dining · Food · Lincoln · Location · Restaurants

Ole Ole in Lincoln

Image result for ole ole lincoln

A trip to the beautiful city of Lincoln UK, was on the cards thanks to Andy and Sarah, who treated us to a meal at the authentic tapas bar on The Green. It is a little bit of sunny Spain under the austere medieval castle walls and is the brainchild of both Amador and Alison who bring their expertise and decades of experience to the restaurant.

Plenty of atmosphere here with a warm, friendly welcome. There was a ‘tapas’ learning curve to get over for me. For those who don’t know about the mysteries of it, you order small dishes of food that fill your table. We were warned by the waiting on staff that 3-4 dishes were ample. Not sure about that personally. I would say 4-5 (or maybe even 6) dishes.

Anyway, said dishes were delivered all at the same time, and every dish we tried was hot and delicious. It really is a case of dipping and tasting, all at your own relaxed pace. That’s what tapas is all about. Good wine, good conversation and good food.

We started with a basket of warm freshly baked bread accompanied by garlic mayonnaise. Be warned though; it’s easy to fill up on bread before your ‘proper’ food arrives.

If you want the traditional paella for two people, a major dish on its own, you have to order in advance but, like us, you can have a small portion of either vegetable or chicken and seafood paella, and it is very tasty.

There is plenty of choice of tapas; meat, fish, vegetarian and vegan. We chose mushrooms in creamy sauce, sizzling prawns in garlic, brandy and chilli flakes, and oven baked sea bass served with patatas panaderas. Everything was freshly cooked and traditionally Spanish.

For desert we had a home-made cream caramel, and a cold rice pudding with a burnt sugar and cinnamon top. Then the Spanish waiter brought us a complimentary glass of caramel vodka to sweeten the bill.

If you have any food left it is acceptable to ask to take the rest home. We overheard one customer telling another “It’s too good to waste”, which is very true. We really enjoyed our evening at Ole Ole and will definitely be paying another visit soon.

So, to sum up, it’s easy parking (which is a bonus nowadays!), the staff are excellent and very helpful, the food is a delight and the atmosphere happy, traditional and homely. This restaurant charges city prices for its food, yet is surprisingly reasonable. No bad points for Ole Ole from us.

However, the dining experience is certainly not calm and reflective. It is open plan dining in a large eating area, which, at times can also cater for lively groups. This is a university city after all, therefore, at times, the noise from big parties may be overwhelming to some (see previous post regarding restaurant ‘noise’!). That said, this is the Spanish tapas experience and I thoroughly recommend Ole Ole. Salud.

dining · Fine Dining · Food · Krakow · Lifestyle · Location · Restaurants

Krakow

We thought we would broaden our horizons, and for no apparent reason, decided on a visit to Poland. So, why there?

Kraków, a city in Southern Poland. near the border with the Czech Republic, is known for its well-preserved medieval core and Jewish quarter. Its old town – ringed by Planty Park and remnants of the city’s medieval walls – is centered on the stately, expansive Rynek Glówny (market square). This plaza is the site of the Cloth Hall with its underground museum, a Renaissance-era trading outpost, and St. Mary’s Basilica, a stately 14th-century Gothic church.

Expecting snow, we thought it might be a romantic picture postcard setting and relief from our incessant wind, rain and the grey skies in our part of the country. With the overall cost of the hotel and airfare being quite reasonable and it only being 5 hours door to door, food, trips and drinks quite cheap, we were more than pleasantly surprised with our choice.

How do you pronounce Krakow? I’ve still no idea. Google (which is NEVER wrong… is it!?) suggests it is pronounced as it is spelt – ending in ‘cow’. Locals often pronounce it with an ‘ov’ sound at the end. To further complicate matters, there are at least 5 different spellings of the name. So you choose.

