New café bar helps ‘revive’ Smith Street

New café bar helps ‘revive’ Smith Street

When it comes to coffee shops, we’re spoilt for choice in Warwick.

But, just as we’re flocking back to enjoy that cappuccino culture with much-missed friends and friendly, there’s a new kid on the block vying for our attention.

Photo by Loz Moore Photography.

And Revive Café Bar is set to capture plenty of that among locals and visitors alike as it brings something refreshingly new to the town’s sophisticated social scene.

New because it offers so much more than food and drink. Indeed, the entertainment ‘menu’ alone serves up an exciting variety.

Head to the rear of the café and you’ll come across a spacious table games area, with pool, table tennis and table football all available for hire by the half hour. There’s also a dart board, big screen wall-mounted TV (which apparently will be screening the big events) and, in a funky retro feel, two arcade gaming tables. Just slot in your pound coin and take your pick from scores of old school games from Pac Man to Space Invaders. Great fun.

But not to skip over the food which, let’s face it, is what’s going to get most of us back through the door. The Revive menu is designed to satisfy appetites big and small – and at all times of day.

Revive Cafe, WarwickCooked fresh to order from local and seasonal ingredients, Breakfast and Brunch options have an English and American feel, from cooked breakfasts to waffles and pancakes. Or you can choose from a variety of sharing boards.

Lunch, served from 12-2.30pm, tempts us with a range of burgers as well steak and eggs, Thai green curry, pasta and fish dishes, plus salads and vegan options.

Or, if you’re after a smaller bite, baguettes include some classics such as cheese and onion and tuna mayonnaise through to minute steak, red onion marmalade and tomato or, for the non-meat-eaters, roasted red pepper, hummus, avocado, beetroot and vegan mayonnaise. (Vegans, vegetarians and gluten-free needs seem well catered for.)

Our brunch plates arrived promptly and were piping hot and delicious, washed down with coffees and smoothies!

Manager Lee and his team are keen to please and there is an instant welcoming feel when you’re seated – in our case, in one of the booths.

For some nibbles to accompany that long-awaited catch up or work meeting, choose from olives, bread and oils, salad bowls, or a variety of fries.

But it seems we’ve not seen it all yet, with some exciting news coming soon about a host of regular live comedy nights as well as quizzes and other events. Revive has been created with all ages and ‘tastes’ in mind and I am genuinely excited for its future popularity, once word begins to spread.

In my view, as blessed as we are in Warwick with fine cafes and bars (and we’ve all got our personal favourites), this place has a unique vibe and fills a gap in the market – and I for one will be a regular there.

 

Revive Cafe Bar, Warwick
They stock plenty of reading matter, sourced from local charity shops.

Why choose between good grub, friendly games, evening drinks and live events, when you can have it all under one roof?

This new arrival in Smith Street, will most definitely help ‘revive’ our town centre post-pandemic. Now I’ll drink to that.

It is open 8am-6pm Sundays to Thursdays and 8am-11pm on Fridays and Saturdays.

Visit: www.revivewarwick.co.uk for more information, menu or to book.

Young Drivers given green light to enjoy the ‘classics!’

Young Drivers given green light to enjoy the ‘classics!’

AS a driver of 35 years – and a mother of two – I appreciate the value of the much-lauded Young Driver scheme, first established in 2009 to help reduce the high accident rate for newly qualified drivers.

It’s a great opportunity for 10-17-year-olds to get behind the wheel in preparation for driving lessons, learning to brake, steer, reverse, park and negotiate the gears – all for the first time.

Young Drivers, classic car experience, Quentin Willson, British Motor Museum, Gaydon
The Chalmers ‘boys’ flank motoring journalist Quentin Willson at the launch of the Young Driver Classic Car Experience at The British Motor Museum.
Young Drivers, classic car experience, Quentin Willson, British Motor Museum, Gaydon
James in the 1937 Austin 7 replica

Now the team behind the UK’s largest pre-17 driving school – whose cars are finally back on the road post-pandemic – are expanding their offering by giving lucky young motor enthusiasts access to classic cars too!

In the Classic Car Experience, youngsters can take a spin in three of Britain’s most iconic cars – a Vauxhall VX490, Morris Minor or Austin 7 – with a fully qualified driving instructor. And the envious parents don’t have to miss out either.

