Another supperclub post! 

The other weekend I was accompanied by my friend and fellow Borough Belle'r to the Wrong Side of the Tracks Supperclub. I have been meaning to go to this local pop-up for some time. I am soon realising that Supper-clubs are fast becoming my favourite type of dining experience! If you've never been to Supper-club before I applaud you to go and experience it. Have a look on the Supperclub Fanpage website to find one near you.

Renata, the one creating the food, runs a blog called The Hungry Larder & also the Green Door Supper Club & Daniel runs the Hither Green Wine Club . On occasions they join forces and run ‘The Wrong Side Of The Tracks’ supperclub from the Café’ of Good Hope, Hither Green.

I was informed it was called The Wrong Side of The Trackshoping to rid North Londoners of the outdated notion that we don’t have fun south of the river! 

However the name also brings up the discussion about how Hither Green is split in the middle by train tracks, would they be suggesting that this side of Hither Green is in fact the wrong side of the tracks....? To answer this personally I believe not, as both sides of HG have a strong community plus groups that go out and plant in the area. They also both have great little cafe serving great coffee and sandwiches, Cafe of Good Hope and You Don’t bring Me Flowers... Mind you the other side does have the pub.. hmm so on that basis maybe it is?! ;P

Renata served up a Northern Italian inspired spread and Daniel poured out the wine. 

The supperclub on this occasion was not BYO, the wine was supplied by Daniel, the profit from which was used to raise funds for the Jimmy Mizen Foundation. So each glass of good wine we drank helped the wonderful work the Mizen brothers & family do for the community. Daniel was very helpful in making sure our table did our bit for the community. Thank you Daniel!


The Fizz and Pre-dinner Nibbles

On arrival the team seemed to be still completing the finishing touches, but still welcomed us into the caos with big smiles and handed us our glasses of ‘pink fizz’ which was delicious! So far, impressed.

Once in, it seemed that others may have been hovering outside and soon the doorway was packed with people coming in from the cold. Coats off and with drinks in hand, people started to chat and introduce themselves as the canapés were taken round. 

There were two varieties, the first was sourdough bread with yellow pepper and anchovy paste, Piedmontese peppers. At first glance, I thought it was a scallop, but after being corrected realised the bubbles had already gone to my head. The pepper and anchovy were ok, not my cup of tea. I found the texture and size of the bread seemed to over take the flavours of the pepper and anchovy.

After another top up of bubbles, the second canapé was brought out. Mini mushroom pastry puff balls, Bigné with Porcini mushrooms. WOW! These were delicious and couldn’t get enough of them. I loved the light textures of the pastry and creamy kick of mushroom flavour. Yum! Big thumbs up!!

It was time to sit down for the meal which the evening price also included a glass of wine from the selection on offer from Hither Green’s Wine Club. The table went for red and I followed suit. Another fine wine! 

The Starter

For starter it was a savoury panna cotta. Now I love panna cotta and have had quite a few in my time but never a savoury version, so I was incredibly intrigued!

The Truffle infused panna cotta with beetroot sauce was brought over on mismatched plates and a large basket of superb sour dough bread. As a massive beetroot lover, I loved the mix of flavours. This starter was fantastic! The panna cotta was beautifully creamy and had a lovely delicate flavour that was cut by the burst of beetroot on the side. 

The Main

Next was the main course, again another new experience for me. I have never had Ox tail, let alone marrow bone! To tell the truth I had to look up what Ossobuco was before going as I had no idea what it was. Here is what I found out:

Ossobuco is a Milanese specialty of cross-cut veal shanks braised with vegetables, white wine and broth. 
Translates as \'bone\'s hole\' is simply an inch & a half slab of veal shank. There is a good amount of tough meat surrounding a large flat piece of bone with ample amount of rich marrow in the center. When cooked the marrow melts into the sauce leaving an open whole in the center, thus the name osso buco. 
It is often garnished with gremolata and traditionally served with risotto alla milanese.

You learn something new every day!

Renata made the Ossobuco, courtesy of GG Sparkes butchers, and served it on a bed of perfectly cooked creamy saffron risotto.

 Seeing people attack the bones with their knives trying to get at marrow was quite amusing but the results of clean plates surrounding me must have been a sign to Renata at how it was a hit!

One of the reasons I love pop-up supper clubs is the people you meet. Our table was great :) it had a good mix of healthy debate, hearty laughter and mic taking, which seemed to get louder the more we drank! Amazing how easy it is to bond with complete strangers after two drinks! ;D

The Dessert

Torta Delfina - A traditional Tuscan dessert the combination of rich almond pastry with the last of the season’s soft raspberries. The raspberry almond tart’s base was rich and dense but had the added lift and sharpness from the raspberries.

