Sunday, 11 August 2013

Summer happiness at a place called The Pig

Because I rattled on for so long about travel, this blog is dedicated to the bits I missed out - life, love and food. Lots, and lots of food.


To get this blog started, I’m going to answer something. Something that I seem to get asked almost weekly. The answer is, “I don’t know”. The question is, “When are you coming home.” Trust me, when we know, I’ll tell you but for the time being… I just don’t know! Maybe when we get sick of travelling (HA!) Or maybe when we get sick of the weather (but we’ve had four whole weeks of PROPER summer this year so I’m feeling pretty positive about little old London-town).

I’m predicting a new question will start soon, as we reach 12 months since the wedding. So in case you're wondering, the answer to this question is the same as the first. No, I don’t know when we’ll be having a baby. I promise when that day comes, I'll announce it to the blog world.

And when that day DOES come and if I manage to find the time to blog, my ‘life’ and ‘love’ sections might be a lot fuller than the ‘travel’ bit… ‘food’ will always be the longest though, who am I kidding?!

So now to be properly English and talk about the weather some more. While the rest of the country whinges that it's now TOO hot (come on people, we barely get two weeks a year, how can you complain?) I am enjoying every single sunshine-y ray. And, for the first time in about three years, I’ve been told that I look tanned. It's an exciting time in my life! This was helped along nicely when B and I managed to score tickets to the home of cricket, for a day at the pinnacle of cricket... the Ashes.

Summer loving at Lord's
July 2013

Lord's Cricket Ground
July 2013

My first ever cricket experience was so respectable! Even though we got completely flogged and our batting was appalling, I had the day off work, the sun was blazing, the Poms were nice (!) and you can take your own booze into the grounds! Happy days - London at its absolute best. Now, if we ever go to a game back in Aus, I will expect the men to be polite gentlemen who allow ladies to go first, wicker picnic baskets filled with strawberries and champagne at lunchtime and polite clapping when the visitors get bowled out. In Australia? I don’t think so. More like bogan, drunk men (and women) stumbling around in singlets and giant sombreros. A VB and a lukewarm pie. Deafening applause and jeering when a wicket is taken. Thanks a lot Lord’s you’ve left me with impossible expectations for any future games of cricket.

Cool sign at Lord's
July 2013

A day at Lord's
July 2013

Of course, the love of my life needs to get a mention here. In June this year, B and I celebrated ten years together. Ten! It just blows me away that we've already been together that long. We met at work at Woolworths, moved to Canberra together, bought our first house, moved to London, got engaged in New York, traveled (and continue to travel) the world, got married in Australia and it just keeps getting better and better. I'm not going to go all gushy on you but I just have to say, love you B x

On the way to dinner... and home!
June 2013

From mushy, to footy. Yep, I'm going completely bogan now with another love which is State of Origin! For game three this year – the decider – J & L and my lovely friends B & S joined us at the classiest of venues, The Walkabout, to watch the replay with hoardes of other Aussie bogans. We managed to go the entire day without finding out the score so we were ready to go. We drank VB (don't judge me despite what I said about bogans and VB in this exact same blog, just a few paragraphs earlier) we screamed at the ref, we mocked the Blues supporters. Ok, maybe this last one was just me. L still reckons that if I was a guy, I would have a) got into a fight and b) got kicked out of the bar. Whatever. I was perfectly polite. No, actually I wasn’t. But anyway, we had a BRILLIANT time AND we won. Eight in a row. This definitely deserve their spot in the ‘love’ section. Queenslander!!

Walkabout + crazy crowds + VB = Maccas on the
train home...
July 2013 - Temple Walkabout

Oh, and just one more thing. By reader request, I've been asked to put up a photo of our magnet covered fridge. I think you'll agree, it deserves it's place in the 'love' section too!

Top section of the fridge

Bottom section of the fridge


This is the section that really makes my heart sing. We had a new starter in our team recently and he seemed pretty shy at first but it was food that broke the ice. When he mentioned that he was in search of the best burrito in London, I said, “Oh we’re going to get on JUST fine!” and a friendship was born.

For our special ten year dinner, I took B to Hawksmoor Air Street. A restaurant famous for its steak so of course, it sounded perfect. We started with chilli and bay mussels which were so delicious, followed by roasted bone marrow. I knew the bone marrow was meant to be delicious but the idea of it freaked me out a little but B told me not to be a wuss and to order it anyway. I’m so glad I kept my cool because it was melt in your mouth delicious. We both had steak for main with a side of beef dripping fries and buttered greens. But the sauces are what tipped me over the edge. Anchovy hollandaise and stilton hollandaise. I usually hate anchovies but this sauce… oh my! It was simply divine.

