Easter weekend 2012 sunshine shorts and ice lollies. Easter weekend 2013 snow blizzards wooly hats and oysters.

Whitstable is where I ventured to this Easter weekend. Optimistically booking a tandem for the Saturday and packing my sunglasses for the seaside trip. Hoping that we'd soon be getting a dose of that 'hot' weather from 2012!

We arrived late on the Friday night straight from the London chaos. The journey had been unexpectedly simple. After an indulgent taxi ride to Cannon St Station in rush hour we hopped onto a reasonably empty train to Ramsgate. An hour and a half later we pulled into Whitstable and out into the dark night air. A ten minute walk down quiet streets led us to Whitstable Habour street where Buttercup Studios was located above a small children's shop. The entrance however was on Sea street located behind. The directions provided were brilliant! They were written like a treasure hunt! 'Open the gate and you'll find a narrow alleyway. Walk down the narrow alleyway and you'll find a white gate. The white gate down the narrow alleyway will be locked, to find the key....Behind this gate .....'


We entered the cottage/flat via the little backyard and into the ground floor kitchen. After fumbling a bit in the freezing darkness we managed to unlock the pastel green door and were welcomed into the kitchen by a pot of daffodils flowering on the table.

The studios were thoughtfully done out with mismatched florals, Kath Kidson details and white painted 'originally wonky' floorboards and walls. Even though it is 'floral' throughout it wasn't overly done that it became chintzy. More of a 'Vintage Country' mixed with block colour 'mid-century' pieces of furniture.

Now around 8pm and we were ready for some food!

After living in London for so long, you soon forget that most places close after 8pm! We'd planned to grab some food on arrival, however this turned out to be a bit more of a challenge than we first thought.

So out we went through the white gate down the narrow alleyway and back to Habour Street.
To be honest if we had the knowledge we now have we could've prevented a bad choice. But you don't know unless you try.

Originally I had hoped that the famous VC Jones chippy would still be open. I'd heard such great reviews of the light battered fish and moreish mushy peas that it would've been a superb start to the holiday! However such a traditional establishment has respectable opening hours and frustratingly had just closed at 8pm!? Gutted.

So past VC's and up the street to find the majority of places closed. Ten minutes later we came across Whitstable Fish and Chips and it was open! Hurrah!
When doing a bit of research on Whitstable I had indeed come across this chippy which had one good review, so it seemed like a good bet. Plus the owner was really lovely and offered to make our chip supper whilst we nipped further on up the street to get something to drink. He directed us to the co-op that stays open till 10pm.
All was looking up! We now had drinks and food on the way and had found a shop that was still open! We picked up fish n chips on route back (with additional battered sausage and saveloy sausage thrown in as he was closing) and headed back to our new home!

Even though they were really lovely and helpful in the Whitstable chippy and I so wanted to love our supper. I can safely say it was the worst fish and chips I'd ever had! Flat heavy batter covering a lifeless stale piece of greasy haddock and the chips were the saddest chips I'd ever seen. Oh it was awful!

I tried to be positive and try some of our freebies... To be fair i'd never tried a 'saveloy' before, I won't be eating one again!? Think they'd been sitting on that counter for a while. But not all was lost! The mushy peas were a complete success, beautifully green thick and pipping hot!
However I tried to sell this to Ben, but I could see he was loosing his enthusiasm for Whitstable quite rapidly....

... but it could only get better!!!

Good Friday morning and we awoke to sunshine. After a wonderfully lazy lie-in and a brekkie of scrambled egg on toast we headed out into Whitstable. This was a good start to the day :)
The high street was a hive of activity but wasn't as heaving as we were lead to believe it would be for an Easter weekend. There was a lovely range of shops including lots of little independent businesses, including a record shop...

