Orange Tree Thornham

The ones that got away – confessions of a bad food blogger

In my blogging dreams, I diligently write up every single meal I eat and share them with the world. The posts come thick and fast and virtually every day there are new beautiful words for people to read with endlessly impressive descriptions of food – good and bad – that entertain and delight.

I also dream regularly that Channing Tatum knocks on the door and offers to take me on a world tour, and that I inadvertently produce some epic award-winning journalism that gets me nominated for a Pulitzer. Oh, and I morph into someone with the body of a goddess with no effort at all. Dreams, hey.

Just as none of the above things are likely to happen any time soon, so too are my blogging dreams fairly far from reality. My day job often takes priority and I’ve gradually come to terms with the fact that you’ll get one (hopefully good) blog post a week, and anything else is a bonus.

Sadly, that means there are a fair few rather great meals that have fallen by the wayside this year. Not because they weren’t good (you’ll note there are a few shockers in here), and not because they weren’t free (plenty of paid-for food has featured – I dread to think how much we’ve spent on meals in 2018), but just because I simply can’t write about every single place we go to.

However, looking back through some of my pictures, I don’t want to let these places go unmentioned, so this post is dedicated to the ones that got away. The ones that were on a to-do list but sadly slipped through the net. The places I would go back to like a shot and have vowed to in 2019 so they get a full blog post. To you guys, I’m sorry. I’ll do better.

The Orange Tree, Thornham

Orange Tree Thornham

One of the many lovely places we found in Norfolk, The Orange Tree provided the backdrop for several afternoon drinking sessions (they do wine by the carafe, as well as espresso martinis which makes Ellen a happy girl) but also a slap-up meal.

It’s in Thornham, the same village as Shucks Yurt which I did manage to write about, and has been crowned the Good Pub Guide’s Norfolk Dining Pub of the Year several times. Dishes include their own ‘Thornham Fried Chicken’ with an Asian feel thanks to miso coleslaw and satay, then more traditional British dishes like the cannon of lamb which was rather delicious.

Oh, and the dog even had her very own menu and chowed down on kibble with homemade gravy. On top of that, good service and a lively atmosphere.

St Nicholas Market, Bristol

The general theme when I visit my big brother down south is food. You may have seen some of his epic cooking – from breakfast pizzas to epic cubanos and wonderful Asian feasts, he is the don when it comes to culinary skills. However, we do occasionally go out, and being close to Bath and Bristol means he’s blessed with some great places. One of those being St Nick’ market in Brizzle.

This little gem of a place is packed with food, from Jamaican jerk to superb sausages and some spicy noodles that my nephews are particularly fond of. I, however, was won over by the most amazing kebabs I’ve ever had. If you’re in Bristol, go here. You won’t leave hungry.

Noble, Belfast

I’ve managed two whistle-stop visits to Belfast this year and I’m hooked. On my first you might remember I mentioned Hadskis, but another great place we tried was Noble in Holywood.

One of those places that you feel sure the cool kids go, it’s the place where I had a rather lovely steak tartare (though the experts with me thought it was slightly too coarsely chopped) and we feasted on beautifully-executed beef and pork dishes that managed to be traditional yet modern in the same breath.

Dough, Bath

The name is on the tin and all that. Another one we discovered with my brother on a visit down south, Dough is an authentic little Italian tucked down a beautiful arcade in Bath.

As the name might suggest, this place is all about the dough. They started off with classic pizza base recipes but now you can get all sorts to sit your toppings on – from turmeric to hemp and kamut and much more.

I’ll admit I was a bit sceptical of the gimmicky dough stuff – I’m a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to Italian food – but some of the pasta dishes were epic and the ambience and service were fab.

Honey & Smoke, London

These pictures totally do not do the food at Honey & Smoke justice. This place is all about Middle Eastern food. But don’t be thinking it’s just an average mezze, these small plates are a step up from some dried up houmous and a bit of kofta.