They put the whole pie on our table..... I don’t think we ate it all.. did we?

Coffee and homemade almond macaroons. 

No photos, I’m afraid. Not only by this point was I a bit wobbly but also I had no idea these divine little morsels were going to be handed out. By the time I had devoured it, I’d realised i hadn’t taken a photo, so you’ll just have to trust me that they were beautifully gooey and rich. Perfect with a strong cup of coffee!

The only thing that remains to be said is thank you. Thank you Renata for all your hard work and brilliant cooking and Daniel for ensuring that we managed to raise £670 for the Jimmy Mizen Foundation

"Which proves that drinking wine with friends is a force for good"


Potato Foam Pizza

Whilst visiting Southern Sicily we couldn't miss out on La Madia, a Michelin starred restaurant which is tucked away in Licata, a small relatively unknown fishing village. Head chef, Pino Cuttaia, Licata is home and where he grew up. Where better to open La Madia, his 2 star Michelin Restaurant.

We managed to book ourselves a table for two before flying out to Sicily, via email. The response was in Italian, but my google translate informed me we were booked in for Wednesday night! The fabulous Silva at Mandranova booked us a cab (50 euros return) as we decided me driving on Sicilian roads at night would be a whole new level of mayhem (read previous post about Sicilian driving).

Arriving in Licata, our driver jumped out to ring the door bell of the restaurant before opening my door. Small thing I know, but this blew my mind! I could really get used to a lifestyle of luxury!
As we entered we were greeted by Pino Cuttaia himself, who shook our hands and introduced us to our waiter for the evening.

We'd done some research about this restaurant before and Pino the chef, so we knew what to expect when we entered the main restaurant. The interior itself is a little lack lustre and reminds me of a bog standard commercial hotel restaurant. The lighting is slightly to bright, the traditional white table cloths are too big for the tables and are trailing on the floor (this isn't done as a creative expression) and the art and photos on the wall look like they've been bought from ikea. However get past this. It is not about the restaurant's table cloths and with food like this they can afford not to worry. This however explains for the lack of photos of the interior.

We had two waiter's for the evening whose English wasn't great but considering we spoke no Italian work fine for us. It was a bot like good cop bad cop. One waiter was incredibly serious, never broke a smile at all, the other chap seemed genuinely enthusiastic about the food and would try to describe each course into English for us. Which we would nod excitedly at even if we had no idea what he'd just said.

The menu had a choice of three set menus or the choice of the individual dishes. We decided to go for the eight course Classic menu at 80 euros each. 

Bread basket: 7 different kinds of warm bread (I had a loaf with figs, pistachios and almonds and a square piece of a flat bread with onions (a specialty of Palermo)
As predicted these were delicious! Unfortunately when the waiter saw we'd eaten the majority he swapped it for a whole knew basket!?

Pizzaiola : Salted Cod, smoked by pine cones with tomatoes and topped with potato foam.
What looks like melted mozzarella is actually potato mousse. The crust was only a very crispy very thin round of dough, and underneath the foam was cod smoked on pine wood and some semi-dried tomatoes .

Caprese with Mozzarella Milk Mousse
This is reconstructed destructed mozzarella milk, I have no idea how they create this. It has the flavor of buffalo mozzarella, but with an mousse air like texture and it was served with a tomato coulis underneath. 

Spatola “a beccafico” con caponata croccante
Layered fish with pesto and .. courgette? I can't remember exactly what was in the layers but it was delicious

Rice balls with red mullet ragout and wild fennel
This has strong flavours! Watch this short film of how Pino prepares these rice balls. He has such a creative approach to the food and the amount of work that goes into each dish is remarkable.

Beef tenderloin with ashy olive oil
Melts in your mouth! Looks raw, which I believe it pretty much is except for the fact it has been marinated for a very very long time.

Granita al Beetroot & Mini Brioche
The granita was lovely, however considering Ben isn't keen on beetroot, he wasn't too keen. The mini brioche however was a bit of a let down. It was dry and stale. I've made brioche before, so this made me a little sad.

La cassata Siciliana & Apple Cake with Caramel Ice Cream
Pudding envy! I went for the Sicilian ice creams which wasn't that great, I've had a lot of cream in my time and the one on Ben's plate was delicious! As was his mini apple cake.

