Where to Go For Ultimate Autumn Vibes

California dreaming after spending over two weeks in the US, we needed a pick me up and decided to embrace the new autumnal climate. Wrapped up to the ears in parkas and sheep skin collars (dog too), we headed out in search of a multi coloured leaf walk and somewhere to blow away the cobwebs.

Petworth Park was first choice, being somewhere we have been meaning to go to for a while. Parking up, we rummaged for the £3 change needed. Once Winston had relieved himself, this being the dog, not my husband Perry, we could admire the sun drenched, grassy rolling hills and the glistening lake. Trundling slowly down the sloping hill we hear the sound of hundreds of tiny footsteps leaping and bounding our way. Quickly leashing Winston, we stop dead in our tracks as the elegant stags and baby dear, stampede in a line across our path. Although I could appreciate having these magnificent beasts in such close proximity, the anxious part of me couldn’t help but envisage Winston being kicked or pounded to smithereens on the floor or one of us speared on the end of an antler like a lamb kofta! Please don’t let my highly irrational fears deter you from taking this winter’s stroll by the way.

Cobwebs sufficiently blown from an hours walk across the hills, thoughts turn to something to warm the cockles. Thoughtfully, Perry remembered me adoringly gawping at a quaint pub we had past once in Chiddingfold being only a 15 minute drive away. Unfortunately, dogs were only allowed in the pub area which was filled to the gills with thirsty walkers. We therefore decided to try our luck at the Swan Inn, which was just a short walk around the corner. And oh were we in luck!

Winston was greeted with open arms and biscuits, Christmas ornaments lined the entrance and a roaring fire, with copper surround, was filling the room with much needed heat. The bar was made from a warm coloured wood with ornate carvings, sombre lighting was introduced in the way of grey side lamps that matched the light grey tweed like fabric of the seating and books adorned the shelving.

First course were thick rings of calamari, for both of us, coated in a panko crumb and served with a saffron mayonnaise. For main I opted for an English classic of Lamb shank with a Moroccan twist of apricots that added a welcome sweetness to the gravy. The lamb was served with a smooth mash, light kale and sweet carrots. Somehow my husband had not yet fulfilled his quota of burgers for the month after our California trip and decided to go for the classic burger with bacon and fries.

After mains we notice the sofas directly next to the fireplace had been vacated and we instantly launched at them with Winston dragging behind. Getting comfortable and with Winston dozing away and curled up in a ball at my side, we order teas and coffees and played a game of drafts getting rosy cheeked by the heat of the fire. Although I was thrashed at drafts, our autumnal day of walks and grub made it all not that bad to be back in Blighty.

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Late Lunch at Malt Cafe

Arm outstretched, head jolted back I burst through the doors of Malt Cafe, Worthing following my little red terrier. He in turn, follows his nose straight to the Aubergine Parmigiana. On top of the counter, was a deep dish of saucy, cheese topped parmigiana and a fresh looking salmon quiche. Cake and treats were encased within glass cloches and mounted on stacks of books. With our original idea of just popping in for a coffee, instantly going up in flames, I order the parmigiana and my lunch date orders the salmon quiche.

On ordering I was asked what I would like as my side salad. Displayed in shallow bowls to the left of the till were items such as cous-cous, an Asian style medley of vegetables including baby corn and mange tout, coleslaw and puy lentils. Drinks, were as originally intended, two latte’s. Me being the biggest ever sweet tooth asked if they had any syrup for the latte but they did not. Although, I have since learnt that they now have syrup!

After paying and grabbing two small glass of water which I had dispensed from an urn provided, I dawdle back across the geometric floor tile to our dark grey and wooden topped table, near the window. Handing over the glass of water to my lunch date, I noticed she was sat on a luxurious white fur throw that I obsessively wanted to touch. Malt cafe is a light and airy space with exposed brick wall, hanging rope lights, metal circular wall planters and a simple wall mounted menu written with black marker on brown paper.

The aubergine parmigiana was rich and comforting with a crisp, salted cheese topping. The Asian vegetable medley was flavourful and the coleslaw was creamy and not too vinegary as I always dread it being. After a snatched bite of my date’s quiche, I learn that the quiche is indeed fresh, creamy with a flaky base.

