Knife Skills for Gentlemen

I was introduced to Leiths School Of Food And Wine through a work colleague and I was suitably impressed to book one of their courses for myself.

They offer a range of enthusiast courses of which I chose ‘Knife Skills Chicken and Fish’, mostly because I love gadgets and have recently invested in a decent set of knives after being lured in by the stunning Blok Knives, partly by finding it uninspiring buying packaged fish in supermarkets, also as I often go salmon fishing and would love to put my skills to use when I catch the occasional sea trout.

I really enjoy learning new skills and the opportunity to use my new knives to correctly joint chicken, game and fillet and skin both flat and round fish seemed like a good way to spend a spare Saturday in April so I decided to take part and share my experience on GT.

The course was much easier to follow than I had anticipated and I was pleasantly surprised to see I was far better with a knife than I had imagined. With my original fears of showing myself up out of the way I started to really enjoy the course and was very impressed with our tutor Corrine an experienced chef who has worked at Scott’s Restaurant in Mayfair and a charming host.

The course started with some basic knife holding skills and tips to avoid losing your grip, we then learned how to perfectly joint a whole corn fed chicken which we were able to take home with us. Following this was my favourite part of the course as we were shown two fish techniques, how to fillet a flat fish which was lemon sole and a round fish which was sea bass. We were advised how to check if the fish was fresh but most importantly how to fillet the fish without wasting any flesh or leaving any bones and skin behind. We were also shown how to butterfly a fish which is a technique I will be practising on my forthcoming sailing trip from Athens to Kefalonia.

Butterflying Fish

A Live Demonstration On Butterflying A Fish

At the end of the course our small group ate a light lunch together of our freshly filleted sea bass with a salad and glass of wine, it was a pleasant way to finish off a successful course in which everybody seemed happy and conversation was flowing.

I would definitely recommend a quick course like this to anyone who wants to gain some much needed kitchen confidence and skills. It will certainly provoke more frequent trips to butchers and fishmongers for me where the provenance and quality of produce is undoubtedly far better than supermarkets. The course cost just £150 and can be booked online here.

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4 Things To Do In Lefkada

1. Sunbathe on Egremni Beach

Perhaps the highlight of our visit to Lefkas was the stunning Egremni beach. Having left behind not so pleasant weather in the UK it was simply breathtaking and hard to believe I was still in Europe to see such striking clear blue water and unspoilt sand.

Egremni Beach is located on the far South West tip of the island and was by far the most beautiful of Lefkada’s beaches. Driving in Greece alone is not for the faint-hearted but the island of Lefkada is something else, prepare yourself for the road to Egremni Beach. There are frequent winding cliff-edged roads just to get to the car park and for anybody scared of heights like myself there is nothing quite like driving towards the edge of an open cliff in order to park a car – I can assure you!

Once you are at the car park there is then the fairly substantial task of a 300 step railing path down to the beach itself. It is worth mentioning you really need to bring your own supplies as there is only one small beach bar and they have to go back up the path to bring you any food from the restaurant at the top.

Egremni Beach

Egremni Beach: Acres of perfect sand and crystal clear water

2. Lunch at Dimitri’s Taverna

Almost half of the male population on Lefkada seemed to be called Dimitri, in fact I saw another Taverna also called Dmitri’s the same day I visited here but you will know there is only one Dimitri’s when you visit here.

The taverna is not so easy to find and was a welcome tip from a friend, this is a family run restaurant located opened in 1973 in Paleokatouna near Nidri on the South East coast. Dimitri goes fishing every day and brings back his catch the menu is authentic Greek, simple, fresh, mostly seafood dishes which are well cooked and the service is extremely warm.

What is special about this place is that half of the restaurant dining room is on decking which juts out into a sheltered cove of flat sea which provides quite an intimate setting. A quiet lunch of freshly caught rock lobsters and Champagne with your lady would be a very romantic gesture indeed.

For bookings call the restaurant locally on 2645092227 or email dim taverna_geni@hotmail.com

Dimitri's Taverna Lefkada

View of Dimitri’s Taverna from the decking

3. Dinner in Sivota Bay Fishing Village

Sivota Bay is a beautiful small fishing village located towards the South East corner of the island which is extremely popular with the salty sea dog yachting community as it is a great place to moor up for the evening. There are several restaurants to choose from however we would recommend Spiridoula Taverna, known to have the best food and atmosphere. Just follow the deck shoes if you are unsure.