Coffee mini Magnum (Il ricoperto al cioccolato)
Such a superb touch and delicious, but it was at this point that I thought I might burst!

Pino the chef was present in the dining room a lot, inquiring on a regular basis whether everything was alright. He seemed a bit shy but incredibly sincere. The reason he is able to do this is because team of chefs in the kitchen. There is one chef catering for every four people. No wonder it's so slick!

Once we'd finally finished we ask about about organising a taxi and they informed us the same driver was waiting for us outside. We shook hands with Pino and our waiters as we left and drove back across the sicilian countryside to Mandranova. A superb evening.

corso Filippo Re Capriata 22 I - 92027 Licata
Opening hours
Closing: tuesday. Contact the establishment to check this information.


After writing the first post on Mandranova I felt compelled to do another one and the things you can do and go see whilst staying there.

The first day of the holiday was spent sitting by the pool, reading and perhaps venturing down for a bit of lunch at the main house. Which is an impressive spread of salads, pasta, cheese, meats, cake, fruit and it's all delicious!

If you are looking for that time out, to read, rest and potter about Mandrandova and it's surrounding ground are perfect for just that. To help make sure you learn to switch off, they only turn the WIFI on during breakfast, from 9am to 10am, outside reception. It was quite amusing to see the majority of guest scrambling for seats near reception. As soon as it hit 9am all the IPads and smart phones were out & silence descended. Scary hey!?

Mandranova offer a few activities during your stay if you fancy.

- Guiseppe does an hour walk // talk about the production of their famous Extra Virgin olive oil. This is free and is well worth going on. He is a superb entertainer and will have your full attention for the entire time. You may even be recruited in a ‘role’ to help explain.

- Silvia’s cookery class (€60 includes evening meal) - Silvia will discuss the menu with you the day before and take you through all the steps in preparing it, sharing her culinary skills and using locally sourced ingredients and garden-grown vegetables. Didn’t end up doing this and really wish i had!

- Giuseppe also offers a ride on the Tornado (€70) - Mandranova's 38-foot boat - along the coastline, stopping for lunch which has been prepped and made by Silvia herself! We had planned a day out in the car that day so didn’t end up going, but heard great reports from the other guests. Sipping prosecco and eating delicious food. Also if you do decide to do this, I was recommended to try and get a seat in Giuseppe’s land rover, as that was an adventurer in itself!


FIAT 500 as modelled by Ben Pickett
During our stay at Mandranova, we found having a car vital for going on adventures further afield. We were both apprehensive about driving abroad and were quite happy not too! After falling for the Mandranova hotel on the Mr and Mrs Smith website we decided to just embrace the driving aspect.  (Ben embracing the car above)

Since I moved to london nearly ten years ago I rarely need to drive, finding the best form of transport is on bike or foot. So once in Sicily, having not driven much in my own country, I found myself jumping in the driving seat on the wrong side of the road! On top of this I had also read story after story about the crazy and sometime scary driving in Sicily. You know what... I was not just fine, but ended up loving driving whilst there. I think it may been something to do with Fiat 500 being so small, and feeling I was in a go-kart!

Oh that reminds me, here is a BIG TIP when you hire a car in Sicily hire the SMALLEST CAR known to man. Trust me anything bigger that a Fiat 500 will not survive the tiny narrow roads or the small gaps it between traffic you will be expected to get through. 

My recommendations for maps & directions whilst you are there is have a selection of sources!
We purchased both the TCI and the Michelin maps of Sicily, which are fine for a general guide to what direction to head in but a pretty much rubbish for driving around or through towns.
Before leaving the UK we printed off map sections off google maps and used Michelin Routemaster to plan our route from Cantania to Mandranova.

But best of all was the TomTom app for Western Europe that Ben downloaded before we left. At £54 it may seem a lot too pay, however it downloads all maps to your smart phone meaning that it isn’t completely reliant on 3G coverage (which you won’t have all the time) When getting lost down the back streets in Palma di Montichiamo, this was a complete life saver as was the fact that the Fiat 500 was so small - WOW who knew roads could be so narrow!?!


We new that the area of Sicily we were going to was the least touristic but not in the sense it was untouched more to the fact that there are a few industrial towns like Gela, that has descriptions like “the air tastes a bit chemically’ which doesn't pull the tourists over.

However that said there are some fantastic areas to go and visit. The coast of southern Sicily has some fantastic sandy beaches, such as those at Triscina, Selinunte, Porto Palo di Menfi, Sciacca, and Eracelea Minoa, and cliffs, including the remarkable white chalk ones of the Scala dei Turchi near Agrigento. Here are a few of the places we went and visited.

