24 February 2006

Breakfast in Halls

Hall Food being what it is doesn’t inspire me much to write about food. In fact, recently eating has become more of a chore than a pleasure.

The worst thing about hall food is the generic fish Thursdays. The best is the breakfasts. On any day (apart from Wednesdays and Saturdays) you can get two or three item cooked breakfasts, but weirdly enough, sometimes these three item breakfasts would have to consist of black pudding, fruit pudding and a tomato. Sometimes there are sausages AND waffles. These count as Good Days. Sundays usually come with bacon AND eggs, which is amazing enough to get up for.

Last Saturday, being the morning after the hall ball, was a brunch. Served for almost twice the normal length of time and two hours later than usual, it really was a feast. It had everything. Maybe twelve or thirteen different cooked items, continental breakfast and the usual cereal and toast. It was amazing. Wow.

With other meals so often leaving much to be desired, breakfast really has become the most important meal of the day.

15 December 2005

Ask, Cambridge

I haven't posted any reviews for a while, but not because I haven't eaten out anywhere. However, during term time I haven't been sampling what the North East has to offer, but rather Cambridge. Being a universtiy town full, generally, of the middle classes and naive tourists, the eateries I've come across have been on the expensive side, which includes sandwich places and bakeries. Fear not. Next term I shall be exploring the absurdly long Mill Road, home to noodle bars and Asian supermarkets galore. As lazy, lazy students, my friends and I weren't quite up for that sort of trekk on a chilly night a few weeks ago. Ignoring the impending essay crises, we wandered through the city centre forlornly, hoping that the perfect restaurant would appear above the cobbles. It didn't. Maybe we were too picky -we needed somewhere that wasn't too expensive, yet that made good food, wasn't too much a product of faceless corporation (with questionable results) and that had a range of vegetarian dishes. In the end (it really was the end - we were grumy and freezing) we went for Ask, an Italian style restaurant on Bridge Road (up towards Magdalen). You can find the precise address and the menu here: www.askcentral.co.uk/askmainani.html.
I'm never quite sure what to make of chain restaurants - I'd like to think that I don't support the concept, but I'm often drawn in by the shinyness and faux-expensive furniture of 'up-market' brands such as Pizza Express. The atmosphere and decor of Ask in Cambridge didn't immediately scream 'chain restaurant' to me: then again, I'm quite gullible. It was quite airy yet comfortable, with generous leather seats, and a cream, brown and black colour scheme. To some, this may suggest a restaurant completely devoid of character and originality. To be honest, I was cold and hungry, so I didn't really care. Unlike most restaurants of its kind, the menu was extensive - in fact, it may have been enough to induce hyperventilation in more indecisive customers (ahem). It's for you to decide whether a large menu indicates that Ask is greedily covering every base, being unusually generous or just a tad vulgar. After about ten minutes, I came to my decision: garlic bread and a di capra pizza (with goat's cheese, asparagus, mozzarella, tomato and basil). For some reason, I really can't remember what the garlic bread looked like but it was soft rather than crispy, falling deliciously between stodgy and light. Really, anything with garlic and butter is on to a winner. Initially, an inner, organic-loving voice told me that it was plain wrong to order asparagus in Winter, nonsensical and greedy to drag a vegetable over from Peru just because we can demand it all year round, rather than savouring our home-grown asparagus during its glorious, short season and allowing the memory to sustain us through the Winter. Alas, the allure of goat's cheese was too much, and when the pizza arrived I can't say I was disappointed. Admittedly, it probably could have managed nicely without the asparagus, but it added a sweet yet earthy edge to the goat's cheese saltiness. I hadn't had goat's cheese on a pizza before, and I now see the foolishness of my youth. It was salty, yet fresh, and completely moreish. I think it must have been quite a young cheese, lacking the intensity or character that I've tasted before in French goat's cheeses, but the contrast with the bland mozzarella lifted the pizza from the usual fat-and-bread with whatever realm into something really rather tasty. The benefit of 'up-market' chain restaurant pizza (as it shall be henceforth known) over take away or suchlike pizza is the base, which isn't doughy, but thin and light with crispy edges, the merest hint of heaviness. And there was some chargrilling on the underside of the base, which added another tinge of smoky flavour. Or at least I imagined it did.
It may have been my fellow pizza-eaters, or the copious amount of cheese and warm bread I consumed after our miserable trek to find a restaurant, but I did enjoy my meal at Ask. In fact, I remember it as being on of the better meals out (food-wise) that I've had in Cambridge. Then again, it seems that this doesn't really say much...Plus, I just love pizza.