With a sugar cube chucked in and slowly melting away, our warm and milky lattes made just the right end to our impromptu late lunch.

Malt Cafe makes for a welcoming place to stop after a dog walk along Worthing prom and is great for a fresh, tasty and light lunch with a side of naughtiness, if you fancy divulging in a coffee and a cake.

 

Fancy a Hot Tug?

With our heads peeking just above the wide concrete wall, my husband and I giggle in anticipation as we watch our un-expecting friend walk towards Canary Wharf station. It is George’s birthday and we are due to surprise him with an unexpected visit and outing.  As George saunters towards station with his newly bleached blonde hair, dark black shades and in a beige chino and white tee combo, we quickly scurry behind him, squeeze his sides and shout SURPRISE! In his jaded and hungover state there weren’t emotional tears as we had hoped but there was definitely confusion.

After ordering endless amounts of charcuterie, cheese and calamari in a nearby sky bar and paying service charge multiple times for a waitress to walk three paces, we start to take our Uber journey to the big event, only stopping to stock up on two mini bottles of wine each, as we had been informed was the limit we were allowed to take on our trip.

Once we were dropped off, we wobble along the cobbles until we spot the sign for Hot Tug UK. After a bit of smutty banter in regards to the name from George, the excitement builds as he learns what we are going to be doing to celebrate his birthday. Further excitement was to be had from George at the sight of our guide Austin. Resplendent in a nautical style striped tee, muscles bulging out the arms and a soothing Irish accent; he even had a card and a gift of a sailor’s hat at the ready for the birthday boy. Austin was succinct and witty in his delivery of the instructions and guidelines of how to use the hot tug. He stayed cool and collected even after the event of member of our group jumping the gun and eagerly getting into her Baywatch style swimsuit before the registration had even finished.

Unclothed and bikinied up, we tiptoed down the wooden slated jetty in the misty rain towards the hot tug, sitting there invitingly as the steam rose from the water. Slipping into the hot tug was like a warm hug and the cold, slightly damp air on my shoulders heightened the warmth below. Once in, a tray was filled with the bag we had purchased from Hot Tug UK for 3 pounds, mini bottles of wine, bottles of water (stupidly untouched by me causing a mega dehydration headache later) and a birthday cake (that obviously wasn’t eaten in such moist surroundings!). An obligatory photoshoot was had, and then we were ready to set off with the non-drinker sitting nervously at the helm.

Starting off at a relaxing pace, we make our way along North Dock and instantly grab the attention of passers by making their way along the bridge. Feeling like celebs as people waved and took our pictures we smiled and waved back. Sidling up next to the ‘Big Easy’ American restaurant, we chose not to be easy and ignored the jeers of those who lowered the tone by requesting to see some ‘hot jugs’. We had more important matters at hand. Heading straight for an extremely low bridge, George bravely took hold of the tall chimney at the front of the tug and steadily lowered it as instructed previously, so we could pass without collision. As we no longer had jeering and low bridges to contend with the party could finally start. Drinking white wine out of red plastic cups, twerking and listening to Drake through the makeshift phone tub speaker, we meander up the Dock until the chimes of the half way alarm trill from a phone. Slowly making our way back we finish our wine and twerking and enjoy the hot water around our bodies until we our eventually greeted by Austin again, standing at the ready with a muscly arm to hoik us all out.

George had such a HOT birthday and we all had a brilliant experience that will definitely be one to tell the future grand-kids. If Hot Tug UK ever feels the urge to sail on down to sunny Brighton we would be sure to oblige and hop in with wine in hand.

Aunty Opie Brings Sunshine To A Cloudy Littlehampton

With the evenings slowly drawing in and the rain and cloud descending upon us, after such a long hot summer, some hearty, comfort food is just what we need. Swinging the bring my own bottle of booze in a plastic carrier bag we make our way towards the brightly coloured shop front of green and yellow, instantly teleporting me to the palms and sand of the Jamaica I hope to visit one day.

After being given the option of where we would like to sit, glasses were quickly provided so we could enjoy the Marks and Spencer’s Chardonnay we had happily brought along with us. Much better than paying triple the price like restaurants normally charge for wine.

