Albatta

You know that funny restaurant story that everyone has from a 90’s holiday to Cyprus or somewhere similar, where you eat at a safe middle-of-the-roady place for twelve dinners in a row then on your last night, scraping out all your coins before you fly home, you take the potential gut biome defence challenge and head out to that ropey looking taverna by the supermarket and low and behold it’s only the best bloody meal you’ve had all holiday!!

Albatta in Colchester is basically the domestic equivalent of this, and I mean that in a much more complimentary way than it might initially sound.

Albatta has been on my dinner resolutions list ever since I had to actively change my walking route home to avoid suffering involuntary salivation attacks every time I passed their door in Sir Isaac’s Walk. You see Albatta smells AMAZING, and their menu looks pretty top notch too but suspiciously good in value and then you look in the window and…………..well…………it’s pretty dark, and not always very busy and I’m in touch enough with my inner Posh to admit that I’m not thrilled to eat out somewhere with a shisha yard in the back and a high Just Eat rating. Kind of a kebab shop with table service.
Well I swallowed my middle class (HA!) prejudices when one too many trusted oracles told me that I was being a middle class dick and I really needed to go and eat there, especially since I bang on about how much I love mezze all the time.

Reader, I went and ate there. And I’ve bored everyone about it and been back quite enthusiastically since and curse the day I ever moved out of their delivery zone (thanks a lot, Brightlingsea!!!).

As dining areas go, it is clean and functional with fully working aircon and some nice exposed brickwork that aesthetic types will likely appreciate. Yes, there is a big old shisha yard in the rear which can be busy of a weekend evening but seems to be a pretty separate domain from the restaurant and is barely noticeable if you are sitting in the main space. What definitely is noticeable is a glass fronted fridge marking the kitchen pass, stacked with all kinds of nutty pistachio pastry delights which you should really purchase to take home when you’ve eaten far too much hummus to contemplate dessert.

The menu is either standard or exotic depending on your reference base- but breaks down basically into mezze/starter type plates, salads, big grill plates and some kids/boring mate options of various wraps and sandwiches. And those nutty pastry things you can’t fit in.

From top left- dolmados, the mixed mezze, a quenching Almaza, chicken wings, spiced lentil soup

The mezze is impeccable, and best sampled by their mixed platter if there are a couple of you. Extra points for presentation here in some lovely painted plates with a scattering of pomegranate seeds for the instagrammers. This is easily a lunch for two in itself with the house labneh, hummus, baba ganoush, dolmados, bread and pickles plus various hot options depending on your cheesey/meaty/vegan preferences.

Let us take a moment on those pickles. Yeah, olives and gherkins, who doesn’t love those but OH look at that bright pink stuff which I have since learned is turnip. I just, the words, I can’t quite, dammit. They are so good- crunchy, piquant and ever so slightly sweet they are absolutely perfect to cut through richer and deep fried options that come along with them. Wonderful. I want all of them. Now.

The hummus and baba ganoush are full on in flavour and nicely chunky without any skimping on the garlic. Special mention also to their falafel which comes with some serious poke and the plain but perfect little fried bundles of delight known as a cheese sambosa. As one might expect from a Lebanese joint they throw out a more than acceptable fattoush but smart shoppers might opt for their chilli salad for a bit of a wake up call or go safe with a text book Greek salad or tabbouleh.

God, I’m hungry.

The bigger plates are exactly that- big- and meat heavy with the expected options of lamb, chicken and kebabs with a pleasingly spiced house rice or fries. If you are able to share food without ruining your friendships, my advice would be to stick to masses of mezze and perhaps an order of the chicken wings but then I’m someone who loves a chips-n-dips style dinner.

No filters or enhancement here, that pickled turnip really is that colour and it is AMAZING!!!!!

So the food is great, the ingredients are good and the assembly is classic but most winning is how freshly it comes to the table. As in, you can hear then shortly after smell them chucking it all on the grill just after you order and no, because not everything cooks in the same time, not all of it is served to your table in a handy two minute window but with food this good who the hell cares?

