Windsor Festival Walking Tours

The 45th annual Windsor Festival will host a series of twelve walks and tours around Windsor from 15th September – 28th September 2014.

  • Ghost tour, High Spirits, will be taking place on Wednesday, 17th September at 19:00. Join Griselda Slugpellet and her ghoulish phantom friends marvelling at tales of ghostly sightings, hairy hauntings and beastly burials.
  • Enjoy a collection of intrepid tales recounted by the merry monarch Charles II and his royal cousin Rupert of the Rhine, in Rupert and Charles go mad in Windsor, on Saturday 20th September at 19:00.
  •  The Wayward Women of Windsor, taking place on Monday, 22nd September at 19:00, will let you in on the stories, scandals and secrecy of the Merry Wives Mistresses, Ford and Page and the flirtatious Nell Gwynn.

The full programme and booking information is available at

If you plan to stay in Windsor then you’ll be wise to book at Mercure Windsor Castel Hotel  – a 500-year-old coaching opposite the castle.  Read a review of their restaurant 18 here.

Quintessential English Tea Shop  - lde worlde

Fancy a nice cuppa? The Crooked House of Windsor has been an integral part of Windsorian life for more than 400 years.

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Real ‘gourmet nosh’ meals in minutes with G’NOSH

We’re big fans of ‘gourmet nosh’ making the effort at home to elevate basic dishes into restaurant quality meals. But we are also short on time.  Clock-watching gourmands, if you like. So good news comes in the form of this delicious pouch of mussels & prawns in a garlic butter sauce. It’s divine.

G'Nosh Meals in Minutes

G’Nosh Meals in Minutes


This is what we ate:

Mussels & Prawns in a Garlic Butter Sauce
Tender and plump mussels from Galicia in Northern Spain, an area renowned for its spectacular seafood, with succulent sustainable Ecuadorian king prawns in a rich butter sauce comprising plenty of Spanish garlic!



G’nosh it’s good


Serve simply with pasta and a wedge of lemon. I should think add white wine and you’ve got a really rich moules marinière sauce.

Available in Waitrose (exclusively for 6 months) and Ocado RRP £3.49 per 255g pack  We bought them at the superb introductory price of £2.61 and plumped the sauce up with some jumbo prawns.

£2.61 !!

£2.61 !!



G’nosh – from non-elitist noshing to special occasion entertaining!

The brand’s existing range of four award-winning fresh dips at Sainsbury’s and Ocado have also launched onto Waitrose’s shelves – we wrote about them a couple of years ago Putting the Gourmet into Dips.  They’re the biggest branded dip sold on Ocado and have also been recognised by the buyers at Waitrose, who are now taking the range to its shelves nationwide. Pleased to hear they are doing so well.

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READ ABOUT OUR MEAT PORTER DINNER here – artisan online butchers

READ ABOUT SCRATCH MEALS  here early entrant in the meals from scratch category.

The New Food Faces Of London at Urban Food Fortnight

You’ll be hearing more from London’s new food heroes, including wood-fired sourdough pizza-maker Well Kneaded Wagon and artisan bakery Dusty Knuckle part of Urban Food Routes which helps a wide range of London’s small food entrepreneurs gain expert business advice and funding to help grow their business. Alongwith many others such as WeAreWhatWeDo and Global Generation - who are having a big impact on tackling social and environmental issues in London – promoting their work on improving diets and empowering young people to play an important part in building a sustainable future for London.


Well Kneaded Wagon

Well Kneaded Wagon


They will be showcasing their wares during 

Urban Food Fortnight from Friday 12th to Sunday 28th September, 

celebrating ultra-local produce being grown, produced and cooked on London’s doorstep.  

Cafes, restaurants and retailers partner with London food growers and producers to present the best ingredients the capital has to offer with special menus, harvest festivals, pop ups in poly tunnels and foraging walks. Taste carrots from Battersea, lettuce from King’s Cross, and honey from Old Street.

Find out more here:





A Right Royal Welcome to Windsor Castle & at “18” The Mercure Hotel

First thing you notice about Windsor? The friendly people. Wherever we went we were treated like royalty – even in the Castle, long a home of kings and queens and the oldest inhabited castle in the world.

Windsor Castle

Clambering The Tower

Windsor is perfect for a day out  – less than an hour from London and just over a tenner return on a weekend train.

