Friday, 2 September 2011

Back to blogging: Trips away to London and Bruges

My poor blog has been neglected for a wee while now. Life has been getting in the way and I have certainly been busy! Since my last post I have travelled halfway across the world for sad reasons and then had a very lovely and relaxing holiday closer to home.  When I came back home I became suddenly ill and had to have an emergency operation, followed by a ten day stay in hospital which nearly broke me. I've started my recovery though so I guess it's the ideal time for blogging again, particularly now that I'm starting to get my appetite back!

My trip across the world was to Australia and to see my grandma before she passed away. We were super close and her passing has broken my heart more than I ever thought possible. She lived an amazing life and made green onion pancakes and gao ji's that would knock your socks off. She was very much loved and I miss her every day.

The holiday was a mini-break to London and Bruges and I must admit, I indulged in a bit of comfort eating and ate very well indeed. Whenever I go to London I spend most of my time catching up with friends and never seem to visit as many foodie places as I'd like to but I managed to go to two places which were worth the wait.

Gelupo is hidden away in a back street of Soho, across the road from fine Italian restaurant, Bocca di Lupo. They claim that they are the finest artisan gelato experience this side of the Alps and I'm sure they're not wrong. The flavours are exceptional and original - ricotta, chocolate and black pepper, saffron and vanilla, fresh mint stracciatella (as pictured above).  The fresh mint flavour really shone through and worked well with the flecks of dark chocolate. The minty flavour wasn't to my boyfriend's taste (too much like toothpaste) and it wasn't as creamy as our other pick, a smooth and tangy ricotta and sour cherry ripple. A definite must visit from me - I'm looking forward to trying their range of sorbets and granitas next time which are in fruity flavours like watermelon, blood orange, clementine and white peach.

Cox, Cookies and Cakes is also based in Soho, in a far more accessible location - indeed on one of the more 'interesting' streets. In keeping with the area, the shop is all shiny black surfaces, neon lighting and some very rude and outrageous cupcakes. The shop was founded by shoe designer Patrick Cox and Eric Lanlard and the cakes taste just as good as they look. The flavours range from traditional chocolate, strawberry, red velvet to the more exotic such as pineapple and coconut, hazelnut praline and raspberry filled chocolate. The cookies and squares are pretty tasty too but you might as well try something a bit more exciting whilst you're there!  I had a cola cupcake which came with some fizzy cola dip to sprinkle on and it was perfect - really fudgy with an actual cola flavour.  I'm considering buying their book just for that recipe alone.

I had never visited Bruges before but I knew I would love the food. Moules and frites, cherry beer, waffles and chocolate - what could go wrong?  It's an absolutely beautiful town and was perfect for a relaxing mini-break.  Our foodie experience was overwhelmingly positive and we thoroughly enjoyed every meal.  We were given a number of recommendations from friends and from bloggers but sadly, given the unfortunate state of the £ vs. € we really couldn't afford these options.  Meals aren't expensive relatively speaking, but expect to pay approximately €15-€25 for a main course.  In general, service was mostly polite but you had to work hard to get it, and there was no such thing as free water (I paid €2.50 for a small glass of what was clearly tap water).  However these small things didn't detract from my overall experience and to be honest, as long as the very obvious tourist traps were avoided you can eat very well at a relatively low cost.  Portion sizes in Bruges are big and the Flemish stews are particularly recommended (specialties are rabbit and eel).

One place we lucked upon was The Hobbit, a bar which frankly did not have many great reviews on TripAdvisor.  Having noted the reviews, I was prepared for the poor service (it was friendly but sparse) but still enjoyed the food a lot.  Their specialty is the Hobbit Ribs, beautifully seasoned and tender and all you can eat for €18.  Their chicken kebab was tasty too but I would recommend steering clear of their fixed price set menus, they didn't seem to represent great value as their portion sizes were so large - there really was no need of starter or dessert!  

But if you have room for dessert, well then Bruges has them in spectacular style.  You can't think of Belgium without the predictably excellent waffles and pancakes and these are all on offer most places, along with a local apple tart with a crumbly almond topping which is delicious.  One of the more interesting places I visited was De Medici Sorbetiere, who specialise in unusual ice cream flavours and combinations. They have a beautiful sunny upstairs tearoom with a bohemian feel to enjoy their ice cream sundaes and cakes, and their lunches were also good.  Pictured is an ice cream and meringue fruit specialty with a lot of berry sauce.  It's a really lovely and relaxed place and I wanted to try pretty much every ice cream combination they had - definitely recommended.  


Victoria said...

Katey...happy to have you back, but so sorry to hear about your grandma and the's to recoveries and fond memories. I'm going to have to track down the gelato when I'm next in London...and as for those ribs in Bruges...oh wow!!! :) Enjoy the sunshine this morning!

Katey said...

Thank you - just glad to be up and about right now :-) Yes, the gelato was amazing (I have a real love of ice cream, no matter the weather!) and I really wanted to visit Chin Chin Labs too but sadly there was no time. Always something to look forward to!
Btw, are you on Twitter? There is a food bloggers meet up being planned in October and it would be great if you could come along too (if you're not already aware of it!).

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