So leading on from that, service is not the shiniest ship in the galaxy, but always on the friendlier side of casual and usually free flowing with recommendations and the odd freebie to compliment what you are ordering.  The wine list is, erm, short, but you can get red, white or pink as you like or sift through a brief list of bottled beers and ciders and the smart money will take an Almaza to go with all the eastern goodness that is coming to your table.

You will order too much at Albatta. It’s just going to happen. And even with a couple of beers it isn’t going to cost you more than £20 a head, which is value that you will not find for this level of fresh and tasty food locally elsewhere (feel free to correct me on this with an invite!). Whilst a bargain dinner is always on the happy end of the scale, what I like most about Albatta is the comfort level, it really is just like tucking into a great meal at home with your mates without all the bother of learning how to cook properly and set a table. It’s a mass takeaway only there’s loads of veg and goodness in amoung the chicken wings and speaking of veg you can literally take any kind of food twat here and know they can fill their vegan, dairy free or strictly carnivorous boots.

It’s great. I love it. The end.

They aren’t online in their own right at Albatta but you can find them on Sit Isaac’s Walk in Colchester a couple of doors down from The Purple Dog pub or check out their menu here:  https://www.just-eat.co.uk/restaurants-albatta-co1/menu

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The ACV Challenge!

vinegarIt’s been a while since I put myself through some kind of funny eating regime for the sake of science/personal development/something to talk about. With the winter kicking in proper and my general lack of enthusiasm for salads at the moment, my contemplated raw adventure is off the cards and I’ve already given up animal stuff and carbs in challenges past, so what now?

Apple cider vinegar.

This is exactly what it sounds like- fermented apples and acid. People talk about all kinds of benefits from this stuff from reducing bloating to correcting pre-diabetic conditions and many other appealing bonuses in between. The science is somewhat sketchy, which is why you still buy your ACV in Waitrose and not at Boots, but what the hell let’s give it a go. I must confess at this point that as much as I love science, I love me more, and have an entirely self serving motive for this challenge. Thanks to oldish age, bad genes and a fondness for bread based produce my innards have started misbehaving in the last year or so, especially during and after what one might refer to as periods of stress. At best, I get a bit grumpy and sluggish. At worst this becomes sleepless nights, chronic stomach and back pain and bloating to the point that my clothes won’t do up. It’s not fun, and rather obviously as it is a guts-based disorder I have looked at food related triggers and treatments. I have found that my symptoms ease somewhat if I avoid eating fibre, dairy, eggs, meat, fish, green veg, starchy veg and 90% of fruit. Yeah. Porridge, over boiled carrots and honey, for the win!!!!! Urgh. Whilst I do have some lovely tablets from my lovely GP to help during attacks, I forget to take the bloody things, and since some utter fucktard smashed into my car on the way to work the other week I have again found myself in a prolonged period of suffering and in need of a form of relief more reliable than my own ability to remember to swallow a pill.
So they tell me that ACV as a fermented product is of great benefit to those who suffer with The Bloat, and as I’m walking around like an over-blown balloon at the moment then what better time to put this theory to the test for a week.

At best, according to a bunch of unqualified experts, I can expect painless guts, reduced appetite from improved blood sugar control, a healthier gut biome, clearer skin, a reduction in snotty sinus related issues, lowered cholesterol, banished indigestion, boosted immunity, better energy levels and fewer sweary leg cramp episodes (another fun thing those bad genes have given me. Thanks for that fam.).
At worst, I’ve given a couple of quid to the nice people at Aspall’s and that’s that. Longer term use obviously opens up a much wider range of potential issues, you are of course taking a shot of acid first thing in the morning, but we will worry about looking at those next week.

So what am I doing? Quite simply, a tablespoon of ACV in a glass of water first thing every morning, for a week. That’s it. Everything else will be service as normal.

See you on the other side.

 

A Month of Mondays. IN YOUR FACE SCIENCE!!!!!

garf

It has been a very special week in the diet department.

