Springtime in Plymouth


After our lunch at Yukisan, we went to the National Marine Aquarium. We walked past the Mayflower Steps, where the Pilgrims set off to America in the 1600s, walking across Sutton Harbour to the aquarium, which is said to be the biggest in the country. We purchased one adult, one student ticket which came to £35. This included the option to return for free within the year, as well as a discount to the nearby Dartmoor Zoo (handy if you are staying in Plymouth for a few days). There is quite a lot to see and a wide variety of marine species. One section I found interesting was the clownfish, which saw a surge of popularity after the release of Finding Nemo in 2003. There was a greater demand to buy them as pets, and this led to overfishing – in some areas of the sea they are now extinct. There are fears that after the release of Finding Dory, the same thing could happen again. This display was quite popular with visitors.

Another thing which was interesting is that the aquarium breed their own Moon Jellyfish. They look magnificent in the water! 

There are walkways where you see the fish underneath and above you, which looks quite spectacular.
The animals are well looked after, and the aquarium places a great emphasis on sustainable fishing and protecting our sea environments, taking care of species for the future. There is an information board which gives you a list of alternative fish to eat, rather than the common ones like cod.

We managed to go through the aquarium in about a hour and a half. When we finished, we headed to the Mayflower Museum, which was nearby.


The Mayflower Museum contains a lot of information about the Mayflower, the first ship to travel from Plymouth to America. Most of the interesting parts are the storyboards on the walls, but there are dress up and activities to keep younger visitors amused. On the very top floor, there is a balcony which gives you a view of the marina – recommended for great views and phototaking.

There is also another floor devoted to types of boats and model ships. There isn’t much to see here, but you can learn a lot. The price is quite cheap to visit £3 for adult and £2.80 for student.

We also saw Smeaton’s Tower, a famous lighthouse.

Plymouth also has hidden gardens. When we went to the entrance of the Elizabethan Gardens, we were puzzled (as were some other visitors at the time) – it didn’t seem like a garden. It is only when you go up the stairs that you see its true beauty. I think it would a perfect place to sit in the warm summer.

For dinner, we went to Sizzall. On the website, they advertise that they do hotpot and Korean BBQ, which interested my partner. We paid £15.99 for the Korean BBQ (you can’t have both, only for groups of five or more). The hostess was friendly but I felt they didn’t explain the Korean BBQ properly. We were confused on how to get our meat! We were led to the top floor (only us, was that a sign?) and we had a electric barbeque to cook on. We eventually received our meat – a selection of squid, prawn, chicken and beef. The quality wasn’t great, and the sauces that the meat came in weren’t that nice in my opinion. The price also included the normal buffet, but I felt there wasn’t a great selection – a few Chinese, Indian, Italian dishes. The food was lukewarm, overcooked and salty. The carbonara was awful – very watery sauce. The bao were kept in steamers, but the dough was very soggy and not a lot of meat inside. I spent most of the time eating the desserts, which were nothing special but fantastic compared to the rest of the fare. I came away feeling hungry and wasting money. The Korean BBQ is not a proper Korean BBQ, or at least, what we were expecting.

Evening time, we went to the Reel Cinemas to watch Beauty and the Beast. The ticket prices are quite cheap although the seats inside weren’t in the best condition. Some seats around us were damaged. The film was great. I wasn’t expecting great things because of the casting but I thought it was truly magical. The set designs and the CGI effects worked well. You almost believe that the objects living in the Beast’s castle were real! The emotional moments were well done, and well balanced with humour. It features the original songs, as well as some new music. Evermore is a new song and I felt it really fitted in the movie, and was a highlight for me.

We stayed in the Imperial Plymouth, a 4 star rated B & B, close to the centre of Plymouth. The staff were friendly and welcoming and the rooms have lots of facilities, and was on the whole, very clean. The only negative was that the wi-fi didn’t work very well, but most of the time we were out sightseeing. The breakfast we had the next morning was delicious! We had the full English – you can tell they use good quality ingredients and it was well cooked. There is also a choice of cereals, yoghurts and fruits at the front of the room. Breakfast and tea/coffee was included in the room price.

Other things we would have like to have seen is the Plymouth Museum and the Elizabethan House (both closed due to refurbishment) and gone to the shops. The Plymouth Gin Distillery is also quite famous – so head on there if you like gin! Also, we would like to go to some better restaurants if we return. Any suggestions?

Yukisan, Plymouth

Recently, we visited Plymouth for the day. We started off with lunch at Yukisan, Devon’s first and oldest Japanese restaurant. Inside the surroundings are quite nice, with Chinese art on display. For a Monday lunchtime, it was quiet. They have a vast menu, but we opted for the lunch set menu – 3 courses for £13.95. The lunch set menu doesn’t have a large range, and not much details on what is included. I opted for the miso salmon, meat bento box and green tea ice cream. My partner chose the prawn tempura and the seafood bento box.

