Friday, 13 December 2013

Great Bristol Cake Off

Jack FM in Bristol are running 'The Great Bristol Cake-off' looking for the best cupcake in Bristol. I thought I'd enter for fun so cobbled together a recipe and sent it off.

Had a call yesterday and I'm one of the five finalists! I have to compete in a bake-off tomorrow with an hour and a half to bake and decorate 6 cupcakes. Argh! 

Only problem is that I've NEVER baked these cakes before so it'll be down to test batches tonight after work. Wish me luck!

Friday, 22 November 2013

Everyone loves a macaron...

I normally make big things. A big, rustic loaf of bread. A big joint of beef. A big mess... you get the idea. I thought I'd go for refinement this week though and knock up a batch of macarons. 

I adore macarons - I've been fortunate enough to go to Laduree on the Champs Elysee to sample them and could literally wolf down a dozen of the chewy, crispy morsels in one go if it wouldn't cripple my wallet. I've never made them though but have seen dozens of people do them on TV so thought I'd have a go. 

175g icing sugar
125g ground almonds
3 large free range egg whites
75g caster sugar

1) Preheat the oven to 160°C/fan140°C/gas 3. Sift the icing sugar and almonds into a bowl.

2) In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt to soft peaks, then gradually whisk in the caster sugar until thick and glossy. I also added some food colouring and cherry flavouring - you can add almost any flavour, just remember to avoid oil based flavourings as this will destroy the integrity of the meringue.

3) Fold half the almond and icing sugar mixture into the meringue and mix well. Add the remaining half, and fold the mixture until it is shiny and has a thick, ribbon-like consistency as it falls from the spatula. Spoon into a piping bag fitted with a 1cm plain nozzle.

4) Line 2 baking sheets with baking paper. Pipe small rounds of the macaroon mixture, about 3cm across (I drew round a pot of bicarb to give me guide lines to pipe to), onto the baking sheets. Give the baking sheets a sharp tap on the work surface to get rid of any air bubbles. Leave to stand at room temperature for 20-30 minutes to form a slight skin. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool.

5) Fill the macarons and sandwich together - I use passionfruit and lemon curd but you could use buttercream, jam or ganache

For a first effort they turned out pretty well - crispy and chewy, although I wasn't too pleased with the colour. However, winging their way to me is a set of Wilton colour pastes so I can get a really intense colour next time. (That's a mini cake stand in the pic, I haven't made giant macarons!)





Monday, 11 November 2013

Get out of bed bread

How many times do TV chefs bang on about making your own bread and how easy it is? Of course they're right - it IS easy and I love doing it but often I just don't have the time. I used to have a sourdough starter. In fact, the first few posts on this blog are about it but I rarely got to make a loaf with it. It wasn't practical for me to make one during the week when I was at work as it would have over-proved and if I was out of the weekend it wouldn't get a look in then, either.

I have since discovered the absolute joy of soda bread. I don't have kids but I imagine it would be fab to do with them as not only is it ridiculously simple but it's so quick - this weekend it was ready within an hour of getting up out of bed. It's best eaten on the day but makes good toast the next day

You need:

450g strong white bread flour
1 level tsp salt
1 level tsp bicarbonate of soda
300ml buttermilk
tepid water - about 6 tbsp / 90ml

The buttermilk I buy comes in 284ml cartons but my digital scales tell me that if I scrape every last bit out, it generally comes to 300ml. Otherwise use a little plain, live yoghurt to make up the difference.

1) Preheat your oven to 200 / 180 degrees C (conventional / fan)

2) Lightly grease a baking tray

3) Sift the flour, salt and bicarb into a mixing bowl

4) Pour in the buttermilk and water and combine the ingredients with your hands or a wooden spoon to form a very soft dough

5) Tip the dough out on to a lightly floured work surface and shape into a round about 7 inches in diameter. Place on the baking tray and using a sharp knife, slash a cross shape into the top

6) Bake for 30 mins, then turn the loaf upside down and bake for a further 10-15 mins until it sounds hollow when tapped. Cool on a wire rack




Friday, 25 October 2013

Wallfish Bistro


This review also appears on Bristol Bites...

