Eagle and Child – Ramsbottom

“I think I might have to move to Ramsbottom. It seems like some sort of heaven…….”

I’ve already splurged a few tomes extolling the wonderment that surrounds this fine old Lancashire town. Already blogged Baratxuri, Levanter, Hearth of the Ram, the artisan market as well as The Red Rose Diner courtesy of the East Lancs Railway that steams right through it. Now it’s the turn of the recently refurbished ‘Eagle and Child’. It doesn’t disappoint. To be fair it shouldn’t given the long list of accolades that have followed since its current imcumbents set to task.


I booked the table for a late Sunday lunch allowing us time to enjoy a leisurely stroll around nearby Summerseat and the wonderful Nuttal Park. As the time approached we eagerly sprinted up the hill from the town. The Eagle is a fine looking, simple stone building. The refurb has grafted an architectural glass box onto the back with fine views of the Irwell Valley and Peel Tower. The bright red Thwaites logo gives it a little lift….And that means it sells ‘Wainwrights’ golden ale. This is good thing.


Its smart inside too. A quality fit out, the bar area in particular is especially inviting.


We perused the Sunday lunch menu (£22.95 for two course, £25.95 for three) in its red binder along with the hi tech iPad specials board.

The Flame pulled her nose a bit, “Theres no chicken”, she observed*. As ever I was sticking pins in to decide as it was all glorious to me!


She settled on tomato soup to start. A little boring we thought, but she was very pleased with what turned out. Full of flavour, she agreed it was a fine start. Easy pick for me, the smoked haddock scotch egg with curried mayo. Terrific start. It would seem many shared my view, they were flying out with empty plates coming back.


For mains I went from the specials board. I was lured by the inclusion of hogget. A chop with a disc of braised shoulder, a potato gallette, some french peas and red wine jus (a fairly hefty £21.95). Ive never had hogget before but wow, the chop in particular was a treat. Beautifully tender with a fullsome, lamb taste. The rest was fine too. Thoroughly enjoyed. The Flame went for the vegetarian option, charred aubergine with spicy cous cous and goats cheese. Not my bag really but The Flame loved it. A decent looking dish.


For dessert I had the mille fleur, beautifully presented with a passionfruit cream. The Flame went for the rather splendid cheese board, wonderfully explained by Rosie.

Rosie (along with Glen and Alex) was clearly part of the management team here. She went on to explain their work with the incredible edible garden that is being cultivated at the back of the pub. We went to have a look and feed the chickens. It’s a great space that I’m sure will be packed on a fine summers day. She also explained about their work in training troubled youngsters to be chefs and waiting staff. It’s a fine story.


And did I mention the accolades? I almost forgot it had won Sunday roast of the year a few times, I was reminded many times why as plates of slavering lumps of tender pink beef wafted by. Ill be back for one of those…….

*And The Flame needn’t worry about the lack of chicken. Rosie said to give us a ring next time before you come. She was sure chef Alex could rustle something good up.

Eagle and Child

3 Whalley Road,

Tel: 01706 557181


Beastro – Spinningfields, Manchester

“Our bangers have been ‘bobbed’, we’ve been ‘well hung’ over and now its time for the Beast!

Great story this. Ive seen James, Heather and young Richard plunder the streets of Manchester and the farmers markets of the North west for several years now. ‘Bobby’s Bangers’ purveyors of fine sausages and latterly ‘Well Hung’ equally fine purveyors of well grilled, non vegetarian foodstuffs have set up shop as ‘Beastro’. By virtue of winning a ‘streetfood comp’ they’ve bagged one half of Spinningfields’s ‘Leftbank’ in the well heeled business district of Manchester.


The trio have grafted for a few months to convert the old three unit space into what is now a rather splendid and hospitable cavity. It’s an ‘L’ of a space, pigmented in a ‘duck eggish’ blue, with smart, light grey ‘countrystyle’ dining implements. If dining alone, it’s perfectly possible to hop on a stool and reside at ‘The Chefs’ table and watch young Rich et al. prepare your nourishment ‘live’ before your eyes.

As we were a gang of four we settled on a four berth bench by one of the large, floor to ceiling windows that light up one side of the space. We were able to choose as we were the only ones in. We surveyed the stark, black on white menus. As it was 3pm we had a choice of finishing off the brunch menu or firing up the evening card. As fine as the brunch menu read it was the serious evening stuff that we had come to trough.


