SORAI SAUCES // NEW PRODUCT

Thank you to Words You Can Use Ltd for the following content

A TASTE OF BORNEO FOR ALL THE FAMILY
LAUNCHES AT ST FAGANS FOOD FESTIVAL

The boom in home cooking caused by the COVID-19 lockdown inspired an entrepreneur to launch a range of sauces which she hopes will get the whole family cooking together.

Abergavenny-based Sorai is launching its new range of cooking sauces, Aroma, at the first virtual St Fagans Food Festival on September 12 (Saturday).

Founder Maria Stella (pictured above) drew on her life growing up in Borneo to create the sauces. She said: “One of the big things about living as we did in Borneo is cooking and eating together. It’s such an event, a time when families get together and can share cooking skills and stories and laugh together. I noticed during lockdown that families were coming back together to cook here too, so I wanted to give them sauces which will keep that trend going after the pandemic ends.”

“Cooking from scratch is also healthier for us as we know exactly what’s going into a dish. I had been thinking about making cooking sauces for a while and decided this was the time to do it. These sauces are designed to be an integral part of a dish from the start, rather than being something
added to it at the end.”

“The new sauces aren’t as intensely spiced as our other sauces because we want people to add items such as chilli, salt, or pepper to make their dishes to their family’s taste.”

The plant-based cooking pastes can be used in a marinades, stews, casseroles, soups, and stir frying. They join nine other sauces sold under the Sorai banner.

The new cooking sauces are:
– Rendangerous – Addictively enticing with warming aromatic spices.
– Tribal – Wholesome herbs, no-nonsense humble warm tribal flavours.
– LaksaRomin – Rich, aromatic, and infused with 25 ingredients to ignite your taste buds.

Maria said: “I had worked in the public and voluntary sector in England for decades, but when I moved to Wales, I was looking for something different to do so I could continue to spend quality time with my children. So, I created my business with products derived from many years of recipe development having served them to family and friends and at community and corporate events.”

You can attend the first virtual St Fagans Food Festival on the event’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/events/278328393509516 

To make an order, just go to https://www.sorai.co.uk/products and take advantage of the promotional code 10OFF for a 10% discount on any sauces.

Find out more information about the festival here: https://museum.wales/whatson/food-festival-2020/

For more information about Sorai sauces, go to: 
https://www.sorai.co.uk/products

THE CRICKETERS (WESTCLIFF) // RESTAURANT REVIEW

Our favourite day of the week at EF is definitely Sunday, as it is the day of good food & indulgence, so when The Cricketers invited us down to try their 3 course Sunday lunch, we were more than happy to oblige.

Now their Sunday lunch menu offers 3 courses at a shockingly low price of just £9.25 per person – seems too good to be true, doesn’t it? And at first, we did sort of wonder just what would be on offer, so naturally we had a peek of the menu to see what we would be getting ourselves in for, and we were pleased to see that there were things we were both happy with.

So, on a bit of a soggy Sunday afternoon we visited the pub – very easy to find, took only around 30/40 minutes from Chelmsford & was hard to miss upon arriving into Westcliff. There was residential parking close by too, so this really is ideal if you’d like to do a Sunday lunch on a budget.

When we entered the pub itself, it was very Covid-friendly – sanitiser readily available & tables really well spaced-out. The first thing we noticed too once we were sat was the fabulous gin menu. The menu was very handy & told you which gins paired with which tonics – perfect! We quickly got our drinks orders in, & both opted for a gin (would’ve been rude not to!) We were served by Giovanna, the bar manager who was ever so friendly & attentive.

Whilst waiting for our drinks, we had a quick glance of the menu. We had already decided what we would go for thanks to our prior nose, however the menu in the pub itself was slightly different & actually offered a couple more things, so there were some slight changes in our decisions.

Our drinks arrived, & Giovanna also explained to us what was in our drinks (dehydrated fruit) & the purpose behind it – definitely a nice little touch getting to understand just why these bits of fruit make it to your drink! At this point, we also placed our food orders, so for starters we went for the pub classic – prawn cocktail, & the lamb & halloumi skewer, & for mains we opted for the roast beef, & the steak & ale pie.

Our food arrived very quickly, I would say we waited no longer than ten minutes for our starters, which was fantastic, there’s nothing worse than being hungry & having to wait ages for your food. The portions were practical – they were small but the mains certainly made up for this. The prawn cocktail was nice & light. A substantial amount of prawns were served on a bed of salad along with four quarters of a slice of wholemeal bread. The prawn cocktail was thoroughly enjoyed & was really tasty. The lamb & halloumi skewer was enjoyable – personally I am not a huge lamb fan, as I find it is very hit & miss but I thought I would give it a go anyway. The lamb was nice, but I did find it a little fatty, however the halloumi definitely made up for this – the halloumi was perfectly cooked & had the right amount of ‘squidge’ to it – I would’ve been happy with just a skewer of halloumi, it was that good! The skewer was also served with a small salad that was coated in tzatziki – this was lovely & fresh, & worked really well with the meat & the cheese. What I also really liked about this being on the menu, was that it was something different from your typical pub food. We were both really pleased with what we received, & were really looking forward to what would come next.

Just like our starters, our mains arrived efficiently – this time, pretty much as soon as our plates had been cleared, the second lot of dishes made their appearance. Both main courses were served as ‘roasts’ so both had all the trimmings of veg including peas carrots & cauliflower cheese, roast & new potatoes, yorkshire pudding, plus gravy & dishes of mustard & horseradish. Our choices were the roast beef & the steak & ale pie. The pair of us were both really looking forward to seeing what the beef would be like – I’ve said before, beef can always go one of two ways, it will either be spot on or it can be really fatty/chewy. We were so pleased to try it & to discover that it was beautifully done! The beef was lovely & had a perfect pink centre. It was really well presented too on the plate & was very generous in sizing. Now, the half of the party that enjoyed the beef roast isn’t a fan of vegetables, but has now been converted due to the cauliflower cheese that was dished up with the roast, so something was done very right here (thank you Cricketers!) Absolutely nothing on this plate was left behind, which says it all really. And at £9.25 – we would’ve happily paid this just for this plate itself, never mind the starter & dessert! We would definitely recommend visiting based on this dish alone.
The second main was the steak & ale pie roast which was huge! The pie was filled with so much meat, & was served with all of the trimmings exactly the same as the roast beef. Unfortunately this time round, the plate wasn’t cleared, only because I was way too full! All of what was eaten was so enjoyable – in particular, the roast potatoes & the cauliflower cheese. The steak was also really good quality, it was lovely & tender.

Next up were our desserts. So there are only 3 things to choose from, so you are quite limited, however at such a low price, you can’t really complain. We shared both of our desserts, as we both wanted to try a bit of each, so our choices here were the cheese board (which has a £1.50 supplement) & the baked jam roll. Again, at such a low price, we didn’t expect a lot, however the jam roll changed everything. What a dessert! Served with cream, this piping hot dessert really blew us over – we were stunned at just how tasty it was! The cheese board didn’t really hold much hope once we’d tried the jam roll, but we still devoured it nonetheless! We enjoyed both desserts, but if we were to tell you to pick 1… it would always be the jam roll!



Thank you so much to The Cricketers for inviting us down – we were totally surprised with just how good the food was, & thank you to Giovanna for such fab hospitality. The pub also offers some themed nights (steak, Italian) which we would definitely consider to try also. We think this place is a gem & look forward to visiting again!

https://www.thecricketersbarandfood.co.uk/

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JACK LINKS BEEF BAR // NEW PRODUCT

We were recently lucky enough to get our hands on the fantastic protein filled, Jack Link’s Beef Bars. We only tried the Original flavour, but there is also in fact a Sweet & Hot flavour to choose from too.These little bars are ideal if you’re a bit of a snacker or a grazer, as they come in at only 65kcals per bar, with less than 6% sugar, & will keep you filled throughout the afternoon. The bars are also gluten free & are made from 100% beef. You can pick these up at your local Asda, (we found them very easily, at one of the ends of a refrigerated aisle!)

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EAT OUT TO HELP OUT // FISH ON THE QUAY (MALDON) MENUS

BRICK LANE BAGEL CO. // RESTAURANT REVIEW

So here it is… our first ‘lockdown’ outing post! The team at Brick Lane Bagel Co. got in contact with us during lockdown to invite us down to their Theydon Bois branch, which remained opened during lockdown as part of essential services. We were offered a lunch for two, which we thoroughly enjoyed! Our lunches of choice were…
– salt beef bagel with mustard & gherkins
– chicken escalope bagel with melted cheese, lettuce & mayo
plus a couple of drinks (coke & a latte), followed by a delicious, fresh jam doughnut (which we shared between the pair of us as we were full from the bagels!)

The bagels were hearty & delicious! The bread itself was so fresh & so soft, it really contributed to the yumminess of the bagels. The salt beef was ever so tender & truly did melt in the mouth, plus the sheer amount of it was very generous too. The salt beef bagel was absolutely brimming with flavour, thanks to the mustard & gherkins complimenting the beautiful salt beef. The chicken escalope bagel was sensational! A nice big chunk of chicken, served with lashings of lettuce & mayo, plus an oozing cheese centre – it was incredible. Almost like the taste of a chicken burger but much, much better. We opted to have our bagels halved so that between the pair of us, we could each try both different filling, and despite both flavours being exceptional, we agreed that the chicken escalope was our favourite of the two, moreso because it isn’t something either of us would normally go for, but were recommended to try. Following on from our delicious bagels, the pair of us shared a yummy jam doughnut, which just like the bagels, tasted ever so fresh. What also impressed us with the doughnut was the size – forget the typical supermarket sized doughnuts you’d find in a bag, this was double, & of course way better!

