Cucina Italiana, Oxted, Surrey RH8 0PG
Italy is home of food. Italy loves food and I love Italian food. The first thing I noticed about this place is it is run by Italians. The waiter spoke many Italian words at us which I understood but I am not going to attempt to talk in Italian as mine is incredibly basic. In Italy waiters are held in high esteem and this guy reminded me of that. So this place has to be making great food right?
Right! Before I get to the food the decor is something to talk about. It is plush. The pastel blue tones and dark wood is just fabulous. It is a really beautiful, well designed restaurant. It was empty because we visited in that lull between lunch and dinner. This was quite lucky for us as I believe this place gets very busy and I can understand why.
It is always difficult for me to choose dishes in restaurants but already getting the idea this place is real Italian food and not being in the mood for pizza my choice had to be of the pasta variety. I ate a wonderful big bowl of orecchiette with spicy sausage and tenderstem with chilli. I was in heaven. Hint of spice, perfectly cooked pasta and veg, every mouthful was a pleasure. My partner had pizza which looked great. There were whole pieces of chicken breast on it and I tried a piece of the salami which was superb.
Now after eating a truly satisfying bowl of pasta what can you do but have coffee and dessert? Even though it is only lunch time and you were only on your way to do a spot of supermarket shopping. Food is my life. Tiramisu and limocello tart with a double espresso. Perfection. If an Italian restaurant serves you bad coffee is it really an Italian restaurant? Even the biscotti that came with the coffee was amazing. Thankfully the end of our meal was just as perfect as the beginning.
This will be a regular treat for myself while I am living in the area I can guarantee it. Perhaps I should set up a regular booking ha. I could not have left this place happier. I also noticed on the way out that they sell some great Italian ingredients so I may have to seize that opportunity on my next visit too.
Blacksmiths Head Pub, Lingfield, Surrey RH7 6LE
Surrey is not short of pubs. We were out for the day and the plan was to stop along the way home to get some dinner. There was a sign for this place on the roundabout and it was less than a minute’s detour.
It offers a few parking spaces in front. The place was empty so it was easy to park. Walking in and seeing an empty pub that serves roast dinners on a Sunday afternoon was a little worrying but luckily my concerns were unfounded.
It has a nice atmosphere where they seemed to have a local clientele base. There is a small dining area also. There was a table there that was not cleared the whole time we were there which isn’t great. The drinks were nice and cold.
With a choice of 3 meats we opted for roast lamb, by far my favourite. It came out complete with not crispy but tasty rosemary roast potatoes, a yorkshire, pigs in blankets and plenty of gravy. We got a bowl of veg between two of us which was plenty. A lovely mash of swede and carrots, well cooked broccoli, some soggy green beans and roast parsnips. The food wasn’t all that hot. The yorkshire hadn’t quite risen enough. The lamb and gravy were delicious which means they got the most important part right. Considering they had nobody eating it was a pretty good effort to keep everything warm and well cooked. The plate was dirty underneath and I am hoping it was only the underneath part.
Overall not a bad place to eat and grab a drink. With more motivated staff this could be a really fantastic place.
Smith & Western, Lingfield, Surrey RH7 6JJ
This place is within walking distance of our new flat so naturally we just had to try it out. I love the cowboy theme. The decor is all American and I couldn’t help but have a little chuckle at the waiting staff in their checked shirts, jeans and cowboy hats. I am almost tempted to apply for a job here ha.
I was hoping for great things with this place. It started well with the super friendly waitress who took our order but was all downhill from here. I ordered a cocktail that was so sweet I struggled to guzzle it down.
The food left further disappointment in it’s wake. My theory is nobody can mess up a burger but I was wrong. I opted for the Rodeo Ranch burger which was very much in keeping with the theme of the place. When the plates came I was drooling as it looked great but it did not taste that way. The burger was way overcooked and so so dry. Despite having mushroom, caramelised onions and monterrey jack cheese on top it had very little flavour at all.
I was so bummed out I didn’t even want to wait around for the live entertainment that was due to start in just 15 minutes after we finished our meal. This visit really put me off going back. Perhaps a night for beer and nachos but not much else.
The Red Barn, Blindley Heath, Lingfield RH7 6LL
Another Sunday comes around and another roast dinner is consumed. Sadly this one is possibly the worst I have had in years. This place is nearby to where I live and I had looked it up online previously and it is massively popular and far from cheap so I figured it was an obvious choice.
It has a large car park which is very handy as it was very busy. Being a surprisingly sunny October day we sat outside which is quiet and offers large wooden tables and chairs spread nicely apart from each other. A lovely atmosphere for a nice chilled Sunday afternoon so it was all good so far. The bar is well stocked with some very appealing quality spirits but as I was driving I had a soft drink.
