The Diary of a Foodie

These food blogs are made up entirely from my own personal views. I do not work for, or get paid by any of the establishments that I mention.
It is a personal account based on a personal experience, and should be treated as such.
Please use the search box to search for your favourite style of food.
If you would like to suggest anywhere for me to try, please feel free to get in touch.

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

The Millers Inn/Pub Food/Sunderland

We were staying at the Quality Hotel just up the road from this pub, and were heading into Sunderland to find somewhere nice to eat after the Hotel menu proved very unexciting.

As we passed Hubby said "Oooo Harvester, not been to one of those for ages", well I hadn't even heard of them so we decided to give it a go.

Situated on the Newcastle Road, it is a HUGE pub with a vast eating area. Loads of parking outside.

We wandered in and were shown to a nice clean table with a sofa one side and chairs the other. A drinks order was taken immediately. Refillable soft drinks, brilliant.

We had a lovely waiter, who was very friendly and kept checking everything was ok. He explained how the menu works - you pick a meal, then a sauce, then a side, and finally you get as many trips to the salad bar as you like.

Plenty of Veggie options, Veggie sausage, Pastas, stuffed mushrooms ..

I opted for a Spiced Sweet Potato Burger with seasoned fries, my sauce was a smokey BBQ, which was lovely.

Hubby had a Gammon, it looked a little small when it came judging by the size given on the menu, and was served with one egg when the menu said "eggs", but it turned out he had been ordered the smaller option which worked out really well as he had filled up rather largely on bread and sweetcorn from the salad bar !

Strangely though, a lot of the sauces on the menu, like the Tartare, the Creamy Peppercorn and Diane Sauce were not ticked with the "V" symbol, I wondered why, so I asked our Waiter, he didn't know either. He did offer to go and ask but I was going to have BBQ anyway, but perhaps it would have been worth finding out if it was an error or not.

The salad bar was amazing. Loads of fresh options, salad, vegetable, fruit, pastas, and lovely rustic style bread rolls, with loads of different salad dressings and sprinkles. But best of all they did a NO ONION coleslaw - I had loads of it :)

We did two trips to the salad bar, hence why we had no room for pudding, it was just so delicious.

We definately need a Harvester in Carlisle, this one in Sunderland is our closest, and at over an hour drive away it's just not somewhere you can nip to for a quick dinner. But we will definately look them up again when we are away from home.

The bill, not including a tip, was just under a fabulous £23 for two monsterous meals, two large wines and two soft drinks.

Check out the website for a list of their other establishments and opening times.

Byker Vista/Cafe/Newcastle

We were visiting The Biscuit Factory, a fabulous Art Gallery in Newcastle. Situated on Stobbart Street in Newcastle Upon Tyne, the Gallery itself is worth a trip out - some fabulous exhibits.

Easy street parking around the building, we went on a Saturday afternoon and had no problem finding a place to park.

Within the Gallery is a cute little eatery called "Byker Vista Cafe", you would be forgiven for thinking it was just 'another cafe', but you would be mistaken, the food is magnificent !
There is also an eatery on the side of the Gallery called "The Brasserie Back Door", but the one we are blogging about now is actually IN the Gallery, up the stairs and to the back/right of the building.

We wandered in, and were glanced at by a member of Staff, but ignored. We weren't sure if you had to wait to be seated or just find yourself a seat, so after a few minutes of not being approached we wandered off to find our own seats.

The Cafe was beautifully set with cracked glass tables and pieces of art ceramics to hold the sugar. Large windows with a great view across the top of the nearby buildings.

A fabulous menu, someone had definately put a lot of thought into it and I was pleased to see a good varied selection of Vegetarian food on offer.

I chose: AUBERGINE & WALNUT BAKE - Chargrilled aubergine slices, butternut squash and walnut on a rich tomato sauce topped with a Gryère cheese and sage crumb. Served with house salad.

It was one of the nicest meals I have had in a long time, in fact I was dissapointed when I had finished it, I wanted to lick the plate :) Beautifully presented.

