Eating with 241

Last week I saw Pizza Express were running a 2 for 1 offer again (available until the end of February I think) and as I was meeting a friend for a quick lunch thought that in these credit crunched times we should give it a whirl. To get the voucher I had to register my email address (so that will be unending email traffic from Pizza Express for ever more I guess) and print off the voucher – all pretty easy. Then off to Pizza Express to enjoy the main course of my choosing (with friend in tow – I don’t think the offer was eat 2 main courses yourself and have one free but that might work for the very hungry).

Pizza Express is somewhere I go fairly regularly even at 
full price so this is not a tale of complete madness (ooooo look its on offer I’ll have one even though I don’t need, want or like the product…hey admit it, its happened to us all at some time or another).

We settle in, we peruse the menu, they no longer do my friends favourite main course salad, this could get difficult. The offer is ONLY for two main courses and she wants the salad (and I don’t blame her it used to be pretty good) so we negotiate with the waitress. She’s a little stern at first insisting that it’s only an offer on two main courses and even having a double portion of one of the starter salads won’t count. We wheedle a bit – she looks like she might relent and she disappears (presumably to check with the manager but maybe just to get away from us trying it on).

She returns and YES we can have a double portion of starter salad and use the offer. HURRAH.

The food comes, its good in the way that Pizza Express is always good, it does exactly what it says, and service was prompt – they allowed us off piste with the offer. Which, considering how busy it gets when these offers are on (be there at 12.30 or think again where you are lunching), was very fair of them, they could have said no and if we had gone then they would easily have filled our table.
It was pretty noisy because it was so busy; add to that the half terms crowds (big mistake by us picking half term week) and if it’s a peaceful lunch you are after then this isn’t for you. If you are looking for value though this is a pretty good offer; there are plenty around at the moment and signing up to Money Saving Expert or Money Supermarket will point you to them – just remember where ever the offer is for it will get VERY busy and they might not be as flexible as Pizza Express were on this occasion.

For the record we ate at Pizza Express, New Fetter Lane, London and had a La Reine pizza on a romano base with extra egg (soft cooked) and a double portion of mozzarella and tomato salad with a side of dough balls.

Very nice lasagne

Yesterday I met up with a good friend for lunch and a catch up and we went to Vine on Gray’s Inn Road. We have been there plenty of times before but not recently as it has been shut for a while due to a change of ownership. Time to see what had changed we thought.

The menu has a greater emphasis on pasta and risotto dishes than previously, although there are still a good range of starters, mains and specials.  I had the lasagne and my friend went for a risotto with courgette and gorgonzola. Service was speedy but when we arrived it was quite empty (it filled up pretty quickly though).  The lasagne really hit the spot – good meat sauce, pasta not too heavy (though not as feather light as you can get it if you make it yourself), right amount of bechamel. In fact I was enjoying it so much that I have no idea whether the risotto dish was any good!

The waiter said that the new chef had previously worked for Carluccio’s so I guess that might explain the shift to pasta/risotto. Certainly the lasagne compares very favourably. And the Chianti was pretty good too :)

Suffolk seaside treats

Up on the Suffolk coast for brisk walks and tasty food this weekend. Love it up here and there is plenty to keep a food addict happy – from great farm shops to favourite restaurants, good beer and excellent fish and chips. Too much to fit into one weekend so we are pretty regular visitors.

This weekend we have picked up a lot of goodies at the Friday Street Farm Shop – some to eat now, some to take back home.

We always get something by Purely Pesto (who don’t just make pesto) – this time it was some soups for lunches – beetroot and also curried parsnip. They taste great  – freshly made, no additives, smooth and creamy but not overbearingly so – plus the beetroot is just a beautiful colour! The portions are a little small for 2 for lunch, more a starter size portion  – but still recommended.

We also picked up organic eggs from Maple Farm which are currently priced at £1.50 per half dozen – great value and makes you wince at supermarket prices….as well as some shin of beef from Cratfield. We have had various of their cuts before and its always very tender and well flavoured, really demonstrates the difference you get from well reared and properly hung meat. That’s just a few of the highlights from this weekends haul.

After a bracing walk along the seafront to Thorpeness and back to the Martello Tower we decided to brave the cold again and have a couple of Adnams beers (and a quick blast of 12 bar blues from the Smokin‘ Hogs) at The White Hart before going to eat at Regatta – one our ‘regular’ choices when we visit Aldeburgh. They seem to have the ability to fit you in for dinner no matter how busy they are – you might have to be prepared to eat quite late (9pm) but they will almost certainly find you a slot. The place is always lively, the service very friendly and the food consistently good. There is always a strong specials board which, as you might expect on the coast, has a particular focus on local fish and seafood.

I went for the French style country pate with prune and onion chutney followed by the quartet of smoked and cured seafood – both from the regular menu. Both portions were generous and with bread, salad and new potatoes alongside I failed at the final hurdle on the fishy platter and had to leave a few smoked prawns  – perhaps next time I’ll opt for the smaller portion size. The pate had just the right coarse chunky texture you want from a country type pate with the prune and onion chutney complementing it well, rich yet tangy and good enough to make we want to look out a recipe for something similar.

I should confess here that oniony chutneys and marmalades are a particular weakness of mine and I regularly spend days bubbling up batches of onion delights with which to win friends and influence people :) so it was pretty inevitable that I was going to like this dish.

The smokey and cured platter consisted of gravadlax, smoked salmon, brandon rost (hot smoked salmon) and smoked prawns – each with their own appropriate garnish/sauce. All were of a very high standard and all are cured or smoked at the restaurant – you will also find you can source similar local delights at various farm shops and delis in this part of Suffolk (the village of Orford being particularly well known for smoked products). Last night the gravadlax was on especially top form, nice thick slices, lightly cured but with a refreshing amount of dill and a spot on mustard sauce to accompany it (sharp but not overpowering). I was rather sad not to be able to finish the prawns as their rich smokiness was going very well with the Californian red wine we were trying for the first time (J Lohr Wildflower Valdiguie 2007) – a pairing to remember for another visit.

My other half had the gravadlax to start (and was similarly impressed) with braised lamb shank on a bed of swede puree to follow (from the specials board). Again portions were generous and although a man of few words when eating he was suitably impressed leaving not a scrap on his plate. Overall another very enjoyable meal at Regatta.

Right time to go and search for onion and prune chutney recipes.