Cheoff

A site about food, drink and other random stuff!

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Café Jedna, Prague

Café Jedna

If you visit Prague and have taken the time and effort to cross north over the Vltava to view the modern art on show at the Trade Fair Palace you might consider staying for refreshment at this cafe in the same building. 

After almost three hours of delightful submersion in painting, sculpture and design from the nineteenth century to the present, we were grateful for the chance to rest awhile.  

We were in the company of young and old; students, workers and committed, tired tourists like us. The generous space of the building makes it possible to be close to people but never feel crowded by them. 

Soup of the Day was Spiced Chickpea. Lovely sourdough bread came from the counter... taken as you pleased from an enamel bin which, depending on our server, was either green or blue.

How wonderful to enjoy a simple, warming bowl of honestly prepared and truly tasty soup. With that one offering we had avoided the earnest but ubiquitous 'traditional' Czech menu of duck, beef, pork and potatoes and dumplings... and potatoes and dumplings in another form. Look at the rest of the menu here and you can see the escape route which is on offer. Vegetarians and the odd sausage lover are obviously welcome.

The discovery of a John Lemon drinks range was also pleasing. The peace-mongering Beatle has been honoured in ever-changing graffiti on a wall here since the 1980s

Service was keen, informative but relaxed. Our four day whistle-stop tour meant that we had no plans to return to this part of the city but I urge you to include the Jedna 'watering hole' in your itinerary, should you visit.

The cafe is behind those blue-barred windows on the ground floor. How glorious that a building from the 1920s, devastated by fire in 1976 was deemed worthy of reconstruction. It now houses a cafe which, in quality, variety and interest, matches up to the wonderful art on display.

Red Lion Inn - Babcary, Somerset

Visited for dinner 12 May 2016

We got within two minutes of the restaurant, only to be blocked from a direct route after a collision further up the road.

Telephone calls and GPS through intermittent network connection saw us safely arrived after a half hour delay. 

The Red Lion offers plenty of facilities in different rooms and areas and caters for events beyond the norm of a local village pub.

Beetroot & Goat’s Cheese, Apple, Horseradish

This was very nicely plated but only had a sure touch as far as presentation was concerned. Purple beetroot was almost washed out and lacked real earthy flavour while golden beetroot was heavily pickled and far too sharp. The goat’s cheese had lost any character. It was whipped up with a creamy base (cream?!) and missing all goaty, cheesy goodness.

Confit Pork Belly, Butter beans, Honey & Cider Jus, Crackling, Seasonal Veg

Crackling was one of those nods to a ‘Matchmaker’ chocolate stick (thankfully, without the chocolate). Long and thin pig skin. Crunchy, as it should be… but gone too soon.

The pork was pretty soft and forgiving but the whole dish was awash with aniseed sauce. Star anise used so carelessly that nothing else could compete. Honey and cider had given up and were nowhere to be seen or, more importantly, tasted.

Duck Breast, Potato & Pancetta Terrine, Heritage Carrot, Broccoli, Jus

The meat was definitely over-cooked but, strangely, the skin had not been treated to enough heat to render it anything other than inedible fat. The potato terrine sounds good on paper but sat there, watery, tasting of water and with no hint of pancetta. Vegetables were about right and the ‘jus’ was fruity but not too sweet.

Pink ‘Forced’ Rhubarb & Ginger Crumble, Vanilla Ice Cream

This had all the required elements but just cried out for more visual appeal. The unfortunate presentation in a ramekin on a plate with a dollop of ice cream went dangerously close to suggesting a Meals On Wheels delivery.

100% Cacao Chocolate Tart, Honeycomb, Salted Caramel Ice Cream.

Huzzah… I can finish on a high note. Not too sure that this was much more than 70% choccy but that’s usually adequate for a dessert as far as I’m concerned. Chef seemed to have a more assured, practised touch with this one. It looked good on the plate and ate well. The balance between sweet, salty, creamy and crunchy was nicely judged. Unannounced popping candy suddenly made its presence felt. There really was far too much of it but I didn't care at all as it also gave me far too much pleasure, sounding in my mouth and ears. A good end among an uneven set of dishes.

It is good to see a decent range of wines available by the glass.

Young staff at the bar and serving our table were assured and confident. The chef who appeared briefly was perhaps twice their age. I hope he maintains his confidence to explore and deliver a pleasingly varied menu but the quality of his cooking now needs the same assurance. The Red Lion offers better than average ‘pub grub’ and, overall, we did not regret our holiday visit.