A blackboard menu listed many authentic Caribbean dishes such as, Ackee and Saltfish, Oxtail patties, Jerk Chicken and Curried Goat, all served with white rice or rice and peas.

A fish patty was the first nibble and the sweet, flaky and yellow pastry enveloping a moist seafood centre, went down a treat. As I waited for my main course to arrive, I took great pleasure in watching a fellow diner, suffer with streaming eyes and a sniffing nose as he chowed down on his obviously spicy Jerk chicken. As his face was slowly turning a shade of puce, my curried goat arrived.

An internal fist pump was instantly had, at the sight of the curried goat still being on the bone. Covered in a light, perfectly spiced curry sauce, the goat meat was juicy and fell off the bone. Added crunch was provided by the accompaniment of the soft and sweet chunks of onion. Together with the flavourful rice and peas, I received that warm comforting feeling that I desperately needed on that not so sunny day. After the slight kick of the curry the refreshing side of a combination of sweet corn, carrot and cabbage coleslaw was a perfect way to finish.

I love to try new cuisine and it is great to have it right on my doorstep of Littlehampton. I will be sure to come back soon to try the Ackee & Saltfish.

Joanna’s Secret Storrington

Feeling like my  brains were going to fall out the top of my head we bumped and lurched through a narrow country lane on our way to Warren Hill, Storrington. We were meeting R & N for a dog walk with their Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Tilly and our Boston Terrier, Winston. First things first, and always being prepared, N whips out a box of juicy bright red Watermelon to get us fuelled up and later a tissue for my sniffy hay-fever nose. Such a babe! With R’s questionable navigational skills and Tilly darting off for a Rabbit and going AWOL for a scary amount time, we ended up doing nearly 7000 steps around the wooded area, luckily whilst under the dappled light rather than scorching sun. After 7000 steps worth, cream tea was on our minds and a quick call to a googled nearby tea room to confirm dogs were allowed, led to us bumping back down the hill and on our way to Storrington High Street.

Following the sign of the big blue P, we found two free parking spaces in Old Mill Drive, a road just off of the high street, which just happened to be opposite the tea room of choice, Joanna’s Tea room. For me, initial thoughts of a tea room is cramped, stuffy and filled with chintz. However, on the walk up to the hidden tea room, I could see a beautiful stripe pattern fascia of Joanna’s adjoining florist, surrounded by greenery and palm trees. Once through the alleyway we turn left into a sun trap of a courtyard, in front of the tea room, where dogs are allowed and find clusters of white linen clad tables with white iron wrought chairs and dusky pink parasols. A real mixed bag of people frequent Joanna’s with two ladies that lunch, looking like they have come straight out of Sex and The City, ladies that lunch with their kids and two more mature ladies that lunch. Please note, men that munch are allowed and were present too.

On getting seated and the dogs watered and shaded, we are instantly greeted and menus are provided by a waitress wearing pastel pink chinos with matching converse trainers. My dream uniform! We all select the classic cream tea, with the boys, crazily, sticking to the boiling hot tea and Latte and us girls being slightly more sensible and going for a refreshing cold Iced Latte.

Whilst waiting for our order, I couldn’t wait to run inside the tea room and have a proper look at the place. Pristine white furniture, silver and crystal chandelier’s hung from the ceiling and walls were adorned with an olive green and white striped wallpaper.  Hovering around the counter, I eyeballed the huge cakes of lemon drizzle and Black Forest Gateau which sat temptingly under a glass cloche.

Parked back in my seat we listen to the chilled sunny music of Paul Simon – Call me Al and Ben E King – Stand by Me, coming from inside. Our impressive looking iced latte’s arrive with the coffee layered above the milk creating a beige ombre effect. Even though it was so hot and my husband was crazy to have hot tea, I was so jealous of the tea cup and saucer he got to drink from. Pastel pink and white stripe, gold handle and base with a pink heart outline at the bottom of the cup! Could it get any cuter!? Although, what would have topped it off would have been a gold tea spoon to match.

