REVIEW: Lakes Bistro at Pine Lake Resort

I recently enjoyed a short break with Mike and my boys at Pine Lake Resort in Carnforth. We stayed in a wooden lodge overlooking the lake. Although we ate breakfast and dinner in the lodge and spent the days out and about in the local area, we returned to the resort every evening for a quick swim and to eat dinner in the resort’s restaurant, Lakes Bistro. Initially, we had only planned to eat there once because we had a limited budget for our break. However, the food was so good we ate their both evenings. Here is a review of the Lakes Bistro at Pine Lake Resort, Carnforth.

Children’s Menu at Lakes Bistro, Pine Lake Resort

My pet hate when I eat out with my children is terrible children’s menus and I even check out the children’s menus when I am eating out without the children. Thankfully, I was very pleased with the menu options at Lakes Bistro, Pine Lakes Resort. There were the usual options of burger, sausages, or pizza, but there were also other options, such as pasta dishes and salads. The children’s pizza was made on the premises in the pizza oven rather than the usual frozen option offered by many establishments. There was also a small eaters menu that had smaller versions of dishes from the adult menu. My youngest son opted for the pizza on both nights while my middle son had the battered fish and chips on the first night and the chicken nuggets on the second night.

Steaks at Lakes Bistro

Steaks are my go-to choice when eating out, so both my partner and I opted for the rump steak on the first night. This was served with chips in a trendy little basket, oven roasted cherry tomatoes on the vine and a flat mushroom. The steaks were cooked a little more than we would have liked, but they were delicious and tender nonetheless. We also ordered a side of onion rings. I hate it when places serve frozen onion rings with a reformed onion centre, but that wasn’t a problem at Lakes Bistro as these were real onion rings made to order with a delicious, crisp batter. I also ordered a port and stilton sauce to accompany my steak. I usually opt for pepper sauce, but I thought I would try something new. The sauce was a little thin but absolutely gorgeous. My partner also had a steak on the second night and said it was just as good as the first. 

Pizza and Pasta Dishes at Lakes Bistro

After seeing my youngest son’s pizza on the first night, I decided to try a pizza on the second evening of our stay. This is not usually a dish that I would order as I am very fussy about the pizza dough being cooked correctly. I ordered the Americana pizza, which was topped with pepperoni and jalapeno peppers. It was oozing with cheese and very spicy, which is just how I like it. My oldest son ordered the spaghetti carbonara on both evenings as it is one of his favourite dishes. He described it as creamy, full of flavour, and cooked to perfection. 

Atmosphere

Lakes Bistro at Pine Lake Resort has a contemporary look with walls in a bold red color, wooden flooring, and wooden furniture. Despite this dark color choice, the restaurant is filled with light and is bright and airy. The tables are nicely spaced out so you do not feel like the people at the neighbouring table are sitting on your lap or listening to your conversation. A very relaxed and comfortable vibe.

Customer Service

The staff at Lakes Bistro, Pine Lake Resort, delivered an outstanding level of customer service. Really friendly and welcoming, quick service, and just the right level of attention. 

Price

Reasonably priced venue considering the quality of the food served. Some examples of the prices you can expect to pay are:

  • Steaks- £15-20 price range
  • Pizza and pasta dishes- Under £10
  • Children’s meals- £4.95 or £ 6.95 for small plates
  • Side orders- £2.95 for sauces, chips, onion rings, etc. 

Check out this restaurant for yourself at https://www.resortpinelake.co.uk/dining

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REVIEW: Lunch at Portland Hall Spa

spa pic

Each year, I go away for one night with my mum and my sister. We usually look for a Groupon deal for a spa break and my sister and I pay for this as a treat to my mum for Mother’s Day. This year, we were all in need of more of a break than ever. Both my sister and I are busy with our own businesses and we have seven children between us. All three of us have been impacted by the death of my father earlier in the year. This year, we headed off to Southport to stay at the Prince of Wales Hotel and spend a day at the Portland Hall Spa Hotel. 

