baumann’s braserrie & the blue egg

St Peter-ad-Vicula Church, Coggeshall

Today we took a trip out into the Essex countryside.

The main reason for this was to get our ‘free lunch’ courtesy of TopTable.  I have been steadily earning lots of points over the past year, and suddenly noticed a couple of weeks ago that some were due to expire very soon, so I thought I’d best book something up!

The last free meal that we had was at the lovely Cantina Vinopolis on the South Bank, but i fancied something different.

In amongst the usual reward redemption venues was the lovely looking Baumann’s Brasserie, which is out in the pretty Essex village of Coggeshall (yes, I did take the photo of the church today – that really was the colour of the sky!)

Baumann’s Braserrie is a deceptive restaurant – it looks a little like a small tea room from the front, but opens out quite airily inside.  It feels unpretentious but ‘nice’.  However, I think the food outshines the surroundings.

Our ‘free lunches’ were two courses from the ‘lighter lunch’ menu, which is available Wednesday – Saturday.

For starters, I plumped for the radichio, smoky bacon and red wine risotto

As it was set on the table in front of me, there was the wonderful aroma of the fresh rosemary.  i liked the fact that I got to pour some red wine over myself, as it was presented in the spoon as above.  The textures were amazing, the rice still had a little bite, it was smooth, creamy, and with unexpected little nuggets of goats cheese/feta (I must admit I’m not altogether sure, I am not a total foodie!).  Sublime, but not too heavy.

The Man plumped for the Scotch Ducks Egg with turmeric pickled vegetables and walnut sauce.

Now, the look that passed over his face as he was eating was sheer pleasure, LOL.  he said that he could happily have eaten it all day.  the blobs were chutney, and I tried a little of the cauliflower (which I usually hate!) and it was totally scrummy.

I am NOT a fish-eater, but seeing as I wasn’t paying, and seeing as The Man couldn’t make his mind up, I decided to go for the polenta-crusted plaice with fennel slaw and ‘red sauce’ (and thenswap with the Man’s burger if I didn’t like it).

The polenta was crisp, the plaice was soft, the fennel slaw was crisp and flavourful, the ‘red sauce’ was almost sweet and sour – it was heavenly!

The Man had gone for the homemade burger with melting gorgonzola, chips and tomato chutney.

The burger was medium, the chips were crisp on the outside, fluffy on the inside and perfectly seasoned, the gorgonzola wasn’t over-powering and the chutney was tasty (it was in a little bowl behind the burger!).

Being a sad bint, i got very excited by the side order of mixed salad that I had ordered – I didn’t take a pic but it had the perfect balance of different leaves, finely shredded white cabbage, radish, carrot, cherry tomatoes, cucumber and even mango!  the dressing was superb – a lovely slightly mustardy ooziness coating every element perfectly. Mmmmmm…..

So, I paid for just our drinks and then we had a drive round…and an hour or so later, happened to come across The Blue Egg at Great Bardfield just as I was saying I fancied a cake and a coffee.

Oh…my…god!  i am SO glad that we found it.  This was only part of the cake display, and honestly, what a fantastic display to come across when you fancy cake!

The Man went for a pear and frangipane tart, but demolished most of it while I was in the loo, so I couldn’t get a pic.  I must admit, seeing as he made a perfect Bakewell during the week, I have to say his frangipane is better!  however, i actually had the best cheesecake I have ever had in my life.  it was soft, and full of flavour and almost melted away in my mouth.  Black cherry and chocolate cheesecake – heaven on a plate.

So, a marvellous day all round.  I am so glad I didn’t have any breakfast!  And I will be saving up my TopTable points, and hope to take my parents to Baumann’s for a treat soon…watch this space to see what we’ll have then 🙂

things i did yesterday

I wanna SIX you up!

Me & The Man can be lazy bastards at the weekend.  Especially when we don’t have the Girl around (which we don’t this weekend as she’s off with her dad). So, we quite surprised ourselves by getting up, dressed and out before midday!

The reason for ths momentous occasion – we were off to show our support outside Broadcasting House in the protest to Save 6Music.  as, I’ve said before, this really is a cause close to my heart.  I adore 6Music.

I think there were probably about 500 people there, milling around.  What struck us as being funny is that everyone was so polite and niddle-classed, which is to be expected as that’s the 6Music audience.  People mainly late 30s/early 40s probably, not really the protesting type and not quite sure what to do.  we were there to show our support, but a little embarressed and self-conscious about it 😀

Some people had even brought sandwiches!

So, Liz Kershaw, Gideon Coe and Tom Robinson gave speeches – there was some music from a couple of bands (whose names I didn’t really catch – but one had a guy with a fab voice…Asian-looking and was sitting on his brother’s shoulders to make himself able to be soon over the crowds!).

Unfortunately the heavens opened and the rain came down very very hard.  We’d been there about an hour or so at that stage and sung a couple of songs (again all half-heartedly and a little embarressed) and I was starting to get nipple-strain as I was so cold!

