Felicity’s Farm Shop

Sunday had arrived, the weekend was over and we were on our way back from Paignton *sob.* It was a long old drive, just over 3 hours, so we needed to stop at some point to refuel and stretch our legs. As we drove along the A35 we both spotted an awesome looking sign for a Farm Shop and decided to stop even though we’d only been driving about 45 minutes. Sometimes you just have to seize these opportunities and we could tell this was going to be a corker of a motorway stop.

We’re actually quite spoiled as we’ve been to the ‘best service station in the UK‘ numerous times, the infamous Tebay Services which is on the way to Ben’s grandparents house in Cumbria. If you haven’t been to this amazing place Google it, it’s a life-changer! We always spend ages in there trying to decide what to get because there’s just so much choice – a hot buffet with soup, roast dinners, casseroles and lasagnas; a sandwich bar with freshly made baguesttes and paninis; deli counters, an olive bar and a cheese counter! Not to mention the huge shop which sells pretty much every type of organic packaged food you could ever want! It is seriously the best place to stop on any motorway EVER, a far cry from a stale Ginsters pasty and a bottle of coke!

Right I need to calm down and focus on the place we actually visited. Felicity’s Farm Shop is located, according to their website, on the A35 between Bridport and Charmouth West Dorset. We parked in the big car park outside and were immediately wowed by the incredible view. They really have got a great spot here!

We walked into what seemed to be a huge barn and I could tell we were going to love it here because they had free samples of crisps on a counter right by the entrance. Free samples = living the dream.

We just wandered around for a while checking out all the cool stuff they had. I swear I prefer looking around food shops more than clothes shops sometimes. It’s very odd.

They had lots of cute little organic and local brands that we hadn’t seen before, alongside some of the bigger, usual brands. There was a section of fresh fruit and vegetables if you wanted to do your weekly shop! Nice place to do it! They also had a garden centre attached to the shop! Seriously covering all the bases here.

There were fridges filled with local cheeses, pate, pies and cuts of meat. I spotted a peanut butter chocolate cheesecake which was pretty much all my Christmasses as once! I refrained from buying it though as few things are more diet unfriendly than peanut butter chocolate cheesecake.

We then got excited because we saw the range of ready-to-eat snacks and it was game on! We’d only had our Travelodge buffet breakfast a few hours before but it was definitely time for lunch. Ben chose a roasted vegetable pasty which was huge and delicious. He loves a good pastry-based snack and this offering was one of the best.

I chose an item from the hot counter at the back of the shop – caramelised tomato and feta tart tatin. This was under 2 pounds which I thought was very reasonable and I really fancied something warm (obviously, being a June afternoon in England, the weather was freezing.)

This surpassed all expectations though! The pastry base was buttery and flaky with just the right amount of grease seeping through the paper bag, yum! The tomatoes were INSANELY sweet, I couldn’t tell how they had been cooked but they were incredible! Maybe a tomato confit type affair? I may have to actually email Felicity herself to find out. The feta had been browned on top through the cooking process and it had taken on that nutty quality that I love in feta. Amazing how two simple flavours had transformed and worked so well together. I really would love to try and recreate this, it’s tragic that I only have my photos to remind me of the flavours!

We sat in the car cradling our goodies and spent a happy 10 minutes stuffing our faces and enjoying the spectacular views, before heading back onto the road to continue our journey home. Felicity’s is an excellent place to grab a bite to eat and a few minutes rest if you happen to be passing through that way and make sure to take in the beautiful views of the surrounding countryside.

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TJ’s Bistro – Paignton

On our first night in Paignton we arrived at our luxury hotel (Travelodge) and freshened up before heading out for dinner. I had hoped we would eat at The Boathouse restaurant which has a lovely, inexpensive menu and is literally across the road from the Travelodge but unfortunately they were too busy to seat us. Onwards, then, to town!

My second choice for dinner was TJ’s Bistro, the number 1 restaurant in Paignton according to Tripadvisor which offers a choice of main meals or tapas style dishes. I generally treat Tripadvisor reviews as the gospel if there are a lot on any one place – we’ve eaten at a lot of restaurants this way and have never been disappointed! So, although TJ’s didn’t look a lot from the outside (which I had also been warned of by the reviewers!) we decided to go for it. You enter the restaurant through a little door to some stairs which take you upstairs to a lovely outside verandah with lots of chairs and tables. The view from here was spectacular!

