Dinner at the Cley windmill

Cley windmill

Originally uploaded by Mr_Chips

The windmill is in a superb position on the edge of the salt marshes in North Norfolk. You can stay there and it is also open for dinner so I couldn’t wait to book in.
When you arrive you are shown into the sitting room. It is a cosy room with a fire going in the wood burning stove. There are old books in the bookcases, some cosy sofas and the hexagonal walls have small windows looking out onto the night sky.
According to the literature, if you go there in the summer you can stand out on the balcony looking over the marshes but it was blowing a gale outside and in fact I felt more like I was in a lighthouse than a windmill.
There is a set course menu so no choices to be made but we were shown a wine list to order something to drink for dinner but strangely we were not offered a pre prandial drink. Instead we had a glass of Merlot each to drink and then to take in to dinner.
The room is small so you are almost forced to talk to the other guests. They were a convivial bunch. A couple who had retired to the village and a couple who had got married here last year and were back again. You can hire out the whole place and I think quite a few people use it for wedding receptions.
According to the waitress, the owner was coming for dinner as well with his family and when he arrived he went and poked the fire around in a proprietorial manner although it was difficult to talk as we knew who he was but he didn’t know that we knew …anyway it was soon time to go into the candlelit dining room.
The starter was very tasty and served by the two pleasant waitresses. Smoked chicken and rocket salad was then followed by pork with mashed potatoes and red cabbage with a selection of vegetables. This was rather ordinary and seemed rather like a catering product than home cooked fresh cooking but maybe I am doing them an unjustice. The Chocolate and orange pavola was a bit too sweet for me. The ambiance however won over. The candle lights, low beamed ceiling and intimate atmosphere makes it a very pleasant and unusual place to eat. Do try it.


Snape Maltings

Beach sculpture

Originally uploaded by Mr_Chips

Everyone seems to be writing about Snape Maltings so I thought I ought to pen somethings because it is the strangest of places.
Coming out of the wilderness of Suffolk to Snape is like travelling through the snow of Norway and finding yourself in Santa’s grotto, almost. I often think of Suffolk as the best wilderness of England. Remote coastal heaths and marshes with spectacular birds. Where else can you see a bittern and a group of bearded tits in one morning? In the afternoon you can wander around Dunwich heath and see red deer. Maybe spend a week on the Walberswick marshes looking out for barn owls or wandering along the remote eleven mile shingle spit that is Orford Ness.
Then you go to Snape to visit the The Maltings. What a strange name and redolent of music and Radio broadcasts – “Welcome to the Aldeburgh Festival and tonight’s concert is broadcast live from The Snape Maltings…” From seeing no-one to being with everyone, that is the Zen of the place. The place is packed on a Sunday afternoon. There are gift shops, book shops, art galleries and a kitchen shop so huge and throbbing with people it seems as if the entire county’s population is packed into one place. All the papers write about the lush restaurant but the Ravenous Rambler doesn’t have time for such indulgences and retreats to the tea shop. Here, buxom waitresses serve home made cakes and sandwiches with lashings of tea and hot water. The seating area is surrounded by art and photography which gives me a great feeling of inner warmth. There is seating outside too but it’s too cold even if the sun is shining.
It’s worth a visit as it is so unusual but it is being built up even more outside. The old maltings are being turned into luxury homes for the very rich who can afford an extra holiday home. Maybe just pop by on your way back home on a Sunday afternoon

The Black Venus, Challacombe, Devon

River Barle on Exmoor

Originally uploaded by Mr_Chips

A delightful pub on Exmoor and ideally placed if you go walking up to Pinkery Pond. I went with D&J on a wet wintry night but there was a warm cosy welcome inside and we were soon drinking some ale and looking at the blackboard menu being careful not to bump our heads on the low beams.
We all had the home made beef and ale pie with flaky pastry. They were served with home cooked vegetables – delicious fresh leeks and carrots. There was a choice of chips or potatoes. I went for the potato option and it was a relief to have good fresh cooked food that hadn’t been messed about with. There were many temptations on the menu. As well as some good starters there was Exmoor Beast – gammon steak. The lamb shank with redcurrant sauce and rosemary looked very tempting.
For pudding I had the plum crumble with custard that went down very well with a cup of tea to finish. I heartily recommend it.

Hand book journal

Hand book journal

Originally uploaded by Mr_Chips

hand*book journal co.
The ravenous rambler was taking a ramble around Oxford today and of course I went into the ‘the little gallery’ (Broad Street) to stock up on some art supplies. At the counter I made an exciting discovery! There they were just sitting on the counter as though waiting for me to call in. Green, blue and red in their cellophane wrappers. How could I resist some hand*book journals! I bought some small 3.5” x 5.5” pocket size versions and some larger 5.5” x 8.25 “ books. They both have 128 pages of 100% acid free heavyweight paper. I have the landscape ediition but there were portrait and square versions as well.
The small books are like the moleskines except the covers are a rather lovely clothe texture with an elastic enclosure and pretty ribbon bookmark. There is a little envelope in the back (like the moleskin) although it is not as classy as the moleskine version.
I prefer the paper to the moleskines. It has a better tooth so the water colour goes on well. I have tried out pen and ink using my Staedtler 0.05 pens and this works very well. So we shall have to wait for some more testing in the field to see how it operates. The books are thicker than moleskines and this might be the limiting factor for travelling.
Do leave a comment if you are using these stylish sketch books and if you prefer them to the legendary moleskines.

The No 1 Ladies Opera House, Botswana

Baobab in Botswana

Originally uploaded by Mr_Chips

The Ravenous Rambler is a fan of the No 1 Ladies Detective series and is delighted to hear about the new Opera house that has been set up in Botswana by Alexander McCall Smith, the author of the series.
I taught in the bush of Botswana for a couple of years and every morning I was treated to the beautiful singing of the students at assembly. Apart from the morning they burnt the boarding house down, but that’s another story…
The new Opera House has been set up in Gaborone, the capital city and the building is an old garage. There is a delightful cafe and I am really looking forward to another trip to the Southern hemisphere to find out more. Then I can sit under the shade of the trees enjoying a ravenous rambler breakfast.
Why not find out more from the website.

Cedar House Rules – a review of the Cedar Cafe in Marlow

11 November

Originally uploaded by Mr_Chips

Marlow is a delightful old town in Buckinghamshire on the Thames. There is a great regetta here to rival the more famous Henley Regetta just up river. There are some delightful shops but the question is, where to go for coffee. There is a Costa coffee and Starbucks but in my quest to find independent coffee shops I refuse to go into these chains.
Down near the river there is the quaint Burgers Patisserie if you would like a more formal occasion but I like the small Cedar Coffee shop up in West Street. There is a window seat and then the rest of the seating is at the back adjoining the alternative treatment shop which shares the same entrance.
As I go in, I am confronted by the bar where there is a huge choice of cakes and other delights, including the exceptionally pretty waitress. She took my order and then I sat myself down in the corner to relax and have my treats brought to me.
I had a lovely cup of coffee and a couple of slices of brown toast with marmalade. There was gentle music playing away and low murmur of chat from the other customers. I didn’t like the commercial pictures on the wall – maybe they would like some of mine? A shame there was no view but you can’t have everything. I paid on my way out – they are very trusting and then smirked at the poor loosers in Costa’s as I rambled on my way.

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.