Deliciousness at Hawksmoor Air Street
June 2013

As if that wasn’t enough, we decided to try the sticky toffee pudding for dessert because it’s B’s favourite and I’d read a review that said it was one of the best ever. It did NOT disappoint. B’s face was one of pure joy. We took home some of the salted caramel chocolate rolos because I was dying to try them but the thought of eating them straight away made me feel very, very ill. A day later, I was back to my usual perky, hungry self and the chocolates were some of the best I’d ever tasted in my life. Bravo Hawksmoor, you get 9.5/10!

Delicious AND sweet!
Sticky toffee pudding
Hawksmoor Air Street
June 2013

Most incredible chocolates EVER
Hawksmoor Air Street - June 2013

From the posh to the not so posh. J and I plus two of our friends F and E, took a trip to Soho for a girly catch up and to experience one of many pop-ups that are littered around the city. I love a good pop-up and this one was totally worth breaking my wheat-free for. Mac ‘n’ cheese, made three different ways (I had mine with broccoli so I could pretend it felt a little healthy) served in cardboard takeaway boxes and eaten with plastic forks in a dingy Soho pub. It. Was. Awesome. 7.5/10!

When mac met cheese - pop-up delights!
Soho, London
June 2013

For months on end, my brother in law L has been banging on about the perfect burger. Every time we taste a burger, it’s always met with, “It’s ok. But it’s no Motherflipper.” Motherflipper is a little burger van that pops up at Brockley markets every Saturday. It took us about six months but we finally made it down there to give one a go. Expectations were extremely high. Was it going to be the perfect burger? I’d already tasted what I thought to be one of the best burgers and a few days later, L was all over it. I got a text that night from J saying, “Luke said it was good. But not as good as Motherflipper.”

And so, the moment of truth… my verdict – the burger patty was seriously good. Juicy, delicious, a little bit pink, everything a burger should be (without saying the ‘M’ word). I enjoyed every last bit – burgers always taste better when the juice is dribbling down your arm. But (yep, sorry L, there’s a ‘but’) for me, it just needed a little something. If you took Motherflipper and just added the sauce from my favourite burger, I reckon you’d have the perfect burger. Motherflipper, I give you 8/10

Ready to taste... mother flippin' Motherflipper!
B, D & L
Brockley Markets, July 2013

Last but certainly not least, The Pig. From my previous post I talked about our trip to The New Forest. A trip we took for the sole purpose of going the restaurant called The Pig. Famed for its menu which only sources produce from local farmers within a 25 mile radius, they also grow a lot of their own fruit, vege and rear many of their own animals. It was love at first sight when we drove in and saw the giant gold pig on the sign. It is such a popular place that despite booking months in advance, we were still only able to get a reservation for lunch on the weekend.

The gold sign that captured my heart; outside
The Pig; a pig at The Pig; inside the cool
bar - LOVE!
The Pig, New Forest
July 2013

We started in the bar with a delicious g&t for me and a local beer for B. When we arrived at our table, we took a moment to look over the menu before devouring the fresh bread which we dipped in rosemary and garlic oil, smoked sea salt, and locally made butter. It was all so delicious, I couldn’t decide which one I liked the most so I am ashamed to admit I was dipping my bread in the oil, butter and salt… all in one go.

G&T, 'Piggy bits' and that bread... oh that bread!
The Pig, New Forest
July 2013

For entrée, we shared two things from the ‘Piggy bits’ menu. Pork croquettes with wild garlic mayo (these were only ok, they were just missing something to make them really yum); and chorizo and pork chipolatas with onion jam and edible petals. Yum!

For main, Ben had homemade squid ink pasta with chorizo, greens, squid and chilli oil. Some of the little green things in the dish were something neither of us had ever seen or tasted before. When we took a walk through the cottage gardens after lunch, I think we discovered that they were a type of baby onion. I think.

Ben's main - amazing flavours
The Pig, New Forest
July 2013

My main was a roasted pork chop with herbed mash, greens (and some purple stuff too) with fried apple sauce and a mustard and cider sauce. Every mouthful was delicious. It was made with such care and with the best possible ingredients. I just loved knowing that everything we were eating was in season and locally sourced. It’s enough to make a food geek like me just about the happiest she can be!

My amazing main - how cute is the plate?!
The Pig, New Forest
July 2013

We had absolutely no room for dessert (damn you bread!) despite my desperate efforts to find more room for the chocolate mint mousse with fresh mint icecream. By this stage, I had officially fallen in love with the place. It is such a brilliant concept, the staff were lovely, the setting was idyllic (and ridiculously instragrammable!) and the food was perfect. Because I rated all the others, I give The Pig 9.5/10

We took a walk through the cottage garden after lunch to see everything they grow, much of which included varieties I’d never heard of before. We also saw their chickens and my favourite, the pigs...