So we decided to forgo waiting for Adam Buxton and went for a drink at The Cock (where I had been on Wednesday night too!).  A good and proper Sam Smiths pub.

after that, we made our way down to the Southbank Centre to the Chocolate festival, which was all well and good, but it was SO crowded, and the one chocolatier that I particularly wanted to see wasn’t even there!

By this time it was gone 3pm, and we suddenly realised that we hadn’t even eaten (apart from sharing a bag of crisps and a bag of nuts in The Cock), so we got on a bus and ended up in Brick Lane, considering curry, but not altogether convinced by the idea.  Wandering around though, we came across the Brick Lane Food Court which I have realised is a very new venture as I just had a look on Google Street View and this is the pic they had then, and it is now in the building on the left!

The choice of international street food served there was fantastic – all stalls had 3 or 4 dishes including a couple of Chinese, Japanese, Morroccan, Sri Lankan, Dim Sum amongst others!  It was brilliant – and they don’t sell drinks in there, so you can pop over to the offy over the road and buy some booze (or pop) to go with it!  I had the Japanese fried chicken, tempura prawns, salad and udon noodles.  Yummy yummy yummy – and only £5.50!

So, then we wandered back via Old Spitalfields and popped into Montezuma’s (which again, I have mentioned before!) and then braved another torrential downpour to get back to Liverpool Street to come home.  Unfortunately by this time, my leg was absolutely killing me and I was lurching really badly, like an drunken old biddy yet again.

I’ve been fine with my leg, but I must admit, I haven’t exactly pushed it hard – and being out wandering around town for most of the day did put a lot more pressure on it than I usually do.

I’ve put on loads of weight over the past few weeks as I haven’t been doing so much, and I haven’t been to the gym at ALL, simply because the thought of doing it in again really actually scares me!  i mean really scares me.  i know I joked about it a lot of the time, but it really, really hurt – and I can still feel it aching from yesterday’s exertions even now – whereas before I used to be able to walk around London for hours at a time!  Obviously the weight hasn’t been helped much because of The Man’s wonderful creations due to the present a bought him a couple of weeks ago!  but still – I want to get back to the gym and doing something, but I’m nervous of how/where to start!  I need to sort it out.

I’ve just realised – it’s quite ironic that we went to the Chocolate Festival but only bought chcolate from the company I always buy from in the end, LOL.

and that’s why i love him

This is like a food porn machine!

Me and The Man recently celebrated six years together, and having been very careful with my Christmas bonus, I decicded to treat him to something that he had been coveting for many many years – a Magimix food processor.

Since buying it, he has used it near enough every day – the gorgeous food that has made its way out of our kitchen recently is something to be seen to be believed – he has perfected pastry – both sweet and savoury shortcrust; he has made the most gorgeous quiches (sorry, ‘tarts’ – he is a Northerner and ‘real men don’t eat quiche’ let alone make it) – my favourite being a wonderful smokey bacon, caramelised onion and gruyere cheese; he has made a yummy lamb and mint pie; a deliciously light victoria sponge…all sorts of yumminess.

So, tonight, I turned to him and said “So, how long do you reckon until you get bored of your Magimix?” and without missing a heartbeat he replied “Well, I’m not bored with you yet, and you’ve got far less functionality.”

Bastard.  Someone remind me what I see in him.

pretty little sweet things

Sweet little bites

It may just be because I am bored, but I have the urge to do something very girlie that I have never done before.

I would like to got with a couple of female friends and learn how to make gorgeous little cupcakes with cutesie frosting, or perfect little macarons of various flavours.

I’m not a baker.  I’m a pretty bloody good cook, but can’t follow recipes generally, and the science of baking has always totally freaked me out – it’s so damn precise.  And I don’t do precise.  I guess I’m a natural rebel.

But gorgeous little cupcakes are just…well, gorgeous.  And macarons are just so delicate and perfect looking in their awesome yummy sandwichness.

The trouble is that I believe it’s pretty expensive to go to a macaron making class – the only ones I know of are at the wonderful L’atelier des chefs, that I went to last month (and loved!!) but I wasn’t paying, and the macaron making classes are every saturday, but cost £72!!  And they always seem to be sold out well in advance, so they must be popular!

Cupcakes would be my second choice, but I wouldn’t even know where to start looking for classes.

If I had a bigger kitchen, I would suggest my friends coming round to me and us just making them from recipes, but it’s not an option.  I have a galley kitchen that is a squeeze to get two people into – not really good for a ‘class’.

I think I need friends with big kitchens…which I’m probably not really going to get in London, LOL.

Anyway – if anyone knows of decent, reasonably-priced macaron classes, or even cupcake decorating classes – please do let me know!

le mercury, islington

Three floors of French loveliness on Upper Street

On Saturday, two of my friends took me out as a birthday treat to the restaurant of my choice.  Someone had recommended Le Mercury in Islington to me recently, and I knew the prices were really decent, so didn’t feel too bad about taking them up on the offer!

I am SO glad that we went.  It’s somewhere that I have walked past many times and is always crammed full – and I didn’t even realise that there are three floors – I believe all of them were full on Saturday night!

