Food Highlights – Jan-Mar 19

2019 has started with a bang, where is the time going! Apologies for the short absence but work has been keeping me very busy and so has eating out it seems. Reflecting back over the last 3 months I have been lucky enough to eat in some of London’s best restaurants and have had some amazing food experiences which I have shared with my husband (HIM), friends and work colleagues. Here are a few of my food highlights.


Lina Stores
I went here for a new year catch up lunch with a colleague. We sat at the counter and enjoyed some simple yet delicious plates of pasta; pappardelle with slow cooked veal ragu and rosemary & sage ravioli with butter, sage and hazelnuts. Delicious, quick and value for money.

KATER Score 8/10 – £18 pp with service no wine


The Culpeper
This was Sunday lunch with a friend and the place was buzzing. Roast belly pork was the roast of the day, overall delicious but just needed more crackling for my liking. My starter was the standout, a generous serving of chicken liver parfait which was smooth and creamy and served with a chutney and sourdough.

KATER Score 7/10 – £35 pp with service and wine


We celebrated my best friends recent engagement with Hakkasan’s Dim Sum Sunday lunch. This has to be one of the best Sunday lunch offers in town with non-stop plates of delicious dim sum, Champagne and cocktails all for £62 each. Great value and beautiful setting for a special occasion.

KATER Score 9/10 – £62 pp with wine


Shoryu Ramen
You can’t go wrong with a visit to one of the many Shoryu Ramen restaurants. Its fast becoming a bit of a go to for either a work lunch or catch up with a friend. Their ramen is consistently good and their service is always on point.

KATER Score 9/10 – £15 pp with service no wine


Xian Biang Biang
Having been to their smaller sister restaurant, Xian Impressions in Highbury I was excited to visit Xian Biang Biang. This was an impromptu date night with HIM and it was amazing! It’s fairly no frills but the food does not disappoint.

I’ve not often had flavours like this outside of China, the Szechuan heat is something else. I will definitely be back.

KATER Score 10/10 – £18 pp with service and beer


I took a colleague to Terroir for dinner before she headed off on her 3 month adventure to Central and South America knowing that she wouldn’t get to eat food like this. Terroir is an old favourite and consistently delivers. Their duck rillette is a must try and make sure to take advantage of the never ending bread basket.

KATER Score 8/10 – £40 pp with service and wine


Cora Pearl
I took some colleagues for a post review lunch and we shared a selection of their starters and light bites. The ham and cheese toastie with the homemade pickle is quite possibly the tastiest ham and cheese I have ever had – this is a must try for everyone. The other dishes we tried were all excellent too.

KATER Score 9/10 – £45 pp with service and wine


I’ve written about this amazing place before but was lucky enough to visit a second time with HIM, my brother and lovely sister in law. We literally ordered everything off the menu (again) with highlights being the oysters and carrots. I just love the way Tom cooks his carrots, beautifully tender, oozing butter and served with a delicious smooth mound of cods roe topped with crushed hazelnuts. So simple but so tasty.

KATER Score 9/10 – £70 pp with service and wine


This was a very special and unexpected treat. I finally got to experience a ‘chef’s table’ and loved every minute of it. Course after course was served whilst we watched the young brigade of chefs working quietly and efficiently. Every dish was beautiful and explained in full by either the chef themselves or the server. This was more about the experience for me than the food itself.

KATER Score 10/10 – £ Expensive


HIM was lucky enough to receive a Nobu voucher for his birthday so who better to share it with than me! I was excited to experience Nobu and the setting is very glam but in all honestly there are better Japanese restaurants. The food was good but incredibly overpriced. My favourite dish was the Tuna Takaki.

KATER Score 6/10 – £100 pp with service and wine


Sambal Shiok
In need of a pre gig bite to eat with HIM, we ventured up to Highbury to try out the new home of Sambal Shiok.

Sat at the counter, we enjoyed their signature Laksa along with their fried chicken and cucumber salad. Overall everything was tasty, perhaps lacking some spice but served quickly and great value.

KATER Score 7/10 – £20 pp with service and beer


Claw was a last minute venue of choice for a wedding planning meeting with my best friend. Serving up a number of small plates we enjoyed a large selection which tends to be the way when dining with said friend.

Highlights included the Lamb Laab gem parcels which were fresh and vibrant followed by the crab mac n cheese.

KATER Score 7/10 – £35 pp with service and wine

Possibly my favourite restaurant in London. After their annual Christmas break, I was delighted to get a table on its first night of re-opening in early March. It’s a BYOB and barely 15 metres from my front door and I could literally eat here every night. Their curries great, but their daily changing specials is where Singburi really stands out. The Thai seabass, the moo krob, the clams, the short rib green curry…this place is definitely worth a trip out East.