Talking of cute, the freshly made and warm scones were dear little things but so soft and fluffy with a light papery coating. Buttery clotted cream and sweet red jam also came in cute little jars and pots (sorry but anything little is just so damn cute) and were just the right amounts to cover each of the two sides of the halved scones. As the scones were so good and being the piglet that I am, just one more scone each, would have been marvellous.

Once re-fuelled and refreshed, we tear the dogs away from a neighbouring lady, who had been generously feeding them chicken from her own plate the whole time and say our goodbyes. We had a fabulous morning and I am so glad R found this hidden gem for us.

If You Go Down To The Woods Today…

After smashing a game of our works ‘World Cup Fooseball’ and winning 13-4 with a hop and skip we were on our way to the woods. The Woods being the Burger Kitchen kind rather than the tree and wildlife infested kind. Walking through the fabulous Barbie pink door, located in Portland Road, Worthing, we are seated by the large window and exposed brick laden wall. Exposed bulbs up ahead, corrugated steel, antlers, arched mirrors and raw wooden tables being amongst the other interior treats.

Orders were taken with all of us ladies being rather sensible on our lunch breaks with no alcohol and a selection of burgers, subs and salads being requested. After seeing a lusciously melty picture on Facebook of the Mac ‘n’ Cheese ball side, aptly named ‘The Fonz’ I had to order it, to give it a whirl.

While waiting for our orders and chatting away, a work bestie of mine was struck unexpectedly by a fatal splinter! Although the tables are beautifully up-cycled I think they may be in need of an extra coat of varnish around the edges. However, please make note that no tax advisers were harmed in the making of this blog! As a backing track to this brutal attack, the appropriate mellow sax based tunes played with Ben E King’s ‘Stand by me’ creating a welcome lunch time chilled environment which took her mind of the pain.

After a moderate wait, which is to be expected when fresh food is being cooked for a large table, My ‘Commodore’ and side arrived. A soft squidgy bun encasing two juicy beef patties, a slice of tomato, chunky pieces of smoked bacon, Jack cheddar cheese and house sauce oozing out the bottom made the perfect burger combination. I love that the bun isn’t toasted to a crisp and that the burgers are just the right thickness meaning the meat doesn’t dry out. The addition of a gherkin on the side is also a winner for me, controversial I know! The bitterness and bite of the pickle balancing with the smooth creaminess of the cheese, sauce and beef. Being the proper ladies that we are, all of us ate our burgers with knives and forks, not wanting to get cheese and sauce down our pristine power suits. Something that would have made the meal more enjoyable, would be not having to tackle the wet and soggy ripped paper laying underneath the burger on top of the steel plate below.

‘The Fonz’ was so cool and laid back that one of my mac ‘n’ cheese balls nearly rolled the whole way off the plate! Topped with bacon pieces, a jalapeno mayo and melted cheese the balls of mac ‘n’ cheese had been coated in batter and expertly deep fat fried. Surprisingly, I am not particularly a fan of Mac and Cheese. Just shows you how good the right photography and advertisement can be! However, my Mac and Cheese loving husband was grateful for the leftovers, taken home to him in a small Woods emblazoned brown paper bag. Our agreed verdict was that the Mac inside the balls could do with even more cheese!

On receiving the bill, I was confused to see that the price of ‘The Fonz’ had gone up by 50p, compared to the menu but after a much anticipated complimentary Jelly Bean and receiving a work based discount, I was happy to ignore it.

Strutting back to the office with slightly expanded waistlines, we somehow still managed to yearn and talk about our next cheese loaded meal. The ladies lunch crew had a satisfying binge at the Woods and are sure to be back for more!

Murder on the Italian Express

Sorry, excuse the headline but an old colleague, when giving some constructive criticism of my blog, had expressed the view that there definitely wasn’t enough murder. So, Mr Cornetto, I give you an honest food review with just a splash of murder on the side.

Tottering down Warwick Lane, our heels creating echo’s off of the cobbles and narrow walkway, we make our way towards Giuseppes, Worthing. On entrance we are greeted by a sea of familiar faces of old friends and work colleagues and unbeknown to us, a death will take place upon this night. Dishes of olives await us as we peruse the wine list and finally, we opt for a bottle of Tasari Bianco.

