As I write this, I’m back at home in Spain. I’ve had a great two weeks in England – catching up with friends and family is always good, and I haven’t cooked a meal or done anything much except relax, enjoy myself and drink plenty of cava and vdka. Some things stay the same wherever you are.
I’ve done quite a bit of eating out too, and what I’ve noticed is that we’ve done a sort of ‘Food World Tour’ of restaurants in England – or at least in Plymouth, Telford and Wolverhampton. It started off with Glenys’ recommendation of Leandra in Frankfort Gate, Plymouth. It’s a Greek restaurant, and as I’d never been in a Greek restaurant before, I was keen to try the best they had to offer. I saw one of my favourites – stifado – on the menu, but as I often cook this at home, I asked the waiter for a recommendation. He suggested the tuna, red onion and sweetcorn salad dressed with balsamic vinegar, followed by lamb souvla. For the uninitiated, that’s lamb marinated in herbs, then cooked over charcoal and served with rice and a salad. They must have thought I looked as if I needed feeding up, because I swear there was half a sheep on my plate. And yes, it was amazing, and so tender.
A few days later, we met up with fellow motor caravan enthusiasts Larry and June for a meal at the Hunting Lodge, at Cadleigh, near Ivybridge. That was more traditional English food, but I opted for cauliflower cheese and bacon for a new twist on an old favourite. To remind myself of the Mediterranean, I had it with garlic bread.
Next, it was out for a meal with my daughter Elizabeth, and she recommended we try Thai in the Park, an authentic Thai restaurant down by the new cinema on Commercial Road, Plymouth. Again, I’m a virgin – at least when it comes to Thai restaurants – so once again, I asked the waitress for a recommend. I love fish, so she recommended the green fish curry, and once again, it hit the spot. I don’t know how they did it, but that fish was the best I’ve tasted in years, and the flavour of the fish came through the curry spices too. I also discovered I prefer Thai prawn crackers to Chinese – more flavour and texture, with just a hint of spiciness.
And we rounded the evening off with a drink in The Thistle downstairs. One of the few things I miss about England is the authentic pubs, and there are still quite a few of them in Plymouth, so good news for me, and we got chatting to some very nice people too.
A couple of days later, and the travelling granny moved up to Telford, where my son and his wife took me to the Tin Tin Cantonese restaurant in Donnington. It’s an all you can eat buffet with a difference – you order as many starters and main courses as you want, and it’s all freshly cooked and brought to the table. There’s no limit on what you can order, but if your eyes are bigger than your belly and you leave a load of food on the plates, you will get hit with a surcharge, which is fair enough.
On my daughter-in-law’s recommendation, I tried the crab and sweetcorn soup – excellent, thanks Debbie – then got all adventurous and ordered pork yuk sung. That’s seasoned minced pork, carrots and and onions, wrapped in an iceberg lettuce leaf. After that lot, I didn’t think I could face much else, so I had Cantonese king prawns, and mussels cooked with ginger and spring onions, with just a little bit of fried rice to help it down. A gut-busting meal at a very reasonable price – what’s not to love?
Fasty forward a few days and the next stop on the Food World Tour is Cafe Champagne, an Indian restaurant in Monmore Green, Wolverhampton. My friends Helen and Len have been using Cafe Champagne for centuries, so they always get the regal treatment, and so does anybody who is fortunate enough to get taken along. Abandoning my usual default setting of biryani, I was coaxed into trying the Cafe Champagne special mixed curry. Needless to say, it was fabulous, and on certain nights of the week, you get a free starter and dessert with any main course, so it’s not too heavy on the pocket either. Not sure of the exact nights, but it was certainly operational when we went there on a Monday night.
Back in Plymouth, it’s another of my daughter Elizabeth’s recommendations. Fortune Court is in Tin Lane on the Barbican, and again, it’s a Chinese all you can eat, with the food served to the table. I’d say it was a notch above Tin Tin in terms of presentation and ambience, but again, it was excellent food, in large servings. More king prawns for me, this time in a multi-flavoured sauce. And crab claws, beautifully cooked, plus crispy shredded beef.
Another wonderful meal, and we rounded it off with drinks in the Swallow. And dancing – or at least, Elizabeth and I were dancing with one of her ambulance driver colleagues. That was another first for me – and for Glenys – because the Swallow is a gay pub, and neither of us have ever been in one before. After the great welcome we had though, we’ll be heading there again next time I’m in Plymouth.
On the last day of the trip, we met up with Larry and June again for lunch in The View Pan Asia restaurant on Royal Parade in Plymouth. It’s buffet service, and they serve a selection of Chinese, Thai and Indian food. After two Chinese meals in a week, I opted for the Indian beef curry after a king prawn and deep fried vegetables starter. I also managed to find room for dessert, but wished I hadn’t for the rest of the day.
So, there’s my Food World Tour. Pity I didn’t have time to fit in an Italian restaurant but hey, you can’t have everything. All the meals were exellent, and the staff were very friendly, and while it wasn’t as cheap as eating out in Spain, it wasn’t what you’d call expensive either. And the best news of all from my point of view is that, despite all those huge meals, I only gained one pound in weight as a result of my Food World Tour. Can’t complain at that!