Disclaimer - This post is not for my vegetarian/vegan fans, I'm very sorry, but if easily offended, you may wish to move onto my next blog post. This September saw my third visit to Meatopia, a meat lovers' paradise, right in the heart of our capital. Meatopia just celebrated its fifth year at London's Tobacco Dock in Wapping and for the third year I have visited, it truly didn't disappoint. I had been raving about it for well over a year now to my food-loving colleagues, so my lovely boss joined myself and "the bearded one" for a day of meat-eating, beer-drinking, sun-soaking fun in the big smoke… literally! This is the smokiest place on earth (well, other than perhaps beside a volcano!), floor to ceiling - two floors plastered with barbecues and fire pits where the best chefs and food producers from around the world get together to create some of the best barbecue you will EVER enjoy. It's a place for the big names in BBQ to show off, it's the rock 'n' roll world of meat and fire. This event has become legendary, having been founded in the US by the late Josh Ozersky and brought to the UK by chef Richard H Turner of Hawksmoor, this festival offers high quality and ethically sourced meat, all cooked over ethically sourced wood and charcoal. Combined with an eclectic mix of live music and entertainment, there is something for everybody over the course of this 3 day event. What we did find slightly baffling this year, was they went a little against what they stand for at Meatopia. They have always maintained the same answers to questions such as: Is this event suitable for people with disabilities? (a) As long as they are vegetarian, yes. Or Will there be any vegetarian dishes? (a) Um… no. However, this year they had chef Yotam Ottolenghi serving up a delicious looking vegetarian dish (celeriac with grilled cabbage)... Now, as lovely as this popular celebrity chef is, always happy to smile, chat and pose with fans as he serves up his dishes, on this particular day he was serving purely vegetarian food, of which I'm sure pleased some people at this event. But, it did make us question their own meat-rules here… Even he served a beautifully marinated goat dish in 2016 and was preparing a meat dish for this years' Sunday event! We were curious as to why he wasn't adding meat to his dish on festival day. Saying that, this year was the first time they were also serving fish, notably with the ever so friendly and approachable Nathan Outlaw (as seen on BBC's Great British Menu) and his team cooking up smoked mackerel (and truly delicious it was too) so times are a changing… ever so slightly. Meatopia is an expensive exercise, costing around £30 per person for an entry ticket into the event. You then will need to pay for each dish as you order it, each portion being "starter" size allows you to sample lots of different offerings - perfect. To pay for your dishes you need to have a handful of "Meatbucks" - Meatopia have sellers with buckets walking around and each Meatbuck is equal to £5.50 (it used to be £5, but went up this year) and you drop it into a bucket in exchange for your chosen meat dish. As a general rule we buy 10 Meatbucks between us and we share the dishes… that way we get to try much more than if you tried to fit in a full dish per person - it gets quite filling after a while! You can also book yourself into butchery demos, food workshops, live talks (hosted by DJ BBQ himself) and private dining sessions with various suppliers throughout the festival, it's much more than any old food festival. Not only do they have a superb selection of meat dishes, there are plenty of bars dotted around the venue with everything from wine and spirits through to the "Craftopia" hall with local ales to sample and enjoy alongside your food. My top tip if you are a Meatopia novice is that although their website says that the coals will be burning bright until late, if a dish runs out then the stall will close for the day. So if there's something you are desperate to try, get in there and don't leave it until later on - I've learnt the hard way here! You can book yourself an "Early Bird" ticket which gives you access to the festival an hour earlier than everybody else. We did this on our second visit and it didn't make a huge difference to our day, as most chefs were still setting up and getting ready… You don't have to wait too long to be let in on a normal ticket, so I wouldn't panic if you don't get an early bird special, you will still get to experience the best of this festival for sure. The Meatopia Team promise nothing but the best, and that's what you get. Chatting to the chefs around the fires, they are passionate about where their dishes were created, where their meat comes from and they are there to educate you as you go. I'm a firm believer in chatting to each of the teams behind your favourite dishes means you will get much much more out of it as a result… it's so true. Take a gamble on dishes and try new flavours