Le Mercury is (obviously) French and is apparently used to being so busy – my only negative comment about the whole experience is that they seemed to have a ‘sitting change’ at a set time.  The only time my friend had been able to book was 9.15pm – a little later than we would have liked – but we just made sure we had late lunches!  When we got there, it took about 15 minutes or so for everyone to come in or leave.  We were on the ground floor, which made it rather annoying to start with as there was a steady stream of people wandering past us and opening the door…however, it all settled down quickly enough.

The prices on the menu are set – £3.95 for starters, £6.95 for mains and £2.95 for desserts with side orders at £1.95 – great prices aye?  Bottles of wine were £11.45 to £36.95, which were also great value.  There was a specials menu that was slightly more expensive, including bellinis and rossinis (which were gorgeous) but we all chose from the standard menu.

We were surprised at the portion sizes which seemed very generous, and the quality of the food was fantastic!

For starters, we had crayfish & lobster ravioli on spinach with a shellfish foam, foie gras and duck ballotine with poached dates and toast and beef carpaccio with capers and red pepper relish and salad.

Mains we had sea bass with crushed new potatoes and minted pesto (twice) and saddle of lumb on garlic mash, grilled courgettes and rosemary jus.  We shared a couple of sides of veg which were really yummy too!!

Desserts were poached pear with sugar glaze and cinammon ice cream and dark chocolate tart with vanilla ice cream.

Everything was scrummy!  Everything was flavourful and great quality.  It was a brilliant night, with great service that was completely unrushed and I loved every minute of it.  I definitely recommend it.  the atmosphere was great – and next time I’m definitely going to try the steak – it looked delicious on everyone’s plates!!

ewww! they’re looking at me!

19 Wigmore Street, London

Last night we had our work’s Christmas ‘do’, and we actually did something that I’ve been wanting to do for ages!

I work for a very very small (but successful) company – we only have 15 people that work for us – and for our do, we went to the wonderful L’atelier des Chefs in Wigmore Street.

It’s a great concept.  You go along, and you are taught how to cook a dish – they do different price ranges, styles and number of courses – you’re taught by a professional chef (our one was pretty cute), in a professional kitchen, and then you sit down with your class and eat the results of your labours.

We did a three course meal, which was prawns with avocado, haloumi, chili etc followed by duck with green beans, flaked almonds and an orange sauce and then poached pears with sable biscuits and cinnamon cream.  It was fantastic.  As there were 15 of us, we were split into 3 teams of 5, and I slipped up really…I’m quite a good cook, and I’m an absolute foodie and watch food programmes constantly.  I ended up in the group with 4 blokes who never cook.  not only did I have to shout a lot, but I also ended up doing most of the work AND I kept getting really frustrated with them – especially as two of them managed to cut themselves (one I reckon did it on purpose to get out of doing anything!).  i even had to peel quite a few of the prawns, which I NEVER do as I can’t have my food looking at me!  Eyes should be gone before I think about eating something!

But surprisingly, even though I was in the crappest team, the food we produced was absolutely gorgeous!  And I loved having all the professional equipment – the knives were SO sharp – I’ve never been able to dice an onion so finely, LOL.

Also, it was great that while we were eating each course, all the kitchen was cleared and everything set out for us – we didn’t have to do any measuring, weighing, washing-up, searching for equipment etc etc – just get on with cookign what was a scrummy, perfect meal!

With a couple of glasses of champagne on arrival and copious bottles of wine during the meal, it was a brilliant evening, and lovely for us all to get together – there were people who have worked for the company for years who had never met (there are quite a few home-based).

And they have a fantastic cookware shop there too (as they would have) and after we’d finished eating, my chief exec had another surprise – we each had a tab of £25 to get whatever we wanted from the shop!!  Woohoo!!  All this on top of a Christmas bonus that had been unexpected.  AND then we had lots more booze bought for us at a bar round the corner.

I love my company.  I love food.  And I officially loved last night and recommend it to anyone.  I’d love to organise to do it with a group of friends.

The table where we ate, with the kitchen just behind.

my new addiction

Full of empty pot loveliness

I am dead impressed with the new ‘Fuller Longer’ range at M&S.  We have an M&S near work, and in the winter, I often get my lunch there so that I can ping it in the microwave.

So, M&S have launched this new range, and at the moment everything in it has £1 off.  That makes this meatball minestrone just £1.49 – which I rekcon is a total bargain.

I shoud’ve taken a photo of the actual soup/stew in my bowl, but I was on the phone and then in a meeting while I was eating it and didn’t think about how gorgeous it was til afterwards.

It’s really packed full of flavour (although perhaps a little strong on the garlic), and has little meatballs, cabbage, green beans, carrots and small pasta shells and some other veg in a really scrummy but light tomoato and basil soup.  It’s really filling – I didn’t even need to have bread or a bag of crisps or anything with it – and I have a HUGE appetite!

Not only that, but as you can see from the diet info thing, it only has 260 calories and is low in fat.  There was a gorgeous slightly aniseed taste – which I think must have been fennel seeds or something.

I expect I’ll be getting this even with the extra £1 charge!  I right winter warmer 🙂

Caolrific goodness - no idea why the calorie content is an amber!

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