Hubby was chuffed to bits to find "Eggy Bread" on the specials board, you could choose to have it with two toppings, so he had ham and cheese. Again, beautifully presented, and totally delicious.

Some lovely drinks on offer too, and they offer a fabulous array of different teas.
The bill, not including a tip, was just under £16, for two meals, one large wine, and one posh orange and ginger drink.
Will definately go back, and highly recommend you pop in to try if in the area. In fact make a special trip as the Gallery is fabulous.
Website with all the details, including opening times, is...

Let me know if you go.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Border Gate/ Pub Food/Carlisle

The Border Gate, formerly known as Carrow House, is situated right on Junction 42 of the M6 Motorway. It has a Premier Travel Inn in the same car park.

Plenty of parking outside. Not easily walkable from the City Centre, but you could get a bus to Carlton and walk up the road.
This Pub used to be a Brewers Fayre, but has since changed ownership to "Table Table".

We often visit this Pub just for a drink or two, and occasionally a dessert :) The reason we like it is that it is all sectioned off into cute little areas with different styles of tables and chairs. So whether you fancy a big squashy sofa to sit on, or a proper dining chair, you can have it - and many other styles inbetween.

The food is OK, nothing special, but nothing offensive either. Portion sizes are a little small though.
They do a two for £10 menu on weekdays up until 6.30pm.

I went with my daughter and her friend for a little girly night out.
We started with a sharing portion of Dough Balls for two and a Garlic Mushrooms.

The Dough balls were very nice, squashy and garliccy and served with four dips - Olive Oil & Balsamic, Garlic Butter, Guacamole and Salsa.

The Mushrooms looked good, and were enjoyed.
I didn't fancy any of the Veggie Options, there was a good few to be honest, scattered over the menu - Quorn Chilli, Veg Lasanga, Pastas - but I fancied something different. I ended up choosing a Camembert from the starter menu, plus some Potato Wedges and we got an "Extra Feast" (Garlic & herb breaded mushrooms, battered whole onion rings and garlic bread) with no Onions :)

The Camembert was quite small, each piece was about 2" big, but tasty enough, and the wedges were nice. The garlic bread was nice, but it must have been laying on some sauce in the kitchen as the underneath was flavoured and soggy :(, and although we opted for no onions on the "Feast" we only got 5 mushrooms in total.
My daughter chose Bacon & Cheese Topped Chicken Breast, and opted for mashed potatoes - no salad. It cost £8.99 and when it arrived looked quite mean, she she is a little eater, and she did enjoy what she had, although the mashed potatoes didn't look all that appetizing.

Her friend had Scampi, came missing the Tartare Sauce which she hed been asked if she wanted, she just had it without as we couldn't catch the waitresses eye.

No pud for me, but the girls had tarts - one lemon and one chocolate.

The nice thing about the pudding menu is you can have a "tasting plate" where you can choose 3 different puds and you get a little bit of each - genuis idea !

It was table service throughout, which is nice, but there was long delay inbetween courses - 36 minutes between starters and mains. Also when people were leaving the tables were just not getting cleared. One family left as we arrived and their table was still not cleared when we left two hours later. One man sat down at a dirty table, the dishes were removed but the table wasn't even wiped for him ! We watched staff continually walk past the dirty tables, when all they had to do was grab a few plates - very odd !

The staff were very pleasant though.

Total bill, without a tip, came to £47 for two starters, three mains, two puds and 4 soft drinks.

Table Table has it's own website with the menu available to view...
And here is the contact details for the Pub itself.

The Border Gate
London Road
0870 197 7054
Feel free to comment.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Stoneybeck Inn/Modern Cuisine/Penrith

The Stoneybeck Inn can be found on the A6 at Bowscar near Penrith. It is a rather large building, sitting right on the Roundabout which leads into Penrith and onto the M6 Motorway (Junction 41) from the A6.

Lots of parking outside, but not easily accessible from foot, unless you live in the Village itself.