What we also picked up on during our time at Brick Lane Bagel Co. was just how busy it was, the business proves to be doing exceptionally well & is clearly a roaring success. During our visit there were always customers present, filling all of the outside seating, despite the lockdown circumstances – this was fantastic to see!

We would also like to point out that this was the friendliest service we have experienced so far – prior to our visit, during & after. Everyone involved could not do enough for us from the staff in the shop itself, to the marketing behind their Instagram page. This is definitely what fantastic customer service is, and it honestly does make all the difference.

Thank you very much to Brick Lane Bagel Co. for inviting us down, we look forward to visiting again.

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EAT OUT TO HELP OUT // GOVERNMENT SCHEME

August is fast approaching which means we are closer to being able to make use of the Eat Out To Help Out scheme – a great way for us as customers to try out lots of new places, & also a way for the hospitality sector to start making a recovery. In order to support the scheme, I’m going to be posting menus from various restaurants that will be taking part in the scheme. Menus will primarily be posted to Instagram @essexfoodies, & will also feature on a highlight specifically for Eat Out To Help Out on my Instagram page.
If you’d like to get a menu featured, send over a PDF copy to essexfoodies@gmail.com & I will be more than happy to get this up!

ESSEX CONFECTIONARY // SWEET DELIVERY SERVICE

If you have a sweet tooth, then this is the home delivery for you! A little while back I was very kindly delivered a selection of goodies from the team at Essex Confectionary. I have to say, delivery was extremely quick & I did not expect the sweets to arrive as fast as they did (no complaints here!)
I was given a pick n mix pouch which was absolutely stuffed with colourful sweets. There were a variety of jellies, both new & old school as well as a classic Refresher in there too. These pouches start at £5 for 500g, which to be quite honest, is really reasonably priced in comparison to what you’d pay in a shop or at a market. I was also given a Malteser box which was packed with, you guessed it, Malteser treats! These are charged at £7, making them ideal for a present. I would say that all of the goodies from Essex Confectionary are ideal for a loved one as a surprise, a birthday gift or even just a treat for yourself. They even offer Big Night In bundles which are perfect for movie nights (a great idea if you’ve got kids to entertain, & certainly a lot cheaper than a cinema trip!)

All sorts of treats are available, whether you are a jelly fan or more of a chocolate fan. I loved everything that I received, & I would certainly make an order for myself.

Thank you to Essex Confectionary!

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BAILEYS RASPBERRY RIPPLE COOLER // COCKTAIL RECIPE

Thank you to Taste PR for the following content.

Created by drinks columnist Abbie Moulton, the Baileys Rapsberry Ripple Cooler is an indulgent and treat-worthy cocktail that’s perfectly light and scrumptious for a summer afternoon. This cocktail hits the trend of being perfect for al fresco evenings with its grown-up fruity flavours. It’s the perfect adult treat for picnics and small garden get-togethers! 

Ingredients
[0.9 units per serve – recipe serves 2]
100ml Baileys Original Irish Cream [1.8 units]
80ml coconut milk 
1 x 500ml tub vanilla ice cream 
1 x small bottle raspberry puree, or a tin of raspberries in syrup
Handful of fresh raspberries
Serve in a stemless wine glass / water tumbler

Method
– Blend 100ml Baileys Original Irish Cream with 80ml coconut milk and a handful of ice. You should get a light, foamy mixture
– Add 1 generous spoonful of raspberry puree to the bottom of each glass
– Top with two or three scoops of ice cream
– Drizzle another generous helping of raspberry syrup
– Pour over the Baileys Original Irish Cream & coconut milk mix, so it comes to just below the top of the ice cream 
– Drizzle over the raspberry syrup 
– Top with fresh raspberries and enjoy!

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MISS TEASMITH – PRODUCT REVIEW

So recently here at Essex Foodies I have had the absolute pleasure of sampling a selection of fine loose leaf teas courtesy of Miss Teasmith. I received samples of 5 different flavours/styles of teas, all very different from one another. The different teas were made up of – 

Ceylon Chai – comprising of Sri Lankan black tea & the spices of this tropical island.

Dark Romance – comprising of Sri Lankan black tea, cocoa shells & nibs, liquorice & mint, described as ‘pudding in a tea cup!’

Rooibos & Passion – comprising of rooibos, passionfruit, rose petals & rhubarb pieces (no caffeine).

Empa-Tea – a ginger & lemongrass herbal infusion.

Earl on the Moor – an orange black tea blend, made with blood orange & lavender.

Each of the teas were exceptionally different from one another, as to be expected, and each offered their very own take on a cup of tea. To start with, the Ceylon Chai was very bold, & very strong. Personally, I love a strong cup of tea (only a splash of milk, no sugar for me), so this is certainly something I would go for every day, alongside Earl on the Moor. EOTM has been my favourite out of the teas as it offers a slight twist on a classic, yet remains mellow & smooth. As I say, I would happily drink these every day! Next up we have got Empa-Tea. I found this tea a little too strong for my liking, I’m not a huge fan of really creative teas so I found this a little bit too overpowering for myself, not because the tea itself was too strong, but more because I find ginger can sometimes be a bit too much, however I would recommend this if you like your teas slightly more different tasting & you like a stronger, more different flavoured bold tea (think along the lines of peppermint for example). Onto Dark Romance, this was the tea I was most excited to try as it offers a completely different take on a cup of tea, described by Miss Teasmith herself as ‘pudding in a teacup’ – essentially dessert with less calories, perfect! I really liked the idea of this tea being dessert like, & it really did get me wondering just what it would taste like, so when the time came, I was not disappointed! The tea is lovely & strong yet sweet & dessert like – something very unusual but a welcomed twist. Lastly we have Rooibos & Passion, another tea I was very much looking forward to trying. I love all things passionfruit, so this was one I was certainly intrigued by. The tea itself was almost peachy, very smooth & full of fruity character. Almost tasting just like summer (think of those iced teas you would purchase in a supermarket on holiday!) It’s a strange way to describe a drink but I would say it was very feminine – perfect for a girls afternoon for example, so forget cocktails, & pour yourself a tea, hot or perhaps wait for it to cool, serve chilled & over lots of ice on a lovely sunny day. 

Thank you so much to Miss Teasmith for getting these lovely teas over to Essex Foodies, with lockdown still ongoing my plan is to enjoy them with friends, as restrictions ease, with some lovely socially-distanced afternoon teas. To get your hands on these goodies, simply visit www.missteasmith.com & sign up for 20% off of your first order, as well as free delivery over orders of £25.

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THE MOUNT (CHINGFORD) // CHRISTMAS MENU

Tonight we are visiting The Mount in Chingford to try out their new festive menu (below). We cannot wait to share our thoughts!

THE GEORGE & DRAGON (EPPING) // FESTIVE MENU

Tonight we are visiting The George & Dragon in Epping to try out their new festive menu (below). We cannot wait to share our thoughts!

THE MOUNT (CHINGFORD) // CHRISTMAS MENU

If you’re looking for a meal a little less formal & definitely on a lower budget then this is your answer! The Mount, situated on Chingford Mount is ideal for a quick catch-up & bite to eat over the festive period. This is somewhere we have eaten before & can recommend!

DUSK (BRENTWOOD) // WHAT’S ON

LINDA MCCARTNEYS // PRODUCT REVIEW

Following one of our recent posts on National Hotdog Day, we were very kindly gifted with some vouchers to use towards Linda McCartney’s vegetarian range. As someone that eats meat daily, I was a little sceptical of what the products would be like but I’m quite open minded & willing to try out new foods, so this was the perfect opportunity to do so. I did a little research to try & find the cheapest place to get my hands on the products, as the vouchers offered £2 off per product, & ideally I didn’t want to have to add any money on. Upon investigation, I found that Tesco were actually stocking the range with prices starting from £2 – spot on! So I got myself down to Tesco & stocked up on a variety including the following;
– vegetarian red pepper & chorizo sausages
– vegetarian red onion & rosemary sausages
– vegetarian mozzarella 1/4lb burgers
– vegetarian pulled pork 1/4lb burgers
I’m yet to try each product, I’ve only got round to trying the red pepper & chorizo sausages as of yet & I have to say, I’ve been really pleasantly surprised. The sausages are packed full of flavour & (sounds quite strange) have a nice texture to them – meat sausages can sometimes be a bit gritty, these are not at all, I can see why people go for them! I’m excited to try the rest of the products out, I won’t be going veggie any time soon but I could certainly incorporate veggie substitutes into my diet!

Thank you to Taste PR for gifting us with the vouchers.

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BELLA CAFE & LOUNGE // BRUNCH REVIEW

Last weekend we visited the lovely Bella Cafe & Lounge (formerly known as Bella Gelato) in Rayleigh. The restaurant is conveniently located just off of the high street, with parking very close by.

At first glance we could see that the cafe/restaurant was exceptionally busy, which indicated something was definitely right here! We arrived & were very quickly shown to our table.