Naro via Palma di Montichiamo. Palma is worth a drive through, purely on the fact that it is very much a genuine, local town that is crazily hectic! Lots of cars, lots of people and very narrow roads. Don't be surprised if you go down one of the narrow streets and the in front decides to stop and to someone on the pavement for ten minutes, meaning you cannot reverse, get round but only wait. It's the Sicilian way. It’s actually quite good fun driving through as long as your map reader is on the ball! As I mentioned before, Ben also had the task of working out where the hell we were and finding a way out. He did, we did!

We drove onward up to Naro and had a little wander around, however by the time we got there is was Siesta time and it was pretty much a ghost town. However we did find this fantastic little cafe, cum patisserie/gelato at the top of town. 

Family run, we were served by a young girl who was directed by who seemed to be her Grandfather. He was so lovely and tried talking to us Italian hoping that we’d understand. He made lots of heart felt hand gestures and kept smiling at us. We had some delicious ice cream from there! I had Pistashio and Ben went fro Strawberry. The old man had such an effect on me that if I am ever in Naro again I will have to go back there! Just wish I’d got a photo of him.

The next time we decided to venture out in the car we decided to go a bit further! Starting off at the turkish steps, early, as we had heard they got incredibly busy and then up the coast to Sciacca, stopping off at Eracelea Minoa on route.

Sicilians on Scala dei Turchi
On arriving at the Scala dei Turchi (Italian: "Stair of the Turks") after a short 40 min drive the weather had started to turn and in the distance we could see a very large dark storm cloud heading our way. By the time we'd walked down the path, along the beach and started to make the climb up the white rocks, the sky had become an impressive blue, black and purple spectacle!

It was quite fantastic to be on such brilliant white rock whilst been surrounded by storm clouds. A storm that was just about start. Not only did it look fantastic in contrast to the surface of the turkish Steps but it also meant that the usually overcrowded site was reasonably quiet. But soon the storm clouds started to unnerve us so we decided to head back to the car. Perfect timing, as soon as we were back in the car, the heavens opened!

The Scala dei Turchi is a rocky cliff on the coast of Realmonte, near Porto Empedocle, just outside Agrigento. It has become a tourist attraction due to its unusual white colour.
The Scala is formed by marl, a sedimentary rock with a characteristic white color. It lies between two sandy beaches, and is accessed through a limestone rock formation in the shape of a staircase, whence the name. The latter part of the name derives from the frequent raids carried on by Turks.

- Wear sunglasses even if it isn't sunny. You need protection from the blinding reflection of the rocks plus if there is a slight breeze, the sand that is whipped up into your face.
- Get there early as possible, we arrived at 10.30am and already thought it was busy. By the time we left it would've been near impossible to park.
- Parking is along the road near the entrance to a cafe "Scala Dei Turk". Walk down the steps past the cafe and onto the beach. Turn right along the beach and up onto the white rocks. You can't miss it!
- Keep an eye on the tide! Otherwise you'll find there is no beach to walk back along.

Sciacca; an hours drive from the Turkish Steps is Sciacca, a working fishing town that is well worth a visit. We went to Porto San Paolo on the harbour for lunch. Highly recommended! Amazing views, superb service and good food. Oh by the way you won't find any Sicilian pizzas at lunchtime, as it takes a long time to heat pizza ovens so are usually only served in the evening.

We shared a selection starter, it was delicious. This is what i put on my plate ;)

Seafood risotto. Might not look exciting but was absolutely delicious!
Lobster Fettuccine

So tasty So full, no room for pudding!

Eracelea Minoa

We planned originally to stop here for lunch on route to Sciacca, but due to some deluge of rain we decided to head straight Sciacca. Fortunately on the route back to Mandranova the weather was fantastic and the sun had begun to set. It was the perfect time to go, the beach was empty and the sky was stunning. We grabbed a beer at a wooden bar cum restaurant on the beach and just sat looking out to sea. It was one of those times you feel you need to pinch yourself. It was so peaceful.

Lido Garibaldi - Bar / Pizzeria / Restorante

20minutes later the euro pop was turned on and we headed back to the Fiat 500 to make are way back to Agrigento after deciding that we didn’t fancy hanging around for another 30minutes for them to open up the restaurant. So instead we nipped to Angel pizzeria, a fast food pizza joint 5minutes from the hotel, picked up two great pizzas (turns out that fast food pizza places in Sicily are as good as our good pizza places here!) and ate them back in our room with a bottle of Ice Cold white wine!