Michelin guide 2012

The recent release of the 2012 Michelin starred restaurants not only allows us to write about one of our favourite subjects: what goes in our tummies; it also reveals some interesting facts about fine regional dining in the UK and Ireland.

For example, you may not be surprised to find that London boasts more Michelin starred restaurants than anywhere else in the country. Fine dining is, after all, just one of many strings on London’s bow. But head further north and you’ll find Scotland laying claim to a large part of the fine dining landscape, a bit like Braveheart, but with knives and forks instead of pikes and swords.

Edinburgh offers four prestigious Michelin-starred eateries: The Kitchin on the waterfront, Martin Wishart in Edinburgh’s historic Port of Leith and Number One at The Balmoral Hotel all held on to their stars from 2011. They were joined by newcomer Castle Terrace. Nestled under the shadow of the Castle, Edinburgh’s latest recipient of a Michelin Star is from the team behind The Kitchin, so it’s perhaps no surprise to see its star has risen so fast.

Over the Firth of Forth lies Fife (now there’s a tongue-twister), which is no slouch when it comes to fine dining either. Husband and wife, Bruce and Jackie’s Sangster’s in Elie retains its star, as does The Peat Inn Restaurant. And when you add the four restaurants in the Highlands, you have a very strong showing for Scotland.

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Not to be outdone, over the North Channel, Dublin offers Ireland’s first two Michelin starred eatery at Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud. Not only is French chef Guilbaud’s restaurant the first to achieve the double, but it is also known as the city’s priciest place to eat – a dubious honour if ever there was one.

If you’re looking to place less pressure on the wallet then Chapter One, in the Dublin Writers Museum, seems like a good place to start. Joining it in retaining its star for the second year are longstanding classical French restaurant l’Ecrivain and Thornton’s which now offers its own canapé bar.

Fans of the Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon series The Trip will be pleased to hear that one of the Lake District’s most acclaimed restaurants  / ex-Casualty stars, Holbeck Ghyll has retained its star. So too has Cartmel’s L’Enclume, with its infamous taster menu, not to mention the lovely Yorke Arms.  

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If there’s one thing that the 2012 Michelin does suggest, it’s that good food doesn’t need to cost the earth. The second star awarded to The Hand & Flowers pub in Marlow may have raised a few eyebrows but it’s obviously a strong testament to Tom and Beth Kerridge’s successful approach to pub grub. And perhaps more importantly, you can now have a two-course set lunch at a double Michelin star winner for only £12.50!

If you fancy some more fine dining recommendations, check out our GoLocal guide to some of the UK’s best kept dining secrets.

Bottoms up to English Wine Week 2011

We’re partnering with English Wine Producers to celebrate English Wine Week (May 28th-5th June) and the nation’s growing passion for locally produced English wine.

English Wine Week will showcase the best places to stay and the finest local vineyards, wine merchants and farm shops across the country. During the week, vineyards across the nation will be opening their doors to visitors, offering tours, tastings, special offers and other special events.

There are over 200 vineyards in England to choose from and we feature a stunning property in close proximity to virtually every one. So there’s no better time to book a relaxing break and see what English wine has to offer.

To get you in the mood, why not have a look at our recent feature on the top 5 UK vineyards.

For information on special events and participating outlets during English Wine Week – visit www.englishwineproducers.com

Hello Mum

GMTV viewers following James Tanner’s Taste of Summer segments recently may well have been marvelling at the incredible backdrops as much as the mouth-watering recipes.

Several of the segments were filmed in on of our stunning listed properties, Château Fief Gallet in Saintes, Charente-Maritime.

The property is (unsurprisingly) a chateau, dating back to 1491 and set in 45 hectares of beautiful grounds. The interior of Château Fief Gallet is equally impressive, offering stunning regal splendour and glorious surrounds.

Anyway, you can view the property on some of the clips below, that is, if you can manage to stop staring at the delicious food.

http://www.gm.tv/lifestyle/cooking-and-recipes/taste-of-summer-2010/50701-burger-tomato-basil-salsa.html

http://www.gm.tv/lifestyle/cooking-and-recipes/taste-of-summer-2010/50704-couscous-brie-salad-summer.html

http://www.gm.tv/lifestyle/cooking-and-recipes/taste-of-summer-2010/50708-orange-soy-chicken-skewers.html

http://www.gm.tv/lifestyle/cooking-and-recipes/taste-of-summer-2010/50733-spiced-beef-griddled-wraps.html

You can see more on the GMTV website.

If you’d like more info, or to make a booking, you can find more info on Château Fief Gallet’s listing on the cottages4you website.