We soon placed our orders, & our breakfasts of choice were the Lebanese breakfast & the traditional breakfast, & our drinks of choice were the chocolate milkshake & coco loco smoothie. Our drinks naturally were first to arrive & they looked amazing! The chocolate milkshake was thick & delicious (& polished off in minutes) whilst the smoothie was exotic & bursting with sweet flavour. Both drinks were very generous on size, & the glass that the smoothie was presented in was in the shape of a pineapple – a really cool touch. Our breakfasts arrived fairly quickly as well considering how busy the restaurant was which was great & definitely shows that the team here work fantastically together & under pressure, so hats off to each & every member of the team! Both breakfasts were huge & looked beautiful on their plates. The Lebanese breakfast was delicious – somewhat similar to a traditional breakfast but with a few pleasant twists, including spicy sausages, poached eggs sprinkled with a little spice, flatbread & outstanding grilled peppers & halloumi. Everything about this dish was incredible! The halloumi especially was cooked perfectly – I would go as far to say that this was probably the best halloumi I have ever had. I would hands down take this breakfast over a traditional fry up any day of the week! The other breakfast was a traditional breakfast, & was unquestionably delicious! Again, everything was cooked perfectly, especially the wonderfully photogenic & instagrammable poached eggs & I’m told the sausages were something else! We followed our breakfasts with a couple of coffees & a brunch ‘dessert’. Our coffees of choice were cappuccino & latte, & our desserts of choice was the strawberry pancakes. After such a filling breakfast, we opted to share a dessert as we knew we wouldn’t be able to get through one each – we definitely made the right choice in doing so because the pancakes were again very, very filling. Both coffees were lovely & smooth, & worked perfectly with the pancakes. The pancakes were outstanding – drizzled with white chocolate & served with fresh cut strawberries, everything about these pancakes was perfect. Absolutely faultless.

I would most definitely return to Bella, the service we received was fantastic, & the food was incredible – not only to eat but also get photos of, as it was so well presented! I’m certainly going to be visiting again, I’m intrigued as to see what the rest of the menu offers throughout the day. Thank you so much to the team here for inviting, warmly welcoming us, & looking after us!

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KULA CAFE // BRUNCH REVIEW

A couple of weeks back we were lucky enough to be treated to a lovely brunch at Kula Cafe – a cute little cafe located right in the heart of London’s bustling shopping district, Bond Street. The cafe itself is situated on James Street, along with many other cafes, bars & restaurants, the perfect spot if you’re looking for lunch whilst shopping.

We were given menus on arrival, & as the day was beautiful we decided to take a seat outside. Seats outside are quite limited, so you’ve got to be ready to pounce as soon as one becomes free. At first, the cafe didn’t appear to be too busy (I think we’d probably missed the breakfast-time rush) but soon began to fill up both outdoors and in – although we were advised that the cafe does get so much busier – I can only imagine how hectic this must be!

Shortly after arriving we placed our order – and on our menus were;
Drinks
– salted caramel & toffee frappe
– Hollywood diet juice
Brunch
– egg florentine halloumi
– halloumi omelette
(we love halloumi here at Essex Foodies!)

Both drinks were delicious! The frappe was creamy & sweet, whilst the juice was fruity & refreshing. Both drinks were of a medium size which was perfect, too much frappe can be too sickly & too much fruit juice can be acidic, but the sizes here were fine & lasted us throughout our visit.

Both of our brunches were also delicious, we were blown away by the sizes of the portions & their generosity on ‘extras’ on the plate. The omelette was served with with a salad garnish as well as a slice of toast, definitely more than enough to set you up for a day of shopping! The omelette itself was completely full to the brim with cheese (no complaints here whatsoever!), & layered with perfectly cooked halloumi – my friend enjoyed this dish & she completely rated it. I went for the eggs florentine halloumi, which was a dish made up of poached eggs, hash brown, Hollandaise sauce, avocado, sauteed mushrooms, halloumi & salad all served on a bed of toast. I was honestly not expecting the dish to be as huge as it was, but I soon managed to work my way through it! Everything about the food was perfect, it looked lovely, was full of flavour & was very filling & kept us going throughout the day without the need to snack on anything – ideal if you are up in London for the day really. I would also say that this give you great value for money, some places would charge extra for the sides of toast & salad but Kula include these, certainly worth noting.

Once we’d finished our ‘mains’ if you like, we were then surprised with a massive Eton Mess waffle! This dessert was humungous but again, we soon found our way through this between the pair of us – my advice here would be that if you do visit, be aware that these desserts are really, really big & would easily be enough for 2 people.
The waffle itself was fluffy & fresh, & all the toppings were again fresh & worked beautifully alongside the waffle. The waffle was stacked with whipped cream, ice cream, meringue & fruits including strawberries, raspberries & blueberries as well as a fruity sauce. It was nice to have refreshing toppings to it rather than it be overloaded with rich chocolate for example (especially with the weather).

The pair of us were astounded by the quality of the food at Kula, everything that we had was superb. Not only was the food very photogenic, but it was tasty – there are no other words for it in all honesty! We would most definitely visit here again, & would recommend trying out Kula if you are ever close by!

A massive thank you to all at Kula for welcoming & looking after us!

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SHAKEN UDDER MILKSHAKES // PRODUCT REVIEW

We have been recently been lucky enough to be approached by a local marketer, who very kindly managed to get us some of the Shaken Udder milkshakes sent out. Shaken Udder milkshakes are produced very locally so being able to review these was definitely something we could not turn down! I’d already seen & heard all about these milkshakes (they are very popular at my place of work & are always picked up along with a meal deal).

We received some cartons of the chocolate flavoured milk, which I would describe as rich, creamy & full-flavoured. The cartons I have to say do look rather small however you should not let this deceive you as one carton is more than enough – any more & it would’ve been far too rich for my liking, plus little cartons are handy for on the go (or even for lunch boxes). The cartons are also really cute & feature a little joke on the back (just like Penguin bars!)

After trying Shaken Udder for the first time, I am definitely inclined to try out more flavours & I look forward to doing so.

A huge thank you to both Nikki & Shaken Udder for getting these out to us to review.

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BANANA TREE // NEW MENU REVIEW

The marketing/Instagram team at Banana Tree recently reached out to us to inform us of their new menu & invited us down to get our opinion on it – an offer we could not refuse!

We visited a few weeks ago now, & were very impressed with what was presented to us. Banana Tree is somewhere that I have visited previously so I knew what to expect, & had an idea of what sort of thing would be on the menu. I visited with my Mum who had not previously been. So first up, we had the prawn cracker basket which is served with a sweet chilli dip. The crackers were undoubtedly a hit with us, we didn’t leave a single one, & the sweet chilli sauce was the perfect condiment to pair with them, it gave a subtle kick to the crackers but didn’t overpower them. For our starters, we had the vegetable spring rolls & Mekong prawns. Both starters were served up very efficiently & were piping hot when they reached our table – perfect. The spring rolls were fresh & crunchy, served with lettuce wraps that completely complimented the dish. The prawns were perfectly cooked – the prawns themselves melted in the mouth, & again the chilli salsa really worked well with & complimented the seafood. As a whole we thoroughly enjoyed our starters & would certainly go for these again, I would also suggest getting them as sides maybe if you like picky bits along with the main course. Looking at the menu, the starter dishes are varied & I think there is definitely something for everyone on the menu, you’ve got the bulk standard dishes such as chicken satay which you can’t go wrong with, as well as the more adventurous dishes that not everyone would probably go for. All in all, we were more than happy with our starter choices.

For mains, we each had a main dish along with a side. Between us, we had;
– Blackened chilli beef with chilli salsa
– Classic sweet & sour stir fry with crispy chicken
– Soya noodles with beansprouts
– Egg fried rice

I have to say, I was very impressed with the beef, as I’ve said before in previous posts, beef can be a tough one to crack but this was perfect, the meat was soft & not chewy in the slightest, a win all round! The noodle dish paired perfectly with the beef also. I was also a little cautious with the beef dish as it was notably a spicy dish on the menu however the beef itself was fine & wasn’t spicy at all – it was only the salsa that had a kick, so nothing to worry about if you ever order this!

The sweet & sour chicken was exceptional! It was full of flavour, loaded with lovely vegetables that gave a crunch to your bite & the chicken was tender, just as it should be. We both loved this dish & would order again & again – it’s a classic that you can’t go wrong with.

Each of the side dishes were also perfect, the noodles were tasty & filling, but also not overpowering in flavour & neither were they too salty or heavily doused in soy sauce – definitely the best thing to pair with a meat dish to bulk it up a little. The rice was also lovely, this was very, very filling but tasty & fluffy, just as rice should be!

What we liked the most about our main choices was that they could be shared, you’re not just limited to what you ordered. This also fits in with what I said about the starter dishes – you could definitely order these & enjoy them alongside your mains.

The main courses were a solid 10/10!

Last but not least were desserts. The dessert menu offers some traditional Indo-Chinese delicacies, so not necessarily things you’d always go for or even heard of, but we came across the warm chocolate Indo-fondant and each enjoyed one of these. The dessert was delicious! It was lovely & warm, rich & sticky, & was very well complimented by the coconut ice-cream served with it. This dessert was simply one of the best we’ve had in our time of reviewing. In particular, we really enjoyed the ice cream. This was creamy & full of exotic coconut flavour.

We really enjoyed our time at Banana Tree & loved the food! We would certainly recommend checking them out. Banana Tree also offer a vegan menu so there really is something for everybody to enjoy. Thank you to all of the team that looked after us on our visit, & for the marketing team for inviting us, we look forward to returning!