The kitchen garden
The Pig, New Forest
July 2013

Bee hives and the ponds at The Pig
July 2013

Piggies at The Pig
July 2013

I am extremely glad we saw these guys after lunch because I’m not sure I’d have been able to have pork if I’d seen them first. The one at the top of the picture was asleep and oinking in his sleep! So cute – I really should be a vegetarian…

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Flashback cruising and clocking up the countries

Wow... looking back at my last post, I've got a LOT of trips to catch you up on! So much so that I need to break from my usual format (again) and go all the way back to the start of May. 

Another African country; a crazy, old-people filled cruise; another trip to Deutschland; country number 40; and a little local delight.

This is travel...

Tunis - Tunisia

Our second trip to the continent of Africa and the wonderful country of Tunisia. It was sunshine, fabulous shopping, and the affectionate (if not slightly creepy) attention of a random on the beach. Oh, and who could forget the delight that is all inclusive. All food and drinks included. Yes, all drinks included... and no one judged you if you ordered a gin and tonic when the bar opened at 10am. I didn't, in case you're wondering. No really! I didn't!

We arrived late at night to our wonderfully 80s hotel and woke up to bright blue skies and many hours spent relaxing by the pool. We decided that with all our travels, we never just 'do nothing' so that's what we did and we got really good at it by the end. We did leave the poolside a few times, mostly to take a trip to the Medina and to go shopping. We bought even more amazing trinkets, bowls and souvenirs to fill up our future home. So many in fact that when we got back, we couldn't find anywhere to put them so they're in a pile, next to the bed... three months later.

Tunisia was wonderful and the people were so lovely. Even the slightly creepy man who appeared out of nowhere the second I stepped onto the beach without B by my side and wanted me to be his girlfriend. He wanted to know my name, where I was from and how old I was. This last question I queried, why did he want to know that? "I want to know if you will be my girlfriend," he said. When I told him I was married, he vanished almost immediately. I was slightly curious to know if I had have told him my age, would he have said I was too old? 28's not old... is it?

The colourful Medina
Tunis, Tunisia - May 2013

View of the hotel, from our balcony
Tunis, Tunisia - May 2013

The beach, trying to shake off my
new admirer by taking photos.
It didn't work...
Tunis, Tunisia - May 2013

Cruising good times

Oh the cruise. What an epic weekend it was! For the second May Bank Holiday weekend, we went on a mini cruise with our friends R & P and friends they'd recently introduced us to, S & R and S's sister S (I know, two S's is confusing, sorry). After the initial shock of being kept in a room before boarding the ship where the average age was 65, we hit the bar, followed by a 'snack' at the all-day buffet. Our snack ended up being a little more than your average afternoon nibble and when we arrived for our actual scheduled dinner (8.30pm - we had the 'late' shift while all the over 65s were in bed after their 6.30 sitting) the thought of food made me feel a little ill. R, P, B and R (oh, two R's as well!) hit the nightclub while S, S and I took the sensible route of going to bed at a reasonable hour. Apparently the nightclub crew carved up the dancefloor and set a precedent for everyone for the rest of the trip. We had a lot to live up to.

The Balmoral
Cruising weekend, May 2013

The cruise took us from South Hampton to Honfleur on the coast of France. A sweet little town famous for cider, with little shops filled with caramels and all kinds of French delights. We taste tested our way around and stocked up on all kinds of deliciousness.

Cider delights
Honfleur, France
May 2013

Pretty Honfleur, France
May 2013
That night at dinner, the wonderful crew (who referred to B & I as The Murpee's) didn't judge us (well, not in an obvious way anyway) when we decided that one main each just wasn't enough. Yes, we ordered 'back up' dishes in case the mains we chose weren't nice. Next, we all hit the nightclub with one of the worst DJ's ever who forced us to dance to songs that were seriously crap. We perfected gangnam style and had various signature dance moves that had us 'known' among the other cruisers. The rusty flagpole and the Cypriot wave were just two of the magical moves we shared and made famous.

Ready to get my dance on
May 2013
Feeling a little dusty on day three, only two of the seven of us made it to breakfast (yes, it was B and I... they had pancakes! You have to get out of bed for pancakes!) yet we managed to find each other when we all got off to explore the less than thrilling town of Guernsey. It was pretty... just a little bit boring. Sunday night, after we'd had a massage, a bit of a snooze and an outdoor spa, we were re-energize and ready to go again. The night began with drinks with the Captain (whose hand you weren't allowed to shake for fear of him catching something) followed by our final dinner together and a comedy show with a comedian who didn't make me laugh once. Woeful yet looking back, this is what made it so funny!

