Cheers to 2016

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new-years-eve-951750_1280Well, as you can see it has been some time since I last posted on this blog. But the time has come to revive it.

A lot has happened in 2015: I got married, my sister had a baby and I was lucky enough to enjoy some exciting holidays. This has been a busy year and January seems an apt time to reflect and look ahead.

In the next few posts I will share with you some of the experiences I’ve had and how they relate to the wonderful world of drink.

  • I’ve learnt a lot more about wine, with a trip to Florence and planning our English/British-sourced wedding
  • I’ve learnt about the practicalities of sourcing and looking after on-tap beer for our DIY wedding in Norfolk
  • I’ve had an alcohol-free month, with efforts to find more affordable teetotal activities after work with work mates

In the year ahead we’ve got exciting plans to extend our kitchen (and many a dinner party planned for when the work has finally finished), explore more of our local area (Purley/Cousdon/Caterham) for local pubs and countryside walks, we’re also planning a trip to the US – taking in New York, San Francisco and Yosemite national park. Plenty to look forward to and share in 2016.

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Seasonal Drinks

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Firstly, the most obvious: Mulled Wine

Dip the rims of your mugs or glasses into a bowl of water then into a plate of sugar to achieve this look. A sweet surprise.

Dip the rims of your mugs/glasses into a bowl of water then sugar to achieve this look.

Mulled wine is a delicious winter drink, which has been around for hundreds of years in the UK. I think it’s had a comeback with the popularity of German Christmas markets, where ‘Gluhwein’ is served to cold customers wandering around the streets in the middle of winter. So then, we call it ‘Mulled wine’, the Germans and Austrians call it ‘Gluhwein’, and the Nordick countries call it ‘Glogg’.

There are different takes on this drink but on the whole it usually contains the following ingredients: base of red wine, with cloves, sugar, cinnamon, orange, etc. It is served warm and in winter.

country kitchen mug sainsburys

Warm mulled wine in a Christmas mug is a festive way of creating that fuzzy warm feeling during the holiday season.

Whilst I was away on my travels I enjoyed a different take on Mulled Wine in a Northern mountainous region of Vietnam, called SaPa. In SaPa they have various local wines, but the most tasty I tried was a mulled wine which was a warm red wine with a few fruity and spicy flavours (normal so far you think) but what I could make out that was different and really made it was chilli. I’m not sure how they made it unfortunately, but I would suggest slicing a chilli and placing it in the wine whilst it heats. Chilli powder would not give the same effect I think. It was so delicious. I wish I asked to see how it was made.

Anyway, back to Britain: Mulled Wine has proved so popular that supermarkets actually sell it pre-mulled so all you have to do is heat. After years of trial and error, this is something I’ve taken to as you at least know what you’re going to get.

If you fancy giving it a go here are some recipes to try out:

Surprisingly Lidl is a good place to go to find Christmas treats -it has different packs of German Stollen and Lebkuchen -worth checking out.

Surprisingly Lidl is a good place to go to find Christmas treats: packs of German Stollen and Lebkuchen -worth checking out.

Or a middle way would be to buy the wine and a sachet of mulling spices: as you can always improvise a little with fresh orange segments to make it look more authentic. Schwartz do a pack which is sold in various supermarkets.

I suggest serving mulled wine in Christmas mugs with German ginger biscuits called ‘lebkuchen’.

Mulled Cider

Make it extra nice with a shot of ginger wine. Go on, give it a go.

Make it extra nice with a shot of ginger wine. Go on, give it a go.

I normally dislike cider, but it turns out the mulled kind is lovely. I had this recently at a pub where they sold it with an extra shot of ginger wine. It was fab-u-lous. The ginger and the apple went well together and left your whole body feeling warm and cosy.

You can also make this yourself using these recipes:

Or consider making mulled apple juice as a non-alcoholic alternative.

Ginger Wine

A wine with a kick.

Ginger wine is becoming more prominent on shelves nowadays too, Sainsbury’s is selling the alcoholic kind for around £4, and you can buy the non-alcoholic kind in Holland and Barretts too.

It’s a lovely kick on its own served in a –small– glass.

The ‘Snowball’

advocaatA Snowball is Advocaat mixed with Lemonade. This is a cocktail I’ve had round a family friend’s house at Christmas for years. As its not too strong you can give a little to older children (with adult supervision).

