Indian Himalayas, our routes

Sri Lanka - Cycling Routes

European Tour - A bit in the middle

After having watched a guy in budgie smugglers pull 20+ fish from the river we'd been and bought two high quality fishing poles and starter float and hook kits from Decathlon costing just over €10 each. Sunday dawned and rather than head fishing straight away we headed further north to Millau, a town I have driven through a few times many years ago. Normally you'd spend two hours or more getting through this bottleneck but around 10 to 15 years ago they built a bridge that spans the valley the town is in. So what? Well the valley is pretty huge. The bridge is 4km long and at it's highest point the crane operator was working 76 floors up. Even better the bridge was designed by a Brit, Sir Norman Foster if my mind serves me right. 

We decided to approach the bridge from the town, rather than go across it. I'd been across it two years ago and it's awesome, but it is still a motorway so you can't stop and take photos. We managed to get right underneath it at its highest point, stunning. We also moved on to take photos further up the valley. 


The cars and lorries on the bridge give you the scale, can't see them. Yep the bridge is massive, they're there.

After a spot of lunch under the bridge we headed back to Pont de Diable to try our fishing skills. It started badly as before we'd even got the hooks in the water we'd tangled our two lines. 15 minutes later and Helena was fishing, 5 or more minutes after that I was untangled and ready to go. I caught after a few mins, then another. Easy. Helena wasn't having so much luck. Eventually she caught her first but only by hooking it in its side. They all count. Unfortunately we were due beck for dinner at 6pm and only had 45 mins to fish. Still we caught 10 or so but not enough to feed everyone that night so we released them all to the wild, well bar the one I managed to kill. 

That night La Mams had arranged for all the family to come for dinner. First cycled over to Sylvie and Cyril's lovely house for a few pre dinner drinks and were joined by Cathy, Brice and their boys. After that we went for a high meal chez La Mams. With some wine inside both of us we were able to have some great conversations with the family. It was a lovely night. 


Sadly we needed to move on. This European tour isn't going to get done if we stay in one place, as much as we'd love to. 

Monday saw us head to the Ardeche, somewhere I've quite fancied since the PGL school trip that we couldn't afford for me to go on. Since it was only a 3 hour drive, we got to drive through and around the gorge that afternoon. It's stunning and one day I will canoe down it and they did on the school trip. I also quite fancy cycling the road that follows it, very hilly but spectacular. 


We spent the night at the East end of the gorge and I got to go fishing in the river. Cracking. I only caught one but it was great fun.

The following morning we visited Aiguèze, a stunning little village before heading beffor a rendezvous with Rohan from work and his partner Truda in Provence. We spent a lovely afternoon and evening with them and even got to sample a lovely curry from Rohan, ,are all the better with the homegrown chillies I had in the van.


After a night with Rohan and Truda we headed for Italy. We didn't really know how far we'd get or even if we would make Italy. Once again the satnav was programmed to avoid toll roads. This turned out to be an excellent idea as it guided us through mountains all day and eventually over a 1987m pass and into Italy. The way up had been a gradual ascent, the way down was the exact opposite with 19 numbered hairpins, just the sort of driving I love. I did consider taking my bike off the back of the van and letting Helena see if she could keep up with me on the way down as she drove Vern but in the end opted to just drive Vern myself. 

We spent the night on a small campsite that was just on the way. For us it was on the way to Siena which was out next stop for two nights. I'd been to Siena 25 years ago with New Zealand Greg but couldn't really remember much other than the famous square around which they race horses and also a big church (that we probably didn't go into). The campsite was great as there was a bus service into the centre of town which cost us all of €1.30 each way each. Not bad for a 10km or more ride. We soon found the square, the church and a load of other stuff. We're really not much good at cultural stuff at all. We ate at what looked like a promising restaurant called Il Vicolo but it turned out to serve us some pizza that couldn't have been any more bland. Something the Italians are famous for done so badly, the staff should have been shot on the spot, don't even think of eating there. What an anticlimax. We did find a superb deli though and bought some lovely chilli's to replace the ones we'd left behind by mistake with Rohan, some huge green Olives, capers and some mozzarella. Back at the site we had out first proper Italian meal, yummy.


