Click here to read the review, including wonderful fritto misto, awesome lamb chops and dreamy flourless chocolate and almond cake!
The Great House
Sonning on Thames
Click here to read the review, including wonderful fritto misto, awesome lamb chops and dreamy flourless chocolate and almond cake!
The Great House
Sonning on Thames
As far as I’ve noticed, the majority of additions to Woking’s food scene, which tend to be chains such as Bill’s, Las Iguanas and Carluccio’s occupy the town centre’s main pedestrianised street, unlike recently opened Ed’s Easy Diner which is found inside the town’s shopping centre. This could be seen as an unusual location, but with its eye-catching neon signage and interior retro 50’s look it’s caught my eye and it seems to have lured in lots of customers since opening.
From the interior I could imagine being sat dressed up like the characters from Grease ordering a burger with everything on it and a milkshake, wearing a 50’s style dress with lots of petticoats and a neck scarf, all the while singing along to tunes from the jukebox.
It’s not often you see establishments advertising a gluten free menu that’s certified by Coeliac UK, VERY rare for those serving up burgers and hot dogs. It’s probably the only reason why we stepped into Ed’s because of the GF menu, my husband wanted to see if was it any good, could GF burger buns be redeemed or was it going to as bad as most of the others he’d regrettably tried before? Having struggled to find menus with GF beers, seeing Celia on the menu was more than a pleasant surprise and it also good to see food prices were the same whether it was GF or not!
Burgers are probably right up there for my husband’s favourite food, but a spanner was thrown into the works when the whole gluten intolerance kicked off! There have been times when he’s succumbed, knowing the consequences he’s eaten one anyway just to satisfy the craving, so when a menu advertises GF burgers he’s always gone for it! Now imagine when you think at last you can enjoy eating something without pain and discomfort etc, just to be wholly disappointed….well in most cases the bun’s are a real let down; dry to the point of falling apart because of its brittle nature. Damn you gluten for making bread so awesome!! The number of times the goods have been well below par, leaving one very deflated burger lover! I’ve even suggested the notion of a naked burger, but to him it completely defeats the object and takes all the joy out of eating one. I can see his point!
His Big Bubba’s bacon ‘n’ cheese burger came with a bun that was surprisingly spot on – soft, nicely holding its shape and actually tasted of something resembling bread! The bacon was crisp and patty was cooked well – they could make them a bit thicker though, as they’re a little meagre for the price (£7.75)! The American cheese to me looked like a bit plasticky, it’d be good if they’d take the time to let the cheese melt with a little steam and a cloche doing all the work.
I fancied an original fried chicken burger, it was alright but probably a little forgettable. The good bits – chicken was golden and moist, iceberg was crisp and it was housed in a decent sesame bun. Not so good bits: the chicken’s thin and a little flimsy, it was all a bit safe and that’s coming from me – who loves simplicity when it comes to burgers. To elevate it the burger would need a juicy chunk of meat and extras of which there are plenty to choose from, but at a quid a pop for each the price of a burger can quickly sky rocket if you feel the need. I’ve definitely had much better fried chicken burgers for less, such as old faithful Leeds’ Patty Smith’s Colonel Patty and Manchester’s Mumma Schnitzel’s Mumma Burger!
Maybe against my better judgement I’d topped my fries with chilli con carne, the fries were fine, however the chilli con carne was underwhelming and didn’t really add a great deal. Maybe as it’s a family orientated menu their trying to play it safe on the level of heat, but it needed more oomph and was lacklustre in depth and meatiness, rather than being a meaty chilli with a nice warming feeling.
Overall I think our experience was just OK, it’s great the GF buns do the job, but the food didn’t blow us away. The staff are friendly and enthusiastic, service was pretty good and I can see why family’s may want to go there, but with an extra beer and a tip we didn’t get much change out of £40 quid though, so as far as value for money goes I’m not so sure.