There is a large, airy conservatory area behind the verandah and the indoor section holds the kitchen, bar and a waiting area with sofas and comfy chairs. There were a couple of tables in this bit that I am glad we didn’t get as it was pretty dark in there.

A lovely man asked us if we were looking to stay for a meal and we said yes. He said if we waited 5 or 10 minutes he’d have a table for us as a group was just finishing. Perfect! We wandered over to the bar area and ordered drinks before realising there was no-where to sit. The man noticed this and after giving us our drinks informed us that we could sit out on the verandah and he’d come and get us. Doubly perfect.

It was really lovely sitting outside in the warm air with a beautiful view of the harbour below and I was almost disappointed when the guy called us a few minutes later! Almost. We grabbed our drinks and were led to a lovely big table in the conservatory area where we started to peruse the menus. There wasn’t much on the main menu that tempted us so we decided to order a selection of Tapas dishes as we don’t often get to try Spanish food.

We actually ordered rather a lot of food but, in our defence, we were starving. It was almost embarrassing telling the waitress what we would like…almost.

We started with the breads and assorted dips. We love a bit of carb to start a meal so ordering this was a no brainer.

We were impressed with the presentation and the actual food was delicious! There were two types of bread which we only realized when we stopped stuffing it in our respective mouths for just a second; a plain ciabatta and a strong olive flavoured crusty number. The dips were olive oil, dark, sticky balsamic and a slightly random combination of what we thought was sweet chilli dipping sauce and mayo. Nice! But probably our least favourite of the three.

After we’d finished our starter, our main courses started to come out and pretty soon our table was full. I had to move the candles over and our waitress removed our excess wine glasses…embarrassing! We each ordered three dishes and shared the perennial tapas favourite, patatas bravas.

For my first dish I ordered deep fried goats cheese. Deep. Fried. Goats. Cheese. How could this not be amazing? The cheese was encased within a dense, hearty batter that would have been quite at home in the fish and chip shop, none of this ‘light tempura’ nonsense thank you very much. It was drizzled in honey and topped with a juicy orange slice. This was possibly the richest thing I’ve ever eaten and it ticked all the boxes – sweet, salty and tangy with a complex combination of textures – I sliced it like a pizza and nibbled on wedges in between my other courses because it didn’t really go with anything else. This was a dish with flavours unlike anything I’d experienced before though and it did work well amongst the more savoury dishes I had ordered. A palate cleanser, if you will!

My second dish was one of the most expensive on the menu, oops! I chose the bacon wrapped scallops and my excitement levels were almost uncontrollable when they arrived.

Unfortunately, as you can probably tell from the photo, they weren’t great. I was expecting a real crispy bacon wrapping but it was undercooked and flaccid. In the end I pulled it off because it was actually detracting from the scallops which were beautifully cooked. It’s not like me to turn down bacon! This was probably best though because it saved valuable tummy space for all the other delicacies on the table.

Ben ordered a few veggie dishes to enjoy with the patatas bravas – vegetable fritters, jalapeno poppers and spicy lentils. The spicy lentils looked slightly uninspiring but tasted delicious with a deep tomato flavour and strong hit of chilli.

The poppers were jalapeno peppers stuffed with cream cheese and battered. You really can’t go wrong with that combination and this effort from TJ’s was lovely. I was reluctant to try them at first as I’m a chilli wuss but Ben persuaded me and I thoroughly enjoyed my sample.

His favourite dish though was the ‘vegetable fritters’ which came out completeley different to how we were expecting – he was pleasantly surprised to see that they were tempura battered whole vegetables like aubergine, courgette and pepper. This was a huge portion and he was unable to finish it even with my added valiant efforts! The fritters were served with a minted mayonnaise which we were initially sceptical about but which actually went really well with the dish.

Our patatas bravas was a good sized portion with perfectly cooked potatoes and a nice, tangy tomato sauce. But, is it wrong that we missed the ‘con queso’ version that we normally have at La Tasca? You can take the kids out of a chain restaurant but you can’t take the chain restaurant out of the kids!

My final dish came out a few minutes after the others. I have to say I was quite disappointed when it was served, mainly due to the size which was a far cry from the amount I would expect to receive for a dish that cost £7. This was ‘lobster thermidor’ and it consisted of 3 king prawns and two thin medallions of lobster meat in a creamy cheese and mustard sauce.

