Lying just 28 miles off the coast of Cornwall, Scilly is the first place summer arrives in England – and the last place it leaves – and is a truly unspoiled paradise that offers a welcome sanctuary. Its five inhabited islands of St Mary’s, St Martin’s, Bryher, Tresco and St Agnes all offer crystal-clear turquoise seas and white sandy beaches, and you can easily hop between the islands by tripper boat.
It’s easy to discover Scilly with Skybus flights from Exeter, Newquay and Land’s End reaching the islands in less than an hour. Alternatively, you can opt for a relaxing sail from Penzance aboard the iconic Scillonian III passenger ferry.
Enter the competition and discover for yourself why people who visit the Isles of Scilly come back time and again. The prize offers return flights for two to the Isles of Scilly with Skybus, departing from your choice of Exeter, Newquay or Land’s End airport.
Travel to and from the point of departure and airport car parking is not included.
For more information about Isles of Scilly Travel, and to discover how you can #ConnectScilly, visit islesofscilly-travel.co.uk/connect or call 01736 334 220.
To enter, simply answer the following question.
Terms & conditions
Not to be used in conjunction with any current bookings or discounts. Excludes travel and accommodation on bank holiday weekends and school holidays. Travel to be taken in March, April, May, September or October, and bookings are subject to availability on requested dates. Deadline for competition entry on 8 March 2018. Winners will be selected at random after that date and no cash alternative will be offered. Click here for full T&Cs
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Try our easy meatball recipes. We love meatballs, and we have everything from Swedish meatballs to Italian meatballs to Spanish meatballs.
Check out our quick and easy meatball ideas for midweek including our baked meatball recipes and, of course, spaghetti meatballs. Or go for some proper comfort food with our cheesy meatball and mozzarella pan bake or Sloppy Joe bake. There’s no doubt about it, we have the best meatball recipes around…
We love this Swedish meatball recipe. Lingonberries are a European relation of the cranberry, you can buy lingonberry sauce from Ikea or use cranberry sauce instead (it’s great with either). Try our top Scandinavian recipes here.
Cooking for a crowd? Make our easy meatball lasagne recipe with sage and squash. This generous family recipe makes for a comforting midweek meal during the winter season. Being a baked meatball recipe it can be made in bulk and feeds plentifully, making it perfect for freezing – giving yourself something to look forward to on lazy nights in. Make one of our easy lasagne recipes here.
Check out this rich, indulgent baked meatball recipe for lamb meatballs. This simple traybake is a super easy, all in one family recipe. It is one of our best meatball recipes as it’s the perfect comfort food.
Try our easy baked meatball recipe. Think meatballs baked in rich tomato sauce with a melting mozzarella topping, this recipe is all about comfort food. It’s also perfect for freezing, making it a great option for when you don’t want to cook mid-week.
Try our baked pecorino and white pepper pork meatballs. This baked meatball recipe comes served with chunky sweet potatoes, a quick and flavoursome midweek meal that looks colourful and impressive. White pepper gives a lovely fiery heat to these juicy meatballs. Use whole white peppercorns rather than the ready-ground white pepper, as the flavour is far superior. More tray bake recipes here.
Who doesn’t love a spaghetti meatball recipe? This is a classic Italian staple that you can cook and eat now, or freeze for later. Just serve them simply with pasta for a delicious quick dinner during the week. Here are 17 easy spaghetti recipes to try.
These lamb meatballs have all the flavour dimensions – smoky meat is paired with sweet and sour harissa sauce, making this a wonderful mid-week supper. Using ready-made meatballs means it can be on the table in under 30 minutes without compromising at all on flavour.
Make your meatballs that little bit more special with a gremolata topping, made from parsley, lemon and garlic. We love the creamy white wine sauce these porky balls come with, make sure you have some crusty bread to mop it up.
Try our Asian inspired honey-sriracha meatballs. These punchy pork meatballs make for a quick and easy midweek fix, plus they’re low in calories too! This easy meatball recipe will be impressing your guests in under 30 minutes.
Lentils are a great way to make a meal vegetarian. Swap these for your usual meatballs and your family will hardly notice the difference. Plus, they’re low-cal and ready in just 40 minutes – perfect midweek. Check out all our vegetarian recipes here.
This recipe for harissa chicken meatballs with bulgar is quick, easy and healthy, but packs a flavour punch. It is delicious cold the next day – prepare for packed lunch envy. Here are our favourite bowl food recipes.
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The regularly updated selfies on the Instagram account of Angie Mar are, more often than not, met with a blaze of fire emojis from her 16k-plus followers. How else to respond to this cool New York chef whose personal style signifiers include white goat fur by Rochas, combat boots by Chanel, arm candy by Vuitton and – the killer touch – a hulking great dry-aged prime rib by New York’s best butcher, Pat LaFrieda? Badass should do it.