Sivota Bay

Sivota Bay early evening

4. Visit Land of Lefkas Wines

Worth visiting early on your travels to stock up on supplies is the vineyard come museum Land of Lefkas Wines.

This vineyard produces both dry and sweet white, red and rose wines using the native grape varieties Vardea and Vertzami which are only grown on the island.

There are daily tours and they have their own wine museum where you can see their antique wine production equipment. It is quite interesting to see how hand made but effective the tools were. Much of the island is very unspoilt and many people make their own small batches of wine so you can imagine similar tools are probably still in use today.

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GT’s Top 5 Make Your World Bigger 2015 Pledges

GT are delighted to help raise awareness for Discovery Channel’s Make Your World Bigger campaign by supporting their www.mywbcompetition.com microsite.

As part of their #MYWBPledge philosophy Discovery Channel is asking people to make a pledge to do something unfulfilled. Once you’ve drawn up your list visit www.mywbcompetition.com and you may see it realised.

Here at GT we support this campaign as it is encouraging the discovery of new things. Travelling plays a large part in that and Discovery Channel has long provided a brilliant platform to show people what the world has to offer. Who better to trust to realise desires that are often put to one side?

To help get the ball rolling here are GT’s Top 5 Make Your World Bigger pledges:

  1. Take a trip across a desert
  2. Dinner at Ferran Adria’s new London outpost
  3. A visit to Berlin for the nightlife
  4. Weekend Break in Dubrovnik, Croatia
  5. Catching my first Grayling on-the-fly

Make Your World Bigger

Visit www.mywbcompetition.com now to submit your entry and be in with a chance of having your pledge fulfilled.

All words by David Hamilton. This is not an advertisement feature.

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GT’s Best Of 2014

Best Of 2014 is a retrospective look back at my favourite items and experiences of 2014, a year which firmly reignited my childhood passion for fishing and included perhaps the best beach holiday I have ever had.

Best Hotel Experience

Four Seasons, Koh Samui. More small mountain village than hotel we were surrounded by forest overlooking a white sand beach in the Gulf of Thailand.

Best Dining Experience

Korobuta, Chelsea. Had a really memorable meal here reunited with friends in great spirits aided by a really well selected sake menu and their excellent Tuna Sashimi Pizza dish.

Best Experiences

Leaving a cold British January behind to attend a beach wedding in Koh Samui Thailand. Catching my first Salmon on the fly from the River Oykel in the Scottish Highlands.

Favourite Clothing Brand

Norse Projects. This Copenhagen based company creates seasonal collections which blend streetwear and classical workwear with high-end fashion.

Favourite Destination Visited

Benmore, Lairg, Scottish Highlands.

Favourite Album

Wild Beasts ‘Present Tense’. The bands fourth album is a masterpiece and you must listen to it. I will say no more on the matter.

Favourite Single

Rae & Christian ‘Happy’. Great new material from my favourite music production duo and an upbeat song that always lifts the spirits featuring vocals by Mark Foster.

Favourite Photograph

Benmore Lodge catching the sun over Loch Ailsh.
Pictured Above.

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The Quilted Shacket a Micro-Trend for AW14

I wanted to share a micro-trend that is making its way onto the backs of the stylish…

The Quilted Shirt/Jacket aka The Quilted Shacket.

Although this made its first appearance a couple of years ago, as with most trends, it needs time to develop its own mark.

It is a perfect A/W piece either as outerwear on a chilly Autumn morning or a cosy quilted layer in Winter. Easy to wear & easy to incorporate into a variety of outfits it is perfect as the temperate starts to drop & the number of layers needed increases.

Look for snap closes and chest pockets. Corduroy trim and contract collars.

Personally I find it’s a great way of making a dapper outfit more relaxed, which means I get to be immaculately dressed underneath and still retain an air of cool on top. I’m a fan of a juxtaposition, so my quilted shirt from Barbour is absolutely perfect. Other brands with Shackets worth a closer look are Mark McNairy as pictured above and J.Crew below.

So there you have it, The Quilted Shirt/Jacket.

Shacket

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Dim Sum at Shikumen, Shepherd’s Bush

I would like to share a brand new addition to London’s ever improving restaurant scene. This addition is the rather good Shikumen.

