Restaurant Review: Pebbles Restaurant, Ladram Bay

I know you’re not accustomed to seeing restaurant reviews from me, and there’s a very good reason: I don’t really eat out much. Last week, however, I had the chance to eat at Pebbles Restaurant in Ladram Bay Holiday Park, Devon.

It’s not the kind of restaurant you’d walk past, but we enjoyed it so much we’d definitely take a bit of a detour if we happened to be driving by, to get dinner first.

First Impressions

Pebbles Restuarant has been recently refurbished and is now a cool, breezy, seaside- perfect restaurant. I don’t know what it looked like before, but if I had to draw a picture of what a restaurant in that location should look like, that’s probably what I’d have drawn. Apart from the cool, summery feel, it also has an exquisite view of the sea, and if you’re on the balcony, then of the beach and cliffs too.  Outside they have welcoming sofas that invite you to spend the afternoon sipping cocktails in the sun.

Capture

The Food

This isn’t holiday park food. It’s actually really good.  Well, the children’s menu is a little average, but I’d say it caters to what most people would order for their children. Order from the regular menu, however, and you’re in for a treat.

As we arrived they were updating the specials board and I had a Rib Eye Steak with Dauphinouis potatoes, topped with salad (£16-ish). I spent most of the meal with my eyes closed, just enjoying the handiwork of chefs Matt Wadsworth and Chris Bury. The meat is locally raised – Ben Telfer, the manager,  offered to find out the exact details of where the cow I was eating was from, but I declined. This was no supermarket own brand meat though.  The dauphinous potatoes were spectacular too – melt in the mouth, which is quite a trick for potatoes!

I had a hankering for mushrooms, so I asked for a side of garlic mushrooms, and the sauce was so good I used some of the children’s left over burger bun to sop it up with! I’m salivating just thinking about that meal.

RibEye

My husband had a Big Bay Burger (£12-ish) – that was bigger than he could manage. It had was filled with rich cheese, bacon and meat and came with loads of sides too – really a mammoth meal!

Burger

Of course, it’s not dinner without desert and we had a shared desert (£7) that we had to eat as quickly as we could to stop the kids devouring it all!

Pebbles Restaurant, Ladram Bay

On our second visit, I had the Salmon which was just as delicious. After a week of cooking and eating ‘conveniently’, I was craving some vegetables, so the carrots, potatoes and cabbage sides to a moist side of salmon with a crispy, crunchy skin was simply amazing – you know when food feels like it’s doing something for your body? It was like that. Refreshing, nutritious and absolutely delicious.

My other half went for a regular burger, which this time he bested, and thoroughly enjoyed.

The food at Pebbles Restaurant, Ladram Bay was fresh, and surprisingly delicious, definitely better than I’ve had at a holiday park before! The chefs try new recipes – I was apparently the first to have the new Rib Eye meal – and when people are being creative in their roles, I always take that as a good sign!
Ladram Bay, Pebbles Restaurant

The Service

We popped in to Pebbles Restaurant a few times over the week – once for coffee, once for the coffee & cake offer, and twice for a meal and each time we were impressed with the service.

On the last day – a Saturday – the restaurant was very busy, but that didn’t impact on the friendliness or helpfulness of the staff. The manager, Ben, was always around, helping out, friendly. He told us that when they redesigned the kitchen, they kept the doors off  so that the chefs on duty could still see sea, rather than be stuck in a box all day. That really impressed me!

On quieter days they were ready and welcome to chat about the area, the park, anything, really – it was just a thoroughly warm experience.

Pebbles Restaurant isn’t likely to be somewhere you’d end up accidentally, since it’s located in a holiday park at the edge of the land, but if you find yourself in the East of Devon, make a detour, park up at the visitors parking, and enjoy a delicious meal with a fantastic view.

We were given a £50 voucher to review this restaurant. Opinions and thoughts are all ours.

SmoothPacks Reusable Yoghurt & Smoothie Pouches

I’ve been making my own yoghurt for a few years now, and my yoghurt recipe is in fact one of the most popular recipes on this blog, dating back almost two years! In that time I’ve been using a reusable pouch system that I was perfectly happy with and have recommended to many, but last week I discovered something new and I am in make-your-own-yoghurt-smoothies heaven, seriously. I cannot recommend the SmoothPacks Squeeze Pack System highly enough.

Reusable Yoghurt or Smoothie Pouches
When you buy a kit, you receive the Smoothpack ‘Station’ – the bit you fill up with your babyfood, yoghurt, smoothie or whatever else you’re making – and you receive 4 x 125ml pouches and two 250ml pouches.