Having spent the last few months fine-tuning the engines, the classic cars are now available to drive (for anyone from 10 upwards) at the British Motor Museum on selected dates. The experiences last 15 minutes and those booking a lesson also get discounted entry into the museum. (See BMM review from the same day here)

To mark the occasion on Saturday was motoring journalist and former Top Gear presenter Quentin Willson, who has also been patron to Young Drivers.

The car’s touch points are sanitised between drivers who are joined for the trip by an instructor. But be warned – the Austin 7 is not designed for teenagers over 6ft tall and unfortunately only one of my sons was able to successfully peel himself in and out of the vehicle. Something to consider before you go.

He was able to enjoy his session in the Morris Minor however and it was a delight to witness the beaming smiles (amid the looks of concentration) from a wide range of ages as they got to grips with, what was for many, their first ever experience behind the wheel.

As Quentin himself put it to me – “Classic cars can be a refreshingly authentic way to start your driving ‘journey,’ with the absence of electronic intervention allowing the driver to feel more connected to their vehicle.”

Young Drivers, classic car experience, Quentin Willson, British Motor Museum, Gaydon
James with the Vauxhall vx490
Young Drivers, classic car experience, Quentin Willson, British Motor Museum, Gaydon
James before driving the Morris Minor

This is a big part of what also makes it such a unique experience for the more mature modern-day driver – although you’ll also be made to appreciate the comforts and driveability of today’s cars!

Young Driver was established in 2009 with the aim of revolutionising the learning to drive journey, helping to reduce the high accident rate for newly qualified drivers by extending the learning period. For more information and to book a lesson please visit www.britishmotormuseum.co.uk/whats-on

Future Classic Young Driver events at The British Motor Museum are on 19th June, 25th September and 20th November. Visit https://www.youngdriver.eu/ to book.

The cars. . .

Austin 7: This was introduced to the British public in 1922 – just four years after the start of World War One – and by the start of World War Two, in 1939, some 290,000 of them were in use around the world.

Morris Minor: This car made its debut in 1948, designed by motoring legend Alec Issigonis, who went on to design the Mini, and was the first to sell over a million units.

Vauxhall VX490: This was produced between 1963-67 during which time 31,000 saloons were made of the HB spec, of which only 10 are on the UK roads today.

For more about The British Motor Museum visit my latest article here.

Pub dining at home is a welcome legacy of lockdown, thanks to Peach Pubs

Pub dining at home is a welcome legacy of lockdown, thanks to Peach Pubs

FOOD has been a welcome distraction for most of us throughout the pandemic.

Peach at Home, Peach PubsWhether it be experimenting more in the kitchen or indulging in extra culinary treats delivered to our door, the shift to dining at home has been seismic – whether we liked it or not.

When you discover the likes of services such as Peach at Home, there’s no reason not to like it. Just as we’re emerging from our own kitchens again as restaurants begin to open back up, the temptation for many of us is to make that long-anticipated dinner reservation with family or friends.

And that’s just what I’ve done.

But for so many, that step may not be in line with the Government’s roadmap as we’re all at different levels of the vaccination and peace of mind.

And after being introduced to Peach at Home last week, it’s easy to predict why there could well be a continued appetite for such a service.

Peach at Home box, Peach Pubs
Peach at Home box contents

The Peach at Home boxes were introduced during lockdown by Peach Pubs, with, they say, ‘the aim to deliver not just a box of ingredients, but a celebratory three-course meal combining the chef’s skills with some simple finishing at home to produce a real treat.’

It’s a concept many have tried but not always succeeded at. Peach at Home, I’m delighted to report, from our experience at least, has nailed it.

Firstly the food – well, nothing but praise here. Our Twice-Baked Godminster Cheddar Souffle with Cheese Sauce & Walnut Pesto was, quite simply exquisite. My husband and I both remarked that we’d never before tasted a souffle as light and fluffy as this.

The main course of Aubrey’s 28-Day Dry-Aged Fillet Wellington with Dauphinoise Potatoes, Creamed Spinach and Red Wine Jus melted in the mouth. This beautifully seasoned grass-fed Aubrey Allen beef has been skilfully prepared by a team of Peach Pub chefs – all ready to finish at home.

Peach at Home, Peach Pubs
Aubrey Allen British Beef Fillet Wellington.

Our nervousness about spoiling the recipe was short-lived. All we had to do was follow a set of very cstraightforward instructions for cooking times, heating on the hob, decorating and plating. Even I would struggle to mess up!