COOKIES & CONES // DESSERT BAR REVIEW

We have recently been lucky enough to be invited down to Cookies & Cones in Leigh-On-Sea. Cookies & Cones, as you may have guessed by the name, is a dessert bar – serving a variety of cookie doughs, waffles, sundaes & much more.

On our visit we had the pleasure of indulging on waffles & cookie dough desserts, along with some sweet & flavoursome coffees. I visited along with my Mum & our choices were –
(Myself) – White chocolate chip cookie dough served with Lotus Biscoff ice cream, biscuit crumb & sauce (I am a HUGE fan of Biscoff!) & white chocolate shavings, washed down with a caramel latte.
(Mum) Waffle served with chocolate ice cream, white chocolate sauce, sprinkled with hundreds & thousands, & washed down with a cappuccino.

Each of our desserts were perfect & just the right amount, I think sometimes desserts can be a bit too much, especially with waffles, I can only ever manage to eat about half before feeling too full & bloated, however Cookies & Cones have got this right & give you a slightly smaller waffle than average – no complaints at all!! It’s a shame to waste, so this was much more preferable to myself & Mum. The cookie dough was also the right amount, & the contrast between the warm cookie dough & the cold ice cream was very complimentary. Our drinks were also perfect – my latte was deliciously milky & wasn’t overpowered by the caramel syrup (I think sometimes the syrups can ruin coffees if too much is used!) & Mum’s cappuccino was perfectly frothy.

The pair of us thoroughly enjoyed our desserts & drinks, & were very well looked after by all member of the team, who were all so accommodating! A huge thank you to Cookies & Cones for inviting us down & for making sure everything was perfect for us.

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DUSK // INTERNATIONAL FINE DINING AWARD

Congratulations to Dusk on winning this fantastic award. We had the privilege of visiting this exceptional restaurant when it first launched & can totally see why it has come this far so soon. Thank you to Avocado Media for supplying the following press release.

PRESS RELEASE
DUSK Restaurant scoops Global Hospitality Award

DUSK Restaurant in Brentwood, Essex, has scooped a prestigious LUXlife Magazine Global Hospitality Award for fine dining, within months of opening.

Following a soft opening in June ahead of a glittering official launch at the beginning of July, the restaurant and shisha lounge as quickly established itself as one of Essex’s top destination venues, and is busy throughout the week and fully booked every weekend. Having already generated thousands of social media followers, it is apparent from customer comments that DUSK has become the place in Essex to go and be seen.

A unique venue, DUSK provides a multi -purpose hospitality destination, offering dinners a selection of world cuisines, with a choice of fine, casual and private dining experiences with live music and entertainment in the popular alfresco shisha lounge.

The award for Best Fine Dining Shisha Experience, came as a complete surprise for venue co-owner Sharif Uddin, who had not known the venue had even been nominated.

“I knew we were doing something right, because of the overwhelming positive customer feedback, the packed tables and the fact that we already have a top four restaurant of over 3,000 listings on TripAdvisor – for any cuisine – in the whole of Essex. But to win such an accolade, so quickly. came as a complete shock,” he said.

DUSK’s executive head chef Steve Gomes is no stranger to winning top awards.  He received two AA Rosettes for his former restaurant, Moksh – the first Indian restaurant in Wales to achieve this. He was named ‘Ethnic Chef of the Year’ at the Craft Guild of Chef’s Awards and represented Wales on BBC2’s Great British Menu. He won ‘Curry Chef of the Year’ at both the Welsh Curry Awards and the English Curry Awards. He has held the title of ‘Best UK Indian Chef’ with the Cobra Good Curry Guide for a large part of a decade; and was crowned the ‘Outstanding Asian and Oriental Chef of the Year’ at the House of Lords.

“This latest award is a great achievement for the entire team in delivering a unique fusion of Mediterranean and Asian cuisines, using the finest produce sourced locally,” said Gomes, adding, “It’s also a great testament to the adventurous nature of the people of Essex, who have taken to our cooking style with such enthusiasm.”

LUXLife awards coordinator Edward Faulkner commented: “DUSK has demonstrated excellence and commitment to the hospital industry.  We showcase the individuals and enterprises who offer outstanding gastronomic delicacies.  The awards acknowledge the best establishments offering sumptuous cuisine from across the globe.” 

Published quarterly, LUXlife covers all aspects of highend lifestyle, including the finest, food and drink, hotels and resorts, health and beauty, automotive, jewellery, art and technology from around the world.  It is distributed globally to an affluent readership of 280,000, attracting over 1.8 million views in the past year. www.lux-review.com

With three discrete dining areas each with its own menu, the restaurant, which caters for up to 400 customers, has been transformed with an investment of almost £1million by restauranteurs Sharif Uddin and Shakil Islam.

Sourcing the finest produce from local farmers, butchers and fish mongers, Gomes has designed a menu which requires a second reading to appreciate fully. The ‘Fish and Chips’ is in fact John Dory in a premium batter, with rose infused ketchup, grape tartar sauce chips and a peas mouse.  Another signature fish dish is Black Cod, pan-fried and served on a bed of cherry tomatoes and garlic, topped with rhubarb aioli, infused with CO2 essence, served with steamed rice.  A unique Turf and Surf, pairs lamb shank with lobster. 

There is also a DUSK Till Dawn dish, featuring a prime marble 3-5 wagyu ribeye steak, with a stilton cheese sauce, quail’s egg, roasted potatoes, sautéed pakchoi and C02 tomato gazpacho.

For vegans, there is a Tofu Shashlik with almond milk roux, served with rice and chips – and special versions of the Momo, Ratatouille, Hakka Noodles, American Chop Suey, and on Sundays, a Toad in the Hole.

No alcohol is sold on the premises, but customers may bring their own.  There is no corkage charged – representing a considerable saving for connoisseurs of fine wines and premium spirits. The bar stocks the largest range of alcohol-free drinks in the UK and serves a vast array of mocktails, still and sparkling wines, and beers.

The extensive shisha menu features Savacco, Sarbuzz and Al Fakher flavours, priced from £25. The premium Shapes Shisha costs £130, with a £15 premium for the ice upgrade.

Inside DUSK there is space for around 130 diners to sit in the main restaurant, with an occasional pianist and an open kitchen barbeque area. Outside, there is another 150 seats in the alfresco dining area in pergola with detachable roof where people can smoke flavoured shisha and eat from the street food menu.

For weddings and private functions, there is a separate banqueting room overlooking the golf course, which can cater for parties of more than hundred dinners.

Business partners Sharif Uddin and Shakil Islam, own five other Essex venues. The portfolio comprises Aladdin’s shisha lounge in Ilford, Empire shisha lounge in Romford plus and three Kushi Indian restaurants in Lakeside, Canvey Island and Gidea Park.

With parking for over 500 cars, a short distance from junction on the M25 (J28) and served by a fast train service from London’s Liverpool Street Station.

Stephen Gomes is a Welsh executive chef and TV television personality, originally from Mumbai, he is renowned for his molecular gastronomic take on Indian recipes. He is a fourth-generation chef, His father, James Gomes, worked at India’s first five-star beach hotel there, before working in, USA and UK, as an executive chef in hotels and restaurants. Stephen’s grandfather served as a chef on board a battleship during World War II.  His great grandfather was Head Chef at the Eastern Shipping Company during the Raj.

In 2015, he was awarded two AA Rosettes for Moksh; the first Indian restaurant in Wales to do so. He was named Ethnic Chef of the Year at the Craft Guild of Chef’s Awards 2015.  In August 2015, Stephen was chosen to represent Wales on BBC2’s Great British Menu. Other accolades including the Ethnic Chef of the Year Award at the UK Craft Guild of Chef’s award 2015; Goldstar Welsh Curry Chef of the Year at the Welsh Curry Awards 2014; and Goldstar English Curry Chef of the Year at the English Curry Awards 2013. He has held the title of ‘Best UK Indian Chef’ with the Cobra Good Curry Guide for a large part of a decade. At a ceremony at the House of Commons, Stephen Gomes was crowned the Outstanding Asian and Oriental Chef of the Year 2017.

Lounge/Shisha Dining (last order 23:00)
CLOSED MONDAYS (excludes Bank Holidays)
16.00 – 23.55 Tuesday – Thursday
16.00 – 01.00 Friday – Saturday
13.00-00.00 Sunday

A la carte Restaurant
CLOSED MONDAYS (excludes Bank Holidays)
18:00 – 22:30 Sunday – Wednesday
18:00 – 23.00 Thursday – Saturday
13.00 – 22.00 Sunday

Restaurant: Over 12s Dining Only
Shisha Lounge: Strictly Over 18s
Bring Your Own Alcohol Venue no Corkage
Vegan/Gluten Free options
Smart/Casual Dress Code Restaurant
No hats, No tracksuits, No sportswear
No alcohol sold on premises

DUSK
Ongar Road
Brentwood
Essex
CM15 9SS
T: 01277 424 987
enquiries@duskbrentwood.co.uk
www.duskbrentwood
@duskbrentwood

THE HALL (LAKESIDE) // LAUNCH

Intu Lakeside have recently undergone a bit of a renovation & are bringing lots more than just shopping to the centre, including this fantastic new food hall. We were lucky enough to be invited down to the launch day & be among the first to try it out.

