Tenerife 2013 – Food, Drink, Golf and Fountains in Los Christianos

Maybe not quite as memorable a title as Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, but you have got to do at least two of them. One of the problems with any place that does the mass tourism thing is finding a place to eat that isn’t trying to cater to absolutely everybody and the resort area of Los Christianos is full of places knocking out burgers, steak, pizza and pasta, plus Indian, Chinese and Mexican themed joints, but very little in the way of authentic Spanish cuisine

Fountains at the Safari Centre Los christianos

Fountains at the Safari Centre Los Christianos

Now I’m not knocking burgers and pizza etc, because when they are good they really hit the spot as was the case at the Country Bar Caribe on our first night. One place we had tried before was the Restaurante Tapas and Wine  in the Avda Santiago Puig. The quality of the food was really good, particularly the sizzling hot plate of spicy chorizo sausages (€7.50), but I thought the portion sizes of the tortilla (€3.25), bacalao (salt cod balls €4.75) and the pimento de padron (€4.75) were a bit stingy for the price we paid. With wine and water our bill came to €75.44 for four people.

Further down the Avda Santiago Puig was Linares IV. Again we had eaten in here before and found it to be quite good. Linares does a good paella at €19.05 for two persons, but they now have an entertainer and we found ourselves squeezed into a table beside his electric organ. Resident entertainers of variable talent knocking out rock ‘n’ roll classics, C & W murder ballads and Irish drinking songs are now endemic in most restaurants and bars on the island and the fellow in Linares put me in mind of the Vic Reeves pub singer as he proceeded to murder Route 66 and I Can’t Help Falling in Love Again.

Oh no, it's Michael Buble tribute time

Oh no, it’s Michael Buble tribute time

And not just in the restaurants, when we stopped off at the Cafeteria Plaza in the main drag of Los Christianos for a nightcap we were confronted with a nightly tribute act that included Mickey Bubble, Tom Jones and Vegas Elvis complete with red jumpsuit, shades and Mancunian accent! However their Lubumba (hot chocolate with lots of rum) is very good, which of course it should be for €8.

Cactus Garden a haven away from Elvis

Cactus Garden a haven away from Elvis even if it involved crazy golf

Some respite from the pub singer could be had in the Cactus Garden behind the Cafeteria. If you have ever wondered what would happen if Antonio Gaudi had been asked to design a crazy golf course you will find the answer here with the mosaic bordered cactus beds separating the windmills and rockeries. It has a bar too.

The Safari Centre is the place to go to catch the free nightly fountain and light shows, nestled amongst the expensive designer shops and international restaurants. Avoid at all costs watching it from Harry’s Bar, which of course is no relation to Hemingway’s Parisian hangout. It is the place to go if you fancy an expensive watery cocktail served by a miserable waitress while listening to a pretty dire sax player though.

Sadly the Mojo Picon family restaurant that we enjoyed so much back in 2009 seems to have gone, but we did find this fantastic little place El Paladar (C/ Noella Alfonso Cabrera) just around the corner from the Columbus.

El Paladar

El Paladar

It was not really on any of the main tourist drags and it didn’t look much from the outside, but we did notice the area under the green awning was always full of middle aged Spanish men watching football, smoking, arguing, drinking beer and generally having a good time. Well that looks like the sort of place that will do decent tapas I thought . I wasn’t wrong either.

Inside El Paladar

Inside El Paladar

We liked this place so much that we ate here three times during the week. Stand out items were the fresh tuna steak, the sizzling prawns, the Russian salad, the Canarian baked potatoes and the battered squid rings which were seasoned to perfection. There is no entertainer and the proprietor also insists on that old-fashioned nicety the complementary digestif. For a meal with wine, beer and water we paid between €55 and €80 depending upon how greedy the four of us were. It was also one of the cheapest places to get a pint of beer in resort at €2.20, no wonder so many old Spaniards hung out there.