Our starters arrived. The prawn tempura was a mix of prawn and sweet potato. The batter was quite light and it came with dipping sauces. The salmon was delicious. The sauce was full of different flavours – simply delicious.

What followed was our bento boxes. The meat one came with chicken katsu, chicken stir-fried with ginger and spring onions, edamame and cucumber sushi rolls. I would have liked more variety in terms of meat – beef or pork? Sauce was given for the chicken, but just a small amount, so the chicken felt a little dry.

The seafood came with the same salmon as the starter and the prawn tempura, which we also had for the starters! The menu doesn’t give details of what is included in these bento boxes, but when we ordered, the waitress could have mentioned that the prawn tempura would also be featured in the bento box, so we could have ordered something different.

I had green tea ice cream to finish off. It was ok, but not the best quality ice cream.

People have given Yukisan rave reviews about the food and service. I felt a little disappointed – perhaps it was the dishes that we chose? If we were to return, I would select from the main menu instead. The service was good, if a little slow to start off with.

KuPP, Exeter

Queen Street has recently undergone a transformation into the new area of modern dining. Many restaurants have opened there in the last few months which have introduced Exeter to different types of cuisine, one of them being KuPP, which specialises in Scandinavian food.

The restaurant looks impressive inside, but it is very quiet for a lunchtime. Other restaurants in the area have many people eating, but not this one. Although it isn’t busy, the staff haven’t checked the tables – there are crumbs on the seat, the seating isn’t straight and there is a fork missing from the cutlery sets. We have to wait a while before ordering, and when we do, we decide to go for the sharing platter. To drink, I go for an English Breakfast Canton Tea. The tea set up is quite nice – the teapot and mug looks good and I like the milk being in the glass bottle.

And this is the sharing platter! Sourdough bread, rabbit pate, crisp breads, Swedish meatballs, chorizo sausage roll, cheese, meats and salad. It was a bit mixed for me – the meatballs and sausage roll were delicious,  but I wasn’t amazed by the rest. At £25 for one sharing plate, I feel it is quite expensive for what you actually got.

I also ordered the skinny fries with a herb salt. These were good!

After we finished, we paid at the counter. They sell a lot of pastries and cakes and they do a good deal for a pastry and a hot drink.

The food, in my opinion, was nothing special and quite expensive. This may be because of the particular dish I ordered. If I was to return, I would order something from the regular menu. However, there is a lot of competition in the surrounding area with Absurd Bird and Terrace restaurant, I may be more likely to go to these places instead. The service, although a little slow, was friendly, and the restaurant looks great inside.

Happy National Pie Week!

Last week (March 6th to March 12th) was a week to celebrate the best of British pies. I went to Brewers Fayre to try their special Beef and Doom Bar Ale pudding, served with cheese and chive mashed potato, a mass of green beans and gravy.

Although it is more of an American treat, I saw this Moon Pie in So Sweet, Barnstaple. Moon Pie is similar to a Wagon Wheel but the biscuit base differs. This is a special Double Decker Moon Pie, a chocolate coated moon pie sandwich with marshmallow filling.

Christmas Lunch at Thomas Carr at the Olive Room, Ilfracombe

Thomas Carr at the Olive Room was recently rewarded a Michelin Star for its use of fresh, local ingredients and superb flavours, and it is certainly very popular. I was wanting to try the food here, but the restaurant is currently closed at lunchtimes and closed on my only day off! So…I have been waiting a long time! On their Facebook page last year, they announced they had late cancellations for Christmas lunch, so why not try something different to your usual Christmas fare?

When you arrive, it is not what you would expect a Michelin Star restaurant to be like. It is quite a small restaurant, we almost drove past it! Inside there were only two other tables and the owner’s family seated for Christmas lunch. I can’t imagine a lot of people can be seated on a weekend night. The other Michelin restaurant I have visited was Castle Terrace Restaurant in Edinburgh, where the restaurant was huge, grand and the staff professionally trained. The Olive Room resembles a more smaller and cosier affair, where the staff are friendly and not afraid to talk to you.

The restaurant is simple and clean inside, and of course, decorated for Christmas! We had crackers on our table, complete with little toy and bad joke!

The restaurant is nothing fancy inside as I have said, so there seems to be a big emphasis on the food. After our drinks, we received some homemade bread with butter.

On Christmas Day, the restaurant was only serving a six course taster menu for £80 per person, so we were in for a long afternoon! We spent a good few hours here enjoying the food!