The event was invite only, & on arrival our names were ticked off on the guestlist before being shown inside. We were then given a voucher (to the value of £10) which could be spent in any of the 6 eateries in The Hall, & presented with a much appreciated glass of fizz.

The 6 street food inspired eateries at The Hall include:
– Baoziinn Chinese
– Fanny’s Kebabs
– Burger & Beyond
– Fundi Pizza
– Mother Clucker
– Curry On Naan Stop

My friend whom I visited with chose to eat from Curry On Naan Stop, & I opted for Mother Clucker.

Each of our meals were great – there was a bit of a wait for both however this was to be expected with the venue being new, & how busy it was, however staff did everything they could to cater for all & made sure everything was perfect. I even managed to blag some extra chicken in my burger for waiting, & my friend managed to get her hands on some free fries – win win all round! We will be back for sure to try out the other stalls!

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SACLA // PRODUCT REVIEW

At Essex Foodies we have recently been lucky enough to be gifted with a small selection of rich & tantalizing Italian ingredients from the team at Sacla – a massive thank you to Sacla for getting these out to us!

In our package we received the following;
– ‘Nduja pesto
– Red pepper pesto
– Truffle pesto
– Tomato & olive intenso pasta sauce

We are of course looking forward to trying each ingredient out & sharing our creations with you. Keep a look out to see what we will be pairing each ingredient up with.

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FAIRFIELDS FARM CRISPS // PRODUCT REVIEW

Essex Foodies have recently been gifted with a selection of crisps from Essex based Fairfields Farm. Fairfields Farm is a family run farm dedicated to the production of crisps situated in Colne Valley, North of Colchester. The farm sees the entire production of the crisps take place including the potatoes grown & harvested to being hand cooked & package all on site.

The selection we were very kindly gifted offered a fantastic variety of flavours of which included;
– Sweet chilli
– Bacon & tomato
– Sea salt & Aspall cyder vinegar
– Cheese & onion
– Lightly sea salter
– Sea salt & black pepper
– Tomato & herb lentil bites
– Jalapeno & lime lentil bites

We’ve not yet managed to munch our way through all of the packs but once we have, we will give a run down of our favourites & more of an insight of our thoughts.

For more information on this brand & to order yourself please follow this link – https://fairfieldsfarmcrisps.co.uk/.

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THE LEATHER BOTTLE // RESTAURANT REVIEW

Last Friday Essex Foodies made a trip to this wonderfully cosy pub set in the pretty & picturesque village of Blackmore. The pub is super easy to find, & took around 15 minutes to reach from from Chelmsford by car – so not too far out at all. Upon arrival & at first glance, the first thing we noticed was just how (with cars) busy it was – this was not a problem for us as we had a table booked, however with this in mind, if you plan on visiting (which you should do once you’ve finished reading this), I would strongly recommend booking just to make sure you are not left waiting.

So first off, we were shown to our table which was inside & looked out onto the gorgeous beer garden – the garden being in full swing all thanks to the wonderful sunshine we’ve seen recently. We ordered our drinks & had a glance over the menus – we were given the evening menu & the specials menu. The menus I would say offer typical pub dishes but with a modern & much more gourmet approach – simple but to an exquisite standard.

After glancing over both menus, we soon came to decide what we were going for – both my starter & main I chose from the specials menu, & Mum opted for both courses from the evening menu. Everything on the menu sounded fantastic but there was just something about the specials that just stood out for me, so on the menu for myself, there was to start – haddock & leek fishcakes followed by the chicken wellington, & for Mum there was the prawn & crayfish cocktail to start followed by a main of beer battered haddock & chips (definitely always a winner on a Friday evening!)

The kitchen wasted no time in getting our starters served up, both plates arrived within around 10-15 minutes which was perfect.

As you can see from the above photographs, the food was remarkable! Mum commented on the size of her prawn cocktail & said that it was huge – we tend to find that normally with prawn cocktails you get less of the fish & definitely more of the lettuce, however this was not the case at all here – there was more than enough, & the bread was also generous with 3 slices on the side. Another thing that Mum was really pleased with was, believe it or not, the butter! I can vouch for this also though – most places will normally serve you really hard butter that doesn’t spread at all, this was perfectly spreadable & didn’t contribute to any holes in the bread! It’s the little touches like this that really do make a difference & you do notice.

The fishcakes that I had were impeccable. They were light, fragrant & very more-ish. The haddock was a good choice as the main ingredient as it’s not overly (as silly as it sounds, a fishy-fish) but gives a nice subtle flavour which is very well complimented by the fresh taste of leek. If these were a main at the restaurant, I would definitely go for them.

On to the mains! As you know, I went for the chicken wellington & Mum the beer battered haddock & chips. I think the pictures below say it all really! The haddock & chips was a roaring success with Mum – she loved every bite. The fish made a welcome change to the usual cod, it was delicate & flaky, with a crisp & fresh batter. Chips were second to none! You cannot beat a good pub chip. The meal itself is available in either small or large, Mum went for the small & this was plentiful, especially after a starter. At first glance she did question whether it would be enough but this soon changed as she quickly became full.

The chicken wellington was tender, juicy & delicious. The chicken itself was wrapped in prosciutto ham & spinach enclosed in a perfect & glossy pastry casing. I would absolutely recommend trying this dish, it was slightly unusual & made a change from beef wellington but in a good way! The chicken was served on a bed of wild mushroom sauce which was lovely & rich, & with green beans & new potatoes. I personally find green beans can be a tough one to get right & they can often ‘squeak’ but these did not – they were perfect & not a single thing was left on my plate! Even the potatoes were cooked to perfection.

After finding a little more space in our tummies, & after eyeing up the menu we of course decided to go for desserts.

I was torn between desserts – sticky toffee pudding is my all time favourite (I love to try & have this everywhere so I can find the best) & my go to, but with the weather being as gorgeous as it was, I could not miss the opportunity to go for the summer-fitting mango cheesecake. Mum followed in my footsteps & went for the summery eton mess. We were both delighted with our choices. Both desserts were fruity & tangy, & in all honesty, the right amount after the other 2 dishes we’d had. The pair of us would definitely pick these desserts again & again.

Another fantastic little feature is that the pub also boasts an extensive gin menu which also gives guidance on which tonic to pair to each gin – perfect with or without dinner!

We unquestionably loved our evening here, so much so that Mum booked a table whilst we were there & was back over the same weekend – this doubtlessly shows just how favourable we found this place to be. Everything was spot on, even down to the tiniest detail such as the butter (as mentioned). The pub offered such a warming & cosy atmosphere, & this was on a hot summer’s day so I can only imagine just how lovely it would be in the winter – I’m certainly excited to make a visit over Christmas as I think this will be lovely, & I will certainly be back before then anyway!
To put it simply, The Leather Bottle offers good, honest food & exceptional service & this is really everything I look for when it comes to planning an evening out. Thank you so much to all at The Leather Bottle for welcoming & looking after us, everyone here is a real credit & should be proud of their work! We look forward to visiting again soon in the very near future.

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BALTI NIGHT // TAKEAWAY REVIEW

Last weekend, this award-winning takeaway based in Braintree very kindly provided a meal for myself & a couple of friends. My friends are already huge fans of this Indian takeaway, & are very friendly with & know the staff there, so after mentioning Essex Foodies to them, Balti Night very generously invited Essex Foodies to try it for themselves. As my friends already eat here regularly, this review will be based on just what I ate & experienced.

So first off, we ordered our food in the shop itself, so we got to see firsthand just how busy it was. The shop was packed with queue just starting to form outside of the door, & continued to stay busy whilst we were there. The phones were also relentless, with each line answered the entire time we were in the shop. I would say that we were in the shop itself at around 7.45pm, so I would imagine that it only got busier as the evening went on. I think the demand here speaks volumes & shows exactly why this takeaway has picked up as many awards as it has, which leads me on to mention just how many awards this place has won & been nominated for – their walls are completely dominated by various certificates.

On to the food, on the menu for me there was;
Mixed starter, which consisted of hot onion bhaji, chicken seekh kebab, meat samosa & crispy king prawns
Poppadoms (goes without saying)
Chicken tikka chilli masala
Pilau rice
Saag paneer (my favourite Indian dish, something I order every time!)

So that was really my typical sort of order asides from the main – I would normally play it safe with a korma or dry chicken tikka, but seeing as this was going to be reviewed & written about, it was really best to mix it up & go for something slightly different – & I can safely say that I think I should definitely do this more often, & starters I would normally go for tandoori prawns, or a dry tikka starter but the mixed starter was recommended so this is what I went with.

The starter certainly allowed you to try what I would say are probably favourites – I enjoyed each & every one, the seekh kebab is not something I would ever think to pick, but this was a nice surprise, the meat was tender & bursting with tandoori flavour, likewise meat samosas would not be something that I would pick either but after trying them here, I think I have been converted! The hot onion bhajis were crispy & provided a nice warmth, & finally the prawns were cooked to absolute perfection, they were soft but with a nice crisp bite to them. The starter gave me an insight to what the rest of the meal was going to be like.

Main – so typically I’d normally go for a meat dish with rice & a side or two, depending who I’m with & if I’m sharing! In this case, the food was not shared, it was everyone for themselves – (not all bad, more for me, ha!)
The pilau rice was the perfect accompaniment for the chicken tikka chilli masala as it played the offset when the chilli became too much, however saying this, I would say that the chicken tikka chilli masala was in no way too hot, it could just have a little bit of a kick to it now & then – I’m normally a korma girl but this was by no-means too much for me. I would order this again for sure. Saag paneer – I’m a sucker for a saag paneer & I think I’ve completed my quest in finding the best. The dish here from Balti Night was rich & creamy, with the biggest chunks of paneer I’ve ever scooped up (my mouth is salivating thinking back on it!) With each mouthful, I wanted more.

