Saturday 30 August 2014

Restaurant Review - The Salutation Inn, Irthington, Cumbria *****

My friend and I went to the lovely, small village of Irthington as few miles outside of Carlisle for a meal at the Salutation Inn there. We parked in the car park at the back of the pub and went round the front to go inside.
From the Salutation Inn Facebook Page
We entered into the bar area, which is a bit basic to say the least and it was a little disconcerting to have some of the locals there turn round and stare at us as we walked in! To the right of the bar is a pleasant restaurant area and we were shown to our table by a very friendly young waitress.

For starters I chose Garlic Mushrooms with Mozzarella, my friend chose the Cod Goujons. We did not have to wait long for them to be ready and both were delicious, mine had many herbal flavours in it as well as the garlic. My friend had a very generous portion of goujons and they were done in a very light batter which she said was wonderful.

For our mains I had Sea Bass in a Lemon Butter Sauce with Vegetables and Potatoes and my friend had the Shoulder of Lamb with vegetables and Chips. I have to say my sea bass was absolutely gorgeous, two good sized fillets cooked in a sauce that was perfectly balanced with the right piquancy of lemon to butter, it was
My Sea Bass - sorry for the shadows!
very, very good.  My friend's portion of lamb was massive and fell off the bone, the gravy was rich and tasty. She could not finish it all and so my dogs ended up with a nice little treat when I got home!

Unfortunately we had no room for dessert (of which many sounded lovely) and just had a coffee to finish our meal. Surprisingly, they only had filter coffee and I could not have a cappuccino as I would have liked, that is the only thing that was not perfect in our evening at the Salutation.

In conclusion, the Salutation Inn serves excellent food, the service is very quick and friendly. We had two vodkas and lemonade, one large red wine, two starters, two main courses and two coffees and the bill came to £55.00 which I feel is very reasonable considering the quality of the food served. It's worth the trip out of Carlisle, I'd happily recommend it.

Address:  The Salutation Inn
                Irthington CA6 1NJ

Facebook:  The Salutation Inn (Unfortunately this page is way out of date and there appears to be no                                                          website)

Friday 22 August 2014

Julie Dumbarton, Artist

Recently grown to love the work of the artist Julie Dumbarton, normally my preference for art is for gentle, pastel watercolours, but I love Julie's bright, vibrant paintings which are the opposite of my normal taste.

Photo from Julie's Facebook Page
A few days ago I drove to Langholm, where Julie has her studio situated in Buccleugh Mill. I was going there to pick up a mini painting in person. Julie's art sells for thousands of pounds, but every now and then she does a series of minis which sell for £75.00. I think it is a brilliant idea, it means ordinary people like me can afford to buy a small piece of her original artwork.

When I arrived at the studio Julie was not there but her husband Craig welcomed me warmly. The building was large, bright and airy, full of canvases ranging from small to huge, all alive with colour. In the middle was a table piled with tubes of paint and scattered around the space were comfy looking sofas. There was a little shop area that sold calendars, cards and other things.

My Mini (sorry about the reflections)
After a chat with Craig I was free to wander around the studio and it was lovely to see the paintings in real life, Julie is such an talented artist, I love the colour and life within her work, it makes you feel good just looking at them. The building itself, though large, had a warmth and lived in feel about it. That warmth also comes through in Julie's website and Facebook page which are both informative and friendly in tone. And it comes across strongly just how much painting means to Julie, it is her life.

I'm very happy with my mini, I love the mix of colours and the Monet-esque subject matter. They have lovely prints of many of Julie's pictures so that will be my next purchase, and I already know which one I will have, (one depicting the northern lights) so time to start saving for that!

I will be going back to the studio in the future, they have an open day every Friday from 10:00 - 16:00 and hopefully I'll get to meet Julie herself. She also does painting weekends and that is something I am seriously considering attending as, though I can draw, I cannot paint for the life of me! Anyone reading this who is local, pop round to the studio, you are in for a treat!

