Servicing my coffee addiction

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that the coffee drinking experience at motorway services leaves a lot to be desired. More often then not, I will avoid buying coffee at service stations. Sometimes they get it just wrong. Even with the big chains the quality of the coffee and service can be very different to that of the high street. The environment is often busy and messy, usually I need to clear the table myself!

Having said all that I did have a really nice coffee drinking experience at the independent Gloucester services. I think part of the reason was the fact it was sunny.

Servicing my coffee addiction

For those that don’t know about the new(ish) Gloucester services between junctions 11a and 12 on the M5. Unlike any other motorway service area, they don’t have franchises. They use local produce and have a huge farm shop selling a range of delicious looking food and drink (and crafts). They also have a eatery, called the “Kitchen” where food and drink can be purchased.

I ordered a flat white and enjoyed drinking it outside on the terrace by the lake in the sun.

Now that was a nice coffee drinking experience.

Time for a scone…

…with cream and jam.

Scone with cream and jam

I can never remember which way you should do the cream and jam when having a scone. I know that it is different in Devon to the way that it is done in Cornwall. One of them puts the jam down first, then the cream; the other puts the cream down first and then the jam!

I know I could use the Google to find this out, but I am not sure that even if I did I would remember. The real question is does it really matter, especially when you are in Somerset?

Last week I spent a lovely day in the sun exploring Dunster Castle and its grounds.

Dunster Castle

This is a National Trust property in West Somerset close to Minehead. I have been before, twice, the first time was in the 1990s, but when I arrived, the group I was they baulked at the entry prices and we left pretty sharpish to have fish and chips on the beach in nearby Minehead.

I did go in May last year, I had just received a National Trust membership as a birthday present, but our visit was cut short as one of my children wasn’t feeling well, so we left early. We had promised ourselves that we would visit again. So just under a year later we were back.

I do enjoy exploring these huge old houses, they have a certain charm and remind ourselves of a time when life was more sharply divided that it is today. Always an element of jealously as well as we see these huge bedrooms that have space, in one example at Dunster, a bed, a sofa, dressing table and a breakfast table with four chairs! I remember thinking that the library at Tyntesfield was bigger than our house!

After exploring the house, time to explore the gardens, which are mainly on steep slopes, so the paths go back and forth. However if you can find your way to the old water mill then you can find the National Trust tea room. This is not the most pretty of tea rooms, the one at Barrington Court for example is really lovely, very old-fashioned room with wooden panels and comfortable chairs and wooden tables. The tea room at Dunster was not as welcoming or as warm as others I have been in. For me the whole tea room experience is not just about the food and drink, it’s also about the environment, the feel, the room, the furniture, even the lighting.

Of course, if you find yourself in the tearoom then it’s time for tea and a scone. Oh and then photograph it and post it to the Twitter.

You never know who will respond to your tweets, but this one resulted in a reply from @nt_scones

I don’t remember how I encountered @nt_scones on the Twitter, but what a great idea (and motivation) for visiting the different National Trust places.

They not only talk about their own scone experiences but also comment and re-tweet other people’s too. They also now have a book out.

As I said in my tweet, the scone was a little dry, but was still very nice. The NT jam was nice and though I think it’s a terrible luxury, I do enjoy getting the jam in the small individual jars. There is also the nice clotted cream too. I did enjoy the tea and it did some in a proper china teapot and not one of those awful metal teapots which always dribble down the spout.

Overall a nice cream tea, but not that traditional tea room experience that I have come to enjoy when visiting National Trust properties.

Smoking…

The sun was shining and it was the right time to head off down to the Temple Quay market in Bristol.

Smoke Catering were there with their big smoker and their choice of Texan style smoked meats. There was beef brisket and pulled pork.

After very little thinking time I went with the BBQ Box from the top of the menu. The box contained homemade slaw, garlic mash and beans. On top of the box was some smoked beef brisket, smoked beef rib and a smoked pork and chilli sausage.

As it was such a lovely day, the place to eat this was in Harratz Place on the quayside.

I have had their food before, and the slaw, mash and beans were just as nice as they were the last time I had them. The mash was smooth and creamy with a hint of garlic, no bitterness or harshness. The slaw was fresh and crunchy. The beans spicy and full of flavour. The smoked beef brisket was tender and delicious, it was melt in the mouth. I like the tender beef and the crunch of the barbecued outside.

Smoke Catering 9h Beef Brisket

The beef rib was nice, only a small slice, and I would liked to have more of this. The sausage was meaty and tasty, the chilli enhanced the flavour and didn’t overpower.

It was more than I usually spend on lunch and I think for the price I would have liked a slightly bigger portion dog the barbecued meat.

Overall this was a really nice lunch.

Sitting on the dock of the bay…

Sitting on the dock of the bay…

There is something really nice about having a wide choice of places to get your lunch and then sitting on the riverside in the sun, watching the world go by.

There is something extra special when that happens during what most people would call a winter month, when the norm is to run indoors and turn the central heating up.

There is something extra extra special when the food you are eating is perfection on a plate (well perfection in a box).

It was one of those days.

The Thursday market at Temple Quay is one of my favourite places for lunch. There is always an exciting and tempting range of places to get some delicious food. After the nightmare that was Doris (the storm) and the cancellation of the market the previous Thursday I was pleased to be able to go this week. As usual there was a wide choice, I did quite fancy the idea of the barbecue box from Low N Slow and the Jerk Chicken Wrap from Biblos looked very tempting. However I do make the point of checking out every stall to see what there is before making my final choice (okay virtually every time).

As I walked around and turned the corner there was the squid place, the one where I had the really nice squid a few months back. This was Audacious Squid who do a lovely dish of crispy squid. Well I enjoyed it last time, so guess who ordered the squid?

There were three dishes on the menu, the Sweet Chilli Squid (which I had last time), Smokey Chilli Squid (which was new) and a Squid Ink Bun with Crispy Squid.

I always try and have something new, so though I enjoyed the Sweet Chilli squid last time, I went with the Smokey Chilli Squid. This is cooked for you in front of you with care and passion. You can see the intensity of the chefs as they bring your dish together. They were cooking to order and dish after dish of freshly cooked squid was being served, then it was my turn and I got my box of squid.

Smokey Chilli Squid

The dish comprises freshly cooked crisp squid with ‘slaw, baby corn and picked vegetables. It looked fantastic, fresh salad, crispy squid, chorizo and the tantalising pickled vegetables.

Rather than take it back to the office, which is the norm for me, and as it was actually sunny and rather nice, I sat “on the dock of the bay” and ate my squid. Well is was in Harratz Place next to Temple Quay.

The sun was shining and it was really nice eating outside in March!

As for the squid, well this was delicious. The batter was crispy, the squid was tender, almost melt in the mouth. The slaw was crunchy and fresh. I really liked the pickled vegetables. I am not sure how smokey the smokey chilli was, but it was quite nice.

Overall it was a delicious dish of squid, it was perfection on a plate (well perfection in a box).

Hey EasyJet do you know what an espresso is?

Hey EasyJet do you know what an espresso is?

Flying with EasyJet I knew that when I asked for an espresso that was highly unlikely to be a proper espresso. The kind that is made with high pressure nearly boiling water through coffee grounds. That kind wouldn’t be done on a plane, there are probably safety issues. This kind was made from a packet, an instant espresso, well one with fine coffee grounds in it.

Having said that I was a little perplexed and surprised when I was asked if I wanted milk with my espresso.

Ah, I think not.

This happened both on the outward and the return flights.