I would doubtlessly say that Balti Night has claimed top spot for my favourite Indian takeaway, it’s a shame that they’re based in Braintree & I’m Chelmsford, or I’d be ordering lots more! These guys work tirelessly & it’s clear to see why they’ve received so many awards & why their shop is as busy as it is.

Thank you so much to the guys here for inviting me down & for allowing me to review them – I will most definitely be putting my order in when I’m next in the area & I know that my friends will sure as hell be ordering again in the very near future!

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DUSK // RESTAURANT REVIEW

Mid-July saw the opening of one of Essex’s hottest, most prestigious restaurants, which we were thrilled to be invited to. The evening promised glamour & sophistication, which it undoubtedly delivered.

Upon arrival, you get a feel for what the restaurant is going to offer – the cars parked to the front of the restaurant say it all & leave little to the imagination.

The venue itself boasts various different rooms/lounges, including a main dining area, a function room, shisha lounge & bar plus grounds overlooking the stunning Bentley Golf Club. We were lucky enough to be given a guided tour around the venue, & each & every aspect of it is simply stunning – certainly somewhere you could hold a wedding party reception, or perhaps a work-do Christmas party. Once shown around the premises, we were led to an outside decking area, overlooking Bentley Golf Club, to enjoy more drinks & delicious canapes. Each of the canapes we tried were outstanding, our favourite of the selection were the chicken tikka bites (which a few of the staff also told us were their favourites).

We were also lucky enough to be treated to a three-course meal & drinks (please be aware that the venue does not sell alcohol, however there are no objections to bringing your own). The menu was set, so the only choice to be made was chicken or beef – you had the options of butter chicken or roast beef for mains.

The menu offered a starter of prawn, green apple & lemon cappuccino, mains of either honey lemon roast beef served with baby yorks, twice fried chips & summer berry gravy or butter chicken with rice & freshly baked naan, & a trio of desserts which was made up of chocolate delice, lemongrass brulee & almond croquant & pistacho ice cream.

All aspects of the meal were incredible – the food was mouthwatering, & the presentation second to none, even down to the cutlery, everything was perfect & aesthetically pleasing. The ingredients used are certainly some of the best – the prawns were some of the best I’ve ever had – the starter consisted of just 3, however they were plump & juicy, just the right amount for a starter dish. The beef was also cooked to perfection, sometimes beef can be a tough one to crack & can often be quite chewy or laced with fat, however this was melt-in-the-mouth. My Mum went for the beef dish & she loved it. I went for the butter chicken & have to say, I think this was probably the best butter chicken I’ve ever tried. The dish itself was not the typical mild butter chicken, but had a fiery twist to it – a real winner. Desserts were also a huge success, they were not something we would typically pick off of a menu however both of our plates were cleared, so there’s not much else to say on that front. As the food was to such a high standard & ever so tasty, I would certainly return to see what the rest of the menu offers.

Thank you to Dusk for inviting us along to their launch & a huge, huge thank you to each & every member of the team who did everything they could to make the evening what it was. We loved every second of our evening & would quite firmly state that the food here is probably one of the best we have yet reviewed!

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GRAND TRUNK ROAD // RESTAURANT REVIEW

A while back, we were approached by a marketing agency who offered us the chance to dine at Grand Trunk Road, a restaurant located in the heart of South Woodford. Naturally, we were delighted with the request & soon found ourselves booked in. A couple of weeks passed & soon enough, the arranged date came round.

At first glance, the road where the restaurant is located seemed quiet & as if there wasn’t a lot going on, neither (from the outside) did the restaurant look very busy which put a little doubt in our minds, however this was all about to change. The door opened to reveal what is definitely a hidden gem.

The restaurant was at full capacity with not an empty table in sight, proving that it really is what’s on the inside that counts. The restaurant was dimly lit, giving the place a real chilled out feel and a really pleasant tone – perfect for an evening of cocktails & gorgeous modern Indian cuisine.

Upon arrival, we were kindly greeted & shown to our table, then presented with the drinks menu. I had already decided that I wanted to go for a cocktail – it was just a case of making the difficult decision of which one. I chose to go for Calcutta Night Rider, a vodka based cocktail, & lethal if I may say so! As with all cocktails, this was so easy to drink & I could’ve definitely drunk them all night long! My Dad played it a little safer than myself & went for a Cobra beer.

Once our drinks had arrived, we made our food order, & then indulged on a Poppadom Basket complete with chutneys. The poppadoms were light & crispy, just as they should be & the different chutneys were full of flavour & left a sweet taste in our mouths. We chose to share a starter from the Grill & Tandoor section of the menu & our starter of choice was the Bangali Basket – a medley of different fish dishes, comprising of a grilled King Prawn, salmon, seafood cake & seared scallop. Each sample of fish was fantastic, not a single bit went untouched. The component that stood out for both my Dad & I was the salmon, it was genuinely the nicest & probably best cooked salmon the pair of us have both ever tried. The fish itself was of good quality, very thick & meaty-almost, & the flavour was just spot-on. If I’d had known how good the salmon was going to be, I would’ve chosen this for main course. All of the other components making up the fish starter again were of very good quality & more than satisfied the tastebuds. This leads me onto the mains, where we each picked a separate main but shared rice & bread. For mains, I opted for Amritsari Butter Chicken & Dad the Kabul Ka Hiran Tikka (Venison), & we shared Zaffrani Pulao Rice & Missi Roti. One thing that we liked about the menu & the dishes was that it wasn’t your typical Indian with the usual suspects, but a much more modern & with a twist Indian cuisine.

My main of butter chicken was thick, rich, creamy & pleasantly mild. It didn’t look a lot size-wise but once I started to get through it, I quickly started to feel myself feeling full. I did however manage to finish the bowl! In hindsight, I think we would’ve been better off having a rice each as I found I had a lot of sauce left with nothing to accompany it. Overall for me, this is without fail something I would have again. To say that Dad enjoyed the venison would be the understatement of the century – I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone as thrilled as he was to see a venison dish at an Indian restaurant! To be fair, this is not something I’ve ever seen before, so I loved that Grand Trunk Road’s menu was slightly unusual. Dad described the dish as cooked to perfection & highly recommends it to anyone that visits the restaurant.

Following from our mains, we indulged in some delicious desserts. I went all out & even went for a dessert cocktail too, so I took pleasure in devouring a slice of almond & orange cake which was perfectly light & fluffy, & offered subtle citrus-y hints with a sweet crunch, washed down with a full-bodied & very potent espresso martini. Dad went for a classic slice of chocolate cake, which was luxuriously rich & fit for a king! As with the rest of the meal, not a single mouthful of either desserts were left. They were each very different from each other but both heavenly.

We both rated this restaurant very highly, & Dad went as far as to say that this was by far the best Indian restaurant he has had the pleasure of dining at, which is very bold statement. I certainly loved it here too, & would definitely recommend giving this place a visit – I think if you were to visit you would be captivated by what the restaurant has to offer.

Thank you very much to each & every member of the team at Grand Trunk Road who made our evening what it was, & a special thank you to Chef Sharma who took time out of his working day to come & speak with us, & give us an in-depth insight into his career of which he is so passionate about, & last but certainly not least, thank you to Plus 1 Communications for setting this opportunity up for us.



GIGGLING SQUID // NEW MENU PREVIEW

Early last week, we were given the fabulous opportunity of previewing Giggling Squid’s new menu. This was certainly an offer that we simply couldn’t say no to. I’d always heard great things about this restaurant but just had never got round to actually visiting, so when I received an email offering us a place at the preview, there was only ever going to be one answer, and that answer was YES!

The evening was one of the more formal evening’s Essex Foodies had been to, however it was very insightful & interesting to find out more behind the restaurant & business itself, as well as future plans & developments.

The purpose of the evening was for Giggling Squid to show off their new menu & what they had been working on – & it did not disappoint. Their menu is hugely extensive & really does spoil you for choice, although we were very lucky as we got to sample pretty much all of the starters. As you will see from the below photos, there was plenty on offer.

The menu itself was extensive & left nothing to be desired – you’ve got dishes for those that prefer something slighty more plain, & you’ve certainly got dishes for those that are a little more adventurous! Giggling Squid also offer a fantastic & very fairly priced lunch menu which comes in at around a tenner (per person) for a Thai tapas lunch – perfect if you want to get to try dishes.

When it came to mains, each guest could choose a main dish plus a side – I opted for crying beef with a side of noodle & bean sprouts. I was very pleased with my choice – the food was simply fantastic! It was cooked to perfection & certainly satisfied my tastbuds. All of the other mains looked amazing too & I think I would be right in saying that there was definitely a little food envy in the air!

The food was beyond expectation – both in flavour & presentation. Not only was each dish was powerful & bursting with flavour but also looked fantastic too (personally I think noodle-y type dishes are not always photogenic & can be difficult to get decent pictures of). Because the food was so tasty, I would most definitely recommend & would 100% return.

Desserts were also exceptional – we shared a few between the table & everyone enjoyed what they tried.