What to do there

The biggest draw has to be the city itself. With its magnificent central square, fantastic restaurants, fairy tale castle and river views, beautiful walks, shop till you drop, the exhibitions, the wonderful architecture, and not forgetting the hospitable English-speaking locals, it’s hard to pick out a favourite. We took a trip under the central Cloth Hall to explore the underground museum taking us back to Krakow seven hundred years ago. The Cloth Hall itself is still home to market stalls selling everything you never thought you needed, such as chess sets, furry hats, local amber jewellery and other souvenirs.

If you’re into churches, museums and living history, you can’t go wrong. Go for a leisurely coach ride from the square or a city sightseeing tour by ‘tuk tuk’ to the Jewish Quarter. Or, just a ten minute walk away is the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Wawel Royal Castle, one of the largest in Poland, and representing nearly all European architectural styles. Further afield the salt mine is well worth a visit. A word of warning though – the mine has two lots of downward steps totalling around 800 and even though you only walk one percent of the 150 km of tunnels its still a lot of walking so you need to be reasonably fit to venture down. There is an underground cafe there so for us Brits a nice cup of tea was beckoning, however the tour didn’t factor in time for one and we didn’t want to miss the lift that carries you back to the top.

Images of the history and associated atrocities of WW2 are around every corner in the city and a stark reminder of how the Poles and the Jewish community suffered. Take a walk into the Jewish quarter and check out the architecture and streets that never change, and behind every facade and street corner there are echoes of a much darker time that must never be repeated. Which brings me round to the prickly mention of the concentration camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau right on Krakow’s doorstep. This is a major destination and a must-see. Whatever your thoughts are on the subject, just go, and please don’t ask me why you should. The guide will show you around buildings, still hauntingly intact, and echoing with the unimaginable horrors of the holocaust. You’ll learn of man’s inhumanity to man committed within these sombre concrete walls and miles of cruel barbed wire. Close your eyes for a minute in the silence and try to imagine how it must have been, and you too will experience the prevailing sadness, despair and bitter anger. Leave there, get back on the coach you will ask yourself why it all happened, and why you went to visit. Tough questions you won’t be able to answer.

The food

As this is principally a food blog by nature, what is traditional Polish food, I hear you ask? Poles boast that their two basic products are bread and sausages. And the most typical ingredients used in Polish cuisine are sauerkraut, beetroot, cucumbers (gherkins), sour cream, kohlrabi, mushrooms, sausages and smoked sausage. Pork is very popular in all its forms. A meal owes its taste to the herbs and spices used; such as marjoram, dill, caraway seeds, parsley, or pepper. The most popular desserts are cakes and pastries. A shot of vodka is an appropriate addition to meals and help you to digest the food. The main square and all roads leading to it are lined with fabulous traditional restaurants specialising in Polish cooking, as well as restaurants serving Italian, French and Asian foods, vegetarian and vegan bars. And on every corner you’ll find a bagel stand.

Lots of fish served here that includes Pike-perch, salmon, trout and cod. Go down to the Jewish Quarter for the finest fish dishes on offer.

Here are a few Polish specialities.

Bigos

Traditionally a winter dish, Bigos is a hearty stew . Though there is no standard recipe, ingredients usually include lots of fresh and pickled cabbage, leftover meat parts and sausage, onion, mushrooms, garlic and whatever else is on hand. In fact, metaphorically Bigos translates to ‘big mess’ in Polish.

Golabki

Translating to ‘little pigeons,’ this favourite dish consists of boiled cabbage leaves stuffed with beef, onion and rice before being baked and served in a tomato or mushroom sauce.

Golonka

Pork knuckle or hock, as in pig’s thigh – boiled, braised, or generally roasted and put before you on a plate. A true Polish delicacy, the meat should slip right off the bone, be served with horseradish, and washed down with beer. Not my favourite but…

Kotlet Schabowy

Probably the most popular lunch in Poland is the almighty ‘schabowy’ with mashed potatoes and pickled cabbage, and you can walk into almost restaurant in the country and they’ll have some form of it. Essentially a breaded and fried pork chop, ‘kotlet schabowy’ is quite similar to Viennese schnitzel.

