All posts by Michael Jackson

Born in Palestine many years ago, Educated? in Birmingham (West Midlands not Alabahma). Left home to join REME JLU in 1960, transferred to Intelligence Corps in 1962. Served with 13 Sigs Regt, 5 Inf Brigade HQ and Sigs Sqn, 9 Sigs Regt, Back to 13, E Troop, 14 Sigs Langeleben, roughly in that order up to March '84. Moved to Northern Ireland, to join my wife Josephine. Fell out with Brits over citizenship (bit like Spike Milligan -'cept I'm still alive - just!) and am now naturalized Irish. Have been with my present company, SOS Group, manufacturing school furniture since Sept '84.

Café de Paris, Rome

Café de Paris, RomeI spent half a day sightseeing in Rome with two business partners whilst waiting for a late evening flight on our way back from Tortoreto on the Adriatic.  We had left our bags at the Hotel Medici in the Via Flavia and had decided to walk to the Spanish steps and thence to the Vatican.  By the time we reached the Via Veneto it was well past lunch time and the Café de Paris just happened to be adjacent.  It certainly has the air of celebrity and the waiter ushered us to a table in the corner which gave us an all round view of the street.  We ordered water and soft drinks, I had an exceptionally good fresh orange and grapefruit mix.  A basket of rolls and butter, olive oil, a spray container of balsamic vinegar, black pepper and salt were left whilst we contemplated the menu. For starters two  had soup, one onion and one seafood.  Both were extremely tasty and definately substantial. The third choice was a lasagne alla bolognaise and again there was no complaint.  I chose escalope of veal with a mushroom sauce and artichokes and my companions had escalope Milanaise and sirloin steak: we ordered a plate of fries on the side.  The portions were of a  reasonable size and well presented.  The escalope was well cooked and the sauce delicious.  The vegetables accompanying the other meals were shaved carrot and sweet potato.  We did not bother with coffee.  The establishment is not a place to visit if you are travelling on a budget and the price tag of €201 plus some small change reflects this.  Still, if you want a great ambience and to sit and watch the great and the good go by I can think of far worse places to do it.

James Street South

James Street South

James Street South

I visited James Street South with three business associates on Monday, 19 October ’09.  It has been some time since my last visit but was assured by friends that the standard was as good as ever.  We waited a rather long time for the initial drinks in the bar but this was possibly because one of the company had ordered campari with fresh orange juice.  The good thing about the restaurant is that nothing is hurried and one is given plenty of time to choose ones menu.  I was surprised by the number of people eating out on a Monday and would guess that we were the only business party.  The menu is not particularly extensive, which is a good thing in my book, but caters for a variety of tastes.  Neither is this a restaurant for those who subscribe to the Irish penchant for laden plates, but we have found that a three course meal, with two shared side dishes is amply sufficient.  I chose the roast quail with chicory, goats cheese croquette and spiced grape,  one companion had the Lobster salad with quails egg and the other the sautéed scallops with white beans, pancetta and café de Paris. None of us could find any faults. They have an extensive wine cellar and we chose a bottle each of Lebanese red and white.  The red is rich with a distinctive hint of figs. The white a medium dry with a touch of fruitiness.  For the main course two of us had the Dover Sole with  lemon, shrimp and brown butter and the other two the Sirloin with white asparagus, girolle and garlic pomme puree. We shared one portion of new potatoes and one of french beans with parmesan and shallot. The fish was perfectly cooked and the shrimps were almost crisp which had an interesting effect on the palate when combined with the flakes of sole.  My companions were voluminous in their praise of the sirloin which they asserted was cooked exactly as ordered, one medium and one medium rare. We settled for two cheese boards to end the meal.  These were composed of portions of two Irish and two French cheeses, all of which were delicious. To round it all off we finished with a 20 year old port which was, and at £24 a glass (the same price as the bottles of wine) needed to be, stunning.  All in all, with great food and wine and excellent service, not to mention convivial company, it was a most enjoyable evening

Birgelen Veterans Association Reunion 2009

Jacko, Tom McMahon & Jim Malone recover from the AGM

Jacko, Tom McMahon & Jim Malone recover from the AGM

My first appearance at this event, which is now in it’s 9th year. The reason for attendance prompted by a meeting with Jim Malone at Heathrow airport in February which resulted in a “you go – I’ll go” scenario.  Anyway,  it’s held in the Cavendish Hotel, Torquay, reminiscent of Fawlty Towers in many aspects.  The receptionist doubled as barman, concierge and waiter and with about 70 people on the move this proved a challenging operation! It was great to catch up with a host of old faces (Bob & Joy White, Foxy, Tom McMahon, Tony and Hilary Moore, Keith & Pauline Clarke to name but a few) after such a long period away.  The do is run on the lines of any other reunion with a gala dinner and “dance” on the Saturday and the AGM on Sunday morning.  Sunday evening being a fund raising raffle and a sing along with Gwen Sangster.  Unfortunately the President, General Peter Baldwin, was taken ill and was unable to address the guests.  Tom, Jim and I spent a sunny Sunday afternoon on a mini pub-crawl along the sea front which produced a great deal of the humour that punctuated my time in the army.  Alltogether a well worth while exercise which I will probably repeat next year!

