Archive for the ‘Off Track – UK’ Category


The last time I visited Craster in Northumberland I sat outside a cliff side pub watching the house martins fly from their nests drinking a pint of good local beer. Eighteen years later en route to St Andrews in Scotland I found myself stopping off for a spot of lunch at the same pub and was tempted by their locally sourced seafood options. The House Martins were still there nesting in the eaves of the pub, and the views of  Dunstanburgh Castle were much more spectacular than my memories.

The Jolly Fisherman is just across the road from Robson’s, producers of the famous Craster kipper.


The food seemed to be more or less the same in terms of content but the presentation was more upmarket than I recalled, in common with many places the food came served on wooden boards and was probably priced a little higher than in a traditonal pub. We kept it local and went for the options of crab and kipper

The Local Crab came in a Sandwich on plain white bread, it was simple but that was the best way to serve it so that you could really appreciate the quality of the crab meat. It was accompanied by a simple leaf salad primarily of rocket and some crisps. It was good but not as good as the kippers.

The Craster Kippers from over the road were transformed into a Homemade Craster Kipper Pâté (Made with the famous kippers, served with melba toast). The pâté was creamy and had a good strong kipper smoked flavour. The salad was a good side but on the whole the dish could have done with a bit more toast to go with the large pot of pâté.

Both were good and I was keen to get over the road to see the shop from which they were sourced.


Inside it was all that you could ask for. Plenty of smoked kipper and a great smell, the sort of smell that was more like a flavour hanging in the air like an invisible smoke.


The kippers looked great, they were selling some as ‘seconds’ which was a curious term, they actually looked a lot tastier to me, so I dont know what was wrong with them or what defines a ‘second’ in the kipper world. Sadly we had no chance to buy any as we did not have access to a fridge for a few days. Although they  (Robsons) have a website where you can order all of their products online I was glad that we had sampled at the pub as I doubt that I will be able to get a shipment back over to Chicago.

L Robson and Sons Ltd is a 4th generation family business, famous across the UK and the world for oak smoking kippers and salmon. They are in the heart of the tiny fishing village of Craster in Northumberland and have been there for over 130 years.

The Jolly Fisherman is located at Haven Hill, Craster, Alnwick in Northumberland


You can always rely on the British to be an adventurous bunch, especially when it comes to putting a random animal in between two burger buns. At the Farmers Market in Nottingham’s Old Market Square this last weekend I was not disapointed.


I could have gone for something traditi0nal such as a Lamb Burger from the Thorpe Latimer Farmshop stand but I had had both their Lamb Burger and their Red Beef Beefburger before and I was looking for something that I had not had before.


So what would it be and what could it be. Believe or not all of the following were possibilities. I had had Venison many times, and plenty of Ostrich too, but Kangaroo? Not that I could recall.


I went for the Kangeroo burger with some onions and cheese in a white bap. I even got to eat it in a Jubilee inspired tent on a St Georges cross table cloth.

I liked it, there was hardly any fat and it tasted lean too, in terms of texture is was very solid almost packed meat, probably all that jumping around tends to firm everything up. I am sure that is not really a highly technical appraisal of why Kangaroo Meat is healthy. Despite its apparent health benefits I shall resist converting to “Kangatarianism” (a diet which excludes meat except kangaroo on environmental and ethical grounds.)

The Kangaroo came from the Oslinc Farm Stand which more usually attracts custom for its UK farmed ostrich. Website:


A Sunday afternoon drive in the Derbyshire countryside should have been accompanied by a traditional sunday roast dinner in a country pub, but in the village of Bakewell I was drawn into sampling some sausages at the Tiroler Stuberl Austrian Coffee shop and Sausage Importer. Tiroler Stuberl is a small Family Business that has been serving the local community as well as many visitors to Bakewell for nearly 20 years.
They have a nice outdoor eating area and on this past weekend it was even nice enough make use of that space  to eat out.