I catch up with Angie over vegetable juice (her daily dalliance with herbivorism) and steak tartare – it never lasts long – in London on a flying visit to cook at Hawksmoor’s annual charity dinner in aid of Action Against Hunger. Angie adores London – her Taiwanese mother grew up here – and plans to open in the city one day but for now her focus is The Beatrice Inn, the West Village chophouse she took over from Vanity Fair editor-in-chief Graydon Carter in 2016 after two years in its kitchen.
For New Yorkers, ‘The Bea’ holds a host of associations. It began life in the 1920s as a speakeasy where F Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald would hang; for the next 50 years it was a wildly popular Italian red-sauce joint; then, from 2006 to 2009, it was the centre of the universe, an after-hours den frequented by everyone from Chloë Sevigny to Lindsay Lohan, Kate Moss and the late Heath Ledger. “It was insane,” smiles Angie. “I definitely wasn’t cool enough to get in.”
Now, in the glittering light of the club’s original disco ball, The Beatrice Inn enters a new chapter. “I want to make it one of New York’s classic restaurants,” she tells me. “You go to New York, you go to Keens, you go to Per Se, you go to Carbone, you go to Beatrice.
“I’m all about New York, this all-embracing, all-encompassing ‘come as you are’ city,” continues the Seattle-born chef. “I want The Beatrice to be a representation of that. You can walk in on any night and you’ll see a table in black tie, another in backwards baseball caps.”
Angie, now 35, came to professional cooking just eight years ago, having quit commercial real estate in Los Angeles to pursue her passion in New York. She’s acutely aware of what a privilege it is to be doing what she loves: her Chinese-American family had little choice but to work in kitchens. It went well for them – her aunt Ruby Chow was a Seattle restaurant legend (who famously employed Bruce Lee as a dishwasher) – but it wasn’t their dream for Angie. “As a kid I’d be told ‘go to college, make something of yourself, don’t do this’, so it’s kind of ironic going back to it. It’s in my DNA.”
As a result, perhaps, she’s brilliantly unapologetic about her choices. “If I’m going to cook, I’m going to cook food that takes you out at your knees. You’re going to leave that meal and think ‘what just happened?’. I’m never going to put a cut of salmon on the menu because someone told me I should. My goal is to make the restaurant very singular. The menu’s a reflection of what I personally love to eat.”
There are groaning crustacean platters, slabs of beef (often aged and butchered by Angie), whole animals, historical dishes (“I’ve never met a medieval dish I haven’t loved”) and a version of the braised pork shoulder she’s been making since she was 15. As for vegetables, “we have parsley”, she laughs.
I’ve never seen a menu quite like hers. Here’s a sample: whole applewood smoked rabbit, rhubarb, snail butter, elderflower, laurel; milk-braised pork shoulder, jasmine rice soubise, hen-of-the-woods mushrooms, sage; ‘Sea Pie’, an 18th-century pie of smoked boar, lamb shank, pork cheek and duck leg; 160-day whiskey-aged tomahawk, lobster butter, smoked vanilla, truffles, thyme. This last dish, served to the whole table, involves tipping a bottle of single malt over the beef each week, hence its $700-1,000 price tag (there’s a waiting list).
“I want people to have this really beautiful elegant meal but at the same time there’s something so primal about it,” explains Angie, who earned her stripes at Andrew Tarlow’s Brooklyn restaurants and at April Bloomfield’s Spotted Pig. “When we’re putting dishes together, there are masculine and feminine influences in each dish. You have these big beefy pieces of meat, maybe smoked over French oak or cherrywood, then other influences that bring some sort of femininity to it, whether it’s elderflower, jasmine, marjoram, plums. It’s the contrast of ideas on one plate that I think is really beautiful.”
Her approach has gone down a storm. “We don’t have a Michelin star yet,” she says, but she has taken The Bea from zero stars in the New York Times (in 2013) to two and a peach of a write-up in 2016. However, all the glowing reviews, awards, photoshoots and celebrity fans won’t be how Angie measures her success. For this, she looks to her young chefs. “When they’re done working for me, they need to be ready to go and do something else and something better. Five or 10 years from now, when we look at everyone who’s in my restaurant now, my hope is they will surpass me. That will be the true testament of how successful I’ve been.”
Favourite dish: To eat, tortellini bolognese at Carbone. To cook, oxtail stew.
Most memorable meal My first James Beard dinner in 2015. We got all these illegal meats shipped in to the US from all over so we had all these amazing cuts. The most memorable part of the dinner, that people still talk about, was the bone marrow bourbon crème brûlée. No one had ever seen it or tasted it before.