Woking Peacock Centre
Any serious foodie will already know about Rare in Leeds, having sampled their fantastic array of mouth-watering meat based delights, including their bespoke steak boards which allow the diner to not only choose the cut of meat but also the breed. My first foray into the ‘uncommon excellence’ of Rare was on a ‘beef and bourbon’ night which shone the spotlight on my favourite meat coupled with my favourite tipple (in fact, look back far enough on this blog and you’ll find it, reviewed by Diane). A roaring success, apart from my misgivings about a piece of sweetened beef on top of a cake, I was excited about going back to sample the new Rareties menu.
An evening meal in Rare usually takes one on a tour into the subterranean dining room which, while beautiful and tastefully furnished, focuses around a large stuffed cow in the middle of the room – nothing like eating a steak, being guilt tripped by the shiny eyes of a stuffed bovine (I do love dark humour and this addition is an amusing reminder of where your delicious mouthful is coming from). The Rareties menu, however, is offering the customer a less formal affair, available to be enjoyed in the bar area with a small plate ethos which allows more choice along with a value for money price tag. But don’t be fooled – this bar menu does not mean anaemic potato wedges and deep fried nonsense – the Rare M.O of bringing the customer something unique and top quality is at the heart of this new venture and it really is something spectacular.
Using local rare breed producers, the Rareties menu is offering an experience that is unparalleled in Leeds at the moment. Our first plate was Longhorn beef on toast, which is priced at £4.50. The portion was big enough for my friend and I to both have two slices and every mouthful was better than the last. Not only was the beef succulently tender, but the accompaniments to the beef worked perfectly. The sourdough bread was a wonderful base for the rare cooked meat, which was topped with piquant capers, girolles and pickled shallots. Topped with a crispy, salty sliver of guinea fowl skin, this plate was a showstopper on its own, offering an insight in to what was to come on the Rareties menu (so much so that I’ll definitely be back in for this dish, on my own – forget sharing!).
Our next plates were the Mangalitza Hotdog on homemade brioche bun (£6) and the Hambleton Ale fed Dexter slider (£4.50). Both of these dishes showcase Rare’s dedication to using unique producers for the best flavour, and you are excused if you just read Mangalitza and thought ‘What the hell is that?’ because I was exactly the same. Luckily, the friendly owner of Rare told us all about the fall and rise of the plucky Mangalitza pig so get ready for this tasty history lesson people!
In the 1830’s, Arch Duke Joseph Anton Johann of the Austro-Hungarian Empire created the breed of the Mangalitza pig for the Habsberg Royal Family, resulting in its delicious meat and fat being highly prized all over Europe by the end of the century. This curly-haired pig takes a long time to mature and is smaller than other breeds, meaning that after World War Two and the change in consumerism and animal husbandry, the majestic Mangalitza pig became too expensive to rear and by the 1980’s, this curly-coated porker was nearly extinct. But don’t fear farmyard fans – you don’t get rid of the Mangalitza that easily! With the efforts of a geneticist called Peter Roth, this succulent squealer has now been saved, and Rare get their meat from Otterburn-Mangalitza, a specialist breeding programme in Helmsley, North Yorkshire. Anyway, enough of the history lesson – let’s get to the taste! Oh my…the taste! It is a mix between beef and pork – rich, incredibly tasty and so moreish. The hot dog bun was slightly crumbly and didn’t hold together very well but the quality of the meat counteracted any failings of the bread and was probably one of the best sausages I’ve ever eaten ( and I come from Lincolnshire, so that’s quite an achievement!).
The slider was also a wonderful little burger, piled high with a medium rare Dexter beef patty which is fed with Hambleton Ale, resulting in a wonderfully rich flavour which is complemented well with a soft brioche bun and a spiky Dijon mayonnaise. It was a great little snack which would be perfectly complemented by a bottle of Hambleton Ale, also stocked by Rare.
We were also presented with a side plate of ‘Carol’s Pink Fir potatoes with a smoked roe dip’. I don’t know who Carole is but she can cook some damn fine potatoes. Perfectly boiled and seasoned, their waxy texture made them a perfect snack, and whilst I’m never a fan of fish based dips, my friend loved the smoked roe mayonnaise so we’ll call that a success.