Snakes, Soccer and Soho – Mr Wolfe’s Birthday Bash

It was our friend Mr Wolfe’s special birthday on Saturday so we decided to treat him to a meal out in that there London Town.

New Year's Eve Chinatown

New Year’s Eve Chinatown

It was also a special day in London’s Chinatown. The place was rammed with people doing their last minute shopping to welcome in the Year of the Snake, but as we were up there I did a big shop in the New Loon Moon supermarket (9a Gerrard Street) for spices and other Chinese goodies. Aside from getting a few bits you just can’t get in an ordinary supermarket, things like spices, coconut milk and soy sauce are so much cheaper in Chinatown that its worth lumping them back home on the tube.

Chinese lanterns Chinatown London

Chinese lanterns Chinatown London

Next stop was a swift pint for me and the Captain in the Coach and Horses in Greek Street, while Saucy Wench Mab and the Powder Monkey bought some chocolate coffee beans in London’s most aromatic shop, Old Comption Street’s the Algerian Coffee Shop.

The Coach and Horses, Soho

The Coach and Horses, Soho

Now we’d told Mr Wolfe about the Bodean’s at Tower Hill and were keen for him to discover all the meaty goodness of their smokehouse fare, but Bodean’s do not take bookings so we thought if we try the Soho branch in Poland Street and it’s full, there are plenty of other places to eat. When we arrived the waitress said we could have a table in 45 minutes, fair enough we thought and ordered some drinks. Now that was where it all came undone. drinks ordered (and paid for) we were told to go outside and wait on the seating where the cocktails would be brought to us . This turned out to be a couple of benches on the street where the mouth-watering smell of barbecued meat mingled with that of the rancid dumpster and tramp pee. Bodean’s idea of bringing the drinks to us didn’t quite match ours either, fortunately we heard the waitress hollering our order number from inside and we had to force our way back inside past the by now enormous queue to collect them.

By this time we were a bit cheesed off, especially as it had started to rain so when Mr Wolfe turned up we went across to Wahaca in Wardour Street where we got a table immediately and had a fantastic Mexican meal for about two thirds of what we would have spent in Bodean’s

chorizo and potato quesadilla

chorizo and potato quesadilla Wahaca

Like Bodean’s, Wahaca don’t do reservation, but they don’t expect you to wait on the street if they can’t fit you in immediately. Oh no they give you a bleeper and send you downstairs to the tequila bar, which is where we went after the meal and where we were all severely trounced in a game of table soccer by the Powder Monkey.

Horsemeat – What Would You Eat?

Well Horseburgergate keeps rumbling along here in the UK with Burger King being the latest retailer to dump a load of patties containing gee gee DNA. I hope that the meat is being sensibly disposed of, there is nothing wrong with it after all, it’s just not what people believed they were buying.

Horsemeat neighhhhhh!

Horsemeat neighhhhhh!

Having eaten a lot of burgers over the past 50 odd years and having visited most countries in Europe, I’m pretty sure I must have eaten horsemeat sometime, but I have to admit I have never knowingly chosen to eat it. I don’t know why this is, I don’t have any sentimental attachment to horses, unlike my grandfather who was a cavalry trooper in the twilight years of the military horse.

Dragoon Ball

Dragoon Ball

And while I have certainly eaten quite a wide range of animals, both domestic and wild,

Little lambs grow up the most delightful way

Little lambs grow up the most delightful way

whenever Dobbin has been on the menu I have usually chosen something else to eat. Now whether that’s an innate prejudice against eating horse or whether there was just something else I fancied to eat on the menu is hard to say.

I have eaten enough sausages, but I don't think I'd eat one of these

I have eaten enough sausages, but I don’t think I’d eat one of these

Anyhow this got me to thinking about the sort of creatures I have eaten and the logic behind these gastronomic choices. Dogs and cats are certainly off the menu, I have had too many personal relationships with these creatures to be comfortable eating them, but oddly enough I have no trouble with munching Benjamin here,

Rabbit - Epping Forest

Rabbit – Epping Forest

especially with juniper berries, similarly one of these would be OK, we don’t eat enough of our wild creatures and there are plenty of these chaps to go round.