KATER Score 10/10 – £20 pp with service no wine


Hicce is located in the new Kings Cross area Coal Drops which was a perfect location for me to meet a friend for a glass or two and a bite to eat. We sat at the bar which turned out to be the best as our server was just brilliant. He was so attentive, passionate and knowledgeable about the menu. Sometimes, the service just makes an evening that much better. The food was good, although we preferred the small plates enjoying some boquerones and pork rillette. The larger plates were a bit messy in comparison and didn’t quite deliver.

KATER Score 7/10 – £75 pp with service and wine


Margot is a beautiful restaurant blending French and Italian dishes. The service was exceptional and deserves its own mention. I started with the king fish tartare followed by linguine vongole. The clams were small and disappointing but overall my experience was good so I would go back.

KATER Score 7.5/10 – 2 courses £70 pp with service and wine


After a short delay and relatively easy British Airways flight we arrived on time to the beautiful island of Antigua. A quick immigration stop we were then met by our driver who pulled up in a gold Lincoln and then swiftly taken to our hotel.

Greeted with a strong rum punch and taken straight to the beach front, I knew we’d made the right choice of hotel; Keyonna Beach Hotel. I immediately felt relaxed, perhaps it was the rum or the fact we’d chosen an adults only hotel. I’d say both had something to do with it.

I’d love to say I engineered what happened next but sadly I don’t get to win wife points on this occasion. Maybe they knew it was Sam’s 40th birthday or maybe we just got lucky, but either way we were upgraded to our own pool villa right on the beach. A result and a very happy husband.

The next few days went something like this, early mornings, early nights. Our daily routine of breakfast, sun, swim, lunch, sun, swim, sunset, shower, drinks, dinner, bed with a few more drinks somewhere in between depending on our mood.

Oh and of course we had a birthday to celebrate so a few more rum punches were definitely consumed that day.

Acare, the beach waiter was on hand everyday to bring us drinks throughout the day; pina coladas, beers, rum punch and G&Ts which was a nice touch.

Another reason we’d booked Keyonna was its reputation for great food (naturally) and I’m pleased to say it didn’t disappoint.

Always a bit cautious of all ins, I didn’t expect too much. The food was, however, fabulous. No buffets in sight (except the 4pm snacks). It was table service and a la carte menus everyday. The lunch time menu included classic salads, curries, daily ‘catch’ specials, suckling pig specials and more. The evening menu changed every day and included dishes such as jerk pork, lobster ravioli, shrimp curry, sirloin steak to name a few.

All accompanied by a choice of wine; white, red or rose carefully selected for the daily menu by the on site sommelier. To be honest the wines were pretty average but nice none-the-less and I’ve not seen this level of service at an all inclusive before.

They soon cottoned onto Sam’s love of chilli sauce (or hot sauce) and made sure he had a pot of the chefs homemade finest for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

We took a walk up the beach to check out the local restaurant and bar (just in case we were missing out). We’d seen the Rum Bus on A Place in the Sun (addicted to this show) so wanted to check it out. It was disappointing. It was super quiet, a bit run down and expensive. We paid $18 US for two pre-made rum punches. Not impressed, we returned to our hotel for the fantastic food and cocktails feeling pleased we weren’t missing out on anything locally.

I’d pre-booked a boat tour with Creole Antigua Tours five days into our trip. That way we had a few days to acclimatise to the sun so we didn’t frazzle out at sea. We had a fantastic day with perfect weather.

The tour included some snorkelling and a lobster lunch. The lobster was perfectly cooked by Captain Glen and was served straight off the grill with a selection of homemade salads – green, pasta and potato salad. Washed down with your choice of local beer or rum punch. The setting was perfect with picnic style tables on the beach whilst the sea lapped at our feet.

We took a short nature walk before lunch and chilled in the turquoise sea after lunch. On route around the island we got to see where the rich and famous live / stay including Georgio Armani’s mansion.

We had two snorkel stops, the first was a bit average as the coral reef was pretty dead sadly. The second stop was better and we saw lots of star fish (I’m sure you’re not meant to pick them up), a giant puffer fish and a octopus trying to hide in the sea bed which was cool. We were two of eight people on our boat so it felt quite personal compared to the larger full catamaran tours we’d seen.

KATER Score 10/10 – £250 for two including service

Sam had spotted that it was the Women’s International T20 Cricket World Cup whilst we were there. Acare (beach waiter) sorted us out with tickets for the semi final; England playing India. England went on to win to go through to the final. England then lost to Australia in the final.