Rohan had recommended lake Trasemino to us and so we decided to head there. We found a great site in the grounds of a hotel with pitches running all the way down to the lake. We weren't lucky enough to get one right on the lake but were probably only 20m away. We used this as a base to relax for a couple of days and also to take the train to Florence.

As soon as we arrived in Florence we stumbled on the central market. Now this is the type of tourism we're good at, food. The stalls were amazing, the food looked delicious, the fish and meat stands looked amazing. After a tour we headed to a stand selling deep fried squid and sea bass. For €7 we had a box full with a chunk of lemon to squeeze over it. It was delicious. So simple, so amazing. We also picked up parmesan and some freshly made ravioli and gnocchi, heaven. We toured the city and agreed that this is somewhere we could return to, purely to sample the foods, the sights aren't what do it for us even though we did some of them. We did find Grom, an ice-cream shop Helena had ready about. Their ice creams were amazing and only €2.50 each. 


Our last tour of Umbria was supposed to be to Perugia. However having toured the town in the van for 30 mins or more we ditched the idea as all the carparks banned camper vans. How rubbish. We should have looked for the park and ride. Anyway I'd been given recommendations on where we should go by Justin at my old work and so we headed for Spello. What a beautiful town it turned out to be. We grabbed a sandwich of handout parma ham and cheese which was gorgeous. Following Spello we headed to Montefalco, another of Justin's recommendations. Very nice too, perfect for a cheeky beer. 



Umbria done it was time to head towards Croatia but with a three night stop in Mestre, the gateway to Venice. We stayed on a campsite with probably the poshest loos I've ever seen. The pitches weren't great but the bus stopped outside the site and went straight to the bus station in Venice and took all of 10 mins. Perfect. We spent two days walking mostly around parts of Venice we'd not visited last time we were there, while visiting a couple of our favourite haunts too. We walked almost 10 miles each day easing the pain with a Spritz or two along the way and a quick ice-cream from Grom. 

Venice done it was time to head to Croatia. We'd heard so many good things, would it match up to them?

Rio Saint Girolamo

European Tour - The First Bit

I really can't believe that the first half of this break is already over or that until now I've not found time to blog. I guess that tells you that we have been having an excellent time. Today is day 22 of our 42 day adventure and we planned to have a quiet and relaxing day. We're staying on a lovely campsite in the grounds of a hotel overlooking Lake Trasimeno in Italy. It really could't be a better spot to stop and sit back for a day. 

We left the UK on Sunday 26th August and once again took advantage of Tesco's club card points to pay in full for the channel tunnel, why anyone would spend their vouchers in a Tesco store is beyond me. To plan we drove until mid afternoon before we stopped in a small town called Durtal at a campsite bordering the Loire. Our pitch was all of 10 yards from the water and really was spot on. From there we moved on to our first proper stop, the Ile de Ré, a small island right next to La Rochelle. 


The Loire

We'd picked a campsite between the two towns of La Flotte and St-Martin de Ré. Other than some road noise it was perfect. Ile de Ré is super flat, even more so than Cambridge, and is therefore perfect for cycling. The island has been crisscrossed with cycle paths and really quiet roads and so everyone cycles. On our first evening we popped to both La Flotte and St-Martin de Ré by bike and took in a fabulous cafe culture around both villages ports. All 10 villages on the island are steeped in history and full of character. Stupidly we'd not taken our bike locks as it really was just a quick trip to see what was going on, so we couldn't stop for drinks. 


The following day we took to the bikes to explore the island. Our plan was to head north and just see what was going on. The flat paths soon took us through vineyards and away from any busy roads. As we headed north, the scenery changed to open out to the salt ponds that the island is famous for. Salt making is a craft and there are many stalls, shops and small producers from whom you can buy. We were both feeling in good shape so we pressed on to, Phare de Baleines, the lighthouse at the tip of the island. A stop on the way back in Ars en Ré allowed us to have a quick lunch in another beautiful square. By the time we were back we'd covered 30 miles. 