Pierogi

Doughy dumplings traditionally filled with potato, sweet cheese, meat, mushrooms and cabbage, strawberries or plums, and if you nose around you will find plenty of different fillings like broccoli, chocolate or liver as the possibilities are truly limitless and they are served almost everywhere in the city. A great Polish favourite.

Zupa (Soup)

Poland has three signature soups: barszcz, żurek and flaki. A nourishing beetroot soup, barszcz may be served with potatoes and veggies tossed in, with a croquette or miniature pierogi floating in it, or simply as broth in a mug expressly for drinking (‘barszcz solo’). A recommended alternative to other beverages with any winter meal, we’d be surprised if you can find a bad cup of barszcz anywhere in Kraków. It doesn’t get any more Polish than żurek – a unique sour rye soup with sausage, potatoes and occasionally with egg, and often served in a bread bowl. If you’re of strong constitution and feeling truly adventurous, try flaki – beef tripe soup enriched with veggies, herbs and spices.

Poland’s culture has always integrated elements from its neighbours, and there are also many recipes of Jewish origin. Nowadays the Polish menu is still changing, being influenced by various, sometimes exotic tastes.

For the less adventurous there is also delicious steak, sushi bars, fabulous chicken dishes, many vege and vegan restaurants, bagels on street corners AND, don’t forget, the ubiquitous KFC and Macdonalds. It’s all here, and at very reasonable, and sometimes unbelievable, prices. Visit the Cyrano De Bergerac restaurant for a fine dining experience at a price that won’t break the bank. But venture off the beaten track for some pleasant surprises.

A few of our travel tips:

The temperature. Just remember, in the height of summer it can be 30 plus degrees, and in the winter it can easily drop to minus 20. Wear layers in the winter.

Poland is a mainly a Catholic country, and Catholics enjoy large families. The plane ride there and back can be like sitting in an infant school classroom with no teachers. The sound of incessant crying and screaming from tired and grizzly children will accompany you on your flight, both ways, whether you like it or not.

You need to be quite mobile and have a good level of fitness to be able to access some of the attractions here. There is little warning. Best to pack comfortable walking shoes.

Book up your visits in the many tourist information offices around the centre. It’s far cheaper than hotel prices and very good service.

You are expected to tip. However, some places take advantage of the tourists. You pay for a meal/drink in notes and there is often no intention of bringing you any change.

Worth a visit? A resounding ‘Yes’ to that. And it makes a change for us Brits to see our pound go so far. That’s not to say it’s cheap in Krakow, but it is noticeably cheaper. Don’t spend your time in the main square. Go round the nearest corner and enjoy great food, fabulous wine, and still have change for cake and a vodka. Recommended.

Hull · Restaurants

Viet Memories, Hull

No, not my memories. Somebody else’s. I’ve never been to Vietnam, personally, but I did think this place looked interesting, odd and quirky. There were some excellent reviews, and as my party are mainly vegan or vege, I decided to take a punt and a booking was made.

Finding parking in Hull city centre is hardly easy, but we found a place and went in search of a flash restaurant. When you invite others to a place you’ve never seen before it can be a bit of a nervy gamble. I’ve got to say, when we finally sussed out the location it came a bit of a shock. Surely we’d found the wrong place, and on opening the door, was convinced I’d made a huge mistake. It served as both a takeaway and a very small restaurant of sorts. To be honest, it looked a dump, with a long table in the middle of the room and basic chairs down both sides. I think you could describe it as a bit of a culture shock. On looking around the walls at the pictures, the over-bright fish tanks, and the near vicinity to the food counter it all seemed claustrophobic, yet on second thoughts, bizarrely authentic . In fact it just seemed as if we had just stepped off the street in Saigon, and with a bit of persuasion we all started to warm to it.

