Monday, 8 June 2015

Cafe Rouge Rejuvenated

Café Rouge at Gunwharf Quays has recently had a make-over and a new seasonal menu.  Can you believe it’s been 10 years already for them at this site!  

Last week I had the opportunity to go and sample this brand new menu, which boasts their most authentic and exquisite dishes to date.  The décor is cleaner and brighter than before, but still stays true to its identifying colours and bistro feel.

I was really pleased to see Escargots (AKA snails) on this new menu.  At the tasting evening held a few weeks prior these were handed out as canapés to sample.  Looking at people’s faces there was a mixed reaction to trying them out.  For me it’s a dish I love, and having travelled to other countries including Malta, this is a dish that is popular in many places, and truly delicious. I was looking forward to seeing how they would materialise into a restaurant dish.
Whilst we perused the menu, we nibbled on a selection of olives and a plate of mixed breads.  The caraway bread lacked in flavour for me, so perhaps this could be improved.

I encouraged my party to choose dishes off this new menu, and most obliged!  Between us we tried out the salmon ceviche, ragout d’escargots and crevettes for starters.  Everyone really happy with their choices, but especially pleased that the escargot was excellent!  High praise indeed, as I had my doubts as to whether they would be rubbery, in fact they were succulent and flavoursome especially with the added truffle oil. Served almost as a pie with a puff pastry top - a ‘must try’ dish!

I ordered the bouef bourguignon for my main course.  We agreed it was the best dish. Nice to have fresh chopped herbs folded through the mash potato too, and presented well.  Other mains ordered included the slow cooked duck leg, which didn’t seem to have been given much of a makeover, sea bass fillet which was a good size portion, and a sirloin steak.

We found a small space for sampling the puddings!  What was nice regarding the dessert menu was the addition of quirky flavour sorbets and ice creams.   Crème brulees were served with a delicious strawberry and black pepper sorbet, and the creamy chocolate ganache was topped with chocolate lime & chilli sorbet.  Perhaps not classically French, but what restaurant doesn’t have to tweak and adapt a little to remain fresh to keep our interest. 

I had somewhat fallen out of love with Café Rouge, but this timely all-round makeover has certainly whetted my enthusiasm to return. 

Wine is now supplied by Bibendum

Monday, 7 April 2014

Local Evening Cookery Classes

I decided to pop into Chimes Restaurant (for those who do not know, it is Highbury college's Hospitality and Catering restaurant located on Winston Churchill Ave).  As I was walking past, I was pleased to discover that they are now running some cookery courses for the likes of you and I.  I was told this was a fairly new venture for them.  Having attended many cookery schools over the years, I'm glad to see the local college is running some evening classes, and I think it is a great idea for the people of Portsmouth.

I did manage to pick up a couple of leaflets as to what they have coming up, but for further information on these and as to what events are scheduled for future dates, you need to visit

I think the level of classes is aimed at beginners to intermediate, and classes are being ran by the college's lecturers.  Here are the details:

Monday, 24 March 2014

Seasonal Asparagus

This seasons recipe includes the use of Asparagus.  It is well known that British Asparagus is among the best in the world, and I usually have it simply with pan fried fish and boiled new potatoes.

To still enjoy this wonderful ingredient alongside my other favourites I decided to make a one pot dish that I can pop in my Rangemaster and enjoy on a weeknight with the family - quick, easy and healthy.

This dish is being entered into the Rix Petroleum's Food Blogger Competition where every month you can win Waitrose food vouchers too. Our Local Southsea Waitrose branch has recently undergone a make-over so I couldn't think of a better way to spend an afternoon browsing the new shiny isles and fresh food counters!

Roasted Salmon and Asparagus

You will need:
2 fillets of salmon
Handful of asparagus
350g new potatoes
Punnet of vine cherry tomatoes
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar

Pre-heat the oven to 200C
Add the potatoes drizzled with half the oil into an ovenproof dish and cook for 10 minutes.  
Add the salmon, tomatoes, remaining oil and vinegar and season everything with salt and pepper and cook for a further 10 minutes.
Finally and the asparagus and cook for a final 10 minutes.

So simple, and yet so tasty too! I hope you enjoy this week night dish as much as I do.

This is a dish for Rix Aga Inspired Recipes:

Monday, 10 March 2014

Re-opening of Zizzi Port Solent

The Port Solent branch of Zizzi has had a refurbishment this March and I was invited along to take a look at the new restaurant.  It was one of the very last Zizzi's to have it's makeover, so all the staff were eager to show it off.

There was a lovely buzz in a very full restaurant, and all staff eager to please.  It's light and airy feel is a welcome change, as I do recall the restaurant before feeling very dark and gloomy.  It is on par with what you would expect a restaurant in 2014 to be. Each branch has a vibrant unique murual as a feature wall which makes a great point of interest.

To start with a sharing plate of antipasti was offered.  Nice to see calamari rings appear, as well as the usual cured meats, breads and olives.

I selected the fish stew for my main course, so often this is a terribly disappointing option for me in many chain restaurants, but there was plenty of smoked fish to give it depth of flavour and there was plenty of fish too.  My only complaint was that it appeared to have been left a little too long under the pass, and the muscles were a little dried out.  However I would still order it again.

A mini sharing plate of chocolate torte, lemon tart and tiramisu gave us an idea of desserts on offer.

All proceeds for the evening went to the RNLI and Cystic Fibrosis charities.

I think it will be one of the better choices for a meal out at Port Solent, especially during the summer months when the sliding doors will open thus giving it a real Mediterranean feel!

Like many other restaurants, Zizzi too offers a take away service and menu. 

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

......Its a girl!

Yep, December 2013 saw me give birth to my daughter Cinnamon (of course it had to be food related- lol), and my little spice girl is a cutie!