We plundered the ‘pots and plates’ section first while we read the starters, mains, desserts and wines. A Manchester egg (£4), the cheese platter (£8) and some fine bread with bacon butter (£2.50) rocked up first. Richard even threw in a light smoked duck dish with leafy greens and heritage vegetables that he was pondering for a future menu. We lapped it up. The Yorkshire folk were thrilled with the cheese whilst us Lancastrians weighed in with the egg. The bacon butter won many compliments too.

Pots and Plates, cheese, manchester egg, duck, bacon butter

For starters we notched up a smoked mackerel salad with new potatoes and poached egg (£6), and a cod, scallops and curried fondant potato (£7). The salad looked a picture and tasted superb. If I was being picky with my Masterchef hat on, I could say the curried cod was the least refined dish on show, but as ever it was all wonderfully cooked and tasted tremendous.

mackerel salad, scallopp, cod in curry

For mains we tested out the true beast in us. Three steaks (rib eyes at £22.50) and the pork belly with sour apple, celeriac mash and crispy pig (£15.50). Normally a steak out can be a risk, but no worries here. Perfectly cooked, seasoned and delivered with vine tomatoes and beef dripping chips.


As ever I had to let you see what the desserts are like! My lemon meringue (£5) and the girls scone and jam (£4) were as delightful as they looked.


The bill came in at nearly £200 for the four of us, complete with a couple of bots of a rather spectacular red Malbec. Tne bottled beers look good too.

It was 3pm on a Sunday afternoon when we turned up. We were, and remained throughout the two hours, the only people in. Rather a shame really. It is early days and of course the main foot fall will happen through the week as the offices spill out at lunch and home time. Its open at 7am too, hopefully it can prise away some of the lucrative breakfast trade from chainster Greggs.

IMG_0347 2

They have a fine vision. They use local produce, they aim to charge a fair price and attract a loyal following who’ll use them regularly. They are certainly passionate having traded from the streets to this fine eatery. Definitely give them a try night or day. You deserve it…..


Irwell Square,
M33AG ,
0161 327 0265


West Corner – Northern Quarter Manchester

“Yawn, Its another new eatery in the Northern Quarter! It’s a good addition this though, I could be going back to this time and again”


Billed as a ‘deli-diner,’ ‘West Corner’ has transformed the ‘corner’ plot that was once occupied by the famous ‘Koffee Pot’ in Stephenson Square. Its gone against the stock NQ trend of raiding the local Travis Perkins trade counter to bag it’s lighting, electrical containment and plywood bar. It also ignores the local scrap dealer for its tables and chairs. Instead it’s all highly polished laminates (bit too highly polished) that adorn the fixed booth tables and benches. Greens, blacks and fake teak are the hues of choice. Hey its different.


It does breakfast from 7.30am through the week. Ive enjoyed some fabulous eggs hollandaise at this ungodly hour. That said on this occasion I decided to try a teatime slot. In order to tempt The Flame to a Dream Theater* rock gig, I played up the idea of absorbing some nourishment first. Always a winner that!


Despite there only being The Flame and I, she selected a leatherette booth that could take six easy. It was early so the pleasant young Irish waitress had no issues with us taking it. We surveyed the one sheet menu. It’s an extensive list of hot sandwiches, burgers, salads, mains, desserts and milkshakes. Classic diner fare.


The hot sandwiches have regional names giving a slight clue as to the origin of some of the ingredients. The Flame plumbed for the West Coast C.A.B which translates as a chicken, avocado, bacon, chimmi-mayo, baby gem, beef tomato and melted swiss cheese sandwich on toasted bloomer (£8). The Flame switched to a ciabatta but otherwise it was as nature intended. It came with a touch of house slaw. She also ordered up the triple cooked chips (£3.50). To be honest she wasn’t over enamoured. She felt it lacked taste. But I had a mouth full and thought it was pretty fine. The chips were good though, hot and salty.


I on the other hand thoroughly enjoyed my curried hake and clam chowder with scorched baby gem and jerusalem artichokes (£12). I had expected a thick creamy affair, but was greeted with a very pretty dish of fishy broth brimming with goodness. There was only four clams though. The fish on top, beautifully cooked. All in all a real triumph for me. The Flame was gutted. Never had scorched gem lettuce before either, but this really added flavour to the ensemble. Super stuff.