July saw the opening of the new WallfishBistro in Clifton located on the site of Keith Floyd’s fist restaurant. The new owners have an impressive CV having worked for Mark Hix, Rowley Leigh and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall so expectations were high.

My friend, Naomi and I booked in for a fairly early dinner after work and while we started off in an empty restaurant, that certainly wasn’t the case come the end of our meal when every table (including the room downstairs) was occupied.

It’s a cosy space, there’s no getting over that but the greeting is friendly, warm and genuine and the ambient atmosphere tranquil and timeless – no overly twee ‘Nautique’ theme in sight except for our very cute pitcher of water in the shape of a fish that gave a satisfying ‘glug’ as we poured from it – in fact, it’s known as a gluggle jug (Christmas list, here I come!).



We were then presented with our menus that change daily depending on what might be available. Although we had both come for the fish, the vegetarian and meat options were also mouth wateringly tempting serving dishes such as patridge, grouse and Creedy Carver duck.

Naomi and I are both lovers of roasted pork and decided to share the pork crackling appetizer egged on by the enthusiastic sounds of our waitress and the promise of ‘epic crackling’. It came in a ramekin with an accompanying side of gooseberry sauce that was tart and delicious. The crackling itself was epic -  seriously crunchy and we had trouble hearing each other as we made our way through the generous portion but it was well done, appropriately salty and whetted our appetites for the main event.



I am an absolute sucker for a whole crab with oodles of mayonnaise to dip the flesh into but I always make a ridiculous mess – last time I had crab in Weymouth it ended up in my hair, across the room, in my handbag… I felt I couldn’t subject fellow diners to a crab shell shower so I went for the lemon sole with beurre noisette and potatoes.

Naomi went for fillet of bream with cockles, clams and samphire. Both dishes were cooked beautifully – the delicate flavor of the lemon sole wasn’t at all overpowered by the beurre noisette and it was truly a joy to eat. Sometimes the best dishes are the most simple and it was definitely the case here. Naomi’s dish looked spectacular and the flavours complimented each other beautifully. The clams were sweet against the salty samphire and the fish firm and meaty. I think we could have happily eaten both dishes over again.






Absolutely stuffed from our main course, we were determined to not have pudding but the dark chocolate mousse with salted caramel caught both our eyes and we had to go for it. I do love dark chocolate and this was gorgeous. Bitter and rich, the crème fraiche served with it really cut through it but neither of us could taste the salted caramel. Until we got to the bottom of the glass. The caramel existed as it’s own entity in the bottom of the martini glass, not swirled through as I thought it might be and unfortunately it was so salty that it had both of us reaching for our drinks after one mouthful. It was less saucy than solid. More like a softened Toffee Penny from a box of Quality Street dropped into a bowl of Cornish sea salt and was deeply unpleasant. It was such a shame that this was the climax to an otherwise scrumptious meal.



I would definitely go back – there is no doubt that the chef has a very good knowledge of how to cook fish and I’ve eaten enough bad fish dishes in my time to know but I would suggest that the taste of the sea need not be in all of his food…

Monday, 21 October 2013

Here we go round the Mulberry bush...

Yes, yes, yes. I'm one of those a-typical females who loves handbags and shoes and yes, I do have copious amounts of both. I blame my mother...!

I went to Bicester Outlet Village on Friday and got sucked in to the Mulberry shop. I know I shouldn't have but here's what happened.




Oopsie...

But I figure, it's something I'm going to use for years and years and I completely and utterly fell in love with it the moment I laid eyes on it. (Forgive the picture, I was far too excited to pose it properly and put the light on!



I could have gone for something brown (never black!), or taupe but it's a statement bag. It's huge and I want to show it off. Plus I love jewel colours and it'll lift up the drabness of a navy blue winter.

