Wednesday, 23 July 2014

The Parkers Arms, Lancashire.

When The Guardian's Food critic Jay Rayner gave The Parkers Arms a great review recently, all of us friends and fans alike were so pleased for them. The Parkers is more than just a country pub to many of us 'supporters'. Following Stosie regularly on twitter connects us daily, almost like a big family of food lovers. When they get an unfair and malicious 'review' from the idiots on Tripadvisor, we sometimes fight back with a review of our own. I think it's important to support places like this over the onslaught of dire two for one cheap and nasty chain pubs that litter the country.
In contrast we've always had a friendly welcome and fabulous food at the Parkers. We get treated by AJ, (Stosie and Kathy) like members of the family, you see The Parkers isn't really like most other country pubs and we're not getting special treatment as bloggers, that's just what they're like.
We returned for a surprise taster menu again recently on a sunny Friday afternoon. Surprise in that we just trust chef Stosie to send food out of her choosing. We're not as you've gathered, fussy eaters (to be honest I've not got much time for them, to me they've just not grown up, they're still eating like children). Although we are fussy about quality.
 I was trying to imagine the kitchen when AJ told Stosie that Jay Rayner was in for lunch. It sounded like an agonising wait until the review came out. In that time I'd tweeted the man himself and suggested that he try the Parkers but in fact he'd already been and loved it. I always figured he would like this style of unfussy unpretentious food as he did.
The effect on trade has been steadily increasing, and don't they just deserve it.
We were getting the 'taster menu' but please note that Stosie cannot serve this at busy times such as Sunday lunch etc, but will by prior arrangement. It's really a showcase for her skills. If you follow her on twitter, blogger or not, you will always get her 'tweet treats'. (Photo below, Sammie gets tweet treats too, from his pal AJ).
To start, potato skins have been improved with the addition of chicken skins, we loved them!
Hummus and tzatziki. Appropriate as we have just returned from Greece.
Pork scratching, fennel mayonnaise.
Mushroom Parfait. An absolute must every time as Stosie has been christened the 'queen of parfaits'.
Crab Parfait. Possibly my favourite of all. The very essence of crab in one gorgeous light and creamy bite. (Stosie was worried about it melting in the heat, it still tasted divine).
Fennel cured salmon, beetroot confit crisp jelly.
Soused mooli & sweet chilli rice cracker 
 Parker's Pastrami.
Lamb Kofta Burgers.
Bbqd baby back pork ribs & black peas, black pea purée & falafel. I think this was my least favourite of the mains but I think it's because I'm all 'ribbed out' as you can't move in Manchester for ribs these days.
Charcoal grilled mackerel, Linda's gooseberries.
Valrhona chocolate delice.
Gooseberry fool. I love Gooseberries and these were from a near neighbour who swaps them for a meal. I like the idea of swapping goods and services for food, as I have with these photos.
What a wonderful way to spend an afternoon, eating beautiful food in such a fine setting. (I can't think of a nicer beer garden). If you're a food lover in the North West and haven't been to The Parkers yet, you need to get there as soon as you can. If you don't believe me, ask Jay Rayner.
*Please note I paid for this meal with these photos that you see here.
To see the photos in high resolution click here
To see the previous visit in February click here.

Parkers Arms on Urbanspoon

Monday, 21 July 2014

Vassilis Taverna, Loggos, Paxos, Greece.

We were already planning to visit Vassilis Taverna in Loggos, Paxos. Then a local told us that it's the best restaurant on the island. We'd have to agree with that. Loggos is a picture perfect little village on the sea with just the right amount of restaurants, a couple of bars and cute little gift shops.
On our first visit we bagged a precious table by the seafront. Cars do come down the narrow harbour side road next to the tables and it's even on the island bus route. Although how a coach fits through the gap without falling into the harbour I'll never know. (We never quite caught it going past).
We began with bread, virgin olive oil and Kalamata olives. (€1). The bread was excellent and from the local and popular village bakery.
Then some Dips. (€6). Tzatziki, aubergine with smoked taramasalata and yellow split pea purée. The presentation in cones was fun and the dips were lovely.
Then a trilogy of feta cheese and courgette croquettes served with ratatouille and melon vinaigrette (€7.50).
Again, the presentation and little details lifted it way above the usual Greek fayre. There's an obvious Italian influence as well. The only problem was that all the food came at once so we were a little rushed on this occasion. The Cuttlefish Risotto with ink (€14.50) was absolutely perfect. When a risotto is done just right, like this, it's one of the most enjoyable dishes.
We also had a beautiful Tuna Tartar with white truffle oil and cheese vinaigrette (€11.50).
Also Corals of Sea Urchin served with zest of lime and black pure salt. (€12.90). This was interesting, not sure I'd need to order it again though at this price.
Unfortunately, a table three down had the loudest elderly British woman on it, (in a group of several, all speaking at normal levels apart from her) in the end we had to laugh and go with it. She clearly had no idea she was spoiling the ambience for every one else in the vicinity. It's hardly the restaurants fault. They were well understaffed though on our first night so it was very slow. One of their waiters had apparently got sunstroke. He should have put Factor 50 on like we did!
The home made Cheesecake with a crispy base of pistachio, marscarpone cream and fresh fig jam to finish was absolutely fabulous, I can't recall ever having a better one, the pistachio base really worked.
We returned a few days later and this time got there early (it does get full very quickly and people tend to reserve the tables right on the front). We had that wonderful bread again and the house red.
The Prawns Saganaki in spicy sauce of fresh tomato and feta (€11) was yet another winner. I love this place, it's just so much better than the usual Greek restaurants (which I also enjoy for what they are).
Caramelized Octopus cooked with Ouzo served with yellow split pea purée (€13.50) was pretty good, not rubbery at all, I'd have preferred it slightly more tender.
The winning dish on this evening for me was the Crayfish served with Orzo, sweet white wine sauce and truffle oil (€21).
We also loved the Lamb served with Orzo and smoked cheese cream. I've been told that you can get Orzo from most supermarkets, but somehow this has passed me by, it really worked in these dishes.
We had to have the same cheesecake again and an ok chocolate dessert (pretty much just melted chocolate).
We reckon Vassilis Taverna is without doubt the best restaurant on the island. Service was better on our second visit (they were quite reluctant to give me a menu to take-away for some reason, do they not know who I am?)
Joking aside, this is seriously good food in a near perfect setting. If you're in Paxos this Summer or any Summer you need to go here at least once.