Sunday, 21 October 2012

Gin, Belgium and Butter Beer.

Tattie holidays already?!  Girl kindly explained to me that they were so called as in the olden days children had to get time off school to help the farmers harvest potatoes. Less of the olden days if you please.  I may only have a few days left of my 30's but I've picked my fair share of spuds in my youth.  Alas no tattie picking for my two instead a trip south to the bright lights of London to visit my foodie sister, see Matilda the Musical and do the WB Harry Potter Studio Tour.  Beats back breaking tattie picking any day.
It was London Cocktail Week during our visit but unfortunately due to the presence of boy and girl we were unable to indulge.  We did however fortuitously stumble over a Hendricks Gin tasting on a street corner whilst en route to dinner.  I'm a big mulled wine fan but their Hot Gin Punch surpassed it by far.  Fair warmed the cockles of your heart.  Pretty potent too with nothing much in the way of mixers.  Can't be doing with wishy washy drinks
HOT GIN PUNCH
3 full teacups of Hendricks gin
3 full teacups of Maderia wine
3 cloves
pinch grated nutmeg
large tsp cinnamon
2 tsp brown sugar
6 large lemon and orange twists
small slice orange
1 fresh pineapple
4 large spoons honey
juice of 2 lemons

Mix all ingredients in a saucepan and place on the heat.  Let the concoction simmer for 20-30 minutes.  Taste adding lemon or honey depending on whether you like it sweet or sour.  I'm definitely going to recreate this for an upcoming fireworks party although am somewhat confused about what I'm actually supposed to do with the 1 fresh pineapple...
After our Gin aperitif we headed to Belgo for our pre theatre meal. Really good Belgian restaurant which we have previously visited on trips to London.  Situated underground in Covent Garden there is a real quirky vibe to the place with the staff dressed in monks habits and an industrial feel to the decor. To start with we opted for a sharing plank of cured meats, chicken liver parfait, sour cherries, sourdough bread, giant croutons and fig and date chutney.  Amazingly good. I especially loved the sour cherries and will be seeking some out.
Houtenplank
For mains we all opted for moules.  
Thai - lemongrass, chilli, ginger, kaffir lime leaves, coconut and corriander.  
Snob - lobester, champagne and cream bisque. 
Espangole - tomato, chorizo, smpked paprika. 
Poppei - pancetta, creamed spinach, garlic and cheddar. 
All fantastic as were the accompanying double cooked frites. In the absence of her traditional chicken nuggets appearing on the menu girl had sausage and mash.  
Espangole
Poppei
The beer list is even more extensive than the menu.  Apparently one of the biggest selections in London and each served in its own unique glass.  We kicked off with some fairly standard Leffe and a couple of the on tap brews.  However on a trip to the toilets (well worth a visit for the sink alone) I noticed some pink elephants lurking in the beer cellar.  My mother being somewhat of an elephant fan we had to try it.  She has finally driven me to drink.  8.5% Delirium Tremens.
This one's for you Mum - Cheers!
And so to desert.  I was coerced into another sharing plank.  This time with Irish cream and dark chocolate pots, caramel waffle biscuits, two shots of schnapps and a cherry compote. Totally unnecessary and overindulgent. The mango schnapps was especially good.  Next time I might just opt for the 32 shot schnapps stick and be done with it.
Zoet Plank
A short walk along the street to the Cambridge Theatre and Matilda.  What an amazing Musical.  Fantastic set, cast, songs and lyrics.  Touches of sheer genius from Tim Minchin.  Go see it if you get the chance.  Next up was the Harry Potter Studio Tour and the chance to try Butter Beer.  This is only one of two places in the world you can get it. The other being Universal Studios in Florida.  Boy and Girl were giddy with excitement.
So the verdict. Sickly sweet. Toffee, caramel, syrup with a huge frothy sugary head reminiscent of a cream soda float. Needless to say the kids loved it. A sip was more than enough for me. Boy asked if they also sold Fire Whisky. Alas the answer is no. The tour itself was amazing. Secrets were indeed revealed. Highly recommended.
The Three Broomsticks?!
Before heading for home we squeezed in a trip to Bletchley Park, home of the Enigma codebreakers. A truly fascinating historic site. I especially loved all the Home Front parts of the exhibitions particularly in relation to wartime cookery and food rationing.  I've been avidly watching Wartime Farm and secretly would love to be Food Historian Ruth Goodman. I'm going to do a separate blog post on Bletchley and wartime cookery at some point but in the meantime I'll leave you with a postcard that I bought which is a reproduction of a wartime poster. Considering the recent fuss in the news about reusing jam jars I though it was somewhat judicious. Lets hope wartime common sense prevails once again.

5 comments :

  1. thanks for sharing.

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  2. Oh hot gin punch! The very thought of it has just made my day. I WILL be making that! Hendrick's is my most favourite gin too..

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  3. Here's some clarification from Hendricks themselves about what to do with the Pineapple

    Pour all the ingredients in, add the spices and then chop the pineapple (skin off) up into medium sized chunks. (You can spike a couple of cloves into it... then just throw all that into the pot. As the liquid heats up - you'll extract lots of the oils from the orange and lemon peels, loads of flavour from the spices and the pineapple will sort of stew - caramelising ever so slightly. Try a tiny bit of it as soon as it is hot and it will taste okay - but let it steam away for half an hour (you're house will smell amazing) and the pineapple will work its magic. It really just gets better and better. This punch is from Dickens (David Copperfield) and is pretty strong - so a wee drop of water might be required... depends on what you've got planned I suppose!

    I've since made it for a fireworks party and it was amazingly good. Especially the intoxicating pineapple chunks!

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