Phare de Baleines

If you've never been to Ile de Ré than put it on your list of places to visit. We'll definitely be going back. The only drawback is the bridge to the island has a €16 toll (return) so once you're on the island you might not want to leave for too many day trips. The island is lovely though and has everything you will need so why leave?

Our next stop was Mimizan on the Atlantic coast of France, somewhere we've also never been on that coast. Our friends Mel, Gwyn and the boys were holidaying there so we'd agreed a visit;  we were just a few days earlier than expected as our planned stop in Lacanau was skipped as the campsite was full. As we drove into town we followed a car that I though could have been Gwyn's. It turned out when we met them for drinks that evening they'd spotted a camper van just like Vern following them into town earlier. How funny! We spent the next four days either cycling, sitting on the beach or visiting Mel, Gwyn and the boys at their campsite next to the lake. It was all very civilised and great fun. We also got to surf one day and I got to go fishing but only caught a tiddler.


Helena and Dylan, Nic and Evan - Mimizan, France

After 4 days we packed up and headed off early for a blast across France and into Spain but this time on the Mediterranean coast. We'd picked a campsite on the edge of a town called l'Escala. We drove through France choosing to avoid the motorways and not pay tolls but also to see a little more of France. We were treated to some really stunning towns and villages and then the Pyrenees mountains, which all made the drive fly by. So far this region of France has been the most beautiful place on our trip and I include Italy on that. France beats Italy hands down in my opinion.

Once we'd reached Perpignan we chose to do the last 100km or so on the toll roads. We reached l'Escala and our campsite around 5pm. We buy an ACSI membership each year that entitles us to cheap camping at thousands of campsites across Europe out of peak season. Once again the research using their books meant we'd found a cracking site. We were spoilt with a choice of two beaches, two swimming pools and great big pitches. The views over the bay from the larger swimming pool were stunning and the snorkelling on both beaches was great. Having seen all the fish at the sandy beach we went down one evening to try our luck at fishing. Second cast and I reeled in a sea bream big enough to eat. We failed miserably to actually leave the campsite and surrounding village but we will be back, it's a cracking place for a holiday. 


L'Escala, Spain

Friday of week 2 of our holiday and we headed north, back into France and off to see the family I have spent many a summer with. I last got to visit them on my career break two years ago but without Helena, so it was great to be going back and for Helena the first return since Sylvie's wedding, 16 years ago we think. 

I first met Sylvie on the French exchange with school when I was 14. She wasn't my exchange partner but the girl next door (well across the road), who also had exchanged with an english girl called Justine. Anyway I've been going back to see Sylvie and her family since and along the way taken many friends to see them. Caroline, Rachael, Greg, Nicola nothing has changed with family Lopez. 

We had a lovely first night dinner with some of the family allowing Helena and I to get out ears in with their fast paced French spoken with a midi accent. 

On Saturda,y Helena and I took off for a tour of four places Cyril, Sylvie's husband, had recommended. The tour started slowly in a small town, Ganges, famed for its market. We'd turned up the one weekend they had a fete on celebrating 1900 (the year). People were in costume but it hadn't really got going. In our usual sight seeing style we completed the town in about 30 minutes before we moved on to some spectacular waterfalls at Saint Laurent le Minier. 


After the falls we climbed and climbed on what can only be said were very narrow roads. It's a good job Vern is only a small camper van, any motorhome would probably have had issues. Our next stop was Cirque de Navacelle. The great thing about this tour was we had no idea what we were going  to find at each stop. At this stop we found a carpark, recently cut into the landscape, but with no real clue why we were here. We followed the signs from the carpark and found a visitors centre. It has a map of a route we were to walk, we followed the route. After 5 mins we were rewarded with a spectacular view across a high canyon cut by a river that we could hear thundering over falls below us. What was really odd was that we had to share something as stunning as this with just 5 to 10 other people. The road up and down the canyon either side looked awesome, a cyclists' mecca if it was in the UK.


