Well, apart from trying to fix my blog for almost a month, now, I have also been doing other things.
Take last weekend, for example.
I went to Hay-on-Wye to see Best Mate. She wasn’t able to come here this year so asked if I would go over. F and I arranged it so that he could look after the dogs (and, finally, ‘do’ the bedroom – but that’s another post).
The travel there and back was one thing, again, maybe, another post. And the weather! So cold it was like being back in winter. In fact, the weather alone would be enough for me to never go back there, certainly to live – and that’s without the other things.
However, it was lovely to see BM who was considerably better than last time.
But I came to the realisation, whilst I was there, why it is that Italians have such a fixation about English=bad food (also see Lola’s blog post).
I used to relish going back to the UK. A Kentucky Burger was high on my list, if not essential. This time, however, it was very different. The real thing I absolutely love is Roast Lamb. The British do it so well. It is now, really the only thing on my list. But let’s look at the food I did have.
I arrive at Birmingham Airport at about 9.30 a.m. BM is there to pick me up and we drive back to Hay. This is about two and a half hours or so. By the time we arrive in Hay, I am ready for lunch, having had nothing but a biscuit and a couple of small croissants on the planes (it was Air France).
We go to Kilverts. The first thing is the beer. I’m afraid I forgot the ‘wine-non-diet’. The beer is great. The UK does great beer and, in particular, the real ale. I had some mild. It was nice and smooth. We looked at the blackboard for food. There was no lamb but I could choose something else. However, they were preparing the kitchen for the Festival (which is happening as I write this). We both agreed that was a bit strange. However, we had ham sandwiches with mustard. It was OK but not really as good as it was in my mind. Still, I had more beer, so it was fine.
That night we went to Red Indigo, billed as the best Indian restaurant in Hay, which makes me laugh because it’s the only one! The food was wonderful. I had a lamb balti. And beer – although Cobra beer. Indian food has come a long way from the time I was at University when it was, really, very hot or slightly less hot muck. Now it is fresh and so tasty. As normal I had Naan bread with my balti. In the UK they do nice large, thick Naan breads. Unfortunately, here, they do rather small and much too thin Naan breads.
Saturday, I needed to go shopping. I had things to buy – things I had come for. We got into Hereford and went straight to the cafe in the centre of High Town. It’s in the open air – so we can smoke. Aside from the cold, the coffee was a ‘Starbucks’ type cappuccino. I used to love these. Now they are too hot and too big. I am used to cappuccino Italian style. Tepid, small but lovely. As we are at the ‘bar’ ordering (of course, I noticed, for the first time really, how I am used to having a waiter serve me), I saw delicious-looking Almond croissants and decided to have one.
It was the first time I realised why the Italians think English food is so bad. It is bad. At least, if you’re not in the right places it is. The croissant (brioche, here) was filled with custard (crema, here). It had flakes of almond on top. Without the flakes of almond it would have been the same as the brioche I normally have for breakfast (when we go to a cafe on the weekends), except – the crema was not soft but more of a gel and it didn’t ooze out since there was so little of it. However, the worst thing was that, being used to having brioche that has been baked that very morning – this must have been baked several days ago. It was, quite frankly, stale. If they served this kind of stuff in Italy, the café would go out of business.
And then I thought: that’s how it has always been. The British tolerate this being given very little alternative or just because we don’t complain. I would have complained but I knew that this was perfectly acceptable here, so what was the point?
Later we got some cakes from Greggs. I had a Belgian Bun. It was OK. Actually, it was quite nice – but mainly because here, in Italy, they don’t do them. At least it was fresh, unlike the croissant.
Later still we went for lunch to the The Imperial. The beer (I don’t remember what it was) was fine. I ordered Gammon with Egg. It should have been good but it wasn’t. To be honest, G, here, in our canteen, does a much better job of making it and I had to explain how to make it to her! Also there were just too many chips. Don’t get me wrong, it was OK – it just wasn’t nice enough.
That evening we weren’t able to book a table at the Black Lion and so went to the Three Tuns. This was divine. Good beer (Butty Bach, I think) and rack of lamb. This is how British food should be. Fresh vegetables, good gravy and the lamb was perfectly cooked and juicy.
Sunday, we were in Hay for reasons I cannot disclose. We did go to Shepherds for a morning cappuccino (which wasn’t bad and much more like real Italian coffee) and, more importantly, I had a Toasted Tea Cake. Oozing with butter it is one of the things from my childhood. I adore Toasted Tea Cakes and this one was as good as any I have had.
We skipped lunch and I really wasn’t hungry anyway. That evening we went to the Old Black Lion. I do like the Black Lion. The beer isn’t so special but it’s OK. The food is very good, though. Again it was lamb. Again it was fantastic. I had some meringue thing for sweet. BM chose the summer pudding which I tasted and it was far, far better than my choice!
Before the Black Lion we were back in Kilverts where we met up with T, a friend of BM’s. I had a few pints of Butty Bach and I had really forgotten how good that beer is!
The next day I was back to the airport. I was there about 2 p.m. I had over an hour to ‘kill’. I went through to departures (after stocking up on nicotine) and went to the Weatherspoons pub in the departure lounge. The choice wasn’t brilliant but I chose a cheeseburger. It arrived. It was tepid which was a shame because if it had been hot, it would have been quite nice. Of course, they can do this as there’s no time to fix it, what with departing flights and all.
But it got me to thinking that, really, in the UK, if you don’t know the places, food is quite a hit and miss affair – in fact, mainly miss.
So, Italians are right, in a way, in that British food is not that good, unless you go to a place that does good food. Elsewhere it is liable to be fairly crap.
And, for the first time, I really didn’t want a Kentucky Burger. Too much salt and fat and sugar and crap. It seems I’ve moved on a bit!