17 March 2015

Mother's Day lunch at the Chapter House, Salisbury

My son turned 6 months old the day before Mother's Day, so we had two reasons to celebrate my first ever Mothering Sunday. 

We decided to go out for lunch just as a family. The pub round the corner from my house has recently reopened so we thought we would try there. The Pub used to be called the Chapter House, then the Lazy Cow and now it is the Chapter House again. 

Mother's Day menu
It reopened in December and pretty much has the same decor as the previous incarnation but with a bit less clutter and freshened up. It's pretty funky with cow hide seats and trendy lighting but with perhaps more of a traditional feel.  

We had the second lunch sitting (2.30pm) and it was packed which was a good sign given it was so new. The staff were really friendly and they even gave us a water bowl for our dog (dogs are allowed in the bar area) and helped to clear space for our buggy. There was a British Bulldog at the next table and she and our Border Terrier soon became friends. 

A selection of the food we ordered
They had a special Mother's Day menu which was reasonably varied although might not have offered that much choice for vegetarians. Much more affordable than the previous pub, the Lazy Cow, and the food was more traditional pub fair rather than the pretentious food they served before. I think the owners must have a South African connection as there were some interesting choices on the menu which gave it an unusual twist. 

Adam opted for the Boerewors with Chakalaka to start! These were South African meaty sausages with relish. He then had the largest serving of ribs I ever saw and he nearly demolished the lot. I was so proud. I had calamari and chorizo to start followed by roast beef. I was really impressed with the roast beef as it came rare whereas it is often over cooked in pubs and with a huge Yorkshire pudding. No aunt Bessie's here. 

Backsberg Pinotage
I decided to treat myself to a glass of wine and chose a bottle of Backsberg Pinotage from South Africa. It was very fruity and herby but not too heavy, very delicious. It was £23.95 a bottle so not too bad. I had a glass and the hubby finished off the rest! Their cheapest red wine was a Chilean Cab Sav at £16.95 a bottle. 

All the food was really good quality and the staff were very attentive throughout. The bill came to £60 which I think is reasonable given we had starters, mains and a bottle of wine. 

Baxter enjoying his lunch
If you're looking for a town centre pub in Salisbury, this place is definitely now in my top 3 along with the Cosy Club and Bills. It's got 15 rooms as well for those travelling from out of town. Nearest parking is Brown Street car park or the multi storey at the Old George mall

We will definitely be back, especially since we know our furry friend is welcome. Well, it is our local after all and you should support local.....

13 March 2015

Wine tasting in Swan Valley, Perth

As I've recently had a baby, wine tasting has been pretty much off the agenda for over a year. But for my birthday, I was lucky enough to be in Perth, Australia and was taken to the Swan Valley region to try some wines. 

So, with a sack of bottles filled with expressed milk, my husband responsible for my son and our friend Paul as the designated driver for our trip, I was pretty excited I can tell you!

I'd never heard of the Swan Valley as Margaret River is probably the most famous wine region in Western Australia. But as it is only 25 minutes drive from the Central Business District of Perth, and 10 minutes drive from the airport it's perfect for a day trip. I literally did no research beforehand as, well it was my birthday, and our friends Paul and Leanne had been before and promised to be our local guides. 

The day didn't start that well because we got lost on the way there and then the first Cellar Door we went to had closed down! I figured they had probably drank too much wine the last time they went...


Sandalford Estate

Tasting experience at Sandalford
So, we headed to probably the most well known Cellar Door in the region which is also based in Margaret River, the Sandalford Estate. Here we were offered to taste the Estate Reserve Range.

Being such a large winery, it was quite a slick, clinical operation. The kind of place that charges you for a tasting and then gives you a carefully measured thimbleful. With lots of hard sell and offers of "I can do this deal for you today." However, if you wanted to buy wine paraphernalia or stylish gifts, there was lots to choose from.

There were a few nice wines though. The tastiest wine we tried was probably a Chardonnay (which was actually part of another tasting experience) called Prendiville Reserve 2011 at €60 a bottle. A slightly Oaked Chardonnay with hints of citrus and gooseberry. 
Beautiful setting at Lancaster Wines.
And, a bush fire in the distance.


Lancaster Wines

We then went to a much smaller, boutique winery which had more of a personal touch and typical of the sort of tasting rooms you'll find in the region. Called Lancaster Wines, it was more of a shed in the middle of a vineyard but it was really pretty. Plus, the company is actually based in the Swan Valley. The staff were really nice and although there was a smaller selection of wines available, their fortified wines were good as was their 9 Rows Cabernet at $39 a bottle. They also had some interesting cheeses to try.

There was a bush fire going on in the background which created a bit of drama to the experience. But we were reassured that it was a long way away!


Feral Brewing Company

My son and I at lunch,
Feral Brewing Co
We then stopped for lunch at a brewery and not a vineyard!! We went to the Feral Brewing Company which had a lovely outside eating area, where we were saved from the baking heat by gusts of cold steam. 

Being a brewery, they had a huge selection of beers and only a few wines, but having only had tasters all morning, I was gasping for a full glass so we opted for the Verdelho. I had a really tasty plate of squid which was only slightly tainted by a huge swarm of flies that came in when the squid went down. It turns out flies like squid and I guess you get this in Western Australia sometimes. Overall, a really yummy lunch. 


Talijancich Winery

We then stopped off at our penultimate vineyard. Frankly, I wish we hadn't
The grumpy server at Talijancich
bothered. The sommelier at Sandleford had recommended we go but goodness knows why. Called the Talijancich Winery, the lady that served us was very snooty and clearly did not want to be there. She offered us no tasting notes for any of our wines, barely spoke to us and then charged us for the privilege. It was the only winery we visited all day where we spent no money, which speaks volumes. 


Windy Creek Estate

Our final tasting rooms were probably the most rustic of all the ones we visited. But the staff were really friendly and, although they were packing up for the day, made time to chat to us and to talk to us about the wines. They also had a selection of cheeses and biscuits for us to try alongside the wines. The liqueur Shiraz was probably the best, nice, sweet, sticky and plummy.

The wine I bought from Windy Creek Estate.
A really nice Liqueur Shiraz.
We drove round the vineyards. But the area is pretty flat and it looks as though you can do an historic wine route by bicycle from nearby Guildford too. As well as the wineries and the breweries, there are also a number of art galleries and eateries as well as roadside stalls selling local produce.

Paul and Leanne, our tour guides for the day.
And my son, asleep in his buggy!

Overall, this is a really pretty region and a great day trip from Perth. Most of the companies are boutique wine producers, meaning that unless you go to one of the bigger suppliers like Sandalford with a bolt hold in the region, you're unlikely to get a huge range. But if you like liqueur wines and Shiraz then it's definitely worth a visit. My only criticism? No Pinot Noir! But given it's one of the warmest wine regions in Australia, this is hardly surprising.

And, how did my little baby boy cope with the experience? Well, he slept through nearly the whole day. Thanks Paul and Leanne for showing us the sights. Margaret River next time?