Recently refurbished inside with modern, stylish deco, polished floors and staff dressed in black.
I have listed this as "Modern Cuisine" rather than Pub Food, as it is that little bit posher, you can still get your Grill dishes, but attention to detail is evident, much more a restaurant now that the pub it once was.

Nice menu, with plenty of choice. We were offered a light lunch menu and the regular one, we chose from the regular menu.

We both fancied the same, Mushroom & Pea Risotto with a Rocket Salad.

It was delicious, the rice was cooked to perfection, retaining that nutty bite, and the Pesto sauce that it was cooked in made it very tasty.

It was served with a slice of garlic bread that had the most beautiful flavour, had obviously been rubbed with something nice, still trying to work out what it was :)

Seeing my favourite dessert on the menu, I had to opt for a Creme Brulee for pud, my friend had the same.

Served with home-made shortbread and a gorgeous berry compote, it was one of the best Creme Brulees I have ever had.
Service was excellent throughout, the waiter was very attentive and polite.

The total bill, without a tip, was £35.00 for two main courses, two deserts & two glasses of wine.

Just one critism, they may not have yet got around to it, but so much has been done on refurbishing the eating area, a little work needs to be done on the toilets to bring them up to the same standard.

Will definately be back.

There does seem to be a website, but under construction to date. The address and contact details are on there.

Feel free to comment.

Sunday, 22 August 2010


Panchos, a mexican style restaurant very close to Carlisle Station in Court Square.

Parking, if you are very lucky, can be found right outside. We were not so lucky and had to park behind the Gala Bingo on Botchergate and walk up.

Inside it is very 'rustic' style with painted tables and wooden chairs. The atmosphere is fast paced, a little noisy, but welcoming. Tables were a little sticky and menus a little tatty. Food & service more than made up for it though.
It has an open kitchen, so you can watch the food being prepared.

It has some lovely options on the menu, a couple of Veggie choices to start, and three in the main meal section, although it seems like everything is cooked to order so I imagine most things could be adapted to suit.

I started with Brie, with a Plum Salad. (The request for no onions or peppers was noted and carried out :) )

A gorgeous array of flavours, the plums were marinated in Vinegarette, which worked really well. A nice size tasty piece of Brie which was complimented perfectly by the plums.

Hubby had Cheesy Garlic Bread - and they weren't shy with the Garlic !!

For mains, I had "Enchiladas Espinacas" which was Spinach, Potatoes, Garlic, Chilli and Cream in a tortilla, topped with cheese and grilled. This was served with boiled rice and a dressed salad.

It was delicious, although very rich. The boiled rice was a welcome accompaniment to mop up the creamy sauce.

Hubby had Chicken, Garlic & Sweetcorn Pizza, and again they were not shy with the garlic, to be honest he said there was a bit much and next time he will ask for less - he LOVES garlic, so there must have been loads.

No room for pudding, although we did have a peep at the menu, they did look quite nice so perhaps next time.
The bill, not including a tip, was £38. This was for two starters, two mains, two large wines and two soft drinks.
Will definately be back, there is another dish I have my eye on to try :)

Cannot find a website, but here are the contact details.

Hallmark Hotel
Court Square,
Town Centre,
01228 515 379

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Ruen Thai/Thai/Carlisle

This is a lovely little restaurant, tucked away from the main streets of Carlisle, in a little back street called Crosby Street, just off the top of Warwick Road.

This restaurant was formerly above the Cumberland Inn in Botchergate, where The Outpost restaurant now resides, but in February 2010 they relocated to this new place.

Parking isn't the easiest, you just have to take pot luck and find a gap in the street parking, or get the bus into the City Centre and walk (only a few minutes).

When you walk into the restaurant, you immediately step away from a Northern City into a gorgeous wonderland of Thai inspired deco. The wonderfully hand-carved solid wooden furniture is worth a visit just to look at alone ! The tables are intricately carved in 3D with a glass top, stunning! It is almost a pity that they put tableclothes on them. Having said that, all the tableclothes and napkins are all Thai themed too.

