Giggling Squid – Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk (UK)

Giggling Squid is a chain of Thai restaurants located in affluent market towns. There are 20 restaurants and counting but it certainly doesn’t feel like a soulless corporate entity. Perhaps it’s because the story of their beginnings is a humble and endearing one. Andy and Pranee Laurillard came up with the concept of Thai Tapas Sets and opened their first restaurant in Brighton back in 2002. And if you’re wondering where the quirky name came from, it’s the nickname of one of their children.

It was only a matter of time before Giggling Squid came to the historic town of Bury St Edmunds and it’s a perfect fit. It has become massively popular so be sure to book.

The décor is simply stunning. Muted colours, gorgeous lighting and layered textures create a relaxing and welcoming ambience, complemented by friendly and helpful service.

Paulo and I popped in for dinner, so we missed their famous lunch time tapas (this will soon be corrected with a return visit). The evening menu was filled with tantalising dishes, some of them quite original, others more traditional but all reflecting their ethos of simple, rustic, fresh Thai food.

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Squires Restaurant, Bedford Lodge Hotel & Spa – Newmarket, Suffolk (UK)

Pies are a big deal in the UK so it’s no wonder we hold British Pie Week every March to celebrate our love of the humble pie. Bedford Lodge Hotel & Spa in Newmarket got in on the celebrations and invited me and Paulo to try out their British Pie Weekend menu at Squires Restaurant.

This 2 AA Rosette restaurant, with Executive Head Chef Sean Melville at the helm, provides a modern dining experience in beautiful surroundings. The restaurant prides itself on sourcing their produce locally whenever possible, and their suppliers are all within a 50-mile radius.

We were greeted warmly by restaurant manager Manfred Seibert and shown to a cosy table in the corner with comfy armchairs. The excellent service continued throughout the meal.

We ordered drinks while we perused the three-course pie menu: Adnams Ghost Ship pale ale for Paulo and a glass of Prosecco for me.

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Eric’s Fish & Chips – Thornham, Norfolk (UK)

Eric’s Fish & Chips, located in the pretty village of Thornham on the North Norfolk coast, is home to some of the best fish and chips I’ve tasted. Well-known local chef Eric Snaith opened the restaurant in 2015 and it’s been a huge success with locals and visitors alike.

The minimalist décor is bright, cheerful and modern with a nod to the fish and chip shops of yore. Concrete floors, multi-coloured wall tiles, rustic jam jar lights as well as stools, chairs and tables with hints of vibrant yellow and green all add to the fun and welcoming atmosphere.

The focus is on local, seasonal produce… from the sustainable MSC-certified fish to the potatoes (there is even a sign indicating the potato of the day).

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The Ship Hotel – Brancaster, Norfolk (UK)

The Flying Kiwi Inns is an independent group of luxury hotels in coastal Norfolk purchased by New Zealand Master Chef Chris Coubrough who has settled in the area. The Ship Hotel in Brancaster is one of those luxurious hotels. I already stayed at The Crown Hotel in Wells-next-the-Sea and blogged about it here a few years ago. Paulo and I really enjoyed the great food, wine, service and ambience and were eager to repeat the experience at The Ship Hotel. I’m pleased to say we were not disappointed.

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We had a bit of a stressful drive during Storm Doris but when we arrived at The Ship Hotel, check-in couldn’t have been more effortless. Within minutes we were shown to room 9, which I requested upon booking over the phone, where we could unwind before dinner.

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The deluxe Moroccan-themed room on the top floor featured a comfy King-size bed, a luxurious roll top bath, separate shower cubicle and a great little nook with a sofa bed nestled in the corner.

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Room 9 on the top floor was the pub’s attic before the refurbishment but the high ceiling in the roof’s apex and the original wooden beams made the room feel spacious.

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Signorelli’s Deli – Cambridge (UK)

There was a time when authentic Italian pizza was hard to come by in Cambridge. In the last few years, there have been some excellent cafes, delis, restaurants and even mobile pizzerias serving this popular Italian classic all over our fair city. So much so, that we are now spoilt for choice, as there are many different kinds of pizza with their origins throughout Italy. Each region has their own way of making pizza, with Naples and Rome among some of the best known cities.

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Most people are only familiar with the round single serving pizzas, sometimes baked in a wood fired oven. Signorelli’s Deli, which opened recently on Burleigh Street by The Grafton Centre, serve their pizza differently. They specialise in pizza al taglio (pizza by the slice), where the dough is spread out in a rectangular tray, topped with a choice of ingredients, baked in an electric oven and cut into slices. It’s not meant to be served hot. The rectangular slices are easy to eat on the go but Signorelli’s Deli boasts a welcoming spacious interior with some of the friendliest staff I have ever encountered. The pride and passion for what they create is apparent and they are very helpful in answering any questions about their products. There is definitely a great team there!

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Signorelli Deli’s pizza al taglio has a thick (but not dense) crumb that’s puffy and similar to focaccia. The dough, obviously made from high quality ingredients, is full of air bubbles, resulting in an airy, chewy foundation robust enough to support a variety of toppings.

