Sunday, 22 July 2007

Favourite Restaurants

Debio has nominated me to write about my five favourite restaurants so now I'm wracking my brains for special places to eat that aren't my conservatory!


I love visiting 'Porters' in Covent Garden. It's a good place to treat my sons to a special lunch on the rare occasion that we all manage to meet up in London. Good English food - Wild Boar and Sage Sausages with Mashed Potatoes and Onion and Ale Gravy, Steak, Mushroom and Guinness Pie, Beer Battered Cod, all excellent quality, good value, no pretension, a great buzz and not far from Charing Cross and my escape route to the countryside.


When I go shopping in London, I sometimes head for 'The Bluebird Cafe' in the King's Road. Again good quality ingredients, terrific ambiance and lots of interesting people to watch. A light, simple lunch, a glass of wine and a coffee really make the day special. I love visiting the King's Road and browsing round all the interesting shops and dreaming of living in one of the lovely houses in the side streets that would once have been within reach. I have a passion for Interior Design and there are some wonderful showcase shops in the area to inspire me.


One of the biggest towns in my corner of England is Tunbridge Wells and on special occasions I usually head to either 'Blanc' or 'The Hotel Du Vin'. Blanc is part of Raymond Blanc's empire and the food is simply divine. There is a special deal for lunch on weekdays when you can have two courses for £10. A glass of wine and a coffee on top of that is still an affordable treat. I went there on my last birthday with a good friend whose birthday is the day before mine. We always meet up for lunch in the middle of March.


'The Hotel Du Vin' is a wonderfully luxurious, beautifully renovated building and an oasis in the centre of Tunbridge Wells. Comfortable squashy armchairs, lovely antiques and well chosen accessories make this a special place. The dining room is swathed in white linen, the silver cutlery and glasses reflect light from the French windows that lead onto the Terrace where coffee can be taken on a fine day. I haven't been there for a while, but my ex-husband used to take us there sometimes when he had pulled off a big deal. It was always famine or feast with him, but the feasts were well worth waiting for.


When I was married, holidays were rarely planned in advance but would happen fairly serendipitously. We would sometimes drive down to the Dordogne, hoping that the cottage I had pulled out of a hat - before the days of the Internet- would live up to its promise. They were sometimes surprising. I don't know if it's still there now, but we would always go for a meal at 'Les Glycines' near the caves at Les Eyzies. A simply stunning comfortable small hotel with a lovely garden and a sumptuous restaurant where well behaved children were more than welcome. I remember on our first visit that we took it in turns to wheel our four month old son around the garden when he cried but the staff were so kind and helpful it was more of an opportunity to show off our adorable son. It was there that I discovered white wine Kir and now I always keep a bottle of Cassis in the fridge for summer evenings and remember those long ago summers.

I won't nominate anyone else this time, but if anyone feels like picking this up, I shall look forward to reading your favourites soon.

Thursday, 19 July 2007

The Man in the Pink Shirt

Even the sun shone for us. It was a perfect summer evening, snatched from a disappointing summer.

He arrived promptly, wearing his trademark pink shirt and carrying a bottle of red wine. We sat in the orchard for a while, drinking white wine Kirs, enjoying the late sunshine under the plum tree as the Chicken Cacciatora bubbled gently on the stove and we took it in turns to give it a stir from time to time. Somehow new potatoes and green beans cooked themselves and supper was ready.

We moved to the conservatory, lit the candles and opened his bottle of red wine. The food was delicious, we talked and laughed, then later kissed and cuddled, watching the bats flitting in and out of their nest in the eaves above the conservatory. It was a truly magical evening and I just want to hold onto that feeling.

Friday, 13 July 2007

Crushed Thyme

It happened so suddenly as accidents do, out of a clear blue sky. One moment I was quietly going about my chores, at peace with myself, enjoying this brief oasis in my life and looking forward to the end of term and the long summer break.

My ankle went over as I stepped down from the kitchen into the garden. I yelped with the sharp agony and froze, completely unable to move, still upright but with my foot bent at an unnatural angle. The pain washed over me and I felt myself beginning to black out. I managed to lie down before I passed out, half lying on the path, half resting on the cushion of thyme that grows by the kitchen door and I hung on to the scent of the crushed herbs, fighting the faintness and nausea that threatened to overwhelm me. Eventually I dragged myself back into the kitchen, trailing crushed thyme, sobbing with the pain and my own helplessness. I felt very alone.

Slowly, with shaking hands, I started to phone friends, to try and find someone who could come and help me but only answering machines responded to my plight as people went busily about their lives. I hadn't seen my serenading friend, the man in the pink shirt, since the night in the churchyard. An arrangement had fallen through, our answering machines had spoken, things had drifted. Could I call him now? Throwing pride to the winds, I did. He came, drove me to A & E, pushed me in a wheelchair as I looked around for the cameras - surely this merited a slot on 'Casualty'? Afterwards he drove me back to his house, fed me tea and smoked salmon sandwiches, put cold compresses on my poor swollen, bruised ankle, before bringing me home again.

As soon as I am mobile again, I shall cook him a thank you supper. I could hardly do less now, could I?

Sunday, 8 July 2007

Three Beautiful Things

Sitting at the computer over lunch, I browsed a few web pages and found myself in the Three Beautiful Things blog. It's such a lovely idea, to make a note of the little things that give pleasure and distinction to a day, so I thought about what is making today special for me.

1. Having the house to myself for the first time for many difficult weeks as my son struggled through his GCSEs. He's gone to stay with his father for his work experience week and I have the luxury of having only myself to consider. The house is clean, tidy and quiet.

2. Admiring the beautiful tapestry cushion cover that my mother is working on for me. It is a Candace Bahouth design and full of vivid colours and intricate patterns. Something special connected with my mother that I will always have, even when she is no longer here.

3. The sweet flavour of the red pepper I chopped into the Bolognese sauce that I cooked today, along with red wine, garlic and herbs from the garden.

It's so important to keep focusing on the good things, even when life is far less than ideal.

Sunday, 1 July 2007

Curdled Milk

'This milk's off,' I said to the Deputy Head, 'in fact the fridge is warm. Feel that bottle of white wine. Is it yours?' 
'Yes,' he said, 'do you fancy a glass?' 
'Oh, no thanks,' I replied, rather ungraciously. It wasn't the best offer I had ever had. It was late afternoon and we were just trying to have a final cup of tea before heading home to children and supper and chores. I suddenly thought of the bottles of fizz sitting in my lovely, cold fridge at home, waiting for a special occasion and decided I could do better than that!

'Why don't you come over to my house and have a glass of wine in the orchard?' I suggested. It was such a lovely, clear, warm late June afternoon and an opportunity simply to let everything go and enjoy the evening. And he came, along with a few other friends who could drop everything at short notice, bringing nuts and crisps and more fizz, and we had an impromptu drinks party in the orchard, moving the wooden table and chairs around to catch the last warmth of the sun as it sank towards the west and the shadows grew longer.


Sometimes, you just have to seize the moment.