Hmmm. It was nice, but I was expecting a hot, bubbling cheese crust and a slightly larger portion size. Had I known, I would have ordered a different, cheaper king prawn dish as this was not what I expected when I chose lobster thermidor.

That said, everything else was delicious and we really enjoyed our meal here. The service was lovely and the views can’t be beaten – get here early to enjoy a few drinks out on the balcony before your meal or better yet, pick a warm evening and eat al fresco! We really did feel like we could have been in a Mediterranean harbour whilst we were in TJ’s and I think the food and relaxed eating style enhanced this. Our meal came to about £60 with a couple of drinks each and it was a lovely, relaxed way to kick off our minibreak. TJ’s, we will be back!

Epicentre – Paignton

Another foodie story from our trip to the ‘English Riviera’ to celebrate our anniversary! I’m doing these all in the wrong order and I’m not entirely sure why – we actually ate at The Orange Tree on Saturday night, Epicentre at Saturday lunchtime and TJ’s on Friday night. But I’ve done them in the opposite order…

So, Epicentre is a vegetarian cafe/bookshop/art centre/music venue in the centre of Paignton. Jack of all trades! I found the cafe while searching for veggie places to eat in Paignton – whenever we travel somewhere I always try and find somewhere that does good vegetarian food so that Benji can sample some exciting new stuff 🙂 Their menu was extensive and varied and they are the only veggie cafe in Torbay so it was pretty much a definite!

We rocked up to the cafe about noon on the Saturday after a morning spent shopping and exploring the pier. When we walked in I was a little apprehensive…the cafe was tiny and there was a big group of about 15 people sat in the middle talking and laughing and singing really loudly. There was one guy sat with a laptop and a coffee and all the other tables were occupied but no-one was eating. Hmmm. No one greeted us or acknowledged our presence…it was pretty awkward. In an attempt to assess the situation and decide what we wanted to do we squeezed through the crowd towards the back of the cafe, where there were a number of bookshelves groaning under the weight of hundreds of books and magazines. We held a brief, intense, whispered conversation where I essentially said I would like to leave and Ben said he wanted to stay and give it a try. He won. Our whispering must have been louder than we thought because a guy came up to us with a questioning look on his face – we assumed he was the owner. I asked him if they were serving food and he said they were and told us to find a seat…he then realised there were none and asked a teenage boy if he wouldn’t mind moving. I’m pretty sure he did mind but he moved nonetheless and we sat down at a table by the window with a nice view of the high street outside. Phew! I really hate to give anywhere a bad review and the food at Epicentre was amazing as you’ll see, I just think they need to work on their first impressions!

I grabbed a couple of menus and we poured over them, trying to decide what to order from the vast selection. We got drinks first – Ben chose freshly squeezed orange juice and I was in the mood for an exciting drink (I almost always order Diet Coke…dulllll) so chose an iced mocha. I got a whole pint of it! The lady who served us was lovely and I love that she asked if I wanted dairy, soy or almond milk. I panicked at this unexpected decision requirement and got dairy although on reflection I should have got soy as it is both delicious and lower in calories. Next time!

After much deliberation we placed our orders. The menu at Epicentre consists of burgers, sandwiches, hot dogs, soups and salads as well as a ‘Mexi Cali’ section which has burritos, quesadillas and nachos! It’s really cool because with all the options you have a choice of which protein to add – tofu, soy burger, bean burger, tofu burger or veggie hotdog! They even have a vegetarian cheesesteak sandwich with wheat steak. Ay-may-zing. After we’d ordered we had about a 15 minute wait in which we could smell our cooking lunch wafting over from the out-of-sight kitchen and making us extremely hungry.

When our lunch was bought out, I was absolutely blown away! I ordered the ‘pesto burger’ with the tofu patty but souped it up with multiple toppings and add-ons because I’m greedy. I really wanted pesto to be a component of my lunch having not had it in ages but I also wanted avocado, cheese and onions which weren’t included with the pesto burger. Possibly because they don’t go? Anyway. The guy was really accommodating and said it was no problem to add on all the greedyboy extras. And curly fries, obviously, we always get curly fries if they are an option. Ben even said ‘Look! Curly fries are the same price as normal fries!’ This is a very rare occurrence and an opportunity not to be missed.