YAY!


Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Two Tonne Tusker

I've been working at Humble Bee Films for quite a few months now and on the 18th October, 'Two Tonne Tusker' will be TXing on BBC 2 at 9pm. It's a lovely film and the three Walrus (walruses? walrusi?) are very funny. Just shield your kiddie's eyes from the jiggly-jiggly, man juice extracting scene unless you want to answer awkward questions...





Seriously, the best things with moustaches ever! And that includes:




And


Monday, 16 September 2013

Meals.co.uk - Takeaway with a difference...


This review also appears on Bristol Bites

Don’t get me wrong. I love cooking. I love making everything from stir fries to stews to big full on roast dinners but sometimes, I don’t want to. Sometimes I wish I could wave a magic wand and POOF, have my dinner appear in front of me. On those nights, the first alternative is to go out for dinner. But what if I don’t want to? What if I’m quite comfortable in my pyjamas; wine /beer /cider in hand with the latest episode of ‘Breaking Bad’ to catch up on? Next alternative is to order food in but truth be told, as my local area is served by the typical big four - Pizza, Indian, Chinese and Kebabs, my taste buds and I are never very excited about the variety the home delivery food market has to offer.

Until now.

Launched in September 2012, Food Couriers set out to change takeaway and home delivery as we know it. Recently rebranded as Meals.co.uk, their aim is to deliver great tasting, freshly cooked quality food from fantastic local restaurants and places where you love going, to your door.

The technology behind the site is mind boggling - it only allows you to see restaurants that serve your particular area, ensures that your order goes straight to the restaurant, all the while co-ordinating the pick up time for your driver to make sure your dinner arrives hot (or fresh, in the case of sashimi!) but for a customer, it couldn’t be easier to use.

The homepage invites you to input your postcode and from there tells you which restaurants are open and available to deliver to you. The range is pretty impressive spanning from Salvatore’s Kitchen to Obento giving you the choice of ordering dishes such as sautéed veal escalope to a grilled fish Bento box. Confirmation of your order is almost instant and Meals.co.uk aim to get your food to you in an hour. Delivery is a separate charge of £4.99 but just think – if you were to go out and eat, a combination of petrol and parking, taxis and babysitters far outweigh that cost and if there are a few of you, the delivery cost split between you is nominal.

One of the niftier functions that caught my eye was the fact that you are able to pre-order either on the day that you want your food or days in advance when you might be arriving home late or have guests round and want food at a particular time.

I popped along to the launch of Meals.co.uk in the beautiful Merchant’s Hall to meet the brains behind the operation and find out a little more about the site and to sample some of the quality food from restaurants signed up to the service.

The evening started with a wine tasting and a lesson in how to pair wines with Asiatic cuisines – very interesting as wines are normally abandoned in favour of beer when eating a curry. According to Richard Davis from DBM Wines, sweetness is the key as the spices in Asian food strip the sugars out of the wine so going for a sweet wine with good acidity will refresh the palate and allow the wine to stand out from the food. As for those looking for a red, choose one with a low tannin level and avoid anything that has been aged in oak as this, combined with spice, will dry the palate.

Meals.co.uk offer a selection of wines as well as beer, cider and non-alcoholic alternatives to be delivered along with your meal – another thing in their quest to offer you a restaurant dining experience in your own home.

From the wine tasting, we were seated for our meal and given a few words by Mark Oakley, one of the founders of the site, who re-iterated their mission to change the face of take-away food and to show that you could have high quality, delicious, healthy alternatives that you would be happy to go to a restaurant and eat.

For my meal, I had chosen a mixed sushi platter and side of Tempura from Obento as it’s practically unheard of to get authentic Japanese food delivered. I also picked it because I was curious to see how well it travelled and if the tempura would still be crispy and whether my hand rolls had fallen apart. Happily I can report that the sushi was still as beautiful when it got to me as when it left the restaurant – I was half expecting the fish to have fallen off the rice and egg roe to be strewn all over the place but all was well and my delicious salmon temaki was intact. As for the tempura it was light, crispy and still warm with a great mix of prawns, aubergine, baby corn and pumpkin.