The Sir Vivian Richards Stadium was approx. 40 minute drive away and we shared a cab with another English couple. It was much bigger and busier than I had expected. We arrived for the second half of the West Indies v Australia. The atmosphere was electric and generally it all felt quite hectic, a shock to the system after five days of literally doing nothing and seeing no-one.

Small stalls sold beer, rum punch and food. Same small stalls then ran out of beers and we couldn’t get served food for love nor money. This was the worst bit for me. I don’t consider myself an obvious tourist and am by now a seasoned traveller but, I am British and us Brits like a bit of order and we know how to queue patiently (more fool us). It became a who can shout loudest situation and then who you knew or perhaps they just didn’t like tourists. I tried three times, each time ignored. I was so annoyed especially as the food smelt and looked amazing serving up dishes like fried chicken and BBQ ribs.

Back to the hotel and normality resumed over the last few days of our stay. There was varied evening entertainment which was mixed, some chilled steel drums during dinner which was great, a lively band with female lead who was excellent (could have been down to all the rum I’d drunk that day). Then we had a boy band who were not so good and led to an early night.

The sunsets have been beautiful, and on a couple of occasions we have taken a sunset dip in the sea. I can’t tell you how indulgent this felt and how fortunate I felt in that moment. A true sense of freedom and relaxation.

Another perk of our stay was the complimentary 30 min massage which Sam refused and meant I got two sessions.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot to do in Antigua. Every kind of watersports, zip wiring, sting ray city (cruel) and English Harbour to name a few. There is the infamous Shirley Heights when on a Sunday, the locals (tourists) gather to watch the sunset whilst enjoying a rum punch or two. It’s meant to be a party atmosphere but given our experience at the cricket and the fact we had a perfect sunset view of our own, we couldn’t be bothered to make the two hour round trip. Call us boring if you want.

Overall we had a super chilled ten days, busy doing nothing. We read a few books including my favourite ‘Get your shit together’ which is a perfect holiday read. We recharged our batteries and I caught up on my blog writing.

Next stop – Christmas in Morocco!


It’s taken me a while to get a reservation here, but boy was it worth the wait. One of the best meals I have had in very long time and I’ve had a few!

Having never had the pleasure of visiting whilst with Nathan Outlaw, I watched the brilliant Tom Brown on the Great British Menu, and I have to say I’ve become am a bit of a fan. And what a treat to have him there cooking for us.

We were there as an early celebration for Sam’s birthday. I’d messaged ahead and organised some fizz to kick start the evening.

The menu is not huge and the dishes that are part of the tasting menu are highlighted rather than being presented separately which I quite liked. The tasting options looked good but feeling hungry and wanting to try everything we literally ordered all but two of the dishes. So we had a rather greedy total of ten dishes if you include the bread.

The first course of oysters with horseradish was so good we ordered a second round. The oysters were lightly pickled, deliciously fresh and perfectly accompanied by the horseradish. They left us feeling excited about the dishes still to come, and they we’re as pretty as a picture.

Next came the raw brill with green sauce, a take on a salsa verde. Stunning and delicious. It was served with the mackerel pate which was beautifully smooth with slices of cured mackerel and cucumber delicately placed on the top. The best bit about this dish was the warm treacle bread served alongside so you could smother it with the creamy pate. Absolutely perfect.

Sam questioned why we ordered the carrots as he viewed this dish as boring. He couldn’t have been more wrong. The carrots were served whole, had been perfectly cooked and had a slight bite to them. But it was the silky smooth smoked cod roe and addition of crushed pistachios which really took this dish to another level. Never has a carrot tasted so good.

Next up was what I believe is Tom’s signature dish at Cornerstone, the potted shrimp crumpet. Topped with kolhrabi and gherkin, this dish was very tasty but sadly not as stand out as the previous.

Feeling fuller by the mouthful we managed to demolish the roast Cornish hake which was served with parsnip puree, anchovy and chilli. The fish soft and perfectly cooked, I would expect nothing less from the extremly talented Tom Brown.

The finale dish of ray wing with a chicken butter sauce was quite simply out of this world. The fish was so delicate and the sauce was rich and creamy, a perfect combination. I could have licked the plate.

We’re generally not massive fans of desert, but thought we should at least share one to try. We chose the earl grey mille feuille with pears. It looked fantastic and tasted good. I was however disappointed that the mille feuille was a brandy snap rather than the traditional pastry layers.

Cornerstone is a brilliant addition to the up and coming Hackney Wick dining and drinking scene. Only a 10 minute uber ride from home I shall definitely be coming back for more.