So I think the photos of my burger speak for themselves:

I have to say I was slightly intimated by the sheer height of the burger and the obvious difficulty I would have in picking it up.  This was not a lady-like meal – by the end I was covered in ketchup, cheese and avocado and the less said about the crumbs in my hair the better. As you would expect by the appearance of the food in the photos, my burger was delicious. The tofu patty in particular was in fact a bit of a life-changer – I had never thought to use tofu in this way. I asked the guy how he made it and he said it was crumbled tofu, garlic, seasoning, liquid amino and a bunch of other stuff I can’t rememeber and wish I’d written down. I’ll definately be trying to recreate these though as it was seriously the nicest vegetarian burger I’ve ever had. The rest of the ingredients – fresh, juicy tomato slices, caramelised onions, rocket, carrot ribbons and what seemed like an entire avocado were all packed into the ciabatta bun and complimented the patty perfectly. But, the star ingredient was the pesto! I don’t know if it was home-made – it definately tasted like it and judging by the freshness and quality of the other ingredients I would guess that it was. Strong and pungent with a course texture it was spread liberally on both halves of the bun, ensuring a pesto-y taste to every mouthful. My only complaint would be that the ciabatta bun was not toasted and got a little difficult to eat towards the end. But that’s mainly because I’m a wuss and need to man up when it comes to supersized lunch portions.

Ben’s burger looked a little less impressive but that is only because he quite sensibly didn’t add 57 additional toppings to his.

He went for the ‘Western burger’ – a Fry’s patty drenched in BBQ sauce with caramelised onions. He actually wanted to get the tofu burger but forgot to specify when he ordered so he just got the regular one, bless him! He absolutely loved his though and preferred it to mine so it all worked out well. I tried a bite of it and I was really impressed with the rich, smokey sauce. Yum!

So both our burgers were delicious. But, the real highlight of the meal came from a surprising source….

A condiment!

We asked for ketchup with our curly fries, natch, and recieved this exciting bottle of organic goodness! It was the most flavourful, intensely tomato flavour we’d had since the infamous tomato flatbread at Disney’s California Grill. I had no idea ketchup could taste this incredible having been very loyal to Heinz from an early age. We’ve decided we will be tracking down this wonder product ourselves so we can dip curly fries in it to our hearts content.

Our bill at Epicentre came to £17. Not a cheap lunch but a small price to pay for delicious, freshly cooked vegetarian food and the feeling that you are supporting an independent cafe. The group that was in there when we arrived left about 40 minutes later, leaving the place nice and quiet. We think it was a walking group or something that meets in the cafe due to it’s central location. Just something to bear in mind if you visit Epicentre on a Saturday lunchtime! Overall though we had a wonderful experience here and we will definitely be back if we are in the local area again.

The Orange Tree – Torquay

We just got back from a delightful weekend away to celebrate our anniversary. Eight years! Goodness me. We visited the English Riviera and stayed in the adorable town of Paignton; partly because we love a good seaside visit and partly because I got some bargain hotel prices during the Christmas Travelodge sale. £12 a room cannot be scoffed at. The hotel was more than adequate and after a slightly tense arrival where we discovered the carpark was full and we’d have to park my beautiful red Nissan Micra Marilyn a few roads away in a decidedly dodgy spot, we had a wonderful stay there.

But obviously the most important part of this trip, as with all trips, was the food! We ate at some lovely places and I’ll be sharing all the details in good time but I have to start with the highlight of the weekend – our meal at The Orange Tree restaurant in Torquay.

I booked a table online a couple of weeks ago after being warned that it gets very busy on Friday and Saturday evenings. Our table was booked for 7.30pm and we arrived promptly after getting absolutely soaked from the rain beating down outside.

We were greeted warmly, relieved of our coats and led inside the cosy eatery to a lovely table for two. We noted that the tables were nicely spaced apart which we were very pleased about; nothing worse than feeling like you are essentially dining with the couple next to you! We ordered our drinks and perused the menu which was looking amazing. After ordering our starters we were bought out warm parmesan and olive bread with butter. This warranted a photo although I am apologising in advance for the photographs of this meal – the restaurant was very dark and intimate and I really didn’t want to blind our fellow diners with the flash. I promise my other photos from this trip are better! A bit better.

After a pleasant wait, our starters were bought out. I chose the ‘Gevrik’ Goats Cheese with Red Currant and Fig Chutney – Cornish Goats Cheese Parcel baked in crisp Filo Pastry accompanied by Red Currant and Fig Chutney.

