About Nina

Twenty something who cannot stop thinking about food and wine. Cannot wait for my next meal...

Hush Heath Estate

Hush Heath Estate is a wonderful, perfectly manicured vineyard in Staplehurst, Kent. I was lucky enough to win a VIP wine experience so my friends and I were treated to a private tour and wine tasting.

image The vineyard is absolutely beautiful, we got to walk around the many acres of land and look at the vines and orchards, it was  tour and work out in one. Hush Heath also boasts a beautiful woodland and they have worked hard to encourage wildlife including owls and deer.

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What I really liked about Hush Heath, was that you got a real sense of the pride and care that goes into each and every bottle of wine or cider that they produce. The owners, who live in a house overlooking the estate, are really involved in the wine making. They care about their produce and it shows. The vineyard is perfectly manicured, they have looked back through historical records to name the vineyards after the names they had on the farm maps in the 1820s. Our tour guide, Cheryl, was wonderful. She told us that the owners light candles underneath the vines when there is a frost or fog so that the grapes are not damaged…We all began to understand why the price of the bottles can seem expensive; it really does reflect the care that is put into them.

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We got to see the bottling and labelling process, the tour was really informative and our guide was able to answer all of the questions that we had.

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The vineyard has a beautiful shop which sells their range of wine and ciders. The ‘flagship’ bottle is the Balfour Brut Rose, it’s a delicious sparkling wine and could definitely hold its own against many champagnes. The bottles of wine are named after the owner, Richard Balfour-Lynn and his family, a really cute idea. They work together to run the vineyard.

Our favourite wine was the Chardonnay. Perhaps tainted by experiences of Blossom Hill growing up, I’m not usually a Chardonnay fan. However, this Chardonnay was so light and delicious that we had to buy a case of it. At the moment if you buy a case of 6 then you get one bottle free – who can refuse an offer like that? The bottles range from around £14 for the wines to £35 for the sparkling wines. The ciders are also tasty and very reasonably priced, we really enjoyed the still cider too.

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The tour was really fun, the vineyards were just wonderful and the tasting was delicious and relaxed. Our tour guide, Cheryl, was fantastic and really took care of us. The pride that the staff take in what the vineyard do is very clear and if you’re lucky enough to taste the liquid gold then it is clear why.

Elvey Farm

Elvey Farm is a beautiful guesthouse and restaurant in Pluckley, Kent. They pride themselves in championing local produce. We decided to visit for Sunday lunch…

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To drink: We kept it local and had a bottle of Kentish wine from Biddenden vineyard. The Ortega is a delicious, it has won local awards.

To start: Toby had a tasty ham hock terrine and I had some smoked salmon and black pepper. Both were fantastic, I was a little disappointed with the small portion size for the salmon but I am a little greedy…

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Main course: As it was Sunday, roast lamb, pork and chicken were available. All were served with roast potatoes and vegetables. I went for roast pork and Toby had roast lamb, both were perfectly cooked and the portion sizes were great; we felt full but not sick (as I sometimes tend to feel after eating too much roast dinner).

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Dessert: Toby had a Kentish cheese plate and I went for a dark chocolate orange ganache with clotted cream and berries. The orange ganache was delicious and not too heavy.

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We finished off with a pot of Pluckley coffee, absolutely fantastic.

We were both really impressed with Elvey Farm. The service was faultless, the staff were so friendly and helpful. We love that menu doesn’t have too many options, they offer a few dishes and they do them well, whilst also championing local produce. The place itself is surrounded by the beautiful Kent countryside, what’s not to like?

Bee’s Knees Granola

I love breakfast cereal. Sometimes I take cereal in for lunch at work and I’ve been known to have a bowl for dinner… Recently I’ve been enjoying lots of granola and museli. Rude Health and Dorset Cereals both have tasty offerings but I think I’ve found something special in Bee’s Knees Granola. Being a fan of local Kentish produce, I saw the packet at Pluckley Farm shop and had to give it a go…

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I was not disappointed. The granola is tasty and nutritious, it is a little more expensive at £3.99 for 500g but made with Kentish apple syrup and rapeseed oil it will not disappoint. I’m a huge fan of nuts (haha) and love the mix of flaked almonds, sesame seeds, linseed and sunflower seeds. Mornings can be quite traumatising, running around getting ready for work; thinking of all the things that you need to do, so if you fancy a little breakfast cheer on a grotty work morning then give Bee’s Knees Granola a go!