May 2013

Sunshine happiness
May 2013

Cocktail night
May 2013

We finished the night (or more like morning) at who knows what time and were then rudely awoken by the daily wake up call that boomed through every single cabin at a hideous 7am. Any of my cruise people reading this will remember that voice! Like nails down a blackboard.

It was one of the best weekends ever. Yes, we went on a cruise. Yes, we were surrounded by old people but it was absolutely awesome and I reckon a reunion is definitely in order!

The cruise crew - what an awesome bunch!
May 2013
Düsseldorf and Cologne - Germany

As we clocked up our fifth trip to Germany, I'm pretty sure you're all sick of hearing me talk about how much I love this country. The efficiency, the food (don't knock pork knuckle until you've tried it) the beer. It's just love. Düsseldorf and Cologne were no different. Both beautiful cities, we had a great weekend trip. We don't usually travel in summer due to flights and accommodation just being so expensive so this was a rare treat, to be in Europe, in a singlet top and wearing sunglasses! This trip was all about the food and the beer. In Düsseldorf, many of the pubs have their own micro-brew. Dangerous stuff... And yes, I am aware that my blog, Facebook and instagram is littered with photos of alcohol. Rest assured, as I write this, I am drinking a cup of peppermint tea. My liver always gets a break, tea just isn't as interesting to photograph as beer is. 

Enough about Germany, it's just going to make me sound like an alcoholic.

Gorgeous Cologne, Germany
June 2013

Cologne, Germany
June 2013

We found a pop-up micro-pub. Someone is happy!
Dusseldorf, Germany
June 2013

Luxembourg - country number 40!

Yep, we just clocked up 40 countries visited and what a surprising little gem it was. Luxembourg was so pretty. With live music and bands in lots of squares around the city, pop-up beer and champagne bars, bike rides all around the city and the best chocolate icecream I've ever had in my life, Luxembourg was another sunshiney weekend away with great times and great memories.

Pretty little Luxembourg
July 2013

The bottom of The Grund
NOT a fun hill to walk up!
July 2013

Cycling around Luxembourg
July 2013

Brockenhurst, Lyndhurst, Lymington & New Milton - New Forest

Ok, we're almost there, I promise! The last of our recent trips was a weekend closer to home to the lovely New Forest. Last year, I read an article about a restaurant which grows their own fruit and vege, rears their own animals and selects only local ingredients within a 25mile radius. And it was called The Pig. Ever since then, I have wanted to go there. After J&L visited last December and a friend from work also went and raved on about it, I was determined to go. So yes, we booked a weekend away, just so I could go to a restaurant.

Totally worth it - everything about the food can be found in my next blog post, coming soon (I promise!) The rest of the weekend we spent exploring the wonderful countryside. Horses roamed freely (as in actually hanging just outside the shops) we visited a cider farm, met local pigs and slept like logs thanks to two massive walks that really took it out of us. The towns we visited were so sweet and I found what I think to be the most picture perfect cottage I've ever seen. It's what you read about in Enid Blyton books - it was gorgeous! And the vintage shopping was so good, I couldn't contain my excitement when I picked up a crystal whiskey decanter; blue saucepan with a wooden handle; hand painted plate; pewter beer mug and a mini le crueset frying pan for a grand total of £6.50. Vintage shopping heaven!

The sweetest cottage in the world
New Forest
July 2013

The Cider Farm
New Forest
July 2013

Horses roaming the New Forest
July 2013

Local piggy!
New Forest
July 2013
Oh - and just one last thing before I finish. Magnet check! 
  • Tunisia's selection was pretty good - we picked one with a palm tree and a camel. Despite the fact that we didn't see any camels.
  • Our magnet from Honfleur is a basket of apples and cider bottles - rather fitting for me I'm sure you'd agree.
  • Guernsey, famous for it's cows, was of course a giant cow's head.
  • No magnet from Germany, we did look but the German's have a very poor magnet selection so no purchase was made.
  • Luxembourg, again a little disappointing but for a country that small, you've got to cut them some slack. A huge 3D replica of the city ruins and the Gründ (like a big valley smack bang in the middle of the city) make for a pretty impressive magnet to add to our collection.
  • And New Forest - we don't always get a magnet in every city, town or area we visit but a magnet decorated with a squirrel, deer, badger and rabbit can't be ignored.
I've lost count of how many magnets we currently have but yes, our fridge looks awesome. 

Next up... the bits I've skipped - life, love and food.