The Sunlight

As this blog returns after a lengthy absence I will attempt to shed some ‘sunlight’ into the gloomy autumnal evenings that are drawing in. This instance, my partner in crime and I visited a British bistro style restaurant on the verge of Port Sunlight and Bebbington in the Wirral.

So let me set the scene, it’s a Sunday afternoon, we are child and hangover free, and as many of you reading will appreciate, we have some home improvements to make and It seems as though these have been put on hold for an age. We get up have breakfast, see some relatives off, get ready, and decide to hit the home stores. All going well so far… the clock strikes one and the hunger sinks in. ‘I know’ she said ‘let’s go to The Sunlight’, so off we went. Upon arriving at the restaurant we were greeted with a grand piano along with a very attentive host who lead us to our table. The decor in the restaurant was mainly based around black furniture and walls that gave off a very luxurious feel, I questioned the decor as I thought it was a contradiction of the restaurants name ‘The Sunlight’ but needless to say it was presented very nicely and oozed elegance.

So as I said it was Sunday so there was a set menu priced very nicely indeed. 15 pounds for 2 courses and 18 for 3 courses. With it only being a lunchtime we decided to both have a starter and a main course, who am I kidding I did try to push for a dessert but ultimately it was her choice to skip the pudding. With the hunger having asserted itself we swiftly made our choice – Thai fish cakes and Camembert, onion and fig tart to start and posh fish and chips and a double cheese burger from hell. I had the tart and without a doubt it was magical, I was moved. The saltiness of the Camembert along with the sweetness of the onion and figs was balance perfectly and filled me with joy. Severed on a crisp shortcrust tart base, accompanied with a side salad of fresh salad leaves. Job number one done.

Next I sampled the Thai fish cakes and I quite enjoyed them as well. They were served with a sharp mango salsa and again a fresh side salad. I felt that the fish cakes tasted great but I would have liked a bit more texture. The fish cakes had very delicate fish inside them which kind of flaked away when trying to eat them but this wasn’t enough to disappoint.

Moving on swiftly to the main course and the overwhelming indulgence of a Sunday menu lacking any real healthy options to satisfy cravings I chose to eat the ‘posh fish and chips’ and my partner opted for a double cheeseburger from hell, as aforementioned. The fish I had was superb in taste, shrouded in a beer batter that was both light and crisp, encompassing a delicate, moist piece of fish. My only qualm was that it wasn’t overly large and had a bit of an odd shape. Coupled with some thick, hand cut chips, that were to die for, some delightfully minted mushy peas which gave the dish a lift from a seaside classic to a restaurant ready plate. Finished with a home made pot of tartare sauce left me feeling some what accomplished. The burger from hell, as I’ve aptly named it, was a monster! Two beef patties nestled inside a fresh bun with all the trimmings we have come to expect from most burgers and perhaps the worlds biggest pickle on the top of the burger. There was no need for a sauce as the burger was oozing with juices and both patties were beautifully pink. Again served with hand cut chips, this dish was a winner. Would recommend to even the most die hard of burger fans.

To conclude then, The Sunlight is somewhere that I would regard highly and urge anyone in the local area to visit. I think the food and atmosphere are great. There are a few things that I would change though, the young waiter, bless him, in his somewhat robotic approach and the fact that the restaurant is called The Sunlight with the decor being slightly dark a luxurious. I think it would benefit from a little natural light and some lighter colours in the decor. A must try and I think that it would be fantastic for an occasion. Safe to say I left happy and will return with haste.

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Little Four

In this latest post we will look to analyse the broad spectrum of Chinese cuisine. We all have our favourites and for me personally I’m usually highly predictable when it comes to selecting my options. I mean, it took me a long time from a child with a limited palette of chicken nuggets and fish fingers to fully appreciate the wonders of what Chinese cooking really entails. I had later gathered that there is a holy trinity that forms the base of most Chinese dishes, namely – garlic, ginger and chilli. Bliss! 

