First time uncle, kitchen satisfaction and a lovely trip oop narth with a bit of Skosh thrown in for good measure

Well, what a month it’s been. I’m now officially known in certain family circles as Uncle Bru. Definitely an upgrade from brother-in-law or BLAW…My new nephew Ivo is such a delight and Liz and I are proud as punch! He’s a beautiful wee boy and I had some lovely cuddles with him during my first visit at the end of May. I came away feeling a renewed sense of responsibility as an uncle and also as a friend to family and friends of ours with kids. My late father used to say that it takes a village to raise a man and I’m determined to not just be Uncle Bru by name but in person. So since meeting Ivo I’ve had a great time seeing friends and their kids and spending quality time together. It’s too important and it’s now about making them a priority and organising my time at home in such a way to enable regular visits, cups of tea, cake and cuddles!

In other news…our kitchen is looking ace! The bespoke cupboards, shelves and draws underneath the stairs are super duper! Dom and Ozzy, our trusty handymen who did the kitchen a couple of years ago, came back and have tied it in beautifully to the rest of the kitchen with nice touches and similar panelling etc. Just needs a lick of paint and we’re basically done as far as home improvements go.

At the start of the month the guys came round for a bbq and some of Liz’s and my friends popped over, too. The weather was typical Oxford: sunny, threatening to rain, raining and repeat x 2. Still, it was nice to get outside for most of the day and finishing the day off inside with board games was great fun!

My auntie and uncle from NZ came to stay the following weekend and we had such a nice time hanging out, mooching round Oxford and Blenheim Palace. I gave them my special behind-the-scenes tour of Christ Church – where I used to sing prior to joining The King’s Singers – complete with access to the private, beautiful gardens out the back of the Cathedral (did I mention I was also a gardener for two of the staff there?) with not a tourist in sight. Lovely!

Currently on the train up north (‘oop narth’ to the locals) to York a day before our concert in Northern Aldborough. My friend Helen, whom I lived with for my first six months in TKS, lives here now and runs Malton, a food lovers destination 30 minutes outside of York. I urge you to visit if you enjoy all things culinary and beveragy (I think that’s a legitimate word). We’re off to Skosh tonight with some friends of hers. It’s an amazing restaurant that does British cuisine with sharing plates (think Tapas). All food is locally sourced and it’s one of the best restaurants I’ve ever been to – and I’ve been to a few now – and the things I remember from my first visit are the quality of the food and the unpretentiousness of the wine list. The focus on quaffable and affordable over impressive and showy (ergo unaffordable for most people) was obvious. (report to follow)

So we’ve just had a fabulous meal! Started with a fan favourite, ‘hen’s egg’ with dale end cheddar, mushroom & px sherry, which is a tiny, handleless-espresso-mug-sized cup of deliciousness. Soon after, the sea trout cured in kecap manis with lime & peanut. I must point out that the lime and peanut component was a ‘cloud’, a beautiful piece of presentation and created a light, airy addition of flavour which balanced out the Indonesian sweet soy sauce cured seat trout. Soon to follow was Whitby lobster dumplings with pickled ginger. I didn’t have that but it looked great!

Later on we had quite simply some of the best posh KFC you’ll try: skosh fried chicken with brown butter hollandaise. Nom nom nom! For those who don’t normally opt for beef tartare, the puris of beef tartare with kimchi, avocado & caviar is recommended. It’s not quite as full-on as its Parisian relatives (which I love) and the small size makes it manageable for first-time triers. Next was one of the highlights of the meal: jersey royal & spring cabbage okonomiyaki (ordered a second portion) and bbq pork ‘presa’ with spring onion, ginger & lovage. Lovely complementary dishes and if you’ve never tried Japan’s favourite savoury pancake then I think it’s time to rectify that. It derives from okonomi, meaning “how you like” or “what you like”, and yaki meaning “cooked”.

Next up was roast monkfish ‘tandoor’ with pickled carrots & green herb chutney. Fans of Indian cuisine will be familiar with this tandoori style of cooking in a cylindrical metal/clay oven and the spices that contribute to whatever’s inside. I completely missed out on the green herb chutney because I stupidly thought it was a segment of lime upside down, such was its presentation (insert facepalm). I dipped my fork in later for a quick try and I would encourage you to eat it at the same time as the rest of the plate!

Just before the kitchen closed we order sashimi of wild sea bass – white ponzu, radish & English wasabi, salt ‘n’ pepper asparagus and another portion of okonomiyaki. Perhaps it was a case of bad timing because our developed and richly satisfied palates were craving something more than the lightness that the sashimi offered. It would’ve been better to have it earlier, on reflection. We knew what the okonomiyaki would bring but a rival for favourite dish of the night was the asparagus. I’m trying to remember what it had with it but the light tempura batter was inspired and these little black beany things (technical foodie talk) were so delicious!

On to dessert and we shared four between us: homemade elderflower lemonade with a gooseberry jam donut; crème caramel with strawberry, mascarpone & Sichuan pepper; chocolate, cherry & spice cone ‘n’ popsicle (looked like a kids menu offering but was in fact very adult-friendly and who knew how tasty fennel and chocolate were combined?); and a super delicious coconut panna cotta with strawberries and crispy rice.

We shared a bottle of Pecorino (Poggio anima, Abruzzo, Italy, 2017) and it was a lovely complement to the meal, nice and dry and food friendly.

Well, after that I think I’m ready to sing a concert tomorrow! Hope this finds you well wherever you’re reading this. If you’d like some more restaurant recommendations let me know – I’ll be happy to oblige!

See you soon!


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