KATER Score 10/10 – £230 for two with wine

A weekend in Bruges

So I recently took my mum for a weekend in Bruges, with neither of us having been before.  After an obligatory glass of fizz at St Pancras we boarded the Eurostar and off we went arriving into Bruges around 7.30pm local time.

After a bit of research and finally with the help of Google maps I had managed to book a table at Kok au Vin ahead of our visit. It was close to our B&B and the perfect start to the weekend. It was a neighbourhood style restaurant and we were greeted warmly with the atmosphere buzzing. We quickly ordered a glass of white to start, an Italian Vermentino which was light and fruity. Home-baked seeded bread was then delivered to the table along with fennel butter and pork rillette. Absolutely delicious and a meal in itself.

We shared a starter of white asparagus, Bayonne ham and burrata. Fresh and beautifully presented. We then both opted for the beef from the grill menu and wow what a stunner. Cooked chefs way, somewhere between rare and medium rare, a plateful of beautiful steak arrived. Accompanied by green asparagus with romesco sauce and purple potato salad with a horseradish cream. Perfectly served and absolutely delicious. A well chosen Tempranillo from Spain was the perfect addition. I highly recommend if you’re ever in Bruges.

KATER score 9/10 – €140 for two with wine and service


Our B&B, Le Flaneur was fabulous, full of quirky memorabilia and wonderful hosts. Breakfasts were fantastic with baked eggs and salmon, homemade quiche, fresh bread with hams and cheese and a freshly made fruit crumble. Far too much but so good.


Bruges is a very pretty city. We only really had one day so we started with a boat tour of the water ways which took about 40 mins and cost just €8 each. It was a great way see the city and learn a bit about its history.

We spent the day wondering around the pretty streets, enjoyed a beer by the canal and walked through the quieter pretty district of St Ana taking a detour to see the windmills. Nothing is very far in Bruges which makes for a great day sightseeing.

Still full from our breakfast, lunch was a difficult choice. In the centre of Bruges it’s tourist hell as you can imagine. That said we ended up deciding to embrace it and plumped for a restaurant on the Markt square. It was nice to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy some sun with a glass of wine or two. I ordered Moules frite…when in Rome and all that. And mum opted for a Caprese salad. Both absolutely acceptable and just lovely to be eating alfresco sipping chilled white wine in the sun.

Because we hadn’t had enough to eat (!) we treated ourselves to a waffle in the afternoon. I went for the modern take which a waffle on a stick dipped in a choice of chocolate and sprinkles. It was super sickly and I wished I’d just queued a bit longer for the traditional style waffle. Live and learn.

It was Saturday night and I’d booked ahead for a table at the Park Restaurant which was just south of the centre. It had come highly recommend and offered a set four course menu with wines for just €75.

The food was fabulously rich, the service warm and attentive and I would say you go here for the whole experience. Pink champagne to start followed by wine pairing for each course plus what felt like unlimited top ups throughout. You choose from four starters and four mains and the portions were more than generous, especially with little extras like the smoked salmon amuse and the custard tarts served with coffee.

Mum loved it and so did I. Dishes on offer included foie gras, mushroom pie, beef fillet and Dover sole. A warming and beautifully smooth carrot and tomato soup was served as the intermediate course. Fabulous value and a great experience.

KATER score 9/10 – €180 for two inc service and a supplement for the food gras!

Bruges was a great place for a bit of mummy and me time, I can thoroughly recommend a visit.

I’m dedicating this blog post to my wonderful Dad who sadly passed away eight years ago today.

A weekend in Torino

We arrived into Turin around 8.30pm, checked into our apartment in Piazza Castello and headed straight out. After a quick aperitivo of Aperol Spritz and a web search for some good local pasta, we ended up in Defilippis.

We started with their sharing plate of Asparagus Flan and Cheese Fondue, Russian Salad and Vitello Tonnato. If I’m honest it was a weird combination, with the asparagus flan doing nothing for me. At least we got to try one of the local classics, the Vitello (sliced veal with tuna mayonnaise on top) which I’m pretty sure I won’t try again.

It was all about the pasta though and between us we shared the Agnolotti (mini ravioli) in a meat gravy sauce and Tajarin (in between spaghetti and linguine) with bacon and smoked buratta. Both pastas were cooked perfectly but both sauces lacked seasoning unfortunately. All washed down with a bottle of local red, a Borolo 2013 Damilano at €35. Overall an underwhelming first Turin food experience.

Defilippis KATER Score 6/10 – €80 for two inc. service

The next morning, after a wander around the various piazzas and cobbled streets taking in the local Torino life, we took the lift to the top of Mole Antonelliana for panoramic views of the city.

