Best kept secrets

Catch of the day…


The ultimate seafood platter..

A new addition to the best kept secrets archive this week, with a recommendation for a fresh seafood selection to die for.  The Seafood Platter, Beer is a quaint pub with access to the finest, freshly caught seafood.  A really relaxed ‘pub grub’ atmosphere is blown totally out of the water by the special sea food menu.

Beer is a superb little seaside fishing village, well worth visiting for the wonderful coastal walks and beautiful cove.

The pictured ultimate platter needs to be ordered when booking a table to ensure you do not miss out all of the elements, including tiger prawns, crab, mussels, scallops, oysters and cockles.  Stunning and served simply with lemon, bread, butter and aioli.

Sometimes you have to look into the unexpected to find incredible food.

The Seafood Platter

Fore Street



Coffee again..


Smooth and fruity…not your average coffee

Sadly, a previous recommendation of mine for a first class coffee on the South Coast closed some time back.  Despite that, in its place is a fabulous cheese and wine restaurant which I am sure will feature on this site in the near future.

But to ensure readers are not left without a recommendation for great coffee, my most recent visit to Bath allowed a replacement to be added to my best kept secrets archive.  Colonna and Smalls – serving weekly speciality coffees in a rustic setting. Something I did learn here is the seasonality of coffee much like other produce across the globe. Certain varieties hit the spot at different times of the year. So rather than picking up a bucket of Starbucks when you next visit Bath, try something a little different and far more exciting.

Colonna and Smalls

6 Chapel Row


01202 767513

Staycation secrets…


Thurlestone Beach in April 2017

Farm shops are often neglected by tourists – whether it is because you are staying in a B&B or hotel, or perhaps the nearest bright blue lights of Tesco have presented an easy choice for a quick dinner.  But I would encourage you to look for the nearest farm shop on your next trip away, there are some real hidden gems in the UK.  They all tend to source local where possible which is great for the local producers, economy and carbon footprint.

An Easter break took us to a small village near Torcross, Devon; where I was delighted to find a superb, well stocked farm shop at Stokeley Barton Farm.  Boasting a butchers, greengrocers, bakery, delicatessen, cafe and plenty of store cupboard items including local wines, beers and ciders, there was enough inspiration for some fantastic home cooked meals in our cosy cottage.  Perfect relaxation after long walks from the pictured Thurlestone to neighbouring Bigbury-on-sea and beyond.

Pan roasted pork chops with sage and rosemary from the herb garden, a white wine and bacon sauce, cheesy mash and some fresh purple sprouting broccoli.  If that isn’t enough to get you along to a farm shop, I’m not sure what will!

Stokeley Farm Shop

Stokeley Barton Farm


Devon TQ7 2SE

Casual, confident, convenient…

The Laughing Gravy delivers a trendy, relaxed and impressive dining experience.

The Laughing Gravy delivers a trendy, relaxed and impressive dining experience.

Firstly, a welcome back to all my readers and fellow foodies! It’s been an extremely busy Summer after coming very close to appearing on the BBC’s ‘Masterchef’, to numerous trips packed with some fantastic dining experiences. I’ll certainly be looking to apply for Masterchef again having reached the final stage prior to the televised heats, and there will be lots of exciting news to share on here in the coming weeks.

Straight back into the action, I’ve got a cracking bar and restaurant to add to the ‘best kept secrets’ archive.

Southwark, a stones throw from my regular London destination, Waterloo, is home of ‘The Laughing Gravy’. The name is taken from the 1931 Laurel and Hardy film about a scruffy pooch and Stan and Ollie’s landlord’s ‘no pets’ policy. The chilled atmosphere lends to a few casual drinks at the bar, or a trendy but relaxed dining experience that rivals far more upmarket eateries in the capital.

My highlights from the menu include a delicious Confit belly of pork with apple puree, Hog’s black pudding and pork sausage roll starter, although the Honey-cured smoked Loch Duart salmon fillet, salmon scratchings, broccoli and watercress bavarois is equally as impressive. To follow, I would opt for the cider-marinated lamb rump with parsnip and thyme dumplings, broad bean piccalilli and crushed truffle minted pea and broad beans. Simply stunning in flavour and presentation, the dish comes with all the elegance you would expect with such fine ingredients, but delivers the type of hearty punch you’d expect from a cosy Sunday lunch in the countryside.

Dessert can be the deal breaker for some of my readers, and ‘The Laughing Gravy’ delivers a drum roll worthy Salted caramel fudge and shortbread filled chocolate cylinder with a cashew nut cluster and peanut emulsion. A mouthful in every sense. Rich, indulgent and simply wonderful!