I also sometimes have Advocaat on its own in a small glass -its make with eggs sugar and brandy -probably similar to Eggnog. I have not tried eggnog but this is something I would probably like as I just love Advocaat.

Spiced Hot Chocolate

You can buy this in various mixes. I like the ones produced by Whittard’s -such as their Chilli Hot Chocolate or Winter Warmer.

You can also make some yourself: check out these guys from Sorted Food for a thick tasty version.

Another option is to have it with a little bit of Baileys.

Horlicks

big-horlicks-mugWhenever we visited my grandparents up North we’d have this drink. My sister and I would get into our ‘jammies’ (pyjamas) whilst the grown-ups made our Horlicks, and we’d sit in the living room sipping them before bed. The taste and smell takes me back to those times. It’s the most comforting drink ever. And a perfect milky drink to make you feel ready for bed. It apparently also contains good stuff (certainly in the traditional version) so it’s good to give to your little ones (or yourself) this during the cold winter months.

Horlicks doesn’t just taste great; one mug contains 12 essential vitamins and minerals and is a rich source of Vitamin D – an essential aid to calcium absorption

Catford Bridge Tavern to Re-open this Week!

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CBT my photo

Happiest. Day. Ever:

The Catford Bridge Tavern reopens this Friday!!

Woop woop. Everyone who can should get themselves down there for a celebratory pint after work.

This Friday 7th December at 6pm.

I’m afraid I don’t know any of the journey they took in between being turfed out to being reinstated, but a deal must have been reached between Antic and the current owner.

Catford Tavern Official News Tweet:

“Ladies and Gentlemen, hereby I announce that the Catford Bridge Tavern will officially reopen this Friday evening. Hello again.”

So pleased.

Next post will be on something other than this pub, but obviously this has been something dear to my heart -I love this pub. Fingers crossed we are out of the danger-zone now, and the pub is here to stay. One lovely thing that has come out of this is the public response -the letters of support and comments on the petition say it all. It’s more than a watering hole, it’s a community treasure.

Next post: recipes and ideas for Christmas’y’ Alcoholic Beverages….

Mulled-Wine- festive pic

A Ray of Hope? -news on CBT

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I am glad to hear that the planning application that sought to turn the Catford Bridge Tavern into 5 flats upstairs, and crucially, a retail unit downstairs, has been REJECTED!

With such great news there’s little reason for the owner not to make a deal with the Catford Bridge Tavern to reinstate the pub, as he sure won’t be allowed to put anything else there!

Many thanks to the council for making what I feel was the right decision, and for listening to all 440 people who wrote in to the planning office to object, and over 2,000 people who signed the on-line petition. Not one person wrote in favour of the application.

Here’s the first 2 reasons why the application was rejected:

1)

The proposed change of use from a public house (Class A4) to retail unit
(Class A1) and residential accommodation (Class C3) would cause the loss of
a vital and valued community facility without a suitable replacement …

2)

The loss of a public house (Class A4) and the creation of a retail unit (Class
A1) would have a negative impact on the viability and vitality of Catford town centre

This is an important step in the right direction. The atmosphere from the Tavern right now seems to be to stay hopeful and positive. I too am keeping my fingers crossed and hope that some agreement can be made to let the Antic group run the pub again as the Catford Bridge Tavern.

Join me: make a wish on a star, pray if you are so inclined, cross your fingers, write to Santa….whatever works for you 🙂

Catford Bridge Tavern Has Been Closed

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It is with great sadness I write to tell anyone who isn’t yet aware: Catford Bridge Tavern has closed.

The news came to us via the pub’s social networking channels late last night, and low and behold, they were packing up and handing in the keys this morning.

Picture by Fur Coat, no Knickersclick to see her blog

Though we knew it was under threat from a planning application to change the use of the property, I think it’s hit us all unexpectedly. Just as we began to get confident that all was going to be OK.

So this is as far as I know:

The planning application to change the property’s use has not yet been decided on by the planning committee. The total stands at 488 neighbours who have personally written in to the planning board personally to object the application and a further on-line and hard-copy petition also has thousands of signatures.

What has caused the pub to have to hand its keys over is that the freeholder has managed to make a deal with a national retailer without the planning permission.