As the evening drew to a close, I questioned Dotun Olowoporoku, one of the other founders and it’s clear to see that he’s very excited about the future of Meals.co.uk. There’s still a lot of work to do – he hopes to be able to offer customers information on past orders so they can remember which of the many memorable dishes impressed them. He also pondered whether a loyalty scheme might be possible or the re-cycling of old takeaway cartons.

Many more restaurants have signed up to the service but Dotun explained they will take a couple of weeks to go live on the site because of the technology involved. He also hopes to expand the business to Bath soon and from there, who knows? What he does know is that he firmly believes that there is a place in the market for Meals.co.uk and he hopes that Bristol will well and truly embrace it. I think it’s a great service and it gives accessibility to those who may not be able to get to restaurants – those without transport perhaps or parents with young children. From the quality of the food, I for one will be happy to bin my drawer full of takeaway leaflets and enjoy the likes of Siam Harbourside and Byzantium alongside my OH, my bunny slippers and Walter White

Friday, 13 September 2013

Goings on

Like everyone else in Britain, I thoroughly enjoyed the weather this summer. I went to Larmer Tree Festival in Salisbury, I enjoyed some outdoor theatre - the fantastic production of 'The Boy Who Cried Wolf' courtesy of Bristol Old Vic and I attended quite a few of the brilliant festivals that we are so lucky to have in Bristol.

Now that we're moving into autumn, I'm sad to see the warm weather go but so excited that my love of everything and anything musical and theatrical doesn't have to stop, we just get to move inside... 

My fridge door magnets are straining with the tickets for these little beauties:

'Great Expectations' & 'The Little Mermaid' at Bristol Old Vic
'Cabaret' at the Hippodrome
Russell Brand at the Colston Hall
Hayseed Dixie at The Fleece
The Darkness at Bath Pavilion

And I'm hoping to add a few more to that list by the end of the year, in particular 'The Last Voyage of Sinbad the Sailor' at the Tobacco Factory Theatre. 

Bring it on, Bristol!

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Bristol Bites

I'm very proud to say that I will be writing a few pieces here and there for Bristol Bites. It's blogs like Emily's that inspired me to start writing again and so am seriously pleased to be able to contribute towards their output.

Am off to my first official outing for them on Thursday so watch this space (and theirs!).

Monday, 9 September 2013

Bengal Raj


This review also features on Bristol Bites - Bristol's biggest food blog...

The first curry house in England opened over 200 years ago and thus began the great British love affair with Indian food. From Queen Victoria to those of us craving a post pub meal on a Friday night, we can’t get enough of the stuff which is why I find it truly astonishing that there are so many bad curry houses about. You know - the ones that serve tiny cubes of meat lost in a luminous sauce topped with a scalding pool of florescent oil. But here in Bristol, we’re blessed enough to have the pick of some very good Indian restaurants, the Bengal Raj being one of them.

Opened in 1998, it was the second of two Indian restaurants opened by four brothers. The first one is the acclaimed and multi awarded Brunel Raj in Clifton Village. The Bengal Raj is situated within a few doors of the excellent Stoke Bishop Fish Bar (it’s sister shop also residing in Clifton Village), and its tranquil location belies the cuisine inside.

I visited the Bengal Raj with my OH, mother and brother at 7.30 on a Friday evening and the first thing I noticed that the inside of the restaurant was a bit beige and entirely different to the more quirky Brunel Raj but it was packed out – surely a good sign! Although busy we weren’t kept waiting at all and our waiter was quick to collect our drink  and food orders.

We opted for popadoms to start with and they came with a fully laden tray of delicious looking dips and pickles – cooling minted yoghurt, fragrant mango chutney, sweetened coconut, sour lime pickle and a very finely diced onion salad.

