Thursday, 16 November 2017

A good start to the day?

Full Irish

Well the past few posts have been about Wetherspoon’s, travel and hotel bookings, so why not widen this slightly to include a piece on breakfast; every traveller’s favourite meal of the day - especially after a good night’s sleep!

Not withstanding time spent away, when a decent breakfast is expected as part of the accommodation package, it’s something of a tradition amongst the male members of the Bailey family ie. father and son, to go out for breakfast, especially on a Sunday morning. This only applies when the son isn’t working and the father isn’t off out on some CAMRA jaunt or walk in the country, with friends.

Pre-flight breakfast in the pale light of dawn
It should also be stated that this is not a male only activity and that no attempt has been made to exclude,  deliberately or otherwise, the lady of the house. It just so happens that Mrs PBT’s likes to treat the Sabbath as an excuse to catch up on “refurbishing” herself and not have to get “made up”; something her feminine pride normally insists on before venturing outdoors.

She also works from home, and finds she can get a lot more done when husband and son are away, stuffing their faces with all sorts of greasy and unhealthy food which, she rightly claims she doesn’t need. Personally I think it’s just an excuse to put her feet up and slob out in front of "Escape to the Country" or “Homes under the Hammer”!

I digress, and to return to though topic in hand there are the vexed questions of where to go, and what to eat? Leaving aside the first for a while a decent, full-English, cooked breakfast has to be the default option, although nowadays items such as hash browns, bubble and squeak and black pudding seems to have crept onto the menu, to join the traditional mix of bacon, sausage, egg, tomato and fried bread.

Could we have kippers for breakfast??????
In a recent post I wrote about kippers; a choice which is both tasty and also healthier than the traditional “fry-up”.  The humble smoked herring, like most oily fish, is rich in Omega-3 and other fatty acids and should be a feature of  all decent breakfast menus. Unfortunately, it is something of a rarity these days, possibly because of the lingering smell, or the fact that decent fresh kippers, as opposed to the boil-in-the-bag variety, are quite hard to come by. They featured recently on the menu of the George in Dereham, and they were also an option in happier days, at the Hill House Hotel in the same town.

I struck lucky with my choice of guesthouse a few years back, when I visited the Isle of Man, for the 2010 CAMRA Members Weekend & National AGM. Kippers, and Manx ones at that, featured prominently on the breakfast menu, so not surprisingly I indulged myself with this tasty and healthy start to the day on three out of the four morning I was on the island. Talk about kipper heaven!

Closer to home, Spoon’s have been the easy choice for the lad and I over the years. You know exactly what will be served on those willow-pattern plates, and generally it is filling, tasty and excellent value for money. We have breakfasted in all three of our local JDW outlets (Sevenoaks, Tonbridge & Tunbridge Wells), and by and large both the food and the service have been pretty good.

Another good option has to be your local “greasy spoon” type of café.  Most towns can boast at least one such establishment, and I’m sure most of us have a favourite in our home town or city.  Seeing as a decent, full-English, cooked breakfast is one of the easiest meals to prepare, it’s hardly surprising that most places get it right, and whilst some are obviously better than others,  I have rarely been disappointed in my quest for a decent breakfast.

Causeway Hall
Another place where the lad and I have kick-started the day, has been the village hall at Chiddingstone Causeway; the village where my employer is based. Earlier this year, I wrote about the opening of the brand new hall which replaced the former, ramshackle “tin-shack”, which had served the local community for the best part of a century.

Offering a decent, cooked Sunday-breakfast, once a fortnight, was just one of the many ways adopted by the hall committee in order to raise funds for the modern, bright and airy new hall, and Matthew and I are pleased to have played a small part in helping to literally get the new building off the ground. We pop over when we can, as funds are still needed for  the day to day running of the hall, and for improvements in the form of stage and sound equipment.

We found a new place for Sunday breakfast last weekend; or rather I did. Matt and his mate had been breakfasting there, on and off, for some time, so when he suggested we give the Hilden Manor a go, I was all for it. The Hilden Manor is a large, rambling Beefeater establishment, situated on the northern edge of Tonbridge as it merges into neighbouring Hildenborough.  It is an attractive, tile-hung building and is reported to be one of the oldest in Hildenborough, with parts dating back to the 17th Century.

Thirteen years ago the pub was destroyed by a disastrous fire, believed to have been caused by an electrical fault. It was re-built, and re-opened in 2006, along with a Premier Inn which was constructed alongside. The company I work for sometimes use it when we have visitors from over-seas, given its proximity to both Tonbridge and our factory at Chiddingstone Causeway.

Hilden Manor
Last Sunday though was the first time I’d stepped inside the place since its re-opening after the fire, and it was not quite what I was expecting, or how I remembered the pub. Before, it was quite open-plan in nature, but now it is broken up into a several linked areas, which helps create a much more intimate atmosphere.