After lunch in the car park care of Vern's fridge and cake store, we set off for the last stop. Amazingly the route took us down into the canyon and back up the other side. I'd love to cycle it. Out of the far side we drove into fog, thick fog. As we descended we emerged from the clouds. It must be a spectacular view all the way to the coast. 

We were headed for Saint Guilhem le Desert but couldn't park as they don't let motorhomes park in their car parks. Is Vern really a motorhome? In the UK he's classed and taxed as a car unlike most other motorhomes. Instead we parked and went to see the Pont de Diable, the Devil's Bridge. Stunning it was too. Below it was a beach on the river and we walked down. There was a guy fishing in his budgie smugglers, enough to put the fish off. Amazingly though we watched as every 45 seconds he caught another little fish. Time to test my spoken French and find out what he was catching and what he was going to do with them. He was going to cook the little ones and release the slightly larger ones as they tasted of sand. It was amazing to watch. So much so we both decided we wanted to come back armed with our own fishing rods the following day, Decathlon was on our route home to buy our fishing gear. 


Pont de Diable

So how did we do at fishing? Read it in the next blog.

2013 Goals

During my last career break in 2011 I set myself a number of goals, some of which were achieved, some weren't. I'm going to do the same this year. As before they are a 'stretch target', I don't expect to achieve them all but some of them would be good. 

The following are some general goals:

  • Learn to Kite-surf.
  • Learn to surf on a real board, not a boogie board.
  • Take Vern down the west coast of France, across Northern Spain and into Portugal.
  • Take Vern through Germany to Tuscany or maybe even further south.
  • Go camping in Northumberland.

The following are event driven goals:

  • Run one leg of the Cambridge Half Marathon relay - Complete, Team 1970 finished in a very respectable 2 hours 15 minutes exactly. I ran the whole of my leg. 
  • Complete the Wiggle Saddle Spring Sportive 100 mile epic route on 7th April - Complete,  we did it, finishing in just under 7 hours and with an average speed fast enough to earn a silver medal. Loads of training was needed and sadly the UK weather was freezing. Even on race day there was snow still in the ditches.
  • Swim in both the 1 mile heat and the 5km heat at the Great East Swim - Complete well sort of, I trained and I trained. I was swimming quickly putting in PB's all the time. I managed to swim 3 miles non stop in 1 hour 23 mins. Sadly though the swim was cancelled due to strong winds making it unsafe for the safety crews. Bugger. Next year maybe?

And finally ...

  • Work out what to do next!

Big Green Egg, is this a new career?

Wow what a roller coaster the last couple of month have been. Very exciting but also very time consuming. Not how I'd seen this year panning out at all.


On the way home from an evening out in London, I bumped into my friend Nigel on the train. We were talking about cooking pulled pork as he's a massive fan. After a while a guy leaned over from the seats opposite and asked if I had ever cooked pulled pork on a Big Green Egg. I explained that I had in fact just ordered one and was expecting delivery the following week. We chatted for a long while and there were just some things he said that got me thinking. Eventually I confronted him and asked him if he was the owner of the Big Green Egg company. I knew that the company was being run out of Kings Lynn and this was the right train. It turned out my hunch was right and David introduced himself to me. We swapped emails and I promised to give him a buzz. 

The following week the Big Green Egg was delivered and since than has pretty much taken over my life. I spent a lot of time after I first got it experimenting with dishes from simple burgers through pulled pork and onto breads. I tweeted about much of what I was doing. The team at @BigGreenEggUK retweeted some of my recipes and were very supportive of what I was doing. 

