Category Archives: Eating Out

Restaurants, Inns and hotels worth a mention

Grottino, 9-10 Sukhumvit, Soi 19, Bangkok

Can anybody remember when the Fondue was in fashion.  No?  Our final evening in Bangkok was spent in the Grottino, a Swiss owned and run restaurant in Soi Wattana off Sukhumvit. It is typical Swiss decor with large round wooden tables and chairs to match.  The manager Mr Winkler made sure we were comfortably installed and checked on the service throughout the evening.

If you have visited Germany or Switzerland you may well be aware of the Ungarische Goulaschsuppe which is a firm favourite of the region.  It is more like a beef casserole with plenty of paprika added.  The one served here would grace the best I have had and was served with their own home made Swiss style brown bread.  There was white as well!

As a main course we went for the beef  fondue for two, which turned out to be served with a side salad with a choice of French or Italian dressings, a collection of dips, olives, gherkins and silverskin onions, fine cut fries.  The beef is prime Australian.  All in all there was enough for at least three! The quality and service left nothing to be desired.

They have a good choice of wines and also do have imported Bitburger Pils.

Our friends, who use the restaurant on a regular basis, had the schnitzels and as their plates were empty one assumed they were satisfied too.

Cabbages and Condoms, Sukhumvit, Soi 12, Bangkok

Went to dinner last evening with Sandy and Kay McKinnon and a party of friends at this most unusual of venues in Bangkok. It is part of a project to bring aids awareness to Thailand and make condoms as accessible as cabbages, hence the name.

The decor is unashamedly in-your-face with mannequins dressed in costumes fashioned completely out of condoms etc..

The food is Thai with a selection to cover all tastes.  We picked a selection of starters including rice cakes, spring rolls, sate and chicken and sweetcorn baskets.  Main courses were pork in yellow curry, spicy (very) prawns, chicken with lemongrass and crab patties to name but a few. It was all extremely tasty and helped by both the company and some very passable red wine (and beer for some) we spent a very enjoyable evening, the highlight of which was the Hong Kong Welsh Male Voice Choir (over for a festival) who were also eating there and gave an impromptu rendering of  various traditional welsh songs.

Carrickfergus Sailing Club

The indomitable members of CSC BDDS (ballroom dancing debating society) block booked the largest table available for the Valentines Dinner on Saturday 13tn.

It’s the first time that we have eaten there since Liberty Catering, in the guise of Phil McCleery, took over the kitchens. Fortified with a couple of pre prandial Bombay and tonics we took our places for the feast (due to the organisational acumen of our retired master class instructor, Linden Graham, we had pre-booked our menus).

The soup, chicken, celery and spring onion arrived hot, a plus to start with, and was really tasty,  reports on the stuffed garlic mushrooms and Caesar Salad offered no cause for concern.

For main course I had opted for the Medallions of Pork with Onion rings, rosemary gravy and tangy apple sauce.  This came served on a bed of mashed potato.  The gravy was rich, the onion rings crisp and the pork well done.  The vegetables, which came a little late were plentiful and well cooked.  Josephine had taken the baked salmon with tiger prawns and Hollandaise sauce.  Her only complaint was that the crust was cremated! We washed this down with a very acceptable Australian Merlot.

For sweet I took the chocolate mousse with mango coulis and fresh cream.  The mousse was light and chocolatey but I was not particularly impressed by the mango sauce which I, personally found a little overpowering. The whole meal was rounded off with a choice of complimentary Irish or Baileys coffee.  With a price tag of £32 a couple including service one would have to be niggardly to complain.

Unfortunately the disco was not up to the standard of the food, but true to form our group managed to solve the problems of the world before our taxis whisked us away into the night.  Great evening!

Queen of Tarts, Dame Street, Dublin

Read the sign!

Was sheparded into the Queen of Tarts by Joe Griffin for coffee and a bun whilst on a flying business trip to Dublin.
The place is amazingly small with only half a dozen tables and a three or four counter stools. Everything is home made and the danish, apple, cinnamon and raisin, actually melted in the mouth. Joe had the individual apple crumble. Coffee just as good as the food. The savoury tarts and quiches, mostly individual as far as I could judge, looked as good as the sweets and it took a deal of will power not to partake.
This is definately somewhere to go back to. They have another shop in in Temple Bar, but that wouldn’t be one of my usual haunts!

Aldens in the City, Callender Street, Belfast

Shook out our bus passes for a trip into Belfast, too much hassle driving these days, to pick up a few odds and ends.  This brought on a need to find somewhere for lunch and, as we were in M&S at the time, where could be more convenient than Alden’s retreat just across from the rear door.

Pleasantly surprised to find that it was not crowded.  Ordered the necessities first, two Pinot Grigio and some water.  The waiter informed us they were having problems with the tap water and suggested a large bottle of  bottled. This turned out to cost the same as the wine, so reaffirms my antipathy to drinking water (which only rusts things anyway).

I ordered the Linguine with asparagus, sunblush tomatoes, red chillies, basil and parmesan  , whilst Josephine had the cauliflower soup with a half deli ham and Charleville  cheddar sandwich.

The linguine was perfect the red chillies giving it a bite without being hot and the asparagus and tomato flavours enhanced by the basil.  I mopped the plate with a piece bread from Josephine’s sandwich.

The cauliflower soup was thick and creamy; I managed to sample a spoonful and agreed that it was indeed extremely tasty.  The sandwich was reportedly the same with proper ham and cheese rather than excuse one gets in many places.

A couple of ladies of our vintage had arrived at the adjacent table and were discussing trying the Linguine so, of course, I put in my recommendation. Luckily she also considered it as good as I had.  It transpired that the other lady has a son in Thailand who she is visiting at the same time as we will  be there and she had also been on Rhine cruises and a Cuckoo Clock trail which covered the same areas of Germany with which I am somewhat acquainted.