I'd managed to book us a table at this 'famous' Whitstable fish restaurant called Wheelers. This place is one of it's own. Four tables in the back parlour and seating for four at the front bar. On top of this it has strict timing slots - 1pm, 3pm, 5pm and 7.30pm
No wonder that when I called two weeks previously I managed to get the last slot on the Friday (sat and sun slots had been booked up 3 months previous!?!)

As we were having an early dinner we thought it best to skip lunch having had a late brekkie... But the problem in Whitstable is that there is so many places selling great looking food!
Unable to hold the hunger pains Ben treated himself to the biggest homemade sausage roll from Waltshaw's Kentish Pantry and a freshly baked rhubarb muffin.
We went over to the sea front and perched on one of the sea defences in the sunshine.
I had a taste and can safely say it was a bloody good sausage roll but not a light snack - it was massive! ;) Very tasty.


We arrived ten minutes early for our 5pm booking and were warmly welcomed into what felt like someone's home.
The front of wheelers is the 'bar' where four stools sit infront of a beautiful display of fish and shelf fish, which can be purchased to be taken home if you didn't manage to book a table. We sat in the main part in the back which is a little like your Gran's living room. Old photos on the wall and mis-matched chairs and four tables covered with gingham lino table cloths topped with glass. At a push the back room could sit 16 people.

The look that many 'Shoreditch places' want to recreate, except this was the real deal. It soon became apparent that even though this is a highly recommendable restaurant with the chef having worked and being trained by Gordon Ramsay, it isn't arrogant about it. And in return it doesn't expect you to be either. The service is not what you'd expect from such a highly recommended restaurant and with a chef trained by Gordon Ramsay. It could be classed as slightly curt and perhaps a little 'matter of fact' but personally I felt this added to the whole ambience of being in your Aunts back room waiting for dinner (that's if your Aunt dishes up top notch cuisine!?)

As we sat down we were informed that they were currently washing the glasses from the last sitting & 'to bear with them'. For some reason this really excited me! Not only was it BYOB which meant we ended up treating ourselves to a slightly pricier bottle from the Offy than usual but also everyone was normal. I know that sounds weird but you know when you go to a really swanky restaurant the way they serve you in such an efficient military fashion scares me! We were soon brought over glasses, bottle opener and the menu.

There are two menus available at Wheelers, the 'browsing lighter' menu - This one has good classic dishes, some of which are served straight up from the fish bar. Things like Crab salad, a pint of prawns, fish soup and catch of the day fish n chips. This menu is a cheaper than the al a carte menu which is what we went from. ** Please note I will be returning to experience eating at the bar and going from the browsing menu!

We gave the lady our order from the menu and were given a board of 2 types of homemade bread and homemade wild garlic pesto. One was sourdough and the other a focaccia bread, both light fluffy and very fresh!

We then followed with half a dozen rocky oysters in Guinness Batter - OMG to die for!
Which we shared...

Then onto starters...
Ben went for the marmite scallops, which were caramelised and served in a french onion soup with melt in your mouth braised  oxtail & horseradish bon bons. I went for the pan fried crab cake served with a caesar salad & lobster croutons! So far incredibly impressed.

During our starters another waitress came over to ask whether we'd be choosing one of the special deserts that needed pre ordering. As usual I asked her what her opinion was on the deserts. Well I wasn't expecting her answer!? 'Oh, well to be honest I'm not a pudding person, don't really like them that much. Oh... except the Knickerbocker Glory which is amazing but that isn't on the menu till the end of June'. Oh well I responded with complete enthusiasm and told her my passion for ice cream..
This waitress turned out to be the owner, Delia & I seemed to bond over the ice cream (a woman after my own heart!) Next thing I know she appears with a spoonful of freshly made ice cream and tells me to taste - so yeah we bonded! I now have to go back at the end of June to try the famous knickerboker glory!! I since been tweeted a photo of this famous fruit and ice cream combo by Wheelers and really hope when I return in August it'll still be on the menu!?