For those in need of a recap, I am assigned 30 daily points in my Weight Watchers regimen, and an additional 42 to spread through the week. Last week, I ate all of my daily points and my 42 weekly points. And another 35 points on top of that so basically I squeezed in a whole extra day. Three of these meals were had out, where it is hard to say how accurately I could estimate the ingredients but if anything they were probably under rather than over estimated. In the terms of raw maths, my diet week was a fail.

I lost one and a bit kilos.

Yup, you read that right. For the first time in quite some time my sad little weigh in app sent me an automatic Well Done Fatty message following my data input this morning. What the hell?

One initially looks for the obvious fake success tricks, however I am pretty sure that I’m not especially dehydrated nor at a hormonally favourable point for a weigh in.  I did not exercise any harder or more frequently than usual. Actually more than my mere points were against me- there were a couple of late nights and a highly skewed level of carbohydrate consumption in the mix also. I think I had a bit of chocolate every day at work. Sometimes two. Following on from this, the majority of my extra points were not spent on sensible stuff like chicken breast and plain baked potatoes oh no- more like a curry, a couple of gins and now I think of it a rather smashing Lindor bar in the cinema that I forgot to point until now so that pushes my overpoints up by another 10.

I don’t know how this loss has happened, all observation data is in direct contraction of the results,  but I have 2 observations. The first is that because I carried on tracking even though I knew I wasn’t doing very well, well, I knew I wasn’t doing very well, and this made me rethink a couple of choices over the end of the week. For the first time ever I sat in our favourite Saturday breakfast spot and jotted up the damage on their menu options and strayed away from my usual avocado toast option to a surprisingly points-cheaper veggie ‘fry’ up. I also skipped out on naan bread with the Saturday curry-in-law visit and swapped my rice allowance for an extra popadum. I made myself go out on a little Sunday run that I could have easily avoided and resisted the call of that cornflake Ritter bar in the cupboard last night because I knew I had really already done badly enough. Keeping a real note of how off the rails I was going actually saved me from going any further astray, when it usually has the opposite effect of making me think oh fuck it then make mine a large one, it’s not like it can get any worse.

The second point of note is that I had a relatively relaxed week. I got in some outdoorsy time and had a nice night out with a good friend to a not-good film. Work was ok, apart from that irksome thing of having to actually get up in the mornings and go there and I ditched more than half of my usual TV binge time in favour of a thick blanket and a good book. Nothing to write home about. No traumas either.

Hmm.

Anyway, it’s only a week, anything could happen, and I’m not about to abandon the plan or advocate doubling down on points three days a week. I do feel more inclined to keep a very close eye on this though. Until next time.

BMI Today: Still unfavourable

How do I feel today? Fine. As in OK actually fine, not meh fine.

Did I stay on points last week? As above.

How bad was the weekend? Positively restrained by recent standards.

Insights: Again, as above.

Best Thing I Ate All Week:  A massive bowl of lentils and chorizo with veg and too much garlic. A whopping 19 point dinner which was pushed up with peas and a corn on the cob on the side. Fab.

A Month of Mondays- Pass the lettuce!

 

garfUnsurprisingly, living without a kitchen for just over a week whilst having one set of parental units staying and the other set on standby for a blow out birthday lunch has not resulted in me having a good loss to report.

If you aren’t cooking for yourself, accurately calculating weight watchers points is nigh on impossible. I would also hazard to say that when faced with nothing more than a kettle and a plug in blender in terms of cooking equipment it is pretty much impossible to stick to the plan anyway. I had two workmen and my mother to account for from a fridge and bread basket which I can promise you is not an easy fix with one vegetarian and two fussy sods prone to hangry fits. It was 8 days in total. There were takeaways and pub visits amounting to, I think, four hot meals provided by others. The rest was accounted for from ruthless attacks on the cheese, cold meat and quiche section of my local co op.

I put on this week.

200g.

