Friuli at the Free Press

Had an interesting meal at the Free Press, the first of their European Wednesday menus; a menu from Friuli. Steered clear of the barley and cabbage soup, and enjoyed the plates of antipasti and whitebait to start. Michael had a very flavourful goulash, and I had prawns wrapped in parma ham with a nut sauce on polenta: very yummy. Pudding were prune-filled dumplings (gnocchi di susine). There were eight things on the menu, which was ambitious for the kitchens to make as a one-off. Hopefully it was good fun for them too. The pub was full, so that aspect seemed to work well. The Friuli cuisine is quite rich!

Lunch at the Crown and Thistle

Lounged in bed till almost midday as it is a Bank Holiday and then took a train to Great Chesterford (on the Liverpool Street Line) to have lunch in the Crown and Thistle, which is a lovely pub with pargeting. We had a tasty Woodfords Wherry and then a great lunch, cooked to a high standard. After two pints of beer (and no breakfast!) it was a wandering route back to the train.

Crown and Thistle

Curry Night at the Free Press

Michael and I had dinner tonight in the Free Press, which is a take-away curry evening on a Sunday,. Ordered curries from Moghul Tandoori, which were good. Michael had a Lamb Tikka Murch Massala, which was very hot and chilli spicy! I had a king prawn ceylon, which was good but not quite as nice as Michael’s dish. Breads and rice were good, and we shared a bhindi bhajee (okra). A few pints of IPA to wash it all down and good company—a great way to spend a Sunday evening.

Bank Holiday Family Weekend

Visited Elizabeth in Bicester yesterday and we went to the Trigger Pond in Bucknell for lunch. Last time Elizabeth went it hadn’t been very good—it’s been taken over now and smartly decorated with a new conservatory so we thought we’d give it a go/ The menu was good, but the sour-faced owner was a bad start to the meal, after waiting 25 mins for easy-to-prepare starters to arrive. The mains were lovely though and redeemed the meal. I don’t think we’ll rush back. Elizabeth found a few easy chores for us to do around the house.

Met up with Tony in the evening and had a easy salad and pate dinner with some nice bread and wine. He was quite tired after finishing an exhibition at Olympia and we were tired after a bad nights sleep because of a (rare) party next door in Grafton Street. So it was relatively early to bed. Hannah arrived at eight the next morning and kept us well entertained. I was impressed by Tony’s iMac and TV set up as an entertainment centre.

Boys Toys

Drove over to Bicester to visit Christine, Adam and my mum and Dad who are visiting Long Lawford. We had a nice lunch in the Old Smithy in Church Lawford, near their village. Back at their house, we played with the rabbit, Fudge, in the garden in the glorious afternoon. The daft things was chasing a towel round and round on the spot: but sensible enough it kept changing direction to stop itself. The kids were rolling blading and we had a few games of swingball.

Mum and Son

Michael and Christine

MP3: Jessica and Lewis

Steven and Craig visit

Steven and craig arrived today at the end of their European Tour, so I had the day off work! Craig was already off to a business meeting when I arrived at the Arundel House to pick up Steven for lunch. We had a fun lunch at the Castle Inn on Castle Hill (with some lovely oyster stout), excepting the move to another part of the pub to avoid a crying baby. A nice wander down the Backs, where the daffodils were out in force.

The Backs, St Johns College

Popped into Rohan to visit Michael and he did an impressive sales job on Steven on a nice jacket: But Steven seems already to have a very full suitcase for going back home, so he resisted. We had another beer in the Eagle, before a quick trip to the new John Lewis before parting ways till this evening. Met up with both Steven and Craig in the Free Press for their super £10 for three course deal: we had a lovely meal including Midsummer Brisket and big puddings.


Craig, Michael and I went down to London for Wine Plus at Olympia. For today my job title was ‘Wine Buyer’ for the Free Press, and Michael was the Bar Manager. We had some excellent wines. I was most excited about the Portuguese Taste Zone and a large exhibition of Greek Wines.