The menu selection looked amazing, with something delicious for everyone. Lots of Vegan and meat choices and everything screamed healthy food. It should also be noted that it had a 5 star food hygiene rating. The chef worked hard and was in full view behind a glass partition. How he managed to cook so much for so many, I’ll never know.

Our starters included grilled pork summer rolls, king prawn summer rolls, tofu summer rolls and king prawn and papaya salad. The rolls are filled with fresh crunchy herbs, lettuce and carrot along with your choice of meat, prawn or tofu and accompanied by different spicy dipping sauces and they are all made to order.

Main courses included Vietnamese shaking beef; tender diced beef, pan grilled with chilli, garlic and mixed herbs, Tofu asparagus special stir fried with mushrooms and garlic and sir fried tofu with noodles. Everything came to the table as and when it was ready and although Western etiquette requires waiting for the whole table to be served before starting to eat, we soon took to the Vietnamese way and ate while it was hot. Everything was fresh and tasty and we genuinely felt like this is what it must be like to eat out in Vietnam.

The staff at Viet Memories were most efficient and friendly, and were very accommodating to the child in our group. We thought the apple-shaped plate and the child-friendly utensils an excellent idea too. The portion was not overwhelming and being full she was able to take her yogurt home.

Were there any bad points? Well, for a start it’s just not big enough for such a popular venue. Our party of 8 were cramped in with 12 other diners. In fact two of our party were sitting at their table. There was not enough staff, and maybe more importantly our dishes were appearing one at a time for our party which meant some had finished their starter before others had been served.

However, overall we feel the food was delicious and faithful to its roots. Don’t be put off by the decor. It’s certainly not fine dining but it is an experience, and I thoroughly recommend a visit. I can’t wait to go back. Be adventurous and visit Viet Memories.

Hessle · Restaurants

The Greek in Hessle, with chips

Ever since The Greek opened in Hessle near Hull, we’ve looked forward to a visit. But could we book a table? No. Even the restaurant staff seemed embarrassed at turning diners away on the phone. Proving so very popular we gave up and left it on the back burner for a few months. Just what was so popular about this little restaurant set in its picturesque setting and in the shadow of the Humber Bridge?

Recently, totally out of the blue, on the off chance, I phoned to make a reservation, and success, we got a table for four. Unfortunately, on the actual evening our guests reluctantly had to cancel so it was just the two of us. Warning! Parking is difficult here and we ended up with a bit of a walk. Not great when you’re in heels. Luckily I’d left mine at home. Becky wasn’t so lucky.

We were met by a smiley staff member who began to usher us to a nice table at the front of a half-empty restaurant. On letting them know our guests had cancelled so there was just the two of us, the smile dropped like a lead balloon and we were led to a small table, (barely) for two at the very back of the restaurant next to the toilets. Odd behaviour as we felt we had been put on the ‘naughty step’, and the original four-seater table was occupied by only two diners within half an hour.

After waiting for fifteen minutes, the same waitress came to take our order and behaved somewhat more welcoming. She’d forgiven us, I think. We were taken through the menu where it was explained that they didn’t do ‘starters’ and we were encouraged to order meze and dips, and to include our main course. So, everything may or may not appear on your table at the same time. Evidently it’s the Greek way, What stuck out a mile was that although it all seemed a good idea, our table was way too small. In fact, very, very small. Luckily, they forgot my main course so we had finished our hot and cold meze dishes and drinks. After hearing her apologies and given free drinks as compensation my main course arrived and the delicious lamb cutlets/chops went down a treat.