A quick look at their website reveals that Shikumen translates to “stone gate” and is a colonial style of arched architecture unique to Shanghai which apparently was de rigueur for the city in the 40s.

Upon arrival you are greeted by a friendly reception desk which can make you feel as though you have arrived at the nearby Dorsett hotel. Fear not, you are soon put straight and whisked into the restaurant by their efficient staff.

When inside there is a bar area with an impressive solid table carved from a single tree and a 40’s style gramophone. The restaurant itself is very large and spacious with an overall modern feel whilst displaying provincial artworks and for such a large restaurant the main central restaurant floor itself can feel more intimate than expected due to a clever use of a lowered floor.

My guest and I ordered a wide selection of dim sum from the menu which we were pleased to hear are all handmade along with some congee soup and tea.

Our favourites were the Cheung Fun wrapped around fried dough with was a delicious combination of soft and crunchy with a salty soy dressing, the Tianjin Goubuli Bun that featured the obligatory 18 folds (noted attention to detail) and the Chicken Taro Croquettes that had an unusual look and texture due to the taro that explodes as it hits the oil. All brilliant, all fresh and the ingredients were really top notch. Whoever is sourcing is doing a good job.

The dessert was almost the highlight of the meal. We opted for the Ginger Tea with Dumpling that we were advised wasn’t to Western tastes and all the more reason to try it in my opinion! (having said that the last time I did that it was duck’s tongue in a Thai restaurant which was as bad as it sounds). The soup consists of quite a strong hot sweet ginger consommé like broth extracted from pulping and steeping fresh ginger which must be able to cure a cold all by itself. Floating in the soup were three small soft white dumplings filled with black sesame seeds. The combination of ginger, soft dough and crunchy seeds was an absolute joy to eat and a brilliant stomach-settler.

In my opinion you will not be able to find better quality Dim Sum or Chinese dishes in London for this price.

Shikumen Taro Croquettes

Shikumen’s Taro Croquettes Dish

Cost of two courses with tea and a cocktail:
£25 per person.

Food:
9 out of 10 – the ingredients shone and a peek into the kitchen showed an army of specialist Chefs.

Atmosphere:
7 out of 10 – early days yet but the restaurant will be full soon.

Service:
9 out of 10 – very efficient and courteous.

Overall:
9 out of 10 – will be returning frequently.

Summary in seven:
One of London’s best dim sum options.

Details:
The Shikumen Website
Shikumen Shepherd’s Bush, Dorsett Hotel, 58 Shepherd’s Bush Green, London, W12 8QE.
Open: Mon to Sat: 12:00 to 23:00 / Sunday 11:30 to 23:00.
Tel: 020 8749 9978
Email: shepherdsbush@shikumen.co.uk
Book Online: http://www.shikumen.co.uk/shepherds-bush/book-online/

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Dinner at The Punchbowl, Mayfair

Popular Mayfair based pub The Punchbowl has recently had a bit of a makeover after being purchased recently by The Epicurean an attractive collection of Inns who look like they know their stuff. Having heard about this along with their new chef, GT decided to investigate and find out what’s on offer.

You may well know this place as the pub formerly owned by Guy Ritchie and therefore a favourite haunt of celebrities. Not having ventured in myself before I don’t have anything to compare it with for the makeover but what I discovered on arrival was a bustling pub full of happy customers and a newly refurbished modern restaurant upstairs. Above this on the second and top floor is a large space “The Club” used for private parties which despite my curiosity I didn’t venture into as it sounded like there was a private party in full swing.

I appreciated the restaurant on first impressions, it is a well furnished affair of around 30 covers, most noticeably the roof was painted gold with the effect of dripping down the walls upon which are hung several striking oil on canvas portraits of fashion models. I’m not particularly knowledgeable about the modelling world but the waitress kindly told me who they were – aside from the ubiquitous Ms Moss I still have no idea!

The restaurant is quite open and looks into the kitchen area which also serves “The Club”, at first I really liked this and remarked that it feels like being in a very well decorated living room but at the end of the evening I would have perhaps preferred a degree more separation such as the use of a screen to give that bit of extra separation from the inner workings of a restaurant – that’s the atmosphere – the food on the other hand would be hard to critique.

The Punchbowl Interior

The restaurant Interior with gold ceiling

The menu is very well set out offering a good selection of honest traditional British dishes, in fact there is probably nothing I wouldn’t have been happy to order off it which is quite rare.