I then had the strangest week. David from BGE called and asked if I could help them with some web site testing. I explained it wasn't really my forte. We also discussed the possibility of me getting involved in some events. We left it there though. Two days later Charles from Gog Magog Hills, a local farm shop, rang and said he'd had an idea after talking with the team at BGE about some of my recipes. Basically he was proposing I did some demos of the Egg's at the farm shop to try and sell them and experiment with how I might want to take my career forward. 

So in early May I prepared to do my first day at the farm shop selling Egg's by demoing food on them, showing their capabilities. It turned out to be a blustery day with some showers in the morning and cool. I struggled to get my dough to rise for my Chorizo rolls. However there were loads of people interested and I was doing far more talking than I was cooking. In fact I wasn't cooking. Luckily Helena popped down at lunchtime to see how I was getting on and I roped her into the cooking. 


By the end of my first day I was shattered. I was buzzing though as I'd made 4 sales, amazing for a BBQ that costs between £900 and £1700. I'd not slept the night before as I was nervous about how it would go and that night I hardly slept as I had so many ideas about how I would improve it. 

Since then I've roped Helena in each weekend to help, it really is a two person job once you get busy talking to customers. My sales though haven't been as strong just ticking over at a couple a week I guess. 

We've also catered for the Cambridge Food and Wine Society event that was held at the farm. Four 8KG shoulders of pork, slowed cooked for 12 hours sorted that out and pulled perfectly. A homemade BBQ sauce I made was raved about. And I got to properly meet and cook with MrCake.


In late May I was asked if I would volunteer to help out at the Chelsea Flower Show, working on the Big Green Egg stand. What a privilege. I spent just two days at the show but had a fab time selling the Eggs with a fantastic team on a stand that was truly stunning. In fact the stand won the best trade stand prize. It was really hard work, starting just after 8am and working right through until 8pm. I chose to only take a 5 min break each day as I was having so much fun. What a great experience though. 

As you can see from the picture I got to meet Nikki Chapman who was working filming at the show for the daily programmes that the BBC put on. I ended up selling her and her husband, Dave Shackleton, an Egg, my first sale on the second day. They were both lovely. 

Unofficially I was the most successful sales person on the stand for those two days, I think selling 16 Eggs. I loved it. I've never enjoyed sales before having been part of bid teams in my old job, however I loved this. I guess as it's a product I truly believe in which make it really easy to enthuse about and that enthusiasm sells.

One side effect of working that hard both at the farm and at the Chelsea Flower show is that I've been losing weight. So far I'm about 6Kg down, just under a stone which is great. Who's have thought that all this food would lead to weight loss. 

So where is all this going, who knows? We're trying selling food from the Eggs at the farm now, so come on down and try it. I'm also in the throws of organising a pop up restaurant with Mr Cake at Gog Magog Farm in early August. Neither will make me a living if I try to pursue it but I'm having fun on the way.

100 miles of the Wiggle Spring Saddle Sportive


I've just spent the majority of March cycle training, building up the miles, in order to compete in the Wiggle Spring Saddle Sportive. This organised bike ride comes in three flavours, Short being 38 miles, Standard being 73 mile and Epic a stupid 100 miles. Well, you'll have guessed from the title that we'd signed up for the Epic route. 

I say we signed up. David and myself signed up and then got Gwyn's permission to book him in. Working away at sea meant he wasn't around to sign up himself. Shortly before we started training David announced he' d forgotten he was on holiday and so he wouldn't be joining us. That came as a bit of a blow as David is the cyclist amongst us and I secretly was hoping just to slot onto his back wheel and follow in his slipstream for 100 miles, job done. Without David we were going to have to put in way more effort.


Gwyn arrived back from sea towards the end of February and so the training had to start. I can't say either of us were that keen with the freezing temperatures and consistently strong winds. Then something happened that was going to make this a whole load easier, I left work and we now had 6 weeks where mid week cycling was now an option for me, perfect. 