There was also one other thing that really stood out on the evening which deserves a mention & that was how busy the restaurant was & stayed. We visited on a Tuesday evening & the restaurant was bustling & didn’t die down at all. Even by the time we left (around 9.30pm), the restaurant was still packed. To me, this is a huge achievement & proves that Giggling Squid isn’t lacking in demand. I feel that nowadays restaurants during the week tend to depend heavily on set menus to bring in custom – Giggling Squid is a whole different kettle of fish.

Thank you to all at Giggling Squid for inviting us along & allowing us to sample the new menu – we loved it! We will definitely be back again in the near future, make sure you check them out too!

ROYAL HOTEL // AFTERNOON TEA REVIEW

Last weekend Essex Foodies were lucky enough to be treated to an afternoon tea with fizz courtesy of The Royal Hotel in Southend. The afternoon offered everything you’d expect from an afternoon tea – delicate finger sandwiches, melt-in-the-mouth scones, deliciously rich cakes, as well as endless amounts of tea/coffee & the odd tipple.

Upon arrival, we were shown to our table overlooking a very busy Southend Seafront (thanks to the warm weather), & were served up a luscious glass of prosecco, neatly finished with a decorative raspberry. The prosecco went down a treat (as did it all!)

Next to arrive were our hot drinks – I opted for tea & Mum went for coffee. Each of us were given a large pot with our drinks of choice which were regularly topped up – service here was smooth & faultless, the girls waiting on us were so on the ball & made sure we never went without, or never left waiting.

Shortly after, the sandwich/cake stand arrived, & it looked incredible. On the menu there was;

sandwiches
– chicken mayo (my favourite by far)
– salmon & cream cheese
– egg mayo
– cucumber & cream cheese

scones
– fruit
– plain

cakes
– white chocolate tart
– strawberry bevarois
– Carribean cake

Despite there being plenty, we managed to get through everything! The sandwiches were perfect – the bread was fluffy & soft, & the sandwiches were not overloaded with filling meaning they weren’t too sickly – so top marks all round on the sandwich front! The scones again were perfect – they were still warm so you knew they had been freshly baked, & once you had sliced into them, they just crumbled – divine! The cakes were of course a hit too – they were sweet & complimented the savoury tastes very well. My favourite dessert was the white chocolate tart – it was light like a mousse but offered a depth of flavour. Again, top marks all round! Everything that was served up was eaten, so to me this speaks volumes. The Royal Hotel have certainly got the afternoon tea down to a t (pardon the pun!)

You will see from the photos below also how gorgeous everything looked – from the hotel itself, to the food. I would say that this is the perfect place for a girly treat.

A massive thank you to The Royal Hotel for having us, especially to Matt (Director) for inviting us along, & to all of the girls that looked after us on the day, everybody was so forthcoming & friendly & made it a very pleasurable experience. We can’t wait to come back!

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LIVE DOSA // ANNIVERSARY EVENT

Earlier this week, we had the absolute privilege of attending Live Dosa’s fifth year anniversary celebrations – so first off, thank you so much to Fazila & family for inviting us back to be part of the special celebrations & secondly, a massive congrats to these guys on their fifth year – they are clearly doing something very right! The restaurant was absolutely rammed, which was absolutely fabulous to see (& very well deserved).

The evening started with a prosecco reception which was definitely welcomed by all. We opted to sit outside with our drinks, as the sun was beaming! Once we had finished our drinks, we were led to our table inside where we were greeted with some delicious appetisers. It was a really nice touch that the appetisers were ready & waiting on the table – it’s definitely nice to have something to nibble on whilst waiting.

Following from appetisers were starters – & of course there were going to be dosas! If you’ve not tried a dosa, you need to! They are a large crepe stuffed with a potato masala filling, & they are amazing. Saying that, everything on offer was outstanding, I particularly love the onion bhajis here, they are perfectly crispy & full of fresh flavour, & my friend particularly enjoyed the chicken pudina – made using fresh mint from the garden.

Next up were mains – there were four different main courses on offer, so there was something for everyone! Mains were served with basmati rice & appam – the perfect sides to accompany the hot & powerful curries. Our favourite of the four mains was definitely the chicken curry (Chicken Pirattal) – it was warming with a fiery kick, but not too intense – exactly how a curry should be. The other dishes were nice but not dishes that we would choose ourselves – having said that, we did give each of them a try. On offer there was Mix Seafood Roast, Erissery & Nadan Parripu.

Once the tables had been cleared, the fun started! Desserts were served, & entertainment began. Fazila made a lovely speech, thanking everyone for their support over the years which was lovely & very touching – you can really tell how passionate the family are about cooking & their restaurant. A massive, massive congratulations to them & a happy fifth birthday to Live Dosa! Entertainment came in the shape of traditional Southern Indian dancing, firstly performed by Fazila’s daughters (this was adorable, the girls absolutely loved it, their little faces were glowing), and secondly by performer Suzanna Harrington. The dancing was energetic & got everyone in the party spirit!

As always, we had a fantastic evening at Live Dosa, & it’s so refreshing to see an independent restaurant doing so well for themselves. Thank you to Fazila for inviting us to the special celebrations, & a big thank you to all of the team for looking after us. We look forward to the next milestone celebrations!

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THE RUBY // TAKEAWAY REVIEW

On Friday evening, Essex Foodies were treated to a delicious takeaway courtesy of The Ruby, which is an Indian takeaway based in Braintree. It had already been agreed what we would be taking away & this was the signature Kati roll – Special Murghee Roll. The roll is a wrap filled with chicken tikka, onion bhaji & salad, so a couple of Indian takeaway classics in the convenience of a wrap.

My friend & I each had a roll of our own, which at first we did question whether this would be enough but as soon as we started tucking into the roll, we realised it would definitely be enough. The roll was absolutely brimming with flavourful chicken, onion bhaji & salad! The chicken itself was very tender & tasty, & the salad was fresh & crunchy, whilst the onion bhaji provided a bit of crunch – all perfectly complimenting each other.

The rolls were absolutely delicious & left nothing to be desired whatsoever! The size of a roll is definitely adequate for one person, you wouldn’t need anything else to go with it (unless you wanted to, of course). In all honesty, this wouldn’t have been something I would’ve chose personally to have as when it comes to takeaways, I’m more of a picky-eater, & would rather a bit of everything, however saying that, now that I have tried the roll, it would be something that I would have again. I think that it’s also a good value option too in that if you were ordering for one person, this would literally be all you’d need, & you’d only be paying for one dish – saving £££.

Both my friend & I really enjoyed our rolls & our hunger was definitely satisfied, so thank you to The Ruby for sharing their signature dish with us – we look forward to ordering again & sampling more of the menu (which I have included below) & can be viewed here – https://www.theruby.co/menus/.

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STREET EATS’N’BEATS

Street Eats’n’Beats takes place in Chelmsford on 24th August & promises fun for the whole family. With a variety of delicious street foods on offer along with cocktails, & live entertainment, what better way to spend your bank holiday weekend?

Tickets for the festival are available here – https://www.streeteatsnbeats.com/events/street-eats-n-beats-2019

& for more information, please see below the official press release

PETTY 4S // RESTAURANT REVIEW

A couple of weeks ago, Essex Foodies very politely received a message on Instagram inviting us to come along & visit this brand new restaurant in Canvey. With the restaurant being so new, there was very little to go by (no website, nothing on Tripadvisor), so we were pretty much going in blind, other than what we had seen on Petty 4s Instagram page (all of which looked incredible). Our visit did not disappoint, & our review will show you exactly why.

We visited Petty 4s on Friday evening, so a nice little treat at the beginning of the bank holiday weekend. Upon arrival, manager Leah showed us to our table & advised that we would not be choosing from the menu, but rather sampling a few dishes from the menu so that we could get a feel for it all.

To begin, we enjoyed some homemade sourdough bread with butter. The bread was exceptionally good, & extremely more-ish, we tried to resist asking for more as we didn’t want to get too full before we had even started but we soon gave in!

For our starter(s), we enjoyed crab ravioli followed by garlic chicken. In all honesty, I was a bit nervous with the crab as when I have tried it before, I’ve not liked it. I’ve found it to be, as silly as it sounds, too fishy. I still gave it a go, & was very pleasantly surprised! Everything at Petty 4s is made from scratch, so the pasta had been freshly made & the crab had been brought it fresh from Billingsate Market (alive!) & prepared by Chef Alfie in the kitchen. The ravioli was absolutely lovely & would definitely be something I’d order in future.

Next up was the garlic chicken. A simple dish very well presented, as you can see.

The chicken was nice, & I did enjoy it, however it wouldn’t be something I would necessarily order (just personal preference). I did really enjoy the bed of spinach & sweetcorn which it came on – an unusual combination of flavours that worked.

Next up on the menu was steak… (woohoo!) I absolutely love steak & will quite often order one if I go out for dinner, so I was very excited to try it Petty 4s-style.

The steak was cooked medium-rare & was served with fondant potatoes, caramelised onion & parsnip puree, all of which were fantastic. The steak itself was melt-in-the-mouth & left nothing to be desired. I would certainly order this for myself, & would definitely recommend it.

Following on from our steak main, we enjoyed two different desserts – lemon posset & chocolate cake.

The lemon posset was lovely, light & refreshing, almost a palette cleanser after our main meal. The portion size was just right, & I especially loved the modern/trendy bowls that the dessert was served in. If you ever happen to be in Canvey along the seafront, I would definitely recommend popping in & getting yourself this over an ice cream!