We had picked up a package for a Mother’s Day treat at Portland Hall Spa. This included a back and neck massage, a full facial and the option of either a head massage or a leg massage. The deal also included a two-course lunch. As this is a food website, it is the food that I will focus on in this post (although I have to say that the treatments were excellent!).

Starters at Portland Hall Spa

All three of us chose different starters which makes for a better review! My mum opted for the chicken skewers which came in a tasty coating and with a sauce that was similar to hoisin, but a bit sweeter. She said the chicken was tender and I had a taste of her sauce with some of her salad garnish and it was delicious. 

My sister opted for the vegetarian tart, which was described as being made with goats cheese and caramelised onion. I had expected this to come as a small, round pastry casing with caramelised onion on the bottom, topped with goats cheese. However, this was not the case. It was a slice cut from a larger tart and my sister passed me a taste across the table. It looked a bit like quiche and certainly had the same sort of eggy texture but had the consistency of a sponge cake. I wasn’t keen on the dish as it was not what I had expected but my sister enjoyed it.

My choice was the homemade pate served with wholemeal toast. It arrived with the pate served in a small pot and was one of the best pates I have ever eaten. It was rich and meaty with a nice consistency and texture. I was initially disappointed that there was no butter to go with the toast, but I really didn’t need it. I spread the caramelised onion that was served with this starter over the toast and then added the pate.

Main Courses at Portland Hall Spa

Again, we all ordered something different. For her main, my sister chose the tossed spaghetti. This was a less creamy version of carbonara as it had pancetta, mushrooms, and Parmesan. I didn’t taste this dish personally, but it looked nice and my sister enjoyed it. The spaghetti looked like it had been cooked perfectly. I have a thing about soggy spaghetti!

My mum decided to order the chicken stroganoff with rice. The rice was served in a separate bowl with the rice on the side. This was a dish she thoroughly enjoyed as the chicken was still moist and the sauce was thick and luscious. It was made with wholegrain mustard, so it was spotted with the seeds. 

After my enjoyment of the starter, I was thoroughly looking forward to my main. Sadly, I was a bit disappointed. I chose the vegetable bake, which was described as layers of aubergines and tomatoes, topped with Mozzarella. First things first, there were slices of aubergine and it was topped with Mozzarella, so this part of the description was correct.

Unfortunately, there were no tomatoes in the dish. There were some courgettes at the bottom, which was a bonus as I love courgettes. However, I had been looking forward to the tang that tomatoes give a dish and this was missing. My other criticism was that this was a pasta dish and there was no mention of pasta on the menu. The aubergines were layered between sheets of pasta and topped with a bechamel sauce. It should really have been written as aubergine lasagne. However, I must add that it was perfectly well cooked, it was just not what I wanted or had expected. 

Drinks

There was some pretense that we were being healthy by attending a spa, so we ordered a jug of water. Unfortunately, we also ordered a jug of sangria to accompany our meal (well, we only do this once a year!). It was fruity, alcoholic, delicious and the perfect accompaniment to what was, for the most part, a good meal.

The menu has changed every year I have been, so no doubt I will have some different dishes to describe next year. Although I had a few minor issues, these related more to the descriptions of the food than the quality or flavour. 

 

 

BOOK REVIEW: The Three Sisters Indian Cookbook

indian cookbook

I am not one for using cookbooks too often. I use my own knowledge of food to create dishes and if I do need a recipe, I look it up on the Internet. However, the one cookbook that I do use on a fairly regular basis is ‘The Three Sisters Indian Cookbook’.

As the name suggests, this book was written by three sisters; Sereena, Alexa, and Priya Kaul. The reason I love this cookbook so much is that it is aimed at people who are novices in terms of cooking Indian cuisine.

While I have many years of experience in cooking, Indian cuisine is something that I am still learning and perfecting. While many dishes are simple, there are also many that are a complex balancing act of spices and flavours.

This book starts at the beginning by explaining how to make a spice box so that you have all the spices needed to make delicious Indian food. The three sisters then contribute various recipes to the cookbook as they each have their own areas of culinary expertise.