Not only does Rare excel in the fine food department, but they sure know how to mix a damn fine cocktail. I asked the friendly waiter for a suggestion of a drink to enjoy, as the choice was just too much for me. He suggested a Portfolio, which consisted of Colonel Fox gin, Fonsecca crusted port, thyme liqueur, tonic and a sprig of thyme for good measure. Its herbal tones worked perfectly with the gin and really worked well with everything I ate. My friend went for a Hedgerow, a gorgeous concoction of Aylesbury Duck vodka, elderflower liqueur, greengage liqueur and topped with fresh raspberries and blackberries. My friend was very happy with this choice and I have to admit, I got cocktail envy. It looked beautiful and tasted even better – a wonderful mixture which I would happily suffer a hangover from.
We were also given a taste of some of the desserts on offer, with a lemon meringue tart presented to us with three types of meringue. After quizzing the waiter, we found out that the soft, flame charred meringues on top of the tart were Swiss-style, whereas the long cylinder was a French style lemon meringue, along with a crisp sliver of the same meringue, studded with lemon and thyme. We both loved the meringue which had a zesty zing to it but were a little disappointed by the actual tart which lacked any real lemon taste. The pastry was perfect but without a strong citrus filling, it lacked the impact that its presentation gave.
With our coffees, we were also given a toasty paper bag which was opened to a plume of spicy steam, revealing two freshly made donuts. They were soft and crisp on the outside and were liberally covered in star anise flavoured sugar – a perfect side to dip in our coffee.
I can see exactly why Rare have launched their Rareties menu, especially due to the amount of eateries that have opened in Leeds. The small plate culture has blossomed in Leeds and Rare really has got something unique to offer. With relaxed surroundings, friendly staff and some of the best produce you will ever eat, the Rareties menu is well worth a try.
All photos by Lucy Reynolds
163 Lower Briggate
0113 246 7013
Last Friday our house in Leeds FINALLY exchanged contracts and completed after 20 long weeks, so there’s a mixture of feelings going on right now! There’s a definite feeling of relief that it’s done, sadness of not living there anymore and the stresses that come with getting on the property ladder again, especially when it can cost at least double compared to what we can get in Leeds! We decided to nip out for dinner to put an end to a chapter as it were and popped into town, walking passed Latino Restaurant on High Street, it looked busy so possibly an indication for a decent feed. A quick look at their menu was enough to get our custom and within a minute we were seated near the bar at the back of the room.
Quickly ordering a bottle of wine we checked out the menu which was full of classic dishes, picking out a couple each. The place was pretty much full to capacity apart from a couple of tables so there was a good atmosphere.
The waiter who’d taken our order brought a plate of calamari to the table and started to walk away, as much as I like squid I’d ordered arancini so quickly called him back and explained the problem. There was a look of confusion, then he frantically scanned his order sheets to check what he’d written. With all the panic, I didn’t want the squid going to waste and said I’d swap it instead. Considering it wasn’t what I’d ordered it would still have been in my top three picks, they were great – lightly crisped and tender flesh that came with a yummy garlic mayo. A good size portion, but for £7.50 I’d expect it to be. The Bocconcini arriving well after I’d finished the calamari, a shame because it couldn’t be faulted on taste – the salty Speck ham and melted creamy mozzarella working really well together!
So far there’d been confusion over orders, delays in service, but the food had been great and the staff kept apologising for mistakes. Next up were the main courses, once again a lengthy wait and another error! I was just about to tuck into my risotto when the other half said his dish was wrong – he’d ordered veal not pasta!! This time both dishes were taken away, I didn’t get a hint of a mussel or even a grain of rice….gutted! Deja view ensued….order tickets were checked, the waiter even showed us, what he thought was our ticket had two different dishes on it! Had we got another tables order?!