Inside  the plunger bit for the Smoothpack Station you’ll find all the accessories – the nozzles and cleaning clips – safely stored – this is awesome for storage, and not having random bits lying annoyingly around the kitchen drawers.

The plunger has a spiral ridge all the way around it that slots in to place and runs down the ‘track’ as you turn it, meaning you don’t end up with yoghurt (smoothie, babyfood) down your front if you get the angle wrong. In fact, the gliding motion is so smooth, my 5-year old insists on doing it.

Reusable pouches

Rather than one nozzle that means you fill your pouches one at a time there are four nozzles and you can fill them all at the same time. You fill the Station with 500ml of whatever, and push, filling four pouches at the same time. If you only want to do one or more at a time though, you can just put the stopper (that lives inside the plunger) in place, and seal it up. Essentially it takes about 10 seconds to fill four though, so it’s a fantastic time saver.

The thing people always ask me about reusable pouches, however, is how you clean it. These pouches have a seam down the side that you can open to clean. What also lives inside the plunger are four alien looking plastic thingies that you put inside each pouch and wedge into the dishwasher or drying rack so that the pouches can wash inside. It’s really clever.

The set also comes with two spoons that clip to the lid of the pouches so that you can take them out and about with you for spoon feeding your baby, if that’s your thing, or in my children’s case, feeding your younger sister!Reuseable pouches

We use our pouches for yoghurt, and in this particular instance I also used the Easyo fruit packets to flavour the yoghurt. I filled about 45oml of plain yoghurt and topped it off with 50ml of fruit compote. Mix it together with a spoon (you can also use a stick blender to liquidize or puree) and put the plunger in place. Open the nozzle lids and fit the pouches securely on before twisting the plunger gently and watching the pouches fill. Screw the lids on and wash the plunger, ready for next time.

The only negatives I can mention for this product is that since it is quite new to the UK, I can’t seem to find the option to buy pouches only at the moment, although spare sachets will be available for the price of £6.95 for 4 Smoothpacks and 2 spoons

If you’re in the UK you can pick this amazing, sleek and easy to use and store refillable pouch system up at Cuckooland for £19.99 (with £4.95 delivery) and £5 off your first order when you sign up for their newsletter. Click here to buy.

If you’re in the US you can find it at Amazon, for $34.99.

Italian Breads With Giovanni Rana Pesto And Bolognese Sauces

I love food competitions and stretching my creative brain to include competition criteria, as it’s something that stretches me out of my comfort zone. Normally. The Giovanni Rana competition isn’t a huge stretch, since pasta isn’t a novelty in our home. Quite the opposite – it’s something we have loads of! What we don’t normally treat ourselves to, however, is pasta sauces. When I saw the Giovani Rana sauces, I decided that I had to try something that incorporated pasta sauces.

One of our favourite Italian food combinations is bread and oil (and vinegar). It brings to mind memories of late afternoons relaxing on the banks of the Arno river in Florence, Italy, dipping fresh breads from Mercato Centrale and sipping light red wines.

I decided to play with the breads and pasta sauces from Giovanni Rana, and see what I could come up with.

Ingredients

I used my Thermomix® for both of these recipes, but you can choose any recipe or method you prefer, and add the ‘toppings’ to the finished product.  The two breads here are Pesto and Mozzarella Foccassia, and Bolognese Rosemary BreadFBTopped

The Focaccia Bread I used was from the basic Every Day Cookbook. This is the recipe:

Italian Breads With Giovani Rana Sauces
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Despite a very wet dough, this Focaccia recipe makes an airy and light bread. Add the toppings to the hot bread to allow them to melt in, and enjoy with salad or on it's own.
Author:
Recipe type: Bread
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 500g bakers flour
  • 2 teaspoons of dry yeast (or 1 sachet)
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • A pinch of sugar
  • 30g olive oil
  • 400g warm water
  • Sea Salt
  • Giovanni Rana Pesto Sauce
  • Capers
  • Mozzarella
Instructions
  1. Place water, oil, sugar, yeast, flour and salt into bowl and mix at speed 6 for 20 seconds.
  2. Knead for 2 minutes on Interval speed
  3. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough into the bowl. This is a very wet dough. Very wet.
  4. Leave to rise for at least an hour, till it's doubled in size.
  5. Preheat oven to 220c
  6. Remove from bowl and shape onto a baking tray or stone bake tray. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt.
  7. Place in oven and cook for 10 - 15 minutes. Without removing from the oven, sprinkle with water, then cook for a further 10 – 15 mins or until golden.
For the topping
  1. Tear the mozzarella and spread over the hot focaccia. Drizzle the Giovanni Rana Pesto sauce over and top with capers. Make sure to add toppings to hot foccaccia so that it all sort melts onto and into the bread.
Non Thermomix® Instructions:
  1. Add the ingredients to a bowl and mix using an electric beater until well mixed.
  2. Knead for 20 minutes by hand, or 15 minutes with a bread hook.
  3. Follow the same rising and resting instructions as above.
  4. Follow the topping instructions as above.