Chocolate Truffle Cheesecake Crème Fraiche & Black Cherry Compote was plated – after resting from the fridge for 10 minutes – and devoured as a finale to the feast.

Surprises in store – As special as it is, the Peach at Home box is about more than just the food.

Attention to detail and amusing touches went to make this even more akin to the authentic gastropub experience. From candle and smarties (presumably to enjoy with coffee at the end) to a Spotify playlist (via a QR code), there was even the bartender’s favourite joke thrown in to entertain us. And as a bonus – it’s actually a funny one!

Until such time as you’re ready to book a table again, Peach at Home is as close as you’ll get to pub dining in your own house. But even then, this is a fab no-fuss option for dinner parties or family celebrations in the weeks or months ahead.

While it’s taking a temporary pause, such is the success of the Peach at Home boxes, they are soon to return for weekend diners across the country with a new selection of seasonal summer recipes – and the good news is, the Beef Wellington is still included!

A spokesperson for Peach at Home said: “This past year has been really tough for everyone, so we hope this box of the good stuff will help them relax, indulge and enjoy an evening ‘in in’! It’s wonderful that pubs are open again and that so many of our guests are coming ‘out out;’ but when you can’t get a babysitter, prefer to entertain at home or would like to send friends or family anywhere in the country a special treat, we are delighted to be able to deliver a little taste of the pub to your kitchens.”

Peach at Home, Peach Pubs
A Spotify playlist and other finishing touches helped create a memorable experience.

While we all welcome the next stage of the roadmap, there are some legacies of lockdown we will all happily continue to embrace. This, for me, is one of them.

Visit: http://makinglifepeachy.com/peach-at-home/

For those who can’t wait to get back to the pub, Peach Pubs’ independent group of gastropubs includes The Rose and Crown in Warwick, The One Elm in Stratford and The Almanack in Kenilworth.

Fine dining delivered to your door!

Fine dining delivered to your door!

By the time we reached lockdown part III we had become more accustomed to takeaways as the go-to alternative for those special occasions.

But for those of us who still occasionally hanker after something that cut above – and whose mastery in the kitchen falls seriously short – it’s refreshing to see a rise in the trend of fine dining deliveries.

Bramble Dining, fine dining, Richard Bramble, chef
Richard Bramble. Photo by Dave Fawbert Photography.

One such business on hand to step in and salvage my birthday and Valentine’s Day plans (same weekend!) was Bramble Dining, based in Radford Semele.

Chef Richard Bramble, who has over 19 years’ experience of working in professional kitchens and the catering industry, launched the business with his wife Claudia just one year ago.

They offer a bespoke menu, catering for all tastes as well as a personal chef service where you can be waited on in your own home.

Bramble Dining, fine dining, Richard Bramble, chef
Photo by Dave Fawbert Photography.

But while the business never really had the chance to get going – and we find ourselves still waiting for the COVID restrictions to ease up, Bramble has been innovative in its approach, by offering banquet boxes for home delivery.

My husband and I pre-selected from a Valentine’s menu which arrived at the advised time with every ingredient clearly labelled.

Accompanied by simple-to-follow instructions for final food prep and plating up, it proved even simpler than I had imagined to complete the culinary process to the required standards. Brushing the Beef Wellington with egg and warming it in the oven and heating some jus on the hob. Even I couldn’t come unstuck with that!

The biggest challenge I found – and I’ll never underestimate the artistic skills of a top chef ever again – is the final presentation of the dishes.

With a desire to do the food justice, I thought I’d done a decent job – only to later see the photos Richard sent me of how he plates up the food! My slight failings in the finesse department, happily did not, detract from the overall dining experience.

The stunning flavours and textures in Richard’s menu made this, far from a forgettable lockdown Valentine’s celebration. In fact it is one of the most delicious meals we’ve enjoyed a in a very long time.

Our banquet box (you have to choose the same meals for ease) contained four courses consisting of. . .

Appetiser: Roasted figs wrapped in prosciutto and finished with Warwick honey, crumbled feta cheese and red amaranth micro herb. (Warmed up for just a few minutes in the oven)

 No alternative.

Starter: Smoked duck breast with celeriac puree, cubed beetroot, pickled radish and popped broad beans, finished with pea shoots. (Slice and serve cold)

Alternatives were: Roasted scallops with roe velouté and Provencal breadcrumbs finished with dill oil and pea shoots or Roasted beetroot with goat’s curd, apple jelly and roasted walnuts, finished with red wine vinaigrette and red aramanth micro herb.

