The Ladies who Lunch.

This week, the Ladies who lunch, did what they should do , they had lunch!
We have not “Lunched” in quiet a few months and thought it time to resurrect our little lunch club. Not for us a version of ” Come Dine With Me” more like a Bevy of well dressed ladies.
We look for restaurants which are either new, have a good lunch time menu or, and most importantly will take a group. Many restaurants have a maximum number of 6, this is normally to help regulate the kitchen whilst others are only too happy to accommodate a larger group.
So our victim this time round involved a trip to the country to La Caldesi in Campagne, which is in the village of Bray in Berkshire.
Bray,  is a small village about 20 miles west of London, with several Michelin Starred restaurants. There is The Waterside made famous by Albert and Michel Roux, along with their Riverside Brasserie and then the Fat Duck, owned by  Heston Blumenthal, and also the Crown pub and the Hinds Head, also owned by Heston Blumenthal. For such a tiny village, there is an abundance of high-class restaurants.

We were on this occasion, 10 for our lunch, and we had a room to ourselves, probably just as well, as we tend to be rather noisy. There was a lunch set menu with a choice of two dishes on each of the three courses.

Aubergine Parmigiano, basil oil                   or
Northern Italian cured beef, rocket,parmesan and salad


Tagliatelle with clams   or
Calves Liver with mashed potatoes


Italian style doughnuts, vanilla custard, Sambuca and berry jam  or

Funnily enough, 9/10 chose the Parmigiano, so I felt I had to choose the Bresaola, I wish I had chosen the Parmigiano. The Bresaola, along with the parmesan was very dry and not very exciting, I ended up by adding Olive oil and Balsamic to make it more palatable. Of the Parmigiana, only praise.

For the main course the choices were about 50/50. The calf’s liver was apparently very nice indeed, but I am afraid, that the appearance did not do so much for me ( and I don’t like mash). the Tagliatelle, tasted lovely, but am afraid that it was a bit on the soft side, so not at all Al dente.

And so onto desserts, the Doughnuts, were, well doughnuts, the Tiramiso, apparently tasted great but I was again not impressed with the appearance. It was served in avery large Martini glasses, but was very yellow, maybe it was the liquor that had been added but it looked exactly like the custard that came with the doughnuts.

My personal thoughts, were that it was a nice venue, we had a very pleasant lunch with friends, but would I rush back? Probably not, though I might give their Marylebone venue a try.

Mariachi , sunshine and Breakfast!

Sitting here in Mexico City, mariachi music playing outside and the sun shining ( it is currently about 20-23 during the day). Mexico City because it so high (2,250 M , 7,200 ft equally a mile and half) has very much goldilocks weather. Never too hot in summer, never too cold in winter.

Mexicans eat out all the time, especially for breakfast, ( and lunch and dinner!) and this could be just the corner taco or tortilla stand, or in one of the numerous cafes and upmarket restaurants.

One of our favourites whilst in Mexico City is Lardo in Col.Condesa. We arrived this morning at about 8.30 and it was already packed , we were lucky to get  a small table, but the atmosphere is always amazing, happy and relaxed, never rushed. People have business meetings which last for hours, and the staff are always cheery and willing to help.

This was my fourth visit in as many days and I make a point of trying something different every day.The pastries always look very tempting, but not having a sweet tooth, I do manage to avoid these!

Sunday saw me eating an Estafado de Tomate, Albehahca, Parmesan  y Huevo estrellado, which was a kid of tomato-y ratatouille , with basil, Parmesan cheese and a fried egg along with sourdough toast.
Monday, I chose the classic Chilaquiles verdes, ( day old corn tortillas with a spicy green sauce) but this version, instead of using cream or scrambled egg, came with mozzarella cheese.

Tuesday,  was the turn of the Tortilla de Flor de Calabaza, Epazote, Quelites,y Chile Cuaresmeno. This was a very pretty omelet filled with courgette flowers, amaranth ( more commonly known as pigweed!) and chilli. 
So onto Wednesday,so today I chose the Kale, Hongos, Curry verde y Huevo estrellado! This was kale, ( I think I would prefer spinach to kale, mushrooms, curry sauce, more like Thai green curry, with a fried egg and sourdough toast. Again,  absolutely nothing to complain about,very  tasty and just enough to satisfy any hunger, without going overboard.