We tucked into sourdough and nutty olive oil, creamy, rich labneh, and slow cooked octopus, diving into the plates amid the hustle and bustle of a place that’s all about conviviality and sharing food. Bright colours, bright atmosphere, and fab food.

The Crown Inn, Puncknowle, Dorset

It feels like a lifetime ago that we went on a summer camping trip to Dorset – the same trip that took us to the Trawlermans for an epic seafood platter. On that trip we camped in a tiny hamlet called Puncknowle which just so happens to be home to the Crown Inn.

One of those great combinations of local village pub and great foodie find, the Crown serves up decent pub food, plus some more adventurous specials. We enjoyed the spacious garden with views out across the fields while munching on epic burgers and more refined dishes like a beautiful summery tuna steak. Definitely worth a look if you’re in the area.

The Gin Trap, Ringstead, Norfolk

Another one from the several Norfolk adventures, the Gin Trap is a 17th Century coaching in in Ringstead. They do indeed have a bazillion gins and even do a gin-themed weekend break.

But even if you don’t do gin, the food is pretty great, with the highlight of an epic Onion Bhaji Scotch Egg starter with curried mango chutney. A great place to tuck yourself away from rainy days and snuggle up with good food and wine.

Hive Beach Cafe, Dorset

Do any research on seafood restaurants or cafes on the Jurassic Coast and you’re likely to stumble across The Hive Beach CafĂ©. It’s literally right on the beach at Burton Bradstock and is far more than a cafe. With tables sprawling through a covered terrace and outside too, it’s clearly a popular place.

Unsurprisingly, the food is all about fish. Fish and chips, seafood platters, big fat prawn and crab sandwiches, and whole fish like Turbot, John Dory or Bream. We went on a windy rainy day but that didn’t seem to deter anyone as we squeezed in with the pooches (it’s dog-friendly, obvs) for a lunch of delicious fishy nibbles then more fish main courses. A great place to stop on a walk along the beautiful coastline.

Oldroyd, London

Oldroyd, London

Oldroyd is the kind of place I’d never find on my own, without being pointed to it by others. Thank goodness. Bijou is probably the best way to describe it, creating a lovely intimate feel in the upstairs dining room, though some might feel you end up sitting slightly close to your fellow diners. Probably not one for a first date or some kind of showdown, but perfect for a fun, convivial evening.

The menu is as cool as the setting, without the formal constraints of starters, menus and desserts. There are smaller plates that serve as starters and larger ones you could have as a main, but you simply don’t have to if you don’t want to. We tucked into snacky little dishes of saucisson, croquetas and bread before moving on to a special of skate wing. What a gem.

Heaney & Mill, Leeds

I went to uni in Leeds so it’s a place that tends to occupy more memories relating to fancy dress, orange Reef and hazy nights than eating out. But since some of my pals from uni have built lives for themselves in this fine city, it means visits now incorporate very different evenings.

Last time I visited we tried Tattu which was rather lovely, but this time we kept it local by returning to Headingley – home of many of our student adventures – to visit Heaney & Mill, a lovely casual little restaurant serving great food. The perfect place for a catch up.

Birthday cheese dinner at Opus, Birmingham

When your pal buys you a ticket to a swanky dinner composed almost entirely of cheese, you know she’s a keeper. I’d love to say this night at Opus, in conjunction with Harvey & Brockless, was entirely in my honour, but it wasn’t. They do dinners championing different produce fairly regularly so keep an eye out and you too could enjoy a night like this.

I was in esteemed company with a boatload of blogging gals who actually DID manage to write full posts about it, unlike me (visit Bite Your Brum or Caramel Latte Kiss for full, decent reviews). The five courses, each expertly paired with wine, were fab and showcased a range of cheese from across the UK, along with the opportunity to meet the chefs responsible for turning them into such exquisite dishes and a representative from Harvey & Brockless to talk you through their own sourcing process. A real experience.

And that, dear reader, is just some of the places that slipped through the net this year. I promise to be better next year – more prompt, more prolific and hopefully generally a better blogger!`

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