When the going gets tough, the girls go to Spain!

When I told my octogenarian neighbour that 32 ladies went to Spain to play golf, his first comment was ” what a nightmare” and the second was the old cliché ” that isn’t a lady, it is my wife!

But yes 32 ( ranging in age 40 to 87 years) of us headed off to La Cala resort, which is halfway between Malaga and Marbella, set in the hillside. How they created  a golf course in what appears to be inhospitable countryside, beats me, but they did it three times, as there are three 18 hole courses there along with a rustic looking but very comfortable hotel, who know who their guests are – golfers! The rooms were spacious and generally came with a small kitchen, perfect for that morning cup of tea!

We ate well in Spain, firstly at the hotel, on our first night. We had Tapas galore followed by dinner, all very good, but most of us had eaten far too many Tapas, to really appreciate our dinner, but both the food and the service were excellent.

One of the three very hilly golf courses, a buggy an essential!

The next night, after a day of golf,me de-camped to  Mijas Peublo, a really pretty mountainside town, complete with its still functioning Bull Ring and magnificent mountain to sea views. Here we ate at a small restaurant, taking over the complete terrace, I pitied anyone living near by! Our dinner  consisted of, cheese croquettes, chorizo sausages, Andalucian Gazpacho,  and either fish or roast baby lamb, followed by a soufflé of Grand Marnier. This was very proudly presented by the head chef. It was a family run business , and good honest food, all of which was very good, but for me the soufflé was perhaps a bit ambitious for such a large group, some of it was not really cooked and for my taste way too sweet. 

girls at the Bull Ring
girls at the Bull Ring
the Proud Chefs with the flaming souffles


terrace restaurant
The Terrace Restaurant

So onto our third night. We went to Da Bruno, which I have mentioned before and really liked, and again the service and the food were really good, the only down side was fresh mint tea at the end of dinner, a language problem maybe,but we ended up with a table full of little teapots, and not enough cups!

Too many tea pots and not enough cups!
Too many tea pots and not enough cups!
an assortment of Tapas at Da Bruno

We were served an assortment of Tapas to start with which included Pizza, Vitello Tonnato, Iberian ham with manchego cheese and Prawns Pil-Pil, main courses were a choice of Rigatone, Sea Bass or Escalope in Lemon Sauce and for dessert, either Tiramisu or Fruit salad. General consensus was all was good, I did not see many empty plates! 

Day four, saw us visiting La Jinete, this is a restaurant not far from the resort of La Cala, but appears to be in the middle of nowhere, but do not be fooled, it was packed!

an Empty La Jinete
an Empty La Jinete
View from the Terrace
View from the Terrace

Partly due to the fact that Wednesday night is music night and partly due to the fact that it is extremely good value. On Music nights the three course menu costs €22 ! One had a choice of 7 different starters ranging from soup of the day to an Argentinian Empanada with grilled chorizo and black pudding.  And for the Main courses, there were an impressive 9  to choose from , with Steak, Lamb, Pork and Pasta all on the menu. For dessert there were 6 to choose from, and weirdly amongst them was Mississippi Mud Pie and Banoffee cheesecake.All the tables were full and despite the guitarist not being the most enthusiastic in his playing, the atmosphere was one of everyone having fun.The food was, considering the sheer number of diners was very good and the service likewise.

Our final night was spent in much more sophisticated surroundings at  a restaurant called Avanto, in Mijas Playa. Overlooking the sea with clean crisp table cloths and napkins, it has all the makings of a good restaurant. However I am afraid it did not live up to expectations, it ha recently changed its name, maybe the chef/owner has changed as well. Looking on Trip Advisor , has confirmed my opinion, as the majority of reviews are not very positive. We had a set menu, understandably given our number, with a choice of two on each one. I chose the Beetroot carpaccio with roasted scallops, but flavoursome it was not, the Sea Bream with Wok vegetables was fine, just not very exciting, and the desserts were a real disappointment.

The Menu at Avanto
The Menu at Avanto
Banoffee Pie
Banoffee Pie
The soft and sloppy mousse
The soft and sloppy mousse

The mousse was not a mousse at all but more likely melted Ice Cream and for those who chose the Banoffee pie ( weirdly again) said it too did not live up to their expectations. Service was fine but zero for atmosphere, ( we were the only ones there, did we scare everyone else away?) However, a huge thank you goes to our Lady Captain who took on the task of organising this trip, which I have to say went really well, I wish the same to next years captain. Where are we going??? watch this space.

Three restaurants and Three stars, for food that is

We have now been to all three of Bruce Pooles, Michelin Starred restaurants. The first to open was, Chez Bruce in Wandsworth, 1995, the 2nd, The Glasshouse in Kew in 1999 and finally La Trompette in Chiswick, in 2001. All suburbs of London. My personal favourite has always been La Trompette, basically as for a while there, I could walk to it, second in line was the Glasshouse, also easy to get to, as it is on the district line, right next door to Kew underground station, and then finally Chez Bruce. I wrote last year about Chez Bruce, but it is way down my list of must go to restaurants and not only because it is south of the river  and oops I don’t really like going south of the river, a bit too much of a faff, BUT we found the service, decidedly  iffy. For example, the waiter addressed us with ” You done with that?” Alright in a lesser restaurant maybe, but in a Michelin starred establishment. NO!, The lights were turned up bright before we were hardly on our coffee ( I was almost expecting the chairs to be put on the tables and the floor to be swept!) But the worse crime I felt was that when I tweeted Bruce, about this, there was and has never been a reply. Too Bad.

