The Perfect Fishfinger Sandwich Hunt- The Kings Arms

A week or so ago, Mr and myself celebrated two years of blissful union. Awww. Do you know when I first met that boy, he’d never had a fishfinger sandwich? Can you imagine! I put an end to that lack of experience for him quite swiftly on our second date, where we went for a long walk and a happy lunch at the Kings Arms in sunny Colchester. Being short on readies and creativity, we decided to stumble back here for an anniversary lunch. He had some kind of chicken-bacon-cheese bake thing and I, well, I couldn’t help myself.

a winning first impression

a winning first impression

I have to say, it looked pretty bloody marvellous: crispy fried haddock goujons and fresh lettuce served in some kind of artisan type bread, basil and lime mayo on the side for optional bread smearing and the skin on chips that are always a winner at this particular establishment. Beautifully turned out, the proverbial first bite as taken by the eye was most satisfying indeed. And something of a false promise it turned out, because the first bite with my actual eating bits was disappointingly flat. The bread was dense and white, the goujons were hot and crunchy on the outside, softly fleshy on the inside. The lettuce was fresh and crisp and made a satisfying snap as bitten into. The lime basil mayo didn’t taste of lime or mayo. This my friends was a precision exercise in presentation and texture but sadly forlorn when it came to flavour.

I’m not sure what went wrong really, there was just nothing there, other than the chips which were excellent as usual. Maybe their potatoey mojo robbed the other items on the plate, forced them to be a dull background noise next to the glorious symphony of twice fried sticks of spud. But I don’t think so. I see here rather a beautiful example of how form means bugger all without function and that six quid is not a good price to pay for a lunch that tastes like textured air with chips.

A shame, and something of a shock as I’m used to getting good grub at this particular ale house and in the past their FFS efforts have been up there with the best. I will return at a later date and hope to all that is foodie that this was a one off and normal service will be resumed.

A gloomy five out of ten in summary, most of which is for the presentation and the aforementioned kickass chips. One bonus point for super quick service.

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VIFC Meeting- Rick Stein

If you’ve been following the VIFC chronicles you may have noticed that so far we’ve only had time periods or ingredients as themes. Last month the first celebrity chef theme was selected, and we got Mr Rick Stein to draw our inspiration from.

Rick Stein. Yeah, he's ok I suppose.

Rick Stein. Yeah, he’s ok I suppose.

In a short biography I give you Rick Stein: restaurateur and TV type, OBE, tall, capricorn, Oxford University graduate, actually named Christopher.┬áMr Stein has done a bunch of TV shows about fish, Asian food, British food, Spanish food and other stuff. Most of us know of Rick Stein. He seems nice enough. Nice like slippers. I have to say I wasn’t desperately thrilled by this draw, despite having scored a dessert which usually makes me both happy (as I can make cake) and relaxed (as I’m quite good at making cake). But I don’t own a single Rick Stein book, and a quick squizz on the BBC food website wasn’t very inspiring and confirmed what I had suspected from my limited recollection of all the Rick Stein I’ve watched- he doesn’t really do desserts. He does curries and paellas and tossy fish and chips. Eventually I procured an actual book from my friend H and found a couple of options that looked practical and tasty, even a cake which I have to say looked divine but didn’t really agree with my somewhat meagre September meeting budget as it needed a lot of olive oil and white wine. I’ll come back to that another day though.

In the end I opted for a cranachan from Rick’s Coast to Coast book- whipped cream flavoured with honey and whisky then combined with toasted oats and fresh raspberries. A simple traditional Scots dish that I was able to bang together between day job and evening appointment. It was ok, though I must confess when I tasted the cream-honey-whisky stage it was divine and I could have yummed the whole bowl. Somehow it lost something, to my mind, once the oats went in, it just wasn’t as moreish. I might have used the first stage just to dollop onto a good apple pie or maybe a flapjack.
As you might expect over the evening we saw plenty of fish and a damned fine curry, a very nice soup and some great little steaky bites followed by three opulent, dairy heavy desserts washed down with a couple of accompanying pints of Thatchers. I can feel my stomach stretching at the memory. But apart from walking home with the sensation of having recently ingested a bowling ball the main impression I left this night with was that actually, it’s not as much fun when you’re just recreating the works of another, culinary master or not.
Because there were no stories of searching, no tales of the terrors of trying to match chocolate to a starter or find an authentic 1920s recipe for custard. We looked up a chef, found something, and did it. As usual, everything was good but it wasn’t quite the same as previous outings of our little club. Perhaps I’m just not that switched on by Mr Stein’s work, or perhaps I should have had another pint and cheered the hell up. Who knows.

