Seahouses, Northumberland


Originally uploaded by Mr_Chips

A Review
A mixture of old harbour with new tourists. On the one side, fishing boats, lobster traps and ropes. On the other hand fish and chips, bucket and spades and the worst of British tourism. Our cottage for the week is on the older side of the town so it is a short walk down to the harbour where the eider duck waddle ashore and stand around preening themselves.
In the old harbour huddle the fishing and tourist boats protected from the rough seas outside where the waves break over the rocks in dramatic fashion. Seagulls make themselves busy picking up the remains of the fish and chips that get left around. Herring gulls are the most boisterous, fighting each other for every morsel. The black headed gulls are smaller and behave like first formers around the school bullies. They delicately nip around picking up pieces that the big boys have missed. Meanwhile small crowds of starlings and house sparrows busy themselves around collecting nesting material.
Look out over the harbour wall towards the Farne islands. The light from the lighthouse breaks through the mist. In front of the harbour wall are the rocks known as the Tumblers. A low plateau of rocks which makes up the whinstone – igneous rock, resistant to erosion.

The harbour was built in 1889 to cater not just for the fishing trade. The lime kilns were also built here right by the harbour and are now used by the lifeboat people for storage. The lime industry was important because as farming intensified from the 18th century, lime was more in demand as it increased the fertility of the soil.

Although there are plenty of places to eat to cater for all tastes and pockets we liked the atmospheric pub; The Olde Ship Inn. One of the smallest bars in England full of fishing memorabilia. There was another bar where you could eat and a separate dining room. It was bar food but good. I had mussels as a starter and a game pie with tasty potatoes and vegetables. It was wholesome and fresh. Washed down with a pint of Lindisfarne ale. The room is a little on the small side so you can hear everyone’s conversation but hey…

There are some splendid shops and services. The community centre has internet access for a small charge and the Bakers is a delight. Trotters sells some delicious cheese scones and quiches that are just the thing for a rough boat ride across to the The Farnes.

Seahouses is where the boats to the Farne Islands go from so if you are planning a trip out there it is handy to stay in the port. We had to wait all week for a trip because the sea was too rough. It was worth it to see the puffins and other seabirds.


Rose and Crown, Saunderton, Buckinghamshire

We went on The Times offer of a £10 menu. Apparently this is good place for food but this restricted menu perhaps wasn’t a show case of the best. I was still tired after a week back at work on the back of an exhilarating camping trip to Yorkshire. Sleet and snow were the norm and I hadn’t really recovered so as the evening went on I spiraled down into listening and not talking.
However, the swede soup was one of the tastiest I ever had, only spoiled by the idea of ‘crusty bread’ which was just blotting paper from the supermarket.
I had sausages and mash which was just that with a tasty gravy. The pudding was a delight – cheesecake with summer fruits. Quite rich but satisfying after a hard days work.
There was no ruibos tea – why do restaurants not supply this? So I had a pot of ordinary. It would be interesting to go back and try out the normal food. For £10 this was good value but nothing much to blog about.

The Harbour restaurant, Bowmore – Isle of Islay, Scotland

Port Ellen rainbow

Originally uploaded by Mr_Chips

The restaurant is just off the quay and very tempting on a wild windy night on the Island. The view of open fires and congenial atmosphere beckons through the windows and the blue sign hanging above the door wafts too and fro in the night air. Once inside we sprawl over a comfy settee in the lounge and turn our backs on the harbour lights to see what’s going on inside. Two large family groups were making friends and chatting and with a couple of stellas in our hands we looked through the menu. I went for the mussels from Loch Etive steamed in white wine with saffron, garlic and cream(£6.95) whist Mrs Rambler went for the smoked salmon and cream fraiche with herb sauce(£7.50). I decided to stick with the fish theme and opted for the grilled Sea bass with olive oil, onion garlic tarragon and roasted peppars(£18.50). Mrs RR went for the scallops on a vegetable basket of celeriac puree on lemon and buerre blanc (£19.95). A half bottle of Muscadet sevre and maine 2005, Chateau de la penission(9.85) seemed the appropriate accompaniment.
Whilst we waited we looked at the Birds of Islay book nestling under the coffee table and admired the brilliant pictures within that I hoped to aspire to with my camera. The family group wished one of their number a Happy Birthday and as it was Mrs Rambler’s birthday as well we almost joined in.
After we finished our drinks we were taken into the compact dining room and I really enjoyed my starter. The mussels were tasty and although small there were plenty to satisfy as a starter. The sauce wasn’t too creamy either so a total success. The smoked salmon was strange as it came unusually as a slab and was a little disappointing.
My main course of sea bass was a hearty meal. There were generous tasty fillets that went well with the peppars and sauce. There were plenty of boiled potatoes served in a separate dish to accompany the fish. The scallops were also good and looked good on the basket of vegetables and the celeraic puree was delightful. I mashed some of the potatoes into the sauce at the end of the meal to make an excellent finish.
We were both rather full so although I was tempted by hot chocolate and ginger souffle garnished with strawberries and basil ice cream and other delights including a large cheese board we resisted. As we were next to the Bowmore whisky distillery there was also a range of coffee and whisky delights on offer but the problem of driving home meant that this too had to be shelved.

5 stars to the Harbour Inn although a little pricey.

