Category Archives: Restaurants

Nice III

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On the morning of our first day we took a stroll down the Promenade de Anglais. A long and wide sweep, with a pebbled beach abutting the white stone of the sea wall on one side, imposing high terraces looking out onto the med on the other.
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A bracing day in March gave us a lungs full of Riviera air as we decided to unlock two municipal bikes and rent a few hours worth of pedal power to speed up our sightseeing duties.

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I squinted at the instructions to free our blue contraptions. The local council in Nice, quite rightly eschewing traditional means of collecting bicycle-based income (i.e. euro coin in slot) had instead decided that the best way to release the cycles from their cage was by some indecipherable source code that one had to programme into the pad on the lock and then wait for a message to be sent to your phone.

After thirty minutes I gave up.
“Fuck this for a game of soldiers, I vote we revert to Shanks’ Pony*.”

Weaving in and out of the smug locals barrelling down the blue cycle lane on their nifty machines, we decided on taking an early lunch on one of the swish restaurants located down on the beach.

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Was it too early for some grape? Well, sat on long comfy loungers, pushing the smooth grey pebbles around with my sandals, and staring out at the endless horizon that was the Tiffany blue Mediterranean, I decided, that no, it wasn’t too early for wine.

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Rested and relaxed we decided that in very short order we would catch the train to Monte Carlo. Yes, definitely time to pay up and go. No doubt about it, if we wanted to catch, I mean if we really wanted to get to Monte…er, Waiter!

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*slang for walking

Honeymoon III

Back in our suite at Bailbrook Manor, I was in my usual deep depression after gawping through the estate agent’s window. “Fuck, I’ll never afford a house like those ones. Why didn’t I buy in Bath or London twenty years ago?”
“Because you lived in St. Helens and wanted to be near your mum?”
Sarah has a cruel tongue sometimes. So onto trip advisor to find a place to eat dinner. I don’t trust a lot of the reviews on that app, what is to stop an owner getting his mates to post loads of blag comments just to get to the top of the pile?
It does provide some laughs though, especially when a restaurant fights back and goes online to tell the punter that he is a pleb who wouldn’t understand fine dining if it smacked him in the face. I hate consumer power. Dull eyed stroppy middle Englanders demanding excellence on the cheap. If I was a restaurateur I’d tell them all where to go. There’s your omelette and chips. If it’s five star service you’re after do me a favour and fuck off to Claridges. What do you want for six pounds fifty anyway ?

We settled on Gascoynes Place.

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The reviews didn’t look like they’d been churned out by a Chinese Spam factory (like the feedback you see on eBay about Beijing Wedding frocks) and it didn’t seem too pricey so we booked for 8pm.
A stripped down, informal interior design. Green tiles, dark wooden floors leading to a cosy bar area offering a varied selection of beers. Strangely for Bath, all the staff were English and local. The barman pulled off a gill of the local tipple for me to sample, a nice friendly touch.
As someone happy to eavesdrop on the private conversations of strangers, my ear was drawn to the two guys swapping banter on the bar stools opposite.

Marty chatting.

Marty chatting.

One of them, a thirty something Londoner, was attempting to perform a card trick whilst simultaneously injecting into his patter tiresome boasts about how much he made a year (£250,000 apparently. Interested to hear more? No, thought not).
The other guy had shoulder length curls and the look of someone who was forcing himself to listen, as though some weird social convention obliged him to pay attention until the dreary soliloquy ran into the sand – a bit like a Minor Royal opening a hospital wing.
I whispered to Sarah,”See the guy with the Robert Plant hair? Bet he’s the owner.”
And so it came to pass that Marty (he with the flowing auburn locks) was indeed our host. Gently untangling himself from the crushingly dull Paul Daniels/Gordon Gekko performance, he gravitated towards us, where yours truly, with my nosey gitometer set to a healthy seven, mined him for his life story.