Posted by Ben Webster, cottages4you

Escape to … the Ochre Cliffs of Roussillon

One of the joys of travelling is being taken by surprise. In my case, it was the ochre cliffs of Roussillon that bowled me over. We packed a lot in on our trip around the Luberon in Provence, going to gardens, nature reserves, organic vineyards, and one of our stops was to be the Conservatory of Natural Ochre and Pigments. It’s not that I was sceptical, but I wasn’t expecting much. Yet I found this particular part of our trip to be one of the most memorable.

Ochre is a natural pigment found in the Luberon region of Provence – this is where the orangey-pink wash on Provençal houses comes from. Although today most of these pigments are chemically made, up until the 1960s it was extracted from quarries, leaving behind great canyons of reds, oranges and yellows. And while that explanation might not be the most inspiring, the canyons definitely are.

The vibrancy of the ochres are set against the deep blue of the sky and the bright green of the vegetation, making them almost too difficult to look at – the colours really do dazzle the eyes. There are trails all through the quarries and the sun and the shadows animate the landscape as you walk along, making it seem as if the ground is undulating. Although this is a popular tourist attraction, there are places where you can stand quietly and feel just how small you are …

To see more pictures of the Ochre Cliffs, go to cottages4you Facebook page.

Kathi Hall is the editor of Escape magazine for cottages4you. She loves travelling and being surprised by what she finds, she’s a fluent French speaker in her head but strangely mute when confronted with an opportunity to speak it out loud and she firmly believes in trying all local specialities – except for snails.

Escape to…the curious garden

Driving up to Le Potager d’un curieux, the first thing you see is a giant pile of stones crowned by an old television set – the first indication that perhaps this garden is a bit more than a few tomato plants and a rose bush or two. Once you meet the owner, Jean-Luc Danneyrolles, the television set starts to make a bit more sense – there is no doubt that you are in the company of a man who marches to the beat of his own drummer.

Le Potager d’un curieux, in the Provençal countryside near Apt, is an extraordinary place – intriguing, disconcerting, inspiring – reflecting the personality of its owner. Jean-Luc has a freedom, even wildness, in his spirit that comes out through his garden and they are in perfect sync.

Potager means kitchen or vegetable garden and Jean-Luc has, over the past 20-some years, created a place where ancient or forgotten plant varieties are resurrected, nurtured and encouraged to flourish in soil that hasn’t seen a drop of chemical pesticides or fertilisers. When asked what he uses to ward off disease in his crops, his look is almost blank, as if he doesn’t understand the question. ‘Rien,’ he shrugs. ‘Nothing’. He believes that trying to prevent or cure his plants’ diseases weakens them and makes them fragile so they have to fight the disease themselves, just like in the wild – a French gardener’s equivalent of tough love. The fact that his seemingly endless acres of crops are flourishing makes me think he’s on to something.

When we visited him, one of his students was stirring a bubbling pot of the latest crop of strawberries on an old stove in his workshop (he was making jam). All around the place are great chandeliers of dried plants, surreal mobiles made of hollowed-out gourds and cages filled with long fingers of desiccated beanpods. The doors are collaged with newspaper photographs and headlines with writing scribbled and painted over them.

Throughout the grounds, strange sculptures are half hidden as the vegetation embrace them, giving them an almost subliminal quality. It’s only once you’ve walked past them that they creep into your peripheral vision. Handwritten plant plaques to identify the beds are solid wooden squares painted in cobalt blues, fire-engine reds, lemon yellows, splashing primary colours throughout the spring planting and gently weathering to more subtle shades as the plants grow and paint the garden from their own palette.

Jean-Luc is a great gardener philosopher – he has written a number of books on creating potagers and growing individual vegetables, such as tomatoes – his garden has about 50 different varieties of tomatoes, most of them forgotten by industrial agriculture but sought after by Michelin star chefs – but he says that he doesn’t have time to publish these days as he is writing his book on the land. The furrows between the rows are the pages of his book, the plants are his words, the beds his ideas. If you’re in the area this summer, visit this beautiful tome …

Le Potager d’un curieux, La Moliere, 84400 Saignon. Tel: 33 (0)4.90.74.44.68; lepotager@wanadoo.fr. Visitors are welcome during the summer months. Plants and seeds are also for sale.

To see some pictures of our visit to Le Potager d’un curieux, go to the cottages4you Facebook page.

Kathi Hall is the editor of Escape magazine for cottages4you. She loves travelling and being surprised by what she finds, she’s a fluent French speaker in her head but strangely mute when confronted with an opportunity to speak it out loud and she firmly believes in trying all local specialities – except for snails.