For his main, Ben went for the whole lobster lasagne, where you decide how big you want it. A whole small, medium or large lobster - he went for the medium sized one.
So it was a lasagne of whole lobster, leek and white crab ragout, lobster bisque, chanterelle mushrooms, purple sprouting broccoli and aged parmesan... It was an explosion of fresh vibrant flavours and was presented in three small layered piles. Which as I could see looked like you weren't loaded down by pasta. Big thumbs up!

I went for the The Earl of Sandwich of Brill & prawn, set on a shellfish and mulligatawny broth with curried potatoes and wilted spinach. Not sure why the Brill belonged to the Earl of Sandwich, forgot to ask... But either way it was lovely light and delicate with flavoursome broth which finished it of beautifully!

Considering we had just had the equivalent of three starters and a main (of which Ben had had a whole lobster) We were so excited about how good the food was we had to find out if the puddings were of the same standard!

Before going to Whitstable I did a bit of research about Wheelers and what other people had thought. A couple of reviews commented on how the desserts let them down and were a disappointment.
The proof is in the pudding!!!

Bread n butter pudding with Welsh cake ice cream and I went for the cinnamon panna cotta with ginger nut & orange curd ice cream.

Ok not being funny but we were bowled over, the desserts were amazing! I am a big lover of puds and I can safely say that these were some of the best puds I have EVER tried!!!
Such amazing puds - absolutely delicious - so much so we forgot to take a photo..woops sorry!

It was so good in fact we went back a second time during our stay ( can't believe we managed to get a table cancellation!?) and again had a fabulous meal with fresh Whitstable oysters (they are worth trying!) delicious mains and tried the pre order pud which we shared - soo good!
** We are going back to Whitstable in August with some friends and their little baby girl, so don't think we'll be able to do a meal there. However we can still buy some fabulous food from the counter / browsing menu and take back for dinner!

So this complete's our first day in Whitstable! There's a lot of food to be eaten so I warn you of the indigestion you might experience whilst there - pack yourself some Rennie!! I am being serious here.

Indigestion tablets
Lots of Peppermint tea
Bottles of mineral water (the water in Whitstable tastes a bit strange...)

Saturday we awake to snow blizzards!? Hmm not great considering today is the day I've booked us a tandem for the day. We decide that the once the blizzard stops we shall then go collect the bike... ahh cycling in a snow storm!?!?
Our plan was to cycle over to Canterbury. A reasonable 7 mile bike ride along the 'Crab & Winkle Way'. A route that was originally taken to transport crabs and other seafood to Canterbury...
I was still full from our previous day of eating but Ben believed brekkie was in order as we were about to cycle in what looked like horrific weather. Cripes...

We nipped into Samphire and managed to get a table in the window. Perfect people watching seat in the alcove. So food photos of our brekkie. I had the the granola fruit compote and yogurt and peppermint tea (hopping it wouldn't add to my already lead weighted stomach!)
And Ben had a proper brekkie with bubble and squeak black pudding and the rest.
Was a good brekkie!

After a while of staring at the horizontal snow blowing down Harbour street, the weather started to brighten up! At which point my phone rang and it was Bernard from Whitstable Bikes asking when we going to pick up the tandem.

We found Bernard just behind harbour street in a small shed.
Bernard is a tall beanpole chap with a large flatcap, tightly wrapped scarf and silver whiskers. He is a wonderfully buoyant guy who reminded me a bit of our Mary Poppins. He gave a quick tutorial on the tandem, bike route and sent us off on our optimistic Easter ride!

I have never laughed so much in my life.

It started snowing, Ben the pro cycler had taken the front and I was supposed to be the power house at the back... Hmm I was peddling but it is hard when you're going up hill and it feels your thighs are going to explode and then you get a fit of the giggles which is then heightened by walkers shouting 'she's not peddling!'


Once back in Whitstable we nipped over to the Neptune for a couple of pints and watched the sunset before heading over to the Cheese Box for dinner. YES a cheese board for dinner - Ben's dream dinner!

