Friday, 26 August 2016

Lovely things to do #3: nature amongst the industrial desolation at Seal Sands


There's a bank holiday coming up! The weather forecast is (mostly) looking decent! You need to get out there and do something, but what? What the heck will you do?! Well fear thee not, for right here at Patchy Growth we have, as they say, got your back. Yes, that's right, brace yourself: it's time for a Lovely thing to do!

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Restaurant Review: The Ritz Restaurant, Mayfair, London


Deciding where to eat for a bit of a blow-out treat when down in that London is a very pleasant, if not easily resolved problem. On prior trips down we've enjoyed meals at The Square, Alyn Williams and (best of the lot) The Ledbury. Although it needn't have to, high-end cooking does tend to come with a side order of plushness which, as a temporary counterpoint to the decidedly quotidian thrum of the daily grind, is very nice, thanks. Knowing a bit more about food than the dark arts of interior design or architecture (which isn't hard, as I know nothing about either), where we eat is about food first, with the comfy seats and thick carpets being a happy coincidence. With The Ritz it was, for once, the other way round. What would it even be like to eat lunch in that room? I had read enough glowing reviews of the classical cooking overseen by South Shields native John Williams MBE to think that it would be be worth finding out. So we did!

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Restaurant Review: Marmelo Kitchen, Leyton, London


London! Brilliant, isn't it? Well, I think so anyhow, at least in compact doses. London is a bit like Gentleman's Relish; a little really does go a long way. Catching up with friends who travelled south years ago and went native; getting your fix of the shit-hot cultural offering that you pay for in tax but don't normally get the chance to enjoy; and, of course, peering in at what's happening in the world of London food. All of this, at least for a few days, is surely worth the inconvenience of having your bogeys go black with pollution and the shock of paying six quid for a pint of underwhelming beer.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Lovely things to do #2: Go for a walk up to Simonside


One of the happier facts about living in Newcastle is how quickly you can get somewhere lovely and interesting by heading out of town in all four directions. To the west, Hadrian's Wall, Sycamore Gap and Kielder. To the east, Tynemouth and the coast. Durham is to the south (as is Sunderland, but hey, every rule needs an exception). Perhaps the finest rural treasures however lie in the direction of the big point on the compass. We're intimately familiar with the pristine coast that leads up towards the border, but the walk up to Simonside, just south of Rothbury was somewhere we had neglected, until recently, and is the subject of today's lovely thing to do. Prepare to be lovelied!

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Drying out the alliums


The recent blast of inferno-like conditions has hit us at a rather handy moment, as we've hoiked up all that remained of our autumn-planted allium crops and got them in the shed drying out. From past experience, autumn-planted onions don't store anything like as well as their spring-planted counterparts (why is  that, by the way?), but we don't have enough of theme for this to be an issue- we'll have scoffed them all sharpish.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

The rewards of rootling, and a whirlwind video tour of the plot


I like the word "rootle" a lot. It conjures an image of pigs or boar, searching for insects or acorns in shady woodland. Or of me, once a year, checking whether the potato plants are doing the business. The latter of these things happened on our allotment yesterday. I'd normally wait at least until the flowers show on our first early varieties to have a ferret around under the foliage, but, partly in the interest of getting to eat some spuds while they are still really waxy (last years were almost all floury, and useless for boiling) I had a look yesterday.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Double Deli Alert! Rural & La Casa


It's all gone a bit Iberian of late in Newcastle, as a couple of very worthwhile delis have opened up in the last few weeks, both of which are deserving of your attention. Almost overnight, the range of charcuterie in this fair city has lengthened and deepened quite considerably which is a very good thing indeed, not to mention some excellent cheeses and other bits and bobs not previously available.

Service Station Review: Tebay Services, Cumbria


Check out the picture above and tell me what you see. It's a service station, right? Right. So: as you walk in, and past the bleeping ranks of fruit machines and arcade games there'll be a desperately grim selection of refreshments and edibles on sale to rouse the weary travelling hordes. These will be criminally overpriced, meaning that what was only meant to be a quick toilet stop for the kids ends up costing as much as a full meal out back home in your favourite restaurant. Through gritted teeth you curse capitalism for having shafted you once again, before climbing back into the motor and furiously yet impotently blasting as far down the M-whatever as you can until the kids need to pee again, at which point the grim cycle repeats itself. Right? WRONG! Because (*adopts sultry breathy tones*) this isn't any service station; This is TEBAY service station!

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Restaurant Review: Jesmond Dene House, Newcastle upon Tyne


People (and when I say people, what I really mean is idiots) often calculate the extent to which a meal out provides good value by doing a rough sum of how much extra they have paid for it than it would have cost for them to assemble the raw materials themselves. You'll often find comments such as "Fifty Quid for two people??!! I could have bought all that stuff for a tennner, what a rip-off. DON'T YOU KNOW SOME PEOPLE CAN'T AFFORD TO EAT AT ALL??!!" lurking below the line of newspaper restaurant reviews. This is childishly ignorant for at least two reasons. Firstly, what kind of insane masochist reads all the way through a review of a nice restaurant when they know in advance it's going to set their teeth so thoroughly on edge? Secondly, and more substantially, it fails to recognise what a restaurant actually is.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Checking out the birds over the fence


We got a proper glimpse for the first time into the intriguing world of pigeon keeping at the weekend. The owner of the loft which backs onto our plot has been painting his sheds, necessitating the removal of part of our fence. This is fine, and I strongly suspect that they'll return to a better state of health than that in which they found it. It was an excellent excuse to invite ourselves for a look round their lofts and to find out a bit about how the whole murkily intriguing pigeon game operates.