For our main dishes we ordered a lamb dhansak, chicken tikka rezala, chicken kerala and a chicken achari. My mother ordered the achari but as she rarely finds Indian curries hot enough for her we spoke with the waiter and he offered to take it to the level of a madras but offered more chillis should she need them. We also ordered sides of sag paneer (spinach with Indian cheese) and brinjal bhaji (aubergine) along with a variety of naan breads and a tandoori roti.

Our food was brought to us steaming hot in beautiful hammered curry bowls which our waiter told us were made to order especially for them from a manufacturer in London – they were deceptively large as they were much deeper than ordinary curry bowls which meant the portions were very generous.  All of the dishes smelt wonderful and were extremely appetizing in appearance – no day-glo sauce and certainly no pools of oil floating on the top.





The dhansak was hot, sour and sweet all at the same time with a great depth of flavor and made the perfect pairing with my peshwari naan which was light and fluffy with sesame seeds scattered over the top providing a pleasing texture. The chunks of lamb were tender and meltingly soft, I was able to cut through them with just my spoon.

The chicken dishes were packed full of large pieces of moist chicken breast but most important of all – they all tasted completely different. I’ve been to so many curry houses where the dishes all look the same and barring different ‘heat levels’, all of them taste the same. The rezala was thick and flavoursome with tomato and onion and the kerala was highly spiced with fresh coriander, fennel, cloves and red chillis but could definitely have been hotter.

The achari came and it was delicious – sharper than you would expect as it is cooked with both lemon and lime juices but not in an overly acidic way, just enough to enhance the taste of the other spices and as requested the chef had slipped a few fresh green chillis into it to try and bring up the heat level. Although still not hot enough for my Mum, it was great that they had tried to cater for her and she was very pleased with it – no easy feat, I can assure you!

I’m a massive fan of spinach in general and sag paneer is one of my favourite side dishes – again we were given a generous portion and the iron heavy spinach was cooked with fragrant garlic and lovely chunks of paneer cheese with the texture of firm tofu.

The brinjal bhaji was also delicious – due to it being an aubergine dish, it was understandably quite oily but that was to be expected. Cooked with tomatoes and onions, the smokey aubergine’s white flesh was almost creamy and was delicately flavoured with cumin. The only thing to question was that the tandoori roti was quite soft like a chapatti rather than being crispy on the outside but that might just be down to a regional variation

The dishes were so huge that we had to take a lot of it home with us and the very friendly waiters were more than happy to bag everything up for us. It was a thoroughly enjoyable meal and we will definitely be back to tackle other things on the menu, especially the many cast iron sizzling dishes that we were eyeballing at another table! If you haven’t found your ‘HG’ go-to curry house yet, I urge you to try the Bengal Raj – and wear your stretchiest trousers!




Harvest Time!

After the most fabulous summer, it really is starting to feel autumnal - misty mornings, dew on the grass and a chill in the air in the evening. It's my favourite time of year and I expect many others feel the same. One other reason I love it is that the shops are full of amazing, recently harvested produce and the glorious weather is certainly showing in the size and taste of the fruit and vegetables.

I've bought bags and bags of heavy, sweet cherries and punnets of gloriously fragrant strawberries. The other day I picked up a bag of juicy English plums the size of small apples and crowned a home made tarte au citron with jewel like clusters of redcurrants, blackcurrants and raspberries. One of the best treats though has to be fresh figs. I love the colours - the wonderful pinky red against the sumptuous aubergine shade and the flash of green and they're so cheap! I stopped at a farm shop and bought six plump and soft beauties for 50p each, easily enough for two meals.

Back home, I cut the figs into 6's, and sprinkled them over a rocket salad dotted with mozzarella and salty sheets of parma ham. I finished off with my home made balsamic glaze et voila - a salad fit enough for the kingliest of kings.

Balsamic Glaze

1 cup of balsamic vinegar (no need for an expensive sort)
1/2 cup of water
1/4 cup of brown sugar - I used dark brown muscavado

Pop all the ingredients into a non-reactive saucepan and bring to a slow simmer.

Simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring frequently to avoid burning all the while reducing the liquid to its desired consistency. (Be warned though, it will thicken as it cools - I tested the viscosity by taking teaspoonfuls and cooling it quickly on a plate)

You will be left with a sticky, unctuous sauce that you can use for sweet or savoury dishes.




Sunday, 30 June 2013

BBQ Dreams

Back in 2010, I attended a small festival in Bristol called Grillstock packed with meat, music, mojitos and Dr BBQ. Fast forward three years and Grillstock has firmly established itself into the heart of Bristol with the annual festival growing in size and reputation and the opening of a stand in St Nick's Market. But a little over two weeks ago, they set up a new home on the Triangle in the form of the Grillstock Smokehouse.

Sometimes when you go to a restaurant, you're not sure what to expect. Will you need to dress up? Is it gonna be fancy? Will there be three dozen pieces of cutlery to use in a strict protocol of etiquette? But sometimes what you hope for is exactly what you get. The name Grillstock promises music. It promises a good time. It promises BBQ sauce. Most of all, it promises lots and lots of meat. And boy does it deliver.

The first impression you get from the Smokehouse is the smell. The gorgeous, mouth watering aroma of BBQ wafting out of the door is enough to start you dribbling in anticipation before you even step foot inside. And once you do, you're greeted by an immense communal table constructed from railway sleepers and steel, and rock-a-billy music inspired by the festival. One of the walls is papered with pictures from the festivals and gleefully we could point out my brother who took part in the chicken wing eating contest this year.





The menu is very basic and split into BBQ plates where you can choose from various meats - pulled pork, beef brisket, chicken and ribs all served with a side of fries, slaw, cornbread and sausage. Yes, you heard that right. A side of sausage. It's the thing dreams are made of.

Next come the sandwich / hotdog / burger options including the awesome Lockjaw Burger - a beast of a thing consisting of burger patties, beef brisket, pickles and cheese which is so big it's held together with a knife (A KNIFE!) staked through the middle. Also available is the 'Grand Champion' - a gut busting dish of all four BBQ-ed meats with the usual sides plus BBQ beans (that also contain meat!) and burnt ends, the equivalent of BBQ gold in the form of the charred but flavoursome ends of the beef brisket. Finish it and you get a t-shirt and a bottle of sauce.

The four of us all went for a plate - two of us had the brisket, one had the pulled pork and the other opted for a half chicken. The food comes to you on a tray which adds to the no fuss charm of the place - our only complaint was that the paper the food rests on disintegrates after a while so you inevitably end up eating some of it but it's a small price to pay. All three meats were delectably soft - brisket was so meltingly soft, I could barely keep it on my fork without it falling apart and the pulled pork, unlike so many attempts at this dish by other restaurants, was flavoursome and very moist. I can't comment on the chicken as I didn't try any except for the fact that it too looked delicious.





The cornbread was sweet and dense and the sausage was smokey and moreish. The only thing I wasn't too keen on was the slaw  - it provided a good crunch and change in texture but was a bit blah though I'm certainly not going to say it stopped me from enjoying my meal. I loved the BBQ sauce available in gigantic  bottles spread across the table, especially the hot variety. It was piquant and vinegary and just the thing to cut through the sweet, sticky BBQ sauce. The portions were huge and I couldn't finish mine but nothing went to waste as Si & Jack cleaned my tray up for me.

The drinks ranged from bottled beer, hard liquor and American inspired floats as well as the novel option of beer served with shots of whiskey and pickle juice. Through research, the combination of Jamesons and picklejuice is called a Pickleback and is meant to be very tasty and peps up the taste of beer but no-one in our party fancied it on a Saturday lunchtime. However, we'll definitely be back. I want to get my hands on the ribs and I know that my brother would definitely want to attempt the Grand Champion.

