The Storks of Böbs

The Storks of Böbs
A Very Fine Pair

England August 2012-days 8&9 canterbury and Chapman's seafood bistro


It was Saturday 18th and it was Linda’s Birthday, it was also the day that we were heading for Canterbury, this was another place that Linda had never visited, I had booked us into a quaint little hotel just beside the West gate on St Dunstan street , the Hotel, THE FALSTAFF is a place I had stayed at in January after my Wildfood board meet and I had found it a very ok place not your 5 star luxurious palace, but a good clean place to rest your head for the night and get up to a well-cooked hearty Full English breakfast.

We left Dorchester with my brothers and more so my Sister-in-laws goodbyes ringing in our ears, we headed out onto A35 then A31 in the direction of Southampton, the M3 then took us in NE direction and into M25 traffic, but though we had a few holdups (one just programmes them in) it wasn’t too bad as we stopped and had a picnic at a service that had a bit of a wooded picnic area and also being an avid cricket fan, I was listening to BBC radio 4 Test Match Special (TMS), pity they made such a hash of it.

We got safely around the London Orbital and then down the A2-M2-A2 into Canterbury, it was the hottest day of the year and on getting out of the air-conditioned car in the car park it was like stepping into an oven, a blast of stifling hot air hit us (them having a very good private car park, just to the rear is another plus). We went to reception, got booked in and went up to our room.
Now here a word of warning, this is a very ancient coaching inn and it was a Pilgrims inn before that, it was not built with the old, infirm or disabled in mind, though it must meet with all modern-day Fire and H&S regulations, it has no lifts and I saw no hotel porter at hand to help with cases (though there may have been if we had asked). Our room was on the 2nd floor in the main hotel (it has 2 annexes), it required the manoeuvring of 2 winding stairways, with 2 fire doors, Manageable  if sound of foot, but if not ask for a room on the ground floor when booking.

Well we got into our room without mishap, got changed and as Linda wanted to do a bit of sightseeing, well you do not come to Canterbury without visiting the scene of one of the most notorious doing to deaths in World History, she also wanted to do some girlie shopping at M&S, so I having visited the Cathedral many times over the past 50 years (my first being on a Pilgrimage at the age of 14) and I had my fill of shopping (I didn’t require any more underwear, socks or ties), so I stayed in the hotel enjoying a well-earned beer in the court yard (once the cioaching yard), this being only my 5th since getting here (to England not Canterbury ya fools).

Then disappearing to our room to listen to TMS and do a bit of blog writing. Here I found another minus point, the Wi-Fi reception in the room was terrible in fact almost non-existent. So I had to just lie back and enjoy the cricket, well I would have if England had played better and held a few catches.

As it was Linda’s Birthday I had booked a table in advance at a very nice Seafood restaurant called CHAPMAN'S, directly opposite the hotel entrance and very close to the Westgate.

We had a bit of a rest, got showered and changed and headed across to the road for food. I had booked a table for 19:30 and I had asked for a window seat, alas when the Major-domo looked at the seating plan she saw that the guest previously occupying the table were actual not previous. She very courteously said would we like to wait at the bar or select another seat, offering us the seat directly adjacent to the catch of the day black board. Now I am short sighted so this suited me 100% as I would not have to be forever doing the specs on specs off routine.

So once the Birthday girl was seated, we had a look at the menu, the blackboard and wine list.

The menu is not large but quite comprehensive (it is a seafood restaurant so don’t expect a large meat eater selection) and is amply supplemented with some wonderful titbits on the blackboard. The wine list is small but well sorted and has all of the wines one would expect for a fish restaurant.

We selected one of our favourite’s a picpoul de pinet (I had first had this many years ago while hitch-hiking in the South of France in the department of Languedoc- Roussillon and I had introduced Linda to it while visiting that area on our South of France tour in 2009, in fact in the very same town of Bouzigues  on the Étange de Thau (the Oyster and Mussel beds being famous). Also came a bottle of ice cold tap water, the bottles of water are obviously kept in a fridge, a nice touch, not provided in every restaurant.
I ordered a half a dozen oyster’s au natural, as Linda is not a great lover of these delicious morsels, I requested if I could have these before the start of the meal. They arrived and they did the oyster supplier proud whoever he was, large plump juicy beasts, tasted absolutely fantastic, because of the UKs strange fixation of Months with an R in them they were not local Whitstable native oysters, but never the less most enjoyable and I was glad that we had selected the picpoul as this was a perfect comrade at arms. Even though I had ordered au natural, they came with a small pot of shallots in red wine vinegar, I had been expecting something with a bit of a tang, but was pleasantly surprised, the shallots soft and melting and the sauce sweet with just a hint of acidity, I tried it on one and then ate the rest of the pot on bread, more like a shallot marmalade.