Chef or food personality she most admires Nigel Slater – the way he talks about food and the way he writes about it, just a romantic air that I turn back to time and time again.
Guilty pleasure Chicken McNuggets.
Photographs by Annebet Duvall, Beatrice Inn
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Röski opened late in 2017 in the stylish Georgian quarter of Liverpool, with ambitions of gaining Michelin stars for its contemporary approach to fine dining.
Who is cooking?
Chef-patron Anton Piotrowski has an impressive résumé; he won MasterChef: the Professionals in 2012 and he held a Michelin star as executive head chef at the Treby Arms in Devon (read our foodie guide to Devon here). Röski is his first solo venture and he plans to introduce Liverpool to a more relaxed style of fine dining.
What’s the vibe like?
At around 30 covers Röski has an intimate feel and the minimal décor ensures the focus remains on the food. Stylish bronze light fittings add a splash of warmth to the neutral grey and white room and the eclectic soundtrack ranges from Florence and the Machine to jazz.
What’s the menu like at Röski?
Röski aims to simplify fine dining and dishes are stripped back, resulting in a creative style of cookery that’s all about modern twists on classics and whimsical desserts.
What should we order at Röski?
We opted for the seven-course tasting menu and a snack of tapioca crackers with potted shrimp, edible flowers and a burst of citrus got the meal off to a promising start. A starter of red deer venison with creamy potato espuma, game gravy and garden courgettes was hearty and rich.
Röski’s take on scouse brought the traditional stew up to date – tender, 100-day-aged slow-cooked brisket from local butcher Edge & Son was topped with barbecued carrot and swede, parsley powder and tangy ‘drunken’ onions marinated in beer. Thick slices of buttermilk sourdough with roast-onion burnt butter made the ideal accompaniment to the scouse, ensuring we soaked up every last morsel. Crab tart in seaweed pastry conjured up an intricate taste of the sea, the subtly sweet crustacean lifted by a hit of freshness from pickles and langoustine foam.
The second seafood course of smoked eel with chorizo jam, dill, leek ash, quail egg and parsley root was equally inventive. Next came a winter warmer suited to the chilly night – roasted breast of ethically farmed Norfolk quail with indulgent triple-cooked chips, smoked sausage jus and a haggis bonbon brought together a medley of sophisticated flavours.
Middle Eastern-inspired roasted and caramelised cauliflower with parmesancustard and tuile was an appealing vegetarian course, and came with frozen apple and a piquant madras curry oil that worked well with the nutty cauliflower.
Röski restaurant, Liverpool
A refreshing pre-dessert of blueberry curd, yuzu gel, satsuma meringue and fennel sorbet led us towards the showstopping ‘tribute to rhubarb’ dessert. Yorkshire forced rhubarb, caramelised white chocolate and silky ‘builder’s tea’ ice cream came with an array of leaves doused in essence of rhubarb which billowed across the table, while edible silver leaf and candyfloss completed this theatrical creation.
Caramelised white chocolate, Yorkshire forced rhubarb, builder’s tea ice cream
What are the drinks like?
There’s a wide variety of wines available, including mid-range and premium options and tasting menus can be paired with matching wine flights. We sipped chilled Jacquart Brut Mosaïque Rosé champagne before moving on to a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc from the Yealands Estate, with notes of wild thyme and citrus.
Röski delivers on its promise to breathe new life into fine dining, serving food to get excited about, with bold flavours and meticulous presentation. Dining here is an experience to remember and the attentive service and laid-back atmosphere will make you want to linger.
Tasting menus from £55 per person for five courses, lunch £25 per person for three courses.
In this week’s olive magazine podcast drinks writer Hannah and editor Laura share tips on how to get through dry January; digital editor Alex travels to Noya’s kitchen in Bath to learn more about Vietnamese food and the cookery team tell us how to get the most out of a slow cooker (more info on how to use a slow cooker here).
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Looking for restaurants in Arcachon? Want Arcachon hotels to stay in? Here’s our guide to Arcachon Bay, including restaurants near Dune du Pilat, hotels in Cap Ferret, and foodie spots in Corniche.
On the windswept, bleached-out Coté d’Argent (silver coast) of southwest France’s Atlantic Coast, less than an hour’s drive southwest of Bordeaux (read our foodie guide here), Arcachon is a stately old seaside resort. It’s also the southern gateway to Arcachon Bay, an oyster-farming basin ringed by fishermen’s shacks – and some very chi chi restaurants, cafes and hotels – that makes for a great foodie weekend.
Stroll around Arcachon’s old town and you pass elegant fin de siecle villas, each with names like Margaux or Heloise, as your path weaves in and out of the town’s seafront.