As we are choosing from the Sicily party menu, starter is a choice of two sharing platters one containing meat and one vegetarian. On the sight of Porchetta, I instantly request the Sicilian mixed platter. With the dishes being shared and with multiple vegetarians scattered around the table, a round of musical chairs was to be had. Once seated it was time to tuck in to the moist slices of herb infused porchetta, tomato and mozzarella salad and an aubergine and potato medley. Unfortunately, we weren’t quite enamoured with the olives and sun-dried tomatoes so, therefore Mr Burgess the gannet that he is, scraped down the left overs. Whilst looking on in shock at how much he could eat, I  notice the vegetarian platter and can’t contain my food envy. The vegetables in a pastella batter with a chilli dip and the bubbling dish of Parmigiana look and was mouth watering! Other than stealing someones vegetarian platter, something that would have improved the experience for me, would have been some Italian background music.

After finishing up his starter Mr Cornetto slowly got up from his chair and weaved his way around chairs, to get to the restroom. Little did we know, that was to be the last time we would see our dear friend Mr Cornetto, alive. Busy nattering and catching up, we all suddenly hear an almighty clatter and a deathly high pitched squeal. Heads spinning in unison, we are stunned to see Mr Cornetto sprawled on the floor with his head rolling over to the otherside of the room. Ironically, Mr Cornetto had come to a tragic end by a large metal spoon pendulum of a hanging clock! We all gasp and cry in shock as blood squirts and sprays from his neck. “Who would do such a thing!” I cried, looking at each member of our dining party with an accusatory eye.

Anyway as main arrived, we went back to the mission at hand of eating. Main was a classic and my favourite meal ever of Spaghetti Bolognese. As a huge cheese lover the main event is always Parmesan, and as the waiter spooned on a sprinkling, I thought, here we go again. I expected the sprinkling to be done in minutes and to reach an anti-climax of hardly no cheese, but oh, how I was wrong, he went on sprinkling for two whole spoonfuls, asked me to spread it and then continued to sprinkle me, spooning a load on the side of my plate, in case I get the urge again later. As if, I could be any more hot under my non-existent collar, he proceeded to present his extremely large pepper mill as I desperately fan myself trying to cool down. Leaving me with a short “prego” our encounter was over and my attentions were brought back to the main, it was a great portion with plenty of meat and sauce. I finished my meal with a satisfied smile and the feeling of having had a good old spooning cuddle. All I needed now was a cigarette!

On remembering our dear deceased friend on the floor, I made it my quest to find out what sick person had tampered with the clock to ultimately decapitate, Mr Cornetto. I then remembered how Mr Cornetto had previously threatened to stuff a sun-dried tomato down Mrs Smurf’s throat! Maybe she wanted to get to him before he had the chance to end her. But Mrs Stewart was also caught giving Mr Cornetto the middle finger earlier as he was irritating her during an important phone call. Most importantly, how could I ignore the longing look in Mr Burgess’ eyes when looking at Mr Cornetto, maybe his unrequited infatuation just got too much for him. The plot thickens.

And talking of thickening, dessert arrives. A classic tiramisu topped with a thick and creamy mascarpone over a coffee flavoured sponge came in the cutest little espresso mug. This was a much awaited pick me up after the drama of the evening. After a fabulous meal, I clumsily make my way to the restrooms, tripping over something in the process. Just next to Mr Burgess’ chair was my said obstacle of a small box and intrigued I opened it up, as the party continued. Inside was a worn and battered polaroid of the late Mr Cornetto circled in a sharpie made heart shape. Lying next to the photo was a selection of tools being a wrench and screwdriver together with a ball of string. Tools perfect for dismantling a clock and string ideal for triggering the fatal spoon at the desired moment! “But I loved him!” cried Mr Burgess. “But did he love you, Mr Burgess?” I pressed. “No! And I hate not being able to get what I want!” “Ok, I did it” screamed Mr Burgess.

And with that, the police who had previously been called, leapt into action and Mr Burgess was accosted and taken away. Another night and another murder solved by Inspector Charrington. Apart from the unlikely event, the food and service was great and a gorgeous meal was had by all and with the offer of the half full wine bottle to be taken home, our Mrs Smurf couldn’t have been happier.