Private Chef

We are very blessed to have a fantastic set of friends that like us, appreciate good food and wine.  One of these friends was about to celebrate their birthday and rather than us going to a restaurant for fantastic food, we had the fantastic food come to us by hiring a private chef. Chef Neil, treated us to a superb evening of divine food.

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Our starter was insanely good; Tartar of mackerel with pickled cucumber and citrus cream. It was terrific, I was a little unsure about having the cream with the mackerel but it lifted the flavours so well. We paired this with bottle of Sancerre.

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Our main course was pan-friend wood pigeon in butter with turnip and prune gratin and sweet roast onion. We paired this with either Chardonnay or Beajolais. It was tremendous, the wood pigeon was perfectly cooked – rare, which is how we like it. The gratin was delicious too.

For dessert we had raspberry and champagne jelly with sweet almond cream. The sweet almond cream was divine. We paired this with Bollinger champagne.

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We then had an English cheeseboard with tomato chutney and port.

You might think that having someone come into your house and cook would be quite invasive but it wasn’t at all. Chef Neil was friendly, he didn’t mind us nosing in the kitchen and was an absolute professional. It was lovely to finish dinner and not have a messy kitchen to contend with.

There were 8 of us and we all paid £40, we provided the wine ourselves. For incredible quality food, this was much cheaper than going out and we could make as much noise as wanted to, drink as much wine as we wanted and didn’t have to worry about trains home etc.

If you’re looking for a fantastic and memorable evening, we would all  recommend the experience.

Social Eating House

Social Eating House is a delicious and ‘cool’ restaurant in Soho. Having seen TV Chef, Gizzi Erksine post photos on instagram of the delightful dishes, we decided that we had to give it a go.

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Smoked Black Angus tartare, radishes, horseradish and mustard leaf – amazing. If you’re a fan of steak tartare; this is superb.

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Jerusalem Artichoke soup, trompette mushrooms, Scottish scallop, crispy pork skin and kale. This was terrific and definitely more than just a soup! Definitely one of the best soups I’ve ever had….

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Roast Cornish cod, kombu, chanterelles, baby gem, cockles and cream – delightful!

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Roasted monkfish loin, St. Austell mussels, courgettes, bok choi and roasted chicken juice – divine!

The food is incredible. It’s a ‘cool’ and ‘hip’ restaurant with terrific food, the prices are very reasonable for what you get. We were both stuffed and couldn’t fit in dessert, although the dessert menu did look superb. For us, two courses with a bottle of wine was around £101 – including paying the service charge. £50 a head for a GREAT meal in Central London isn’t bad at all. If you fancy it, be sure to book!

The ambience is superb, great service and delicious food – give it a go!

Deeson’s, Canterbury.

Deeson’s is amazing. We were looking for a nice restaurant in Canterbury and we found it. Some 500 strong reviews recommend Deeson’s as THE place to eat in Canterbury, when we couldn’t get a reservation for dinner we were devastated. Our commitment to fine dining is so strong that we took an early dinner, 5pm slot and we were not disappointed.

Deeson’s use local produce where possible and have ‘Taste of Kent‘ awards – we salivated at the thought.

Of course, we looked at the wine menu first and when we saw our favourite, Chapel Down‘s Flint Dry, we had to go for it. The rest of our menu choices came from there, having white wine, we decided to go white meat and fish…

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Toby started with a Seafood Platter. Mackeral pate, salmon mousse, deep fried scallop and whitebait. It was a feast for the eyes and the mouth.

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I went for the Broccoli Soup which was superb and presented in its own little saucepan.

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Main course – Toby went for the Sea Trout with Pak Choi and cockles, with a delicious buttery sauce.