The mighty red rose (England rugby) were playing at Twickenham and my parter and I decided to get hold of a few tickets for us and some friends. Here’s where the fun starts, we had spent the whole of a Friday afternoon on our feet and felt like that nothing other than a Chinese meal would be sufficient to settle those amounting hunger demons. So we headed to China town (Leicester Square) and I decided that we should pick a restauant to eat at. We read no online reviews, we just picked on based on the percentage of Chinese people eating in the restaurant and we figured that we would get the most authentic representation of food based on this premise. In this case, ‘Little Four’ had 100% Chinese natives and when we stepped in it was somewhat intimidating as were not greeted with the hospitality that we have become accustomed to in the western world. 

As I have already mentioned it was a Friday and the place it’s self is a relatively small expanse, although they did have another floor. We stood in the door way to the restaurant for around 15 minutes until eventually a table became available and we were seated. There was a hot plate in the middle of each table, giving the assumption that the various Chinese hot-pots available were a specialty of the restaurant. A bowl, soup spoon and a set of chopsticks were placed on the table and the option of a knife and fork was not given. The gentleman that served us ‘Steven’ was not really a pleasant chap. His whole attitude kind of gave off the impression that oozed with a certain swagger and arrogance as if to say we’re not bothered whether you eat here or not your seats will be taken. 

We decided that we would go all out, 4 soups; 2x crab and sweet corn, hot and sour and wan ton and I think that it is safe to say that I was starting to understand Steven’s attitude. Good start. My companion and I felt the necessity to order roast belly pork to come with the starter. Greedy? Maybe… justified choice? Definitely ! Then like a smooth flowing river we moved on to the main as plates and bowls came and went.  Sizzling beef in black pepper, garlic and chilli chicken, sweet and sour chicken accompanied with boiled rice and Singapore noodles. Without doubt every single thing that came to the table I tried and loved. It was single handedly the best Chinese food that I Have ever eaten. The beef was tender and melt in your mouth, the chicken was crisp and clean, the boiled rice was sticky and the noodles were soft and delicate and packed a punch. Before eating here I had clear picture of what I thought Chinese food was and how wrong was I ? The clarity of the flavours were astronomically good. Now I am fully on board with Steven’s attitude. I understand the arrogance and I don’t feel that unless i visit China I will get to experience Chinese food like that again. 

To summarise then, ‘Little Four’ is a small, unassuming , unwelcoming restaurant with an overwhelming sense that the food speaks for itself. This will live long in my memory and I will be forever reminiscent this experience. I was completely stunned with the overall price of the meal totalling £110 for 4 people eating way more than they should have and having two or three drinks each. It will continually endure I pose the question… where do the natives eat? This is an absolute must try for any one visiting London. Out of this world good. 10/10 

Shrewsbury Arms (Oxton)

Time for some pub grub

This time out we will delve in to something that is well and truly British… Pub grub. You know as well as I know that as soon as you become of certain age in Britain (18) it becomes a necessity to visit your local pub for a few jars of your favourite beverage, or several in many British pubescent bingers case. Needless to say that I was (and probably still am) one of these people, however when you reach a certain age and it becomes cool to visit pubs for slightly less ale and you start to forget the juvenile tendencies where every type of food is disgusting and your palette starts to broaden… queue… PUB GRUB.  A match made in heaven, much like chicken and bacon, these two things just go hand in hand.

Now it was Sunday morning and the hour of noon was fast approaching, my partner and I had reached the pinnacle of adulthood, meaning chores for most of the morning. Sharing the responsibilities of the vast amounts of ironing that had amassed over the week, tidying up and even a spot of lawn mowing. Winner! An undertone of smooth fm in the background sparked the idea, we both looked up and had already subliminally decided that we were going to pay a visit to the local pub for a spot of lunch. Behold the Shrewsbury Arms (Oxton).

‘The Shrew’ lies in the epicentre of Oxton Village in Wirral and it lies on the mid point of a gradual gradient. We have visited ‘The Shrew’ on numerous occasions and frankly I really quite like the place. With quite a spacious interior accompanied with an excellent outdoor space (beer garden) as you can see the pub is very easy on the eye. It has a very relaxed feel and has utilised fully the boom of the industrial interior decor. There are a lot drinks on offer, I assume to cater for the needs of the village’s trendiness, forget ‘Thug life’ it is all about the village life. These include wines, spirits and numerous beers and ciders… Happy days.