I then finished off with the homemade apple pie and vanilla ice cream (£4.50). Rarely do I give the accolade of ‘historic’ but I think this was it. Super soft pastry case around a glorious splodge of stewed apple. I reckon its well worth coming for this.

As I work round the corner ill be giving this a few more goes. I hear the burgers are good and they do a corking Reuben! Ill let you know how it goes…..

  • American prog metal twiddlers who do very long guitar solos

West Corner
21 Hilton Street,
northern quarter
manchester, M1 1JJ
0161 241 70 70

The Lost and Found – Knutsford, Cheshire

“Cant really go wrong with bottomless prosecco and brunch. Especially at a smart gaff where ladies doth lunch”. Did you notice that rhymed?


Strange one this. Stumbled on it as part of my day job (as someone who specifies furniture). A rather creditable outfit called ‘Revivalist’ pointed out that one of their more recent successful fit outs was their conversion of a Town Hall into a high end bar called ‘The Lost and Found’ in Knutsford. They proceeded to pepper me with wonderful, high res images highlighting their craft of making places look smart. As a fan of Mr Osbourne’s part time residence I decided to treat The Flame once again and head over there for a light brunchette. We like Knutsford, you may remember me in previous blogs, like ‘The Old Sessions House’ and the wonderful ‘Makers Market’. Despite the early start (11.30am) the website recommended booking for brunch. So we did.


We duly arrived at the imposing old building, suitably spruced. We booked in at reception and admired the spacious downstairs bar. However, the receptionist radioed into a ‘walkie talkie’ to announce our arrival. Moments later we had trudged up several flights of stairs to the top floor dining room. Once we’d ventured through the smart navy doors you are greeted with a huge, naturally lit space. Divided in two along its length. A tiled mezzanine, sprinkled with Eames inspired wire side chairs sits to the right whilst the lower left half houses a series of booths, the bar, the pass and more tables. It is impressive. This could be the first restaurant review you read with the word ‘biophillia’ in its prose! Trees and various branches of foliage abound, bringing nature and the outside in. The lack of soft furnishings and the huge original windows make it a tad noisy though.


We are presented with our ‘bottomless prosecco brunch’ menu. As it’s not compulsory we elected to miss the £15pp extra for two hours worth of free plonk and settle for a quality black coffee and some tap water. It’s a great menu, small plates and mains, all done with a twist.


The Flame went for her favourite Smoked salmon, black pepper and lemon cream cheese, dressed rocket, open malted brown bloomer (£7.50). She also asked for some avocado which was duly provided for only a £1 extra. Have to say it looked very good if you like that sort of thing. The Flame was in raptures, loved, loved, loved it.


I went for their full breakfast which was Bacon, grilled Cumberland sausages, black pudding, fried, scrambled or poached eggs, roasted vine tomatoes, flat mushroom, house beans (£8.50). For research purposes I had Brown butter pancakes, banana, hazelnuts, chocolate sauce too (£6.00). The breakfast was fine. The sausage rather good, the bacon a bit too crisp for me. The house beans added a twist. The pancakes were hot and plump, sweet and nutty. A fine end to proceedings.


A little, local bird told me that the place had a rather stuttering start, inexperienced staff, cocktail making by numbers, poor beer stocks and lacklustre management. It would seem much has improved. Whilst it shouldn’t be too difficult to rustle up a good breakfast and serve unlimited prosecco, the staff we encountered, particularly Dianne our American? waitress was experience, warmth and ‘attentiveness’ personified. As I mentioned the place had started to fill considerably, with couples and groups of lunching ladies. The Flame was well impressed and has already earmarked some girlie events here in the future. Its on the list to try for a proper meal. Its worth a punt for the grand view alone. On a nicer day, you can always walk off the excess with a walk round Tatton Park. Give it a go.


The Lost & Found
Old Town Hall, Princess Street,
Knutsford. WA16 6BY
Telephone – 01565 760 096

No. 17 – Milnthorpe, Cumbria

“A pleasant little gem, buried in the village of Milnthorpe”

We love Arnside. It’s an hours scurry up the M6 for us. It was a fairly ‘grimmish’ Saturday but we were determined to make a day of it. Arnside isn’t exactly blessed as a gastronomic paradise. Its got a cracking chippy, The Albion pub on the front is decent enough and the Old Bakehouse next door cooks up as good a pie and a brew as anyone. But, whilst hungry for lunch on the way nothing was floating our boat.