What was the menu like? Well, there appeared an awful lot of cold aubergine, beetroot and hummus, (not an awful lot of choice for my personal taste), and not a great choice for vegetarians on the mains. For meat eaters, however, the mixed grill seemed the best option. For £30 you got a sharing board for two which included a taste of most menu items; two cutlets, two chicken souvlaki, pork gyros, village sausage, dips, salad, pita bread and chips. There were a lot of chips, better known as ‘Fries’ to you Americans. Chips with everything. Chips with chops. Chips in wraps. Chips as ‘sides’. If you like chips then The Greek is for you. There were even chips inside the Souvlaki Talagani; grilled cheese in a pita with tzatzki, onions, tomatoes (and chips).

Was the food good? And the answer is, it was OK, a bit like a snack menu. It wasn’t bad and maybe in a Greek taverna, with the sun shining and the sea lapping at your feet, it might feel authentic, but for us it wasn’t a special eating experience. It was nice, but not particularly memorable. Quite difficult to comment on the ambience as we were still on the ‘naughty step’ table but the restaurant only ever appeared half full.

So, what had all the fuss been about, not being able to book a table for months? No idea! To be fair to The Greek it’s more a relaxed cafe-style establishment rather than restaurant-standard dining, and never pretended to be anything else. The prices are very reasonable and the staff are helpful. Would we go again? And the answer to that is maybe, but with no hurry. Maybe The Greek is losing its initial appeal to the locals. It certainly wasn’t full by any means. Maybe it needs a change of menu or a bit of Zorba dancing. I wish The Greek luck and maybe we’ll meet again, in a few months time.

dining · Food · Hull · Restaurants

Frankie and Benny on Skid Row in Hull

Hi Folks,

Went on a cinema visit to Hull and decided to call in at well known chain of Frankie and Benny’s down on St Andrews Quay in Hull on 3rd July. And then wished we hadn’t!

Normally, you know what you’re getting in F & B’s. In my opinion it’s fast food done Italian style and served in an American/Italian diner. It’s not great, but it’s, well, all you’d expect, and not much more. To be extremely fair I’ve more than once had an excellent risotto and Spaghetti Bolognese in other F & B’s. My only criticism has ever been that it’s certainly not cheap.

Apologies for the constant reference to the time here, but it seemed important, to get my points across, so, to get back to St Andrew’s Quay in Hull. Went into F & B’s and waited to be seated. And we waited some more, and I should have turned around and tried somewhere else there and then. But we waited (along with other reasonably patient customers) for a waitress to make an appearance but could only see one front-of-house staff busy serving. To my surprise after a long 10 minutes waiting at the desk by the door, the same busy and flustered waitress found a few seconds to usher us to a table. It turned out that she was the only waitress there. After 5 minutes she came over and took our order. The first thing we noticed, while waiting thirty minutes for two glasses of coke, and which should have set the alarm bells ringing, was the amount of dishes waiting on the counter, under the heat lamps, waiting for ‘service’. Why? Well, it was totally down to a lack of staff. The poor woman was run off her feet and constantly apologising to customers for the wait. Time ticked by and after 50 minutes we had our starter of Mushroom Bruschetta on the table accompanied by profuse apologies. We asked if there was a staff shortage and her answer was that it was ‘always like this’. Our cutlery was dirty and we requested clean ones.

I know we should have complained there and then, but just didn’t have the heart to. She was obviously in a state of great stress. The Manager then stepped in to help her. That was sort of OK, and not before time, but he was hardly dressed for the occasion, in a suit which, to be honest, looked like it needed a good dry clean. We’d witnessed him handling money and paperwork behind the bar and there he was picking up plates with food from the service counter with his thumb or fingers (depending) in the food. Could have been worse, I suppose.

Mushroom Bruschetta consisted of three halves of bread roll sitting in an unappealing grey stew of mushrooms and onions. The bread was obviously going to be a soggy mess, and it was luke warm. We then waited for our main course of Spaghetti Bolognese and a goat cheese salad, which took 30 minutes to arrive. For 15 minutes we sat staring at the service counter hoping and praying that the bowl of salad on the counter was not ours and please, not the one placed under a heat lamp. Surely not! But it was. The salad consisted of wilted, soggy lettuce, at least one whole, but chopped, onion, goats cheese and a miniscule amount of pepper sprinkled on top. All nicely warmed. The Spag Bol was actually OK but only just as warm as the salad.