Soak up the atmosphere and then stop off at Arcachon’s large covered market (open Tues to Sun) to stock up on peaches, freshly baked pain de campagne, meat, fish or even oysters; there’s also an oyster bar within the market where you can perch on a bar stool and slurp your choice of bivalve (more on those further down) with a glass of local sauvignon.
If you want to stay in Arcachon, try Hotel Home, a bastion of rock chick chic with 10 bedrooms, a stylish coffee shop and a lifestyle store in a quieter corner of the town, right by a beautiful old jetty and a small beach.
It’s all about location at this Philippe Starck hotel. One of Arcachon’s greatest claims to fame is its proximity to the Dune du Pilat, the tallest sand dune in Europe, and this boutique hotel is best placed to explore it. Right at the very edge of town, surrounded by soaring pine trees, from the beach below the hotel you can walk on to the Dune du Pilat avoiding the vast majority of tourists (the official approach leads visitors in from the other side).
Unfortunately, that location is quite hard to take advantage of, however. Book in for lunch expecting your seat on the outdoor terrace to embrace the wrap-around panorama of sea and sand and you’ll be disappointed; brusque staff and a tightly guarded tangle of ropes conspire to cordon it off to anyone except overnight guests.
Much more welcoming is the Hotel Ha(a)itza, La Co(o)rniche’s younger sister. Set in a towering, chalet-style building back down the hill towards town, this includes a more formal restaurant, The Skiff Club, as well as a bistro-style Café across the road (an atmospheric space that works as well for a quick bite on the way to the beach as it does for a romantic but unfussy dinner; think steak and tarte tatin).
There’s also a pretty tea room and patisserie, decorated in macaron colours and serving one of the best breakfasts in town, if also one of the most expensive (a freshly squeezed grapefruit juice will set you back €9); stick with a seriously good coffee and a freshly baked, sugar-topped brioche and you can’t go far wrong.
The big local food story is oysters (here’s our guide to oysters), which grow especially well in Arcachon Bay thanks to the basin’s tides. There are over 300 oyster farms around the bay, producing up to 10,000 tonnes of oysters a year and the majority are sold and eaten locally.
To explore the region’s oyster culture head just out of Arcachon to the east, to a little town called Gujan Mestras, and you’ll find a dedicated oyster museum, the Maison de l’Huitre. Here you can watch a short film about oyster cultivation, seen as an art rather than an industry by many insiders. It’s slow and gruelling work, done in all weathers – and it takes around three years to produce each oyster – but the people who do it see it as a labour of love.
If you want to try the fruits of those labours, there are lots of rustic little oyster shacks along the road just behind the museum where you can try them, super-fresh – as well as glasses of local wine – all very reasonably (most also serve prawns so anyone with an oyster allergy, or aversion, doesn’t have to miss out).
There are also other little oyster fishing villages on the road around the basin towards Cap Ferret. Le Canon is one of the most famous but my favourite was L’Herbe. It’s marginally harder to reach so it’s slightly less developed and there’s a classic French restaurant there (all gingham tablecloths and accordion music), the Hotel de la Plage, where it’s very easy to while away a sunny afternoon over plates of duck and grilled whole fish – as well as oysters, of course. Make sure you take time to wander through the warren of sandy footpaths that weave between L’Herbe’s wooden fishing huts before you leave; it’s a world away from Arcachon’s many glitzier corners.
People often mistake Cap Ferret for Cap Ferrat, on the Cote d’Azur, but while Cap Ferret is still pretty glam (especially in high season when its luxury villas are snapped up by well-to-do Parisians and their families) the vibe here is more laid-back than that of its Riviera counterpart.
Cap Ferret is also very flat so it’s a relaxed and reasonably quiet place to get around since most people travel by bike, stopping off to look at its famous candy-striped lighthouse – or to eat in one of the lovely waterside restaurants – before hitting its beaches.
If you’re in search of more oysters, you’ll want to book in at Chez Boulan, a chic waterside restaurant specialising in a range of different oysters it farms itself (from the tiny aperitive, a cocktail oyster, to the grand Cru – fat and sweet).
Like many other visitors, however, I made a beeline to Chez Hortense, at the end of the peninsula.
Opened in 1938, this breezy, relaxed seafood restaurant is arguably the best-known in Cap Ferret and I worried it wouldn’t live up to the hype. It did. Friendly staff, simple wooden tables, jaunty bottle green paintwork, a shady vine-framed terrace and sea views (in fact you can see right across the bay to the Dune du Pilat on a clear day) set a relaxed vibe.