It’s a mix of history, pomp, pageantry and  fish and chip shops. We counted seven. Then there’s the river, boats, a bridge to Eton, theatre and shopping. But we’ve come for the food and history.


messing about in boats at Eton Bridge

Processing through the castle at the end of the day (last admission 3 or 4 pm) is a majestic experience. Gently ushered through room by magnificent room with the chandeliers being turned off and doors closed behind you.  You can ask any of the guides – and there are plenty of them – the most obscure question and get a satisfactory answer. We found out that during the 1992 fire a two tonne carpet sodden with hose pipe water was dragged by 50 soldiers from the Waterloo room out onto the lawns; and that instead of peppercorns, some aristocrats pay for their lands with a rent banner – the 2014 banners hanging just as you go into the Great Hall. The state banquet table seats 165 people and allows for 18 inches elbow space for each guest but you’d better mind your language as the Queen has her menus written up in French.

Watch the kitchen tour here:

An add-on to the ticket prices is a tour of the royal kitchens lined with copper pots from the ages and other palaces. Stamped “BP” for Buckingham Palace, “RY” is Royal Yacht and “WC”, yes you guessed it, Windsor Castle. There’s even A Royal Cookbook written by Mark Flanagan, Royal Chef to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II with lots in it including napkin folding.


Windsor Castle

Changing of the Windsor Castle Guard – never on a Sunday

2014-08-16 17.33.50


Pottering around the shops outside the castle and avoiding some of the usual high street suspects we found a couple of interesting sweet shops.

Hardys Windsor

Hardys with over 2,000 different types of sweets



Windsor Fudge Kitchen

you don’t have to be crazy to work here…

The Fudge Kitchen serves up samples of some mouth scorching fudge – reputedly the hottest chilli in the world.

So to end the day, a scuttle up the hill to the Mercure Windsor Castle Hotel opposite the Royal Guildhall and the Castle for a cooling glass of fizz with and added stiffener of Chase mandarin vodka. It’s one of the first inns in Windsor with hundreds of years of history itself.

Madarin Chase Vodka

for a grown up Paddington

Just the trick before being ushered into the deeply purple and velvet dining room of the hotel’s award-winning 2AA Rosettes “18” restaurant.

Head Chef Gregory Watts focuses on delivering a contemporary menu with an emphasis placed on locally sourced fresh and sustainable ingredients. Just like the Queen’s kitchens nearby.

We started with fantastically dense ham hock pitted with capers, dabs of home-made piccalilli and  pickled shimeji mushrooms with exquisite tomato and garlic freshly baked breads.

old school ham hock & piccalill

old school ham hock & piccalilli


Another starter choice of seafood nage – broth thickened with cream, swimming with poached sea bream and mussels.

18 at The Mercure Windsor Hotel

dive into this seafood nage at 18 Restaurant Windsor

Main course was a peppery steak and thick cut chips or this incredibly tasty and rich duck cassoulet with chorizo.


18 at Mercure Windsor Castle Hotel

delicious duck


We were royally looked after by Andy Macsporran who found us a special 2008 Colombo Cornas red wine to wash the duck down.

Andy Macsporran Mercure Windsor Castle Hotel

Andy Macsporran at Mercure Windsor Castle Hotel –  yes, he showed us ID!



Mercure Windsor Castle Hotel

Proof of a great meal at 18, Windsor Castle

So ending on a sweet note that would not have tasted out-of-place at the old-fashioned sweet shop earlier, we dipped into rhubarb crumble and custard. “Deconstructed” – that normally puts the fear of God into me, but this was heaven. Flashback to those childhood sweets and more happy memories made.

Thank you Windsor. King for a day.

18 restaurant at Mercure Winsdor Castle Hotel

shaky photo as this was so good! Rhubarb crumble & custard.


To make a restaurant reservation

Mercure Windsor Castle Hotel

18 High Streeet



Tel: (+44) 1753 252800

JOHN new work from DV8 Physical Theatre at The National Theatre

JOHN, a co-production between the National Theatre and DV8 Physical Theatre, conceived and directed by Lloyd Newson, opens in the Lyttelton Theatre on 30 October. This new verbatim dance-theatre is inspired by interviews with more than 50 men, asking them frank questions about love and sex.

One of those men was John.

JOHN DV8 Physical Theatre National Theatre London dance

What emerged was a story that is both extraordinary and touching. Years of crime, drug use and struggling to survive lead John on a search in which his life converges with others, in an unexpected place, unknown by most. JOHN authentically depicts real-life stories, combining movement and spoken word.

DV8 Physical Theatre return to the National following their acclaimed productions To Be Straight With You, Can We Talk About This? and Just for Show. Since their inception in 1986, DV8 have made 18 works and won many awards including a Grand Prix de Danse, an International Emmy for Performing Arts, a Rose d’Or and three Prix Italia.