The Giovanni Rana Pesto is quite salty, with a very sweet ending, it’s delicious and perfectly suitable for this bread.

RHbread

The next bread is this Rosemary & Honey bread recipeadapted to make my Italian Style Bolognese Bread.

Follow the instructions as written out up to and including step 4, but before twisting the bread, make a groove down the centre of each ‘braid’ and fill with sauce.

Honey & Rosemary Bolognese Bread

The Bolognese sauce from Giovanni Rana is ideal as it is quite firm out the tub and wont run all over. Gently ‘close’ the dough over the filling, and then ‘plait’ the bread as per the recipe.

RH2

Leave it to rise, and follow the Rosemary & Honey bread recipe again from step 6.

Your finished bread should look something like the one above.

Tear of a piece off each bread, serve with some salad, and have a lovely meal together – maybe not on the Arno, but all the Italian flavours in one meal, simply can’t go wrong.

*Giovanni Rana sent me £5 worth of vouchers to buy and try some of their products. We also bought a RAVIOLI SPINACI E RICOTTA filled pasta for dinner one evening, which took about four minutes to prepare – bonus on an ‘I’m not cooking tonight’! dinner. Opinions, thoughts and recipes are my own, except where otherwise stated. 

Entertaining Food – A Review Of Benihana Japanese Steakhouse

My two girls and I were invited to Benihana, a Japanese restaurant in London who are trying to promote themselves as a family friendly – child friendly – restaurant.

The event itself had two elements – one of entertaining us, and another to show us what a visit to Benihana with children would be like.  I’m going to focus on what you can expect when you visit Benihana with your children.

Beni Girls
Beni Girls leading the kids in a hip hop workshop

(Although I should mention the Beni-Girls, dancers from Japan touring the Benihani Restaurants in celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the chain. They were lovely, entertaining the kids with hip-hop dancing and putting on a show including sharp utensils and butchers knives as inspired by the Teppan chefs. You can find out more about their London appearances (this weekend) here.)

Benihana Japanese Restaurant, London
The only way to eat chicken…

Everything about Benihana screams quality. From the modern, yet still traditional décor on the way down into the basement restaurant, to the proper foil balloons kids get on the way out the door, Benihana is a Japanese Steakhouse with a difference.

Unlike many London restaurants, there are wide open spaces where you can wait comfortably in the bar area for your company to arrive. There’s also a big screen in the waiting area announcing occasions, “Happy Birthday James”, “Happy anniversary Mr &  Mrs Smith” and so on, perfect for personalising your evening.

When you’re ready for your meal, you’ll  go through to one of the square tables, but instead of a centrepiece there’s a Teppan pan – a huge flat frying griddle – with a chef waiting to cook your food.

The history of Benihana is based on showmanship. When Rocky Aoki started the first restaurant in the USA  in 1964, he knew that Americans liked a show, and he decided that the road to success was in fact by entertaining diners. As such,each table has its own private chef, and amidst smoke and flame (s)he will prepare your meal in front of your eyes. Adults and children alike, this side of the ocean too, mesmerised.

Benihana Japanese Restaurant, London
Food and entertainment in one

The chef chops, chucks, lights, throws and entertains as he cooks your meal, and waiting staff are super alert, observant and ready to serve. While its a really quick way to prepare individual dinners for a party of people, its not just a meal, its entertainment too. The chef juggles sharp knives and spatulas, flips a shrimp tail into his hat, arranges onion rings into fire-shooting volcanoes and juggles with flashing lights. Mesmerising.

Benihana Japanese Restaurant
Benihana chefs hats make cute photo opportunities

The children’s menu folds into a chefs hat which they can put on, branded with Benihana and sure to inspire a photo or ten, and if they take them off, they can play the maze game and soduku printed inside while they wait. Benihana may be a steak house, but it isn’t a fast food experience, and its different to any steakhouse I’ve ever been to. Its also not cheap dining, but I don’t suppose its any differently priced than say dinner and a cabaret would be, with the difference that it is actually something that keeps even little kids engrossed for a while.