The book is divided into sensible chapters that make finding the dish you want to eat easy. It begins with little snacks and starters before moving on to main course dishes. These are divided into chicken, lamb, fish and prawns, and vegetable dishes. There is then a section devoted to rice, beans, and lentils followed by a chapter on how to make bread and chutney. The book concludes with recipes for desserts and drinks.

All the recipes are easy to follow and have beautiful photographs to show the end result. It is written in such a way that I find it easy to adapt the recipes to my own tastes. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in learning the art of making flavoursome and authentic Indian dishes.

REVIEW: Whitegate Inn Beefeater, Manchester

beefeater

The other day I posted that I was excited that I was going out for a meal with my in-laws as it was a while since I had eaten out. You can read that post here. As promised, I can now review the restaurant in which we ate. 

whitegateWe visited the Whitegate Inn which is part of the Beefeater chain of restaurants in Failsworth, Manchester. There were ten of us eating and we hadn’t booked in advance. As a result, we didn’t have a table straight away but we were happy to wait and enjoy a drink in the bar area. 

Once we were seated, our lovely waitress quickly took our order. My partner and I both ordered the sirloin steak with chips and pepper sauce. Most others around the table also ordered various steak options, although two of our party opted for burgers. 

As the restaurant was so busy, it took a while for the food to arrive. This gave me time to assess the restaurant better. Everyone in the place seemed to be having a good time and I couldn’t see any food being returned- always a good sign. The place had a comfortable and fun vibe and there were several families with children eating at the restaurant. Our waitress kept us topped up with drinks until our food arrived.me and mike fail

 

When the food arrived, the steaks were cooked perfectly as requested. Everyone at our table was happy with the meal they received. Some went on to order puddings, but I was full. 

Overall, the food was what you would expect from a chain steakhouse and the prices were reasonable. The waitress was friendly and helpful, answering all our questions and bringing us extras and sauces. A good time was had by all. 

He’s Finally Taking Me Out……

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One of my main plans on this blog was to write reviews of various eating establishments as I usually eat out on a fairly regular basis. Unfortunately, a number of things have stopped me from doing so recently.

  1. My dad died earlier in the year and I haven’t felt too much like going out.
  2. I was made redundant from my second job and this has impacted on my family financially and put a stop to eating out.
  3. My partner and I booked a meal out locally for Valentine’s Day and he came down with a stomach bug so the meal was canceled and I ended up drinking wine and watching TV on my own. 

Finally, I am getting the opportunity to eat out tonight! It is my sister-in-laws birthday and we are traveling to Manchester and staying overnight at her home as she lives about a two-hour drive away from our home, which is between Lancaster and Blackpool in Lancashire. This will allow us to have a drink while we are out.

I am not entirely sure where we are eating yet, but no doubt it will appear on my blog over the next few days. It is more likely to be a pub meal than a fine dining experience, I would think. I can’t wait!

 

A Night Out Drinking and Eating in York

My partner and I have really felt the pressure recently. I work full-time as a writer and he works funny shifts in the retail industry. We have seven children between us ranging from four to 21 and this is both stressful and time-consuming. Our house is a one-hundred-year-old four bedroomed house on the coast that has more holes in it than windows and we seem to spend our life repairing things. Also, both my cousin and my dad died suddenly shortly after Christmas. It was definitely time to let our hair down and have a break from the stresses and strains of life. 

At Christmas, I gave him an envelope containing a booking confirmation sheet for a night at Marmaduke’s Townhouse Hotel in York. He has often said to me he wanted to take me to York as it is a city he loves. My mum gave us money to have a nice meal while we were away.

Neither of us could wait as it is not often that we spend time on our own together, except when we are asleep. A night away together seemed like a real luxury and something that we were both looking forward to immensely.

The drive to York was lovely. Anyone who has ever had the pleasure of driving through Lancashire and Yorkshire will know what lovely views you can enjoy, even from the motorway. As soon as we arrived, we were keen to check out our room and then to explore York. Neither of us had eaten all day so we were starving and finding a restaurant was our number one priority. 

me1We enjoyed perusing through the streets and reading the menus outside the restaurant while we found somewhere we fancied eating. Some of the shops were still open, including two shops selling Harry Potter memorabilia. I took great delight in trying out some of the wands. 