Hang on I quipped “A friend of mine keeps banging on about somewhere in Milnthorpe with a number as its name”. The Flame accepted the terms and gave the thumbs up to proceed. Milnthorpe is a couple of miles from Arnside and on the way too. We gingerly edged through the village before stumbling upon the smartly turned out, double fronted ‘shop’ with the sign ‘No 17’ above. We parked round the back. It turns out this is the way in anyway. The front door on the street is locked up.

IMG_0266It looks very smart from the outside, very tempting. Basically No17 is described as “a contemporary style eatery with a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere. Its run by Kate Cook and Chef Graeme Shuttleworth for locals and visitors alike. It boasts the use of premium local produce, complimented with fine local ales, affordable wines, champagnes and cocktails”. Its hard to disagree with any of that. As we ate at lunch it was fairly full, as it would seem lots of us had decided to turn up unannounced! Nonetheless is was still very relaxed and pleasant.

fullsizeoutput_14b7Our waitress gave us our printed ‘specials’ sheet along with a handsome, bound A5 booklet describing the rest of the offer. It makes fine reading, something for everyone, with a touch of the extra, befitting of an independent restaurant looking to pull in people from miles around.


Lunch offered quality open sandwiches and salads, pizzas as well as some smart mains and deli boards. The Flame went for the seafood deli board (£12.50) served with Organic Bread, Chutney, Dipping Sauce & Side Salad. It was an array of fish, Smoked Salmon, Smoked Mackerel, Crayfish & Prawn Cocktail, Mini Fish & Chips and King Prawns. I dare say it could have done two as a starter but The Flame put the lot away as a main. It certainly looked the part. All the bits and pieces tasted good too. The Flame was well pleased. The Meat and Cheese board with Serrano Ham, Ham Hock, Honey Roast Ham, Cheddar & Smoked Wensleydale looked decent too.


I went for the ‘market fish special of the day,’ Sea Bass, baby corn, sugar snap peas in a Penang Thai curry with fruity cous cous (£12.95). Again beautifully presented. The fish pan fried to perfection. For me there wasn’t quite enough curry sauce and it wasn’t spicy enough, always the danger when ordering a curry in a generic restaurant, but it tasted great and the cous cous mopped up nicely.

imageWe didn’t have dessert as we wanted to press on to Arnside. They looked good though. The table of four next to us all had burgers which looked tremendous, whilst an elderly couple had fish and chips, all done well. I’m not saying you should all head on up here but I would definitely recommend the diversion from a gentle stroll along the Cumbrian coast. I can well imagine it being a thoroughly civilised interlude on an evening, when you can sample the wines a little more and maybe the more intimate atmosphere of a darkened outdoors. Great job by Kate and Graeme, Definitely one to try again.

No17 Restaurant & Lounge,
17 Park Road,
Cumbria LA7 7AD


T 015395 64831

New Zealand – A Tour

February 2017 will go down in the anals for The CookTwit. Coupled with The Flame and her sister Laura and hub John, the four of us trooped round New Zealand’s South and North Islands, culminating in a final flourish in Sydney Australia. This is the story of what happened and what we ate!

Its was a marathon thirty hour flight via Dubai (and 8 episodes of Family Guy) before we arrived in Christchurch, the capital of New Zealand’s south island. Sadly Christchurch has suffered terribly from the 2010 earthquake, devastation still reigns. The once magnificent cathedral is now propped up by steel girders, awaiting the go-ahead and the cash to repair it. Despite this it still boasts a vintage tramway, a botanic garden and lots of building work.

Trams, waffles, IPA, burgers, poor old cathedral. The OGB bar

We struggled to find anywhere to eat, but finally decided on the Old Government Building or OBG for short. A lively bar with full hipster bar staff, it offered a brief menu of great burgers, both chicken and beef along with awesome chips and hand pulled craft ale. The ‘Three Boys IPA’ was a winner. Not bad for £10 a pint!!