Our first ride actually took place on a Tuesday morning. I was still working but was in my period of thinking about what I wanted to do, so where better to do that than on a bike. That Tuesday was sunny but still only just above freezing level. I'd planned us a nice 30 mile route to get the legs in. We cruised the first 10 or 12 miles to Hilton where we took a much earned drink stop on their village green in the sun. Very nice too. We'd been lulled into a false sense of security though in terms of the temperature as shortly after setting off we approached the ford I'd forgotten about. One of us recognised there was a footbridge to the right, the other was about to cycle through the ford. Let's just say that the one who saw the bridge pulled on the brakes to make the turn for the footbridge and came crashing down on their side right in the middle of the road. We'd found out the hard way that a ford in winter leads to sheet ice on the road either side, ice that is impossible to stay upright on when braking and turning simultaneously. This experience pretty much summed up the weather we would get for the majority of our training. 


We built up with several rides until eventually we caught the train to Norwich and cycled back. The point of this was to force us to cycle 80 miles rather than cutting a planned route short as we had done on a previous ride. The Norwich ride was again a cold day with an Easterly wind, but at least that would help us, not that it ever rally blew in earnest. We'd planned a route via Bury St Edmonds which turned out to be a good idea as it was just over half was and had a great cafe serving hot tomato soup and bacon sandwiches. That helped up over the next 25 miles which were hilly in comparison to anything else we'd seen. The roads were mainly tiny country roads which were nice and peaceful but weren't to be underestimated. One of us found that out the hard way on a fast corner after crossing the loose central gravely bit. They ended up ploughing the bordering field with their head but survived to tell another tale. 

The Epic

After a week of gale force winds and cold temperatures, Sunday 7th April finally arrived with sunshine and a very light southerly wind. The forecasters were even expecting temperature that would reach double figures, possible for the first time this year it seemed. Gwyn and I arrived at Newmarket Racecourse to a car park full of carbon fibre bike and lycra clad riders. Check-in was very swift and organised and so within minutes we were ready to leave on our 8am schedule. We'd even found Rumbles with whom we'd ridden the previous week for the first time (and given him a rude awakening I'd say, he did struggle that day). 

All three of us had agreed we would like to complete the course in a silver medal time, basically faster than 14mph average over the course. If that seems slow it does include any time you're stopped. We'd calculated we could probably stop for about 30 mins if we rode at our normal pace. So with this in mind we started out slowly, trying not to over do it to early. The route was good, well marked and on quite roads. Marshals were out to make sure you were aware of any hazards, particularly one hill where the left hand side of the road was sheet ice (yep it was cold). The ditches to the left of the roads in places were still full of the snow that had fallen over 2 weeks earlier. 


After the Short course split from ours we came to the first feed stop. Laid on were sport's drinks, flapjack, bananas and a host of other stuff to keep you going. Very good it was too. We spent about 7 or 8 minutes stopped, enough to get some food, refill the water bottles and use the loo if you needed it. 

The second stint was into the light winds. Rumbles dropped off the back to have a pee and then spent the next 20 miles trying to catch us back up. The route took us under the flight path to Stansted but through some lovely rolling countryside. Coming from Cambridge I would say it was hilly but Wiggle describe it as fairly flat. By now we were seeing riders from another organised sportive going in the opposite direction. They seemed to be using exactly the same route. Motorists were no doubt overjoyed.

At 48 miles we reached the second stop. More flapjack and topping up of water bottles took place before the three of use headed off. By this point Rumbles was back with us but Gwyn was starting to suffer. I kept trying to calculate how much time we had in hand and had worked out we would be very close to the Silver cut off time. Gwyn was really suffering and our pace slowed, especially on the hills where he is normally so good. I had a word with Rumbles and agreed since he was feeling so good he should leave us while Gwyn and I would work together to get this thing finished. Shortly after this I realised I'd been using an average of 14.5mph and not 14mph so we actually had a little more time in the bag than I'd thought.

After 15 miles or so more, Gwyn and I spotted Rumbles just a couple of hundred yards ahead. He'd stopped for a pee and we'd almost caught him. We then followed him for about the next 10 miles, slowing easing up on him but never catching him. At 19 miles to go it was the last feed stop. All three routes came past this one but there was still loads of lovely stuff to eat and plenty of energy drink to refill the bottles. 