The menu in ‘The Shrew’ isn’t what we as brits have become accustomed to, I mean don’t get me wrong there are a few dishes nestled in the menu what we have come to expect, bangers and mash, steak and ale pie and various meats ‘from the grill’. Throughout the menu there are lashings of european trendiness: moules frites and Cesar flatbread. In this case these are the two dishes that we chose, me, more so perhaps at random rather than habit. I felt that this would not be sufficient enough for my overwhelming rotundness, so i ordered a steak special… a rump steak and chips light bite. Yes there is such thing as a steak light bite, apparently. Overall I was quite satisfied with the meal and the afternoon that we had. The Cesar flatbread as per usual was very good and was made even better with the addition of chicken and pruscuitto. Supported by fries and ramekin of BBQ sauce clearly was an uncontroversial lunch time choice. Steak and chips was everything you could expect and satisfied the meat cravings, at least until dinner time anyway. Moules frites on the other did not amount to greatness. The mussels themselves were ok but the bisque sauce that they were swimming in was not very ‘bisquey’. The whole dish was somewhat underwhelming. It wasn’t a complete disaster and I feel that based on historic visits I could have made a better choice. It seems as though everything I had eaten here before had given me great expectations and perhaps the fact that these were not reminiscent of the ones that I had indulged in across the continent.

Summary

If the weather is nice and you feel the need to wet the whistle then I would definitely recommend ‘The Shrew’ I would also recommend majority of the menu. The food is very well priced and for under £30 three meals came to our table of good size. The staff that work there are very friendly and I cannot find fault with the service at all. The selection of beverages that are available make this pub a centripetal hub in the heart of a quaint, trendy village that serves up a tasty and broad range of food. The decor is amazing and I love how relaxed you can be there.

I would probably give this pub a 7/10

Industrial decor on the rise
Food for Two

Continue reading Shrewsbury Arms (Oxton)

Armadillo (Wirral)

The Armadillo Mediterranean restaurant is situated on Bennington Road, Tranmere just beyond Victoria Park. The restaurant itself is a bustling and quaint little place and always seems quite busy. It’s decor matches the menu with a Turkish or Mediterranean feel throughout. Considering the space available it is utilised very well and no matter where you sit in the restaurant you do not feel cramped or on top of other guests. It has a very relaxed vibe accommodating for both casual walk ins and pre booked partyesque tables. 

Chicken kebab (main course)

The food, Staff and Service

The staff are very welcoming and go out of their way to cater to the needs of guests. As I mentioned previously they welcome with open arms walk in ‘off the cuff’ type of guests, such as myself and accomdate very well for pre booked parties. It was early on Saturday evening, usually the busiest night of the week for any food serving establishment, and with a slight rejiggle to the seating plan the waiters were able to fit us in and provide us with great service. As usual. This was the third time my partner and I, along with our little one (a very hyper active yet well behaved 5 year old) have visited the restaurant and every time has been equally as good as the other with regards to service. 

The menu is quite a small menu which screams ‘we do what we do very well’. I personally love menu and everything I have eaten has been dreamy, with a real authentically Mediterranean simplicity to the food. Upon entering the restaurant we were seated promptly and given menus. Five minutes passed and we had decided. We opted for a starter of hummus with freshly baked pitta breads (to share) and a portion of garlic bread, to satisfy the mini human, two main courses: chicken kebab (pictured above) and baked cod with crispy potatoes, along with only the finest chicken nuggets and chips hand picked from the very appropriate children’s menu. I think it would be safe to say that the chicken kebab option would be a safe bet for many folk and with that being said there is absolutely no compromise on anything. The chicken was perfectly cooked,marinaded to perfection and nestled on top of a pitta equipped with rice and a small side salad as well as some Mediterranean vegetables. It was most definitely among the best tasting chicken I have eaten in some time… a real winner. As per usual, I opted for a fish dish in this instance baked cod. The plate arrived again with a small side salad (very fresh) and this time some crispy, skin on, potatoes. Needless to say this was also amazing. The fish itself was beautifully delicate, whilst boasting some great flavour and partnered with the potatoes was a great contrast in textures. As far a portions go, I was impressed and that in itself is a difficult feat. The children’s chicken nuggets was everything you would expect from chicken nuggets whilst not compromising on quality or overloading the plate. 

Baked cod and crispy potatoes

When at a restaurant a decision has to be made… dessert or not. Usually I always go for the former. Three desserts were ordered and three desserts came. 