and combinations, it's the perfect place to do so. Meatopia, you are special and we hold a place for you in our hearts. We love this festival and this blog post is my ode to the last few years of visiting one of my favourite annual events in my hectic diary. Each year has been so different, last year being very heavily interactive with the use of my favourite social media platform (Snapchat) but barely any social media coverage or interaction to Tweets this year at all, it varies dramatically which is a shame - fans get excited about Meatopia, so to not have that interaction is a bit of a shame and very noticeable. Don't get me wrong, we've enjoyed taking friends and showing family members our saliva-inducing photos, we can't rave about it enough, no matter about the little niggles, we ADORE Meatopia. This is the best place to sample top quality dishes from chefs you might not usually get to enjoy. In the past three years, I've enjoyed food cooked by John Torode, Nathan Outlaw, Richard H Turner of Hawksmoor, Tom Adams of Pitt Cue, Dan Doherty of Duck & Waffle, André Lima De Luca, Angie Mar, José Pizarro, Francis Mallmann, Michelin-Star chef Niklas Ekstedt, Luke Findlay of Patty & Bun, David Carter of Smokestak and many more! And my boss? He is a convert, well and truly. He will be by our side, most likely with some more of my work family next time! One word of warning. You WILL smell of smoke for the next few days, no matter how much you wash your hair or clothes, that barbecue smoke lingers - so expect looks as you get onto the tube afterwards, you will smell like you've bathed in meat smoke for the last week. Have YOU been to Meatopia? I'd love to hear your thoughts below in a comment. www.meatopia.co.uk Read my "About Me" page here! See more of my travel videos here and more of my food review videos here. Or get in touch via social media through Facebook, Instagram & Twitter for a natter about life in general! Please note – I am in no means obliged to blog or write about this event, brands associated to it or their offerings, but I simply choose to share with my readers, should I wish to do so. Any questions or to discuss a "Secret Stay" or review, please do email:email@example.com All images © 2017 David Spicer & Miss Sue Flay, these may not be used or reproduced without written permission from the owner, many thanks in advance.
Friday, 15 September 2017
I've been working in Newmarket for over two years now and when I first started heading into town each day for a cup of coffee or a light bite with friends or colleagues, there wasn't really much choice when it came to places to eat. Over time, Newmarket has become a little more better on the independent food scene (and it's about to get even more exciting with a few more openings in the pipeline within the very near future too) and The Tack Room is a prime example of this. This fantastic restaurant and courtyard coffee shop opened back in September 2016, but it's taken me a little while to venture over to sample their offerings - and what a find it is! You wouldn't believe that this modern-looking stable yard used to house King Charles II's horses! Nestled within the grounds of the new Palace House Horse Racing Heritage Centre (just down the road from TK Maxx behind the main High Street), this new venture has been created by the same team behind The Pantry in the Guineas Shopping Centre, of which is also a fantastic place to book a table for a relaxed lunch or date night… I love their burgers at The Pantry, but their awesome homemade cakes and scones have also made it over to this new venue, making it a superb place for an informal coffee or a relaxed, but sophisticated lunch or dinner no matter what the occasion. The mix of tourists from the Horse Racing Museum and the locals here for a bite to eat makes for quite the buzz in atmosphere, especially in the summer when diners spill onto the courtyard patio to soak up the sun and sip on something chilled with their food. They don't offer a full on afternoon tea, but with fantastic coffee from The Flying Coffee Company (my Godmother runs this with her partner, so I'm always pleased to sip on their coffee when i visit a new eatery!) and loose leaf teas on offer, there's plenty of tempting homemade sweet treats to tempt you. Everything from traditional lemon drizzle, victoria sponge or coffee & walnut cake right through to individual glazed fruit tarts, large fluffy scones and chocolate eclairs generously piped with fresh cream. They even make homemade breads, huge sausage rolls and scotch eggs to tempt the savoury lovers, I recently enjoyed both with the Bearded One and we halved one of each to share and struggled! If you are looking for a homemade, good quality cake fix, this is your next destination right here! The only drawback of the coffee shop is that there's no indoor seating for this, so go on a nice day and enjoy an al fresco cuppa. If you are heading to The Tack Room for brunch, lunch or dinner, then