Oh, it was pretty! The goats cheese was incased in the crunchy, buttery filo pastry and it was perfectly melty and gooey inside. The chutney was sweet and fragrant and provided the perfect accompaniment to the cheese. Pretty much my perfect starter!

Ben chose the Tian of English Asparagus – Tian of Asparagus Mousse with Tomato Chutney and Parmesan Crisp, served with Tempura baked Asparagus Spears. He was wary of ordering this as he’d spotted that the veggie main course was asparagus based and quite frankly he wasn’t sure if he wanted that much asparagus in his life. I thought he’d choose the goats cheese but as the waitress asked what he’d like he changed his mind and plumped for the asparagus. He was really pleased he did as his starter was delightful.

The mousse was creamy and fluffy with a delicate asparagus flavour and the tempura was light and crispy. There was no denying this was a lot of asparagus but he really enjoyed all the different textures and flavours. As the waitress told us, you have to make the most of them while they’re in season! The parmesan crisp was gone in a matter of seconds as anything cheese-based generally is on borrowed time when it’s around Ben, but I am assured it was divine.

We had a nice 10/15 minute break between our starters and main courses which I have to say we really appreciated. You don’t often get this at restaurants but I love the opportunity to relax in between eating and savour the experience of actually being in the restaurant.

Our main courses were presented to us and I was instantly a very happy girl! These photographs really are getting better and better, don’t you just love the increasingly jaundice tint!?

I, of course, ordered the Grilled Prime ‘South Devon’ Fillet Steak with a Devon Blue Cheese Sauce. I have mentioned numerous times (possibly too many?) that steak and blue cheese sauce is my idea of heaven and I find myself going to restaurants specifically to have this dish. Very sad and repetitive and not very food blog friendly but I just can’t seem to stop.

(In fact, I talk about steak and blue cheese sauce so much and eat it so often that there may be a post coming up discussing my deep and unflinching love for this seriously underrated food combination.)

Anyway, The Orange Tree’s version was right up there with the best. A thick, generous fillet with an impressive girth, perfectly cooked medium rare. I am aware that a good steak should not require a sauce but what food is not enhanced by a sauce comprised entirely of blue cheese and cream? This blue cheese sauce was thick, creamy and most importantly, salty!

You can see how perfectly the steak was cooked and even though I had to sacrifice all some of the vegetables in order to finish it, I did. What bravery!

This was Ben’s vegetarian main course – Vine Tomato and Asparagus Tart – Puff Pastry Tart of roasted Vine Tomatoes and char-grilled Asparagus finished with Roquette, Parmesan Shavings and Rosemary Oil. I didn’t get to try the tart (and quite frankly I had enough food to contend with on my own plate) but he cleared his plate and I think I actually saw a hint of saliva fall from his mouth when I showed him the photo a couple of days later.

We were bought out accompaniments of garlic roasted new potatoes, spring onion mash and carrot and green bean batons to go with our chosen dishes which we found complimented them perfectly. We felt the portion sizes overall were very generous, especially for the prices!

Once we’d finished eating our lovely waitress came over and removed our plates and said she would give us a few moments for our food to settle before we looked at the dessert menu. We knew there was absolutely no way we could manage dessert though so we just sat back and enjoyed the last few minutes of our special dinner. When she came back with the menus we told her unfortunately we were stuffed and she looked very disappointed! Not as disappointed as we were, believe me. I’d seen photos of the desserts online and they looked incredible!

We were then getting ready to ask for the bill when our waitress bought us out a little surprise!

How amazing is that!! We were so surprised and so pleased, we thanked our waitress profusely and she thanked us for choosing to celebrate our anniversary with them! Obviously my special occasion dessert stomach came into action and we were able to force down the beautifully prepared bites of chocolate fudge and almond cake with minimal effort. What a lovely, thoughtful gesture.

We were even more pleased when we received the bill! Our meal came to £57 which included drinks and 2 courses each which we thought was extremely reasonable for the quality of food, atmosphere and ambience in the restaurant and the great service we received.

I would recommend The Orange Tree to anyone who is celebrating a special occasion or even just wanting a nice dinner out, there is a reason it is the number 1 restaurant in Torquay on TripAdvisor!

Thank you for making our anniversary celebration so special, we hope to come back and visit one day!