Before Marty owned restaurants he was an acrobat. He toured all over the world until his back went and he sunk his money into this place in Bath.
He had big plans for it, including an expansion over the road. He prepared a maximum of 134 plates of food a night and declined anyone who turned up asking for the 135th. Quality over quantity.

Having worked up an appetite, I plumped for the ricotta and toast to start followed by the venison ( which wasn’t dear. Well, it was but it wasn’t, oh you know what I mean).

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To the untrained eye, the starter looked like a dessert. Just the right side of sickly, I luxuriated in the decadence of the presentation.
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Wary of my previously tough experiences with game, I expected my molars to have something to chew over. Pleasingly tender, the meat was as it should be, aromatic and pleasingly dense.
After dinner, Marty reappeared to demonstrate the ancient art of name dropping – which turned out to be a gentler version of the taxi drivers’ “I ‘ad that so and so in the back of my cab last night.”

I suppose boasting about his clientele was one of the benefits of owning a classy joint in a desirable location. Then I told him we found his restaurant on Trip Advisor.

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“Oh that thing? Most of the reviews are manufactured by Spam engines.”
We taxied back to our hotel and drifted off under the super soft uber cosy duvet.

In the morning we paid up, said goodbye to the international committee on reception and left the Bailbrook .

I scrubbed off the just married sign on the car and in its place wrote – still married!
Maybe there’s a gap in the market for signs saying just that. Now, how does one go about setting up an eBay shop…..

Bacaro Restaurant Liverpool

Bacaro SaltHouseLiverpool City centre pops up in more movies than you think, usually impersonating downtown Manhattan or the Chicago of the thirties. And if a director ever needed a stand-in Brooklyn bar , they would do worse than plump for Bacaro on Castle Street.

The name Bacaro comes from the bars dotted around the back streets of Venice, but the owners look like they had the bars of little Italy in New York in mind when they designed the fit out. More laid back than it's flashy neighbour - San Carlos, the loose informal atmosphere and the open plan design attracts the student/ young professional crowd.

Being neither young, students or professional, we were nevertheless invited to choose one of the tables for two, all spaced cosily together along a red buttoned leather bench under a strip of tall window. The urban transatlantic feel was enhanced by our waiter (actually Brendan hailed from Canada but his father was American so he half counted) and the rattle of cocktail shakers from behind the well stocked bar.

We consulted our place mats that doubled as menus. Brendan helped us choose from the little plates, the small portions of Italian Tapas. Commencing with spicy sausage pizza (tangy and satisfying) together with excellent minty spinach mash on mozzarella, his recommendations were spot on and reassuringly not the most expensive on the menu. Shortly, Brendan returned to gently and informatively upsell us some more little plates. We plumped for the avocado salad, ( fresh and perfectly ripened) together with the smoked vodka salmon and grapefruit.

The delicate fish held its own as the tartness of the fruit battled it out with the chilli, the dish was beautifully presented and as fresh as the dockside. Helpful to the last, Brendan presented us with some gratis courgette fries that had been ordered by mistake. But after sampling a few I didn't feel the need to thank him for his gift (they're best avoided).

Pudding was a passion fruit cheese cake, the traditional biscuity base replaced by rolling the dessert in a crunchy digestive. Very delicious and the passion fruit gel accompaniment a lovely sharp surprise. Sarah had one glass of the passable house white, but I avoided the grape due to the agonies of a post stag hangover.

The restaurant began to increase in volume and as the stools at the cocktail bar filled up, it was time to make an exit but not before Brendan presented us each with his farewell present, a lemon vodka digestive. Bacaro opened earlier this year but already has a loyal discerning clientele and at thirty eight pounds plus service, offered excellent value and comes thoroughly recommended. image

http://www.salthousebacaro.co.uk

Corfu V

Our next adventure with Rocinante involved us taking the her over the hills of the middle of Corfu and up the east coast. After promising Sarah that there would be no boats or two wheeled hairpin turns, we buckled up to explore the northern end of the island.
The Eskimos have twenty seven different words for snow the Corfu Greeks should have many more words for green. There are the greens of the sea, the greens of the, valleys and the greens of the mountains. The steep hillsides are covered by CinemaScope Cypress trees that poke up into the humid air. Along side them are the pines of a darker hue, then there are the Eucalyptus, the Fig, the Oak and the Carab, all competing for space on the tight gradients. As a result, and despite the heat the air is fresh and clear. It was as though we were surrounded by oxygen factories, with a thousand green chimneys belching out tons of O2.