The food was very well cooked indeed, in fact it was near perfect, so I am sure that new chef Nathan Andrews who has experience from working in restaurants such as Petrus will be appreciated by customers new and old.

I had roasted scallops with slow cooked bacon to start with, the combination of flavours on the plate was very good and they were cooked perfectly. This was followed by beef shin and rump which came with truffle mash and a delicious bone marrow and red wine sauce, the beef really was fantastic quality and this was in my mind as faultless a beef main course as you can get. What is really clear is that the sourcing is excellent and Andrews real skill is allowing the ingredients to shine.

I will be sure to visit again.

Scallop Starter

Roasted hand-dived south coast scallops with slow cooked bacon, apple £13.50

Cost of two courses with a bottle of wine:
£50 per person

Food:
9 out of 10 – strong British menu cooked very well

Atmosphere:
6 out of 10 – can feel a bit like the overspill of the staff room when the restaurant is quiet

Service:
8 out of 10 – pleasant, chatty

Overall:
7 out of 10 – a good dining experience worth repeating

Summary in seven:
British dishes cooked as they should be!

Details:
The Punchbowl London
41 Farm Street, Mayfair, London, W1J 5RP.
Open: Mon to Sat: 12:00 to 23:00 / Sunday 12:00 to 22:30.
Tel: 0207 493 6841
Email: reservations@punchbowllondon.com

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The Pig On The Beach – Studland, Dorset

Well GT had a thoroughly delightful afternoon at The Pig On The Beach this week.

We arrived at The Pig via Poole and took the ferry across to The Isle of Purbeck. Purbeck is not strictly an island rather a peninsular but the four minute journey across the sea added to the magic of arriving at this turreted fairytale dwelling smuggled between a warren of country lanes, hills, beach and sea.

The building is a magnificent example of Victorian hideaway with turrets popping out of the gothic country house. The new owners have painted it yellow and sympathetically added extensions that are hardly noticeable from the original building. The fresh sea air blows gently around the property and there are magnificent views from both the restaurant and rooms that look out onto Studland Bay.

Inside the look is typical of the other three Pigs (New Forest, Southampton and Bath) from the Lime Wood group whose “focus is on authenticity and informality of design, food and service” and they have it nailed here with an almost film-set perfection of texture, colour and restrained opulence that never reaches trop. We want to move in immediately and live happily ever after.

The food is either grown in their Kitchen Garden (informal tours available) or sourced within around 25 miles of the kitchen. For lunch we sarted with the freshest oysters we’d ever tasted (really), some tasty ham hock Scotch eggs and a delicate ceviche of bass scattered with delicate flowers and herbs from the Kitchen Garden. For main we couldn’t resist lobster and chips x2.

The whole lobster was slightly blackened on one side from the chargrill and inside barely cooked giving an almost raw edge to the thick meat however thanks to the freshness it was unusual and delicious. The lobster was by far the most expensive main on the menu at £42 per portion. We wince now as it’s a little too much considering the current trade price, food miles, prep and cooking required but that’s what happens when you are at The Pig as you are whisked off into a fairytale where cost is an irrelevant factor in this tiny piece of priceless perfection.

Book for a few nights away. There are tonnes of local activities such as this, this, this, this and this, oh and this and this. Prices start around £120 per night.

Oyster Dish

Oyster dish at The Pig On The Beach

Typical cost of lunch at The Pig On The Beach:
£100 per person for us including SC. Ordering sensibly would halve this.

Food & Drink:
9 out of 10 – glorious menu but loses a point for the pricey lobster. They popped a cork on a fresh bottle of Bollinger at our request (£15/glass), perfectly matched a glass of Mâcon Villages (£11.50/large glass) to our meal and we WILL return for the Smoky Dirty Martini (damn you car).

Atmosphere:
The Pig makes people happy thanks to it’s magical charm. Just remember to book.

Service:
7 out of 10 – relaxed and quite attentive, some staff shone, others didn’t.
Tip: Don’t wear a pink shirt or you’ll be whistled over to clear plates and take orders.

Overall:
9 out of 10 – they lose a point for the similar lunch and dinner menus that could limit guest enjoyment.

Summary in seven:
Charming whimsical hideaway celebrating local food

Details
The Pig On The Beach
Manor House
Manor Road,
Studland,
Dorset.
BH19 3AU
Tel:+44 (0) 1929 450288

Can you recommend anywhere else? GT are always looking for new places to visit.