I had the worse pregnancy, and a very busy first three months, hence the lack of posts for some time.

Now hopefully back on track, there is lots going on and coming up in our area, this space!

Friday, 28 June 2013

Taylor Wimpey - My Dream Dinner Party Menu

I love dinner parties!  It’s a chance to show off my creative flair, and to utilise all those tens of plates and table knickknacks that I keep purchasing everywhere I go (that frustrates my husband no end), but does make my dinner parties feel special, and go with a bang.

Romantic dinner party for 2
I have had some good ones over the last few years, and I know I spend far too much time prepping for them, but it always is worth the effort.

Raclette dinner party for 4
The good people over at Taylor Wimpy Homes have set a challenge to devise a dream dinner party menu.  As I don’t actually have to cook it and photograph each dish, or need a brigade of chefs to help me (as my menu would take an age to cook all by myself), I felt I could really let my imagination go into overdrive!

So what would my menu comprise of and why?  Well first off as we live on the Hampshire coast and have fresh catch daily, it would be a travesty to not include some wonderful fresh fish.  Secondly I would love to boast about the dish containing fresh herbs from my own garden (and you can’t get more locally sourced than that).  And thirdly, a consideration for seasonal ingredients is a must to any serious cook as it’s bringing the best taste OTM straight to the table.   

So without further adieu, here is my dream dinner party menu entitled

'The Best of British'

Welcome drink:
Frozen Elderflower Liqueur and Sparkling Wine Cocktails with Popping Candy.
Since discovering this liqueur I’m hooked, and I couldn’t think of a better way than drinking this on the terrace with your guests on a hot summers evening, with the addition of popping candy running through the mixture to create excitement and help imitate that sparkling element on the tongue. Elderflower is in season this month too, so some fresh flowers to decorate would make a nice touch.

Mackerel Tartar, Beetroot Gazpacho, Horseradish Ice Cream, Watercress Oil.
Johnson’s fish market two miles from my doorstep provides me with fresh fish that has been sourced locally, and Mackerel when cured to make a Tartar is one of the best dishes I have tasted.  As beetroot is bang in season, piling this fish tartar in the centre of a plate with a gazpachio and adding a small scoop of creamy horseradish ice cream on top would make such a flavourful and visually captivating starter. Not forgetting our famous Hampshire watercress made into watercress oil and drizzled over the dish!

Loin of Hampshire Buffalo, Cauliflower Puree, Parsnip Crisp textures, sautéed Cabbage and Bacon, Port and Jasmine Tea jus.
OK, this may at first glance sound a bit wintry, but trust me as the British summer sun disappears around 8:30pm, we all know how quickly it cools down, so I couldn’t think of a better full bodied dish to have after a light starter. Buffalo is not a meat we have that often in the UK, but I’m always seeing it at my local Southsea Farmers Market, and it’s just as versatile as beef.  With lashings of port and jasmine tea jus made from the base of a good quality meat stock, it's sure to be truly mouth-watering! Brownie points with my guests too for finding a different flavoursome chic alternative to beef!

Lavender Crème Brulees with Rosemary Tuille Biscuits.
Quite simple, it needs little explanation, but how about showing off my homegrown lavender and rosemary in this stunning little dessert to end the evening!

Jacob’s Creek Sparkling Shiraz.
Hard task this, but if I could only chose one wine then it would have to be this.  A red wine that would go with the main course, yet it’s sparkling, so would be light enough on the pallet to pair with the beetroot notes in the starter.

Well although I may not be able to manage cooking all these dishes for one dinner party, after devising this menu, I feel sure that I should include some of the dishes in my future dinner parties, so people watch this blog for updates!

Friday, 7 June 2013

Florette One Minute Wonder Salad Recipe Competition

This is the kind of challenge I love!  Can you create a salad that can be made in under 60 seconds?

Florette Salad challenged it's customers to do just this.  So I got my little grey cells into action.

It's very easy to just think of a few of your favourite ingredients and chuck them in a bowl together, but I didn't want to be guilty of devising a bland, dry salad that looks good on paper, but would leave you gasping for a jug of water at the end of it.  So a dressing is essential. This was my starting point. I'm always making honey and mustard dressings at home, as it only needs 4 store cupboard ingredients to make.

From this as my base idea, I then decided how well pork marries with the honey and mustard elements of the dressing, and so too does apple, and a few moments later my salad was born....

Ham, apple and Brie Salad, with a Honey and Mustard dressing!

Remember there's only a minute to make this so, I didn't want to over complicate things.  This I feel is a well balanced salad, with sweet, and savoury elements, fruit to add texture and interest, and Brie for that added indulgence, all brought together with a tasty dressing.  It also has an all year round appeal, great for all family members, and the ingredients are easy to come about in their raw state - so no cooking needed!!

I was invited to London to showcase my salad making skills in front of the camera, and explain a bit about it.

5 of us regional finalists now go head to head on Facebook for the public to vote which salad they prefer.  The winning dish will appear on a national TV advert this summer.

So why not log on to the link below and support the South of England by voting!   

Every vote is eligible to win a spot prize, so it really is worth a few seconds of your time.

Ham, apple and Brie Salad, with a Honey and Mustard dressing  
  • 1 Bag of Florette Sweet Crispy Salad Leaves
  • 1 Apple
  • 100g Brie
  • 100g Wiltshire Cured Ham
  • 1tbsp Wholegrain Mustard
  • 1 tbsp runny Honey
  • 3tbsp Olive Oil
  • 2tbsp Red Wine Vinegar
Slice 4 sides off the apple discarding the core.
Lay the sliced apple next to the wedge of brie and ham slices, and using a large knife quickly finely slice all three together.
Shake or whisk the dressing ingredients together and dress the salad leaves, tossing through the sliced ham, brie and apple