For my starter I had selected the mini skate wings with shrimps and capers from the black board and Linda had chosen king scallops baked in their shells from the normal menu, but this was also on the blackboard.

The skate came and it was a perfectly grilled (nothing mini about it), it had a good shrimp caper, lemon and tarragon butter sauce, an extra pot of sauce was also on the plate (though it wasn’t really necessary). The flesh was moist and juicy, it was quite a thick piece but was cooked perfectly all the way through, the sauce well balanced and plenty of it (I hate it when they skimp on sauces).  I love skate wings, I am an angler and will when I catch a ray or a skate, often do them myself, so can honestly say well done that chef!

Linda’s King Scallops were just that, regal, 5 monsters, I had a taste and they had been cooked to perfection , the sauce, a sweet chilli/coconut Pave was a beautiful accompaniment to the succulent juicy scallops, I also found it great that they had not removed the coral, why do restaurants do that? It is a truly delicious part of the scallop!

For the main we had selected the fish of the day for two, this was a steam baked turbot with a lemon chervil butter sauce,  accompanied by sautéed  lemon rosemary garlic potatoes and a medley of fresh seasonal vegetables in this case mange-tout, courgette’s, aubergine’s and baby sweet corn. The fish is presented whole at the table and in our case I elected to carry out the fileting myself. Turbot is a wonderful fish, one of the best and it is such a shame if it is spoiled, this one was not, it was cooked again to perfection, the Chef in Chapman’s is certainly a master in fish cooking, it was not in the least dry, it fell away from the bones and was a delight to eat.  The accompanying vegetables still had a bit of crunch to them and there were plenty of them.


I certainly enjoyed our meal and Linda said she had a very nice Birthday dinner in pleasant surroundings, she wasn’t the only one, as on the next table a family were also celebrating mothers  Birthday in style, they had selected 2 monster sea food platters which included lobster, crab, king prawns, scallops, mussels. They certainly enjoyed as they tucked in with great gusto, that is all except dad, he has fish and chips, he said in a broad cockney accent “I ‘av to pay for the bloody thing but I don’t av to eat the stuff”.

We left the restaurant and as it was still early, about 21:00 we went for a walk through the Westgate and along the main pedestrian street,

 it was full of young revellers celebrating their exam results, it was still very, very warm and the skimpiness of the lassies attire reflected that and this didn’t do my temperature any good at all.

We plodded of to our beds, I am able to sleep anywhere, I also do not mind the heat (was up the Gulf and out in the Far East in a previous life). So I slept and Linda couldn’t, but that’s life, I had to drive the next day.

The Next Day (Sunday)

Up early bags packed, I had showered before going to bed, Linda decided to have a morning shower, alas no hot water, on ringing the reception, she discovered that the boiler was out and they were waiting for the service chappie to come and fix it, so Linda was forced to have a cold shower (it will do her the world of good). We went down for breakfast, when I was last here it was a la carte table service, but today because the hotel was booked out, the management had decided to put on a buffet style with eggs done to your preference, with scrambled being in the chafing dish. There was a choice of bacon, sausages, hash brownies, beans, grilled tomatoes, mushrooms and the eggs of your choice, last time there was black pudding, but not this time. For me there are two things that do not belong on an English breakfast plate, beans and hash brownies, whatever would the Pilgrims of old thought of these additions while waiting for the city fathers to open up the Westgate, which had been shut at dusk to keep the City pure.

There was also a full range of fruit juices, and dried fruits, also for the continentals with weaker stomachs than their island neighbours a few cold cuts, cheeses and jams. A selection of decent breads and bread rolls also available along with the ominous cotton wool bread to toast. Breakfast over we collected our baggage paid our bill (I had a 20% reduction for being a frequent return visitor, is twice frequent?).

I had said to Linda, that as we had well over 2 hours before we needed to be at the ferry terminal we may as well go out to Whitstable,  I thought it would be empty but when we arrived there was already a good smattering of holiday makers promenading along the fish harbour.
We had a look at the old Thames barges "The greta" now used to take tourists out on day trips.
We then popped into the fish merchants to have a look at what he had on sale, as it was a Sunday he had a very good selection. Dressed Crabs.
Lobsters and live crabs.