We also made a pit stop at the famous Al Bicerin Cafe, which serves Turin’s most famous drink of coffee and chocolate topped with cold pouring cream. The trick is not to mix it, but just drink it and let the cold cream complement the hot chocolatey drink. Delicious but so rich and we definitely did not need the side order of biscuits!

We stopped for lunch at GV2 and I’m so glad we did. Faith was restored and we enjoyed some delicious bowls of pasta. I had the Tajarin with rabbit ragu and Sam the agnolotti with meat sauce. Washed down with a Moretti and glass of local white wine, it was just the perfect lunch.

GV2 KATER Score 8/10 – €40 for two inc. service

The afternoon was spent sight-seeing and enjoying a few aperitivos before dinner. We stumbled upon a very cool cocktail bar called DDR with a quite off the wall cocktail menu. So cool I managed to nab myself a copy to bring back…for work purposes.

I had made reservations at BarBaBuc, a relatively new and upcoming restaurant run by a couple of young friends located in the heart of San Salvario. We started with a glass of prosecco, whilst pondering over their special porcini menu or black truffle tasting menu or their regular degustion menu. I was excited. I chose the porcini menu after the waiter told me they had just arrived today and Sam the black truffle menu – both at €35 for three courses.

We both started with a really fresh tasting veal tartare, mine topped with fresh porcini and Sam’s with black truffle. Unfortunately the black truffle was tasteless, the porcni was a lovely addition though. It would have been nice to have a few other garnishes to add such as shallots and egg yolk, but these weren’t available.

Again we both had the same main but with the different garnish. The tajarin pasta was fresh and cooked perfectly but sorry to say it lacked seasoning and was a bit disappointing. When it arrived our waiter made a point of saying the chef felt it didn’t need cheese, however it was available if we wanted. Well we had one mouthful and then asked for the cheese which totally bought the dish to life. Sorry chef.

My third course was a dish of very slow cooked beef with porcini, delicious and incredibly rich but perhaps lacked something like a potato. I get the simplicity and the need for the porcini to be the main attraction but you’ve got to get everything absolutely spot on for this to work. Sam’s third course was a bowl of cheese custard, topped with an egg yolk and shavings of truffle. It looked lovely but when mixed together it was unappetising with raw egg floating on top. Disappointing.

We chose to drink wine by the glass and picked a Brunello Monticello 2013 (memories from a previous Italy trip) and a Barolo. The wine was poured from some weird gas tap; something I’ve never seen before. Unfortunately when we ordered a second glass of the Brunello they had to open a new bottle half way through the pour and gave us no opportunity to taste or check the wine which when you’re paying upwards of €15 a glass and what was essentially a short pour was poor service in my book.

Overall the service was just ok however they did forget our water and didn’t apologise.

BarBaBuc KATER Score 6/10 – €110 for two inc. service

Feeling a bit let down on the food front, the next day we consulted trusty TripAdvisor and found El puig d’Estelles around the corner from our apartment. With no reservation, we were warmly welcomed and shown a table inside, we instantly felt we were somewhere homely and local. We started with a caprese salad and then I chose the salami carbonara and Sam had the Tajarin ragu Bolognese. Both were just perfect and I would highly recommend. A glass of house white wine for me and a draft beer for Sam. Simple, local and delicious.

El Puig D’Estelles KATER Score 8/10 – €40 for two inc. service

Lunch was followed by an afternoon stroll taking in some more of the city, enjoying the sun and of course sampling some gelato before heading back for an afternoon siesta.

That evening we enjoyed aperitivos with a varying selection of snacks which included sausage rolls, ham sandwiches and mini pots of rice salad. No dinner required that night. Between 1730-1930 (usually) most bars offer a small buffet or selection of snacks with your drink at what seems to be at no extra cost! Its brilliant but also very carb heavy. We wondered around the cool end of town, watched the end of the Champions League final (shame Liverpool) and stopped to watch some locals dancing the night away in the street. A very lovely evening indeed.

On our last day we were a bit carbed out and fancied something a bit healthier. We headed for top rated Kensho, a sushi restaurant and were not disappointed. We enjoyed some stunning sashimi, nigiri, rolls and dumplings. We were even treated to an amuse of endamame sponge, fois gras and tuna tartare. It was a welcome change to pasta and probably one of the most modern restaurants we ate in during our stay.

Kensho KATER Score 8/10 – €80 for two inc. service

As I write this I am enjoying a very lovely bottle of Rosso di Montalcino, debating whether it will be pasta or pizza this evening. What a terrible choice to have to make.

