Saturday, 25 June 2011

The curious case of The Squid at The Hoste and other tales

It really is very difficult to keep up to date with the comings and goings on the local food/drink front.  As soon as it seems safe to suggest somewhere, the wheels drop off. Or on the other hand having firmly fixed somewhere as a no-go area it emerges that all is well, and that it is serving the most fantastic food again.

However, there are some you can depend on and last week a return to two old favourites, The Hunny Bell and then The Hoste.  A visit from one of our favourite print makers MAX ANGUSprompted a trip to Hunworth and it didn't disappoint. The beer is good, the staff friendly and the food as good as ever. Even better, there was live jazz in the shape of the very excellent Three in a Bar, of whom more will be heard later. 

The following evening found us slightly further afield - in Wimbledon. At home, actually. But not, if you see what I mean, as we were in The Fire Stables celebrating a friend's 25 years of continual working with one company.  This kind of thing must be getting increasingly rare in these days of constant change and mobility. Unsurprisingly, we have eaten and drunk there on previous occasions and again it came up to expectations. Always horrified by noise levels in London restaurants - it must be age - but was particularly impressed with the chap serving us who could be seen clearly checking his order against the number at the table (a lot) to make sure everyone was catered for, before heading for the pass.  Obvious - but often not done.  Food was very good and happily recommended - but maybe best left until after the end of the tennis.

Back in Norfolk a slightly alcoholic evening lead us from a small number of bottles in the gallery to a second visit to Burnham's recently re-opened second hostelry, The Nelson.  It's still early days and there have been reports of good lunch-time food, but this time we erred on the side of caution and went up west.  Delighted to find a table free in the bar at The Hoste, all the old favourites came up trumps... however an excursion by one of our number into squid territory proved interesting.  Not quite sure how it is described on the menu  - but apparently it was not what had been expected!  It looked absolutely fascinating and beautifully presented as ever, but call me cautious, I will be sticking with the Shredded Duck or my very good friend - the ever faithful Whittome Burger!

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Birds, pots and a £5 note

Never actually made it to the Craft Fair at Bovey Tracey (that's in Devon for all you Anglians) until this year. Thoroughly enjoyable and a really good standard of work on show.  High spot for me was the fantastic wire work of CELIA SMITH, a very good friend of printmaker JULIA MANNING. Celia's birds really are quite special; having admired them from afar, I really couldn't resist them in reality and can't wait to see them happily at home here in Norfolk.

Having cunningly missed the rain by going to the preview reception on the Thursday evening, I rounded off the day investigating the merits of a very satisfactory single malt with my old mate RICHARD GODFREY.  Devon really does seem very seductive at times!

It is very easy to regard North Norfolk as quiet, but it's only after an undisturbed night's sleep in the heart of the South Hams, you realise just how noisy Burnham Market is - particularly when you are hard on the street.  Breakfast in the garden, complete with freshly-baked bread and surrounded by evidence of Richard and Chris's other skills - colour (a riot?) and burgeoning plant growth made it hard to believe that Devon too has been very dry this spring, whilst the new fence replacing the one blown to bits by the winter's gales is testimony to Richard's carpentry. Inevitably, we ended up in the studio, picking out new pots for the gallery and consuming rather too much coffee.  It's a hard life.

Moving on, Totnes exerted its usual magnetism and left me wondering just why this town is so vibrant - if a bit hippy - whist Norfolk's market towns still seem to struggle.  Having said that, I don't think I could live there... it's just so full.  Even out of school holidays, the roads are packed and it certainly feels like everyone's rushing to get somewhere. A quick trip back to the Bovey Tracey fair revealed further delights and established new connections -  particularly on the pottery front.  Dodging some hefty downpours - they certainly still seem to do these on a more dramatic scale in Devon than we do - ended the day with my good friend Robin Tolson, chewing over the technicalities of what the Judiciary wear on high days and holidays!

Having spent a good few hours looking at pots and talking about pots and potters - it seemed not a bad thing to head for the hills and blow a few cobwebs away.  Right on the western edge of Dartmoor, it seemed only appropriate to have a proper Devon ice-cream, if only out of respect for our wonderful printer RICHARD CLOVER's continuing exploration of the art of the cone back in Norfolk.  Another downpour of biblical proportions gave way to Turner-esque light over Cornwall and a quick mile and a half walk up the nearest Tor.  Not seeing a soul anywhere other than those esconsed in their cars in the car park, it came as a somewhat puzzling if pleasant surprise to come across a crisp £5 note lying on the path.  Lots of hungry sheep, a few ponies and a brisk wind - but definitely no people.  So where had it come from?  Just another of life's little mysteries, I guess.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

All that Jazz

One of the very few disappointments about being here in the Burnhams, has been that I arrived just too late for The Balcony.  By the end of 2007, the focus for Jazz here had moved to The Hoste.  Not knowing much about what had gone before, I couldn't believe my luck that, under the direction of Reg, each summer was punctuated by cool concerts in the Moroccan Garden featuring musicians like Ian Shaw and Sarah Jane Morris.  However - people kept talking about The Balcony.

Finally, last Saturday, jazz returned to The Balcony and this time I was there.  Two fabulous musicians - KIT DOWNES and LEWIS WRIGHT. The two of them have been playing together, Kit on piano and Lewis on vibes, for over 10 years having met as members of the Norwich Students Jazz Orchestra.  Since then they have moved onwards and upwards developing their musical relationship playing in Clark (son of the great Stan) Tracey's Sextet and other groups.  The current duo project is their latest collaboration with new music written by both Lewis and Kit - and on the basis of Saturday's showing this looks likely to run. What great music!  The understanding and synchronicity (is that a real word?) seemed seamless. Improvised or scripted? Difficult to tell - but just great. And on the doorstep, too.

If you want to get a flavour of Kit's jazz piano their are two albums readily available from Amazon and the like - 'Golden' from 2009 and 'Quiet Tiger' released earlier this year.