The food was equally impressive with a short menu that includes oysters (a sister restaurant, the Cabane d’Hortense just down the coast, focuses more explicitly on those), whole grilled turbot and the house speciality, Moules Façon Hortense: moreishly simple with garlic, parsley, olive oil and bacon and served with skinny chips (note that portions are enormous so one is easily enough for two).
huitresboulan.fr; Chez Hortense, 26 Avenue du Sémaphore, Cap Ferret (00 33 556 606 256)
HOTEL DES PINS, ARCACHON BAY
There are few more romantic places to stay around Arcachon Bay than the 1930s-themed Hotel des Pins. Book one of its 14 antique-peppered bedrooms (or the roulotte for two parked up in the garden), play billiards – or the piano – over a cocktail in the bar then book a table in its glass-framed dining room for a decadent dinner overlooking the gardens; think plates of local oysters; grilled seabass; fillet of beef with a Bordelaise sauce (red wine, bone marrow, shallots, thyme and pepper); and lavender crème brulée.
This local ice cream company, with its minimalist branding, 12 outlets around southwest France and over 100 (largely seasonal) ice cream and sorbet flavours, may appear every inch the contemporary artisan ice cream maker but there’s substance as well as style.
O Sorbet d’Amour’s first branch opened in Arcachon in 1935 (then known as Au Cornet d’Amour) and has long had a branch in Cap Ferret, among other destinations around the bay, so it has real history in the area. For tourists without the nostalgic associations, however, it’s all about the flavours, and they’re outstanding. All the basics are covered well but you’re missing out if you don’t try the walnut, blood orange, fig or orange flower water varieties. If you’re seeking a regional sugar hit, try the canelé, inspired by the tiny Bordeaux cakes of the same name.
The closest Cap Ferret gets to Ibiza, in the summer months this cult open-sided, all-day café-bar on Cap Ferret’s main drag, the Boulevard de la Plage, is a prime people-watching spot.
A bright and slick, surfer-inspired interior – all white-painted rattan chairs and bright turquoise or poppy-coloured cushions – makes a relaxed spot for breakfast (juices, granolas, patisserie and strong coffee), lunch (sushi, salads and burgers), afternoon tea (loose-leaf teas are served with free little fingers of cake but the desserts are one of the stars of the menu here so it’s worth ordering that strawberry pavlova or lemon sponge too), cocktails or a casual dinner.
There’s usually a DJ playing in the evenings, so go with friends and share plates of charcuterie, tempura or sushi over a bottle of Cotes de Gascogne or a few Ferret Ferrets (vodka, Champagne and fresh strawberries) rather than booking in for a demure dinner a deux.
Read our review of Italian restaurant Osteria Romana in Knightsbridge, London
Osteria Romana in a nutshell
Authentic Roman cooking in an intimate setting in Knightsbridge
Chef Carmelo Carnevale heads the kitchen at Osteria Romana, though much of the culinary influence also comes from owner Andrea Reitano (whose previous projects included Assunta Madre and Caffee Rei in Mayfair) – he studied in Rome and has a Roman grandmother. (Here’s our foodie guide to Rome if you’re planning a trip).
What’s the vibe like?
Osteria Romana strikes a surprisingly low-key note considering its upscale location, right next to Hyde Park and a stone’s throw from the Bulgari Hotel.
A small, softly lit space, the décor keeps it simple with plain wooden flooring and furniture, earth-hued walls and little copper lamps that shine inviting pools of light over each table. Pots of vivid green basil adorn each table and a wall-to-wall wine rack provides a focal point at one end of the room. The effect is intimate, unpretentious but still tastefully sleek – it is Knightsbridge, after all.
How does the menu work?
The structure of the menu at Osteria Romana is classically Italian, divided into antipasti, pasta and soups, and main courses, plus dessert. Order all four courses for a true Italian feast, though as portions are generous (particularly the pasta), just one would do if you’re after something lighter. Prices, while not low, are still reasonable for this expensive part of London.
Dishes on offer maintain a strictly Roman focus – ingredients like salt cod, pecorino, artichokes and broad beans abound, and the menu is full of classics native to the Eternal City, from cacio e pepe (here’s Padella’s famous recipe) and bucatini amatriciana to Roman-style tripe and oxtail stew.
Which dishes should we order at Osteria Romana?
Four fat, handmade gnocchi were the stars of our antipasti. Pleasingly fluffy, they came drizzled with a decadent, moreish black truffle and pecorino sauce. Well-made rice croquettes, with a crisp exterior and meaty ragu filling, were complemented by a tangy tomato velouté.
Spaghetti carbonara, that iconic Roman dish, was note perfect, with a silky properly emulsified sauce. Tonnarelli with artichokes and red prawns combined juicy crustacean with dried shards of artichokes and a bisque-like sauce. Lamb chops – served with ultra-smooth mashed potatoes and crispy leeks – were pink, tender and deeply flavoured.
