Bad start, bad finish, thank goodness for the main course

Anybody who has read my earlier recent blogs will know this week has been a foodie stayvacation revisiting some foodie favourites and finding some new ones.

Yesterday the actual ‘birthday’ – the reason for the stayvacation needed a proper Sunday Lunch. Unfortunately I left it too late to book my original choice. The Mews. But I wasn`t too bothered as I had been contemplating somewhere new to us Bourgee, and while reviews were mixed for the restaurant as a whole, the Sunday Lunch had some glorious reviews.

My partner thought we were still going with The Mews and got confused as we carried on walking down the High Street. Tomassi? Nice place but not special  enough for the Foodie Finale. Pipe of Port – nope we don`t go there anymore since they stopped serving real ale. Park Inn – very expensive bar. I joked it might be Feels Good Pasta and Pizza – my partner had taken his girls one day not realising the waiters and waitresses sing and dance – never again.

And so our walk along the front continued until we arrived at Bourgee. The surprise had already fallen flat when my partner commented that the only place he could not think of was the place for ‘beautiful people’. And then as we arrived, one of the ‘beautiful people’ was ‘explaining to her son the error of his ways’ and sharing it with most of Southend :-(. Oh dear.

Still we had booked so……

To be honest the atmosphere was very similar to any carvery I`ve ever been to and had the same high pitch noise. But we were shown to a table that was in a quieter part of the restaurant.

As we were looking at the menus (after having politely declined the olives, bread etc. that we were encouraged to order whilst looking at the menu) I explained (after being asked did we want sparkling or still mineral water, no option given of tap water) as I was saying, I explained that one of the reasons for coming to Bourgee was that so far in our Foodie week we hadn`t had lobster and birthday boy loves lobster. Bourgee promotes itself under the steak and lobster banner so I was hoping for good if not great things. Birthday boy could have a lobster for main course or lobster (lollipops) were a starter. He had set his mind on ‘meat’ for a main course so lobster lollipops it was. After all lobster was part of the restaurant`s trademark so even as a starter it had to be good.

So then we waited and waited. We people watched and decided we could not work out the target audience given the range of people there. And we waited. I worked out that the tables were not to be encouraged in restaurants, they had great big bases so you could not put your feet straight on the ground – not great if you have ‘joint issues’. And still we waited. Yes it was busy but not that busy. And it is a fairly basic menu for Sunday Lunch. Eventually our order was taken, we held our ground and didn`t order extra vegetables. The main course comes with parsnips, carrots and cabbage but it was strongly suggested cauliflower cheese would be good. Nope, 3 vegetables is fine, thank you.

So let`s get this bit over quickly because the rest of the meal was really quite good. Lobster lollipops suck! And that is truly no compliment. Mashed potatoes with the smallest amount of lobster was the verdict. Right, enough verbal ‘bashing’ well until the end.

The house wine – Merlot – was very, very acceptable. I may have been tempted to a more expensive wine if our experience had started off better, but to be honest I don`t think it would have been £10 better. My starter was superb. I`ve just been back onto the website to get the description correct and they`ve changed it since yesterday

The our main course arrived. Josper grilled ribbed steak.  My partner admitted later he had been expecting a thin steak with little flavour. Wrong. It was delicious, well cooked (medium rare as requested) and plenty of it. Plenty of crispy garlic roast potatoes. Good vegetables. Perhaps one of best Yorkshire puds I`ve had and a good amount of gravy. Interestingly they ask if you want salt and pepper. It didn`t need it at all and I do hope the people on the table next to us didn`t spoil their meal too much with the ample covering of salt they gave it.  The horseradish sauce was brilliant, so much so that we commented on it at the end of the meal. Unfortunately it`s not made in their kitchen, it`s a well known brand. Oh well at least it ‘hit the spot’.

We both cleared our plates and all of it was really, really good. Aha now on a roll. Another bottle of wine had already accompanied the main course and the  restaurant was going up substantially in our estimation.

Now I don`t do desserts normally. There are some exceptions and most things with lemon will tempt me big time. Lemon meringue  Ice Cream. Mmmm. Tart. Zesty. That`s what I was looking forward to. Ironically they tried to take our dessert order almost as soon as we had finished our main course. We requested a break and more time. A whole 5 minutes maximum was given!