Hermitage Hotel at Mount Cook, The seafood buffet, Lake Pukaki, The Hooker Valley, Mount Cook at dusk and from the hotel window,  on a walk and our chalet

Day 2 sent us via coach to Mount Cook, the highest, (and consequently snow capped) mountain in New Zealand. We travelled through the Canterbury plains via wonderful one horse towns like Geraldine, Ashburton, and Fairlee as well as the spectacular blue lakes of Tekapo and Pukaki. Most towns are single story, colonial and impeccably kept.

Our chalet (part of The Hermitage Hotel complex) featured a clever, sloped snow cheating roof. The view from our room was quite good! (see featured image on the title bar!) Here we enjoyed a fabulous buffet of seafood including the ubiquitous green lipped mussels. The Old Mountaineer restaurant nearby provided warm muffins and coffee for a less formal dining experience. Walking is what you do here. There is a Sir Edmond Hilary centre here after all. A hike across The Hooker Valley and a climb to the Red Tarns just two tracks we ventured on.

View from Rippon Winery, Pork belly rosti from Edgewater, Wanaka from our hotel, breakfast at Alchemy, Wanaka front, rack of lamb, gurnard, transport museum

From here we moved to the stunning lakeside town of Wanaka. Our room at The Moorings offered a sensational view of the mountain backed lake. First night grub was a rack of lamb at The Speights Alehouse. We learned that these are our equivalent of Wetherspoons! There is one in every town in the South! From here we walked round the lake to the Rippon vineyard and enjoyed spectacular views over the vines and the lake. A corking pork belly roti at the ‘Edgewater’ complex helped us through. ‘Alchemy’ and ‘Relishes Cafe’ served up wonderful breakfasts and a gurnard with cauliflower puree dinner! Both these smart, antipodean eateries are recommended. Suprisingly, Wanaka houses the southern hemispheres largest Transport and Toy museum. Well worth a visit. As an aside the toy museum also houses the Jabberwocky microbrewery! Why not?

Jones fruit stall, Queenstown promendae, more green lipped mussels, sheep on Mt Nicholas, Osso Bucco, view from Stratosfour, granola from Halo, another view, Monteiths summers ale

Next it was on to Queenstown, another lakeside town via Cromwell and ‘Jones Fruit Stall’. Queenstown is larger and brasher than Wanaka but no less beautiful. We arrived late and bagged a decent pizza from ‘Winnies’. ‘Halo’ provided the breakfasts, mountains of muesli, porridge and eggs. ‘Public’ a lively bar fed me Osso Bucco and a huge trifle for tea. We often relaxed at ‘The Bath House’ on the front. A Monteith’s summer ale was always welcome. A recommended boat trip is the hop across to Mount Nicolas Farm. A relaxing retreat amongst the hills and 29000 sheep.

Shots around Queenstown – stunning

A trip up the Skyline cable car to the mountain topped Stratosfour restaurant was another feature. Stunning views and another buffet of seafood and pavlova. A deserved mention for ‘Bespoke Kitchen’ and their tremendous smoothies.

From here we headed back to Christchurch. Another burger in OBG and a waffle at the rather wonderful street food gathering in Cathedral Square. Our magnificent train journey was cancelled due to a massive bush fire. So another equally magnificent coach to Greymouth on the West coast. Truly stunning landscapes, many featured in ‘The Lord of The Rings’ were enjoyed before a quick stop at Arthurs Pass and The Wobbly Kea Cafe. From here we headed to Nelson in the North via the incredible ‘Pancake Rocks’ and the spectacular Tasman coastal drive. Arriving late we dined in our surprisingly good motel restaurant ‘Flames On 40’. A very decent seafood chowder and a chicken schnitzel on the menu.

Christchurch to Greymouth via Arthurs Pass and Pancake Rocks

Next day we took a cruise up the Abel Tasman coast to Medlands Beach on Barks Bay. It was our very own desert island. We took a picnic of bread, ham and cheese, courtesy of the ubiquitous ‘Countdown’ supermarket chain. A deserted Nelson at night left us venturing to the New St Steakhouse, a non descript sports bar. However, it served up some oysters and a truly top ribeye with bernaise sauce. Peer pressure meant I had to renege on an apple and berry crumble.

Split Apple Rock – Abel Tasman, the best steak, our desert island, seafood chowder, onto Wellington with some heuvos rancheros.