And all the time that waitress and the manager ran their socks off dealing with table clearing, serving and generally apologising. With two cokes, starter and main, the bill came to £38.00. Should we have complained? Well, who to? When I got home I felt the urge to write a strong letter of complaint so searched for an appropriate F & B site. But I could only find a generic web page. And like all of these huge business chains, the last thing they want is a page of complainers, so they don’t allow you the space for a good moan.

Good luck with a visit to Frankie and Benny’s at St Andrew’s Quay in Hull. Personally I think I’ll give it a miss. Cheers

Barton-Upon-Humber · Location · Our Reviews · Restaurants

Imaginarium

Tucked away in a corner of the market place in Barton-upon-Humber is a small but well lit door with a strange-font(ed) sign bearing the name ‘Imaginarium’. Open up the door and you’ll discover the wonderful sight and smell of the Imaginarium gastro lounge.

This is quite a new restaurant and seems to be proving very popular if the amount of diners was anything to go by. Time to give it a try.

To be greeted at the door by staff is often a bonus nowadays so it was pleasant to be duly welcomed in and escorted to our table by very friendly member of staff. The first thing we really noticed was the bright and cheery atmosphere of the interior. Great care had obviously been taken here when choosing the decor.

Tip: When booking, ask to be seated through the rear doors into the reclaimed (indoor) courtyard. It’s even nicer.

OK. It looks and feels nice, so, what about the food?

I don’t really like to say this, but perhaps the chef is on a bit of a learning curve , and it was very busy. Maybe the kitchen staff are still finding their feet. I hope so. I really do. What was wrong? I don’t know. It was hard to put a finger on it.

I started with the ‘Aromatic Crispy Duck’. It wasn’t crispy. It was rubbery in texture and took some chewing. Check picture 1. I didn’t enjoy mine though to be fair another member of our party also had duck and she maintained that hers was OK.

Another of the party had the baked Camembert, fig and red onion tart. Check pic 2. Does that look like a ‘tart’? Well, evidently it was OK, but it wasn’t the warm melted Camembert that was suggested (as in baked) that I expected. Someone else had the ham hock and chicken terrine. No complaint with this one.

For a ‘main’ I had rib-eye steak, which I have to say, was excellent, though the chips were only just and just cooked. Someone else had sea bass, which again was judged ‘OK’. Now the sea bass dish consisted of new potatoes and mixed veg, but no sauce or anything to make it a bit special. All well cooked and nothing wrong with anything particularly. The other two guests had Chicken Voldostana, which was described as ‘very nice’, and the halibut from the ‘specials board’, which was described as being OK.

But it was the Chicken Voldostana that was deemed the best dish.

We actually had room, just, for puddings, which again were nice. Chocolate orange Wellington fudge and sticky toffee plum pudding.

The following verdict may sound harsh, but it’s honest.

I’ve described the various dishes purposely as being ‘nice’ or ‘OK’. Not fabulous. Not incredible. Just ‘nice’. There was nothing here that couldn’t be described as nice. However, this was not an amazing culinary experience. Someone in our party did comment that they felt they could go home and cook these same meals. The name of the restaurant conjours up an imaginative, special and possibly exciting experience, but we felt on this occasion, it didn’t deliver for the cost of the meal.

As I have already stated, this is a new restaurant and it’s early days. Do I recommend it? Well, we will go back and give it a second try, perhaps in a month’s time. They do a really inviting TexMex and Burger menu which I look forward to. The staff are super friendly and enthusiastic, so I hope they succeed and I wish them well . With a bit of tinkering with the menu (fish is not part of the standard menu), and having the courage, and dare I say, imagination, to refine their dishes, they will.

Good luck to the Imaginarium.