Monday, 8 July 2013

Provencal Highlights

Living the Good Life
when: June 2013
where: St Remy, Aix en Provence, Cassis

You can read the full report here on Flyertalk.  Here are some highlights.

La Begude de Mazenc

This was a beautiful little town where we wondered the back streets and encountered some cute little cygnets

Gorge du Doux Velorail

The amazing views coming out of the tunnels towards the end of the route were well worth it despite the pouring rain.

Aix en Provence

A beautiful old town with lots of atmosphere and tourists to match.

Cassis and the Calanques

A beautiful day at the sea side.  Magnificent scenery from the boat tour and an amazing dinner to round it off.

St Remy and the Roman Ruins at Glanum

A stunning end to the trip.  Much quieter than Aix en Provence, a delicious lunch and the surprise of the Roman ruins made for one amazing and slightly sun burnt day!

Columbia Road Flower Market

Flowers and Food
When: May 2012
Where: Song Que Café

This was my second visit to Columbia Road, the first was on a miserable November night to eat at Brawn, home of the slightly too cool for school service but absolutely delicious French food.  That night didn't make me want to go back in a hurry.  One sunny Sunday in May Columbia Road changed my mind, as on a sunny Sunday with the flower market in full swing Columbia Road takes on a new life.  Colours, smells and shouting traders cut through the crowded street as people precariously balance their purchases with the hope of getting out alive (them and their flowers!)
After all that action we needed somewhere to eat.  We had planned to go for some Vietnamese food after the great experience we'd had in San Francisco at the Bodega Bistro a year earlier.  We knew the area was famous for Vietnamese food and had noted down some choices...  Well, that was the plan.  Unfortunately I had noted down the names and addresses for restaurants in a totally different part of London.  After a quick search on Chowhound we ended up at the Song Que Café not far from the Overground station.

Sometimes you have to get over first impressions.  Looking in through the windows the restaurant looks like the décor has been untouched for twenty years, however the place was pretty full.  I took another look at the reviews and we bravely entered the green dining room and were shown to our seats.

Service was fast and efficient and we placed our orders not long after sitting down.  We started with spring rolls and chicken satay.  The décor and brisk service was soon forgiven when the giant and delicious portions turned up.

For mains we took the rice with pork chop and shredded pork and the prawns with ginger and spring onions.  The meat was tasty but the vegetable garnish tasted like it had seen better days.  My partners battered prawns went down well.  Again the portions were huge.
 After our plates were cleared we then tried to pay the bill but nobody was interested.  Instead we queued up to pay at the counter.  All in all a real bargain of a meal and somewhere I'd love to return to and sample some of the other menu items.

Song Que Café 134 Kingsland Rd, London, London E2 8DY - 020 7613 3222


Amazing Arbutus
When: May 2013
Where: Arbutus

I really enjoyed our meal at Arbutus. It was a great place for a special occasion.  We arrived with a slight feeling of trepidation as the reviews are quite mixed, hopefully this evening would turn out like the majority of the good reviews we'd read rather than the negative ones.  There was a small queue when we got to the door including a polite couple that had either messed up their reservation or were trying it on.  Thankfully they were accommodated and it was our turn to have our coats taken and get shown to our seats.  The dining room is laid out in a "U" shape and we made our way round the "U" to our table not far from the window.  We were given menus and it was time to decide.

For starters I picked the asparagus, which went perfectly with the tangy Caesar dressing.

For the main I went with the rabbit.  The carrot and cumin purée really brought out the flavour of the meat.  Whilst I was initially sceptical of the cottage pie it proved to be delicious and light, banishing the ready meal nightmares from my head.

Finally my favourite part of the of always choosing chocolate, I went with the pistachio cake which was soft, moist and delicious.  The fresh strawberries and strawberry sorbet server with it made an excellent and refreshing palate cleanser.

All in all this was a really nice meal.  The ambiance of the restaurant was good and service was polished without being over fussy.  We felt that we could relax without a dozen pairs of eyes watching our every bite.  I would be more than happy to return to Arbutus again and perhaps try something a touch more adventurous next time.

Arbutus 63-64 Frith St London W1D 3JW 020 7734 4545