Overall Turin has been great for a weekend break, just 1.5 hours from London its been the perfect escape. I’ve loved the culture, the people and of course the food has been pretty awesome too.

CUB Restaurant

My amazing husband surprised me with dinner reservations at CUB. I didn’t know where we were going until we arrived and I have to say I’d never heard of CUB so was impressed and excited about what was to come.

We were seated at the bar with a great view of the chefs and bar. I was struck at how small the place was, specifically the kitchen area. The two chefs worked efficiently and in harmony and seemed unaffected by their limited space.

It’s a set menu with some of the courses food and some courses drink. First up was a glass of Krug – a perfect start for my birthday dinner

Then came the first course which was a beetroot steak, apple sourz and a miso cream, unusual, simple and delicious.

Then came a succession of beautifully presented dishes each offerimg new flavours and textures including Jersey royals with blood orange and pennywort; shitake mushrooms with artichoke puree and kelp, chicken bone broth served with fresh sourdough and butter. We finished with a fennel based dessert topped with Japanese knotweed. So many new flavours and combinations which left me inspired and excited.

For the drinks, we had a belverdere and cherry blossom cocktail, a rare tea and a toasted lager to name a few. The drinks were plenty, generous and beautiful.

This was much more an experience for me, the concept and delivery was exciting and faultless. The staff were engaged and well informed about each dish and took pride in telling you about each course. After speaking to the owner and chefs I discovered that the ingredients are all sustainable and mostly would be waste items. The menu is mainly vegetarian with the exception of the bone broth but again showing sustainability using the bones. Even their plates have been made from recycled plastic and table tops made from yoghurt pots and lids.

This is a definite must try for all you foodies and I am super impressed with Sam for introducing me to this very exciting restaurant.

KATER Score 10/10 – £55 set menu per person (drinks inclusive)

Sri Lanka – Mirissa and Talpe

On arriving in Mirissa, we were slightly underwhelmed with our hotel choice, Handegadara Colonial Villa. The room was basic, a bit dirty and the pool looked very murky. Nevertheless we unpacked and headed straight out to check out the beach a 5 min stroll away.

After a quick beer and a snack of grilled prawns, we found some loungers and soaked up the sun for the rest of the afternoon. The next few days were spent sunbathing and eating.

Most evenings were spent in The Shack (thanks to Hannah & Chris) for sunset drinks and snacking on their delicious poppadoms and homemade pineapple chutney – YUM.

We found a fab little Chinese place called Little Red House, so good we ate there twice. Really authentic Kung po, fried rice, chilli greens and the most amazing prawns dripping in garlic over noodles to soak up all the delicious sauce.

Little Red House KATER Score 10/10 – £25 for two inc. service

We tried a seafood bbq on the beach, part of Serendipity, which looks better in the pics than it tasted sadly. The prawns were good but fish and calamari over cooked. We ended up having to carry our dinner across the road into a small hut when the heavens opened – always a risk I suppose, but was quite a funny end to the night.

Serendipity KATER Score 6/10 – £20 for two inc. service

We booked a whale watching tour through the Whale Watching Club, who I can highly recommend. They looked after us so well, didn’t fill the boat, fed us (a slightly weird breakfast), gave us beer AND we saw two blue whales playing and diving. Each dive takes them about 12 minutes to resurface and then it’s like a game of spotting where they’ll pop back up.

We had a pretty good captain but you’ve got to be really lucky to be right next to a whale when it resurfaces. Because of their size (approx 30m) they don’t breach like smaller whales so you get to see only their backs and then a slight flick of their tails as they go down.

We followed and watched for about an hour until there were too many boats and our captain wanted to move on. On route back we were treated to hundreds of migrating dolphins swimming alongside our boat. It was awesome to sit back and watch.

After an early start of 6am, and seven hours at sea, it was time to hit the beach.

We decided the leave Mirissa one day early, our next hotel had availability and it was much nicer than the current one. We skipped our hotel breakfast as it was rubbish and nipped to the Aloha Coffee Gallery and enjoyed proper coffee and some much missed avocado on toast. Served with feta and grated beetroot, sprinkled with black sesame seeds it was delicious.

Packed into a tuk tuk we made our way to the Owl & The Pussycat in Talpe.

This hotel was by far the nicest we’d stayed in so far (and the most expensive). Set on the beach with a beautiful pool and sun deck, it just felt really chilled and special. It was also right in front of the famous stick fishermen which was not only a great photo op but amazing to just sit and watch them fill their bags with tiny fish balanced only on a stick.