Eight at the Thatch, Thame

We were taken to this new restaurant run by the winners of the BBC competition – “The Restaurant” judged by Raymond Blanc. I had high expectations of this place so I was hoping it was going to live up to my expectations.
It was raining outside and so it was with some relief that I ducked through the low beamed door into the hub-bub inside. We sat down with some drinks in the lounge which was a little too dark to read the menus, I wish I had bought my torch.
The menu was tricky, I couldn’t decide whether to have the roasted halibut with black eyed beans or the Confit duck leg with crushed new potatoes, black olive and orange zest jus. Well the duck won rather reluctantly and I thought I would have the chicken liver pate on toasted sourdough with apple and cider compote and onion marmalade.
Meanwhile we were shown to our table in the crowded restaurant and we were given some bread that looked as though it had been recyled. It was torn into strips and bits. The waiter kindly changed it for some fresh.
The pate was good and went especially well with the onion marmalade although less well with the apple and then I was looking forward to the main course.
Our hosts had steak which to his annoyance was served on a board with no plate. We ordered a side order of spinach although I was annoyed by this – why can’t the main course have vegetables served with it?
The duck was very good and the new potatoes were crushed – why? The spinach was over done and didn’t really do anything for the dish and I couldn’t taste the jus at all so it felt rather ordinary and unexciting.
We grilled the waitress for some gossip. Jane – was off work having a baby and Jeremy was with her so I think most of the influence in the kitchen is from Raymond Blanc although it didn’t really show except for the slick service.
For pudding I had rhubarb, apple and amaretto crumble. The amaretto came in a glass although I would have preferred some yoghurt. The crumble was too sweet, didn’t seem to have any rhubarb and was disappointing.
We had a really good evening though, the conversation flowed and it was a pleasant place to be. Just a shame the food didn’t live up to my expectations.


I see the news is out that Jeremy and Jane have quit the restaurant and are heading back to Cornwall to set up their own restaurant. I wonder where it all went wrong. Could it be they didn’t like the pub / restaurant set up? Maybe they didn’t like being managed. Good luck for the Cornish adventure.

River Cafe

River Cafe
Originally uploaded by Mr_Chips

My only knowledge of the River cafe was that it was where Jamie Oliver served his apprenticeship so I was very excited to be taken there by Mrs Chips’ catering company. They are so nice they even laid on a car to take us all up to London and back.
It was a cold windy evening by the Thames so the buzzy atmosphere inside was most welcoming. We stood at the long mirrored bar having a drink whilst waiting for out table. I caught some glimpses up towards the seating area where there was a large projected clock and an open oven in the wall.
Over talks and drinks I surveyed the menu and decided to go for the Insalata dal Mercato di Milano which is a mixture of sweet and bitter winter leaves that they bring in every week from Milan market. I decided to follow that with turbot as I have taken a liking to fish recently and my mother said that turbot was her favourite.
We were taken to our table which had a good view into the kitchen although the chefs work behind a long serving bar so you can see what goes on as we dived into some tasty Italian bread with virgin olive oil.
My salad was delicious with its balsamic vinegar and selvapiana 2007 extra virgin olive oil dressing and left me looking forward to the main course. The others had split roasted Scottish langoustines stuffed with garlic and parsley and I tried some and they were fresh and succulent.
My turbot was wood roasted with lemon and marjoram with slow cooked fennel and Italian spinach and it was a great combination of tastes. The fennel goes so well with the turbot and the spinach is such a no nonsense accompaniment. There were no heavy creamy sauces that one gets so often in smart restaurants. It simply wasn’t needed. Although we did need some fruity yet light pinot noir red wine and lashings of tap water.
I had a cleansing lemon tart for pudding and the others had pannacotta with grappa and champagne rhubarb. That’s a type of rhubarb, by the way.
We had a tasty cheese board with some wonderful dolcelatte among other offerings. I looked around and realised that we were the last in the restaurant. I have to say that it was the best food and best ambiance I have ever enjoyed. All the waiters and waitresses were delightful and were happy to answer all our questions and seemed very satisfied with their jobs and this made for an excellent evenings entertainment so I can heartily recommend this cafe by the river. The prices are reasonable – £27 – £30 for a main course. A definite 5 star rating.

Plough and Sail

Sculpture at Thorpeness
Originally uploaded by Mr_Chips

Snape Maltings

Telephone: 01728 688413

It was a cold foggy evening in February that we ate at the Plough and Sail. Its in a complex with tea shops and the world famous Maltings Concert hall. The pub is a spacious place with a modern dining room. There was jolly crowd of locals at the bar and enough people in the restaurant to make it welcoming. The polished wood floors and pictures of the Maltings through history were quite inviting and there were some enticing specials on the boards. Seabass and other local fish dishes but on a cold night there were other temptations…
We ended up with Steak and kidney pie and I had Irish stew. The Irish stew was delicious, lovely tender lumps of meat offset with dumplings and vegetables. All washed down with a pint of southwold ale. We didn’t have room for puddings so had to leave it there and we headed off into the fog completely replete.

The Old Forge Restaurant, Rye

My favourite restaurant in Rye (but now taken over I am afraid so this review is out of date until I can get there again ). Its tucked away around on Wish Street, its been going for ever and the owner holds forth in the middle of the dining room from where he can keep an eye on things and makes sure that the friendly efficient service is always up to scratch. Booking is essential otherwise you may be disappointed.

What’s on the menu? Well -its good country cooking – pheasant casserole, seasonal vegetables, excellent seafood – we had some delicious halibut! There are some tasty puddings – on the simpler side – sorbets and ice creams. Next time I shall make some more detailed notes.

There is a good wine list and is all reasonably priced.