We also found that out of the three, the Glasshouse was the most affordable, +/- £32 for three courses AND the sister restaurants often gave away vouchers for a special offer, midweek. Not any more I fear, as the price is now £47 in both the Glasshouse and in La Trompete. Affordable for two but when you take the family , it now becomes almost a 2nd mortgage, by the time one adds wine, aperitif, coffee and service!

Still, we went for a birthday treat, and I have to say, we were all ( well almost all) very happy with our meal.The restaurant was full and the service was still as slick as ever. 

 The willowy brunette chose the Watercress Soup with a slow cooked hens egg, she said it was excellent, but then she is very much a soup person and I could have predicted that as being her choice. The boys chose the Tartare of Welsh black beef with smoked paprika and candied beetroot. Me, I had the cured salmon with a prawn beignet avocado, and oyster dressing. All very scrumptious! 

      For our main courses, we chose the loin of Welsh lamb, our newly wed said it was lovely , the Cornish cod was delicious  as was  the wild garlic risotto, however, the other half of the newly weds, who is seriously into food, declared that his Line Caught Turbot ( and additional £5 ) was sadly disappointing, that the red pepper sauce, did nothing to enhance the dish and that somehow the sauce was sweet.

   We all skipped dessert so can not comment on that, but back to the Michelin Stars. In a February edition of the London Evening standard it was reported that La Trompette in Chiswick, was given a one-star rating out of five by  Food Standards Agency inspectors, a one-star status means “major improvement necessary”.

The report, following an inspection by a Hounslow council food safety officer in October, said the restaurant had struggled to reach safety standards over several years and had “still not got to grips” with them.

The officer was concerned that the head chef “demonstrated little knowledge of the location and content” of the food safety manual. Other shortfalls were in systems to prevent rodent contamination and cross-contamination of E.coli 0157.
So all I can say is that I hope they have got themselves sorted out by now, as certainly this was  my favourite of the three restaurants, but we shall see.

 When is a Crumble, not a Crumble? When it is de-constructed!!

I read recently that the grandmother of a Sunday Times columnist, sent her deconstructed crumble, back to the kitchen, for it to be reconstructed! I have a feeling that Gandalf the Grey, ( one of my sources in Mexico City,) could well do the same. He along, with Himself are great connoisseurs of Crumble and  our truly  Scrumptious is being well schooled in the art of the perfect crumble. Crumble is a bit like marmite, you either love it or you hate it, and if you love it, then do not mess with it!

Our little 5 year old Truly Scrumptious makes the perfect crumble in lieu of birthday cakes, but visits to various restaurants recently have left us in despair, well not me personally, but Gandalf the Grey and Himself.

We have eaten in several up market restaurants in Mexico, mostly Mexico city, we make it a point on each visit to try somewhere new. Our sylph-like blond and Gandalf the Grey are the prime testers. So this time out we tried Quintonil, located in Mexico City’s upmarket Polanco foodie district. Since opening in 2012, it has quickly established itself as one of the stars of the dining scene in the city. Head chef and co-owner Jorge Vallejo studied at the Culinary Center of Mexico and spent time at Noma in Copenhagen, and then  three-years at the acclaimed Mexican restaurant Pujol ( see previous blog).

The restaurant actually does not seem to advertise itself from the outside, it is very low key. Inside there is a garden area, which would be the seating of choice, but it is small and understandably is in high demand. The interior is also on the small side, but appears larger with the whole of one wall being a large mirror. It gives diners ( male ones) the chance to check out all of the fashionistas at leisure and without being too obvious! IMG_3332-0
The restaurant serves modern Mexican but innovative cuisine, not suprising given the chef’s Noma background, and will include such items as Huazotles, really a weed, but akin to the broccoli family as well as Cuitaloche /Huitaloche. Cuitaloche, is a fungus that grows in ears of sweetcorn, Mexican farmers also call it ” El oro negro”, black gold. When cooked it becomes a gooey tar like mush, which maybe the rest of the world would throw away, but mexicans love it. ( my blond will not give it a sniff) !IMG_3335

Quiintonil, has two set menus from which to choose as well as a la carte. there is a 7 course menu as well as a nine course one. Needless to say the portions are small, but exquisitely cooked and served. Until we came to the crumble that is. 


As pretty as this might be, it is certainly in no stretch of the imagination, a crumble  , but as I have said, the young lady called Truly Scrumptious, does make a dessert that is truly a crumble.


She makes it the traditional way, by rubbing butter into flour and stirring in the sugar ( usually 1/2 butter to flour ie 4 oz flour, to 2 oz butter and the same again of sugar), and then sprinkling it on top of apples and blackberries, or rhubarb, those being the crumbles of choice. Gandalf the grey and Himself, like the slightly guey mixture that IMG_3342results from the flour mixture combining with the fruit, during the cooking process.





Raymond Blanc however, ( and I ) prefer the cook ahead method, where the crumble mixture is spread on a baking tray and pre-cooked, ( stirring a couple of times during the cooking process, to ensure even cooking). This can then be used immediately, or frozen until required. If using this method of making crumble, then it is also preferable to have precooked the fruit, to avoid over cooking of the crumble. By this method it is possible to make a summer fruit crumble year round by using frozen summer fruit.