Sunday 17 August 2014

Edinburgh Day Trip

My cousin Janet and I went on a day trip to Edinburgh last week, it had been a few years since I had been there so I was really looking forward going back to this gorgeous city. The coach dropped us off at Waterloo Place just off Princes Street, even though the weather forecast had been poor, when we stepped off the bus Edinburgh greeted us with lovely sunshine. It was noon and we were both hungry so we looked for somewhere to eat, we saw an Italian restaurant nearby called Martone and seeing prices were reasonable we went in. I chose a Margarita Pizza with ham and mushrooms and Janet had Pappardelle Nonna (pasta with beef in white wine/tomato sauce.) Both were absolutely delicious (I tried a bit of Janet's) and went down very well. For dessert we both had ice cream which was deliciously creamy, real Italian ice cream, yum! I will do a separate full review of the restaurant soon.

Korean Dancers
St Giles on the Right

Suitably reinvigorated, we walked over the North Bridge and onto the Royal Mile where the Edinburgh Festival Fringe was in full swing. I used to go up for the Festival when I was much younger, mainly to see plays and special exhibitions, but I've not been to it for a very long time. The lively, eclectic vibe took me back and I loved it and wondered why I hadn't been back for so many years. There were little stages with varied performances on them, my favourite was a small group of Korean dancers (sorry can't remember their name) who also sang and played a bodhran-type drum. There were First Nation performers, theatre schools, traditional music, people dressed in every costume you can imagine, cards advertising shows were thrust into your hand at almost every step only to end up in the skips that lined the Royal Mile. Most were not doable for us due to time constraints, though one, An improv comedy act called Men With Coconuts fitted our needs, venue close by, free and fitted in with our timescale, so we decided to go to see them later in the afternoon.

We decided to go into St Giles Cathedral, neither of us had been inside before. St Giles was founded in the 1120's and the saint was a French hermit who is the patron saint of the city as well as the church. It was a beautiful place inside with lots of places where you could sit and just relax and contemplate. It was peaceful and cool, the opposite of the Festival buzz outside. Someone was playing jazz on a piano in there. Unfortunately I hate jazz and it did little for me and I was glad when he stopped playing!

We went outside and pottered round a little (highly priced) market in the square outside of the cathedral. I noticed a champagne bar in the square and reminded myself that I must sample their fayre one day!

Advocates Close
We wandered back down the Royal Mile and could see the North Sea, sparkling blue in the sunshine, at the end of it. We turned down Cockburn Street (see the poster above which really amused me, we truly are sometimes divided by the same language.) heading towards Market Street. We passed lots of steep, stepped closes heading down from the rock the castle and the Royal Mile stand upon, very atmospheric, I just love Edinburgh's Old Town.

We ended up at ground level and found the Sportsters Bar and sat in one of the cubicles there. It initially wasn't very busy but it still took 15 minutes for them to produce two cups of coffee, not impressed! We'd been in the bar for a short while and the heavens opened outside, good timing. The bar got busier as time went by and eventually the City Nightclub at the back of the building was opened for the punters. We sat three rows back in the small theatre area, relatively safe for a comedy show lol.

We enjoyed the performance which consisted of a few sketches which all involved audience participation (at a comfortable level) to some degree. I especially liked the sketch where one of the performers had to guess suggestions from the audience for an actor, Angela Lansbury, a film, Sharknado, and a prop, a broomstick from clues given by the other members of the group, very funny and amazing that he eventually got all the answers. The performers, Men With Coconuts, are professionals who are funny, quick witted and smart and I thoroughly enjoyed the show.

We went outside and once more it was sunny and dry, we had timed it really well with the weather. We had just under an hour before we had to get the coach home so we took a shortcut through Waverley Station and went back to Mantone's for a drink and snack as it was close to where we were being picked up. We had delicious toasties and gorgeous strawberry daiquiris (strange combination but it worked!)

I would have liked longer in Edinburgh and vowed to go again soon and maybe stay a day or two so I can really explore and see all I would like to see. Edinburgh is a truly unique city where the old and new live side by side, vibrant and exciting there's no where else quite like it.

Sunday 10 August 2014

Restaurant Review - The Plough, Wreay, Cumbria, French Night *****

I've reviewed  The Plough Inn before a few months ago here. But my cousin and I went to one of its Around the World Promotions, where on a Wednesday evening they have a tapas style meal from different countries. Last week it was French night, well no way could I resist that!