Which dishes should we miss?
There were no real misfires but the saltimbocca – veal wrapped in parma ham with sage – was a little underwhelming, the meat slightly chewy and the parma ham a little measly in quantity. Top marks for the rich marsala sauce, though.
What’s dessert like?
Desserts are simple and straightforward – from tiramisu to cherry and ricotta tart. Our espressos came with large jars of biscotti and almond cookies that we were invited to help ourselves from.
Looking for the best coconut water? Read on to find the results of our coconut drink taste test.
Some drinking coconut water is made from green coconuts, other coconut waters are pure coconut water and others have added natural fruit sugar, so we put all of the best coconut water brands to the test.
Benefits of coconut water
Coconut water nutrition…
Coconut water is high in potassium as well as being good for rehydration as it contains electrolytes. Coconut water is a good source of sodium which can be lost during exercise, making it a good water to drink after sport.
How the best coconut water taste test worked
Five members of the olive team conducted a blind taste test to find the best shop-bought coconut water. We tasted all of the biggest coconut water brands widely available in the UK. The group choose 1st place and the rest all runners up under specific categories.
Best coconut water to use as a mixer in drinks: Vita Coco coconut water
About the coconut water: Vita Coco was first produced in Brazil. This coconut water is made up of 99% coconut water and 1% natural fruit sugar.
Comments:This coconut water was naturally sweet with fruity notes. It was a refreshing water to drink and would act as a good introduction to coconut water. We thought with the hints of lemon it would work well as a base for cocktails.
Best coconut water for those that don’t like it too sweet: Marks and Spencer’s coconut water
About the coconut water: Marks and Spencer’s coconut water is made with 99% coconut water and ascorbic acid. There are 2.25 coconuts per bottle.
Comments:This coconut water drink was very natural and clean in flavour. One of the team said they felt like they were drinking water straight from a coconut. While it is pure in flavour, it is not too sweet.
Check out our review of The Royal Oak, Cotswolds, and see if an expert restaurant critic comes to the same conclusion as an olive reader.
Our editor Laura Rowe, originally from the Cotswolds, has reviewed restaurants for more than a decade. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @lauraroweeats.
Cotswolds-based Natalie Bacci-Evers eats out twice a week, her favourite spot being El Café in her hometown of Shipston-on-Stour. She loves pasta and cheese, and her guilty pleasure is a mixture of the two – mac ’n’ cheese.
About The Royal Oak, Cotswolds
Husband and wife team Richard and Solanche Craven have refurbished The Royal Oak in the Cotswolds (here are our favourite places to eat and drink in the area) to breathe life back into Whatcote’s village pub. The kitchen focusses on British wild food ‘shot to order’ by gamekeepers, and works with local suppliers, along with others in Scotland and Cornwall, to create seasonal dishes. Try pig’s head and black pudding lasagne with cider reduction; fallow buck with salt-baked turnip; or rabbit wellington with mashed potato and farmhouse cabbage. Comforting desserts include preserved pear with hogweed and ‘cobnut bits and bobs’, and South African wines (a nod to Solanche’s heritage) feature heavily.
The Cravens are committed to retaining the local-pub ethos in the bar and have sourced beers and lager from DEYA in Cheltenham, Clouded Minds near Banbury and Warwickshire’s Purity. The gin cabinet also boasts Countess Grey from the Cotswolds (check out our favourite British gins here).
Our pro’s The Royal Oak, Cotswolds restaurant review…
Fans of Richard and Solanche – they made firm friends with foodies at their last home, The Chef’s Dozen in Chipping Campden, and before that at The Fuzzy Duck at Armscote – won’t be surprised at the stark refurb of The Royal Oak.
Contemporary and minimal with whitewashed walls, clothless tables and ivory leather seats – for some it will feel cold, but there are nooks around a fire to warm up in. We’re met with huge smiles on arrival and chatted with as if we’re regulars. *I was recognised.
The short menu is dotted with Richard’s signature dishes – a still-warm crusty wholemeal loaf served with butter, whipped pork fat and alabaster pearls of pork crackling (as incredible as it sounds); and a Cornish scallop served in its own broth – but they feel right for its new pub setting. You can order bar snacks (pickled pheasant egg, anyone?), from a set menu, or the à la carte, as we did.
Portions might feel surprisingly light to those expecting hearty pub grub but every mouthful earns its place on the plate. A mighty Tamworth pig’s head and black pudding lasagne with a glossy cider reduction and toasted hazelnuts is sure to be a new classic here – unapologetically rich in flavour, elegantly restrained in presentation.