Unlike Spoon’s where you just grab a table, we had to wait to be shown to one. The menu is pretty similar to JDW, but you can mix and match your selection. I opted for scrambled egg, bacon, sausage, has-browns, tomato and mushrooms, whilst Matthew doubled up on the sausage and fried egg. The price is around £3 dearer than Spoons, but you get unlimited teas or coffee, along with toast or crumpets. All in all it was a very pleasant experience, much less hectic than Wetherspoon’s and none of the off-putting 9am Stella drinkers either.

Continental - Barcelona
Well that concludes my little round-up of the delights of a weekend breakfast; certainly on the home front, but before I finish I must mention that the English, or perhaps American-style cooked version seems to be catching on in Europe. Once upon a time, those in search of something solid to start the day were limited to rolls and croissants, and whilst this might still be the case in many continental hotels, I have noticed items like scrambled egg, bacon (thin, crisp – almost fried to a frazzle US style bacon), creeping onto the breakfast menu, alongside thin Nürnberg style sausages and the odd boiled egg. This is especially true in Germany, where these items seem much more prevalent as part of a hotel breakfast buffet, than they did 10 or 12 years ago when I first started visiting the country on a regular basis.

Matthew takes the Mickey when I tell him that breakfast is a good start to the day, but when on holiday a substantial meal, first thing in the morning, is usually enough to see me through to the evening, although occasionally I will have a filled roll or something light, midday, especially if I’m going to be drinking.


Russtovich said...

A pleasurable read Paul.

"every traveller’s favourite meal of the day - especially after a good night’s sleep!"

Especially if one had been sipping a few ales the night before. ��

And agree on a full breakfast when being a tourist, allowing one to go until dinner until the next proper meal.


PS - enjoyed the write-up as to why Mrs PTB usually doesn't join for your Sunday morning outings. ��

Professor Pie-Tin said...

Mrs Professor Pie-Tin swears by what she calls her " whore's breakfast " - a cup of coffee and a fag.
I'm a bacon sarnie man myself but only on a Sunday on account of the blasted cholesterol levels.
But we both enjoyed one of the best breakfasts we've ever had a few weeks ago at a tiny cafe with no more than about 8 tables in Brighton called Billie's.
You can get a hash-based fry-up - with mounds of fried potatoes and melted cheese over local sausage,bacon and egg - although I went for sliced avocado and smoked salmon on toast.
Bloomin' marvellous it was.

Syd Differential said...

I've never understood the attraction of kippers.I mean,when I wake up after a night on the bevy the very last thing I could imagine eating is a smoked herring.And when I see it in a hotel dining room it's always served with the minimum of fuss - like it's the equivalent of an East European border guard taking a running leap at the barbed wire fence of freedom.
Faced with the alternative of sausages,bacon and eggs I can only think they're hippies still hungry after the 5am wheat grass shake and early morning beating on their bare behinds with a switch.
I may be wrong of course but sheesh - fish for breakfast ?

Paul Bailey said...

Glad you enjoyed the write-up Russ, but with all this talk of a full-English (or full-Irish), for that matter, I just want to clarify that these are occasional treats, rather than my every day breakfast. During the week, I alternate my start to the day between a bowl of porridge (the cheating version, which you cook in the microwave), or a couple of slices of toast.

The latter should be spread quite thickly with proper butter, rather than some ersatz spread, pumped full of triglycerides and other unhealthy, artificial emulsifiers. It can then be spread thinly with Marmite (other flavoured, yeast-extract spreads are available!), if I’m feeling healthy, or marmalade (thick-cut if possible), if I want to be a little bit more decadent.

This sees me through until lunchtime, when I have my sandwiches

My good lady wife would like your " whore's breakfast ", Prof, as she bump starts her lungs every morning with a fag and a cuppa. She no longer smokes in bed fortunately, unlike when I first met her, but she still wakes with a cup of tea each morning.

Kippers are bit like Marmite Syd, but fish for breakfast is common in certain parts of the world, particularly Japan, as I discovered on a visit three and a half years ago. Kippers wouldn’t be my “go-to” option, but they are a welcome treat from time to time, especially given their rarity value.

Russtovich said...

Quite agree with the full breakfast not being a daily thing. My usual is either a sausage wrap or egg and ham muffin (if they're left over from the day before on my wife's coffee/food truck) or simply two eggs over easy and a piece of untoasted bread to mop up the yolk.

And apologies for the weird diamonds at the end of my sentences. It would appear the format doesn't like assorted smiley icons from phones. :)


retiredmartin said...

As with Russ, I really enjoy the level domestic detail in your blog. Really sets it apart.

Spoons Eggs Royale my standard breakfast when travelling. If I get a particularly good one in a guest house I put a photo in the blog. Organic sausages in Burton last week the best ever !