Ummmm nice and fat

Ummmm nice and fat

Whenever we visit Edinburgh’s Farmer’s Market I always make straight for the Puddle Dub Buffalo burgers, it’s good lean meat and low in cholesterol

Water buffalo

Water buffalo

while our local Farmer’s Market used to do a good line in ostrich,

Goes well with orange

Goes well with orange

which I first sampled in a Belgian pub in Clerkenwell. Again it’s good lean meat, more like beef than chicken (see not everything tastes of chicken)

Derek Trotter

Derek Trotter

Eating pigs is I find a bit more problematic. Pigs are brighter than dogs, but then you can’t beat a bacon sandwich in the morning. On a more serious note I have discovered that outdoor reared rare breeds do taste better than intensively farmed animals. I’m not sure what breed Derek is (and he’s someone’s pet anyway), but Gloucester Old Spots sausages are much tastier than the ones from the supermarket, so I’m happy to pay a bit more for an occasional treat.

Hamish

Hamish

The same is true for beef cattle, like Hamish above, and for sheep and goats, animals that get the opportunity to roam about are tastier and at the end of their days they will have had a better life.

UKIP have tried to frighten us into thinking that Italian salami is full of donkey meat,

The alarm clocks of Rhodes

Little Donkey

but then I’m pretty certain worse things find their way into supermarket burgers and sausages and it won’t put me off eating salami or being pro-European, so epic fail there Mr Farage.

I suppose the most exotic creature I have ever eaten was wallaby.

Skippy absolutely delicious

Skippy absolutely delicious

We ate Skippy on the famous dining tram in Melbourne and on a barbie overlooking Uluru as the Sun set. Lovely meat, very tender. There were also supposed to Witchetty grubs on the barbie, but by the time I’d drunk enough local fizz to want to eat one, they’d all gone. I have however, eaten the worm from a bottle of tequila, not that it was anything special – tasted of tequila as it goes.

In Norway we sampled elk, which is a wonderfully rich meat, especially good in stews

Oh deer!

Oh deer!

and reindeer (in a wrap with horseradish), while back home I often make a game stew with,

Fallow Deer stags

Fallow Deer stags

venison (though I’m not sure which species could be Red, fallow, roe or muntjac), wood pigeon,

 Wood Pigeon

Wood Pigeon

partridge, mallard and pheasant.

Lady Amherst Pheasant

Lady Amherst Pheasant

The only other mammal I can recall eating is bison which is like a very lean beef. As far as birds go I have scoffed, chicken, goose, duck, turkey, guinea fowl, pheasant, partridge, pigeon and ostrich, but I draw the line at eating songbirds, a bit like whitebait, too many bones!

Sexed Up Sprouts

I actually quite like Brussels Sprouts, shocking isn’t it? However for many people the sprout is the one item from the festive menu guaranteed to cause dread. Personally I believe that’s down the poor sprouts having the life boiled out of them in kitchens busy with roast turkey, spuds and chipolatas, leaving them soggy enough to be strained through your teeth, when a few seconds in boiling water is all they need to retain some crunch.

My sexed up sprouts in the pan

My sexed up sprouts in the pan

Having said that, there are more exotic things you can do to the humble sprout than dropping it into boiling water. My sexed up sprouts are a great accompaniment to a roast dinner, fish or a steak. Here’s how it’s done.

The one thing I do find tedious about this vegetable is the preparation, no escape here, but once the sprouts have been cleaned and the outer leaves discarded just slice them up and put to the side. Right heat some oil in a frying pan and fling some chopped leek in, add two chopped chili peppers and some slices of bacon. Let the bacon cook for a bit to release some of the fat into the oil and add the sprouts. Give it a couple of minutes and the odd stir and they’re ready to eat. For a bit of variety you could switch the bacon for chorizo or try adding some garlic or onion.