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1H+K – Vaasa (Finland)

Once in a while you stumble upon the perfect little restaurant that has it all: great food, ambience and service. 1H+K is that place, although it happens to be in Vaasa, Finland so I’m not able to pop in nearly as often as I’d like. However, I did make the most of my short stay and enjoyed dinner at 1H+K twice.

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1H+K stands for one (1) room (huone) + kitchen (keittiö) and that’s exactly what it is, although there is a private dining room available (they call it a cabinet). The restaurant (ravintola) is tucked away on the first floor above the Pentik shop but it isn’t part of the store. It’s completely independent and is accessed through the main entrance with its own staircase. However, you can spot the restaurant from inside the shop.

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Its relatively hidden premises is part of the charm. It’s like discovering a secret location for those “in the know”. It certainly feels as though it’s the type of place only locals know about, as there is no English version of their website. Fortunately, I was able to find their main menu on their Facebook page that included the English translation. The dishes feature local produce and seasonal cooking, which means that the menu changes a few times a year and remains small (as it should be) with 4 or 5 items per course.

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Sweet Vaasa – Vaasa (Finland)

I was delighted when I discovered Sweet Vaasa on my trip to Vaasa, Finland. Just a short distance from the market square, it’s a real gem of a place! Contrary to what the name might suggest, Sweet Vaasa doesn’t only make cakes and bakes. They offer a variety of savoury items too… sandwiches, wraps, massive salads (from the menu or buffet) and their Meal of the Day (such as warm salads, risotto and grilled chicken). They offer a vegetarian, vegan, gluten free and lactose free menu too.

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Sweet Vaasa bake all of their cakes and treats from scratch and I was impressed at the variety on display. It was so hard to choose, every single creation looked absolutely phenomenal. More than just little works of art, they tasted fresh and delicious. I could tell that Sweet Vaasa hold true to their ethos of using natural ingredients and avoiding additives and preservatives. Even their salad dressings are freshly made and thereby free of any unnecessary E numbers.

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Steak & Honour Restaurant – Cambridge (UK)

I’ve been raving about Steak & Honour for years and have been stalking tracking their burger van since it first hit the streets of Cambridge a few years ago. It was so popular, a second Citroen H van was added to keep up with the demand for their delicious gourmet burgers. In January 2017, Steak & Honour launched the long awaited restaurant on Wheeler Street, next door to the Corn Exchange.

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Cambridge is burger heaven with Steak & Honour’s two vans trading at various locations as well as the bricks and mortar site. There is even a handy Steak & Honour app to keep track of their daily schedules and receive restaurant offers and rewards.

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The restaurant reflects the street food experience with its open kitchen so you can see the chefs in action while you are queueing or waiting for your meal. There are about 40 seats spread out over three floors, mostly on the first and second floors up the colourful stairs.

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Café@abantu, Wysing Arts Centre – Bourn, Cambridge (UK)

Café@abantu is a popular tearoom in Bourn and I’m relieved they managed to find another location in the same village near Cambridge. I wrote about them here a few years ago. They moved to Wysing Arts Centre in July 2016 and it’s really a perfect fit, with the same cosy seating inside and lots more space outside. They offer the same fantastic homemade cakes and treats as well a menu featuring hearty dishes with fresh ingredients (Fairtrade and locally sourced as much as possible).

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Café@abantu isn’t just a run-of-the-mill village tearoom. It’s a destination in itself. You can walk along the trails and admire the outdoor sculptures by the artists at Wysing Arts Centre (ask for a map at the café) but their cakes and treats are definite highlights. Make sure you check out the cake counter at the till for their bakes of the day.

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Their menu, which includes vegetarian and vegan options, is varied enough to keep it interesting whilst still offering staples such as toasties and soup.

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Smoky Chilli Con Carne

Paulo and I have been making our famous chilli con carne for years but this is the first time we tried it on our new Big Green Egg. The recipe already adds smokiness by griddling whole red chillies but using hickory wood chips in the Big Green Egg gave the chilli con carne an even more smoky flavour.

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It’s not essential to have a Big Green Egg to make this recipe so I’ll provide the stove top and EGG versions. However, if you are considering getting a Big Green Egg I heartily recommend it (I’m not getting paid to write that!). It’s more of an oven than a barbecue and can be used year round. So on a crisp winter’s day, Paulo and I donned our Aabelard aprons and fired up the Big Green Egg. They helped keep us warm too!

aabelard-aprons

Aabelard aprons are top quality (again, not getting paid for this recommendation). Made with waxed cotton, double-faced Italian leather (it’s like butterrrr) and antiqued brass buckles, it’s the only apron I’ll ever need and the cross back strap makes it super comfortable. I initially got one thinking that I would share it with Paulo but it became apparent that we each wanted our own apron, so I bought Paulo one in his favourite colour and even got it personalised with his initials. And besides, there’s nothing like a bit of brass and leather to spice up our culinary experiences! Ooo-err!

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We used Big Green Egg’s Dutch Oven but you can use any cast iron pot, even an enamelled one. You won’t need the lid for this recipe.

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