We set off together for the last stint knowing we were on schedule to beat the time needed of 7 hours 8mins in order to average more than 14mph. I'd started finding it tough but Gwyn was back in the game. At 10 miles to go there was a sign saying 10km to go, the only bad piece of signing I'd seen. At 2 miles to go there was a huge hill, oh well. We pushed on and there was Newmarket over the top of the hill.

As we entered the racecourse Rumbles cycled ahead. Gwyn and I though were going to cross the line together. As we approached there was cheering from Helena, Mel and the boys. Gwyn and I linked hands and hit the line together. Medals and goodie bags were handed out before we got a finish line photo. We'd done it, Gwyn recorded 6 hours 59 mins and 59 seconds, we were inside the silver medal time. Our official times were 25 seconds faster than this.

Overall this was an excellent ride through some stunning countryside. It was a great challenge, one that Gwyn and I had prepared for and completed together. It hadn't been easy but we did it. 

And before you ask, I didn't have a sore bum. I did however have a really stiff neck for almost a week. 


Byron Hamburgers, a first impression

This is my homemade burger

Over the last few weeks I have seen so many people raving about Byron Hamburgers. Byron have just opened their third shop outside of London in Cambridge so it seemed only fit that we go and give it a try.

On our first attempt to eat there, the 2013 winter weather had done it's best and a burst pipe had closed the restaurant only a week or two after their official opening. I then wandered past one lunchtime and was surprised to see the place deserted so gave it a miss. Third time lucky I visited with the Thirsty Thursday boys.

The restaurant is kitted out with american style diner booths down the righthand side and standard chairs and tables in the rest of the eating area. The fixtures are in keeping with current trends, looking second hand and not necessarily matching.  The kitchen is open and situated towards the rear of the restaurant.

The menu is simple with a choice of around seven different burgers, various sides and drinks. The four of us chose just two different burgers with all but me going for the Byron Burger while I chose the Chilli burger. We also had chunky chips, fries and coleslaw.

The Burgers and sides

I had the Chilli burger and I have to say it was excellent. I asked for it to be cooked as rare as possible and I wasn't disappointed. My only disappointment was having to ask the waitress if I had a choice of how it was cooked, we weren't offered. The bun was soft and sweet, the chipotle mayonnaise was lovely. The garnish of iceberg was a bit skimpy and I can't say I really noticed the American cheese but that's probably more a reflection on the tastelessness of American cheese. The burger came with a pickle (gherkin), well 1/4 of a pickle.

Overall this was an excellent burger and worth the £8.75. 

The sides were also good quality but in my opinion quite expensive with homemade skin-on chips costing £3.25 for a fairly small bowl. 

The Drinks

As it was a Thursday we were out on our usual drinking night. All of use but one chose to have a Peroni. A pint bottle was £6.25. Colin chose a Oreo Cookie Shake at £3.95 which looked good. 

£6.25 for a pint, yes you read that right. 


While the burgers are lovely and priced reasonably, the sides and drinks are expensive in my opinion. The effect of this is that a burger meal ends up costing quite a lot. 

I loved my burger and I'm really glad I tried them. They are top quality burgers but the overall meal isn't worth the price. I think my own burgers can compete (see in the picture above). A simple burger of mince, salt, pepper, egg and breadcrumbs on a homemade brioche burger bun is just as good and the sense of pride having made your own, much higher. 

Thanks Byron for the ideas but I I think your sides and drinks are just too expensive.


Meat day


Over the past few weeks I have been experimenting with the Big Green Egg and turning out some great dishes, even if I do say so myself. I've also eaten out at Byron Burger and St. John's Chop House with the Thirsty Thursday (TT) boys as well as The Punter with some other great friends. The trend here has been I have had some great meat dinners, fab steaks, good burgers and great company.