We were seated by a window and ordered our drinks and food.  The inn is a very comfortable place, a traditional pub that has been tastefully modernised in a small village just south of Carlisle. We did not have to wait long for the food which consisted of five small bowls with some garlic bread on a large plate. The bowls consisted of, beef bourguignon, chicken a la creme, bouillon de poisson, soup a la oignon and potatoes dauphinoise. The onion soup was delicious and came with garlic bread topped with cheese on top of it. Beef bourguignon is one of my favourite French dishes and this one did not disappoint, with a very flavoursome rich gravy. The bouillon de poisson came with pieces of cod, salmon and prawns in a spicy tomato sauce. It was a little too spicy for me, but that's me, I'm not into hot spices, my cousin loved it and fish isn't even her favourite food! The chicken a la creme was fantastic, my personal favourite, plenty of chicken and a creamy white wine sauce. The dauphinoise potatoes went with it all so well, the whole meal might have been too much meat without it, it was also very good. Finally, the garlic bread was wonderful, very garlicky as I love it.

I think it is a wonderful idea to have these tapas style meals from different countries each week. It gives people a chance to sample a few dishes from various cuisines for a reasonable price. One of the owners, Jane, is very visible and came to ask us how we enjoyed the meal when we had finished and she was also interested to hear some suggestions for other food nights from guests.

In summary, I cannot fault this meal, every dish was delicious, full of flavour and for £11.95 excellent value for money. There is a vegetarian option too. We'll definitely be back!

Address:  The Plough Inn, Wreay, Carlisle CA4 0RL
Facebook:  The Plough Inn  (There does not appear to be a website)

Wednesday 6 August 2014

Restaurant Review - Keez Bistro, Carlisle *****

Photo from Keez Bistro Website
My cousin and I visited Keez Bistro last week to try it's mid week special offer - two courses for £15.00. The restaurant is in central Carlisle and located in a basement with stone walls that a repainted white. The decor is contemporary with a touch of the old - there was a fabulous original black iron grate in the room we sat in, The restaurant has a relaxed atmosphere and informal atmosphere.

Initially we we sat in a small bar area where we had our drink and perused the menu. Our order was taken and not long afterwards we were taken to our table. Our starter arrived quickly, so even though there was not bread at the table I did not really miss it (I do love bread lol!) I had Peppered Goats Cheese with a Peach Salsa and my cousin had Beetroot Pie with Creme Fraiche and Herb Salad. Both were delicious but i did have to remove some of the pepper from the top of my goats cheese as there was rather a lot and it was too hot for me.

For the main I had Duck Breast with Stir-fried Red Pepper, Bean Sprouts and Noodles and my cousin had Slow Roast Belly of Pork with Lentils and Cabbage Salsa. When I ordered the waitress said the chef serves the duck pink but if I wanted it more well done that would be no problem. I appreciated being told that as I'm not so keen on pink duck. It came just as I wanted it and was very tender and a generous portion. The noodles were in a tangy fruity sauce that I loved! My cousin really enjoyed her Belly Pork though she found some of the crackling a bit of a challenge to bite through.

Neither of us had room for a dessert (and I would have so loved to have had their Strawberry Eton Mess!) and finished with coffee. Everything had been excellent and it was very good value for money, a starter. main, coffee and a glass of prosecco came to £22 each. The £15 midweek two course special is available Tuesday- Thursday. They also do a three course special every night for £22.00. They are closed Sunday and Monday. If you want top notch cuisine at a very reasonable price I'd highly recommend Keez Bistro.

Address:  Cecil Street, Carlisle CA1 1 NT

Tuesday 5 August 2014

Restaurant Review - Pompeii Steakhouse, Carlisle ***

Photo From the Pompeii Website
My friend and I went to the Pompeii steakhouse last week, both of us had been once before a few years ago. We had a friendly greeting from the waitress and shown to our table overlooking Carlisle Castle.

I ordered Creamy Garlic Mushrooms with brown bread to start and my friend had Pan-fried King Prawns with Garlic and Lemon and Salad. We did not wait too long but it would have nice to have some bread to munch on while we were waiting as I was really hungry. The starters were very good, though I did not get any butter for my brown toast and had some from my friend who got a large piece of butter to go with her small amount of bread. My mushrooms were delicious and it was a generous portion.