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I went for roast chicken with a roast chicken pie, fondant potatoes, endives, chanterelle mushrooms and bacon sauce. It was superb! Usually chicken is a boring option but this was something else.

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For dessert;  a cheeseboard. A good range of British cheese and all arranged in a very interesting way. The brie was warm – they really take the care to get it right.

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I went for a mulled wine poached pear with honeycomb ice cream and a flapjack – it was sensational. It tasted like Christmas.

The ambience and service are superb. For four people dining, three courses each, wine and tea and coffee, the bill came to a reasonable £160 – £40 a head. We were all stuffed and satisfied and can’t recommend Deeson’s enough.

Ping Pong

Ping Pong is a delicious London based Dim Sum restaurant. The atmosphere is great, the food is superb and the experience is affordable.

The main problem I have with some Dim Sum restaurants is that I have to remortgage the house to feel full or the variety is too much for me and I want to buy everything! Ping Pong has a fantastic selection of set menus that mean you get to try everything and don’t feel hungry. I actually felt so full that I couldn’t even eat all of my own food (shock horror). We went for the ‘Ping Pong Selection’, for just £11 per person, we got all of this:

In summary, some of the best oriental food we have had in a while, also, some of the best value. The pictures speak for themselves really…

Come Dine with Me

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All foodies love watching Channel 4’s ‘Come Dine with Me‘ and I have wanted to host my own ‘Come Dine with Me’ style dinner party for a while and we have decided to do just that. Three sets of friends; three nights. Ours was the first, the friends we are competing with are from overseas, so we decided to go for a ‘Best of British’ menu. The (wonderful) menu was designed by Toby.

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To start we had pimms and prosecco cocktails with a cucumber garnish and some ‘British themed’ canapes; mackerel pate, mini prawn cocktails, sausage rolls and some oyster and vinegar crisps made by the ‘Kent Crisps‘ company, a great start to the evening (we thought). Only the cocktails are pictured as we gobbled down the canapes far to quickly for any photography to take place…

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Our starter was a Crab and Salmon Tian. We went to Whitstable to source the crab, we wanted everything to be local where possible. I am usually awful with presentation so these little beauties made me feel a little better about that…

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Next up, our main course; Roast rack of Lamb with dauphinoise potatoes and redcurrant jus (gravy for us common folk). We served the lamb with green beans and carrots. The lamb was from our fantastic local butchers, Glover’s Farm in Hartley. As I suck at presentation, we put the vegetables in ‘help yourself’ dishes – I recommend this to those that can cook but not serve.

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Dessert was a ‘Trio of English Desserts’; a strawberries and cream cheesecake, cherry bakewell tart and a raspberry cranachan. My favourite here is the strawberries and cream cheesecake, Toby prefers the bakewell tart. I made the bakwell and cheesecakes the day before to ease the pressure on the day. Again, we can say that we thought that were delicious but we will have to wait and see, the proof is in the pudding (ha).

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We then had a cheese course, the cheese was from a fantastic farmer’s market in Shipbourne and a stall called Traditional Cheese Dairy. We had two award winning cheeses including a British sheep cheese and a standard cheddar for the less adventurous. We teamed this with some chutney and quince jelly.

We tried to keep our alcohol British where possible, hence adding the Pimms to the prosecco. We also had Chapel Down‘s Flint Dry, Biddenden vineyards ‘Gribble Bridge’, The Traveling Apothecary’s Cucumber infused gin, Millis Brewing’s Gravesend Guzzler and some English distilled raspberry liqueur.

We have no idea how we scored yet, the last night is still to come but it has been great fun. We just went to one of the other dinner parties and feasted upon a multitude of Australian delights including; prawn, avocado and mango salad, kangaroo and crocodile burgers – it was terrific. We are looking forward to the last night – a “French-Polynesian menu, we will let you know how we score….

Patty and Bun

As you have probably guessed, we love burgers. We were told by some foodie friends of ours that Patty & Bun, in London (near Bond street) is THE place to go for burgers. So off we went…

There is always a queue outside Patty & Bun, a table for two on a Wednesday evening was a 45 minute wait, were salivating, deciding what to get and eagerly awaiting our burgers.