The food came out looking pretty good. A large Yorkshire pudding with roast potatoes, veg and pork, chicken AND beef. Yes greedy I know. Immediately we can see that the asked for medium beef is well over done. Not a great start. I liked the added touch of an extra little jug of gravy. I love lots of gravy. The yorkshire pudding and gravy are probably the only things on the plate that I enjoyed. The potatoes were soggy and flavourless. The vegetables were overly sweet. The meat overcooked. Everything was cold, I really dislike eating food that is supposed to be at least warm, stone cold.
Overall the experience of the food was utterly disappointing. Definitely highly overpriced. Such a shame really because it is a nice place with great drink options. Perhaps the popularity of the place has nothing to do with the food. Honestly I have no problem paying more for good food but this was miles from good food and again I have to express my disappointment.
The Real Greek, Spitalfields, London E1 6EW
A busy part of London for shoppers and diners a like. We knew we were headed here as we came to a mutual decision that this would suit all tastes within our group. I’ve never visited one before and was definitely curious, especially having had visited Greece earlier this year.
The decor is cool and clean and there was some awesome vintage style furniture in the place. We were seated in a booth which is great because who doesn’t love a booth!
The waitress was friendly although not 100% coherent at all times so it was a little difficult to communicate but everything we ordered came out correct so we must have been doing alright.
I love the little plates stacked in holders for all the dishes. A great idea for saving table space when you order a lot of different dishes. A place like this is great for me as I love to try everything and it stops me from eating off other peoples plates 😉
We went with a modest 2 dishes each which made it so difficult to decide what to pick because there is a multitude of incredibly tempting delights on the menu. I won’t go into everything that we ordered but highlights were the flat bread which was glutenous heaven. The gigandes plaki are great for a healthy veggie option, these are giant beans in a tomato and herb sauce. The salt cod was heaven in a mouthful and the halloumi and vegetable skewers I also thoroughly enjoyed.
I wasn’t drinking as I was driving but I tried a sip of the Alpha Omega beer which is the only one they have on tap and it was utterly refreshing. I tried the Greek coffee in a medium and I most definitely could have gone with the bitter as it was still way too sweet for me. Unfortunately the Greek desserts are also incredibly sweet so it was lucky that I was already completely satisfied with our food.
Overall this was a really pleasant experience and reasonably priced for the area. I much prefer to avoid chain restaurants but this one is a pretty good one.
Tonkotsu, Dean Street, Soho, London W1D 4QG
Walking down Dean Street away from the bustle of Oxford Street the restaurants were getting quieter and I was relieved by this as I didn’t want to have to go elsewhere if there was a queue. Upon walking in the door of Tonkotsu we quickly realised it was full, which is a great sign because it means it has good food. Luckily the wait for a table was only a few minutes so we had a table almost straight away. Phew because it takes me bloody ages to decide where to eat as I detest paying for bad food!
The menu was full of tantalising offers so we ended up with a 3 course meal. It was tough to choose a starter as most sounded great so I managed to persuade my other two companions to get ones I also wanted to try so we could share them 😉 The gyoza were fantastic, the panku prawns were unbelievably tasty and the crab croquettes had a not so appealing mushy kind of texture but also great flavour. What a great start to a meal.
Mains we obviously had to choose ramen in this sort of famous ramen bar. I had chilli chicken and one of my fellow diners opted for seafood which looked absolutely stunning. The flavours were delightful and just the right amount of heat made it a great dish. The spring onions in the ramen were so fresh and packed full of punch, it was great! The bowl appears large but itsn’t your typical gigantic bowl of soup so it was easy to finish. Usually when I have ramen or similar I end up leaving half a bowl of liquid.
Not liking caramel I had limited options with the dessert. I decided to try the fruit flavoured mochi ice creams. I discovered I am not really a fan of the new trendy yuzu fruit flavour. The mango was nice and the raspberry was delicious. What I did not know about mochi ice cream is that it comes inside a shell of pounded sticky rice. I found the best way to describe this small ball of ice cream is like a frozen jelly baby. Very weird texture on the outside for me and I’ll be honest I scooped out the ice cream and left the outside part. I am not a fan of sushi because I am completely averse to cold rice, not the typical raw fish explanation and so I guess that also follows me into the dessert section too. A shame really because everything was so great. Perhaps I should have done my homework before picking my dessert! The salted caramel miso ice cream sandwich had an unbelievably intense caramel flavour. Why it even has tiny slices of Guinness cake on the outside I am not sure as all it does is create a better aesthetic as you cannot taste it at all.
The drinks list is the same, if not slightly bigger than the food menu so there is a lot to offer. They brew their own beer which I decided to try. It was incredibly bubbly and I managed to pour it over the table on first pour. At £5.50 a bottle I must admit I was expecting something of greatness but it was pretty disappointing. I would stick with the alcohol made by the professionals. I am told the yuzu lemonade is also pretty good as a non-alcoholic option.