The waitresses are all in native Thai dresses, and the background music is pleasant and soothing.

Toilets are immaculate, with modern fittings, nice soaps and flower displays.

So, to the food......
If you are a Vegetarian, don't panic when looking at the main menu as it looks like there are no Veggie options on there, but there is a seperate section at the back.
I chose a mixture of battered vegetables with a sweet chilli dip. The request for no onions or peppers was carried out with no mistakes :)

It was Baby Corn, Broccoli, Mushroom and Carrot - all beautifully crisp in wonderfully light bubbly batter, and loads of it. Portions are certainly not shy.

To follow I had stir-fried Vegetables in Satay Sauce, again perfectly cooked vegetables and the most delicious peanut sauce I have ever tasted, and again a rather large portion.

Hubby had the Chicken version, packed full of meat.

We shared a Fried Rice and a portion of Thai Noodles.

Didn't even glance at the desert menu, way too full.

I had a couple of glasses of house Red Wine - the Argentina Merlot - which oddly worked out cheaper to buy it by the glass than by the bottle, so check that before you order.

The bill was £35, not including a tip, which was for prawn crackers, one starter, two mains, two sides, two larges wines and two cokes.

It was quite busy, and this was on a monday. A few times we have been turned away (usually when going as a group of 4) as there were no spare tables, so it is probably worth while booking.

It is closed on a Sunday. Not sure if it is open at lunchtime or not, I think not, but worth checking.

No website to be found, but the contact details are:

Ruen Thai Restaurant
4 Crosby Street
01228 515 779
Feel free to comment if you have been.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Samson Inn/Pub Food/Gilsland

We own a mad Springer Spaniel named Dotty Dog (don't forget the Dog part, it's very important) and as we live in beautiful Cumbria we have some gorgeous places to walk and explore.

Often, it is nice to end a nice summers day with a bar meal and a chilled drink, but less often can you find somewhere that has tables outside so you can sit with your Dog. Until I came across a great website called Doggie Pubs. This website tells you which pubs will let your Dog in - yes, not just outside on the picnic tables, but actually into the pub itself!

So, I thought I could add a new category to my blog, not only Vegetarian friendly, but Doggy friendly too :)

We started with this one - Samson Inn in Gilsland. (It is listed as Brampton, but is in fact a good few miles away)

Very popular with the "Wall Walkers" (That's Hadrians Wall, in case you don't know the area) and 75% of the customers arrived complete with walking boots and backpacks.

Set on the main road, just under the railway bridge in Gilsland, you can park behind the Pub, slightly up a hill, next to the Goat (yep, a Goat)

The Pub was basically done, well you don't expect posh carpets and furniture when walkers are going to tred sheep poop all over it.

Toilets need a good spruce up, the lock on the door was hanging off, the toilet mat (didn't realise people still used those) had certainly seen better days, and there was nothing at all to dry your hands on, no paper towels, no hand-dryer, nothing.

Dotty Dog was a little confused, couldn't work out where she was being taken, but after a little persuasion she trotted in and settled down under a table.

We were half an hour early for dinner, but we were happy to wait with a chilled half Cider for me and a Coke for him.

Menu looked good, quite extensive for a little village pub.

Staff were polite and friendly, and not really like staff at all - no uniforms, very laid back, and only when the owner's (??) daughter came screaming through the bar demanding money for an ice-cream, did you feel slightly intrusive.

I ordered the Breaded Mushrooms to start, which were really tasty with a nice crisp herb crumb - a little to crisp though as when I stuck my fork in one it flew across the table and onto the floor, to the delight of Dotty Dog! The Garlic Mayo dip was pretty good too. Good size portion for a starter too.

Hubby had Garlic Bread, looked like supermarket GB, but he likes that and it was reasonable enough.