We started the day at about 11 with a tasting of French Wines from the Loire at the French Discovery Lounge. This was fun, but I enjoyed browsing the wines more, there were in excess of 100 from all parts of France available and the choice was fantastic. The staff were from a Wine Making Degree in the south of the UK, and it was interesting chatting with them.
We spent a good 20 mins with a very helpful man from Indigo Wine, Ben Henshaw. We tried some nice wine from his selection. Sadly I lost my notes.
pedro ximenez reservaHighlight of the new taste experiences today were four wines from Alvear in the south of Spain in the Pedro Ximénez range. There were also lovely sherries and we started with an impressive Fino en Rama de Añada: “En Rama” means that it is unblended and has not been filtered to enhance its individuality. It is the first “single vintage” Fino in modern history (apparently). We also tried the Pedro Ximénez Añada, Solera, Cosecha ad Reserva which wines that get darker and darker through the range made from dried raisins. By the time we were tasting Reserva it was like syrup of figs, but gorgeous. Must try and get some of these, they are very luxurious and unusual.
For the Greek Wines, I tried some from Domaine Sigalas and from Ino Wines. I was more attracted to Ino wines are they produced more of the varietals: Savatiano, Moschofilero, Assyrtiko, Agiorgitiko and Mavrodaphne. The Mavrodaphne was very nice (as usual) and the man behind the stand, Nick, was the same person who did the wine tasting in Cambridge about a year ago. He might be contacting Craig to do a tasting at the Free Press, which would be fun. He’s a Greek Wine evangelist (he’s also Greek).
Has some lunch in a pub close by Olympia and a bit of a rest (with beer amazingly for one of us), then headed back for more tasting!
Craig introduced us to Australian Margaret River wine, from Arlewood. The Semillon was lovely and smokey and the Deviation Road Pinot Noir was very good too.
At 5.15 we went to one of the highlights of the day: Be A Free Spirit with Cheese, Patricia Michelson from La Fromagerie in London was matching fantastic cheeses with spirits in unusual combinations. This finished me off for alcohol as there were nine lovely and generous spirits to match the nine cheeses:

  • Perry, paired with, Pont L’eveque cheese from Normandy
  • Lustau Oloroso Sherry, paired with Parmigiano Reggiano 3 Year Reggio Emilia
  • Madeira, paired with Tomme de Corse Corscian cheese
  • Jamaican Vintage Rum, paired with Explorateur, Ile de France (gorgeous full fat extra creamy cheese)
  • Valvados, paired with Livarot from Normandy
  • Glenfiddich 15 Year Whisky, paired with Doddington Wooler from Northumberland (a great cheese, 2 years old) and a bit like dutch mature cheese
  • 15 Year old Armagnac, paired with Dry Charolais from Burgundy
  • Marc de Bourgogne, paired with St Marcellin aux Marx de Raison Isere/Dauphine
  • Grappa Nosiola, paired with Gorgonzola Naturale, Picenza from Lombary (a lovely cheese)

The spirits were arranged by Will Smith, Sommelier at Arbutus and were all very nice. This was a really impressive tasting, all the glasses out in the style of a high-class restaurant with lovely long platters for the cheese. I was very impressed

We tried some lovely wine from Denbies Wine Estate in the UK; The women behind the counter were especially lovely as we were a bit rambly by then having drunk more than we ‘spat’. The Redland Pinot Noir/Dornfelder was good, as was the Greenfields Cuvée. They are the biggest wine producers in the UK, based in Dorking and I feel a visit coming on when we are down that way in the late summer next year.

We headed towards the rum stands on the way out. Craig had been looking forward to this all day. I preferred to veer across the passage to the stand of Jean-Paul Metté where we ‘smelt’ some really wonderful Eau de Vie D’Alsace: cinnamon, fruits and garlic! (for cooking). The Marc de Gewurztraminer was especially lovely.

Jean-Paul Mette

So we staggered out about 6.45 and bravely walked to Earls Court after missing the silly train from Olympia to there. All the trains from King’s Cross were cancelled because of signal failures and we ended up standing all the way home on a slow train from Liverpool Street, swaying for several reasons!