We finally stopped for something to eat at Cafe Rouge, of which I have written a review on this blog. I had a camembert starter while my partner had an unusual egg in red wine sauce dish. We both opted for steak as the main. Usually, I do not have a dessert. I love them, but I only have a small appetite. However, I had nothing to eat earlier in the day and was starving, so chocolate torte for two it was!

Both me and my partner like a drink (or three!) but we rarely go out drinking. We decided to make the most of a night without any children and head off on a pub crawl. The first pub we visited was huge but had just an elderly couple sitting in the corner. Although we are middle-aged, I am 38 and he is 44, there is still life in us yet and we had hoped for something a little more lively. 

me and mike york

Instead, we took the advice of the bar staff and headed off to a grungy student bar called ‘Rolling Stones’. The fact that we were the oldest people in there didn’t put us off and we were soon drinking and playing pool against the students- and we won! This pic is us sat in the grungy student bar. 

When we decided to make a move to the next bar, the students decided they wanted to tag along. Even though it was a Sunday night in January and the streets were very quiet, my other half and I still managed to make a mini party for ourselves!

The next venue was a trendy cocktail bar called ‘The Drawing Board’. Again, this had a young vibe, but we soon had everyone in the bar talking to us- my partner likes being the centre of attention. 

me and mike york

Despite the hangovers the next day, we had a fantastic time at the ‘York Castle Museum’ and I loved dressing up in all the outfits and getting involved with the interactive activities- as you can see from the pics!

Despite going on a Sunday in the middle of January, I would definitely recommend an evening out in York eating and drinking. There is a great selection of restaurants and a diverse range of drinking venues to try. 

TV Review: MasterChef- E1 S14

masterchef

Of all the cooking competition series on the television, MasterChef is probably my favourite. I love the challenges in this show and all its spin-offs, including MasterChef: The Professionals, Celebrity MasterChef, and Junior MasterChef. Finally, MasterChef has returned to TV screens across the UK for its 14th series. 

The first part of the challenge was for seven new contestants to use ingredients from the MasterChef larder to create a dish of their own choice. As always, there was a huge amount of variety between the dishes produced that demonstrated the kitchen skills and cooking styles of the different contestants. At the end of the round, Judges John Torode and Greg Wallace sampled each of the dishes and gave their critique. 

While they were extremely impressed by some of the dishes, they felt others were lacking. The three that impressed the judges the least left the competition. Terry had produced a Mushroom risotto topped with tempura vegetables. The latter had become soggy and it was this that led to his elimination from the competition. Also eliminated was Fiona who had left the skin on her cod and overused fennel in her dish. Joining the leaving party was Ashley. He had made a Venetian fish stew. The judges were initially impressed with his idea and were keen to taste the finished result. However, they said it was too dry and lacked flavour.

The remaining four contestants were then expected to produce their two best dishes and serve them to three former winners of the competition. Only the best three would win a place in the quarterfinals. The former judges were particularly delighted with the plate of food served by James, a wine retailer from Oxford. They described it as ‘restaurant standard’, despite his unusual use of purple ingredients.

Sadly, they were less impressed with the North African-inspired minced lamb dish produced by Louise. The main complaint was that she had not demonstrated enough skill in her chosen dishes. 

My one disappointment with the series, even in this early stage, is that the standard is so high even in the first rounds. A few years ago, the format of the show was changed so that they had already selected the best contestants prior to what is shown on television. In the previous years, I found it very entertaining watching people who believed they were good cooks turn up and create absolute disasters. With the new format, the judges have some negative comments to make about the contestants in the first round but this is nothing compared to the sheer atrocities that have been served in the past. 

Other than this one minor complaint about the show, I am looking forward to watching the contestants in the series facing some difficult challenges and producing quality dishes in their plight to win the MasterChef title.