To follow I chose "Spinach and Marscapone Lasagna" which actually wasn't as good as it sounded, the Spinach part was just the green lasagna sheets, filled with veg in a acidic tomato sauce. Not the best I have had, but ok. The alternative Veggie choice was Red Thai Vegetable Curry.
Sorry, I forgot to take a photo before I started, and I didn't like to ask the bloke on the next table if I could photograph his !

Hubby, as usual, had Gammon - very nice he said.
And Dotty Dog enjoyed the bits he left.

Was going to try the puddings, there was only two on the menu, which kind of says that they were home-made, but we were too full. The choices were Sticky Toffee Pud and Bread & Butter Pud.

One thing to mention is they seemed to have a fabulous array of Whiskeys, I don't drink it but the display looked nice :)

The bill, not including a tip, was £33 for two starters, two mains, two pints of Cider and two Cokes.

Only go to this pub if you like dogs though, there was a Collie under the next table, and two Collies under the one opposite, and only if you want to talk to people about their walk on the wall, which to be honest, was fascinating, lots of stories and advice, but not somewhere for a quiet romantic meal, especially when the Collie next too us had rolled in a nice soft cow pat and you could smell it.

Here are the contact details:
Samson Inn
016977 47220

Do comment if you have been.

Monday, 9 August 2010

The Turf/Pub Food/Carlisle

This is a suprising blog for me actually, The Turf is never anywhere that has crossed my mind when going out to eat, and our visit here was quite by accident.

Situated just off Hardwick Circus in Carlisle, beside The Sands Leisure Centre, loads of parking behind the pub and walkable from the Town Centre by heading towards the Civic Centre and walking under the roundabout.

I did eat here years and years ago, but more recently just used it to have a drink or two before going into the Sands Centre to see a show.

However, Hubby and I decided, for the strangest of reasons, to go on a bike ride, and as we were taking our Spaniel, we chose Rickerby Park as the course.

Setting off from the North side of the River, we decided we would stop for a drink at the Sands before heading back again, but alas, the bar was not open.

We suddenly remembered The Turf has tables outside, and we needed somewhere we could sit with the dog, so we headed there.

When going to the bar for a drink, Hubby thought the menu looked good and brought it out.

It did indeed look good. OK, it's not fine dining, but to be honest the prices they were charging you can hardly feed yourself at home for! And the best bit - quite a good choice for Vegetarians :)

We decided on just a main course, although a couple of the starters were tempting, but the temperature was dropping and I couldn't have too much anti-freeze (otherwise known as alchohol) as I had to cycle back.
It was a difficult choice between the Cauliflower Cheese Tart, or the Red Leicester & Spinach Burger, in the end the tart won, but only because we promised ourselves we would go back and try the burgers at a later date.

Hubby had his regular Gammon & Egg, and we both traded our chips for curly fries for 50p extra.

A good menu with good prices, Main courses are around £5 - £7, with two meals for £8 during the week and a Sunday roast for just £5. Puddings start at £1.29 !!

We did sit outside, so cannot comment on the interior, it looked ok when we went in for the drinks. Service was good, and although we were outside we were not forgotten. They even provided a bowl of water for the dog.

Bargain food, perfect after that summer walk down by the river. Will definately be back.

Contact details are:

The Turf Tavern
Newmarket Road
01228 515 367

Feel free to comment if you have been.

Fu Man Lou/Chinese/Carlisle

***Have updated this Blog with a follow up. Click HERE to view***

The Fu Man Lou Chinese Restaurant is situated on Botchergate in Carlisle.

Formerly known as The Jade Garden, it had a really good reputation for great Chinese food, but a hiccup with change of owernship a couple of years ago saw the quality change a bit. However, nowadays the Fu Man Lou is a great little restaurant.

Parking in William Street Car Park (just off Tate Street) is probably the easiest, then just walk through the lane onto Botchergate.

The outside of the restaurant is a quite horrid lurid bright green, you can't miss it ! Inside it has hardly changed from when it was the Jade Garden. Looks a wee bit tatty and out-dated, with an 80's style sofa near the door for people to sit on while they wait for their take-aways. The tables are basically set, but clean.