Presentation was very clever. 3 small portions of ice cream – a cone and flake as ‘garnish’ for each one. Words to use to describe the lemon meringue ice cream? Tart? No! Zesty? No! creamy, sweet and nice if you have sweet tooth. The one scoop I had of chocolate ice cream was sublime and I could have easily quoted from a well known film in terms of really, really enjoying the pleasure.

Coffee wasn`t in our plans and to be honest it wasn`t even offered. And I hate it when a good meal is spoilt by bad coffee and some of the disappointments of Bourgee suggested the coffee may not have ‘pleased’. But long walk back ahead, so visit to the loo required. Eventually by squinting in the poor light I worked out the ladies and luckily I`m fine with snakes but I do not expect that to be greeting me in the ladies loo. of course it wasn`t real but …. Loos clean but NO LOO PAPER. Come on, how often are the loos checked, especially on a Sunday.

So yes we had a great time because we were determined to. There is a shortage of places for a decent Sunday Lunch that we can walk to but if I went again I would only have the main course which is EXCELLENT, and I would make sure I had spare loo roll in my pocket.

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If at first…… Ocean Beach, Southend

This week has been a stayvacation for myself, my partner and our two dogs. We were supposed to be in Devon to celebrate my partner`s birthday but things didn`t go according to plan – not an unusual occurrence in our household. I`ve organised different things for each day – the food/drink element being fairly crucial. Earlier in the week we were supposed to visit either Ocean Beach or Billy Hundreds, but after a long windy walk down the pier, we decided to visit somewhere closer.

Yesterday though I tried again. Success. I gave birthday (week) boy the choice and he rightly chose Ocean Beach. Don’t get me wrong I`ve visited Billy Hundreds before and loved it, but for a relaxing afternoon eating tapas, drinking wine, people watching and looking at the constantly changing estuary (not really an ocean) and beach, it was terrific.

We opted for the decking area which is sheltered by huge windows and I presume a moveable roof. Whilst it was warm enough for us, they did put heaters on for some of the less hardy customers/guests/visitors. At first I was a bit miffed that people on the decking didn`t warrant waitress service but for tapas, it`s ideal that you can go to the bar to order when you want and order seconds or thirds as you feel like it.

We got an ideal table for people watching and while birthday boy made himself comfortable I got the first order in – one very acceptable  bottle of merlot and the first two of many tapas. The staff were very friendly and did offer us straws for the wine – I think they recognised a couple  who were ready to settle in for the afternoon 🙂

ocean beach - let the fun begin

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It`s not just about the food (thank goodness)

A very grey Wednesday in not very sunny Southend and I had planned a day of reasonable walking and staying close to the sea (or estuary) of Southend on Sea. So a brisk walk down the High St and first stop the pier. Now Southend is known for lots of famous things.

Wikipedia description of Southend

But for the purpose of today`s expedition we were concentrating on the Pier. Southend has the longest pleasure pier in the world – over 1.3 miles long and today we walked every single windy step of that 1.3 miles.

Often during the walk there are great views, boats to see, activities you can only guess at. Today there was little to grab the imagination but there was the feel good factor, removing any possible cobweb from the brain, using a town feature that us residents of Southend may take for granted, and just think of all the health benefits.

1.3 miles later we made the end of the Pier and were looking forward to a decent cup of coffee and maybe much deserved cake. I had already planned lunch but that`s a separate blog.

end of pier

Not the weather for great photo

At the end of the Pier is a ‘new building’, I think it`s still called the Cultural Centre and feelings are split over the attractiveness etc. of the building. However it was built with the views across the estuary in mind – as long as you sit outside on the decking. The decking is wonderfully sheltered though and we were happy to sit out, I was even warm enough to take my coat off.

So into the ‘cafe’ with a very limited menu but that`s not necessarily a bad thing. Right coffee! Over time it will become clear to readers that I am fussy about my coffee – I drink it black and with no sugar so I want the basic product to taste good. ‘Is your coffee filter or Americano?’ ‘Nescafe’. So my partner had to make do with instant while I opted for Earl Grey Tea – he doesn`t drink tea so often has to survive on coffee ‘I would rather not drink’.

The basic coffee offer was reflected in the cakes but the Eccles Cakes I chose were perfectly adequate after a long(ish) and windy walk.