Jamie’s Italian - North Terminal, Gatwick

7th March 2016: Morning, about 8 am

This was our last meal before a short jaunt to Barcelona.

Let’s start with the positives… because it’s all downhill from there on.

My ‘Full Monty’ breakfast had two perfectly cooked fried eggs. I did not have the foresight to inform our server of over-easy requirements or otherwise… but those Burford Browns with their runny yolks were very well suited to my taste. Sausages and smoked bacon also had great flavour but ‘crispy’ bacon had been ignored in the kitchen. Black pudding from Clonakilty was also bound to hit the flavour mark but, once again, the finish would have benefited from higher pan heat and faster cooking.

Here, as warned, commences the descent into breakfast hell.

Toast should have a strong suggestion that heat has licked its surface. Mine was closer to cold stale bread. My wife’s ‘Omelette Gordon Bennett’ was a sorry affair. Its texture was akin to a face flannel which is offered after a proper cut-throat shave by a barber. There it would have been welcome… here it was just offensive. To make matters worse, we had to question the ingredients on the menu. The strange chewy element turned out to be poached haddock. It might as well have stood in for the crispy bacon missing from my selection. There is so little to get right with this dish. Unfortunately, our chef got so much wrong.

It would take more than this to threaten the prospect of art, culture and local colour in another country. But what a shame we took off with the memory of a UK offering which could and should have been so much better.

Twenty-five pounds and we were done. Perhaps we had been done.

I’m sure it has been said before but let’s whirl it round again. Not so much Naked Chef… More like The Knackered Chef. Please get people who can do justice to essentially good ingredients.

Ah, Jamie, in case you were wondering, all was not lost… Barcelona was the dog’s donuts.

Chatsworth Estate Farm Shop Café

Chatsworth Estate Farm Shop Café

We visited on 10th December 2015, arriving for lunch and an afternoon visit to the house in its Christmas finery.

I had not expected an adventurous menu and was proved right. This mattered little as we simply needed something to fuel us for the crisp weather and walk to the house.

Chef’s burger of the day was beef, which my wife and I ordered. Our young-at-heart (and not so very much older than us) aunt wanted the toasted ciabatta filled with barbecued pulled pork.

I really don’t think that the pork was all that good but I was completely distracted by the terrible burger offerings. A soft, lifeless white bun with no hint of toasting cushioned a truly repugnant patty of meat. Steak, ground so fine that there was no discernible texture, had been given awful treatment. The burger had been left too long in a pan and reduced to a uniform mass of dry and chewy lifelessness. The pan had not even been hot enough to caramelise the surface.

My wife and I spent some time open-mouthed wondering why any self-respecting cook would allow such a thing out of a kitchen.

Around us, we saw confirmation that we were not alone in our plight. Grey, dry slabs of indeterminate meats and dull, anaemic vegetables were on show. Our aunt asked us to look over our shoulders. At first I thought the unfortunate lady behind was holding up a dishcloth between two forks. It was, in fact, a rough lacework of connective tissue from her roast beef. Completely inedible.

Our server’s assertion that she had not received any complaints must be taken at face value. There was, however, plenty of evidence to suggest otherwise.

Sensibly, we were not asked to pay for the burger meals. I think we were sensible too in avoiding the dessert menu.

This does not purport to be high end dining but the kitchen should at least be able to deliver a decent, edible meal. Quality ingredients and any cooking ability are all totally lacking here.

Of course, this reflects very badly on the entire Chatsworth experience. A couple of years’ ago I was pleased to find damsons in the farm shop after a quick drop-in on our way home from holiday. This time I was keen to explore the rest of the ‘foodie’ elements on offer. Instead I paid a visit to the meat counter and confirmed that the utterly disappointing burgers were supplied by them. Looking at the rest of the meat products it was obvious that poor quality was the norm. If the sausages were hand-tied they were presented in a scarily regimented, almost robotic precision. More importantly, their barely pink whiteness attested to a high fat content. Yes, fat for flavour but this was taking things too far.

I had the over-riding impression that average quality was being presented at inflated prices. There are other producers who get a look in at the shop but they are somewhat unfairly tainted by association with the estate.

Oh dear, let me finish on a relative upbeat. The house and darkening gardens were full of much more honest effort and delighted us enough to talk about them more on our journey home than the lousy food and produce from earlier in the day.

Avoid the café... and be wary of the farm shop.

Damning evidence of our visit

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