Thursday, June 08, 2006

So, if you hadn't already guessed we had a few days away in London, which was a welcome break to everything. It is the place where it's good to visit, but also safe in the knowledge that a few days later you'll be getting out. I just don't like the hustle and bustle, along with all the associated problems of the capital.

There wasn't any need for tourism - as we've been before - so we just relaxed in our Croydon base and did nothing, which in itself is a rarity these days. Time was taken to visit the Grand Designs show at Excel where M found a dining table and chairs which we'll have in the next month or so. No, apart from that it was a good opportunity to catch up with relatives and get away from doing things such as this.

We did take the chance to have lunch at Fifteen (who were at the show) and had to queue for ages as the chefs and trainees were struggling to cope. Eventually we did get seated and enjoyed an interesting desert where the simple dish using strawberries was the most memorable. My main course selection of "the best beef sarnie" was good, but the meat was a little too red in parts - I draw the line when it leaves blood on the bread. The meat itself was decent (and probably even more so to local residents) but living up here, we have access to fresher and even better products.

Putting Fifteen into perspective (in terms of quality and price) was another trip to the Wee Restaurant at North Queensferry. This was our second visit and one we didn't expect to confirm, as we called only on the day to book an evening table. However luck was on our side and our second trip (the first being for the excellent lunch menu) was arranged.

It's good to see how popular it is becoming, although when the picture was taken above we were the first folk into the place for that evening. The sheer size and relaxed atmosphere is one of its attractions. Although it does also present a problem when other guests don't operate volume control, as the sound does tend to travel easily and reverberate off the brick walls, shattering any small talk that you hoped to engage in.

My starter was an excellent soup, which I find is the most easiest dish to create but to be distinctive and memorable, requires real skill. Sweet potato, with mascarpone and spring onions (with a sprinkling of pumpkin seeds) was absolutely wonderful. The different flavours combined well, and the sweet potato provided a vibrant colour, with the uncooked spring onions just providing that little extra twist. The main course was a decent steak with a lime and chilli butter, with sautéed potatoes underneath. Most steaks tend to be drowned in an accompanying sauce, so the flavoured butter was an inspiring and lighter addition. Rounding off a superb meal was home made shortbread (a specific flavour but I've forgotten) with coconut ice-cream and caramel sauce with a poached pear.

Overall the meal had no complaints from either of us, and we'll certainly return (with guests if possible) when the tourist season ends. I wouldn't want to even attempt a table during the busy summer months down in North Queensferry. Parking the car will be difficult enough, but saying that a day off work could prompt a lunch time hit and run.

On the book front I somehow have three on the go at the moment. I am nearing the end of Justina Robson's Keeping It Real, and after a captivating introduction, its become bogged down in fairyland and under water shenanigans. Mary Gentle's Rats & Gargoyles is hard going but I can certainly see why so many have highlighted the book, as one of their favourites. Finally, I am also nearing the conclusion of the third book in the Runestaff series, which is a rip-roaring fantasy adventure.

World Cup tomorrow...

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