The inside is very small, the place probably only seats around 35 people, it has a very ‘cool’ vibe. It was extremely busy, we got a little bench table which was fantastic.

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On the recommendation we went for the ‘Ari Gold’ burger, a delicious looking cheese burger with a brioche bun and Patty & Bun mayo. We also ordered rosemary fries which were fantastic, I love chips and these were no exception – I would happily have eaten buckets of them. The burger was somewhat disappointing. Don’t get us wrong, it was great, a fantastic burger. We were expecting the best burger we had ever had and it wasn’t that. We were lucky enough to have a ‘Street Kitchen’ burger at a food festival last week and that was AMAZING.

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Friends of ours that have frequented Patty & Bun think that perhaps we just had a bad evening, all restaurants have them. The burger was good and we would probably give it 7/10. Definitely go and try Patty & Bun, if you do, be sure to order the chicken wings, they are sensational.

Wheelers

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On a casual Thursday of the half-term, we decided to head down to Wheelers Oyster Bar in Whitstable to sample some of what has often been described as ‘one of the best seafood restaurants in the country’. Booking is usually a waiting game but we were fortunate enough to get a last minute cancellation. We were salivating at the thought of what we we were going to eat…

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From the outside, Wheelers is an eccentric looking pink building that is home to a quaint oyster bar with many sea treats on ice. You can go in and order food to take away and there is also a small oyster bar that works on a first come, first served basis. Behind that is what can only be described as a living room stuck in 1945,  this is the restaurant, seating about 16 at maximum. It is incredibly homely and we have not eaten anywhere like this before, perhaps other than our own Grandma’s living room. There are four sittings throughout the day, we were lucky enough to get in for lunch at 1pm, the other sittings are 3pm, 5pm and 7pm.

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The first thing out the kitchen was a  helping of homemade granary and rosemary bread served with pesto and olive oil. The bread was delicious. The menu is quite small and changes regularly depending on what has been caught and what is in season.

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Toby had half a dozen oysters, served simply with lemon. Amazing. He has always enjoyed oysters and these were no exception. All washed down with some Oyster Stout, also from Whitstable. The restaurant is a ‘bring your own’ – another plus in our books.

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Well damn, we were a bit too eager to start eating at this point, so the photography suffered, but amongst the pixels above is a crab cake and lobster spring roll with a lemon celeriac roulade. It was outstanding. The portion was very generous. This is what I ate, I came home looking up crab cake recipes, I loved it. Damn Toby’s poor photography skills.

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Wheelers has no alcohol license, so it is a ‘bring your own’. This is absolutely no issue as there is an independent ‘Offy‘ over the road with a stellar selection of wines and beers, many of them local. We opted for a firm favourite of ours: Flint Dry from Chapel Down, Tenterden, Kent.

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Toby’s main was stone bass with parma ham, asparagus and fondant potatoes. It was tremendous! We did that sad thing that couples do where they change main half way through. I had to stop myself from eating the rest of it.

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I went for pollock and salt and pepper squid rings on a bed of chorizo, spinach and mash potato. It was sensational. The dish was around £18.50 but it felt completely worth the money, an excellent helping of fish. To be honest, I am running out of adjectives to describe how great the food is at Wheelers.

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We usually prefer starters to desserts but we had heard that the desserts here were fantastic. We went for a rhubarb savarin with rhubarb and pink champagne sorbet. It was sensational, fresh, seasonal and delicious.

All in all, we left feeling very happy. Our bill came to a respectable £58 (this doesn’t include drinks as it is a ‘bring your own’), we were happy to pay that for local, seasonal and delicious food. The thing with Wheelers is that it is not just a fish restaurant, it is literally like eating in your Grandma’s front room, the service was fantastic, the staff were very pleasant and seemed proud of their food – they have every reason to be!

We absolutely recommend to Wheelers to any seafood lover or someone looking for something a little different. The menu only contains seafood, so do remember that if any of your friends dislike seafood or are vegetarian. We are already thinking about booking in again over the summer…