So there is hope. The hope is that this retailer will have to eventually realise they can’t put a shop there, because they fail to get permission from the planning authorities, therefore they duck out and Antic pubs gets to reinstate themselves at this site.

One of the things on our side is that the pub has gained an Article Four status. This will make it much harder to get a pub changed to a retail space.

I am currently really angry and upset, and I am writing to feel better. I think I’ve got the story straight from what I’ve heard and read, but it may be that I’ve not got all the facts so bare with me and please do not take this post as gospel.

Its funny how the loss of a pub feels like the loss of a relative. I know it’s silly but it really does feel horrible.

My heart goes out to all the staff, and a sincere thank you for making this place so wonderful in the short time you were here.

Nothing will come close to replacing this pub in my eyes.

For more on Catford Bridge Tavern see these previous posts:

New Beginnings

First Review

Review of food and atmosphere

Save our Pub!

A Very Merry Christmas Present

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Well its that time of year again, and everyone’s hunting for the perfect gift: often for friends and family who own way more than they want or need and so gift-buying can be a little difficult.

All these gifts are £10 and under

Freezer Shot Glasses

Well these look the perfect gift to give any 18+ -perhaps something to give to your university friends, or for guys who are notoriously difficult to purchase for.

So here’s some recipes I’ve pulled to use these bad-boys for:

  • Martini Shot – Freeze Lemonade and then Pour Gin
  • Mint Shot – Freeze Water and then Pour Schnapps
  • Spice Shot – Freeze Water Tabasco and then Pour Vodka
  • Candy Shot – Freeze Grape Juice and then Pour Flavoured Vodka
  • Cosmopolitan Shot – Freeze Cranberry Juice and then Pour Vodka
  • Coffee Shot – Freeze Coffee and then Pour Baileys
  • Whiskey Shot – Freeze Water and then Pour Whiskey
  • Tropical Shot – Freeze Pineapple Juice and then Pour Rum
  • Bloody Mary Shot – Freeze Bloody Mary Mix and then Pour Vodka
  • Margarita Shot – Freeze Margarita Mix and then Pour Tequila

Yummy? And for those non-drinkers here’s a tasty suggestion:

  • Chocolate Mousse Cup – Melt chocolate and put in iceshot. Refrigerate until chocolate solidifies. Take off top and fill with mousse.

Fancy bottle holder

For those sophisticated dinner parties.

How cute is this? Perfect for friends who love to entertain, and enjoy their wine!!

A snip at £6.95 from http://www.vintagevibe.co.uk.

Champagne Flutes

When I was younger, I’d spend my Christmas morning marching out to sea in fancy dress with a load of other mad people in aid of charity. What was most satisfying, after the good deed element, was coming back home, and thawing out in a warm bubble bath, with a glass of bubbly.

This next present is a set of Champagne Flutes from Wilkinson’s none the less! This four piece is exactly £10. And very elegant indeed!

Failing these lovely gifts, you could always buy your loved one a set / mix of their favourite beverages -perhaps explore a few different brewers for inspiration -or book a brewery tour as an ‘experience based’ present.

Save Our Pub!

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Since March this year Catford has been treated to a wonderful re-birth of a pub. You can find out about their story on my previous post on the birth of ‘The Catford Bridge Tavern’, First impressions, and the Food. Catford Bridge Tavern also now have their own website, with menus and news, etc. -so please check them out if you haven’t already.

Catford had been lacking in a safe and friendly place to enjoy a social life, up until the pub next to the railway (Once the Copperfield) changed hands and became the Catford Bridge Tavern.

Typical diverse guest ales line up at the Catford Bridge Tavern -changing on a weekly basis

This place is a real gem, and has really helped create a better atmosphere around the area, and is a place for our diverse community to relax in and enjoy. This is no ordinary pub, it speaks quality in its food and selection of drinks, especially their large and regularly changing selection of guest ales hailing from all over the UK.

Catford now feels a safer, nicer place to live and socialise in since this pub has been around.

Now, our pub is in danger of extinction. This is in now way due to failings of the pub itself, but because the freeholder -a faceless company which has it’s post sent to Middlesex (-ie. not from around here!) -wants to make more money off the property by changing it’s use from a pub to a retail space -and apparently already has interest from a national retailer. See his planning application HERE.