Yip, my weigh in after a good ten days off target, eating cheese and drinking too much has resulted in a gain of roughly one fifth of a kilo. I don’t know how this isn’t 10 times this much, but I’m going to take it gladly and crack on. Oddly enough by the fourth or fifth day living on Camembert sandwiches and hummus pots both the Mr and myself reported feeling generally pretty crap. He was full of flu-like symptoms and I was visibly bloaty, pale and gross. More so than usual. Come Saturday morning, when the cooker was back in and the sink had a drain we trundled off to fill our German discount trolley of choice with a massive amount of vegetables. Peas and green cabbage never tasted so necessary. Other than the obvious win of my spanking new floor tiles and worktops, I am not proud of nor happy about any of this. I feel like I should go back to my scales and ask for some appropriate punishment because this is not right. Ok so it was stressful so there were some adrenaline calories burned and I moved a couple of things about and de-weeded my entire garden but that can’t account for this much straying. For every hour I ran I spent three on the sofa introducing the Mothership to House Of Cards. I sense a full week on the rails only to go up a couple of kilos next week, and I will have to take that one on the rapidly developing double-chins.

Mantra for this week is mass hydration and excessive greenery. I’m actually looking forwards to it. Now where did I leave that grapefruit……..

The Perfect Fishfinger Sandwich Hunt: The Rosebud

The Rosebud Fishfinger Sandwich. The secret is in the peas.


It’s been a while since I went out for a decent fishfinger sandwich, infact some previous outings had rather put me off the idea for a spell. Not so this week, when the Mr and I found ourselves out for a local pint and a spot of dinner. As a holiday treat, we head to our closest favourite The Rosebud where we could rely on an array of fresh seafood delights to tantalise our tastebuds. Blame the cooler evenings and a day of drinking for us being faced with their stunning menu and both rather sheepishly admitting that amidst all this haute cuisine glory we could right go a fishfinger sandwich. 

Well.

Two fat cod fingers battered and measured to exactly fill a perfectly warmed ciabatta roll, gloriously topped with a slightly sweet tartare that I suspect has a mystery ingredient or two. All good, all lovely in fact but the winning touch, the piece de resistance, the stroke of simple bloody genius was the layer of seasoned crushed peas across the bottom half of the roll. I have no idea how they manage this without residual sogginess, but to be honest I don’t need to know. 

Inspired. 

Incredible.

Lots of other complimentary ‘I’ words.

I award a score of roughly 28 out of 10 and that’s before you consider the side of Godzilla-esque chunky chips and plate price of just six of your English pounds. The search might finally be over.

20 Questions with The Farmcafe

FarmCafe_0271-lr

Today on 20 Questions we are at Farmcafe in Marlesford, an excellent eatery and stores in lovely Suffolk that you may remember from little plugs past.  Assistant manager Sarah has joined the heady ranks of our Questioneers with a love of all things beefy and a rare vote for our Chefs of The Zombie Apocalypse.

1: Describe what you do without being boring?
I’m an assistant restaurant manager at the Farmcafe in Marlesford, Suffolk.

2: What’s great about what you do?
Being part of a great team and dealing with members of the public. Every day is different!

3: What sucks about what you do?
The washing up!!!

4: Do you eat breakfast?
Yes if we have time. Usually its just toast and jam

5: Where/who is your favourite local food/drink business (other than your own)?
The White Hart in Otley is one of my favourite places. It does the most amazing food and the atmosphere in the pub with all the locals makes it a great place to socialise.

6: Which celeb chef would you want in your gang in the event of a zombie apocalypse and why?
Rick Stein…his ability to improvise and cook up a storm would help me get though any zombie attack!

stein

Sarah votes Mr Stein for her zombie apocalypse team! Here he is demonstrating his camouflage abilities. Ahem. 

7: What’s your go to comfort food?
Steak! Just amazing on every level.

8: Who taught you how to cook?
My mum. She is a total legend in the kitchen and I have learnt from the best.

9: What’s the weirdest thing you have ever put in your mouth? Keep it clean!
Witchetty grub and a termite…I’d be great on “I’m a celebrity, get me out of here!”
Ed- but why would you go there if you weren’t on I’m A Celeb?!??!?!?!?!? 

10: What one food would you erase from all existence?
Tongue….who ever thought to eat it???

11: What’s on your kitchen playlist?
Anything by Daft Punk! Its music to create beautiful food to.