Escape to Provence: The Food

During our four-day trip around some of the villages of rural Provence, we made sure to eat at a variety of Bistrots de Pays. Often the only business left in a small village, the bistrot helps keep the village alive by offering food, drinks, and newspapers as well as serve as a meeting place to catch up on the village news.
There are 53 Bistrots de Pays in Provence and, like the meals they offer, they all have their special flavour. We didn’t get around to all 53 – but the three we did get to served up some memorable food.

Café des Poulivets in Oppède-les-Poulivets. Stopping in on a Friday afternoon, the outdoor terrace was filled with locals tucking into the café’s speciality: Aïoli Provençal. Aïoli is a sauce with the consistency of mayonnaise, made with garlic and olive oil, and is the star of the dish, not the condiment – everything else on your plate is there to dip into the aïoli. Served with a plate of boiled potatoes and carrots, perfectly poached cod, and a ladleful of escargots, we tucked in (well, okay, I’ll be honest, I didn’t have the stomach for escargots but I have it on good authority that they were delicious…), all washed down with a carafe of the local rosé wine. A simple, light and satisfying lunch for about €16.

Bistrot de Pierrerue in Pierrerue. Organic is the watchword for this bistrot and the décor is light and airy, with a wall full of old-fashioned postcards – just the right side of kitsch – varnished onto plaques of wood. The food was rich and flavourful and comes from a set menu – whatever’s available in the market is what goes on the plate. Our dinner consisted of tomato and goat’s cheese tartlet, duckling breast with cherries, finished with a slice of lemon-lime tart (the olive oil and spelt cake had been polished off by the family at the next table). Dinner is approx €24, excluding wine.

Chez Jules, Puimichel. Our last dinner at Provence was spent at Chez Jules in the tiny village of Puimichel. We were lucky enough to bag a table outside, as the evening was warm and balmy. The trees were strewn with coloured fairy lights and the church next to the bistrot would chime out the hour – this is what a French holiday is all about. It’s easy to gorge yourself in this place – I started with pâté with a broad bean salad before tackling the main dish of lamb shank flavoured with rosemary. Then out came the cheese platter – four different kinds of goat’s cheese and ample slices of blue cheese, served with a basket of fresh bread. Could I eat any more? Yes. I’d been sitting there for two hours, that takes a lot of energy – so to fortify myself, I had the rhubarb mousse. All this for about €30. Considering I was so full, I didn’t need to eat for a few days afterwards, pretty good value.

For more information on Bistrots de Pays, go to www.bistrotdepays.com.

Kathi Hall is the editor of Escape magazine for cottages4you. She loves travelling and being surprised by what she finds, she’s a fluent French speaker in her head but strangely mute when confronted with an opportunity to speak it out loud and she firmly believes in trying all local specialities – except for snails.

Share your holiday highlights!

realBritainBlogHead

We all love holidays, the excitement and the opportunity to explore somewhere new or rediscover a favourite place in the UK. And the beauty of a cottage holiday is that it gives you the complete freedom to seek out and sample the very best local cuisine and attractions.

We want to hear about your finds and that’s why we’re launching our search for the nation’s favourite hidden holiday gems. We want to know about that perfect independent supplier or local attraction that made your holiday truly memorable.

It could be a local bakery that made the best Cornish pasties, or the village corner cafe that served the tastiest morning bacon sandwiches. Or what about that great local brew you tried in the fantastic pub with beer garden. It doesn’t have to be food and drink that made your holiday memorable, it could be somewhere you visited or something you saw that was the highlight of your holiday, for example that stunning view or working farm the kids loved.

Martin Dunford, publisher of the Rough Guide to Britain and co-founder of Rough Guides said:

Britain has so much to offer, with a wealth of undiscovered places and hidden gems. This is a great opportunity for the British public to get involved by exploring their own back yard and championing the best that the country has to offer.

Whatever it is we want to hear about it and share with others. To recommend your holiday gems please click here and complete the short form. We’ll be collecting all your nominations throughout summer and publish the findings in September, so keep those memories alive and get voting!

For further information on Rough Guides, travel guides, gift-books, maps, phrasebooks, bespoke custom publishing guides and digital products, visit www.roughguides.com. Rough Guide is also offering all cottages4you visitors 20% off the latest Rough Guide to Britain. To redeem your discount, simply enter the code ‘rough’ in the coupon code box when you go to buy the product online.

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Cork Delight

by Alex Levine for Escape Magazine

We head to Cork to find out how the best things in life are food!

“Cork offers couples and families the very best in life panoramic landscapes, crystal blue waters, endless beaches, dramatic cliffs and some of the finest dining in the world.
Here we give you all the insider knowledge you need to pick a gem of a restaurant in Cork, and best of all, some are within walking distance of your cottage!