One drunken Thursday night, no doubt, the TT boys came up with the idea of cooking some nice meat on the Big Green Egg as a way of ushering in the summer. Why not I though. Well I guess they were thinking steak night at Nic's with a few beers. But I have time on my hands so it was never going to be that simple.

A week or so after the idea had been floated I watched the Great British Menu Does Comic Relief. This was the usual format where chefs competed against each other to produce the best starter, main and dessert with one exception, they had to be funny/witty dishes. The winner of the main course served a goat dish and at this point the idea came to me, if we're going to do a meat night it should be a different night, not just cracking steaks, burgers or sausages. 

I did a little research and found a recipe for pulled goat. But that wasn't enough for me. With the help of Colin telling me about and taking me to Johnsons of Old Hurst (near Huntingdon), I've managed to source a few stranger, more exotic ingredients. The idea still is this is a meat feast, the focus will be mainly on meat with a couple of salads and veg sides. So the menu will therefore look something like this:


Warm wood pigeon salad with a balsamic vinaigrette


Main Course

Meat tasters to include:

  • Smoked Sunday rib of buffalo roast over charcoal
  • 10 hour Big Green Egg slow cooked pulled spicy goat, served with warm brioche burger rolls
  • Zebra steaks with a simple salt and pepper seasoning
  • Impala haunches, griddled and served with a shallot, brandy and cream pepper sauce
  • Thai style crocodile medallions
  • Smoked rump of kangaroo cut on the bias
  • Antelope burgers in brioche rolls with gherkins, salad and chipotle mayonnaise on the side

For the less adventurous:

  • Homemade beef burgers, Nic's secret recipe
  • Sweet chilli pork sausages
  • Pork sausages
  • Griddled garlic and lemon marinaded chicken breasts


Totty's lemon meringue pie


Balsamic marinaded strawberries with meringue 

So what do you make of that then? Would you like to try a menu like this out?

I'll post some photos after the event.

Cycling or eating, that's about it

IMG 0258Most of March has been about two thing, two opposing things. The first is my new Big Green Egg, a fabulous ceramic BBQ burning charcoal. The second is training for the Wiggle Spring Saddle Sportive, a 100 mile bike ride I will take part in on 7th April. 

On the left here you can see a shoulder of pork that I roasted in the Egg for 5 hours. It was the first joint I'd done on the day it was delivered. While this was bloody lovely I have to say the second attempt was far superior having been in the Egg for 10 hours. It really was good pulled pork and I served it as Mexican Fajitas.


The best dish so far from the Egg has to be the Moroccan Lamb kebabs. The lamb was perfect with good griddle sears but still nice and pink. Next time I'll be cooking the pitta bread on the Egg too as I'm due a delivery of a pizza/bread stone and pizza peel (shovel) as a leaving gift from work. It was really kind, thank you.

On 19th March I had my leaving do from work. A really good crowd turned up and made the night a great one. Karen even had a whip round for my cards which was just superb. Thank you all. 

The cycling has gone really well so far. We're just over a week away from the race which will start and finish in Newmarket. I've been training through all this nasty cold weather with a friend, Gwyn. We've built up the distance from a modest 30 miles for our first rides to a pretty epic 81 miles last week. Last week's ride saw us cycle into Cambridge and catch the train to Norwich. We figured that way there was no opportunity of taking a short cut home. We were greeted with a cold and overcast day where the wind was forecast to increase in the afternoon. Luckily for us it was supposed to be an Easterly wind, the standard this year, and so help us home. It never really got up as forecast and I swear it blew in our faces the whole time.  We put in a very respectable ride though, averaging 15.7mph. I have to say though it was cold, very cold. Not ever a pit stop for a back buttie and hot tomato soup warmed us up. 

So we have just one more big ride ahead of the event. This time Gwyn and I will join Rumbles for a training ride in Norfolk again. 65 miles this time. It should be good though as it will be the first time the three of us have ridden together. 

© Nic Williams 2014