Ideally situated a few minutes walk from Southwark tube station, if it’s a flying visit or a relaxed evening of food, ‘The Laughing Gravy’ delivers with aplomb.

The Laughing Gravy
154 Blackfriars Road

An exceptional cup of coffee can cut through the most miserable of weather

A home from home on a wet Saturday afternoon, Cusina serves up Barista perfection, alongside an array of light breakfasts, mouth watering homemade sandwiches, lunches and cakes

A home from home on a wet Saturday afternoon, Cusina serves up Barista perfection, alongside an array of light breakfasts, mouth watering homemade sandwiches, lunches and cakes

When I recall family holidays in Italy, many culinary delights spring to mind. Hand stretched pizzas, beautiful pasta dishes, vibrant and fresh salads and mouth watering desserts. But one lasting memory was the regular visit to the local coffee shop, as my palate developed from craving bittersweet hot chocolate to the famous cappuccino.

A true Italian cappuccino, with perfectly formed frothy milk, the aroma strong and heady, executed to perfection. That is what I have been searching for on the South Coast of England. The smell of fresh coffee in the mornings, it can wipe away the best efforts of British wet weather. There is nothing quite like it.

To date, Cusina, a small café and kitchen in Westbourne, Bournemouth, has delivered the very best cappuccino around. Truly deserving of a spot in my ‘best kept secrets’ archive.

The perfect array of homemade cakes, sandwiches and light lunches accompany a simply stunning level of ability for coffee making. So whether it will be a meaty, tangy salt beef sandwich, or an indulgent slice of caramel cake, you can rest assured that your exceptional hot drink has a perfect partner, morning or afternoon.

This is one I can assure you’ll return to.

48 Poole Road

01202 767513

The warmest welcomes can be the hardest to find…

Comfortable setting, friendly welcome and exceptional seasonal ingredients at Charlotte's Place

Comfortable setting, friendly welcome and exceptional seasonal ingredients at Charlotte’s Place

Firstly, a very Happy Easter to all my readers and fellow foodies. I hope the break has allowed you to sample something new and exciting or a well established favourite. Either way, a good slab of quality chocolate is a must!

I’m a seasoned professional at heading East on the London Underground from central London. It’s rare that you’ll find me West of Victoria, but today’s entry into ‘best kept secrets’ is hidden in a West London neighbourhood.

Ealing, famous for first bringing together the Rolling Stones, boasts a truly exceptional local neighbourhood restaurant in ‘Charlotte’s Place.’

On arrival, you are invited to ring the door bell, which is answered by a friendly member of staff. It’s very much got a feeling of being invited over to a friend’s house for dinner; but this friend sources the finest seasonal ingredients money can buy!

Our highlights included a beautifully flavoured chicken liver mousse starter which was served with a homemade piccalilli. Piccalilli always reminds me of Christmas time, a family favourite for the Boxing Day spread. But this tangy mustard pickle was the perfect foil for the meaty, garlic flavours in the mousse. Another starter on our table was a beetroot cured salmon, which inspires an upcoming recipe for this blog. The scarlet colour penetration on the delicately thin slices of salmon an attractive base for any plate of food.

A final recommendation of the dark chocolate and hazelnut brownie, served with salted caramel ice cream. Dessert heaven for those with a sweet tooth, need I say anymore?

The atmosphere relaxed and service attentive throughout, it was a true pleasure to experience Charlotte’s Place. Hidden away in Ealing, the restaurant is well and truly deserving of a place in my ‘best kept secrets’ archive.

An ever-changing, seasonal, fresh menu. So you better move quick if you want to get your hands on that brownie!

Charlotte’s Place
16 St Matthew’s Road

Presentation is everything

23 floors into the Las Vegas sky line, a secret book opens to reveal a host of oriental delights

23 floors into the Las Vegas sky line, a secret book opens to reveal a host of oriental delights

Indulge me for a moment. This is an explosive start. An example of how a simple set of Oriental ingredients can be transformed into a fairy tale.

Mandarin bar, Las Vegas serves a simple rice paper roll in a tangy mint, mango and pineapple sauce, within which hides a lobster, salmon, cucumber and carrot combination. The platter, concealed inside a book adds a sense of wonderment, opening a treasure trove to reveal a vibrant dish that teases all of the senses.

The first in my collection of ‘best kept secrets’.

Mandarin Bar
Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas
23rd Floor
2752 Las Vegas Boulevard South
Las Vegas
Nevada USA

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