Descending from the hills we reached a long thin strip of road with bars and restaurants on one side and a long tape of scruffy beach on the other. Bathers shuffled uncomfortably under sunshades trying to get comfy on shingly patches of sand. Sarah asked if I wanted to stop. I dithered for a moment until we reached the end of town where we came upon a watering hole named Dirty Nellies. I clicked my tongue, dug my spurs into her metal, whereupon Rocinante bucked, panicked and took flight.
We reached Kassiopi at noon. Where Ipsos is a gaudy ingot of tat, Kassiopi is a smart little marina full of medium sized yachts and motor boats. We parked Rocinante and settled under a wide awning to refresh ourselves with coffee.
The younger crowd of Ipsos was replaced by an entirely different demographic. The profile of the holidaymaker in this tiny port was so different from the raucous young crowd of the previous resort that a Martian landing in Kassiopi might think some unseen hand had imposed a kind of English ethnic cleansing.
Kassiopi was full of English. But not just any random Brit. It was full of Middle class English families from London and the Home Counties. Wherever I looked, I could see identikit solicitor types and PR Execs sat around mumbling to each other.
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The chaps – Deck shoes, hooped jerseys, ray bans, tight jaw lines honed on the squash court. The Ladies – white linen trousers , Pastel striped shirts, pale boat shoes, massive designer handbags. I looked at the bags. Sarah cooed over names that meant nothing to me. I was about to embark upon an extended diatribe castigating these women for falling foul of some cynical marketing ploy when I was upbraided by my betrothed.
“Tom, you slagged off the chavs in the last place, who are on holiday just like you, now you’re having a go at these perfectly normal people. No one can win, you’re just a massive inverted snob!”
I examined the bottom of my cappuccino cup. Sarah stared out to sea. It was time to knot my hanky and head for the beach.

Round the corner up a one way road lined by strange Narnia-like lamp posts was a small shingle beach shaded by trees.
A charming deck chair attendant with an ochre face and long legs arranged our sun loungers along the back of the little cove.
This was surely one of the prettiest pebble beaches I had ever staggered along. The different sizes of pebble drained your energy as you slipped and skidded towards the Tiffany blue water.
We hopped and danced into the surf. As the sea bore me up, the smooth stones brushed my feet as I began to paddle in one of those aimless semi circles you do when you have neither the ability nor the inclination to set course for a specific destination. Stood in shoulder height water I considered the Albanian coastline on the near horizon. Grim brown blasted heaths loomed out of the mist. Whereas northern Corfu was apparently green and pleasant enough for Middle England, Albania’s topography looked as austere as its economy.
As gravity took over from the buoyancy of seawater I began dancing over the cold stones as they dug into my soles. I staggered back to my damp sandals, turning back to gaze at the horizon. The deck chair guy saw me considering his near neighbour. I mentioned the distance.
“Albania is closer than you think, isn’t it?” I said.
“Too close my friend.
“Do they try to sail over?”
“They don’t sail over here my friend.”
“Really! You would have thought they would at least try to come over here.”
“Oh they do. But they don’t sail, they swim.”
“They swim over ?
“Yes, then we catch them and send them back. Then the game starts all over again.”
I thought of the Berlin Wall, the TexMex border, Sangatte. And those Albanians trying to grab their own little bit of paradise.
Even with my rubbish paddling, if Corfu was the prize, I think even I would swallow my pride and attempt the crossing.
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