The more I reflect on why I enjoy going to places though to eat or drink or both, the more I realise that the ‘enjoyment’ has much more to do with elements such as environment, ambience, people watching, customer service, location etc. And today`s venue scores highly because a gorgeous and feisty bird kept us company – he kept coming back despite swooping seagulls to share our Eccles cake, because the customer service couldn`t be faulted – not her fault to coffee was ….. instant and she didn`t try to hide it and she was impressed we had walked down the Pier, and because we were at the end of the world`s longest Pleasure Pier.

bird at end of pier

One feisty little bird

Sometimes it`s really not just about the food 🙂

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We didn`t get to Devon but we still got our cream tea

A couple of months ago we decided that we would go to Devon for a ‘birthday week’ for my partner. Luckily we didn`t book although we had found the perfect place. Then a ‘canine challenge’ started by way of our rescue English Setter and we reluctantly decided that a ‘stayvacation’ was our best option but I`m determined that we get out and about. Do some things that we can normally only do at the weekends and try some new things.

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Our beautiful but challenging rescue dog

So today we decided to visit Old Leigh,

Old Leigh is an old fishing village in Essex, UK, situated approximately 30 miles east of London, down the River Thames.

This picturesque, historical place, comprises of fishing boats, craft shops, pubs, houses, wharfs, marine industries and cockle sheds which stretch along the shoreline and High Street.

http://www.oldleigh.com/

Neither myself nor my partner like crowds so as much as we love Old Leigh, we try to avoid it in the summer. So a November Monday afternoon was ideal.

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What better place to then visit after a walk than Sara’s Tea Garden.
Our normal visit to the Tea Garden is on a Sunday morning where we enjoy an excellent breakfast – usually a full English using local produce or sometime Eggs Benedict. Just spoilt for choice. The service is always exemplary for us and for any dog visitors – water, dog biscuits – all there. And if it`s a bit chilly – then blankets are available if you want to enjoy the beautiful garden. And they have been known to provide hot water bottles. If we can get to our favourite table then we are often joined by the resident robin.
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The resident robin, not to be seen today but usually around on our Sunday morning visits.

Today though we were too late for lunch so enjoyed a lovely cream tea. Homemade scones, proper clotted cream and fruity jam. Fantastic. We really could have been in Devon. If I was to make just one suggestion – it would be for the teapots to have their own blankets or  tea cosies, just to let me enjoy drinking hot tea in a beautiful setting for a few minutes longer.

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What is a review? (note to self – need sexier title) :-)

The reviews on Foodies by the water are not your traditional reviews – going into great detail of every mouthful because to be honest every mouthful of even the most fantastic meal will taste different to everybody, will  probably taste different according to your mood, what you really wanted to eat that day, what your body is (allegedly) telling you that you need to eat. Yes I want to enjoy my meal but if the customer service is rubbish then the meal goes downhill. If my coffee at the end of the meal is ‘not very good’ then it damages all the ‘positiveness’ I`ve felt for the actual meal.

But (touch wood) I do have so much more choice than some people where their reviews see access as one of the most crucial elements of a good meal and for some if the access doesn`t work there is no visit to a meal.

This was brought home by a blog I`m following and I did feel it brought me down to earth, I may comment that the vegetables were pretty boring, lots of people at the moment are getting very hot under the collar about whether their food is served on wooden boards, slate tiles or plates but what if you can`t even access the restaurant?

As mentioned in a previous blog I`m hoping to visit  The Mews for a very chilled Sunday Lunch. Part of the great atmosphere is that it is in an old converted building with the restaurant on the first floor. Due to its size and construction a lift just is not viable. So the couple we were going to go with cannot attend – at the moment she cannot manage stairs.

So before we all carry on arguing about whether chips (once, twice or thrice cooked) should be served in flower pots or not, let’s get our priorities correct. And thanks to Declan for reminding me to wake up and smell the coffee (see total coffee snob)

https://able2access.wordpress.com/2015/11/06/jacobs-on-the-mall-5-accessibility-stars/

PS And this review does count – it is by the water – Cork – where Jacobs On The Mall is located is built on the River Lee 🙂

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Southend – The Mews – Reblogging great review

It`s been a busy week so not much chance for blogging for the Foodie site. Next week I hope will be different as it`s a birthday week and we were supposed to be going away but a ‘canine challenge’ has meant a change of plans. We will be staying local but I intend to have a Foodie Focus, so I`ve been working out a short list for – afternoon tea, breakfast, dinner and of course (and for this birthday most importantly) Sunday Lunch.