This place is amazing!
We went in to the small shop that was now lit purely by fairy lights and candles. We were the only ones which was really lovely as the two ladies behind the counter talked us through what we could have and recommended cheeses and chutneys and pulled out an amazing bottle of red for us to have with our cheese. The wine was french and something to do with the circus!?

Now I'm gonna be truthful here. I can't remember too clearly the details but we both came away exclaiming how it was AMAZING and I think we even had some of their homemade cheesecake..which I think we actually started to fight over... survived the tandem ride but both lost it over the cheesecake! ha!

You have to go here for their cheese board and a beautiful bottle of wine. Let them take care of you and won't regret it. ... It was such a lovely evening :)

Funnily enough when we awoke on Sunday morning we both had horrific indigestion...that'd be all that cheese and food and booze and food......

Peppermint tea anyone!?

So lunch was booked at Jojo's for 2pm
Clocks had gone back... so not much time before we started eating again....!?!!!

Again I came across Jojo's when researching Whitstable it had rave reviews and what seemed like a lot of loyal followers.

 "JoJo’s Meze, Meat & Fish Restaurant is a Whitstable favourite, serving freshly cooked food with a Mediterranean influence such as gorgeous Greek salads,  grilled sardines with lemon and black pepper, mouth watering mutton and feta koftas, marinated olives and authentic chorizo. Free range meat, local produce, and sustainable fish make dining an easy choice for the socially conscious."

They open reservations two weeks prior at 10am and I managed to find out about it in the afternoon of that day! Perfect still a chance to book a table! ...
When I called up to book for an evening table for the sat, I was informed that all those tables went in the first half an hour!!!?!! Wow.
However they did have a table available for the Sunday at 1.30pm - perfect.

Restaurant Wednesday to Saturday 12:30 - 2:15pm (last booking) and 6.30pm to 8.30pm (last booking) Sunday lunch 12:30 - 2:15pm (last booking) Book the restaurant in advance!
 No cards. Cash and UK cheque only. 


Could we fit in an ice cream cone from Sundae Sundae?

MONDAY  arrived and we thought it was about time to try the famous V.C.JONES
The queue was out of the door and the sit-down bit at the back was packed. As the sun was out we decided to take our fish supper and sit on the sea front.

As we fought with the gale force winds the sun beamed down on us whilst we tucked into the crispy light batter and fabulous chips with delicious mushy peas.

Yes. It is a bloody good chip-y!

Followed by a quick half at the Neptune...

Here are a few places we really could not fit in... but will be trying on our next visit ;)

Windy Corner Stores

The Forge

The Sportsman at Seasalter has a lot of good reviews and seems to be somewhere we should definitely try too!

But I think next time I'll have to go on a diet before returning to Whitstable just to fit all that food in again!

Borough Belles Best Baker Award

So I'm not sure if you realise but as well as photography, baking, doing this blog, being part of Hither Green's FUSS, I am also part of the Committee for the Borough Belles WI.
A fabulous London Based WI group that meets up once a month to chat, learn something and eat cake!

After going to just one meeting I jumped to join the actual committee the following month at their AGM. As part of the committee I was given the wonderful job of running the monthly cake rota and ensuring that there was cake readily available at each meeting - preferably homemade!

I soon realised that the cake rota needed 'jjjoozed' up and so began THE BEST BAKER award! 
The homemade cakes were loved at each meeting and are usually eaten with enthusiasim and chat full of questions about recipes, tips and new ideas. 

"Why not make a record of the cakes, bakes and homemade makes from each meeting, correlate the cakes with their recipes and have a vote at the end!?"

All the time and effort that goes into each time a member or guest decides to make something should be recognised and recorded! We decided that at the end of it all it would be wonderful to put together a Borough Belle Recipe Zine with all the recipes with comments, tried and tested!