A fine array of fresh fish
But in reality I had only come to get my last fix of whelks,
but this stupidity was almost the undoing of me, the Sat-Nav system had been playing up ever since it had been repaired (sic), it no longer gave turn by turn directions and didn’t automatically recalculate a new route if one went off the straight and narrow, to compound to these woes, the City fathers (more than likely the same ones that locked those poor pilgrims out) had in their infinite wisdom decided to put a new one-way system in place so on the return to get back onto the A2 to Dover, it tried to send me the wrong way down a one way street. I was getting frustrated and did, I believe, swear more than once. I did at last by not following the Sat-Nav get back on the right road and hoofed it for the ferry.
And that is it, with  a small exception for a blocked A2 motorway just before reaching home, that lost us an hour.

England August 2012 day 7 and Chesil Beach cafe


This was a go your own way day, I wanted to go Bird watching and Linda wanted to go shopping and museum visiting (teddy bears are just not my thing, but hey, each to their own) I headed out to Weymouth, first to get a Team GB top for my daughter and then to spend the rest of the day Bird watching.  I went first to the Swannery,  parked up, got the top and then had a good 1½ hrs. at Radipole lake and reserve. This really is a very worthwhile project and as it is so near the town centre, has a great big car park and is full of all manner of bird life. There were pole sitting Cormorants, Tufted duck, Gold eyes, Pochards, Scaups, Gadwalls as well as the Swans with cygnets, moorhens and coots.

I was informed by the wardens that there are bitterns in the reed beds, but school holidays are not the best time to see these shy birds. They do nest in the reed beds of the river Wey but sighting is best as dawn before the first of the public come along to scare the living daylights out of them.

As my 2 hrs were up on the parking ticket, I then headed out of town in the direction of Portland and Chesil beach.
The pebble bank towards portland Bill
And Westward

I parked up in the new car park adjacent to the Dorset Wild Life Trust Centre and as it was lunch time, I thought it would be nice to pop in for a bite to eat at the Beach Café. I went inside, and caught the head waiters eye, he apologised most profusely and said that alas all tables were reserved for the next 30-40 minutes, I said no problem, I can do a bit of bird watching in that time, so I crossed the RE Boardwalk

I plodded up to the top of the bank and looked along the beach, there were a few anglers setting up for the tide change, it was at low ebb and just on the turn perfect for Bass surf fishing).

I walked down the pebble bank towards the eel fishing station, but it looked as if no one was doing any commercial fishing that day. But a lone angler was out in the middle of the Fleet, spinning, either for Bass or if he was very lucky a sea trout. 

The remains of the Oyster Catchers lunch, now for mine.

Walking back in the direction of the Beach café I watched a, Oyster Catcher Haematopus ostralegus  and a Curlew Sandpiper Caldis ferruginea, grubbing at the low water mark for cockles and other small molluscs. A little further back was a flock or two of Ringed Plover Charadius hiaticula  and Dunlin Caldis alpine.

 I crossed the Samphire  patch just in front of the Centre
and sat on a large stone watching the birds feed at the water line of the incoming tide. It was warm with a slight breeze, the air full of the sounds of the sea, the call of the gulls, the crash of the surf on the pebble bank and alas the scream of kids running wild, I must be getting old.

I went inside and caught the waiters eye, he smiled and waved me to a table. I had seen prior that on the black board proclaiming the daily specials, that they had peppered and salted crabs claws and legs with a salad and a glass of Matts fizz, I ordered and sat taking in the views through the windows. I turned and there standing behind me was Mat Folass, I said good day and he asked had I eaten yet, I said just ordered the crab, he said a very good choice. We chatted about his new venture, I said that I thought it was a great idea and thought that it would be a great second string to his bow to the Bearminster Wild Garlic. I asked how the Wild Garlic was doing and he said that the evenings are virtually always booked out weeks in advance, but lunches are a little slow, but the Beach Café has filled in for this. He also said it had really taken off during the 2 weeks of the Olympic sailing, The sailing centre and the Olympic village being on the causeway leading to Portland (the Olympic village being built on the site of the old RN shore base HMS Osprey). I commented on the fact that some may have been disillusioned by the fact it wasn’t “fine dining” he said that he had, had a couple remarks to the effect “it wasn’t what they had expected” I said that they should realise it is what it is a café and if the want to do fine dining then you don’t go to a café. There are some presumptuous plonkers in this world!!!  