London’s Brick Lane Market

It won’t come as any surprise to learn that Brick Lane was once a centre of brick manufacture in London’s east-end, thanks to the local deposits of brick clay. During the 17th century Huguenot weavers seeking refuge from Catholic persecution in France settled in the area. Then successive waves of Irish, Jewish and later Bengali immigrants followed the Huguenots, attracted by cheap rents and unskilled jobs in the ‘rag trade’. Today the area around Brick Lane is known as Banglatown and famed for its street market and many curry houses.

Brick Lane the heart of London’s Banglatown

With the benefit of hindsight I think we may have planned our visit the wrong way around when we arrived at Aldgate East Tube Station (District and Hammersmith and City Line).

Handsome London Transport roundel – Aldgate East Tube station

Taking a left up the Whitechapel High Street we passed the Whitechapel Art Gallery (handy hint its free to get in with nice clean free to pee loos) and these jolly Vampire carrots,

Vampire carrots – London street art

before making another left into Osborn Street. On 4 April 1888 the prostitute Emma Elizabeth Smith was killed in Osborn Street. Some people believe that she was the first victim of Jack the Ripper, although there is no hard evidence to link her death with the Ripper murders. Osborn Street leads into Brick Lane itself and you are soon surrounded by the tempting smells of fragrant spices and Bengali sweets wafting from the many Asian shops and restaurants. It was all too much, and after stocking up on bargain bags of spices (so much cheaper than our local supermarket), a bag of freshly cooked samosas from Madhubon (42 Brick Lane) were being devoured.

Freshly cooked samosas, too delicious to resist.

Almost every restaurant we passed seemed to be the proud owner of a ‘Best Curry in London’ award. Menus were perused, but it was a bit early in the day and the delightfully spiced and quite substantial samosas had taken the edge off our hunger.

Joseph Truman started brewing ale in Brick Lane in 1663, of course at the time beer was safer to drink than water. Truman’s Black Eagle Brewery was swallowed up by the brewing giant Grand Metropolitan in 1971 and ceased brewing in 1988 as the brewing giant attempted to force beer lovers to drink nasty keg beers like Watney’s (AKA Grotney’s) Red Barel. Recently the old brewery has undergone a bit of a renaissance,  as the buildings have been redeveloped into indoor market spaces to rival those of trendy Camden Lock.

Just some of the food on offer at the Old Brewery

Certainly the selection of food stalls offered an even wider choice than Camden, with Bengali, Chinese, Caribbean, Cuban, Ethiopian, Japanese, Mexican, Moroccan, Spanish, Thai,Tibetan, Turkish fast food joints all doing brisk trade. Thankfully I was still full of samosa so avoided having to make a choice. Aside from the food there were stalls selling new and vintage clothing, jewelry, antiques, prints and other craft items to the shabby-chic students, Guardianistas, tourists and sharp dressed young media darlings that make Brick Lane such a trendy place to hang out today.

Passing on through the bustling street market we came to Brick Lane’s legendary bagel bakeries, Although most of Brick Lane’s Jewish immigrants have moved on, Biegal Bake (59 Brick Lane) is still going strong. Open 24 hours a day, it’s London’s oldest bagel bakery and produces over 7000 bagels every day. Biegal Bake is famed for its hot salt beef bagels, they must be pretty good since people were queuing two deep inside the shop and out on to the pavement. We looked at the queue and decided that no matter how good they may be life was too short for standing in line.