Rabbit wellington was predictably delicate but beautifully juicy (a hard thing to achieve with this lean meat) inside its golden pastry blanket. Creamy mash with golden girolles, squeaky green beans, toasted cobnuts (with their greener, fresher flavour than hazelnuts) and a sticky gravy led to a licked clean plate. On the other side of the table, roast beef with giant Yorkies (here’s how to make the perfect Yorkshire puds) and buttery chard, and furiously blushing loin of Scottish red stag were equally quickly devoured.
Blackberry soufflé was literal proof in the pudding that Richard is a chef very much in comfortable territory – almost smug in its height and lightness, given a grateful boost by a sweetly sharp sorbet of the same fruit.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Richard and Solanche are natural hosts and, while the menu might be posher than your average pub, this is expert, classical cooking of fine flavours. A real treat for their new neighbours.
Total for two, excluding service: £104
Our punter’s The Royal Oak, Cotswolds restaurant review…
On arrival at the charming Royal Oak, we were met by a friendly, sincere welcome. Oak beams and tables, clean white walls, sage napkins and down-lighting created a fresh, contemporary, yet warm atmosphere. The staff efficiently attended to tables, while questions about the menu were promptly answered.
We started by looking over the extensive bar and wine menu, including an unusual Lebanese red, and Fernet-Branca liquor. We went for a delicate English sparkling wine with a pungent apple kick, and a full-bodied Lebanese red to accompany the rabbit.
The menu was limited but clearly seasonal. A warm homemade loaf was promptly offered, but it was the mouthwatering butter duo that required an explanation: in one pot, thick homemade salted butter, in the other, pearlescent pork fat with shavings of crisp crackling.
My love for shellfish outweighed the hefty price tag, so I went for sweet and tender Cornish scallop in a punchy broth. A generous helping of salmon caviar and a sprinkle of fresh dill gave the plate plenty of colour.
Rabbit wellington shone – perfectly plump and juicy meat was encased in a thin, crumbly pastry. This came with creamy mash along with finely chopped cabbage and salty bacon wrapped in a leaf, giving the illusion of a miniature cabbage. Girolles infused the dish with a subtle essence of apricot, and toasty cobnuts added crunch.
I was tempted by the recommended blackberry soufflé, however the cheeseboard won due to the rare raw-milk options. St Jude had a creamy yet dense texture with tobacco undertones, the lancashire was rich and crumbly, and stilton delivered that expected punch. The cheeses were served with a generous basket of homemade, rough-edged linseed crackers, a strip of syrupy, chewy honeycomb and a balancing shot of blueberry and thyme preserve.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The standard and range of food and wine was exceptional. It was slightly more expensive than the average gastropub but worth the extra pennies. Impeccable, friendly service encouraged us to return a few days later with our dog for a drink in the bar.
Total for two, excluding service: £115.60
from olive magazine http://www.olivemagazine.com/restaurants/south-west/the-royal-oak-cotswolds-restaurant-review/
Afternoon tea at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park is taken in The Rosebery Lounge, a grand yet unstuffy dining room with high ceilings and a small, stylish bar offering a selection of wines and spirits, including Chêne Bleu Domaine De la Verrière rosé, Goose Island IPA and Hendrick’s gin (here’s our guide to gin to check out). Speckled antique mirrors and contemporary abstract art line the walls, and individual metal coat stands (tree-like) are brought to intimate, low, dark-wood tables. Elegant chandeliers and large windows facing onto Knightsbridge high street make the lounge bright, and a rose and ginger scent infuses throughout the room.
We were greeted by a friendly and informative waiter who explained the options available: beer afternoon tea, teamaster’s choice, sake afternoon tea, mini afternoon tea (for children under 12) or traditional champagne afternoon tea. We opted for the latter, which came with R de Ruinart rosé champagne and R de Ruinart white champagne, both smooth, chilled and crisp, the rosé leaving slight floral notes after each sip.
There are a number of loose-leaf teas on offer, from darjeeling to the Mandarin breakfast blend, and organic rooibos to fresh ginger, all served in delicate bone china designed by Narumi for The Rosebery Lounge. We chose the organic Dragonwell, sweet with a barley taste and a strong resemblance to shredded wheat, and Mi Lan Xiang (Dan Cong) oolong tea, with notes of nori and a slightly sweet honey aftertaste.
Afternoon tea began with a collection of sandwiches that were a bit up and down – crab on a sweet brioche bun was creamy but a tad too fishy; the meat was slightly chewy in the ham, mustard and cress, though the bread was fluffy; and goat’s cheese with caramelised onion and butternut squash was delicately sweet but could have done with more cheese. Others were better – soft salmon tartare on brown bread with crunchy apple and hints of aniseed; and nutty chicken was accompanied by black trumpet mushrooms and sweet and salty buttered corn.