Greenhills Hotel, St. Peter’s, Jersey

Our last day, a beautiful September morning in the garden

Our last day, a beautiful September morning in the garden

We went to Jersey, and the Greenhills Hotel, on the recommendation of a friend. It was a short break from work, flying from Belfast on Wednesday and back on the Saturday. From the moment we arrived we were made to feel totally at home and the staff could not have been more friendly or helpful. The management team of Carmelita and Joe have everything organised to a T. As we only had a few days we booked half board. This was a good decision as, after a days walking the cliffs and visiting the attractions, it was great to have a shower, a drink in the bar and then be served some of the best food I have had in a hotel anywhere, (5 courses if you include coffee and canapes). The soups and fish would warrant special mention. Breakfast with a magnificent choice of fruit (and cereals if you are that way inclined), kippers, smoked haddock, or complete fries set one up for the day. All in all, considering the price of a hotel of anywhere near this quality in Ireland, at £188 a couple with a car thrown in, this realy was value for money. The gardens are beautiful and I would like to see them in the spring or summer. Although the weather was really good we did not venture into the pool. Altogether a memorable experience. We will be back

The Mustard Seed at Echo Lodge

Mustard Seed at Echo Lodge, Ballingarry, Co. Limerick

Mustard Seed at Echo Lodge, Ballingarry, Co. Limerick

I stayed at the Echo Lodge on a business trip to Ballinvreena, Count Limerick, and an excellent choice it turned out to be.  Built as a convent in 1884 it has an old world charm which is reflected throughout, including the welcome from the owner, Dan.  There is no bar as such and on requesting a campari and soda before dinner I was seated on a large sofa in the library. The drink arrived accompanied by complimentary smoked salmon mousse with radish on crispbread.  This definitely set the standard for what was to come. The Mustard Seed menu is compact but offers a variety to cater for all tastes.  I started with a crab and nori seaweed roll in tempura batter with mango and avocado salsa which brought out all the flavours. This was followed by a leek and potato soup.  The soup was a puree and had a delicious hint of lovage.  As a main course I indulged in a pan fried breast of guinea fowl with foie gras.  This was accompanied by garden greens (they have their own kitchen garden) a truffle and shallot velouté  and crispy sweet potato.  This was washed down with a half bottle of an excellent Pinot Grigio. The wine list leaves nothing to be desired either.  To complete this delightful meal they served a crème brûlée that was to die for.  I was listening to a party of Americans discuss whether or not to try it and my recommendation not to hesitate reaped an avid response.  As often happens in such a congenial atmosphere we got talking over a bowl or two of Armagnac and thus concluded the best meal I have had this year. With a price tag of €63 for dinner, plus €17 for wine, it cannot be said to be expensive, in fact I have had far poorer meals with double the price tag.  A word of caution, do not expect early an breakfast.  The chef starts at 8 am.  Of course this is worth waiting for as well!

The Red Lion at Earlswood

The Red Lion Earlswood

The Red Lion Earlswood

I flew over to Birmingham recently, 15 May 09, to visit my cousin in Willow Grange Nursing Home and took my brother in law and his neighbour, who keep an eye on her welfare, to lunch at the Red Lion at Earlswood. 

It must be 40 years since I last visited so have no recollection of what it was like then. The atmosphere as you walk in is comfortable, the wooden furniture completely in keeping with expectations and the staff welcoming. I am not usually a beer drinker but as there were three real ale kegs I asked a regular for a recommendation, the  Landlord Ale it was, the keg needed changing.  My companions settled for Guinness and a soft drink and we adjourned to a table to peruse the menu.  Eventually the waitress appeared and regretted that the barrel wasn’t cleared. I settled for a bitter (of which she had kindly brought me a snifter).  We ordered, unfortunately, there was no Camembert for the Whole Baked Camembert, nor was there any Pink Grapefruit for the Lobster and Pink Grapefruit.  The waitress was mortified but managed to keep her humour. I asked if the chef could provide a lobster starter without the grapefruit –  He did and it was excellent.  The fish of the day as a main course was Hake and cculd not be faulted, served in a light lemon sauce.  My companions steaks were reported to be first class. The Pinot Grigio was first class.  Sweets passed without a problem but then robert ordered a Tomato juice and worcester sauce, no worcester sauce! “Try tobasco”, says I. No tobasco.

“I’d settle for horseradish”, says Robert. No horseradish.

Oh well the coffee, the Brandy and the service were super and the price reasonable.  My congratulations to Jane who managed to keep us in excellent humour.