When new dishes were brought across they’d got it wrong AGAIN – he’d brought the wrong veal dish!!! He was expecting veal with gorgonzola cheese sauce and potatoes, NOT mushrooms and a marsala sauce! This time the same waiter scooted off so quickly we couldn’t be bothered to tell him the fault again. On taste it was full flavoured, if a little too rich from the marsala, whilst my risotto was good and didn’t taste like it was the original one left under a heat lamp, it hadn’t dried out and the seafood was juicy.
The other half was still a little hungry and he’s a sucker for a good panna cotta, it’s not my bag I always think it reminds me of blancmange! Yay, at last no issues this time – it was smooth and creamy with a great wobble.
Overall we couldn’t find much fault with the food, however with all the mishaps it put a downer on the meal. They tried to make amends by offering limoncello shots and lots of apologies. When the bill came, service was included and we stupidly paid it on this occasion, but if I was to go again and the same happened, I wouldn’t!
44 Commercial Way
The last few weeks I’ve been slowly settling into my new surroundings and still on the hunt for great places to eat. At the moment Sunday mornings are spent either at the gym (other half), or running like a lunatic around the park trying my best to concentrate and stay on two feet, especially as the Berlin marathon is just over three weeks away!! I’ve got a healthy appetite at the best of times, so you can imagine after running for a few hours the need for something filling, hearty and tasty. Located on Woking’s pedestrianised high street is Tante Marie Restaurant, in these parts the establishment is known for its culinary school status – the oldest independent cookery school in the country no less, but a few months ago it opened a restaurant to show off some of the talent it nurtures.
The restaurants dining room is decked out in an informal yet stylish manner with smart wooden tables, comfy leather backed chairs and cool industrial style lighting – definitely a nice place to spend a few hours in. On Sundays there’s a set menu with two courses (£20) or three courses (£25) and as gluten free choices are important for the other half, we quickly checked with the kitchen what options were available. Fortunately there was good news with most dishes being GF or could be adapted to suit, so both of us went for two courses, surprisingly I went for a main course and dessert finding the idea of pink grapefruit and gin granita too irresistible.
Rabbit rillettes with gluten free croutes and salad started the lunch off well, the rillette still had substance and the rabbit came through subtly. The bread was a pleasant surprise and actually had the taste and texture of bread, unlike most we’ve tried which have been really tasteless and very un-breadlike! The rillette was an unexpected choice as pineapple is one the other half’s food hates, however it went well with the rabbit and helped cut through any richness, without masking its delicate flavour.
As far as roasts go the meat on both plates was beautifully cooked, portions were a little stingy though – just two slices of beef and a breast and a leg from a poussin, so hardly the largest of birds. Maybe I’m doing them a disservice as far as my plate goes as there was also some bacon and a chipolata alongside the chicken. The extras did their best to make up for it with a summery bowl of veg, roasties, mash, parsnips and the Yorkshire that were all done well. I’m a gravy lover, so there definitely could’ve been more and a gravy boat on the side would’ve pleased both the haters and gravy lovers amongst us. The bread sauce was fine and the horseradish cream needed more punch, it was far too polite and deserved a whack more heat! The Yorkshire was crisp and light, not the biggest but it did the trick, I always feel sorry for my husband as he has to go without and his roast dinner ends up looking a little lonely without one. In hindsight I wish I’d been quicker off the mark and suggested having his on my plate instead, considering it was still being paid for.
I was determined to finish lunch off with the granita that’d caught my eye early on and my decision was fully justified – absolutely no negatives with the dessert, I loved it! For someone who’s not really a fan of heavy puddings this was perfect – refreshingly sharp with pink grapefruit balanced by the sugary meringue, the cheeky hit of gin making it even better still.
Overall, I really liked Tante Marie – there’s a good standard of cooking and waiting times are reasonable. The space is modern, formal without feeling stuffy and the staff are friendly and helpful. I’m sure it won’t be the last time I visit, I just hope they’re more generous with the meat on a roast and have a bit more punch to some of the additional extras.
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