Classic Beef Wellington

Main: Classic Beef Wellington with parsnip puree, purple sprouting broccoli and crispy parsnips, finished with red wine jus. (Heat the beef in the oven for 15 minutes, warm the broccoli and parsnip puree in the microwave and heat the jus on the stove.)

Alternatives were: Classic half lobster with garlic herb butter, mussels Provencal, watercress salad and buttered new potatoes finished with a side of light truffle mayonnaise or Tomato consume and popped broad bean risotto with tomato salsa infused with garlic and basil finished with rocket salad.

Dessert: Chilli and chocolate tray bake with fresh raspberries and cardamon Chantilly cream. (Just serve!)

Alternatives were: Lemon drizzle sponge with crème Anglaise finished with pistachio crumb and rose petals or Vanilla-infused baked yoghurt with rhubarb, confit orange, caramelised crushed pecan nuts and rose petals.

Then chocolate truffles to share.

These are just some mouthwatering examples and three more menu options – at varying price points – can be found on their website at: https://brambledining.com/

We are all looking forward to a return to the restaurants, hopefully soon – but in the meantime, Richard’s fine dining brought to our doorstep is doing a great job in filling that void, especially on birthdays and anniversaries.

Even afterwards, Bramble’s services also extend to events and weddings.

And for the summer there are plans to provide BBQ packs too.

So, if you have a special occasion coming up – or you’re a foodie just looking to lift your spirits in lockdown, you won’t go wrong here.

Fine food, Bramble Dining, Richard Bramble

A fine dining experience in almost every sense. – I say ‘almost’ because unfortunately I still had to do the washing up!

But make a booking post-pandemic and the team will even do that for you too! – For a small extra fee, the waiter service is also provided – the promise is they will leave the dining area and kitchen exactly as they had found it – maybe even better!

So if, like me, your love of good food does not match up to your own culinary ambition – or you’re just yearning for a bit of luxury at home – give Bramble a call.

You’ll quickly remember what it is you’ve been missing! A genuinely ‘fine’ dining experience.

  • Bramble Dining also last year teamed up with Winchcombe Farm in Upper Tysoe to offer the additional service of a private chef for guests staying in any of their lodges.
Locked and loaded: Young entrepreneurs have a keen ‘ear’ for business!

Locked and loaded: Young entrepreneurs have a keen ‘ear’ for business!

Locket Down Jewellery owners Sara and Cherry

WAS there ever a better tale of adapting your circumstances to a pandemic than a business that has even named itself after it!

Locket Down Jewellery was born out of lockdown and is the passion project-come-enterprise of two best friends from Bath.

Sara and Cherry design and make unique ceramic jewellery that is quirky and different to most of what’s already out there, so perfect gift inspiration for a friend, relative or even yourself!

And with both Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day on the horizon, it could be the perfect opportunity to support another new small business on its journey to growth.

After Cherry was furloughed from her catering job and Sara spent three months shielding, the pair sought solace in a hobby around their love of jewellery.

Cherry said: “What started out as a hobby soon turned into a passion and all we could talk about was new designs and techniques. We pour our heart and soul into every pair of earrings! After sharing all we could with our friends and families, we decided it was time to share it with the world, so Locket Down Jewellery was born. We are, possibly, the crazy girls who decided to start a small business in a pandemic!”

“There have been some lows, there have been moments where quitting seems like a great idea, in fact where it has seemed like the only option, but whenever these moments arise something happens, not always significant, but always positive! I’m not sure I believe in fate but something is definitely on our side, telling us to carry on, pushing us forward and giving us the drive to succeed.”

It’s an inspiring message that I hope will see them drive their business to the success they deserve. Check out their Etsy shop here:

Review:

Locket Down Jewellery

I fell in love with the girls’ designs and am now the proud owner of two pairs of Locket Down Jewellery originals!

These bright and breezy styles can’t fail to brighten up any lockdown day and are flexible in that they can equally complement both smart and casual forms of dress.

Locket Down Jewellery

They feel like excellent quality and I look forward to being able to show them off properly to friends as soon as I’m allowed.

In the meantime, Zoom meetings will seem that little bit cheerier thanks to my new Locket Down friends Cherry and Sara.

Here’s wishing them the very best of luck in locking down an entrepreneurial success story for 2021.