As I checked out the menu I swear that the wood man head on the wall was giving me the evil eye, was I going to make the right choice or would I blow it by making the wrong selection? I was confident that I had all the sausage related answers, but I was not going to blink, just in case. There were a whole selection of Austrian sausages on offer. Kaesekrainer – smokey with lumps of Emmental cheese, Puszta Wurst – coarse, spicy with peppers, garlic and paprika, Hungarian Style, Waldviertler – very dark beech wood smoked, a hearty sausage, a traditional Austrian Bratwurst, Wiener Wuerstel – lovely smokey and meaty Frankfurters with a chutney bite,Debreciner – slightly spicy, smooth with garlic and paprika, a Hot and spicy Debreciner – about 10 inches long with a good bit of heat, a Knackwurst – big and chunky, and a Landjaeger – air dried and firm.
I would have loved to have had some sort of sampler plate but in the end we restricted ourselves to a pair of Kaeskrainer, and a Bratwurst on a toasted bun.


Together with some yellow mustard these were both fantastic choices. The Bratwurst somewhat unfairly had to compete with the Kaeskrainer, it was never going to be able to win.  Although it was solid, smokey and meaty, the Kaeskrainer was spicy and oozed cheese as you cut into it. It reminded me of a venison sausage that I once had that was stuffed with jalopeno cheese. Although the picture shows some ketchup I can assure you that was not my doing, it was ‘dressed’ that way when it arrived. Clearly the same rules do not apply in Vienna as in Chicago where ‘you never put ketchup on a hot dog’.

Although I would not suggest flying over just to sample these sausages, if you hit up Austria or find somewhere in the states to but them then I recommend trying them.

It might be worth checking out Gene’s Sausage Shop in Lincoln Square

Tiroler Stuberl Austrian Coffee shop is Located at Water Street, Bakewell, Derbyshire

This food hunt entry works backwards from the food and then goes in reverse careering back down hill through the pub crawl. The last stop of the night was at The Roebuck Inn in Nottingham where the default choice of the night had to be a Club Sandwich with Chips described on their menu as “Our signature sandwich, on toasted white bloomer bread, with chicken breast, bacon, tomato, mature Cheddar cheese, mayonnaise and lettuce”. It was a significant improvement on the last club sandwich that I was given by the mere fact that it was toasted. Also I like the addition of the wooden stick in the top to add scaffolding to the food, and a slight danger to really stupid people. It was a really good effort, and my abiding memories of this particular chain of pubs is that their food is consistent, if not spectacular

I was slightly sad to find that this sandwich was really quite good as it was from a chain of pubs that swamps the UK like Starbucks blights America, but my excuse was that I really had drunk an awful lot of beer before I reached this final destination, so my sense and sensibilities had fallen well below the standards of the common man.  How did this happen? I blame the young Professor Moriarty for leading me a merry dance of real ale through the Lace Market district of Nottingham. First Stop had been at the Kean’s Head, another one of the pubs supplied by the Nottingham Castle Brewery. If there had been a table free we may have eaten here as the menu looked good, and I clocked a pie night that may well be visited in the near future before I return to the States.


The next stop had been at the Cock and Hoop where there were also many decent options for food, but by now we were distracted by the beer.


Then it was on to the Cross Keys for a couple more beers to fuel the appetite.

From here it was a short stroll back over to the Wetherspoons on St James Street for those Club Sandwiches and a couple more beers to end the night.

Keans Head pub located at 46 St Mary’s Gate, Nottingham. Website:

Cock and Hoop pub located at  25 High Pavement, Nottingham Lace Market District. Website:

Cross Keys pub located at 15 Byard Lane, Nottingham  City Centre. website:

Wetherspoons – The Roebuck Inn located at 9-11 St James’s Street, Nottingham. Website:

If you are drinking beer at the “Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem”, the oldest pub in England, then why not consume a plate of Fish and Chips to go with it?

There is no good answer as to why not, so I took the safe option and did just that.

Although it was quite tasty it was a pretty much tourist version of this dish, judging by the accents around the top room in the pub, I would guess that this place attracts many overseas visitors and I would lay a reasonable bet that they consume a fair amount of fish and chips on their trip to the Trip. It was good piece of battered haddock, the fish moist and juicy, the batter crispy. A small pot of mushy peas and tartare sauce were good, the chips a bit standard and not too exciting. The good thing was that it was not too large and so I was still able to drink a couple of decent beers to wash it down with.