We ate here, in the Runcible Restaurant on our first night excited as the reviews had been so good. Sad to report I had a mediocre chilli crab linguine and Sam a bland chicken curry. What a disappointment.

The breakfasts were great on the other hand, a mix of western and local and we of course went local.

Overall the menu here was not to our taste, a bit too western but they did have a good looking specials board and on another night I treated myself to their jumbo king prawns with garlic butter. Delicious and made even better washed down with a cold glass of pinot grigio.

We spent two nights out of the hotel in neighbouring town Unawatuna, a five minute tuk tuk ride away. A similar beach to Mirissa with restaurant, bars and guesthouse scattered along. However it felt much more chilled and quiet in comparison. We enjoyed some sunset beers, ate in the Pink Elephant and Black and White, both not worth writing about if I’m honest. Both average.

We did go to the local beach party one night though which was pretty cool. We sat in our little cabana, sipping our cocktails and watched the youngsters dance the night away!

Overall our seven days on the beach was fab, exactly what we wanted and really relaxing. Now it’s onto Galle, our penultimate stop before home.

Sri Lanka – Yala National Park

We arrived in Yala delighted with our hotel pick, Cinnamon Wild Yala (thanks Rob). Set on the outskirts of Yala National Park with the pool overlooking a large watering hole which was full of buffalo cooling themselves from the sun, an array of birds and plenty of crocodiles. We spent the afternoon enjoying the pool and watching the wildlife.

Dinner was buffet style with everything from local to western and we of course chose local and filled our plates with curries and sambals. It was delicious. No photos unfortunately – hard to take a decent pic of a buffet to be honest.

We did manage a pretty nice sunset before the heavens opened and we had to be escorted back to out room incase we came across any wild animals!

We were up early for our safari the next day with a 5am pick up by Shehan Safari Tours. In our own private jeep we entered the park and soon after we were tearing along as a leopard had been spotted. Mayhem ensued and our driver drove like a maniac. That said he got us there in time to see the elusive leopard.

Hiding in the trees we got to admire this amazing animal – all pictures are on the SLR camera I’m afraid. It was just amazing to see a leopard up close.

We moved on to see what else we could spot. Lots of peacocks, mongoose, wild boar, buffalo, crocodiles, a jackal and later we finally came upon an elephant.

Such majestic animals and just amazing to watch them move about. We only saw a couple of elephants, I was hoping for more but hey ho. After three hours of racing around we headed back to our hotel for breakfast. The remainder of the day was spent chilling by the pool.

The next day we were headed to Mirissa beach, a three hour drive away. The journey gave me an opportunity to really take in some local life and I watched as mothers took their kids to school shading them from the sun with their umbrellas. Farmers herding their buffalo. Older kids playing cricket on sandy pitches.

We drove through or on the edge of Bundala National Park and saw two elephants heading into the trees, too quick for a photo op unfortunately. Lots of monkeys and beautiful birds everywhere. We occasionally had to swerve to get out the way of the oncoming herd of cows down the road whilst king coconut sellers sliced the top off their coconuts with a machete.

Needless to say the three hours flew by and we arrived in Mirissa.

Sri Lanka – Ella

We arrived late into Ella to thunder storms and pouring rain. We grabbed the first tuk tuk and headed straight for our guest house, The Marvellous Inn. This turned out to be quite far up / down a long road out of town. It was nestled in the most beautiful valley with absolutely stunning views of the surrounding mountains and waterfalls. Yes even in the rain we got a sense of how special this place was.

We were warmly greeted by Ari, our host for the next three nights and immediately offered some tea and biscuits. Once settled into our room and the rain still pouring down Ari came and offered us some dinner.

We were served home cooked chicken curry with rice. It was delicious and served in what seems to be the usual way, a variety of vegetables and sambals to accompany. We tried banana flower for the first time and finished off with ice cream and chopped banana. Ari even bought us a couple of beers, albeit warm but very welcome after a long day travelling.

We were up early for a delicious home cooked breakfast served on our terrace of coconut pancakes, fresh fruit and scrambled egg toasties (new one on me). We were headed for Little Adams Peak followed by the Nine Arch Bridge.

The walk to Little Adams Peak took us through the town and then up through the tea plantations. A relatively easy walk which took us around an hour to get to the top. The last climb is a bit tough in the heat, for me anyway.

The views are stunning from the top with a fantastic view of Ella Rock (the next days venture) and surrounding area. After a few pictures and chance to cool down a little we headed back down in search of the Nine Arch Bridge.

The walk to the bridge took us through more tea plantations walking past local houses and fruit sellers. A kind lady pointed us the the right direction after we took a wrong turn. It’s worth mentioning that there are absolutely no signs to any of these places, you are solely reliant on locals and any research you may have done via google.