They offer a great "eat as much as you like" deal for just £12.50 - all the food is cooked to order, you don't have to pick things out of a buffet, so ideal if you do not like certain ingredients. Not sure if this offer is on all the time, so worth checking before you go.

A great selection of starters, includng a wonderful Vegetarian Peking Grilled Dumpling, which is one of my favourites. The Seaweed is fresh and crispy and one of the best I have eaten.

You can choose as many starters as you like, the only rule is you must eat everything before ordering more, which is fair enough.

Then there is a Crispy Fried Duck course - served with pancakes and veg. I choose another Veggie starter while my dinner guests eat their duck :)

There are about 12 options for a main course, you order one dish, and when (if) you finish it you can order another...... and another......

Plenty of choice to suit most tastes.

Good wine list too.

We went with a large group of 8, the £12.50 deal was not supposed to be on that night (Friday) but I phoned up and asked if they would do it and they nicely agreed.

The bill was £144.00 not including a tip, for 8 meals, 2 bottles of wine, beer and some soft drinks.
No website, but here are the contact details.
Fu Man Lou
145 Botchergate
01228 598866
Feel free to comment if you have been.
***Have updated this Blog with a follow up. Click HERE to view***

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Bijou/Modern Cuisine/Carlisle

Bijou - a gorgeous little restaurant, tucked into a compact shopping court in Carlisle. Not noticable from any of the main streets, but once been, never forgotten.

Situated in Carlyles Court which is accessible from two gateways, one on Fisher Street beside the Sony Shop, and the other around the corner, also on Fisher Street but opposite the Cumberland Building Society.

The restaurant is open for lunch Mon-Sat and evenings Thurs-Sat.

Parking is a bit of an issue during the day, you would have to use one of the Citys main car parks - The Lanes, or Devonshire Walk, and walk to it, but on an evening you can usually get parked on the Market Loading Bay, or somewhere on Castle Street.

Beautifully set out inside with modern, clean, fresh deco and furniture, it also has some tables outside if you fancy sitting in the fresh air with a pre/post dinner drink.

There is one evening dinner sitting, so you are not rushed in the slightest, it is a very relaxed, friendly experience.

So, onto the food. In a nutshell - utterly delicious!!

There was four of us dining, a fussy Vegetarian, a very fussy "plain eater" and two "will try anything once" types. We decided on the fabulous Thursday evening offer of three courses and half a bottle of house wine for just £20 a head.

The only Veggie option for a starter was soup, but it was explained that it would be no problem to cook any of the starters without meat, which made it a great choice.

I opted for asparagus with free range poached egg, hollandaise sauce, cress salad and a paprika oil it was superb. The egg was cooked perfectly, and the asparagus was very tender with not one woody bite.

The fussy eater didn't fancy anything, so they happily made him some garlic bread.

To follow I had char grilled courgettes with asparagus risotto grilled goats cheese and red pesto. Each mouthful was delicious, gorgeously creamy risotto and a wonderful local Goats Cheese, grilled to the correct amount of oozyness.

They were happy to cook Mr Fussy a plain chicken breast with buttered new potatoes and fine beans - he was more than happy with that :)

To be honest at this point we had all probably had enough to eat, but it would have been most rude to have refused a pudding so I had ginger pudding with lemon cream. Heaven on a plate !

And I just have to show you a photo of the magnificent cheese board my Father had, what a fantastic choice and so nicely presented.

The total bill was £83.00 not including a tip - this was for 4 dinner deals at £20 and two extra soft drinks.

Will DEFINATELY be back, maybe not with Mr Fussy, but with someone who appreciates really good, well cooked, nicely presented food.

Check out the menu before you go, it does change according to availablity of products and seasons.

It is highly recommended that you book too.
Really nice website, lots of information, and they have a facebook page too (just search for Bijou Carlisle).
Here is the link.
Feel free to comment if you have been.