By the time we’d reached the Shoreditch end of the market, we were starting to get hungry, however we were now at the wrong end of Brick Lane for the curry houses and my ankle was starting to hurt. Fortunately we were close to a part of London colonised by some later immigrants, the Vietnamese Boat People and it was a short walk,

Spiny Norman perhaps

passing some more great street art, including this imaginative locksmith’s door,

Locksmiths – Shoreditch

to Kingsland Road (AKA Pho Mile). I’d eaten in the Viet Hoa Cafe (70-72 Kingsland Road) before, so I was keen to share the experience with my fiends. They weren’t disappointed. I tried the chicken with pickled vegetables . The chicken was delightfully spicy while the crunchy pickles had just about the right amount of sourness. I also polished off Mab’s tasty Singapore noodles. With beer, tea and egg fried rice the damage only came to £57 for the three of us. A perfect end to a pleasant day out.

I think the next time we visit Brick Lane we might try navigating from the overground station at Shoreditch High Street and walk down Brick Lane to the tube at Aldgate East. Hopefully if we get there early we can have a salt beef bagel and a curry.

Alfresco Sunday Lunch – London SE1

On Sunday, as London Underground were persisting with the, ahem ‘improvement works’ that had denied us access to London’s West End, we took the Jubilee Line down to London Bridge in the hope of finding our favourite Spanish grocer Brindisa open and getting some padron peppers and one of their amazing chorizo sandwiches for lunch. Bit of a cock-up as Borough Market was closed, so no Brindisa.

However on our way from the tube station we had passed Cafe Brood’s outdoor kitchen,

Cafe Brood

the aroma from the barbecued chicken and Merguez Sausages and the huge pan of Paella drew us back like iron filings to a magnet.

The spicy Merguez Sausages more than made up for the chorizo sandwich and with three served up on salad, they made for a substantial meal. Mab’s Paella rice came with a rich tomato based stew that had a serious helping of chorizo and seafood in it. It was perfect for spreading on the accompanying ciabatta, that had been flame grilled over the barbecue, as we sat overlooking the grounds of Southwark Cathedral.

With a glass of red wine for me and a fizzy water and a coffee for Mab the bill only came to £20, a dead good alfresco Sunday lunch.

Arthur’s Seat, the Tolbooth and Cafe Truva – Edinburgh

Robert Louis Stevenson described Arthur’s Seat as ‘a hill for magnitude, a mountain in virtue for its bold design’.

Me in the middle of Edinburgh

It’s actually part of a 350 million year old volcano system that also includes the mount on which Edinburgh Castle sits and it’s slap bang in the middle of Edinburgh. In fact it could be said to be the Queen’s back garden since you get a stunning view of Holyrood Palace as you climb to the summit some 830 odd feet above the city.

Brenda's back garden, bit too misty for her to be putting the washing out though

Legend has it that this was the setting for Camelot and although there are plenty of other contenders for that in the UK,  there are the remains of an Iron Age hill fort on the mound. It’s also the place where the tiny coffins and dolls, which may have been a ritual burial for the victims of Burke and Hare were found in a cave back in 1836.

Some of the Arthur's Seat Coffins

It’s also a great place to get away from the city and see some wildlife.

Spot the weasel

Having nearly made it to the top I found this rock was perfectly moulded to the shape of my bottom,

Simon's Seat on Arthur's Seat

I suspect I’m only one of many people to have parked their arse there, while attempting to get their breath back. the views from the top are stunning, but not that great for photography in the fog.

Edinburgh was somewhere down there

Returning to the city we made our way back up the Royal Mile pausing for a pint of Deuchars at the Tolbooth Tavern.

The Tolbooth Tavern

This boozer dates back to 1820, but the building is much older than that going back to 1591 and used to be the tax collection offices and jail for the burgh of Canongate. I think it’s much more useful as a pub although the last time we ate there I thought the food was a bit average.

However just a short distance further up the Mile we discovered the Cafe Truva (251-253 Cannongate). This little gem is one of a chain of three family run Turkish cafes in Edinburgh and what a delight it was.