And finally.. The chocolate cake!

The chocolate cake was delightful! It was rich, sticky & the right taste to finish off our meal. I generally find chocolate cakes a bit too rich, however this was just right, thanks to its small portion size & serving of ice cream.

My Mum & I were delighted with everything that we tried, & both agree that we would definitely visit again (especially after their Sunday roast was mentioned). The service was fantastic, & the staff couldn’t do enough for us.

Thank you to all at Petty 4s, especially Leah & Alfie, for inviting us & looking after us, we had a fantastic evening, & left with very content tummies!

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JODHPUR INDIAN KITCHEN // BLOG EVENT

Last week, Essex Foodies attended their first ever blog event! So this itself was a milestone for us, to be recognised & invited along. We attended this Indian restaurant located in Basildon alongside various other bloggers, & enjoyed an array of delightful Indian dishes.

The first dishes on offer were a small tray of poppadoms per pair which were accompanied by a variety of dips, also on offer was a small dish consisting of chickpeas & lentils, however I did not try this as I’m not a fan of chickpeas.

Next up we had a variety of starters. The food was served family-style (so picky bits), & was shared between 8 people per table, meaning everyone got to sample everything. There were onion bhajis, chicken tikka (herb), as well as a couple of other bits which I didn’t catch the name of but were a chicken-styel kebab & a deep fried dish. I tried each starter & I really liked them all, in particular I liked the fish. What stood out to me the most with the starters was infact the presentation, & how beautifully bright all of the dips were. There really was something for everyone!

Next up were mains, & again these were served family-style. Honestly, I didn’t find this ideal because it was a bit of a scramble having to share the dishes out around the table, I think it would’ve made more sense to have maybe done a few more dishes but smaller portions, this would’ve meant everyone could’ve sorted their dinner sorted a bit more efficiently & also a bit less awkwardly! Nonetheless, it was still very pleasant, & I enjoyed all of the dishes I tried.

Unfortunately I didn’t catch the names of each of the curries, but they were very nice! I only braved three of them, as the dry dish we were advised was a hot one. On offer was also a potato curry dish, which I was actually really surprised at – I didn’t think I would like it, but it was really nice! I was expecting it to be very heavy, & it was the complete opposite. There was also a good selection of rices, I went for the mushroom & pilau rices to accompany my meal.

Apologies for how unphotogenic this picture is, but it’s curry, once it’s on your plate, it never looks appetising! As you can see, I also had a bit of naan bread, I wouldn’t normally go for this as I find it way too filling & it ends up ruining the meal for me as I will be too stuffed but, this particular naan was pink peppercorn! A must try!

The food at Jodhpur Indian Kitchen was all lovely, & I couldn’t say a bad word about any of it. Each dish was extremely tasty, & very filling.

One thing that we did also notice on the menu, was that the curries do actually come with sides, meaning you don’t have to buy each dish separately (unless of course you do want additional bits), which essentially is fantastic value.

Thank you to Jodhpur Indian Kitchen for hosting a wonderful evening, & for their outstanding service – each member of staff we spoke to were very passionate, which was really lovely to see, & thank you to Verri Berri for inviting us along.

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ESSEX FOODIES ABROAD // BRATISLAVA

Last month (March) I visited Bratislava, Slovakia just as a little weekend getaway. Prior to any trip I go on, I will always rummage through Tripadvisor to see what’s hot & what’s recommended. Somehow, I stumbled across a little restaurant called Jump Street. It looked amazing. The restaurant specialises in serving black bun burgers, which, much to my liking are extremely Instagrammable. Even if the reviews were bad (which they weren’t) I was still set on going purely for the pics.

The restaurant was easy to find (with the help of Google Maps), however it isn’t very noticeable – so if you do plan on ever visiting, don’t expect glistening neon lights! Moving on to the burger…

Ok, so I honestly had little hope for this burger (apologies to Jump Street), I expected it to be a gimmick with the burger presented as it were, but let me tell you, it was GLORIOUS. The meat itself was cooked medium, & was packed full of tasty burger juice, amongst onion, tomato, relish etc. I would certainly suggest checking Jump Street out if you happen to travel to Bratislava, not only because the food is incredible here, but because you you’ve got the chance to get the perfect burger-biting action shot! Their dessert – chocolate lava cake is also pretty awesome.

YAYA SHAKES // WAFFLE BAR REVIEW

Last Friday evening, I visited Yaya Shakes in Brentwood, after being invited down on Instagram. Anyone who knows me will know how much I love a waffle, so this was a treat! I visited Yaya along with my Mum, we both enjoyed a waffle & a milkshake each (& yes, it was definitely too much!)

Our waffles of choice were Cream Indulgence for myself & Choccy Woccy for Mum. Waffles are freshly made while you wait, so when they’re served, they are lovely, warm & fresh. To say we enjoyed our waffles is an understatement – they were literally inhaled by us both! What I liked most is that the toppings are not limited, in the sense that you haven’t only got, say the choice of only one type/brand of chocolate on your waffle, & I also like that not all of the waffles are heavily doused in chocolate/sauces, but there are alternatives that include fruit (f you’re slightly healthier than I am!)

Both waffles were incredibly full of flavour & chocolatey-ness, albeit a bit too heavy for my liking (this is nothing to do with Yaya however, just eyes bigger than my belly).

Milkshakes! With the milkshakes, we did not choose but were given a couple of different flavours – & there certainly weren’t any complaints! We were presented with an Oreo milkshake & a Lotus Biscoff & Twix milkshake. Mum really fancied Biscoff anyway so she had that, & I had the Oreo. Both milkshakes were thick & rich, & absolutely jam-packed full of sweet flavour. Neither of us ended up finishing our milkshakes, purely because waffles & milkshakes together is just far too sickly – although, we did give it our best shot.

Both of us absolutely loved our sweet treats here & would definitely visit again. Thank you to Yaya Shakes for the invite & for allowing us to sample their delights, we look forward to popping by in the near future (& making our way through the menu!)

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AMELIA’S BAKES // POSTAL BROWNIE REVIEW

Back in October last year, I had the absolute delight of sampling an absolutely gorgeous bake from @ameliasbakes_ ! The first thing that stood out for me was how well presented Amelia’s package was. I was surprised to open the package to a really prettily decorated bake, with a lovely bow & some chocolates! I thought this was such a lovely touch & makes me more inclined to order in future (especially if looking for a gift).
On to the bake! I was fortunate enough to sample a brownie bake topped with cookie dough 🍪 AMAZING! Sickly but amazing. You would only need to have a tiny piece at a time, which means more bake for your money! The brownie bake was also enjoyed by a couple of friends of mine, who cheekily asked for more, so Amelia must be doing something right 🙈.
Overall I would recommend Amelia’s Bakes, brilliant for a treat for yourself but also one to consider if you’re stuck for a gift idea.
Thank you to Amelia so much for sharing with us.

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BACK INN TIME // RESTAURANT REVIEW

Another old one! (Apologies that these are all so old). Back Inn Time is probably one of Chelmsford’s most loved restaurants – it has been around for YEARS. The restaurant is very reasonable, & probably 10 out of 12 months, you’ll find vouchers offering 50% off your food bill – what more could you want?! Below is a write up from when we visited back in June 2018.

Located conveniently in Chelmsford City Centre is this hidden treasure!
The first thing on arrival we noticed was how friendly & happy the staff were, all were extremely accommodating & more than happy to help. We felt more than welcome! 
The food was sublime, and we thoroughly enjoyed each & every mouthful! Our choices included nachos & chicken quesadillas (specials board) to start, followed by burgers 🍔 & desserts both from the specials board, Oreo cheesecake & cookies n cream sundae. We highly recommend the burgers as there is such a variety & we would also recommend that you check out the specials board if you’re looking for something a little different! Overall this is a personal favourite of ours and we recommend paying them a visit! Thank you so much@backinntimechelmsford for your hospitality!

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ESSEX FOODIES ABROAD // NYC

Now, this trip was AGES ago, but how could I not share my food snaps? I admit, they’re not the best but at the time, EF didn’t exist! All images were purely taken for Snapchat showing off purposes. During my visit, we visited so, so many different places to eat & drink but there is absolutely no way I’ll remember each name, here are those I do remember;
– Bubba Gump
– Olive Garden (probably my favourite place to eat in NYC – THEM VIEWS!)
– Ellen’s Stardust Diner (cool venue, didn’t rate the food)
– Junior’s
– IHOP (can’t go all the way to America & not eat here… everything with a side of pancakes? yes please
– & last but not least, McDonald’s, the first thing I ate when I got to NYC was a Big Mac & 10 nugget, couldn’t resist with that 2 for $5 menu!


SILKE // RESTAURANT REVIEW

A bit of a special post from Essex Foodies this evening. There’s not a full review to put up because at the time we were invited to this restaurant, we were not writing reviews in the format that we currently do, instead we were using the Instagram page more as an advertising platform for local businesses, by posting only images… how times have changed! Anyway, Silke holds a bit of a special place in the EF hearts as this was the first restaurant we were ever invited to, so essentially, this is what kick started us (thank you, Silke!) I can honestly say this was one of the best places I had eaten in Chelmsford. The restaurant was family owned & run which I 100% prefer, as I find it calmer with a better atmosphere, & you just always feel so much more welcomed than you would in a chain. Sadly, Silke has since ceased trading, however I wanted to give them a mention as they were there, right at the very beginning.

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