Southend does have some lovely places to eat but a good traditional Sunday lunch within walking distance (Sunday Lunch must include great bottle of  red wine) is more difficult to find. And lo….. there appears….  a very agreeable review of The Mews. I have eaten there a couple of times and apart from a Christmas Office Do, have really enjoyed the food, atmosphere and brilliant customer service. So I`m including the review here and really hope to follow it up with my own review subject to canines, table availability, life and birthday plans 🙂

http://www.leigh-on-sea.com/blog/the-mews-southend-review.html

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Southend – The Fountain

Best intentions for the weekend – a trip up to Paper Mill Lock with the dogs and some lovely homemade soup at the tearooms.

Pthe barge Victoriaaper Mill Lock

But thick fog/mist suggested travelling on the A130 was not a clever idea. So instead we headed to our favourite breakfast haunt on the Southend Seafront. The Fountain

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Hand on heart I haven`t tried all the restaurants/cafes at ‘The Arches’ but we love breakfast at The Fountain. The view is usually great (not today due to fog/mist), they use quality bacon/sausage and bread but then some of the others do too. It`s their bubble and squeak (homemade) and the boss man Ray make this a great start to the day.

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So while Ray is there and his team carry on making great bubble and squeak, it will remain our favourite Arches breakfast venue.

The Fountain Facebook

Back again ……..

Today was a grey, blustery, wet Monday so comfort food needed for lunch.

comfort food

Comfort food for a November grey Monday lunch – chips, steak and mushroom pie and baked beans.

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Southend Pop Up – Sugar Lump Lane

Wearing one of my other hats I was at the Southend Pop Up Vintage Fair this weekend. Some great stalls showcasing bits and pieces from years past. Older people (over 21) commenting “do you remember that”, youngsters not having a clue what some of the things were.

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But this blog is Foodies by the water – clue being in the word Foodies. And wow the Vintage Fair really scored a big win with the Food part of the day – Sugar Lump Lane.

Facebook Sugar Lump Lane

As  you would expect, tea and coffee served in proper teacups and saucers, milk jugs, the usual stuff associated with vintage pop up teashops. Where Sugar Lump Lane scored mega points (apart from an amazingly friendly owner) was the cakes – proper cakes that tempted even me a non-cake eater. Breakfast – a chilli chocolate almond fudge cake.

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As Mr Hollywood would say – well baked. Moist, really really tasty but not sickly. Brill

I was hoping for a tangy orange or lemon type cake for lunch. It was a good job I didn`t leave it too late – the cakes literally went ‘like hot cakes.’

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I was also reliably informed that the carrot cake was top notch and the other chocolate cake which I think was Chocolate Valencia Orange – think piece of chocolate orange, think even better and you`re there.

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Sugar Lump Lane – strongly recommended.

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Plans for the weekend

Objective for this weekend is a visit to Paper Mill Lock. Such a great place – plenty of people watching, imagined stories about who owns the boats, a different walk every time depending on season and weather. And a visit to the Tea Rooms. Cold weather – great homemade soup, warm weather – cream tea. Another place where the staff, usually youngsters here, work their socks off.

Can`t wait.

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Simply Seafood – a great blog/review

It would be lovely to think that in the future I could say I had visited and blogged about all the great foodie places ‘by the water’. But I doubt that will happen due to constraints of time and bank balances 🙂

One place I have wanted to visit is Simply Seafood in Old Leigh, and we did visit it when the original owners ran it. I have to admit though that it was for breakfast and no fish was involved. I do remember though a wonderful hollandaise sauce, and with the toast there was a choice of jam, marmalade and peanut butter. Fantastic.

It seemed such a shock when the restaurant closed, but then we as keen foodies had only been there once. As they say – use it or lose it.

Great to see it has now reopened and I hope this great blog/review will encourage us all to visit Simply Seafood and support local independent restaurants.

http://www.leigh-on-sea.com/blog/simply-seafood-review.html

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