Previews from 30 October playing until 13 January 2015 with broadcast to cinemas by NT Live on 9 December.

National Theatre Live broadcast on 9 December.

Travelex £15 Tickets, Lyttelton Theatre.

Meat Porter – Fresh Restaurant Quality Meat To Your Door

London’s restaurant scene is one of the most renowned and most competitive in the world, with its top chefs using only the finest meat that requires just the slightest hint of seasoning.  Based on a very simple question; “why can’t people enjoy meat of this quality every day at  home?” is the guiding principle upon which online artisan butcher Meat Porter was founded.

Meat Porter logo

Meat Porter – quality delivered

With just a minimum spend of £25 you can be eating fine steaks the likes you’d find at some of the best restaurants – Meat Porter buys from the same farms and suppliers they do. Typically only 13 meat products, such as steaks, chops, sausages and bacon make up the majority of supermarket meat sales in the UK and this is the starting menu for this three-month-old start-up.

Stefan Porter is the founder and Managing Director of Meat Porter. Having studied German he got a graduate job with Lidl quickly becoming a Senior Buying Manager overseeing market research, analysis, negotiations, testing and packaging and so knows the UK food market inside out.

Meat Porter is for anyone who loves fresh, high quality meat whether it’s trendy young professionals, the modern mum, silver surfers or us greedy lot at Shinesquad and friends.

So with this gorgeous space to entertain in we invited Meat Porter to show us their wares.

Meatporter supper

Meat Porter Supper with Stefan Porter

The gourmet at home experience starts with a great website and within a few clicks the next day this lovely box arrives. Sleek and glossy with a slowly melting icepack and a sprinkling of farm straw.

Meat Porter

Great packaging from Meat Porter – you can refreeze the ice packs and use the straw for decoration!

This is what we ate:

Although the lion’s share of their meat is British,  fantastic Barbary duck breast from France followed by 28-day matured Herefordshire Ribeye steaks, new potatoes and asparagus.

 First up was the best duck I’ve ever tasted. We quite liked the idea that it had flown in from Nantes.

Stefan Porter

Stefan Porter from Meat Porter demonstrating the duck

Barbary duck is a leaner breed and can be grilled or pan-fried. Best with the skin removed and flesh scored to add some red currant jelly and honey.  Heat up the oven as hot as possible and then turn up the grill to the max so that you can cook the bird quickly making sure it stays pink in the middle.

Barbary Duck from Nantes

duck from Nantes

We served the duck with some rocket, avocado and fresh Scottish raspberries. Eh voila!

Meatporter artisan online butcher

Meat Porter – best duck I’ve tasted!

So onto the steak. The simpler the better. The best meat needs only a twist of seasoning.


Ready Steady… cook

Cooking for 10 means some are getting grilled steak and some pan-fried – what matters is that meat is so fresh you can still hear mooing.

All the steaks are roughly same shape and size –  just as the butcher would have cut if you told him you had a dinner party.  If you don’t use the butcher there is nothing worse than turning up at the supermarket to buy for six to find only five steaks.  Order six and you get six – no random replacements here. You can even ask them for certain meats and cuts and they try to source it for you within 48 hours.

Nothing beats a simple juicy rib eye steak

Nothing beats a simple juicy rib eye steak

A light flourish at the end with some meringue and more lovely raspberries made for a very enjoyable product testing.

Is it on the trolley?

Is it on the trolley?

It was great to meet and find out more from Stefan Porter @meatporter and his lovely wife Rachel, PR Nicola Burgess @WoodthorpeComms and dear friends @eatcookexplore_, @Fabio_Adler_LDN, Stephanie Birks, @scratch_london and  host with the most @rodneybirrell.

We got to have a re-run the next week as Stephanie ordered the duck again, this time cooked with the skin and it was just as delicious and served on these beautiful vintage Wedgwood plates.

Meatporter duck served on Wedgwood

Meat Porter duck

In a nutshell…

Meat Porter is an online artisan butcher who sources and delivers fine-dining restaurant quality fresh meat and poultry to your kitchen with free next-day delivery across Great Britain. Meat Lovers can even request office deliveries as every box has straw and ice to keep the meat chilled until you get home. It’s a great gift, too, with a nice note – not the invoice.

You build your own box from scratch or go for their surprise box. Order by 3:00pm Mon-Fri, and you get your box the next day.

We’ve tried it and loved it.