There are a lot of restaurants in Bristol but I would say the Grillstock Smokehouse is in a world all of its own - one that embraces a no fuss, no nonsense atmosphere and concentrates on giving it's patrons the only thing a restaurant should concern itself with - a fully belly, a big smile and a good covering of BBQ sauce.


Monday, 24 June 2013

Watersky - they have knives and forks, don't you know?



I think it is incredibly difficult to find a good Chinese restaurant. I’m not talking about a local takeaway that serves questionable meat in fluorescent sauces and food served with bucketfuls of bean sprouts to flesh out portions or indeed a restaurant that serves a set menu of crispy duck, sweet and sour something and beef in black bean sauce. 

I’m talking about an authentic Chinese restaurant that serves clay hotpot dishes, dim sum and platters of Chinese roasted meat. Roasted meat, namely char siu (bbq-ed pork), duck and crispy belly pork on rice is one of the dishes of my childhood and is still one of my favourite meals. 

There are a few Chinese restaurants in Bristol, namely Dynasty, Hong Kong Diner, Mayflower, Wongs and WaterSky. I’ve visited all but Wongs and some definitely rank better than others but I won’t review all of them here today. 

I’ve visited WaterSky a couple of times, recently. Once with friends for dim sum and once on a mad mission for some crispy belly pork. WaterSky is easily one of the biggest Chinese restaurants I’ve ever been to. It easily seats 300 and is plush and opulent. The ceiling houses several gigantic chandeliers and the gold and scarlet carpet is grand and thick underfoot. And don’t even get me started on the toilets (seriously, if you visit WaterSky ladies, take a trip to the conveniences). 

We’ve been here for dim sum on the weekend when it is absolutely packed and people are queuing to get in but I don’t get it. As a self-titled connoisseur of dim sum (seriously, I come from a family who will happily drive an hour and half each way to satisfy a craving), I found it to be one of the worst places to eat it. 

The cheung fun (think Chinese cannelloni – long flat sheets of rice noodles rolled up with various fillings) with char siu was thick and rubbery and the char siu was unappetisingly pale and fatty. The yam croquettes, instead of being light and fluffy were heavy and stodgy and very dry and the various  steamed dumplings seemed to be over-cooked and soggy. Our fried dishes such as won ton (minced pork and prawn wrapped in spring roll skin and deep fried) and lobster dumpling were very greasy – I guess typical of having been taken out of the fryer and not drained properly. But everything seemed to be tasteless.  It was almost as if the food had been bought from Wai Yee Hong, the supermarket downstairs, and reheated upstairs. There didn’t seem to be any love or care in the dishes.

 All in all, I was very disappointed and won’t be letting either of my parents near it for fear of the months of moaning that will follow - ‘Remember when you took us to that restaurant for dim sum and it was LOUSY?’ / ‘I can’t believe you took us there and we had to queue for such a LOUSY meal,’ etc. (They like the word ‘lousy’).

However, I was nearby the other day and in the mood for a dish of three roasties rice. I was seated in one corner of the vast restaurant away from a crowd of noisy, elderly Chinese folk who I was told were there on an annual ‘Chinese Elders Group’ lunch. Bless… there’s something for me to look forward to in my senior years. 

When my dish came, it looked utterly delicious. Most restaurants try and palm you off with a more generous helping of char siu but the duck and belly pork was in plentiful supply too. However, I was asked if I needed a knife and fork. Bemused, I told the waitress I was Chinese to which she told me that I didn’t look it and started to question me on my heritage. Ok, I know it happens a lot and I don’t look authentically Chinese but who’s to say that even if I wasn’t, I couldn’t eat with chopsticks? Thumbs down for customer service… 

But the char siu was sweet and tender, the belly pork salty and crunchy and the duck was soft and highly spiced with 5 spice powder with a lot of the fat rendered away so you weren’t getting mouthfuls of it under the crispy skin. Except for the service, it was the polar opposite to the food we were served for dim sum and I would certainly go there again for the more traditional menu based dishes. And next time, I’m going to tell them that I’m Swedish…