One of the benefits of returning to the UK is that I have been able to catch up on my UK Cookery programmes and get introduced to some new chefs. It’s amazing how quickly someone new can arrive on the scene. My new favorites are the “Fabulous Baker Brothers”- Henry and Tom Herbert. They have a show on Channel Four featuring recipes from the Hobbs House Butchery and Bakery, and a cookbook of the same name ‘The Fabulous Bakers Brothers’ which I now own.

Watching late one night I was inspired to attempt to make their Toad in the Hole recipe, quite a feat for someone who has failed to make Yorkshire Puddings for umpteen years. But there was just something so tantalisingly tasty about the recipe when they made it on television. I had some really great big fat herby sausages from Spring Lane Farm at Mapperley Top in Nottingham to use, and we had the rest of the herbs and onions from the back garden. I won’t reproduce the recipe here but you can find it at the following link.


First off we had some really nice fresh thyme and red onion from the garden, this was added to a hot tray on the stove top to gently brown the sausages. This took about 10 minutes, and while they were cooking we prepared the batter mixture for the ‘hole’part of the dish.


The batter is principally flour, fennel seeds, freshly chopped rosemary,and a dollop of dijon mustard. To this add a couple of good eggs and some milk.


After whisking up the mixture, it then gets added to the pan with the sausages and onions, then is swiftly thrown into the oven for 25-30 minutes. Now if I had any sense I would have adjusted the positions of the sausages so that they were equally distributed across the pan, but I didn’t and I don’t. It was enough to resist the temptation to open the oven for a peek, but resist I did, and the reward was a firmly cooked Toad in the Hole 30 minutes later.


Out of the pan and onto a plate with some mashed potatoes, peas and gravy was the perfect place for this dish to reside. Even better was its final resting place in my stomach.

This Toad and Hole was a really great variation of the dish, I was slightly dubious at the different herbs mixed in, but once cooked they gave it a great flavour, you did need really thick quality sausages, and most of all the ability not to peek.

I will be bringing this recipe out at some Chicago supper clubs once I return, just to prove that English food is not bland or boring.


I should have known better, and I did know better, but that did not stop me pretending to believe that I could get a nice hot dog from a random kiosk in the UK.  I was strolling along the banks of the River Trent and feeling quite good that I had chosen my lunch hour to get some brisk exercise and fresh air, so I thought “OK so we know that kiosk over there is probably going to have nothing to eat in the gourmet department, but it will probably have some really cheap nasty fast food that when smothered with ketchup or mustard will taste great as you eat it, even if it gives you indigestion for the rest of the afternoon”. I had convinced myself and conned my brain which had a mildly romantic remembrance of such cheap eats from years gone by.


This Kiosk, “The Trent Bridge Kiosk” has been situated down on the banks of Trent by Trent Bridge for as long as I can remember. I am not sure what it has always been called, but it has seen the pub alongside change names from “Town Arms” to “The Avairy” to the “Casa”and now “The Riverside”. Over the years the kisok has fed the good people of Nottingham on their way to see Notts County FC, Nottingham Forest FC, and Nottinghamshire Cricket club, as well as many summer revellers on the bankside. I suspect that the food on offer has not changed much either in that time.


The Menu choices were of no surprise, although I was disapointed that despite a nice chalk board drawing of a child requesting a “frankfurter” that was not on the board. I expected that the chalk picture of the owner glaring at the kid and asking “is that on the board? no it isn’t so why did you ask?” was on the reverse side, probably expleted in much more colurful language. For the record I didn’t ask for a Frankfurter, although I was tempted, instead I gulped, took a brief nod to the Gods and asked for a Hot Dog with onions.

In the end this hot dog was not quite as bad as I had conditioned my mind to expect. Having said that I doubt there will be many people jelaous that I was able to get such a delightful lunch here in the UK. But where are the onions? I hear a savvy reader ask. Well they are tucked away insdie the bun beneath the ill fitting sausage. That is so that you cannot see their burnt, greasy, sloppy nature (even though they were very tasty). I was surprised as I would have thought that you would want to disguise as much of the sausage as you could.

I am being harsh of course, it was not awful, it was quite acceptable, and I did not get heartburn or indigestion. Mind you I did have a stinking cold and could hardly taste anything either. On the plus side I am really looking forwards to getting back to Chicago for a Maxwell Street Dog with all the fixings.