After a fairly hairy climb down through a very narrow passage way we caught our first sight of the Nine Arch Bridge. I thinks it’s so impressive because of its setting, surrounded in a valley of beautiful tea plantations and stunning views you can see why everyone flocks here for pictures.

We were hoping to see a train pass by but after an hour of picture taking and waiting around we decided to head back to Ella via the train tracks for a well deserved beer.

We checked out Matey Hut at the top of town for lunch. It didn’t look like much but I had heard great things and stories of people queuing so thought it must be worth a try. Sam ordered a vegetable curry and rice (4 curries) and and I ordered a Daal Paratha which is a like a large pancake filled with Daal and potato curry and folded to make a parcel.

Up to this point we hadn’t really had anything too spicy so when Sam was asked if he wanted mild, medium or spicy he of course opted for spicy. I didn’t get asked assuming mine would come as is. Mistake.

Mine was absolutely delicious but so hot I struggled to eat it. I think they assumed we both wanted spicy. Sam’s curry included Banana Curry, Okra, Tomato Sambal and Daal.

Matey Hut KATER Score 8/10 – £7 for two inc. service

That evening we decided to stick to local food but somewhere a bit fancier and chose the Ceylon Tea Factory restaurant. A round of beers and some masala cashew nuts (amazing) were quickly ordered. I followed with a Jaffna prawn curry and Sam had the coriander beef curry. Both amazing, expensive in comparison to what we had been paying but worth it.

Ceylon Tea Factory KATER Score 9/10 – £25 for two inc. service

Another early start and another amazing breakfast of egg hoppers and tomato sambol we set for our next hike, the dreaded Ella Rock. Probably only dreaded by me as I’m no hiker and after yesterday exertions I was feeling a little jaded. Still the show must go on and off (up) we went.

A quick climb up to the train tracks and we were on our way. It took is approx. 1.5 hours to reach the top and the walk took us along the train tracks, through more tea plantations and into a beautiful forest. The forest marked the start of the real climb through fairly rocky and at times slippy terrain. Much to Sam’s amusement I had to stop and rest every few metres, I told you I am not a hiker.

We finally reached the top and all that sweat was worth it. The pictures below say it all.

Back at our guesthouse some rest was in order then into town for a late lunch. It was no booze day in Sri Lanka (once a month for full moon) so we had to settle for some delicious fruit smoothies instead.

We’d spotted a proper busy local restaurant the day before, Raha Cafe so decided to check it out. Wow. Sam had the masala dosa probably as long as he is tall (well not quite) and I had the chapati with Daal curry, coconut sambal and a side order of their spicy onion sambal. Both filled with the most deliciously spiced potato curry full of mustard seeds and when topped with the sambal and daal, incredible. Everything was delicious and so cheap.

Raha Cafe KATER Score 10/10 – £6 for two inc. service

As dinner was so good the first night we decided to stay in on last night and enjoyed a different selection of chicken and vegetable curries all served with rice, including green beans fresh from our hosts garden. Good job as it was raining again and we enjoyed a spectacular lighting show from our balcony.

We loved Ella, far more touristy than anywhere we’ve been so far but a really foodie town and a ton of activities to keep you busy.

Next stop – safari in Yala National Park 🐘

Sri Lanka – Kandy to Ella

The train journey between Kandy and Ella is one of the top things to experience in Sri Lanka due to the stunning scenery. We were excited for the journey, and once on board we settled into our first class seats, booked via Visit Sri Lanka Tours.

The train made its way slowly climbing though local villages, high into the hills and through into the tea plantations. We passed through fields of tea pickers, woodland forest and beautiful valleys full of fruit and vegetable farmland. The local children quick to give us a wave and a big smile a long the way.

This train journey is also famous for tourists sitting in and hanging outside it’s open doors to get THE picture. The ones I’ve seen on instagram make it look easy. Well it’s not and I am glad that I didn’t have to sit in a train door way for seven hours!

We managed a few pictures half hanging out and half hanging on for dear life, trying not to drop the phone while the train chugged and juddered along.

All the while we feasted on Sri Lankan snacks; vegetable samosas, egg samosas, vegetable patti and spiced nuts sold by locals between stops.

The last part of the journey goes over the famous Nine Arch Bridge in Ella, however by the time we got there it was stormy and absolutely bucketing down with rain. Which meant doors closed and no beautiful picture. I did manage a picture with our train driver on arrival to Ella though.

What a perfect way to celebrate 10 years of being together.

Coming up – Three jam packed days in Ella, hiking and eating.