A leek and potato soup, heavy on the cream and chunky in texture, really satisfying and served by Ian. I had three helpings, not just because I was starving!

A leek and potato soup, heavy on the cream and chunky in texture, really satisfying and served by Ian. I had three helpings, not just because I was starving!

Marinated steak strips, heavy on the spice and more garlic, pleasingly warm and served in a crunchy lettuce leaf wrap. Really tasty and a recommended starter.  This one was from Matt.

Marinated steak strips, heavy on the spice and more garlic, pleasingly warm and served in a crunchy lettuce leaf wrap. Really tasty and a recommended starter. This one was from Matt.

David graced us with a pork curry with plenty of green chillis and 20+ garlic cloves which oddly didn't come through that strongly in the finished product! A little too spicy for some but not for me, though the heat did linger on your lips well into the next course. Scrummy.

David graced us with a pork curry with plenty of green chillis and 20+ garlic cloves which oddly didn’t come through that strongly in the finished product! A little too spicy for some but not for me, though the heat did linger on your lips well into the next course. Scrummy.

A fish stew from Tom which I think was a catalan recipe though I might have just made that up. Hake substituted with haddock but to recipe otherwise and it was very nice, though could have maybe used some potatoes to beef it up a bit. Tasty though.

A fish stew from Tom which I think was a catalan recipe though I might have just made that up. Hake substituted with haddock but to recipe otherwise and it was very nice, though could have maybe used some potatoes to beef it up a bit. Tasty though.

Skate wings in a tomato sauce with golden raisins, saffron and plenty of capers.  I've never had skate before and this was absolutely beautiful, if a bit of a pain to try to eat. Firm, meaty flesh, ever so slightly earthy and complimented with sweet tones from the sauce. Nice offset from the capers too, shame I thought they were peas to begin with and ate a forkful of those alone! Stuart wins my dish of the night with this, as it's not often I pop an ingredient cherry these days.

Skate wings in a tomato sauce with golden raisins, saffron and plenty of capers. I’ve never had skate before and this was absolutely beautiful, if a bit of a pain to get off the bone. Firm, meaty flesh, ever so slightly earthy and complimented with sweet tones from the sauce. Nice offset from the capers too, shame I thought they were peas to begin with and ate a forkful of those alone! Stuart wins my dish of the night with this, as it’s not often I pop an ingredient cherry these days. And I love the dish!

A spanish creme brulee flavoured with citrus. Sadly for Matt (cooking under supervision of injured Amanda) there were setting issues here and it was onthe runny side but the flavour really packed a punch. Very nice, real shame about the consistency.

A spanish creme brulee flavoured with citrus. Sadly for Matt (cooking under supervision of injured Amanda) there were setting issues here and it was onthe runny side but the flavour really packed a punch. Very nice, real shame about the consistency.

It's my cranachan! Not for the vegans this one it's mostly cream, with some honey and booze and crunchy bits, topped with raspberries. Mr Stein quoted golden raspberries and a single malt when he made this for Her Majesty Liz Two, but I think it was fine with normal old red ones and a supermarket special reserve polymalt. It was ok, would have probably frozen into a kick ass ice cream. I'm tempted to experiment with variants maybe blackberries or some cinnamon or cardamon.

It’s my cranachan! Not for the vegans this one it’s mostly cream, with some honey and booze and crunchy bits, topped with raspberries. Mr Stein quoted golden raspberries and a single malt when he made this for Her Majesty Liz Two, but I think it was fine with normal old red ones and a supermarket special reserve polymalt. It was ok, would have probably frozen into a kick ass ice cream. I’m tempted to experiment with variants maybe blackberries or some cinnamon or cardamon.

A seriously dreamy baked cheesecake, digestive base with lemon in the filling. Creamy, hefty and satisfying and really well accompanied by a sharp berry mix with some limey action in the background. Tip top stuff, a fine example of all the reasons that I love baked cheesecake. Well done Sheena.

A seriously dreamy baked cheesecake, digestive base with lemon in the filling. Creamy, hefty and satisfying and really well accompanied by a sharp berry mix with some limey action in the background. Tip top stuff, a fine example of all the reasons that I love baked cheesecake. Well done Sheena.

So that was that, props again to Stu for providing most of the photos. Next month we’re back to a much emptier canvass with the simple theme of ‘vegetables’ where I have a great open option of main course. I hope those who got a dessert manage to find some inspiration.

Until next time, I’m off for another pint.