Makes me wonder why in the UK, we seem to have the choice of a plain omelette, a ham and cheese omelette , full English or something similar, whereas our experience in France, consisted of, ranging from a bit of banquet to a croissant or if lucky a petit pain au chocolate. In the USA it seems, huge is the criteria. Whereas here in Mexico, the possibilities are endless, be it as, I said the local cafe, street vendor or restaurant.

Moving swiftly on, we mooched through the local market, where there are numerous stands selling pre-chopped vegetables, the ones that caught my eye today were the courgette flowers and the Huitlacoche. Huitlacoche, is a naturally occurring fungus on corn and it dates back to the Aztecs. I have yet to try this, which some view as a delicacy, apparently it has a very earthy flavour.

The market cafe in full swing!
fresh pomegranite

And so continuing down the street, we come to the Neveria Roxy. This a really old fashioned ice cream parlour, which has been in business for 70 years. It is a local instituion, and they make ice cream and sorbets the traditional way. Is cheap as it only costs 22 pesos for a large scoop. It opens at 11 am and by late afternoon early evening it is buzzing, people come from far and wide, either to buy to take home but more often just to sit and enjoy and ice cream, and if the tables are full, then there is always the bar, the tall outside tables or even the garden benches along Mazatlán.

Sunday afternoon in Neveria Roxy
Baby Sam likes ice cream too !!!

It would seem that eating ( out) is a national past time, here in Mexico,and long may it continue. The general misconceived impression of Mexican food, is more along the lines of Tex Mex, and it is so much more than that, in fact nothing at all like the so called Mexican food that we ate in Texas, where it was refried beans with everything.Maybe they have a lot to learn!


On a recent drive through the French countryside we over nighted at Colombey-Les-Deux-Églises, the spiritual home and resting place of General Charles de Gaulle. Although he was born in Lille, northern France, he chose this village of a mere 400 inhabitants as his home, as he felt it epitomised La France.  It is indeed a very pretty village, sandstone cottages and manor houses, tea rooms, cafes, small hotels and a Michelin starred restaurant , and all because of de Gaulle.

Long before you reach the village, you see it, as you drive across the fields of rural France. In Colombey ,there is a hill and perched on top of the hill is an enormous Cross, it is the cross of Lorraine, which he made his own and it can be seen for miles .This cross is 44 metres high and was erected to commemorate the landing of De Gaulle in Normandy in June 1944 and became a symbol of the free French . There is an excellent museum as well as his former home La Boiserie, which is also open to the public.

But why were we there? Not necessarily to pay homage to this former general and politician who had a reputation of being cantankerous , but to try a Michelin restaurant ,which was about half way between the French Alps and the Tunnel de la Manche.

We stayed in one of the small hotels, which at €60 was a steal. We wandered up to take a look at the cross and went to the churchyard where De Gaulle’s grave is fairly unremarkable, given his place in French history. Then onto dinner at restaurant Natali.

Restaurant Natali can be found in the Hostellerie La Montagne, a beautiful stone Manor House, set in equally beautiful grounds. There are only 8 rooms at this small hotel, hence the reason we were obliged to stay elsewhere. Many restaurants in France take their summer vacations during the month of August, which always spikes me as rather odd, travellers are on the road and many would like to eat in fine restaurants along the way. But the French take holidays in August and so do many of the restauranteurs.

There are several options for dining here, a la carte or the choice of three different fixed price menus, one at €55, one at €66 and the menu decouverte at € 88.

We chose the menu decouverte and the courses were as follows:-

  1. Gazpacho with vegetables and tuna
  2. Warm consommé with macedone of vegetables and a courgette flower stuffed with fois gras and summer truffles 
  3. Tuna with ham and a sorrel ice cream, with coriander and pink pepper corns, and more summer truffles
  4. Hake served on top of a stone, with a mild curry sauce and a vodka orange drink on the side
  5. Another fish dish ( not sure what fish though) a very smooth mash, girolles, asparagus slivers and summer truffles
  6. Duck breast, topped with nougate artichokes and girolles
  7. A Relatively small cheese board
  8. Chocolate mousse with a Mirabeau sorbet
  9. Ice cream biscuit meringue, strawberries

All in all it was a nice meal without being WOW, the service was very indifferent, wine was served with a mosquito in it, Oh c’est une mouche! A used napkin just dumped in the middle of the table. 

Although all of the dishes looked very beautiful, they lacked taste and the adding of the nougat to the duck was a step too far, but the aagian the French love nougat!

Better luck next year is all I can say !