12: If you could eat out anywhere tonight where would you go and who would you dine with?
Hawksmoor in London with my partner.
Ed- given your comfort food choice I’m guessing this isn’t for the weekly vegan special!

13: Do you have a signature dish?
Yes it’s chicken stuffed with brie, wrapped in parma ham. Winner, winner chicken dinner!!!
Ed- Yes!!!!

14: Confess your biggest food sin….
Charcuterie

15: If you had to restrict yourself to the cuisine of one country which would it be and why?
Italian…so many wonderful flavours and tastes.

16: Cake or biscuits?
Biscuits…I’m quite partial to a chocolate finger or 3!

17: Tea or coffee?
Tea please.

18: Chunky chips or curly fries?
Curly fries..so good with a huge dollop of mayo!

19: Wine or beer?
Am I allowed both?? If not it would be wine.

20: Does pineapple belong on a pizza?
Not in my book but each to their own I guess.

Get your net stalker on for Farmcafe here:
Web: http://www.farmcafe.co.uk
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/165318203505733
Insta: @farmcafe_shop
Twitter: @farmcafe_shop

flier

Last time: Bumbles!

 

20 Questions with Bumbles!

bumbles

Bumbles of Brightlingsea! No, I don’t know what that dude in the top left is up to either…..

I love a bit of 5-A-Day action from my local greengrocers Bumbles, and they are with us this week to answer the most burning questions that life/this blog has to offer.

Are you ready?

1: Describe what you without being boring?
We are purveyors of the finest fruit & vegetables aka Greengrocers

2: What’s great about what you do?
We offer an alternative old fashioned way of shopping

shilling

Only ask for ounces if you want to pay in shillings!

3: What sucks about what you do?
Everything’s heavy & people not knowing what kilos are- come on people it changed over 40yrs ago!!

4: Do you eat breakfast?
Yes fruit or pancakes or pancakes with fruit 😂
Ed- I think that’s my favourite answer #4 yet. There are not enough pancakes in my life. 

5: Where/who is your favourite local food/drink business (other than your own)?
Being a vegan The Den at 23 in Colchester it’s the only place I don’t feel a pain in the arse for being vegan!

6: Which celeb chef would you want in your gang in the event of a zombie apocalypse and why?
Gordon Ramsey without a doubt he would be a bad ass!

7: What’s your go to comfort food?
Buffalo cauliflower wings Mr Bumble makes the best ones!

8: Who taught you how to cook?
Mr Bumble

9: What’s the weirdest thing you have ever put in your mouth? Keep it clean!
As a kid liver, I can’t eat anything that I have actually got inside me!

10: What one food would you erase from all existence?
Faggots

11: What’s on your kitchen playlist?
At the moment it’s The Beatles the red album, am a massive music fan so my playlist changes with mood. Mr Bumble is currently playing Royal Blood.

12: If you could eat out anywhere tonight where would you go and who would you dine with?
Genoa Italy, I found a tiny little place that did the best bright green pasta dish that looked hideous but was the best I’ve ever had and I still don’t know what it was called! I would dine with the fam.

13: Do you have a signature dish?
Vegan bolognese everyone loves it!

14: Confess your biggest food sin………..
Marmite spread on a lump of vegan cheese 😋

15: If you had to restrict yourself to the cuisine of one country which would it be and why?
Italy so many beautiful veg based dishes!

16: Cake or biscuits?
Cake

17: Tea or coffee?
Coffee

18: Chunky chips or curly fries?
Chunky chips

19: Wine or beer?
Beer from Two Brews in Colchester

20: Does pineapple belong on a pizza?
NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

peppers

A pic of peppers pinched from the Bumbles blog.

Get your vegetable stalker act on and follow Bumbles here or alternatively, go and see them at 24 The High St, Brightlingsea, CO7 0AG for all your veggie produce needs! And some vegan treats to boot.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Bumbles.Greengrocers/ 

Instagram: @bumblesgg

Tweet to: @BumblesGG

Blog: https://bumblesgg.wordpress.com/ 

 

Last Time: Gourmet Anglia

Next Time, The Farm Cafe at Marlsford.