I satisfied my hunger with the meatballs in cous cous

meatballs with cous cous

It was lovely, the delicately spiced lamb meatballs came on top of a mound of cous cous with sun dried tomato and mushroom, plus salad, a minty yogurt dip and pitta. Just the thing I needed with a glass of red wine. Mab had soup and borek,

Borek

filo pastry tubes stuffed with cheese and spinach which were equally nice. Our meal for three people with drinks was only about £36 ,so I think we may try this place next time we are in the Royal Mile.

All this little chap needs is a fork in place of that sceptre.

Lion ready for lunch at the Queen's Gallery Edinburgh

Lunch at the Duke of Wellington and a Walk in Epping Forest

Living on the outskirts of Epping Forest we made the most of the late October sunshine this weekend, when we went for lunch at the Duke of Wellington at High Beach.

The Duke of Wellington, High Beach, Epping Forest

The pub was originally built in the middle of the 19th century, at a time when the Iron Duke used to visit his friend General Grosvenor, who lived nearby in the then sleepy little Essex town of Loughton.  Today it’s a very family friendly little boozer that is very popular with the local riding set, so there are plenty of folks in boots and jodhpurs propping up the bar. Drinks are reasonably priced for a pub the London area and its the only one I have come across where the house lager is Asahi.

Being quite hungry we ordered some starters, chicken sticks and baked cheese straws.

Baked Cheese Straws and Chicken Sticks

The chicken sticks were very tasty, but I thought the baked cheese straws were a bit bland. Perhaps cutting a bit of chilli through the cheese would have just given them a little extra bite, however they were very nicely presented. When it came to the mains I wish I’d plumped for the Merlot and steak pie that Nick had.

Superb Merlot and Steak Pie

It was a proper full crust pie, packed with meat and served with a mountain of chips,  crisp of shell with a fluffy heart. Instead I went for the cheeseburger,

Disappointing Cheeseburger

perhaps I have been spoilt recently, but what I am looking for in a pub or restaurant burger (and for the price) is an artisan bun, a homemade patty and certainly not a Kraft cheese slice. This fell on all three counts, but on the plus side, there was a lovely crispy salad and a mountain of chips. Mab’s spinach and ricotta cannelloni, on the other hand, was one of the best I have sampled in a long time.

Excellent Spinach and Ricotta Canneloni

The Powder Monkey had a very substantial tuna mayonnaise baguette, which the chef chopped red onions through by special request, so extra points there and more points for replacing the erroneous tuna mayo baked potato that had arrived first, without any fuss at all.

Chips by the bucket, does it get any better?

On balance for our £57, including drinks and a couple of extra buckets of those ‘oh so good’ chips, I thought it was pretty good value, the food was beautifully presented and I’d certainly eat there again, only next time I will avoid ordering a burger.

Hunger satisfied we went for a wander in the forest. Most of the trees around High Beach are beeches, but there are also a few oaks. As you can see they are still green of leaf, thanks to the unseasonal weather.

Mighty Oak and Beech Trees

There is also a lot of wildlife to be seen. We spotted dragonflies, magpies, jackdaws and loads of grey squirrels, while trying to avoid the numerous rabbit burrows underfoot.

Well Disguised Dragonfly

I have seen the odd deer in the forest, they are mostly a dark form of fallow deer and muntjac, but they are much shyer than the red deer of Richmond Park and I think on Saturday we were far too close to civilisation for them.

Sadly many of the trees are suffering from old age, pollution and disease,

Mighty Arboreal Mushrooms

but while that may be bad for the trees it’s good news for fungi and the wood boring beetles, and the woodpeckers who like to eat them.

High Beach is a fair walk through Epping Forest from Loughton Underground Station on the Central Line. Don’t get High Beach’s Duke of Wellington confused with the Duke of Wellington pub in Epping, they are completely different boozers.

Edinburgh – We Do the Dome

Earlier in the year I wrote about how we enjoyed nachos and beer in the garden of the Dome in Edinburgh. On our most recent visit we decided to try out the Dome’s opulent Grill Room for lunch. This of course meant using the rather magnificent entrance on George Street.