Benihana Japanese Restaurant
Delicious as a Strawberry Kiss

Something that is worth specific mention is their selection of cocktails and mocktails. There are a few on the kids menu – mocktails, that is – and they are decently sized and the ones we had were delicious. Strawberry Kiss is the bomb, should you ever find yourself wondering which to order. Delicious.

My only observation for improvement would be that they didn’t seem to have the facility for cooking for allergies. So if you’re a pescatarian, your food is cooked with the meat, if you’re allergic to shellfish, you cant eat anything until the hotplate gets cleaned again. I know that’s not their problem as such, but it is a little limiting for people who have to be careful about what they eat.

Our overall experience of Benihana was fantastic. It may be very different, going in on a Friday night to going in at opening (5:30) on a Wednesday afternoon, but with kids you’re probably likely to be leaving as the crowds arrive, and your experience should be similar to what ours was.

From a practical point of view, there is a family/wheelchair toilet with a changing table. There were people with pushchairs, but I don’t remember seeing a ramp down – I may have missed it, but there were pushchairs down stairs.

My four and two year old had a fabulous time, I got to eat delicious food cooked by someone not me, and may have sampled a cocktail or two, and had the opportunity to chat to grown up people in a relaxed environment. What’s not to love about that!

*I am aware that I failed miserably to take any photos of the actual food. This is as much a surprise to me as it is to anyone who has ever had a meal with me. Feel free to search twitter or Instagram for #benigirlsbash however, and you’ll see everyone else’s pictures  there!

**We were given a free meal and demonstration at Benihana in exchange for an honest review. 

4 Fabulous ChillFactor Squeeze Cup Slushy Maker Recipes

CaptureSummer is coming, and I for one am looking forward to afternoons spent in the garden with my girls, enjoying the sunshine.

My girls love ice creams and ice lollies, and I generally choose to make my own yoghurt based or simple water based juices for them. We recently received a ChillFactor Squeeze Cup Slushy Maker for review, and I was very excited to try it, so popped it in the freezer immediately, eager to try it out.

The  ChillFactor Squeeze Cup Slushy Maker comes as a cup with the magic freezing bit inside, a leak-proof seal, lid, and a spoon-slash-straw. The way it works is fabulous for children. Total ‘magic’.

You need to pop the slushie maker into the freezer for four to six hours before use, so ours actually just lives in our freezer, rather than a drawer. That way whenever we want to make a quick frozen treat, it’s ready to go.

 ChillFactor Squeeze Cup Slushy Maker I particularly love the fact that I know exactly what goes in to these Slushy treats.There’s no colouring, sugar or preservatives unless I add them myself. It’ so easy to do, literally, even a child can do it. Here are some of  our favourite snacks to make in the Slushy maker:

Vanilla Ice

  • 200ml whole milk
  • 1tbs vanilla essence

Pour into the Slushy maker, squeeze for about 2 minutes, enjoy.

Chocolate Milk Slushy 

This is so incredibly good, it rivals and beats another brand of chocolate milk hands down. While doing it this way didn’t actually make a Slushy, it did make a beautifully thick chocolate milkshake. So delicious! (Apparently when they have ‘bits’ in them, the liquid doesn’t make a proper slushy.)

  • 3 tbs hot chocolate powder
  • 3 tbs boiling water
  • 200ml whole milk

Boil the water and add it to the hot chocolate. Stir to make a paste. Add the milk and stir it into the paste.  Pour it into the Slushy maker and squeeze, squeeze, squeeze. Use your straw to drink this one if it doesn’t freeze up entirely. Delicious.

Cola Slushy 

It’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like… a cola slushy. Not a healthy treat, and more one for me than the kids, but yummy anyway.

  • 200ml coke

Pour. Squeeze. Eat/Drink. Yum.

Fruit Juice

If you use a juice with ‘bits’ in it, it doesn’t slush properly. Choose a smooth juice. Make as above.

It’s that easy.

The only thing I don’t like is that there’s no real immediate reuse option – you have to refreeze after every use – and I would love if they made a family sized version, so I could do more than single person portions. I’ll definitely have to get a second one for my other daughter soon too.

They’re around £15.99 each, which is a lot, but if you think what it can save you in ice cream van purchases, dental treatments down the line and general sugar intake… it’s a bargain!