The annoying thing is that just as a good thing has come to Catford and changed the area for the better…. we suddenly find it might be taken away from us. And all for another shop. Catford is littered with the usual mediocre high street shops and is in dire need of regeneration of its existing shopping space without a need for any more to show up on scene.

The pub by the rail station has been on this site for a long time. Unfortunately I do not have a date, but judging by this picture, a long time ago. The pub is part of the fabric of Catford’s history, and a part of the social fabric of the community.

Another possible planning objection is:

As many locals know, the streets around this area are also already straining under the pressure of traffic, with the area just under the railway bridge often being snarled up. Though the pub receives supplies to run it’s business this is in no way to the extent a supermarket chain would require. Therefore we’d be seeing more lorries trying to access the site on a very regular basis, further exacerbating the current traffic problems.

~

Please help save Catford Bridge Tavern by writing to one of the following:

(Please include the planning department in all mails of support).

  •  Email Lewisham planning: (the most effective means of objection)

planning@lewisham.gov.ukGVB
(Quote – DC/12/81142/X)

  • Write to owner/freeholder – Mr Dipesh Shah,  DVS Property Ltd, 4 Spring Villa Road, Edgware, Middlesex, HA8 7EB.

Thank you in advance for your help, it means a huge amount to us all.

Also if you have any comments or suggestions -including suggestions for what we could use as acceptable planning objections please do get in touch or comment below. I’d love to hear you thoughts.

-Please note I do not work for the pub I am just a local regular and fan of the ‘Cat Tav’.

Beer’s new best Friend

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I know I’ve been a bit quiet recently. Well, I’m not dead. Yet. I’m revising. And course-working. Oh yes.

For a short break I thought I’d say hey to the readers out there and point out a little bit of heaven in South London:

I am truly shamed for I have not visited Brockley Market in the 2.5 years I’ve been living in South East London until a couple of weekends ago. If you too have not been, yes you too are shamed. Go this weekend!! It’s like a smaller –less crowded– version of Borough Market -characterised by its amazing quality of foods on offer. A great one to take your friends round as there’s lots of foods to try -hot and cold- but also some really fine specimens of fresh veg and other ingredients to make for a Saturday night dinner party.

So, to the point: I want to point out to the beer fans out there, that it’s new best friend has arrived: the….. Beer Stick!!

They’re thin long sticks of salami with a chilli kick to them. (Next time I go I’ll get some more and take a picture before they’re all eaten!!)

The salami is really good quality, and I don’t think this is anything like what you’d find down you’re local supermarket. I think we bought roughly 7 for £5 so not the cheapest snack in the world -but highly addictive and very, VERY good with beer.

The beer sticks were bought from Moons Green Charcuterie, which has a stall in the middle of Brockley Market. The sellers are friendly and will let you try their other offerings too -there was a normal sized salami made with red wine which tasted sublime too -gosh I’d have bought a lot of stuff had I had got the money to spend.

Catford Bridge Tavern’s Food

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Well it’s been a while for me to find the time to blog, but in the mean time I’ve been sampling the delights of Catford Bridge Tavern’s food – and I’ve tried to remember to take some photos before I gobble the food in front of me!

Firstly the beers

Catford Tavern have treated us to some fabulous selections recently including the Ruby Hop Cat, which has been brewed especially for the pub. The pub’s long bar offers a large and wonderful range that changes by the week. Never have I found a pub that offers so many ciders, stouts and bitters etc all at once!

The tavern takes advantage of this generous on-tap offering by organising impromptu events such as Trio of Stouts (served in 3 1/3 pint glasses) and Oysters. I’m gutted I was not around for this event but I’m told it was very successful, with all oyster platters selling out.

Sundays

On Sundays, the pub offers a menu of roasts (with the addition of fish and vegetarian alternative dishes).

I have to say they have turned my opinion round: I never normally order roasts when I’m eating out as I often find it to be a bit boring and often the meat and veg are overcooked. Nothing, I thought, can rival my Mum’s roasts. Well…. it’s certainly giving her a run for its money.

The vegetables are full of flavour and beautifully cooked. There are many types of vegetable on the plate (hidden under the meat) with lovely roasties, and a tasty cauliflower cheese.

The gravy is very good. As is the creamy fresh tasting home-made horseradish side sauce.

I believe that the pub has made a good decision to put on roasts without the usual weekday menu on Sundays, as this has given them the opportunity to concentrate on producing top quality roasts. It is a compromise well worth taking in order to strive for perfection.