  • Rich chocolate pudding
  • Sticky toffee pudding and
  • Portion vanilla ice cream

After sampling all three, obviously, I can assure that there was very little to separate the sticky toffee and chocolate puddings. It comes down to personal preference I suppose, of which I haven’t got one. They were both warming and did exactly as they said they would. Pure indulgence. I think in terms of the vanilla ice cream it was of good quality and did not taste cheap. 
Value for money

This section I will keep short and sweet. The food is excellently priced and I feel that it is great value for money. Our total bill was around the £50 mark for a three course meal for a family of three with 3 drinks each. That in my personal opinion is very good. 

Summary

To summarise this small local restaurant is ideal for families, couples and parties alike. It boasts excellent value for money, food, service and attention to detail. 

I left the restaurant with a full belly, a smile on my face,  a handshake, a basis on which to write this blog and a living memory of what I have actually eaten. 

A must try for anyone in the local and surrounding areas. 

B Clarke Family Butchers


Now where to start with this traditional butchers on Allerton Road in Liverpool. I guess, the best place would be the outside the shop. Just look at it! From the classic red and white striped canopy to the contrasting black beams. The old English font that reads ‘B .Clarke and Family – Quality meats’ above the shop really is an understatement. The produce sold at this shop is exceptional. Upon entering the shop it opens out into a spacious square outlined with a counter jam packed with seemingly high quality British produce (on the right) and a hot counter exhibiting the meat in all its glory and tenderness ready to eat.

An array of cooked meats available
As I previously stated that the shop is situated in the heart of Allerton Road and is possibly one of the busiest butchers shops that I have ever come across, which in itself is a great achievement, considering the demise of local shops in recent years. A friend and I visited the shop on this occasion on a  Sunday morning, I assume just prior to the Sunday rush. We went in through the door and was immediately greeted with an aroma of what a civilised carnivores dreams are made out of and no longer than a second I was at the counter. I usually never differ from a preempted choice already made long before even entering the shop on what I shall be purchasing from the hot counter. Chicken, stuffing and gravy all wrapped up with salt and pepper and a brown baguette… but in this instance I thought I would add another vital ingredient, nothing other than the humble sausage. For those who generally struggle with making a decision on what their pre afternoon meal will be, the process usually goes as follows:

  1. Enter shop
  2. Proceed to hot counter
  3. Ponder about which is your favourite meat or whichever tickles your fancy
  4. Make the counter staff aware of your selection
  5. Wait patiently for them to prepare your ‘journey’
  6. Exchange money and
  7. Exit shop

For the sum of about £5 you get a whole chicken breast, stored in a water bath (or bain marie if you’re slightly more sophisticated than me) a great lump of stuffing and some gravy made with all the ‘jus de poulet’ or chicken juice to you and me. As previously stated the addition of another ingredient was necessary and in a traditional pork sausage, an ancient combination was reignited.

I was somewhat disappointed with the servers attitude as I didn’t feel like it reciprocated the food. I think that the quality of the produce and the level of custom on a daily basis should shine through in the service. I feel that given the opportunity to provide a great percentage of Liverpool with amazing deliciousness that the least you should expect is a smile and a little enthusiasm. This isn’t the norm for all of the staff mind, the vast majority of them are happy and bubbly and highly skilled.

The raw meat side is quite remarkable. Stocking the freshest meat from all across the region and everything single piece of it, with a single look, made me drool and make inaudible noises much like Homer Simpson. The selection consists of marinaded bbq meats as well as the usual suspects and the offal separated at the back of the counter. The whole thing reminds me of  a big selection box with the only difference being meat instead of chocolate, which in my eyes is certainly no compromise. The place is a meat lovers dream. I love the variety in offers that they have. I would strongly recommend this butchers to anyone in Liverpool and anyone visiting the local area.

 

The selection box of meat
In summary then, this is an unmissable, unmistakeable, (from the outside) probably unassuming culinary journey,  what I will call the first wonder of Liverpool. If you are able to overlook the creases this shop will not disappoint and I very much doubt that you will find a much better butchers shop and hot counter anywhere in Merseyside.

It is to be expected that it is a little more pricy, but you get what you pay for and in this instance I will definitely say ditch the major supermarkets and go local.