You are only given chopsticks and a spoon for the ramen but I am sure that they would have some forks backstage if you struggle with the hashi (Japanese for chopsticks). I learnt something new today 🙂 It is quite a small restaurant so be prepared to wait at busy times. The service was pretty good but could be a little faster. The tables are cosy but not difficult. You can see the chef cooking at the front of the restaurant which is a nice idea. Overall a good dining experience and I would say a great place for lunch.
Lilac Fish restaurant, Eastbourne BN21 4DB
Almost every time you head to the British coast tradition dictates that you must consume fish and chips. There isn’t as much choice in Eastbourne as you would expect in a seaside town. We wandered around for a while before we stumbled upon this little gem just off the main beach road. Lilac is a great colour but it was more the 4.6 Google review that confirmed to me that this was probably the best we were going to find.
We were welcomed by a lovely, slightly flaky lady who seemed incredibly happy to be there. Despite her strange nervousness she was really lovely and always shocked when a customer handed her a tip. She also seemed to be a little scared of the slightly grumpy men behind the fish counter who she had to give the food orders to. While we were sat there we saw multiple regular customers come in and out of the place delighted with their experience which is such a great thing to see and gives you a warm feeling about a place. I overheard one of the counter guys in a conversation with a customer and they said they were of Greek origin which to me means ‘ah fantastic, they probably know good food!’
Well now I can tell you Greek people can also make a mean fish and chips. I had haddock and as the piece I had was on the small side they also gave me an extra half. Great service. Well cooked piece of fish in a really tasty batter. The chips were proper fish and chip shop style chips which are actually quite tough to find these days. When people say that English culture is dying is this what they mean? You can barely find a decent chip anymore? 😉 There was not a drip of grease on the entire plate. Utterly delightful.
Lovely people of Lilac restaurant see you next time we are in Eastbourne. We salute you.
Bill’s restaurant, Eastbourne BN21
An unusually sunny Sunday in September had us headed to the coast. We got there nice and early to beat the traffic and get a good parking spot. First call was breakfast and we decided on Bill’s as a place we recognise and a lot of the local places seemed to have closed for the season already.
I can only describe the staff in this place on an early Sunday morning as a group of hungover young people fumbling around in the dark with the exception of one capable young lady who seemed to be having to organise the whole place. We ate in a nice spot outside in the sun, I’m sure the two beautiful dogs sitting next to this table had nothing at all to do with this decision 🙂 The tables are like small garden furniture features but just big enough to house a plate and a coffee for two. At least my metal chair came with a cushion and did I mention the sun was shining?
My coffee wasn’t bad but the cup and saucer it came in had bits of food stuck to the outside where they hadn’t been washed properly. I am quite glad I didn’t see the inside of my cup before the hot brown liquid was poured into it. I just closed my eyes and savoured the caffeine.
I love a good eggs Benedict and so this was my choice for breakfast on this glorious day. The ham was really tasty. The hollandaise was a little watery but thankfully tasted like a great hollandaise. Weirdly one of my poached eggs was perfect but one was overcooked. I decided to let it slide because it still tasted great and to be honest you never know what the staff will do to your dish on it’s return. Anybody who knows anyone who has worked in the service industry would probably agree with you. I was already battling with the dirty kitchenware I didn’t want this on my mind as I was eating too.
Bill’s in my experience is usually a pretty good value for money experience if you concentrate solely on the food and don’t mind lazy or inexperienced service. It’s never a first choice for me but it’s a hopefully quick, pretty satisfying, fairly priced meal.
Gurkha Dine, Eastbourne Rd, South Godstone RH9 8EZ
This is our new local curry house so we had to try it. I am very glad we did this early on as I was definitely not disappointed. This is a Nepalese inspired curry place and I believe the first time I have tried it as opposed to an Indian or Bangladeshi inspired curry house.
There is a small car park outside. The welcome to this place was very friendly. We had choice of any table on a Friday evening which we were quite surprised about really. Nice table setting with proper napkins, long white table cloths and silver cutlery. The menu is quite extensive with your usual dishes plus the chef’s specials and some pizza for that friend who can’t really get on with spicy dishes 😉
Indian beer on tap while you wait for your food which is great. When the food came the smell was already enticing me. It tasted just as good. The ingredients were incredibly fresh. As a big fan of fresh coriander I was jumping for joy. I went for a chicken bhuna which is my favourite curry and it was lovely although not spicy. I would hazard a guess at this being the case because of the area we are in but I can’t be sure. The other curry on the table was a lamb hariyali which I have just learned essentially means green curry. Wow this curry was delicious and I have found a new favourite! I also had a spinach side which was a little heavy on the garlic but also absolutely delicious with a few bits of grated ginger on top. Ginger is on a par with fresh coriander in my world. Yum.
Perfectly average priced meal for great fresh ingredients and great flavours. I will be back.