13 October 2005

PM's of St Andrews

This is a generic takeaway outlet on Market Street - you can see the contact details on the brochure. I have come across this takeaway twice during my first weeks at uni. The first experience I had wasn't a very good one. I ordered a pizza, and it was not very good at all. To say the least. However, today, while powerwalking home from my 1pm class, I did feel the need for a chip butty. After handing over my £1 coin, I was presented with a medium sized white breadbun stuffed full of chunky chips. Condiments were put all on the same chip, as is customary for chip shops. I'm not sure whether it was my hunger or the quality of the chips (which were perfect, no scraggly or burnt ones), but it was the nicest chip butty I've had for a long time.

01 October 2005

University

Well, having been engrossed in settling into university life in St. Andrews, I haven't posted on here much recently. Tonight, me and some of my new-found friends are going to embark on a whole new food journey - cooking for ourselves. Up till now we've been eating Hall food and relying on takeaways for the weekend evenings, but now we're trying it for ourselves.

After trekking to the local Tesco, we got ourselves a huge sack of rice, and one of pasta shells (economy brand, of course). We plan to make a stir fry tonight, with onions, peppers and mushrooms, and of course some own-brand sweet and sour sauce.

Tomorrow, tomato and basil pasta, along with any of the left over veggies from today.

Should be fun. I'll keep you posted.

07 September 2005

Photos Added! (not a real post)

I finally got around to taking pics of the restaurants in Newcastle, so check out old posts for new pics!

03 September 2005

Lau's Buffet King

Lau's Buffet King in Stowell Street, Newcastle wasn't given many stars by a local reviewer, and maybe it's easy to see why.

Although the food is filling enough, there isn't really that much choice for vegetarians, and as can sometimes happen with Buffet lunch deals, there is better food available for slightly more cash in one of the other Chinese restaurants in Newcastle. About £2 more gets you a 5 course lunch and a drink at Shangri-La or the Mandarin. That said, Lau's provides an easy meal. At £4.99 a head plus £1 for a soft drink, it's certainly one of the cheapest places to eat if you want Chinese food. Beware, any friends coming with you will be charged £4.99 even if the don't have anything from the buffet. Lau's is one of the many Chinese all-you-can-eat buffets on Stowell Street. The service is excellent, plates can disappear under your nose if you appear to be finished, though, so watch your knives and forks if you use them. For someone who eats meat, there is a lot of choice ("80"-course buffet offered!), though some of the mainstays of a Chinese buffet (chow meins for example) were strangely thin on the ground, but the special fried noodles are very nice, and led to something of a "noodle challenge".

Another fantastic thing about Lau's is the gorgeous sweetcorn soup, which you can find in a huge cauldron in the corner, along with another soup of the day. The choice of desserts is good too, ice cream, pineapple and banana fritters, fruit and jelly are all laid on.

So, even though Lau's is the cheapest around (and definitely cheerful) remember that you only get what you pay for.

15 August 2005

Minchella's Ice Cream

This locally made ice cream is, in my opinion, the best ice cream you can get on a vaguely warm summer's day in Noth East England. It's so white it will make your teeth jealous, and is best enjoyed all on its own, or blended with cocoa powder when you can't resist buying 2 litres of the stuff to bring home. I think Toney Minchella's is the best. You can read about the Minchella Brothers on their company website.