Market and as that is a regular haunt of mine for lunch, I have been thinking about eating there for a while. When they first arrived in St Nicks I did find the menu somewhat confusing, since then they have appeared to simplify it.

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On my most recent visit to St Nick’s the staff from Chilli Daddy were offering free samples of fried spicy chicken, pepper chicken and mini spring rolls. All very nice and tasty. Though what I didn’t see was where they were on the menu!

Looking over the menu, I decided that noodles would be a messy affair so went with a rice dish, the Paojiao Chicken Rice Box.

So the dish didn’t look like the picture, well it was a square box.

Paojiao Chicken Rice Box.

The dish was mainly rice with ground chicken with some vegetables and some peanuts. The pajiao was Sichuan pickled chili pepper. This was a very interesting dish and I did find it both tasty and spicy. Even though I went for the level 2 spiciness it was still quite a hot spicy dish, I don’t really want to imagine how hot a level 5 dish would be.

…but you don’t like it!

Kingston upon Thames

Down in London for a family visit, it was time for lunch. Kingston has a lot of wonderful places to eat, however with young children we chose Zizzi, partly as one wanted pizza and the other is gluten-free (and Zizzi do a nice gluten free pizza).

It was a Saturday lunchtime and the place looked packed standing outside, I didn’t hold out much hope that we would be able to get a table, especially as we hadn’t booked. However the branch of Zizzi in Kingston has an upstairs, which was a lot less crowded and we able to easily find a table for the seven of us. I quite liked the nautical theme of the decoration and furniture.

Zizzi in Kingston

I do like the rustica style pizza at Zizzi and have had their Carnosa before which I enjoyed. Going over the menu I was tempted to have the Carnosa again, but saw the new Rustica Pizza Pulled Pork Roma. This was described as slow-cooked pulled pork and crispy crackling on a white base of Fior di Latte and smoked mozzarella with pepperoni, sunblush tomatoes, thyme & smoked chilli jelly.

Rustica Pizza Pulled Pork Roma

I almost always avoid menu items with pulled pork in them, as I don’t like it. They usually contain a sticky sweet barbecue sauce, from the menu description it was apparent that this pizza didn’t. I should point out I wasn’t certainly expecting any kind of authentic Italian experience here either.

I like how they use the term, Fior di Latte mozzarella to make it sound exotic and authentic, what it actually means this is cheap mozzarella made from cow’s milk and not the buffalo milk that “proper” mozzarella is made from. However when it comes to topping a pizza, I don’t believe it makes too much difference when it comes to flavour. I do though think it’s amusing they are using the Italian terminology to make the pizza appear more “authentic”.

The rustica style pizza is a stretched pizza base, which is more authentic than most pizza you can buy, it’s also similar to the Romana style pizze you can get Pizza Express. I like the crisp and texture of this pizza. I liked the crunchiness of the crackling and tasty pork. The other toppings all added to the overall experience.

I did enjoy this pizza and found it a delicious combination of tastes and textures.

The service was friendly and fast, however though I ordered a starter, it never arrived, the waiter had forgotten to put it through to the kitchen!

The other starter arrived just as we started to eat it, all the main courses arrived, it was bread, so less of an issue, but even so…

So, nice environment, great pizza and okay service. Even if it is busy, you should still as a restaurant be able to manage, I was expecting Saturday lunchtime to be busy, so should Zizzi.

Another visit….

the view from Waterloo Bridge

Back in London for a meeting and needing a bit for lunch, I did consider where I should go for lunch, and if I should go somewhere new, but did like the idea of Wahaca again. It wasn’t that long since I had been, but I had really enjoyed that meal. So off I went, over Waterloo Bridge to the South Bank to partake in some Mexican street food. So once more I went to the Street Food section of the menu to make some choices.

I hadn’t had quesadillas before so chose one from the menu. These are large toasted tortilla oozing with melting mozzarella, chorizo and potato. This is British chorizo, made to a special recipe, with diced sauteéd potatoes and fresh thyme.

Quesadillas Large toasted tortilla oozing with melting mozzarella and classic Mexican ingredients.  British chorizo, made to our own special recipe, with diced sauteéd potatoes and fresh thyme.

The large tortilla is folded and then cut into two. I did initially think that I had been given the wrong dish, as I didn’t think there was much potato or chorizo in the dish. There was more in the second though. I did enjoy the quesadilla it was nice and spicy.

My other dish was the smoky tomato fideus. These were east coast Mexican angel hair noodles in a chipotle tomato sauce, with sliced fresh avocado, capers & crumbled Lancashire cheese and topped with a touch of hand picked white Devon crab meat.

Smoky tomato fideus East coast Mexican angel hair noodles in a chipotle tomato sauce, with sliced fresh avocado, capers & crumbled Lancashire cheese, topped with a touch of hand picked white Devon crab meat. #wahaca

This was a much larger dish than I thought it was going to be. When Wahaca recommend 2-3 dishes, I usually go with three, but if this is one of them, then I think you can get away with just two, even if you are hungry.

This is very much thin noodles in a tasty spicy tomato sauce. I liked the avocado and cheese. There was a nice topping of crab, which to my surprise was chilled and hadn’t had a chance to warm up. I did like this dish and it was full of flavour, and something I wouldn’t expect in an Mexican eatery.

For my third dish, I did order a dish I had before, and went once more with the tacos, three toasted soft corn tortillas with flash grilled skirt steak with chipotle salsa. They also came with raw diced onion and some guacamole.

Tacos flash grilled skirt steak with chipotle salsa with crisp grilled cheese

These were very generous filled with steak, more than I have had when I had these tacos before. These were delicious, I really enjoyed the chargrilled steak and the different textures and flavours.

The service was excellent, friendly, efficient and lots of smiles.