Next day we coached up to Picton to get the ferry to Wellington, thus ending our tour of the South Island and heralding the start of our time in the North Island. Windy Wellington lived up to its name. It was sunny though. The promenade is very well done. Dinner was at the bustling ‘The Crab Shack’ down on the harbour front. Mussel fritters with jelapenos was a highlight. Crab and clam fettucine was my main. A very decent bottle of ‘Little Creatures’ IPA at £7! was well received.

Wellington via The Crab Shack, Fidels, Cuba Street and the cable car

For breakfast we ventured (on a tip) to Cuba Street and had a fabulous bacon butty at Fidel’s. Could have come straight out of Manchester’s Northern Quarter. A super place. More smoothies, up a cable car and a fabulous walk down the hill via Wellingtons botanic gardens and the haunting Bolton St Cemetery.

After our Maori taxi driver Linda had picked us up from our high rised hotel. It was a short flight to Auckland. Here we picked up our aged Toyota Camry and met our hosts for the next few days George and Carol. After a decent chicken Harissa at the ‘Zsimpla Gastropub’ right by Auckland airport it was a three hour late night dash to Opoutere and George and Carols incredible, self built beach villa on ‘The Coromandel’.

Our villa in Opoutere, Cathedral Rocks, Pipis

After a morning dip in the crashing waves of The Pacific on our deserted beach and a hearty, healthy breakfast, cooked by Carol, we set off on a day trip to Cathedral Rock and Hot Water Beach. Both key tourist must do’s on The Coromandel’. At night we picked the ‘Pipis’ for Georges Pipi fritters (see recipe here). We cooked them the next day. It rained all day here, the only rain on the three week jaunt.

We then sped across the north of the island back to Auckland to George and Carols bayside apartment in Takapuna which harbours stunning views across to Auckland City. It was here I was introduced to Stoke Brewery IPA, wonderful stuff. It was also here that I had a Chinese massage. My back is in poor condition apparently. We enjoyed more healthy home cooked food during our time here. Carol introduced me to Thai cooking and the abomination that is sugar! Lessons learned.

Views of Auckland, Stoke’s IPA, lamd at Regatta, Rangitoto

Nearby Devonport provides a regular 15 minute ferry to Auckland City. A deep fried snack at ‘O Hagans’ on the harbour ensued. A gentle stroll through the harbour via ‘The Auckland Seafood School’  a particular highlight.  At night a big sharing plate at Francs before finishing off with a lamb dish at Regatta on Takapuna’s seafront.

Next day it was another cruise to ‘Rangitoto’, a volcano. It takes one and half hours of torture to get up there and not much easier back down. It rained up there too. Our standard ham and cheese picnic served us well. More milkshakes at ‘Sienna’s ‘ in Devonport to quench a thirst.

After a wonderful walk down the rugged coast of Takapuna and another welcome shake at the Takapuna Beach Cafe it was a car return to the Jetpark Hotel by Auckland airport. Another burger at Zsimpla!!

Up at 4.15am and a three hour hop across to Sydney. A $60 Taxi to our high rise Meriton Apartment on Pitt Street. A great location in the heart of the city.

We set about getting our bearings and ended up in Darling Harbour. A modern harbour featuring the maritime museum and a host of tourist eateries, mainly owned by Nick! A lunchtime pulled pork baguette at ‘Olive’ was backed up later at ‘Cyren’ witn a pretty decent seafood risotto and a Baileys Brûlée. Darling Harbour is endearingly wonderful at night as all the high rised banking headquarters light up and overlook the water bowl.

Sydney – Westfield hotel, Seafood risotto – Cyren, Marble Arch bar, Queen Victoria buildings, Darling Harbour, Spag Bol & meringue ‘Rocks Cafe’, Sydney harbour

Next day we ventured on what turned out to be huge walk around the city. We started at Darling Harbour walking up through Bangaroo to Circular Quay. Not before seeing Sydney Harbour Bridge for the first time, walking beneath and seeing The Sydney Opera House. Both iconic. Circular Quay is the bustling epicentre where all the cruise ships land and all the ferries bob in and out of. It is lined with chain bars and restaurants. Walking through it and round you venture up close to the Opera House and then into the spectacular botanic gardens. Here you can get superb views of the two icons. We walked back at night down wonderful George Street via the Queen Victoria building to ‘The Rocks’, a small hub of shops and restaurants to one side of the quay. A high quality spaghetti bolognese and a huge lemon meringue was enjoyed at ‘The Rocks Cafe,’ a traditional, old world restaurant, very pleasant.