Monday, 30 May 2016

Restaurant Review: Neptune Fish Restaurant, Seahouses

Neptune. To the right, the competition. To the left, a small abandoned child: welcome to Cameron's Britain.
After a premium morning of poncing around the Farne Islands, what better way of satisfying the resultant hunger than eating something that came out of the very waters that surround them? This is a rhetorical question, so you don't need to actually try to think of a better way, unless you really feel like you have to, in which case keep it to yourself. The whole premise of this introduction is that there isn't a better way, and I don't need you ruining it for me, smartypants. Anyway, I digress. Sand eels weren't on the menu anywhere, so I'm still unclear as to why these appeal so much to the Puffins we had spent the last couple of hours gawping at. What I can recommend however, are the fish and chips at Neptune, which are right on the money.

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Lovely things to do #1: Get a boat to the Farne Islands


Ahoyhoy, and welcome to the first in an occasional series of posts here on Patchy Growth which are related directly neither to eating out or our allotment, but are still, I think, worth noting for one reason or another. I'm calling it "Lovely things to do". You know how when you go to work on a Monday and someone's all like, "hey, I did this lovely thing at the weekend", and then they tell you what they did and you think "hmm, maybe I'll do that sometime"? Well, that's the kind of thing that'll be going on here. There are literally loads of things to do, so I doubt I'll ever run out of ammo for these pieces. When a man tires of things to do, he is tired of life, as the poet once said. Well, I'm not tired; I'm full of vim and raring to go. Let's do this!

Sunday, 22 May 2016

A lunch to end all lunches: Cal's Own, Jesmond

One man and his restaurant
I somehow managed to miss my twitter invite to the opening of the new Cal's Own in Jesmond. Gutted, I was. The only positive to come out of the whole debacle is that I've gotten a whole lot better at checking my Twitter DMs as a result. We've been in since and I need scarcely tell you how brilliant the Neapolitan pizzas are (especially that margherita), but anyway, they completely bloody are. They're definitely on a par with anything we tried when in Naples last year. When I got another message off Cal on the Twitter asking if Kasia and I fancied swinging by for a "tasting of treats", I definitely did. I had assumed, fairly, I think, that this would involve pizza. The fact that we sat for four hours stuffing ourselves but didn't consume a single slice serves notice of just what a great place to eat this already is, but also, excitingly, of how it may get even better over time. Here's what we had.

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Super-fun allotment tour May 2016


Ahoy there! Partly to save me typing up a whole bunch of stuff and partly because it's about time, in 2016, that Patchy Growth went for full digital media integration, I took a quick video of our plot today. We spent four or so hours up there today and managed to get the place whipped pretty much into shape.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

New season's greetings


Ahoy there. You'd be forgiven for thinking we'd given up on the old allotment game, what with the complete dearth of gardening-related entries on this page. Not a bit of it! Although the fluctuating priorities of life have prevented us getting to the plot - never mind writing about it - as much as I'd like things, are still happening. Now that that we're at the point in the year at which stuff is starting to grow, I'll show you what we've got going on so far.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Restaurant Review: Horvath, Berlin


It makes a nice change, in these days of insta-everything, to head out for a fancy dinner with no real idea of what you're likely to be fed. Such were the conditions of the meal that provided the crescendo to our recent trip to Berlin.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

A (very) late postcard from Campania, pt II: Positano and Naples

Positano
I was determined that we would get seaborne at some point of our stay on the Amalfi coast, but with just a couple of days before heading back to Naples it looked like this plan might be scuppered. It seems that the weather really doesn't have to be that bad at all to get the ferries that scurry between the various harbours along the coastline to down tools. What breeze that there was abated enough on our last full day in Ravello to encourage us to get the bus down to Amalfi town, and take a boat trip to Positano.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Restaurant Review: La Caravella, Amalfi



Nothing prepares the appetite for a fine lunch quite like being in the presence of the the bones of a bona-fide saint. Actually I've got no idea if this is true, but it didn't seem to do us any harm. After having staggered down the endless steps from Ravello to Amalfi we had spare time ahead of our appointment at La Caravella, which we killed with a brief mooch round the Cathedral.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

A (very) late postcard from Campania, pt I: Vietri and Ravello

Balcony #1
It feels a bit odd to be writing about a trip we were on nearly three months ago, but what the hell, here goes. In any case it beats banging on about not drinking for a month, or whatever, and a blast of sunshine in these dark months is surely not unwelcome. It sort of felt like like a lucid dream then, so I doubt if the intervening time will prevent me from recalling anything very important, especially as the thing that would be most worth getting across anyhow isn't anything factual, but just the feel of the place. Kasia and I had just under a couple of weeks in Campania, or, to be more precise, the Amalfi Coast and Naples. Be in no doubt, this is a sensationally beautiful and completely beguiling part of the world and we loved it, eating and drinking our heads off along the way. Here's some of what happened.

Monday, 30 November 2015

Restaurant Review: Ottolenghi, Islington

One of the main criteria I tend to employ when trying to decide on a venue for a meal is the extent to which I'd be able to prepare any of what's on the menu in my own kitchen. This dictum applies equally to both high end and proletarian fare. I am as equally disinclined to spend days on end reducing veal stock as I am to stink out my house by installing a deep fat fryer; thus, both classical French cooking and fish and chips are high up the list of things I want to eat out. With cooking as with all else, there is a noble humility in recognising that sometimes other people just have the tech, the time and the know-how which you lack, and you should pay for it. This is capitalism, and it tends to work quite well. This is also the reason I've resisted Kasia's enthusiasm to eat at Ottolenghi on one of our all-too-rare sorties south to London, until now.

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