So far we have had some fabulous things made since the BBB Award began. From Turkish Spinach Cake to Brazilian Carrot Cake and Spicy Samosa to Jamaican Patties! 

The reactions we've been getting is fabulous and we were worried that people would keep making the same recipes, but no! It's amazing at the array of recipes people find or know and the ones that have been a families close guarded secret are even more exciting!! 

Anyone is free to enter, we just ask you let us know the recipe used. So the remaining question is... what are you going to make? ;)

For more info click the link below:

Deep Dark Chocolate Sour Cream Courgette Cake

Another event another cake to bake!

This weekend was the FUSS craft market and considering I've been a bit slack with FUSS recently due to work commitments and also stretching myself thin - doing stuff for the WI, and DIY stuff in my flat, I decided I should make up by baking a load for the market...

Fortunately I have started baking on random nights I have free and freezing them straight away. Which has turned out to be a godsend for such situations! So I pulled out an Apple & Banana Bundt out of the freezer yesterday and last night baked a batch of my mum's famous flapjacks and also a chocolate courgette cake. Again something my mum used to make when I was a kid. Ironically we never really had carrot cake but instead had chic courgette cake, which I found out today was pretty unheard off!

I love recipes that have a story, a bit of history to them.. I ended up combining my mum's recipe with an american bundt recipe, thus the 'cup' measurements.

NOTE: This cake was devoured off the FUSS stand rather quickly!

1/2 cup Stork Margarine
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 3/4 cup caster sugar
3 medium eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup sour cream
2 cups grated unpeeled Courgettes (about 2 smallish, or 1 large)
3/4 cup Plain chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 180°C and oil a Bundt pan & lightly dust with flour. 
In a large bowl, beat the butter, oil and sugar on high speed with an electric mixer for 2-3 minutes, until thick and pale yellow. Beat in the eggs and vanilla.
In a smaller bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add a third to the butter mixture and beat just until blended; add half the sour cream and do the same. Repeat with another third of the flour mixture, the rest of the sour cream, and the rest of the flour. Stir in the zucchini and the nuts and/or chocolate chips, if you’re using them, and pour the thick batter into the pan, smoothing the top.
Bake for an hour & 10mins, until the top is cracked and springy to the touch. 
Invert onto a rack and allow too cool or pop on a cake stand & serve with creme fraiche while still warm! 

Or you can make a Sour Cream Chocolate Ganache (as seen on the bundt below!)

Still working in cups....

1 Cup of chocolate (dark or milk or both, whatever you have to hand)
3/4 Cup of Sour Cream
1 tsp Vanilla Essence

Break up the chocolate into pieces into a heat-proof bowl.
Bring a pan of water to boil, pop a heat-proof boil over the top and turn off the heat.
Leave for a while (good point to look at the horrific mess you've created in the kitchen and potentially clean it up). Enough faffing...
Mix the vanilla essence into the sour cream and then pour into the melted chocolate. Beat until you get a smooth consistency and then pour over the cake and dust with cocoa powder.

Serves 8-16.

The Big Red

THE BIG RED is a kooky new pizza restaurant to open in Deptford, actually it's been there for a while. But considering I have only just found out about it, it feels like it's brand new! Anyway, off I went to try it out with a helping second opinion from Jo. Jo has very kindly offered to assist me in my search of new places in the local area! Thanks Jo (at the time she didn't realise I'd end up dragging her to a crazy play where she ended up having water dropped on her head!? :s Yeah, sorry about that )

I believe it was originally an old disused double Decker bus that is situated next door to the Bird's nest pub before it was transformed into The Big Red. Such a brilliant idea!
So as you can guess, all the indoor seating is situated inside the bus (upstairs and downstairs) and then there is the seating outside on the decking, half of which is covered by a canopy.

They also offer hiring out the whole bus if you fancied having a party there. They're happy to offer this this on either a Wednesday or Thursday.
I think the idea is great and the design of the website is great - really love it!

Wonder if Jo got very far?....

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