Endeavour Tap rooms, Manly beach, eggs at Two Good Eggs Cafe, Opera House at night

Next day we ferried ourselves to Manly Beach, a scorching day. Egg mayo butties from the 711 provided the day time sustenance! Arguably the best pint of the holiday was enjoyed at ‘The Endeavour Tap Rooms’. Based in ‘The Rocks’ area it boasted its own microbrewery. I opted for an Imperial pale ale and watched the world go by. Another £10 pint mind!

At night we made our first mistake, dinner at ‘The Hard Rock Cafe’. A display of Motley Crue’s farewell tour kex didn’t compensate for the cardboard burger and poor beer. My lamb cutlets weren’t bad but weren’t great either. Our final meal down under was breakfast at ‘Two Good Eggs Cafe’. A lovely walk via Hyde park and Oxford street led us to this off the beaten track delight. A proper eggs Benedict complete with avo was enjoyed by all. Best coffee americano too.

Our final meal at ‘Two Good Eggs Cafe’

And that was it! Uber back to the airport and thirty hours back to Blighty. Qantas scrambled egg, flatbreads and pizza helped us home.

A truly life changing experience. One for all to try. Please go if you can.


George’s ‘Pipi’ Fritters

To explain, George is the handsome cove who demonstrated this fabulous, fresh, seafood recipe to me. He (along with his wonderful wife Carol) had just happened to have built a stunning beach side villa in a place called Opoutere in The Coromandel area of New Zealand’s north island. I would urge anyone who hasn’t been to visit this incredible area of the world to do so forthwith. By some strange quirk of good fortune, I got to spend three days in this paradise.

Collecting on the beach, collecting in the bucket and hand

Paphies australis or pipi (from the Māori language) is a bivalve mollusc (so it says here!) which is endemic to New Zealand. The pipi is a shellfish with a solid white, elongated symmetrical shell with the apex at the middle. (To me it was a big clam).
The pipi is abundant on flat sandy beaches, where there is considerable water flow (or in other words just at the back of George’s beach villa!)
By releasing a thread of mucus, which makes them more buoyant, they can move about a bit by floating. They can get up to more than 1000 individuals per square metre. (I can vouch for that! There was loads of them just under us!). You simply rummage around in the sand with your hand at low tide and pick them out. Then throw into George’s bucket! (Mind you don’t get nipped by the crabs though! There’s tons of them too…)

Ingredients (makes around 12 fritters)

Half a bucket of freshly picked Pipis from the low outgoing tide of the Pacific Ocean, preferably in New Zealand. Ours weighed in at about 500g. I reckon you could use a ton of clams or even mussels instead.
2 eggs
Tablespoon of flour
Splash of fish sauce
Pinch of sugar
1/2 tsp curry powder and/or chilli powder (to taste. Chopped jalapenos could work well too I reckon)
Oil for frying

1) Leave overnight in clean water. The tentacles will come out and spit all the sand and waste out.
2) Clean and rinse.
3) In a shallow pan, bring an inch of water to a gentle boil. Place the Pipis in batches into the water and wait a few minutes for them to open. Remove with tongs as they open and place in a separate bowl. Repeat until all open.

The tentacles, steaming, opening up, removing the meat

4) Remove all the meat and discard the shells. This is easy using a your finger thumb. Take care not to eat too many while doing this. They taste wonderful and sweet even at this stage!
5) Finely chop, or ideally mince into a rough paste. (George has a fine old hand mincer)
6) Mix in a bowl with the eggs, flour, fish sauce, pepper, sugar and spices to create a sloppy paste

Mincing, mixing, dolloping in the pan

7) Cover the bottom of the pan with oil for shallow frying. Heat until smoking.
8) Spoon a good dollop into the pan and flatten down to create a patty around 6-8mm thick. You should be able to do 4 at a time. Fry 3-4 mins on one side until golden brown underneath. Flip carefully with a spatula and repeat.
9) Place on kitchen paper and keep warm.

We served with sweet chilli sauce, but I’m sure other dips would work too…
I ate mine with my hands.

FOOD! Reviews and Recipes by an Enthusiast!