Tag Archives: Steak

The Vanilla Pod

9th July 2013

At the end of June my little sister A turned 21.  These days we seem to be all over the place, so getting the whole family around a table for a meal can be a challenge.

Between university, jobs and trips abroad we found an evening when everyone could be at home to celebrate.  




We smartened up, toasted A with champagne, and then headed out for dinner.


The restaurant is called The Vanilla Pod, and it’s in Marlow, tucked up against the River Thames.  It’s located in a refurbished town house, which used to be the home of T. S. Eliot.  The Vanilla Pod has been listed in the top 100 independent restaurants by the Good Food Guide 2013 and by the Sunday Times.


There were eleven of us, so we fitted snugly into the upstairs dining room.  Wine was ordered, and we started on the warm bread that was brought to the table.  We each chose from a set menu that my parents had selected earlier in the week.


An amuse-bouche of sweet potato soup arrived, which was seasoned with nutmeg.


And then the real fun began…

I had Seared Lobster with Tomato Chutney to start.




Those who didn’t have the lobster went for Smoked Duck Breast Salad with Portobello Mushroom Vinaigrette (no takers for Risotto of Ceps). 


Which was exquisitely presented and tasted incredible.

In fact, all the starters disappeared rather quickly… luckily there was lots more on the way.  In honour of the summer, I went surf and turf – for my main course I chose Fillet Mignon of Beef with Oyster Mushrooms and Coffee Infused Celeriac. 


Writing this out now is making my mouth water!



The birthday girl had Gilt Head Sea Bream with Broken New Potatoes, Olive Sauce and Chorizo Sausage (I think she was probably making room for lots of cake later).



And the prize for  ‘the dish I would have ordered if I could have had two mains’ is awarded to: Fillet of Lamb with Brioche and Orange Crumbs & Madeira Jus.


That lamb is seriously beautiful.

To round off such wonderful food, the obvious choice was – cheese.  5 cheeses, to be more specific.  I’m sorry to say I can’t remember what they all were, except that one was from Crete and it was delicious. (Or was it Croatia…?  Note to self: less wine, more cheese note taking).




L went for the Caramelized Vanilla Cream with Blackberry.


Dragging myself away from the cheese, I did manage to get a picture of the Chocolate Taste, but only after D had started to battle it (to be fair, he is 9, and it was too good to be true).  Grandad’s had already completely gone.


If you happen to find yourself in Marlow, do visit The Vanilla Pod – prices are more special occasion than everyday, but the food really is fantastic.

The website is here.

Happy Birthday A – I miss you!  (Try not to get too tanned).

Vanilla Pod on Urbanspoon



9th May 2013

The first Barbecue of the year.  There’s something magical about it, especially on a summery bank holiday weekend.

I went home to Buckinghamshire and while I cannot claim to be responsible for all of the beautiful food we had (thanks family!), I can share it with you.

 Get things kicked off with Pimms – lots of strawberries, apple, cucumber and mint.4


My ultimate favourite (which I intend to blog about separately) comes next.  Hot crab dip is great to snack on while you prepare the rest of the food and get the barbie heated up.  Salty tortilla chips and cucumber sticks are perfect for dipping.




The choices for the grill were – monkfish, chicken, sausages and steak.  So we sloshed together a marinade for the monkfish.  It’s made of olive oil, lime juice, coriander, and fresh chilli.


The fish then gets popped into the marinade and left to soak up all the lovely flavours before cooking.


Apply butter and garlic generously to some large Portobello mushrooms, which can be cooked up on the BBQ as well!


There are always lots of pretty flowers dotted around the kitchen at home – I liked these tulips especially.


Chop up tomatoes and spring onions to make a simple salad.



Here’s another salad – leaves, peppers and feta cheese.


Buy some ready to bake garlic bread from a supermarket, and serve it up when the meat and fish is sizzling on the grill.


Now, I’m told by a barbeque expert I know (that’s you Daddy!), that perfect results are all about the timing.  Everything being cooked on the grill needs to be added in the right order to ensure it’s all ready at the same time.  For example, sausages take a lot longer to cook than fish.

Luckily, the responsibility for this task was not in my hands, but the hands of the expert.  And look how well it all turned out!  We just had to carve and dig in…



Gorgeous fillet of beef, rare in the middle…




And the chicken, and sausages, and of course the mushrooms.




By the time we’d finished eating the sun was setting.


We gave ourselves a little break and then it was pudding.

The colours of the berries matched the sky outside.


My very clever mother had made this amazing chocolate cheesecake!



All in all, a delicious evening.

Final thought for the day:


The Ship

26th April 2013

I always rather think of The Ship, Wandsworth as a bit like Facebook in person.  You’re bound to bump into someone you haven’t seen for a while, and it has a nice familiar feel.

On a weekend with good weather, it’s heaving.  The crowd spills out around the beer garden, people sit on tables – it’s a lot of fun.  There’s an outside BBQ serving fab burgers and you can watch the river as the day goes by.

With all of this, I’d somehow managed to never try the restaurant inside.  I’ve been missing out! The food is fantastic.


                                                               The beer garden sits right on the Thames

To get to the restaurant you walk past the big bar and into a cosy, comforting space at the back of the building.  The kitchen is open and you can see all the fresh food being plated up.

There is an à la carte menu, but also ‘Pub Favourites’ which are written up on boards – this is good news if you’re a classic fish and chips or pie lover!  The mains on the menu vary between about £12 – £17, and then it’s a bit more for steak.

Ship 2


I was starving, so I was pleased when some bread arrived without prompt. The butter was deliciously rock salted on top.


So now I had to challenge my indecision and make a choice about what to eat… I was torn between Fish Pie and Duck.  Duck won – but only on the condition that I could order a Scotch Egg to start.  O thought this was weird, until he tried it.


Woweee check out the runny drippy egg.  Just what I needed to kick off my meal.

The official title of the Duck was: Seared Duck Breast with Spring Onion Mash, Wilted Bok Choy and Blood Orange Jus.  Happily, The Ship have actually written a blog post with the recipe – so if you want, you can recreate it yourself!

The real winner for me was the combination of the spring onion mash and the sauciness of the jus.  It was one of those dishes where you need to get a bit of everything on each forkful. The duck was very tender.


O is a boy, so he wanted steak.  It turned out to be an epic choice.  Ribeye Steak with Braised Shallots, Red Wine Jus and Hand Cut Chips.  (300g of manliness.. there is a 400g option as well and I think I’d have to fast for a day to take that down).

Just look at it!




Cooked perfectly to order, O was pleased (and so was I because I got to eat some).

Sadly, we couldn’t stay for dessert.  But I will definitely be back – you should go too.

Here is the website, if you need any more information.  



The Ship on Urbanspoon