Just then along came my food so he said he hoped that I would enjoy it and moved along to the next table to chat with the cliental there. He is such a nice unassuming chap and it is nice that he goes out of the way to great his customers personally, I remember when in the Wild Garlic for 18 months previous he also took the time to come and serve us at our table and have a little chat. Finishing my crab, salad, chips and Fizz (well worth the 12 ½ quid).

I went out onto the boardwalk to see if any other birds had come in with the rising tide, but nothing in sight so I headed back in the direction of Dorchester via the scenic route.   

I got into town just before the shops closed and bought a few last purchases of none or difficult obtainables back in Germany. I popped into a nice small café and wrote my 2 postcards (I don't go a lot of cards either holiday, birthday or Christmas).
That evening as usual Manuela had cooked us a fantastic meal of a chunky soup, cold cuts and salads (my brother and I are both diabetic she cooks acordingly) and poached apples to finish.
As dusk was falling she said that she was going to visit her friend Mary (a wonderful old Dame, that lives alone in a massive rambling house with her Persian cat and does Jigsaw puzzles all day everyday). We did pop around and give her a hand.
She came running breathless back in saying he is there come quick, "slow down Manuela, who is were"? The Peregine Falcon was the reply, I must clarify, all week Manuela had been telling me about the Falco Peregenus that roosted on the spire of All Saints Church, as I had yet to see it I grabbed my camera and Manuela also grabbing her Bino's of we did jolly well trott from one vantage point to the next trying to get the best shot.
That is not a gargoyle, but a female Peregrine falcon

Now those of you none ornithologists will not understand people running around the streets of Dorchester at 21:00hrs, staring up at church spires and crying "he is there" while pointing in a heavenly direction, I think we got a few funny stares that evening and a few strange glances over the shoulder as they hurried about their business (some newly imagined I am sure). But I was at last able to confirm that he was not a figment of my dear Sister-in-Laws imagination and he is up there.

England August 2012 day 6 and River Cottage Canteen


 We had contacted  friends to see if they fancied going out for lunch alas they had ordered a new fridge and had to wait in. So we headed off by ourselves to visit first Yeovil and then onto Axminster for lunch, yes you guessed it, to River Cottage Canteen.

What we didn’t realise it was also market day.

So after driving a couple of times around the town (it isn’t all that big) we got a car park just around the corner from Trinity square.

It was just after lunch so a lot of people had already eaten and just leaving. We got shown to a our table and all most immediately along came the waitress (who we later found out was called Steffi), what a nice friendly lass, nothing was too much bother for her, if she didn’t know she went and asked the kitchen brigade. She told us all about the history of the building, how it had started life as the church hall and after being used as store rooms, workshops and ever changing uses was eventually bought by Hugh and transformed into the River Cottage canteen and Deli.

The daily changing menu was up on a blackboard and was very diverse (I think it also shows Hughs new vegetarian direction)

Linda ordered the char grilled peppers, tomatoes, mozzarella, hazel nuts and fregola

I had the Cornish mussels cooked with leek in a Cornish cider. It was served with home baked bread, walnut spelt and a poppy seed spelt. I ordered a bottle of dry cider and ate the bread before the mussels came so had to order some more.

Well what can you say about a salad, mussels, and chips if they can’t get that right then they shouldn’t be in the cooking trade, it was very nice and the mussels plump and juicy, the broth was very tasty and I was greatful for the extra bread to mop it up with. The chips big chunky and very tasty (not your frites normally associated with Moule frites)

Linda enjoyed the salad ,never having had fegola, she asked Steffi what it was, who went and asked the chef, we all now know it is little pasta balls, that originated in Sicily.

We thanked Steffi (did I tell you, a lovely helpful lass) paid the bill and went to the deli in the front as Linda wanted some cakes and other fattening stuff, the pies and pasties called out to me, but I resisted.
As we left our table the waiting que had once again formed, but what a happy bunch of staff Hugh has put together.

We went outside and visited the Church grounds which is also in Trinity Square.

We thought it would be a good idea to pop into Lyme Regis, you will by now know all about my good ideas, well some of them turn out not to be all that good. This was one of those that turned out simply rotten. We reached the hill down into Lyme Regis (you know the one, very, very steep and passes Mark Hix’s place. It took us best part of 40 minutes to reach the harbour, bumper to bumper, it was RNLI day, now having been in the Navy I have a lot of time for the Life Boats and their crews, but there place is saving us mariners at sea, not blocking up the narrow streets of Lyme Regis, causing traffic jams and grid lock. If they must do it well not when I am passing through. By the time we got through we thought we may as well head back to Dorchester. Which we did and got in just in time for a nice cuppa.