So far we’ve tried the beef, spotted (something) pork and the black-faced lamb. The care in choosing the origin of the meat is clear, and the care gone into cooking it has done it justice.

These meals are massive and so ordering starters are not really a clever plan, though a limited selection (bar snacks such as the sausage rolls and scotch eggs) are available.

The dining room is a lovely and bright place to enjoy this on a Sunday lunch, as the room is spacious, windows showing the leafy trees are wide and let a lot of light into this part of the pub. The décor is perfect for a Jubilee and Olympic year with bunting and sports features such as skittles and snooker holders adorn the walls.

I believe you can also have your meal in the other rooms of the pub on request.

Tuesday to Saturday

A mouthwatering menu is available. So far I’ve had the Pig’s cheeks starter, the Gurnard, and my partner’s had a special of Black-faced lamb pie with suet pastry crust.

I’ve never had pig’s cheeks before and I absolutely love them, the texture and taste is different, and really good. Unfortunately I’m at a loss to describe it, but I assure you it’s not in any way gross or weird. The dish was done very well with a good salad and parsnip puree, and sauce. I recommend trying it for yourself!

The Gurnard was really good -as was the rest of the dish: the buttery caper sauce with shrimps was fantastic  with the new potatoes. If I were on death row, I’d order this as my last meal.

We’ve also had the Chocolate Brownie. I died and went to heaven with its chocolaty gooey sticky centre and crunchy outer, with lovely ice-cream….ohhh.

Oh yes girls, get yourselves one of these, it does solve everything.

Do be aware this menu changes slightly from time to time. Keeps you coming back 😉

Lastly, Bar Snacks:

These guys really know how to get people to pop in for a pint before heading home. You may be hungry and tired and need a distraction from your day -so you come to the Tavern for a pint, a snack and a board game!

My partner is currently teaching my how to play chess. Others include Guess Who, Scrabble, Battleship etc.

And bar snacks: we’ve enjoyed ‘Soffles’ -a paper bag of grilled spicy pitta pieces -an interesting alternative to crisps; chilli honey rosemary nuts (warning addictive); pork scratchings, scotch egg, sausage rolls. They also have pickled eggs, but I’ve never been a fan of the idea!

The scotch eggs and sausage rolls are freshly made on site – you’ll find Eddie the Chef occasionally ‘tweets’ to his followers when they’re hot out of the oven. The scotch egg at the Tavern is the first time I think I’ve tried what a scotch egg is really supposed to be like: its not like shop-bought ones -its got real meat (I warn you it’s not massively cooked to avoid overcooking -but I find this is to my liking), soft boiled egg, and a lovely outer, topped with flaky salt: deep-fried freshly when ordered (only available when the kitchen is open).

Summing up

This is a lovely place to treat yourself and eat out -whether its a £2.50 scotch egg with your pint, or a full Roast on a Sunday.

Its not a cheap place, and since its opened I’ve probably spent more money than I would normally – but I think it’s good value as it is really good food and service (the staff have always been friendly to us -I’m pretty sure they are to everyone and clearly enjoy their jobs).

Over the years have eaten at quiet a few restaurants so I compare it to many places: pubs that offer this type of menu in Surrey for example are generally slightly more expensive than the Tavern, so I’m comfortable spending this much knowing its about right, if a bit better, value for what it is they’re offering.

In short I’m thrilled this place has opened on our doorstep and I want to shout out to all the locals that it’s here, and to go visit. This is a much needed boost to this area, and I expect the community spirit will strengthen from its presence 🙂

Proud of British Beer

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A British Institution, a ‘cultural icon’, ‘liquid gold’: the pride of Britain:

Did this make you tear up a little? That’ll be the theme tune to Jerusalem….

400,000 British people are employed by the beer industry: in pubs, brewing and farming; and it generates ‘£28 Billion for the British economy -in taxes and duty, tourist revenue and jobs’. The fact is that our pubs closing on a scale of 29 pubs every week, endangering ‘one our last manufacturing industries’.

If you care about protecting our British pub and beer industry, please sign this petition to ask the government to re-think increasing taxes on beer, and save our British pubs:

Stop the Beer Duty Escalator

It only takes a minute to sign and can make all the difference.

Thank you for reading.