First up was some crab mayo on bacon and cheddar toast decorated with watercress and fresh apple. This was so delicious, I could have happily eaten more!

To follow, we had scallop with hogs pudding, artichoke crisps and artichoke foam. Again, the flavours and texture were divine!

Next, was a stone bass fillet with prawns, tempura squid rings and a bouillabaisse sauce. I wasn’t overly keen on the sauce, which had orange citrus flavours to it, but the seafood was cooked well, and the squid rings were lovely.

Afterwards, we ate the roast beef, served with potato truffle terrine, mushrooms and oxtail. The flavours were lovely, my only criticism is that we were asked how we wanted our beef to be cooked. Although we asked for medium, it came out very pink!

At this stage, we were feeling very full! But now was dessert time (with a pot of tea)! I am not normally a fan of lemon but this lemon posset was really nice. It was lemon jelly, under a lemon cream with biscuit crumbs topped off with a yoghurt sorbet. This also comes with a shortbread biscuit on the side.

Sadly, I couldn’t make it to the end and finish everything! The last dessert was a dark chocolate torte with burnt orange puree, honeycomb pieces and clotted ice cream. This is a nice dessert, very rich! However, I was too full to finish!

All in all, I enjoyed my visit. The restaurant fully deserves its Michelin star. The use of ingredients and combination of flavours is really inventive and tasty. It seems a lot of thought goes into every dish, and it is a credit to North Devon! Of course, the price is expensive, but average compared to other Michelin establishments.

I would like to return again, depending on their opening times, but I would probably opt for ordering off the standard menu rather than the tasting menu. I would definitely recommend The Olive Room to those who are visiting or live near Ilfracombe! Fantastic food and service!

Pizza Express, Barnstaple

I have never been to a Pizza Express before, despite many people saying that the food is delicious. Last month, I tried it for the first time. We visited on a early Monday evening and sat next to the kitchen. You are able to see the chefs cooking the food. The food is a mix of pizza (obviously) and pasta. I was in the mood for a lasagne. My partner had a mozzarella and tomato pizza with added meat toppings.

The desserts are quite big. This is a tiramisu we shared for afterwards.

I love the napkins – they are so funny!

I was fairly impressed with my first visit, much better than Pizza Hut and Prezzo, related competition in the area. The food is generously sized and tasty, and the service was very knowledgeable and helpful. The price is great value too. From time to time, they hold their own offers – they had a free dessert if you order starter and a main. Before leaving, they gave me a 2 for 1 mains voucher to use in January, so it is easy to save money when you eat here. I couldn’t use these offers with my student discount, however, the discount gave us 40% the bill (not valid during the weekend I think)…so I am not complaining!

Afterwards, we went to Let’s Go! for some bowling. It is the only activities venue in the area and it is not exactly amazing. It offers ice skating, laser tag, karaoke, arcade games and bowling but I have heard negative things about their facilities. We paid £24 for two games for two people on a quiet evening (for our second game, we were the only people). The bowling facilities could do with some updating – everything looks old-fashioned and the skittles mechanism kept freezing. The staff are friendly however.

I won’t post any bowling pictures or scores…it is too embarrassing! I like the way they got into the Christmas spirit however…

North Devon Foodfest 2016

Last month, Barnstaple Pannier Market hosted the North Devon Foodfest. Lots of local food and drink producers set up stalls selling their wares and cooking food to order for hungry visitors. At Queen’s Theatre, cooking shows were going on during the day featuring top chefs such as Michael Caine and Thomas Carr, who recently was awarded a Michelin Star for his Ilfracombe restaurant, The Olive Room.

One of the most popular stalls was Gourmet Street Kitchen (www.gourmetstreetkitchen.com) which had very long queues for its Mac n Cheese dishes, starting from £4.50. I opted for a classic mac n cheese, excitingly named “Return Of The Mac”, which came in a creamy cheese sauce and extra cheese on top. It was very tasty and the portion was quite big!

I also tried an asparagus and leek savoury tart from one of the other stalls, which was called its Special Of The Day. This was ok, but I wouldn’t seek to buy more.

We bought a Sausage Baguette from Big Pot Kitchen (www.bigpotkitchen.co.uk), where you can see them cooking the food…in big pots! The sausage is a good quality and delicious sausage.

POTATOES!

The market was very busy throughout the day and there is something for everyone. Lots of the stalls offered free samples in order to entice more people to buy their products. The variety is huge and it really emphasises the quality of the produce that can be found in North Devon, and the business owners who are creative in what they make.

This is all chocolate! The artistry is amazing!

Lastly to finish, here are some salted cod balls from Cafe Brazil.