Image Credit on exterior photo: Joseph Williamson
with special thanks to ©Ski Club Great Britain http://skiclub.co.uk

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Afternoon Drinks At The Rib Room Bar

On two occasions recently I have found myself enjoying the surroundings of the Rib Room Bar on the ground floor of Jumeriah Carlton Tower hotel.

The bar may be somewhat under appreciated therefore I feel obliged to recommend it for afternoon drinks whatever the day. It is often tricky to find a good venue that fills THAT space for a few drinks during the day or similarly before you head on for the evening and The Rib Room fits the bill quite nicely.

Why should you go? What awaits you is a relaxed environment where you will more often than not be able to find a space for yourself or friends at the bar or at a table and if you are lucky somewhere on the small terrace.

Let’s start with the drinks. The 10 metre long bar itself dominates the room creating an attractive marble alter paying homage to fine gins and whiskies.

Gin fans are particularly in luck. On my last visit I took the time to chat to the barman Vicenco who proudly showed me their range of 19 gins and 10 bitters.

Initially I visited the bar on recommendation from a friend who raved about their cocktails and I do agree they are particularly good however if you don’t drink the virgin cocktails are also worth ordering. I tried an Orchard Breeze (apple juice, pear purée, soda water, ginger & cinnamon) (£8) purely because it sounded great, it was, and perhaps the best virgin cocktail I have tasted.

I shared a range of bar snacks including crispy boneless chicken wings with mango and black pepper caramel (£11), tiger prawns with soy, ginger and chilli (£14) and the extravagant and rather delicious crab and lobster burger (£22).

Rib Room Bar Burger

The Rib Room Bar’s Crab & Lobster Burger

Typical cost of three cocktails and snacks at the bar:
£65 per person

Food & Drink:
7 out of 10 – good bar food and excellent drinks

Atmosphere:
6 out of 10 – a bit too quiet for the room size (why GT is recommending)

Service:
9 out of 10 – polite and very helpful

Overall:
7 out of 10 – worth revisiting for excellent drinks and good bar food

Summary in seven:
Under appreciated destination perfect for afternoon drinks

Details
The Rib Room Bar
Jumeirah Carlton Tower
2 Cadogan Place, London, SW1X 9PY.
Dress Code: Smart casual
Telephone: +44 20 7858 7250
Email: reservations@theribroom.co.uk

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Lunch at The Wolseley, Piccadilly

I have wanted to visit The Wolseley ever since I heard that my great grandfather once bought a car from the building back when it was a prominent car dealership called Wolseley Motors.

One can only imagine just how different London must have been then for a car dealership to take up such a prime central London location. Luckily for me I didn’t have to try too hard as the walls are adorned with past images helping to illustrate the buildings automotive past.

The Wolseley first opened as a restaurant in November 2003 by J. Sheekey, Chris Corbin and Jeremy King and was described back then as an “all-day Grand European café”.

Having booked a week in advance we were looking forward to our lunch and on arrival at 1pm the restaurant was absolutely buzzing without a spare seat in sight. The main features of the restaurant are large marble columns, indoor balconies, polished brass fittings and a cavernous roof above. It is a very intriguing space indeed attracting a real mix of clientele.

As expected the menu consisted of a well constructed bistro style selection of classic French and European dishes. Our table shared some beautiful Jersey Rock Oysters. I chose the classic bistro starter of Escargots followed by their Classic Hamburger, both as refined as they can be, while my guest was very impressed with their Steak Tartare. We shared a bottle of Sancerre.

Interior

The Wolseley restaurant interior

Cost of lunch with a bottle of wine:
£45 per person

Food:
7 out of 10 – great quality bistro style food

Atmosphere:
9 out of 10 – a buzzing floor with eye catching surroundings

Service:
8 out of 10 – pleasant, helpful

Overall:
7 out of 10 – a really enjoyable experience

Summary in seven:
Perfect destination for a long lazy lunch

Hamburger

The Wolseley Hamburger

Details:
The Wolseley
160 Piccadilly, London, W1J 9EB
Open: Mon-Fri 7am til midnight / Saturday 8am til midnight / Sunday 8am til 11pm.
Tel: 020 7499 6996
Email: reservations@thewolseley.com

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