Noticed the sweets counter on the way out and was extremely tempted to turn back but managed to drag myself out!

So if you want to have a great lunch and meet interesting people go to Alden’s in the City.

Jaipur, Grafton Gate East, Milton Keynes

The Jaipur advertises itself as the largest Indian Restaurant in Europe.  I am not in a position to verify or refute this, but it certainly is an impressive edifice. It came recommended by my companion and so we took a taxi through the snow to sample it’s renowned cuisine.  The foyer gives no real impression of the remainder of the complex which has the Indian restaurant on the ground floor to the left and the “Orchid Lounge” Thai somewhere else. Our coats were duly collected and we were ushered into the spacious restaurant area.  It was sparsely occupied, maybe on account of the weather.  My concern would be that on a busy night the tables for two are placed very close together and it would probably be difficult, if not impossible, to have a tête-à-tête.  This was confirmed by another friend who personally encountered this problem.

But I digress!  Whilst we perused the menu we ordered Puppadoms, which came with the inevitable chutneys.  They provide a good selection which includes an excellent lime pickle.  My friend mixes the chopped onion with mango which makes an interesting combination.

We decided to miss the starters and go for a main course each and a couple of vegetable side dishes.  Lal Maas, a lamb and red chilli dish, Aloo Gobi, potatoes and cauliflower and  Chana Bhagee, chick peas with onions and tomatoes and spices.  The cuisine is exemplary.  Lal Maas is naturally hot but they managed to capture the full flavour of all the spices and  the lamb was cooked to perfection.  Too often it is  stringy or gristly or both.  Both the side dishes were cooked to leave the vegetables and pulse firm and had just sufficient sauces to produce a full flavour without being intrusive.

I do not think I have got this far before without mentioning the wine.  A Chilean Merlot  that proved to be strong enough not to be overpowered by the food.

We finished up with excellent coffee, freely refilled, and a couple of very acceptable Courvoisier cognacs.

Verdict.  Food perfect and service pretty good.  I am to be convinced by the ambience but not enough to stop me from going back to try out another section of the menu.

The Swan Inn, Milton Keynes Village

Milton Keynes was pretty much snowed in when we battled our way round to the Swann Inn for a light lunch before I was due to fly back to Belfast.  Turned out to be a trip worth the effort.  A traditional thatched country inn furnished to match.  The staff were smart and helpful and the menu pretty representative of good “pub specialities”.  I settled for a pint of  Well’s Bombadier bitter a starter and we both chose the home made pasta.  This was Linguini style with carbonara sauce, pancetta, melted parmesan, cream and free range eggs.  The dishes were large and the taste delicious.  There was plenty of pancetta and the sauce was creamy and thick enough to cling to the pasta and not slop about in the bottom of the dish.  I am not an authority on beer but the Bombardier had a nice deep amber colour and slipped down extremely smoothly.  Lots of hoppy flavour.  I would love to go back when I had more time and sample their dinner menu.  First class.

Oyster Bar, Victoria Centre, Belfast

Tucked in a corner of the ground floor, between ladies shoes and the stationery department, of the House of Fraser, is the Oyster Bar.  As it’s name implies it specialises in shellfish and champagne and it makes a pretty good hand of serving both with a certain degree of panache.  It is the perfect place to people watch whilst indulging in a seafood chowder or Dublin bay prawn (except for the colour they could almost pass for  lobster) salad and a glass of what you fancy.  The clientèle is mixed,  parties of solicitors from the adjacent law courts, only on a Friday afternoon of course,   to establishment matrons recovering from stress of choosing the right corsage.  Being a fairly small establishment eavesdropping is de rigueur so you never know what you may learn.  Give it a try, the food is great and the location, to say the least, interesting.

Thai Spice, Talbot Place, Dublin

Thai SpiceIf your in the Connolly Station area and stuck for somewhere for a quick meal then Thai spice is worth a visit.  If you cross over the road from the station and into Talbot Street it is the first turn on the left. From an overherad conversation it is run by a Thai family and the food certtainly seems authentic though I am not a conoisseur.  The place is clean and neat and the service very quick and acceptable.  It is fully licenced and the house red is a Montepulciano d’ abruzzo.  At €3.90 for a largish glass that is value for money in Dublin.  I had the Pad Khing, a stir fry of pork, onions, black funghi, scallions and chilli, plus the ubiquitious carrots, and fried rice.  Really was very tasty.  There were two Thai locals at another table who ordered the day’s special (€8.95) .  It looked very palatable and there was plent of it.  They obviously tone down the spicy heat for the general public as these boys called for the dips tray and emptied two bowls of the chilli.

Would certainly call again if stuck for an hour waiting for the Enterprise.

Expresso Elements, Lisburn Road

There are a plethora of chic coffee houses allong the Lisburn road but Expresso Elements just happens to be opposite Paul Stafford’s salon so it seemed just the place to drop into an while away an hour whilst waiting for Josephine.  The decor is black with wooden chairs and tables and a window counter bar.  Efficient staff also in black.  I picked a latte, (unusual as I normally take americano, but felt the need for something softer!) and a cinnamon dusted mince pie.  Special Christmas offer £3.00. The latte came in a smill glass with sugar added (they ask how much you want) so no need for spoons and nasty little bags to litter the table.  The pastry was melt in the mouth and the pie delicious, though maybe with just a touch too much cinnamon.  There was a steady trickle of customers, some like me readijng the paper and watching the world go by and others quickly in and out.  Clean,  tidy, good coffee and  pleasant staff, will no doubt call again.