there are 62 covers in the restaurant itself and I would say it's wise to book if you have a group wanting to dine here, it can get very busy indeed. They serve sandwiches, salads and light bites, through to heartier meals to keep everybody happy. We recently visited with family for a special lunch on a Monday afternoon and decided to share lots of different dishes so that we could try lots of the menu options as there was so much to choose from! This was a fantastic idea and we got to try different foods I wouldn't ordinarily order. In fact, here are some of the dishes that I got to tuck into: Shetland mussels with Aspalls Cyder, leeks and bacon Bone marrow, herb crumb Steak tartar, quails egg and toast Steak burger, baconnaise, baby gem, gruyere and chips Fish and chips, minted pea puree and tartar Baked Mac and cheese with truffle, smoked garlic ciabatta and watercress Chicken Ceasar salad
I'd say the only drawback was the slow service, it was a busy day, but wine and water took a very long time to come to our table - a real frustration of mine. Each and every dish was beautifully presented and very tasty, the mussels were my favourite, followed by the creamy truffle mac & cheese - I will be going back for that alone in the near future. And not forgetting... this restaurant is very close to the vintage treasures shop on Rous Road, not to be missed for a mooch (just go with your pennies, it's a tempting shop)! www.thetackroomblog.com
Read my "About Me" page here! See more of my travel videos here and more of my food review videos here. Or get in touch via social media through Facebook, Instagram & Twitter for a natter about life in general! Please note – I am in no means obliged to blog or write about this event, brands associated to it or their offerings, but I simply choose to share with my readers, should I wish to do so. Any questions or to discuss a "Secret Stay" or review, please do email:firstname.lastname@example.org All images © 2017 Miss Sue Flay, these may not be used or reproduced without written permission from the owner, many thanks in advance.
Wednesday, 6 September 2017
Have you got an addiction to cookbooks? Lots of old (and new!) cookbooks sat on a shelf gathering dust? Do you love trying new recipes? Want to get stuck into a particular recipe book and try out recipes, but have't got a table full of willing guests to share the food with? Well, join the club… I have been toying with this idea for a while and I'm going to bite the bullet and give it a go - Fancy joining me? How It Works: From afternoon tea spreads or sun-filled brunches through to candlelit suppers or chilled Sunday roasts, together we can create feasts from the same cookbook - our very own supper club to geek out about food and drink whilst enjoying a dish prepared by everybody at the table. We pick a cookbook, everybody accesses/buys a copy and then you pick a recipe - letting me/your host know which dish you wish to bring (to ensure no doubling up on dishes) for the get together. We bake/cook/prepare a dish, bringing them all together at an agreed date and venue to create a full-on feast for the senses (some Instagram geekery will be encouraged, naturally). Eat, drink, be merry, make new friends, then go home to plan the next meet up / theme / cookbook! Points To Note: This is a free club / series of events, you purely cover the cost for your cookbook / ingredients for your chosen dish. Depending on the venue, number of guests may be restricted, so get in quick if you want to nab a spot at the table. If you have dietary requirements, please mention them on booking. Try to be as open minded as possible to enjoy this experience - try new foods and drinks. Bring a bottle - always a nice touch to bring your own tipple of choice when events hosted in somebody home. If hosted at a venue where drinks are available, please do support the venue by doing this. Some cookbooks may even have a beverage recipe you might want to try out! Most food will need to be served at room temperature - however, if heating/further prep required on the day, run it by me / your host first to ensure no problems. Treat it as you would going to a friends for dinner… be courteous, don't be early - be on time - (no host likes an early guest!) and if you can't make it, try to give warning. Most importantly, have fun and enjoy a "bring and share" supper club concept with fellow food lovers! So Who's In? Email me to get yourself on the initial guest list… Tell me: A) Who you are B) Where you are located C) What days / times of the week work for you D) Suggest a theme / favourite cook book as a starting point… Hello@misssueflay.com More details to follow once the guest list builds! Hopefully I might see you very soon for our very first Cookbook Supperclub 🍴 Read my "About Me" page here! See more of my travel videos here and more of my food review videos here. Or get in touch via social media through Facebook, Instagram & Twitter for a natter about life in general!