We ordered another round of tea (a punchy and slightly spiced oriental afternoon blend) to accompany our warm, fluffy scones, served with light, zesty lemon curd (try our recipe here), and a rosewater jelly (a little overbearing for our tastes).
Homemade battenburg cake was intricate and colourful, with a lemony buttercream and drops of cherry gel, followed by a blueberry bakewell, almondy with a good base crunch, tasting of fresh blueberries and zingy lemon.
The homemade pastries started with a berry and vanilla trifle cake, slightly too heavy with vanilla, but had a crumbly base and smooth strawberry jelly topping with bursts of fresh fruit. We also enjoyed the velvety and sticky St Honoré cappuccino cake, and a light and airy, smart-looking mint and lime chiffon roll. The star of the show was a chocolate and tonka entremet (layered mousse-based cake), smooth, soft and indulgent with hints of cherry and a delicately crunchy topping.
Scone rating: 6/10
Price: £53pp with tea, £63pp with a glass of R de Ruinart Blanc de Blancs, £67pp with a glass of R de Ruinart rosé champagne.
Salmon makes a great 15 minute meal as it cooks quickly. Check out our crusted salmon with fresh pesto recipe. This super quick and easy recipe takes 15 minutes in the oven and it’s low in calories, a great midweek meal. Here are our favourite easy salmon recipes to try.
A 15 minute stir fry with a lot of punch. This Kung Pao shrimp recipe is a really low calorie stir-fry and is served in a homemade sauce with noodles or rice. The Szechuan peppercorns and chilli flakes add some spice to the prawns while the cashew nuts add a crunchy texture to the dish. Looking for quick stir fry recipes? We have plenty here.
How to use a chicken breast in a 15 minute meal. Try our gluten free recipe for chargrilled chicken chimichurri salad. This quick and easy dish serves 2 and it’s low in calories, a great midweek meal. It’s ready in 15 minutes so super quick to make last minute. Make one of our quick and easy chicken recipes here.
This dish is a healthy combination of prawns, cucumber, avocado, fresh salad and miso seasoning all mixed together in a delicious salad. Ready in less than 20 minutes and perfect for a lighter lunch or dinner.
Spruce up ready-made ravioli in this quick 15 minute recipe. This dish is super zesty and buttery and great when you’re short on time. Low calorie and meat free make this the perfect start to the week.
Looking for quick ways to garnish soup, or make it more filling? Try one of our quick and clever soup topping ideas, including good toppings for tomato soup, how to make delicious croutons, and how you can transform a bowl of simple bean soup with a corn tortilla.
Try our fresh and simple vegetarian spaghetti recipe with creamy mozzarella, smashed olives and ajvar. Ajvar, a sauce traditionally from the Balkans and made up primarily of red peppers, is super quick and easy to whip up and great to use in summer pasta dishes. You can easily exchange the spaghetti for linguine and mozzarella for burrata.
This fresh-flavoured pasta dish is super quick and easy – perfect to throw together for the family after work. Pine nuts add a bit of welcome crunch to the dish. It’s one of our favourite 15 minute recipes
Fig and gorgonzola tartines make an indulgent afternoon snack or stylish starter using a handful of fresh ingredients. These sourdough toasts are super easy to make and ready in 15 minutes, just assemble the toasts and pop under the grill for a couple of minutes. If you like the sound of this, try our other things on toast recipes.
Noodles cook quickly, so make a great 15 minute meal. These hot and spicy Chinese-style noodles only take 15 minutes to whip up so they’d make a great quick and easy mid-week meal if you’re stuck for time or craving some healthy, low cal fast food.
Chimichurri is a punchy South American salsa made from fresh coriander, red onion, vinegar and spices. Try it in this quick and easy steak supper for 2, ready in less than 15 minutes. Check out our steak recipes here.
This super quick and easy prawn and mushroom miso soup means you can have a healthy but comforting meal on the table in just 15 minutes – perfect for a midweek supper. Make one of our noodle soup recipes here.
Thai takeaway in 15 minutes? Quicker than it takes to order! Thai is becoming more and more popular as a takeaway option as it has more fragrant flavours and lighter dishes. Pad Thai is a classic spicy noodle dish and is very popular street food in Thailand. Recreate your own at home with our easy 15 minute recipe. Make one of these easy Thai recipes here.
Looking for a quick brunch idea? This recipe for Colombian eggs is taken from Dan Doherty’s book ‘Duck & Waffle; recipes and stories’. It makes for the prefect light breakfast, plus it’s ready in just 15 minutes. Try pepping it up with chorizo or smoked salmon, if you like.