For our main we both went for the Dry Aged Rib-Eye Steak, my favourite cut of steak. It came with chips and a small container of vegetables. The steak comes sizzling on a red hot "volcanic stone platter." The steak was very tender and just melted in the mouth, very nice. My friend had the Blue Cheese Butter sauce which she loved and I had the Buerre de Paris (butter with herbs) sauce which was also lovely. But because the steak is served on the hot platter it continues to cook as you are eating it and, in my case ended up more well done than I like. I noticed that on an adjoining table they were given the raw steak and they just cooked pieces on the platter as they went along, we were not given this option.

We did not have a dessert, and, on my part, that was because this restaurant is expensive. We had the starters, two steaks and sauces and two glasses of prosecco and it came to £32 each. For me that is expensive, and though the food was good, I did not feel it was worth that amount of money. So, in conclusion, if you can afford it have the steaks at Pompeii, they are delicious, but if you are on a lesser budget I would go elsewhere.

Address:  Abbey Street, Carlisle CA3 8TX

Monday 4 August 2014

Lights Out - Remembering The Great War

Today is the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War  and I think almost all of us have a family link this world changing event. My grandfather and his brothers fought in France, one was wounded and died in hospital in Kent and never came home to his small hometown in Cumbria. I never knew my grandfather, but know he won the Military Medal during World War I, he was a stretcher bearer and I can't imagine the terrible sights he saw, I wish I had known him.

There are lots of events all over the country to commemorate the centenary of this world changing war. I will be participating in the Lights Out event in less than an hours time. Lights Out is when we are asked to turn off our lights and put a candle in our window to remember all those who died in this dreadful war, so many of them so young. They died for us and we must always remember that.

Photo Lights Out Website

Hotel Review - The Lord Nelson, Stockholm, Sweden - Small, but Perfectly Formed

The Lord Nelson is a small hotel situated right in the middle of  Gamla Stan, Stockholm's Old Town. It has the distinction of being the narrowest hotel in Sweden at just under six metres, but it does stretch a long way back. It is a very unique family run hotel, first opened in the mid 70's and now run by the children of the original owners.

The hotel is jam packed with naval memorabilia, much of it relating to Nelson. Each floor is named after a ships deck and the rooms after a ship. On each floor are beautiful grandfather clocks. On the first floor, overlooking Västerlånggatan, is a small library with comfy leather seating and a computer. It is a lovely place to sit and watch life pass by on the busy street below. There is also a roof terrace, again with comfy seating, tubs of flowers, blankets for when it gets cool and views over the roof tops of Gamla Stan. 
The Library

The rooms vary in size, (and are accessed by a real key!) but many are very small, like ship's cabins, with wooden floors and a port hole in the bathroom door, mine had a picture of a ship on the wall, a small desk an old fashioned wooden chair, a TV, and a few books and a narrow but comfortable bed, very homely. The bathroom was very clean and had all the modern fittings people expect, the water was always hot. The free WiFi worked very well. Note that there are no tea/coffee making facilities in the room, but on two nights when we arrived back at the hotel the receptionist happily made us coffee for no charge which we drank in the dining area.

Dining Area
Breakfast was taken in a small dining area beside reception. It had everything you could want including Swedish specialities such as herrings in a creamy sauce, crispbread and pink caviar. Everything was very fresh and constantly topped up by staff. They even had two baskets of boiled eggs, one containing three minute eggs and one six minute one, all wrapped in linen cloths to keep them warm. There was also a very good selection of bread/rolls.

The staff were delightful, very friendly and all spoke excellent English. They were very helpful with suggestions of places to eat and ordering taxis and the suchlike, nothing was too much bother for them. 

The location of the hotel right on the middle of Gamla Stan was perfect, in minutes you can walk to the Royal Palace, The Nobel Museum, Riddarholm Church, Storkyrkan and Stortorget. The centre of Stockholm and the main railway station are just a ten or fifteen minute walk away (depending on how fast you walk!) So if you are going on any organised trips the pick-up places are all within an easy walk.

Finally, the price for this hotel, considering its location (and the fact this was expensive Sweden) was very
Getting Acquainted with Lord Nelson
reasonable, I paid £200 for three nights bed and breakfast. If you want big, spacious rooms this hotel is not for you (though the same family run two bigger hotels in the same area, details on their website). But if you want a quirky, friendly, personal hotel that is well located and reasonably priced I have no hesitation in recommending the unique Lord Nelson Hotel.

Address:  Västerlånggatan 22, Gamla Stan, SE-111 29 Stockholm, Sweden.
Website: Lord Nelson Hotel