Please visit our site to browse our wide range of holiday cottages in Cork and a huge selection of holiday cottages in Ireland.

A resurgence in Irish cuisine has meant there are some surprising and delicious creations now being served up across the country. Nowhere is this change more apparent than in Cork in the south west corner of Ireland, where a plethora of restaurants serving adventurous cuisine now spoils visitors and locals alike.

The artisan influence of European cuisine, fused with Irish innovation has been gathering pace for over a decade.
In part the gastronomic revolution has been fuelled by economic prosperity, but also by the welcome return of many of Irelands top chefs from Europe.
As the Irish dining scene evolved, so chefs who had been practicing their art abroad for many years also returned, and with them came an exciting range of new skills and ideas that helped to fuel the fire of creativity. Its not hard to see how returning chefs have been so inspired by Cork.
The lush grass nourishes all manner of flesh and fowl, seafood is richly abundant and fresh vegetables and fruit are readily available straight from the fertile land.
Deliciously fresh ingredients picked, prepared and on the plate within hours tastes fabulous, but with the ideas and the sheer skill and vision of the chefs, it becomes less a meal and more a mini revolution!

One thing is for sure, Irish dining may be changing, but the Irish love for food remains unchanged.

So all the following restaurants offer a winning combination of delicious tastes, generous portions and great value for money. Bon appetit. Continue reading

Peri-Peri in Portugal

Staying in a Portuguese Villa? Here’s a local BBQ Favourite…

Peri-peri chicken is probably the most famous of Portugal’s culinary exports. This spicy local dish hales from the country’s North African connection, and features an abundance of fresh hot chiles. But it’s also surprisingly easy to make – the perfect barbecue recipe to try your hand at.

You’ll find all the key ingredients at one of Portugal’s many local markets. And we’ve even translated the words you’ll need!

Peri-peri is essentially a marinade, and perfect for either chicken or prawns. You can experiment with any combination of the following ingredients to suit your own taste buds…

Mix together:

  • Olive Oil (azeite de oliva)
  • Lemon or Lime Juice (sumo de limão ou lima)
  • Fresh hot chilli peppers (Pimentas malaguetas frescas), minced
  • Garlic (Alho), minced
  • Ground Coriander, cinnamon, and ginger (esmagados coentro, canela e gengibre)
  • Fresh Parsley or oregano (Salsa fresca ou oregano), chopped
  • Salt

(You can also try adding your own favourites such as bay, marjoram, raisins, thyme and tomato paste, or substitute the lemon juice for wine or balsamic vinegar.)

Once you’ve made your marinade, smother over either chicken or prawns (Frango ou camarão), and leave for at least one hour (ideally overnight).

Barbecue or grill until golden brown, then serve this deliciously tangy dish with plenty of sour cream, salad, and either rice or jacket potatoes. It couldn’t be simpler, or more authentic!

Bom apetite!

A taste of… Croatia; Atlantic Salmon on the Croatian Coast

Fish for Sale Renting a holiday villa in Croatia? Here’s an authentic (and easy) local recipe to try in your cottage kitchen…

Croatia’s lively and colourful markets are intoxicating, and surprisingly welcoming places for foreign visitors. Get up early and you’ll find the freshest Mediterranean fish to choose from. Opt for locally caught Adriatic salmon (4 x 6 oz fillets), then head to the fruit and vegetable stall for fresh asparagus, lemon and rosemary. Make sure you have balsamic vinegar, olive oil, butter and at least a cup of port.

Here goes….

  • On a sheet of grease-proof paper, mix 3 tablespoons of flour with salt and pepper, lightly dip the salmon fillets into the flour, and then set aside.
  • Melt three tablespoons of olive oil and one of butter in a hot frying pan; add the fillets and sauté, turning once, for about 3-4 minutes per side. When they are firm to touch but flake easily, remove from the pan and cover to keep warm.
  • Reduce the heat to medium then add the remaining butter, the grated peel of one lemon, one cup of port and a sprig of rosemary to the pan, whisk and bring to the boil. Then add a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and continue to whisk until all the ingredients are combined.
  • Pour this delicious rosemary and port sauce over the salmon and garnish with fresh sprigs of rosemary. Serve with potato salad and local asparagus, for a really seasonal Croatian summer treat.

Checkout our holiday villas and appartments in Croatia to find the ideal kitchen to prepare this recipe.

Know of any good and easy recipes to cook while on a self-catering holiday? Know any local specialities that are tasty and easy to make? Please let us and the visitors of this blog know by sending us a comment…