The Grill Room, The Dome

The building used the be the HQ of the  Commercial Bank of Scotland, was designed by David Rhind in the Greco-Roman style and opened to the public in 1844.  Commercial Bank was gobbled up by the Royal Bank of Scotland in 1969 and they decided to get rid of the building in 1993. I think you will agree it has since been put to a much better use. The Grill Room, under the majestic dome itself, used to be the banking hall. The present interior dates to 1885 when Sydney Mitchell refaced much of the original masonry with Devonshire marble and laid the mosaic floors. The menu is a bit pricy, but then you do get very good service in a unique surround.

For lunch the student and I opted for the Chili Chicken mayonnaise Sandwich which came with a small mountain of chips all for £7.

Chili Chicken sandwich

It was quite delicious and very filling,  Nick went for the more traditional haggis with neeps and tatties (£12.50), which had been beautified with a sprig of parsley and a few wee chunks of tomato .

Haggis

Personally I can’t stand offal, but apparently it was very good as was Mab’s Parfait of Chicken (£7.50).

Including drinks and two soups, the total bill came to £52 for four people,  not much more than a decent pub lunch. They also do a very fabulous looking afternoon tea.

The Dome 14 George Street, Edinburgh 0131 624 8624

Deer, Beer and Tapas – Richmond upon Thames

There’s something a bit primal in the autumn. As the leaves start falling from the trees the urge to create new life stirs in much of our wildlife and nowhere could have been more charged than London’s leafy suburb  of Richmond upon Thames this weekend.

Red Deer Richmond Park

Richmond Park is London’s largest Royal Park and home to around 300 Red and 350 Fallow Deer. At this time of year the does come in to season and the park reverberates to the sound of the stags challenging each other. Even close to the road it is quite easy to find yourself suddenly confronted by one of Britain’s largest land animals emerging from the bracken and spoiling for a fight.

Red Deer Stag

Fortunately it’s normally another stag they are interested in, but it’s worth remembering that these are powerful wild animals, especially if you find yourself surrounded by three of them, like we did. We just kept still and eventually the largest stag chased the two smaller animals off. It was rather like being in the middle of our own wildlife documentary and during the afternoon we saw loads of Red Deer. We also saw some of the shyer Fallow Deer running through the bracken close to the river bank.

We also saw rather a lot of these fellows.

Indian Ring Necked Parakeet

He’s an Indian Ring Necked Parakeet and there were hundreds of them enjoying the chestnuts. The parakeets at Richmond are one of three major breeding colonies in London descended from escaped cage birds. The others are at Eltham and Kensal Rise cemetary. Some people want to see these immigrants eradicated, but I rather like them.

The park closes at around 6pm so we went to have a drink at The Roebuck on Richmond Hill, where you get a splendid view as the Sun sets over the Thames meandering through Buccleach Gardens. Who would have thought you would get a view like this,

The Thames at sunset

about 45 minutes from central London by tube?.

We finished the evening at Don Fernando’s Spanish Tapas Restaurant (27F The Quadrant, 020 8948 8447), slap bang next to Richmond Station. this is one of my favourite Spanish restaurants, just opening the door a cornucopia of flavours assaults your nose from the open kitchen that runs along  the side of the seating area. It’s busy, noisy and the closest thing to being in Spain without actuually being there. We started with padron peppers and followed with spanish omelette, Patatas Bravas, prawns in garlic oil, flattened lamb steak, Albondigas (Spanish meat balls) Manchego cheese, Chorizo de la Plancha and aubergine fritters. despite this feast there we still had room for a desert. I had a delightful lemon ice cream, and a digestif.

A bit of Spain in Surrey, Don Fernando’s

For the six of us with water, beer and coffees the bill came to £133, amazingly good value for food of that quality and quantity.

Richmond is on the London Underground District Line, London Overground and Southern Region Railways. Richmond Park is about a 20 minute walk from the station and admission is free.